Thursday, January 31, 2013

Explain it to us

Read Matthew 13:24-30, known as the parable of the weeds. While there may be some of the parable that is easily understood, the closest followers of Jesus didn't understand it all.  Later in the chapter they asked Jesus to explain it to them. 

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus went into great detail in his explanation, naming everything and everyone involved. That gives his disciples a little more information in learning the meaning of the parable. Then Jesus tells how all of it fits into his description of events at the end of the age. 

Look again at those events.  The weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire. The Son of Man sends his angels, whose duty consists of weeding out of the kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They end up in the fiery furnace, that place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

That description makes me shiver. It is a fearful description Jesus gives. It could even be the motivation for some to  become "sons of the kingdom" and known to be "the good seed."

Notice again verse 43 from above. It is the description Jesus gives for the righteous. We who have escaped darkness and have lived lives of "walking in the light" are described in words which could be considered the greatest promise in the Bible. " Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

As children of God, we recognize the responsibility to the be light of the world. Our lives as Christians can be a blessing to those around us as they see Jesus living in us. Even greater, when Jesus comes and weeds out everything that causes evil and all who do evil, he promises we are going to still be shining; shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.  Earlier in Matthew he had said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven."


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Rock and the Sand

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Two builders are the main characters in this story Jesus told. In the way the Lord tells it, it is a story of comparison, and each of us has the choice of which builder we wish to use as our example.  Most will read the story and come away thinking the only decision they must make will concern the foundation upon which they will build. Closer observation reveals the foundation analogy is simply getting us to realize a deeper choice we must make, putting Jesus' words into practice, or not. 

Each builder heard the words, making them alike. One builder built his house on the rock, while the other built his house on the sand, making them different. One builder built a house that did not fall, while the other built a house that experienced a great crash.  The simple story from Jesus isn't hard to understand. The success or failure of a building depends primarily on the foundation upon which it is built, and there is a huge difference in the outcome in making the choice of building on the rock, or on the sand. 

The story of Jesus is intended to make us examine the foundation of our lives to see if we have chosen to build life on something solid like the rock, or on something continually changing like the sand.  The choice you make should be obvious, however in today's world there are many who seek security and success in "sand-things" which bring destruction and failure. (*Hint" Jesus is the Rock!)

In a little wood-framed church building on Loraine Street, in Midland, Texas, I heard and joined in singing as a child, about the "Sure Foundation." Here are some of the words:

There stands a Rock on shores of time
That rears to Heaven its head sublime.
That Rock is cleft, and they are blest
Who find within this cleft a rest.

Some build their hopes on the ever drifting sand,
Some on their fame, or their treasure, or their land;
Mine’s on a Rock that forever will stand,
Jesus, the “Rock of Ages.”


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two Men Prayed

Luke 18:9-14
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We have come to know the Pharisees as the religious elite of that day. They were really sticklers about following all of the law, including their traditions, and were quick to judge those who swayed in one iota. On the other hand, the tax-collector, also known in some translations as the Publican, was a person despised by almost all his countrymen. His responsibility was to collect the Roman taxes, and he made his living by charging more than the necessary tax. The tax-collectors were notorious for being cheats, liars, and swindlers.

Thus the stage is set for the Pharisee and the tax-collector who were both at the temple to pray. Jesus, in telling the parable, says the Pharisee stood and prayed about himself, thanking God that he was not like other men. He even mentioned several groups, including robbers, evildoers and adulterers. Then his self-righteousness led him to continue in his prayer, "Lord, I am even glad I am not like this tax -collector."  The Pharisee's prayer ended with him assuring God how good he was, by fasting and giving.

The Pharisee in his prayer reminds me of the parable of the lost son that Jesus had told. After he had wasted his inheritance and was living with the pigs, he came to himself and returned home. His older brother expressed jealousy over the rejoicing of the father which welcomed home his lost son. Like the Pharisees, the older brother considered himself the loyal son, not like his brother that had left home and ruined his life. The older brother was faithful, kept the rules of home, and worked harder for the father. 

