“Jesus Last Days, a Model for Our Days”

Matthew 20:29-21:22 from the daily reading in the One year Bible

 

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. 30 And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32 And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 33 They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” 34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

21 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”

14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

 

Some time ago I wrote a ten day devotional, “Jesus Last Days, a Model for Our Days,” based on the last days of Jesus here on earth. Those last days are so rich in the teachings and examples of Jesus power and authority that they make up a large portion of the Gospel accounts. It is obvious that Jesus, knowing His time with the disciples was coming to an end, wanted to pour out as much as He could to them, and so to us. Today’s text is an example of just such a tremendous treasure trove of truth compressed into a small portion of scripture. The text says:  The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,  and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”   This text doesn’t reveal it, but we know that less than one week later the very same crowds that were shouting:  “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest,” would be shouting “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21)   If public opinion could so easily and completely turn against Jesus, why would we think we would be exempt from the hatred and persecution of the fickle world? Why would we expect that the world would love us, when in John 15:18-20 Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” 

The text says:  Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”   Much of the church today more closely resembles a for profit business than it does a house of prayer.  Even more though, keeping in mind what it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, what would Jesus find in our temples?  If He overturned and drove out what was not of Him, would we soon set back up the very things He overturned?

The text continues:  And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?”  And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.  Again, how often do we see in the church that people become indignant when the power of the Holy Spirit interferes with the plans or the programs of man? We want to see healings and miracles, but far too often we expect them to fit into the few minutes of time that we allow. How often are children expected to sit quietly rather than being encouraged to shout praises to Jesus?

The text concluses saying:  Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.  Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”   First let’s address the fig tree itself. What if Jesus were to apply the same standard of judgment against us? In truth He says He does. In John 15:1-6 Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit... Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.   The fig tree was incapable of bearing fruit. In Mark’s account he explains in 11:13 it says:  He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  We on the other hand can choose; we have the ability to bear fruit simply by remaining in Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul’s exhortation is to:  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. There is no season that we are unable to bear fruit.  Finally, look at what Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  Here is the thing, when we ask believing, it is not only that we are to believe for what we ask, but it is also that we ask believing in Christ. It is in Christ that we have faith. If we ask believing in Christ, we will receive because we cannot ask for something that is opposed to His will if we ask believing in Him.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for the treasure of scripture. Thank You that it speaks today just as You spoke. May the seed of Your word remain planted in my heart and mind so that I would bear fruit in whatever season I am in. May the temple of my body, heart and mind be acceptable and pleasing to You.   Amen.

  

 

 

 

 

Or is your eye envious because I am generous?

Matthew 20:1-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

17 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 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. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

 

In today’s text Jesus says:  “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ So the last shall be first, and the first last.”   For anyone who has walked with and served the Lord for a long time it is easy to understand that the parable warns us about grumbling or being envious when we see some one who has done little or nothing to serve the Lord receive a blessing that we ourselves have been waiting for.  In Matthew 6:1-6 Jesus says:  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  We need to keep in mind that it is not earthly blessings that should be our focus. If that is all that matters, then perhaps that is all we will receive. It is the unseen blessings of God that truly matter. What we receive in the heavenly realm far exceeds anything on earth.  In Matthew 11:11, Jesus says:  "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

As I meditated on this portion of scripture I couldn’t help but to think that the same principle is also true in the opposite sense. Not only should we not grumble or be envious when others who may seemingly be less deserving are treated equally, we also should not grumble when others are blessed extravagantly. Why should I complain if someone else has a nicer house, a newer car or can go on a better vacation, as long as I have what God has promised; all that I need. In John 10:10 Jesus says: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Abundance in Christ though is not an abundance of wealth or things. It is an abundance of peace, joy and contentment that is only found in Him.  In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says:  I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  In truth, to delight in the Lord should be the desire of our heart.  The chorus of a well known song says:  Turn you eyes upon Jesus  Look full in His wonderful face And the things of earth will grow strangely dim  In the light of His glory and grace.  

Jesus closes today’s text saying: “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.”

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; may I truly learn to be content in what ever circumstances I am. May I not focus on what others have, but rather in what I have in You. May I be at least the least in the kingdom of heaven rather than the greatest on earth.  May I be a servant to all and as I turn my eyes upon You and look full in Your wonderful face, may the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of Your glory and grace. Amen.

 

 

 

One more day with the frogs

Exodus 8:1-15 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Frogs over the Land

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. So the frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.”’” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the Lord that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?”

