Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jesus’ Second Temptation

Matthew 4:5 – 7 (NIV) 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  
 
This is Jesus’ second temptation in the desert. It occurs early in his ministry, just after his baptism. Often we are tempted the most severely when we are vulnerable. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and would undoubtedly have been starving and exhausted. This is one reason why it is important for us to take care of ourselves and get plenty of rest. It also happened after a spiritual high – his baptism. The devil is known to come after us after a spiritual high, so just be warned. 
    This second temptation has always been the most intriguing to me. The first and third temptations are pretty straight forward – to use his supernatural powers to turn stones into bread – or for anything else he ever wanted; and to rule over the world in power and luxury as a political ruler. But the second temptation is a bit more tricky. Why would he be tempted to jump off of the temple? 
    Malachi 3:1 says that the Messiah would “suddenly” appear in the temple. If Jesus had dropped down “from heaven” into the temple courts, safely landing on the cobblestones, he probably would have been declared the Messiah on the spot. He could have avoided the grueling three-year ministry he was about to endure. He would cut short his mission and God’s plan and gotten it all over with. Satan was probably hoping he would jump off and hit the pavement and he would have been done with him. This may have simply been a trap. (Jesus did appear in the temple when the time was right – but he just walked in.) 
     Jesus explained to the devil that we are not to put God to the test. We are not to act recklessly or foolishly and expect God to bail us out. That’s just not fair. If I choose to jump off of a building, he would probably let me hit the ground. Psalm 91, that Satan quoted, means God protects us as we live our lives, not as we act foolishly.
    Jesus defeated Satan’s temptations with Scripture. This is how we defeat temptation too. We know the Word. The Word gives us the power to be victorious.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The King’s Wedding Banquet

Matthew 22: 8 – 14: 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    This is a remarkable parable. Jesus told it during his last week of ministry in Jerusalem. His hearers were mostly Jewish, and had mostly rejected his invitation to God’s Kingdom. Earlier in the parable, those who were invited to the banquet rejected the King’s invitation. Some were just too busy and some were even hostile, mistreating and killing the messengers.
    It would have been inconceivable to be too busy to attend a king’s banquet. It would have been the best meal anyone would get to eat in their whole lives. To simply be too busy would have been more than foolish. But the truth is, we are often simply too busy for God. And the idea of mistreating the messengers would have been shocking, but that is exactly what we have seen throughout history.
    So the king sends his servants out to invite everyone, the good and the bad. Jesus was explaining that God’s invitation is open to everyone, even the Gentiles. God loves the whole world. His offer for salvation is open to all. All we have to do is accept his generous invitation.
    But, then the parable takes this sharp, and perhaps unexpected, turn. The king is walking among his guests and sees a man who is not wearing “wedding clothes.” So he has his attendants tie him, hand and foot, and throw him out into the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
    What gives? In Jesus’ culture, the king would have provided the wedding clothes. Remember, these are people off the street. Jesus is warning us that we must be clothed in righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) if we are going to be allowed into God’s holy presence. He will clothe us if we will simply trust him. Most people will refuse to do this. Most will try to enter heaven thinking they are good enough on their own. Jesus says no, many are invited, but few are chosen.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Esther – For Such a Time as This

Esther 4:10 – 16 (NIV): 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

    Esther is a great story in the history section of the Old Testament. It took place about 473 BC in Persia. I don’t have room to tell the whole story, but it is a wonderful example of God orchestrating his will in what seemed like a terrible and hopeless circumstance.
    Esther was a Jewish orphan girl living in a foreign land. Her people were conquered and she lived with her uncle, Mordecai. But God had given her a special gift: unusual beauty. The king, Xerxes, had banished his queen, Vashti, and searched the kingdom for her replacement. When he laid eyes on Esther, he was smitten. She became his queen.
    In the meantime, a man named Haman rose to power under Xerxes. He hated Mordecai because Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him. He not only wanted to kill Mordecai, but all the Jewish people. He talked Xerxes into allowing the Persian people to murder them all and plunder their belongings.
    I want you to read the book for yourself to see what happens, but in Esther 4:14 we find, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Mordecai told this to Esther to convince her to approach the king and ask for mercy on the Jewish people. He realized that God had placed Esther where she was so that she was in position to help.
    God places us where we are for a reason. He has a purpose for each of us. Our jobs, our families, our friends, our schools, our health situations. He has placed us where we are so we can minister to others and glorify God. Be brave, like Esther, and trust in God to keep his word and be faithful to us. God has placed you right where you are for such a time as this.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

God is Doing a New Thing

Isaiah 43: 16-19 (NIV): 16 This is what the LORD says-- he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

    So long as we’re dwelling in the past, we are not pressing toward the future. Satan wants to accuse us of our sins in the past. He wants to remind us of how flawed we are. He wants us to dwell on last year’s pain so he can undermine our faith.
    God wants us to forget the former things because that is the only way to live in the present and see what new thing he is up to.
    Even past victories are behind us now. In this passage, God reminds Israel that he brought them safely out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, but he told them not to dwell on former victories – he had new victories for them to experience. God is doing a new thing. God is not finished with us and he is not finished with his plans for mankind.
    And things may look bleak. We may feel like we are living in the desert, but he is making a way though, and he is providing streams of water to refresh us in what seems like a wasteland. When we dwell on the past, we get discouraged. We remember our failures and pain. God wants us to press forward.
    What new thing does God want to do in your life this year? Maybe he wants to take you deeper in your love for him. Maybe he wants you to pray with more faith than you ever had before. Maybe he wants you to grow in maturity as you become more and more like Christ. Maybe he wants to bless you in ways you never imagined, but do you have the faith to receive his goodness? Are you being obedient so you can place yourself in position to experience what God is doing?
    The past is behind us but God is doing a new thing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Elisha’s Bones

2 Kings 13: 20-21 (NIV): 20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

    Elisha was a prophet in Israel after David and Solomon, about 800 years before Jesus. This incredible miracle happened a year or so after Elisha died. Some poor guy had died and was about to be buried in a tomb when Moabite raiders came over the hill. The men conducting his funeral were too frightened to continue a proper burial and funeral, so they just threw his body onto the bones of Elisha. When they did, he came back to life! Can you imagine everyone’s surprise?
    Back then, people were buried in caves that had a shelf hewn out of the rock. The deceased would lie on the shelf until he turned to bones; they would then take the bones and place them in an ossuary and reuse the tomb. Elisha’s tomb must have been nearby, so they just threw the corpse in there to escape the raiders.
    I want us to notice that God continued to use Elisha even after he was gone. That’s the legacy I want too. I want God to continue to bless people through my children, family, and circle of influence. I want my life to be a blessing now and after I am gone. What legacy will you leave behind?
   The second point is that God could use Elisha, even when Elisha was at his weakest. God can always use us. The supernatural power that raised the man to life belonged to God, not Elisha. God has placed each of us where we are to be used of him to be a blessing to others. You may not think God can use you, but I can assure you, if he could use a man who was dead and gone, he can use you, no matter your circumstance. In fact, God can use us more when we are humble and realize that we are nothing without him.
    And don’t miss this: God loves to turn around a bad day. It couldn’t have been any worse for the dead man in this passage. He was dead and his funeral was ruined by marauding Moabites. But as soon as his body hit Elisha’s bones, he came back to life. God is always up to something good and you never know how he might take an awful situation and turn it into something unbelievable. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jesus, The Master of Circumstances

John 9: 1 – 7 (NIV): 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7 "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

   Often, we assume God is punishing us for some sin when we suffer. We think Karma rules our lives. Something bad happens to someone and we think, “Wow, he must have done something really bad to cause that to happen to him.” Jesus tells us in this Scripture this is simply not true. It is true that we bring bad results on ourselves by the choices we make, but we must not think that God is punishing us every time something bad happens.
    In this account, Jesus said the man was born blind so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. Jesus showed his power by healing him for all to see. And not only that, he was saved by Jesus (vs 28). If he had not been blind he might not have been saved. A few years of suffering is worth eternity in heaven. What we must remember is that God is always up to something good. We may not understand it at the time, but we must trust that God is in control and knows what he is doing.
    Sometimes this is really hard to do, but that is what faith is all about. Why did Jesus make mud out of spit and put it on his eyes? Why didn’t he just say, “be healed?” I don’t know! Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we just simply do not always understand why God does what he does. Maybe Jesus wanted the man to do something himself to see if he had faith. Maybe Jesus wanted more people involved. After all, someone had to take the blind man to the Pool of Siloam.
    No matter what happens, God is Sovereign and in control. Jesus is the Master of Circumstances.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Heavens Declare God’s Glory

Psalm 19: 1 -4a (NIV): 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

The majesty of nature tells us there is a God. His creation proves that he exists and that he is powerful and creative. David, who wrote this Psalm, would lie out under the stars at night, and would see the sun on its course each day. He could see that something – or someone – big must have created all of this.
    We know more now than we did in David’s day about the cosmos. We know that the stars we can see with the naked eye are only the stars that belong to our galaxy, and there may be billions of galaxies. It boggles the mind. But amazingly, the more we discover, the bigger God gets. The more we discover, the more we realize that the universe must have had a creator.  The laws of physics continue to astound and mystify us. The heavens declare the glory or God.
    And everyone can see it. Some choose not to. Some refuse to believe in God, but everyone can see the sky, and the sky tells us there is a God. It doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak, you know from looking up that there is a creator. (And yes, Helen Keller knew that God existed even though she couldn’t see or hear!) Paul says no one has the excuse of not believing in God because everyone can see and feel and hear and taste the handiwork of his creation (Romans 1:20).
    Psalm 14 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” And why would someone deny that God exists with all this evidence around us? Because their hearts are sinful and they don’t want God or anyone else telling them how to live their lives.
    David goes on to say in this Psalm that God’s Word is perfect and will make us wise and give us joy. God’s laws are more precious than gold and sweeter than honey, he says. He realizes that he is a sinner but asks God to keep him from temptation. Then he says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”