Don’t Swallow A Camel (Matthew 15:3-9, NIV) by Carley Evans


Jesus outlines seven woes against the teachers of the law and in the process displays greater anger than at any time other than when he clears the temple of merchants who are trying to use God for profit. Rather than worshipping the Lord and tending to their fellow human beings, these persons are interested in using religion to make money. Jesus doesn’t mince words; He outright condemns these persons.
With the teachers of the law, He tells them to stop straining out gnats and warns them that they are likely to swallow a camel while doing so. He warns them to stop worrying about appearances — about looking holy — and rather focus on “justice, mercy and faithfulness” which they’ve neglected while being only concerned about religious traditions such as the tithe.
Jesus condemns those who would refuse to care for their financially strapped parents because of tithing, saying this nullifies the Word of God, i.e. the commandment to “honor your mother and father.”
We seem to believe that God is as concerned with appearances as we are. Nothing could be farther from the truth of God’s own Word. He calls on us to focus on justice, mercy and faithfulness over the outside of the cup. He is concerned about our insides, about freeing us from “hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28). If we are a little dirty on the outside, God isn’t worried as long as we are merciful and loving to others, for how can we love God whom we cannot see and touch if we are incapable of loving people whom we are able to see and touch and help?
Therefore, be merciful as God is merciful; and don’t swallow a camel.

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Woe to Hypocrites (Matthew 23: 23-27, NIV) by Carley Evans


23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The appearance of morality makes some people believe they are actually moral. Some people convince themselves that by avoiding this or avoiding that, promoting this or promoting that, believing this or believing that, performing this or performing that — that these acts somehow make them holy; not only holy, but holier than someone else who hasn’t bothered to clean the outside of the cup and dish.

Cleaning the inside of the cup and dish is much trickier than we care to admit. And much harder than doing a quick spiff-up of the outside.

How do you rid yourself of lust, greed, self-hatred, hatred of others, anger, deceit, mean-spiritedness, and yes, hypocrisy?

Jesus says to clean the inside of yourself and then the outside will automatically be clean. He warns us not to put on a disguise but to become genuine from the inside out.

He tells us how to do this, too. He does not ask us to avoid this or that, do this or that — after all, He picked wheat on the Sabbath! Instead, He promises to reside inside us. By being inside us, He makes us clean — akin to having an automatic dishwasher inside our hearts!

This automatic dishwasher is God, the Holy Spirit. He gently but persistently reminds us that the most important matters of the Law — the Law Christ fulfilled by His Life and Death and Resurrection — are “justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”

I love how Jesus Christ links the three, making them one in Him.

If God Is Perfect (Romans 8: 29-31, ESV) by Carley Evans


29 For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us?

“Those whom God foreknew he also predestined.” God pre-determines those whom He then transforms into brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to transform us, first He has to call us, then He has to justify us and finally He must glorify us. The entire work of salvation is the Lord’s — from beginning to end.

I am not sure why this concept is difficult for seemingly so many Christians, but it is. Some Christians want to take credit for accepting Christ and even for becoming ‘holy’. But the Word contradicts this idea repeatedly.

God makes Pharaoh a vessel for wrath while He makes Moses a vessel for glory. Moses is a murderer, and as such is — at his worst — no more worthy of God’s mercy than Pharaoh at his best. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, each time the Egyptian king decides to let God’s people go, God changes Pharaoh’s mind.

God loves Jacob before Jacob does anything good or bad while He ‘hates’ Esau also before Esau does anything good or bad.

Someone I know told me that God is not a manipulator. God most certainly is! He is the great and ultimate ‘manipulator’! A manipulator is defined as “a person who handles or controls something skilfully”. God is the perfect manipulator, handling us as skillfully as a master puppeteer or gifted potter.

God is in control.

Why does this bother you (assuming it does)? Why do you resist the Master’s control? Don’t you believe He is perfect? Don’t you believe He is only good, that there is no evil intent in His plan?

If God is indeed perfect, then it follows that His control — His manipulations, if you will, are also perfect.

Love Covers Lots of Sin (1 Peter 4:8, ESV) by Carley Evans


“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)

Isn’t it great that Peter says love should be “above all” – should be our top priority – while Paul says that the greatest of the three pillars of Christianity (which are faith, hope and love) is love. Love is above all.

Why is this true? Because God is Love.

Even better, Jesus tells us that the world will know we are Christians by the love we show one another.

Yet, today we Christians bicker among ourselves, arguing about the relative spirituality or lack of spirituality of each other which only shows the world that we are no closer to God than it is.

So, how do we love?

We choose to do so. We put aside pettiness and one-up-manship and holier-than-thou attitudes and we look to our common ground.

What is our common ground? This should be obvious. Our common foundation is Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, glorified.

So, let us love one another for our love of each other covers a whole load of awful stuff — our rebellion, our pride, our self-hatred, our envy, our jealousy, our self-righteousness, our stupidity.

The Secret (Mark 4: 10-12, NIV) by Carley Evans


10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Salvation is exclusive, not inclusive. Jesus deliberately keeps the secret of God’s plan from “those on the outside”. He reserves full understanding of His stories — His parables — to those “on the inside”. His disciples and others who are with Him are the only ones to whom Jesus explains Himself.

He asks His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” He desires for His followers to grasp the bigger picture, to know He is God, the great “I AM” of their Jewish heritage. He does not appear concerned about those who are excluded.

I like to think those who are excluded from understanding Jesus are those who can’t understand Jesus; unfortunately, this is errant thinking for no one is capable of understanding Jesus unless God the Holy Spirit gives understanding. In other words, we are all blind, all deaf, all stupid when it comes to comprehending God. God Himself gives us the ability to see Him, hear Him, understand Him, follow Him.

So, we come to the election of the saints.

Yes, God did choose — before the foundation of the world — a select few for salvation; or at the very least God saw ahead of time who would choose Him. Either way, the election stands.

The parables — the mystery of Jesus’ stories — proves the Son of God died for those in the Book of Life.

We Wear Out And Die (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY) by Carley Evans


Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY)

The message here isn’t — of course — that the created dies but that the Creator lives forever and that His purposes never fail. The heavens above us — the sky, the other planets, the stars, the galaxies — will vanish one day like a puff of smoke. And the earth will just wear out. So will we. We will grow old and die. Some translations go so far as to say we will die like gnats or like flies — like insignificant insects.

But God — who is not insignificant — will never die. And His holiness and His method of salvation will last forever.

 

Animus, Curses, Mistreatment? Love is the Answer (Luke 6:26-28, NIV) by Carley Evans


27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus tells His listeners — those who attend to His Words — to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to pray for those who mistreat them. He does not tell His listeners — those who follow after Him — to hate, curse, or mistreat their foes.

The love Jesus calls us to is not lip-service. Love is not saying, “Oh you didn’t hurt me with your cruel words” or “you didn’t damage my life with your unfair actions against me”. Rather love recognizes the harm done and calls on us to turn the other cheek. Love demands we go out of our way to do good in response to evil.

Love does not hide. God tells us that perfect loves literally drives out fear. And, perfect love keeps no record of wrongs, reminds Paul. Love never fails, never angers, never gives up.

We are to persevere in the face of mistreatment. We are never to return an insult with an insult of our own. We are never to be bitter when evil appears to succeed. Rather we are to pray — and we are not to pray for our enemy’s demise, but we are to pray for our enemy’s benefit.

Love desires what is best for the other — always.