common sight in my childhood was the comic book. Frowned on by teachers and
parents, we read them anyway. My parents thought us too young and
impressionable for such things. One other person who thought us young and
impressionable was Charles Atlas—the body builder. He must have sold
millions of copies of his method. So why, then, were there any 90 pound
weaklings left in the country?
Simple: they bought, they started—but did not persist. Much the same is
said here. Paul says, in essence, you bought the book—now live it, be
rooted in it so that you might be built up. The result is not punching out
the bully; the result is a Christian life so successful that it is filled
with thankfulness. Why? Because Christ's method works.
course, you must beware of imitators. The truth can always be imitated by
those who promise the same results with much less effort. How do you tell
the real from the fake?
this world's approach has two characteristics you can see—if you look. It
is hollow; it's a surface only program.
also deceptive, because it relies on the principles of the world. Two
things you will quickly see. First, you will see some tradition or other
involved. Next, you will see this world's principles. Someone is doing it
for money, ego or pleasure.
wait a minute," you say. "How do I know that Christianity isn't just
another form of mumbo-jumbo spiritualism?" Good question. The answer is
simple: Jesus Christ. Everyone else has to have a guru to give them
wisdom. Jesus delivers wisdom almost as a side point; the main point is
redemption. In him you see redemption from sin; in him you see the
fullness of God Almighty.
starting point is baptism. This, after all, is a ritual which is necessary
but hardly produces a finished Christian (if there ever is such a thing.)
It is the good start; it portrays to you and all who see that you have
faith in the power of God. It is that power that raised Jesus from the
dead—and He will raise you, too, if you continue in his way and teaching.
You've bought the book; now, work those exercises. The real thing is
waiting to happen to you.
Father, we are sometimes so persistent about the wrong things. In your
mercy help us to persist in growth in Christ.
Way, The Truth, The Life
concept of the Trinity is, admittedly, one of the great puzzles of
Christianity. A slight clue is given to us in this passage. The disciples
are not, by and large, great philosophers. They believe in what they see,
however. So you will notice that Peter, James and John (who saw the
Transfiguration) are not asking the questions. They may not know the
answers, but after that mountain top, they know there is more to it than can
be put in words. Jesus' long explanation of his relationship with the
Father tells us two things:
look for it, you can see signs that Christ is inferior to the Father.
look for it, you can see signs that Christ is equal to the Father.
which is it?
depends on why you're asking. So let's take it down to basics. Whatever
else is going on, Jesus is the one with the answer to the great question:
How do I get from here to God?
is the way.
We think of "way" as a path, or perhaps some exercise routine you practice.
But look at it in nautical terms: we say a ship is "under way" when moving
at speed. When under way, a ship can only go where the rudder points. And
everything on board goes that direction, also. Jesus is that way.
is the truth.
We think of truth in a couple of ways. In one sense, it's a way of thinking
that "holds water." It's consistent. We can also think of it as the
solution to a mystery; we finally found out the truth. Jesus is both of
these; utterly consistent and the explanation of all—what you need to know
to reach the Father, He is.
is the life.
Sometimes we say that a person should "get a life." Jesus is the life you
should get. Sometimes we speak of someone who "lived a good life." Jesus
is the life you should live.
world tells us that all religions are equally true. Hear, then: this is
false. If Jesus is the way, truth and life (and other religions
false guides), then he is the only way. What evidence is there for this?
He Is Risen—and from there the facts will argue themselves.
Lord, may we follow your way, in your truth, receiving your life eternal.
We trust in you; increase our faith.
Changing of the Guard
Arlington, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, there is a regular, clock
work changing of the guard. With great precision the new unit relieves the
old. The ceremony is usually well attended; it is considered a tourist
ceremony dates to the days when a changing of the guard was part of a
soldier's normal duties. The formality of the exchange ensured that there
was no doubt as to who was responsible. In a real sense, this passage
describes a changing of the guard, too.
begins by reminding them that for three years he shepherded these people.
His charge to the new shepherds is to behave as he did:
taught them without hesitation.
taught them the whole will of God.
combination still works today.
that example in mind, he lists their duties. The first of those surprises
some people; it is to keep watch over yourself. It seems unrelated, but in
things eternal this is not so. We will see why.
being done, they are then to be the shepherds of the flock. The word
"shepherd" brings up an image of a rugged man in the wilderness, tireless
and caring. This is an accurate image of the true church leader.
thing must always be foremost in mind: this is not "my church" in the sense
I say, "my car." It is the church of Jesus Christ, who bought her with his
blood. As he redeemed her, the shepherd must be faithful—the whole will of
God, without hesitation.
now see why it is necessary for leaders to keep watch over themselves. For
not only will the church be attacked from outside, but we will discover that
some of our worst enemies will come from our own leadership. Even Jesus had
to deal with Judas Iscariot. The leader must mind his own heart, soul, mind
and strength so that they are always in accord with God's will.
passages contain lists of qualifications for deacons and elders; their
duties are prescribed throughout the New Testament. Here we see the leader
passing on to the next generation those thoughts which are of utmost
importance. It is still true; our worst enemies come from within.
Lord, we ask that your favor rest upon our leaders. Grant that they will
keep watch over themselves as well as us.
is a recurring myth among those who will not believe. They will tell you
that Jesus never claimed to be God. If you encounter that, point them to
this passage. There are two things clear from it:
clearly, at risk of his life, proclaimed himself to be the Son of God.
around him, who most clearly understood what that would mean, convicted him
blasphemy in the foul language sense. Blasphemy in the sense of putting
your words in God's mouth.
still true today. You cannot say that Jesus of Nazareth was merely a good
teacher who said some neat things (in King James English, of course). He
left you only three options:
may, of course, presume him a liar. If so, he was the greatest con artist
in history. But please explain why he went so willingly to his execution.
may also presume him to be a lunatic. If so, then Hitler and Stalin were
modest and meek and completely sane.
may conclude that he is exactly who he said he is: the Christ, the Messiah,
the Son of God; God in the flesh.
Despite the logic of the options, many people feel (and that is the right
verb) that something else would be just fine with God.
sit on the fence. If I keep myself ignorant, and refuse to decide, surely
that would be OK.
invent their own religion. They ignore what He said, and substitute their
is one slight problem with all these man-made alternatives. If you fit
here, then you do not love Jesus (or God the Father) with all your heart,
soul, mind and strength. If you have no love for him, and stubbornly refuse
to change, just how should God treat you?
true Christian loves God. In this act the Christian is in sublime imitation
of God, for God is love. As you become more like him, your love for him
grows. This is the maturing faith.
starts with a decision. You must ask the supreme question: "Who is this
Jesus?" Heaven and hell hang upon the answer.
