Archive for May, 2014
“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you” (Matthew 18:33)?
While using the extreme of “seventy times seven” to capture the boundless nature of forgiveness that must be offered to the brother who sins against you, Jesus then utilizes a parable that, in the end, does in fact place a limitation on forgiveness. God’s mercy meets its end at the very point it is withheld; when the disciple who has received God’s grace refuses it to the one that has sinned against him. For those who have known the blessing of God’s grace there is the responsibility of being a conduit of that grace.
“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
When recognizing the three institutions ordained by God–family, governments, and the church–I would speculate that frequent prayers are offered for our homes and churches, while suspicioning that government leaders receive more of our criticism than our prayers. It is to the benefit of all concerned if the church would pray Godly wisdom for those elected officials entrusted with the responsibility of preserving, protecting, perpetuating the social fabric of a civilized existence and the intentions of God for the nations. Apparently, even the Lord knows they need it.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
I thought I was ready until I saw my father hold them out and say, “Here are the keys. You drive.” In that moment all the implications and responsibilities of operating an automobile weighed heavily upon my shoulders. Jesus‘ statement to Peter should not be understood as an initiation of apostolic succession but, rather, a recognition of the magnitude of this ministry and mission being entrusted to him and to us. As shaky as I was when taking the car keys, I am more shaken by the notion of handling the keys to the Kingdom.
“For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isaiah 63:16).
The acknowledgement of what God has done in the past is but an assurance of his working in the present. While believers seem to know what God has done, we struggle to see what he is doing. By our praying, reading of the scriptures, lives of obedience, and being the presence of Christ for others, the “Redeemer from old” continues working as a present tense reality.
“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
Because there was no precedence of faith for the church in Corinth, Paul was the only role-model they had as to how the Christian faith ought to look and be “played out” in one’s life. For those in your life who would never go to church or read the bible, you may be the only one modeling the life of faith. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and wear him well.
“Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3).
Whether it’s a child rebelling against a parent or God’s children revolting against him, such acts stand in opposition to nature. Even the most lowly of beasts, the ox and the donkey, recognize and are drawn to the master who feeds them. It is a confounding mystery as to why we run from the One whose entire salvation history is but a tireless effort to draw us to him and to create a wanting to be his children.
“And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:19-20).
While maybe not literal chains, as was the case for Paul, believers can find themselves shackled by competing voices within the culture. Bold and unbridled is a prayerful pursuit that must not be neglected. Paul’s three-time admonition to “stand firm” (vs.11,13,14) is a stern reminder that some things are worth standing up for.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” (John 13:13)
To rightly call Jesus our Teacher requires that we must be students; disciples; that we must first possess and forever retain a desire to learn and be taught. Perhaps the worst, if not the most dangerous, attribute of a professing Christian is to have an unteachable spirit. This because the titles of Teacher and Lord are inseparable. Once you have arrived to the place of being unteachable; knowing it all; no longer curious; entrenched in your thinking then you have become your own god. Thus, not only is Jesus no longer the Teacher, neither is he your Lord.
“But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends’” (Luke 15:29).
The saga of the prodigal and the redeeming grace of the father is soon clouded by the self-righteousness of the elder son. Such self-righteous creatures have a joyless existence; preoccupied with their own religious asceticism. They can never bring themselves to celebrate what grace is accomplishing in others and, perhaps, secretly harbor a resentment of grace. His is the least compelling of arguments; that he honors God by refusing to fellowship with his once godless brother.
“You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you” (1 Corinthians 4:8).
Pride is recognized by its self-satisfaction (filled), self-sufficiency (rich), and self-supremacy (kings). It is the vice we detest in others but do not recognize in ourselves. Pride skews our vision and bends the light in such a way that all we see is our needs, wants, and desires. If pride is the basis of every other vice then humility is the springboard to every other virtue.