Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Test

A great teacher helps his or her students to learn.  He doesn’t just dispense information. He creates new ways for people to discover the truth he wants them to discover as their own. Truth always has so much more power when we discover it on our own than when someone just tells us. There were times that Jesus deliberately set his disciples up so they would have to use every bit of creativity to discover the solution to the problem. When faced with feeding the 5000, he tested his disciples saying, “You give them something to eat” (Matt 14:6). He told them to “drive out demons” knowing that they would flounder and fail at this (Matt 10:8). He gave them orders to cross the lake knowing they would encounter a storm (Matt 8:18).  Tests are important because they reveal our attitudes and what we believe about the most important things in life.

On another occasion Jesus tested his disciples, and the result was that their attitudes were pretty bad. They needed to see how much prejudice and indifference they carried around toward certain people. When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Tyre, a Canaanite woman whose daughter was suffering from demon-possession came to him for help. The exchange reveals ugly attitudes buried deep within the disciples. The Lord tested the woman and his disciples (Matt 15:21-28).

The disciples want to send her away because she is a bother. Jesus says in effect I minister only to Jews, but the woman insists and begs for help. Jesus says that it would not be right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs. The woman does not become insulted or defensive but responds in a magnificent way: “Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” To which the Lord immediately responds with: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour (Matt 15:27-28).

The woman passes her test because Jesus had ignored her at first and then had replied in what could have been a rude way to her. She never wavered in her insistence for help. Her humility and sincere answer would have melted the heart of a stone. The disciples learned, as Jesus planned, that all people matter even if they are different. When Jesus commended her faith, they learned that any person can have faith and that Jesus loved this woman as much as any Jew. The disciples would take a while to fully comprehend what happened on this day.  However, they would all eventually come to embrace the idea that all people everywhere deserve to know about Jesus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Don’t Worry

Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not rob today of its sorrows—it robs tomorrow of its strengths.” When you worry, you are filled with fear and not strength. Fear becomes the burden we carry from day to day. Kierkegaard said, "No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as anxiety, Worriers feel every blow that never falls and they cry over things they will never lose.[i]

Worry is what we do. We worry about our next meal, what we are going to wear, our house, the weather and a thousand other things. Is there another way to deal with the anxiety that is so common to all of us? Jesus said there was, and he gave us his perspective, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:22-23).

Jesus knows us from the inside out, and he knows what we worry about. Most of our worry boils down to worrying about our bodies—what we will eat, drink, and wear. Jesus wanted his disciples to not worry but trust God for all their needs. No matter what we worry about, the solution is to learn to trust God to meet all of our needs.

Jesus said, look at the ravens: they don’t plant and work the fields and wait for a harvest, and yet they never go hungry. The ravens and crows are everywhere, in every nation, and yet God feeds them. This is of course not an implication that we shouldn’t work. The Lord only knows that we have millions of able-bodied people who should be working who are not. Jesus was pointing to one of the most common of all birds that lives according to its instincts, and God provides for it.

Then Jesus pointed out something so important. Even though God takes care of the birds, “How more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:24). Realizing our value to God is paramount with enjoying life. We are the apex of God’s creation and are more valuable than the animals. You wouldn’t think so if you listened to academia today who happens to think animals are of equal or even higher value than humans. God says otherwise.

I can see Jesus picking up a wild Poppy and admiring its beauty as he says, “…not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28).

Jesus emphasized the absurdity of worrying by asking this question: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26). The question is a rhetorical one--"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Of course none of us can and since we can’t, then why do we worry about the rest?"

Jesus asks us to consider the brevity of life. This is another hurdle we have trouble getting over. From our youth we fail to grasp this truth that life is so very brief. Consider what we lose by not understanding this fundamental concept of life. We fail to apprehend the wonderful opportunities that are there for the moment. If we know life is short, we can live these moments and express to our loved ones how much they mean to us. We can use our money in ways that are meaningful if we know our days are numbered. We can, with God’s help, choose to trust God instead of worrying for our daily needs.

[i] R. Kent Hughes, Luke, Volume Two, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 1998, P. 53.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Principle to Remember

Principles are a good way to live your life. The Bible is full of them, and they give us direction for living life. Once, Jesus was rudely interrupted by an obnoxious man who demanded Jesus intervene on his behalf so he could get his due portion of an inheritance. Jesus refused to be drawn into the controversy and instead offered to him a principle about life. Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus warns against greed because it deprives us from ever knowing contentment. The principle to remember is that life is about more than money—it’s about people and God.

To illustrate the profound principle of purpose, Jesus told a parable about a rich man. Jesus says he is a prosperous farmer. To be a successful farmer you need things to come together for you. You need good weather, good soil, good seed, a lot of hard work, and you need disaster to stay away. This man had been fortunate, and he had prospered handsomely. He was blessed, but he didn’t realize how blessed.

There is nothing wrong with expansion and prospering. What is wrong here is the attitude. It’s all ego. The selfishness of the man is apparent. He is not a generous man, and the needs of others are not a part of his thinking. He is self-absorbed. Take note that God called him a fool. This is a fool indeed.  This man was a fool because he did not understand that life is fragile, and we need insight and understanding to understand just how fragile it is. Life is short, and we need God’s perspective to know it will be gone before we know it.  Life is a gift from God, and we are not the owners—God is. Life is for eternity, and this is simply a journey, and our destination is heaven. We are to invest in God’s Work and in people, and the interest that grows will be greater than any financial dividend.

The British novelist and playwright David Lodge was watching one of his own creations, a satirical revue, the evening of November 22, 1963. The theater audience chuckled as an actor in the play showed up for a job interview with a transistor radio clutched to his ear, demonstrating his character’s blasé indifference. The actor then set down the radio and tuned to a station, letting its news, music, or commercials play in the background while the play went on. This night, however, a voice came on the radio with a live news bulletin: “Today, the American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated…” The audience gasped and the actor immediately switched off the radio, but too late. In one sentence, the reality of the outside world had shattered the artificial world of the theater production. Suddenly, whatever action took place onstage seemed superficial and irrelevant.[i]

Jesus’ warning and parable are meant to break through our superficial understanding and help us realize that there are more important things in this life than possessions. Once we realize that, we will never want to go back to that irrelevant way of life.

[i] Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003) p. 228-229.