Lord, so often we long for the ease of a shallow faith. Forgive us; show
us that in you the depths of our souls are revealed.
a cliché in the movies. The country doctor, now called upon to perform
anything from incredibly delicate surgery to (most commonly) delivering a
baby, turns to the nearest male and tells him to boil water. Lots of
water. (The oldest instance of this technique with which I'm acquainted is
John Ford's classic western, Stagecoach.)
my college years I worked on a small ranch as cowboy, gofer, muscle power
(and anything else) to a retired doctor. I asked him about this; why do
doctors always tell that guy to boil lots of water. His answer: "It keeps
them occupied and out of your hair until you're done." So now you know why.
doctor in the movies can generally deal with any medical problems, boiling
water or no, so we see Jesus here doing something rather similar. He takes
along his three closest disciples and the parents of the girl and performs a
most remarkable miracle. The young girl is dead, as far as the world is
concerned. But from the point of view of Jesus, the Son of God, she is not
dead; merely asleep. He "awakens" her. The same verb is used of Lazarus,
is what appears to be one trivial point at the end of this passage. He
tells the girl's parents to get her something to eat. This may be to show
that she is not only raised from the dead but also cured of whatever killed
her in the first place.
is, however, a subtle point to this. Jesus of Nazareth is the one who fed
the five thousand; he could certainly have arranged a banquet for the
girl. But he does not. He hands the problem over to the parents—so that
they will do what they can do.
Perhaps, as you read through the Bible, you begin to daydream and say,
"Wouldn't it be great if I could heal this sick? Raise the dead?" I think
it would be great if I could! But God has not obliged me in that. Instead,
he shows me examples like this. The parents feel helpless in the presence
of their daughter's corpse. Jesus raises her—and then gives them some part
to play, so that they might know that they have such a part.
still true today. Jesus does his mighty works and we stand amazed. But if
we stand there long enough, Jesus will find something for us to do. Even if
it's only the task of boiling water—lots of water.
Lord, our eyes are so fixed on your power and glory that we forget that we
have duties as well. Teach us to "boil water", too.
"Never lose your ignorance. It's irreplaceable."
at least, is the world's view. "Ignorance is bliss" we say. But is it
really? I submit that ignorance is more often the cause of worry and
anxiety than of bliss.
feel this horrible pain in your chest. Is it indigestion? Stomach acid
backing up on you? You hope so. But how to you like the worry? How soon
will you take an antacid?
company is making "financial adjustments." Will you be fired? Asked to
take a cut in salary?
daughter is out on a date—and overdue home. How much worry runs through
this, then, is the worry that is common to mortal man in this life, how much
more will come as you contemplate death? It is for this reason that the
funeral of a non-Christian has such a completely different atmosphere than
given here the cure for the problem. Paul lays it out quite simply.
Evidently there had been some "loose doctrine" floating around due to such
ignorance, and Paul fixes that problem.
Lord has not returned, his teaching is still of value to us.
begins by using a verb translated here as "falling asleep." It's a reminder
that God takes a different view. It also reminds us of his coming—for sleep
comes to an end.
know that we are "alive in Christ." We have the indwelling presence of the
Holy Spirit.. One function of the Spirit is to provide us with the
guarantee of the Resurrection.
then, if we "fall asleep" while we are alive in Christ, we are still living
in Christ, for he is eternal.
should you desire the evidence, I only need point you to the Resurrection of
last is important. If you call yourself a Christian, but do not trust in
the fact that Jesus died, was buried and by the power of God raised from the
dead, then you deceive yourself; you are not really a Christian. But if you
do believe, then the Resurrection is the proof that God can raise the
Lord, we know that you rose from the dead. Grant then that we may see that
so clearly we see your return—and our resurrection.
Him At His Word
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once made a very astute observation. All of us know
that only those who believe in God obey him. But did you know that the
reverse is true? Only those who obey him can believe in him.
think not? Take another look at this little story. Put yourself in the
official's position for a moment. You've come some distance to talk with
this teacher; the matter is the most urgent one possible as far as you are
concerned. And what is the man's reaction to your pleading? "Unless you
people see signs and wonders you will never believe."
that may seem as nothing more than simple observation on the part of Jesus.
He was not at all impressed with the city of Capernaum. But from the
official viewpoint, well—this guy has done exactly one miracle. Maybe he
thought Jesus was much too cocky. Maybe he was just desperate. Maybe it
doesn't matter how many miracles he's done. The man asks.
didn't think Jesus was cocky before, he's bound to think so now. "You can
go. Your son will live." On the one hand you'd think it would take at
least a personal visit. On the other hand, you have just been dismissed.
It's time to make a choice.
could argue with him; you could go away thinking the guy is nuts. But he
didn't. He "took Jesus at his word."
Jesus at his word! In short, the ruler looked at the man, sized him up and
thought, "Well, at least he means what he says." You might call that
faith. But look what the Scripture teaches us! The man went on his way
home. He is met by servants bringing the good news that his son is well—and
was cured at the moment Jesus spoke. Then the man believes.
still like that today. So many of us have what we think is a deep
faith—until the point of trusting God for something. That is faith indeed.
is a curious rhythm to this experience. Action precedes belief. But as
soon as the man trusts Jesus—and acts upon that trust, Jesus acts. Is there
something in your life today which needs that same action? If your Lord
tells you to do something, step out and do it. Your faith may be like that
mustard seed, but who knows better how to increase that faith. Don't
hesitate; don't argue, just do it.
Lord, how often we proclaim to each other that we have faith—with no
action. Teach us, Lord, to take you at your word.
early Christians lived in a society which had large cities—but definite
agricultural roots. Particularly for those who were Jewish Christians, the
concept of first fruits was one they were familiar with. First fruits were
often part of a harvest sacrifice, and were offered at a joyous time.
fruits were the most anticipated of harvests. All through the long winter
they yearned for that first crop in the spring. Imagine what it must have
been like; six months without an apple, for instance—then the first crop.
precisely that reason, first fruits were considered the best—and used for
sacrifices. Because they valued them so highly, God claimed them as harvest
sacrifices fed the priests of God. Is it not interesting that they get the
first fruits—not the leftovers?
let us extend that example to the return of Jesus Christ—the first fruits of
the resurrection to come:
Anticipated? No future event in human history has had as much written about
it as the return of Jesus Christ. There are entire libraries on the
subject. The ancient church had amongst its prayers, "Even so, Lord Jesus,
Considered the best? In every way! The prophetic books of the Bible, Old
Testament and New, tell us that his return will usher in a time when he will
"make all things new." Nothing else comes close.
what about the recipients? Those who receive his coming with joy will not
be given anything less that the best. Those in the book of Life will be
rewarded by their Lord, who knows all things and has authority over them.
does all this come about? By the power, authority and action of Jesus
Christ. He himself is described here as first fruits. We see him as the
Atonement; the great sacrifice. So he is; but he is also the first fruit
of the resurrection to come. When he returns, we shall be like him, our
mortal bodies transformed into bodies like his own. This is the style of
God. He draws us a picture of sin coming through one man, Adam. His new
picture will come through the new Adam, Christ.
