You and Your Household

For this week’s post, I really wanted to dive into one of my favorite subjects , regarding God, Christianity and the Bible……one word….descendants. One word, indeed, but a very deep subject that spans the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation (maybe even from before the earth was formed and after our time here is done, as well). Yes…I feel totally confident in saying, “The Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth….is all about descendants.”

First, let me lay a little ground work. The Apostle John wrote, in 1 John Chapter 4:8, three words that have become very well-known and often-quoted. “GOD IS LOVE”…not has love, shows love or exemplifies love in a way humans are incapable of. All of those may be true, as well. But, beyond that, He is love. It is who He is. It is what He is made of. As you and I are but flesh and bone, He is but love…..nothing more and nothing less.

And because He is love, He desires to be in relationship with others because, as Reba McEntire once sang, “Love isn’t love until you give it away.” How about you? Are you married or in a special relationship with someone? When you came to the realization that it might be special, maybe even…ummm…..l-l-l-l-love, did it make you feel different inside, maybe even a little more alive?  I’m guessing, “Yes.” Not surprising to me, God made us that we. We are made in His image. He craves being in loving relationships. So, naturally, so do we. 

How about those of you who are parents? When you held your first child in you arms, did something kick in, emotionally? Something hard to explain and something that you felt before, sort of, but not to that level. A parent’s love is very different, right? I believe that God intentionally made the love we feel for our children, our descendants, very, very special because that is how He loves us, His descendants.

Ok, so this post is going to be a little different than my other ones. I am using a ton of Bible verses, this time, because I think they tell the story of God’s love of descendants far better than I can. And I am going to start with one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible. Those of you who know me have heard me quote this one many times. It’s a big one for me:

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” [Acts 16:31]

This whole chapter is incredible. In the town of Phillipi, Paul and Silas encountered a woman named Lydia. In my Bible, the heading refers to her as “the first convert in Europe.” She responds to Paul’s message and her and “her household” were all baptized. Then, Paul and Silas are jailed and an earthquake hits, which causes the cell door to open. Coincidence? I think not. The jailor wakes up and thinks they have escaped, but is thankful to learn they did not. He asks them, “What must I do to be saved?” They respond as we read in the verse above. One might ask, “I understand the jailor being saved, he responded in faith, but why would his family be saved? They were not there. What did they do to be included by Paul and Silas? As far as I can see, not much. Same with Lydia, she showed faith, but then her family is saved and baptized, as well. What is going on here?  These people were family members, loved ones….descendants. Was Paul and Silas teaching some new twist here? Not really. The idea of loved ones being spared because of the faith of a family member was not new at all. Let’s take a look at Noah:

Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him. Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth. Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood. [Genesis 7:5-7]

Noah obeyed God, acted in faith, and because he did…his wife, three sons and their wives (eight people in all) survived the flood. Did they, as individuals, act in faith and obedience towards God, as Noah did? Not that we know of, but they were spared because they were his family. Are we starting to see a pattern, here?

“….for all the land which you see (God speaking to Abraham),I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. [Genesis 13:15]

Abraham believed, he displayed faith, and it was accredited to him as righteousness. But, his descendants also received the promised. How so? Were they faithful to God? Well, if you know anything about Israel, back in those days, you would like say, “Not hardly.” So what gives, here?

“May He also give you (Jacob) the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.” [Genesis 28:4]

Then, the blessing gets passed on to Jacob and his descendants, again not that they deserved it. Some might say that Jacob didn’t even deserve God’s favor, let alone his descendants. He was a bit of a coniver. But hey, Jacob was Abraham’s grandson. He inherited the promise.

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” [2 Samuel 7:12, 16]

King David was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…and chosen of God to be King of Israel. He was said to be “a man after God’s own heart.” You got it. His son, Solomon, got to be the one to build the Temple that David so wanted to build for God and the promise was extended to their descendants, as well. And one of David’s descendants was pretty important in the big picture of all of this stuff. You probably know Him as Jesus Christ. BTW, did you know that both Mary and Joseph were direct descendants of David. It’s true and hugely important, since Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus, God was. So, the Lord covered both bases, there, for those who get all caught up in the bloodlines and genetics of it all. God’s ways are indeed higher than ours, and a couple thousand steps ahead. No doubt.

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants… [Deuteronomy 30:19]

So historically, I think we have laid a pretty solid foundation for saying that because of the faith of a father, who served, obeyed and trusted in God (and not their own works) to save them, they were “choosing life” (as it says above), not just for themselves but for their descendants, as well. Are you with me so far? Hope so….hang in there …it gets better!!

“…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Exodus 20:5-6]

This passage has caused plenty of consternation for readers of the Bible, over the years, I’m sure. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Just because a father sins, should the children for the next three or four generations bear the burden of judgement? It’s just like the concept of “original sin.” Adam and Eve sin, and all of us who came after are deemed to be sinners in the eyes of God? Seems a little harsh, no? But, that is what the Bible teaches…and thanks be to Christ for negating that problem for those who believe.

So, let me ask a question, if I may. If God saw fit to punish the descendants of fathers who did evil in His sight, would it not make sense that this same God, one who the Bible says “IS LOVE,”  would be willing to extend His promises and blessings to the descendants of those who love, honor and obey Him…and walk by faith and not by sight? Just because they are descendants? I would say, “Yes, absolutely, sounds like God to me.”

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. [Galatians 3:29]

So, what about you and me? Is that deal still on the table for us and, more importantly, our descendants? I would say, again, “Why not?” Would there be any greater reason or motivator to spur us on to live godly lives and love others as Christ loves us, then to see our prayers answered that our children and grandchildren would get to spend eternity in Heaven, with us and, more importantly, with the Lord?  I honestly cannot think of one.

