One in Ten

In Luke 17, on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee. In one village ten lepers called out to Him, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!” (Lk. 17:13). He told them to the go show themselves to priests, and as they went they were cured of their leprosy (v14).

We note that in this instance Jesus didn’t heal them immediately. He didn’t reach out and touch them, but in the process of doing what He said to do, they were made whole. George MacDonald said “Obedience is the opener of eyes.” For these ten, obedience was also restored worship. Jesus sent them to the priests because then they would be ritually cleansed and able to worship God with His people.

But only one of those lepers, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, glorified God, fell down at His feet, and thanked Him. Jesus commented on this to the disciples: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (v18). He was a Samaritan, not someone expected to seek the Lord.

Ten lepers sought Jesus, ten obeyed Him, and ten were healed as they went. But only one came back, glorified God, and thanked Him.

Moralism vs. Christianity

 

Moralism and Christianity are mortal enemies. Moralism and Christianity serve different masters.

It’s been said that the great between the salad and garbage is timing. Salad is salad for a time, but eventually it wilts. The difference between moralism and Christianity is much greater. Moralism, doing right for whatever reason, is never Christianity. Moralism is always garbage. Continue reading

In Season, Out of Season

 

The new year always brings in new hopes, new ideas, and new inspiration, and this is well and good. No good thing should be despised.

But since the point of aiming is to hit something, we should pick something achievable. By one measure only around 8% of people achieve their resolutions, so we should sets goals and resolutions that are simple, specific and achievable.

I want to encourage you to consider shaping at least one resolution in a slightly different way. George MacDonald said, “That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, “Thou art my refuge.”” Continue reading

The Cost of Christmas

Every true reading of the Christmas story includes the hardships endured. Jesus was not born with a heavenly force field protecting Him from pain and trouble. As the hymn Once in Royal David’s City puts it, “Tears and smiles like us He knew”.

What would you think of a pregnant couple who had no reservation at the hospital nor midwife available, so they had their baby in the equivalent of an abandoned trailer, and grabbed part of a chicken coop for the basinet? Behold, the holy family. That’s where the Son of God of was laid when there was no room at the inn.

Poor and unimportant at home, Joseph and Mary would soon flee for their lives to Egypt because their Son, though underprivileged, was hunted. Only their dreams would tell them when to come back to Israel, when Herod was done slaughtering the baby boys two years old and younger and the coast was clear. Continue reading

Advent is About Jesus

 

Now that Thanksgiving is over and this is the first Sunday of Advent, we are officially singing, thinking, talking and shopping for Christmas.

Some people have noticed that many retail establishments busted out the Christmas stuff back in October and lamented it the another example of commericialism at work. While this may be true, it’s also true that Christmas can’t be contained on December 25th or even in the 12 Days of Christmas. We only stop officially celebrating because you have to draw the line somewhere.

Many Christians are familiar with the spiritual disciplines: prayer, Bible reading, giving, fasting and the like. The season of Advent and Christmas is a prime opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the fundamental biblical discipline of joy. There’s more than one reason to get the Christmas stuff out early.

You heard (or if you didn’t hear) our announcement about resources for making Advent significant and festive. We would never require anyone to observe this season, but this is a time when our culture still has a remnant of traditions driven by biblical truth. It’s lawful and we find it helpful. Observing Advent, celebrating in small ways to get in shape for Christmas, is not adding a burden to an already hectic season. It’s being thoughtful and intentional to remember and celebrate the rich truths of the incarnation of the eternal Word of God.

So consider for yourself and your family how you will incarnate the wonder of Jesus being born for sinners, for all the Bible gives us to ponder and enjoy. The singular focus of Advent is Jesus. Focusing on Him never allows us to ignore anything else that matters. He is the answer to all of our problems, born to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

A Day at a Time

 

One of the things God gives us is enough troubles of our own. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrrow because that is what tomorrow is for: “33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:33-34).

These should be the most liberating words to us. We’re not allowed to worry about what might come. This of course doesn’t forbid us from being prudent, buying insurance, and having a plan. But it does forbid us from worrying.

If Jesus forbids us from worrying about our own troubles, how much more should we not worry about the troubles of others? If we can’t see what’s ahead on our own path, how much less can we see what’s ahead of others? If we don’t even have enough information about ourselves, we certainly can’t plot a course for others.

When we follow Christ and discipline our thoughts and actions, the surprising result is that we are ready for what comes. When Jesus sent the disciples out with nothing but faith in God, they found out that God provided for them, and that was why He sent them out with nothing. God teaches us over and over that we are not in control of our own lives much less the lives of others, and when we embrace that truth, and cheerfully acknowledge that He is in control, we have peace and wisdom for what to do.

God the Father

When we think of the Fatherhood of God, it’s important not to make Him in our image. God is not our Father because He is like an earthly father. He is not our Father because He became one at some point, or when Jesus took on flesh and became His incarnate Son.

No, Scripture teaches us that the first person of the Trinity, the Father has always been the Father because the Son is eternally begotten.

Malachi 1:6 says, “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor?” In Ephesians Paul writes, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).

All Fatherhood, (Gr. Patria), comes from the Father of Jesus Christ. As we see our culture disintegrating around us, at the very center of our troubles is our disdain for our God and Father, and therefore for fatherhood that derives from Him.

At the end of Malachi, we have this solemn warning and promise: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:4-5).

When we turn our hearts to our fathers, first we honor them for that fact that God gave them to us. They bear a noble office, and we salute the uniform regardless of what they have done or not done. Second, we honor the ways they imitate God the Father, and we imitate them as far as we can. The first kind of honor kills all resentment. You can’t turn your heart to your earthly father without first turning it to your Heavenly Father, and to turn to Him requires us to forgive the way we’ve been forgiven. The second kind of honor, or expression of honor, fosters gratitude and holiness.

God our Father gave His own Son that we might become His children, and so that we would be partakers of their divine life of the Trinity. But we must turn our hearts to Him.

A Constant Battle

If we want to thrive in our faith and continue to grow in God’s grace we must always be engaged in a fight against sin. The apostle Peter writes, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The battles we often face present themselves as coming from outside of us. Christians have identified our three enemies as the world, the flesh, and the devil. It’s easier to see our exterior enemies and focus on them—the world and the devil. But in order for us to ever be overcome by these, we have to have already given in to the flesh. This why Jesus said that defilements come not from the outside, but from within. Continue reading

Ask, Seek, Knock

Our God is a Father, is the Father, and He has revealed Himself as one who is eager to provide for us. Jesus said, “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk. 11:9-10).

We are regularly tempted to feel that we don’t have what we need, and certainly not what we want. But not only is God is openhanded, He is also attentive, knowing exactly what we need. A good father is far more aware of what his child needs than he is. How much more is God aware of our needs? Continue reading

Members Whether We Like It or Not

Because the Church is the body of Christ, every member of Jesus is related to all the others. The right pinky toe might be a long way away from the left eardrum, but they are organically and vitally connected.

This is true of Christians whatever our station in life is and whether we even know it or even deny it. Paul writes, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor. 12:13-19).

What does it mean and what does it matter that Christians are members of Christ together? It means we really do need each other. Continue reading