Lord, our minds cannot see the glory of the new creation. Teach us, then,
to see your glory now.
appears that one of the major functions of travel is to inform those about
you just how marvelous it is to have been to wherever. It is not sufficient
to have gone some place; you must come back with the "right" souvenirs.
The trend is so obvious that there are now T-shirts that proclaim, "Been
there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt." Why spend all that money to go
there if you don't come back with something the neighbors will notice?
Travel, today, seems easy. Money seems sufficient, so the tourist business
booms. But have you traveled to the one destination God recommends? It is
the throne of grace. There are no T-shirts; for this is not a place to
take your money and give you an "experience." On the contrary, this place
takes your experience and removes the guilt and pain from it.
trip is not without risk—definitely not for the timid. Indeed, we must
"come boldly unto the throne of grace," as the old King James put it.
Courage is required; courage to go the throne of the ruler of the
universe—and ask him for forgiveness, grace. Who would have the courage to
do such a bold thing?
knows the need; he has provided a way. We have a guide with us, Jesus
Christ. He has walked the same planet we have, understands our hopes and
fears, our desires and dreads. He's been through temptation and trial, as
we have, and has overcome them all. With him, your path is sure. Without
him, you will never find your way.
Souvenirs? The word itself comes from the French; it means "to remember" -
hence our use as things of memory. But in this case, we bring our
souvenirs—our pains, our sins, our defects—and leave them there. Our
travels here include luggage, which we "lug" about. A trip to the throne of
grace rids us of excess baggage.
do we take back with us? Grace. Forgiveness. Help. A lighter load in the
burdens of life. We come back with peace. We come back with joy. We come
back with hope.
trip has already been arranged. The fare has been paid, in full, at
Calvary. The only thing lacking now is the willing, humble heart.
Lord, of all things difficult, giving up pride is the most. But we know the
road to the throne of grace can only be traveled by the humble. Grant us
two hands: one hand in your hand, so we will know the way; the other
reaching to all who are willing to come.
is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament. It's almost like
watching the cycle of the seasons, it is that predictable.
the people of Israel become obstinate with God. Their attitude resembles
"What have you done for me lately?" Nothing in the past will do.
delivers them—and does so in an unmistakable way. He puts them to shame
with the power of his deliverance.
Israelites "repent" - that is, they lie to him about being loyal to him.
ultimately answers this with punishment.
the end, he shows his great mercy to them. He remembers that we are only
flesh and blood.
doingGod refined the people of Israel. Each time through the cycle he saved
a remnant for himself. Those who survive begin the process anew.
midst of this Psalm is a punishment that God uses. It is almost obscured by
the rest of the Psalm, but it shows the true terror of defying the living
God. It is found in verse 33:
ended their days in futility,
their years in terror."
is, for an old man, a horrifying punishment. It creeps up on you slowly.
As you age, you realize that God will not permit you to see your dreams come
true; rather, he will hem you in with increasing terror. As you grow
older, you find yourself working in futility. It does not matter what you
do; what you do makes no difference in the world. You may be rich; but
your wealth will go to another. Perhaps you are wise; your wisdom will die
with you. God has decided; you will end your days in futility.
the days go by, all those things you counted on to be your comfort in old
age—they fail you as well. You may not go broke; you may indeed be rich.
But when were riches a barrier to the slow march of disease and death?
Christian, do you really think God reigns? If you do, commit your hopes and
dreams to him—and keep faith with him. Do not doubt his word but say, "I
believe—help thou my unbelief."
Lord, we have but one life on this planet until you come again. May our
deeds be those which end in glory, not futility.
story is told about Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda. He was not
satisfied with the performance of one of his pitchers, a young Orel
Hersheiser. Tommy thought him lacking in the necessary aggressiveness
needed to make him into a dominant pitcher.
solution was unorthodox—but it worked. He nicknamed the kid, "Bulldog." It
seemed completely inappropriate, but he insisted that all the staff call him
that; soon the players did too. Hersheiser soon became the bulldog they
named him, and went on to have an outstanding career.
sometimes like that. Here Paul describes God as the one who "calls things
that are not as if they were." In fact, it seems he delights in doing so.
Remember Gideon? The angel hailed him as "mighty warrior." Gideon at the
time didn't quite see it that way.
Paul talks about another instance, this concerning the patriarch, Abraham.
It seems that God promised that he and his wife Sarah would have a baby.
That doesn't seem so miraculous, until you remember that he was over a
hundred years old—and Sarah just about that.
learn a lot about faith from Abraham's reaction to this:
he did not react to the news with the normal joy. In fact, the Scripture
tells us he recognized the facts. As far as normal childbirth was
concerned, Abraham and Sarah had no chance whatever. It's just plain common
sense. Sarah knew this so well that she just laughed.
also knew God. So he was probably acquainted with the style. God simply
announced that this was going to happen. Abraham's reaction is what we
need to imitate here: he did not deny common sense. He understood this
would be a miracle. But he also knew who was making the promise.
is the secret of his faith. What God proclaims to be, Abraham counts on.
So many today confuse common sense with God's will. If it seems reasonable,
and the budget will support it, we'll go along.
if it seems unreasonable, and the budget won't support it, but God says it
will be—then faith is tested. Can you look at the impossible and still say,
"God will do it?"
Lord, we so often substitute our idea of common sense for your divine plan.
Teach us to expect today what will be tomorrow.
Discovery and Vision
you ever wished you could work miracles?
of us have, I suppose. We're convinced that if we could do miracles,
spreading the Gospel would be so easy. But look at the examples Christ
cites here. They have one thing in common: they have seen the miracles of
God in the flesh—and they refused to change. They would analyze the
miracles, but they would not believe.
tells us the dangers of such an attitude. The more you have seen, the more
you know, the greater your guilt if you will not repent. He compares them
to the cities of great wickedness in the Old Testament—and not favorably.
comes one of the most startling of Christ's statements: the truth is hidden
from the learned and wise, but open to children. How can this be?
of being "learned and wise" is that you consider yourself as being "above"
the subjects you study. We see this in modern universities today;
everything can be studied, but right and wrong don't exist.
are "above" the subject, how can the subject cause you to repent? But if
you are one who sees the Lord and loves him, even without such knowledge,
as if the cleaning woman and the heart surgeon both discover they have a
severe heart condition. The heart surgeon, being above this, continues to
analyze his charts until he dies—while the cleaning woman immediately seeks
help, and lives.
this important? Because of the one working the miracles—Jesus of Nazareth.
