Month: May 2018

Keep the religion or care for people?

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Matthew 12

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Jesus taught both by what he said and what he did. In this instance we learn the difference of religion and true care for people in the context of religion. Two laws are on display here. The first law was the law given to harvesters of grain to mercifully leave whatever falls on the ground for the needs of the poor. The second law was the law of the Sabbath that states there was no work allowed to be done on the Sabbath.

It was a Sabbath day. On the seventh day of creation God rested and commanded that the Sabbath be set aside for rest and for worship of him. The Pharisees had corrupted this command making it impossible even for people to care for one another on the Sabbath. Jesus, in plain view of the Pharisees, with his disciples’ plucked grain for personal consumption. They were not harvesting, they were not working, they were not storing grain; they were plucking food to eat and to satisfy their own hunger. The Pharisees thought they had something on Jesus for working on the Sabbath.

Jesus, taking the opportunity to teach, explained the difference between eating and working, doing good and breaking the Sabbath. The Pharisees often accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath when he would heal someone on the Sabbath. So now Jesus explains that He is Lord of the Sabbath and as Lord of the Sabbath he desires mercy and not sacrifice. It would have been a sacrifice for them to have gone hungry, to eat the grain left by the farmer was enjoying the mercy of the farmer. On the Sabbath, the religious day of rest, the Lord of the Sabbath desires mercy to be shown.

Let us be careful to never put our religious practices above showing mercy to others. If you are on your way to church and you see someone in need, will you ignore their need to get to church or will you be late for church to meet their need?   What religious duty would you put in front of showing mercy to someone in need? Jesus is teaching us that showing mercy is better than sacrificing ourselves to keep our religious practices. An interesting thought of values for people of all times.

 

It was difficult to read the biographical sketches of the ten people killed at the school shooting in Texas last week. It appeared that three of them were known for their Christianity. One girl was a foreign exchange student from Pakistan. Others were aspiring teenagers looking forward to living life. As you read about these people, pray for their families all of whom are questioning God as to why this had to happen to their families.

Pray for the safety of one another as we go about our lives. Solomon wrote this, “The horse is prepared for the day of battled, but safety is of the Lord.”

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

 

 

The most beautiful invitation of all time

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Matthew 11

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

Do come to love this passage with me.  Jesus is communicating his oneness and his love for the Father. The Father has given all things to the Son and the Father knows the Son uniquely.  But then notice the words of Jesus when he says that those to whom the Father reveals the Son will also know the Son.  God reveals the Son to whom He will.  We are thankful today that God has revealed the Son to us.  God is a self-revealing God, that is, the God of heaven and earth does not play hide-and-seek making us jump through hoops to know Him.  God revealed the Son to us so that we could know both the Father and the Son.

 

As if that were not enough by itself, Jesus then turns to the crowd and cries out these wonderful words, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  When it comes to the God of heaven who has revealed Himself to us through his word, he calls us to himself.  God wants us to come to him!  Every religion in the world has a series of works that have to be done so that those who do them “might” get to their god.  The God of heaven has given us a clear way to come to Him and it is through his Son, the Lord Jesus who called us all to himself.  It cannot get any clearer than, “Come unto me…and I will give you rest.”

 

Earlier this week, a friend from our Oak Forest Baptist Temple days went to be with the Lord.  Rich Wojtas came to Christ about 35 years ago after I preached a message on the sacrifice of Cain and Abel with a parallel to the sacrifice of Christ.  It is strange that I remember that so clearly but I was thrilled that day when God used a simple message from his word to bring salvation to a thirsty soul.  As Jesus called someone to come to Him for rest, Rich answered, came to Christ and found rest.  Today, our friend is resting in the presence of his Lord and Savior of 35 years.

 

What about you?  Are you resting in Jesus today or are you still striving to gain a god’s approval?  Place your faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ, come to Him and find the peace that only He can provide.  The burden of sin is heavy; the burden of grace is light.  Join us who have found refuge in the blood of Christ, come to Jesus, He is calling.

 

Mom’s cochlear implant went well yesterday. She is home and feels pretty good.  The pain meds are effective and she rested well last night.  It takes a month of healing before the audiologist will turn on the device.  Mom is anxious for the day when she can hear again. 

Pray for a friend named Natalie.  She is facing some very real difficulties that are effecting her health and well-being.  I hope to meet with her soon. 

Pray for a friend named Ed who has struggled for years with his addictions.  He wrote me two words, “help me.” 

I won’t be able to write a devotional tomorrow as we are going up to Victory for Laura’s wedding to Titus Carpenter.  Pray for Laura and Titus as they begin their life together this Saturday.  I will be officiating the wedding. Both dads are pastors but would rather someone else officiate this wedding.  I am honored to do so. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

God’s Call Rejected And Cities Judged

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Matthew 11

20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

 

In the mind of God, those who hear the gospel and see the mighty works of God but continue to reject His saving grace will receive greater judgment than those who never heard about His grace and faced His judgment. This should be a frightful passage to us.  America has been saturated with the gospel.  From churches to radio programs to TV programs, to books, to magazines to the internet and even on the eyelids of football players, America has heard or has had opportunity to hear the gospel.  Yet we are no longer considered a Christian nation by anyone.  Paganism is rampant. Drug and alcohol use are over the top. Immorality has become the recreational past time of the millennial’s. Homosexuality and transexuality have taken over the shows, the politics and the schools.  Violence is a normal part of the evening news.  As a nation, we are close to anarchy.  Divorce destroys people’s lives. Abortion legally kills thousands of babies every day.  In the courtroom, the rich go free regardless of their crime; justice is not served.

 

In light of today’s passage, how is God going to judge a nation that has heard so much of God’s truth and yet lives rejecting it?  What should we do?  As the Christians of our communities, we must pray more and more often.  We must gather with others in prayer.  We must seek the Lord for the holiness of God to descend upon us bringing conviction of sin and a cry for His mercy.  Whenever an Old Testament king sought the Lord, God withheld His judgment and gave them His grace.  The world today needs a revival against sin, for holiness and a cry out to God for His mercy to hold back His judgment.

 

Join me today in fervent prayer for the mercy of God to fall upon us and our families, our friends, our communities and our country.

 

My mother requests your prayers today as she is going into surgery for a cochlear implant.  She goes in at 8:30 at Loyola.  She longs to be able to hear better.  Pray with us for a successful implant and within the next two months to heal and to become acclimated to this device. 

Tonight is our regular church times with Kids4Truth and Youth group.  Pray for God to move in the hearts of our kids for His kingdom and glory.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

What makes people come to God’s message of wisdom?

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Matthew 11

16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying:

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

We mourned to you, and you did not lament.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

As Jesus compared the life and ministry of John the Baptist to his own life and ministry he showed that those who were going to reject were going to reject regardless of the messenger.  John came living the life of one who rejected society, adhered strictly to the Law, and did not conform to any of the styles and norms of the day. He lived in the wilderness; he never spoke to please those who heard him; he wore rough-sewn clothes, and he ate a very simple diet.  It would seem that those who loved the Law would have embraced John just for his lifestyle.  But they didn’t.

Jesus came wearing regular clothes, eating regular food, and ministering to sinners.  His contrasting lifestyle did not cause those who were watching to believe. A simple song of the day applied to that generation as much as it does today:  when the music is played the people don’t dance to it and when the mourners lament the people don’t mourn with them. Those who reject the truth of God will reject it regardless of the person presenting it.

There is a movement in some churches to get as close to the world as possible in order to attract the world to Christ.  Other churches move as far away from the world as possible in order to attract people to Christ.  Which way is right and which way is wrong?  According to Jesus, that is the wrong question.  According to Jesus, it will be evident in us when we receive the wisdom of God. There were those who repented under John’s preaching and there were those who repented under Jesus’ teaching. It wasn’t the lifestyles of Jesus and John that made the difference it was how the listener responded to their message of God’s wisdom.

Pray with me for men and women who hear the gospel to repent of their sin, accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ, and show forth the wisdom of God in their lives.  We all have our opinions about the best way to follow the Lord in this world.  Jesus taught that what mattered was what we did with the wisdom of God.  Do our children, the fruit of our labors, show forth His wisdom.  Oh that men and women and young people and children would look at us and see Christ, turn from their sin, and accept God’s offer of eternal salvation.  Oh that they would see the wisdom of God in us and desire the God of eternal wisdom in their lives.

 

Pray with me for a young man who is caught up in the sins of the flesh.  We will be talking shortly and I long for him to come to repentance.  Pray also that God will open a door of utterance into another man who has not shown interest but needs the Savior.

This Saturday is Laura Massey’s wedding to Titus Carpenter.  I will be officiating.  If you would like to send a card to Laura and Titus, bring it Wednesday night. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

Proverbs 31 A Woman of Value

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On Mother’s Day, Pastor Steve brought this message to encourage women to be the women that God, in His image, created them to be.  The woman in Proverbs 31 is far from under-rated, under-paid, and under-respected.  She is well spoken, well gifted, and well compensated.  Furthermore, she is well known for the exercise of all of her gifts both in the home and in the market.  She loves her family well and is held in high esteem by all.  In the face of hyped up feminism, a woman who fulfills her God-given purposes stands in stark contrast and is greatly fulfilled and respected by all.

Have Faith

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Matthew 11

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Do the things of God ever cause you to doubt?  John the Baptist gave his life, from the womb, to serve his God.  Jesus called John the greatest man ever born of woman. Without doubt, John the Baptist (the baptizer) was the greatest Old Testament prophet and in his life fulfilled prophesies of other prophets as the forerunner of the Messiah.  John’s message was fiery, so much so that he had a great following of those who repented and of those who hated him.  John gave everything to complete the mission that God created him to do.

John may have envisioned himself as the prophet of God in the kingdom of the Messiah.  He, like the apostles, may not have understood the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ but was looking forward to the revival of the throne of David.  Jesus was the Messiah!  John had baptized him, the Spirit of God descend upon him and John heard the voice of God from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son.”  John believed what God said and followed the Messiah.

