Blank Space

Today’s reading:  Luke 2

Luke 2 begins with the birth of Jesus, and ends when he was 12 years old.  Luke 3 picks up when Jesus is 30 years old and ready to begin his ministry.  Do you find it interesting that the blank space between the chapters covers 18 years?  Nothing about Jesus’ teenage years and twenties is recorded here.

As I was preparing for this post, I began to reflect on my life between the ages of 12 and 30.  A lot of growing up and maturing happened over the course of those 18 years.  During that time I finished my core education, began a career and married my true love.  Some of my choices were good, some were bad, but almost all of them were learning experiences.  I’m pretty glad a transcript of my teenage and early adult years does not exist.  In fact, I wish I couldn’t remember some those “learning” experiences!

Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t account for what happened during that time in Jesus’ life?  Do you think he was impulsive, emotional and smart-mouthed just like I was at that age?  It’s hard to imagine.  Here’s what I do know for sure – unlike me, Jesus lived through those years without sin.  Not just without getting caught, but entirely without sin!  Even so, I think Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, spent those 18 years learning and maturing just like I did.  Based on the last two verses of Luke 2, here’s what I see in the blank space –

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:51-52).

Jesus grew in wisdom – until he was 30, Jesus lived an ordinary life in the ordinary town of Nazareth.  As a carpenter’s son, he learned a lot about earning a living and dealing with people.  Have you ever noticed that after Luke 2, the Bible says nothing else about Jesus’ father Joseph?  More than likely, Joseph died during the eighteen year gap between Luke 2 and 3.  Jesus and his brothers would have taken on the responsibility to provide for their family.  Going to school, running errands, doing the laundry and cleaning house are likely some of the routine responsibilities Jesus and his brothers would have taken on in their father’s absence.  As God’s son, Jesus’ already had all the knowledge he needed. What he gained during this time was experience and connection.  By living through the cadence of ordinary life, he learned to how to connect with people through their triumphs and temptations.  Jesus’ growth and maturity during this time was purposeful, effectively preparing him for his ministry.

Obedience put Jesus in favor with God and man – verse 51 tells us Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.  The story of Jesus in the temple at the end of this chapter was the first glimpse of Jesus acknowledging his identity with God.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49)?

Jesus knew his earthly ministry was not to begin until he was age 30, but he submitted to his earthly parents for another eighteen years while he prepared for it.  It is hard to believe God’s plan for the King of kings and Lord of lords was to come to earth to save his people, but live in obscurity for the first 30 years. That seems like such a long time!  Can you imagine Jesus, who truly was smarter than his parents, choosing to be obedient when he probably knew a better way most of the time?  Jesus wasn’t just obedient to God’s plan, he was also obedient to God’s timing.

Growing in wisdom and being obedient to God’s plan molds as shapes who we are far beyond our teenage and young adult years.  Today, I challenge you to embrace God’s plan for your life.  Invite him to work through your faithfulness, and learn to be patient with his timing.  He knows what’s best for us!

What do YOU believe about God?

Today’s reading:  Mark 6

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6:1-6).

Jesus lived among the people of Nazareth for 30 years. He grew up with them, he was their neighbor and their friend.  They knew him better than anyone else.  Their familiarity with Jesus and their preconceived notions about him, however, kept them from accepting his message and putting their faith in him.  Ultimately their unwillingness to believe Jesus was the Messiah God promised in the Old Testament, separated them from God.

In his 1961 book, The Knowledge of the Holy, AW Tozer wrote – “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”.  Do you believe this?  Think about it – if eternal life is only possible because God sent Jesus to die on the cross and pay the price for our sins, knowing what someone believes in his or her heart about God tells us where they will spend eternity.  You might even go as far as to say – if we get it wrong about God, it really doesn’t matter what else we get right.  Outside of spending eternity with God, all other roads lead to death.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research center, 80% of Americans claim to believe in God. This study found how people see God, and how they believe God interacts with them, varies greatly by religious affiliation, gender and political party.  In fact, only about 56% of Americans affirm belief in God as he is described in the Bible (When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean, 2017).

So I ask, what do YOU believe about God?  This is the most important question you will ever answer.

And this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).

Could You Say No?

Today’s reading:  Matthew 22

In May, my 11 year old got braces. This was not unexpected, as she sucked her thumb for the first 4 ½ years of her life.  (I knew letting her suck her thumb was going to cost me a pile of money at some point.  But, she was so cute and so happy I decided I was willing to pay for braces if it meant more sleep for me in those early months!)  Her teeth were pretty crowded and she was anxious to get them corrected.  The treatment plan started with a jaw expander, braces on her upper teeth, then braces for her lower teeth.  Ugh.  It was pretty painful the first couple of days, but she eventually got used to the mouth full of hardware she will have for the next 24 months.

Three months later I was back at the orthodontist with my son. He was a little different story.  His teeth were fairly straight, so he wasn’t sure he really wanted braces.  Turns out, his bite was pretty messed up.  What I thought was going to be a pretty quick, easy and cheaper treatment plan, turned out to be just as significant as my daughters’.  Even with a sibling discount and insurance, it was still going to cost me a ton.

It was at this point, Freddy and I had a heart to heart.  My advice to him was to get his teeth fixed while someone else (his parents) was willing to foot the bill.  Before I shelled out the cash, however, I wanted to make sure he was committed to the plan.  I wanted affirmation that he was going to follow the strict instructions of the orthodontist – brushing and flossing every day, using fluoride mouthwash, and avoiding certain foods.  I was not interested in wasting my money on braces that were not going to work because he wasn’t willing to do his part.

As you’d expect, he agreed to the plan, and I am thousands of dollars poorer today than I was in May.  But I am a mother, and I am willing to make sacrifices for the good of my children.  As I reflected on our scripture for today in Matthew 22, it became painfully obvious the things I do for my kids really aren’t that much of a sacrifice.  In fact, they pale in comparison to the sacrifice God made for us by sending Jesus.  Let’s look a little closer at the parable of the wedding feast.

The king prepared a wedding feast for his son.  When it was time for the guests to come, they all had excuses for not showing up.  So, the king sent out servants to find others.  They too didn’t come and even went so far as to mistreat the servants.  Eventually, the king sent the servants out with an invitation for all – the good, the bad and the ugly – to join in the wedding celebration.  They came and filled up his tables.  Okay, this made sense.  God invites us all – the good, the bad, and the ugly to his table; even though we often turn away, he keeps giving us more chances to be part of his plan.  Then I got to verses 11-13…

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-13).

If the King sent his servants to find people who weren’t originally invited (nor necessarily fit) to come to the wedding feast – the poor, homeless people on the street – why then did he attack one of them for not wearing the right clothes?  It didn’t make any sense to me until I understood a little more about the customs of the day.

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for the host to provide wedding guests appropriate clothes to wear to the feast.  (How great would that be?  Never having to figure out what to wear to the event would make things so much easier!)  Without the right clothes, guests couldn’t be part of the celebration.  Guests didn’t want to insult the host, nor did they want to signal that they weren’t interested in participating, so they never refused to wear the wedding clothes given to them.

Is this starting to make sense?  This story isn’t just about God’s invitation for us to be his people.  It is also a picture of his amazing grace.  See, God cannot live with sin because it goes against his perfect nature.  We have to somehow get rid of our sin in order to spend eternity with him.  Because we can’t do this for ourselves, God chose to make a way for us.  His solution was to send Jesus, his only son, to pay the price for our sin.  By taking our sin upon himself, then giving his life as a sacrifice, Jesus became our “wedding clothes”.  Accepting him as Savior and Lord is how we become acceptable to God, “clothed in righteousness”.  Not everyone, unfortunately, will make this choice.  Like the wedding guest who wouldn’t accept the clothes, those who deny Jesus will eventually be cast out to spend eternity apart from God.

How humbling. I love Freddy with all my heart, but I was unwilling to spend $4,000 unless he affirmed he would follow the orthodontist’s treatment plan.  God, on the other hand, was willing to give his son’s life as a sacrifice for all even though he knew many would reject him.

Given what you know about Jesus today, how could you say no to him?

Thorns on his head. Spear in his side. Yet it was a heartache that made him cry. He gave his life so you would understand. Is there any way you could say no to this man? – Mickey Cates (1981)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAHtQgcbbgc

A Decision

Today’s reading:  Matthew 10

Matthew 10 is the account of Jesus preparing to send his twelve disciples out for ministry. He started with basic instructions for them in verses 5-15.

  • Who – Take the good news to the nation of Israel, the Jews, God’s chosen people (verse 6).
  • What – Announce that the kingdom of God is near (verse 7).  Heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons (verse 8).
  • How – Don’t take anything with you, rather search for a person to let you stay at their house until you leave (verses 9-11).  Bless those that welcome you in, move on by those who do not (verse 13-14).

Jesus then spent the next 26 verses preparing the disciples for the persecution they were going to face. He told them to expect to be beaten, arrested and put on trial. He went on and encouraged them not to fear, as their enemies were only able to kill their bodies, not their souls. This was a harsh dose of reality, but not different than what you’d expect Jesus to say to his disciples…until you get to verse 34.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:34).

Wait a minute. Is this the Jesus I know?

When Jesus was born, didn’t the angels say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14)?

Isn’t the fifth commandment to honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)?

Doesn’t Jesus call us, his followers, to be peacemakers? In the Sermon on the Mount he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Later on in the New Testament, James the brother of Jesus, described those with faith in Jesus as “peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

Isn’t peace also one of the fruits that should be produced by a life that is truly devoted to following Jesus?  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do you see my struggle here?

My Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House) had good perspective on this verse.  Jesus wasn’t encouraging family conflict in Matthew 10:34, rather he was acknowledging that his presence demanded a decision.  The same is true today.  Either you’re with him or you’re not.  Either you have confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, or you have not.  There is no in between.  This dichotomy naturally causes conflict between those who follow Jesus and those who do not.  The result is persecution.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

What is Love

Today’s reading:  1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

When I was in junior high, I had Steve Camp’s Fire and Ice cassette tape. I bet I listened to that thing a hundred times.  The five songs on the front side of the tape that is.  I never turned the tape over because the songs on the back weren’t nearly as good (I’m laughing as I write this.  Do you remember waiting forever for a tape to rewind?  What about fastforwarding and trying to guess how long was long enough to get past the song you didn’t like?  Oh how thing have changed.)  As I read today’s scripture, it took me back to Steve Camp’s 1984 duet with Michelle Pillar – Love’s Not a Feeling (the 3rd song on side 1).  The chorus went like this:

Love’s not a feeling, oh, we’ve got to learn
To get past our emotions to the meaning of the Word
Love’s not a feeling we can lose or throw away
Lord, give us the courage to live it every day, oh…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak7xi3OnjpY

If love isn’t a feeling, what is it? What is the meaning of the word?  What does it mean to “live it every day”?  1 Corinthians chapter 13, often referred to as the love chapter of the Bible, describes love as a choice.  As you read this passage, notice love involves taking an action or abstaining from a self-centered action every time.  It is definitely not passive.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Our scripture in 1 John identifies actions God takes to demonstrate his love.

  • God creates – because he loves, God creates people in his image to love others. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God cares – because he loves, God sent his son to pay the price for our sins; the sins we’ve committed in the past, those we commit today, and those we will commit in the future. (1 John 4:9)
  • God offers himself – because he loves, God makes a way for us to spend eternity in his presence. (Romans 10:9)

Notice these actions aren’t a once and done kind of thing. They are written in present tense, as God is living and active in our lives today. Now the call to action – because God loves, we ought to love one another. What are ways you can be patient with others, kind to others, rejoice in truth, bear others burdens, believe in others, hope with others and endure with others today? This is love.

What Really Matters

Today’s reading:  Colossians 2:16-23

I’ve been on vacation with my family this week in the north woods of Minnesota, a place we’ve gone to my entire life. As you would expect, being there together conjures up many memories of years past.  I’m sure for my parents, these memories bring a mix of emotions.  Some good and some bad.  For my sister and me however, the memories primarily bring laughter.  Either because enough years have passed that we don’t remember the heartaches, more likely because my parents successfully shielded us from a lot of the drama that came with church leadership.

