Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Read what he said for yourself:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him." Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"
"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat.
Jesus called disciples. When they heard his call, they already knew that they were being called to be prophets, to be an alternative to the teachers who were in Israel already. They were honored to be called, but they also recognized that it was also a sacrifice. Just as Elisha had to give up his occupation and home to follow Elijah, so did the disciples have to give everything they knew up in order to follow Jesus. In the simple word, “Follow me” Jesus told them this. And they accepted the call of Jesus readily.
He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jesus had many disciples beyond the twelve apostles. Many wanted to prove that they were dedicated enough to follow Jesus. But with many of them, Jesus had to challenge them to a greater commitment. Many disciples thought that Jesus could be just a part of their lives, or something they do for a time and then return to their old lives. Jesus clearly taught that once a person begins to follow him, the sacrifices they make are total and can’t be surrendered later. He told one that to follow Jesus, he needs to expect homelessness. He told another that he cannot turn back to his family once he has begun to follow Jesus. To another, he said that he cannot fulfill his social commitment to bury his family. Because the commitment to the kingdom is total—no turning back, no compromise.
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Another one wasn’t seeking to follow Jesus. He was seeking the kingdom of God, salvation, eternal life. But he wasn’t sure how he would gain it. Jesus gave the standard answer, follow the commandments. But the man wasn’t satisfied with that answer—he expected something more from Jesus. And so Jesus said, “If you want your devotion to be complete, then sell your possessions, give to the poor and follow me.” Jesus told him to irreversibly surrender all he had and surrender his whole self to God’s kingdom. This man did not make this choice, but Jesus didn’t compromise it in any way. To be devoted requires complete surrender.
I Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
We are to speak to one another, building each other up in Jesus. To "encourage" doesn't mean to say nice things necessarily, but to literally "en-courage", to put boldness in another to live a life of faith.
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
We are to regularly meet together—not to just sit in a worship service, nor just to sing, nor just to listen to someone else teach the Bible. We are to gather together so that we can teach each other to do good and to love each other more. We aren’t to meet together to tell each other off or to argue about insigificant doctrinal points. Rather, we need to focus on God’s commands to us, to teacher us to be more obedient and loving.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We need to speak to one another in whatever way we can. Through songs we have memorized, through the Scripture we know, through the wisdom God gives us directly—but in all these ways, we are to reflect the teaching of Jesus. We are not to remain silent—hoping that the Lord will teach others what they need to know. We need to take responsibility and teach each other and quote to each other the word of Jesus.
II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
We are to use Scripture in many ways—to correct people from false teaching; to gently rebuke those who are in sin; to teach the truth of the kingdom of God; or to teach the righteousness of Jesus. But if we focus only on one aspect of the Scripture, then we have an unbalanced perception of the wholeness of life in accordance with the Scripture.
After Paul and Barnabas began many churches, they determined that they needed to return to those churches in various cities to encourage them (Acts 14:21-22). They set up leadership in each church and also encouraged each other to endure through opposition and trials.
Billy Graham is well known to be an evangelist of unbelievers, calling them to a commitment to Jesus. But he also spends much time exhorting believers, challenging them to a more consistent faith and to bold outreach. He has encouraged evangelists, missionaries and organized the whole evangelical church to work together in outreach.
Mother Teresa is well known for her work among the poor and dying in Calcutta. But her even greater work was in training and encouraging thousands of Catholics and Protestants to devote themselves to Jesus to prepare them for similar work among the poor.
Living It Out
Challenge yourself to a complete devotion to God
Look for your devotion to God and your love to others to be deeper and deeper. Don’t accept where you are at, but look at how your love for the Lord can be greater than it is right now.
Live a holistic faith
It is not enough to have a faith that says what one believes. Faith is our obedience, our complete devotion to God, our commitment to God’s promises and our boldness for Jesus’ word. Our faith isn’t just what is in our head, but how we respond to others, especially the most difficult people. Our faith is our whole life, even our opinions and seemingly insignificant speech.
Preach the whole gospel—both the grace and the obedience
When we evangelize, it is not enough to speak of God’s grace. Nor is it enough to speak of repentance. We need to do both. Realize and tell others that God demands our obedience and love—and that he recognizes that we cannot do it ourselves and that we need his help. Challenge people to live like Jesus and then help them realize that they need to depend on him to live it out.
Teach both unbelievers and disciples
The gospel is not just for unbelievers. As disciples, we constantly need to be challenged and recommitted to the Lord. We need to be refilled with the Spirit and constantly praying for renewal. Thus, the gospel of commitment to the Lord Jesus is something not only unbelievers need to hear, but also believers and disciples.
Follow the word of Jesus, not fruitless challenges
Many of us have made foolish vows before the Lord, or obeyed a teacher that was telling us to do more than Jesus asks us to. To overcommit is no blessing to us, and it is possibly also distracts us from what the Lord wants us to focus on. To follow Jesus is enough and it is difficult enough. Let us not increase the burden to be unbearable—it is hard enough just to love.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
John 12:1-8; John 13:26-29
"Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?"
Jesus and his disciples had a treasury, out of which they gave to the poor regularly, which these passages show. The normal pattern, which the disciples never even gave a thought about, was to give to the poor. Judas, who was appointed over the treasury, was the one who would take the money and give. When Jesus rebuked Judas’ attitude about Mary’s anointing him, he was not saying that there was no use giving to the poor. Rather, he was reflecting the attitude of Deuteronomy 15, saying that there will always be poor to give to, and so there will always be an opportunity to do that good work. But this is the only opportunity Mary had to anoint Jesus, which is also an honor to God.
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Jesus also gave to the poor by healing. He resurrected this man from the dead because of his compassion for his mother, who was a widow. Having lost both her husband and her son, she would be lost in Jewish society in the first century, having no adult male to care for her. But Jesus’ concern for this poor woman allowed her to continue to live.
"I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance."
Jesus also had compassion on the crowds who followed him to listen to his teaching. They may not have been poor all the time, but they were at a loss there in the wilderness. So Jesus provided them food that came from the Father. This too was giving to the poor.
The congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them....For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
The early church had a regular practice of giving to the poor. They would give money to the apostles and the apostles would distribute it to the poor, as the poor had need. Later, the apostles would appoint deacons to administrate the work among the poor for them (Acts 6), but it was an essential part of the church to regularly provide for the needy among them and also outside.
"Your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Freely sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Jesus is saying there are two opposites—greed and giving to the poor. To give to the poor is actually to put that treasure in heaven—as a retirement account, so to speak—and thus the Father will provide for you in the kingdom even as you cared for the poor in this life. In this respect, Jesus said, don’t worry about your life. The Father will care for your needs now, if you would just focus your wealth and resources on the poor now.
"Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."
Jesus makes a clearer statement here—use your wealth for the sake of the needy who will welcome you into the kingdom of God. In other words, take your resources and use it for those doing God’s will now and then a place will also be made for you in the kingdom of God. And Jesus makes a clear antithesis—either you will serve money, or you will serve God, you can’t do both. If we are faithful in the little thing of giving our money away, then we will be given more. But if we can’t obey God in this little thing—the giving away of our unrighteous money—then God will not grant us a place in the kingdom.
"When you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
When we give, we need to do it focused on God, not to impress other people. If we give to the poor to be rewarded by men, we will not be rewarded by God.
George Mueller was a minister in England who determined that he needed to assist the poor, and so he focused on the orphans of Bristol. Over his lifetime he received and gave over 7 million dollars for the orphans, not using any for his own security. He assisted more than ten thousand orphans begin their lives.
Francis of Assisi was determined to help the poor. He would associate with lepers, even though they were personally repugnant to him. And if he had anything, he would provide it for others. If he received a coat, he would give it to one who had none, even if that meant that he was to shiver in cold himself.
Living It Out
Give to those who have need
God commands us to provide for those who have need. That doesn’t mean we must provide things that are not needs, but if we see anyone in a desperate situation and we have the resources to help them, we must do so.
We must be also open to giving in a way that hurts, even if we ourselves lack because of it. In our society, we are often too concerned with our health insurance, retirement or maintaining a certain lifestyle (such as eating at restaurants) to really be able to give to the poor. Often we must sacrifice what we might need to provide for what others really need. Food for the hungry and providing the gospel to the ignorant is more important than our desires and lifestyles.
Give for God’s reward, not men’s
Jesus commands us to give to the poor so that we can receive from God. We need to focus on the Father’s reward and not on other people’s in order to gain God’s reward. Let us not give for the sake of a tax break or for the praise of other people, but instead do what we can for the sake of others’ for God’s sake alone. In this way, we will gain the kingdom of God.
Don’t look at the poverty of your resources, but at the need and God’s supply
Often we don’t see that we have enough to give, but we are often looking at the wrong resources. Jesus didn’t have any money or food to give to people, but he was able to provide food for them anyway, through God’s power. Even so, we need to seek God’s provision for others and depend on God to provide for both them and us.
Give toward the need, out of love
When we give, let us give in love. We shouldn’t give out of our own need—to relive guilt, or to get some poor person off our backs. We must look at the persons’ need and give to that. And if it takes time to do it right, out of love, then we should do it. To give out of love, we need to listen to the person and we need to give to the need, not necessarily their desire. Be shrewd in your love, and be known as a person who really cares.
From Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship
When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men must escape from the hard yoke of their own laws, and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ.
Does this mean that we ignore the seriousness of his commands? Far from it. We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when his command, his call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety.
Only the one who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way.