May 13 “Receiving”

Receiving

They had seen others refuse the call to follow Jesus.
They had also seen rich people humbled by an encounter with Jesus, but this case was disturbing. This was a good man, a diligent keeper of the law. He was obviously blessed by God for his righteousness. Why should God’s blessings be the price of eternal life?

Jesus saw into their hearts, hearing their questions as easily as if they had spoken them.

“…,it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of God.”

Tired by the Road
Perhaps it was the end of a long day, or the weariness of the many long walks and tense conversations with the rulers, but something about this encounter stole the energy of the twelve men following Jesus. They were not yet converted from the world where riches were counted as riches, not impediments. The values of Jesus, the heavenly measuring instruments, were still not theirs. If not a righteous man, blessed by God with riches…

“Who then can be saved?”

The disciple who asked the question is not revealed but all of them were thinking it. Jesus looked at them and saw their despair. He reminded them that all things were possible with God.

It didn’t help.

What do we get?
Peter spoke for the group reminding Jesus that they had not turned away when He said, “Follow me.” They had answered His call. Was there no assurance for them of eternal reward?

“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

Peter’s question could have come from any of their mouths. Jesus assured them of special places in His Kingdom to come. They would see a new world, a regenerated earth and sky and they would be the rulers of the nation. Jesus paused to let His promises sink into their exhausted minds. What shall they have? Much. More than they gave up to follow Him and more than the rich young ruler held on to, and more than they could ever imagine.

In the Distance
Jesus looked beyond the setting of this conversation, beyond the road and the countryside flanking the road, to the far horizon. He even looked beyond that horizon to the future. He knew that for centuries to come people would hear Him say, “Follow Me.” They would leave all to do just that. They would abandon homes and families and easy lives to follow Him to strange lands and hard times and demanding vocations all because He asked them to. That many, judged to the “first” in their small worlds, would leave those promising futures to be “last” in the eyes of people to advance His Kingdom. He saw the weak and overlooked ones become the “first” in His Kingdom.

And there in the distance, He saw you and He saw me.

Scriptures:
Matthew 19:23-30
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, what I have given up to follow You is insignificant to what I have gained. You are my exceeding great reward! My heart beats for Your Kingdom. You have always met my needs and blessed me abundantly in so many ways. Help me keep my eyes on You and not on others. I rejoice in the way You bless my brothers and sisters. Help me measure my life by those heavenly instruments, not the false scales of this old world. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Traditional

1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2. Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3. The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

July 27, 2018 “Possibilities”

Possibilities

When the “Rich Young Ruler” turned away from Jesus, it broke the Lord’s heart.
If the young man never reconsidered his decision, a lifetime of exciting possibilities was forfeited for the sake of money—a tragedy of unending ramifications. Like a pebble never tossed into a lake, there would be no ripples. Such a rejection is

  • a journey never began,
  • a song never sung, and
  • a message never delivered.

All the things a life lived for Jesus might do remained undone. What is the accumulated cost of a wasted life? It is the price of a soul, no, of countless souls. Yes, the Master’s heart was broken.

“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!
For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The Eye of a Needle
Some have tried to soften the image Jesus used of a camel going through the eye of a needle by suggesting He meant a small gate near a large one but such is not the case. Jesus spoke of the eye of a sewing needle and a full-sized camel—an example of hyperbole—using an impossible image to describe an impossible idea. Realizing this, the question of the people made perfect sense:

“Who then can be saved?”

It was thought that money was the answer to every need. If the rich could not be saved, then what hope was there for anyone?

What then, is possible?
Impossibilities are the things of a created universe. The handiwork of God is expansive and is still expanding. Yet, there are rules, elements, and forces at work within God’s creation that rule the universe. Man observes the unexplained things and calls them random, evidence that there is no Creator at all, a universe of accidents. This is the observation of the blind, the verdict of those without judgment. We simply cannot see the rule, the element, the force that God has wrought. If we can’t see it, it isn’t there, right? Wrong! God is there!

Miracles are impossibilities made possible.
Jesus said it this way:

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

So, camels and needle’s eyes notwithstanding, the rich have equal access to the Kingdom of Heaven. When anyone makes it in, that is a miracle, an impossibility made possible only by grace. Anyone trusting in riches of any kind, money, power, influence, family, talent, knowledge, skill, anything at all, will fail to gain entrance. Trust in Jesus is the only way and that is always a miracle, another successful camel transit through another needle’s eye. Only the Blood of Jesus, repentance of sins, and confession of Jesus, only these things, open the New and Living Way.

Peter’s Confession
It was not a boast; it was a fact. Fishing boats and abandoned nets testified to the commitments of Peter, Andrew, James and John. The other eight disciples had their own tales of extreme commitment, their entrance points into the world of impossible possibilities.

Jesus smiled at His men. They looked at Him with wide eyes, awaiting His next Word whatever it might be, His next miracle, his next mission impossible. Yes, they loved Him. Yes, they were with Him and would remain so until…well…as long as they could. As He comforted them with His oft-repeated promise, His own spirits lifted. Like the sad opportunities missed, their lives would ripple through time to bless the multitudes to come.

Scriptures:
Luke: 18:24-30
NKJV
And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I live in the universe You created. The possibilities within the rules of Creation are exciting and I revel in them: sunrises, sunsets, night skies, storms and the quiet times after them, causes and effects as dependable as the turning of the earth. But when I need a miracle from You, the rules You made can be suspended and the impossible happens just for me! You are the God of infinite space and the God of inches, the God of eternity and the God of my moments each day! Thank You for the miracle of Salvation and for the possibilities and impossibilities of following You! Amen.

Song:
Nothing Is Impossible

Words and Music: Eugene L. Clark

1. I read in the Bible the promise of God,
That nothing for Him is too hard;
Impossible things He has promised to do,
If we faithfully trust in His Word.

Refrain:
Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God;
Nothing is impossible when you’re trusting in His Word.
Hearken to the voice of God to thee: “Is there anything too hard for Me?”
Then put your trust in God alone and rest upon His Word–
For ev’rything, O ev’rything, Yes, ev’rything is possible with God!

2. The word of the Lord is an anchor secure,
When winds of uncertainty blow:
Though man in his weakness may falter and fail,
His Word will not fail us we know.

Refrain

3. All things are possible, this is His Word,
Receive it ‘tis written for you,
Believe in His promises, God cannot fail,
For what He has said He will do.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved