Humble Mary

In the United States, we are entering the season in which we will elect a president. What this means is that for the next year and three months we will hear politicians tell us why they deserve the favor of our vote to elevate them to high office.

Before all the hubbub starts in earnest, it might be refreshing to hear another voice, the voice of Mary, the future mother of Jesus, in Luke 1:46. She so humbly said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This statement begins what many call the “Magnificat.” Let’s view it for what it really is: a hymn of thanksgiving, the object of which was a poor maiden’s desire to make God larger than herself. Continue reading “Humble Mary”

The power of forgiveness

Years ago, some men were talking after a church fellowship lunch about the news headlines. One man read about some government employees who went to jail convicted of conspiracy to defraud after filing false expense records.

The man said something that struck me in a way I’ll never forget. He said, “I hope these men get the maximum sentences for their crimes.” He didn’t stop there. “I can never forgive anyone for defrauding the government,” he said.

Recently, a Dallas jury convicted a former officer of murder in the shooting of a man. According to published reports, she said she fired because she thought a stranger was inside her apartment. During the sentencing phase of the trial, the victim’s brother said he forgave the officer and would not hold his brother’s death against her. That young man was a Christian, indeed. Continue reading “The power of forgiveness”

Make up your mind to serve Jesus

Few people think they can do great things. Perhaps that’s because humans look at their faults and weaknesses and convince themselves they cannot reach greatness.

A close friend of mine in high school wanted to become a physician. A counselor told him his grades were not good enough to enable him to get into college. Instead, he was encouraged to go into a technical school. He did, but he always thought what might have happened if he had persisted in becoming a doctor. Continue reading “Make up your mind to serve Jesus”

Assumptions

Some of the biggest mistakes people make come from assumptions. 

The people of Nazareth made assumptions about Jesus that were very wrong. When he visited his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus attended the synagogue and taught there. It was an opportunity to tell people the truth about himself and God.

As Jesus taught the hometown folks, many of them became indignant (Matthew 13:54). One said, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” That was an assumption. These people had seen Jesus all his life. They figured they knew who he was. But, oh, how little they did know! Continue reading “Assumptions”

Follow the example of love

Jesus never forced anyone to accept him or his teaching. In Matthew chapter 8, when Jesus healed two possessed men in the Gadarenes and people asked him to leave, he left.

After crossing the Sea of Galilee and arriving in Capernaum, Jesus saw a paralyzed man. The paralysis was so severe  the man was carried. The scripture tells us Jesus saw their faith, and the Master said the man’s sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2). The scribes watching this accused Jesus of blasphemy.

There is a contrast here that we should understand. Continue reading “Follow the example of love”

Keep his commandments

Commandment-keeping gets a bad reputation in the religious world.

There are those whose theology forces them to promote belief without obedience to Christ’s commands. There is a fly in this ointment. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

F.F. Bruce wrote, “Hitherto, Jesus has spoken of his love for his disciples and of their obligation to love one another; now for the first time in this Gospel he speaks of their love for him.”/1 Continue reading “Keep his commandments”

Losing your life in Christ

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the people of the United States spent $3.5 trillion, or 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product on healthcare.

Satan made a similar observation when talking to God about his servant Job when he said, “Skin for skin! Indeed, a man will give up all that he has to save his life” (Job 2:4 NET). Many people have done just that.

Jesus, however, said a person who truly loves his life would “destroy it” (John 12:25 NET). Guy N. Woods wrote, “… the Lord’s statement is paradoxical and means simply that he who appears to be little concerned about the preservation of his earthly life is really guaranteeing the permanence of his life in heaven.”/1 Continue reading “Losing your life in Christ”

Are you prepared to follow him?

Jesus had just taken five barley loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people (John 6:22ff). Imagine the power of that miracle. The people who witnessed it wanted to make Jesus their king.

Later, people were looking for Jesus and found him miles from where they thought he was. They asked him when he arrived. It was then that Jesus told them what they were seeking. They were looking for another meal.

Have you ever noticed how much emphasis some people place on food, drink, and material possessions? One would think there was nothing else for which to live. While it is true that people must attend to priorities, these people had mistakenly put their emphasis on eating. Continue reading “Are you prepared to follow him?”

Traditions or God’s law

The Jews had a tradition. They thought washing one’s hands before eating bread prevented them from being “defiled” or unclean. In the thousands of years of Israel’s history, there was not one single word of this practice in the Law of Moses or any other written word of God. It was a creation of the Pharisees.

The sect of the Pharisees started out as a group of people who were determined to keep themselves separate from sin and holy. This was a good idea, but it changed over time. Ultimately, the Pharisees were more interested in making laws than obeying them. Give people power over others and sometimes they take the law into their own hands.

By the time Jesus started his earthly ministry, the Pharisees were the power in Judea. They held office in the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. They used their considerable influence to tell people what they could or could not do. For example, they created oral traditions that would allow people to mistreat their mothers and fathers in violation of the scriptures. In doing so, the Pharisees set aside God’s law for laws they made. Continue reading “Traditions or God’s law”

Following Jesus involves a cross

Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with people it didn’t like. Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with enemies. Its gruesome nature was a part of Rome telling people they’d best behave or they might find themselves hanging from a cross one day.

Jesus had a discussion with his disciples that put the figure of the cross front and center. In Luke 9, Jesus told the men following him that if they were his disciples, they must deny self and take up a cross. The condemned was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution. The figure is clear. Continue reading “Following Jesus involves a cross”