Monday, December 31, 2012
Matthew 26:20-22: When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me. And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, Lord is it I?
The word "evening" reminds us that the Passover was to be celebrated at night. In Exodus 12, the people were all secure in their homes with the blood on the doorposts as the angel of death passed over them. It was night. Night time is often scarry. When we wake up sick in the night, we think for the rest of the night when will that doctor's office anser their phones, when will there be daylight. We feel better in the day. The night is frightful and the disciples were not immune to that fright especially as Jesus began to unfold to them what would soon be happening.
The fresco done on a cafeteria wall in Florence by Leonardo da Vinci sets is set to these verses. Jesus has just given that announcement that one of them will betray Him, and they are asking: "Is it I?" I never tire of looking at that great piece of art, and the depth of spiritual enlightenment of one passage of Scripture that is given. How marvelous it would be if every scene in the Bible was captured on canvass (or stucco) like "The Last Supper."
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, 50 years ago, a youthful Attorney General Robert Kennedy was having dinner in the cabinet room with just one other person, a good friend from Massachusetts. The friend and Presidential advisor was overwhelmed by what they had been talking about. Each of them had been given a ticket to the bomb shelter under the White House--some of the higher ranking members were given two passes (one for the wife). Others would have to go home and tell their wives that they would just have to die in the attack that was looming that night. The man stared as Bob Kennedy munched down piece after piece of chicken and finally said: Bob, you are eating like this is the Last Supper. Young Kennedy's response: Perhaps it is.
Do you catch the emotion that Jesus and the disciples had as the end approached. This was it. This is The Last Supper. None of them would ever be the same again. One of them would be in the torments of hell within the day. And they sat, questioning each other, and questioning themselves as to who would do the deed. Judas just gave up on the dream. He most likely wanted a political messiah that would banish the Romans. Jesus needed to be eliminated, or it would get worse since He offered no resistance to Rome. Satan confused and misled Judas to betray the Savior. Thankfully today we look back after the Cross and have no fear that we would ever be in a position to do that. Yet, when we do not stand for the principles of the Word of God, when we do not trust the Lord with our lives, our hopes, our dreams, we are really betraying all that He has offered us. Declare yourself unashamedly for Christ. Prove it by worshipping Him in
Friday, December 28, 2012
Matthew 26:18-19: And He said, Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is at hand, I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples. So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
There is nothing that will be left to chance in the unfolding drama of redemption that would be accomplished within 24 hours. Jesus send the disciples out to find a "certain man." Not any man that they would bump into, but rather the very individual that God had prepared beforehand to do the will of God. This reminds me that we all have a "rendezvous with destiny" (yes, the phrase used in several speeches of Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan). Imagine how much we would accomplish if we really had that attitude each and every day.
There was a certain man who knew he had a strategic purpose in his life for that passover day. In Mark 14 and Luke 22 the disciples were given the clue thta the man would be carrying a pitcher of water, and that he would lead them to a house with an upper room. Two things--men do not carry pitchers of water as a rule, women do. Thus, it would be easy to spot the person doing a woman's job. Today, it would be most likely "look for the man wearing a dress." The location of the upper room was kept a secret until this point, probably to keep Satan from urging Judas to have Jesus arrested at that upper room. John 13-17 was given in that upper room, some of the most important teaching found in the Word of God (not to mention that we have The Lord's Supper instituted there). Jesus was in charge of all things, and these verses remind us that we can trust our sovereign God in all things. Jesus cares about details!
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Matthew 26:17: Now on the first day of the Feast of unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?"
We know that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the beginning of the week long celebration that would begin with Passover. The Lord set Passover as the 14th day of the first month, which is called Nisan or Abib. When Moses first gave the Lord's instructions in Exodus 12 to the people, the Lord said that this month in which the Passover would be instituted was the beginning of the year. On the tenth day of that month a lamb was to be chosen and on the fourteenth day of that month (Nisan) the lamb was to be slain.
From Mark 14:12, we see that the Passover lambs were slain on the fourteenth of Nisan and the Passover was celebrated that night. The plan for Jesus to be the Passover lamb has been set in motion, and the disciples wisely ask Him where to have the Passover. Here is one instance where the disciples actually said the right thing. It has taken three years, and it must have been refreshing that they finally did the right thing.
What about you? Do you go ahead of the Lord and make all the decisions, and then complain when things go poorly? It is time to declare your dependence upon the Lord, pray and ask in humility for guidance. God awaits your call.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Matthew 26:14-16: Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from tht time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
The Old Testament had predicted that one of Jesus own followers would betray him. Now we have the name--Judas Iscariot. Few would dare to name their child Judas because of the significance of the name. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the funds that were raised by the disciples. They trusted Judas to distribute these funds to the poor, but most likely he was enriching himself as he does here in this passage as well.
Judas does not have a very spiritual question for the chief priests with whom he is negotiating. His question: What is in it for me if I hand over Jesus to you? Satan had enticed and directed this weak disciple, who perhaps had become disillusioned with Jesus as it became apparent that He would not be bringing in a kingdom any time soon. Judas was corrupt and selfish--two qualities that Satan looks for in all of us to bring us down to his purposes.
The amount that is measured out to Judas is 30 pieces of silver, the exact price of a slave (see Exodus 21:32). Jesus was the Master of Judas, yet he truly regarded Jesus as his slave. Let's never get confused as to who is our Master. Jesus died for us, and we owe everything to Him.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Matthew 26:6-9: And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.
Jesus was in a safe house awaiting His trial and execution. It had to be on Passover, and He could not allow Satan the attempt to ruin the appointed plan. The scene in this paragraph is an event that is found in other Gospels, and many details are added in Mark and John. John 12:3 identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany. That would be the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Her devotion to the Lord was of the highest that could be found in Scripture. She knew exactly who Jesus was, and worshipped Him as God.
The alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil is noted, but Mark 14 adds that Mary broke the alabaster flask. Alabaster came from Egypt and would itself have been a very expensive item. Mark 14:5 adds that the value was more than three hundred denarii. While we do not have an exact equivalency with our inflated currency today in the United States, the New Testament does say that a denarius was a normal wage for a day-laborer. In other words, the bare minimum to live on for a day was a denarius, and thus more than 300 might be a way of saying that this was almost a year's wages for a common laborer. Mary considered this moment so important to her own life that she gave an enormous sum of money.
The disciples, not seeing the significance of Mary's act, say that this ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Here we have the future leaders of the church clueless like so many in the church today are regarding where resources should be allocated. They were basically saying that the work of Jesus Christ was of no monetary value, and thus social concerns should be addressed with any donated resources. Until the Great Depression, the poor depended on the generosity of churches to meet their needs. The government then stepped in, and have continued that role. This passage is not teaching that it is wrong to care about the needs of society.
What is being taught is that the priority goes to the Lord's work. I have had several young people in church forced (they did not volunteer) by their schools to participate in "walks" to raise money for causes like AIDS research, SAY NO TO DRUGS, and the most recently Arthritis. Is it wrong to donate to those causes or to walk for those causes? No. Is it wrong to take your tithe or time away from the worship of the Lord to support those causes. This passage says "YES." All of those walks were on Sunday, and the impression was given to the young people to all that here is a way to put value in this day (especially when the school intimidates them with a grade reduction or removal from their school club if they fail to attend the walk). The disciples also did not believe time or money should be wasted on Jesus when there were other causes. Look at what has been done with Christmas--people giving gifts to each other but nothing for the One who is the Reason for the Season.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Matthew 26:3-5: Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the highy priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.
Archeology has recently uncovered the remains of Caiaphas, dating from the first century. He was found in an ossiary--a small box that would have the name of the deceased and the bones of that one. They had died many years before, but tombs were rotated, and the bones remaiining would be removed and placed in a small stone box.
In John 18:13 we find that Caiaphas fololowed his father in law, Annas. Probably both were extremely corrupt, getting money from all the buying and selling that was going on in the Temple Complex. It has been determined that Caiaphas served in the position of High Priest from AD 18-36. He hated Jesus, whose ministry falls within that time frame. Jesus was against the money changers in the Temple, and Jesus offered the people a Kingdom that was not supportive of the system that Caiaphas had established. Caiaphas leads the charge ther to take and kill Jesus.
His only caution to the Jewish leaders who had long decided that Jesus must die was that they do not do it while the town is bursting with people there celebrating the Passover. That admonition will not be observed, because God's plan was that Christ would die on Passover.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Matthew 26:1-2: Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.
The words: "IT'S TIME" always makes me think of those old movies where the fellow is waiting in his cell to be executed. The warden comes in, and says "IT"S TIME." Here in Matthew 26 we have Jesus telling the disciples that in two days, "IT'S TIME."
Several earlier times Jesus had avoided angry crowds who wanted to kill Him, because it was not the right time. People who have calculated the 70- weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 have with a 360 day year as was customary at that time found that the Decree to restore the temple made in March, 445 BC would have a terminal point on the second Friday of April, 32 AD. (Check our website Mybethanybible.org to get the full details on this in the section on "JESUS." Whether the calculation is exact or near the date is missing the point--the point is that God knew exactly when Jesus would be crucified and that was revealed to Daniel around 539 BC. That would be as astounding as someone saying at the time of the fourteenth century murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket that in November, 1963, the American President would be slain.
The time that God chose for the crucifixion was Passover. It was a fulfillment of the fact that Christ is our Passover, sacrificed for our behalf. The night that Israel was delivered from bondage a Passover lamb was slain and the blood placed over the door in the form of a cross. That was 1480 BC. Now, in 32 AD this is fulfilled. And Jesus says, that the Passover is just two days away.
Note also the sovereignty of God in all of this. We are not looking at chaos, we see a divine plan. Jesus uses the term "will be delivered up" in reference to His crucifixion. He will be delivered just as major movie stars are delivered in a limosine to the site where they will be filming (so that they are there on time, if the producer is honest). Christ is ready for the day, our redemption draweth nigh!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Matthew 25:44-46: Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
The end of this look at the future for the righteous and the wicked reaches a culminating point in these verses. Here we have the statement regarding the wicked having done nothing for anyone, an evidence of their inability to enter the presence of the Lord.
The cults differ in their various beliefs but all are united on the assertion that there is no everlasting punishment of the wicked. They agree that there is an annihilation of extinguishing of the lives of the wicked. The devil does not want us to think that if we follow the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, and all the science of mind cults that we will end up forever in hell. I always cringe when someone pontificates that an unsaved person who has died is now out of their suffering. Verse 46 says that it has just begun.
The Greek words for everlasting and eternal are the same--the translator chose to render it in two different English words. Thus, Jesus wanted us to know that the exact length of the blissfulness of the righteouswill match that of the suffering of the wicked. There is no escape. The time to repent is while we are living. The purpose of announcing the Second Coming is to warn all people that a day of reckoning is coming.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Matthew 25:41-42: Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, inito the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink: I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.
A major theme of the book of James is that works show your faith. We are not saved by works, but without works our faith is dead. There is a great tension there, and the dominant thought in the Church until the Reformation was that works determine your salvation.
Here we have the reverse idea in Jesus prediction of what it will be like at the beginning of the Millennium. Jesus repeats all that had been said in the previous paragraph that a lack of works is the visible proof of a lack of faith.
I am grieved week after week by those who promise to come to church but do not get there. While they may fool us, there is a just God who looks at the intents of the heart and can see whether the faith professed is merely a bluff or sincere. If you have a sense of the fact that you are a wicked sinner and deserving of judgment, you will not want to miss one opportunity to praise and serve the Lord.
Denise and I delight in spending Christmas with a couple and their children who live about an hour away. It is a delight because after 20 hours of marriage counseling and a lot of changes made in their lives I performed their wedding four years ago. The wedding took place at the Occidental University Chapel overlooking the Pacific Ocean (at Malibu). It is the only time I cried at a wedding, and that occurred as I listened to the vows that they wrote each other. In those vows they quoted several things that they had learned in their counseling sessions. They were vowing to obey that which they had learned. A couple of years ago at Christmas, they said that when an argument was brewing, the retort was: What would Pastor Ron say? I know how that made me feel--no better present could have been given,
Jesus in this paragraph shows that He demands the same thing--obedience to His Word. We are to follow His teachings and that steadfastness shows our commitment to Him. Reading your Bible, worshipping at church, witnessing, giving your tithes, and helping the poor are all earmarks of a vibrant salvation. The absence of that is a cause of real concern. This is the time to start taking inventory on your own life. Do what Jesus would have you to do!
Monday, December 17, 2012
Matthew 25:37-40 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My grethren, you did it to Me.
Last night, a call was received that someone who had opened their home to a poor family had no more food left and no money to buy more food. The need of that person was met, but in the spiritual sense that person's kindness toward a destitute family has already been rewarded in heaven by the Lord. He sees the kindnesses that you do. He sees the tithes and offerings that you place in faith in the offering. There is nothing that escapes His attention, and His rewards are great. In fact, they are eternal.
That which you do reflects your personal love for the Lord and also your belief as to how big God is. Do you worship a big God or a small God? Do you feel that He can meet your needs, or do you need to make sure that Number One is cared for first.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Matthew 25:29-30: For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When we realize that this parable is in the final analysis talking about the eternal destiny of believers and unbelievers we can understand these two verses. Verse 29 speaks of the final destiny of the believer. Not only does a believer who serves the Lord inherit eternal life, there are great rewards for faithful service. So many today want to cheat God out of more than the minimum amount of service. I have had people that I was witnessing to about accepting Christ ask if this will mean that they have to go to church. Of course, church attendance is not a part of salvation, but should be an outcome of understanding our salvation.
Jesus ends with a sobering look at that unprofitable servant that was not only disobedient to his lord, but critical of the motives of his master. That represents the unbeliever today who has his fist out to God ready to cast aspersions on the character of the Lord. When we walk around looking at people in the world, do you ever see them cast into outer darkness. Perhaps in order to motivate us to service we need to consider what the penalty is for those who reject the Savior. We should endeavor to be ready with an answer for the hope that lies within us, and to be instant in season and out of season.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Matthew 25:26-28: But his lord answered and said to him, You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered see. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
The servant had accused his master of reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where there had been no seed. Both of those statements are wild accusations that would have no basis in truth. So why then does the lord repeat as if it was a fact the accusations of the servant?
The answer is that he is condemning the servant with his own statements. Of course the accusations are not true--they are not even plausible. They prove only one thing--the servant is wicked and lazy! He uses whatever excuse to not serve the lord. In my experience, the greatest sins that keep a person from attending church do not stem from gross sins such as drugs, adultery, or thievery. Rather, it is from the even greater sin of not loving the Lord Jesus Christ. That sin is manifested by the twin excuses--I am otherwise occupied on Sunday and I just cannot give a tithe to the Lord.
Those are the two things our Lord desires most--why? It is because they reveal the heart attitude toward God. Open your checkbook or credit card statement and even an unbeliever can tell who you worship.
The total consequences for the wicked servant are given in the next paragraph. Here, his one talent is not left to him as a consolation prize for insulting and ascribing improper motives to his master. Rather, it is taken away. Jesus is warning those who are slack concerning His promise that He is returning to get busy for God. Judgment will fall, and it will be severe.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Matthew 25:24-25 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.
Note the different attitude of the one who had been given one talent. First, although he was a servant, note his arrogance in describing the lord as a hard man that was unjust. Who was this servant to judge the motives of the one who has provided him everything. The matter of reaping and sowing where that would not be pissible was a way of describing the fact that the lord demanded results of his servants.
Second, note that the servant liked to make excuses when the others with a greater responsibility made no excuse. After 40 years of inviting people to church, stopping at thousands of homes, I have been given many excuses why a person cannot come to worship the Lord on the Lord's Day. A hang nail and the fact that the Super Bowl was later that day still take the prize for best "weak" excuse. Basically, you do what you want to do. Jesus waits for you each week at church, saving you a seat. How many times do you disappoint or make excuses to your Lord.
Third, note that the servant was overwhelmed with selfishness. His motive was not to serve the lord, but rather to keep doing what he enjoyed doing. He hid his talent in the ground. One time I heard the most beautiful singing coming from one person who had visited on occasion. I invited that person to sing in the choir, and that was the last time they came. It should always be a privilege to serve the Lord in His praise and worship.
Look for opportunities to serve the Lord with your talents. The Kingdom of God will be strengthened as you serve.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Matthew 25:20-23: So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithfuyl servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. He also who had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look , I have gained two more talents besides them. His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.
The key thought that our Lord brings out in this paragraph is that faithfulness is what is desired by Christ. Each of the first two servants received different amounts of talents. Each doubled the amount of those talents, and presented those to the Lord. Both demonstrated equal faithfulness even though what they had to begin with was not equal.
But note that the reward for each of those two servants was exactly the same. The results were different, yet the reward was the same. The reward was not financial, but rather each man was to receive "the joy of your lord." There are some people who delight in taking the joy out of life. I saw that in church when a child, and grieved for my parents. Although I thought that would never be in my path, it has been. Like the grinch at Christmas, there are the people who share their suspicions and fears and drive joy out of the hearts of others. Yet, we are promised the joy of our Lord if we are faithful. When people disappoint us, especially in the context of the faith, keep on being faithful.
One young adult that I was witnessing to today said: "Oh, I used to go to church and I remember accepting Christ." Then they confided that this was about 10 years ago. When asked for the reason, the reply was "hurtful gossip." What a judgment awaits those who caused a teen and her parents to flee their church and miss out for nearly a decade on the Word of God. Our talents should lead us to bringing the joy of the Lord to all we meet. We should reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in all our dealings with others. We are called to evangelize, not to judge. Jesus will handle that in His time. Our job, like the two servants before us, is to use our talents to advance Christ's kingdom. If we do, the joy of the Lord awaits. If we do not, self-condemnation and an absense of fruitfulness in our spiritual life will result.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Matthew 25;14-19: For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
The theme of watching for the Lord's Return is emphasized from a different perspective by our Savior in this parable. The simple definition of a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This parable is centered on what we do with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us to use until Christ returns. All who trust in the Lord Jesus are saved, and this altogether apart from human merit. But this parable explains that all who profess to believe in Him are responsible to serve Him, and to use whatever gift, ability, or means they have for his glory and to furrther His interests in this world. It is incumbent on all who believe His Word to serve wholeheartedly in view of the day when every one of us shall give an account.
The paragraph before us sets up the story. Jesus is the man who goes on the journey, and the servants are professing believers. Bearing fruit is emphasized here as the talents are dispersed to the three individuals. A talent was in Bible days a measure of weight, often referring to gold or silver. The Greek word for "silver" appears in verse 18 (although translated "his lord's money"), thus these would be talents of silver. The talent or weight of silver represents a special gift given by our Lord for His service. The man with five traded (utilized) his five talents and before the lord returned, he had 10 talents. The one given two also gained another two talents. The one give only one talent wasted the opportunity that the lord gave to him. Christ's commentary on this will be given in the next paragraph..
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Running off the bulletin at the xerox today, I was asked by one of the employees about the Mayan Calendar which ends of course on December 21. "Is that the end of the world?" My response: "I hope so." His reply: "Oh, don't say that." I have witnessed to him several times, and yet his concern is that he is not ready for the end. He is curious, but wanted me to reassure him that everything was going to be OK. Stay as you are, nothing to fear but fear itself. What I told him was that his fear should not be that the Mayan Calendar is accurate as far as the end of the world, but that the world will indeed end for him at the moment that he breathes his last.
Once we leave this world we do not go into some room with a giant clock, and wait out the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is NO TIME once we leave this world. I still have not adjusted to the November time change. My body is so bound by time that I awaken at 4:45 AM each day with the same thought--it really is almost 6 AM. The sun has adjusted, but I have not. Time is a part of our conscious and unconscious thoughts. When we leave this world, there is no need for time since we do not have an earthly body. Waiting for the Rapture, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the Return of Christ will not find us frustrated by the wait. There is no wait because there is no time.
Jesus thus advises his disciples and us that in regard to the Second Coming, the most profitable thing we can do is to WATCH. What is meant by that? Jesus says that we do not know the day nor the hour of His return. That alone should prompt us to watch to make sure that we are living as if Jesus might return at any moment. How do we allocate our resources? Would people looking at us find us self-absorbed? Or are we thinking of doing all we can to further the Gospel. Bethany's treasurer sent me an article on "Radicalizing Christmas." Just let people know that you are celebrating the real meaning of Christmas--Christ's birth--and you are not going to go out and buy lots of expensive presents for everyone. Imagine the impact we could make as a church! My wife returned a useful gift for me to J.C. Penney, and I told the sales clerk the reason--it is not my birthday, it is Jesus birthday. Then, I asked if he knew that James Cash Penney was a Christian who never allowed his store to be open on Sunday, and now they have specials to entice you into the store on Sunday morning.. Another good reason to return the item.
We WATCH also the things that are in our hearts and minds. Dwelling on negative gossip or fearing things that are from this world is not the concept of watching. If your attitudes, actions, and deepest thoughts are displeasing to the Lord then now is the time to WATCH. Change those areas, return to the Lord and let Him lead in your life. The strength and blessing of the Lord will be upon your life, and you will never be fearful that the Lord might return.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Matthew 25;11-12: Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us! But He answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.
When I was a child we had a large picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking. That comes from the verse in Revelation 3:20---Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. The interesting feature of the picture is that there is no door knob. Jesus knocks, but we have to open the door.
If Jesus is so concerned for us that He knocks at our heart's door, then why do we have these verses which make the Lord look rather harsh and uncaring. Jesus is the Bridegroom and the marriage is taking place, yet there are people who would like to enter. He responds that He does not know them. You see, there is a limit to the amount of time that we can decide if we are going to make Jesus our Lord. That limit will come to each of us the day we die, or the day He returns. We need to make that decision now.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Matthew 25:6-10: And at midnight a cry was heard: Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!" Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there should not be enough for us and you, but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
The ten virgins represent people on earth at the time of Christ's return. They are waiting for that return, but are not all necessarily saved. Five maidens are wise and five foolish. The wise have the oil of grace to replenish their lamps; the foolish have lamps but no oil. All are out there to meet the Bridegroom, and while He tarries they all slumber and sleep. Some would see a picture of church history here with the dark ages, where so many departed from the Word of God and just followed traditions that did not include the hope of the Lord's return.
Ever since the Reformation this midnight cry has been sounding. The Great Awakenings and revivals over the centuries have caused the wise unto salvation to trim their lamps, and make their testimony brighter. But those who were just pretending to be followers of Christ (those in liberal "mainline" denominations today plus all the cults) were there but without oil to replenish their lamps. The wise could not give them oil when it was announced the Bridegroom was coming, but rather they were directed to go to the source of supply. The Bridegroom came, those who were ready went in to the marriage, and the rest were left outside.
Those words "the door was shut" are reminiscent of the days of Noah, when God shut the door of the great Ark. The waters came, and many must have begged for entrance, but it was too late. The admonition for us today as we read this parable is to be ready for Christ's return. We should be ready by placing our trust in Christ.
Monday, December 3, 2012
"The Parable of the Ten Virgins: The Bridgroom Delays"
Matthew 25:1-5: Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
If you remember the verses from last week, Jesus made a point of being ready for the Lord's Return. This is underscored as we come to the first paragraph of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In a real sense, the Parable is an evangelistic tool to awaken people to their need to come to Christ's grace while there is still time. Over the years, I have had so many people ask if these are the Last Times. With the specter of a Palestinian State created by the United Nations late last week, we would all the more see the need for Christ to return and intervene in the inevitable attack that will come on Israel. Yet, His return could still be far off.
Many of those people that were so concerned about the signs of the times have now gone to their reward. Jesus knew when He gave the Olivet Discourse that His return was not near, but He also knew that none of those disciples would live into the next century. Thus, the setting of dates for the Return of Christ is irrevelant once you are deceased. He has come. The point is: Were you ready?
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is given to remind us to be ready for Christ's return at all times--even if we do not live to see that return. Saturday, I was told to be ready at 7:30 AM for the mechanic to come to the house to fix one of our church vans so it would be ready for Sunday. I was out there at that time even though we had gotten home from youth group rather late the night before (due to a freeway closing and being in massive traffic). By 9 AM, I phoned the middle man to see why the mechanic had not arrived. "He will be there by noon." I returned from visiting at noon, and no mechanic. Again, assured over the phone that he would soon be there. These assurances went all the way until the mechanic showed up at 10 PM and said as we stood out in the rain that the work could not be completed that day. With the help of John Liu and Pastor Vance, those on my Sunday morning list were still picked up. That the bus was not fixed was still a major disappointment as there had been so many promises of an exact time that were not fulfilled. That is this world, that is not Christ. That is why no dates were set for the return. God's purposes are so far above our own self-centered desires for Christ to return.
Jesus uses a familiar symbol in Middle Eastern Culture--the wedding. In Bible days, weddings were long processes that involved the entire town. The parents of the groom often selected the bride, which was followed by a period of engagement that lasted a year, and then the actual marriage. The ten virgins are the bridesmaids for that actual wedding. The lamps are torches that the bridesmaids would carry as the procession would occur as soon as the bridegrrom arrived at the house of the bride.