A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Matthew 25:1-13 "Being Ready"

At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep.
 It was already midnight when the cry rang out, "Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!" The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. 
Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, "Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out."
 "No, indeed," the wise ones answered, "There is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves."

 So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed.
 Later the others arrived. "Sir, sir! Let us in!" they cried out.
"Certainly not! I don't know you," the bridegroom answered.
 And Jesus concluded: Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.

As we've pointed out before, Jesus spoke more about the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of heaven) than any other single topic.  Here He puts the warnings concerning the end times that we have been looking at into a context of the Kingdom. 

Since learning to be Kingdom people and learning to recognize the Kingdom and learning to live in the Kingdom is of primary importance to Jesus (and therefore to us as apprentices of Jesus), He points out something obvious yet profound.  A time is coming, we don't know the day or hour, but it is coming, when we will no longer be able to learn about or learn to live in the Kingdom.  A time is coming when we are either in or out.  Either we will have learned and will be living according to the principles of the Kingdom, or it is never going to happen.  Right now is the the learning time.  When the learning time is over, it will be too late to learn.

Jesus' warning is "Watch out!"  If we spend this time that we are to be learning to love God and others manipulating others to love ourselves, time will run out and the lessons we need to live in the Kingdom will go unlearned and our entire purpose for having been created will have been irretrievably  squandered.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matthew 24:36-51 "Keep Watch"

Here Jesus is still talking about the end of time.  He tells us that when He comes again, it will be just like the days of Noah -people consumed with self-indulgent living and not even aware of God.  They were unaware of God, but God was not unaware of them.  And when God had enough, He sent the flood.  

Jesus then has a warning for the church, which He likens to a servant that the master puts in charge of the household while he is away.  In this story, the servant begins to think the master is never going to return and begins using the household resources for himself and begins mistreating fellow servants -then the master returns.  This, Jesus says, is how it will be when He returns.  

 We should not think that God is being tricky or manipulative; that's not the case.  God has given us grace and mercy and compassion.  And He has entrusted to us His Kingdom.  He has given us a double mandate -to love Him and others and to make disciples.  He has gifted us with every resource we need to accomplish our mandate.  In fulfilling His purposes for us, we find meaning and purpose and fulfillment in our own lives -we were created for this.  And yet the vast majority of humans reject His love, His forgiveness, His mercy and His grace, leaving the mandate unfulfilled -pretending that it doesn't matter and that He won't care.  Hoping that Jesus won't actually come again.  This is exactly how Jesus said it would play out.

 And to those of us hoping to be found faithful, He says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."  There will be a day -it is going to happen -our Lord will come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Matthew 24:1-35 "Signs of the End"

The disciples asked about the end of time.  Jesus here answers them giving a list of things to watch for.  These include wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, an increase in wickedness and a decrease in love, false prophets and false messiahs.  Jesus not only tells what kinds of events to watch for, but also why He is prophesying these events: so that we will not be alarmed when the occur (verse 6).

Many times over the years people have put together charts and timetables and timelines and calendars to predict exactly when Jesus will come again.  Most of these people are well intentioned (I guess), but miss the point.  The point is simply that we be prepared and not be alarmed. These cataclysmic events were predicted.  Jesus said they must happen.

In fact, Jesus said that these events would be like birth pains.  Labor pains get more intense and more frequent as the time of birth draws closer.  In the same way, according to Jesus, earthquakes and famines and natural disasters and wars and wickedness will increase in intensity and frequency as the time for Christ's return draws closer.  Even though things may seem out of control, they are not. 

I don't think very many people would argue as we look around our world today that earthquakes and famines and wars and wickedness and natural disasters of all sorts are increasing in intensity and frequency.  We don't know when the end will come, but we know for certain that it will come.  And we know for certain that the events that Jesus predicted are occurring. 

Don't be alarmed, but do be ready.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Matthew 23:27-29 "As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks"

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone to death those sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing! Your house will be abandoned, deserted. I can guarantee that you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

 Although Jesus said this about Jerusalem, it reflects His heart toward all of His people.  It shows His desire for us.  He longs to gather us under the protection and shelter of His wings as a hen gathers her chicks.  What a wonderful image.

Our problem, as Jerusalem's, is that we don't cooperate.  He longs to protect -we walk away.  He longs to comfort -we seek solace from medications, food, money, entertainment, etc.  He longs to shelter us from the storms -we demand our own way.  He longs for us simply to rest in Him -we are not willing.

The result of our unwillingness is spiritual and emotional abandonment.  Our spiritual houses become barren and deserted.  It is not that Father is hard-hearted.  He has already expressed His desire to gather us and pour His love out upon us.  It is more that we are hard-headed.  We leave Him no option but to leave us alone.

The Good News is that this isolation is by our design, not His.  If we will draw close to Father, He will draw close to us.  The moment we turn our hearts toward Him, He is there waiting with open arms.    He is gently and patiently waiting for our prodigal hearts to head for home.

Father God, help me to draw closer today.  Shelter me under Your wings. Let me rest in Your grace and mercy and abide in Your love.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Matthew 23:29-36 "The Woes of a Heart Condition"

How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You make fine tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of those who lived good lives; and you claim that if you had lived during the time of your ancestors, you would not have done what they did and killed the prophets. So you actually admit that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets! Go on, then, and finish up what your ancestors started!  You snakes and children of snakes! How do you expect to escape from being condemned to hell?  And so I tell you that I will send you prophets and wise men and teachers; you will kill some of them, crucify others, and whip others in the synagogues and chase them from town to town.  As a result, the punishment for the murder of all innocent people will fall on you, from the murder of innocent Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar.  I tell you indeed: the punishment for all these murders will fall on the people of this day!

This is one of those passages that begs us to remember who Jesus is: God, Creator of all things.  In this passage where Jesus continues to pronounce woes upon the religious elite and hypocrites, He implies something that must be true, but perhaps we wish wasn't.

Jesus is looking at the hearts of these religious leaders and comparing them to the hearts of religious leaders in the past who defied and rebelled against God and murdered His prophets.  The current religious leaders, evidently, stated that they would never have dones such a thing, but Jesus corrects them saying that they certainly would have.  Jesus, the judge of hearts, says that the hearts of those murderers in the past and the religious hypocrites of His own day were exactly the same.

It is one thing to say that all of these religious hypocrites have the same bad hearts, but Jesus takes it yet a step further.  He declares that since they have the same hearts, they will have the same punishment -those who committed the murder and those who have committed no murder but have the same hypocritical hearts.

We tend to think that we will ultimately be judged on what we did or did not do -that we will be judged according to our deeds and actions.  Jesus reminds us that our deeds are a result of our beliefs -not our head knowledge, rather, our heart-beliefs.  The heart is central. 

This brings us back to where Jesus began this bigger section of Scripture.  He bluntly stated that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our hearts, souls and minds, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  And He said that all of the laws and the teachings of the prophets were fulfilled by keeping these two commandments.  If we could learn to love God with all of our hearts, everything else would fall in line.  On the other hand, even if we never actually did anything wrong but failed to love God, we would have missed the entire point of life. 

Please, Lord Jesus, continue to teach me to love You with all of my heart.  Guard my heart. Seal my heart.  Let my heart be Your home.