10 Then he said, “Tomorrow.” So he said, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.” 12 Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh. 13 The Lord did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields. 14 So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

 

In Exodus 7:1-5 it says:  Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When  Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”   In the ensuing chapters we see the accounts of those judgments; the plagues God sent against Egypt. In today’s text which focuses on one of those plagues, the plague of frogs, we also see another interesting dynamic. The text says:   Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the Lord that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?”  Then he said, “Tomorrow.” So he said, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.  The frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”   For me this begs the question why would anyone want to delay being delivered from a plague for even a minute?  Why wait until tomorrow?  Was it arrogance on the part of Pharaoh? After all he was given the honor of choosing the time, or was it that perhaps he was just buying some time, hoping that perhaps another solution would come, that maybe things would just work out?  How many people respond the same way to God’s offer to free them from the plague and the bondage of sin and death?  While they recognize that things are not good, they hesitate, they delay; they put off responding to the free gift of God’s grace to spend one more day with the frogs.

What happens next in the account indicates that Pharoah was not really ready to yield to God. He was not truly repentant, but rather only wanted to be freed from the circumstances. The text says:  Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh.  The Lord did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields.  So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.  Even while the stench of death filled his nostrils, Pharoah’s heart was hardened and he refused to yield to God.  How often do we see or hear of people making deals with or promises to God, if He will deliver them from or through a difficult time, only to return and not repent, but to continue as they were?  In contrast look at the story Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-25:   “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”   The prodigal had no desire to remain one more moment with the pigs. We see the evidence of his true repentance in that even after he felt the love, compassion and the undeserved forgiveness of the father, he said:  ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’   He did not presume on the grace of the father, but he was rewarded by being completely restored. We cannot make deals with God. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says:  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Those are the conditions for following Jesus. We need to come to Him and be yoked to Him. Jesus is our peace and our rest. He is our salvation and redeemer. Why would anyone want to spend one more day with the frogs or why after receiving the love and forgiveness of the Father, would anyone return to wallow with the pigs?

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for Your undeserved grace and forgiveness toward me. I gladly come and yield to You. Thank You for restoring me to what You intended from the beginning; to be Your child.  Amen.

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd

Psalm 23 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd. A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Today’s text, Psalm 23 is certainly one of the most familiar passages in all of scripture. These six verses have both a simple poetic beauty and deeply powerful spiritual images. The psalmist begins:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  Surely we could add to the verse and say, I shall not want anything. There is nothing that we need or that we should want that we do not have in Christ, our Lord.  Philippians 4:19 says:  My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. The psalm continues:  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  In John 14:27 Jesus says:  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  Sheep are by nature nervous and fearful animals, but when the shepherd keeps watch, they are at peace. We too, though there may be much that concerns us, can be at rest, knowing the Lord keeps watch over us.  In John 16:33 Jesus says: These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Verse 3 says:  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.   Here the psalmist ventures from the image of sheep and sheherd and speaks directly of the Lord his redeemer and guide. Still, as a shepherd would not lead his sheep in the wrong way, so the Lord will never direct us or lead us into temptation or sin. If we are on a path of sin, we have strayed from Him. The Lord restores not only our soul, but our heart, our mind and our body as well. When we repent and choose to follow Him, we change not only how we act, but also how we think. We are given the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16-17;26 Jesus says:  I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you… the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. The Holy Spirit is our helper, our teacher and our guide.

Verse 4 says:  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.   If we are with God and in Christ there is nothing that we should fear. Romans 8:31 says:  If God is for us, who can be against us? Even death is merely a shadow. It has no eternal power over us. John 3:16 says:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”   It is important that we, like the psalmist, recognize and receive comfort in the rod and staff of the Lord. These are His instruments of guidance and protection, but they are also for correction, direction and discipline. We should not resist or reject the discipline of God, but rather take comfort in it. Proverbs 3:11-12 says:  My son, do not reject the  discipline of the LordOr loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

The psalmist concludes saying:  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  In the presence of the Lord we can focus on the provision of the Lord. Our cup will overflow with the goodness of all that He has given and done. That overflow should then pour out to others, even to our enemies. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:  If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.  As we share from the table of the Lord, the burning coals that we heap on the head of our enemy are not for his harm, rather they are coals as in Isaiah 6:6-7, where it says:  Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”  They are coals of cleansing and forgiveness. If we will follow the Lord then goodness and lovingkindness should follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in His house forever.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

