Loving to Serve and Serving to Love

February 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Luke 10:38-40

Both Martha and Mary were doing something good, but one was doing something better and one got bitter. The attitude of Mary of Bethany when it came to worship was focused on Jesus’s feet.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:32

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

John 12:3

On all three occasions there was a smell associated with her worship: food, death, and perfume. This reminds us that our worship is described as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Are you more like Martha or more like Mary? Are you more of a worshiper or a worker? Working is very important. Christians ought to be the hardest-working people around, but that does not always equate to the “busiest” people around. Do you have a personal, private prayer time? Do you have a personal, private devotion time? Don’t get these backward: you don’t serve Christ so you can be a good worshiper; you worship so you can be a good server.

In Christianity our activity does not determine our identity. Our identity determines our activity. Why does it work that way? Because worship produces love, and love is the right motive for service. As a parent it is part of your job to play with your children, but hopefully you don’t just play with them because it’s part of your job. Hopefully you enjoy it, too. What are your children’s favorite snacks? Do you give them snacks merely because it’s your job to feed them? Or do you enjoy providing them with the snacks that will make them happy? When your children are sick do you take care of them because it’s your job, or do you actually enjoy caring for the children you love and trying to ease their suffering? When you serve someone you love, it can be difficult, but it is also a treat. When you worship God more, you will love Him more.

The Humanity of Jesus

December 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Incarnation, John, Luke | 4 Comments
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At the most festive time of the year, make sure that you intentionally discuss with your children some of the most wonderful Biblical truths about Jesus’s birth, such as:

1. Incarnation
2. Advent
3. The Condescension
4. The Virgin Birth
and
5. The Humanity of Jesus

“…[L]ittle Lord Jesus, no crying He makes…” go the words to a popular Christmas carol. But is this an accurate representation of the infant Christ? Christmas is a great time to explain to kids that Jesus, in His earthly incarnation, was indeed FULLY human. He experienced human emotions. He felt hunger, fatigue, joy, sadness, and the full range of feelings, although never sinfully.

Popular Christian art has tended to picture baby Jesus as serene, often times surrounded by a halo or corona of light, but the image of a child who stares blissfully and knowingly at all the adults around Him, never crying or giggling, seems more creepy than holy. Your kids might be fascinated to think of baby Jesus learning to walk, needing to wear a bib, and even needing a diaper change from time to time. The idea that the God of the universe would subject Himself to the limits, awkwardness, and temptations of humanity, further demonstrates His great love for us.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

John 4:6

Jesus wept.

John 11:35

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

John 19:28

Next time we will consider the purpose of Jesus’s birth.

The Stones of Complacency

March 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Posted in John, The Stones that Don't Cry Out | 5 Comments
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During Jesus’s earthly ministry He developed very close relationships with a number of His followers. He seems to have been especially fond of a family of three adult siblings: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

John 11:5

The next verse seems a little illogical to our human, finite way of thinking.

When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

John 11:6

If I had a close friend or loved one who was dying, and I had the cure, I like to think I wouldn’t hang around two days before getting on the road. Of course, Jesus’s ways are always superior to our ways, His timing, unlike ours, is always perfect, and His power goes far beyond what we think of as a “cure.” His power goes all the way beyond the grave.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:32

Lazarus had been dead for several days by the time Jesus arrived. His body had been buried in a cave, and a stone sealed the entrance. You probably know what happened next. If you don’t, I encourage you to read John Chapter 11 in its entirety. Jesus called Lazarus forth from the grave, and Lazarus’s body came back to life. This was a miracle beyond any human or material agency. It was completely supernatural. No physician played a part, no medication was administered, no sleight of hand or optical illusions were employed.

However, here is one of the many truths which we may take from this true historical account of Jesus’s miraculous power: God needs no man to accomplish His will, but He does deign to work through human agency.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been [dead] four days.

John 11:39 (emphasis added)

Why didn’t the Son of God – who could call the dead back to life with a simple shout – also command the stone to roll itself away, or – Samson-style – pick it up and hurl it away Himself? I believe it He did it the way He did so that Martha – whom He loved – could have the joy of getting her own hands involved in the work of the Lord. In fact, Jesus is nothing if not generous when it comes to sharing the joy of His miraculous wonders.

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

John 11:44 (emphasis added)

What is Jesus getting done through your hands-on agency in your life today? I am afraid that sometimes we recognize that only God can deliver a person from the darkness of damnation (or the anguish of addiction; or the perils of poverty; or the ignorance of ingratitude), and we use our theological assurance of God’s omnipotence as an excuse to sit complacently with our hands folded, waiting for God to show up and speak forth the solution. God’s gracious empowering of human mouths, hands, feet, brains, and even hearts is a great kindness. Let us not miss out on the opportunities which God grants us to be a part of what He could easily do on His Own. God is not only sovereign over the ends. He is sovereign over the means. This is motivation for action, not an excuse for complacency.

Get a Life

October 19, 2011 at 9:24 am | Posted in Common Expressions, John, Resurrection | 6 Comments
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“Get a life.” Has anyone ever given you this strange piece of advice? Maybe you were speaking to someone about receiving Jesus as his Savior, or about his relationship with God, or about coming to church or getting involved in Sunday School. Obviously exasperated, he told you, “Get a life! Stop bugging me about all that religious stuff.”

Christians are more interested in the Life than “a life.”

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6 (emphasis added)

Those who have the Life want to tell others to get the Life. When someone tells you to “get a life,” it is a snide way of saying there are many choices about how to live, and you are choosing the wrong way. But the born-again believer knows there are only two choices when it comes to eternal life. You will trust Christ and receive it or you will reject Christ and be denied it.

There are a number of ideas in the Bible which seem paradoxical from an earthly, finite point of view. For example, those who have been redeemed from slavery to sin have true freedom even though they are slaves to Jesus Christ. At the same time, those who are enslaved to sin often believe themselves to be free. It works much the same way with the concept of spiritual life and death.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (emphasis added)

The “dead” do not know they’re dead.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Ephesians 2:1-2 (emphasis added)

I couldn’t find the expression “get a life” in the Bible, but the Bible does talk about “finding” life and “losing” life.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew 10:39 (emphasis added)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (emphasis added)

The Bible says very specifically that Jesus is the way to the kind of life that is stronger than death.

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:11-13 (emphasis added)

Jesus is not only the way to life. He is the Life.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25-26 (emphasis added)

The issue is not whether you will “get a life.” The real issue is whether you will believe and receive THE Life.

Light Produces Life

August 19, 2011 at 9:15 am | Posted in Biblical Light, John | 5 Comments
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Living things need light. A plant will die if it is left in the dark. Human life as we know it on Earth requires sunlight.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

For Christians, Jesus is the Light which gives us life.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4

Jesus was present and active in the creation of man. The “divine spark” which God placed in Adam, giving life to the human race, came from His Divinity. Since the beginning He has associated light with life.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12

Jesus’s deliberate use of “I AM,” God’s Self-revealed Old Testament Name, showed that He was in fact God incarnate, possessing not only the power to create original life, but the power to create the new life we receive when we trust Him as Savior.

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 9:5

How bright is the world around you? Has your life grown dark? Only Jesus Christ has the power to illuminate spiritual darkness.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25

Our lost friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors are spiritually dead. But the Light of Jesus Christ is so bright and so powerful that it can bring them to life. Jesus’s Light produces life because He Himself is “the Life.”

The Bookends of Faith (Part 1)

November 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Exodus, John, The Bookends of Faith | 25 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Here are the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John:

1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35)

2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12)

3. I AM the Door (10:9)

4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11)

5. I AM the Resurrection, and the Life (11:25)

6. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)

7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)

I AM the Bread of Life and I AM the True Vine: these two principles are the “bookends of faith” in the deity of Christ.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 6:38

The Bread of Life came down from Heaven. Only God could come down from Heaven.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the Vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life.

The two words that John 6:35 and 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – unending and unbeginning). God is uncommon (truly unique). In John Chapter 6 Jesus had performed a miracle. He had made five loaves into enough bread to feed a whole multitude. Many were grateful for this miracle, but few were grateful because of what it taught or what it pronounced: It pronounced that Jesus was God.

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

John 6:26

Most were grateful because of what it provided.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

John 6:41-42

Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would duplicate the miracle of the manna, but Jesus didn’t call down bread from Heaven – He was the Bread from Heaven. The manna was a type and Christ was the reality, but like every “type” that Christ fulfilled, He not only fulfilled it, He also turned out to be a “better-than” the type.

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

John 6:49

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

John 6:51

How Jesus was like the manna:

1. The manna was a mystery. It’s name meant “what is it.”

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

Exodus 16:15

Jesus seemed mysterious to those who saw Him.

But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

John 6:36

2. The manna came when it was dark.

And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

Exodus 16:21

Jesus came into a (spiritually) dark world.

3. The manna was small and round.

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

Exodus 16:14

Jesus was not physically significant or socially “important.” Like a round object, which has no beginning and no end, Jesus, being God, is eternal.

4. The manna was white and sweet.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Exodus 16:31

White represents purity and sinlessness – Jesus was pure inside and out. Although the manna was sweet, Jesus is even sweeter.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Psalm 34:8

5. Manna was given to a rebellious people.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

Jesus came to seek and save rebellious sinners.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 6:41

6. The manna had to be either picked up (received) or trampled.

Jesus must be received or rejected (despised.) Make no mistake, when you reject Christ, you are doing far worse than stepping on Him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

Jesus was treated as utterly vile and was completely forsaken by men. He experienced the kinds of feelings associated with rejection that make you physically sick.

7. Manna sustained life. Jesus gave life – eternal life.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Next time, we will ask, “Are you more grateful for what the I AM proves or for what it provides?”

Quarterback Commandment No. 2

March 19, 2009 at 11:37 am | Posted in Quarterback Commandments | 15 Comments
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This is the second in a series of 11 “Quarterback Commandments” which Bill Parcells gave to Tony Romo, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. The connection between the Quarterback Commandments and this series of Bible lessons can be found in the preface to Quarterback Commandment No. 1.

Quarterback Commandment No. 2: Clowns can’t run a huddle. Don’t forget to have fun, but don’t be the class clown. Clowns and leaders don’t mix. Clowns can’t run a huddle.

Spiritual Application: Christians are supposed to be Christ-like. We are supposed to act the way Jesus acted. There is no evidence in Scripture to indicate that Jesus was generally morose, pedantic, boring, overly austere, or just plain old “no fun to be around.” I know many preachers and teachers like to claim that some of the church fathers, reformers, and Puritans gave Jesus a bad image by portraying Him as somber, serious, and grumpy. Modern evangelicals love to point out that Jesus was not a “cosmic killjoy.”

Let’s be analytical for a second. We know Jesus had a sense of humor. Matthew 7:4 and a few other verses show that He could turn a phrase to humorous effect, and even be a little sardonic at times (Matthew 23:24). After all, He was the Book of Proverbs personified, so He must have been witty, as well as wise. We also know that He went to a wedding (John 2:2), He enjoyed good food (John 21:13), and little children liked to be around Him (Matthew 18:2, Luke 18:16).

However, the instances of Jesus joking around are extremely rare in the Gospel record. We see Him angry (Matthew 21:12). We see Him grieved (Luke 13:34). We see Him challenging the status quo (Matthew 23:33). We see Him teaching the greatest and most valuable truths ever taught. We even see Him crying (John 11:35).

So was Jesus Christ a bitter, discontented grouch? Definitely not! Was He a clown? Definitely not! In Christ Jesus, the supreme example for every Christian, we observe the perfect balance. He could weep with those who wept. He laughed with those whose laughter was not sinful. He sternly admonished those who needed correction. He showed compassion and real solutions to those who were truly hurting. And He never, ever ONCE brought shame or disgrace to His Holy Name, to His character, or to His testimony. He never once stepped even a millimeter outside the will of His Father.

As Christian “quarterbacks,” it is possible to have fun in Christian leadership. But, for a quarterback, there must be a difference between having fun and being a clown. The Gospel is a not a “business,” but we might say that we should consider our duty to preserve, protect, and promote the Gospel message to be “serious business.”

Lester Roloff, before he would begin a sermon, would sometimes sing along with some of the young ladies whom God had used him to rescue from lives of addiction and immorality. In one song, he liked to remind people of the seriousness of our spiritual warfare.

“It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room,” he would sing.
“It’s a fight and not a game.
“When I fall down I’m gonna get right up,
“‘Cause I didn’t start out to play
“Run if you want to, run if you will,
“But I came here to stay.”

Consider what the Bible has to say about the demeanor of Christian leaders:

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

Titus 2:2

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

Titus 2:6-7

Whether we are running a prayer huddle, a Sunday School class huddle, a family worship huddle, or a Biblical counseling huddle, let us remember that “Clowns for Christ” is an oxymoronic idea.


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