Live it! Blog

Monday, 04 July 2022 00:00

Patience with Perspective

Patience with Perspective
Matthew 24:1-14

When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, his disciples obviously were curious as to when this unimaginable thing would happen.  Their question went beyond the destruction of the Temple, which took place in 70 AD.  They asked about “the end,” in other words, the return of Jesus to establish his eternal kingdom.  This was also on their minds a few weeks later after Christ’s resurrection as Jesus was about to ascend back to heaven.  They asked: “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6).

What was Jesus’ answer?

Be patient and persevere with perspective.

“The end won’t follow immediately,” Jesus said.  That’s not hard for us to imagine now, as it has been over 2000 years since Jesus said this. 

Jesus gives some perspective, which seems like a downer but should help us know what to expect.  What should we expect?  Spoiler alert: it isn’t a happy list. 

  • Christ followers will be hated.
  • Many people will de-convert.
  • Many will be deceived by false teachers.
  • Sin will be “rampant.”
  • Loving unity will diminish while hateful division will increase.

Sound familiar?  We get so discouraged by these things happening in our country, but Jesus told us to expect it.  This should give us some perspective. 

What about persevering?  Why persevere, if everything is going to go down the tubes?

Here’s why: “The one who endures to the end will be saved,” said Jesus. 

That’s enough, but it’s not all.  In spite of all the bad things happening, Jesus promised that “the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it.” 

So, don’t lose heart.  We can persevere with the help of the Holy Spirit because we know that God’s goals will be achieved, his plan will be accomplished.

It is God’s prerogative to decide when his goals are accomplished and the end comes.  Until then, we are to patiently persevere with a proper perspective. 

KC    

Thursday, 30 June 2022 00:00

spiritual formation

Matthew 23:23-32
Spiritual Formation

A disciple’s soul-ward journey, the move inward, occurs as our vital connection with God. Contrast this to the outward appearance, which can be faked. Others can be deceived by our apparent holy right-ness. Jesus explains that God’s focus is on “…justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

Speaking directly to all listeners and using a very strong poetic metaphor Jesus directs, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:26). According to Jesus, true inward spiritual washing precedes and impacts our outward lives. It is a mistake to assume the opposite is accurate. The flaw of “faking it until you make it,” is a harbinger of deception.

Faithful disciples don’t’ ignore Jesus’ perspective. To fool others is not always difficult. To fool ourselves carries the potential for missing his truths. To disregard the direct teaching of Jesus stirs the Holy Spirit with horror as disciples fail in faithfulness.

Finding time this summer, seeing more than the so-called “Lake Season” in northern Indiana, could bring spiritual growth. One New Testament writer expresses the opportunity of spiritual progress with these words: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). Time examining your inward self, where God alone sees your motives and thoughts, is wisdom. At least, that appears to be a logical outcome of Jesus’ encouragement to us all.

Life Application Questions

Is it a matter of balance which Jesus is addressing in Matthew 23:23-32?

Does your discipleship need a careful review this summer?

In addition to reading Scripture, what other resources do you find helpful in looking inward?

~ajs

Wednesday, 29 June 2022 00:00

woe woe woe is me

Woe, Woe, Woe is Me?

Matthew 23:13-22

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

The “woes” of this passage can be contrasted to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Be Loyal Warren W. Wiersbe (pp. 210-212)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

The contrast is evident:

  1. Woe to the hypocrites who shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. 23:13

Versus - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” 5:3

  1. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses even while for appearances’ sake you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation. 23:14(NASB)

Versus - Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5:4

  1. Woe to the hypocrites – you make your converts twice the child of hell as you are. 23:15

Versus - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 5:5 

  1. Woe to the blind guides – if you swear by the temple, it means nothing, you must swear by the gold of the temple to be bound by the oath. 23:16

Versus - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 5:6

Am I a Pharisee? Not the Jewish kind with the long black robes, phylacteries and tassels, but a Pharisee in spirit? Am I a hypocrite? – judging the rulers in the days of Jesus, but living a hypocritical life today? It’s easy to justify my life as a believer because I made a decision for Christ. Is my “Christian” life characterized by church attendance rather than a true spirit of Christian love?

Might I be any of the things Matthew speaks of in the woes – instead of the be-attitudes?

Am I truly righteous or am I merely self-righteousness? Might I hold my head high because I’ve checked all the boxes of what is a “Christian” way of life while ignoring the spirit of love and humility, or asking God to assess my actions to see if any wicked way is in me? Have I been convicted of a certain attitude and not followed through in my actions? (James 4:17)

Do I shut up the kingdom rather than entering the kingdom? Am I proud in spirit or am I poor in spirit? Do I require man made traditions of others like, a certain dress or hair style or a certain style of music rather than humbly understanding differences – either due to generational style or impropriety that really isn’t Scriptural? Might I appear unwelcoming to those who are inquiring about the truth of the gospel because they don’t fit in my criteria as what is acceptable?

Am I a condemned as a destroyer or comforted as a mourner? Do I mourn over my sins and mourn with the needy widows or do I flatter with my words as a pretext for greed? (1 Thess. 2:5)

In my pride am I offending precious souls rather than welcoming them to the path leading to heaven?