Let me just say, before I go any further, that I am not trying to start some new doctrine or stir up controversy. Woe to me, or anyone, who tries to twist God’s Word to make it say something that it is not saying. That is why I used a lot of Scripture in this post. Let God’s Word be true (not Bob’s opinions…Ok?). I am not saying as with a blanket statement, that if I am saved, then all my children and grandchildren are automatically saved. Not even close.

What I am saying is this, that God loves descendants far more than any of us could ever love our own (and I love mine A LOT). He loves them so much that He sent His own Son, Jesus, to become the ransom payment for every one of us (it says so in John 3:16). He left no one out. The same forgiveness is available for the good, the bad and the ugly (that was a great movie, was it not?)

The Bible teaches us to walk by faith, to trust in Him and lean on His word. And I believe, if we do that, we can’t go wrong. So, for years, I have been standing on the Word and praying in accordance with Acts 16:31. I believe that if I have faith in Christ and trust in Him and not myself, then I will be saved and so will my household, my descendants. And I believe God will answer those prayers.

God’s Word says it….I believe it….and I have no intentions of wavering.  We are taught that “We have not, because we ask not….or we ask with wrong motives.” Well, I am asking and I believe I am asking in accordance with God’s Holy Word.

God does not want any of His children to perish…..and neither do I. We are in full agreement on that. May His will be done.

This should be our takeaway today, I hope (especially for those of us who are parents or grandparents). God wants to spend eternity with all of his children, just like we do , and He has promised all through human history to include our descendants in the promises He makes to us, the ones who believe, who trust Him and call on His Holy Name.

So, we should make it a priority to pray diligently, frequently and believingly (is that a word?) for the salvation of our children and our grandchildren. God tells us to ask…to  believe and receive, by faith,  the things He has promised in His Word. That’s good enough for me.

Lastly, I will leave you with the words of one of the guys whose descendants did find favor with God….King David:

Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. [Psalm 37:4-5]

Sounds like a plan…..thank you, Lord!!!

Come Talk With Me (God)

In all my years of being a Christian, studying the Bible and interacting with others who share in this simple, yet profound adventure of seeking God and desiring to be in an honest and true relationship with Christ, maybe there has been nothing that I have seen believers struggle with and sometimes, even misunderstand, more than the simple act of prayer. 

Perhaps it is because, like me, so many people who are now “Bible-believing Christians” grew up in or have come out of a church or religious system where prayer was structured and stiff. Many churches have taught people to memorize prayers that were written for them, that said what the church thought the believer should pray.

Now, that could be because so many people have said, “I want to pray, but I am intimidated by it. I really do not know what to say. This is God we are talking about. I don’t want to screw it up.” So, maybe these churches thought it would be a good idea to teach them some generalized prayers that they could use, when their own words fail them. I get that.  Even the disciples of Jesus struggled with this, as we see in this well-known passage from Luke Chapter 11:

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John (the Baptist) taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” [Luke 11:1-4 ESV]

I am guessing, based on that exchange, the disciples of Jesus were impressed by the way the disciples of John the Baptist were able to pray…so eloquent…so deep and thoughtful. There did seem to be, early on, a bit of a competition between John’s disciples and the disciples of Jesus. John’s disciples grumbled about why they had to fast all the time and the disciples of Jesus did not. Jesus’s disciples were envious of the way John’s disciples prayed. Now, I am not suggesting that John or Jesus were a party to this behavior, of course not. But, there did seem to be a little bit of “Can you top this?” going on, between the brethren. Just sayin’.

Let’s take a look at what some other well-respected experts on prayer had to say about the subject:

“Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.” (Billy Graham)

You might be saying, “Two-way conversation? Wait, you mean there is supposed to be a response? From God? You’re kidding me, right? All these years I tried to pray and you are telling me that I was supposed to be hearing God answer me back?”

Well, yes, but maybe not right away…and not necessarily in an audible voice. But God does answer us when we pray. I believe that with all my heart. I do believe God sees prayer as a two-way street. We are taught in the Bible to “make our requests known to God” and I believe He hears those requests. Our local pastor, Pastor Jim Mindling, has a great way of explaining it. He says, “Sometimes, God answers ‘Yes.’ Sometimes, He answers, ‘No.’ And sometimes His answer is ‘Not right now…I am working on that one.'”  I love that. Just because we do not get an answer right away, that does not mean God does not hear us.

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with Me?’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” [27:8 NLT] (King David)

Two things jump out at me, from this powerful little passage written by a man who was said to be “a man after God’s own heart,” David, the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, who may have been small in stature (compared to his brothers), but was chosen and annointed by God to lead His people and unify His nation. He had a lot to say about prayer.

1) David writes, “Come and talk with Me,” as if they were the words of God. In fact, he sort of implied they were. It seems David was comfortable with the idea that prayer was to be two-way communication with the Creator of all things. And he did not seemed embarrassed to say so.

2) He started out this passage with the words, “My heart has heard You say…” Not his ears, his heart heard it. Again, God’s responses are usually not heard audibly (not saying never….but it is rare). More often, it is something we hear (or sense) in our hearts.

So, if you are not hearing God’s voice speaking audibly to you, in response to your prayers, welcome to the club. You are not alone. But, again, don’t assume that means He is not choosing to answer you. He will…and probably has many times. You (and I) just may not have recognized it when He did. Imagine that….lol.

“Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! ” [Psalm 27:7 NLT] (King David)

You see, even the writer of the Psalms had moments, where it seemed to him that God had chosen not to answer him. He even implied that if God did eventually answer, it would be because He was being merciful towards him. This was probably one of those times where God was saying, as Pastor Jim suggested, “Not right now..I am still working on that one.”

A number of the parables Jesus spoke had to do with the need for persistency in our prayer life. Remember the story about the poor widow who repeatedly approached the judge, seeking justice, and how he finally granted her request because she persisted and finally wore him down. Or how about the friend who came knocking on the door at midnight, seeking something to eat. Finally, the owner of the house gave him some bread, just to get him to stop interrupting his sleep. Persistence. And Jesus did not seem to be saying, in these stories, that their persistence was a bad thing. Not at all, in fact, it sounds to me like He was encouraging it.

How about when Jacob wrestled with God all through the night, and told Him, “I will not let You go until You bless me.”  That took some guts, right? And how did God respond? He changed Jacob’s name to Israel because he had “wrestled with God and men…and prevailed.” Sounds to me like God appreciates it when we are passionate or moved enough by something to pray to Almighty God about it and we “stick to our guns” (spiritually speaking) and fight for it. Makes sense to me. 

But then, when I was young, I used to get upset with my Dad because no matter what I would ask him for, his first answer was always, “No.” One time, I got mad enough to ask him why he did that. His answer was, “I just wanted to see how bad you wanted it.” So yeah, maybe God’s approach just makes more sense to me because I grew up with a father who did not always just say, “Yes,” to me all the time. Now, my Dad was not the most religious man, to be truthful. But, unknowingly, he did sort of prepare me for having a more disciplined prayer life. See how that works? Thanks, Dad!!!

This next passage from King David, again, kinda makes me chuckle a bit. How many of us, honestly, have felt exactly the same way regarding our prayer life, at one time or another?

“I pray to you, O Lord, my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you are silent, I might as well give up and die.” [Psalm 28:1 NLT] (King David)

Have you ever (be honest) gotten so frustrated that your prayers were not being answered in the way, or as quickly as you would like, so you turned the heat up on God a bit, thinking that might bring a quicker or more favorable response? You are like, “C’mon Lord. I have been praying about this for six months now. Surely, by now, you know I am serious about this. If I don’t get an answer soon, I may have to take matters into my own hands. Don’t make me do something I might regret.” How did that work out for you? For me, not so well. I am learning to have more patience, as I grow older, especially in the area of prayer. I have also learned, as with a great meal, the best results take a little longer. If the answer came a little sooner, it probably wouldn’t be as good.

So let’s sum up:

1) Prayer is meant to be a conversation….and a two-way one at that.

2) Prayer takes practice…the more you pray…the more comfortable you get with it.

3) Prayer requires persistence…God helps by giving us more opportunities to practice.

4) Prayer requires patience…God could answer quicker…but what fun would that be?

And 5) Never doubt for a second that prayer works…or that God hears your prayers.

And always remember what Jesus, Himself, instructed us to do………

“Ask and it will be given to you; 

Seek and you will find; 

Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

                                           [Matthew 7:7]

More About “The Word”

Last week, I received a bunch of interesting comments on the post called, “Just Say The Word.” Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I really enjoy hearing your feedback. 
In my posts, I am just giving you my take, based on my studies and experiences over the years. But, in no way do I think I have some corner on the market or some unique insight. Not at all, that is why I value your feedback. Hopefully, we can learn from each other. If my posts get someone thinking to the point that they dig into God’s Word and come to encounter Christ for themsleves….MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. I can only hope to plant a seed or spur your desire to know God. If in some small way, I have done that…I am thrilled!!!!

So…anyway..I thought it would be a good idea to do sort of a “Part II” on this idea we talked about last week, the fact that the Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ was/is the Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us. John wrote that the Son was the Word of God from the beginning of time. He was not just a baby, born in a manger two thousand years ago, that grew to be a prophet or a teacher. Rather, He was the Promised One that would challenge the very foundations of the Jewish traditions which had been held dear for centuries and also challenged the power and authority of the Roman Empire, which would eventually cost Him His life.

But, did His death mean that He lost, or was silenced, or that somehow His claims of being the Son of God were proven to be false? Not at all, if anything, it led to His resurrection three days later, which only made His claims more valid than ever before and changed the world and what we all thought about God forever.

The Apostle Paul actually had a lot to say about this Word/Son/Creator/God continuum, as well, in his letter to the Christian Church in Colossae, in the first century following Christ’s death and resurrection. Let’s take a look:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Colossians 1:13-14]

So it says, “For He (the Father)…rescued us…and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” That means we can add “King” to that Word/Son/Creator/God conglomeration. My goodness, this Jesus is building quite a resume, is He not? But, Paul also said we were “rescued from the domain of darkness”…redeemed and forgiven of our sins…all as a result of this divine transfer of power. You see, Jesus is not the only one getting a promotion, in the verses above. We are also receiving a divine promotion, from sinner to saint, as well, if we put our trust and faith in Him. And that is a promotion from which there can never be a demotion. Just sayin’.

One more quick thing about this verse, OK? For those who are still not quite sure if they fully buy into this idea that Jesus was God, wouldn’t the Father be the one most likely to be King of whatever kingdom is to come after this world? Yet, the Father transfers that title and all the power and authority that goes with it to the Son. Do you think God Almighty would be willing to hand over complete control of everything to someone or something who was less than God, to someone less powerful than Himself? I would think not so. Why would He?

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. [Colossians 1:19-20]

And again, Paul writes, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for ALL the fullness to dwell in Him (Christ).” So the Father was pleased to do it, to place it all in the hands of the Son for all eternity. We have all heard stories, I’m sure, of wealthy business owners retiring and turning the business over to their children (son or daughter). How does that usually work out? Many times, not so well. The one who inherits the business does not always have the same love or passion for it, and either runs it into the ground or spends all the money, leaving all that the father worked for to be just a memory. Pretty sad, when that happens. But, this is God we are talking about. He was pleased to hand it over, never worried about it for a second, because his Son was fully God, as well.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:15-17]

Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (check), “firstborn of all creation” (check), “creator of all things” (check), and “He holds all things together” (check). You’d think the Father might have assigned a brother or someone to help Him, no? That is a lot for one man to have to do by Himself, am I wrong?  But, then He “was the Word and the Word was God.” No worries, then, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” as the song says.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; [Colossians 2:9-10]

“For in Him (Christ),” it says, “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (checkmate). There it is, just like John said in His Gospel, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I think it is safe to say that both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John were pretty emphatic about this amazing mystery. They certainly did not mince words about it. They both clearly believed Jesus Christ was/is fully God, while at the same time, fully man.

