Live Ready

This is a look at the last public teaching that Jesus gave before going to the cross. He did this, like usual, through the use of parables. And in many cases, Jesus used multiple parables to teach the same principle. He did this with the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and the prodigal son. We see Him doing it again with another trifecta of parables. In your Bible they are probably labeled as the parables of the 10 virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. Before we start breaking these down, let’s take a little more look into the context of these teachings.

As I mentioned before, this is the last public message that Jesus taught before the last supper and his eventual betrayal in the Garden. Jesus delivers them following His return to Jerusalem. Starting back in chapter 21, Jesus goes into the temple and cleanses it from the ungodly practices of all the Passover vendors. After leaving, He would return to the temple in order to address the leaders and religious members of society. This is where He called out the hypocrisy of the teachers and pharisees of Israel and warned the people not to follow in their example. Once again, Jesus leaves the temple and begins His discourse on the end of the age. Also referred to as the “end times” or “second coming”. It is at this point that Jesus delivers these three connected stories.

In each illustration, Jesus divides people into one of two groups. There’s the Wise Virgins and the foolish virgins in the first parable He teaches. In the second, people are divided into the Good and Faithful Servants or the Wicked and Lazy Servant. And in the last parable He teaches the two divisions are the Sheep and the Goats. Let’s look at the distinction between them now.

1-Prepared vs unprepared: The wise virgins had enough oil. They were fully prepared and anticipated meeting the bridegroom. Same with the Good and Faithful Servants, who did the work and invested their effort to bring a profit to their existence that would please the master. For the sheep, Jesus provides specific examples of what it looks like to be prepared for His arrival, and how we can invest our faith to benefit others for His glory. They all included looking for the needs in others and doing our part to fill them. We have an abundance of hurting and broken people around us. We don’t have to look too far to find someone in need, physical or emotional. To be prepared is to live like Jesus did. To seek the lost and to give our lives away for the benefit of others. Oil is often used as a representation of the Holy Spirit. To be prepared then is to be filled with the Spirit and to live according to the spirit.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

2-Active vs. inactive: One key distinction between those who are looking for the return of Christ is how active they are. Life can easily get in the way but Jesus doesn’t take that as an excuse. No matter how busy we are, we are meant to do “everything” unto the Lord. Whether in word or deed. Family, work, hobbies…they shouldn’t get in our way of doing the things of the Lord, they should be all about doing the things of the Lord. That doesn’t mean we have to all be preachers, but we should all be preaching the gospel through our way of life and our words. We display Jesus at home, at work, and at play.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

3-Bigger mission vs. self-centered mission: The wicked and lazy servant operated out of fear. The foolish virgins cared more about the load they carried and their convenience rather than being prepared. The Goats were doing everything to promote their own religiosity. God knows when we do things for Him and when we do things to promote ourselves. Jesus said to let our lights shine before men so that they will see them and glorify God in heaven. But so many do things so that they themselves will be glorified on earth. Fear won’t be an excuse. Convenience won’t be an excuse. And self-glorification certainly won’t be an excuse.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

4-A knowledge of Jesus vs. not really knowing Him: Paul said to live as wise and not as unwise, knowing the things that are pleasing to the Lord. Jesus wants us to be watching for Him and investing our lives in the lives of others. He wants us to live in a manner that points others in His directions. We all need to live less for ourselves and more for Him. Jesus tells each of the people in the negative category that He does not know them. Those are fearful words that none of us should ever want to hear. We all need to live for the future hope by leaving the best possible legacy now. We all need to pick up our cross and follow Him. He has made it possible for us to know Him. The question is, are we walking full on into His invitation?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What is the overall purpose of these last few parables that Jesus teaches us? What is Jesus trying to get us to see? I believe He wants to leave us with a clear message of how to be prepared for His eventual return. These words are a gift to us. It’s His final reminder before He departs. It reminds me of the farewell address given by Moses at the conclusion of giving the law and before he went up the mountain with God to die. Laid before us is life and death. Jesus’ use of contrast imagery drives home the same message. The world’s only divided into two groups of people: those who know Him and those who don’t. In the end, that is all that will matter. Our socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. Nor does our bucket list. Our career path, net income, and accomplishments all fade away in light of what Jesus is really looking for in you and me. He wants to know us and be known by us.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 ESV

