Devotional Sermons

June 20
The Lamp
The lamp of thy body is thine eye — Luk_11:34 (R.V.)
Everything We See Depends on the Condition of the Eyes
At first sight this might seem to thoughtful readers a somewhat inappropriate comparison. For a lamp is an organ that distributes light, and the eye an organ that receives it. Put a lamp into a darkened chamber, and the room is lightened by its radiance; but put an eye into that chamber and the darkness still remains. It seems strange at first, to thoughtful readers, that our Lord, who never spoke in foolishness, should compare the eye of the body to a lamp.
But the point of comparison on which the Master seizes is entirely independent of that contrast. His point is that everything we see depends on the condition of the lamp. If a lamp is burning brightly we see things as they are. We recognize the books upon the table, and the photographs upon the wall. But if a lamp be flickering or smoky everything is distorted or obscured, and so, says the Lord, is it with the eye. If you are color-blind you cannot see the glorious redness of the rose. If short-sighted you cannot see the friend who is signaling to you from the hill. If you suffer from impending cataract I may sit on the next chair to you and yet all that you distinguish is a shadow. Still is the rose red, though you cannot see it in your color-blindness. Still is the friend waving on the hill or seated by your side. There is nothing the matter with reality; the pity is that you are seeing badly—the lamp of the body is the eye.
One might illustrate that point from one of the healing miracles of Jesus. I refer to the cure of the blind man in the eighth chapter of St. Mark. When our Lord asked the man if he saw aught, he replied that he saw men as trees walking. Now these men were not trees; they were ordinary and law-abiding citizens. Yet to him they were all specters, threatening and gigantic, just because he was not seeing rightly. The lamp was flickering, and objects were distorted. I do not think he would ever forget that, even when he came to die. He would never be frightened by specters any more, even the grim specter of the grave. He would recall the day when in the village street there were fearsome’ and gigantic forms, and they all sprang from his imperfect vision.
What We See Depends on What We Are
And so passing into deeper regions we detect the truth the Master is proclaiming. He is proclaiming that what we spiritually see really depends on what we are. As the lamp conditions the aspect of the room, so does the inward eye condition everything. We see by life and character, by all that we have made ourselves, by every secret sin that we have cherished, by every battle we have fought and won. There was He, moving in their midst, shining in the splendor of good deeds. He was set on a candlestick, visible, conspicuous, radiant in loveliness of life. Yet some said He was beside Himself, and some that He was a glutton and a wine-bibber, and others that He cast out devils by Beelzebub. They saw by what they were. Bound in their ancient prejudices, angry at being interfered with, eager to justify themselves, convicted of their sin, they described the Carpenter, but could not see the Lord. If any of my readers are like that—if they see the Carpenter but cannot see the Lord—let me ask them, tenderly and quietly, What kind of life have you been living?
The same truth that Jesus uses here to explain the rejection of Himself runs out into every environment, whether of nature or of man. What we see in others ultimately depends on what we are. When the inward lamp is bright we see reality. When it is smoky everything is smutty. The judgments which we pass on other people (and we pass such judgments every day) are always judgments of ourselves. When our Lord said, Judge not that ye be not judged, He was not thinking of an external fiat. He did not mean (as some have taken it) that curses come home to roost. He meant that what we see in other people reveals our real character, and on that is based the judgment of eternity. The lamp of the body is the eye. If the lamp be dim everything is dulled. If the inward eye has a cataract, loveliness itself is but a blur. That is why certain folk could look on Him who was the Altogether Lovely One and only see a glutton and a wine-bibber.
It is just there that our Lord reveals the glory of His nature. Judge Him by what He saw and you touch the tassel of the Son of God. He saw the Kingdom in a mustard-seed, and the adoring woman in a harlot. He saw the solid rock in Simon, and the lover in the son of thunder. He saw in a child the citizen of heaven, in a bit of bread His broken body, in a cup of common wine His sacred blood. If what we see depends on what we are, who shall fathom the glory of the Lord? Never was there a vision such as this, because never was there a nature such as this. The argument from vision has been strangely neglected by the theologians in their proofs of the divinity of Christ. My dear reader, if the eyes of God are like the eyes of the Lord Jesus—if God sees as Jesus saw when He moved across our sinful world—then there is hope for you and me, and we can rise after a hundred failures and hitch our wagon to the star again.


June 20
The Last Word on Everything and Everyone
“Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.” (1Pe_3:22, The Message).
Sooner or later the last word will be spoken. All debate will cease, and arguments will come to an end. Somebody somehow in someway will be able to sum it all up and put everything and everyone in their place. That somebody is Jesus.
Until then we are surrounded by a hurricane of opinions, ideas, suggestions, postulations, pontifications, exaggerations, exclamations, theories, concepts, notions, imaginations, vanities, snippets, and a host of other verbal squalls that wreck lives and strew debris across the landscape.
The wind blows faster and faster, the swirl moves more and more quickly — gathering speed and force. The vortex of the man-made Blow Cloud sucks virtually everything and everyone into it spin. Soon it will reach such velocity that one will hardly be able to put a clear thought on the table for discussion.
BOOM! That’s when a trumpet blast will call the whole thing to a screeching halt and we will find ourselves dizzy with nonsense as we stand before the Lord. He will look us over, and His gaze will humble us one and all.
And then He will speak — and what He says goes. He will have the final word on everything and everyone. It would be a good idea to become friends with Him now, don’t you think?

