Archive for July 9, 2012
Tags: Christ, God, Jesu, Last Supper, Matthew, Matthew 5:1–2, Matthew 5:23–24, Pharisees
“First, go and be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24
The Last Supper, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the great Renaissance masterpieces. It took da Vinci 3 years to complete, and during this time in frustration his temper flared, and he lashed out with bitter words to a man who had deeply offended him. When he tried to resume his work, it was time to paint the face of Jesus, but he was so bothered by the situation that he couldn’t continue. So, he went to look for the man and ask his forgiveness. It was only after he was right with God and his friend that he felt the freedom to continue his work and paint the face of Jesus.
This legend makes an important point: our relationships with other people affect our relationship with God. That’s why Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there . . . . First go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:23-24). So how do we handle the “creative differences”—or any conflict for that matter—with the people in our lives?
In Matthew 5:1-48, Jesus gave us a palette of instructions on how to craft our relationships into masterpieces. He wants us to avoid interactions that will lead to sin and to be sure that our attitude is right toward others. His advice for resolving our differences came down to a handful of key thoughts: settle disagreements quickly, keep your promises, and turn the other cheek.
First, don’t let the paint dry—address relational problems before mistakes become permanent. Jesus talked specifically about this in relation to going to court. In Matthew 5:25, He said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” If you are guilty of offending Bob, and he serves you with papers, give him back his easel and throw in some paintbrushes for good measure. Jesus said that if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, give him your coat as well.
Second, don’t let colors clash. When you disagree with someone, you have two choices: either stand and fight or, as Christ suggested, turn the other cheek. While it’s normal to want revenge when we are wronged, a Christian would rather be slapped twice than to repay the evil by whacking the person back. In Matthew 5:41, Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” While this response may seem lopsided, the alternative would involve sin on our part, and would just deepen the hostilities.
Finally, when striving to paint a picture of peace, apply the finishing touch—finish strong and finish what you start. This means following through with commitments and keeping your promises. To Christians, a promise has meaning because it carries the weight of our integrity. Matthew 5:33 says, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.”
One interesting fact about The Last Supper is that da Vinci created all angles and lighting in the painting to draw attention to Christ. It’s kind of the same way with our relationships—at any angle or in any light, they should all point to Christ.
- Are you in the middle of some “creative differences” with anyone you know? How should you respond, based on Jesus’ instructions?
- Read the entire chapter of Matthew 5:1-48. In your journal, break the chapter into smaller parts and write a heading for each. Take some time to study each section—record your observations.
- Reflect on the life of Christ. How did Jesus live out the instructions He gave us? Were His interactions with the disciples, the Pharisees, and the government consistent with what He taught?
Tags: God, Gospel of Matthew, holyspirit, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Joshua, Lord, Religion and Spirituality
Joshua said to the people, ’You cannot serve the Lord . . .’ —Joshua 24:19
“The people said to Joshua, ’No, but we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:21). This is not an impulsive action, but a deliberate commitment. We tend to say, “But God could never have called me to this. I’m too unworthy. It can’t mean me.” It does mean you, and the more weak and feeble you are, the better. The person who is still relying and trusting in anything within himself is the last person to even come close to saying, “I will serve the Lord.”
We say, “Oh, if only I really could believe!” The question is, “Will I believe?” No wonder Jesus Christ placed such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). If we really believed that God meant what He said, just imagine what we would be like! Do I really dare to let God be to me all that He says He will be?
Tags: Basketball, God, Jeremiah, Lord, Matt Scott, Moses, Nike, United States
“ ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” — Jeremiah 1:6–8
Jeremiah is arguably one of the greatest prophets of all time. Yet much like Moses, Jeremiah doesn’t feel very much up to the task. When God reveals to Jeremiah that he is destined to be a great prophet to the nations, he responds: “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” In other words: “I can’t.” God, however, says, “You can and you will.”
Matt Scott is an American basketball player who stars in a Nike commercial. For a full minute, we watch Matt as he dribbles the basketball and takes shot after shot at the hoop. All along, he is echoing the excuses that so many people give for not doing things in life —too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, my tummy hurts, I can’t, my coach hates me. Then, after listing many more common complaints – he says, “My feet hurt.”
Just as Matt utters these last words, the camera pans out and we see that he is wheelchair-bound and has no use of his legs or feet. The point of the commercial, of course, is the famous Nike tagline, “Just do it.” The title of the commercial is, appropriately enough, “No excuses.”
Most of the time when we say that we can’t do something it really means that we don’t want to do it — either because the task seems too hard or because we are too scared. As Matt Scott, a gold medal-winning paralympian athlete shows us, when you really want something, you will find a way.
When Jeremiah tells God that he is unable to carry out the mission of delivering God’s message to the nations of the world, God sees right through his excuse. His reply: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you . . .” Basically, God tells Jeremiah, “I know that you don’t want to do this because you are afraid that you won’t succeed and afraid that you might get hurt, but do this anyway. I am with you.” God doesn’t accept our excuses, and we shouldn’t either!
So, what’s our excuse? Is there something holding us back from doing what is in our heart? Don’t let anything or anyone hold us back from doing what we know we must do. No excuses!
Tags: Baptism, God, James, Jesu, John, Lord, Son of man, Zebedee
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, once came to Jesus and said, “Master, we want you to do for us what we shall ask.” So he said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They answered, “When you enter into your kingly glory, let one of us sit on your right hand and one on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup of woe that I am to drink, or be baptized with the baptism of suffering with which I am to be baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said, “You will drink the cup that I am to drink and be baptized with my baptism, but to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give; for it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten other disciples heard this request, they were at first angry with James and John, but Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that those who are rulers in foreign countries lord it over those under them, and their great men have authority over them; but it is not so among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must serve you, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be ready to be the servant of all. For I did not come to be served but to be of service to others, and to give my life so as to secure freedom for many.”
Then he took a little child and set him in their midst. And taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives a little child like this, in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me receives not only me, but God who sent me. Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink because he is my disciple will, I tell you, not lose his reward.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and with him all the angels, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all people shall be gathered before him. And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, enter into possession of the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then the upright will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you? Or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ The King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you have done it even to the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.’”
Tags: Bear, Christ, Fell, Fruit, God, Jesu, Satan, Wisdom
Jesus taught his disciples, saying, “Do not think that I came to set aside the old law or the teachings of the prophets. I did not come to set them aside but to complete them.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am kind and sympathetic, and you will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.
“He who hears these words of mine and keeps them in mind will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat upon that house; yet it did not fall, for its foundation was built on the rock.
“He who hears these words of mine but does not keep them in mind will be like a foolish man who built his house upon sand. The rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was its downfall.”
At another time when Jesus was teaching beside the lake, such a large crowd gathered about him that he entered a boat and sat in it, while the crowd stayed on the shore. He then taught them many truths by means of stories, and said, “Listen to me. The sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the road where birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had but little soil, and because there was no depth of earth it began to grow at once; but when the sun rose, it was scorched with the heat, and having no root it withered away. Some of the seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it so that it bore nothing. Other seed fell on good soil, and sprouted and grew and bore at the rate of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” And he said to them, “Let him who has ears to hear, remember this.”
When Jesus was alone, those who were with him and the twelve disciples asked him what this story meant. He said to them, “Do you not see the meaning of this? How then will you understand all my other stories? The sower sows his teaching. The teaching that is sown along the road is like some people who hear but immediately Satan comes and takes away the teaching which has been sown in them.
“And the seed that has been sown on rocky places, is like those people who hear the teaching and receive it at once with joy, but it takes no root in them and they remember it only for a short time.
“But the seed sown on good soil is like those people who hear the teaching and remember it, and it bears fruit; some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold.
“Can a blind man guide a blind man? Will not both fall into a ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher; but every pupil when perfectly trained will be like his teacher.
“No good tree bears rotten fruit; neither does a rotten tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor grapes picked from a bramble-bush. From the good stored in his heart the good man brings forth goodness, but the evil man from his evil store brings forth evil; for the mouth speaks that with which the heart is filled.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. One does not light a candle to put it under a basket but on a stand, where it shall give light to all who are in the house. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your heavenly Father.”
“What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.” Psalm 25:12Posted: July 9, 2012 in O Christian.com
Tags: Aaron, Abihu, God, Lord, Nadab, Nadab & Abihu, Peace, Psalm
In all the multiplicity and variety of circumstances that have distressed the children of God, has the Lord ever taken a wrong step? Though he has baffled nature, though he has disconcerted reason, though he has turned our plans upside down, though perhaps he has done the thing that we most feared, and thwarted every natural purpose and inclination of our heart–can we say that he has erred? that he has made a mistake? that he has acted unwisely? that he has not done that which is for our spiritual good? Murmuring, rebellious, unbelieving heart, hold thy peace! Shall man, foolish man, a worm of the earth, a creature of a day, lift up his puny voice and say, that God can mistake? Your path is very dark, very intricate, very perplexed; you cannot see the hand of God in the trial that is now resting upon you; you cannot believe that it will work together for your good. I admit it. I have felt it. I have known it. But the time will come, when this dark path in which you are now walking, shall be seen full of radiancy and light, when you will prove the truth of these words, “He brought the blind by a way that they knew not.” When we know God to be infinitely wise, that he cannot err, that all his dealings must be stamped with his own eternal wisdom, we are silenced, we hold our peace, we have nothing to say, we are where Aaron was. When Nadab and Abihu were smitten by the Lord, Aaron knew that God could not err; he held his peace (Lev. 10:3). This is our right spot. If we know anything of the folly of the creature–if we know anything of the wisdom of God–this is our spot. When our dear Nadabs and Abihus are smitten before our face, our spot is to hold our peace, to put our mouth in the dust; for God is still accomplishing his object, in the face, and in spite of nature, sense, and reason.
Tags: Bandung, David, God, Jesus, King David, Lord, Psalm, Religion and Spirituality
At a cultural show in Bandung, Indonesia, we enjoyed a wonderful orchestra performance. Before the finale, the 200 people in the audience were each handed an angklung, a musical instrument made of bamboo. We were taught how to shake it in rhythm with the conductor’s timing. Soon we thought we were performing like an orchestra; we felt so proud of how well we were doing! Then it dawned on me that we were not the ones who were good; it was the conductor who deserved the credit.
Similarly, when everything is going well in our lives, it’s easy to feel proud. We’re tempted to think that we are good and that it is by our abilities that we’ve achieved success. During such moments, we tend to forget that behind it all is our good God who prompts, prevents, provides, and protects.
David remembered that truth: “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: ‘Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?’” (1 Chron. 17:16). David’s heart swelled up in appreciation of God’s goodness.
The next time we are tempted to take credit for the blessings we enjoy, let’s pause and remember that it is the Lord who brings blessing.
Tags: Christ, Christianity, Cross, First Epistle of Peter, God, Jesu, Religion and Spirituality, Suffering
That Questionable Suffering
We delude ourselves when we try to turn our just punishments into a cross and rejoice over that for which we should rather repent. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Pet. 2:20) . The cross is always in the way of righteousness. We feel the pain of the cross only when we suffer for Christ’s sake by our own willing choice. I think that there is also another kind of suffering, one that does not fall into either of the categories considered above. It comes neither from the rod nor from the cross, not being imposed as a moral corrective nor suffered as a result of our Christian life and testimony. It comes in the course of nature and arises from the many ills flesh is heir to. It visits all alike in a greater or lesser degree and would appear to have no clear spiritual significance. Its source may be fire, flood, bereavement, injuries, accidents, illness, old age, weariness or the upset conditions of the world generally. What are we to do about this? Well, some great souls have managed to turn even these neutral afflictions to good. By prayer and self-abasement they wooed adversity to become their friend and made rough distress a teacher to instruct them in the heavenly arts. May we not emulate them?