He entreats us all to take the time to listen. Hear His voice calling you by name, telling you that you are loved, inviting you into His pasture, into the abundant way of life. Listen to the good shepherd guide you to the life of love and legacy.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

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God’s Redemptive Love Part II: Noah

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord… Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”

Genesis 6:5-9 (NKJV)

In part two of the series, we are taking a look at the person of Noah. The story is one usually thought of as an act of judgement, but it is also one that shows God’s extreme love for mankind. I have heard many people view this story as one of God’s wrath and leave it at that. But when we look closely at this story we see redemption.

Imagine the pure evil and absolute corruption of man at the time of Noah and then ask yourself, “how much love does God have that He still wanted to redeem humanity after their complete abandonment of Him?” Honestly, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a world that is so broken and corrupt and full of sin. We live in a world very much like that today. How could God still want humanity to find redemption? The answer is simple. His love is not human love but divine love. A love that is always trying to reconcile our hearts to His. A love that looks at an earth filled with total decay and depravity and does not give up. A love that would preserve a piece of His creation even when the creation wanted nothing to do with Him.

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you… Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-11 (NKJV)

Noah and his family were not perfect. It wouldn’t take long for them to be impacted by the mark of sin that we all carry. But God still called them out. He still saved them. We too are imperfect and broken and should find encouragement in this story. God is calling us out of the fallen world to be a part of His new beginnings. We just have to get on the boat.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

God’s Redemptive Love Part I: Adam and Eve

“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21 (NKJV)

This is a new series that will highlight examples of God’s acts of redemption from the Old Testament. Many struggle with the view that God somehow changed once the New Testament period began. But as we know, this isn’t true. God has had a heart of compassion and love and a desire to redeem and save what is lost from the very beginning. Jesus is the greatest example of that. But the Bible is full of instances where God reached out to His creation in an act of grace. To begin, we start at the beginning.

The first recorded sacrifice for sin was made by God Himself. Once Adam and Even ate of the tree, once they had sinned and had become ashamed, once they had hidden themselves from God, The Lord intervened on their behalf. God made a sacrifice to cover their shame. They certainly didn’t deserve that, but neither do we.

From the moment of the first sinful act of mankind, God has been writing a story of redemption. God sees our sin, knows our brokenness, but seeks our hearts none the less. When we fall short, He comes through to save us. From the very beginning the Lord could’ve abandoned His fallen creation or left them to be ruled by darkness, but His love is too great for that. This marks only the beginning of God’s redemptive love. Even in our moments of our failure, God is intervening for us. Even when we attempt to hide ourselves or sin, God is seeking us out.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters, and His great love for us.

You can’t earn it

Holiness is not the way to Jesus; Jesus is the way to holiness. That can be an easy thing to forget. I think it’s humans natural tendency to try and earn our way into God’s good graces. Just look at every religion that has ever existed, with the exception of one. The Christian faith is unique in many ways. But most importantly, there is the aspect of grace. At the center of it all is a loving God who desires the redemption of a fallen humanity and goes to the greatest lengths to make that possible. In every other religion exists the constant struggle to be “good enough” or to “earn” our way. The truth is, none of us are good enough and never will be. God is holy, which means set apart. There is no one like Him. The only way any of us can ever hope to be in His presence is if He, not us, make that possible.

The freedom we get in Jesus is astounding. Not only do we get washed clean of our past sins, we also get released from the power of sin. And not just those hideous and dark sins, but also the ugly sin of self righteousness. You can’t earn God’s love. He already loves you. Just look at the cross. If that’s not proof, then nothing is. Amazing grace is a gift, not a loan. Just soak in His love and let that soften your heart and mold you and before you know it, that same love will be pouring out of you.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Where is He leading me?

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.

Psalm 43:3 HCSB

As believers in Jesus, we pray a lot for wisdom and for guidance. Hopefully we realize that it will always lead us towards God. The direction He wants us to take in life is the place of light and truth that He possess. It’s holy ground. God is both with us and waiting in the place He wants us to go. In whatever guidance we’re looking for we must always seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Many of our questions can be answered by starting there. Seeking a new career? Wanting to know whether or not to ask someone to marry you? Contemplating moving and starting over somewhere new? Should I buy that? Should I give to that? Ask yourself, which of your options will lead you in the pursuit of righteousness? And, could lead others towards righteousness. God’s light will always guide you to the greatest service, to the deepest love, to the purest living, and to highest character.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10 NIV

Short-changing God

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Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

Psalm 96:8 KJV

This seems like a tall order. First, how do we give glory unto the Lord? Second, how could we possibly hope to give Him all He deserves? Isn’t this the purpose of our very existence? We are made in His image, to bear His name, and to honor Him by the manner of our lives. But how does that look? I think the Bible answers that for us.

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Whatever we do, one thing that is paramount is worship. Our praise for God should intertwine the activities we do throughout the day, from the redundant, to the exciting and new. His children should elevate God above and beyond in within all things they do. Praise should be a constant, both privately and publicly. We cannot hesitate to shout His goodness from the mountaintops and tell the world of the great things He’s done for us for others.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 ESV

God deserves our service. He deserves our energies and our resources. Not only should our lips shout the glories of God, but our actions should display them. In our love, we show God. In our character, we show God. In the way we lay our lives down for our neighbors, we show God.

Truth is, God deserves far more than we could ever give. But that should never stop us from devoting each waking moment to sing His praises and to put His love on display. Have a blessed day brothers and sister!

Never Underestimate Mercy

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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:7 ESV

Recent events in my family’s experiences have reminded me of the immense value of mercy. No one is perfect, therefore everyone messes up. We are all in need of mercy, from one another, and from God. There is no one who doesn’t need forgiveness. When people we know are going astray, don’t abandoned them. For when they return, they will need your open arms to further their healing and recovery.

God makes no room for an unforgiving spirit. That only comes from arrogance and a distorted view of our own “goodness”. It’s easy to look at the choices of others and drift towards judgement. But what God commissions us to is an attitude of compassion and prayer. We need to stop wasting our time with anger and frustration and spend more time pouring out our hearts in prayer for those who are not living the way they should. I have witnessed, time and time again, people’s lives being redirected through God’s goodness. No one is too far gone. Let’s all stop the gossip chains. Let’s stop wasting our voices bashing others. From our lips should come love and truth seasoned with grace and hope. Condemning others never lead to their salvation.

There will come a time when you and me will need mercy to be extended to us. I need it fairly often. I needed it in a big way just a few months ago. I am extremely grateful for those who have shown me grace, and that gratitude should punctuate and attitude of mercy in my own heart. A good thing to remember is that no one could ever hurt us as much as we’ve hurt God. Our sin rendered us underserving. It’s Christ’s sacrifice that opens the door for each of us to find mercy. Our sin gave Him lashes and drove the nails through His wrists and feet every bit as much as those who have hurt us. We too have broken the heart of God, and have received His mercy. If that doesn’t propel us to show grace then nothing will, and we will then be the most pitiable of all.

Turn up the Light

Oswald Chambers once wrote that, “When becoming Christ’s my individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.”

Far earlier the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

And finally, the great pastor Charles Spurgeon is noted saying, “Christ first, me last, nothing but love in between.”

Devotion in the Christian’s life certainly plays out in different ways, but one common element should be evident in us all: that we are His, wholeheartedly, and our lives should show it. The Lord promised to make us springs of living water that overflow to those around us. He said the world would know us by our love. He said we are the light of the world. Lord Jesus, turn up the light in us. Give us undivided hearts and undivided lives. Be alive in us like never before.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Imprint

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

We do not have a choice whether or not we leave an imprint. Just by existing in the day to day, we will impact those around us. We do have a choice, however, in how we want to use our life and the affect we have on others. We can use it to either make a positive imprint or a negative one. The wise person will take every opportunity to be intentional about affecting change, love, truth, peace, and hope where they live and beyond.

