Archive for April, 2011

God gives to His Children


                When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”  He said, “Yes.”  And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon?  From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

                Peter said to him, “From strangers.”  Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.  Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first.  And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for me and you” (Mathew 17: 24-27.)


                Every Jewish man recognized that their lives were not their own; rather they belonged to God.  As a part of this recognition, every man over the age of 20 was commanded to pay an annual duty to God to redeem their lives for themselves for one year.  The season had arrived for the religious leaders to collect the yearly tax.  Simon (Peter) thought it proper to pay the tax, but Jesus questioned its correctness.  He asked Peter to examine the way that the world levied taxes.  During this time, the Roman Empire had conquered most of the known world.  The nations they conquered were taxed heavily, while their own citizens (or sons) were free from most forms of taxation.  Peter was asked to examine why God would require a tax from his own people, when the worldly leaders of the earth, who were evil, did not tax their own subjects.  Peter realized the tax was man-made, and not God-made.  In order to keep the peace, Jesus agreed to pay the tax.  The miraculous way he paid the tax showed Peter that despite bowing to human authority, he commanded all of the power and authority of The Living God.  Under that authority, Peter was able to see that God’s desire was not to take from his Son’s, but to give to them.

                When I was in College, my dad would come to visit me frequently.  He really enjoyed sitting down and talking with me over a nice meal.  He and I would meet at various restaurants in the area.  My Dad was well aware that I was a ‘broke college student’ who could not afford to eat out.  He was never privy to the notion that when the meal concluded, I would head up to the register to take care of the bill.  Quite to the contrary; my Dad, who had great resources, was aware that he would need to ‘pay-the-check.’  Over the years, traveling home for the holidays, my dad and I still go out to eat, and he still pays for the meals (despite my abilities and sometimes fervent requests to pay or ‘pitch in.’)  My dad has always given to me because I am his Son, and he loves me.

                If you call Jesus Lord, you call God ‘Father.’  If you are a Son or a Daughter of God, be aware that He desires to give good things to you.  (The world is always asking for something from you; even when they give, their giving is selfishly motivated and extremely conditional.  God however is in need of nothing, and gives liberally and lovingly to all His children.)  Ask Him for whatever you need, and He will provide it for you; because He’s not just the Almighty God, but He is also, a Loving Father.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You now and lift You up.  You are an awesome and mighty God.  We know You are also a loving Father.  We love you too.  We know that You are seeking to give us good things; please provide for all of our needs today.  We love You, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you!

The Duty of All Believers


                He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come to call sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 27-32.)


                Tax collectors in Israel were Jewish citizens who had ‘sold-out’ to the Roman Empire, and turned against their own people.  The Roman taxes were severe, and tax collectors earned their wages by overtaxing the people; in turn, they were passionately despised.  The religious leaders were enraged because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners.   Jewish meals were extremely intimate affairs; those who dined together dipped in to the same bowls and drank from the same cups.  Most Jews were very careful who they ate with, because they falsely believed that sin could be transferred from person to person through the sharing of food.  The Son of God however, was not concerned with being contaminated by the sins of those he dined with.  Instead, his purity was contaminating and cleansing the dirty hearts of those who ate with him.  The messiah, the chosen one, sent of God had a distinct purpose; he came to seek the lost; he came to bring light in to the darkest of hearts; he came to cleanse the dirty, and to reach those the world had set aside and rejected.

                In 1464 a block of Marble weighing nearly 9 tons was shipped to the workshop of the Cathedral of the Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy.  An artist was commissioned to carve a massive sculpture of a young King David.  It is said the artist abandoned the project because the piece of marble contained too many flaws (or veins—veins in marble are weaker than the surrounding stone, which can cause it to crack and break.)  So the flawed block sat in the yard for nearly a decade; until another artist was commissioned to continue the work; apparently he also foresaw problems with the veining in the marble and walked away.  Again, the scarcely carved stone block was pushed to the back of the yard where the sun, wind, and rain beat down on it for nearly 25 years.  Then in 1501 a 29 year old sculptor named Michelangelo looked at the stone optimistically.  He didn’t see an old dirty block of marble taking up space; he didn’t reject it as a defective throw away, fit for the trash heap.  Unlike the other sculptors, Michelangelo saw the giant slab, not as it was, but as it could be.  Michael Angelo accepted the commission to complete the work because he believed that he could create a masterpiece from a worn down, dirty block of marble.  In 1504, after nearly 3 years of work, the Statue of David was completed; immediately it was marveled over; its beauty and elegance were heralded by even the harshest of critics.  Today, the statue of David is on display in Florence Italy, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful marble sculptures ever created.

                Like Michelangelo, Jesus Christ is a master craftsman whose purpose is not to attempt to improve perfect people, but to take the worst people and transform them in to divine works of art.  As followers of Jesus Christ, our duty is to reach out to those who are outcasts.  Rather than turning our backs on sinners, we are to embrace them in love.  We shouldn’t just see sinners for who they are, but instead, as who might become (with the assistance, love, and attention of an all powerful divine creator.)  Reach out to the lost; make friends with the weak; dive in to the trash heap and pull out the people the world has discarded.  He has sent us in to the world to reach those who have gone astray and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Are you willing to be an instrument God can use to accomplish a masterpiece?

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask that You use us to reach those who are sick.  Give us a heart for everyone the world has rejected.  We yearn to be instruments that You can use to transform the lives of sinners.  Therefore we lay ourselves at Your feet and place our lives in your capable hands; make use of us as You see fit.  Father, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

Obediance requires trust


                Then he got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s (Peter’s), and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And he sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When he had stopped speaking, he said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

                But Simon (Peter) answered and said to him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

                When Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5: 3-8.) 


                The disciples had just finished fishing and had caught nothing; they were cleaning their nets for the day.  Jesus told Peter to push out one last time and drop the nets.  Peter didn’t want to, but he obeyed Jesus and pushed out to sea.  His obedience resulted in a catch none of them could have imagined; a catch so large there nets nearly burst.  Peter immediately humbled himself, and fell down before Jesus.  His understanding of Jesus was immediately and drastically transformed; in an instant Peter realized that Jesus was not just a man, but something more.  Peter witnessed a miracle because he chose not to allow his experience as a fisherman, or his own reasoning to compete with the command of Christ.  Peter didn’t push out in to the water because he expected to haul in the largest catch of his life (he probably didn’t expect to catch anything at all.)  He pushed out in to the sea because he was being obedient to Jesus Christ.

                Each of us woke up this morning with a great deal of expectations.  We expected our alarm clocks to work, our cars to start, and our cell phones to be functional; we relied upon them; we trusted them.  We can trust our gadgets and even our own instincts and abilities, but when it comes to trusting Jesus Christ we have difficulty?  Peter initially relied upon his own knowledge and understanding when questioning the command of Christ to ‘push-out.’  He saw God do a wonderful work, because he stopped trusting in himself and began trusting in God. 

                Today, we need to trust in God and not our own limited understanding.  We must be obedient to what God is calling us to do.  Is there some area of your life where you are refusing to relinquish control?  Search your heart.  God has called each of us to be obedient to His commands.  Often, obedience is difficult, but unless we obey God we will miss out on experiencing many of His great miracles.  May we all ‘push out’ and place our trust in the eternal and almighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to relinquish control over our lives and give them back to You.  Jesus please help us to be obedient.  Holy Spirit, help us to place our full trust in You.  Reveal to us areas where we lack faith, and help us to change.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we trust You, and we ask all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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