From e-Sword Study Bible


June 20
“For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” — Amo_9:9
Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, “I will sift the house of Israel.” Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord’s floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to his own glory, and to thine eternal profit.
The Lord Jesus will surely use the fan which is in his hand, and will divide the precious from the vile. All are not Israel that are of Israel; the heap on the barn floor is not clean provender, and hence the winnowing process must be performed. In the sieve true weight alone has power. Husks and chaff being devoid of substance must fly before the wind, and only solid corn will remain.
Observe the complete safety of the Lord’s wheat; even the least grain has a promise of preservation. God himself sifts, and therefore it is stern and terrible work; he sifts them in all places, “among all nations”; he sifts them in the most effectual manner, “like as corn is sifted in a sieve”; and yet for all this, not the smallest, lightest, or most shrivelled grain, is permitted to fall to the ground. Every individual believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, a shepherd would not lose one sheep, nor a jeweller one diamond, nor a mother one child, nor a man one limb of his body, nor will the Lord lose one of his redeemed people. However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus.
Straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.” — Mar_1:18
When they heard the call of Jesus, Simon and Andrew obeyed at once without demur. If we would always, punctually and with resolute zeal, put in practice what we hear upon the spot, or at the first fit occasion, our attendance at the means of grace, and our reading of good books, could not fail to enrich us spiritually. He will not lose his loaf who has taken care at once to eat it, neither can he be deprived of the benefit of the doctrine who has already acted upon it. Most readers and hearers become moved so far as to purpose to amend; but, alas! the proposal is a blossom which has not been knit, and therefore no fruit comes of it; they wait, they waver, and then they forget, till, like the ponds in nights of frost, when the sun shines by day, they are only thawed in time to be frozen again. That fatal to-morrow is blood-red with the murder of fair resolutions; it is the slaughter-house of the innocents. We are very concerned that our little book of “Evening Readings” should not be fruitless, and therefore we pray that readers may not be readers only, but doers, of the word. The practice of truth is the most profitable reading of it. Should the reader be impressed with any duty while perusing these pages, let him hasten to fulfil it before the holy glow has departed from his soul, and let him leave his nets, and all that he has, sooner than be found rebellious to the Master’s call. Do not give place to the devil by delay! Haste while opportunity and quickening are in happy conjunction. Do not be caught in your own nets, but break the meshes of worldliness, and away where glory calls you. Happy is the writer who shall meet with readers resolved to carry out his teachings: his harvest shall be a hundredfold, and his Master shall have great honour. Would to God that such might be our reward upon these brief meditations and hurried hints. Grant it, O Lord, unto thy servant!

Justice in the Book of James, Day 4

Today’s reading is drawn from James 1:9-11, James 2, James 5, and James 1:27.

Since James has been primarily read from the point of view of the “faith and works dichotomy,” many readers fail to pay attention to a very important concern of the epistle—the relationship between the rich and the poor, and the book’s denunciation of the abuses of the economically powerful against the poor and powerless. In many ways, the book’s teaching concerning the preferential option for the poor (e.g., 1:9–11; 2:5), solidarity with the weak and the oppressed (1:27; 2:1–26) and condemnation of the luxurious life of rich oppressors (5:1–6) is silenced by a kind of reading that is not attentive to issues of justice.

James, regarded as a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15), addresses the epistle to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” This refers to the early Jewish believers pushed out of Judea because of persecution (cf. Acts 8). As scattered migrants or refugees their life was difficult. They were marginalized and hence could easily be subjected to many forms of discrimination by the economically and politically powerful. In a way, this epistle is like a letter of a Filipino pastor to Overseas Filipino Workers scattered around the globe and exposed to many forms of abuse. Judging from chapter 2, this discrimination was also happening inside the community of faith. Even in church services the wealthy are given preference over the poor, even though the rich are the ones persecuting the community.

James offers the message that God has taken the side of the poor, choosing them to be his heirs. He says that God has already begun to judge their oppressors. Because of this, the poor are encouraged to be proud of their new status before God (1:9–11), to be actively patient in facing their trials and to be confident of the future (chap. 5). At the same time, the rich people are reminded to be humble (1:10–11), to apply the message of the word (2:8–9) to their lives, to avoid trusting in their riches and to be just in their treatment of their laborers (5:1–6).

James calls the believers toward a life of social justice, a radical life that is shaped not by the utilitarian and oppressing powers of the world but by the liberating gospel of Christ.

— Noli Mendoza, Philippines (Excerpted from the book introduction to James)


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