A Camel through the Eye of a Needle

(Luke 18:24-30)

The expression that something is like a camel through the eye of a needle is meant to show the impossibility of the thing under discussion. The likelihood that you could ever get a camel through the eye of a needle is so implausible as to be laughable. It is the height of impossibility and improbability.camel

However it also becomes sobering when you look at it from the Lord’s perspective. When He uses this phrase it is worth listening to because when the Lord describes something in these terms, and when we see what it is he is describing, we need to re-evaluate many of the things that are considered desirable and change our priorities.

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Knowing God’s Will – A Good Rule of Thumb

(Luke 16:14-15)

It is useful to have rules of thumb for many things. They help us to make decisions about matters when there is no other guidance. A rule of thumb according to Wikipedia can be described as, “An easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.” Three Bible has a number of rules of thumb that we can use to make determinations about situations that are useful in assessing whether a matter is of the truth or error. This section of scripture shows one such rule of thumb that is very useful.rule of thumb

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Why the Buck Doesn’t Stop Here

(Luke 12:13-21)

Most people would look at this title and wonder what the heck is going on. It is a common saying that “The Buck Stops Here” which was popularised by President Harry Truman who meant it to mean that ultimately he took responsibility for most things. Some have “bent” its meaning over the years and wish for the buck to stop with them, that is to accumulate wealth.

But Jesus taught in this section a different perspective on this attitude, both in terms of responsibility and money.

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What does it Profit a Man to Gain the Whole World and Lose His Life

(Luke 9:23-27)

In these words, “What does it Profit a Man to Gain the Whole World and Lose His Life,” Jesus makes a number of highly valuable and important points. He goes on to say that if any man saves his life he will lose it and if any man loses his life for the Lord’s sake he will gain it. What is Jesus talking about?

Saving Your Life to Lose it

When Jesus talks about saving your life to lose it, he is not talking about death or dying, although that is always a possibility. What he is talking about is forsaking the things of this life, the pride of life, the lusts and passions of the flesh and all of the things of this world that are held up by the world as being desirable or valuable. If you “save your life” in this world by seeking the things of this world, you will lose your eternal life.

We should note that what is considered valuable by man or the people of this world are of little or no value in God’s point of view. Think for a moment about what all men want; money, wealth, riches, gold, property, power and so on. But all of these things are either transitory and fading or can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.

Think about the value of money today. In the past few years the money markets have fallen in a heap with the global financial crisis and the value of money has become very shaky. The same can be said of shares, property and other investments. And this is nothing new for the economic cycle goes through boom and bust every seven to ten years making fortunes at one time and destroying them in other times.

So why do men chase after money and wealth when it is so easily taken away? It is because of the lust for power to overcome the difficulties and strife in this life that men seek money. Men believe that wealth gives you power to be able to rise above the problems and issues of the world.

And yet from God’s perspective money and wealth are a problem. Jesus said, “”Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23) So if money and wealth make it so difficult to enter the kingdom of heaven, why chase after it?

That is why Jesus says that by losing your life, that is the life offered by this world, you will gain your life, that is your eternal salvation and life with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.

Losing your Life to Save it

So the converse holds also that if we do forsake the things of this world and instead focus on seeking the ways of God, we will gain our life into eternity. This is certainly a much greater reward than the fleeting pleasures of this life.

The challenge man faces is that they think only of the here and now. Man does not think in terms of eternity but because of the passions and desires of the flesh he thinks only of what’s in it for him right now.

Many businesses today are aware of this failing in mankind and play to it to great effect. There are whole industries, such as the fast food businesses, that are built on the premise of instant gratification. The same is the case in many of the seedier sides of this life too; gambling, pornography and prostitution to name just a few. Each of these are designed to provide instant gratification to the passions and lusts of mankind, but are of no value in the long term, either for the person’s life here and definitely not for their eternal life.

What does it Profit

Profit is generally seen as being something good. When we receive profit it is general seen as something good. When we receive a profit it is a good thing. But the things of this world do not offer any profit, only death. They lead to destruction not to life.

But when we seek what is good we do receive profit, both in terms of our life in this world and for the future with Jesus into eternity. Even in this life when we follow the paths of righteousness and do good and give we get good in return as Jesus said, “…give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)

The profit we receive from a life with Jesus is to live in the knowledge of the truth and to learn how to live a life free from guilt and fear, especially the fear of death. All of mankind fear death, but knowledge about death and what it truly means takes away that fear. In Jesus we learn that death is not the end and that this life is really just a place of preparation to see who will be worthy to gain the profit of the real life into eternity with Jesus Christ.