My Dad was the senior pastor of our church since I was 3 years old. Things were a lot different back in the 1970s and 1980s.  For example, Mom’s rule about what we could wear to church – we had to wear skirts or dresses to church every Sunday morning.  The only exception was IF the temperature was below zero.  Then, and only then, were we allowed to wear slacks.  My Mom didn’t really believe that God cared about what we were wearing, but she thought the rule helped teach us to bring our best to God.  Throughout my childhood, I can only remember one such occasion.  The weather was brutal.  Funny thing is – I don’t remember lobbying my Mom to stay home out of the frigid central Illinois wind, or being grateful slacks would keep me warm on my way to worship Jesus, rather I simply relished the opportunity to show off my stylish green plaid slacks!  While her rule was rooted in good intention, it didn’t really bring us closer to Jesus.

Other than the fun I’ve had reflecting on old times, why do I tell you this story? There are several of similarities to our text today in Colossians 2.  Paul instructed the Colossian Christians not to let anyone judge them by what they ate or drank because Christ had set them free.  While Old Testament law, religious festivals and ceremonies may have brought them closer to Christ, they were simply a means to an end.  In verse 17 Paul called them a shadow of what was to come.  After Jesus came and gave his life to atone for sin, faith in him became the only thing that really mattered.

Today, nothing has changed. Faith in Jesus Christ is still the only thing that matters.  The Bible talks about a variety of activities and practices that are aimed at assisting us in our walk with Jesus.  Please do not mistake them as a substitute for a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Attending Church, praying and serving others, for example, are all good practices that can help bring us closer to Jesus and other Christfollowers.  In the end, they are meaningless if Jesus is not in our heart.

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:22-23).

Humble Yourself

Today’s reading:  James 4:6-12

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:6-10).

Have you ever read the book Humble Inquiry – The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar H. Schein (2013)?  I read it a couple of years ago when I took on a new leadership role.  The teams I had taken over included a good number of the most well-tenured subject matter experts on our product lines and supporting processes.  Essentially my very first job in the department was to lead four teams who knew way more than I did.  It was a daunting task.

Schein defines Humble Inquiry as – the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person. He outlined a simplistic three-step process to implement this method:

  1. Do less telling.
  2. Learn to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry.
  3. Do a better job of listening and acknowledging.

Almost two years in, I’m happy to report I am a believer in the art of humble inquiry. The secret to the method is to be vulnerable enough to let others see your heart.  Getting them to understand the motive behind your actions – to build a trust relationship to help achieve common objectives – is not a fast process.  I’ve found, however, it is worth the investment.

Similarly, in our text for today, James guides his readers on how to build a trust relationship with God to achieve common objectives.

  1. Humble yourself before God – yield to his authority, let him help you make wise choices and avoid many pitfalls. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
  2. Resist the devil – unlike God, remember Satan doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Purify your heart – replace your desire to sin with a desire to be pure before God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23).
  4. Be truly sorry for your sins – express remorse for what you have done. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
  5. Bow down before the Lord – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

Building a trust relationship with God isn’t fast either, but it is definitely worth the investment.  The good news is God already has it figured out. He will be by our side and help us every step of the way.  We just need to trust and obey.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act
(Psalm 37:3-5).

Unity

 

Today’s reading:  Mathew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-29, Luke 21:29-31, Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).

Did you and your spouse light a unity candle at your wedding? I’m not sure if this is still a wedding tradition or not (it might not have made it past the 1900’s).  Nevertheless, it is still a good illustration – at the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony (usually after the formal vows), the bride and groom use the two taper candles to light the large pillar (unity) candle together.  Lighting the unity candle, and blowing out the separate taper candles, represents two lives being joined together as one.

As I was writing this post, I was thinking about the day B.J. and I got married. I think we lit a unity candle in our wedding, but I honestly can’t remember.  This morning I went downstairs to my storage room to see if I could find a picture.  After nearly breaking my neck trying to navigate the mess that is our storage room, I quickly gave up.  After twenty-four years of marriage B.J. and I are pretty unified whether or not we lit a dumb candle or not.  We both still love Jesus and share a common purpose – to glorify him with our lives.  But you know what?  We still disagree and bicker over a lot of relatively unimportant issues (like a messy rooms).  If not kept in check, our disagreement can take over, and will eventually lead to division.  Even the strongest of relationships are not immune from this risk.

In Psalm 133, as well as many other places throughout the scriptures, the church is called to Unity. It sounds good, but have you ever thought about why it is so important?  As I was reading and preparing for this post, a few key thoughts hit home for me.  These points are relevant to unity in the church as well as unity in our relationships.

Unity is theologically critical

Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. He is the way.  If we are not united on this foundational truth, everything else we stand for becomes meaningless.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6).

It is a powerful witness

A church unified around the mission of spreading the gospel is powerful. Satan knows the best way to keep a church from fulfilling its mission is to get people arguing over non-essentials, turning their focus inward, and losing their evangelistic passion.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21).

Unity sounds easy, but is incredibly hard to achieve and maintain. How do we do it?  While easier said than done, a few key suggestions from God’s word:

Keep Jesus Christ at the center

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Be humble, gentle and patient, bear with one another in love

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Lost

Today’s reading:  Luke 15:4-7, Psalm 121

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7).

Our text for today begins in verse 4 of Luke 15. In order to understand Jesus’ message in context of what was going on, however, we really need to go back to the first 3 verses of Luke 15.  The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling at Jesus because he was interacting with sinners.  Jesus’ message to the religious leaders through the parable of the lost sheep was not just that it was permissible to interact with sinners, but that rescuing sinners was his core mission.  It was his entire purpose.

Would you take time to reflect with me on three primary truths from this parable?

Sin separates us from God – Like sheep separated from their shepherd, separation from God is a dangerous place for us to be. We need a good shepherd, a savior.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Jesus chose to make a way for us, even though we don’t deserve it – The shepherd didn’t despise his straying sheep, neither does Jesus despise sinners. He willingly sacrificed his own life to make a way for us to be reconciled to God.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:14-18).

God celebrates when sinners repent – The shepherd didn’t punish the sheep who had gone astray, rather he called his friends and neighbors to celebrate the sheep’s homecoming. Similarly, God isn’t up there waiting to drop the hammer on us for all the wrongs we’ve committed.  His greatest desire is for us to be in fellowship with him.  He sent Jesus as the sacrifice to make that happen.  All of Heaven rejoices every time a sinner declares faith in Jesus Christ.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind, but now I see.  – John Newton, 1779

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

 

Today’s reading:  Matthew 13:45-46, Psalm 109

When he was younger, my son Freddy loved to collect things. Whether it was Thomas the Tank Engine trains, Cars Movie cars, Baukugan cards or Pokemon cards, he was crazy about them.  I bought hundreds of these things over the years!  I’m happy to tell you that today, for Freddy Armstrong’s 14th birthday, none of these dumb toys are included in his birthday gifts.  I’m glad that I’m no longer wasting my money on junk that I’ll eventually pitch after I’ve stepped on it for the 100th time.  Even so, I will miss seeing the pure joy in Freddy’s eyes as we sit around the dinner table watching him open his gifts tonight.  As a teenager, Freddy no longer passionately rips the packaging off his gifts and frantically searches to find the “rare and valuable” treasures hidden within.

Our passage in Matthew 13 – The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl, reminds me a little of Freddy Armstrong and his birthday toys. 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 13:45-46). The merchant was desperately searching to find what he considered the most rare and valuable treasure.  When he found it, he gave everything he had to make it his own.

Jesus didn’t tell this story to remind us children would be delighted with toys. Rather, like every other passage in the Bible, this story points us to the character of Jesus.  We are so valuable to him, Jesus gave up everything he had to make us his own.  He left his rightful place in heaven to come to earth, lived alongside dirty, sinful humans, and eventually gave his life as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins.

[Christ Jesus] who, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Thank you Jesus for searching until you found us.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  The joy we find in watching broken, sinful people be reconciled to God through faith in you will never grow old!