In Jesus’ Words: God and Money (Matthew 22:17-21)

“Tell us, what do You think.  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites?  Show Me the coin used for the tax.”

So they brought Him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.  “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.

Then He said to them, “Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:17-21)

Jesus seems to get a little sassy here.  After all, he had just spent a lot of time with the Pharisees telling them parables about themselves and they still didn’t get it.  Instead they were spending their time plotting how to trap and kill him.  I’m sure Jesus knew their true intentions when they asked this question, but again, Jesus’ answers could not be defeated.

Jesus challenged the things of the day, but he was not political and he did not seek to change world structures, only the hearts of mankind.

When he spoke of giving to God the things that are God’s, I was reminded of these words from Dr. K.P. Johannan, missionary and author of “Revolution in World Missions”, written in 1986.  K.P. confirms in today’s world what Jesus was saying to us.  Jesus’ words were not only to the Pharisees but to us as well.  I hope we do not miss the point.

“Americans are more than just unaware of their affluence – they almost seem to despise it at times.  When I came to America, I stared in amazement at how they treated their beautiful clothes and shoes.  This nation routinely takes its astonishing wealth for granted.

How can two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth?  I was alarmed at how misplaced are the spiritual values of most western believers.  It appeared to me that for the most part they had absorbed the same humanistic and materialistic values that dominated the secular culture.  Through their abundance, it was as if they were trying to escape from a guilt they had not yet defined.

They were simply incapable of understanding the enormous needs overseas.  I sometimes cannot freely order food when traveling in the U.S. – I look at the costs and carelessness and realize how far that amount of money would go in India or Philippines.  Suddenly I am not quite as hungry as before.

Is it God’s fault people are going hungry?  No, God has provided enough money in the highly developed nations to feed the rest.  Here are people of privilege and great affluence and more free to act on the Great Commission than any other nation in history.  Yet, they didn’t comprehend this.”

Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan

In Jesus’ Words: The story that explains everything (Matthew 20:1-16)

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The following is one of the most important stories Jesus told in the Bible.  It explains our world.  It explains God.  It explains what Grace really is.  And it explains Heaven.  It is what differentiates the Christian faith from every other religion and philosophy in the world.

How many times have we wondered about the wretched person who repents at the very end of their life and gets right with God?  They lived their life carelessly, causing harm to others along the way, while we tried to follow God’s teachings all our lives.  Is that fair?

How many times do people condemn a God they don’t understand because they think that all God wants to do is send people to hell if they mess up?

How many times have we messed up?

And what about all the starving and abused children that God seemingly ignores?  Where is their justice?

Jesus had a good way of explaining things.  We should all read or think about this story from Jesus every day and apply its wisdom to every circumstance we encounter.  Maybe then we will not be so surprised when we get to eternity.

~ Matthew 20:1-16  Parable of the Vineyard Workers ~

Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. To those men he said, ‘You also go to my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and at three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go to my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!’

“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius. Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’”

“So the last will be first, and the first last.”

In Jesus’ Words: The Last will be First (Matthew 19:23-30)

1673225-inline-750-homeless3In these uncertain and crazy times, we always ask “Why?”  We search for truth and meaning, and at the same time question why are things so unfair.  We only have to turn on the news for a few seconds to make us feel this way.  If it were not for my Faith and my personal and close relationship with Jesus Christ, I would definitely feel uncertain and unsafe in this world.  But we have God’s written promises to assure us.  They assure us that even though mankind may fall short, all things are possible with God.  And as far things being unfair, God reminds us about that too. “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”  This is very different than what we so often hear in the world.  Rest assured when reading God’s Word today.

~ Matthew 19:23-30  Possessions and the Kingdom ~

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter responded to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.  So what will there be for us?”

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

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In Jesus’ Words: Lest we offend… (Matthew 17:24-26)

We are a generation that is offended by almost everything.  Somewhere along the way we have decided that we deserve to be right above all else.

But when Jesus addressed his disciples regarding the decision of paying the temple tax, he said, “Let us not offend them.”  Jesus knew what he was entitled to, but it was not about proving he was right.  Jesus loved people, and relationships were at the heart of all his teachings – a relationship with God and relationships with others.  We will be most remembered in this life by our relationships and how we treat others.  Jesus knew this well.  He knew what life was all about.

When we offend someone, intentional or not, we close off that relationship to reconciliation and healing.  It may even stand in the way of sharing God’s love.  Sometimes, grudges can last a very long time…

pope%20russian%20orthodox%20patriarch%20meet_pngLast week there was a historical meeting between the Pope and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.  The two churches have not spoken with each other since their split in 1054, almost a thousand years ago.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss their shared concern over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

“We are brothers,” Pope Francis said as he embraced Kirill in the small, wood-paneled VIP room of Havana’s airport, where the three-hour encounter took place.

“Now things are easier,” Kirill agreed as he and the pope exchanged three kisses on the cheek. “This is the will of God,” the pope said.  (USA Today)

Times are changing as we are witnessing significant events in our world never before seen in any recent lifetime.

~ Matthew 17:24-26  Paying the temple tax ~

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?”

“Yes,” he said.

When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first. “What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? From their sons or from strangers?”

“From strangers,” he said.

“Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for Me and you.”

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In Jesus’ Words: The parable of the good crop (Matthew 12:48-13:9)

grocery storeThere are 7 billion people in the world.  350 million live in the United States of America.
America has 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes 40% of the world’s resources.
One billion people in the world do not have access to clean water.
The average American uses 400-600 liters of water every day.
800 million people will not eat today.  Every 7 seconds a child dies from hunger.
The average American family throws away between 15-40% of the food they purchase.
92% of the world’s population does not own a car.  One-third of American families own at least three cars.
Research suggests the cost of providing basic human needs (water, food, basic health care) for everyone in the world to be around $20 billion.  Each year Americans spend around $20 billion on ice cream.
Americans spend more every year on trash bags than half of the world does on all goods combined.
(source: UNICEF)

I am an American.
I am every one of these statistics.

“Americans are more than just unaware of their affluence – they almost seem to despise it at times.  I stared in amazement at how they treated their beautiful clothes and shoes.  The richness of the fabrics and colors was beyond anything I had ever seen.  As I would discover again and again, this nation routinely takes its astonishing wealth for granted.
Americans seemed to have a need to surround themselves with noise all the time.  It was as if they were trying to escape from a guilt they had not yet defined or identified.
Sometimes I cannot freely order food when traveling in the U.S.  I look at the costs (and the carelessness) and realize how far that amount of money would go in India or Philippines.  Suddenly I am not quite as hungry as before.”
– K.P. Johannan, Revolution in World Missions

But there is hope.

“The U.S. is one of the only nations in the world founded by believers who made a covenant with God – dedicating a new nation to God.  Born into influence – we should be most thankful and ask what we should do with these unearned favors.
If you want to meet the needs of the poor, there is no better place to start than sharing the Gospel.  It has done more to lift up the downtrodden, hungry, and needy than all the social programs imagined by secular humanists.”
– K.P. Johannan

I don’t want to wait until the end of my life to fully embrace what Jesus is telling us.

~ Matthew 12:48-13:9  The Parable of the Good Crop ~

“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, Jesus said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow.  As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep.  But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.  Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. Anyone who has ears should listen!”

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