Do you want this profit? Then shun the things of this world and put no value or faith in what this world has to offer. Don’t chase after the things of this world or ascribe any value to them, but instead seek the things of God. This is your first priority, to find the path to righteousness. Anything this world has to offer just fades into insignificance by comparison to what Jesus has to offer if we are prepared to forsake this life for the better one to come.

You might also like:

Whoever Loses His Life for My Sake will Find It
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What Does It Profit to Gain the World and Forfeit Your Life

Blessed are the Poor

(Luke 6:20)

Jesus began the sermon on the mount teaching the blessings we have come to know as the Beatitudes. These short teachings are powerful messages that still offer hope and promise today as much as they did then. Their insight has rung down through the centuries with the offer and promise of a hopeful future for all who come to God as they minister truths about the kingdom of God.

sermon on the mountThis scripture says, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Now I must add that this is a blessing pronounced on the poor who are seeking God, because he has not pronounced this blessing on all of the poor, but he says this while addressing the multitude of his disciples and followers. Those who are poor often find themselves in difficult and trying circumstances for lack of basic needs. But those who are poor AND seeking the Lord have all of their needs fulfilled. The poor in the Lord do not go in want for God has promised to take care of his people and provide all their needs. He has told his people not to worry about food and clothing and the things of this world for they will all be provided, when they make seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness as their first priority. (Matthew 6:25-34)

The next interesting thing about this scripture is the word “blessed.” This word is translated from the Greek word “makarios” and has the meaning of being extremely blessed, fortunate or happy. So what the Lord is saying is that those who are poor are blessed or should be happy because they are fortunate for they have as a reward the kingdom of God. That should certainly be a reason for anyone to be happy as it is a great blessing and a promise.

Now why would a poor person be so blessed and happy and a rich one not? Simply put a poor person has nothing to lose and there is nothing that will stand in their way of worshiping the Lord. In addition they do not have to worry about people taking their property from them for they have little anyway, and without the worries of property and possessions that the rich have, they can devote full devotion to the Lord and to worship. The poor learn to rely upon the Lord and he provides their needs. As I said earlier too, they have the promise of the Lord that their needs will be met, and if they trust in him, they will have no need for anxiety. David the king wrote, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) This is a wonderful testimony to the fact that God keeps his word and is a God we can trust.

So when you are suffering or if you find yourself in need, remember these scriptures. Remember to place your trust in our loving God and to seek his way and his counsel. If you are in need, go to him with your need and he will provide, sometimes in mysterious and sometimes unexpected ways, for nothing is beyond his power. Seeking the things of this world is actually counter productive. Instead seek the things of God and he will provide the things of this world necessary to sustain and strengthen you. In the final analysis the reward that we await patiently to receive entry into the kingdom of God is far greater than the transitory treasures and pleasure of this world that you cannot take with you anyway.

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The Lesson of the Widows Mites

(Mark 12:41-44)

Jesus sat in the temple opposite the treasury and watched the people giving gifts. Many rich people put in large sums, but there was a poor widow who contributed just two coins. These coins in total amounted to about one penny. Rather than consider this to be insignificant Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson.

the widows coinsSometime ago I read a scripture which gave me great comfort in the work I am doing in the name of the Lord. At times I felt I was wasting my time and working for nothing. At other times I was perplexed as to what I should do or what to do next. Sometimes I felt the work was insufficient or not good enough.

Then I read the scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:58 which says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This was a great comfort to me, to know that the work I am doing for the Lord is not in vain. There is a value in anything you do for the Lord.

And we see in this scripture in Mark 12 that it can be the most insignificant thing, for the Lord sees value where man does not. The people at the treasury on the day the Lord was there possibly may have disregarded the widow’s contribution as trivial. But Jesus saw it as the greatest gift of all those people giving for she contributed out of her poverty, but the others from their wealth. The rich could more than afford their gifts, but the poor widow would have struggled, and yet she still gave of her means. And she was accepted by the Lord for what she gave, insignificant as it may have been.

This principle was reinforced by Paul when he wrote, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not.” (2 Corinthians 8:12) So if you are offering a service to the Lord, no matter how minor you may think it is, you are accepted fro what you have, not what you do not have. You do not have to do major or mighty works to be doing the Lord’s work. You do not have to be putting great riches into his treasury as we saw in the scripture in Mark 12. Whatever you do in the name of the Lord is accepted and that work is not in vain.

