Live it! Blog

Wednesday, 29 June 2022 00:00

woe woe woe is me

Woe, Woe, Woe is Me?

Matthew 23:13-22

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

The “woes” of this passage can be contrasted to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Be Loyal Warren W. Wiersbe (pp. 210-212)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

The contrast is evident:

  1. Woe to the hypocrites who shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. 23:13

Versus - Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” 5:3

  1. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses even while for appearances’ sake you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation. 23:14(NASB)

Versus - Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5:4

  1. Woe to the hypocrites – you make your converts twice the child of hell as you are. 23:15

Versus - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 5:5 

  1. Woe to the blind guides – if you swear by the temple, it means nothing, you must swear by the gold of the temple to be bound by the oath. 23:16

Versus - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 5:6

Am I a Pharisee? Not the Jewish kind with the long black robes, phylacteries and tassels, but a Pharisee in spirit? Am I a hypocrite? – judging the rulers in the days of Jesus, but living a hypocritical life today? It’s easy to justify my life as a believer because I made a decision for Christ. Is my “Christian” life characterized by church attendance rather than a true spirit of Christian love?

Might I be any of the things Matthew speaks of in the woes – instead of the be-attitudes?

Am I truly righteous or am I merely self-righteousness? Might I hold my head high because I’ve checked all the boxes of what is a “Christian” way of life while ignoring the spirit of love and humility, or asking God to assess my actions to see if any wicked way is in me? Have I been convicted of a certain attitude and not followed through in my actions? (James 4:17)

Do I shut up the kingdom rather than entering the kingdom? Am I proud in spirit or am I poor in spirit? Do I require man made traditions of others like, a certain dress or hair style or a certain style of music rather than humbly understanding differences – either due to generational style or impropriety that really isn’t Scriptural? Might I appear unwelcoming to those who are inquiring about the truth of the gospel because they don’t fit in my criteria as what is acceptable?

Am I a condemned as a destroyer or comforted as a mourner? Do I mourn over my sins and mourn with the needy widows or do I flatter with my words as a pretext for greed? (1 Thess. 2:5)

In my pride am I offending precious souls rather than welcoming them to the path leading to heaven?

Am I greedy for gain or hungering for holiness? Is my joy from material gains – growth in my portfolio or the latest possession, rather than obediently living a holy life manifesting the fruit of the Spirit daily? Might I be angry more than loving to my family or coworkers? Am I living more on the fast track than seeking the good for others?

There are so many various convicting thoughts in these passages and soul searching is uncomfortable, however, there is still time to rectify our hypocrisy. While we want to hear those things that make us feel good, this passage is there for our consideration.

For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

~jlh

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 00:00

commercials

Commercials
Matthew 21:23-46
June 28, 2022

Desires can be reflected in the commercials that fill our media. They try to convince us to buy hair products to tame our unruly manes, to recognize the dangers of smoking and quit that habit, and to buy a happy meal. How would you advertise Jesus’ cleansing of the temple? “Join us today for the rumble at the temple. Tables will be turned over and Jesus will chastise the riff raff, you won’t want to miss this event.” The chief priests and elders responded to Jesus by demanding that he authenticate his authority because they felt threatened by his words and temple cleansing. Jesus responded to them with parables and we also have an opportunity to respond to Jesus.

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus authority. “‘…By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’” (Matthew 21:23). Jesus takes them back to John. It is a basic principle of Christian living that we cannot learn new truth if we disobey what God has already told us. How have you observed this principle to be true? The religious leaders had rejected the truth preached by John and therefore Jesus could not impart new truth. Blaise Pascal has said: “The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him.”

Jesus responds to the chief priests and elders with his own question: “'John’s baptismwhere did it come from? Was it from heaven or of human origin?'” (Matthew 21:25). Read Matthew 21:23-27. Why wouldn’t the religious leaders answer Jesus’ question? Jesus was true to his immutable character. His mission was not swayed by the crowd. His mission was not subject to a question of popularity. The Religious leaders were constantly weighing public opinion. The advertisement for this confrontation could have been: “Come hear the Master Storyteller weave his words today in the temple courts.” Jesus told these leaders two stories. Read Matthew 21: 28-44, what do you think the religious leaders were thinking as they heard these parables?” The great I AM was not concerned with how this message would be received. He already knew their hearts. Jesus didn’t need to recruit these influencers to market his “brand”. In fact, his recruitment advertising would have been: “If you like ridicule and cross-bearing, meet us at the temple; or if you want to enjoy a shortened life and possible stoning, come out to the fish barbecue at the lake.” Jesus’ message remained unchanged, despite the pressure exerted by the religious leaders. The leaders were ruled by their fears, "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” (Matthew 21:45-46)

Jesus' claims also demand a response from us. Jesus sees us as we are, just like he saw the religious leaders’ power hungry, self-righteous hypocrisy. He was not fooled by their answers. He was not misled by their religious practices. How do people who claim to be Christ followers “shade” their truths to please their audience? What if we showed up among Christ followers dressed in our reality. What if our nametag read, Ruby rage monster, Anger issues Annie, Addicted Al, Secret Sin Susie, and Gossip Gertie? If Jesus was present among his followers, his nametag would read: Immutable, Holy, I AM. My nametag once read: sinner, selfish, sad. What did your nametag say? Yet Jesus in His unchanging love and grace covered my inconsistencies and my sin. His mercy changed my name to loved daughter of the Most High King. Jesus leveled the playing field for all who accept His free gift of life renewed. All our nametags read the same. There is no reference to past sins. There is no elevation based on status or race or name. The commercial would be: “Come join us, the playing field is even for all. Join the Forgiven, feasting on the immutable Word of God. Gather at the table that has room for all.”

lkb

Monday, 27 June 2022 00:00

the right question

The Right Question
Matthew 5:20; 15:1-20
June 27, 2022

When it came to nailing it, Jesus was a master. No one could put his critics on the spot more quickly or directly. And more often than not, he did so with a question. Today’s Scripture includes a prime example.

“Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus.”

They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” 

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? (Matthew 15:1-3)

During a recent evening with one of our Global Partners, we had a great lesson on the art of asking questions. Remember what happened in the garden after Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life? God came looking for them and he immediately asked them questions which quickly pinpointed their sin and the consequent results.

Likewise, today’s Scripture begs several penetrating questions.

  • How good is good enough? Is there an objective standard that will show us how well we match up to the goal of “good enough”? (See Matthew 5:48)
  • How righteous do you have to be? Same question. Perfect righteousness is the standard. How do you stack up? (See Romans 3:23)
  • What value is there in comparing our righteousness with someone else’s? Jesus indicates that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. (Matt. 5:20)
  • How should we regard/value tradition? Is there no value in tradition? If there is, what are the guidelines to safeguard truth and righteousness? (Check Matt. 15:3)
  • What do bad traditions do? (Check Matt, 15:6)
  • How do Isaiah’s words (Isa. 29:13) affect you and me?
  • What is the danger to others of our being like the Pharisees? (Check Matt. 15:14)
  • What do our words reveal about us? Is it true sometimes that actions speak louder than words? (Check Matt. 15:18, 29)

Jesus may have been really frustrated with the disciples when he asked, “Don’t you get it?” (15:16) It’s a heart matter. What we do and say are important, of course, because they reveal what’s really in our heart and mind. The Pharisees may have followed God’s law, but as Isaiah suggested, their hearts weren’t in it. 

The question for us today is: What’s in our heart? Do our words and actions accurately reflect what we really believe?

jbd & gmd

Friday, 24 June 2022 00:00

what they deserve

What They Deserve

1 Timothy 5:17-21

Leaders in the church should receive what they deserve. 

If an elder is doing a good job using his gifting to serve the church, then he should be appropriately honored and recompensed by those whom he serves. 

A remnant of this principle still hangs on in the federal tax code.  In the USA, ordained ministers can still write off a housing allowance on their federal income tax.  The existence of this benefit points to the fact that American governance was at one time influenced by Judeo-Christian ideas.  The fact that this benefit most likely will not remain points to the reality that American governance has moved away from biblical influence.  This is regrettable.  However, it was never the government’s job to support local church elders.  It was and remains the privilege of the members of a local church to honor and support their leaders in appropriate ways.       

Accusations against an elder should not be made lightly.  This is another way to honor elders in the church.  This is not the same as immunity from suspicion.  It is also not a rationale for blind devotion (the “partiality” and “favoritism” Paul talks about).  Sadly, there have been way too many cases of spiritual leaders being given the benefit of the doubt simply due to their position. An accusation must be taken seriously, but there also must be evidence to back it up.  The church must believe the victim but also practice due process on behalf of the accused.  This takes supernatural discernment.

If accusations against an elder are proven true by the testimony of witnesses, then he should be appropriately and publicly rebuked.  “Called on the carpet” is the idiom we use nowadays.  In other words, leaders must be held accountable.  When leaders are held accountable, it is a sober reminder to the whole church that everyone will have to give an account before Jesus of how they have lived their lives.

It’s easier to compensate a teaching elder for his work than it is to hold him accountable for his life choices.  Teaching is a very public activity.  What one does when no one is looking is harder to discern. 

We should not measure the health of our church based simply on the production value of the worship service, including a well-communicated and biblically sound sermon (as good and important as those things are).  Ultimately, the health of a church is related to the spiritual health of its leaders—it’s a heart issue.  A plurality of elders is good for governing the affairs of the church; however, they must also see their role as knowing each other’s hearts and lives.

KC

Thursday, 23 June 2022 00:00

Conflicts Attacks and Decisions

James 3:13 – 4:10; 5:19-20
Conflicts, Attacks, and Decisions

Imagine two hurting people. The first one said, “He has more stuff than anyone, then he called me a liar. I’m very angry with him.”

The second person said, “She told people I was stealing from the General Fund. She hurt my feelings and I am very bitter about what she did.”

Is it possible for a disciple of Jesus to hold on to an injury with heart-harboring bitterness and envy? Can we become aware of anger’s impact on us? According to Scripture the answer is, “Yes.”

Reported in the New Testament book of James, “…if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth” (3:13). Apparently, the possibility of such disasters reside within us. An event may not have started with us, but even an unfounded accusation can work its damaging fire.

While we may think of exposed sins like adultery and murder as soul-troubling-problems, undisclosed emotional anger scalds our souls as if it were hot-splattering oil, flaming from a fryer. James named it, “…bitter envy and selfish ambition…” When others make mean, hurtful, and untrue statements about us, we are likely dealing with our own spiritual pain.

Scripture insists there is a spiritual presence which forms the reservoir of this hot oil in our world. “Such [evil] ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:15, emphasis added).

Thus, we ought be most careful when we find feelings of anger, animosity, and animus against others. We may be experiencing a presence most evil. People can be horribly cruel. We cannot control their choices. As disciples we seek to follow Christ in all ways—including those times when foul events are foisted upon us by others.

Life Application Questions

What steps do you take to monitor your spiritual health?

During a spiritual injury, what is your usual response in guarding against being a Pretender?

What has helped you overcome injuries in your spiritual life?

When life is a heavy weight on your shoulders what helps you through the day?

If you observe yourself holding bitter feelings, what should form your response?

 ~ajs

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