Are we like the Pharisees at times?....reminding God how faithful we are, how good we are, how hard we work for him?  We are so glad we are not like the sinners that surround us. Those who in disobedience are the guilty ones are the ones we want to keep at a distance. 

The tax collector, realizing his sinfulness, unable to even glance toward heaven, prayed, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."   Jesus teaching went on in Luke 18 to inform his listeners that even more than rule keeping and adherence to religious laws, I want you to be people of love and mercy. Those who recognize their need for God, are also those who are confessing they cannot make it alone. That's why Jesus said that day, it was the tax-collector who when home justified.


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Twelve Steps

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for the Non-Alcoholic

Most of us have been familiar with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Every family has been touched directly or indirectly by alcoholism. The good work of AA is known far and wide for their program of meetings and individuals who have drinking problems associating with others who are experiencing the same thing. 

I bought a box of books at a garage sale not long ago, and while thumbing through one of the books I realized it was centered around the twelve step plan, but to address not only the problem of alcoholism, but also in dealing with sin of any nature. The title of this blog essay says it all, "The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for the Non-Alcoholic."

Space does not permit me to go through all twelve steps, but let's look at a few of them and their application to whatever sin may be keeping us from meeting our potential in Jesus Christ. I've substituted some other words(with the *) when the reference to alcohol is mentioned. 

1. We admitted we were powerless over *GOSSIP*--that our lives had become unmanageable.  Already in this first step we see a giant leap on the way to recovery.  The largest hurdle is in admitting the problem is bigger than us. That's true with alcoholism, gossip, hatred, jealousy, pride, or whatever sin gets between us and God.

Look at step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.  Which of us is going to say we don't need to have the same determination in overcoming sin in our lives?  The gospel is all about leaving our sinful nature behind us and turning in the direction of the One who can make us new. 

Now to step 8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. These steps all have scriptural connotations but I must admit this is the one that hits us all. The new life in Jesus brings us to treat each other with brotherly love. God is always interested in being first in our lives, but he also expects us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

Step 12. Having a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we will try to  carry this message to *ALL SINFUL MANKIND*, and to practice these principles in our affairs. Claim that one for yourself!

Find a complete list of the twelve steps, so you can read and apply the principles of each one. I have only picked four of them today to show you how much these steps of renewal and dedication need to be applied to each of us. 

God wants you to know that he loves you, and wants only the best for you. If there is sin in your life, let him deal with it and wash you clean through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Only when we renounce "self" can we honestly deal with our problem of sin.


Friday, January 25, 2013


Hebrews 12:5-11
 "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

It may be difficult to believe, but discipline is an example of love. If you are like me, when discipline comes ny way I am not feeling very loved. However, if we are to believe the above verses, then we come to know God the Father as one who "disciplines those he loves."  Not only that, the scripture lets us know that God "punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Most of the time when we think of discipline, we think in terms of parent's role to discipline their children.  The Bible does address that and there are verses to support the concept of parental discipline.

 Proverbs 13:24, TLB. "If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don't love him; for if you love him, you will be prompt to punish him."
Proverbs 19:18, TLB. "Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don't you will ruin his life."

Certainly the discipline of children is a responsibility parents cannot deny nor avoid. As parents we understand these actions are based on our love for children as they learn and mature. And remember, the Bible says if we don't discipline our children we will be responsible for ruining their lives.
In like manner, God administers his discipline on his children, and it is always for their own good. While discipline hurts, we are encouraged to accept it because it is God treating us as sons. It becomes easy to understand if God withholds his discipline, we are like the child from the Proverbs, and our lives will be ruined. 

Look at it like this, if God loves you enough to give his Son to die for you, then he loves you enough to discipline you.  Here is the good part. The scripture from Hebrews assures us that God's discipline is for "our good, that we may share in his holiness."  And then," Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."