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“Measuring Cup”

Mark 4: 24: “And He was saying to them, ‘Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more shall be given you besides.’” Do you ever wonder why people don’t seem to listen to you, or heed what you say? Your answer might be right here. If you don’t listen to others, or if you disrespect their words (especially when they are speaking for God), you will get the same treatment. This whole sermon of Jesus (vv. 1-32) is about hearing and listening, summarized in the words, “Take care what you listen to.” Or what you don’t listen to!

“Faithful Affliction”

Psalm 119: 75: “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Lent reminds us that all things, each and every day, are not always rosy and painless. If they are, God is not doing His job as our Father (Hebrews 12: 6. 7), and that just ain’t the case! If God is faithful (and He is) and if all His judgments are righteous (and they are) of necessity there will then be times of affliction for His children. It’s part of His restoring His image in us. It’s an unappreciated, sometimes unrecognized part, but it’s a part just the same.

“Who’s Getting Tested?”

Genesis 42: 15: “By this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here!” When we read this story we get the idea that Joseph is testing the character of his ten brothers. But they didn’t really care about Benjamin one way or the other. It was Jacob who was so doting and over-protecting of the only remaining child of Rachel, and Jacob who would be tested by his youngest son’s trek to Egypt. Through this whole test Joseph (and we) are able to see just how much Jacob’s character, as well as that of his sons, has developed during Joseph’s absence from Canaan.

"Purifying Ourselves Through Self-Denial"

If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. What is the cross? It is first of all a symbol of love, not pain and suffering. Although love is best proven in the extent it is willing to go to, including pain, suffering and the denial of self for other’s sake. Even if unreciprocated. Even if unappreciated. It doesn’t seek its own. In that sense I dare say love is one way. That’s what the cross is.

“No Shame Allowed”

1 Corinthians 4: 14: “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” In the midst of this year’s purification and the intensified self-examination that is a part of Lent, we must never forget the difference between shame and admonition. Yes, the Holy Spirit will point out to us our faults, failures, and weaknesses, as St. Paul did to the Corinthians in this chapter. But he is not finger pointing and casting shame, for these are things the Lord commands us to do away with (Zephaniah 3: 19; Isaiah 58: 9b). Admonition, on the other hand, done with love as of a father, is a valid tool in shepherding the flock of God (2 Timothy 2: 25, 26; Titus 2: 6, 9).

Following Jesus

Peter didn’t say anything we haven’t thought or even wanted to say. But Jesus has a very different understanding of discipleship than what most of us probably want. When another’s reality and vision begin to conflict with and overtake our own, we rebuke. We take them aside to enlighten them, help them understand, show them the error of their ways. That’s all Peter did. If we are really honest, we’ll admit that we have, at some point, disagreed with Jesus, asking why he doesn’t do what we want. Why won’t He see the world our way? It all seems so clear to us. If He can cast out the demons and silence the crazy guy in the synagogue surely He can silence the voices that drive us crazy. If He can

“Golden Opportunity”

Mark 3: 1b-2: “And a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him.” The Pharisees was in the man with the withered hand an opportunity to accuse and eventually destroy Jesus. Jesus saw in Him an opportunity to do good, save a life, and bring glory to His Father. If we are in Christ’s image we will do the same - see an opportunity in every situation, an opportunity to bring restoration to the fallen.

“Pit of Destruction”

Psalm 40: 2: “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay.” We’ve just seen how the Lord brought Joseph out of the pit a couple of times (Genesis 37: 28; 41: 39-41), and He did the same for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38), Paul(Acts 16: 25-29). and even Christ Himself (Ephesians 4: 9-10; 1 Peter 3: 18, 19). Do you think He will leave you in that miry clay-pit? Not according to David. Sooner or later, you footsteps will be on the rock!

“Cream Always Rises to the Top”

Genesis 39: 4, 22: “So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge ... And the chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was in charge of it.” Imagine you were Joseph: Father’s favorite falls to common slave. Rising to head of the household, again plummets to convicted prisoner. Time to give up? No, time to keep being who you are, a man of God-given skill and God-molded character, and keep moving forward. No time for depressing self-pity or room for fatalistic hopelessness. Joseph could feel a hand upon hi

“Things and Stuff”

1 Corinthians 2: 12-13: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.” “Things freely given to us by God.” We all like the sound of that! Except the things spoken of here are in no way material accumulations, but things of divine wisdom and revelations of the Holy Spirit’s power. Re-read these verses, and you will see that this is the only thing being talked about here. You can’t speak a new car or house and lot, but you can speak the depths of God, when the Spirit shows them to you.

