Category Archives: Thru the Bible
Lord, Thank You for Remembering Me
On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was unjustly convicted, mocked, humiliated, tortured, and crucified. While on the cross, he spoke seven times and each of these statements are a significant part of the story of Jesus and his life lived and given for us. The saying that fascinates me the most, is Jesus’ interaction with the two criminals crucified with him.
Luke tells us (23:39-43), that one mimicked the mockery of the crowd – “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (v. 39). His response to Jesus drips with mockery, unbelief, and entitlement. I’ve responded to God like this at times. “I don’t deserve this.” When I did. “Aren’t you God? Why don’t you do something?” When he had given me opportunity and direction.
The other criminal though, responded with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness. He confessed his guilt and professed his belief in Jesus’ innocence – “we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41). He then in faith and humility, sought grace – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42).
When grace from God is sought with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness, it will be given.
Jesus extended his grace and gift of salvation to this guilty criminal – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The simple prayer of the criminal was answered.
The promise to the criminal is for anyone who believes with humility and faith. Anyone can gain paradise, a place in Christ’s kingdom for all eternity, by trusting Jesus. In his death, Jesus demonstrated that He remembered us. In his death, he was busting wide open the doors to paradise, to eternal life, to relationship with God, to God’s Kingdom. In his death, he remembered our sin, our separation from God, our brokenness, our eternal destiny. He remembered. We’re not entitled to it. We can’t demand it. It’s given as a free gift to the humble, believing sinner.
A few good, Good Friday questions:
- Have I acknowledged my guilt?
- Have I professed my belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
- Have I sought grace from God in humility and brokenness?
- Is Jesus’ promise mine? “you will be with me in paradise.”
- Who do I know that needs to hear this story today?
Lord, thank you for remembering me. When I was lost in sin, you made a way for me to know you. Thank you for the gift of grace and salvation. Thank you for the promise of eternal life. Thank you for seeking and saving the lost.
Lord, Help Me Stay Awake
On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples and then retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane with his inner circle to pray. The disciples were pretty much in the dark on what would unfold in the coming hours and days. They had no idea that Jesus would soon be arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried. Jesus shared with Peter, James, and John his deep grief and soul travail that he was experiencing over the price he would pay the next day, asking them to “stay awake” with him. However, they went to sleep (see Matthew 26:38-40). He ask them again to “stay awake and pray” (v. 41), but again they fell asleep. A third time, he came back and “found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open” (v. 43).
I can’t help but think, if the disciples had understood the urgency of the moment, they would have been awake, alert, watchful, attentive, and vigilant. These are some of the meanings of this word translated “watch” or “stay awake.” Because of their spiritual blindness, the disciples lacked the urgency to obey Jesus.
I too have been a sleeping disciple. I’ve too often been inattentive to Christ’s commands and unmotivated by the urgency of obedience to Jesus and the needs of the world. Busyness, laziness, worldly desires have often lulled me to sleep and kept me from pursuing what is most important.
What did it take to awake the disciples? The were awakened by the passion of the Christ. The next 24 hours would be the most difficult and painful hours of their lives. The one they had left everything to follow would be betrayed by one of their own, falsely condemned, humiliated, tortured, crucified, and buried. Now they were awake! And in the coming days and months, they would awaken to the full plan and purpose of God as they experienced a risen Christ, the forgiveness of their sins, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the urgency of spreading the news to the world.
This story, the person and work of Christ, and his purpose for our lives should be enough to wake us up and make us alert. Being awake means we are prayerful, pursuing God, watching for opportunities to obey, on the lookout for God at work around us, ready to tell the story and display his grace in the lives of others.
“Stay awake” became a regular part of the vocabulary of the early disciples (see 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 16:15). It should also be a regular part of our personal examination of our lives.
- Am I ready to obey Jesus?
- Am I looking for opportunities to share and show the Gospel?
- Am I devoted to prayer? keeping up my spiritual disciplines?
- Am I awake to the temptations around me? and the adversaries prowling?
- What is it in my life that tends to lull me to sleep and keep me from obeying the Lord?
Lord, help me stay awake. I want to be alert, attentive, watchful in regard to your desires. Awaken me to your passion, displayed by your death on the cross. Awaken me to your power, displayed in your resurrection from the grave. Awaken me to the needs of the world around me and the eternal destiny each one faces. Let me not be too busy, too lazy, too worldly to understand and follow your will.
