Archive for February, 2016

Matthew 21:23-27

Religious Leaders Challenge Jesus’ Authority

 

The political arena for the past few years is full of politicians who speak but say nothing. You see it all the time from them in debates or when asked questions in passing by reporters. Politicians today are often so afraid of not winning elections or so afraid of not losing their jobs that they speak in generalities and say nothing. Or they avoid the question asked altogether and go off on a tirade of their choosing that has nothing to do with the question being asked. It’s even true of certain what I would call shock-jock candidates for president. They are here to tell you what they are against but have nothing to offer about what they are for. When penned down for a position that speak out of both sides of their mouth. For example, recently, a presidential candidate was asked about a previous comment where he said publicly that he would remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian issue and try to broker a deal, since he is famous for making deals. At the same time of claiming neutrality, he said that he was pro-Israel. In the same sentence, he conflicted himself. How can you be pro-Israel and remain neutral on the Palestinian issue. Wow, what little respect I had for that candidate, and it was very little to begin with, was lost at that moment. It is the spin that matters in today’s politics. As long as you can keep your polling numbers up, you can contradict yourself all you want. American politics is no longer about who is best for the job but rather who has the best quips and sound bites. Carefully crafted personas have taken the place of men of conviction and substance. And, we, Americans are too stupid to realize it. We are about to elect either a bafoonish clown or a borderline socialist as President because we care more about image than we do about what’s best for our country. Tomorrow, on Super Tuesday, we will find out if style or substance wins. In this passage, today, we see religious leaders acting like politicians today. Here, we see the religious authorities trying to trap Jesus into saying something that would be blasphemous and thereby discredit him in the public arena of the Temple. When Jesus turns the tables on them, they go into politician mode to try to preserve themselves:

 

 

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

 

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

 

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

 

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

 

 

This group of religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. They wanted to discredit Him at the least or gain evidence to have Him arrested at the best. It would be comparable to candidates in election years today trying to dig up dirt from the past of another candidate and use it to discredit them. That’s the kind of thing these religious leaders were up to. They wanted to get rid of Jesus so they tried to trap Him with a question. If Jesus would have answered that His authority came from God or if He stated openly that He was the Messiah and the Son of God, they would have accused Him of blasphemy and had Him arrested right there on the spot and bring Him to trial. Jesus would have none of their games. Instead, He turned the question on them. As we can see, they consulted among themselves because they would have contradicted themselves if they had said that John the Baptist’s authority to baptize came from heaven, it would have looked bad for them because they sat idly by as he rotted in prison before He was beheaded. They did nothing to help John. So, if they said his authority came from heaven, they would have indicted themselves for allowing a prophet of God to be killed without even as much as lifting a finger to save him. If they had answered that his authority had come from within himself or had been bestowed on him from religious authorities then that would have inflamed the crowd because to the common Israelite, John the Baptist was a great and ultimately martyred prophet, a true man of God. By saying this too, they would have said that they were the ones that gave him his authority but yet they did nothing to save him. Jesus skillfully turned the tables on the religious leaders and put the hot potato in their court. They ultimately decided to say nothing by saying they did not know because they were more concerned about their polling numbers. Today, they would not have said directly that they did not know but rather would have spent about 1,000 words to say the same thing without saying anything. Kind of like Sheldon Cooper saying to Amy that “I would not be opposed to us not characterizing you as ‘not my girlfriend’”

 

So, what is it exactly that we can learn from this passage that we can use in our daily lives in the 21st century? I think that one point that we can take away from this is that there are those who are always going to want proof that Jesus is the Messiah. Although people the world over acknowledge collectively that Jesus existed, only a percentage of the world’s population believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is truly God in the flesh. Many find it difficult to believe that a Supreme Being would break into human history and live among us. First, that would involve admitting there is a God. By admitting that there is a God, they would be admitting that we are not in control of our own lives and that there is a higher authority to answer to. That’s why the big bang theory appeals to them because the randomness of the beginning of the universe eliminates the need for God. If there was no intelligent designer to the universe then there is no God and there is no need to live any differently than I choose to live. If they make Jesus not God too it means He was just a man. If He was just a man, we can choose whether to believe Him or not. If He is just a man and not God himself, Jesus becomes an option. When Jesus becomes an option then we can pick and choose what we want to believe of what He said and what we want to believe about Him. There will be those who will not choose to have the faith that Jesus is the Messiah until they see Jesus coming in the clouds to a loud trumpet sound. That will be their proof but it will be too late. Even if Jesus does not come in the clouds during our lifetime, we do have to answer the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah before we die. It takes faith to believe in that which you cannot see. I can prove historically that Jesus existed but it takes faith to believe that He is God in the flesh and that He dwelt among us and that He died for our sins on the cross and that He arose from the dead to give us victory over sin and death. It takes faith to see Jesus as the Messiah!

 

Which is it that you are more concerned with – this life or eternity? This life is very short compared to eternity and even the atheist struggles with what happens after death. We are wired by our Creator to think that there is something after death. Every religion and even self-made belief systems see that there is some reward or punishment at the end of this game called temporal life. Even an atheist desires that there be something good that comes from our existence. We are wired to believe in eternity after death. Then if there is an eternity that awaits us, then, we have to take a position on Jesus. He claims to be God in the flesh. He claims to have broken into human history to reconcile you to God by dying on the cross for every sin you have committed and as a result have been separated from the positive eternity that comes in the presence of God. It takes faith to see Jesus as the Messiah, as the real deal, as the One we must believe in to spend eternity with God in heaven. Have the trappings of this life so enamored you that cannot see the Messiah? Are you so convinced that you are the determiner of your own destiny that you ignore the wiring in your soul? You were made to believe that something comes after this? Don’t let the trappings of this life blind you to the eternal? Don’t let this life and its temporary realities blind you to your eternal need for a Savior named Jesus Christ, the Messiah!

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:18-21 (Part 2)

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

 

Yesterday, we talked about the fruits of the spirit and genuine Christianity. Today, let us see where that can lead as we look specifically at the last two verses of this passage. The passage reminds me of football practices when I was a teenager and younger. Those summer football practices were brutal. Back in those days, we did not have the concerns about people getting too hot and about heat stroke and such. Coaches would just push hard, really hard. Wind sprints. Six inches. More wind sprints. The exercises at the beginning and ending of practice were dreaded. The actual football practice where we would run plays and work on stuff for the games was easy compared to that. There were days when you thought you were going to die. Lungs heaving for air as if we were on a planet with little or no atmosphere. Thirst like a man crawling through the Sahara and finding an oasis. But at the end of the day, and practice was over. We realized that we had survived for another day. There was satisfaction walking about to the locker room with sore muscles and finally being able to breath normally again knowing that you had done what you thought earlier that was not possible. That you would survive the practice. When you lungs ache and convulse because of wind sprints and the coach yelling at you for being too slow, you don’t think you are going to make it. But now at the tail end of practice, you are walking back to the locker to get back into your street clothes, and there is this sense of satisfaction that overwhelms you. You did it. You made it through. Well, Jesus speaks to having the faith to do what seems impossible in this passage. Let’s read the passage once again:

 

18 Early in the morning as he was on his way back into the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

 

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

 

21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

 

 

Jesus was a master storyteller. He was able to take current situations that were well-known to His first century listeners and weave universal truth about faith and the kingdom of God into them. He would take these grand concepts and make them understandable to his listeners by using illustrations that they understood. In vv. 20-22, we 21st century readers might not catch the illustration about moving mountains but the disciples sure would have. Where they were at the time of this passage, they could see the palace built by Herod the Great.

 

Herod the Great is best known to us for his attempt to assassinate the newborn Messiah, and while it was true he was brutal and paranoid and his reign was filled with murders of his rivals, he was also a genius builder. He was responsible for an astounding man-made harbor at Caesarea Maritima, the mind-boggling desert fortress of Masada, and the magnificent Temple mount. Around 37 BC, his sights turned to the desert for a building site once again. He wanted to build a fortress palace there that could be seen from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas so that the Jews never forgot he was always watching. He also wanted to be sure it was the absolutely tallest thing in the surrounding landscape. So, he narrowed his building site down to two hills (small mountains) which were near each other. Then, he simply used forced labor to pare the top off one to add to the top of the other to make it bigger. One pail full of dirt and rocks at a time. He literally moved a mountain. Then, he built a luxurious conical fortress on top of his new lofty perch. There was a swimming pool at the foot of his desert palace which was large enough to sail small boats. If you go to the ruins today, you can gaze in wonder at the domed ceiling of his bath house. Herod loved this home so much he left orders to be buried there. He named the palace after himself, of course. He called it Herodium. Many of Herod’s contemporaries said it could not be done. But he did it. He literally moved a mountain, but it was a painstaking and long process. It was years of hard work and planning involved. Jesus was saying that if we have faith we could make the mountain jump into the see with far less effort. Jesus spoke in hyperbole a lot to grab people’s attention so that He could make a point about the kingdom of heaven that they would remember.

 

Jesus used this illustration with reference to Herod’s literal moving of a mountain to illustrate what a life of genuine faith can lead to. Jesus was not speaking about faith in faith or faith in oneself, both of which foolish and unscriptural ideas are popular today. He was speaking about faith in the true God and in God alone, not faith in one’s dreams, aspirations, or ideas of what he thinks ought to be. “You ask and do not receive,” James warns, “because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). “This is the confidence which we have before Him,” John says, “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Mountain-moving faith is unselfish, undoubting, and unqualified confidence in God. It is believing in God’s truth and God’s power while seeking to do God’s will.

 

Genuine faith leads to the fruits of the Spirit as we said yesterday, but it also leads to humble and full dependence on God. We actually desire what He desires. We look at the world through His eyes. A genuine Christian wants what God wants. Seeks to know what God wants. A genuine Christian is all-in all the time. A genuine Christian obeys God. A genuine Christian obeys God’s Word not because we are robots but rather because we love our Lord God! We trust Him completely. We know that He will provide for us and keep and we know that even if we die seeking what He seeks that we will go to a far better place.

 

Think about that kind of faith. What if we had that kind of faith where we believe that when it’s our time to go it is because God willed it and He will take us to a far better place. What if we lived our lives like we were going to heaven rather than fearing death? How much change could we wrought in a dying and sin-filled world if we were less worried about preservation of our lives and keeping our stuff and more worried about pleasing God and doing His will. How much could we do? Nothing would be impossible to solve if genuine Christians had the faith that could move mountains. How much fruit could we bear if we had an ever-growing and ever-increasing faith in the power of God and an ever-increasing belief that we are going to a far better place than this. What abandon could we live our lives with if we acting as if what was coming next was actually far better than this plain of existence that we know. How many social ills could we address such as poverty, sex trafficking, slavery, oppression, and so on if we lived with abandon having full faith that God will deliver us to a higher place even if it is death. Can’t we regain the abandon of the first century Christians. The thought telling people of this Jesus Christ was more important than their earthly comforts and were willing to do anything to serve the Lord because at the end of the road heaven awaited. What if we lived like heaven was real? I know we talk about it but do we have the faith in that we are willing to do anything to serve the Lord? How real is your heaven? How much do you trust the Lord? Do you trust that with God anything is possible even the impossible?

 

That’s the kind of faith that I want to have. I want to be that guys who lives with just this wild and unbounding faith in God. Let’s take the limits off our faith. If we are in love with God, we are going to want what He wants. If we are in love with God, we are going to exhibit godly fruit. If we are in love with God, we are going to care about the things He cares about. We will be moved to move mountains. He will call us to do that which we think is impossible. He will call us to do things that only true faith in Him will allow us to do. He will teach us true faith where we know that it was only through Him that we accomplished the mountain moving. That’s the place I wanna be. Having so much faith in Him that I am seen as crazy in my faith. Believing that God can do the impossible. Believing that I can trust that my eternal home is far better than this so it sets me on fire to change this world even if it cost me my life. That’s the kind of faith that I want to have as I continue to grow and mature in Christ. Don’t you?

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:18-21 (Part 1)

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

 

Well, yesterday, I was moved to step into the political frey and much of the commentary of the frontrunner in the Republican Party’s presidential sweepstakes is the fact that the show is good, the advertisement is good, but when you look closely there is nothing. It kind of reminds you of when a college football team starts out the year highly ranked because they “appear” to have what it takes to win the national championship. However, often times, college football teams coming into a football season are judged through the bias of their performance of the previous season. However, it has been proven over and over again that each year each team is different. You cannot judge with full reliability of how a team will be one year based on the previous year. Sometimes, key personnel losses are bigger than you think. Sometimes, talented freshmen do not pan out to be what was expected of them. Sometimes, returning players do not have the same kind of season this year that they had last year. Sometimes, key injuries play a bigger role than expected. Sometimes, with the graduation of team leaders, a team may well be as talented or more talented than the previous year but there is no chemistry on the team because of poor senior leadership. Preseason rankings to me are meaningless in this light. Over the years, I have seen teams ranked highly in preseason that are out of the rankings within a month because when a new season starts you can no longer rely on your pedigree or your past, you must win the one-on-one battles on the field. The football field separates preseason hype from the reality of whether a team has what it takes to win the national championship. Sometimes, a team that no one expected comes out of nowhere to win the national championship. At Clemson, we fondly remember that kind of team in the 1981 season. This was an unranked team in the beginning of the season that ultimately became the champion by season’s end. That team had great defense that would absolutely dominate games and a bruising running game on offense and just enough flash in the passing game to get by. It was a team with great chemistry and the reality of their performance belied the fact that no one gave them a chance to win the title at the beginning of the season. The proof of the mettle of a team is played out on the field not in their preseason hype or the lack thereof. That kind of thought of the proof’s in the pudding is what I think of when I read this passage.

 

There are two blogs that come out of this passage. Today, we will concentrate on this concept of proof and tomorrow we will talk about how the reality of our faith can lead us to achieve great things for the kingdom. But for now, let’s concentrate on vv. 18-19 of this passage and we will look specifically at vv. 20-21 tomorrow:

 

18 Early in the morning as he was on his way back into the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

 

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

 

21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you as for in prayer.”

 

 

Jesus was traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem, less than a mile, and came upon a fig tree. He was hungry and so hoping to find some figs on the tree. A simple incident! But there was no fruit on the tree and so Jesus cursed the tree.

 

According to Allen Ross, in his exposition of this passage at www.bible.org., “It was a little early in the year for the harvest of figs, since this occurred during the holy week, which in 33 A.D. was the last week of March. But Mark tells us that there were leaves on the tree, and fig trees produce leaves and figs about the same time–this was early growth. The early figs are edible, but not as good as the figs that are harvested in June. The point is that the presence of leaves indicates there should be fruit. When Matthew says that he found only leaves, the readers would have known there should have been figs. If this had taken place at the normal time of figs, Jesus could have simply gone to another fig tree. But this was an unusual early growth, and as Jesus was hungry, expected he could pick some fruit from it.”

 

The irony here was not lost on the readers of Matthew’s gospel. They understood the seasons of Palestine. They understood that by late March fig trees should be just beginning to bear fruit. The leaves would be coming out and the fruit starting to grow not far behind. Jesus’ condemnation of the tree was not because the tree fooled him. He is God in the flesh after all. He condemned the tree as a symbolic action. A parable in action right in front of the disciples. Jesus condemned the tree because it was all for show. Its leaves advertised one thing but the reality of the tree has that there was no fruit. What Jesus intended by this parable in real life was that those who make a show of being religious but in fact are spiritually barren will be cursed. In this context it would apply directly to Israel. Israel had failed to be God’s ambassadors to the world. They would be scattered and withered for their not living up to God’s expectations of them. For us as Christ followers, it applies to us throughout all generations.

 

How much fruit do you and I bear in our lives? Do we advertise with the leaves of piety but there is nothing there when you look closely? Galatians 5:6, 22-26 echoes out this real time parable of Jesus. Paul says, in Galatians 5:6b that “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” And in vv. 22-26 he goes to say,

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

 

These are the evidences of our salvation and our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we are genuinely Christian – those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and made Him the Lord of their lives – and not just for show, we will exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are genuinely Christian, we seek forgiveness from our God daily and live lives of thanksgiving for saving us from what we know as an eternity separated from God. Genuine Christians know that one sin, just one sin permanently mars us in God’s eye. We know that no matter how much we try to be good just one sin separates us permanently from God forever, not to mention the lifetime of committing sins that we do on a daily basis. We are prisoners condemned to the electric chair with nothing that we can do or say to prevent it….and then Jesus comes along! His death on the cross was not just some random killing of a political revolutionary. It was Him dying on the cross to finish out the Old Testament sacrificial system. He on the cross, as part of God’s redemptive plan, accepted God’s wrath for all the sins of mankind for all time. God poured out it on Him. He suffered the punishment we deserve. He took our place. As a result, when we believe that He is the Son of God, really believe it, we are set free from our death sentence before the righteous Judge. How can you not exhibit soulful joy when you know what you are really, and what you deserve, but yet have been made new and clean before God through Jesus’ death on the cross. Through His resurrection too we have soulful joy knowing that through Jesus we have conquered sin and we have everlasting hope of spending eternity with Jesus. That is the genuine joy of our salvation. How can you not exhibit love to others, basic joy in all situations, willingness to forgive others, willingness to be kind for no other reason than to give glory to our Savior who saved us. Genuine followers of Christ have joy that spills out of their life to the point that they want others to know the same joy of salvation. Our fig trees will by the nature of our salvation and the joy it brings will bring forth fruit and live lives that give glory to God for what He has done in Jesus. Just as the reality of the championship caliber of a football team is played out on the field during the season and not in the preseason rankings, so is our life as a genuine Christ follower. We can say we are Christian very easily but the proof is in the pudding. We can say we are Christians very easily but the litmus test of our faith is fruits of our fig trees. We can say we are Christians very easily but just like preseason ranking for college football teams are nice and all but they are meaningless without playing the games during the season for that is where the truth comes out about the championship caliber of a team. Our life is our season on the football field. Our life is evidence of the changing power of salvation. How is your fig tree? Does it bear fruit? Are you worth your preseason ranking?

 

Dear Father in heaven, let my life be a testament to the cleansing grace of Jesus Christ and the pure joy that I know in my salvation. May I exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in my daily life. May you convict me of the things that I need to change to be more like Jesus. May my life be one that speaks of you. May my life be one that draws people into the same joy of salvation that I know. Amen and Amen.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where something bad is about to happen to you or to someone you know, love, and/or care about? It’s usually where you or someone you care about is about to be attacked by a monster, a killer, you know. You start to scream as you attempt to get the words out with all your might no sound comes out or it’s just a grunt! You know those dreams! We have all had them. That’s the analogy that has repeatedly played out in my mind over the past several weeks and particularly since the South Carolina Republican Primary last weekend. I want to scream but the words can’t be heard. That gutteral sounds of a bad dream where you want to shout and scream but nothing comes out. That’s where I am right now…

As many of you know, I try my best not to step into controversial subjects on social media and typically withhold my response to things until I have prayed about it thoroughly and have soul searched endlessly. For it is my intent when I blog on my blog page or post on Facebook not to create situations that would prevent me from sharing the gospel in the way that God has gifted me which is in my writing. The ultimate goal of my writing is to bring people closer to Christ not drive them away. Yet, at the same time, I never desire to water down the Christian faith just to match what the culture is thinking. It is a fine line. It is a tight rope.

However, like with the redefinition of marriage by the Supreme Court or with the shootings in Charleston, I felt compelled to write and write in a way that reveals gospel truth. Today is one of those times where I feel compelled to speak with my writing. It is one of those things where you don’t want to write but God moves your heart in such a way that you cannot be comfortable unless you do. Today, I must speak. I cannot keep silent any longer and I have grieved over this for the last 24 hours since the final debate of the Republican candidates last night. I must speak and will not be comfortable until I get this out.

I may anger some with this statement but Donald Trump cannot win the Republican nomination. Plain and simple. There, I have said it out loud. Not just the gutteral sounds of a bad dream. It was not long ago some friends of mine went to McAdenville, NC to see the Christmas lights. One of the group saw a kid out in the cold weather with no pants on running around one of the decorated yards of that town known regionally for decorating itself in amazing ways for Christmas. This particular night in the schizophrenic weather of the Piedmont of North and South Carolina during the winter was on its bad behavior and it was brutally cold. As my friends drove by this house, one of my more sensitive friends saw this kid running around the yard of this house in the cold night with no pants just a t-shirt and his superhero underpants. She was trying to get the words out to everyone else in the car. But in the emergency of the moment, the only words that would quickly come out was a scream of “Paaaaannnnttts!” That’s how I feel about this mass hysteria that seems to be enamoring our fellow Republicans and the nation in general with Donald Trump. I want to scream but all that is coming out is “paaaaannnnnnttttsssss!” This man cannot win the nomination. I am not saying that he does not have the sway of public opinion and does not have the votes to win the nomination. He does and he probably will. But for the health of our nation and the future of our nation, he cannot win. I beg you to pray incessantly that he does not.

First off, he is style and no substance. Repeatedly, last night he was pressed on issues of importance to our nation. And, he would not give a position. He simply panders to that which is popular. His positions are predicated by that which will bring him the “ratings” that he covets.  He even said as much in the debate last night. He said the reason that CNN had him there was for the ratings. He is Bill Clinton on steroids. A Trump nomination and a Trump presidency will be saying one thing one day because it polls better and something else on another day because it polls better. He’s about the win and not what comes after. He has no solid convictions about anything. He is a tramp rather than Trump. He will do whatever makes his ratings better. His only position is to pander to the anger that is out there about our government. But on no occasion does he offer how to solve it. He reminds of that classic scene from the movie, “The American President”, where Michael Douglas’ character, Andrew Shepard, gave the speech that every man of principle holding the office of President wish they could give. In that scene, Andrew Shepard is in a heated election year race with an opponent played by Richard Dreyfuss whose name is Bob Rumson. In that speech, he says that Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving America’s problems. He is more interested in making you afraid of it and telling you who to blame for it. He goes on to say, “that my friends is how you win elections.” No truer words have been spoken. Sometimes cinema is prophetic of real life. Donald Trump is Bob Rumson. He does not care in the least of how to solve America’s problems. He just wants to get elected. It’s a game. It’s a prize. It’s another mountain to climb. Style. No substance. Just give me the prize. No clue. No positions. Just make America afraid and blame someone for it. Haven’t we had eight years of that already. Haven’t we had a generation of that already. Love him or hate him, Ronald Reagan was the president of a generation. He had solid positions. He had convictions. In this era that we are moving into, we need a Ronald Reagan kind of President. Not once during last night’s debate did he come across with any meaningful dialogue about any serious issues. All he did was make flippant remarks, remarks that were contradictory within the same breath (see his comments on Israel), and bash the other leading candidates. Style. No substance. Make you long for the picket fences of the 1950’s but no clue on what to do.

Second, he is enamored with himself in ways that go beyond egomania. Everything he said last night was about himself and bragging on himself. He is so enamored with himself that he will say anything to make himself look good. His comments about awards from Israel. His comments about how successful he has been. It was all about him. He was there for the ratings he said. Toasting his own popularity. There have been movies about political candidates who had nothing to say but were just trying to appease their own ego. It is playing out before our eyes and THIS is real. Donald Trump would be a President who looks out only for that which will ensure his popularity and feed his ego. It would not matter what the right thing to do is, it would only matter that which massages his ego. Is that not scary in the least to anyone….”paaaaannnnnntsssss!”

Third, he claims he is a Christian. Thanks, Donald. You makin’ us look good now! Donald Trump may well be a Christian but we are told to judge fellow Christians by the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us:

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

There are none of these fruits in Donald Trump’s life. Just look at his demeanor and his words. His sour face throughout the debate belies a man who is seeking something that he cannot buy and cannot find. He has no joy. He seeks grandeur. He has no peace. He tries to destroy anyone who appears to be the least amount of threat to him. He was tired of the debate by the end and the name calling came out. Loser. Basket case. He has no goodness in him. He is all about the Donald. He said in Iowa that he has never asked for forgiveness from God. He simply tries to make thing right. He is performance driven because He does not know Jesus Christ. He has not sought forgiveness from God because He does not see any need. God is a business deal to him where he can negotiate his way out of any issues. He may well be Christian but the fruits of the spirit belie that statement. He would sell his soul to Satan if it meant closing the deal and making his own name great. I pray for him to find Christ so that he can truly claim the title of Christian. I just do not see it from who he is just right now. I won’t even go into who he has been in his past. Just looking at how he comports himself in this moment in time, I just don’t see the fruits. He is self-centered. He blames everyone but himself. He changes his position to suit the moment. He has no fruit…..Paaaaaannnnntttttsssss!

I call all Christians to see this situation as important. The opposition is offering us utopian socialism, which of course has proven to be a disaster everywhere it has been implemented. Just ask Cuba. You don’t see people lining up in Florida to go to Cuba. It’s the other way around. People from Cuba risk life and limb often to get away from the utopia of socialist Cuba. We must unite behind the candidates within the Republican Party that will actually be good for America, that will defend the Constitution, that will make the tough choices that need to be made. Not just what makes them look good. Not just getting the prize but really working at the job. Do we really want a world where Donald Trump is a viable candidate. Paannnntsss….gutteral scream…make the words come out….Scream….paaannnnnntsssss!

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 3)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

We have spent the last two days looking at how Jesus got mad at how the Court of the Gentiles within the Temple grounds had become so focused on commerce rather than the allowing God-fearing Gentiles from worshiping God. There was so much commerce going on there that it was a complete distraction and left little physical room for Gentiles to worship God. This made Jesus angry because the Temple was not supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a wonderfully, reverent, quiet place to worship God. God was not first anymore here. It was the making of money that was first. Now, today, let’s talk about Jesus Himself in this scene.

 

I don’t know if you watched the Republican presidential debate last night from Houston, TX carried on television by the CNN network. It was a sad commentary to me on the politics of our nation where a candidate like Donald Trump actually has traction. America has become so enamored with celebrity that Donald Trump is likely to win the Republican Party’s nomination for President. After watching last night’s debate, it firmly convinced me that this man is enamored beyond belief with his own celebrity and that he has no business being a candidate for President. The man never revealed any definitive policy positions. He spent his whole time bashing Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and when pressed on what his position was on a particular subject, he never gave a real answer. His answers to questions about Israel were literally contradictory in the same sentences. His answers to questions about the Mexican border were equally as laughable. His answers about cutting taxes were pie in the sky dreams that will work in a 8 year presidency much less a 4 year one. Marco Rubio was masterful in pointing out that Trump is just a loud mouth, blow-hard who is style and no substance. He was masterful at pointing out the contradictions of Trump’s statements throughout his career and his candidacy. The sad fact is that Trump doesn’t care about any of that. Trump is so in love with himself that he thinks he is right even when he contradicts himself. He is so in love with himself, he doesn’t even know that he lost the debate last night. He is like the little spoiled rotten kid who when you prove he is wrong just starts calling you names and ridicules you about things having nothing to do with the subject of the conversation. Well, yeah, but you’re a loser! I pray desperately that our choices for President of the United States are not Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It is this Trump illustration that brings us to the point of our discussion today, which is Jesus Himself in the scene presented by Matthew in Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

 

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

 

“‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

Isn’t funny that the religious leaders could not see Jesus for who He really is much like the angry, pissed off white people that are giving Trump’s campaign traction. We have become so in love with celebrity in the 500 cable channel world that nothingness has an audience. We have become so enamored with wealthy people that we will make them celebrities even when they have nothing of value to say other than being bad boys or girls. The same nation that has made Trump a celebrity has made Snookie a celebrity. We are a nation that makes celebrities out of people just because they get their face on television and not because they are talented or even have anything of great value to inspire us. All I say to the Trump supporters out there is – be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it. It will be like putting a kid in the cockpit of an F-16 and saying “go fly boy!”Vapidness wins the day.

 

I think of the religious elite here in this scene with Jesus in the same way. They are clueless and they should be the ones with a clue since they are charged with being Israel’s religious leaders. Blind men, in the scene before this one, could see Jesus as the promised Messiah but yet these so-called religious leaders could not. We know from the other gospels what Jesus said to them here angered them so much that began to desire murdering Jesus.

 

Let’s be clear here about what Jesus said about Himself here. After performing miracles in their presence and hearing the children shouting that He was the Son of David and the chief priests ask Jesus about it. He responds with a quote from Psalm 8 in the Old Testament. Psalm 8 was a praise Him about the majesty of God and how we are humbled by His allowing us dominion over His creation. Specifically, He quotes Psalm 8:2 where the children of God sing His praises. Do not mistake it here. Jesus is calling Himself God. Jesus makes it very clear to the chief priests with that statement that He is God. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God come down from heaven. Jesus is God that they psalmist was writing about. However, the chief priests were blind to the signs of who Jesus was. They could not see the Messiah. They were more concerned with their own celebrity. They were more concerned about keeping their position. They were more concerned about making money in the temple. They were more concerned about things that don’t matter in eternity than they were about recognizing the Messiah standing in front of them. They were the Donald Trumps of their day. They were enamored with who they were. They were charged with being the leaders of people but yet they were blind guides with no clue about worshiping God or about seeking His presence. All they were blow-hards that enjoyed hearing themselves talk and enjoyed sitting at the finest tables at meals and they enjoyed all the attention that they got. They had no clue because they had no spirit in them. They had sight but could not see the Messiah. They just thought Him some prophet who was crazy enough to say out loud that He thought He was God. They denied the miracles or ignored them. They did not want Jesus to be God in the flesh. It would have meant the end of the search for the Messiah. It would have meant the end of their position as the heralds of the Messiah. It would have ended their position as the leaders of Israel. They did not want to see the Messiah because it would have changed their lifestyle.

 

Are we not the same way today? Our world wants to make Jesus something other than He is so that it does not change our lifestyle. We want to like Jesus as a great guy and a great philosopher. We want to like him as an anti-establishment rebel. We want to like Him as just a guy who accepted everybody right where they are. We forget that Jesus Christ is God. He is God come down from heaven. We must ignore that. We must discount the miracles. We must leave out this scene altogether from Matthew. We don’t want and angry Jesus who calls Himself God in the flesh. We must ignore that if we want to continue living the way we live today. Jesus has to be an option not the central core of the universe. He has to be an option so that we can make the things that He says that we don’t like optional. He has to be an option and not God Himself. We need Jesus just to be a guy so that we can put less value in His Word. We need Jesus to be just a guy so we can pick and choose among religions as to what works for our lives. We need Jesus to be just a guy so that we do not have deal with Him being God in the flesh. We will have to account for our position on Jesus one day. Are you willing to bet your eternity on Jesus being just a guy? Are you willing to throw away the parts of the Bible where He comes right out and says that He is God? Are you willing to bet your eternity on the pick and choose menu of modern belief systems and miss the fact that Jesus is God? As C.S. Lewis so eloquently stated once that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? Do you see Him as Lord? You cannot have the Jesus of your choosing. You either crucify Him as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did or you believe that He is God in the flesh. We must all account for this decision on this side of eternity and your answer to that one simple question determines your eternal home. Do you see the Messiah standing right in front of you or are you so enamored with the trappings of this world and your lifestyle that you cannot? Eternity hangs in the balance.

 

Just as our country is at what I see as probably the most crucial presidential election in our nation’s history and no one sees the train wreck that is coming with the popularity of Clinton, Sanders, and Trump. Socialism vs. Self-Loving Celebrity. We cannot see those who truly have a vision for what our country needs such as a Marc Rubio who has the passion to get it done. We have polarizing figures who glory in making people angry and walk away. It’s like a choice between which type of poison you want to die from and we, as a nation of people enamored by celebrity and scandal and people being rude for the hell of it, do not see the candidates who can really save our nation from the trainwreck that we are headed toward. Just as the religious elite was so enamored with their position in society, and their wealth, they could not see anything wrong with commercializing the Temple courts, and they could not see the Bible’s promise of a Messiah standing right in front of them. Just as we make Jesus just another guy. We are missing the boat my friends. Eternity’s coming. Make the right choice. See the Messiah. See your train wreck coming. See the Messiah and accept Him as your Savior. Make the choice of a lifetime. Make the choice of your eternal future in Jesus Christ. He is God. He is the One. He is I AM. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 2)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

Yesterday, we spent time talking about the link between what was going on with money and stuff that prevents us from worshipping God appropriately. We let our pursuit of things prevent us from using our resources to worship God with our finances. We let ministry opportunities slip away because we let our life get cluttered by things of this world. Today, we will continue that conversation. Today, to illustrate what I want to talk about, I think about government programs. We often see over time that government programs that are set up with the best of intentions turn out to be something different than what was originally intended. For example, think of farming subsidies where the government’s intent was to save family farms from going under because family farms were once the backbone of our economy. What the subsidies ended up doing was to raise the price of the subsidized farm goods to the consumer. What it did was allow farmers who were not the most talented farmers to continue in their existence as farmers. What it did was to prevent innovation in farming because there was no need for it. Inefficient farmers were allowed to stay in business through the propping up of prices instead of allowing competition to weed out the farmers who did not seek to perform. Thus, it crowded out new entry to the market as well. Another example was the allowed monopoly of the telephone industry up until 1982. The intent of the legal monopoly was to prevent there being millions of phone companies building their own infrastructures when the phone companies were just beginning. It would have been a mess I guess if that had happened. However, the unintended consequences were lack of innovation. We would probably still not have cellular phones today if the phone companies had not been deregulated in 1982. Just think of the pace of innovation prior to 1982 in telephone technology and the pace afterwards. The world of communications that we enjoy today can be traced back to the deregulation of the phone companies in 1982. Prior to then there was no need for innovation because there was no competition. Good intentions with unintended consequences. I could go on and on about these types of government decisions and programs but you get the point. This illustration reminds me of what we see in today’s passage, Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

 

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

 

“‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

The money changers and the temple merchandise was good idea in the beginning but it became something more than what was intended. The services provided became more important than the purpose for which they were established. The commerce of the temple became more important than the worship of God. Unintended consequences of man trying to solve a problem. The idea was great to provide convenience and support to pilgrims to Jerusalem. They lambs and doves were there as an idea that seemed great so people would not have lug their sacrificial animals long distances to Jerusalem and the temple. Good idea gone wrong. The money changers were to be a convenience too. Exchanging the graven imaged coins of Caesar for the half-shekels of the temple seemed a good idea for convenience and as a service to the pilgrims. Another good idea gone wrong. Like a US government program.

 

That is the idea I think that we will pursue today. Sometimes we have the best intentions as Christ followers to be good followers of Christ but we let things get in the way. Our intention with establishing church programs can often be great and were pure in the beginning but ultimately end up getting in our way of true relationship with and the honest worship of God. Sometimes, we let the church program we serve in become our god and if there was a suggestion to change or eliminate our program we get angry and leave the church. In church, we often get hung up on the things and not the object of our worship. We make programs, people, and things more important than worshiping God. Have you ever been in a Sunday school class where friendships were more important than learning about God? Not that friendships in church are bad. They are good but when they become more important than why we are at church to begin with then it can be wrong. In church, there was once the idea that we were to wear our finest clothes as worship to God. Then, it became about what you wore to church rather than praising God. In church, there was once the idea of making old bar tunes into the background music for worship songs. Sounds kind of radical does it not. These songs are now the traditional hymns of the Christian faith and to hear some people talk about it you would think that these hymns are so sacred that that Jesus must have sung them Himself. What many accept as now sacred songs were John and Charles Wesley trying innovative ways to get common folk to know Jesus through converting old bar tunes of the 18th century into worship songs. In church, there is the new wave of modern churches now that must have modern songs, and drums, and guitars, and names of churches that convey some kind of idea. Gone are the day of a church being named after a town or a person or a street. In church today, we must have the awesome light and sound to the point that sometimes the catchy names and sounds and lights become more important than the meat of what church is to be about. Have you seen the explosion of new church strategy seminars? We have become obsessed with making our churches grow. More people in church in and of itself is not a bad thing. But growth for any other sake than exposing people to Jesus Christ is not good. Sometimes as church leaders we want people to identify and feel wanted and belong at our churches so we work hard to create that cache of being a member at our church. Sometimes the unintended consequences of that is a church’s people talk more about the church they belong to than they talk about Jesus Christ. With some people, for example, you wander if they are member of church first and a worshipper of Christ second. The same can be true of preachers. How many people out there quote Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren before they quote Jesus Christ. Not that these men are not great men of God in their own ways but sometimes we make celebrities out of preachers and make them more important that the worship of Jesus Christ. Good intentions in the beginning but becoming something else entirely.

 

Are we that way in our own lives when it comes to worshiping God. We let Beth Moore become more important than the Bible. We let David Platt’s latest book replace reading the Bible. David and Beth would probably scold us for letting that happen but we do it sometimes. We make the trappings of Christianity more important than its central core. We crowd out our central need and that is Jesus for things about Jesus. We make the latest book by the great new Christian author who gets it more important than Bible study. We may the kind of music my church plays more important than how true my church is to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We make the coolness of the churches that we go to more important than reaching the world with the news of Jesus Christ. Crowding out the important things with things that are not important. Letting things of this world become more important than the eternal. Letting things that are temporary have greater importance than eternal destiny.

 

Please don’t get me wrong. Many of the things that I talked about today are bad in and of themselves. It is only when these things become more important that the purpose for which they were created do they become wrong. When we let the trappings of Christianity become more important than Jesus then we have strayed. Whenever we let things get in the way of our worship of Jesus Christ then we have strayed and can lead others astray in so doing. Help us always to keep our focus on the Jesus. Help us not to create unintended consequences by letting programs, people, and the church itself become more important than worshiping Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. That was what the Temple was supposed to be for but man crowded it out with things that he thought were more important.

 

How are you and I doing with that? Are their things in your life that you have made more important than worshiping Jesus Christ? Let us pray about that as we walk through our day today. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:12-17 (Part 1)

Jesus Clears the Temple Again

 

Have you ever noticed that the bigger the place you live in, the more stuff you collect? As you live in a house or apartment that was once more than enough for all your stuff has become filled. Each successive move to bigger and bigger places and each time, you fill it up and you become accustomed to the new amount of stuff. Often times, we begin to have more than enough stuff for the place we live. Our houses or apartments become cluttered with things and we accept that as the new normal. Over the past few years, Elena has had the opposite experience with her parents as they health began to falter. Her father is now in a skilled care facility and has been there for probably over 3 years now. Her parents were able to maintain the family home that had been their parent’s home since 1979. It was once a beautiful two-story, huge home on top of a hill on a densely wooded lot with a winding driveway up to the top of the hill. Although the décor of the home was stuck in the late 70’s (because as you get older you don’t remodel or change décor with the changing of the times), there was a lot of stuff. It was huge house and they had filed it with fine furniture. With Dr. Aizcorbe and his wife (Elena’s dad and mom) being Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants in the southern United States since the late 50’s and he being a doctor, they had spent a lifetime acquiring the trappings of American wealth and to prove that they belonged in the upper echelon of southern American society. Thus, their home on the hill contained loads of paintings and numerous sculptures. Traditional and modern art and sculpture both large and small adorned the home. Lots of furniture and trinkets all over the house. They had a lot, lot, lot of stuff. So when her mother’s health became such they could no longer keep this huge rambling house, the boys and Elena had to move their mother to this independent living apartment for seniors. The children had to supervise the selling of this big ol’ house and moving their mom to the senior apartments. A really, really nice place that was practically brand new. However, it was a major downsize. Going from a 5,000 plus square foot 6 bedroom house (not counting garage) down to an 800 square foot two bedroom apartment was a major undertaking. Before the house could be sold, all the stuff had to go. It had to be sold. It had to be put in storage. It had to be divided among the kids. And some it had to simply be trashed. They brought in a construction dumpster for all the things that were going to be trashed. A lifetime of acquisition of things scattered to the wind. So much stuff!

 

Although a lot of their stuff was disposed of in one way or another, Elena’s mom crammed a LOT of stuff that she “needed” into that two bedroom place two years ago. However, as her blindness continued to increase and her body continued to fail, it began increasing apparently within the last few months that she could no longer live fully independently. The children, mainly Elena, had to make the choice to move her from the two bedroom independent living apartment into a semi-skilled assisted living center two weeks ago. Thus, again there was a downsize needed. The new place, again though, very nice (one of the nicest nursing facilities that I have ever been in), is about half the size of her independent living apartment. It is a one bedroom place with a living area and very small kitchen. It is like an upscale Embassy Suites suite hotel room (a private, separate bedroom and a separate but small living area and kitchen. Elena’s mom, though, was certain that she could fit her stuff in the two bedroom apartment into the suite. Man, was moving day a cluster! We got all the stuff in there but there was literally no room to move in the living area. More downsizing was needed desperately so her virtually blind mother could move about the suite without killing herself. Treasured things became clutter. Things that we think are important just now getting in the way. It has taken several days to get down to the stuff that she really needs on a day to day basis. It is sad that a lifetime of acquisition of beautiful, art, sculpture, furniture, trinkets, technology, and just things reduced to having to give them away or throw them away because they have begun crowded out life. They had become something that just gets in the way of the necessary parts of life. They can clutter out the necessary. This personal and extended illustration reminds me of what we see in today’s passage, Matthew 21:12-17. Let us read it together:

 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

 

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

 

“‘From the lips of children and infants

   you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

 

This is the second time that Jesus cleansed the Temple (though it is the only time we see it in Matthew). He also cleared the temple in the chronologically earlier scene from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John 2:13-17. Merchants and money changers had set up their booths in the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, crowding out the ability of God-fearing Gentiles from worshiping God in the temple. The merchants sold sacrificial animals there at exhorbitantly high prices, taking advantage of those who had traveled long distances and could not feasibly bring their own sacrificial animals. The money changers exchanged all international currency for the currency of the temple, the special temple coins that were necessary within the temple. The temple coins were the only money that temple merchants would accept. These money changers would often deceive foreigners because the foreigners would not have been aware of the correct exchange rates for their currency vs. the temple currency. The commercialism and greed on display in the temple crowded out the people’s ability to worship God, particularly those Gentiles who had chosen to follow Judaism. The fact that people could not worship God because of the clutter of greed and commercialism that had overtaken the Court of the Gentiles angered Jesus. He was pissed off. Yes, Jesus got angry. Don’t think that He was meek and mild and gently asked people to move their sales tables and money changing tables out and they humbly complied. Jesus got PO’d and started turning tables over and shouting. He was angry that they had made the Court of Gentiles into a flea market atmosphere where money was king and not the humble, quiet worship of God by those who had chosen to be part of God’s people in particular. It angers God when we clutter out our ability to worship. Just as Elena’s mom could not move around her new place because of stuff in the way, we often let stuff of our lives get in the way of our worship of God.