  

 
  


   

 

Who ever causes one of these little ones to stumble

Matthew 18:1-20 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

12 “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

 

It is a great responsibility and a great privilege to be a person who teaches and influences children. Teachers, coaches, parents and other mentors have the power to influence and affect future generations.  With great power comes great responsibility and tremendous accountability. In today’s text Jesus says:  “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”   In Matthew 5:18-19 Jesus says:  “Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”   It is one thing to face the consequences of our own decisions in our own life; it is another thing to be accountable for the lives of others. In our culture and society we would severely punish a person who recklessly endangered the lives of children by driving a bus while intoxicated. Yet many of those same people will cheer those who recklessly cause children to stumble regarding the commandments of God. No one should take lightly the great responsibility of influencing children. Jesus says: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Our culture and our society will answer for the stumbling blocks it has set before our children.

Jesus says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”   Proverbs 22:6 says:  Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Our society has despised generations by not raising them up in the way they should go. In Deuteronomy 11:18-20 God said:  “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”   Rather than teaching our children God’s words, we have banned and barred them from our schools. Rather than writing them on our door posts, we have removed them from our public places. So again, we will answer for what we have or have not done in causing this generation to stumble and become lost.

Yet, look at what Jesus says:  “Truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”    If there is rejoicing in heaven when one lost person is brought into the kingdom of heaven, how much more when these lost generations are found by Christ? Jesus says:  “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Lord Jesus Christ, in response to what You said, we join together in Your name. Across miles and time, we agree for this lost generation. We repent for the stumbling blocks we have allowed and we bind up the false teaching and worldly philosophies that have influenced this generation. We loose the revelation of who You are and what You did; that because of Your great love, You died for our sins. Just as it is Your will that none of these would perish, we look to the day when we rejoice with all of heaven because they are found.  Amen.  

 

 

 

 

Except by prayer and fasting

Matthew 17:10-27 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.

24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

 

In today’s text it says:  A man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying,  “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”  And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”  And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”  And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”   How many times and in how many ways have we heard Jesus words, If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. We are exhorted in sermons, in songs and in printed images, to move the mountains that stand in our way. I myself know of no one who has ever commanded a physical mountain to move. In truth, most of us struggle and stumble over mole hills. What can we learn then from what is shared in the text? If such a small amount of faith can do such great things, how can we attain it?

I believe that in part Jesus answers that question for us when He says:  “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”   Here‘s the thing; when we read the account it says: Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”  And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.   When the need arose, Jesus did not take the time to fast. He did not even pray. He simply rebuked the demon and it came out. Often when we are faced with a difficult situation we will call for a fast. We will ask for prayer. That though is not the model demonstrated by Jesus in this account.  Scripture does though tell us that Jesus often went off to pray. As a practicing Jew, who said of Himself that He did not come to do away with the Law, we can be certain that He fasted. Like Jesus, prayer and fasting should be our lifestyle, not our last resort. The purpose of fasting and prayer is not that we would bend God’s will toward our own; it is not that we would convince Him to do something that he otherwise would not do. The purpose of prayer and fasting is that we would align ourselves with Him; that we would remove from our thoughts and our lives anything that would hinder us from knowing God and His will. If we will make fasting and prayer our lifestyle, we will become intimately familiar with God. In John 5:19-20 Jesus says:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.”  That should be the purpose of our prayer and fasting; that we see and know what the Father is doing, so we can join Him in His work. Additionally, as we know Him better, our faith increases because we are working with Him and asking according to His will. The reason it only takes a small measure of faith to move a mountain, whether physical or literal, is explained by Jesus in John 14:12-14, when He says:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”  Our faith is not in our own strength or ability; rather it is Jesus that will do it. We only need a small measure of faith because He is a big and omnipotent God.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; may I daily fast and pray. May I lay aside anything that would hinder me from knowing You and Your will. May my prayer become increasingly times that I listen rather than speak. As I see and hear what You are doing, may I have the faith to move mountains; asking in Your name, I know You will do it.  Amen.   

Revealed by the Father in heaven

Matthew 16:13-17:9 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.

28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

17 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

 

Today’s text is rich in foundational truths regarding our faith and walk in and with Christ. In the text Jesus says:  “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”   I’ve shared frequently that the rock upon which Jesus says He will build His church is the revelation that He is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer. It is upon that revelation, understanding and belief that Jesus builds His church. Apart from that the church has no foundation upon which to build. 1 Corinthians 3:11 says: No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

I want to focus today though on something else that Jesus said; something that may seem confusing at first.  After describing the power and authority that the church will have based in the revelation and the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the text says:  Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.  If Jesus will build His church on the revelation that He is the Christ, why would He instruct the disciples to tell no one? To some extent Jesus answers that question for us when He says:  “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”   In John 6:44 Jesus says:  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  So the revelation and the drawing come from the Father. We cannot convince or coerce anyone into truly believing in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says:  When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,  and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.   In Mark 16:15-18 Jesus says:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”   So we are to preach the gospel. We are to preach Christ and Him crucified, but it is not our eloquence or our convincing argument that will cause people to believe. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that will confirm the word. In John 16:5-9 Jesus says:  “Now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  The Father draws and reveals; the Holy Spirit convicts. We are only as Jesus says in Acts 1:8, to be His witnesses.

The text says:  Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. If like Peter, James and John, we will remain with Jesus; if we will walk with Him, the Father will continue to affirm and reveal who Jesus is.   God says:  “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  There are many today who try to live as Jesus lived; with love and compassion; serving others, but do they also listen to Him? Do they do what He says and call others to listen to Him? Jesus message in love and compassion was to call people to repent.   Romans 5:8 says:  God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  The love and compassion of God is demonstrated in the death of Jesus on the cross. In John 3:16 Jesus says: God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  “Listen to Him!”  “Get up, and do not be afraid.”  We do not truly demonstrate the love of God and Christ without also pointing others to the cross, where their sins are forgiven.  

Heavenly Father thank You for the revelation that Jesus, Your Son, is the Christ. Thank You Holy Spirit for convicting me regarding sin and righteousness and for empowering me to get up and not be afraid; to be a witness for Christ, that others too will be drawn by the Father; hear the words: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” May the world come to know Your love demonstrated in the revelation of Christ.  Amen. 

  

 

Where would we get so many loaves?

Matthew 15:29-16:12 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Healing Crowds

Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Four Thousand Fed

32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33 The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 

In today’s text it says:  Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?”  And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And He directed the people to sit down on the ground;  and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.   For me, reading this account from the perspective of knowing the outcome, I am not as amazed that Jesus fed probably in excess of ten thousand people (four thousand men, besides women and children) with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish or that there were seven large baskets full left over, as I am amazed that the disciples said:  “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?”   After all, only a short time prior, they had seen Jesus feed more people with less (five thousand men, besides the women and children, with five loaves and two fish) and they picked up twelve baskets full of left overs. By this time they had seen many miracles of healing. They saw Jesus calm a storm. How could they possibly question His ability to do what He wanted to do and provide for their need. Yet, how often do I, even though I have witnessed and experienced the power and the provision of God through Christ, still fail to believe for what I need? In Psalm 37:25, the psalmist says:  I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.   Earlier in Psalm 37:4 he says:  Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.  Philippians 4:19 says:  My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  If I do not know and trust where the provision will come from in my need, it is an indication that either the evidence of my past experience is not sufficient for me to believe for my present need, or that perhaps what I want might not truly be what I need. The desire of my heart might be to satisfy greed rather than need.  If we ask for something that is opposed to the will of God we should not expect that He will provide it.

The text says:  The disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up?  How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.   Like the disciples, it is possible that our focus on the things of this world hinder our ability to understand the deeper truths and realities of the kingdom of heaven. Our inability to trust God for everything that we need keeps our attention focused on basic things God already knows we need. In Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus says:  “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”   Jesus warning was to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Like focusing on the things of the world, focusing on the regulations and the traditions of man hinder us from fully experiencing the kingdom of heaven. Galatians 5:9 says:  A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.  We need to recognize that to even be a little more concerned with the things of the world or the things of man than we are with the kingdom of heaven, makes that or those things an idol in place of God. The very first commandment in Exodus 20:3 is: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”    Asked what the greatest commandment in the Law is, in Matthew 22:37 Jesus says:  "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'”   If we truly love Him, we will fully know Him. If we fully know Him, we can trust Him for our every need.   If we, as the psamist says: Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit; I do love You with all of my heart, soul and mind. May I truly seek first Your kingdom and trust You fully with all that I need.  Amen. 

      

 

There is great reward.