“Misguided Priorities”

Genesis 37: 19, 20a: “And they said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer! Now then, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.” Isn’t it interesting? The brothers of Joseph were concerned enough over their father’s sheep to move them from Hebron to Shechem, about 80 km, and from there another 40 km to Dothan, but none of them except Reuben had the same shepherd’s compassion for their own flesh and blood! Perhaps because the sheep represented the family’s wealth, while Joseph represented a royal pain. But we all know pains like that in our own lives, probably right in our own local Church, yes? How do we treat them - as Reuben did, or as Judah and the rest?

“Fad Diet”

Mark 1: 6: “And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.” This seems like a strange meal plan, until you see that John’s food, like everything about him, was meant as a witness. Locusts were God’s messengers of the need for repentance (Joel 1, 2) - so was John. Wild honey sparked the energy of a long-suffering Jonathan (1 Samuel 14: 27), and was scraped out of a slain lion by that Danite strongman, Samson (Judges 14: 8-9). All these things pointed toward the ministry of John the Baptist. He was, indeed, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Purifying ourselves through Confrontation"

Part of an instructor's training is to handle questions that might be asked of him by the trainees after his presentation of the teaching modules. During the training process, each instructor-trainee is required to choose and present another module that is familiar to him regardless of specialization. The trainee should able to defend this teaching when the observers ask difficult and probing questions, in line with the subject matter, which would test the would-be instructor’s patience, teaching ability, and skill in applying the techniques he’s learned on how to deal with difficult questions so as not to be shamed by the inability to answer them. As a result, the more the students confront

“Complete Cycle”

Ezekiel 39: 29: “And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” We often associate Lent with Easter, but the goal of it all, as we found on Monday and Tuesday this week, is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a cold, godless society. It is a journey, as Don L. Saiers put it, “From Ashes to Fire.” These forty days are not just about dredging up old faults, the same ones we mourned over last year, but of moving on, forgiven and restored, in resurrection power toward a whole new existence in Christ.

“Collaborative Effort”

Ezekiel 18: 31: “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” Here’s where it gets a little confusing: The Lord has already said that He cast away all our sins (Psalm 103: 12), and promised to give us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36: 25-26). Now He wants us to go and do it ourselves. Is that even possible? It’s rather like 1 John 3: 3, where it says that we purify ourselves, when we know that only the blood of Jesus can do that. So what’s the deal? Like anything else from God, He is the source, the only source- but He expects a little cooperation from us. Can He do it Himself? Of course He can. But f

“Lent Basics”

Psalm 37: 27, 28: “Depart from evil, and do good, so you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His godly ones.” Just to keep us grounded, there is, indeed, a purpose for forsaking that baseless life we are often drawn back to. To abide forever is more than just hanging around, but to participate in God’s very life, and that’s what a just God brings to us when we depart from evil. He doesn’t forsake His saints! (the more accurate translation of ‘godly ones’)

“Tough Love”

Hebrews 12: 6: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” Wow, what a strange way to show love! And what a strange scripture for Valentine’s Day! That’s because it’s also Ash Wednesday this year, and the two are not as antithetical as you might think. Ash Wednesday is about remembering and returning to God’s love, and Valentine’s Day is about … well, God’s love and Ash Wednesday go together anyway. Valentine’s Day goes together with something rather different.

“Goal/Prize/Call”

Philippians 3: 14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s get this clear: there is a goal, which previous verses identify as the resurrection from the dead. Having achieved the goal, we then receive a prize, which is an upward call. This shows us that the resurrection is so much more than escape from Loyola Guadelupe or Manila Memorial. Resurrection, which we begin to experience at the New Birth, begins us on a path to a fuller, deeper, higher life, a life seeped in God’s ways and God’s energy, a life focused on God and others rather than ourselves, and resulting in a transformation into God’s image. That’s the real prize, fulfilling

“Common Ground”

John 18: 15-18; 25-27: “Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” Slaves and officers standing together: an unusual sight, is it not? What united them? The warmth of a fire in the midst of a cold night. Perhaps a foretaste of how, in less than two months’ time, the fire of the Holy Spirit would descend and unite young men and old, sons and daughters, bondslaves and all flesh, under the banner of one Lord, as they were led by none other than this same Peter. Oh, how this cold angry world needs that fire right now!

When Pictures Become Windows

There are times in our lives when we look around and wonder, “Is this all there is?” We look at our lives, our circumstances, and we want more. There is a restlessness, a searching, and longing for something else. Some call it a mid-life crisis. It can make us do crazy things – this searching and seeking. We get a new job, a new car, a new relationship. Maybe we take up a new hobby, go on a trip, or work extra hours. But not much changes. It is not about the circumstances of life. It’s about us. The restlessness, the desire for something more, generally means that we have been living life at the shallow end of the pool. Life and relationships have become superficial. We have been skimming ac

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