Answer the Why

We have spoken about fight time. That magical moment when it is go time. We have also looked at what we can do when the going gets hard. Those times when we feel like quitting or we if not quitting when we just don’t understand why it has to be so hard. This week I want to look at why. Why do it at all?

In the Bible (Luke 7:36-50) there is this story about a woman who washes Jesus feet with perfume and tears. When I read this story, I cannot help but stand in awe. I stand in awe of Jesus who loved her, I stand in awe of the woman who wept her tears on His feet, and I stand in awe at the religious who would have cast her aside. This woman serves as an inspiration and an example to me.

She is an inspiration because she did not care who else was around. She was going to give the Master the respect that was due to Him. She did not care what was going on or who might see her. She knew who she was, and she knew what she was doing. She was a sinner. She knew this. Simon the Pharisee knew it. More importantly, Jesus knew this. It does not say what her sin was that got her labeled a sinner, but it does say that her sins were many. I think that the simple label of sinner is for our benefit. She was a sinner that is all we know. Is it not the same with us?

We are all sinners. Don’t take that as an attack or an accusation from me. It is just a simple statement of fact. It would be the same as me saying we are all human. We sin. Sin is anything that goes against the nature of a holy and perfect God. It is not an attack but a statement. It doesn’t really matter what your sin is. Some are big and some are small. Some carry more consequence than others, but we are all relatively in the same boat. We all sin against God. The point I want to make is this woman knew that but more importantly, she knew what to do about it.

What good does it do to know you have a problem if you are not willing to do anything about it? If I find out I have some illness that does not really help me. I need to know what the illness is and how to fix it. I broke my wrist once. It was swollen and I was in a good amount of pain. Because I had never broken anything before, I thought it was just a bad sprain. After some encouragement from my wife, I went to the hospital and low and behold I had a broken wrist. That was good information. Bad situation but good info. My first question was “ok now what?” I needed to know what to do with the information I had.

This woman had the information. She was a sinner. That did not help her. Knowing you are a sinner, knowing that you are separated from God, knowing that the entire community looks down on you, knowing that you cry yourself to sleep does not help. Knowing what to do about that problem does. So, she went to Jesus because she had heard all about Him. She had heard about how He went around healing people. She heard stories about how He healed the lepers, restored sight to the blind, and healed withered hands but she also heard that He forgave sins. This woman came to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and perfume before He ever said I forgive you. She was confident that He would because of what she heard about Him.

When I think about the question, why missions the only answer I can come up with is because both Christ and you are worth it. I cannot stand that some people don’t have that confidence in Jesus. There are all sorts of theological reasons and I could give you some, but the simple truth is that there are so many people who have never heard His name or know that He loves them. That even while we were sinners Christ died for the ungodly. Why missions? Because they have to know, and I have to tell them. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know the story of Jesus. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know that God loves them. How can I be expected to sit in my home and do nothing about this? I was once a person who did not know this. I know what it is like to feel alone and outcast. But not anymore. So why missions? Because Jesus and you are worth it. Because I must!

What about you? Can you answer your why question? Why are you involved in the ministry you are involved in? Or why are you not involved? You have to be able to answer the question of why? God does not create sideline Christians. We are all called to serve in some area. Some are called to multiple areas, but we are all called.

Just a thought,

Mike

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I don’t want it that bad

 

43704_1717_8807This is the truck I want. Oh, I want this truck. Every time I drive by it I look at it. I think about it and how cool I would look in it. I think about how people would be like “oh yeah that’s Mike’s truck.” Oh, I want this truck, but what I do not want is the payment so I don’t have the truck, and unless someone watching is loaded and wants to buy it for me I will not have this truck. I want this truck but I don’t want it bad enough to buy it. That is what I want to talk about today…how bad do you want it.

There are three men in Luke 9:57-62 that wanted to follow Jesus. At least they said they wanted to follow Jesus but apparently did not want to follow Him bad enough to actually follow through with it. Let’s take a quick look.

The first man said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. This guy said he was ready for anything. He was ready to go, so Jesus said: “I sleep on the ground and use rocks for pillows.” The basic idea Jesus was trying to get through to him was that if he wanted to follow Him then that as ok but he could not be in for anything other than the privilege of following Him. In return, the man who was down for anything said: “I’m out.” Apparently, he did not like camping and wanted the finer things.

The second one Jesus actually called. This man said, “first let me bury my father.” Jesus’ replied, “let the dead bury their dead.” Now this sounds harsh but this man’s father was not dead. We can figure that out because if his father was dead and needed burying then he would have been home burying his father. Instead, he was hanging out to see what Jesus was doing. He did not want to follow Jesus enough to actually follow Him. Instead, I think he just wanted to be close enough so that if things went well he could get in on it.

The third man said, “I’ll follow you, Jesus.” This man was ready to step up where the others failed, but before Jesus could respond this man said: “but first I need to go home.” He was saying “Jesus I’ll follow you, but I need to go home and get permission from my family.” He was more concerned with what his family thought about his choice than what it actually meant to follow Jesus.

These three men said they wanted to follow Jesus but in reality, they did not want to actually do it. They wanted to be known as followers because Jesus was a big deal and they wanted in on the fame. They wanted the glory but not the work. Jesus says that we can follow Him but we need to give up everything.

If we want to know what it means to follow Christ as Lord and not just have Him as Savior then we need to look at Abraham and the Disciples. Abraham left everything to follow God’s direction. God told Abraham to leave his home and his family and Abraham left for a land he did not know simply because God said go. We have to remember that at this time they worshiped a few different gods and these gods were regional so one god might be strong here but over there he was not. Yet Abraham believed this God was strong enough to break boundaries. This was a tremendous act of faith on his part.  

The Disciples when Jesus called them left all sorts of things. Some left ministries they were involved in, some left business ventures, and some left jobs all because Jesus said follow me. Think about that. What if while you were sitting in your cubicle Jesus said follow me and you knew He meant quit right now, would you? Would you just tell your boss “Jesus said I need to quit.” What if you ran a small business and the same thing happened. Would you just hand someone the keys and say “Jesus said I need to go.” What if you were serving in a successful ministry and Jesus said: “time to go.” I am not saying He will do that but He could…

We have to ask ourselves whether we are questioning the faith, new to the faith, or long time Christians “If Jesus says go will I go?” It is not a question that we should take lightly either because our relationship with Him hinges on how we answer. That is not to say if you’ve said no in the past that you’re out of luck but if He asks again will you say “yes Lord.” You and only you can answer the question of how bad do you want it.

Just a thought,

Mike

Giving up good for great

I think most of us would agree that Jesus had a successful earthly ministry. I think a good deal of ministers of the Gospel would probably not mind a ministry like His. If we look in Luke chapters 7-9 we see a great deal of things that look like a successful ministry. To be honest, if I was building a ministry I would be very happy with the results I see in these chapters. There is great teaching, divine healing, casting out demons, and followers getting revelation. Simply put it is pretty incredible.

In chapter 7 there is the centurion who sends word to Jesus that his servant is sick and makes this great confession of faith and Jesus heals the servant. Then shortly after this, there was a dead man being carried and Jesus raised Him from the dead. Then as the crowds gather Jesus teaches them in these great parables. This is also a story of a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. It is just one thing after another.

Moving to chapter 8 there are more great parables including the parable of the sower. A personal favorite happens here where Jesus calms the wind and the waves. Once the boat lands, we have the story of Jesus casting out the legion of demons into a herd of pigs. It then goes on to talk about the woman being healed just by touching the hem of His clothes. As if that was not enough there is another person raised to life, this time, a little girl.

Chapter 9 does not let up either. You might think with all this there would be a breather but this is like a fast action flick. Jesus sends out the disciples so they go and start doing ministry. After this, there is the feeding of the multitude (5000 men) with the fish and bread. Can you imagine what that must have been like? I bet there has never been fresher bread eaten. A little while later is when we read Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ). Jesus then predicts His death and resurrection and tells them (and us) that we have to take up our cross and follow Him. We are not even done with chapter 9. There is also the transfiguration, another demon cast out, another prediction, and more teaching. Then Jesus says something about going to Jerusalem.