All of this is leading me to want to share how I, over the years, have developed my own way (uh-oh…opinion alert) of coming to grips with this concept we have come to know and understand as the “Holy Trinity.” I am not coming up with some new doctrine, here, or offering up some “strange fire.” This is just how I break it down into manageable, bite-size pieces, so I can wrap my head around it. Are you still with me?  

Let me remind you (in case you did not know), I was born and raised Catholic, so this concept of three separate persons, all co-equals, making up one God was quite mind-boggling to me, growing up. In fact, in the Catholic Church, it is treated like this great mystery. And for many, that is what it is, still today. A mystery. 

It wasn’t until after I accepted Christ (age 25) and started really digging into the Bible that I finally started to connect the dots to the point where it all started to make sense, with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, here is how I brought it all into focus, at least in my mind.

Think of it this way. You are a person, totally unique and different than any other person who has ever lived. When you speak, are your words not a part of you, an extension of who you are, as well? Have you ever tried to disconnect yourself from something you said? Not that easy, is it? My name is Bob, my words are “the words of Bob.” Whether I like it or not, they are just as much part of who I am as my physical body is.  And so, yes, I can believe that it was God’s Word that came to Earth and took on the human form we know as Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. The Word was God. It all fits. Makes sense to me.

How about your spirit, your personality or personal energy? Do you not have an influence on those around you, be it good or bad? Is there not something contagious about a person (some more than others, of course) that rubs off on you, if you are around them enough? Maybe it’s the way you talk or the way you rub your head when you are puzzled. I cannot tell you how many times my wife has said to me, “Honey, you are scaring me. You sounded just like your Dad, there.” His personality, mannerisms and, to some degree, his way of speaking has become part of who I am, just by being around him for so long. His personality went forth from his person and effected those he came into contact with. But, it was still a part of him, not some lesser representation of him, that rubbed of on people. 

And the same is true of you and I. Does that not sound just like the Holy Spirit? It is God’s personality, emanating from the Father, with the full power and authority of who God is, that is changing those whom He touches, into the image of One it originated from. How cool is that?

We can therefore conclude that the Son of God was/is God’s Word eminating from our Father in Heaven, clothed in humanity on our behalf. And the Holy Spirit is, in essence, the power and influence of His personality, sent forth to draw us back to Himself by exposing and displacing the darkness through the glorious light of His perfect, unchanging love.

So, there you have it. That might have been a long explanation, but I hope it helps you to more fully grasp this biblical truth…Jesus was not an afterthought or God’s “Plan B.” This was the Father’s plan from before the universe was created, as is evidenced by the fact that it was the Son, according to the Scriptures, who created all things. 

I would like to wrap up this discussion with one more piece of this divine puzzle, if I may. The Bible also teaches us that “the Word of God does not return void, but accomplishes that which it was sent out to do.”

And what the Word of God was sent from Heaven to do, most of all, was to provide a way of redemption through His blood for those who are His, even those who call upon His name, that their sins may be forgiven so they may rule and reign with Him for all eternity.

And He will do it, you can count on it, because the Word of a God does not return void, but will accomplish all that it was sent forth do to. 

HALLELUJAH

BOB PALUMBO

“Just Say The Word…”

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” [Matthew 8:5-10 NASB]

This portion of Scripture is particularly memorable for me. It always reminds me of when I first “accepted Christ” and really began digging into the Bible for the first time. Being raised Catholic and staying a part of that church until my conversion at age 25, I remember my astonishment when I realized this was the verse we Catholics would utter as a response, when we would take communion. We were taught to say, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof (a reference to the roof of our mouth, as we took the communion wafer which was believed to be the body of Christ), but just speak the word and my soul will be healed.” I remember thinking, “That’s interesting. This verse has nothing to do with communion at all.” But, I do see the point they were making with that response, even if it might be a bit of a stretch to apply it in that way. Yes, we should confess our sins and be forgiven of them, before we take communion. That, I believe, is biblical.

But, what I want to focus in on, here, is two things. First, let’s look at the words of the centurion who basically said, “There is no need of You, Lord, to travel to my humble home to heal my servant. I am not worthy of that. It is enough that You just speak the words, right here and right now, and my servant will be fully healed.” That is pretty incredible, is it not? This centurion had never met Jesus before, but he believed in who Jesus was, so he trusted that just the words of Jesus, alone, were powerful enough to heal the servant, even though Jesus was not physically with the servant at the time. Pretty bold statement, I must say, and it certainly appears that Jesus was very impressed, as well.

Although, we should not be surprised. There were other instances, in Scripture, where just the words spoken by Jesus Christ caused miraculous results. In fact, a little later in the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we see another example of the power and authority of the spoken words of Jesus. Remember when He calmed the stormy sea?

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He *said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”  [Matthew 8:23-27 NASB]

Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea, and they obey His command, becoming “perfectly calm,” it says. Even His disciples asked, “What kind of man is this?” I would say the keyword, there, was “man.” Was He just a man, or something far greater? It seems that even the disciples, at this point, had not fully grasped who Jesus was.

Also, if we look back at the very first chapter of the Bible, we see yet another display of the power of words causing miraculous results. But, who was speaking this time?



Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. [Genesis 1:3-4 NASB]

What is interesting in this passage, is that it says God was doing the talking here. God was “speaking the world into existence,” as we have been taught. He didn’t have to build it, or bake, or somehow glue it all together . No, He just commanded the light to “be” and it was. So the very Word of God was able to cause things that “were not” to “be,” just like that. Nothing more and nothing less. Is it any wonder, then, that people are skeptical of the biblical accounts of creation? Is it any less surprising that the disciples and people who heard Jesus speak with this kind of power, were equally skeptical? It just does not make logical sense, does it? Was He a magician or a sorcerer, or maybe even some kind of a scam artist, staging these events? It certainly would not have been the first time that someone tried to trick them into thinking they were god-like or had supernatural powers.

But, I think there is one more very important piece to this puzzle, one that we haven’t talked about yet. And we find it, interestingly enough, in the very first chapter of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. [John 1:1-5 NASB]

Hold on a minute, now. The Apostle John is making two incredibly bold statements. He is saying Jesus Christ IS the Word of God and has been from the beginning. And secondly, he was saying Jesus was also God in the flesh. So Christ was both God’s Word and fully God, Himself. But how can that be? Wouldn’t He have to be either one or the other? 

Well, let’s see, back in the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a Catholic school named  “Incarnate Word.” The name implies that God sent His Word to Earth, with all the power and authority of God, Himself, and allowed it to take on human form in Jesus Christ, being born of a human mother and the seed of God, thusly making Him fully God and fully man. And if all that is true, then John’s claim that “the Word of God was God” makes perfect sense.

Aren’t the words a person speaks considered to be part of that person? Have you ever tried to disconnect yourself from something you said? Doesn’t work too well, does it?  So, yeah, I do believe the name, “Incarnate Word,” explains it all quite well. A little later in John 1, he writes, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh (human) and dwelt (lived) among us.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. 

Then comes the Apostle Paul, who adds yet another brick to the wall:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:15-17 NASB]

You got it. Paul is saying that not only is Jesus the Word of God, and God in the flesh, He is also the One who created everything and the “super-glue” that holds it all together. Well, that explains how God was able to say, “Let there be light,” and BAM, there it was. God created everything through the power of His Word and Jesus Christ is, in fact, His Word (which is every bit as much God as the one who spoke it). No wonder Jesus was able to rebuke the stormy sea and it obeyed Him. No wonder He was able to say, “Be healed” (from a distance), and the centurion’s servant was made well. He created it all.

Nothing is impossible with God, the Bible says, and what is even more incredible is that this centurion believed Jesus had the same power and authority, as well. He believed. Period. And that brings us around to the second thing I wanted to focus on from this story. I think it is called “faith.”

Jesus pointed this out at the end of the story by saying,  “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” And I believe it makes the words of Paul, from Romans 10, much more impactful now that we know that the “word of Christ” is actually the “Word of God,” Himself.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17 NASB]

The question that comes to my mind from this story should be an obvious one.

We have the Bible. Six thousand years of writings that were penned by men, believed to be speaking on behalf of God Almighty, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And as believers, we have been given that very same Spirit to teach all things and bring us remembrance of all that He said to us (John 14:26).

So, if God’s Word says it…why don’t we believe it?

Or, if we say we believe it, why don’t we apply it?

Does God have to actually appear to us and say, “O, ye of little faith,” as He did with the disciples (before they finally got it).

Lord, I hope not. I pray He would grant us all the faith of this centurion.

I would love to be so pure of heart, so full of faith, that I could say, “Just say the word, Lord. That’s good enough for me.”

May it be so….not just in my life, but in all of yours, as well.

Have  a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

And may GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

BOB PALUMBO

The Heart Of The Matter

This past week, during our Men’s Group discussion, we were talking about a video we just saw called “Follow Me” by Andy Stanley. One of the men asked about this idea that, “If we are to truly follow the Lord, we are to forsake everything else, give all of our earthly possessions away and focus all our efforts on seeking God and spreading the Gospel.” He asked further, “Is it wrong, then, to have a nice house, a nice car and to provide good things for our children?” He said, “It almost sounds like we should be willing to leave our homes and families behind, quit our jobs and just serve Christ with everything that is in us, trusting Him to take care of our families in our absence. Is that really what God is asking us to do?”  

Those are great questions, ones that I have struggled with myself, at times. But, before I try to come up with some sort of “uber-spiritual answer,” here, I think a we should take a closer look at what Christ said to His disciples regarding these matters and see if there might have been some special circumstances in play, back then, or did He really mean for us to forsake all else and follow Him, at the expense of everything that we hold near and dear.

Here is the portion of Scripture Pastor Stanley was teaching from:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. [Mark 8:34-35 ESV]

First of all, I have to say that if you believe God is specifically calling you to “sell all that you have and follow Him,” and you have prayed sufficiently about that and received godly counsel and confirmation that God is indeed leading you to do that, then that is indeed what you should do without hesitation. As we saw with the disciples, Jesus would call them by name and command them to physically follow Him, from that day forward. They left behind families, businesses, earthly possessions and never looked back. This was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who was calling them. How could they say, “No.” Their services were needed, right then and there. Jesus was only going to be with them for a little while and they were about to change the world, literally. What was more important than that?

But, let’s go back and look at one key part of that verse, before we move forward. Jesus said, “..let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Wait…who’s cross are we to pick up? Our cross, not His. What is my cross? What is your cross? I would say, “whatever God has specifically burdened you with.”  He is speaking about individuals.  Their self-driven life is whatever is in their own hearts and mind to do, apart from God. It is pretty much what the world is preaching today. “Unto thine own self be true.” “Whatever feels good, do it.” What would you be doing, right now, if you did not have responsibilities like a family, a job, or pressures from other people to be and do certain things. I see that as what Jesus was talking about when He says, “whoever saves his own life.” It’s doing your own thing, pleasing yourself…come what may.

So then, I would say that what Jesus meant when He said, “take up his cross,” would be whatever God specifically calls you to do, for Him. It might be selling all your earthly possessions and becoming a missionary for Christ. But, it also might not be. Your cross is whatever God gives you to do. Were you called to be married, have kids, go to school and pursue a certain career with your gifts and talents? All of those things can be godly burdens, or crosses, that we might be called to do for Him. Look what Paul wrote in Colossians:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Colossians 3:17 ESV]

Is the Apostle Paul telling us to disobey God, by pursuing things other than committing our lives fully to the ministry? Of course not. We can serve God and bring Him glory in many different ways. We are to serve Him wherever we are. That is why it so important to prayerfully consider our options and ask God to lead us and guide us through them. He is to be “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path,” as David wrote in Psalm 119. I believe there is a plan, designed by God, for everyone’s life. Mine is not yours. Yours is not your neighbor’s and none of us are called live the life of Jesus. Only He could do that. But, as Paul taught us, we are to bring Him glory in whatever we do, so help us, God.

So, the Lord has blessed you with a great career and you have a nice home, a nice car and you go on two nice vacations every year. Are you somehow dishonoring God by not selling it all, quitting that job and going into full-time ministry. I don’t know. Has God specifically called you do that? If so, then, yes. But, if not, are you serving Him (or yourself) where you are? Only you know what God has spoken to your heart, through His word, through prayer or other means of revelation. We are to constantly be “inclining our ears to Him,” should He call us into action.

And, then, should you sense that God is leading you to step out and do something outside of your normal “comfort zone” (oh, I don’t know, like writing a book or something…lol),there are two key words that apply in those situations. Are you “available?” And are you “willing?”  In your heart, you may say “use me, Lord, I’m available.” But, if He answers that prayer with an opportunity that seems to be “more than you bargained for,” are you “willing” to jump on that horse and ride it as best you can, trusting Him for the results.

God knows if you are truly willing or available. He also knows, even if you don’t see it, what you are truly capable of with His help. The verse below is from when Samuel went to find a king for Israel. He knew He was to go to Bethlehem, to see a man named Jesse who had eight sons. After Samuel had seen seven of them, all great looking candidates, God had said, “No,” to all of them. He asked Jesse if there were any others. Jesse said, “Yes, a younger one, but he is out tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Bring him to me,” because the Lord had said the following words to him:

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7 ESV]

As it turned out, the younger son was David, God’s chosen one. Maybe he didn’t pass the “eye test” or meet the age requirements, as the other sons did, but David had all the necessary skills and abilities God was looking for in a king. He was available and willing to do whatever the Lord led him to do, even if it was squaring off against an undefeated champion of the Philistines who was three times his size. 


David’s response?  “Put me in, coach. I am ready to do my best and I will trust you with the outcome, win or lose.” When God looked at David’s heart, He saw one that was not only courageous and fearless, but also one that was fully devoted to Him. So much so, that David is often referred to as “a man after God’s heart.”

It really isn’t about what we have or don’t have. None of it belongs to us anyway. Here is what that eighth son of Jesse, young David, wrote on the subject, after he had become the King of Israel:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. [Psalm 24:1 NASB]

David was given a palace, servants and great wealth. He didn’t appear to be guilty about it, either. The key question is…”Are you willing to commit all that you have (your talent, your wisdom, your money, your possessions and your will) to the work He has for you to do?” Or are you going to make those “things” the center of your life?  Will your possessions be your source of joy and happiness? It is truly a matter of the heart. Who are you, when you boil it all down, a seeker of self-fulfillment…or a seeker of God? It’s pretty hard to be both…just sayin’.

When Jesus gave His famous Sermon On The Mount in front of thousands of people, most of whom He had never met and many who were not pleased with what He brought to the table to begin with, He said the following words:

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [Matthew 6:31,33 NASB

It all starts and ends with “the attitude of our hearts.” No matter what I might say or do, God knows the intentions of my heart. There are no misunderstandings with God and He will never be fooled by hollow words or deeds. He sees right down to the very core of our beings.

And that is how we will be judged, when God says He will “give to each according to what they have done” (not talking about salvation, here, that is based on the blood of Jesus Christ, plus or minus nothing), He means we will be judged based on the intentions of our hearts, not what we say or do. We can lie with our lips, or try to fool people with “good deeds.” God knows better. The question will be, were we available and willing to use whatever blessings we have received for His glory? Or were we just making a name for ourself?

Like it said in that first verse we looked at, “He who saves his life shall lose it.” Are you holding on to your own self-driven dreams and agendas? Or have you committed everything to Him, for His glory, in your “heart of hearts?”

God knows the answer to those questions, whether you and I honestly do or not?

If you do not, I would make it a priority to find out, with God’s help, ASAP.

These are eternal questions that, sooner or later, demand an answer.

BOB PALUMBO

Precious and Few

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” [Matthew 7:13-15]

Isn’t it interesting that right after this short little parable about the straight and narrow way, Jesus instructs those who were listening to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, meaning the false prophets, and we were just talking about that. The last sentence in the above snippet is not actually part of the parable, itself. But I thought it fit in with the flow here, so I included it. I wasn’t thinking, when I mentioned wolves in sheep’s clothing (at the end of the last chapter) that the next parable on the list would bring us right back around to these wolves, again. I like to refer those instances as “divine guidance.” No, I did not really see this coming, at that point. But God did. I’d like to take credit for the smooth segue, but I cannot. Thank you, Lord.