In language difficult for us to understand, he outlines his relationship to
the Father—and then tells us to come to him for rest.
world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks. Every minister knows that
there are plenty of "church shoppers" out there, looking for the brilliant
sermon that never disturbs them. But the true church is not made of people
who came for the fine sermon, or the wonderful music. The true church is
composed of those who have brought not criticism but their burdens—to lay
them on Jesus, so that he might carry them too. Sometimes, the simple
solution is the right one.
Lord, deliver us from the snare of being church shoppers; rather, teach us
to bring our burdens to you.
must be every mother's nightmare. Here you are with three kids, in an
airport waiting for the plane to be readied. All three of the kids seem to
have lost the ability to speak; they can only whine. When your back is
turned the big one touches the little one, and the whining goes up a few
decibels. You begin to look around the waiting area, hoping that no one is
noticing what ill behaved barbarians you brought with you into this public
place. And it seems that the only thing that will bring the little monsters
into line is for you to lose your temper and shout. Been there?
not my purpose to tell you how to raise your children. But take a good look
at that behavior, and see if it doesn't resemble your prayer life. We are
told to boldly approach the throne of grace—which does not mean we should
forget our manners. Like the children, we must be taught how to pray. As
we mature, we see more that we need to learn about prayer. If your prayer
life has sunk to nothing more than a whining session with God, complaining
of the injustices received, suggesting who could really profit by a direct
hit with a lightning bolt, spiced with a few prayers for other people, then
you need to stop, look and listen.
prophet teaches us a lesson: here is a man who is frequently taken by the
Holy Spirit, a closeness with God which most of us can only dream of. God
grants him prophetic visions still studied yet. But see how he talks to
word translated "Sovereign" here is a rather unusual one. It means "Lord" -
but with an added emphasis. It's as if Ezekiel is acknowledging God's
lordship—particularly in such circumstances.
word translated "God" here means the self-existent one; the I AM. Ezekiel
acknowledges that God alone is eternal.
then, with no complaints, he says, "You alone know." Now you know why God
liked this man. He knew when he didn't know.
see how this is the righteous response to a situation which is completely
overwhelming? Think about your prayers. Do you acknowledge him as Lord?
Do you know him as the eternal one? Can you admit that you don't know—and
he does? Perhaps your list should start with adoration, not irritation.
Lord, it's easy to slip into thinking of you as if you were a machine. Help
us to know you, and know what we don't know.
house we have a back bathroom. In that bathroom we have a shower. In that
shower is a fixture with the words "hot" and "cold" on it. The fixture is a
resembles any other shower fixture. And I'm sure the pipes are hooked up as
labeled. But if anyone else in the house turns on a faucet, starts the
dishwasher or the laundry, anything (hot or cold) - that infernal valve
switches instantly from hot to cold. And if you're fool enough to "adjust"
the valve, the cold water goes away—and your backside will get blistered.
not the cold showers. The human body can get used to almost anything; we
had cold showers in Army basic training and nobody complained (at least, not
twice). What gets you is that the shower is so unpredictable—so fickle.
knowing the behavior of our shower, when we have a house guest, do we run
water as we normally would? Or do we have the courtesy to see to it that
the valve behaves? Of course, we make sure that we know the problem, and
the house guest doesn't. Anything else would imply a certain lack of
think not? Suppose you invited someone over for supper, someone you wanted
to build relationship with. Would you offer them leftovers? Of course
not. But then, do you offer second best things to God?
you imagine the irritation that moves God to ask if someone wouldn't just go
down and close the temple doors so he doesn't have to put up with these
people? What was their problem? They were giving to God the things that
were defective. It was their way of telling God that he is a semi-welcome
guest. From that perspective, we can see God's point.
Perhaps this explains your prayer life, as well. You are providing
hospitality to the Holy Spirit. Does he feel like he's a welcome guest in
your heart, or would you rather he would be a little more on the quiet
side? The Spirit is a disturbing guest; He is tasked with pointing out our
sins. This is never a popular subject. On the other hand, it is a
necessary one. Did you really think God would straighten out everyone else
and leave you alone?
Remember that when you go to prayer. Your Lord loves you; he has sent the
Spirit so that you might be cleansed—and then grow in the life in God.
What's the temperature in your shower?
Lord, we neglect your Holy Spirit as we go through the humdrum of life.
Warm our hearts again with your fire.
Had To Ask
easy to miss the point of this little story. In our time envy has replaced
esteem as the common reaction to the rich. So we must begin by explaining
the ruler's question: he was trying to be perfect. He wanted to completely
fulfill all the law.
knew he had not been successful. He was much better at it than, say, the
disciples. The man with money has time to read the Scriptures, and
suffers no temptation from want. But all that study only convinced him—he
wasn't quite there.
here was a teacher from God. What good fortune to find such a guru. Then
Jesus asks, "Why do you call me good?"
question penetrated to his soul. Jesus knew his attempt; he knew his
failure and he nailed them.
be said that any of us are perfect? But to be "good" - completely,
honestly, always good—is perfection of the spirit. Of ourselves, we do not
have it. We obtain it from Christ.
young man's approach to Christ—treating him as a great teacher—might be
fitting to some. There are those who have devoted their lives to Christ.
Indeed, in other areas, we are quick to take the advice of those we deem
experts. But in all this, we know that no one is perfect. Here, however,
was a man who tried.
disciples give their confirmation of this. They look at this rich young
ruler—a man who has sincerely tried to be perfect—a man free of many of
their temptations, and ask themselves, "If he can't make it, who
relieves their fears and explains all: it is not something man can do—but
with God, it is possible. They do not understand it yet, but their teacher
will be the sacrifice that makes this possible. To them, perfect goodness
is something you "do." They shall see that perfect goodness is something
you are—in Christ.
thing, though, is clear. If you claim the name of Christ for your
salvation, he will expect your service. His calls to service
exceeds all other calls. If your money is in the way, get rid of it. Do
not attempt to live a "balanced life." How do you balance, for example,
money and the love of your children? With what scale would you balance
those? No, center your life on Jesus, and let the other pieces of your life
fit where they may. You will find they fit quite well—once the Center is in
Lord, we so often seek to have all of you loving part of us. Teach us the
joy of complete commitment to you.
Tightfisted Or Openhanded?
words "pledge drive" have struck terror in the hearts of classical music
lovers for years, now. Public radio, home of Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and
boring pledge drives, is well known to me. The pledge drivers use bribery
(contribute this hour and get this wonderful premium) and two other basic
make you feel guilty that you are listening but not pledging anything.
hold up as shining examples the genuinely nice guys who are contributing.
You can be a nice guy too!
