Friday, October 30, 2020

Matthew 8 - Part 6


Read Matthew 8

The boat that carried Jesus and his disciples reached the other side of the lake.  The storm was gone at the command of Jesus and all was well as far as the disciples were concerned.  We don’t know if Jesus got to finish his nap or not.

The boat made landfall and as everyone disembarked, two demon-possessed men met the disciples.  They had come from the tombs.  They had a reputation for violence.  The local people had to avoid this area.  It seemed that there was nothing to be done.

Here is the thing.  These two possessed men recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  They knew who he was.  As the disciples crossed the lake and Jesus rebuked the storm, they asked, “Who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?”

The demons knew who this was and they knew their future.  It was a future of torment.  They asked Jesus, “Aren’t you a little early?”

Those who were cast out of heaven knew the Son of God when they saw him.  They knew where they would spend eternity.  They knew they were finally outmatched and they begged Jesus not to begin their eternal punishment now.  Instead, let them enter a nearby herd of pigs.

Jesus was in the region known as the Gadarenes.  This was on the fringes of the land where Jewish law would have looked down upon someone raising pigs.  There were pigs and Jesus told the demons to go.

They did and they entered the pigs.  The next thing that you know, the pigs are running off a bank—a cliff—and fall into the water and die.  Those tending the pigs ran to tell others what had happened.

The townsfolk were less amazed that the two demon-possessed men were free now and more concerned about their business losses.  They asked Jesus to leave.  They pleaded with him to leave.

It sounds absurd.  Are not men more valuable than pigs?  What a bunch of crazy people! How ridiculous!

How crazy can people be?  This time I am talking about us.  How often do we forsake what God is doing in our lives for our comfort zones? 

How often are we willing to put up with ungodly things just so we don’t rock the boat?

How often do we ask Jesus to leave us alone so we don’t have to deal with the planks in our eyes?

Yes, this scripture is about a bunch of people who cared more for their pigs than for two men who had been afflicted for years.  It’s also a reminder that we should make sure we don’t do the same.

It’s a reminder to work on the planks in our own eyes and surrender to Jesus in all areas of our lives.


Matthew 8 - Part 5


Read Matthew 8

So, the disciples set out across the lake for the other side.  Jesus took a nap.  Who could blame him?  His days were always full.  He had healed many.  He had set forth the challenge as what it was to be his disciple.  Now was a good time for a nap.

A storm arose and the boat started taking on water.  We are not told that it was sinking, but it panicked the disciples, among whom were experienced fishermen.  When the waves are higher than the ship, you have found a real storm.

I have been in a good storm in the North Atlantic.  I was on a helicopter carrier, not as large as the aircraft carriers that launch and recover jets, but still a large ship.  We were being tossed hard.

In trace of us was an LST, a much smaller ship that carried a company’s worth of Marines and their equipment.  I remember being near the fantail of our ship watching the smaller ship that followed.  You would see it, then you wouldn’t.  It would be atop of the waves, then the waves crashed over it. 

It was humorous that when we ate in the wardroom, some plates would slide one way down the table, then slide back.  It was mostly amusing.  Nobody was even trying to eat on the smaller ship that was behind us.

Today’s ships are built to have water crashing across the deck.  Two thousand years ago, the boat that carried Jesus and the disciples was mostly open.  The storm was a legitimate concern.

One thing that I found I could do on ship was sleep through a storm.  You were not going to do anything to the storm by staying awake.  So, when we think of Jesus sleeping through a storm, understand that this part was not a supernatural act.

But the disciples were concerned.  Would everything come to an end so soon?  Was this the end?  Did they have enough life vests?  The disciples did the only thing that they could do.  They woke Jesus.

“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus didn’t say, “Wow, this is a bad storm.”

Jesus didn’t awaken with fear in his eyes.

Jesus didn’t break into song, “Fellows it’s been good to know ya.”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

He didn’t wait for an answer.  He got up and rebuked the storm and it was completely calm.

His disciples wondered what sort of man they had thrown in with—he even commanded the wind and the waves.

The disciples had listened to his teachings.  They had witnessed his mighty acts of healing.  Now they witness his command over nature itself.

Just who was this Jesus?  Simon Peter would answer more definitively in another 8 chapters.

For now, these men were simply amazed.  For us, we should not be surprised at what Jesus can do, but we will always be amazed.

He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and even the wind and the waves obey him.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Matthew 8 - Part 4


Read Matthew 8

 Again, Jesus had to deal with a crowd.  He told his disciples that they would go to the other side of the lake.  This was first-century social distancing.  His time had not yet come.  Jesus had other things to accomplish before he would go to the cross.  This wasn’t quite the time.

Remember the beginning of the chapter when Jesus healed the man with leprosy?  Jesus sent the man to the priest but told him not to tell anyone else.  It wasn’t time yet for all of the attention that would cause the religious leaders to have Jesus killed.

The rejection of Jesus by those who should have known him—the religious hierarchy—and the people coming to see him, worship him, wanting to lift him up as king had to come together at just the right time.  That time was yet to come.

His death was necessary.  His life was offered willingly, but it wasn’t time yet.  So, Jesus and his closest followers would cross the lake.

Before he left, a Teacher of the Law came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Now that sounds like commitment.  Wherever you go!

Jesus wanted this man to know the terms and conditions of his commitment.  Here’s Tom’s paraphrase.  Every creature in God’s creation has a good idea where it will sleep tonight.  I give you no such comfort with this commitment.  We go where we need to go, do the things we need to do, and don’t worry about things like food, clothing, lodging, and the like.

It’s mission first with me.

If you have been paying attention, you will know this.  It’s not that we are going to go without.  It’s that we go without concern for the things that the world worries about. 

What we don’t get here is the response of the Teacher of the Law.  Did he accept the challenge?  Did he love his comfort zone too much?  Was he counting on racking up some Hilton Honors points?

We don’t know the response.  Perhaps, what this one religious leader did or did not do is not the point here.  What if the thing that we are supposed to take home with us is that a commitment to follow Jesus is an all-in commitment?

It’s not a travel itinerary that we put together.  Let’s do Rome and Athens but I’m not so much for Barcelona.  Maybe, Toulon would be better.

Jesus told this man that his commitment must be to him and not the itinerary, the journey, the things that would fit in his day-planner—ok, his smartphone.

Another person who had been following Jesus—Matthew noted a disciple—asked for a leave of absence to go and bury his father.  It’s surely a reasonable request.

In the Marine Corps, almost every such request would be granted as emergency leave, even in forward-deployed areas. 

We don’t know if this was one of the twelve or another who had followed for a while.  Remember in John 6 that many who had followed Jesus left him because what Jesus was teaching was hard.  It was at least hard to follow Jesus and remain conformed to the world.

But, really, c’mon Jesus, can’t you give the guy a couple days to go bury his father?

The answer is, of course, he could have given him a day or two or a week and still Jesus would have accomplished what he came to do.

But this was about a commitment to follow Jesus.  Would the man seek God first?  Would he seek God’s kingdom first?  Would he seek righteousness even at the expense of his well-ordered world?

What are the words of Jesus?

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

That sounds a little harsh.  That’s more like something you would expect from Tom, but not from Jesus.  It was and is a simple dichotomy.  There’s the living and there’s the dead.  Those who do not know and believe in and follow Jesus are numbered among the dead.

Those who believe have passed from death to life.

Do you want to be among the living or the dead?  There was nothing that this disciple could do for his father at this point.  The best burial in the world would not change his relationship with God, but you are in a position to have the right relationship with God at this very moment.

Let the dead deal with the dead.  You have an invitation to life.  Are you ready to live?

Let’s jump to 2020.  I know, some of you would rather just go to 2021, but we are still in the 42nd month of 2020.  Let’s bring these words of Jesus to our present time.

I’ll phrase this in two simple dichotomies.

All in or try to squeeze in?

Life or death?

Will we commit to following Jesus with everything we are and everything we have or will we try to work him into our schedule and our comfort zone?

Will we follow the one who has the words of life or are we content with a short period of life in the flesh and then letting our flesh rot in the ground as an appropriate tribute to a life lived without God?

All in or not?  Life or death? 

Intellectually, we know the answers.  The real question is will we accept the cost of following Jesus?

Christ died for all.  Salvation is 100% from God so that no man may boast that any part of salvation came of himself, but will we live with Jesus as Lord of our lives?

When we receive the gift of life in the words, Jesus is Lord, have we truly received him as Lord? 

Have we repented of the ways of the world?

Are we seeking the ways of God?

Is God first in our lives?

Do we live in the substance of things hoped for and rely on the evidence of things not seen?

When we sing, I have decided to follow Jesus, do we place terms and conditions on our discipleship?  Do we consider the cost first?  It’s a logical thing to do.  Jesus used the example of a wise person considering the cost of building before beginning construction.

But we don’t really know the cost of following Jesus.  There’s blessing and there are hardships.  There is peace and there is persecution.  Treasure in heaven is of greater value than treasure on earth, but eye has not seen the treasure in heaven.  I can check my accounts online for everything I have stored up on earth.

The only cost that we can assess accurately is that we will live with Jesus as Lord or we won’t.  We live in the blessed assurance of knowing that God has good plans, hope, and a future in store for us that we could not conceive on our own, or we are not quite ready to commit to what is often unseen.

Again, Jesus brought the substance of these encounters to faith.  Do you trust me enough to go all in?  Can you leave the dead for the living?

Jesus asks us, which is greater:  Having Jesus as Lord or resting in our worldly comfort zone?

I pray that we hold nothing back from our discipleship.

I petition us all to trust our Lord with everything that we have.

I have faith that we can set aside our own understanding and the things of this world to which we have been conformed.

I long for the day when Christians will take themselves out of the judgment seat and simply follow Jesus.

I know that we can make God first in our lives, seeking him and his kingdom, desiring to live fully in his right standing.

We can be his light and his love in this dark world.  We can live now.  Daily we can rest our heads with Jesus and without concern for the things this world seeks after.

We can pick up our cross and follow Jesus, not knowing what the world has in store for us, but certain of what our Lord has in store for us.

Don’t squeeze him in.  Make him first.

Choose to be among the living, not the dead.



Matthew 8 - Part 3


Read Matthew 8

Were any of the disciples married?  We know that Peter was.  How?  Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.

Jesus had come to Peter’s house.  His mother-in-law had a fever.  Jesus touched her and she was well.  The fever was gone.

What did she do?  She got up and went to work waiting on everyone.  It’s not like she had a man-cold where she would need a full week to recover.

We can chuckle a little here.  Jesus healed her and she went to work, but why not?  Why not get back to doing the things you couldn’t do well while you were sick.

When we are sick, we want our lives back.  We want to do the things that we took for granted before, even if it’s cooking, cleaning, or rotating the tires.

We should be thankful for every day of good health, but sometimes we have to recover from illness to remember to thank God for health.

Health Care is a big topic these days.  Jesus came to take care of our preexisting conditions—sin and everything that sin brought upon us, but he also came to take away our infirmities—our illness and disease in these bodies and during our time in this world.

Yes, sometimes the answer to our prayer is that my grace is enough for you, but we should not shy away from asking for healing and cleansing because sometimes a condition persists.

Too often we just classify illness, infirmity, and disease as the cost of doing business in a sinful world.  To an extent, that’s on the money.

But we have Jesus.  We have the Great Physician.  We have one not restrained by the rules of the world.  The blood of Jesus has healed us for all eternity.  He has removed the stain of our sin, but we can have healing in this time and in this world and in our infirmities.

Many came to see Jesus with many ailments and Jesus healed them.  Jesus healed them.

What the prophet had spoken, Jesus had fulfilled.

Let’s not just throw our infirmities into the cost of doing business in a sinful world basket.  Let us ask, seek, and knock as directed and expect all of those prayers to be answered, many as proffered.


Matthew 8 - Part 2


Read Matthew 8

We think of Jesus ministering to the poor and the afflicted and the downtrodden.  He reached out to sinners and even ate with them. 

He spent some time talking with a Samaritan woman at a well in Sychar, Samaria.  In this chapter, we note that he healed a leper, surely the outcast among the outcast.

These people all spent their lives on the bottom or outside of respectable society.  We see Jesus ministering to them.  It’s hard to miss.

Then comes this Roman, and not just a Roman, but a Roman soldier.  He was not just a soldier, but a Centurion.  He likely commanded about 100 Roman soldiers.  In today’s rank structure, he was like a captain. 

The laws and customs of the land over which the Romans now reigned were of little consequence to this officer.  He could pretty much do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted, answerable only to a superior officer or the governor of the region.

The man came to Jesus.  His servant was suffering and paralyzed at home.  This took place in the region of Capernaum, surely a place that Jesus knew well, perhaps he had lived there for a time before beginning the ministry with his disciples.

Jesus was receptive to the needs of the Centurion.  Shall I come and heal him?

What more could this officer want?  Jesus was willing to go with him to his house and heal his servant, but the Centurion proffered his humility.  My house is not worthy of you.  My life is not worthy of you.  I am not worthy, but I am a man under authority.

When my commander orders me to do something, I get it done.  When I give orders, they are followed.  It is the life that I know.  My words are as good as another’s actions.

Lord, just say the word and it will be done.

This could have been the centurion testing Jesus, but this Roman did not have a dog in this fight.  He did not need to best the one who was teaching and healing.  The Centurion lived in the same geography but in a different world and did not have to concern himself with what the Pharisees said or the what the Sanhedrin decided.  The Romans had conquered these people. 

The Centurion had no need to play these games.  In the world that he knew, he was at the top.

The Centurion had a servant who was paralyzed and suffering and he came to Jesus as one who had authority to heal and coming from God, could just give the word and it would be done.

Now that’s some faith!

Jesus told those who claimed Abraham as father and knew they were a people chosen by God, that they had been bested in their faith.  A Roman—a hated Roman—had more faith than he had seen in all of Israel. 

In chapters to come, we see Jesus calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.  We see Jesus teaching his disciples that with God all things are possible, but we just don’t see too many instances where Jesus says, now that’s some faith right there.

Consider the Centurion.  Now, that was some faith!

Jesus continued with the message that began with John the Baptizer.  It’s repentance.  It’s faith.  It’s belief that brings you closer to God. 

Your human lineage is important, but not the most important thing.  Seeking God and his kingdom and his righteousness is more important that who your great, great grandfather was.

Jesus told the Centurion that his servant was healed and in that moment he was.

Here we see a man with much authority in the kingdom of the world and a man who held all authority in heaven and on earth.  Both men understood authority.  Both understood the authority manifested in words.

The hated Roman understood the authority of the Son of God more than those who should have received and accepted him.

It’s a story of healing.  It’s a story of faith.  It’s a story of God’s complete authority and sovereignty.  It’s a story that should remind us that Christ came to redeem all.

We get it that he came for the poor and weak and sick.  He also came for those who are empowered by the world.  He came for those who have money and influence.  He came for those who seem to have it all in this world.

There is more to the story concerning how difficult it can be to let go of the treasures of this world and embrace the things of God, but Christ came and he died for all.

People put parameters on who should receive God’s love.  God loves his entire creation.  God has done what is necessary to reconcile his entire creation to him.

When we divide people into groups of who is more worthy of God’s love than others, we discount faith.

When we devise metrics for receiving God’s love, we discount his authority.

When we discriminate based upon human appearances and circumstances, we ignore the counsel that God sees the heart.

Jesus came to liberate humankind from oppression and slavery and disease and much more.  Sometimes we are enslaved by power or money and sometimes we are oppressed because of reasons that may or may not make sense to us, but Christ came for all.

Sometimes, we seem to be on top of our world.  At other times, we think it couldn’t get much worse.  Sometimes, we seem to be respected by all around us.  At other times, our words seem to matter to no one.

We should take the example of the Centurion and never discount where God is at work and where faith will emerge.

We should take the faith of the Centurion and practice it in our own lives. The God who spoke creation into existence can speak healing and well being and peace into your life.

The God who spoke the words I Am can still the waters or cause men to fall on their backs.

The God who could create a clean heart in King David, can restore you fully from whatever is trying to claim you as its own.

We should heed the warning of Christ to those who thought they had it made because of who they were, that such thinking may cause them to miss the boat.

We should know and understand and believe in the sovereignty and authority of God now more than ever.

We should have more faith than the Centurion.  We have professed Jesus as Lord.  We should be models of faith for our families and our congregations and our communities.

As we live for our Master, Christ Jesus, we should give him many occasions to say, “Now that’s some faith.”

Let’s give our Lord reason to look upon us and say, “Now that’s some faith!”


Matthew 8 - Part 1


Read Matthew 8

What we know as the Sermon on the Mount had come to an end.  How do we know?  Jesus came down the mountain.  He had plenty more to teach, but his time teaching on this piece of high ground had come to an end.

At this point we are told that large crowds followed him.  His message had already reached beyond the 12.  He was speaking as one who had authority.  He was and is one who speaks with authority.

A man with leprosy came to Jesus. Out of the crowd that was following Jesus, this man made it to the One who could heal him.  He knelt before Jesus.  His words were words of faith.

He said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  There was no doubt in this man’s mind that Jesus could heal him, but will this Teacher, this Lord, this man who is the King of Kings though most don’t know that yet; will he heal a man deemed unclean by the society of the time?

Contrast this to Mark’s gospel where a man with a demon-possessed son comes before Jesus and asks if Jesus could do anything about it.  What a difference a word makes.

Can you?  Will you?  Faith asks will you.  Human nature wonders if he can. 

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Jesus didn’t want this man running all over the countryside telling everyone what Jesus had done.  I think that from John’s gospels we understand the words present but not written here in Matthew:  His time had not yet come.

Jesus did want the religious leaders of this time to know what he had done.  There would be much confrontation with them in the time ahead.

For now, understand that if you are willing are words of faith that recognize sovereignty.  If you can, speaks to doubt and belies sovereignty.  Ask, seek, and knock should sound like familiar verbs from the previous chapter.  This man approached Jesus knowing that he could do exactly what he needed.

He asked in faith.  Let us always ask in faith.

Ask in faith.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Matthew 7 - Part 5


Read Matthew 7

There are a whole bunch of people among us who think that they have learned how to play the Christianity game who might be in for a big surprise at the final buzzer.

Who among us wants to hear, “I never knew you” from the Lord Jesus Christ?

I never knew you!

But, but, but I played the game according to the rules.  I gave some money.  I sang some songs.  I did more of my fair share of pew time.  I was even awake for a lot of it.  I memorized John 3:16. And I paid the price of admission!  Let me into heaven.

I hope that none of us hear those words:  I never knew you.

We long to hear:  Well done good and faithful servant.  How could we miss the boat?

Jesus said that the one who puts his words into practice is like the one who built his house upon a solid rock foundation.  Storms and rain and winds and Oklahoma heat and cold would come and go but the house would still stand.

The house built on the sand is the one that represents the person who knew what Jesus told him to do but didn’t really have time for that sort of thing right now.  They knew what it meant to take the yoke of the Master, but they still had some real livin’ to do.

The house built on the sand looked as good as the one built on the rock foundation, but the storm would separate them.  The one built on solid rock would stand.  The one who put the Master’s words into practice would endure the storm.

The one who knew the memory verse but never thought to put it into practice sees his sham of Christianity fall to pieces. The one who found countless reasons not to follow Jesus but to criticize his faithful instead will realize that his insurance doesn’t cover building in the flood plain.

But, c’mon.  I did the stuff.  I paid the price!

Perhaps thinking that we paid the price is why we put off professing Jesus as our Lord.  When Jesus becomes our Lord, we take his yoke.  We learn from him.  We put his words into practice.

When we realize that Jesus paid it all, then we trust him and follow him and serve him as Lord.  He is King of kings and Lord of Lords and until we get our hearts and minds wrapped around this, we can still make Christianity an academic exercise.

Do you know why so many people leave the church?  They have their laundry list of reasons, all of which they would say Jesus validated, but the real reason is that did not want to exercise.  They did not want to put into practice the command and counsel of our Lord because making him Lord kicked them out of the ruling seat.

Jesus is Lord.  When he says go then we go or we go and make excuses why this church is not the place for me.  Today I will use excuse #244.

You know the joke about prison jokes, right?

One day this young guy gets thrown into prison and during his first night of incarceration, he hears inmates calling our numbers.  One would say 117 and laughter would reverberate throughout the cell block.  Another would whisper 222 and the laughter went on for ten minutes.

One day during lunch, the new inmate asked an old timer about the numbers and laughter.  He explained that people had been locked up so long that everyone had heard all of the same jokes a hundred times so they were all assigned numbers.  You didn’t need to tell the joke, just call out the number.

That evening after the first couple of numbers had been called out and laughter ensued, the new inmate garnered his courage and call out 42. 

There was dead silence for about 5 minutes.  Finally, a voice in the distance said, “Some people can tell ‘em and some can’t.

We should just as well start a numbering system for why people leave church congregations.  But I will tell you that most of the time, people just don’t want to put the words of the Master into practice.

You have heard it all of your lives—diet and exercise.  Consume the word of God and put those words into practice.

There is a group of people today that I like to call Christian Tourists.  I don’t want to ignore the direction at the beginning of this chapter, but sometimes we get enough of the splinters our of our own eye that we can spot a Christian Tourist.

What is a Christian Tourist?

One who checks out the sights of Christianity but decides that discipleship doesn’t fit into his or her comfort zone.  See also arm chair Christian, sidelines commentator, and salt without saltiness.

Maybe the term lukewarm also applies.

We are to take the yoke of our Master and learn from him.  We are to take what we learned and put it into practice.  We are to build our house on solid rock.

A tourist doesn’t want to heed the counsel of any local authority.  For us to put the words of Jesus into practice, he must be Lord of our lives. 

Jesus is our authority.  Jesus is Lord.  His words govern our lives.  We put them into practice because he is our Lord and we have taken his yoke.

Because he is Lord, we do build our houses on solid rock.  We do put his words into practice!

We will never hear our Lord tell us that he never knew us.


Praise the Lord!


Matthew 7 - Part 4


Read Matthew 7

This is the age of Horse Hockey and I’m not talking equines on ice, though that has a ring to it.

I am talking about so many twisting the word of God to suit their narrative.  What happens is that people decide how they believe and then twist the word of God or try to connect certain scriptures with nonsequiturs and other logical fallacies hoping that nobody notices.

Sometimes they are very good at operating in stealth mode.  They come in sheep’s clothing but they are wolves seeking to destroy. 

Over two decades ago, I attended the Karrass Negotiating Seminar.  It was an excellent course.  A few months later, I hired one of their instructors to teach 20 key members of our team.  It came at a cost of about $10,000.  It was worth it.  We save $100,000 in negotiations over the next few months and millions in the next few years.

While undergoing the class, I learned just about every negotiating ploy and trick that there was.  I was also taught not to use them, that the win-win approach was the only long-term strategy worth pursuing.

So why did I learn all of these tricks of the trade?  So that I would know when they are being used against me.  I learned them to increase my situational awareness.

I have counseled many a junior officer on situational awareness.  Becoming myopic is to become vulnerable.  Every officer must maintain an overall awareness of the general situation even when focused on a single mission or exclusive task.

You must know what is going on around you.

So too must every Christian be on the lookout for false prophets and false doctrine and those who present a good show but have nothing to show as far as real fruit goes.

Social media has become a safe haven for wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Don’t like the meme until you think through what it represents.  Don’t be sucked into someone’s narrative with a couple Bible verses garnished on an otherwise shady argument.

How do we know that someone is speaking the truth to us?  How do we know that their argument is of God?  How do we know?

Check the fruit.  Inspect the fruit.  Is there even any fruit at all.

You will know if someone is bringing forth a prophetic message by their fruit, but you must be willing to do some fruit inspecting.  Too many are just going along with the crowd and the opposite—seeking to be unique—but neither has bothered to inspect the fruit.

By their fruit you will know them.




Matthew 7 - Part 3


 Read Matthew 7

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If everyone could be a Marine, it wouldn’t be the Marines.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Life is full of choices and consequences and decisions good and bad.

God decided that he wanted you with him for all eternity.  You are his child.  You are made in his imageYou have sinned.

God decided that he loved you so much that he would do everything necessary to remove the stain of sin from your life.  Christ died for me.  He died for you.  By his wounds, by his blood, we are healed.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus has called us friend.  Jesus gave his life for us.  We are saved.  We are redeemed.

How will we live?

There is a single way to life.  His name is Christ Jesus.  All eternity lies in receiving him as Lord.  He is Savior of all but few receive him as Lord.

You are reasonably free to do whatever you want.  If you spit in the grits you might get punched in the nose, but you are still free to make your choices.

Not every choice we make is profitable.  Some diminish the fruit that we were meant to produce.

Some choices destroy these vessels in which we live.

Some put us on the road to destruction.   But I thought Christ died for all.  I thought he made the atoning sacrifice for my sins?

He did.  His gift is free but will we receive it?  Will we profess him as Lord?

Some want to say the words for a Get Out of Hell Free ticket.  They want Jesus to save them but don’t want him as Lord.  They want to be their own Lord.

They have dissonance in their hearts and minds.  It’s one thing to struggle to live right in God’s eyes and another to wrestle with whether you want Jesus as Lord or not.

Many are playing a game with salvation and eternal life.  Many are playing chicken with making an eternal commitment to live with Jesus as Lord.

Many want to hedge their bets just in case this Jesus thing is too much for them.

Many are on the broad path that leads to destruction.  Remember that even the demons know who Jesus is and it scares the hell out of them.

We have been offered a free gift of life and life eternal in the blood of Jesus but many choose to wait and see, try everything else first, or just joke about hell.

Jesus doesn’t want you to come to him out of fear, but does want you to receive him as Lord.  Many will not take his yoke.

Let’s make this another simple dichotomy.  Jesus is Lord over your life or he is not.

If he is Lord, then you follow him and your serve him and you do it at the expense of every other competing thing in your life.

Jesus is Lord!

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!

In these simple words lie the narrow path and life.


Matthew 7 - Part 2


Read Matthew 7


A long time ago, when I was filling the pulpit between Jim and Duawn, not knowing that you would have to endure me almost every Sunday in this new century, I used the Janis Joplin song, O Lord Won’t You Buy Me as a parody of our prayers.

Some may remember the message.  Many remember the song.


I'd like to do a song

Of great social and political import

It goes like this


As an act of mercy to all present, I will read not sing or scream the lyrics.


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz

My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends

So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV

Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me

I wait for delivery each day until three

So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town

I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down

Prove that you love me and buy the next round

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town


We ask for some crazy things in our prayers.  Sometimes we ask for very reasonable things.  Many have prayed for the health of a loved one.  Many have prayed for a job.  Many have prayed for those who have gone down the roads of alcoholism and drug addiction.

I’m not asking for a Mercedes Benz.  I just want my grandma to live a little longer.

I’m not asking for a new television.  I just want to pay the water bill.

I’m not asking for drinking money.  I just want it to rain.

Is God even listening?

How about this approach his throne of grace with confidence business?

How do I know that I am in a his grace is sufficient situation?

Do I take a little wine for my stomach, go to the emergency room, or just pray for God to heal the daily aches and pains?

Sometimes I need more than being told that God’s ways are higher than my ways.  Sometimes, that’s not the answer that I need to my prayers.

Ask, seek, knock—what do I do with these verbs?  I ask all the time.  Sometimes I seek the Lord and his kingdom and his righteousness.  Seldom do I knock.  I know it won’t do any good.  I haven’t lived up to my end.

Really?  Jesus offers an open invitation to God’s blessings.  Do you remember the beatitudes?  Repentance prepares us for blessing.

But can we be blessed in our sin?  Can we be blessed in our apathy or ambivalence?  I meet with people all of the time who want help.  Specifically, they want money but don’t want the yoke that Jesus offers that would give them rest and peace and provide for what they need.

Sometimes what people seek is not what the good plans that God has in store for us hold.  What if the answer we seek would rob us or someone else of abundant life?

What if God answers everyone one of our petitions with a good gift but sometimes we didn’t see it because it wasn’t exactly what we thought we needed.

God gives good gifts!

If your kid was hungry and wanted you to make him some breakfast, would you give him a plate of gravel?  Here, put a little Tabasco on it.  It will go down easier.

If your kid asked you for a fish, would you give him a water moccasin instead?

Who would do these things?

But if we who all fall short of the glory of God can figure out how to give our own children good gifts, how much more will our Father in heaven give to us?

What if our requests amount to asking for a rock when we should be asking for bread?  Would you want God to give you a rock just because you don’t know what to ask for?

Sometimes, our prayers defy what God has told us to do.  If God told you to plant tomatoes but you wanted to plant cucumbers instead, do you expect God to bless your cucumber crop when you have neglected the crop that God told you to plant?

Read the Proverbs.  Tom’s notes summarized much of these quips of wisdom into a simple dichotomy.  There is God’s way and there is everything else.  One of the names for that everything else is wickedness.

Ask for what God has told you that you need. It’s like he said put these things on your prayer list.  I know you need them.  I stand ready to give them to you.

Seek the things of God and his kingdom and his righteousness.  Then expect him to open doors for you as you live out the good plans that he has for you.

Let’s try it this way.  Do to others as you would hope they would do to you and expect God to answer your prayers.  Live by love for God and for each other and expect God to answer your prayers.

Seek God and his kingdom and his righteousness and you will recognize the answer to your prayers when you see them.


Matthew 7 - Part 1


 Read Matthew 7

And so, we come to some of the most powerful and yet so often misused words in the New Testament.

Judge not lest you be judged.

These are powerful when used for introspection.  They are abused when used as an excuse not to live up to being a disciple of Christ.

The word that we associate with judge is κρίνω (kree'-no).  It is most often associated with a verdict from a court or a judge.  It can be positive or negative.  The word divides and separates those being judged.

In itself, the word has no good or evil to it.  Our counsel is not to sit in the judgment seat.  We are not really qualified to judge another human.  We pronounce neither guilt nor innocence.

We make decisions all the time.  We discern good and evil, better and best, profitable and nonprofitable.  We judge but we are not to sit in the judge’s seat.

We are not equipped to condemn another person. 

Think to how clearly we see fault in others and how obscure our own faults become in the context of our lives.  We know our extenuating and mitigating factors and apply them subconsciously to the point that we can point out a speck of sawdust in another’s eye while being blinded to the lumberyard in our own.

Prescribing how others should live because their lives and choices are before us has become a preoccupation in this country.  We are so myopic in so many ways seeing only that which is immediately before us while oblivious to everything else, especially ourselves.

We so have the solutions for everyone else that we often forget that we too are a work in progress.  We become hypocrites so easily.  What are we to do?  Work on ourselves first, then try to help someone else with their issues.

What’s the split here?  Jesus doesn’t say but I’m going with 95% of the time working on our own issues and 5% addressing issues with others.  That’s a Tom thing, but if I post it online, it must be true.

OBTW—of that 5% that we direct towards others, I think 99% of that should be prayer for them and the other 1% might be us addressing their shortfalls.

Wow!  That sounds like most of the improvement in this equation comes from us working on ourselves.  I think that’s the gist of it.

The more we focus on the plank in our eye, the more lumber we become aware of that we had not noticed before.

Judge not lest you be judged.

Beware!  These words can be the ultimate excuse. 

I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to judge.  Sometimes, we use these words to look the other way or accept the unacceptable.  Sometimes there is a time to speak to another’s actions.

The apostle Paul gives us excellent counsel here.  Speak the truth in love.  Only the believer who is growing in grace can do this.

Everyone can speak the truth in condemnation.  Some can disguise the condemnation, but it takes Christian maturity to speak the truth in a spirit of love.

It takes Christian maturity not to take the, “I don’t want to judge” excuse as an easy way out.

Sometimes, people can manipulate this verse to subsidize bad decisions.  You are judging me!

When love brings you to talk to someone about spending $100 a month on cigarettes while the kids haven’t had a bath in two months because the water has been disconnected for nonpayment, it’s the one size fits all excuse.

You are judging me!

For the person who does not want to see or hear and know the truth, this is the standard excuse.  For the Christian who doesn’t like confrontation at any level, it’s easier not to say a word and put the unbathed kids out of your mind.

Most of the time we work on our growth as disciples, but when called to help others with their transgressions we use the sound mind that God gave us and the maturity required to speak the truth in love.

This short pericope on judging wraps up with words many know but struggle to understand.

Do not cast your pearls before swine.

Here is the full verse in the New International Version.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Some interpretations say this means do not share the gospel with the unworthy.  Wow!  After just being lectured about not sitting in the judgment seat, would Jesus tell us to condemn a group of people based upon our metrics of worthiness?

I’m going to share my interpretation based upon the context proffered.

Do not give your best efforts where they will produce the least return.  The proverbs tell us not to argue with a fool or we will be just like him.  That should be in the Facebook terms and conditions.

So what does it mean?

Don’t argue with a fool—someone has discarded reason in all aspects of his life—that is surely one of them.

How about don’t give an alcoholic $20 to feed his family.  He will likely not make it past the liquor aisle to get milk and bread.  Your best effort would be to deliver some food to the family and talk to the one who needs the Lord to change his life about coming to know Jesus.

How about turning off the 23 hours of commentary that goes with the 23 minutes of daily news and read your Bibles.  How about taking our best time and best efforts and applying them to the things that will produce the best results.

For the person without God, they are as likely to turn on you and destroy you if they can in spite of what you have done for them.

Some of you remember my first I broke the vending machine post.  I make no qualms about the fact that I am direct.  In the course of my lifetime, I have been accused of being tactful twice.  I was acquitted on both counts.

I am direct.  My direct message is that the church is not to be transactional but transformational.  I like to write and use imagery.  I liked the image of the broken vending machine.

We did transactional.  It was casting our pearls before swine.  Now we stick to transformational, at least as much as we can discern as we learn.

What I noted among the 10,000 comments to that post were people who we had helped more than once noting that they could never be a part of that church.  They left out the part about the help they had received again and again.

People stand ready to trample you under their feet.  Many of you made comments on that post in defense of our church.  I asked you to stop.  Our focus must be using our best efforts and resources to produce good fruit and bring glory to God.

Arguing with the ignorant only drags you down to their level and makes them feel good.

Use your best efforts to produce the best results possible.  Be transformational not transactional.  Don’t sit in the judgment seat, but when we must address transgression in another believer, be wise—believe it or not, that means be direct and don’t beat around the bush—and speak in a spirit of love.

For the most part, let’s get the wood out of our own eyes.