Many times, when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am actually going to end up writing. Oh sure, I have a general idea of the topic and how I want to explain it. But, along the way I get inspired by maybe one tidbit or another and that leads to a story, an illustration or whatever hits me at the moment, so I write it down. Then, when I go back and proofread it, it might seem to be more like something that someone else wrote, not me.

I believe that is how the Holy Spirit works in all of us, not just me, if we will only allow ourselves to yield to it. King David expressed the same sentiment when he wrote Psalm 45 to explain his amazement at how God inspired him to write down what was in his heart and share it with others so we could still be moved by his works centuries later.

 He wrote:

My heart overflows with a good theme;

I address my verses to the King;

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

[Psalm 45:1]

 That is one of the joys of writing for me. I am never quite sure what is going to come out. The Holy Spirit is the One who leads, all we can do is try our best to follow. In fact, the word “inspiration” is derived from “spirit,” which comes from the Greek word “pneuma.” And pneuma can also be interpreted as “wind” or “breath.” So yes, I believe inspiration comes from God, whether it is to write a song, paint a picture or write a book.

And I believe it is also by divine guidance that you have this book in your hands at this moment in time, because as the Bible teaches, all of our days are numbered in advance. Nothing happens purely by chance and God is in control of every tiny detail, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. So, I would not take it lightly. I believe God has led you to read this book for a reason, and it has nothing to do with me being the author. Trust me on that. God has a much greater goal in mind. His goal is apprehending your heart.

ZOOMING IN

 One of the gifts that a truly good storyteller possesses, is the ability to leave you with that one key phrase or one key statement, that stays with you long after the story is over. Jesus most certainly had that ability and used it quite often. Let’s look at the first portion of this parable. The part about, of all things, the width of a gate. C’mon now. That could not possibly have any spiritual relevance, could it?  I mean, it’s just a gate.

Well Jesus said, regarding the gate that leads to life (meaning eternal life), “…there are few who find it.” Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Is He talking about me? Where is the cut-off? How do I know if I am in, or I am out? Thousands of people were gathered on this hillside, listening to what started out as a somewhat inspiring message. You know the opening part of this sermon well, no doubt.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

All generally positive and uplifting stuff. I am sure most of the folks were feeling pretty good about themselves for a while there, and why not?  Jesus was sharing a message of hope, mercy and redemption.

But not long after that, reality sets in as the same teacher who was shining light into their hearts only minutes before, now seemed to be “raining on their parade.” And long after they left and headed for home, they probably forgot all about the warm and fuzzy parts, and were left with just this nagging image of a narrow gate that only a few would be able to find. What does it all mean?


It seems this tiny story, about a narrow gate, near the end of a lengthy sermon on a hillside near Jerusalem over two thousand years ago has become, not only for those who were present, but for you and I and all who read the Gospels, a matter to be wrestled with. Certainly, not ignored. Is that what they mean when they say a story is a “cliffhanger?” I’d say so. This one certainly left some people hanging.

It seems Jesus is pointing to holiness and purity of heart, as the way to enter the narrow gate, if I am reading this correctly. But at the same time, isn’t Jesus the one who would eventually die for the sins of the world, offering forgiveness to each and every one of us? That sounds more like the wide gate to me. If everyone is forgiven, wouldn’t you need a very wide gate?

And right back around to “the kicker” we come. No, you only need a gate wide enough for those who “find it”. Remember, not all lost “sheeple” want to be found. Some are quite happy being lost, I presume, rather than being herded around by some shepherd. Some like to “come and go and do as they please.” They do not see any real benefit to being controlled or fenced in. Plus, they fail to recognize the dangers of not being protected from their natural enemies. Their focus is only on the “here and now” and finding the best grass to eat. And that makes them easy prey, not being aware of their surroundings and the dangers that lurk about, be they physical dangers or spiritual ones.

Hence, the need for a shepherd, hopefully a good one. And when it comes to gates, the narrow one, especiall, few are those who find it. But, those who do, they are precious in His sight.

ZOOMING OUT

Sometimes questions only lead to more questions, especially when it comes to matters of faith and God and the proper way to interact with Him. I sometimes wish that, in this day and age, we had the ability to gather on a hillside and listen to Jesus face to face. I would think that would make it all much easier to digest, wouldn’t you? But, it doesn’t seem that was the case for those who were right there with Him. Sadly, for many, it only led to more confusion and created more frustration. It seems that maybe they were looking for the answers they wanted to hear. But, the Lord had no intention of tickling ears. No, He never took the Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People,”

Rather, He only spoke the things He had heard His Father say and He only did the things He saw His Father do. He was not interested in compromising His message to lure people in His direction and His intent was not to destroy the traditions of the Jewish faith, as some surmised He was intent on doing. After all, He said He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.

His only goal was to reunite fallen people with the One who made them, by simply speaking the truth in love. He wanted them to focus more on what was ahead than on what was behind them. Jesus knew that people cannot change their past, but they can most certainly change their future. He also knew they would never change if they were content to follow the masses, go with what’s popular or become too comfortable with the old cloth or the old wine that we talked about earlier. The “mounting question” being raised by this parable was about holiness, sanctification and being willing to leave the old ways behind and embracing the new.

Jesus Christ introduced the world to an entirely new way of “being holy.” In days gone by, it was believed you were holy only if you followed the Laws of Moses perfectly and completely. But, knowing we all fell short of that, the priest would offer up a sacrificial lamb, once a year, for himself and the sins of all the people. Sure, it was ritualistic, but it seemed to suffice. The people understood it.

Jesus became that lamb, once and for all time. The yearly offering no longer needed to be made. And being holy was no longer about obeying all the religious laws (which was humanly impossible). Holy meant “being separate, set apart for God,” It meant turning from your old life, from following the crowd or trying to earn your own salvation. It meant fully putting your trust in Christ and the blood that was shed as full payment for all the sins of mankind. Past, present and future. Being holy now meant accepting God’s mercy and turning from the powers of sin and self and submitting to the Holy Spirit. It meant, as they say, to “Let go and let God.”

The answer to all these “mounting questions” was Jesus Christ.

He, alone, is “the gate” by which we all must enter through, as He taught us in John Chapter Ten. 

Nothing more and nothing less.

 

The Advantage Of Height

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:14-16]

ZOOMING IN

Just one verse after Jesus compares us, as believers, to something that forms deep below the surface of the earth (salt), yet emerges from that darkness as something both valuable and flavorful, He now is taking us to “higher ground.” Isn’t that just like our Lord? A limitless God who understands the earthly limitations we constantly must contend with. And, of course, He also has full knowledge of both extremes, height and depth, since He created every inch of it, from to the toppest top, down to the bottomest bottom.

Hills were used for all kinds of things over the centuries. Armies preferred to build their forts on higher ground. It allowed them to more quickly see if an enemy was approaching. I’m sure you have heard the term, “uphill battle.” So, obviously, you did not want to be the army charging up a hill to engage your enemy. You would much rather be the ones charging down the hill from a fortified location. We would only have to look back in our own history, to World War II and the Normandy Invasion (or “D-Day” as we call it), to fully appreciate the disadvantage that lack of elevation causes on the battlefield. The Allied forces, over 150,000 strong that day, were said to be like “sitting ducks” as they had the unenviable task of fighting their way up from the water’s edge on the beaches of France, to overtake the German fortifications on the surrounding hillsides. Our troops eventually gained control of those areas, taking that part of France back from the Nazis, mostly due to the sheer number of the invading allied forces. But, many thousands were lost in the battle along the way.  

“Higher Ground” is not just desirable for waging war, or just the name of a classic Stevie Wonder song. It is also the best place to build a lighthouse. With regards to the horizon, a lighthouse situated on higher ground would be seen from much farther away by approaching ships than one which was built closer to sea level. That is also why some lighthouses are taller than others, of course. The taller the better, unless you were the one who had to walk up those steps everyday. There were no elevators back when many of those older lighthouses were built.


There has always been another interesting perception, when it comes to the height of certain things like a lighthouse or a city, or the lack thereof. It had to do with the term “city on a hill” being thought of as a virtuous city or one that had flourished to the point of being admired in some ways. A person of “high morals” is generally preferred over someone of low moral standards and I think it is from this perspective that Jesus shared His thoughts about a “city set on a hill” and how it is not easily hidden.

When we are given a position of prominence or authority, whether in the political realm, the church or even in a workplace or family, once you achieve an elevated status in one way or another, the spotlight (or cameras nowadays) is always on you. Things you may have been able to get away with before, are now out in the open and fair game, as they say. It goes with the territory, so be careful what you wish for, if you are intent on climbing that social ladder.

Higher status means higher visibility, and that also comes with the need for more accountability. Jesus certainly understood that. An interesting dynamic, here, is that on one hand this man who claimed to be the Messiah, or from God, seemed to be suggesting that the religious hierarchy the Jews used to gain power and influence for themselves had run it’s course. Now that God had sent His Son to be the mediator between God and man, as it says later in 1 Timothy 2:5, there was no longer a need for a high priest. Jesus, now, is the only high priest we will ever need, much to the dismay of Caiaphas and the others who were greatly troubled by the radical claims He was making. So, you might think He would say that being a “higher up” was not always a good thing.

But on the other hand, our Lord seemed to be encouraging those who were gathered on that hillside that they should desire to be someone that others look up to, people of virtue and people who shine the love of God on those around them. He implies, here, that God does not shine His love on us or bless us, just for ourselves, but that we might also be beacons of light and love to others, as a lighthouse on a hill. We should not keep it hidden or to ourselves. It is like the words of that classic Reba McEntire song, “Love Isn’t Love (‘til you give it away).” So simple yet, so profound.

That’s the Master Storyteller at work, is it not?

ZOOMING OUT

As I step back from this parable and take another look at it, this time from the frame of reference of the “big picture”, I am quickened by another peculiar part of this little story:

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:16]

If I am reading this right, it sounds like He is instructing us to feel free to let our own light shine before people in such a way that they may see how good we are. That doesn’t sound right. It is not like Him, in my mind, to encourage us to “put on a show” for others in such a way as to make ourselves look good. That is what the Jewish and Roman bigwigs did all the time and Jesus did not seemed all that fond of their behavior. Is this a change of thinking, here, or am I missing something?

Let’s keep reading, so we don’t jump to conclusions, here. The last part of this parable ties it up quite nicely and even puts a bow on it, “and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” So in the end, Jesus brings it right back around to where He started. The goal is to bring God glory, not ourselves.

But, He kind of does it in a roundabout way, does He not? He starts by telling us “You are the light of the world.” Wait. Jesus is the light of the world, not us. But, here He is saying we are, too. And then, at the end of this masterful story, He says we should let our light be seen by men that they may see our good works. All of this had to have many in the audience wondering where He was headed with these somewhat radical statements.

Well, like the name of Part Two implies, there were plenty of “mounting questions” concerning this Jesus of Nazareth. And for a lot of folks, this sermon on this hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee did not fully answer them. In fact, for some, it only raised more questions, I would think.

But it does point to another important aspect of this Master Storyteller. His stories, His parables, they were meant to draw those who were His, closer to Him. While at the same time, they were designed to repel those whom He knew would never come. And once again, as the Son of God, He knew these stories would not only be heard by those who were present and heard His words with their own ears. He also knew that they would be spread by “word of mouth” to many others and that they would even eventually be written down for generations to come to learn from, as well.

Oh what a Savior.

Oh, what a Master Storyteller.

Oh, what a loving God we serve.