Wait! Pump the breaks! I thought Jesus had a pretty good thing going here why on earth would He want to go to Jerusalem? They want to kill Him there. Jesus has been seeing growth in His following, He was performing miracles, and He was casting out demons. What more could He want? Jerusalem was bad for business. How many people want to go to the place where they want to kill you when things are going well? Things are good in Judea why ruin it? Not only that Luke says that Jesus steadfastly set His face to Jerusalem which means nothing was going to stop Him. The word in the greek is stērizō and means to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix 2) to strengthen, make firm, 3) to render constant, confirm one’s mind. He was going and nothing was going to stop Him? But why?

The answer is two parts. First, because it was time. If you remember we said twice before this He predicted His death and resurrection. Also, Jesus spoke about the right time a few times. He said to His mother in John 2:4 my hour (or time) has not yet come. But now it was time, it was time to head towards His death. He knew that now He must go and be betrayed into the hands of men (Luke 9:44). The second reason is you. You are why He went to Jerusalem. He went because you needed Him to. Jesus had a successful ministry on earth but He was about to have an even more successful ministry. Instead of teaching here and there, instead of healing here and there, instead of gaining followers here and there He was about to go global. He did great in Israel but now He was about to launch a worldwide ministry. The likes of which had never been seen and it was all for you and me.

Hebrews 12:2 says that for the joy set before Him Jesus endured the cross. Jesus had a good thing going but there was a better thing in store for us so He did that. He went to the cross so that we could be forgiven and live a full abundant life. He set us free and in doing so changed everything. The whole game changed after the cross. But it started with Him setting His face to Jerusalem. It started with a determination that He would die while we still sinners. It started with a the idea that He would love us first. Jesus knew that while He had a good thing going there was a better thing waiting. You are that better thing. You are the reason for the cross. I don’t say that negatively either. Yes, our sin put Him there, but He chose it. He chose it because He loves you and He could not stand to see you apart from Him.

The cross is pain, agony, and death. But it is also joy, love, and life because of what it accomplished. In the words of the old hymn, “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” It was all paid by Him in love for you. I am so glad Jesus left a good thing for a great thing.

Just a thought,

Mike

Small sentence big implication!

There are a few verses in the Bible that stand out. Not that other verses are not important but some change the way you view everything.

Luke 10:27 “You shall love the LORD your God with all: your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

This is a simple statement however the implications are huge and require some explaining and examples.

Love God:

Before we can even begin to look at the ways we are to love God we have to understand that we cannot on our own accord love Him. Our attempts at loving God fall short and our attempts at living a righteous life are but filthy rags. We can only love God because He first loved us. God is good and in His goodness He saved us from our sins by sending His only son to save us. It is by placing our trust in the finished work of the Cross that we can then love God. The twist to the story however is that now we can love God but require His love in us to then love Him properly. We must constantly receive from Him to give our love to Him. I believe that Colossians 3:3 shows this well that we cannot think of our love to God as separate from our being in Him. We love Him because we are in Christ who is in the Father. The implications of this are of course that the love we give to God is really His own love back to Him. Desiring to always be in Him.

With all your heart:

The word for heart that is used is more than emotion and feelings. It does encompass this but it is for your mental, moral i.e rational and emotional. We are called to love God with our thoughts, and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We are to think about the LORD, and to be engaged with His heart. We are to seek His heart and then put ours in alignment with His. We are to not let our feelings and emotions control us. This is done through Prayer.

With all your soul:

Loving God with all your soul is to give Him your whole inner being. A dog can love it’s master, it can come when it is called, it can respect that you feed it, but it has no soul so it cannot love fully. God does not desire that we come when called. God desires that we desire Him. We are to long for Him like a deer pants for water my soul pants for God, we are to thirst for Him. This is done through Worship.

With all your strength:

The love we give to God from our strength is by loving with all the ability we have to love with. We are to love God by doing what we are able to do. This is not done to gain merit or earn salvation but instead we do works because we are saved by Grace. Our love for God is shown in what we do, not done to be loved. Loving God with our strength is to love Him through Service.

