Extravagant Forgiveness

Extravagant Forgiveness

I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full (Proverbs 8:20-21 NIV).

In our buy now, pay later society, it’s easy to get caught in the debt trap. No one sets out intentionally to owe thousands. Through life’s surprises, mismanagement, or the mistakes of others, it’s easy to become awash in an ocean of debt—no land in sight. It can get to the point where we daydream of a rescue ship cruising by and snatching us from our sea of debt.

Simon, the Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner, and Jesus accepted the invitation despite Simon’s doubts. As His host, Simon should have had a servant wash Jesus’ feet. But no such gentilities were offered. Word of Jesus’ presence spread and a sinful woman heard where He was eating. Uninvited, she burst through the door and anointed His feet. She was so humbled by His greatness that the magnitude of her sinful life overcame her. She wept and washed His feet with her tears, drying them with her hair. Simon was frustrated by how this woman entered his house without being invited, interrupting his big moment.

Jesus’ emotions were drawn by the two opposite reactions. On one extreme, the woman’s honest humility moved Him. On the other hand, Simon’s arrogance and lack of hospitality angered Him. So, He told a parable: “If two men owed money—one several thousand dollars, the other just a few dollars, and the lender forgave them both, who is forgiven most?” I suppose the one who owed the most, Simon replied.

The last thing Simon wanted to do was admit that Jesus was right. But He was. And He’s right today. Regardless of your sin, forgiveness is available. When we humbly realize the magnitude of our sins and accept His forgiveness, it is big for every single one of us. It’s almost too much to comprehend that He should forgive us.

Christ’s forgiveness knows no bounds!

Mary, Joanna and Susanna

Mary, Joanna, and Susanna

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15 NIV).

Go Deeper: Numbers 27:12-29:11; Luke 8:1-18; Psalm 38:13-22

My entire life has been lived in the parsonage. That magical never-never-land created just for pastors’ families. What an amazing array of individuals I’ve had the privilege (or curse) of meeting. Everywhere I’ve lived—either as pastor’s daughter or pastor’s wife—I’ve come to realize that some of the most forgiven and humble people are some of the biggest supporters of the church and its pastor. Curiously, many of these people are women.

After Jesus’ ministry reached full stride, He had no time to pursue a trade in order to support the ministry. Jesus knew the urgency and time limitations of His mission, so He trusted God to provide. Enter Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. As Jesus preached and taught in village after village, several people supported Him. Three are mentioned specifically: Mary Magdalene, a woman cured of evil spirits; Joanna, the wife of King Herod’s household manager; and another named Susanna. The Bible gives us no details about Susanna, but enough is told about Mary and Joanna to know that each of them had a story, and each of them had a changed life that compelled them to be dedicated to the loving support of Jesus.

Pastors are gifts, and their lives are packed with situations that most people never even consider—much less encounter. Financial encumbrances and emotional isolation only inhibit a pastor’s ministry and divide his time. Money is a necessity, but there is even more that our pastors deserve and need. These women supported Jesus out of their “own means.” They got it. What they could give was little, but they willingly gave. We can safely assume that some of their giving was monetary, but encouraging, believing, and emotional support accompanied their finances. Love and support your pastors; it will set them free to be all that God intended them to be.

You can be a Mary, a Joanna, or a Susanna.

Sharing His Story

Sharing His Story

There is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (Luke 7:28).

The Jewish people had been waiting years for the Messiah. What would He be like? How would they identify Him? John the Baptist was in the same predicament as the public. He didn’t know who the Messiah was or when He would arrive. When reports of Jesus’ healings and teachings filtered back to him, John wanted to be positive that Jesus was the Messiah. He sent his disciples to Jesus with this message: Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? (Luke 7:19).

Jesus’s reply wasn’t what they expected to hear: Tell what you have seen and heard. In a word, Jesus was saying that His deeds will define His identity. He acknowledged John’s inquiry while highlighting His mission: …there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (Luke 7:28). Jesus knew who He was; He knew His mission as well.

The world is asking, “Are you the one?” They’re hoping someone will recognize them and introduce them to the answers they have been looking for. They want comfort and rest after their long, weary journeys. We are the ones that have the answer to their questions, we know God. We have an awesome privilege to properly introduce Him to those who are seeking.

Don’t hide your light; Share God’s story with those around you.

Breaking the Routine

Breaking the Routine

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built (Luke 6: 47-48).

We all talk to ourselves, well, some more than others. Whether it’s to process our own thoughts or because we like the sound of our own voice, we all do it at some point. We even bestow human attributes on our pets when we talk to them, acting as though they not only understand us, but sometimes expecting an answer. We know they can’t talk, but there’s a crazy sort of therapy in talking to pets. We would be shocked beyond belief if a pet actually answered us. It’s out of the question. But God uses incidents that are totally out of the question to stop us dead in our tracks and get our undivided attention.

God was angry with Balaam for visiting the princes of Moab. So, He sent an angel to block his path. Balaam didn’t see the angel, but his donkey did. First she pressed against one side to avoid the angel, crushing Balaam’s leg. When that didn’t work, she laid down in the road and refused to budge. Whatever the donkey did, the angel remained invisible to Balaam. The idiocy of his donkey’s actions angered Balaam so much that he beat the animal.

Exasperated, the donkey spoke to Balaam. Donkeys don’t speak; everyone knows that. But this one spoke, and a full-blown conversation ensued between Balaam and his mount. At last, God opened his eyes, and Balaam saw the angel that was blocking their way. He will use anything or anyone at any time or anywhere—as ludicrous at it might seem—to get our attention.

The next time you’re stopped dead in your tracks by an unseen obstruction and are frustrated by yet another blind delay, pause. God may have placed something or someone in your pathway to humble you and open your eyes to what’s ahead.

Take a break out of your daily routine to seek out God.

Enduring Promises

Enduring Promises

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37: 23-24).

The poet, Robert Service, said it in The Cremation of Sam McGee: “…a promise made, is a debt unpaid…” I love that line. It says it all; you’re duty bound to keep your word. Hardly a 21st Century mantra. Today’s promises are so conditional. We’re hard put to find an individual or group who keeps a promise when it is no longer expedient. Because of this prevailing atmosphere, it’s difficult to trust—and that includes trusting God and His Word.

Psalm 37 is a hallmark section of Scripture that we return to often for comfort, reassurance, and support. David begins with what could be called the Cycle of Victorious Living: “Fret not; trust in the Lord; delight in Him; commit to Him; wait on Him; fret not.” This continuous cycle is a lifelong buttress for each of us with the ins and outs and ups and downs of daily living.

Psalm 37 continues, I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread…the Lord will not forsake his faithful ones (Psalm 37:25, 28). David began serving God as a teen, and he was as human as any one of us. He had countless victories, but he also had some debilitating, humiliating human disasters. In his old age, David could look back and see that God’s promises were secure, regardless of his own wavering temperament. If God said it; God meant it. God remained constant.

Whatever He has promised, He will do. Look back. He’s been with you all the time, and He will remain with you to the end. He just won’t go away.

God is one whose promises endure.

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 13:24-43

Parables of Jesus

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on March 22nd 2015

“When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we must remind ourselves that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting is the full outworking of those events. We wait with patience, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come with a lighted candle, but like people in early morning who know that the sun has arisen and are now waiting for the full brightness of midday.”

NT Wright

Intro

Why does God allow evil? Does He not care? Is He not able to act on His creation? Parables are not direct answers, and there is certainly no “Magic Bullet” answer to that question. But another question does arise within that question. What evil would we like eradicated? Our parable today helps us think through that question as followers of Jesus. That question can never be answered in a skeptics mind, because the human default is really self-centered and anti-god centered. We struggle to see anything other than from our own perspective.

As a reminder the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes the promised Messiah. It is more thematic than sequential. It is also known for it’s five discourse that are placed in the gospel to move it forward, taking from what just happened and moving through to the next act of the story Matthew is telling us about Jesus and His ministry.

1st Discourse (Ch. 5-7) Kingdom Living

2nd Discourse (Ch. 10) The Missional Mandate

3rd Discourse (Ch. 13) Kingdom Disciples

4th Discourse (Ch. 18Community Based Disciples

5th Discourse (Ch. 24-25) The Final End Game

Big Picture: God’s Kingdom will dominate any other authority on God’s timing and agenda

Our parables today are about Waiting (His Timing) and Perspective (His Agenda)

Today, we see Three Parables that Jesus tells to highlight this truth that His Kingdom will dominate, but it will not dominate on our timing and on our agendas.

From the Head…

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30; 36b-42)

Probably one of the hardest things to learn in regard to God’s relationship with His creation, is His timing is never our timing. When we want revenge, or action, God seems inactive, and out of touch. It is His patience that we often view as uncaring, yet the bible is replete with verses reminding us of God’s patience with His very fallen creation.

It is important to note here, that although the church definitely can have people in it that are not regenerate, this parable is discussing the world. The fact is, Jesus does tell us to “Weed” out those that are in sin, and demonstrating by their actions that they are non-believers (See Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5). Here Jesus reminds His disciples that if He were to truly destroy the weeds, He’d be destroying even the “good” wheat. We are all about “Justice” and “Judgment” for others, but not ourselves. Israel; was waiting for a Messiah to save them physically from their enemies (Rome), and they believed this Messiah would deliver that to them militarily and establish their kingdom; but that’s the way the world acts, not God. It is clear, God will come in judgment, but Jesus first came as a servant, in love, preparing the way for His people to know God and relate to Him the way we were all created to do.

If God were to truly “Judge” the world, we’d all be in trouble. It is only by His grace that we are saved!

Notice the two “seeds” here. In the parable of the sower, the seeds were the word of God, but not here. The seeds mentioned are God’s ‘righteous” and those that Satan owns and are ‘evil” (Matthew 13:37-39). This is not a formula for, “We are righteous and you are evil.” It’s a formula for realizing that God is at work, and it is He that makes anyone righteous. God is growing His church, by calling His people for His glory.

It also demonstrates that the gospel and evil run concurrently. It shouldn’t be a surprise to those believers that evil is a reality in this fallen world, and the fact is, it can’t always be seen as obvious, because it can look just like the real thing. The weeds Jesus is talking about is “Darnel,” which is a weed that looks just like the wheat that was planted. That’s why you have to sift the wheat to get the ‘chaff” out. There are a lot of parables and biblical stories with that imagery, reminding us that God will deal with evil on His timing.

Therefore, opposition and persecution shouldn’t surprise us. In the meanwhile, His gospel is bearing fruit (v. 38b), and God will take care of business when He is ready (v. 42). This demonstrates God’s grace and patience, not His uncaring attitude toward human suffering.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)

The next two parables agree with the patience of the first, but add nuances that give us an incredible picture of God’s Kingdom. His Kingdom is “Like” a small seed that grows slowly into an incredible tree. While Israel was looking for a big splash military campaign, God planned a seemingly innocuous approach. One that appeared insignificant at first; one that ended in the brutal death of its leader. But there is a lot more to this parable that Jesus is drawing from. Jesus’ words appear to be an allusion to Daniel 4:220-21, which says, “The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived.” Daniel goes on to explain that he is talking about Nebuchadnezzar, and the fact that he is growing strong and attempting to build a tree to heaven (Much like the tower of babel), like many leaders before him that want to rule as the one true leader in the world. Daniel reminds him that he would be judged for his arrogance.

What’s more interesting is the use of this imagery of the tree in Daniel, in the garden in Genesis 1-3, and now in Jesus’ parable. In that day there was an ongoing mythology referred to by many as the “Axis Mundi,” which basically mean the center of the world. The axis mundi in religious mythology is the “World center or the connection between Heaven and Earth.” It carried the idea that a particular religion, ideology, military campaign would rule the earth as the true axis mundi; Jesus uses that concept out of Daniel and local mythology to demonstrate that His Kingdom is that final kingdom. What mankind was after via force, Jesus offers via love, sacrifice and His own death! He is the fulfillment of that hope!

The Parable of the Leaven Bread (Matthew 13:33-35)

This parable is similar to the Mustard Seed Parable in that it again demonstrates that what begins in a “Hidden” fashion ends with real results. Humanity can’t always understand what God is doing, because we are finite individuals trying to figure out an infinite, eternal being. We are arrogant in that reality. Hopefully we can begin to realize that some things of God are secret, and we can’t always know what the next turn is. God isn’t our fortuneteller, to guide us in the perfect choices in life.

Verses 33-35 once again shows that Jesus uses parables fro very specific purposes. In Matthew 13:11-13 we learned He does to hide His truth from skeptics that have hardened their hearts, but in this passage He reminds us of the positive side, that He speaks in parables so that those who have eras to hear will hear. He reveals Himself, without which we would have any shot of knowing His plan and His saving grace in our lives. He has that right to allow some to continue in their unbelief, while He awakens other out of their unbelief.

…to the Heart

Too often, we want to use God for our own desires. We want Him to guide us in all of our decisions, not realizing that sometimes He guides us into harder times for our own growth. We can’t know everything that god knows, and He has no plans to reveal everything to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).

But we are called to wait and display this hope in our lives of His presence and His final coming. Our lack of faith and vision can nullify that. We are not called to wait with no hope, but as one writer put it…

When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we must remind ourselves that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting is the full outworking of those events. We wait with patience, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come with a lighted candle, but like people in early morning who know that the sun has arisen and are now waiting for the full brightness of midday.

Our hope is a great one. What God has put in motion will come to fruition “… and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (See Philippians 1:6). That “Good Work” is to reflect His love and glory. Verse 43 Reminds us what we are and what we will be. To this CS Lewis quips,

… every human being…if you saw them now as one day they will be, will either make you recoil in horror or would strongly tempt you to worship them.

God is going to deal with evil, and He is going to make us whole, so that our glory is a true reflection of His real glory in the universe.

Questions To Ponder

1. What is the significance of these parables?

2. Are they comforting? Why? Why not?

3. What does this say about a lot of the bad stuff we have all seen in churches?

4. What does this say about the gospel?

5. What does this tell us about the role of the church in the gospel?

6. What does this say about the patience of God?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson

 

 

Unchangeable

Unchangeable

For I am the LORD, I do not change. Malachi 3:6

Recommended Reading – Hebrews 13:7-9

We’re like twigs caught in an ever-rolling stream of change. Every moment is different than the previous one. Our bodies change, our children change, our work changes, our health and wealth change; our culture and world are constantly in flux. But at the core of the universe is an unchanging God—immutable, enduring, abiding, changeless, the same yesterday, today, and forever. In Him we have “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).

The Scottish pastor Alexander Maclaren wrote about Malachi 3:6, “This is the confidence with which we should cheer ourselves when we look upon the past and when we anticipate the future… We have… an unchanging love… a faithfulness that never departs from its word… a purpose of blessing that will not be turned aside…Trust yourself, weak and sinful as you are, to that unchanging love.”

We can have confidence in our Lord because of His unchanging ways. We will always experience trials in life, but He will never be moved.

God’s purposes and promises change not, therefore our faith may rest on Him… God does not turn from His love, nor cancel His promises, nor alter His purposes of mercy.
Alexander Maclaren