Luke 14 As a Master Teacher, Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach lessons we all need to learn. As an observer at a dinner party on the Sabbath, Jesus masterfully taught his host and the attendees as well as us some lessons in humility that we would be wise to emulate.
Consider the first guest who was perhaps considered the person least likely to receive an invite due to his physical condition called dropsy [edema due to congestive heart failure.]. We might call him the “town freak.” The Pharisees invited him not because they cared about him but to watch closely to see what Jesus would do. Consider the next set of guests who sought to sit in the seats of honor. We might call them the “town geeks” because of their self-inflated ego. They miscalculated how the host saw them and found themselves humiliated when asked to move. The third lesson is to the host himself; he is the “town seek” because he is always inviting prominent persons to receive invitations back. Jesus point-blank told him that this smacks of favoritism.
Consider all of these lessons in light of what Jesus might ask us. Who are we inviting to our homes, and why? At school or work, do we honor some and dishonor others? Do we find ourselves ignoring some while favoring others? Perhaps we can all begin to pray:
Matt 5 This is the first in a series of “Heaven on Earth 101” class, where we will learn how to make the gospel relevant to our society. One of the things we learn from Jesus is that He always took advantage of the opportunities God the Father gave him to “go and make disciples.” So in the chapter on the Beatitudes, we see him using this time to fulfill what we are called to do: “go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching to obey.” As the master teacher, He used real-life examples to show them that to “just” know the gospel is not enough. The test is demonstrating what we have learned in “real-life.”
Jesus also places some warnings so that we should not hesitate to do what He has commanded. The first is if we break one of the least of these commands to be salt and light, to be meek, and yet do not mourn over sinful habits, then we are no better than the experts in the Law who knew God’s Law but did not live by it.
Truly James was right; the world does not know us and therefore does not know the one we call Savior because our walk and talk don’t harmonize. Beloved, “heaven on earth” is to not just live by the letter but by the heart.
Zechariah 3-6 From Genesis to Revelation, we have learned that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. [Rev 12:10] He continues to accuse even today! Thus in chapter three, we are given a marvelous symbolic example of what each believer can know about the accuser’s work and how we can be cleansed from sin to receive salvation. As we are, we “have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” [Is 46:6] We have a spiritual laundry problem and Satan tries to make us think that our works will make us clean, but that is a lie. “He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:5] We are only worthy because of what Christ has done because, like the priest, Joshua, we too wear the filthy clothes of sin. We need a launderer to cleanse us, and Jesus did just exactly that. Jesus is qualified to wear the robe of righteousness because He paid the redemption price for our sinful deeds and heart. Now He alone can rebuke the evil one. If we accept his gift of cleansing, we are now worthy of wearing fine clothing and a clean turban on our head.
The Lord of Heaven’s armies reminds us we are worthy to walk among the Body of Christ in our new robe of righteousness.
Obadiah: Do you recall the story about a feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s who harbored grudges spanning several years? They were led by a rogue clan member who refused to forgive. Read Obadiah with this tale and the Jacob/Esau story in mind. Just like the Hatfield/McCoy feud, the descendants of Esau/ Edomite’s hearts were full of bitterness. Esau was bitter because his brother Jacob got the birthright and blessing–by trickery. He never forgave him, although when he met Jacob many years later, he “seemed” repentant.
God sent Obadiah to Israel to prophesy about Edom to show them that unforgiveness is a trap laid by Satan. The Edomites harbored a grudge of this event’s outcome from years and years ago. Like the Hatfield/McCoy’s, they rehearsed it repeatedly, probably embellishing the details to the next generation as to why they would not; should not, could not forgive their enemy. The reality is unforgiveness is a sin. Instead: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you” [Prov 15:22]
Israel lies precariously close to this story because they refused to forgive their neighbor Judah. For us, it is a warning sign of what happens when we cling to hatred instead of forgiving.
Truth Principle: When we do not forgive, we are shackled in our past.
Hosea 8 to 10 If you listen carefully, you will hear that the world says: “do not judge.” Jesus used that verse to remind us of the standard of judgment and that the standards we apply to others God applies to us. Jesus is teaching that we are not God and we don’t know the motives behind a person’s heart. So what does that have to do with Hosea chapters 8 to 10? God is saying I am the ultimate judge, and I alone can judge the heart.
When God looked at the northern tribes, he saw sin and judged it. Outwardly the people were saying, “God, we acknowledge you!” But, God says, let’s look at the evidence. I found you and raised you only to see that your eyes drifted to man-made idols. This should not be! What you have sown, you will also reap. I spelled out my law for you in great detail, but you regarded it as nothing. I sent you wise prophets, but you called them fools. My prophet was sent to you as a watchman to remind you of where you have fallen. Like the Ephesians, they had lost their first love. God reminds them to seek Him early while He may be found! Repent and return to the Lord
This is a wake-up call to us as well. Where have we taken our eyes off God and look to the world of its man-made idols and structures? Have we lost our first love?
Ezekiel 25 to 27 God chose Israel to carry His message of love and forgiveness to the world. However, she decided to allow the foreign gods to infiltrate her land and her worship of Yahweh. Know this truth: judgment begins at God’s house, but He also sees others’ contempt and in His righteousness will also judge them.
God patiently sent prophets and priests to warn Israel that He would discipline. First, the northern tribes were scattered to the north. God hoped that Judah would learn, but she did not. She became even more immoral, so God sent the Babylonians and sent them into exile. One would think that the nations to the east would see this and learn. Instead, they scoffed, aided the Babylonians, and rushed in to take Judah’s land, cities, and crops. In their pride, they fell for the lie that God would not discipline them. Our prisons today are an example of this thinking.
Ezekiel explained that it was because they rejected God and His children; they too would face God’s hand. Like a maid dries a plate, He wiped them clean from east to west, beginning with Ammon and ended with Tyre.
The lesson for us is that there is a day of reckoning for all that the world may know that He is God.
Isaiah 61 Have you ever said: What does God want me to do? Messiah didn’t have that problem. He knew that the Lord had chosen and commissioned him. We may be centuries apart, but the Israelites to whom Isaiah was writing and speaking had the same questions you have.
Listen as Isaiah allows Messiah to speak. “I have been anointed for the service of the Lord.” Centuries later, the Apostle John wrote: “Nevertheless you have an anointing from the Holy One,” [1 Jo 2:20] Peter wrote: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [1 Pet 2:9]
Messiah knew his calling, his anointing, and the reason God chose Him. He would encourage the poor, help the brokenhearted, and free those imprisoned by sin. God gave him spiritual insight to see men’s desperate need for healing of the soul, mind, and body. Today, this same Holy Spirit has anointed you to fulfill these same areas of need in the lives of those around you.
Has God shown you someone that needs a refreshing word from the Lord? It might be a parent who has a child that has made a wrong choice, or someone has lost their job, a pastor who has heavy responsibilities, a missionary in a far off land that is lonely—or just perhaps a friend or an acquaintance.
Remember, God has called each of us to fulfill the Great Commission.
Do you talk to yourself? Let’s listen in on Asaph’s self-conversation.
Listen, God, life is not fair. You tell me to be humble, but I see the prosperous, and they are not! They are proud and pompous while I am poor and suffer adversity. They lack for nothing and live life with a “God owes me ” mentality. I am a man of integrity, and yet here I am facing problems. Where is my material prosperity, God? Why do I face challenges? If you are God, why am I suffering? Does this sound familiar? Asaph has a problem and we do as well. We fail to see life through the lens of the eternal perspective.
There are three lessons we should note. First, Asaph was envious. Envy is a sin that began in the Garden of Eden and is alive and well today. Secondly, Asaph shares, “If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed your loyal followers.” Today’s translation: I would become a stumbling block! Do we do the same without thinking what our grumbling might do to a young believer’s faith? Asaph then realized as he entered the precincts of God’s Temple; what he needed was cleansing. He pondered the consequences of being a stumbling block to others, so wisely, he sought God’s counsel. Lastly, in God’s presence, he saw the reality: We are here for one purpose:
to behold His beauty and to worship Him in all of His fullness.
In the parable of Luke 16, we see the point of it all. Lazarus was poor and needy, but in the end, he was the one whom God blessed. The rich man, not hardly. You see, he had the “God owes me mentality.” So, where are you in your thinking?
Psalm 50 & 51 People, we are in deep trouble. Instead of peace and quiet, our world is swirling with anxiety, greed, grumbling, and all the “vices” of Galatians 5. There is strife, jealousy, and outbursts of anger. We are swimming in sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, and idolatry—all because we are worshiping the creation more than the Creator.
God says we are in debt, but He also says: My Son has paid your debt. The world is striving to do the right “things,” but God says come apart with me and listen to what I have to say. You lack the one thing I desire, which is a humble spirit, a repentant heart, or a heart transplant.
Without the sacrifice of our Savior, we remain indebted. We are guilt, but Jesus paid our sin debt; if we accept His gift of salvation. Then our sin debt is canceled. But—we are never debt-free of offerings of thanksgiving to Him for this beautiful and precious gift. God does not desire sacrifices, for if He did, we could never repay our debt. Indeed, God wants is a heart that is receptive and thankful for this unspeakable gift.
Today step aside and evaluate your worship and your lifestyle. Pray that God would create in you a pure heart and a resolute spirit.
Psalm 16-18 “Innocent” When you see this word what comes to mind? What is the standard we use to determine whether one is innocent or guilty? The Hebrew defines that word as what is right, rightness, justness. When we look at David’s life we read and see his sin of adultery, his faithlessness in disciplining his son for rape. We cry guilty but what does God cry? He cries innocent. Does that seem contradictory?
David writes You I call to you because you will answer me, O God. The Lord is my high ridge, my stronghold, my deliverer. My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter, my shield, the horn that saves me, and my refuge
Truth: God looks NOT at outward appearances but at the heart. We judge by what we see, God judges by what we DO NOT see.
Outwardly we see a failing individual but inwardly God sees a man fully consecrated to Him. Outwardly we see a man who is faltering but God sees a man who chooses faith. Outwardly we see just a man but God sees a man who chooses to trust Him. God sees a man who allows God to examine him during the night hours while the world swirled around him.
No matter how the world sees you, (or you see yourself), know this, the Everlasting God sees you and your heart. Our question then is when He looks into your heart what does He see?