Winners and losers

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Today’s reading is in Matthew 10:39. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” This is one of the more radical statements that Jesus ever made. In the church today, there is too much of self. Much of the presentation of the gospel is based on us. If you become a Christian YOU will prosper. If you become a Christian YOU will be happy. If you become a Christian YOU will be healthy. Now these statements do have an element of truth but we need to realize that the road to a better life is found through “dying to self” not exalting self. We need to learn how to die to self if we ever hope to find out what life is about. How do we lose our lives? We lose our by giving of our time to serve others.

Losing our life is not like losing our car keys or losing your wallet or losing your shoes. Losing our lives does not happen by accident. It has to be a conscious effort on our part. We have to be intentional about “losing our lives.” You don’t lose your life by mistake. It has to become a conscious act. It is a risky act, because we do give up our precious time, but when we ‘lose’ our life, and give our time to serve others, Jesus says something mysterious happens. We gain back, we get something. We get life. We get the time we need. Somehow it works out. Until we realize this truth, we will NEVER have enough time. Do you want to be a winner? Lose your life. What has been your greatest struggle when it comes to ‘losing your life?’

Yank the Plank

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Today’s reading is from Matthew 7:1-5. Jesus warns us not to be critical and judgmental of others. This is a sin we are all very good at. It is important that we distinguish between telling someone that something they are doing is wrong and being judgmental. It is a fine line but there is a difference. There is a lot of confusion about this topic. Here is an illustration that might help. The Lone Ranger and Tonto stopped in the desert for the night. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep. Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, “Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?” The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.” “What that tell you?” asked Tonto. The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, “Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What’s it tell you, Tonto?” Tonto is silent for a moment, and then says, “Kemo Sabe, you are dumber than a box of rocks! It means someone stole tent.” That’s discernment! But when Tonto called the Lone Ranger “dumber than a box of rocks” that’s being judgmental. It is okay to correct people but we need to be careful it is done in a loving and respectful way. On top of that maybe we should be more concerned about correcting ourselves than we are correcting everyone else! Do you struggle with wanting to correct other people’s mistakes, especially your spouse or your children?

Jesus’ Scandalous Genealogy

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In Matthew chapter one we have the record of Jesus’ family tree. It records the names of His ancestors. Some were noble, some were ignoble, some were righteous, some were downright evil, some left legacies of faith, and others left legacies of dysfunction; a mixed bag, to say the least. Matthew makes a specific point of mentioning four women in Jesus’ genealogy, four scandalous women; Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. What you have in this genealogy are two prostitutes, Tamar and Rahab, someone who is not even Jewish in a Jewish genealogy, Ruth, and an adulteress, Bathsheba. Jesus’ family tree is filled with people who made huge mistakes. In fact, we would call them scandals of historic proportions. Why would Matthew put these four women into this genealogy? It almost seems like he went out of his way to do it, since women are not usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies. What can we learn from Jesus’ genealogy?

1. God’s plans are bigger than your mistakes. Aren’t you grateful we know how the story ends! I’m guessing that these women assessed their lives as a huge tragedy. Filled with disappointment and betrayal. Their lives were not turning what they wanted them to be. But they did produce a son and that son turned out alright. And he had a son who had a son who is the Son of God. You cannot asses your life only with what you see. Sometimes, we get so embroiled in the minute, circumstantial details of our lives, we don’t believe God can do much with us. What we need is a little bit of eternal perspective. God’s plans are bigger than your mistakes, sexual or otherwise. Let’s not reduce God to the size of our biggest failure. He is bigger than that.

 2. It is not who goes before you, it’s who you leave behind. Many of us can identify with this story because we come from dysfunctional families and dysfunctional situations. Some of you wonder if you are destined to make the same mistakes that your parents made. You wonder if you inherited their genes. You ask, “Am I going to mess up the same way my parents messed up?” Be encouraged. Your mom is not you, your dad is not you, you are not them, you are a unique individual and you don’t have to make the same mistakes. You can leave a magnificent legacy with Christ’s help.

3. Since these ladies were part of the Messiah’s genealogy you can be too! If you have put your faith in Christ, then Galatians 3 says you are a child of Abraham. You have been grafted in this genealogy and His church is your family. It is your messed-up family! We are all sinners yet John writes in John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the children of God.” You have the divine genes of God Almighty! You are of infinite value to Him.

Matthew included these people of shame to show the way of God in using that which is shameful to fulfill His purposes. Many people wonder how God could use them, and this genealogy can indicate to us that anyone can be used. Not only can we be used, but our sinful actions can be. We should not seek to sin, but when we do, it cannot overturn the purposes of God. We should be thankful to see these people in the genealogy of Christ. They help us to catch a glimpse of the grace of God.