 

Are we not like that? We let our materialism get in the way of our worship of God. We want things so we acquire debt if we can’t afford them from savings (if we have any). We want more things so we acquire more debt. We acquire things to the point that maintaining our things takes all our money and then some. We cannot live generously because we are so caught up in maintaining and paying for our stuff. We act as though that whoever has the most stuff is the king of the hill. We cannot help our fellow man because we do not have a spare dime but we have stuff! We cannot honor our Lord by giving back the tithe that He deserves. We then go about justifying that Paul says we don’t have to tithe. Paul never renounced the tithe. He expected that we would begin from the tithe. He wanted us to give the tithe and even more in a joyous manner and not in some begrudging way. He expected us to begin with joy of bringing God the tithe and then happily give even more than that. He want us not to be slaves to our money but see it as a ministry tool. Just think if we all at our individual churches were able to live off of 90% or less of what we made and gave the tithe to the storehouse of God known as our churches. What ministry we could do together. Living generously on our own would help us reduce the need for the government to step in and provide social services that we should be providing for ourselves. Just think of the stress that would be relieved from our society if we lived generous lives instead of the maddening, ever-increasing pursuit of toys. We let stuff get in the way of our worship of God. We must worship the money when we have greed as our god. We must worship the lack of money when we have mortgaged our lives to the hilt as we try to keep up in the acquisition game that we cannot afford to pay. There is joy that comes over you when you decide to live financially God’s way. There is freedom in paying off debts and not just replacing them with new, bigger debts. We can live generously when things don’t get in the way. Our worship of God becomes less cluttered when we have our finances under control.

 

Tomorrow, we will look at other ways we clutter out God in our lives. But for today, let us think of our finances. How we pursue things instead of God. How mortgage our lives away instead of pursuing God. How we live off of more than we earn and how that clutters our minds with thoughts how we are going to make debt payments instead of thoughts of worshipping God. Jesus gets angry when we have clutter in our lives such as our finances that keep us from the purity of worship of God. Our lives should be dominated by thoughts of how we can glorify God rather than how we are going to pay for the glorified vehicles in the driveway. It is clutter that must be removed. Let us get our finances out of the way of a right relationship with God. Let us remove our financial situation as the reason that we cannot live generously. Let us remove finances as the money changing and merchandise tables within our temples. Let us remove the clutter so that we can freely move about and be the hands and feet of Christ who are not tripping over our own financial gods.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:1-11 (Part 3)

Jesus Rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey

 

Have you ever heard the term, fair weather fan? In sports, it means a person who becomes a so-called fan of a team when they are winning but jumps ship from that team when they start losing. This past football season you could see fair weather fans of the Carolina Panthers. As you may know, in the South, college football is king. Pro football is nice down here but it does not stir the passions of people the way college football does. I think it has something to do with the fact that we did not have our first pro football team in the Southeast until 1966 when the Atlanta Falcons came into existence. The Carolina Panthers are a relatively young team in that they did not come into the league until 1995. College football however has been around in the South since the late 19th century. But this year, when the Panthers began winning game after game, Bank of America Stadium became a hot ticket not just a nice thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Partially full in years past gave way to sellout crowds. Many people who you had never seen claiming allegiance to the Panthers were now wearing the colors of black and Carolina blue. Panther merchandise sales went from lackluster to selling like hotcakes. Where we these fans when the Panthers were 8-8 some seasons, 4-12 in others? Yet, there are really some true Panther fans that have been with them since the beginning and simply love the Panthers because they are the Panthers.

 

You see this sort of allegiance in college football as well. Many of us Clemson fans are simply fans of the school and the family atmosphere that you feel on Saturdays in Clemson. Many of us just love the school and what it stands for in the history of our state, the school for the common man. Many of us just love the atmosphere of a small college town on a football weekend. There is nothing like it. Many of us have loved this team through thick an thin – the greatness of the teams of the 1950’s, the lean years of the 1960s and most of the 1970s, the glory years of 1977-1991, the mediocre, second-tier years of 1992-2008, and the road to greatness that began in 2009 and then these amazing past five seasons. There are fair weather fans that of course that have jumped on the Tiger bandwagon in the past few seasons, particularly this past season when the Tigers were undefeated until the very end when they lost to Alabama in the championship game by 5 points. This year saw Clemson become the chic choice of that new hot team by many who had possibly never even thought of Clemson before. That is what comes to mind, fair weather fans, when I read the conclusion of the passage, Matthew 21:1-11, particularly vv. 8-11:

 

 

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

 

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

 

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

   ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

 

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

 

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

 

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

 

There are fair weather fans in this passage. They did not understand Jesus for who He really was. They did not understand what they were saying when they were hailing Him as the Son of David. They did not understand what the biblical Messiah really meant. He was just the new hot prophet in town and if He was the Messiah, he was going to be the one to change and create a new world order. A world order that would take down the prostitutional relationship between the religious elite of Israel and the Roman overlords. The common man in Israel saw the ruling elite of the Sanhedrin as being the puppets of Rome who were afraid to stand up to the might and power of Rome. They simply wanted to keep their power so they were trying to keep Rome from crushing Israel to smithereens. They became Roman sympathizers rather than the champions of Israel that the people wanted them to be. Thus, the common man in Israel no longer trusted the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment. They saw them in the same light as their Roman oppressors. To these people, Jesus was a breath of fresh air. They saw him as a political figure of the likes of David who had the popular support to overturn the religious establishment. Passover Week to them would be the week this would happen with Jesus in Jerusalem. Jesus’ run-ins with the religious establishment were well-known news by now. They thought they would witness change in the political order this week. They did not understand the Messiah nor what this week was meant for. They did not understand who the Messiah was. Though they were calling Him the Son of David, they did not understand what they were saying.

 

How often are we that way about Jesus ourselves? How often we that way about God in the flesh ourselves? We often see Jesus as being something that we want Him to be. We often see God as what we want Him to be. Some of see Jesus as the magic genie granter of our wishes. We expect that because we pay homage to Jesus as our Lord and Savior that He will grant our every wish and desire – not to unlike the Israelites in this passage. We think that we deserve only positive things because we profess belief in Jesus Christ. We think that just because we pray for what we want that Jesus will grant it. We think that because we are professing faith in Him that only good things, by our standards will happen to us. We get frustrated and fall away from Jesus when He doesn’t prove to be the genie that we think He should be. Not too unlike the people of Jerusalem when they found that Jesus had not come to vanquish the religious establishment and kick Rome out of Israel. They were disappointed when he did not come to town to gather and rally political support for the new world order that they desired.

 

To some of us, who do not understand Scripture, Jesus is this self-help guru that will make your life better if you follow Him. Many today simply do not understand who Jesus is and that includes many in our churches. We do not understand Scripture enough to understand what Jesus on the cross really means. There are many that do not understand what Jesus on cross means to their souls. Many today do not own a Bible and if they do they rarely read it and even fewer read it thoroughly to understand the true significance of the cross. Many of us today simply take it on other people’s word that Jesus died on the cross for them. They do not make the connection between the cross and their salvation. Some just go to church at Newspring or LifeSong or Redemption or The Well or any of a number of the new wave of churches in Upstate South Carolina because it is the cool thing to do but have no idea of the reason, purpose and connection that the cross has to their salvation. Unless we understand the significance and real purpose of Jesus and understand who He really is, we are susceptible to false beliefs about Jesus. We can make Jesus be whoever we want Him to be if we do not understand Scripture. We can make Him a vending machine of prayer requests. We can make Him be a peace-loving hippie who has no judgment in Him at all so that He will accept whatever lifestyle I lead – because Jesus loves me only. We can make Him a magic genie who grants all my wishes if I perform appropriately. When we do not understand Scripture, we can twist Jesus into saying what we want to believe to be right. We make Jesus into an acceptor of all types of behaviors that were once considered immoral by those of our past who actually read and understood Scripture. All of that stuff is old school according to those who don’t read Scripture. We can make our denominations more like the culture if we do not read Scripture. We can make Jesus into who and what we want if we don’t read Scripture.

 

These are the fair weather Christians. At the first sign of Jesus not being what we want Him to be, we are rats jumping off a ship when it starts leaving it port moorings. Some of us cannot accept that Jesus is the Son of God who came for a specific purpose other than self help and being a magic genie. Jesus came to call us to repentance. He came to point out our sins. He came to live a sinless life so that He could be the sacrifice on the cross for our sins. He completed God’s plan of redemption for our sins. But we first have to see our sins for what they are. We have to see that our sins cannot be justified as being OK in the sight of God. We have to be able to see that we actually need Jesus on the cross because of our inability to maintain righteousness 100% of the time our entire lives. In fact, we must be able to see that one sin condemns us to hell. Not some weighing scales. One sin. We need to be able to see that we cannot perform our way to heaven and that WE NEED JESUS ON THE CROSS. We need Jesus to point out sin as sin. We need Jesus to call us to repentance from our blind acceptance of our pet sins as being OK. We need to see that we need Jesus. He is not just some option. He is a necessity. We need Him to be what He really was. The real Messiah. The savior of our souls not our pocketbooks. The savior of our souls not our desires and wishes. The real Messiah of Scripture. Otherwise, we will be fair weather fans who like the Carolina Panthers now but will be gone next year if they don’t make the playoffs. Otherwise, we will be fair weather fans who will be gone next year if Clemson loses three games and doesn’t make the college football playoffs. Only those who really understand Jesus and what He means to us will be around next year and the year after and the year after. Read Scripture. Understand this Jesus. Understand what He really means to us.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus Rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey

 

Opposite of what you would expect. A king riding on a donkey, a work animal, not glamorous. There was a story of a newly appointed minister arriving at his new church one Sunday morning. He intentionally dressed as if he were a homeless bum. You know the story. He was shunned by almost everyone there at the church. He was looked upon as if he had a disease or something. He was even asked by the ushers to sit in the back of the church so that no one would be distracted by his appearance. He was not made to feel welcome at all. When the chairman of the pastoral search committee got up and introduced the church’s new pastor the homeless man, or so they thought, got up and walked to the pulpit and began removing his make-up and then began to preach about judging others and about how we should love the least among us. The crowd was embarrassed beyond all embarrassment for their behavior. Many cried for the way they had perceived the preacher when they thought he was a dirty homeless man. That illustration is a powerful one about perceptions and reality. That is what I think you see here in this passage, Jesus was doing the unexpected. He was making a statement of what kind of King He was:

 

 

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

 

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

 

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

   ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

 

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

 

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

 

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

 

Because of the centuries of occupation by various foreign nations, Israel groaned for the freedom that they once enjoyed as an independent nation. They longed for the glory that was Israel as a nation back in the days of David and his successor son, Solomon. After Solomon, Israel descended into a divided nation that made it weak and easier to conquer by foreign powers. First it was the Assyrians conquering the northern kingdom and then the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom. Then it was the Persians who conquered Babylon and took over the reign over the southern kingdom. Next, it was Alexander the Great and the Greek conquest. Subsequent to Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided and splintered among his generals and Israel was ruled from the Alexandria by one of Alexander’s generals. The splintered Greek kingdom was then conquered by the Roman Empire. Now, Israel was subject to a capital city even farther away in Rome. They yearned to be free from occupation. They groaned under the taxation of foreign powers. They felt like puppets on the world stage. Israel’s location made it and important piece of land as the crossroads to Africa and Asia and Europe. The land that Israel sat on will forever be important in the history of the earth for that very reason. But Israel didn’t care about that. They just wanted their old glory days back. They were tired of being a puppet kingdom in the stage of world politics. They just wanted and longed for the days when they controlled their own destiny. Thus, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament scriptures began to morph into this victorious military leader. He was to come and reset history. He was to appear on the horizon and reestablish Israel as an independent nation. He was to come and squash the Roman army. He was to come to make the world right again according to what the people desired. They wanted a military Messiah. They wanted a real, human kingdom of what humans want. That wanted to be on top again and stick their tongues out at their oppressors. Kind of like the little brother telling everyone that is about to beat him up that his big brother will be here in a minute. When the big brother shows up, the little brother is standing behind him making faces at the other kids as the big brother sets things right for him. This was the Messiah that they wanted. This was not however, the Messiah of Scripture.

 

The Messiah of the Old Testament scriptures was to come to be exactly what Jesus was. He came to be the Savior of His people not from the occupying armies of other countries but rather to save His people from their own sins. He came to be the once-and-final sacrifice for all our sins. He came to live a sinless life and die as a sacrifice for our sins. He came to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He came be an atoning sacrifice that makes us right with our Father in heaven. He came to reconcile us to God. All we must do is believe in our hearts that He is the Son of God. He also came to give us victory over sin and death through His resurrection that gives us hope of eternal life. All must do is believe that He was risen from the dead. This is the real Messiah. This is not some conquering hero. The Messiah was prophesied by Zachariah to come riding into Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah was to be an humble servant of Israel that would suffer for the iniquities of His people and thus make Israel right with God once again. This was the real Messiah. Jesus riding in on the donkey’s colt was his confirmation that this was the king He would be. Not some falsely desired conquering hero of the moment but rather the suffering servant who came to solve an eternal problem rather than some limited local political problem. Jesus came to be the ransom for our debt that has us in the shackles of the prison of hell. We had no way to pay this debt ourselves. We are imperfect beings and with the commission of our first sin we exclude ourselves from ever living in the presence of God in heaven. Done deal. Not to mention that we sin daily. We cannot exist with our impurities of sin in the presence of the perfect God. We needed a solution to our sin stains. Jesus is the solution. He died as the sinless sacrifice so that his perfection can be imputed to us when we accept Him as our Savior. That what He came to save, our souls. He did not come to be something that Israel had made Him up to be. He came to be what the Scriptures said. He came to be what God had planned all along in his redemptive plan for mankind.

 

How often do we make Jesus out to be something other than what He really is? We make him out to be our friend that will accept whatever we do and forgive us. We believe that Jesus will allow us to live whatever way we want to (even when it is in antithesis to Scripture) and that He will forgive us continually even when we live unrepentant lives. We also believe that Jesus does not see our hypocrisies. We believe that Jesus turns the other way when we live one way and then act all glorified at church on Sundays. We sometimes believe Jesus is a self-help guru. If we just take Jesus’ philosophies and put them into practice that we will be better persons. Sometimes, we believe Jesus was this really cool rabbi that worked to change the status quo. He was a radical rabbi that went up against the establishment. Many of do not see that Jesus as the only way to the Father and that the only way to the Father is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that only through repentance of our sins that Jesus grants us His grace. Jesus is not just one of the roads to heaven. He is the only road. He also requires us to repent of our sins and seek Him as our Savior. If we do not, He will judge us. Yes, Jesus will judge us. If we reject Him as God in the flesh, if we reject Him as the only way that we can be made right with God (not some scale where our good deeds are weighed against our bad deeds), then yes He will judge us. Jesus is the only way that we can be made right with God and it is only through His grace that we are. Not the Jesus that most of us have made Him out to be.

 

He is no investment banker where he pays you a positive return for doing good things. He does not guarantee your financial blessings if you follow Him. He does not promise you the perfect life, according to our standards, if you follow Him. We must follow Him because we are lost in hell without Him. We must love Him for what He has done for us. We must love Him because we need Him. We must love Him because God cared enough about us to save us from ourselves. We must love Him for saving us! Not because He will pay us back for following Him. If he grants us earthly blessings, then that is HIS prerogative not something we demand or have a right to receive. We love Him because He is God in the flesh. We love Him because He saved us. We love Him because He is our Savior. He is our Lord. He is our King. He is to whom we owe our eternity.

 

Jesus, not the kind of Jesus we make Him out to be often. Jesus was not the king the king that the Jews expected. He is the humble king arriving on a donkey. He came to save our eternity not to save us from earthly discomfort. What kind of Messiah are you looking for?

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 21:1-11 (Part 1)

Jesus Rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey

 

Today, we will be begin a multiple blog look at Matthew 21:1-11. This passage is an important one and we take time to chew on it a few days. There are several things that are important to note in this passage. First, today, we will take about the way Jesus obtained the colt on which He was to ride. Next time, we will look at the way Jesus entered to Jerusalem and what it says about the kind of King He was claiming to be. After that, we will look at the superficiality of the praise being offered unto Jesus.

 

The illustration that comes to mind this morning is that of one of my favorite movies, Selena. In the movie, in the early years of Selena and her band made up of mostly her family members, they toured the Southwestern US in a rickety old, former Greyhound or Trailways bus. On this particular day, the bus gets stuck in the sand on the side of the road in the desert. When Selena uses her good looks and charm to get these two Mexican dudes to stop. They are discuss what the problem is and they Mexican guys realize that they are in the presence of their favorite regional pop star (Selena was big with the Latino community long before her short-lived time as a nationally known pop artist). So they try to figure out how they can help her and the band. They offer to try to pull out the big ol’ bus with their suped-up, pimped out, convertible Chevrolet Impala (from the early 70s). No one believes that no matter how big the engine in the Impala has, it is not going to pull out the big bus from being stuck in the sand. But the guys both say, “Anything for Selenas!” They rip the rear bumper off the Impala as they try to floor the petal on the Impala. The guys in the band are so upset because they have hurt the car of their fans but these guys are so happy to have even tried to help Selena that they just throw the bumper in the backseat and say they are going to put the bumper up in their garage and put a label under it that says, “This bumper was ripped off our car by the bus of Selenas!” Later, after they had made arrangements with their dad to hire and bring a tow-truck with him to get the bus out of the sand, the brother and sisters of Selena were telling their dad about how freaked out these guys were about seeing Selena and that it meant she was becoming a star. Then the whole bus starts giving Selena hard time about her budding stardom, by all them repeating what they Mexican dudes had said, “Anything for Selenas” to the point Selena starts throwing pillows at whoever says it next! Great scene. Loved it. They kind of reminds of what we see here in this passage about how Jesus came to be in possession of the colt. Let’s read the passage, Matthew 21:1-11, with particular attention to vv. 1-3:

 

 

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

 

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

 

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

   ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

   and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

 

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

 

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

 

The thing that we have advantage of here after 2,000 years of Christianity is that we know that Jesus was who He claimed to be and who we believe Him to be. Therefore, we often gloss over the first three verses of this passage. Sure, now, virtually everybody in the world has heard of Jesus Christ but let us drift back in time to the first century in Palestine. There was a greater faith required to be a disciple of Jesus at this time, don’t you think? Jesus had not yet been crucified and had not yet risen from the dead. Yet, we see in these first three verses that there is a man of faith who is not one of the direct disciples of Jesus, not one of the twelve. But he must have heard of Jesus before. He must have known who Jesus was. He must have known of the disciples as well. He must’ve known this Jesus band that had been working its way from Galilee to Jerusalem. They had been on tour for a while now. This guy that owned the colt and the donkey must have seen and heard Jesus preach possibly. He must have seen and heard about the miracles. He must have had such high regard for Jesus, such respect for Jesus, and maybe he was a disciple (as a result of Jesus’ preaching and teaching elsewhere) that He was willing to give His possessions to Jesus because the Lord said He needed them. Maybe, this owner of the animals in Bethpage was kind of like the Mexican dudes in the movie, Selena, and said, “Anything for Jesus, Anything for Jesus!” Maybe, just maybe, this guy recognized the Messiahship of Jesus. Maybe, just maybe, we should be like this man.

 

In the eyes of this unnamed follower or fan of Jesus, nothing was too prized not to give away to the Lord. Donkeys were important in first century Palestine. They were valuable animals for farming and for transportation of goods. So, it was not like these animals were just throw-away to the owner. They were important to him and whatever he may have done for living. It would be like giving your pick-up truck away today. That is the amazing thing here is that just because the Lord needed it and sent his men to get it, this owner gave it to them right away without question to Jesus. Remember, this guy does not have 2,000 years of history on his side as we do. He trusted that Jesus was the Messiah. He trusted that enough to give Jesus sovereignty over His possessions. He did not even see Jesus directly. He was dealing with Jesus’ disciples, the agents of Jesus in this situation. Under royal customs of the day, the king had rights to all possessions of the people he ruled. This custom continued right up through the Renaissance era. It was a long-held and accepted custom that the king could demand and receive any property from his citizens because the theory was that the property was the king’s to begin with. He just allowed his citizens to hold his property in trust until he needed it. Jesus is exercising his heavenly royal authority and asking for the property for His use. The owner, apparently having faith, that Jesus was the heavenly King, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Messiah, that he readily gave his property to Jesus. He gave it without regret or begrudging nature. Bam, Jesus ask for it. Bam, he gave it. He probably considered it a privilege to have his animals used by Jesus. Anything for Jesus, Anything for Jesus, he might have said. There’s no questioning that the owner willingly gave his property to the disciples of Jesus. There was no verbiage in this passage about some negotiation or some trouble that the disciples had in obtaining the donkey and the colt. It was asked for and it was given. No convincing was needed. No begrudging gift. Joyful response to the needs of Jesus’ ministry. Anything for Jesus this man may have said. Anything for Jesus.

That brings up the question to us in the 21st century. We have 20 centuries of knowledge of who Jesus is. Many of us firmly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We know why He was crucified. We know that He gave us victory through His resurrection. We have a far greater advantage over this owner of the donkey and the colt because we have history at our side. We know all these things. He had to have faith that all these things were true. We know these things for facts. But yet the man who owned the donkey and the colt has far greater faith in Jesus than many of us do, than many of his modern day followers. This guy had real faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the King of All Eternity and willing gave his workhorse possessions to Jesus for His ministry. Why is it that with all of our advantages of history and knowing who Jesus is that we do not have the same attitude toward the relationship of our property to our King Jesus that this man had 2,000 years ago? Why do we not have an “Anything for Jesus” attitude toward our possessions and their relationship to King Jesus?

 

God gives us our talents. God gives us the ability to make money. God gives us the ability to gather wealth ever how big or small by earthly standards that it might be. All of it comes from Him. Jesus is the church. Jesus is the King. It all comes from Him. We are just the agents in trust for the things that have been given to us by God. In return, He asks that we cheerfully and readily give back to Him. It is His to begin with. It is his right as King. Yet, we act like rebellious subjects and think that it is all because of us that we have what we have and that God has nothing to do with it. We begrudgingly give the extra $20 in our wallet on Sunday. We think the preacher has it easy and we are not going to support his lifestyle. We think the church has all the money in the world to do its work. We think that others who are more involved with the church will give in our place. We have got it all wrong. Giving back to Jesus cheerfully and willingly reflects a proper attitude of praise. Giving as commanded in God’s Word is an act of worship to the one true King. We should be figuring out how to live our lives where we are not living beyond our means. We should be living our lives to avoid fixed debts that are beyond our ability to pay and that choke the life out of our spirit. We should be living our lives in a way that allows us to give joyfully and willingly to the Lord. We should be living lives where if God calls us to action that we are not so shackled by debt that we cannot put our yes on the table for the Lord. We should live our lives in such a way that we can freely respond to the needs of ministry. We should be living our lives in a way that we looks for ways to serve Jesus with our money and possessions. There is joy in living well below our means. It means that we can help our church. It means that we can help our neighbors. It means that we can love on others in real and tangible ways. Could you give your property away to someone who needs it worse than you right now or all your assets mortgaged to the hilt because you bought them before you could afford them. Lord, give us a right mind about these things. Let us be a people that are different than the culture around us. Let us be a people that can give without question, without reservation, without a begrudging thought. Let us be first century believers who made sure that each other had what was needed to live. They gave willingly and freely to one another, the church. Possessions were seen as coming from God and it is our duty to give back to Him our King by not hoarding our possessions, not buying things we really don’t need, not mortgaging our ability to serve God away. Let us be the people that breaks the cultural mode in which we live. Let us be the people that knows the joy of financial freedom and as such can give freely to the needs of the church and the needs of the world around us. What if just my church lived that way? What if we all tithed at my church. Say the average salary for a member of my church is in the neighborhood for $50,000 per year. Say that everyone who attends our church regularly gave 10% of their gross to the church. Say we have 350 family units in our church (I say family units because we have married couples with families but we also have single folks who by themselves make up a family unit). That would work to $1.75 Million in giving. What our church could do for the Lord if that were the case. But we are not there as a people because we live beyond our means. We learned as children to live beyond our means. We continue it as adults. We want. We want things. And things and things. May we become a people that can give our donkeys and colts to Jesus without question. May we be a people that joyfully gives and not begrudgingly and guiltily give. May we give to the King because we have not usurped His power to command our assets for His needs. May we be a people that stands at the ready to give Jesus our donkey and colt.

 

May we be an “Anything for Jesus” people just as the Mexican dudes were willing to do anything for Selenas! May we be an “Anything for Jesus” people like the owner of the donkey and the colt. Amen and Amen.