Curiously, I've never heard them use the primary argument that Christians
face: it's a measure of you as a human being.
think not? With whatever measure you measure, you will be measured. So it
is that God commanded the ancient Israelites to be openhanded and generous,
whether giving to the poor or a loan to one of your relatives. That last
can be quite a test. I have a kid brother who is a genius in radio
engineering. He's pretty good at convincing his brother to lend him a few
bucks. He's not so good as a businessman.
do you do in a situation like that? Do you look at your kid brother and
say, "Hmmm, he never paid me back from the last time he went broke"? Or do
you lend to him, and leave the matter in God's care?
in God's care either way. God makes it clear that if you are generous to
others, he will be generous to you. He's simply looking at what you do and
saying, "Evidently that's his definition of adequate." And then he applies
that definition to you.
more closely at this passage. Suppose you are asked to lend some money to
your brother. If you refuse, will he be upset? Will he complain? To God?
Did you know this was sin? It's not the money—it's your care for your own
family, or the poor always with us.
read such passages and skip by them lightly, usually saying, "They're all
fakes anyway." What we really mean is that we don't believe God will reward
us—because we don't believe he can. The issue is not measured in dollars;
it's measured in what you believe God can and will do. Try taking him at
his word; he might just surprise you with blessings undreamed.
Lord, our excuses are many. Teach us to be openhanded—and to be glad of it.
High, Selling Low
people are content to get a bargain. Some like to haggle over price;
others like the feeling of being able to say that price doesn't matter. So
it often seems to the new Christian that something is not quite right;
shouldn't there to be an entry fee?
does not work that way. If you receive something from him, it is always a
gift. The Scripture tells us that he longs to pour out a blessing on us.
Those who have served him many years know quite well that he always does
more than we could ask—or even think of asking. The great example of this
is salvation: a gift whose price is the life of his son, grace freely
is it that so many cannot accept grace as a gift? They are perfectly
willing to work for salvation. But to receive it as a gift? You can see
the problem, I hope. If I work for something, then I earned it. In effect,
I purchased that item with the results of my labor. This seems reasonable
enough; why doesn't God do it that way?
If we work hard, making great sacrifices, we feel we have a right to be
proud. God knows that his gift can be received only by the humble, for only
the humble can have sweet fellowship with him. To love God and enjoy him
forever is not granted to the arrogant. So if our "work ethic" stops us
from receiving his grace, then that which we are so proud of is actually a
barrier. But the matter can be worse. Our humility prepares us to handle
high and holy things.
if we handle those high and holy things—for a profit? Such people are
always with us; you can turn on your television and find them without much
difficulty. These are the descendants of Gehazi, in the spiritual sense.
They sell the things of God for a profit. You can see here how God views
amounts to theft—stealing the things of God and selling them for a profit.
Some do it over television; sadly, some do it in person. These are the
hirelings who will abandon the sheep.
what price would you sell grace? It cost God the life of his son at
Calvary. That is a price beyond all riches. So it cannot be truly sold;
it must be given away. If you see it for sale, count on it: you're looking
at a cheap imitation. The real thing is given away for nothing, yet costs
everything you are. Accept no imitations; obtain grace that lasts forever.
Lord, the wolves are in among the sheep, as you prophesied. Expose the
frauds; exalt those who are faithful shepherds.
mother often wears a necklace made from a coral colored gemstone. It is
quite distinctive, and she is often complimented on it. She often tells the
story of how it was given to her.
after World War II, she and my father were crossing the desert that is the
American Southwest. They had very little in the way of money; dad was a
sergeant. They stopped somewhere in New Mexico at a roadside store. Mom
saw the necklace and admired it. My dad asked the salesman for the price.
"Fifteen dollars," he replied. Mom immediately told dad that this was far
too much money to spend on jewelry (fifteen bucks was a lot in those days).
They separated and wandered through the store.
didn't know it at the time, but dad went to the salesman a few minutes later
and said, "The lady will take it." It was an extravagance—but then, the man
was in love with her. Their marriage lasted over 56 years, until his
widow here knew such extravagance. She gave the same way. Giving in this
instance was public. When that is fitting, we will see some give out of
their wealth, as they should. Others will give out of their poverty; the
widow gave two coins, she could have retained one.
variety of reasons we now find giving done privately—the donor's envelope
being the prime method. It has a number of advantages; it avoids
embarrassment should you be giving to one particular person. It follows the
"right hand, left hand" principle established by Christ. If you can't do it
humbly at least do it privately—so that you seek your reward not from men
but from God. He is much more generous with his rewards.
is an offering an act of worship? When it is a sacrifice. Why would anyone
want to sacrifice to God? Sacrifice comes easily to those who love.
Costly? Yes, of course. Senseless? So it seems to other people. After
all, what could those two small coins do? Compared to the wealth in the
Temple treasury, not much. Compared to the widow's wealth, very much
indeed. God makes the comparison based on you and your wealth, not someone
gone now; Mom has only her memories. Is it any wonder that she cherishes
this one, given in the extravagance of love?
Lord, we see so little with our eyes open to the world. Open our eyes in
the Spirit, that we may see your love abounding.
have a Bible with reference notes, you will see that the section set off as
poetry (it does happen) is noted as referring to the book of Zechariah,
chapter 9, verse 9. Should you go back to that passage you will see
something which might just puzzle you. The entire chapter is prophetic—and
most of it refers to the second coming of Christ, not the first. It hardly
seems fair to the prophetic interpreters to do a thing like that.
actually is worse than that. This Jesus of Nazareth has actually picked out
a small piece of the prophecy—and has deliberately gone about fulfilling
it. That hardly seems to make this a great prophecy—after all, the fellow
who claimed that it applies to him went out of his way to make sure he
fulfilled it. How can that be fair?
did not intend to provide a livelihood for those who speculate about
prophecy. He intended that the ordinary man would understand that this is
prophecy fulfilled. Permit a simple illustration. I once had to find my
new manager at a hotel. He gave me a description of himself—which wasn't
very helpful. For my part, however, I had only to say that I have a patch
over my right eye—that easily described me. He found me with no difficulty.
had I been "fair" about it, I would have taken off the patch. Or not told
him about it. I wasn't interested in being fair; I wanted for the two of
us to meet. And that's just how God used this prophecy.
Zechariah sees both advents; but this one little passage is clear. God
revealed beforehand that which could not have been guessed. It is
sufficient for faith and instruction—but does not contain the detail
necessary to support the professional prophecy interpreters. It's his
prophecy; it is used for his purposes, not ours.
see what this prophecy has done for us. We have seen the first advent
fulfilled in meticulous detail. Even the most trivial things are mentioned
in the dozens of prophetic writings of the Old Testament. Those which apply
to Christ's first coming then add strength to our belief in his second. We
have seen him "call the shot." Therefore we believe.
interpret prophecy. We need no such; Jesus will return to judge the living
and the dead. We know the answer that counts.
Lord, keep us always seeking your return. May our hearts be ready when you
come again; our reaction, one of joy.
Dorothy Sayers once remarked that Jesus showed "a shocking casualness" in
the matter of a herd of pigs. It seems he did not care that someone lost
three thousand pigs because he cast out demons. He seems to have no regard
for the livestock's owner. Here we have the same thing again. He's
borrowing some livestock for a parade—in a very unorthodox manner. For
those who believe in the right to hold private property, this seems a rather
socialistic view, does it not?
would be so—if Jesus of Nazareth were nothing but mortal man. But he is
more than that; he is God in the flesh. The same God who proclaims that he
owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It appears that some of those cattle
(and probably some of those hills) have those who consider themselves
owners. It probably applies to pigs, too.
fool ourselves into saying that this land is ours; those cattle are ours.
They are not. We are but the temporary stewards of these things. You think
not? Wait a hundred years or so. See what still belongs to you then. His
claim on that real estate will still be there; you will likely have taken
up residence elsewhere.
should we view our possessions?
some people, possessions own them, rather than the reverse. Have you ever
known someone whose car, house or hobby consumed them?
most of us, we unthinkingly go along with the idea that "more is better."
Have you ever bought something because "it was a great deal" or "I had a
really good coupon?" Especially something you knew was not really very
problem is the assumption we make: "mine." It's not ours; we're just the
temporary stewards of it. We're just passing through this world, and we
need to carry its possessions lightly.
means, therefore, that we are stewards on behalf of God; we must use these
possessions for his purposes.
purposes include such obvious things as raising your kids and keeping the
rain off the furniture.
his purposes also include the care of others, the spread of the Gospel and
often enough the personal charity he commends to us. The kingdom of God is
the pearl of great price, even today.
Lord, keeps us from greed and envy; help us wear our possessions lightly.
May they be a help, not a burden.
recorded that Jesus wept, twice. Once over the grave of Lazarus; once over
the fate of Jerusalem.
he wept over Lazarus, those about him remarked, "See how he loved him!" The
same could be said for Jerusalem, for there is the place that God place the
Temple of His Name. It is the city of David; it is the only site of the
only Temple God ever permitted to be built for his Name. Over this city,
this because there was no hope? No; it was because there was no faith.
All knew that Lazarus was dead and gone; there was no hope; there was no
faith. Jerusalem was led by those who had nothing but scorn for this rabbi
from nowhere, this Jesus of Nazareth. "If only you knew." It is the lack
of faith that causes Jesus to weep—for he knows the consequences of that.
passage is prophetic. The prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70. The Romans
encircled the city; built up the siege ramps; took the city and sacked it,
burning, looting and slaughtering.
question arises naturally: how could God the merciful do such a thing to
the city of David? Did the site of this temple—sacred from the time of
Abraham until this very day—not move him?
forget that his protection comes in his covenant. God is not obligated to
protect us; we must go to him and ask for that protection. It is for his
children—not the brats.
placed a primary condition upon his care: faith. We cannot ignore him
until the crisis comes and then expect him to save us.
faith must be made real in experience; it is not a mental exercise. The
whole human being must believe.
recent experience greatly parallels that of ancient Israel. If you will
look for them, you will see the signs. We are a nation which has turned its
back upon the Living God. The humble have grown proud; we once were
confident of the justice of God; now we are confident of our military
might. We have forgotten just who humbled Jerusalem; we have also
forgotten the means. With all our military power, our enemies have found
ways to strike. As the ancient Romans administered God's justice, so we too
will be stricken—if we do not turn and repent.
Lord, we have become a nation which prizes the wicked and disdains the
righteous. Send us revival, lest we perish utterly.
Traffic at the Gate
1917 most English speaking people were much better acquainted with the Bible
we are today. It was not at all uncommon for a man to have a detailed
knowledge of the prophecies given in the Old Testament. Even if he did not,
he certainly would have known others who did.
Consider the case of General Allenby—who in 1917 was the conqueror of
Jerusalem, ending hundreds of years of Islamic reign over the city. He was
quite aware of the various prophecies which dealt with the gates—to the city
and the temple. In a deliberate attempt to avoid fulfilling anyone's
prophetic vision, he and his army entered Jerusalem by way of a gate on the
western side. It did him little good; his entry occurred in 1917, a year
which plays a major role in certain theories of Revelation. He promptly
became the fulfillment of prophecy.
passage bears a similar history. Despite its seeming simplicity, it has
been fought over for centuries. Who is this prince? If this is a temple to
be built during the Millennium, why are there sacrifices there? Just
mention "Millennial Temple" to any student of prophecy—and take good notes.
passage has another use; Roman Catholic doctrine holds that this passage is
actually a prophecy of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of
Jesus. As you can see, it is a very flexible bit of prophetic writing.
learn what we can. This is the third time that the prophet Ezekiel has been
brought to this gate. The first trip was to measure it; the second, to
witness the glory of God going through this gate. Now, upon the third
visit, the gate is shut—because the glory of the Lord has passed through it.
Consider this: the gate, when measured, is unremarkable for its
dimensions. But when the glory of the Lord is upon it, the gate becomes
holy ground. The mere presence of the glory of God is sufficient; it makes
the gate holy. The gate through which the glory of God passes will allow no
further common traffic.
another prophecy Christ tells us that he stands at the gate and knocks.
Once he comes in, the gate needs be shut, for no other traffic may pass
where the Christ has come. Is it so with you? Does his presence prevent
all others from entering into the sanctuary of your soul?
Lord, enter by the gate of our hearts, that we might enter by the narrow
gate into the kingdom of heaven.
is a recurrent theme in Solomon's prayer—it concerns the Name of God. He
recites to God the fact that men will come from great distances because of
the Name. How will they know to do that? Because they will hear of his
greatness in three ways:
is the greatness of the Name itself. We have long since forgotten that the
use of the word "God" in a sentence called for reverence. From that
reverence the idle use of the name was considered obscenity and blasphemy;
now it is simply "telling it like it is."
will hear of his mighty works. These are undeniable; the greater
whether or not they will connect the works with the Worker.
Finally, there is his outstretched arm. There is no where in the universe
that he cannot reach, offering his mercy to you.
note that all these people are foreigners to Israel. They will know the
name of God and fear him because of his mighty works and tender mercies.
is a certain justice in Solomon's plea. It is an established point of the
ancient law that there would be only one law, valid for both the foreigner
and the Israelite. So Solomon is teaching us that we too should have but
one standard. Our conduct should not be ethical when dealing with
Christians and unethical when dealing with non-Christians. Such a double
standard disgraces the Name of God.
brings us to the point. Just how do you treat the name of God? We often
forget that we are to hold that name sacred; it's a point not often taught
of us have heard it used as an idle obscenity many times. Is our speech
free from it? We can at least set an example in this.
we seem to use the name of God as an attachment to presumptuous advice.
Just because I believe everything that God says does not mean that
everything I believe is what God said.
of all, some use it for deception. A Christian symbol on your business card
should not symbolize fraud.
Lord, we so often take your Name—and you—so lightly. Teach us to use it
with the respect it deserves.
