Listening to Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 25 and Genesis 49 & 50

                I Love stories, don’t you?

Here’s a story by CS Lewis found in the book: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as retold by Jennifer Neyhart:

               “Eustace is a character you kind of just want to punch in the face until his transformation experience with Aslan. He was arrogant, self-centered, and all around annoying to Edmund and Lucy.

On one of the islands the crew lands on, Eustace finds a dragon’s lair and is very greedy for the treasure. He puts on a gold bracelet and falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he has been turned into a dragon. Lewis writes, “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” Eustace had fleeting thoughts of relief at being the biggest thing around, but he quickly realizes he is cut off from his friends, and all of humanity, and he feels a weight of loneliness and desperately wants to change.

That night, Aslan comes to Eustace and leads him to a large well “like a very big round bath with marble steps going down into it.” Eustace describes the scene to Edmund after the fact. He says the water was so clear and he thought if he could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in his leg (from the gold bracelet he had put on when he was human). But Aslan told him he had to undress first. And doesn’t God ask this of us? As Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: “We must lay before him [God] what is in us; not what ought to be in us.”

Eustace found that no matter how many layers of dragon skins he managed to peel off of himself, he was still a dragon.

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off … And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again…” – C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 This scene always grabs my heart. It reminds me that I cannot fix myself. It paints a beautiful picture of baptism and transformation to new life. It humbles me as I put myself in Eustace’s place. And even long after our initial baptism we have the ongoing challenge of surrendering to God’s work in our lives which can be painful at times, even when it’s a good pain.

And I like Lewis’s note of narration at the end of this scene as well:

“It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that “from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.” To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”        

https://www.jenniferneyhart.com/2014/10/c-s-lewis-undragoning-of-eustace.html

End of Story.

Jeff’s comments:

                Stories have a way of capturing our attention and keeping our interest.  In a really good story like the undragoning of Eustace we might discover after reading it that it stays with us, that it somehow changes the way we see the world or the way that we are in the world.

                Jesus was a master storyteller.  Throughout the Gospels we hear him telling stories, and amazing stories they were as they somehow manage to transcend time and place and language and cultural barriers.

                In Matthew 25 Jesus tells three stories.  One story is about bridesmaids and oil, one is about masters and servants and bags of gold, and one is about sheep and goats.  Jesus told these stories just a few days before he was to be arrested, tried, condemned and nailed to a Roman cross and publicly executed. 

If you’ve ever been around someone who knew that they were going to die soon, you know that near the end of life people usually want to focus on those things which are most important.  They want to say “ I love you” to people they care about.  They want to say “ I’m sorry” to the people they have hurt or they want to say “I forgive you” to the people who have hurt them.  Since Jesus is running out of time and opportunities to preach and teach before his arrest you can imagine that what he has to say is very important to him. This is Jesus saying “I love you” to people he cared deeply about.

I encourage you to read and reflect on those stories in Matthew 25. 

Why is he talking about weddings and bridesmaids and having enough oil and the danger of missing out on the wedding banquet?  What does he want us to do or not do?

Why is he talking about a rich landowner going away on a long trip and leaving behind something valuable and asking his trusted workers to manage his valuable gold well?  What does he want us to do or not do?

Why is he talking about sheep and goats and why is he praising and rewarding some for the good things they do to help others (and him) and condemning  and punishing others for the good things that they fail to do to help others (and him)?  What does he want us to do or not do?

Spend some time thinking about each story.  Imagine yourself there in the story.  What’s it like to be a bridesmaid who wasn’t ready and missed out on your friend’s wedding?  What’s it like to be a worker who gets praised and rewarded for working hard when the master returns?  What’s it like to be called a goat (not The G.O.A.T. –a.k.a. Michael Jordan or Drew Brees) but a goat who failed to care for the sick, the hungry, the prisoners and the naked and gets turned away by Jesus?

Listen to Jesus’ stories and allow them to teach you whatever Jesus wants you to learn.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

Test Yourself!

Matthew 25

Today as we look at Matthew 25 we should take notice that though we are starting a new chapter the context surrounding this chapter is the same as that of chapter 24. Matthew 24 and 25 are a single unit of thought. This can be seen in verse 1 with the word “then” (the NIV says “at that time”) indicating what Jesus was speaking about in chapter 24 is continuing into chapter 25. The focus of the chapter is about the end of this age when Jesus returns and the judgement that he will enact. 

There are three pictures of judgement in chapter 25. The first two are parables (the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents) and the last one is a description of the judgement scene. 

In the first parable there are ten virgins who wait for the bridegroom. The bridegroom delays in appearing and all fall asleep but suddenly the bridegroom appears but only five are ready for the bridegroom while the other five are not ready and they are denied entrance into the wedding feast. The virgins denied entrance are then told by the bridegroom he never knew them. 

The second parable is about a master and his slaves. The master gives each slave a talent (an amount of money) and went on a journey. When the master returns only two of the three slaves honored the master with what they were given. The third slave squandered his talent and is rebuked by the master and the slave is thrown out into the outer darkness.

The third picture of judgement involves Jesus separating goats from sheep among the nations. The sheep and goats represent those who belong to Jesus and those who do not. The sheep (believers) are rewarded with the kingdom and the goats (non-believers) are cast into hell with satan and his demons. 

What are we to make of this chapter? What does Jesus want us to learn from these three pictures of judgement? I believe it is this.

There is a judgement coming and not everyone who calls themself a Christian will enter into life. The reality is, not everyone who calls themself a Christian is a true believer. In all three teachings there is one group of people who are then divided into those who are accepted and those who are rejected. Many people comprise the Church but not everyone who attends church is a true believer. The judgement of Christ sorts out the self-deceived from the real believers. Jesus himself teaches this earlier in Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43 in the parable of the tares. And he also teaches this in Matthew 7.21-22. 

Who are you? Are you deceived or a true believer in Christ? The five virgins were accepted into the feast because they were ready and prepared. The 2 slaves were honored by the master because they were faithful with what the master had given them. And the sheep entered the kingdom because they loved and served other Christians in need. 

A true believer will have evidence of salvation in their life. A true believer bears the fruit of the spirit, they grow in holiness, they grow in their disdain for sin, they hunger for the scriptures, they serve other Christians and people. A real believer matures and grows in Christ.

Paul tells the Corinthians in II Cor. 13.5 to test themselves against the scriptures to see if they are in the faith. Compare yourself to scripture and to the words of Jesus. Have you really received salvation from God? In addition to this, talk with mature believers closest to you about this serious matter if you question your salvation.

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 25

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 26 and Mark 14.

Who Are the Wicked?

Job 17-20

Job 19 25 27 NIV (1)

 

Just who are the wicked?  What does it take to wear that label?  The three friends have talked much about the fate of the wicked – and they have even placed Job among the ranks of the wicked.  Job often speaks of the wicked – and hotly contests that he is NOT one of them.  How do you know?  How can you tell?  What is the criteria for wickedness?  Is it possible there are many who will be surprised to learn they fall within God’s wicked classification?  We don’t ask these questions to play judge and jury on the rest of the world – but for the very real task of keeping ourselves where we need to be.  On the wicked-righteous continuum we have some strong candidates for either extreme, but what about everyone else?  It gets quite muddled in the middle.  It’s a big question for a little devotion – but let’s see what we find here in the pages of Job.

 

First of all, let’s restate from previous days that we can’t tell who is evil by seeing who is suffering – as Job’s friends are arguing.  Yes, sometimes our sins bring very real consequences of suffering.  And, yes, wicked people will ultimately be judged and pay for their wickedness.  However, suffering does not necessarily equate with wickedness.  In Job’s case we know that God was pleased with Job’s righteousness, but still allowed Satan’s attacks against him, even though He would be blamed for them.  There are many reasons one may be experiencing suffering (more on that another day soon), but we cannot assume that all suffering people must be wicked people.

 

We can find some truth regarding the wicked in Zophar’s speech in chapter 20.  He says, “For he (the wicked) has oppressed the poor and left them destitute” (Job 20:19).  We know this is true of the wicked from many other passages, including the separating of the sheep (the righteous) and the goats (the unrighteous/wicked) in Matthew 25.  In this parable how well you do – or do not – care for others, especially the disadvantaged/least of society (those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers in need of being invited into your home, the cold and underdressed, the sick, the prisoner) will determine whether you are ultimately saved with the righteous or doomed with the wicked.  I don’t know about you, but this convicts me.  I have some work to do on regularly seeing the needs around me and adding these commitments and opportunities to my calendar – actually making them a priority not just an intention.   In this parable many believers were surprised by their placement with the wicked – and I believe that will be true in the day of judgment as well.  Seriously take the time to evaluate and challenge yourself regularly.

 

Some people may be feeling pretty comfortable right now because they do make it a priority to care for others.  But, there will be more than that required as well.  In Bildad’s speech in chapter 19 the evil man is synonymous with, “one who knows not God.” (Job 18:21).  Looking ahead to chapter 21 Job says of the wicked: “They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways.  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?’ ” (Job 21:14,15)  To know God and know His ways – so you can serve.  Faith and deeds.  How do we know God and know His ways?  Reading His Word is the best way I know.  I fear there are many today who would much rather create their own god with their own ways.  So they create a god who condones their actions and attitudes and beliefs.  It is a trap we could all fall into – unless we are grounded in seeking out and knowing the One True God and His ways which are revealed for us in His Word.

 

It is that grounded faith in God that is keeping Job going even as his world is falling apart.  He is hurting.  He is questioning.  He is still believing.  He knows that his Redeemer (the one who will care for him) lives and he can not wait for the day he will see him face to face (Job 19:25-27).   May we too look forward to that day – and not be caught by surprise.

 

Know Him and His Ways and Serve,

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading of Job 17-20 can be read or listened to here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+17-20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 21-23 as we progress through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

 

The Books are Opened

Revelation 20

Revelation 20 6.png
You have a destiny.
It sounds like a movie or a great novel. I’m not Morpheus encouraging you to take the Red-Pill, or even a Wardrobe beckoning you to take your place upon the throne at Cair Paravel.
We are discussing something much more crucial: eternity. 
 
In Revelation 20, we are witness to two resurrections and therefore, two judgements. While Jesus in Matthew 25 tells us there will only be one judgement, with some sheep and some goats, Revelation expresses the security of the saved by expressing their own resurrection as separate. Instead of being raised and judged all together, all those who fought against the beast and his mark will reign with Christ and live forever, being raised in an earlier better resurrection, free of fear of the second death. Revelation then shows us that there will be those that, no matter what, will stand against God, and will march against the Lamb. God will smite them and Christ will judge them from the great white throne. There are many books opened, but there is one crucial book, the Book of Life. Those whose name is written in the Book will live, those whose name is not written in the book will die. Those whose name is not written in the Book will be like the goats of Matthew 25, who go off to shame and everlasting contempt.
 
A question we may ask ourselves is “which is the most accurate description of the final judgements? Is it all people into sheep and goats (like Matthew 25) or two separate judgements separated by 1000 years (Revelation 20)?” And that is a good question.
 
A good one, but the WRONG one.
 
The question we MUST ask is, “Am I a sheep or a goat? Is my name written in the Book of Life? Will I be raised in the first resurrection?” This is the correct question, because it is also the one we can answer with assurance. 
If you have believed in the name of Jesus, 
if you have fed the hungry, given water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, (Matthew 25)
if you have refused the mark of the beast, the authority of this world, (Revelation 20)
if you fought against the anti-God system of the world by speaking the message of Christ in love, 
THEN you have been promised by God Himself that you will be raised to eternal life. 
 
May you, my brothers and sisters, be among the sheep, raised in the first resurrection, and may you never need to fear the second death.
Jake Ballard