On 14 occasions in his gospel record, Matthew uses a word from which we get our English word "scandal." Arndt and his fellow lexicographers define the word as meaning "to cause to be brought to a downfall; to shock through word or action" (BDAG 926). Jesus was at times the cause of others experiencing anger or shock through what He said and did. While Jesus uses the word to condemn those whose words and actions cause themselves and others to stumble (5:29,30; 18:6,8-9), it more often refers to those who took offense at what He said or did. He was not a poor example or stumbling block. The problem for many was that what Jesus stood for and taught was unpopular, difficult, or contrary to fleshly desires.
Does living the Christian life ever cause us to run the risk of being scandalous to the world? Share Jesus' sexual ethics and expectations. Tell others Jesus' exclusive salvation message. Stand up for His doctrine. Condemn what He would condemn. Any number of social causes celebrated in our society crash against the teaching of Jesus. When you stand with Him, you can expect the world (and sometimes even the weak among God's people) to "take offense" (11:16; 13:57; 15:12; 26:31).
We should never be a scandal because of unrighteous behavior (see those passages in chapters 5 and 18). We should never go out of our way to be offensive. But, we should know that walking with Jesus will lead us to scandalize some. What will comfort us is knowing that standing with the Scandalized Savior will keep Him from taking offense at us! Nothing is more important than that. NP
Four Customer Service Lessons from an Airline
There are principles from customer service we can use in our service to God to influence others. There was a story I read about a man named Spencer, titled “Spencer Is All About the Customer.” He worked as an agent at Delta Airlines in baggage service where customers go to inform them that their bag has been delayed, damaged, or taken by another passenger. A man named John, they call “a Medallion” frequent flier gentleman, arrived on a flight after midnight. His bag was lost. He said he had business at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, 75 miles south of the airport. He said, "Spencer, I need assurance from you that my bag is going to be at my hotel in Rochester tonight. What can you do to provide me that assurance?” Spencer replied, "You are looking at your assurance, Sir … If your bag is here at the airport when I get off work at 12:30 am, I will drive it down to you as I have for passengers before.” When his shift ended, the bag had arrived. He grabbed it and drove 75 miles to the hotel. He arrived at the hotel at 3:15 am. The front desk clerk stated, "You must be Spencer! Mr. Newport said you'd be bringing his bag. He asked to be called when you arrived.” A few minutes later Mr. Newport came down to the front desk and said, “A man of his word.” Spencer said, “You only get one chance to do it right, so do it right the first time. A commitment made is a commitment met!” And then Spencer let Mr. Newport know that if it was not for customers like him, he would not have a paycheck!
There are Four Outstanding Customer Service Lessons we can learn that we can apply in our lives as we serve the Lord.
#1 - Do the right thing the first time. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
#2 - Honor commitments and promises – “If you make a promise to God, keep your promise. Don’t be slow to do what you promised.” Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 (see also Number 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23)
#3 - Possess a servant’s heart – As Jesus humbled himself and served others, we are to also (Philippians 2:3-8).
#4 - Know who pays our bills – (Acts 5:29)
These outstanding customer service principles are lessons we can apply in our lives as we go out among people and serve the Lord. The best way to shine Christ is to serve like Christ. We must always remember we are to be “all about souls!”
In Ezekiel 37, the Prophet Ezekiel has a vision. Notice Vv. 1-2, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.He had me pass among them all around, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and behold, they were very dry.” What is the meaning of Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones?
When Ezekiel was given this vision, the Babylonians had come in and conquered the Israelites. Those who died in battle were left unburied, just a large battlefield of dry bones from the exiles in Babylon. It was not uncommon in biblical times to see a valley after war filled with bleached bones from the sun. The Lord asked Ezekiel a question in verse 3, “Son of man, can these bones live?” A person with common sense would respond, “of course not, that is impossible.” However, Ezekiel knew who was talking to him. He responds with assurance God can make the impossible, possible, “Lord God, you Yourself know.” The Israelites had been slaughtered, and they lost hope. Notice what God states in Vv. 4-6, “Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them,’ ‘You dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’This is what the Lord God says to these bones: ‘Behold, I am going to make breath enter you so that you may come to life.And I will attach tendons to you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you so that you may come to life; and you will know that I am the Lord.’” If man were to say such a thing, we would know he was insane. But the same God of creation was able to raise these bones and make them alive again.
At times we may feel as useless and dead as dry bones. We may feel so defeated in life that there is no hope in a world filled with such sorrow and sin. And at times it can appear the message spoken lands on deaf ears (Isaiah 6:10). What we can learn from Ezekiel’s vision here is that God energized His dead people (Vs. 12), He taught them that He is their God, and He restored them to be a nation again. First of all, there was physical restoration, secured by God when He raised up the dead Israelites. Second, we see they were able to come to God again and be spiritually restored to Him (Ezekiel 36:27).
The application we can draw from Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones is we serve the same God who loves us. So, when we feel as if we are like dry bones, longing to be set free from sin, we can be encouraged to know God is able to raise us up and restore us again to be His people.” - Matt Threlfall
Scientists with National Geographic went near the Solomon Islands to study one of the most active underwater volcanos on earth. What they found in the hot, acidic waters of the volcano, surprisingly, was life - a couple species of sharks, stingray, and fish swimming among the plumes of ash. The risk for these fish is great, as Kavachi is known to erupt frequently.
Churches are made up of people, and people are imperfect. No church is immune to the problem of evil, though we should certainly have a greater level of immunity to evil's influence. When non-Christians interact with us, they may be unsure of what to expect. The world does not paint a pretty picture of our beliefs.
So, what will they find? They will ideally find a group of people who, despite the pervasive dysfunction of the world, display unconditional love, forgiveness, excellent character, patience, forgiveness, fairness, grace, resilience, and hope.
Christians should strive to pleasantly surprise the world! When they expect to find an environment that could never support healthy, loving, functional relationships, we should blow their minds with positive, life-changing interactions. “Always keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they might see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (I Peter 2.12).”
Have you ever told someone something that you wanted to be kept between you and them? This was a secret very important to you that needed to be kept but the one in whom you trusted to keep it, told someone else? Although it has been said, certain secrets are made to be revealed at a later time, one should be trustworthy to “keep it quiet” in regards to the one who trusted them.
Jesus often told His disciples to not let others know about who He was (Matthew 16:20). He also told those whom He healed to keep it between them. For example, he said to a leper, “See that you tell no one, but go your way...” (Mark 8:4). This is known as the Messianic Secret. Jesus used this on His disciples as He performed miracles. Why would Jesus not want anyone to know that He is God’s Son and has the power to heal? First of all, Jesus knew that it was not time for them to know. They were not ready for it. A good example of this is Peter. See, the apostles did not understand certain things yet, especially the spiritual things in which Jesus had to do, such as how He was to go to Jerusalem to suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed and raised the third day. Peter even pulled Jesus to the side to rebuke Him that this should not happen (Matthew 16:21-23). This was one of the reasons as to why they needed to not tell anyone. Second, in the case of the leper, such a miracle being revealed would hinder Christ’s mission and divert public attention from His message. Imagine how many would flock to see Jesus to be healed? This actually was the case after the leper could not keep quiet. His disobedience of telling others Jesus healed him, caused Jesus to move His ministry away from the city to the desert regions (Mark 1:45). Revealing a secret can have major implications.
God expects us to not keep Jesus a secret (Matthew 28:19). The word “go” here means, “as you are going” make disciples of Christ. We are expected by God to share the good news. However, we need to be wise in doing so. Most people we come into contact with are not ready to be taught about Jesus. There are people who if you bombard them with the spiritual things in which they do not understand, in which they are not ready for, you can lose them. I know, because I have done so. The best way in which we can go about sharing Jesus at first without keeping Him a secret, is to shine Him in the way in which we live. We may be the only Bible others will ever “read.” May it be in such a way that they long to know who this Jesus is.
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