Showing posts from September, 2023

The Necessity of Change

The Necessity of Change Matthew 12:38-45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.  That is the way it will also be with this evil  generation.”                          We often attempt to solve spiritual problems with earthly solutions.  Whether it is a struggle with addictions or a specific problem, we often assume that all we need to do is “clean up our act,” and everything will be okay.  As a result, we are a culture addicted to self-help books. Global expenditures on self-help books are estimated to be 46 billion dollars this year.  We often believe that the answer to our inner problems and struggles is found in man's wisdom and our ability to help ourselves. However, we soon discover that the problems are not solved and find ourselves in a more challenging crisis.              In this passage, Christ begins by condemning the religious leaders w


What we say is who we are. Matthew 12:33-37 “For by your words, you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned.”               Words are easily said but difficult to retract.  We often say things we regret, and the damage that words have upon relationships is often difficult to mend.  As a child, we learned the limerick, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt me.”  However, as we grow older, we soon learn that broken bones can more easily heal than the damage that words can have.             After confronting the Pharisees, Jesus points to the importance of words.  Words are more than just verbal communication; they are the barometer of the soul.  They are the window by which our inner attitudes and thoughts are revealed.  Actions require thought, but words are often uttered without consideration of their consequences or what they reveal about us.               To illustrate his point, Jesus uses the analogy of a tree.  The nature and health

The Sin God will not Forgive

The Sin that God Will Not Forgive Matthew 13:30-32 Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”               The statements in this passage rightfully cause us to pause and ponder the implications of what Jesus is stating.  In these verses, Christ points to a sin that is so grievous that it will not be forgiven.  This sin is so horrific in the sight of a holy God that there will be no forgiveness and second opportunity.  So this leads us to the all-important question:  What is the only sin God will never forgive?             To answer this question, we must first recognize the extent of God’s grace that he offers through his son. When Christ died on the cross, he made it possible for us to be forgiven of all our sins.  While we think of sin in terms of severity, God considers all sin a violation of his moral law that expresses his divine character and righteousness.  Stephen Charnock, in his classic w

When the blind see and the seeing remain blind.

When the blind see and those who see are blind. Matthew 12:22-29 “Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw…But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”               Physical blindness is challenging; spiritual blindness is devastating.  When physically blind, we cannot see the physical world around us. Instead, we are enclosed within the shades of darkness. Yet, even for the blind, there are ways to connect with the physical world around us.  We can still use our other senses, touch, smell, hearing, etc., to connect with the world.  We may not see the beauty of a rose, but we can still smell its fragrance and feel the softness of its petals.  However, a spiritually blind person can no longer connect with the spiritual world.  The spiritual world becomes lost and untouchable.             Recently, I was talking with an individual

The Tyranny of the Insignificant

The Tyranny of the Insignificant.  Matthew 12:8-21 “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!”               Perhaps the greatest threat to authentic faith is not the bold embrace of sin but becoming obsessed with the insignificant.  We can become so focused on programs and the church's operation that they become more important than those they seek to serve. We become entrapped by the insignificant.   Some time ago, Charles E. Hummel wrote a popular book entitled “Tyranny of the Urgent.” In the book, he rightfully pointed out that often, we get caught up in the necessity of the Urgent and get distracted from the important.  However, perhaps even more disruptive is the tyranny of the insignificant, in which the essential things of life get pushed aside by the insignificant so that we spend our time, energy, and focus on the pursuit of that which is trivial and irrelevant.  Such was the problem with the Jewish leaders.              The Jewish leader set a trap for Jesus.  Kn

The Subtle Snare of Rituals

The Subtle Snare of Rituals Matthew 12:1-7 “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”               Rituals, traditions, and patterns are essential to our life.  They give a sense of stability and cohesion in a chaotic and transitory world.  They connect us to the past by reminding us of people who were and still are important.  They also serve to remind us of what is important to us.  For example, during the Christmas season, we often reenact traditions and rituals that our parents established and we now carry on.  Growing up, we always had waffles and link sausage on Christmas Eve.  It was a simple but special meal because it was the only time we had sausage. In our family, we continue to carry on this tradition.  Every Christmas, we have Belgian waffles with sausage and bacon.  When we celebrate with this meal each year, it reminds us of my parents and family.              While rituals and tradition

The Unburdening Burden

The Unburdening Burden Matthew 11:25-30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”                          A yoke that gives rest and a burden that lightens.  These are contradictions. A yoke is a wooden beam put on the necks of two oxen to join them together so they can perform some heavy labor, such as plowing or pulling a wagon.  Thus, the term became symbolic of one person's hard labor and subjection to another.  The other term, “burden,” likewise points to difficult work that usually wears a person down under the weight of it. In verse 28, Jesus calls upon those who are weary and heavy-laden.  The word “heavy-laden” is the same word in verse 30 of the burden Jesus places upon his followers.  In verse 28, the burden upon them is not just a short, intense burden but a heavy burden that they have been carrying for an extended period.  Jesus is calling to people who were continually wearied and exhausted because of the overwhelming load that they were carrying. While Jesus doe

Seeing or Hearing

Seeing or Hearing Matthew 11:7-24 “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”                          It is easy to see but far more challenging to hear.  In seeing, we are observers who merely look upon a scene, often with detachment and disengagement. With the advent of the smartphone and its capacity to take videos, people can record tragic events and share them with the world.  I find it remarkable that people are more interested in capturing the event on a video and sharing it on public platforms to gain more hits than in responding to the crisis and helping those in trouble.  The age of mass media has made us indifferent to the circumstances of others.  When a tragedy strikes, people quickly grab their cell phones to record the event but are unresponsive to the needs of the people facing the heartbreaking circumstances.  We are creating a generation of people who become observers.               Yet, in many ways, this is no different than Jesus’ day. Like the modern-day Youtuber, t

Dealing with Doubt

Dealing with Doubt John 11:1-6 “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”               John was troubled.  When John the Baptist came on the scene, he had a strong sense of purpose and direction for his preaching.  He came to announce the coming of the Messianic king.  With his prophetic style, John made it clear that he was not the Messiah, but he was coming to prepare the way for the Messiah.  When Jesus came to be baptized by John, John was reluctant because how could the lesser baptize the greater?  As time passed, the people's focus shifted from John the Baptist to Jesus.  Although John’s followers were disturbed by the shift in popularity, John made it clear that this was part of God’s design, for he was the forerunner who came to announce the coming of the Messiah.  Therefore, it was ordained that Jesus “would increase and John must decrease” (John 4:30).  In light of John’s confidence that he was coming to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah,

An Attitude Check

Conducting an Attitude Check Matthew 10:40-42 “He who receives  a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteousness man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”                          Throughout chapter 10, Jesus warned his disciples that they would face rejection and persecution.  The walk of obedience to Christ will result in persecution and opposition from those who reject Christ and his sovereign rule.  However, despite the threat of persecution and opposition they will face, Christ also promises that he will provide his protective care so that they are willing to remain loyal to Christ even though it may cost them dearly. If Christ faced rejection and opposition, his followers would also face persecution and opposition.  However, they are not to surrender to the pressure to deny Christ.  Instead, they are to rest in the sovereign provision and providential care of God, who knows every detail of h

Setting Priorities

Resetting Our Priorities  Matthew 10:32-39 “He who has found his life ill lose it, but he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”   Matthew 10:32-39 is a difficult passage, not because it is difficult to interpret or understand, but because the implications of the course for how we live are profound, challenging us to examine every decision we make. It is a passage that confronts our priorities and whole life orientation.  It challenges us to rethink all our priorities to bring them under the authority of Christ.               In the previous verses, Jesus challenged his followers to be bold in their testimony regardless of the opposition they faced.  Now, Christ challenges us to rethink all our priorities.  He begins with a statement that causes us to pause and examine our faith.  The word “Shall confess me” goes far beyond verbal consent to being a disciple of Christ. The idea behind the idiom indicates an attitude in which a person identifies unity with Christ and takes an

God's Knowledge and Our Fears

God’s Knowledge and our Fear. Matthew 10:24-31 “So do not fear….are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”               Matthew 10:29-30 is often quoted about God’s infinite knowledge of us. God is so involved in our lives and intimately acquainted with every detail of our existence that he even knows the number of hairs upon our heads.  However, in rightfully affirming this truth, we often miss the context in which it is written.  In the verses that lead up to this wonderful affirmation, Christ warns that if we live as his disciples and publicly affirm our allegiance to him, we will face persecution, rejection, and ridicule.  As a result, we can allow fear to begin to silence our witness.  Instead of being bold, we will become timid and fearful.             Today, we live in a culture of fear.  When people are fearful, they begin to become reactive.  They look for something or someone to look to for security and hope

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