Lord, Help Me Close the Door on the Devil
On Wednesday of Holy Week, Judas set in motion his plan to betray Jesus. At dinner in Bethany, a woman broke an expensive bottle of perfume and used it to anoint Jesus (Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8). Judas protested, that it could have been used to care for the poor. Jesus defended the woman, spurning Judas’ opinion. The next scene has Judas making his offer to the religious leaders who wanted Jesus arrested and questioned. The arrangement was made and Judas began looking for the right opportunity to betray Jesus.
What do we know about Judas? A few things:
- He was called by Jesus and he obeyed and followed. None of Jesus’ disciples were perfect. Studying what we know of them, we find flaws, just as we can find flaws in ourselves and probably everyone at our church. Jesus is not looking for perfect, but available. Judas had been called and he obeyed and followed Jesus.
- He was not suspected to be dishonest. No one knew who the betrayer was. Judas always has a crooked nose and evil grin in my minds pictures. However, Judas kept the money bag, so he was trusted by the disciples and by Jesus, though evil intent was found in his heart in hindsight.
- The gospel writers paint him with hindsight as a thief, stingy, greedy, and glory seeking. And he probably was, but no one suspected it or accused him of such before his kiss of betrayal.
What happened to Judas?
Some commentators point to the stern correction that Jesus gave to Judas after the perfume was spilled as a significant moment in his life. Correction can be for us an opportunity to grow wise or an opportunity to grow bitter (see Proverbs 10:17; 15:10). This event may have been a tipping point for Judas’ heart. His pride and bitterness opened the door for the devil. That’s what anger and bitterness can do. Paul in speaking of anger, says to not hold onto it “and don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Could it be that Satan can take the opportunity of a slight, our anger at someone’s word or actions, or our hurt pride at a spurned idea to make a betrayer out of us?
Luke says that Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3). John says that “the devil…PUT INTO the heart of Judas…to betray” (John 13:2). The Greek word translated “put into” is the word for thrust or cast or throw. This image should remind us of the armor of God and the shield of faith that help us “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
It’s easy to read the story of Judas and think, “I’d never do that.” Or to think of all those wicked, crooked nosed betrayers out there. Or to think of someone that has betrayed us or those we love. But the story of Judas should cause us to ask, “Is the seed of betrayal alive in me?” or “Am I opening the door for the devil?” You might find the seed or the opened door in your relational pain. Have you held on to a grievance when someone offended you? Are you holding someone else responsible for your unheeded ideas or unmet needs? Have you harbored anger at someone for longer than a few days without letting it go? Let’s remember Judas and close the door on the devil by forgiving, receiving correction with humility, putting faith in Jesus, and remaining faithful followers.
Lord, help me close the door on the devil. If the seed of betrayal lives in me, convict me that I may forgive and follow you. Thank you for providing the shield of faith that can keep us safe from Satan’s arrows. I want to be a faithful follower and friend until death. Protect me from anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
Lord, Cleanse My Cup
On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem, spending time in the Temple teaching. He also was engaged by the religious leaders who wanted to trap him and discredit him. His dialogue with them led to a harsh admonishment of their hypocrisy (see Matthew 23) capped off with the accusation – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25.
There are two ways to read this:
1. “Yea! Get’em Jesus!” There is a temptation to see this through the lens of Jesus giving it to all those mean, religious people out there somewhere.
2. “Lord, cleanse my cup.” The better response is to use this as an examination of our own hearts. Are any of these characteristics of hypocrisy alive in me?
Here is a personal list of questions and prayers using Jesus’ admonitions against the religious leader, as a means of personal self-examination. Let’s examine and rid ourselves of the hypocrisy that Jesus decried during Holy Week:
- They don’t practice what they teach (v. 3). Is my life consistent with my words and my profession of faith?
- They burden people rather than bless people (v. 4). Do I give grace or guilt in my relationships with others?
- They do things to be noticed by others, not to be obedient to God (v. 5-7). Who is the intended audience of my life? Am I thinking through actions with God or others in mind?
- They love personal recognition more than glory for God (v. 8-12). Does my title, place, or position matter more to me than the glory God receives?
- They believe themselves to be front doors to the kingdom, rather than servants leading and pointing the way to it. (v. 13). Do I project a place of servant-hood or superiority in sharing the gospel?
- They convert people to religion and not to the kingdom of God (v. 15). Am I making more church people or am I making disciples of Jesus?
- They emphasize the minor and inconsequential while overlooking the important and necessary (v. 16-24). Does my preferences and cultural lenses color how I see people’s actions? Am I concerned first with the weighty matters of the heart, instead of the outward appearances?
- They make a great show on the outside, but the inside – the heart – is a mess in God’s sight (v. 25-28). Am I more concerned with how things look on the outside, than how things are on the inside?
Praying for God to rid my life of hypocrisy:
Lord, let my life and my words be consistent.
Lord, help me lead with grace, not guilt in all my relationships.
Lord, you are the only audience that matters. I want to be obedient. I’ll trust you to show others what you want them to see in my life.
Lord, to your name be the glory. Let the desire for title and position be far from my heart.
Lord, the Kingdom is yours. You’ve opened the way through your Son. It’s your kingdom to fill. Help me always remember that I’m a simple servant, pointing everyone, everywhere to your way.
Lord, let me not aim to make church people, but to make disciples of Jesus as you have commanded.
Lord, help me to be consistent. Don’t let my personal preferences or cultural lenses be more important than your heart and desires for people.
Lord, cleanse my cup. I want that part that only you can see to be clean and beautiful. Only you can do this work. Do it in me.
Lord, Cleanse Our Outer Courts
On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus entered the temple and in anger, drove out the merchants who were selling and trading, making profit on Passover necessities (see Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 12:15-19; Luke 19:45-47). This was most likely from the area of the temple known as the outer courts, where non-Jews could enter the Temple and seek God for themselves. What caused Jesus such righteous anger? There were plenty of places to buy and sell, but the people chose the temple for this, showing both a lack of reverence for God AND a lack of concern for outsiders that might seek Him. With the world at the doorsteps, God’s people were more concerned with buying and selling. They had lost the Father’s heart for the outsider and His vision of them being a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3). Jesus’ teaching had emphasized the Father’s heart in this regard (see Luke 15) and now he was backing up his words with a demonstration of anger at their sinful disregard.
We would do well to remember this scene as we examine our hearts, homes, and churches today. Do we have a place for outsiders? When those far from God see us, do they see the gracious and compassionate God of love and mercy? Is our primary focus seeking and saving the lost and being a light to the nations? Do we have the Father’s heart for the world? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn from our hearts, homes, and churches to restore the place of outreach and witness? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn in my life, so that I could rightly prioritize the lost and broken?
Lord, give us your heart for the outsider. Let us be a faithful witness to your grace and mercy. Cleanse our outer courts, so that nothing we do or say will distract the world from their need and your provision of redemption and eternal life in Jesus Christ.
When Criticism Comes… Part 1
Criticism is a reality for leaders. “The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” If you want to say or do or be something, you will be criticized. Your response to criticism will determine much about your character and trajectory in leadership. Christ-like leaders respond to criticism with self-control, trust in God, and humility.
A favorite story of mine in relation to this is the saga of David, when being challenged by his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 16:5-12. David vacated the palace because of the threat his own son posed and on his way out he faced a loud critic named Shimei. Here’s a few truths about criticism from this ancient story:
Criticism will often come at the WRONG TIME.
David had been in the midst of family crisis. His son Absalom had conspired against him and turned the popularity polls in his favor. David’s heart was broken due to his son’s rebellion. The last thing he needed was an angry critic hurling abusive words and stones at him.
We should not expect criticism at times when we are ready and waiting for it but instead it will come when we need it the least. Personal and family crisis often provide opportunity for critics to react and people to lose confidence in you as a leader, making criticism more probable, not less.
Criticism will often come in the WRONG WAY.
The public nature of Shimei’s criticism added to David’s current humiliation before his men and family. They were seeing their commander in chief, the warrior king, run away from a fight with an inferior power in Absalom. Now he was facing and shrinking away from the false accusations of a hostile farmer.
Public criticism is most harmful to our reputation as leaders. A critics words will often come in a way that is least beneficial. Most critics will not follow the Biblical pattern of Matthew 18:15-19. The way in which we respond may be the only way that will save our reputation as leaders.
Criticism will often come from the WRONG PEOPLE.
Shimei was a commoner from the tribe of Benjamin. He did not know David personally, nor did he have all the facts concerning David’s current situation. He had no authority to accuse the king. He was only responding emotionally to the opportunity that David’s misfortune provided. He was probably a lifetime critic of David and the truth would not have persuaded him to stop.