Psalm 19 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

The Works and the Word of God.  A Psalm of David.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

 

I think it is fitting and perhaps even necessary that when we look at the words of David, the psalmist, we look at them from the perspective of what God Himself said about David. Acts 13:22 says:  He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’”  When we meditate on the words and the heart of David, we see also the heart of God.

David says:  The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.   Many today mock the apparent lack of understanding of scientific truth of the Old Testament writers.  They point to the limited understanding portrayed in their descriptions as proof of the Bible’s inaccuracy. The reality is though that the difference between those who wrote the texts of the Old Testament and much of modern science is that with David and others, what they did not fully understand, they attributed to God by faith. When science does not understand, it declares as truth what is speculation and theory. Rather than believe in the God of creation, they create their own explanation. Without proof, they theorize and declare as fact that everything we see is the result of a series of random occurrances or accidents. While it is quite common for species to adapt to a variety of changes over time, as long as we have studied the millions of species on earth, we have never witnessed a single one evolving from one species to another. Still with no evidence and limited understanding, they accept their theories as fact. What was true when David wrote these verses is still true today. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Even the greatest of human minds cannot fully understand or comprehend the magnitude or the intracacies of creation.

David says:  The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
   Many things in our current culture and society are measured in terms of risk verses reward. According to the psalmist, the man after the heart of God, the risk is to disregard or disobey God. There is nothing that the world could offer that would warrant the risk of losing the reward that obedience to God’s word provides. Too often the world views the commandments of God as restrictive and difficult. In truth they are, perfect, right, pure, enlightening, clean, enduring, true; they are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  The reward of God is eternal life with Him in heaven and abundant life here on earth. Surely disregarding or disobeying God is not worth the risk.

In response to who God is and what He says, in faith the psalmist says:  Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.  Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.  Amen. Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit; I believe and trust what You say. For w Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.  Amen. hat is beyond my understanding I will believe You by faith rather than trusting the speculations of man. Thank You that by the cross I have been acquitted and by the Holy Spirit I can be kept back from presumptious sin. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Great is Your reward.  Amen.  

  
 

 

 

Walk by faith, not by sight

Matthew 14:13-36 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Five Thousand Fed

Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.

 

We often hear people quote 2 Corinthians 5:7 which says:  We walk by faith, not by sight, but what does it really mean. Perhaps there is no better illustration that we can find than what we see in today’s text which says:  Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”   When Peter walked by faith, he walked on the water just like Jesus. The text says: But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink…  When Peter walked by sight, when he allowed the ways things looked to affect him, he sank.  Jesus says: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”   Here’s the thing though, little faith is really all we need. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:  “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”   So how much more than a little faith do we need?  In truth it is not the size of our faith that matters, but rather it is the object of our faith. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he had the faith to walk on the water. Hebrews 12:1-2 says:  Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  In the text, when Peter began to sink, it says:  Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him.  We too can call out like Peter and Jesus will reach out to us from His place at the right hand of God. Our faith is perfected because it is in the one who is perfect.

Look at the backdrop of Peter’s faith; what he had seen just prior to walking on the water. The text says:  When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds,  and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.   Seeing Jesus feed ten to fifteen thousand or more with five loaves and two fish is what caused Peter to have the faith to get out of the boat. Still, even though he was among those who picked up more that was leftover than what they started with, the circumstances of his experience in the storm caused him to doubt. There may be times that we too, even though we have seen the miraculous works of Jesus, might still be affected by the storms around us. It then, when the wind and the waves are at their worst, that we need to walk by faith and not by sight. The text says:  When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”  We too should worship Him, He certainly is God’s Son. Like Peter, we should have the faith to step out of the boat even in the midst of the storm. But, may we keep our eyes on Jesus, so that we walk by faith and not by sight.

May this song be our prayer today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBJJJkiRukY

 

  

He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:47-14:12 from the daily reading in the One year Bible

 

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” 52 And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

 

Perhaps the greatest lie and deception of the devil is that many have come to believe that there is no devil and there is no Hell. In today’s text Jesus tells another parable saying: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind;  and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Jesus makes it clear that there will be a seperating of the wicked and the righteous. We then need to decide who we will believe, Jesus or the devil. Another deception that affects many is based in the idea that most people are good and that being a good person will get them into heaven. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says:   “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   So the way is narrow and few find it. Fortunately though, the way is not difficult. It is easy.  In John 14:6 Jesus says:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  It is not by being a good person that we gain access to heaven, but rather it is through Jesus Christ, by believing that He died on the cross to forgive our sins and that He rose from the grave so that we could live free from sin. Romans 10:9-10 says:  If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