Second Coming of our Lord is a topic which has two certain characteristics:
Christians who accept the inspiration of the Scripture (one might as well
say, all Christians) hold to the bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ, in
from that point on there is very little agreement.
might do well to search this passage, though. In it we can see something of
which there is seldom mention: the powerful emotions of that day.
up your eyes," says the prophet. Why would we need to lift them up?
Because until his return we will be downcast. The world tells us that we
are fools (and dangerous fools at that; best to be rid of them
permanently). Persecution is the normal lot of the Christian. Hear we see
the wonder of the church of that day; the signs of glory are all around.
We shall marvel at all the wealth of those days; and even more at the great
reunion of mankind.
sounds too good to be true. What is there too hard for the Lord?
prophet describes (for his Jewish audience) what that day will be like.
Having a herd of camels spread over your real estate does not sound to most
of us like a good thing. But to the ancient Israelite, it would have been
wealth indeed. They would have seen this passage as portraying wealth
that, there is the return of son and daughter. This is a joyous thing in
our own time (think of your adult children coming home for Christmas); how
much greater will that be at the return of our Lord?
Honor and praise to the Lord
in this passage the phrase, "the Holy One of Israel." This is the promised
Messiah, Jesus the Christ. All this is done for his honor. But note what
he has done for his church: endowed her with splendor. All this is part of
his glory at his return.
you ever felt, even for a brief moment, the sheer exaltation of praising God
in song; heart, soul, mind and strength all praising him? That little
flicker of heaven will grow to a glorious light when our Lord returns. Even
so, Lord, come soon!
Lord, we watch for your return. It will be a glorious day; teach us to be
ready for it, so that we may share the joy with you.
Chimps and Men
The chimpanzee, we are told, is the primate most closely resembling man. A
recent observation of these animals has revealed something disturbing to
some. It seems that adolescent chimps, who cannot compete for sexual favor
against adult males, commit what would be rape if they were humans. Why
this is so disturbing we shall soon see.
Christ here reminds us of the basic rules of Satan's kingdom;
Everybody is looking out for number one.
We're completely ethical—as long as it's profitable.
\We suspect everyone else of being just like us.
And those we know are not, we envy.
Here, the Pharisees show such envy. It is often accompanied by silence,
followed by backbiting.
Jesus simply turns the result around on them. Within the rules of Satan's
kingdom, it's clear that the strongest rule. Order is kept by force. But
when the kingdom of God comes, then the rule of force destroys Satan's
Since the time of Charles Darwin, we have been treated to "advanced
thinking" which proclaims that Darwin's principles should govern the
morality of human beings. Anything that causes my genes to be reproduced is
"good." That's why these thinkers are so perturbed by the report of rape
among the chimps. From their point of view, it's something that transmits
"favored" genes in the population. And, if it's something that does that,
then it's "good," by the very definition of social darwinism. So if it
works in chimps, then, say the darwinistas, it works with human beings. In
other words, if some teenage punk rapes a woman, it's a good thing—he's
capable of putting his genetic material into the next generation.
The authors of the article cautioned that the work was "preliminary." I
think that means they have not had time to find an explanation that is
socially palatable. No doubt they soon will; after all, social darwinsim
must be politically correct. It would not do to justify rape on the grounds
that spreading your genes is good. In the meanwhile, the Christian may
take heart; the kingdom of God has not changed—modern thinkers or not. The
law of the jungle is run by force and deceit. Christ's kingdom runs in
love, and lasts forever.
Lord, in every generation there are those who hammer on the Rock of
Salvation. The hammers die when they do; but the Rock that is Christ is
Abhors A Vacuum
high school physics teacher can tell you: it's hard to get rid of the
preconceived notions students bring in with them. The number of people who
believe that rockets have to push on the launch pad all through the flight
similar bit of physics phoolery considers the simple act of sucking up
liquid through a straw. If you had a giant straw, say, fifty feet tall,
could you drink your soft drink through it from such an altitude? The
common answer says yes, of course. Actually, you can move the liquid no
more than about fourteen feet—because that's the limit given by the air
pressure on the liquid. But students will tell you that, no, you just have
to suck harder. Wrong!
There's a similar bit of deception going on here. Christ has just finished
comparing the men of his generation with the wicked of old. It's not a
flattering comparison. But these men think they have the ready answer.
their own merits—in the matter of Scriptural Law—they will reform
themselves. They will clean the house, getting rid of all bad habits—and
replacing them with nothing. That creates what we might call a spiritual
vacuum. If there is no pressure from the outside, this should work.
there is pressure from the outside. Satan and his demons are ever searching
for those they might devour. So, finding a choice spot, the original
problem child returns—with his gang of seven right behind him.
sad part of this: the victim thinks he is in control. He created the
void; he thinks he can maintain the void. It simply does not work. If the
void is to remain clean, you must fill it, spiritually, with that which is
clean. That means Jesus Christ.
Even in such a world, God prevails. He has given us his Son that we might
have no spiritual void; rather, that we should be overflowing with the
Spirit. Instead of Satan pressing in, we find the Holy Spirit bubbling
out, It is simply a matter of a flow from the high pressure to the low. It
works that way in physics; it works that way in Christ as well. If you
invite him into your heart, all that is evil is kept out—because you are
overflowing with the irresistible power of God. Let it overflow cheerfully
from you, so that you will be blessed both inside and out.
Lord, we are the channels where your grace is poured. Guide us so that the
Spirit flows out from us.
you ever imagined yourself as one of the apostles of old? What would it be
like to be able to, for example, heal the sick?
there would be the sensation of power. You would feel the ability that
others could only wish for.
many would flock to you! Jesus found this such a problem that he often had
to send the crowds away, withdrawing into a remote place to pray.
how they would listen to your words! Everything you said would be
considered as if it were from God.
can see that the power alone would not be sufficient. You would need the
authority from God to properly use this. What would this authority mean?
would very quickly become a "spiritual policeman." Your word would be taken
to settle all manner of theological disputes—some of which you would not
would also be the sense of being invulnerable—God's man, on God's mission,
protected by the Almighty God.
combination; the authority and power to heal, to cast out demons! But look
too at what Christ says about it; we should not rejoice for such powers—but
rather at a source of greater joy: that our names are written in heaven.
seems strange to us. Why should this be so?
power and authority are gifts from God. They are what he has done through
us, not anything of which we can proclaim our own merit.
makes it clear that his choice for such gifts has nothing to do with being a
great theologian, or an elder, or anything else. The Spirit supplies such
power as is needed for the kingdom.
important of all is this: God chooses those with these gifts. We are the
ones who chose to have our names written in heaven—when we chose Jesus
you rejoice over such spiritual gifts? Certainly; should he provide them,
But these things are only for this world. Rather, do the things that lay up
treasure in heaven. Is your name written in the Father's book of life? If
not, whose fault is that?
