Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday, August 30th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ephesians 6; Proverbs 3; Job 41-42.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 12:13-21

Luke 12:13-21

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man,who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying,“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Rich Fool
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Bigger Barns
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Parable of the Rich Fool

Does this seem a little random to you, Jesus dealing with greed in the context of the previous passage about hypocrisy and the fear of man?  It did to me.

But MacArthur points out something interesting.....
These are not randomly selected sample sins among many. Rather, these are the two essential realms which exist. There are only two realms which is the material realm and the other is the immaterial. One is the spiritual, the other is the physical. One is the natural, the other is the supernatural. There are only those two realms. Hypocrisy relates to the spiritual realm and greed relates to the material world...both the material and the immaterial world threaten to damn eternal souls. You get into the wrong spiritual teaching and the wrong spiritual influence and your soul will be damned. If you get into the wrong physical influence, the wrong material influence, and your soul will be damned. Both the immaterial world which is basically operated under the power of the prince of the air, Satan himself, and the material world which is also his operation, are designed to bring about the eternal damnation of souls. And Satan, frankly, is just as satisfied to seduce souls into hell by either religious deception or natural deception, by either deception in the immaterial and spiritual world, or deception in the material world. Hell would gladly welcome souls coming to them out of the religious world or out of the secular world. The deceitfulness of religion and the deceitfulness of riches work against the soul.
And by the way, though they can be separately described and separately defined, they don't exist separately. That is to say, they are blended together in the lives of the unregenerate. And that is true even of those who are most involved in the religious world, religious hypocrites, the architects and the perpetrators of false religion are invariably motivated by money. False teachers do what they do for money, for filthy lucre. That's always been true. In the Old Testament and the New, they are always so described. And it was true of the Pharisees. They were hyper religious, they were fanatically religious, they were extremely religious...they were, in their own minds, the spiritual of the spiritual. And yet, in Luke 16:14 it says, "Now the Pharisees were lovers of money." There is no necessary divorce between the material and the immaterial in that sense. In fact, as I say, those who are most engaged in the religions that are false are inevitably engaged in the love of money. Beware of false religion, the love of error. Beware of material wealth, the love of money.

Yeah, not as random as it first appears, is it?

So, on to this passage specifically.  And this is a pretty touchy topic for most of us Americans/Canadians I think.

Driscoll has pointed out in several of his sermons that I've read the fact that they are four categories in regards to riches and wealth.  There are unrighteous poor people, there are righteous poor people, there are unrighteous rich people, and there are righteous rich people.

Being rich or poor does not make you righteous of unrighteous.  It's why you are rich or poor, and what you do with the money you have, and your attitude towards it that's important.

The first thing Jesus deals with is contentment.  There are really only two options - either you are content with what you have, or you are coveting what others have.

What is coveting? Coveting is not just the having of possessions. It is the loving of possessions, which results in the hoarding of possessions. Loving meaning you can’t stop thinking about it. You can’t live without it. You absolutely have to have it. And even if you don’t have the money, you’re still going to go get it. We call that debt.....and now you are indebted to the credit company because the borrower is slave to the lender. That’s the trick of coveting. Coveting ends in slavery. Someone owns your dollars, someone owns your days because you worship someone or something other than God.

So coveting is a horrendous sin, but we don’t believe this. We do not believe this because we call it advertising. We don’t use the word coveting. We use the word advertising or PR or marketing. The whole point of advertising is to get you to covet, to get you to be discontented because you either have contentment or covetousness. If you’re content, you’re glad for what you have. If somebody else has something, you’re glad for them, but you don’t have to have it. You’re not jealous about it. You’re not obsessing over it. You’re not going into debt to keep up with them. You’re okay with it. But if you’re coveting, everything changes.

Advertising exists to create in you a sense of discontentedness. Things you didn’t even know you needed. And the truth is you don’t really need them....See, Americans don’t see coveting as a sin, but it is. It’s actually one of the Ten Commandments. God wrote a list, Ten Commandments. Number ten, no coveting. It actually made the list. Here’s how he says it, God does, in Exodus 20:17, the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or covet your neighbor’s wife, or his servant, his male servant, his female servant, his ox.” All right, that would be his tools, his truck. “His donkey,” that would be his car, his Jeep, “or anything that is your neighbor’s,” including his TV, the huge one you can see when you’re walking your dog and you look through the window and you see the big TV and you stop to covet. ..

Jesus says guard your heart against coveting. It’s a real problem. And the way you guard your heart against coveting is you worship God. Because, see, coveting is the worship of an idol. An idol can be some created thing that you love too much or you long for too much or you lust after too much. And so the way we combat coveting is through worshiping. That’s why the first two of the Ten Commandments are number one, there’s only one God. Number two, you worship him alone. And if you worship God alone, you won’t break the rest of the commandments, Martin Luther says. You won’t murder somebody. You won’t commit adultery. You won’t lie and you won’t steal and you won’t covet. Because if you’re worshiping God, you’ll be content with your spouse. You’ll be content with your house. You’ll be content with all that God has given you and you won’t be coveting. You won’t be sinning. You’ll be worshiping.

Sometimes the idol is money itself, but sometimes the idol is deeper than that and it's what the money represents - status, security or comfort.

Are you content or are you coveting?
Are you worshiping God or your money?

Next, how do you handle the finances you do have?  Foolishly or faithfully?

The man in the parable handles his money foolishly.  As far as we can tell, he earned his money honestly.  The problem was how he handled it.

he decides, “I’m going to build more barns to hold more grain and more goods,” meaning all my money and all my possessions. What does God call him? A fool. This is the only express text in the Bible that deals with the issue of retirement. And it doesn’t do so very positively. “You fool.” Does that mean everyone who retires is a fool? No. But the driving motivation of retirement leads to a lot of trouble and it led to a lot of trouble in the last decade in this nation, where people are getting into high-risk loans and homes and flipping and trying to get rich and trying to retire.

And the whole goal is, “I don’t want to work for the rest of my life.” If you do that, you’ll fall into all kinds of trouble. It’s a trap. It’s a trap. And everybody thinks they’ll be the exception to the rule and we’ve now learned that’s not true. We’ve learned it painfully. Our goal is not to retire because even if you retire from work, you don’t retire from Christ. Okay, it’s not a sin if you make enough money that someday you don’t have to get up and go to work every day. But that doesn’t mean that your whole goal is to just eat and drink and play shuffleboard and wear flip-flops and live somewhere where the sun shines and you hang out with a bunch of other people who wear, you know, therapeutic cream for their aching joints and talk about their most recent surgery while sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, right? That’s not the goal of life.

The American dream, he says, is foolish. And this is this perennial crisis we’re having in the church where Christians just want to retire and go to somewhere sunny. They don’t want to invest in their kids, their grandkids, their church. They don’t want to lead a community group. They don’t want to teach or train anyone in anything. The whole point is, “I just want to sit around and pretend like I’m in heaven already, find an idyllic, perfect place where the sun always shines, and pay somebody to rub my back.” And Jesus says, “That’s a dumb idea.” That’s a dumb idea.

Driscoll doesn't pull any punches does he?

When we hear the story about the rich fool, what invariably happens is we think, “Yes, rich people, we don’t like them.” You, friends, are the rich. You’re the rich......You have a toilet. All right, you already have a throne, literally a throne in your home you sit on like a king and a queen. And just with one magic lever, everything unpleasant departs from have central heating, you have electricity, you have a bed to sleep......We have refrigerators. Why? We have more food than we know what to do with, so we have cupboards and we have a refrigerator. Most people in the world, that’s not the case.....

In 1950, the average home was 1,000 square feet; 1970, 1,500 square feet; the year 2000, 2,200 square feet. In the last thirty years, family size is down 25 percent. House sizes are up 50 percent. Bigger barns. Is it a sin to have a bigger house? Not necessarily, if you’re a good steward with your resources and you’re doing the things with it that God entrusts for you to do as first priority and if you can actually afford it. But many of us got bigger barns and we didn’t have the grain to fill it up.
Now some of us as well, we got a bigger house, a bigger barn, and that wasn’t enough. Even though we have closet organizers and storage space and we have a garage, that wasn’t enough, so Americans, we invented something else called the storage facility. This is a barn in addition to our bigger barn. The U.S. now has five times more storage facilities than Starbucks......Now truth be told, there are some legitimate uses for a storage facility. I mean, you got a business and you’re storing product or something, I understand that. But for most people, this is, “There is so much junk in our house. We need another place to hold the junk that we don’t need. So let’s go get a storage facility.”
What’s curious is a lot of the storage facilities are about the same size as the average home around the world, made out of about the same materials, cinderblock and tin. And they don’t have a toilet. They don’t have central heating, plumbing, or oftentimes electrical. So where we put the junk that we don’t even want, that’s where the average person puts their family. We’re the rich. We are the rich.
What does Jesus say? “You fool.” You fool. Is it a sin to make money? No. Is it a sin to have nice stuff? No. Is it a sin to live in a decent house? No. But here’s the real issue for this guy. Listen to what he says. He, himself, I, I, my, he, I, I, my, I, my, my, my. He worships a trinity. He, my, and I. That’s his trinity. He, my, and I. And see, for us, the question is, is that it? Are we the center of our life? All of our possessions are for our consumption? That’s it? Nothing toward God? Nothing toward the poor? Nothing toward anyone? Jesus says that’s foolish.
And so what God does in the parable for this man is he kills him. And he calls his account due and he has to stand before God.....
Some of you say, “Yeah, that’s right. If God gave me a lot of money, I would totally be generous with it.” Let me say this. If you’re not generous now, God’s probably never gonna give you money. The Bible says he who is entrusted with a little can be trusted with much. The context is finances. He who is trustworthy with a little bit of resources can be entrusted with more resources. If you can’t handle what God has given you now, why in the world would he give you more? And I’m not saying that we give in order to get, but we want to be good stewards and good stewards are most likely to have God entrust more to their stewardship. It’s not how much you get. It’s how much you keep. It’s what you do with what you get and what your heart’s motivation is with your consumption.
Now what should he have done? Well, he should have spent some money to pay his bills and it’s okay to take care of himself, but he should have been generous toward God and others. I’ll give you a converse story from Pastor Rick Warren, who is a nice guy, loves Jesus, and I’ve enjoyed some time with him. I get to talk to him now and then. He wrote the best-selling English book in the history of the world after the Bible. It’s a total win. Did a good job. And he got a lot of grain. What did he do with it? He paid back I think it was like twenty-five years of salary to his church. “I don’t need it. Let me pay back everything I’ve ever made.” That’s pretty great. And then he started reverse tithing. He gives away 90 percent of his income and he lives off of 10 percent. That’s amazingly generous. I think that’s fantastic. Now, if he lives in a nice house, which I’m sure he does, and if he sits in a comfortable chair and maybe even if he’s got heated seats in his car, do you think Jesus is gonna be really upset with him? No, ‘cause his heart is he loves God.....Now we have the same opportunity, maybe with less zeros, but the same opportunity.
So then the final question is, is our wealth our God or a gift from our God? Luke 12:21, he says it this way. “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Here’s the real problem. For himself. That’s the problem.
You can be spiritually poor toward God, though financially rich. That’s what Jesus is saying. How do you be poor toward God? Well, you could be poor toward God spiritually. See, when we sin against God, we accrue a debt. That’s why Jesus prays, “Forgive us our debts.” Every time we sin, we accrue a debt to God....
Jesus is God become a man. Though rich, for our sake he became poor. He lived without sin. He went to the cross. He died in our place for our sins. The Bible says he made himself a ransom. That’s paying the debt. Our sin debt to God is paid by Jesus, a ransom. Now, if you don’t know Jesus, you don’t belong to Jesus, you’re not a Christian, you’re poor toward God. You’re in debt to God. You literally have hell to pay. But if you come to faith in Jesus, as he says here, you’re rich toward God. All your debt is paid and all of his righteousness is given and you’re rich toward God. That’s a wonderful thing, spiritually.
In addition to being rich toward God spiritually, we can be rich toward God financially, meaning whatever God gives us—it’s not prosperity theology, where we want to be rich. It’s not poverty theology, where we’re scared of money, we don’t want to make money, we don’t want to transact business. It’s generosity theology. We want to be a good steward. I want to invest and work well. I want to take whatever I’m able to get in a way that is honoring to God. I want to pay my bills, take care of my family, look after our church, give to the poor, help those in need, leave a legacy, make a difference, stand before Jesus, and have him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You didn’t worship your wealth. You worshiped with your wealth. Thank you.” It’s a huge opportunity that God has entrusted to us.

He ends with a really great prayer.....
Father God, I pray for us that we would be rich toward you spiritually, having faith in the Lord Jesus, who is our ransom and pays our debt, that we would be rich toward you, Lord God, financially, that we would not be concerned about being rich or poor, but instead about being righteous and unrighteous. God, for those who are rich, I pray that they would be generous. For those who are poor, I pray that they would be generous. And God, I pray for those who are poor, that as they are generous, one day you could trust them with riches, not so that they could be rich, but so that they could be good worshipers and great stewards, that they could generously do more to help the poor, that they could fund the work of the gospel and the planting of churches. God, we share in your joy as we give, so please bless our offering and please bless our ensuing decision-making as we have some big decisions to make as to whether or not we will worship wealth or worship with our wealth in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would we spend our money differently if we wrote Luke 12:21 on our wallets?

Monday's scripture focus: Luke 12:22-34
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 1-2
Sunday's passage: Isaiah 3-4
Monday's passage: Isaiah 5-6, Proverbs 4, Philippians 1

Thursday, August 29 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ephesians 5; Proverbs 2; Job 39-40.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 12:1-12

Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.2 But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3 Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 11 When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Everybody knows that verse that says "Be sure your sin will find you out," right?  Now, in Numbers Moses is speaking to the two tribes who want to remain on the near side of the river, telling them they have to come across and fight for the other tribes before they can come back and have that land for themselves, but my experience is that this phrase is true of pretty well everything.  Sooner or later, somehow, secrets, lies, manipulations, etc. work their way to the surface and become known.  Maybe not by everyone, but certainly by someone.  And always by God.

I found helpful the way Mark Driscoll clarifies hypocrisy in his sermon Jesus and Fear:

Now, Christians are often accused of being hypocrites and let me say a few things on this. Number one, some people who say they’re Christians aren’t. Some aren’t, like if you asked these guys, “Do you believe in God, love God, worship God?” They’d say, “Yeah.” But Jesus says they don’t really know him or love him. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. Some will hear, ‘Depart from me, I don’t even know you. We don’t have a relationship.’”

Number two, some Christians are hypocrites and a hypocrite is one who pretends they’re something they’re not. But that’s not only Christians. Politicians do it, leaders do it, non-Christians do it. We give the presentation that we’re holy and devout and pious and moral and good, and if you followed us around and looked at what we were doing, you would see some inconsistency.

Number three, most Christians aren’t hypocrites because to be a Christian you have to confess and profess that you’re a what? A sinner. So sometimes non-Christians will look at Christians and say, “Well, you’re a hypocrite.” “Why?” “Because you’re sinning.” “To become a Christian, I had to raise my hand as being a sinner. If being a Christian means you say you’re a sinner, and I sin, that’s not hypocrisy. I’m just being consistent. I said I was a sinner. I sin. That’s not a hypocrite.” By definition, a Christian is one who says, “I’m a sinner. Jesus died for me, that’s how bad I am. I really need help. God, help me.” That’s a Christian.

Now, the hypocrite is the one who says, “You have a lot of sin, I don’t have it. You struggle with it, I don’t. I’ll judge you, you can’t judge me.” And then you follow them around and you realize, “Hey, they’re ripping people off and committing sexual sin and all the stuff they’re telling everybody else not to do, and all of the stuff that they deny doing, that’s the very thing they’re doing.”

The other thing that I appreciated from the sermon was his talk about fear of man.  In our women's Bible study at my church one of the ladies once said something about death being the worst thing that could happen to someone.  Someone else made the comment that she wonders whether we put too much emphasis on this life, on our temporal bodies.  For me, that hit the nail on the head.  I think often we do put a lot of emphasis on self-preservation.  I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't be mindful of safety and take care of our health, and so on, but reality is that in the end, our bodies and our lives here on earth are temporary.  Everyone dies sooner or later.  This is only the worst thing that could happen to someone who is not saved.  We as Christians should have a different mindset.  Death is the best thing that can happen to us.  We get to be with Jesus!  We get to live in Heaven, see our loved ones who have passed on before us, praise God with the angels!  We don't have colds, or the flu, or allergies, or arthritis, or migraines!  (I am not saying I am anxious to die, by the way, I enjoy my life on this earth very much.  I'm just saying it's unavoidable, and not the worst thing that can happen by far.  I would prefer not to pass away until my children are at least grown, and if I had my way I'd live to a ripe old age, but that's not within my control.)

Anyway, here is what Driscoll had to say about fear of man:
 Let me ask you a few questions pastorally to help you ascertain if you have fear of man issues, and if so, to what degree. Again, this is adapted from Welch’s work. Number one, have you struggled with peer pressure? What people think, what they say, being accepted by that person, being approved by that group of people?

Number two, are you overcommitted, a people pleaser? Your answer to everything is, “Yes, I’ll do that. Yes, I’ll do that. Yes, I’ll do that.” You say, “I’m being holy like Jesus.” Maybe not, because sometimes serving becomes sinning, and you can’t say no because you want to please everybody and in so doing you can’t really please God because God would tell you, “Sometimes you got to say, ‘No.’”

Number three, is self-esteem a critical concern for you? Is it a big deal?

Number four, are embarrassment or shyness common for you? Embarrassment is, “I just don’t want anybody to make fun of me. I don’t want to be the center of attention. I don’t want to get into any trouble, so what I’m going to do, I’m going to withdraw, retreat. I’m just going to be shy and hide and try not to get in any visible conflict or trouble.”

Number five, do you second-guess decisions because of what people might think? “Yeah, I’ll do that. Oh, but they’re not going to like that. Yeah, I’d love—oh, but what are they going to say? What are they going to think? Oh, boy.” And you’re always second-guessing your decisions. “Yeah, God would like me to do that. But they wouldn’t. Uh oh, what am I going to do?” I had this conversation with a woman a little bit earlier today. “I want to be a Christian and walk with Jesus.” “Okay, why don’t you?” “I don’t think my husband would like that.” Okay, so you’ve got two lords here and you’ve got to figure out which one you’re going to go with.

Number six, do other people often make you angry, depressed, or drive you crazy? If so, they may be inordinately centered in your life. They’re too big of a deal.

Number seven, do you avoid people? Okay, I’ll just come clean, that’s my tactic. Certain people, it’s like, “You are very emotionally expensive. I’m going to avoid you.” Okay, I have tricks and I’ll tell them to you. I avoid eye contact and I avoid certain situations and people. I’m not saying it’s holy and it’s not loving and it’s not helpful to people, but it’s what I’ve done. Grace will be like, “Do you want to go talk to them?” “No. I don’t.” “Well, they look like they want to talk to you.” “I know, I know, I know.” She’s very sweet. “But you should help them, you’re their pastor.” “Yeah, I know, I know, I know, I know.” “So why don’t—” “Yeah, it’s not going to happen, okay?” So that’s how I deal with it. It’s not holy, it’s not helpful.

Number eight, do you take too much responsibility for other people? If so, maybe you want to be their lord. “I’ll save you, I’ll fix you, I’ll heal you.” What, is your name Jesus? Oh, it’s not? Okay, then maybe you’ve given yourself the wrong job description.

Number nine, are you too committed to being nice, keeping peace, and avoiding conflict? Some of you were taught, “Christians are nice. They make peace and they avoid conflict.” You’re like, “I’m being a good Christian.” You may be a bad Christian because Jesus isn’t always nice, Jesus doesn’t always make peace, and Jesus doesn’t avoid conflict.

Now, Jesus isn’t rude, he doesn’t pick a fight, but when somebody picks a fight with him, he doesn’t just accommodate and acquiesce and submit to them.

I don't like conflict.  I don't like to be embarrassed.  There are quite a few of these things noted above to which I could raise my hand.  How about you?

Sorry this is so late!  This week just got away from me.  I knew what day it was, but didn't know what day it was, you know?  Have a great long weekend!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Ephesians 6; Proverbs 3; Job 41-42.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday, August 28th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ephesians 4; Proverbs 1; Job 37-38
Today's scripture focus is Luke 11:45-54

Luke 11:45-54

English Standard Version (ESV)
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: What's Missing in False Religion Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Jesus and Religion
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: The Great Gospel

Burdening people with burdens too large for them to bear.  That is legalism.  And that had been going on for generations.  They made rules about the rules, completely made up stuff to make themselves look spiritual.  They added legalism onto legalism, it was ridiculous.  They admit that their ancestors killed the prophets, but if they only acknowledged that sin with their fancy tombs and not their hearts, then history would just continue to repeat itself - and, indeed, it did.

I like Matt Chandler's comments on this....

Do you remember that picture of Jesus that we grew up with where He’s a white guy
and He’s got product in His hair? He’s the most effeminate looking dude you’ve ever seen in your life. He’s like wearing a white bathrobe and His hands are folded. This is not that Jesus. And one of the things that has happened because of this push and pull in culture is that Jesus has been relegated to the role of “Love Fairy,” this effeminate male that runs around sprinkling love on everyone. But here’s the thing about genuine love. Genuine love has a ferocity to it. Genuine love engages in places where it hurts. So yes, love wins, but it’s holy, ferocious, truth-filled love. The lawyer should have just kept his mouth shut. I would have just sat against the wall and said, “I’ve been telling ‘em. I don’t know why they won’t listen.” But instead he just threw it out there. So look at Jesus. Let’s watch this “I love everybody” effeminate Jesus. 

“And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”” So here’s the job of a lawyer. The lawyer is to take the sacred text and teach it to
God’s people in such a way that they are lead to and walk with God. And what He just accused them of doing is taking the light yoke of God and increasing it to where it’s so burdensome and impossible that it will crush men and putting that on them. When Jesus says, “My burden is easy; My yoke is light,” yoke is what a rabbi would call his teachings. It’s not a reference to farming. He’s saying, “My teachings are light. They’re simple.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers. You’ve made this thing unbelievably complex. Woe to you lawyers. You put impossible rules on My people.”

That's got to be one of the worst things you could saw to a teacher or preacher, is it not?  Your religious preaching is actually keeping people out of heaven.  The way you teach the law is keeping people from seeing the truth. You're getting in the way of people finding God.

But that's what religion does.  It makes up rules as a way to fix our relationship with God.  But we can't fix it.  We can't!  Only Jesus can.  It's not "I need to be good so Jesus will love me".  It's "I'm bad, and Jesus loves me anyway.  Out of love and gratitude to Him, I want to be more like Him, with His strength not mine."

Legalism completely gets in the way of that.  It's blocks the truth.

But some, as we saw yesterday, can be reached.  So we never stop trying.

Paul is a great example!

Driscoll lays it out....
He says in Philippians 3, “I’m a Hebrew. I was born from the tribe of Benjamin. I got a pure bloodline. I studied under Gamaliel, one of the leading rabbis. I was at the top of my class. I know Hebrew and memorize books of the Bible. I’m so devoted religiously and zealously to my idol of religion and my performance, my works, my righteousness, my goodness, that I also murdered a deacon named Stephen, who loved Jesus.”

And then Saul, later his name is changed to Paul, he met Jesus. And here’s what he says in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,” or dung, “in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul says, “My whole life, all my works, all my religion, all the rule keeping, rule making, rule enforcing, rule interpreting, once I met Jesus, I realized this: It’s just a steaming pile.” That’s literally what the Greek says....

So what do you do? Where do you get righteousness? It’s Jesus. This is why Jesus so passionately opposes religion. It’s Jesus or religion. That’s all it is. And religion says, “We must work! Something must be done!” And here’s the truth. You and I, everyone who will ever be saved, is saved by works, the works of Jesus. Not our works, his works. Not what we do, what he does. Not the life we live, the life he lives. Religion is right, somebody needs to do something! Religious people come and say, “Here’s the list, do it!” Jesus comes in from the cross says, “It is finished.” All the work’s done.

Jesus takes our sin, dies on the cross in our place, for our sins, as our substitute, rises from death, conquering Satan, sin, and death, really, truly redeeming us from religion, and he gives us his righteousness. We’re perfect in Christ. We’re forgiven in Christ. We’re redeemed in Christ. We’re justified in Christ. We’re adopted in Christ. It’s all of Jesus’ work, none of our own. We call this grace. It’s a gift. You receive it.

And some of you say, “What, you don’t care about holiness? You don’t care about discipline?” Sure we do! We want to be holy, not so that God will love us, but because in Christ he does. Not so that God would accept us, but because in Christ he does. Not to earn God’s merit, favor, love, approval, and blessing, but because in Christ he’s already given us all things. So we want to be holy, not so that God will be pleased with us, but because God is pleased with us in Christ, and if Jesus loves us, we love him, he puts the Holy Spirit in us, he gives a new heart, new desires, new nature. Now we want to obey him. Not out of fear, out of joy. Not so that God will embrace us, but because we already feel his affection. The motivation is completely different than religion. And the result is joy.

This is a bitter judgment by Jesus.  And He tells them that their generation would pay the price for the accumulated slaughter of all the martyrs from Abel to Zechariah (the first and last OT martyrs) because despite studying the prophets for years, they had ignored their message, and built their own system of morality and legalism.

It seems harsh to make an accumulative judgment on one generation - but it happened in the flood of Noah's day, and it will happen again in the Tribulation.

MacArthur:He's saying that here. This is the end, you're it. The patience of God is over. You will be the generation on whom the judgment falls. You are engaged in the very same sins as your fathers and you've had the long opportunity to get it right and to obey. You are engaged against the very God you purport to love and worship and you're plotting to kill Him as He stands right here in you presence. God's accumulated vengeance, Gods accumulated judgment falls when God determines it's going to fall. You have the Old Testament, you've had John the Baptist, you've had Me, you've had the Twelve, you've had the seventy. This is it.

And they experienced that judgment in 70AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome under the leadership of Titus Vespasian.

So, yes, this is judgment.  But it is also, as MacArthur coins it, a merciful exposure.  It's the only way to awaken them to the reality of their spiritual condition so that they can turn to the truth in repentance.  But, according to the end of our passage, they didn't turn to the truth.  Instead, they determined to plot against Him.

But Jesus never writes them off.  So we must not either.  We must continue to hold up the light of truth in the hope that they will see.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 12:1-12
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ephesians 5, Proverbs 2, Job 39-40

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday, August 27 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading:  Ephesians 3; Psalm 150; Job 35-36
Today's scripture focus passage:  Luke 11:37-44 ~ Woes upon the Pharisees
Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
Convincing a highly religious person they need salvation is the toughest sell out there.  And I think for many Christians, we haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about what to say to people who are very devout, so we tend to just steer clear of those kinds of conversations.

MacArthur points out an interesting thing in his message ~ the more rules, regulations, rituals, etc. there are involved in a certain religious system, the less truth there actually is to believe in.  More and more rules need to be thought up and followed to give the appearance of devotion.  These people love symbols, sin, the simplistic, secondary things, status... and Jesus exposes them because there’s no other way to get to their hearts.

The Pharisees and religious leaders of the time had TONS of rules that had been added to the Mosaic Law, completely missing the point of the Law, and to make it easer to separate those who were really dedicated to keeping it from the masses.  They were passionate about literally following the letter of the Law instead of understanding God's heart behind it.

And so Jesus once again tries to point out where they're going wrong.  He curses them for their unreachability, their blindness.  He makes it so clear they're completely missing the whole point of the Law.  No wonder He wasn't very popular with them!

But this is why it's hard to reach very religious people.  They're blinded by traditions and ceremonies and have been deceived into believing if they can just follow all the rules, complete all the rituals, achieve all the requirements, they EARN salvation.  We know, of course, this isn't true, but convincing someone who is passionate about religion that it's all completely worthless is, well, almost impossible.  Jesus Himself had virtually no success.

And given that reality, it would be easy to just write off these kinds of people when we meet them.  I mean, if Jesus couldn't do it, why bother trying, right??  It's very simple to just leave people from distinct religious orders alone because they are so convinced they are doing all the right things. And we don't really want to directly get to the heart of the matter like Jesus did because well, firstly, we probably don't know enough about their religious order or about what the Scriptures say in opposition to it, and secondly, we fear conflict, unpopularity, "crucifixion."

The important thing to remember however, that though Jesus had VERY limited success with highly religious people of His day, He did reach some.  He didn't write them off even though He knew that by and large they wouldn't receive His message.  He knew they'd vehemently and violently oppose it.  He knew they'd have Him crucified for it.  But He still tried anyway.

MacArthur asks, "What should characterize those who truly know God? Not the outside, but the inside--love for righteousness, love for God, love for Christ, love for Scripture, love for the truth, love for others, love for sound theology, love for lowliness and humility. And when you bump up against those people, you're exposed to eternal life, not defilement."

May we be willing to do the hard work, the studying, so we KNOW how to expose the hypocrisy and get to the hearts of the religious people we meet, how to answer their questions and refute their arguments.  May we be willing to be unpopular and disliked.  And may we expose them to eternal life, not merely a different form of empty religion.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading:  Ephesians 4; Proverbs 1; Job 37-38
Tomorrow's scripture focus passage:  Luke 11:45-54

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday, August 26 -by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is (forbidden!)
Today's scripture focus is Luke 11:33-36

33 No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”

As soon as I read this passage, it reminded me of one of the radio devotions I had heard during the many hours I spend in my van. (You can read how it applied to one of my other posts here) Today's scripture passage was a reminder that we are to be a light "so that those who enter may see the light" The NHOP devotion says:

In today’s world, we are called to be light. In other words, we are to turn the light on in the midst of confusing darkness. Imagine someone who liked to build a house in the dark. He would have to go on feelings rather than precise measurements that he could never see.
“It feels like an inch and a half.”
“It seems to be pretty straight”
Well we all know that this would never do and that that house would come tumbling down. Here we are in a society today, which much of our decisions are based on feelings, or what seems right. Our foundation is being lost and now good is being called evil and evil is being called good.
Instead of getting angry at those who are building, we, as Christians, need to turn on the light switch.
As Christians, we are called to radiate God's light to those around us. We should not be keeping it to ourselves because that is not how it is supposed to be. If we consider the lives we live as a house we are building, don't we have the obligation to shine our light so that others can build a more firm foundation? If we are keeping the light hidden (like in a cellar or under a basket) we are allowing other around us to build their lives in the dark. They can try to build it the best that they can, but it sure to fail.

It is in the light, that all is revealed. Building a house in the light reveals the exact measurement, it reveals foundation problems, it reveals dangers and problems. Building a house in the dark hides  all of these things. Darkness conceals any of the potential problems and the way to fix them.

MacArthur explains:

"And because of the universality of this experience of light and darkness, we all understand without an explanation exactly what the metaphor's intending to communicate. The simple idea is this, light reveals and darkness conceals. Absolute light reveals absolutely, and absolute darkness covers absolutely. In fact, the apostle Paul articulated this axiomatic, proverbial, self-evident reality in Ephesians 5:13. He said this: "All things become visible when they are exposed by the light." And so the apostle Paul followed in the example of Jesus, understood that the idea of light and darkness become wonderful tools for which to communicate, or by which to communicate spiritual truth. Light reveals; darkness conceals. That is why blindness is so limiting. Light is everywhere. A blind person can't perceive it. All that light, all that disclosure, all that revelation--and it's useless....The simple truth is this, light is everywhere but blind people can't see it."

When we are without Christ we are blind. Blind to our sin, blind to our need for forgiveness, and blind to God's leading. We can try to live our lives on our own but we can't do it on our own. We are living in darkness and don't recognize the need for light. However, the light is always there.

MacArthur says:

It was never an issue of light. It was always an issue of sight. And it is today. You say you don't have enough information about Jesus, you don't know how to conclude about Jesus. I remember one night when Larry King said to me, "I wish I had your faith." Faith comes by hearing the message about Christ. There's plenty of light; the issue is sight. And so Jesus concludes this discussion in verses 33 to 36 by talking about the difference between light and sight. They were wicked because they were laying the responsibility for their unbelief at the feet of Jesus and simply saying, "You didn't make Your point. We didn't have enough light. We came to the conclusion we came to because that's all the information You gave us. You left us in the dark."
But that wasn't really the issue. They were blind willfully because they hated His message. They hated the indictment of their sin and hypocrisy and false religion and self-righteousness. They hated the idea that He called on them to acknowledge themselves as poor prisoners blind and oppressed, sinners under the judgment of God headed for eternal punishment who needed to repent and be saved. They hated that message. And so it skewed their ability to see the truth. You remember back in Luke 4 when Jesus went to His own synagogue and preached one sermon and told those self-righteous people in His own town that He had grown up with that they were not who they thought they were. They were not right with God. They were alienated from God. They were poor prisoners, blind and oppressed, who needed to be saved, who needed to repent--and they tried to kill Him after one sermon. They were blind, and they were willfully blind.

Willfully blind. That is what keeps us in the dark. It is not the absence of light, it is the ignorance of not seeing it and allowing it to reveal instead of allowing darkness to conceal.

Tomorrow's scripture focusLuke 11:37-44
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: (forbidden!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday, August 23rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is (sorry, I was "forbidden" access by the server; not sure why)
Today's scripture focus is Friday, August 23rd: Luke 11:29-32

29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31;The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation."...self centred, fickle, easily distracted, noncommittal, faithless, full of doubt, hateful, condescending...and that is just me.

It asks for a miraculous sign...Oh how I ask. Everyday, I ask: "God, show me that you actually love me by...If you really loved me, I wouldn't have to...if you really give good gifts, you'd give me...

...but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Jonah. A guy who spent three days and three nights in the belly of a big fish. You really going to do that trick again, Jesus? Slight pause...You calling us Ninevites, Jesus???? 

According to the Ancient Nineveh-Background Bible Study, "The city of Nineveh is described in Genesis 10:11 as having been founded by Nimrod, the hunter who built the tower of Babel and led the world into rebellion against God." Rebels who wanted to be their own gods or at least as powerful as God, as Strong and in control. But they couldn't. God took pity on them, confused the situation with many languages and sent them on their way...leaving them alive to repent and turn back to Him another day. 

Then comes Jonah. Spit from dark depths to bring a choice of doom or redemption to a wicked city. Hmm. Sounds familiar.

"For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation." Jesus emerged from the depths of death to offer humanity salvation. Choose God or choose eternal doom. Same offer the Ninevites received...will my answer be as fervent, as heartfelt, as true as theirs to ward off the wrath of the Almighty?

"The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." Why is the Queen of the south, a.k.a. the Queen of Sheba mentioned in this passage? Why does she suddenly have the power of judgement over this generation? 1 Kings 10 says,

  "1 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. 2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan--with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones--she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed. 6 She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard."

The Queen came to test Solomon and he blew her mind. His wisdom, his wealth, his power overwhelmed her. She gave to him from her own act of peace-keeping between two monarchs, perhaps? The one deferring to the power of the other? Whatever it might have been, the Queen of Sheba had seen the power of God upon a mere human. Just imagine her disdain as she sees generation after generation refusing to recognize that "one greater than Solomon is here". Not only is He here, but He is sharing His wisdom, He is making His power known, He is turning the world as we know it upside-down...back to the way He designed it. 

The Queen of Sheba and "the men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it". And rightly so. We turn blind eyes, deaf ears to the signs, to the message that one greater than Jonah, one far greater than Solomon is here and wants to spend time, eternity, with us

The sign has already been given. There is no other. God has already proclaimed His love for us. God has already given the ultimate gift. His beloved Son, Jesus, died on the cross and rose again, conquering death that we may live in freedom, bathed in love, confident to enter the presence of the Almighty God knowing that He will see the blood of His Son on us and smile a welcome. 

May we all realize the humbling truth that we already have everything that we need.

Jesus alone is sufficient.

Monday's scripture focus: Luke 11:33-36
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: (sorry, again, I was "forbidden")

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday, August 22 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Galatians 6; Psalm 147; Job 25-26.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 11:24-28.

“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

From Jesus vs. Satan by Mark Driscoll:

You were made with a soul, so you have a spiritual, immaterial part of you called a soul and a physical, material part of you called a body. And your soul was meant to be Spirit-filled. That’s why Genesis 2:7 says that when God created the first man, our father Adam, he breathed his spirit into him and the man became a living being. But because of sin, we are not filled by the Spirit of God and that vacancy is sometimes filled with unclean spirits, demons.

For the non-Christian, this means actually that you can come to the point where you so yield yourself that your identity, your personality, your decision-making, your appetites, your longings, and your lifestyle are dominated by your enemy. See, in America, we call this freedom. It’s actually slavery.

For the Christian, you cannot be controlled, mastered, owned, filled by a demon, but you can be influenced through succumbing to temptation and believing lies and habitually practicing sinful unrepentance.

So to use Jesus’ analogy, assume that you live in a home. See yourself, picture yourself, position yourself living in a home in the midst of a war. And you do not secure your home. You leave the windows open at night. You leave the door open. You’re very foolish and unguarded. One morning, you come down and sitting on the couch is a soldier. One of the soldiers in the midst of this battle has decided he’s gonna live at your house. Tired of sleeping on a cot, in a tent. And so when he feels like it, he shows up at your house. He eats what’s in your fridge. He sleeps in your bed. He’s decided that he’s gonna be your roommate.

And at first, it’s not that bad. But after awhile, it gets very bad. He becomes abusive. He becomes harmful, becomes terrifying, becomes threatening. You feel unsafe and you realize, “I have to kick him out. I can’t live with this forever.” And somehow, some way, you kick him out and he leaves. But you’re foolish. You don’t shut the windows. You don’t lock the door. You don’t secure the house. Eventually, the soldier goes out looking for another place to stay and he realizes, “Where I was was a pretty good place. Now, if I go back there, I could get kicked out again, so I need to go get seven buddies and we’re gonna take siege of that home and we’re gonna overwhelm that resident and then it’ll be our house and we can live there and do whatever we want and he can’t stop us.”

For some of you, this parable illustrates your life. There is something dark in your life that you are living with, but it is destroying you. It could be a sin proclivity. It could be an unclean spirit. It is someone or something that works in alignment with Satan to destroy you. And you come to the conclusion, “I can’t live with this any longer. I need to get rid of this.” And so you get rid of it, but you don’t invite the Holy Spirit to take up residence in your life. To use the analogy, you don’t invite the Holy Spirit to move in.

See, some of you have tried self-help, self-esteem, which is just pride. You’ve tried morality. You’ve tried religion. You’ve tried spirituality. You’ve tried doing better. You’ve tried doing harder. You’ve tried to be more disciplined and more productive and more serious and more devout. And for awhile, you clean out your house. But you don’t know how to defend and protect it. So for some of you, the story of your life is this, “It started pretty good and then it got bad. But then I made a change and it got better. And then it got worse.” Then it got worse. Why is that? Because you can acknowledge there’s a problem, you can clean out the proverbial house, but if the Holy Spirit, the strong one, does not move in to defend you, the guy comes back with seven friends.

My heart trembles in fear.  I know I've tried most of these things.  Do better.  Try harder.  Be more disciplined.  Trying to do it under my own power.  Only in the last few years have I come to realize just how weak and incapable I am on my own.  The only way we can become more like Jesus (which is really the goal here on earth, right?) is to be filled with the Spirit.  It's often hard to even keep our focus on living for God.  There's always this to do and that to do and this place to go, and it's easy to lose sight of why we're doing it all, but it's all for HIM.  It's all for Him.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."  Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 11:29-32.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Ephesians 1; Psalm 148; Job 27-28.