Posts filed under: Life

I am no musician. I do have a guitar that I attempt to strum a little now and then. One thing that has always been a regular routine is that when I take the guitar out of its case and before I start playing it, I have to tune it up.

It is interesting that no matter if you play the notes or chords correctly or if you have the correct rhythm, if the instrument is not in tune, then it doesn’t sound right… it is just noise that irritates.

I think Paul said it this way:

If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 CSB)

Not only do our instruments need tuning, but our lives do as well. Check out this song by Austin Stone Worship, and may it help you tune your life to the proper “key” today in order to be the disciple of Jesus that we should.

One of the things that I love about studying Jesus’ ministry is the way that He would teach. Many times He would use parables to illustrate truths in a way that anyone could understand. This was so helpful to bring the truth of God in a way that anyone who heard it – religious or irreligious, royal or common, literate or illiterate – could get the most out of it.

In Matthew 21, as Jesus is talking with the chief priests and elders of the city, He shares a parable to illustrate a very important point.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’ “He answered, ‘I don’t want to’ but later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:28-31‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

Jesus tells this parable of two sons and their response to their father’s instructions to illustrate how true believers in Christ are to do.  It is interesting to me that the request was the exact same from the father towards each of his sons: “go into the vineyard and work.”  The difference came in the way that each fully responded to the father.

The first son that was approached by the father was the one who told his father, “NO!” (Matthew 21:29)  This son may have better things to do.  He may have not liked the request because it didn’t fit into the plans and directions that he had for his life.  In fact, the CSB translates this son’s response as “I don’t want to…”  Whatever the case was, this son was not happy with the father’s request and initially turns it down to go about his own way.

The second son is approached by the father with the same request.  This son’s response seems a more like what you would expect.  It was one of politeness… it was one of respect.  This son replies, “I will, sir.”  I think adding the sir on the end was a nice touch.  When one has manners like this, they have to be the hero in this story, right?

As Jesus concludes His parable, the reader/listener does not have to wait long to see what He is trying to teach here.  The issue is not so much what we say, but it is all about what do we do.  If you look closely, you see that the first son (“I don’t wanna”) actually has a change of heart and makes his way out to the vineyards.  The second son (“I will, sir”) turns from his father and goes on about his merry way never giving the vineyards a second thought.  He had no intentions of doing what his father had asked of him.  He just wanted to say the right things.

Jesus finishes this parable with a question: “Which of the two did the father’s will?” (Matthew 21:31)  The chief priests and elders of the community answered, “the first son” (the one who actually did what the father told him to).  This was the correct answer, but Jesus shared that in a very interesting manner.

Jesus warned these leaders that He was talking with that tax collectors and prostitutes were getting into the Kingdom of God before they would.  It is important to remember that this conversation was taking place in the temple.  It could be safely assumed that the conversation was being watched and listened to by many bystanders.  What do you imagine was the reaction was when everyone heard Jesus say that tax collectors and prostitutes (some who were seen as the worst of the worst) were getting into God’s kingdom before the chief priests and people of great respect and honor?

How could Jesus say such a thing?  The reason He could say this is because it was the truth.  These “sinners” that Jesus spoke of were the ones that were hearing the message of the Father and though there were times in the their lives where they had told God “NO!”, they had felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were turning to God in faith and repentance.  The priests and elders were talking a good game and looking good on the surface, but their professions were empty.

Jesus shows that when it comes to following God and being His people, it is much more than just some words that we recite in a prayer one time with a preacher at an altar… it is about faithful action day in and day out.  It’s like the prophet Samuel tried to warn King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice”.

What is it that God has said for you to do – things you may have even said “I will, sir” to – but you have not gotten around to actually doing it yet? The one that pleases the Father is the one who actually obeys.

The news story was one that no one wanted to hear. Police had been called to a house to investigate a 911 call. It appeared to be a murder-suicide tragedy. 

Sadness creeps in…

Then you find out that the victims in this story were an elderly couple. 

Sadness grows deeper…

If the news that this tragic event involves an elderly couple was not enough, it is released that this couple was identified by neighbors as a retired pastor from the area. 

That’s just too much…

I wish that I could say that the scene that I have just discribed was fictional and completely made up. The truth is that this is a news story that has impacted an area close to where we live within the past week. 

Alongside the sadness that this story brings stands a gigantic question: What led to this?

The part of this news story that has got my stomach in knots is that the apparent reason behind this murder-suicide is that “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.”

Read that again… “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.” 

My wife and I have recently been talking about the biblical mandate of community among the Body of Christ. If there is one thing that has been struggling in many churches, it is the practice of biblical community. 

This tragic news story should be an alarm for all churches: we desperately need community! 

I know that we have busy schedules. I am as guilty as anyone of putting too much on my plate. This does not excuse us from doing what we have been commanded by our Lord to do: 

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34-35 CSB)

Jesus was not talking to the masses when he spoke those words. He was speaking to his disciples. The way they cared for and loved one another would be one of the greatest witnessing tools the Church would have. It would be an undeniable characteristic of those who belong to Jesus. 

This whole thing has brought three prayers to my mind:

  • I pray that this story is an anomaly. I pray that this is not one of many stories that show that the Church is not doing as well with “community/fellowship” as we thought we were. 
  • I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort the family at this time and bring healing. Can’t imagine the pain they are going through at this time. 
  • I pray the Church would not be blind to the desperate need of community. May we not be fooled into thinking that meeting one-two hours on a Sunday morning constitutes community. It didn’t work for the Church in the first century, and it will not work in the 21st century. 

 

Faithful is a word that seems to be a buzz word today.  It seems so hard to find a true manifestation of this word in our world today.  When you do come across something that meets the criteria to be called faithful, then you need to make note of it.

I was reading in the Bible recently about how God had used a man named Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Joshua took over for “the man,” Moses.  These people had been delivered from a life of slavery and mistreatment that lasted for generations.  The journey from slavery to the Promised Land was not an easy one.  It lasted for an entire generation because of unfaithfulness and distrust of the people in God’s word.

In Joshua 21, we see that the Israelites did not wander forever.  God brought them into the Promised Land as He said that He would.

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all he had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them. None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.

Joshua 21:43-45  CSB

For the casual reader, this may seem to be just a neat way of ending up that section of the Israelites moving in to the Promised Land.  If you look closely though, you will see that there is much more in those verses than just a summation of what happened.

The LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers…  The LORD did not generalize on the promises that He gave his people.  The Bible tells us here that the LORD gave all the land He had sworn.  He didn’t give part… He didn’t give most… He gave all.  This seems to be a pattern with God.

The LORD gave them rest on every side according to all he had sworn to their fathers.  The LORD once again kept His word by giving them peace on every side.  This was a peace that covered all borders.  This was a peace that was promised to a people that had not known peace in centuries.

None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed.  Everything was fulfilled.  Read that last line again… everything was fulfilled.  That means that nothing was left undone.  There were no loose ends.  There was no halftime here.  God kept His word fully and proved Himself faithful.

Now I imagine – and it doesn’t take much imagination when you read the accounts – that the people wanted to see God’s “faithfulness” a little sooner than it came about.  The truth is that God’s timing – especially in context of His faithfulness – is perfect. God is never late, but He is never early either.  God always comes through and proves Himself faithful.

What is it in your life that you are looking for God’s faithfulness about?  

I cannot think of a better song for today.