Lord, we long so much to have miraculous gifts. Teach us to be content with
the grace given and the name written.
ancient church held universally to the view that Paul wrote the book of
Hebrews. He would be a fitting choice; no one else knew better the
difficulty of the Jewish Christian. How can the church reconcile the
commandments of the Old Testament with the freedom of the New Testament?
this letter, Paul provides what is required. He reaffirms the fact that God
did in fact speak to the prophets. He provides for the Jewish Christian a
bridge to the New Testament world. He does so by showing the explicit
superiority of Christ.
He begins with three characteristics of Christ visible to us:
the heir of all things. All that is matter and energy belongs to Jesus
the agent of creation—God made all things in our universe through Christ.
the sustainer of creation—the one who decrees its laws shall not vary until
relationship to God.
If his authority were not enough, Paul asks that you examine his position
the radiance of God's glory. We know there is a difference between the sun
and the light of the sun—but all we know about the sun comes from studying
its light. If you want to know what God is like—study Christ.
the exact representation of his being. God cannot be completely
comprehended by man; Christ is the best picture of God that we can have.
seated at the right hand of God. Seated—not bowing before him. At the
right hand, the position of authority.
relationship to us.
all this majesty is the simple statement: he provided purification for us.
the only one who could have; none other could be sinless.
the only one who would have; where else such love?
the only one who did—on the Cross.
Lord, you are so awesome in power, so great in your love. Give us eyes to
see and tongues to praise.
Pure in Heart
mail note had just the right amount of poor English to be credible. The
author carefully explained that he was trying to get out of Nigeria, with
his wealth intact. He was looking for someone of integrity to whom he could
entrust his riches. He found me because of the web site I maintain;
convinced of my rectitude, he offered a large sum of money "that could be
used in your ministry" as reward for allowing him to transfer his money
through me. All I needed to do to reap this blessing was to provide him
with my bank account number and a few other details.
of course, the Nigerian Internet Fraud. Millions of other people got
similar mail notes. Regrettably, many fell for it. It is not mine to judge
them. But to the pure in heart, one question arises: why would you think
it necessary to reward me with so much money?
pure, all things are pure. It is a reaction completely unexpected by those
perpetrating the fraud. That purity of heart goes by the name of
"integrity." It is the one-ness of heart that God is seeking; from him the
pure in heart accept their reward.
who can be completely pure in heart? Certainly not me; nor have I ever
known anyone who could have such integrity by their own efforts.
Integrity—real integrity, oneness of self and oneness with God—was purchased
with a price: Calvary. It is the cleansing of Christ's blood which allows
him to "create in me a clean heart, O God."
Integrity. You cannot cheat an honest man. We value purity in others, but
find it difficult ourselves. We want purity in our foods but find it
difficult to maintain
in ourselves. I can see why the other guy should be pure; but why me?
Because God is not finished with us yet. He tells us that in this life we
will see only dimly what is to come. Paul compares it to the mirrors of his
time, which only faintly gave you your image. But he tells us that we shall
be like Christ, when he returns. Then we shall be revealed to one and all.
Everyone will see us as we are.
image will we present? We are told that we shall be like Christ. No wonder
we cannot see him now; we do not have the means. Only the pure in heart
shall see God.
Lord, create in me a clean heart. Strengthen me as I struggle for purity in
heart; make me a man of integrity, pleasing to you.
an undeniable fact: Jesus of Nazareth went to places where decent people
just do not go. It is hardly surprising to hear the crowd murmur about it.
consider: a policeman regularly goes where decent people should not go—so
that he might perform his duties. Often at risk of his life he must batter
down the door and face the evil inside.
crowd didn't see it that way. They knew exactly who this man was. They
were a little surprised when this prophet seemed to be unaware of who the
man Zaccheus was.
Lord knew his man, however. Notice the reaction that Zaccheus gave to the
King of Kings:
gave him a glad (and grateful) welcome. That such a man as Jesus would want
to be with him; what a balm to the lonely soul, the outcast of society.
also gave him an immediate welcome! Good news will keep, we say. Not very
long, says Zaccheus.
gave him an obedient welcome as well, as we can see from his actions.
crowd probably did not notice this. It is very interesting how attitudes on
this change. The New International Version puts the word "sinner" in
quotation marks, as if this was something now known to be unreal. The truth
is, the label belongs to each and every one of us.
let us take heart; we see here the story of salvation. The Lord himself
proclaims it. Is it so obvious? I think so. Look at the signs of
Zaccheus begins by declaring his intention to make good—with restitution, as
required by the Law. He seeks forgiveness;
forgiven, he does not forget his obligation.
then tells Jesus that half his wealth will go to the poor. The cold heart
of a tax collector for the Roman occupation army turns to the Light, and
crowd? They did not understand Jesus for they did not know his mission. As
the policeman goes into harm’s way as part of his
duty, our Lord goes into the depths of the human soul, on his mission: to
seek and save the lost.
Lord, teach your children how to reach the lowest of the lost for you,
carrying on the mission to seek and save the lost.
it right: "Good chocolate chip cookies call you by name." That's the
explanation that chowhounds everywhere have accepted concerning chocolate. The
fault isn't with me; the cookies made me do it.
into the restaurant, knowing that the steaks are broiled in pure butter; the
desserts are large enough to keep a small third world village in calories for a
week - with the full intention of ordering a salad (dressing on the side); ice
tea (no sugar, just the artificial stuff) and a cup of decaffeinated coffee for
dessert. Result? One steak, a baked potato and a piece of chocolate cake that
has the word "mountain" in its name—but you did at least push the steamed
broccoli aside. And proud of it, too.
But at the
moment the waitress asked for your order, your head has a voice in it saying,
"Salad, salad, salad," while your mouth says, "Steak—all the trimmings." Ever
had that argument within yourself?
Congratulations, you're human. You know what you're supposed to do—and you
don't do it. You know you shouldn't, but you keep doing it. It is this nature
that Paul displays for us here. Please note: he comes not only with the
problem, but the solution.
tell yourself that what you're doing is wrong, you at least confirm one thing:
you know what's right and wrong in this situation. You just keep doing the
Because you alone are not strong enough to control—You. It can be very
discouraging. But there is help available in Jesus Christ. For this same
dilemma of my nature against what I know to be right applies to the sin in our
problem Christ brings the answer:
there is forgiveness. Sometimes the body takes such hold that we simply give
up. We are numb to sin; but now we can be forgiven instead.
brings us hope. Things can be different; Christ can turn you around. You and
Christ are stronger than you alone.
Ultimately, with Christ, we shall take on a new nature—at the resurrection. In
that day the conflict between flesh and spirit will be over; all will be
Lord, we make light of our carnal nature—for it seems so hopeless. Open our
eyes, Lord, and let us see the hope we have in you.