We must remember too that when the Lord God passed by Elijah in the wilderness, he was not in the great strong wind that rent the mountains and broke rocks to pieces. He was not in the mighty earthquake or raging fire that followed. He was in the still small voice that spoke to Elijah and gave him comfort and instruction. (1 Kings 19:9-18)

God is in the small things. There is a saying in this world that says, “The devil is in the details.” The saying is false and it is wrong. God is in the details. God is in the minutiae and the details of all things. It is the devil who glosses over things so that people will not look for the detail for he lacks detail. It is in the detail that we gain understanding, insight and wisdom.

So don’t ever consider that when you do something small for the Lord it is insignificant. Anything you do for the Lord is not in vain and it is valued, as were the two mites of the widow.

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Render to Caesar the Things that are Caesar’s

(Mark 12:13-17)

The Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to try and entrap him. The chief priests were looking for a reason to arrest Jesus and hoped that he could be trapped by teaching something opposing the laws of the land.

render-to-caesarFirst they tried to get under Jesus’ guard with flattery saying they knew he would speak truth and truly taught the ways of God. Then they asked him whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. (Verse 14) Here is a classic trick of the devil and his people. First get close through smooth talk than hit them right between the eyes!

But Jesus was having none of that. He was well aware of their malice and evil intent. So rather than fall into their trap he said, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” (Verse 15) And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesars.” So he replied, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Verses 16-17)

What an insightful answer! What could they say in reply? He had their measure completely and the wisdom of God is greater for there is a message in these words that rings true even more today.

Today we see that some churches preach and practice tithing. But they do not follow the details of tithing as it was laid down in scripture. Nor do they recognise that tithing is not even part of the Christian covenant. Tithing was a requirement of the law given by Moses to the people of Israel for the purpose of keeping the temple and the priests of the tribe of Levi as they had no inheritance in the division of the land.

But today these churches are taking money, which was not what the tithe was all about. The tithe originally was of various kinds of produce, not money. The produce was in essence the gift of God, so the people were tithing what God had given them.

But money as we can see by Jesus statement was not the gift of God but the invention of man. Who created the money in Jesus discussion with the Pharisees and Herodians? Caesar. Jesus thus said in relation to paying taxes that money was the invention of man and that it should be paid to the creator of that money…the government, represented here by Caesar. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to render to God the things that are Caesars, or vice versa.

There is a lot that comes from this scripture which needs to be said in relation to tithing. If you would like to learn more about the deeper issues of tithing and the ramifications for the Christian church, follow this link to a PDF document on my website which discusses this in depth.

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Driving Out the Merchants and Money Changers from the Temple

(Mark 11:15-19)

Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem and saw the merchants and money changers carrying on their business. He made the point saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Verse 17) And with that he drove them all out, overturning the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling pigeons.

driving-out-the-moneychangersNow let’s fast-forward a couple of thousand years to today. In many churches there is an inordinate amount of focus on selling stuff in the church. There are stands for books, CD’s of sermons, music CD’s and so on. In addition there are bumper stickers, costume jewellery, bracelets, necklaces, scripture verses, bookmarks with scriptures on them, coffee mugs, pictures and all manner of things that are sold under the banner of “Christian.”

Now the Bible says that it is fine for those who work in the Lord’s service to earn their living from that work. The scripture says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

But I cannot see how the marketing of these things above, especially the bracelets, CD’s, coffee mugs, jewellery and so on has anything to do with the ministry work of God. Selling these things is no different from the movie or music industry who sell all this same kind of paraphernalia for profit pure and simple. Films and music may make a lot of money, but the marketing of these toys and trinkets is where the real bucks are, and the marketers know it. The licensing of names and brands is where the real money is at.

So has the church sold out to capitalism? Is the dollar the almighty rather than the Almighty God in their minds? Has the love of money and the greed for gain turned them aside from the path of the truth?

My point is this. Jesus drove out the money changers from the temple because they had turned it into a marketplace rather than a place of worship. Today there are some in the church who are using Christianity and the name of Jesus to market goods for the purpose of making profit. This is not about making their living, unless making a living means having the fanciest houses, the finest clothes, expensive cars and a lifestyle of the “rich and famous.”

