Games People Play

May 29, 2011

“To what can I compare the people of this generation? How can I describe them? They are like children playing games in the marketplace. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’”(Luke 7: 31, 32)

Jesus said some very hard things.  For most of His three years of public ministry, He had an ongoing hostile dialogue with the religious leaders of His day.  Jesus spoke these metaphors in the context of the religious establishment’s criticism of John the Baptist and Himself.  They criticized John the Baptist because he was so austere and disciplined.  Their criticism of Jesus was that He was too happy and presented the image of the happy man.

In that culture, children played games in a busy marketplace.  Since they had observed weddings and funeral processions they would imitate those proceedings in their play.  They would stop busy merchants and say “We are playing funeral today.  Stop and weep with us!” Or, “We’re playing wedding today and we’re playing flutes.  Dance with us!”  Of course, the busy merchants had no time for children’s games.

Jesus turned this metaphor into one of His hard sayings when He applied this to their critical attitudes toward Him and John the Baptist.  By application, He was saying John and I have not come to play your silly little religious games.  We know our vision and our mission objectives.  We have come to revolutionize the Jewish religion.

By application, the religious and secular culture is still playing many games.  We need to have a clear vision and mission objectives that will keep us from being distracted and tempted to play the games people want us to play with them.


A Mind Blowing Prescription

May 23, 2011

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled,and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Luke 5: 37, 38)

The metaphors of Jesus were profound in their simplicity.  The people who heard them understood because He used commonplace, every day examples.  If they made the mistake of placing new or unfermented wine in an old brittle wineskin, one afternoon while taking a siesta they would hear a loud popping sound.  They would then see red wine running down the wall where they had hung the wineskin while the wine was fermenting.

Jesus used this metaphor to make a statement about responding to His teaching.  The statement was that His teaching was like the unfermented wine and the wineskin was their mind when they heard His teaching.  Just as the fermenting expanding wine put pressure on the wineskin until it exploded, His teaching would put pressure on their mind.  If  like the brittle, old wineskin their mind would not yield to the pressure of His teaching, His teaching would literally blow their mind!

A mind blowing prescription therefore would be to become an expert in the teachings of Jesus and never even consider yielding to the pressure to do what Jesus taught.  A prescription that can heal and transform our mind, however, is to study the teachings of Jesus with the intentional objective that we are going to make the values of Christ our own personal value system as we live out our life in this world by Christ, in Christ and for Christ.

Will you consider joining the millions around the world who have chosen to take that second prescription?

A Highway for God

May 15, 2011

“Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!”               .(Isaiah 40:3)

 In ancient times if a king wanted to travel to a faraway province in his kingdom they would build a highway for him.  While they were working on that project they called it “The Kings highway.” Isaiah is using that metaphor to say that God is going to travel into this world on a highway and that Highway will be the life of the Messiah.

When you build a highway you do four things: you level mountains, you fill valleys, you straighten crooked places, and you smooth out rough places.  In the life of His Son the Messiah the mountains of pride will be completely leveled, the empty valleys will be perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit all the time, the crooked ways of sin will be perfectly straightened, and He will respond to the rough places in a way that will bring glory to His Father and salvation to the world.

After spending three years 24/7with a dozen men, Jesus challenged them that in precisely the way His Father had sent Him into the world, He was sending them into the world in the same way (John 20: 21).  One of many practical applications to that challenge for them, and for us, is that our life is also to be a highway for God.

I challenge you, in fact I dare you to pray this prayer: God, make my life I highway for You!” If you do this, don’t be surprised when His spiritual bulldozers show up in your life leveling your mountains of pride and filling your emptiness with His Spirit, making straight your crooked places and smoothing out your rough places.

A Source of Anger

May 11, 2011

“So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? If you do right, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7-8)

This is the familiar biblical story of the first two brothers on the face of the earth.  We might call Abel “Mr. Acceptable” and his brother “Mr. Unacceptable” for good reason.  They had both presented an offering to God.  Because Abel was acceptable to God, his offering was acceptable.  Because Cain was not acceptable to God, his offering was unacceptable.

In response to this Cain was angry; in fact, he was so angry he beat his brother to death.  In the context of all this, God asked Cain the question,“Why are you angry?” He also asked Cain essentially, “If you get your stuff together will you not be acceptable?”  God was offering Cain a choice.  He could get right and be acceptable or he could go through life beating Abel to death -one Abel after another.

When we are angry we should always ask, “Who is the source, and the true object of my anger?” I personally believe Cain was angry with Cain because he was unacceptable.  He was transferring his self anger to his brother.  Have you ever done that?  Are you doing that now?  Are you the Abel someone else is beating to death?

Jesus provided a commentary on this story when He told hypercritical people they were like those who look for specks of sawdust in the eyes of others while they have a log sticking out of their eye (Matthew 7: 1-5).  If you are the angry person, listen to God as he questions Cain or to Jesus in these verses.  Get right and be acceptable.  Get the log out of your eye.  Don’t go through life beating Abels.

What is a Mother?

May 7, 2011

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.” (Psalm 128: 1-3)

When you meditate on this Scripture that describes the role and function of a wife and mother, you can paraphrase your observations this way: a mother is a man-maker.  She is like a fruitful vine in the very heart of her husband’s home.  To borrow a metaphor from the very beginning of the Bible, she is a completer whose passion is to see that her husband becomes all that His Creator designed him to be.

She is a people-maker because she gives him children who are like fruitful plants around his table.  Many people would like to put a period after the fourth word of this psalm and say that everyone is blessed or happy, but that is not the way the psalm reads.  The blessing on this man is because he meets conditions.  He walks in the ways of God.

The other verses of the psalm tell us that this is how God blesses and impacts the world.  He finds a blessed man, joins him to a blessed woman and gives them blessed children.  They impact Zion- which is the spiritual community- and this family unit fruitfully impacts the city and the country.

A mother is at the heart of this great strategy of God.  As such she is also a home-maker and a memory-maker.  What a great and noble calling this is.

Rise up and call your mother blessed this Sunday!

A Friend of Sinners

May 1, 2011

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  (Luke 19:5)

When Jesus came face to face with the greatest sinner in Jericho, He knew him and called him by name.  He then invited himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend.  The chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho.  He was extremely popular at this time and His walk through Jericho was like a parade with the sides of the street crowded with people who wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.

We might imagine that the religious leaders would like to have entertained Him for lunch.  To everyone’s shock and amazement Jesus declares that He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatness sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews.  And this man was the chief of the publicans and he had become very wealthy in that position.

We are told nothing of what Jesus and the publican discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they come out of the house the sinner announces that he will give half of his money to the poor.  And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has taken from people unjustly.

One scholar put an interesting spin on this story when he suggested that Zacchaeus was the publican in the previous chapter of Luke who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Do you know any sinners by name?  Are you a friend of sinners?  Do you think you should be?