Am I greedy for gain or hungering for holiness? Is my joy from material gains – growth in my portfolio or the latest possession, rather than obediently living a holy life manifesting the fruit of the Spirit daily? Might I be angry more than loving to my family or coworkers? Am I living more on the fast track than seeking the good for others?

There are so many various convicting thoughts in these passages and soul searching is uncomfortable, however, there is still time to rectify our hypocrisy. While we want to hear those things that make us feel good, this passage is there for our consideration.

For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

~jlh

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 00:00

commercials

Commercials
Matthew 21:23-46
June 28, 2022

Desires can be reflected in the commercials that fill our media. They try to convince us to buy hair products to tame our unruly manes, to recognize the dangers of smoking and quit that habit, and to buy a happy meal. How would you advertise Jesus’ cleansing of the temple? “Join us today for the rumble at the temple. Tables will be turned over and Jesus will chastise the riff raff, you won’t want to miss this event.” The chief priests and elders responded to Jesus by demanding that he authenticate his authority because they felt threatened by his words and temple cleansing. Jesus responded to them with parables and we also have an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus authority. “‘…By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’” (Matthew 21:23). Jesus takes them back to John. It is a basic principle of Christian living that we cannot learn new truth if we disobey what God has already told us. How have you observed this principle to be true? The religious leaders had rejected the truth preached by John and therefore Jesus could not impart new truth. Blaise Pascal has said: “The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him.”

Jesus responds to the chief priests and elders with his own question: “'John’s baptismwhere did it come from? Was it from heaven or of human origin?'” (Matthew 21:25). Read Matthew 21:23-27. Why wouldn’t the religious leaders answer Jesus’ question? Jesus was true to his immutable character. His mission was not swayed by the crowd. His mission was not subject to a question of popularity. The Religious leaders were constantly weighing public opinion. The advertisement for this confrontation could have been: “Come hear the Master Storyteller weave his words today in the temple courts.” Jesus told these leaders two stories. Read Matthew 21: 28-44, what do you think the religious leaders were thinking as they heard these parables?” The great I AM was not concerned with how this message would be received. He already knew their hearts. Jesus didn’t need to recruit these influencers to market his “brand”. In fact, his recruitment advertising would have been: “If you like ridicule and cross-bearing, meet us at the temple; or if you want to enjoy a shortened life and possible stoning, come out to the fish barbecue at the lake.” Jesus’ message remained unchanged, despite the pressure exerted by the religious leaders. The leaders were ruled by their fears, "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” (Matthew 21:45-46)

Jesus' claims also demand a response from us. Jesus sees us as we are, just like he saw the religious leaders’ power hungry, self-righteous hypocrisy. He was not fooled by their answers. He was not misled by their religious practices. How do people who claim to be Christ followers “shade” their truths to please their audience? What if we showed up among Christ followers dressed in our reality. What if our nametag read, Ruby rage monster, Anger issues Annie, Addicted Al, Secret Sin Susie, and Gossip Gertie? If Jesus was present among his followers, his nametag would read: Immutable, Holy, I AM. My nametag once read: sinner, selfish, sad. What did your nametag say? Yet Jesus in His unchanging love and grace covered my inconsistencies and my sin. His mercy changed my name to loved daughter of the Most High King. Jesus leveled the playing field for all who accept His free gift of life renewed. All our nametags read the same. There is no reference to past sins. There is no elevation based on status or race or name. The commercial would be: “Come join us, the playing field is even for all. Join the Forgiven, feasting on the immutable Word of God. Gather at the table that has room for all.”

lkb

Monday, 27 June 2022 00:00

the right question

The Right Question
Matthew 5:20; 15:1-20
June 27, 2022

When it came to nailing it, Jesus was a master. No one could put his critics on the spot more quickly or directly. And more often than not, he did so with a question. Today’s Scripture includes a prime example.

“Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus.”

They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” 

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? (Matthew 15:1-3)

During a recent evening with one of our Global Partners, we had a great lesson on the art of asking questions. Remember what happened in the garden after Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life? God came looking for them and he immediately asked them questions which quickly pinpointed their sin and the consequent results.

Likewise, today’s Scripture begs several penetrating questions.

  • How good is good enough? Is there an objective standard that will show us how well we match up to the goal of “good enough”? (See Matthew 5:48)
  • How righteous do you have to be? Same question. Perfect righteousness is the standard. How do you stack up? (See Romans 3:23)
  • What value is there in comparing our righteousness with someone else’s? Jesus indicates that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. (Matt. 5:20)
  • How should we regard/value tradition? Is there no value in tradition? If there is, what are the guidelines to safeguard truth and righteousness? (Check Matt. 15:3)
  • What do bad traditions do? (Check Matt, 15:6)
  • How do Isaiah’s words (Isa. 29:13) affect you and me?
  • What is the danger to others of our being like the Pharisees? (Check Matt. 15:14)
  • What do our words reveal about us? Is it true sometimes that actions speak louder than words? (Check Matt. 15:18, 29)

Jesus may have been really frustrated with the disciples when he asked, “Don’t you get it?” (15:16) It’s a heart matter. What we do and say are important, of course, because they reveal what’s really in our heart and mind. The Pharisees may have followed God’s law, but as Isaiah suggested, their hearts weren’t in it. 

The question for us today is: What’s in our heart? Do our words and actions accurately reflect what we really believe?

jbd & gmd

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