The power of small things: God’s open secret

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…” (Matthew 13:31)

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much….” (Luke 16:10)

When the Heavenly Father gets ready to do something major, He loves to begin in tiny, unseen ways.

When He was ready to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt, He called an 80-year-old has-been who was keeping sheep on the backside of a mountain. When the Lord got ready to redeem the world, He sent a Baby.

When He decided to do something grand, He called you.

So many scriptures make the point that God specializes in using the tiny and insignificant to accomplish great things.  The parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32 says it.  The question of Jonathan in I Samuel 14:6 says it.  The Lord’s approval of the widow who brought her tiny offering says it (Mark 12:41ff). The little boy’s lunch in John 6:9.  Old Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. Mustardseed faith in Luke 17:6. Ordinary people in I Corinthians 1:26.

Zechariah’s question–“Who has despised the day of small things?”–lays the matter squarely before us (Zech. 4:10).

Who despises small things? The unthinking and the shallow-minded, that’s who. The carnal-minded who wants glitter and drama, who prizes celebrity and gaudiness.

We have learned about the power of small things. There is the atom. Nuclear energy. The hummingbird. Honey-bees. Bed bugs. Viruses. Babies. Puppies. Words of encouragement. And a hug.

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What hypocrisy looks like and why the Lord hates it with a passion

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13,14,15,23,25,27,29).  “Woe to you, blind guides!” (Matthew 23:16,24,26).  “You serpents, you brood of vipers!” (Matthew 23:33).

The Lord has this thing about hypocrites.

He doesn’t care for them much.

You and I have learned something God hasn’t managed to do: to accommodate ourselves to those who say one thing and do another.

Take the beer company of St Louis, for instance. We read this and it sounds normal to us. It took a secular writer to point out the hypocrisy in their moralizing.

“We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.” –Anheuser Busch, responding to recent scandals in the National Football League (TIME magazine, September 29, 2014)

Humor writer Ian Frazier nails the famous beer company for its duplicitous moralizing in the same issue of TIME magazine.

In recent weeks the NFL has been under attack for its mishandling of the serious misbehavior of players who, among other things, knocked out a wife in the elevator and was caught on tape doing it, and beat a four-year-old child leaving whelps and open wounds on his skin.

The famous beer company, known for its massive advertising throughout every sporting event available, takes the NFL to task for its pitiful reaction.  Such behavior is against Anheuser-Busch’s moral code and culture.

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If you’re not living the life, do not tell people you are a Christian

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

The politician convicted of racketeering tells the press that since Jesus is his Savior, he will be all right.

The businessman who taught a Sunday School class and gave millions to the Lord’s work is convicted of running a Ponzi scheme and swindling millions from people who trusted him.

The  preacher found guilty as a child molester insists that his faith in Jesus will see him through this crisis.

God’s people trying to get this right want to say to them, “Would you just shut up about being a Christian!  This is a time to keep it to yourself. You have not earned the right to go public with your testimony.”

Those who bring shame upon the Lord have no right to a public declaration of faith. Let them repent and “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

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Today’s headline: Teachers are arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student

“Now Eli was very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (I Samuel 2:22).

(From time to time on this website, we post warnings to ministers about the dangers of sexual transgressions and urge great care in relationships with everyone, male or female. Invariably, some people reply that the fault belongs completely with the lecherous ministers, or they wonder why I’m always blaming the women.  Nevertheless, the news today reminds us to keep trying to get this across. The battle is never-ending.)

There is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately.

In a high school not far from where I live, two women teachers–both of them gorgeous and young, by the front-page photos–were arrested yesterday for inviting a 16-year-old male student to an apartment and having three-way sex with him.  Both women are English teachers, and one is exactly twice the age of the student.

The fall-out from this tragic event is enormous.  Lives are disrupted, the school is in turmoil, and families are torn up.

We have laws against this for good reason.

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Things that conspire to keep you humble–and why that’s good.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)

You and I resist the proud, too, don’t we?  The braggart who takes all the credit for work the whole team accomplished is deserting his friends, turning them into enemies and setting himself up as a target for their animosity.

Not very smart.

The next time he seeks our help or invites us to join his team, we think hard about accepting.  We know how he works and it’s not good. We resist him.

Pride looks good on no one, least of all followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular ministers of the Gospel. Pride is one adornment we should all reject.

I wish I could stand before you this morning and say all the Lord’s people have this down pat, that pride (or egotism, however we want to say it) is something we do not have to struggle with. But the evidence to the contrary is all around us. Christians sometime are the world’s worst prigs, pharisees, egomaniacs.  And some preachers are the chief offenders.

Lord, help your people.

Humility, let us say, means not to think down on yourself, to put yourself down, to crawl and cower and, in the memorable words of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9:8, refer to yourself as a dead dog.

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A text the legalist cannot handle

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). 

Do everything you can to make sure your church does not put legalists in charge of anything. Doing so is a death sentence for all they touch.

“The letter of the law killeth; the Spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

The legalist is a self-proclaimed Christian who reduces our duties to God to a list of rules. Legalists delight in the Ten Commandments, of course, but since the New Testament does not codify a list of tasks we must do in order to please God, they do it for Him.

How kind of them to help God out.  (I’m recalling an old definition of a legalist. He says, “I know God didn’t require this in the Bible, but He would have if He’d thought of it.”)

The legalist has God figured out.

To the legalist, everything God does has to do with our grades, our performances.  And for us to insist, “He has not dealt with me according to my sins nor rewarded me according to my iniquities” just does not compute.  Such a teaching does not work in his system.

This is the text–and grace is the doctrine–which the legalist cannot abide.

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Moderately important Christianity

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” –C. S. Lewis

How important is the Christian faith? Listen to the Lord Jesus in just two of hundreds of similar statements from Him:

–“I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5)

–“Unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

The faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is a life or death proposition.

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What would it take to put you out of business for the Lord?

“Sirs, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21).

Nothing tells the story on you and me like what it takes to defeat us.

Some of us, like the Saints’ Jimmy Graham, have to be double- or triple-teamed to stop us from serving Christ. Others of us can be safely ignored because we’re no threat to the devil.

I am impressed in reading the gospels at the people who did whatever was necessary to get to Jesus.  Here is a partial list. You may think of others….

1) In Mark 2, four men brought their paralyzed buddy to Jesus. Unable to get into the house, they carried him onto the flat rooftop and tore open the tiles and lowered him into the room. I am impressed by their perseverance.

2) In Mark 5, the woman with a 12-year hemorrhage worked her way through the crowd to get to Jesus. “If I can touch but the hem of His garment, I will get well.” People with her affliction avoid crowds, but look at her.  I am impressed by her determination and pushiness, even.

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What I wonder about Heaven

“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

I think about Heaven a lot.  So many people whom I love with all my heart are there and I miss them every day.

I wonder what they are doing and if they think about us.  I wonder if my brothers are really playing rummy with our dad, the way we say they are.  Are they going fishing and is our mom visiting with her wonderful parents whom she had not seen in half a century?

What will Heaven be like? After all, in addition to loved ones in Heaven, there are also uncounted millions of brothers and sisters of all races and tribes whom we have yet to meet. There are “myriads” of angels, and best of all, our wonderful Lord and Savior Himself.

Who would not want to go to Heaven?

My friend Barbara Hardy used to say when she got to Heaven, she was going to ask for a size 10 body.

A pastor friend used to say that in Heaven, he would be able to eat all the lemon ice-box pie he wanted without gaining an ounce.

Joni Aereckson Tada has said that when she gets to Heaven, the first thing she plans to do is ask Jesus to dance. (She’s been a quadriplegic all her adult life.)

Some more serious things I wonder about Heaven include…

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Answering questions no one is asking; curing illnesses no one has

The first thing a salesperson seeks to do, whether standing at your front door or staring out of your television screen, is to convince you that you are in trouble without this product.

The opening lines of all those fund-raising letters we receive through the mail are phrased to alarm us. Something is bad wrong and here is the solution and you should do something about it. The recommended solution is to buy this product, subscribe to this service, or hire this attorney. Or, of course, send your money!

Sound familiar?

The September 22, 2014, issue of TIME features on its cover an arm with a computer display giving the number of calories consumed that day, one’s pulse,  conversations since climbing out of bed, and even how many steps the individual has taken.  And that’s just for starters.

The issue celebrates (and worries about) the new “Apple Watch,” the latest thing from those people who gave us the smartphone in my pocket at this moment.  This latest high-tech doodad hits the stores early in 2015 and will be all the rage, no doubt.

The text beside the cover picture reads: “Never Offline.  The Apple Watch is just the start. How wearable tech will change your life–like it or not.”

One paragraph in particular has stayed with me ever since reading the issue.

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