With all your mind:

To love God with your mind is to love Him with all your understanding. I love God more now than I did when I first gave my life to Him, but my love for Him was no less real than it is now. Now I simply understand more so I can love Him more. The more I learn of Him and the more I seek Him the more I love Him. The more I transform my mind by His word and see what He has done the more I am able to love Him. My daughter loves me more today than she did 5 years ago only because she understands me more now. The more we study the more we have ability to love Him. This is done through Reading the Bible.

Love your neighbour as yourself:

This is done by living in Grace and Truth. Jesus came full of Grace and Truth and we should live the same way. Some churches are big on Truth and some are big on Grace but what would happen if we were big on Grace and Truth. What if we looked to Jesus as our example and said go and sin no more. What if we offered to others the same grace we need. What would happen if we told the truth we desire to hear.

The local church is to be an extension of Jesus. We are to be His hands and feet. We are to love the unloved, to care for widows and orphans, to offer mercy to those who need it. There is a time for discipline and we must use it when needed but we must not be to quick to reach for it. We must be ministers of reconciliation.

As a church we need to have opportunities for people to serve. We need to have opportunities for people to come to Jesus. We should also be active in the community. We cannot expect to have people come to us unless we have first demonstrated that we will go to them. Jesus spent His time going to the people who needed to hear and receive the Word. We should be a force in the communities we are placed in.

We should also be looking to train up the next generation for service. We should be actively looking for those who have a call on their life and equipping them for service. If someone wants to be a pastor or missionary or doctor or lawyer or nurse or mechanic we should be showing them that they can be whatever they are called to be for Christ. Ministry happens everyday in a variety of ways and we should be showing that to the next generation so they can be a force for Jesus as well.

Just a thought,

Mike

Parable of Minas

 The early church father Jerome said of parables “The marrow of a parable is different from the promise of its surface, and like as gold is sought for in the earth, the kernel in a nut and the hidden fruit in the prickly covering of chestnuts, so in parables we must search more deeply after the divine meaning. 

I am not sure about you but I have a tendency to not always read the Bible properly.  I usually have a very good memory regarding things I have watched, read, or heard.  I can generally remember the details or at the very least the gist of something.  At least well enough that upon seeing or hearing it again I remember much of it from before.  This is a gift but also a disadvantage at times because as I read through the Scriptures I can easily gloss over things.  So I did with the parable of the Minas in Luke 19.  If three weeks ago you would have asked I would have told you the parable of the Minas and the parable of the Talents were the same parable.  I would have however been wrong.  They are different and convey slightly different main messages, as well as different subtle messages.

A few quick points separating the two as I think it important.  The parable of the Minas is being told to a crowd before Jesus triumphant entry to Jerusalem, while the Talent parable is being told to the 12 in Jerusalem.  This is important because the audience of a parable can help shed light on it’s meaning.  Another quick difference is the characters in the parable.  In the Minas there are 10 servants and multiple citizens, while in the parable of the Talents there are only the man’s servants.  This again helps us understand the meaning.  Also the amount is vastly different.  A mina is about 1/60th of a talent.  This is a huge difference.

The first thing we need to do is decide whether or not Jesus is the master in the parable.  This will dictate the rest of the parable.  Most commentators say that yes Jesus is the master in the parable.  The parable does resemble the story of Herod the Great’s son Archelaus and would have been familiar to them.  On a side note isn’t great how God talks to us in a language we understand.  The parables of Jesus always tie into something that should/could be understand.

Understanding that Jesus is the nobleman in the parable I want to turn the remaining attention to the three servants. 

The servants are all given the same amount of money to stewart.

In this parable we notice that all the servants are given the same amount namely 10 Minas.  They also clearly understood the task “do business until I return.”  They had been given a job, and they were expected to do that job.  If my boss gives me a task I am expected to complete it.  If I ask my daughter to do something I expect she will do it.  This was not a gift but part of their job.  They were told to do business with their Masters money.  They were stewards of the Masters property

In my last position I was among other things in charge of the buildings phone, and HVAC systems.  We went through two upgrades in the systems I managed.  I was tasked with using the owners money and resources with the expectation of improvement.  If I mismanaged that I would be a bad stewart.  The money was not mine but I was given control of it for a purpose.  The resources (staff in this case) were not mine but they were subject to me for this task.  I had to carefully weigh the options and come up with a plan to bring increase.  In the case of the HVAC system we needed to reduce cost, and with the phone system we needed to improve quality.  I had a job to do, and I was allocated resources to do that job.  I could not take those funds and buy a car.  I could not take staff and have them clean my house.  The funds and people had a purpose. 

The returns ROI is different, but return is present.

Of the ten stewarts three responses are recorded, two of which are positive but different.

The first one was able to produce a 100% increase in his master’s money.  He was some how able to double the money.  Maybe he opened a business or invested in a start-up.  I don’t know what he did but he doubled that money.  Lets say a mina is three months wages and the average monthly wage is $3,000.  That means he took $90k and turned it into $180k.  That is a big return, and typically a big return is found at the end of a big risk.  You do not typically get a return like that without taking chances.  A really good stock return is 20% while the average is like 10%.  That would be like a $18k to $9k return.  Still good but not 100% return.  This guy was probably a risk taker.  I would imagine he either was a daring as it gets, knew he was that good, or (and I like this one) knew that people knew this was his bosses money so they knew not to mess him over.  Either way he did something.

The one who returned less increase is not punished but rewarded.

The second one produced a 50% yield.  This means he turned $90k into $145k.  Still no small feat.  That is still unheard of.  If someone did that in the stock market there would be an investigation launched for insider trading.  I would imagine he was a little more reserved than the first guy or struck out but he still had to have a very good idea of what he was doing.

I noticed that the second man was not chastised for only a 50% increase.  He was rewarded the same way.  The first servant got to rule 10 cities and the second 5 cities.  Each to their ability.  That teaches us something very important about God.  He gives us more based on our ability to take care of that.  If you cannot handle something God does not give you more to rule over. 

God expects us to take care of His property It says in in Psalms 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  That is pretty clear but just in case: 

1 Corinthians 10:261 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Genesis 1:9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

Deuteronomy 10:14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 

Job 41:11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me

Psalm 50:12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

 

I think you get the point.  God owns all this.  It is His and He can do as He pleases with.  What does He please to do with it?  Well partly to have you and I work it.  He placed Adam in the garden and told him to work it.  He expects you and I to do His work.  Eph says that there are good works prepared for us.  We have a job to do.  We have a work to put our hands too.  We are to love, and help, and serve. To teach, and reach those who need it.  We are called to a work.  James says faith without works is dead.  What does that mean?  It means you have faith so you can do the work of God.  We are not called to faith to be observers but active.  Faith in Christ should lead to action.

 

The last guy missed the point entirely.  He was so wrapped up in his own ideas and thoughts that he never did his masters bidding.  He was so caught up in the fact that the master collects where he did not work that he just wanted to keep the money safe.  I think his problem was having as master in the first place.  From the text it does not even appear he tried.  He decided who the master was and how he acted.  Notice that the master says “out of your own mouth.”  How many times have we decided who God is?  How many times have we rejected God’s provision or blessing in our life before He even got a chance?  I have a tendency to look more at God’s standards more than the standard giver.  I have a tendency to say “God this is your standard, and your expectation and I cannot live up to that, I am taking myself out of the running.”  I can tell you from first hand experience that is not good and there is no reward in that.  I am working on living a life that says “God I know I might fail, but I am going to try, I am going to embrace your life, and love.”  I am trying to keep reminding myself of Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.”  God is not asking me, He is not asking you to do something He will not provide for.  The master in this story gave them the money and said do business.  He did not say go find some money and then do business.  He provided the thing needed.  How much more does God provide for His work.

 

So what is the point?  How do we take this and use it in our own lives?  Well I don’t know. I cannot presume to know where you are, or how you need/can use this.  Here is what I do know is a young body we have an awesome and great possibility before us.  We are a ragtag group if I have ever seen one.  We come from broken homes, loving homes, faithless families, faithful families, lots of children, no children, and so on.  We each have a past that enables us to reach people, but more importantly we have each other, and we have God.  We have God calling us to a work, and we must now decide whether we will do His work and look for ways to invest ourselves our whole selves for His work.  If we do this then we will have a great ROI that we can present to our Master.  Or we can sheepishly hid ourselves and await His return.

The choice is ours.

Just a thought,

Mike