Friday, Oct. 21
The second context is the kingdom of God (Luke 13)—who will enter it and how does one qualify for entering it. It’s a message of salvation and it starts with a call to repent. It soon became an on-going debate between Jesus and Jewish leaders, who held the view that they were special people in God’s eyes. Why would they need to repent? Because these leaders were not seeking the truth, Jesus disguised His message by using parables. He told them they needed to repent or they would perish (v. 3). He called them hypocrites (v. 15). But many “common people” who witnessed this dialogue were “delighted.” (v. 17). At one point, someone asked Him “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Jesus answered by saying that there was a narrow door and many would try to get in, but the door would be locked and the owner would tell them “I never knew you . . . away from me, all you evil doers” And then he said that people would come from all parts of the earth and will take their place. That can only refer to the Gentiles, a totally offensive thought to the Jewish leaders. This is where Jesus said “there are those who are last that will be first, and first will be last.” The point is that those who had the first opportunity will be replaced by those whose opportunity came later. It’s not who got the message first; it’s who responded the right way first.
Thursday, Oct. 20
“The first will be last and the last will be first.” This idiomatic expression is used in only two contexts. The first is in Mt. 19:16-30. (Parallel passage in Mk. 10:17-31) Jesus is having a dialogue with a rich young ruler who was encouraged to forsake his riches and become a follower of Christ. The disciples applied Jesus’ remarks to themselves and voiced how they had left all to follow Jesus. Jesus assured His disciples that they would be rewarded, but ended with “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” The gist of this is that self-denial or sacrifice by itself does not win any blue ribbons. It’s possible to sacrifice for ulterior motives. The real issue is the heart, what motivates the self-denial. In the very next chapter (Mt. 20:20-28) James and John used their mother to make an appeal for them to have special positions in the kingdom. The disciples debated who would be greatest in the kingdom right up to the crucifixion. A true disciple/servant will be selfless. First place belongs to the humble. It is never the action itself; it’s what motivates it.
Tuesday, Oct. 18
“He walked with God.” These words were only spoken about two men in the Bible. Enoch and Noah. We know very little about Enoch, who lived before the flood. He lived to the age of 365 and was the father of Methuselah, the oldest man on record at 969. That’s getting fairly close to a millennium! Perhaps that was a reward for Enoch’s “walking with God.” Scripture only says of Noah that he died. One other man was taken to heaven without having to die, Elijah. Elijah and Moses appeared in the transfiguration account in Mt. 17, which brings Moses into the picture. Moses’ death was special. He was a apparently not buried my men, but by God or an angel. Jude mentions in verse 9 that Satan contested for Moses’ body, but was thwarted by the Archangel, Michael. Jude apparently got that from Jewish tradition. In any case, it makes one wonder if Moses might have been taken to heaven even though he died a natural death. Genesis 34:6 notes that no one has ever found where he was buried. That is interesting, along with the fact that Elijah and Moses were the two O.T. saints that met with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. All this brings into question what is meant by “sheol.” One commentator deduced that the whole idea of sheol (the “hades” of the N.T.) is not what most theologians think it is. I’m still trying to figure it all out. But the essential point in all this is that God is very much aware of those who are faithful. Whether it is “He walked with God” or “Well done, good and faithful servant,” God’s words of commendation will be worth any sacrifice made in this life.
Monday, Oct. 17 A Perfect Fit
“Willie and Gretchen were made for each other.” How often have you heard that kind of comment about a young couple? Those “made in heaven” matches don’t always pan out. Check it out 20 years down the road. When I was a teen, an older friend of my Dad told me that marriages are not made in heaven. Maybe it helped me down the road and maybe it didn’t. But I concluded a few decades ago that he was right. How many can say after 40 years of marriage that “We were made for each other?” [For the record, this blog was not triggered by my own marriage.] Actually, I’m closing in on a statement I heard in a recent sermon. The speaker, addressing God, said “I was made for You.” That really hit me. I have never said that to God. I know that I’m uniquely made, and that it’s for a specific purpose, but I’ve never said to God “I was made for You.” That is personal and carries an enormous commitment. It’s also humbling. As my creator, He owns me, and rightfully expects allegiance and productivity. There is no place for self. Every part of me was specifically made to fit God, that He had special designs for me before I was born, that I can please Him in ways that others can’t. This is really getting serious. It demands a response. I’m special, not to please me, but to please God. This applies to every person of all times, but there’s a double obligation for those who are redeemed. It fits perfectly with Paul’s admonition in Rom. 12:1-2 to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. When I get out of bed every morning I should remember that “I was made for You.”
Sunday, Oct. 16
We all have times when the burdens of life become overwhelming. It may be a single problem that we don’t have an answer for, or maybe a mountain of little things that we don’t have time or energy to deal with. Things seem to be out of our control—and probably are. In the midst of one of Lettie Cowman’s poems is this little two liner. “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” The first line may not apply. Most of us don’t look for more tasks, let along pray for them, but some energetic, ambitious people might. Aspiring politicians probably fall into that category. Most of us, however, need to heed the second line of this little couplet. If your plate seems too full right now or you are facing a problem that seems to be unsolvable, you might think of it this way: There’s a source of power ready and waiting. He’s at the other end of your prayer.
Saturday, Oct. 15
The October Guidepost included a quotation by Max Lucado. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” This is true and it’s Scriptural. I suspect that Max based his quotation on Romans 8:26-27. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” I especially like that last part “in accordance with God’s will.” Our heart’s desires are automatically edited to fit God’s will. Did you notice that Paul didn’t say that the Spirit searches the mind? When praying silently, I often find myself trying to select just the right words. If my heart is really into it, I don’t need to worry about what words to use. The Spirit sees what’s in my heart, and that is what reaches the throne. On the other hand, it is easy to mouth words that are perfunctory, with no feeling or conviction. Just going through the motions of making requests is like the prayer wheels of India. You just spin the wheel and all that is written on the cylinder is going up to God multiple times a minute? I don’t think so. Unless the heart is in it, unless there is compassion, unless there is a sense of dependence on a gracious God, the words will be meaningless. It’s how much I care about the person or the situation. Do I really want God to intervene? Is my heart aching for a solution that I can’t handle myself? That, I think, is what Max Lucado was trying to get across.
Friday, Oct. 14
“If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it.”—Warren Wiersbe, quoting Bob Cook.
No, I don’t know who Bob Cook is, but the quotation is worth meditating on. I think there’s a bit of hyperbole here. I think God fully intends for us to know a lot of what He’s doing. He gives us plenty of instructions that are meant to be carried out. However I rarely have a day go by that I’m not puzzled as to what God has in mind. Despite that, I keep on trying to figure things out. Occasionally, I’m successful, which eggs me on. There are five things I always keep in mind, though. 1. God doesn’t make mistakes. 2. I’m not supposed to know everything God’s doing. 3. He gives me all I need to know. 4. It is always profitable to try to figures things out. 5. It will always make sense some day—in heaven, when it will probably be irrelevant.