But now, John found himself in prison with a death sentence.  This was not what he understood was supposed to happen.  Furthermore, Jesus did not come and get him released so it looked like his doom was certain.  “Was Jesus really the Messiah? Am I not the forerunner of this Messiah? Why doesn’t he come and save me from this prison and from this death sentence?”  As these questions ran through John’s head we find him sending messengers to Jesus asking him if he really is the Messiah who was to come or was there yet another one coming?

Have we ever doubted the word or the power of God?  Have we ever assumed that God was going to do something and when he didn’t a seed of doubt entered our hearts?  John did not deny Christ, and neither do we; but John did question why Jesus did not come and deliver him.  My friends, when we don’t think that God has done something the way we think he should have, we are in good company.  Many before us have wondered the same thing.  At those moments of doubt the Lord Jesus calls us to focus on him.  Jesus told John to pay attention to the miracles: notice the sick that were healed, the lame who walked, the dead raised, and the poor hearing the gospel preached to them.

In our hours of doubt we too are called to greater faith in who Jesus is and in what Jesus did.  Jesus is God.  Jesus came to this earth, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, and rose in a justifying resurrection.  Jesus was seen by over 400 people after his resurrection and then rose bodily to heaven promising to return in the same manner.  This is where our faith needs to be.

Finally, notice that Jesus did not get John released from prison but let Herod have him beheaded. John’s work was finished and God took him home.  The moment John found himself in the presence of the God he loved and served it all made sense.  At that moment, regardless of how we get there, every trial and blessing of this life will make sense for us too.  Have faith.

 

We had a great Mother’s Day at church and at home.  God led us to Proverbs 31 as we studied the value of women.  When we follow God’s plan for our creation, women have great value and bring that value to every part of their lives.  I am so thankful for women of value who have been such a key part of my life from birth to today.  There were many women of virtue and value who were part of shaping me into the man that I have become.  Thanks to my mom, my wife, my mother-in-law, and dozens of others who caring for me made me into the man that I have become.  Ladies, don’t look for fulfillment in trying to be something God did not make you to be.  (For more on this, listen to the message on Proverbs 31, A Woman of Value.)

 Pray today for peace in Jerusalem.  Regardless of your politics on a US Embassy in Jerusalem, people are involved in violent protests and we should be praying for peace in Jerusalem.  Only Jesus will broker the final peace there but for now they need God to move on their behalf. 

Three churches were bombed in Indonesia yesterday.  One family  picked out three churches and a father, mother, two sons, and two daughters blew themselves up in a Catholic Church, a Pentecostal church, and a Christian church.  Ten have died and dozens were injured.  Pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ who lost family in this terrorist attack. 

 Thankfully, our Lord Jesus is the final victor and in time His kingdom will be established and will rule in peace for a thousand years.  Have faith.

 Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Who gets the rewards in heaven?

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Matthew 10

39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.

41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

 

As we lose our lives in this world and then find our lives in Christ and in the pursuits of his kingdom, we are going to treat people much, much differently. Losing our lives means that we willingly give up our own goals for greatness, for pleasure, for retirement, and so on in exchange for giving ourselves to the care of others in God’s kingdom. (When I speak of God’s kingdom I speak of the kingdom of never-dying souls who need to hear and believe the gospel of God which alone leads to eternal salvation in the kingdom of God.) When we are living apart from the goals of this life for the goals of Christ we will find ourselves seeing others differently and determining to care for them.

Verse s 40-41 teaches us the benefits in God’s kingdom of caring for others. When we receive the Lord Jesus, we also receive God the Father. The two are inseparable. Religions that deny the deity of Christ are also missing out on the presence of the Father. When we receive the Son, we are also receiving the Father. When we deny the Son we are also denying the Father. John makes this clearer in his letter that we call 1 John.

If we consider that the messengers of God, the prophets, the pastors, the evangelists, and other righteous people, are going to receive a special reward from God for their lives lived for God, then pay close attention here. Jesus taught that when we receive a prophet or a righteous man we will receive the same reward from God that they will receive. You see, those who are life-time ministers of the gospel need the care of those who work jobs in the community. Paul often spoke of those who cared for him along the way of his missionary journeys. Every one who cared for Paul will receive the same eternal rewards that Paul receives. Do you invite ministers and missionaries and evangelists into your home to receive them there? Do you take time and effort to care for those who don’t have community jobs but as ministers to the church rely on the church for their well-being? Every time you receive a messenger of God you are preparing yourself to receive the same blessings that they will receive.

But Jesus goes one step further when he says that even if we give a cup of cold water to a thirst person we will not lose our reward in heaven. This verse has taught me that no gift is too small when given from a sincere heart of care. All of us need water to live. When we care for others we are laying up rewards in heaven. Ask God to give you a chance to care for someone today.

 

Last night Stefani and Andrew taught the youth group lesson. They have been concerned about seeing their church friends begin down paths that lead to failure so they prepared a lesson to bring these paths, and their ends, to light. Do pray for our teens as they are facing extreme pressures both at home and at school. These pressures lead to all kinds of negative places and we know that when young people follow Christ the dead ends are avoidable.

 

Pray for my lunch appointment today. I am meeting with a friend from the community.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS