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Iglesia del Pueblo
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Love God, Grow Together, Reach the World

    Daily Devotions - Entries from October 2012

    WedWednesdayOctOctober31st2012 Save your life or lose it?
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment


    For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

    (Matthew 16:25)

    I want to save my life. I do! Perhaps it doesn’t sound very spiritual, but I love this world and so much of what it has to offer. I have an amazing wife and beautiful children. I am blessed with amazing friends and have a fantastic job. Even on the coldest, rainiest days, I am struck by the beauty of this world. I don’t want to give any of it up. I love my life and I am so thankful for it.

    But is Jesus asking me to give all that up? I don’t think He’s some kind of a cosmic kill-joy, waiting for something good to happen in our lives and then demanding we give it all up and go back to a dour life of self-denial and monastic asceticism. He wants to see us flourish as we use all the gifts and abilities He brings our way. As we recognize His handiwork all around us we have a thousand opportunities to bring God glory every day.

    So what does He mean when He says, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”? The answer comes as we consider the broader context of this verse. Jesus is simply continuing a thought process that started when He announced that He would soon have to die (Matthew 16:21) and was reiterated in His proclamation that anyone wanting to follow Him would have to take up their cross and follow Him into that same death.

    Of course, this still leaves us with a massive problem of application. Jesus is not asking me to take up a literal cross and literally follow him to a literal crucifixion. All of that is impossible. What, then, is the principle behind this statement that I can put into action?

    I think the answer comes as we consider the goals and purposes for life. Do I exist simply to consume and control everything this world brings my way? Or is there something bigger going on? Christians in a previous generation posed the question this way, “What is the chief end of man?” Their answer is illustrative for us as we examine this passage: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

    “Saving” my life is a choice to elevate my own needs, desires, goals, ambitions, concerns and feelings over everything else. It feels good and right at the time, but leads us away from God. It leads us away from the path that leads to ultimate significance and eternal life. In contrast, “losing” my life is a choice to elevate God above everything else. It means setting aside “me” in order to pursue “Him.” It’s a daily choice that impacts every relationship we have and every little decision we make. I want to save the good things I enjoy in my life, but I pray that as I do so, I see them as reflections, signs, hints and tastes of the greater joy I have in Christ. I pray that the blessings He has sent my way never get in the way of me seeing and glorifying the One who gave them. 

    TueTuesdayOctOctober30th2012 Whoever wants to be a disciple must deny themselves
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment



    When I first became a Christian, I felt like I needed a guidebook to help me understand all the things I needed to know. It was as if I had been transported to a new country, with a new language and new customs I didn’t understand. I needed someone to explain to me what “PTL” meant, what authors were the “right” ones to read, and what songs I should listen to. I was saved, I was reading my Bible, but the most important thing seemed to be learning how to fit into this new culture I had become a part of.

    Following Jesus, however, should never be this complicated. Although the concept of discipleship has become hopelessly muddled by our various cultural practices, if we look at what Jesus actually said, the path forward becomes very clear.

     

    Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

    (Matthew 16:24)

     

    There are perhaps more words written on discipleship than on any other topic in Christianity, but the bottom line is always the same. We have to die to self if we are ever going to live for Jesus. Now, this is not the same thing as “self-denial.” These days “self-denial” means trying really hard not to eat more chocolate cake at 11 o’clock at night. Self-denial means not treating myself to a Starbucks on the way to work in the morning. But as hard as it may for us to resist those temptations towards self-indulgence, I think Jesus is perhaps calling us to something a little more radical than that.

    Note how Jesus fleshes out what it means to deny ourselves. He says we are to take up a cross and follow him. A cross. Not a beautifully designed gold cross we hardly notice as it rests quietly under our shirt, but a giant wooden cross-beam signifying the same kind of painful, brutal absolute death that Jesus died on our behalf. When we take up our cross we are choosing to identify completely, totally and absolutely with Jesus. We are choosing to set aside our needs, our desires, our goals and our comfort in order to follow our leader into the grave. And that’s not going to be easy.

    “Taking up a cross” has nothing to do with enduring hardships in life or going through a rough patch in our job, our health or our relationships. It means, quite simply, dying. Dying to our own self-centered view of the way life should operate. Dying to a self-centered outlook on life. Dying to the illusion that by becoming a Christian I’m simply adding a spiritual component to my life.

    Nobody has this totally right. We're all half-hearted followers trying desperately to follow Jesus while struggling terribly to sacrifice it all for him. But let’s not confuse the cultural trappings of Christianity with being a genuine follower of Jesus. Let’s not rest easy assuming we’ve some how “arrived,” while making mental lists of excuses for not doing the things we know He is calling us to do. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, I don’t always like the way it feels or the situations it puts me in. But may we quit shying away from the cross that Jesus calls us to carry and choose instead to die to self, that we may thereby inherit life. 


    MonMondayOctOctober29th2012 I feel for Peter
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment



    From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

     

    Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

     

    Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

    (Matthew 16:21-23)

    If we’re honest, it’s hard for us to have compassion towards Peter. What was he thinking? Of course Jesus had to die! Wasn’t that obvious? What’s he doing trying to keep that from happening? Poor, naïve Peter.

    Perhaps it’s because we know too much. We read this passage with 2,000 years of church history and theology behind us. We read this brief conversation knowing exactly what is going to happen to Jesus, and when, and how, and why. We’re like the omniscient narrator of a story, and Peter is the helpless, hapless character who has no clue what’s going to happen on the next page. 

    Here’s the question I’m hesitant to ask—is our lack of empathy something we should be concerned about? After all, Jesus is talking about being betrayed, beaten and killed. Jesus is describing for His disciples a terrible, awful scenario that should make them cringe.

    Perhaps because we know He will be resurrected, we tend to downplay completely the fact that He had to die a real death first to get there. This is not abstract theology. These are not neat and tidy principles. This is real flesh and real blood dying a real, painful, and tortuous death.

    So, on the one hand, Peter is right to get upset. He loves Jesus! And his emotional outburst reveals a deep passion for his Lord. Jesus is the One who called Peter to leave his fishing nets and follow him into an entirely new way of life. Jesus is the One who performed impossible healings and taught with an authority never seen before. Jesus is the One who called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water with Him. Jesus is also the One who caught him as he started to sink.

    Jesus was not just their teacher, but their friend. They had thrown everything in with Jesus, staking their lives on His claims. When Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to join some other followers who had left him because his teaching was too hard, Peter was the one who said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

    So, Peter is right to be upset, and his angst reveals a healthy love and care for Jesus. It reveals an emotional attachment that goes far, far deeper than mere verbal assent to a certain set of theological principles.

    What Peter misses, however, is the central truth that this is God’s plan for Jesus. It’s why He came. It’s the path that He has to walk down. Jesus is not belittling Peter for loving Him so much, but correcting his limited understanding of why things were going to happen the way they were.

    The same “human concerns” that led Peter to be so appalled at the idea that Jesus would be killed turned out to be the same “human concerns” that couldn’t conceive of death being a path to eternal life. We all need our eyes to be opened to the full depth of what Jesus did on our behalf. It is almost unfathomable. Our God, our Creator, the only perfect Holy being in all existence took on human flesh and walked among us before humbling himself to be killed on a cross so that we might in turn be forgiving of all sin and experience His permanent presence in our lives for all eternity. That’s good news for all of us, and may we never tire of hearing it.

    FriFridayOctOctober26th2012 The Kingdom of Heaven
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

     “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

    (Matthew 13:44-46)

    The Kingdom of Heaven is like the treasure hidden in a field or the pearl of great value. But it is also like the merchant who went looking for fine pearls and sold everything to buy the one he found. The Kingdom is of such astonishing value, and its presence among us of such incredible excitement, that we should eagerly do whatever it takes to throw ourselves fully into its expansion.

    Some might even suggest we should go “all in.”

    I don’t know what that looks like for you. I know that for myself the constant temptation is pull back from total commitment. In some ways being a pastor creates an even greater temptation to only go half way. After all, I already serve God “professionally,” isn’t that enough? Your temptations will be totally different. Perhaps it’s more financial in nature, or a battle against a desire for significance and a fear of the kind of life God might be calling you to lead.

    Whatever it may be, don’t let sinful tendencies towards self-centered personal satisfaction keep you from finding and eagerly embracing the incredible treasure we have in the Kingdom of God. May the Holy Spirit strengthen us for the journey ahead, whatever it may hold. 


    ThuThursdayOctOctober25th2012 God's Promised King
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment


    Although the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Jesus, not everything has come to completion just yet. A quick glance at the news is enough to remind us that Satan has a death-grip on this world and things are clearly not the way it’s supposed to be.

    At the same time, history is now firmly and decidedly moving towards the culmination of all things, and nothing has been the same since the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

    For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

    (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

    We may never find a stash of gold coins buried in the ground, but what we’ve been given is of far greater value. Our eyes have been opened to the glorious revelation of God’s promised Messiah. He is the one in whom all things come together in perfection. He is the one who “anointed us, set his seal…on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts.” These are concrete, tangible changes that have a specific impact, not just on us, but on the world around us.

    Jesus was not just another prophet pointing forward to a day in the distant future. That future started breaking into this world in Jesus himself. The miracles and healings all testified to this dramatic shift that was taking place through Jesus. And the gift of the Spirit emphasizes the ongoing power of a God who is active and present in and through us as He expands His Kingdom.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    (Hebrews 12:1-3)


    WedWednesdayOctOctober24th2012 The promise of restoration
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    The closest I ever came to finding buried treasure was the time I accidentally dug up an old plastic bucket at the beach. And it was broken. When the man in the parable stumbled across something buried in the field it was infinitely more valuable. Worth giving up everything else he owned in order to purchase. What could be that amazing?

     

    The kernel of hope sowed in the moment that Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden grew slowly but steadily through Israel’s history. In Isaiah that promise of restoration begins to blossom, as we read:

    The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

                because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

                to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

                and the day of vengeance of our God,

    to comfort all who mourn,

    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

    to bestow on them a crown of beauty

                instead of ashes,

    the oil of joy

                instead of mourning,

    and a garment of praise

                instead of a spirit of despair.

    They will be called oaks of righteousness,

                a planting of the LORD

    for the display of his splendor.

     

    They will rebuild the ancient ruins

                and restore the places long devastated;

    they will renew the ruined cities

                that have been devastated for generations.

    Strangers will shepherd your flocks;

                foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

    And you will be called priests of the LORD,

                you will be named ministers of our God.

    You will feed on the wealth of nations,

                and in their riches you will boast.

     

    Instead of your shame

                you will receive a double portion,

    and instead of disgrace

    you will rejoice in your inheritance.

    And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,

                and everlasting joy will be yours.

    (Isaiah 61:1-7)

    This promise pointed forward to a time just out of reach for the people of Isaiah’s day. They faced imminent exile; banishment to a foreign land as punishment for their consistent covenant breaking and idolatry. Some would return eventually, but find little more than a ruined city and antagonistic squatters.

    But if anything that made this promise shine even more brightly. One day something incredible would happen and a new light would dawn over their shattered nation. On day God would restore them to a place of honor and privilege. One day he would make everything right. One day he would turn back the clock to the way things were always meant to be. “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion…and everlasting joy will be yours.”

    Sadly, however, this dream lay buried for hundreds of years. And nothing happened. Until one day Jesus walked into a synagogue in Nazareth. And standing up, he read this very passage of Scripture, announcing, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

    The kingdom was coming. The promises were about to come true. The kernel of hope, left buried for centuries, was finally pushing its way through the soil and getting ready to blossom into full-blown redemption.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is the fulfillment of promises stretching back to the Creation of the world. It’s the dawning of an entirely new era of God’s working in history. It’s the moment when everything changed and time itself started speeding towards completion. That’s a treasure worth sacrificing everything to be a part of. Who would want to sit on the sidelines and let that train go rolling by?

    The truly astonishing thing to me is that God invites us to be a part of the work He is doing to expand His Kingdom. We don’t deserve it, most of us probably feel like we stumbled into it by accident, but the Kingdom is growing and our Heavenly Father is looking for workers. What are you waiting for?


    TueTuesdayOctOctober23rd2012 Paradise lost
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment



    A few years ago my brother-in-law went to the beach with his family. Right as they were about to leave he realized that he had lost his wedding ring. After searching for a long time to no avail, they almost gave up. Just then a man saw them looking frantically through the sand and offered to help. It turned out he had a metal detector, and after another hour the machine found the ring, which was buried completely out of sight in the sand.

    That ring was of such value that they were prepared to do anything to get it back. The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl imply that finding the kingdom is like finding something amazing, something that you would do anything to get. But that begs the question—what was lost, and when?

    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

     

    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

     

    God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

     

    Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

     

    God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:26-31)

    In the beginning, everything was good. God’s Creation was perfect in every way. There was no anger, no fighting and no corruption of any sort. Men and women lived in perfect harmony with each other, with the Creation and with God. This was Eden. This was paradise.

    Until it was lost. In a single heartbreaking moment, sin shattered everything, and the good Creation was marred forever. A dreadful curse entered the world, and all hope seemed lost…except for one tiny hint of a promise that one day things would be different, that one day sin would be conquered and hope would be restored.

    In the meantime, however, sin multiplied rapidly, burying that hope under layer upon layer of muck and grime. The outlook was bleak. What could God possibly do to restore His Creation?

    Of course, we know where this story is headed, but to appreciate the full import of what we have received, we need to pause for a moment to consider where we came from. What was lost in Eden was something truly incredible, something beyond our imagination, something we yearn deeply for, but can never achieve. What was lost was something so precious and valuable that God would do anything to get it back.

    Sometimes we can become so fixated on sin that we forget what was in place before Satan snuck on the scene. Yes, we are all sinners, but “original sin” should never be used to define our origins. The Bible is clear that when we were first created, we were made in God’s image, and declared to be very good.

    You are loved by God far more than you believe. You are precious to Him in ways you will probably never understand. There is nothing more to be added or taken away. Simply rest in that love today.

    He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. 

    MonMondayOctOctober22nd2012 Buried treasure
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment


    Stories involving buried treasure capture our imagination. Who hasn’t dreamt of stumbling across some hidden gem or secret stash? Just last week, some treasure hunters with metal detectors found a huge hoard of Roman gold coins in a field a little bit north of London. The collection of coins has yet to be officially valued, but is undoubtedly worth a significant amount of money. As a child I always dreamed of stumbling across hidden treasure, and anytime I went digging in the back yard I would be looking for something shiny and metal. Sadly, all I ever came up with were rusty nails and other debris.

    This week we’re going to be looking at two very brief parables describing the Kingdom of Heaven that draw on this kind of imagery.

    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

     “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

    (Matthew 13:44-46)

    On the surface of it, these are two very straightforward parables. Nothing complicated happens, and the comparisons seem painfully obvious. But a number of questions remain. What exactly is the kingdom of heaven? How are we supposed to get it? Is it something we find by accident or by searching diligently? What do I have to “sell” to purchase it?

    Although our sermon series is called “All In,” these parables are not about money or possessions per se. The primary application is not about being more generous, nor can we twist it around to encourage giving more to the church. However, these two tiny parables do contain strong challenges for the way in which we live our lives as a whole.

    So today I encourage you to spend some time wrestling with these questions for yourself. You don’t need to look anything up (unless you want to), but think back over everything you already know about Jesus. Reflect on all your previous Bible studies, lessons and sermons. You probably have a wealth of Biblical knowledge sitting quietly on dusty shelves in the back of your head. So what do you think Jesus means by “the Kingdom of Heaven”? What did He want the disciples to understand? What does He expect us to do with this information today? How could this relate to our sermon series?

    FriFridayOctOctober19th2012 The Son of God
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    This sermon series is called “All In,” and we’re praying about the ways in which we might commit ourselves to following Him more courageously. Rather than holding things back in reserve, this is a time for us to be pushing each other forward, putting everything we have into His hands.

    But this kind of radical, God-centered commitment can be hard. We have so many different needs calling out to us in our lives. We may not even be sure if there’s anything left to give. The unknowns are endless. This is the chaotic sea of uncertainty into which Peter found himself sinking.

    And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32-33)

     

    What Peter temporarily lost sight of was who he walking with. As they scrambled back into the boat the disciples responded instinctively to what they had just seen by worshiping Jesus as “the Son of God.” They probably still didn’t fully understand what this title meant, since they had yet to see Jesus crucified, dead, buried and resurrected. But they knew that only God had such incredible power over the Creation, and they worshipped Jesus as such.

    Although we may share many things in common with Peter, there’s one huge difference. Our experiences today are in a totally different context than his experience in the boat. We know the resurrection Jesus. We know Jesus as Savior. We have experienced His grace and forgiveness in our lives and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us—reminding us, encouraging us, empowering us and leading us.

    Moreover, we know that one day Jesus will return to make everything right.

    Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

    Even the sea itself will pass away, and all the uncertainty and fear it represents will be washed away in the light of His glorious presence. May that day come quickly, and may God strengthen us as we persevere in anxious anticipation.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober18th2012 Do not let me sink!
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Sooner or later we’re all going to fall short of the mark. Following Jesus is challenging, and He will often call us to places where we feel out of our league. The question is, how will we respond when we get there? What will we do when we find ourselves sinking under a wave of doubts and fears?

    But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31)

    Can we blame Peter for getting just a little bit freaked out as he found himself walking on water in the middle of a storm at 4 o’clock in the morning? This story is so powerful because it captures the complete range of experiences we often find ourselves experiencing as followers of Jesus. Peter goes from the highest high of walking on the water to the lowest low of sinking underneath it. He goes from being the boldest, bravest, most faith-filled disciple to being the weakest, “of little faith,” as Jesus would tell him.

    We should be careful, however, not to read this as a stern rebuke of Peter’s failure. Jesus doesn’t leave Peter flailing around in the water. Jesus doesn’t make Peter swim back to the boat, “to teach him a lesson” (as we might be tempted to do). The text says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” This is an act of compassion and patience, borne out of love for His young disciple. Jesus’ question, then, is not some angry challenge but rather a loving attempt to draw out from Peter what happened that caused him to sink.

    In the same way that our understanding of Jesus’ identity will impact our confidence to do bold things for Him, so too will our understanding of Jesus’ identity impact our confidence in turning back to Him when we fail. Do we see Jesus as an angry judge or a gracious King? Do we think of Jesus as a father we can never please? Or is He the One who equips us to do more than we can imagine possible?

    It’s almost too much to believe, but the same holy, magnificent and marvelous God who walks on water and raises the dead also reaches out His hand to lift us up out of the mess we so often get ourselves into. Praise God for His grace in our times of need!

    Rescue me from the mire,

                do not let me sink;

                deliver me from those who hate me,

                from the deep waters.

    Do not let the floodwaters engulf me

                or the depths swallow me up

                or the pit close its mouth over me.

     

    Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love;

                in your great mercy turn to me.

    Do not hide your face from your servant;

                answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.

    (Psalm 69:14-17)

    WedWednesdayOctOctober17th2012 Jesus is powerful enough
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Sometimes churches can give the impression that spiritual growth should be a nice steady line going all the way up to heaven. The reality, of course, is much different. If you were to chart my faith on paper it might end looking a lot more like the stock market; a jagged line of ups and downs, some of them quite dramatic. Jesus’ patience with me through all this is really incredible. The shepherd metaphor is so apt—sometimes He leads me forcefully, other times more gently, and it seems like He is constantly rescuing me when I wander off into trouble. We see similar patterns emerge in His relationship with Peter in this passage:

    Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

     “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

    “Come,” he said.

    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:25-29)

    Peter’s boldness makes me smile. Still unsure about whether or not this person they can see is actually Jesus, Peter demands a rather dramatic proof. In a tacit acknowledgement of Jesus’ power and authority over all things, Peter asks Jesus to include him in the miracle. Jesus simply responds, “Come.” It’s a moment of insane courage. Every single thing Peter knew about the world told him this was ridiculous, preposterous, and totally out of the question. Yet something about Jesus’ words compelled Him to step out of the boat. And right there, for a few steps, Peter, too, “walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

    Admittedly, Peter was, out of all the disciples, probably the most self-confident guy there. Perhaps that played a part in his decision to step out of the boat. But for this brief moment I don’t think his faith was in himself, but in Jesus. Peter may have felt he was the best fisherman, the best leader, the best swimmer even, but nobody had ever walked on water before—it’s just not possible. The only way this was even conceivable was if Jesus empowered him to do it. Peter had only one thing to rely on in that moment—Jesus. And as he leaned on Him, the impossible became an unlikely reality and Peter found himself standing on the waves.

    I have not walked on water before, nor do I expect that I will anytime soon. It’s not that I don’t have enough faith—I’m not sure I can necessarily increase or decrease my faith anyway. What I do know is that Jesus is powerful enough to do whatever He wants to do, and there will be times in my life when He will call me into something that only He can accomplish through me. In those moments I will have a choice. Will I sit in the boat, paralyzed by fear? Or will I trust in the One who made the world and everything in it, and take that step out into the crazy unknown? What will you do?

    TueTuesdayOctOctober16th2012 Fear not
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    I’ve come to realize that fear is just part of what it means to live in this world. I don’t like it, and at times it can be almost overwhelming, but I’m never going to pray myself into a place where there is no more fear. We live in a broken world, and even the strongest, most capable person will sooner or later come face to face with it. After all, what is bravery if there is nothing to be afraid of?

     

    Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (Matthew 14:23b-26)

     

    What does this passage say the disciples were afraid of? Odd, isn’t it? I am sure that the storm produced a fair degree of anxiety in these men. Although most of them were fishermen, and therefore perhaps used to stormy conditions, a situation like this, in the middle of the night, was undoubtedly still a cause for fear. However, Matthew doesn’t say anything about their emotions as relating to the wind or the waves or the possibility of sinking. What terrifies them is Jesus.

    Let’s be fair here—if I saw someone walking on the water in the middle of a storm in the middle of the night, I would be a little perturbed as well. This wasn’t something mildly interesting or entertaining. It was a terrifying display of power. Dividing loaves and fishes was one thing. Walking on water was something else entirely. To say they were incredulous doesn’t even come close. The disciples “cried out in fear.”

    I’m reminded here of the Old Testament story of Job, and his encounter with God. As Job tried to make sense of the suffering and pain he was enduring he kept coming up short, unable to understand what was going on. But “then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm” (Job 38:1). In a long speech God reminded Job of His absolute and total power and authority over all things. God alone said to the sea, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11). In the light of God’s self-revelation Job could nothing other than repent of his ignorance and turn to God in worship.

    Here’s the astonishing truth for us today. All that same creative power and divine authority listed in Job 38-41 “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Jesus took on flesh, not to lord it over us, not to dazzle people with His powers, but to humbly seek and save a lost Creation. We can, and should, stand in Holy fear before the One who holds the Universe in the palm of His hand. But may we also stand firm in the promise of forgiveness that was secured for us through Jesus, our Messiah. In Christ we have been set free from our slavery to sin, and given a fresh start on life. May we stand in awe of who God is, but no longer fear His judgment.

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

    MonMondayOctOctober15th2012 A watery miracle
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    About ten years ago, pastor and author John Ortberg wrote a book called, If You Want to Walk on the Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. It’s a brilliant title that captures the essence of this week’s passage of Scripture (Peter’s attempt to join Jesus walking on the water). However, before we dive into the more exciting and well-known parts of this passage, we have to start with the context in which this incredible miracle took place.

     

     Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. (Matthew 14:22-24)

    “The crowd” that Jesus dismissed was massive. “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). Imagine the total number of people who come and go over the course of all three services in our church on any given Sunday. That’s how many men there were. Now add all their families into the mix as well. That’s a lot of people. Trying to feed a crowd that size is not just amazing, it’s astonishing; almost impossible to imagine. Yet, “they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14:20). 

    Yes, it was nice of Jesus to provide dinner for everyone. Yes, it shows His care and compassion for our physical needs. Yes, it was even better that there were leftovers. But the primary reason Jesus put on this meal was not to assuage people’s hunger. This miracle, like so many others, points definitively to Jesus’ absolute authority over the Creation. Who else, other than the Creator Himself, could multiply the atoms and molecules of some bread and fish in order to produce more?

    This remarkable demonstration of power by Jesus is the context for His command for the disciples to get in the boat and cross the lake. It’s the same power that had to know that the disciples would encounter a storm, and the same power that would ultimately save the disciples from it. The sequence of events is not random or arbitrary, but a planned opportunity to highlight in big bold letters Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.

    Our sermon series this month is called “All In.” This title, along with the giant thumbprints you’ve no doubt seen all around the church, emphasizes our personal commitment to follow Jesus with everything we have and every part of who we are. However, we can only make such a bold statement of faith because of our confidence in who Jesus is. It may not sound so catchy, but personally I think I would have to modify John Ortberg’s book title a little bit, to say instead, If You Want to Walk on the Water, You Have to Trust the One Who is Calling You.

    As long as we remain focused on our faith and our abilities, we will never get very far. But look instead to Jesus and marvel at His Creation-bending, life-altering, world-changing power. Let that be the motivator for you as you consider how and where Jesus might be calling you to go “all in.”


    FriFridayOctOctober12th2012 God with us
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    You know what my children want more than anything else in the world? Presence. Not just the physical proximity of another human being, but the dedicated focus and attention of someone who is fully present in the moment with them. They crave it. They don’t want part of me, they want all of me.

    Sadly, I’m embarrassed to admit that I am not always able to come through for them in this way. When I get home from work my brain is going in a hundred different directions, and focusing fully on them can be a challenge. There are chores to do, errands to run, calls to return and food to make. The needs are endless and it’s hard for me to keep up.

    The good news for us is that while I may be an imperfect father, our Heavenly Father is perfect in every way. And He promises to be fully present with us at all times.

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

     

    The prophetic promise was that God would send a savior who would be called “Immanuel (which means, ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23, quoting from Isaiah 7:14). John says that, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). His real presence with the disciples was so powerful that as He preached more and more about His need to leave them, they became quite distraught. Jesus had to reassure them that although He was leaving, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17a).

    His promise to the disciples on the mountain was profound. As challenging as His command to “go and make disciples” must have sounded, the reassuring promise of His constant presence was greater still. Whatever challenges and setbacks we may face, Jesus is with us. Nothing at all can separate us from that love. He is always with us. And it is in and through and by that power that we can persevere as a result.

    ThuThursdayOctOctober11th2012 Make disciples
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    If you are a follower of Jesus, if you have tasted anything of the sweetness of grace and the riches of forgiveness, if you have called on Christ as King and turned your whole life over to Him, you’re job description is clear—go and make disciples. What is God’s will for your life? Make disciples. What should you be doing with your time and money and gifts and abilities? Making disciples. It’s the single most fundamental component of being a Christian. Make disciples.

     

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    You are doing this, right? Going out into the neighborhoods where God has placed you and sharing the love and grace and forgiveness you have experienced with those who need to hear it most? Baptizing new believers and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded, beginning with this command itself?

    Being a Christian should never be defined by how nice or clean we look. After all, even non-Christians manage to live fairly decent and morally upright lives. But are we obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples? That’s the only metric that counts.

    Now, as a teacher, I find myself wanting to soften the blow a little by explaining how this might look in different situations. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t say, “Now of course, when I say ‘go and make disciples,’ obviously if you have a family and a job, and you’re really busy, then the main thing is just pursuing personal discipleship and making sure your kids go to church.” He doesn’t give loopholes and caveats. There are no exemptions given for this or that special circumstance. He didn’t give us a library of case-law on applying the Great Commission to our particular life. The call is deliberately demanding and strikingly explicit.

    I don’t know how this will look in your life and I’m not going to make suggestions. This is a command for you to wrestle with, but not slip out of. So stop for a moment right now, and pray about it. This is not a time for guilt and condemnation (“I’m such a bad Christian for not doing this”). But it’s also not a time for making excuses (“you don’t know all the stuff I have going on right now”). This is not my command to you. Your salvation is not dependent on it. There is, thank the Lord, grace galore to cover our multitude of failures. But don’t ignore it and don’t gloss over it.

    Jesus says, “Go and make disciples.” What are you doing?

    WedWednesdayOctOctober10th2012 A man with all authority deserves our attention
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    After Jesus finished preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records that the people were amazed, “because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:29). Jesus clearly possessed an authority that far surpassed anything the people had previously experienced, not just in His teaching but in His presence as well. Now, at the culmination of His earthly ministry we return to that same theme,

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    For those with eyes to see, Jesus’ authority had been on display since the moment He entered this world. From the angels announcing His birth to the darkness that covered the land when He died, Jesus was clearly a King over all things, both spiritual and physical. Whenever Jesus healed someone from a disease or sickness, He was not simply helping them to live a pain-free life (although clearly that was part of it). Every healing was an opportunity to display His absolute authority over the physical world, and pointed forward to the day when all things will be fully restored and made totally new.

    When Jesus cast out demons He was not merely relieving people from a life of oppression (although again, His compassionate love shines brightly in each of these interactions). Every spiritual cleansing showed the people watching that He alone had been given absolute authority over the spiritual world. There were no spells, incantations, potions, lotions or elixirs involved. Jesus spoke the words and the demons were forced to obey His voice.

    It’s common to hear people proclaim on television shows and documentaries that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but no more. There may even be people in your own family who talk this way, perhaps in an effort to downplay your own attempts to elevate Him as the King. But when we actually look at the evidence, when we really read the gospel accounts, “good teacher” barely scratches the surface. Jesus was not concerned about helping us become better, more enlightened people. Jesus came to save us. And His life and ministry prove that He alone has the power and authority to do that.

    Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” As we prepare our hearts to consider what it means for each of us to be “all in,” we have to remember for whom it is we are going “all in.” Our senior pastor does not have all authority. Our favorite radio preacher does not have all authority. Our church does not have all authority. Our family does not have all authority. Jesus, and only Jesus, is our King and He alone is worthy of everything that we have to offer. What are you holding back for?

    TueTuesdayOctOctober9th2012 ...but some doubted
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    Following Jesus is a funny business. For every few steps forward we take, it seems like sometimes we take just as many back. Just as we seem to be growing in our faith, something comes along to make us stumble and fall. Back and forth, up and down. As we move to our text for this week, the oft-quoted “Great Commission,” we have to pause briefly to examine the context of the command.