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

Deuteronomy 4:5-6 (NKJV)

God selected for Himself a nation that He saved from their bondage, trained through the desert, and empowered to conquer the sinful nations occupying the Promised Land. Through Moses, God proclaimed time and time again to be careful to follow His commands so that they would prosper; so that they would leave a positive imprint. If God didn’t have a plan for the redemption of mankind He probably wouldn’t have bothered with the nation of Israel, teaching them, and preserving them. The plan He had for Israel was about far more than just Israel itself. The same goes for you and me. He did not just redeem us for our sakes alone but so that we may now be careful to walk in the light and expel the darkness around us, not partake in it.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

This world offers many counterfeits, some of which disguise themselves as being for God, yet contains ungodly practices that go back thousands of years. In Proverbs 23:17 we’re told not to envy sinners (or what they do) but to be zealous for God. We’re told in Romans Chapter 12 to not be conformed to this world yet many still blend right in. Each of us needs to decide whether we are going to water down our Christian walk to be nothing more than a label or if we’re going to love to the fullest, walk in holiness, and observe God’s commands. We need to decide if we’re going to pick and choose what works best for us in scripture and stumble our way through this life or take the Bible as the literal Word of God and live out the powerful force of a Holy Spirit filled life.

Our life is our ministry and our ministry is our life. We must choose whether to let this world dictate our theology or let the infallible Word of God dictate the world around us. What better imprint to leave than a godly one? Encourage the weak, love the unlovable, bring peace to the unrest. Speak truth into a confused world, but speak it in grace. Show compassion for the downtrodden, and empathy for the hurting. Be that beacon of hope and let your joy be contagious. Wherever the believers treads, thereto the Savior has walked.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters.

Grace Overflowing

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)

It seems like it can be so easy to get offended by what others say or do to us. Sometimes we feel justified to feel a certain way and that we have a right to not forgive someone. However, Christ was pretty straight forward with us…we are to forgive as He has forgiven us. We really don’t have any choice in the matter if we claimed allegiance to Christ. By not forgiving we place ourselves in the judgment seat that is already occupied. When we don’t forgive, we attempt to usurp God’s throne. It may not seem like that in our minds. We are hurt and upset and we don’t feel like forgiving. Simple right? In those moments it’s important to think about all the ways we hurt or insult God by our actions, thoughts, or words. If we’re honest with ourselves in those moments, we will quickly realize that to not forgive the offenses done to us is beyond hypocrisy.

God does not tell us to forget or to not feel the hurt from time to time, but He does tell us to forgive. To forgive is to release them from a debt. A debt that you perceive that they owe to you. It is our fallen human nature, a product of this broken world, that we think people should get what they deserve. At the same time, we are so grateful that we don’t get what we deserve. The word grace means underserving kindness, favor, or forgiveness. Just think of all the things that God is constantly forgiving us for and how we don’t deserve it. Obviously we are not Jesus but once again, God is calling us to be like Jesus. God has given us an abundance of grace, which we can use in those moments when we feel wronged or mistreated.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV)

Almost every day presents opportunities to be offended. But with that, we have opportunities to grow in grace every day. My guess is, while reading this, you have someone or some event in mind. Have you forgiven them? Have you moved forward in grace? The one who pays the largest price for unforgiveness is the one who refuses to forgive. Choose love. Chose peace. Choose to show the world a love that is beyond human nature.

In the days I struggle, it helps to read through the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18. To see the enormous level of grace shown to the servant, who then turns around and refuses to extend grace to others, is a bitter pill to swallow when I see myself in that story doing the same. We’ve hurt God far more than anyone has and ever will hurt us in this lifetime. And He’s gone above and beyond to show us forgiveness. How can we do any different? How can we possibly refuse to give what has been given to us. How can we be so blind? While the hurt is real, the only real cure is love, which is far more powerful.

An incredible song by Hillsong Worship called Thank you Jesus opens with the lines, “Grace that flows like a river, washing over me. Fount of Heaven, love of Christ, overflow in me.” Lord let that be true in all of your children. Let’s overflow in love and grace!

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters