Israel was in crisis with its neighboring countries. The price of oil was everyone’s talking point. Everyone thought World War III was about to erupt. Racial tensions in America were coming to a boil. TV evangelists were advocating stocking up on non-perishable food supplies by the tons. Instead of being bold, Christians became cowards and hid their faith inside churches.
This may sound like yesterday’s newspaper, but it was 1973, and I remember it well. I was a student at Christian Training Center in Fort Wayne and led a coffee-house style youth group called the Waterloo High-Way Commission at the Waterloo Church of Christ. I was so excited to see God do powerful things in the lives of people who surrendered to Him.
Some things run full circle and boomerang right back to us, like the above issues of the 1970s. But God never changes. He still wants to live through us. Christianity has never been about creating a Christian government or protecting ourselves from evil-doers. Its always been about taking risks for the Kingdom and winning the lost to Christ, one soul at a time.
Don’t be snookered by Christians chasing rabbit trails. Go for the main thing. Jesus will take care of you.
“But Moses said, ‘O Lord, please send someone else to do it’. Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:13-14a).
When God revealed to Moses what His plan was for delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt, Moses began a series of arguments as to why he was not the right person. When Moses ran out of arguments, he turned to a plea: “Please send someone else to do it“. That is the typical response of mankind. Please send someone else.
But passing the buck is what angers God. To know what God wills and not be a partner in His will is rebellion. We are His workmanship, His craftsmanship. He has developed us through all we’ve been through for such a time as this. For us to rebel against Him when He needs our action is bad news. God only works through His body, the church.
Centuries later, God revealed Himself to another man, Isaiah, who replied, “Here am I, Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
What will your response be?
“Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:33-35).
Jesus had announced to all His disciples that they would all fall away and quoted Zechariah 13:7, which prophesies that the sheep would scatter when the shepherd was struck down. Peter, always the confident leader, replied that even if the others ran, he would never fall on account of Jesus. Peter was again comparing himself with the others and exalting himself above them. He relies upon his pride and self-determination to impress Jesus.
But Jesus knows the pride of man and addressed it with a bold prophecy of His own, down to unmistakable detail: “tonight“, “before the rooster crows“, “three times“. To this Peter puffed himself up again.
Yet, the rest of the story in this chapter recounts the details of Peter’s failure. The roaring lion turned into a pussy cat under pressure. Before we become too judgmental on Peter, however, remember the last line of our verse:
“And all the other disciples said the same.“
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
Overlooking an offense is not easy to do. Our minds tend to defend our egos by capitalizing on the offender. In school, I found fault with any teacher who disciplined me. In the Army, I sabotaged a Master Sergeant’s career because he humiliated me. In my former job, I ridiculed a foreman because he bossed me. In my old life I was always defending my wounded ego by transferring blame onto someone else.
When I came to Christ, I understood the futility of my ways. Proud people are constantly taking up offenses against other people. They take sides and become alienated from the very people who are trying to help them. And I was proud.
The Proverb writer says that a man’s wisdom gives him patience. How wise are you? Its to the glory of your character to turn the other cheek and go the second mile.
Someone will offend you today. Remember this verse when you respond.
“After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:46-47).
Jesus was merely twelve years of age. He had been raised by God-fearing and hard working parents, but He had no formal education. When the family returned home from making the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, Jesus had stayed behind, without His parents’ knowledge. This was pretty bold for a pre-teenager. After three days journey His parents recognized that He was not with them and returned. They found young Jesus in the temple, interacting with the teachers, “listening to them and asking them questions“.
When I was 12 my mind was all over the place and I would have had literally no interest in listening to these dry teachers of Law drone on about whatever they talked about. But this held Jesus’s attention for nearly a week (3 days journey, 3 days back). I wonder what they talked about that was so fascinating that it held a boy’s attention that long. And I also notice that Jesus listened and asked questions. That’s how we learn, by listening and asking questions. And I’m sure His questions kept those teachers on their toes.
If you want to be like Jesus, listen and ask questions. He’s able to answer them.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…Get rid of all bitterness” (Ephesians 4:29-31).
Paul continues speaking to Christians in Ephesians 4, listing several “do not”s as he advises us to put off the old self. There are things that the natural man (woman) does that spiritual people should stop.
1. “Do not use unwholesome language”. I’m sure he’s thinking about using the Lord’s name in vain, but I’m pretty sure he’s also thinking about gossip and negative rantings like I read on Facebook every day.
2. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”. God’s heart is His Spirit. He shares that with us so we can be like Him. To think and act against that heart grieves God. He can retract His Spirit from our lives. Don’t grieve Him.
3. “Do not carry bitterness around”. Bitterness is unforgiveness that gets infected. Bitterness can’t forget. Bitterness can’t let go of the offense. If you want God’s Spirit to rule, evict the root of bitterness. It will grieve God’s Spirit.
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
The Bible has plenty to say about what we should do as believers. But here Paul gives us three things to not do. Christianity is amazingly positive, but there are a few negatives to the faith, as well.
1. “Do not sin”. Sin and injustice in the world should make us angry. But in that righteous anger, do not sin. There is a right and a wrong way to change the world. We cannot achieve righteousness with sin.
2. “Do not stay angry”. Don’t carry anger into the bedroom. It will develop into bitterness overnight. Always kiss and make-up and make peace before you go to sleep. Then God can speak to your peaceful heart.
3. “Do not give in to Satan”. Satan wants to bind us up and keep us from growing and receiving from Him. If you give him a foothold, he can get entrenched. Don’t give in to every provocation. Keep your heart clean.