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    Given the fact that Judas had betrayed Jesus, Peter had denied Jesus, and most of the others had run away, it’s an amazing testimony to their fledgling faith that the eleven remembered what Jesus had told them, left Jerusalem and journeyed all the way back up to Galilee. It’s another incredible sign of faith that “when they saw him, they worshiped him.” It’s possible that since they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit their understanding may still have been limited, but what they did know and perceive and understand and witness was enough. Jesus had proven Himself true, and deserved their worship and adoration.

    Yet, at the same time, “some doubted.” Whether the “some” refers to some of the eleven, or to some of the other hangers-on that no doubt accompanied them is not clear. But it’s reassuring to me nonetheless. Greek experts tell us that it’s not so much that these un-named people doubted Jesus as they were hesitant, sitting a bit on the fence, unsure and uncertain about everything. They had enough faith to get up to Galilee from Jerusalem, and up to the mountain Jesus had told them about, but still weren’t totally sure what would happen next.

    It’s a passage that brings to mind Peter’s faltering footsteps as he stepped out of the boat and onto the water with Jesus. A moment of incredible, astonishing faith was mixed with a hesitancy that caused him to sink under the waves. As we prepare our hearts for the life-altering call Jesus is about to make on the life of every disciple throughout all of time, this moment of doubt reminds us of our frail natures, daily struggle with sin and vacillating commitment to Christ. Most of all it reminds us that we can accomplish nothing without Jesus’ help. After all, the disciples did not, and could not, engage in this mission until after Jesus gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    The great commission is not a project we can plug into Outlook or a to-do list to work on over the weekend. It is an absolute call from God over every part of our lives. It is a call for total commitment to Christ, but one that He helps us to accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit. Wherever you are in your relationship with God right now, seek His help for taking that next step. And when you feel like you’re beginning to sink, lean hard on the Holy Spirit for the strength to persevere. 

    MonMondayOctOctober8th2012 Christ Jesus came to save sinners
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    For all the confidence and assurance we have about approaching God, nevertheless Sunday mornings can sometimes be the most spiritually disconnected time of week. Plagued by guilt or shame we come hesitantly into worship, uncertain about whether or not we can really participate. Battling lingering feelings of resentment or anger we may stride boldly into church, only to find ourselves fighting with thoughts of bitterness instead of worshiping the God of peace. Overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and depression, it may take everything we have just to show up at all. The gulf between what is happening on stage and what is happening in my own heart is sometimes too much to bear.  In these moments, we come to Jesus as the father of the boy who had an “evil spirit” did, saying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

    I want to be present with God in these moments of praise and worship. I do believe the underlying theology. I am keenly aware of my need to connect with the one who alone holds “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). But I can’t do it by myself. I need His help. I am so desperately thirsty for the water of life but sometimes the well just seems too deep.

    As we transition into a new sermon series entitled, “All In,” some of us may be stopped dead in our tracks by the title alone. There may be so many other things already going on in our life right now that such a challenge may seem too much to bear. But the call is not for us to do more, as if we are responsible for proving ourselves to God or others. The call is to live more freely in light of all that God has already done on our behalf.  As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans,

    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

     

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

     

    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:1-10)

    We all come to the cross empty. We come broken, beaten and battered by this world, carrying heavy burdens and deep wounds. We stumble into His presence in a distracted daze, as weary sinners desperately in need of a savior. And as we reach out our half-hearted hands towards His Holy face, He pours out His love into our hearts, restoring our souls and renewing our hearts and minds.

    Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. He came to redeem and restore the broken. As we begin this week of worship, may Paul speak for all of us when he says,

     I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

     

    Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

    FriFridayOctOctober5th2012 Now what?

    There are two dangers we should be aware of when reading the Sermon on the Mount. The first stems from familiarity with such a well-known portion of the New Testament. Our tendency can be to essentially skip over most of the teaching, assuming that we already know all this stuff and can move onto something else. Beatitudes? Check. Lord’s Prayer? Check. Don't kill people and don’t be angry at them either? Double-check. Build my house on the rock? Done. Now what?

    The second error is to become so overwhelmed by the enormous demands that Jesus places on our lives that we freeze in one spot with no clue which way to turn next. We’re to obey the Law, but see it as fulfilled in Jesus, and do everything that Jesus says, but focus on our hearts, but not be proud, but put our faith into action, but not see that as the source of our salvation… It can get confusing. Which way do I turn? How can I really apply any of this?

    If you fit into the first category, and have struggled to really engage in this series, consider adjusting your reading plan over the next few months to include regular forays into the prophets. Read Jeremiah. Or Joel, or Amos or Hosea. Ask God to give you new eyes to see and hear His words in fresh ways. Pray for the Spirit to move in your heart to capture your imagination and spur you into renewed excitement and passion for His Word.

    If you find yourself leaning more towards the second category, take a deep breath and let me reassure you. It’s all of the above. That tension you feel is a good thing. This is not “just another sermon” assembled with three points all beginning with the same first letter. These are the words of God Himself. They should rock us to our core. They should challenge us as the deepest level possible.

    Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” May we always be ready and willing to admit our absolute spiritual poverty before God, and turn to Him for help in healing us. 

    ThuThursdayOctOctober4th2012 All authority

    As we come to the end of our series, “All Authority,” we arrive at the verse from which we derived the series title.

    When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)

    Jesus possess a unique teaching gift as the Son of God that was obvious to the crowds of people assembled to hear Him. Not only was there a unique authority that stemmed from His presence, but there was also a unique authority to the words themselves. Not only was the content of this sermon unlike anything they had heard before, but the person delivering it was unlike anyone they had heard before as well. Here was someone who didn’t point ahead to a future Messiah, but pointed people to Himself as the fulfillment of the law and the source of final judgment.

    The reaction of the crowds is particularly illustrative for us today. Everyone was amazed with what they had just heard.  I can only assume that most of them didn’t understand the kind of life Jesus was calling them to embrace! Undoubtedly the majority were simply impressed with his teaching ability, and intrigued to hear something new and different they hadn’t heard before. But how many would actually put what He said into practice? How many would recognize Jesus’ unique position as the Son of God, the Messiah, the One with All Authority?

    The same questions linger today. We all have our favorite authors and pastors. Think about how many sermons you’ve listened to over the past year. What percentage of those have actually led to significant change in your life as a result? How often do we walk away from a Bible study, devotional time, worship service or radio show thinking, “Wow, God is amazing!” only to turn around and go back to life as normal ten minutes later?

    I may recognize Jesus as a teacher of exceptional authority, but have I let Him have all authority over my life?  

    WedWednesdayOctOctober3rd2012 Put them into practice

    “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

    We have to ask ourselves why it is that Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with this particular story. What is the connection between doing good works and being wise? Is the emphasis on doing good works? How do we balance this focus on what we do with Jesus’ emphasis on the Kingdom of God and His identity as the Messiah?

    To help set the scene for the concluding comments of this sermon, take a few minutes and read back over the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Start at Matthew 5:1. What are some of the main themes running through these chapters?

    Although the religious leaders of Jesus’ time had a tendency to focus on external obedience to the requirements of the law, Jesus was clearly far more concerned with their hearts. While some people seemed satisfied with obeying the letter of the law (“hey, I never actually committed adultery”), Jesus took it up a notch by saying that even if they had looked on someone else with lust in their hearts, they were guilty.

    So, back to our question about “doing good works.” The wise man, according to Jesus, is the person who puts His words into practice. This does not mean, however, that we just need to work harder than we did before. That would go against the entire rest of the sermon. The point is that Jesus is driving for authenticity in the faith of His followers—a congruence between what’s on the inside and what’s on the outside. What they do should flow out of who they are.

    Hence this story about the wise man building his house upon the rock. The religious leaders were condemned for following the letter of the law while ignoring the intent of the law. The foolish person is mocked for hearing Jesus’ words, but failing to put them into practice.

    The result in both cases is exactly the same—a complete disconnect between their internal life and their external life. Doing or not doing works is largely beside the point. The issue at hand is true heart obedience to Jesus, because what is inside is ultimately going to be the driving force for everything in our life. Where is your heart?

    TueTuesdayOctOctober2nd2012 Saying vs. Doing

    There seems to be a disease common among children today that affects their ability to do what they say they are going to do. They may mean to clean their room or do the dishes or finish their homework, but all too often what ends up happening instead is that the jobs get left half-done and the parents get left frustrated. Sound familiar?

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

     

    Obviously doing God’s will is far more significant than cleaning up the playroom, but the underlying temptations to go easy on ourselves are exactly the same. Apparently the failure to follow-through affects grown-ups as well as children.

    How often do we say we’re going to pray for someone, and then never do it? How many times have you told your spouse or a Bible study friend that you need to read the Bible more, only to leave it unopened all week? How often have we been ready to proudly display our Christianity in church-friendly settings, only to shy away from sharing our faith with a neighbor who’s an atheist?

    Why is it that we worship so boldly on Sunday morning, and yet so often live out the rest of our week in ways no different than the rest of our culture?

     

    Doing the will of our Heavenly Father is not always easy or fun and often won’t earn us any friends in a world that is opposed to the absolute claims of Jesus Christ. However, the challenge presented to us in the Sermon on the Mount calls us to relinquish earthly standards and pursue the path of obedience instead.

    MonMondayOctOctober1st2012 The wise built his house upon the rock

    “The wise man built his house upon the rock,

    The wise man built his house upon the rock,

    The wise man built his house upon the rock

    and the rains came tumbling down…”

    Do you remember this Sunday school song and the associated hand motions? Do you remember what it means? What is the point of this passage of Scripture?

    If you’re anything like me you may have come up with things like, “The wise man is a Christian and the foolish man is not,” or, “Jesus should be the foundation of my life,” or perhaps just, “Be a wise man and not a foolish man.” But is that what the passage really says?

     

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

     

     “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

     

    When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:24-29)

     

    Obviously there is a lot going on here, and we’ll explore this more over the coming days, but the command here is not to “be wise” or “build on Jesus” or even “set Jesus as the foundation of your spiritual house.” All those may be good and true, but this passage has a different emphasis. Jesus said:

    “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

     

    The wise man (whose house stands firm) is the person who actually puts the words of Jesus into practice. They don’t just listen to the sermon, they put it into practice. They don’t just read the Bible, they apply it to their lives.

    A wise person turns all those good intentions into tangible activity. Based on that criteria, how would you grade yourself?

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