There are many people that are divisive at heart and are always looking for an opportunity to criticize and complain. Like the critics that stood shouting, “It will never start! It will never start!” when Robert Fulton was unveiling his new invention the Steamboat. When it started, they regrouped quickly and started yelling, “It will never stop! It will never stop!”
Criticism will often come for the WRONG REASON.
The accusation of Shimei had little basis in fact. He was accusing David of being a murderer of the household of Saul. Most commentators believe that Shimei was referring to the deaths of Abner (2 Samuel 3:31-39) and Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12). It is also not impossible that the deaths of Saul and Jonathan were in his mind since at that time David had been a Philistine ally. However, David had no part in any of these deaths. In fact, he greatly mourned each of them and he even punished those who were responsible.
While some criticism we receive will be true, we must be prepared to face those critics who do not have the whole story or know what you know as a leader. Criticism from those who love us and want what’s best for us and the organization will be recognizable and stand out as something to receive with humility. Undeserved criticism will sting, but must not derail us from our mission.
In part 2, we’ll see how David responded in 2 Samuel 16:9-12.
When It Comes to Character, Make No Exceptions
“David had lived an exemplary life before God all his days… (EXCEPT for that time with Uriah the Hittite)”
1 Kings 15:5 MSG.
An “EXCEPT” in relation to your character could change the course of history for your family. David made an exception in his mission, by not going out to battle with his armies (2 Samuel 11:1). He made an exception in his obedience to God, by sleeping with another man’s wife, then having that man (Uriah the Hittite) killed to protect his own image (2 Samuel 11-12). The result was death, brokenness, & pain for David’s family, along with the curse of division & war in David’s family line forever (2 Samuel 12:10). Make no mistake, the “EXCEPT” in parentheses in David’s life was devastating. And it would be devastating for you & I as well. Make no exceptions in your relation to your character & put no parenthetical “EXCEPT” next to your testimony & family name.
- What exceptions are you making, considering, or imagining for yourself? (“I don’t have to go to church” ; “It will never happen to me” ; “It’s just this once” “No one will ever find out”) In relationships, spiritual disciplines, habits & beliefs?
- If there is already an “EXCEPT” in your life, have you repented & allowed God to bring healing? (see Psalm 32 & 51) And how have you moved past the temptation to make sin common & OK in your life?
- Ask God to help you put a period instead of parenthesis on your testimony forever.
Join Bridge Church this Summer, 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville, as we study the Old Testament book of Psalms in a series called Swells. We’ll look at how David & others learned to ride the ups & downs of life, like sin, discouragement, problem people, & more.
Does the Bible Condone Slavery?
In our study of Colossians, our church hit 3:22 today, which says, “Slaves obey your masters…” Several times over the last few years I’ve heard the argument go against the Bible like this: “The Bible’s just a book written by men. And it even condones slavery.” Does the Bible condone slavery? and if not, how should I answer such claims from skeptics? Check out a great article on this HERE.
A few points we discussed this morning:
Does the Bible Condone Slavery? Yes & No.
Yes. The Bible addresses slaves that were considered the property of another person. But NO! Not the kind of slavery we think of in our modern era, where someone is taken against there will and sold with little recompense and harsh treatment. Not that this type of slavery didn’t occur in Biblical times extensively, but it was not condoned by the Bible.
Exodus 21:16 (ESV) – “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found #in possession of him, shall be put to death.”
Slavery in the Bible consisted of a social class that was not bound by racial distinction, but was in servitude to another for some reason that may included indebtedness, choice, or empire politics. A few facts:
- There may have been as many as 60 million slaves in this time period. Potentially ½ the population at the time
- Slave was not the lowest on the societal food chain. The day laborer was.
- As a matter of fact, slavery actually provided protection from poverty, from debt, from a bad name. Many even sold themselves into slavery.
- Slaves were often educated, owned property, could accumulate wealth & status.
None of this is true of modern slavery where a person owned by another was taken against their will, had no rights, little hope of improvement of status, and subjected to harsh treatment and poor work conditions.
And the Gospel changed everything for both types.
Galatians 3:28 (NIV) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And it was the Gospel’s influence that fueled the movement to end the modern American slave trade in the 1700’s-18oo’s, through men like William Wilberforce and John Newton. And it’s the Gospel that’s fueling a new generation to stand up and fight for the million’s still being sold into slavery around the world.
Check out a fuller treatment of this in this article, Does the Bible Condone Slavery?