Monthly Archives: April 2018

DO NOT JUDGE

The story of the Prodigal Son is the most beautiful of all Jesus’ stories.

It’s a familiar story because we know it well and because it is the story of many families.  It’s not the story line that surprises me, however, but the outcome.  How many fathers would receive back a wayward son without reproach?  How many fathers would treat that son like royalty even though he still smelt like the pig pen?

There’s another line in the story that catches my attention because it is an all-too-familiar scene that plays out in human families and in the family of God.  Have you noticed the  contrast between the attitudes of the younger and the older son?  Jesus could have ended His story with the celebration in honour of the son’s return, but He didn’t.  From a literary point of view the story has a rather weak ending but Jesus wasn’t interested in literature.  He was interested in true life.  He tells us the sequel.

The younger son was a rebel and a bad boy, but he came home with these words on his lips, “Father, I have sinned.”  He owned his bad behaviour and repented before God and his father.  He didn’t blame his parents or his circumstances for his choices.  He acknowledged his guilt and was pardoned and restored to his family.

The words on the lips of the older brother reveal the attitude of his heart.  The younger brother said, “I have sinned.”  With scathing contempt the older brother pointed his finger at his younger brother and said, “You have sinned.”  How many older brothers are there who point the finger at others and say, “You have sinned.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes this point very clear.  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Matthew 7:1,2.

Who was set free from guilt in this story?  Certainly not the older brother.  He held on to his guilt of hypocrisy and pride while the “sinner” was forgiven.

What about you?  Have you forgiven and released from your judgment every person who has offended you?  Jesus made it clear that, if you do not, you will not be forgiven.

BLIND SPOTS!

Blind spots!

Most motor vehicles have blind spots – those places in the rear view mirror where a vehicle behind you is obscured for a moment or on the sides of the windscreen that block your vision of an oncoming vehicle. If you are not vigilant, a blind spot can be the cause of a serious accident.

We can also have blind spots in our characters or behaviour patterns, flaws of which we are unaware but which cause offense to other people; habits, attitudes, character traits, moods or reactions or responses to people or situations.

These blinds spots very often reveal themselves in the way we treat others. The things we don’t like in others are often a reflection of what is in our own lives. We may be moody, critical, sarcastic or angry and be unaware of the way our words or behaviour affect others. We don’t see any wrong in the way we treat other people and we go on our merry way leaving a trail of emotional injury behind us.

Listen to what Jesus taught His disciples: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

How can we discover and deal with our blind spots so that we can foster harmony in our families, in the church and with friends and work colleagues? I can think of at least three ways to deal with our blinds spots.

Firstly, we need to be honest. If we refuse to acknowledge our faults, we are fooling no-one but ourselves. God’s grace will come to us when we are honest with Him.

Secondly, we need humility, before God and men. Pride refuses to acknowledge our faults and do something about them. Humility allows God to change us.

Thirdly, we need accountability, a loving, caring person who will help us monitor our progress. If we are really serious with God, dealing with blind spots will go a long way towards building unity in our families and in the body of Christ.

THE BLOOD THAT SPEAKS

Does blood speak?

Apparently, it does. When God questioned Cain about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain rudely replied, “I don’t know…Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” (Gen. 4:10)

Did Cain really think that God did not know what he had done? What about the rivers of blood that cry out for vengeance from the ground since that day? Every drop of blood that has ever been shed through violence is calling for justice. Every unborn baby ripped out of its mother’s womb is crying for vengeance. God listens; God hears; God will repay.

However, there is blood, poured out on the ground at the foot of a rough torture stake that speaks another message. Unlike all other blood that was taken by force, the blood of Jesus was given freely as a love gift to all mankind. Yes, men did put Him to death. They drove nails through His hands and feet. One man thrust a sword into His side, spilling the last drops of His life-giving blood on the ground. Yet He declared, “No one takes my life from me. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again.”

This blood is also speaking. What does it say?

You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24 – NLT).

When Jesus had risen from the dead, He took His precious blood, staining the earth beneath the cross and offered it on the Mercy Seat in the heavenly tabernacle. This was His offering to the Father to pay the debt of sin no one else can pay. With His blood, He sealed the New Covenant with the Father so that all who believe in Him are forgiven, reconciled and reinstated as God’s beloved children.

With His own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time, and secured our redemption forever (Heb. 9:12 – NLT).

Abel’s blood and every drop of blood shed since then, cries out for vengeance except the blood of Jesus. His blood speaks of mercy.

What a God we serve! No other god has ever given what God gave in mercy to rescue those who spit in His face. We are privileged to wear the robe of righteousness bought with Jesus’ blood, which give us access to the Father.

 

MOLLY AND ME – DIRTY PAWS

Molly is a very clean little dog – except for her paws!

I bath her every second week, an event which, strangely enough, she doesn’t mind. Fortunately, she doesn’t smell like a dog and she doesn’t have the habit of rolling in smelly stuff, so a fortnightly bath is sufficient to keep her sweet and clean.

However, we live in a granny flat on a property which is enclosed in high walls and secure gates. Most of the back and front yards are covered with thick grass which is riddled with earthworms. They push their casts up everywhere, creating muddy blobs all over the lawn when it rains.

Molly has the freedom to run and explore the garden to her heart’s content, sniffing out geckos and frogs to chase and digging in the lawn for crickets (which she is learning not to do). Rain is no deterrent although she is not a “water” dog. Rain or shine, she spends ages traversing the same patch of lawn and getting her little paws well and truly muddied.

Old towels at the back and front doors soak up most of the dirt but, when we go to bed, I make sure that her paws are clean!

This little ritual reminds me of the scene in the Upper Room on the eve of Jesus’ death. There was no servant to wash the disciples’ dusty feet and they were too high and mighty to do the lowly task for one another. So, they sat down on cushions on the floor to eat the Passover with their Master with their unwashed feet very much in evidence!

Jesus must have been very aware of the omission (and the smell) and waited for an opportunity to teach His disciples a very practical lesson. They were constantly arguing about their pecking order and chose to ignore Jesus’ repeated lessons on true greatness. Here was an opportunity to put into practice what He had taught them, but not one of them of them chose to use it.

So, Jesus took off His outer garment, picked up the bowl and pitcher of water and proceeded to do the task of a slave, As usual, there was no reaction from most of them except from Peter. He remonstrated with Jesus, probably feeling guilty that he had not done what Jesus was doing.

However, out of this altercation came a beautiful object lesson for every one of His followers. Peter said, “Never, Lord!” Jesus responded, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” Characteristically, then Peter replied, “Lord, give me a bath!” Again, Jesus responded, “You are clean, Peter, except for your feet.”

What did He mean? Peter had received the “washing with water through the Word” of which Paul spoke in Eph. 5:26. His sins were forgiven through the blood Jesus would shed on the cross. He had received the gift of righteousness which God gives to those who believe in His Son. However, through his fleshly nature, he still picked up dirt from his everyday interaction with people and circumstances.  All he needed was to have feet cleansed from the defilement of his daily “walk” in the world.

Perhaps his fellow disciple, John, remembered Jesus’ words when he wrote,

If we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin….If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness, (1 John 1:7, 9 – NLT).

Yes, Jesus assures us that we are clean through His Word because we believe in Him, but we need the constant cleansing of our “feet” by His forgiveness though His blood so that our fellowship with Him will remain transparent and uninterrupted.

Have you, like Molly, muddied your “paws” today? Allow Jesus to wash your feet. Then there will be no hindrance to your intimacy with Him. You can go to bed and sleep in peace in His loving presence because His blood keeps on cleansing you from all sin.

THE PERFECT FATHER

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Psa. 103:13)

I wonder how true this metaphor is in today’s world. Not only do we live in a fatherless world where many men beget children but take no responsibility for them, but where many children suffer at the hands of fatherless fathers who don’t know how to be good fathers to their sons and daughters.

God made fathers to represent Him to their children until they are old enough to understand who God is. The sad thing is that people often reject God because their dads put them off Him. Instead of believing in Him as a compassionate Father, they only see Him through the lens of their own fathers’ failures. They turn away from Him and try to fill the void with people and things that can never take His place.

Louie Giglio said that God is a not a “blown up” version of our earthly fathers. He is not like us as all – at least not like us after Adam sinned and became independent from Him. He created us to be like Him but we chose to go our own way and messed up His plan.

To get past our dads’ failures to know God as a compassionate Father, we must first acknowledge that our fathers are or were as imperfect as we are. How do we deal with their human frailties? We forgive. We don’t have to make excuses for them or for what they did or failed to do. We cancel their debt because God has cancelled ours.

We must let it all go for two reasons. Firstly, we forgive because Jesus paid their debt as well as ours and forgives all sin – theirs and ours. Secondly, God wants us to be merciful to others because He has been merciful to us. How can we hold unforgiveness in our hearts when He has been kind to us? The debt our fathers owe us is small compared with the unpayable debt we owed God.

When we have dealt with the baggage of our father’s debt that we have carried around in our hearts, we will recognise the Father’s love and compassion for us first of all in Jesus, His Son and then in the many “kisses” He gives us every day.

Just imagine how wonderful it will be when you are no longer angry with your father any more. You’ll be able to enjoy your heavenly Father’s love and favour to the full because He is the perfect Abba and He loves you with perfect love.