The Wedding is Ready

S (Scripture) – Matthew 22:1-14  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.  But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.”

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, You were speaking to these religious leaders and trying to get them to understand what was happening to their inheritance due to the stubbornness of their hearts.  These Jewish Rabbis and leaders had been invited to partake in Your kingdom, yet were unwilling to come.  Despite their rejection, You continued to provide opportunities for them to repent and follow after You.  Still, they paid no attention, and instead, decided to walk away from You in pursuit of their own desires.  Not only did they walk away from You and Your truth, but they mistreated and killed Your prophets, and eventually, You.  Setting the city of Jerusalem on fire was prophetic of what would eventually happen to it in A.D. 70 during the years of the early church.  You then instructed Your slaves to go out and invite as many people as possible to the wedding feast, both good and evil.  It was not up to those inviting the others to decide who was worthy.  It was simply their job to invite everyone, and let them know that the feast was ready.  Ultimately, only those abiding in a relationship with You are welcome at Your table.  When the man without the proper clothing was found inside the banquet, he was commanded to leave, and he had nothing to say.  Jesus, YOU are the proper clothing.  Wedding clothes for this banquet cannot be bought or earned, but must be accepted as a free gift from You.  Many are called (invited), but few are chosen.

A (Application) – As Your servants, it is our duty to proclaim Your truth, Your promises, and Your invitation to everyone, regardless of whether we perceive that person to be good or evil.  It is not up to us to judge the heart of another.  Ultimately, everyone has to face You at some point in eternity.  Whether or not they will, in fact, be able to partake in Your wedding feast depends solely on whether or not You know them.  Just because You know what someone is going to do before he or she does it, does not make it any less of a choice for that person.  Each person is given the opportunity to respond to Your invitation, and those that accept it are chosen.  You have always known from before the foundation of the world exactly who would and who would not trust in You – You are God, and You are sovereign.  We are merely men and women going about Your business here on earth, and it is not for us to know whether or not someone will accept Your invitation.  It is up to us to obey Your command and be used by You to do the inviting.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Most Holy Jesus, for passionately pursuing Your people.  Thank You for Your heart for the lost.  Give us Your eyes to see and Your ears to hear – all around us are brokenhearted people desperately in need of Your presence, but have no idea how to approach You.  May we be Your hands and feet to a lost and hurting world, and may the sweet words of Your invitation be met with ears that are glad and hearts that are hungry for truth.


Broken to Pieces

S (Scripture) – Matthew 21:42-44 “Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.  And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.'”

O (Observation) – Jesus, You were rejected by the very people who claimed to worship Your Father.  What that must have felt like to be completely despised to the point of death by the very people created in Your image.  Your warning to these religious leaders still rings true today: the kingdom of God is given to those who produce the fruit of it.

A (Application) – Those that have placed their trust in You alone and have allowed You to have Your way in their lives understand what it means to fall on You (the stone) and be broken to pieces.  We reach a point in our existence when we realize this world just doesn’t make sense without the Author of life at the center of it.  We stop trying to fight all of our battles alone, and instead, declare that the battle is Yours, and we trust You to fight it for us (2 Chronicles 20:15).  We come to know that You have a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) that is better than anything we could come up with on our own.  When we completely let go of our white-knuckled grip of needing to be in control of every aspect of our lives, we begin to free-fall in a way that is not giving up, but giving over of our lives to You.  We fall to our knees in complete submission to You, and allow You to break us apart.  You break our hard and bitter hearts.  You break our stubborn pride and arrogance.  You break our sinful bad habits and generational strongholds.  You break the chains that have held us captive.  You break cycles of addiction, abuse, divorce, and prejudice.  You break us with the intention of healing our painful wounds we have attempted to heal on our own with alcohol, prescription drugs, therapy, destructive behavior, and co-dependent relationships.  Our relationship with You consists of many stages of healing that You bring us through as we cry out for more of Your presence.  As we go deeper with You, Your healing touch goes deeper within us.  The alternative to willfully falling on You (the stone) is to have You (the stone) fall on us, scattering us like dust.  This is the judgement that comes from You to all who have rejected You.  One way or another, we will experience being broken by You – may it be by way of falling on You in submission instead of You falling on us in judgement.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, my heart is so full today of gratitude for Your persistence with me.  You are never complacent with my growth, and are always challenging me to go deeper with You.  The healing You have provided me over the years is already remarkable in and of itself, but there is still more to go.  As the song goes, “You won’t relent until You have it all…my heart is Yours.”

Set All the Captives Free

S (Scripture) – Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'” NASB

“So Jesus got them together to settle things down.  He said, ‘You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads.  It’s not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.'” The Message

O (Observation) – Jesus, You were very clear with Your disciples.  While some were arguing over who would be recognized as the greatest in Your kingdom, who would be chosen to sit at Your side, and ultimately who would matter most…You, as usual, flipped the notion of greatness on its head.  In our worldly system, it seems that we are constantly clamoring for recognition, for advancement, for superiority…for greatness.  If only we could be the very best, then we could have those around us look up to us.  In Your economy, that is completely contradictory to true leadership.  Some businesses have caught on to the idea of “servant leadership” as if it was some monumental new way of leading others.  In actuality, it is the very example that You gave to us when You walked the earth, and have admonished us since then to imitate.  You gave us everything – including Your very life – so that we might experience the freedom that can only come from You.

A (Application) – When we experience the authentic leadership of Jesus in our lives through the Holy Spirit, we understand what it means to be perfectly mentored, guided, consulted with, and encouraged.  The freedom that we have in Christ allows us to look at others through the eyes of Jesus, and instead of trying to claw our way to some sort of elevated position in this life, we can rest assured knowing that our position in Christ is all we need.  We can then stop caring about how we measure up in the eyes of others, and instead, look for ways to serve others.  As we lead through servant leadership, we will encounter those who have yet to be set free by Him.  May our lives be a song revealing who He is, so that through our service to others, those that do not yet know Him will encounter the love of the Father manifested right here on earth.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, nothing compares to Your embrace.  How anyone can go through this life completely blind to Your love and perfect plan is beyond my understanding.  This life is shallow, days are fleeting, seasons change, but You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The song from service this Sunday is just resonating in my soul today – “Break open prison doors…set all the captives free…spring up a well, spring up a well, spring up a well in me.  Nothing can stop us now…we’re dancing in the streets…spring up a well, spring up a well, spring up a well in me…”  Thank You, Jesus, for crashing into time and space in order to demonstrate true servant leadership, that You might set free all who call on Your Name.

When Jesus Rules the World

S (Scripture) – Matthew 19:27-30 “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” NASB

“Then Peter chimed in, ‘We left everything and followed You.  What do we get out of it?’  Jesus replied, ‘Yes, you have followed Me.  In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed Me will also rule, starting wit the twelve tribes of Israel.  And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, field – whatever – because of Me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.  This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” The Message

O (Observation) – Father God in Heaven, I see You clearly promising Your children something worth all of the things we walk away from in this world to follow after You.  Despite what we see around us today – our governmental systems, nationally ranked universities, established economic markets, deeply rooted cultures, generational strongholds – all of it will be going away at the proper time.  This world as we know it will be re-created, and its ruler will be Jesus.  For those who trust in Him alone, we are promised that we will not only enjoy this eternal life with Him, but we will be given back many times as much as what we may have had to give up in this life.

A (Application) – 1 John 2:15-16 tells us to not love this world, nor the things of the world…for all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world.  When we focus on how to be “successful” by the world’s standards alone, we will most certainly miss out on what it means to be successful in God’s kingdom.  He has a plan for each and every person, and it is up to us to realize this.  We have a choice to make each day when we wake up – are we going to pursue our own passions and plan, apart from God?  Or, are we going to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?  When we pray by saying “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” do we mean it?  May we abide in His Spirit and yield to His leading throughout our days.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for Your promises.  Oh, how I long to see the day when Jesus rules from His throne over this world.  What we lack in terms of righteous leadership in today’s world, we will no longer lack.  The epitome of perfection and perfect justice will be in control.  Thank You for the certainty of eternal life (1 John 5:11-12), and for the assurance of a future full of blessing and favor.  May this good news be something we are able to confidently share with others who are lost, broken, and hurting.

Unwilling to Forgive

S (Scripture) – Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will  repay you everything.’  And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’  But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.  So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.  Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?‘  And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.  My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You are using this parable to help us understand how absolutely ridiculous it sounds for us to cry out for mercy to You for our egregious misdeeds, yet withhold that same mercy from others that have wronged us.  This slave owed an amount so great that there was no way it could have ever been repaid.  The king had compassion on him and forgave the debt completely.  Fresh on the heels of the greatest act of mercy he’ed ever known, that man then went out and found a fellow slave who owed him such a small debt, yet demanded repayment without mercy, going as far as choking him.  How can someone who has experienced such amazing grace poured out from You refuse to allow that grace to flow through him to others?

A (Application) – The key word I see You drawing my attention to is “unwilling.”  When begged for mercy, the wicked slave was “unwilling” to forgive.  This word can also be likened to “obstinate,” meaning the person refuses willfully to comply with reason or directive.  The message from Jesus is clear – no matter what the offense committed against us, we are commanded to forgive others.

As explained by Tony Evans, there are two different types of forgiveness – unilateral forgiveness, and transactional forgiveness.  Unilateral forgiveness is forgiving someone even if they have not asked to be forgiven, or have not shown any visible signs of repentance and desire to see the relationship restored.  An example of this is when Jesus was dying on the cross, yet asking His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him, or when Stephen was being stoned to death, yet praying for forgiveness for his murderers.  Transactional forgiveness takes place when the relationship is being restored due to intentional steps taken by the offending party.  When fellowship with each other is the desired result, transactional forgiveness is what allows that to occur.  With God’s help, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the blood of Jesus, we are able to unilaterally offer forgiveness to all who have wronged us.  When the offending party repents, seeks mercy, and desires fellowship with us, it is possible through the grace of God.  When we refuse to offer forgiveness, we are essentially blocking the work of God in our lives because we are not on the same page.  Is there anyone that we need to forgive today?

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for Your unrelenting pursuit of my heart.  You are love, and if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking (as the song goes).  Your desire is for us to be in constant fellowship with You, and we cannot enjoy Your presence fully if we are harboring un-forgiveness in our hearts.  Bring to mind anyone in our lives that we need to release through offering forgiveness.  Show us anything that we need to do to work through it – make a phone call, write a letter, visit in person…help us to see the glorious freedom that You provide to those who take You at Your word on this matter.