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) Who are these preachers who have focussed their energies and preaching on wealth creation serving? They have replaced the truth of the gospel with the lie of this world. Money will not buy you security, it will not give you happiness and it will not commend you to God so as to gain entry to his Kingdom.

When I see tele-evangelists who spend more time and energy promoting their latest books or some other trinket, supposedly in the name of Jesus, rather than preaching the word of God, I wonder who they are serving. The marketing is slick and polished and designed to get you to put your hand in your pocket to give them money. The only thing missing is the classic infomercial line, “But wait! There’s more! With this trinket you get six steak knives!”

What does the world see in this? Do they see anything better in the church when they see this kind of marketing than what they see in the world? Do they see Jesus in this kind of thing? No. It is no kind of witness but is a sham and it turns people away from the truth.

But the churches and people doing this, and I must add it is not all churches but just a very high profile few, are blind. They do not see the error of their way and believe they have reached the penultimate of Christianity. Their proof? They believe the Lord has blessed them with wealth. But what does the Bible say of them? They are like the church of Laodicea described in Revelation 3:14-19.

14 “And to the angel of the church in La-odice’a write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.

They think they are rich, but they are spiritually impoverished. They think they need nothing, not knowing they have nothing. They are pitiable, poor, blind and naked for they are clothed with righteousness. They are neither cold nor hot because they don’t want to rock the boat. When you rock the boat in this world, you upset the marketing and you don’t make money, which is why they are lukewarm, following the dollar. The message to them is to go and find the truth and to repent of their self-serving ways.

There is a lesson here for all of us. For if the churches who do this kind of thing are seeking your money, then what is the quality of the teaching. Which master do they serve, God or mammon? And more importantly, what truth will you get from those who promote such a ministry?

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Wealth Will Not Make You Secure

(Mark 10:23-31)

Why do people seek money? Why are people focussed on wealth creation? Why do people desire so greatly to be rich, to the point that some will seek illegal methods of getting there?

Security is the reason. Money and wealth in this age equals security. People want wealth so that they don’t have to worry about money and can do the things they want to do rather than what they have to do. And most people believe they can’t do that unless they feel secure.

Making Money Your GodBut what often happens is that those who get great wealth spend all of their time focussed on their wealth. Their main concern is to ensure it is not taken away from them by thieves, scammers, con-men and bad deals. Or that it is protected so it is not lost when the markets crash, the economy goes sour or any of the myriad of things that can take your money away. They hire high priced accountants and lawyers to find ways to minimise taxes and exploit loopholes in the tax systems to maximise their wealth.

Their trust in riches becomes a prison. Instead of securing them from the upheavals of the financial and economic woes of the world, it drives them in fear of losing what they have gained. They fear the loss of everything, for they have a lot to lose and it can be easily lost.

This was the situation the young man was in, who approached Jesus asking “What must I do to have eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) He had great wealth and it was a burden to him for he was looking to his wealth for security rather than to the Lord. The man knew there was more to know, but when he was advised by Jesus to sell all he had, and thus free himself of his money prison, and come follow Jesus to achieve perfection, he found he could not do it.

Jesus continued teaching the disciples how hard it will be for anyone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. If they focus on wealth as security they cannot focus on Christ as well. It is written that, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) The attention of the rich will be divided for on the one hand they will be seeking security in the Lord, and on the other trying to shore up their security in wealth from being taken away.

In addition, the Lord’s servant is exactly that. We come to Christ as servants, not to be served, just as Christ came to serve and not be served. But the rich are too used to having things their own way. There position causes them to be masters rather than servants for in this world money is power and the two go together. Thus again the words of Christ echo saying, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Verse 23)

Are all who are rich like this? No. And even though Jesus said it would be hard, he did not say it would be impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The degree of difficulty will be great for he said, “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.” (Verse 25) Although this may be impossible for man, it is not for God. God could deconstruct the camel and pass it through the eye of a needle one molecule at a time and reconstruct it on the other side.

There is no security in wealth or riches. The recent global financial crisis is proof of how quickly and easily wealth can be destroyed and lost. Seeking security in the things of this world like wealth and money is like putting your trust in a false god. When the chips are really down there is no support and there is no help.

But in Christ we have a saviour who will help and who will make us secure. The security of the Lord in the provision of his peace, protection and love is unbounded. He has promised that we will not suffer want or loss and so we can take comfort in his words. Our priority must be to seek first his kingdom and not worry about the things of this world for they are temporary and doomed to pass away.

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