The text continues saying:  When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.    We see then that there is more to believing than just eternal life. The results of faith and unbelief can also be seen in this life. In John 10:10 Jesus says: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”    The abundant life that we have in Christ is more than an abundance of material things. It is an abundance of the evidence of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Those who believe will see miracles while those with unbelief will not. In John 14:12-14 Jesus says:  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”   In the text Jesus says: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”   We often see this same principle in the church. Many people will travel to see, hear and follow a prophet or one who has the gift of healing, but fail to realize that they fellowship with people each week who have the same gifts and are empowered by the same Holy Spirit. Like the people of Jesus hometown, we tend to know those who we are familiar with by their humanity rather than by who they are in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

In Mark 16:15-18 Jesus says to us all:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit. I believe. I believe what You say and I believe You are who You say You are. I believe unto eternal life and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe also unto the abundant life You have come to give. I believe. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.     

 

The kingdom of heaven is like...

Matthew 13:24-46 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

Tares among Wheat

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

The Mustard Seed

31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

The Leaven

33 He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

The Tares Explained

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Hidden Treasure

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

A Costly Pearl

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 

In yesterday’s meditation and text we saw that when Jesus was asked why He spoke in parables, He said:  “I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, You will keep on hearingbut will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.”  Again, it is not that Jesus wants the truth of God’s word to be a mystery. Quite the opposite, Jesus speaks in parables so that the mystery of God’s word and His kingdom can be understood by what is familiar. Our finite minds cannot fully comprehend the infinite kingdom of heaven, so Jesus uses parables of things that are familiar; things we can comprehend, in order that we might gain at least a limited understanding of the incomprehensible kingdom. No one example can fully illustrate or decribe the kingdom of heaven, but as we piece together multiple parables, we begin to get a glimpse into the realities of the kingdom of heaven.

Today’s text begins with the parable of tares and wheat. Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”   When asked to explain, Jesus says:  “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;  and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”     We need to understand that just as in the parable of the sower, all of the seed of God’s word is good. The enemy though will also sow bad seed in the same fields. The devil will gladly allow us to accept several truths, if he can also plant one lie. It is vital then that we know what the true seed looks and sounds like so that we are not deceived by tares. If what someone says does not fully align with what God has said, it is tares.   The parable says:  The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Jesus speaking plainly in Matthew 5:17-20 says:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”   Many tares are being sown, even in the fields of the church, by those who relax the commandments of God, bending them to align with the preferences of our culture and society rather than the realities of the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus says:   “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” …  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”   The kingdom of heaven cannot be seen with the natural eye, but it is greater than all that the eye can see. Although it is imperceivable it affects everything that it comes in contact with.   Speaking in parables Jesus says:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field… Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,  and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  Speaking plainly in Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus says:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  In Matthew 6:19-21 He says:   “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  There is nothing that we have or that the world can give us that can begin to compare with all that is ours in the kingdom of heaven.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for the good seed of Your word. Thank You for revealing the incomprehensible mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, in ways that my simple finite mind can understand. Your kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.   Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 12:46-13:23 from the daily Reading in the One Year Bible

 

While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

13 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,

‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;]You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

 

Today’s text begins saying:  While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”   Jesus is not disparaging His mother and brothers. He is pointing out that the family of God takes priority over even blood relationships. It’s not that we are not to value family, but rather we are to recognize the family we have because of the blood of Christ. In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says:   “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”   In John 16:1-3 Jesus says:  “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.”   Those who do not know Jesus or the Father, even though they may be family, may not agree with what we believe; they may be divided against us. In Psalm 69:7-9 the psalmist says: For Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.   We should remember though what Jesus Himself bore for us. In Isaiah 53:3-6 it says: He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  
Because of what He did for us, In Matthew 19:29 Jesus says:  “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.”  Through Christ we have brothers and sisters in the household of God all around the world. What we have gained through Christ far exceeds what we may have lost.

In the text it says:  The disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;  For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’”   It is not that God hides the truth of His word with riddles and mysteries. It is not that Jesus does not want everyone to respond to the truth. In John 3:16 He says:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” What could be more simple and clear than that?  Yet many do not respond to the simple truth, because the hearts of many are dull. They neither respond to the simple truths of God’s word nor are obedient to His will. Look at the explanation of the parable.  “Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.  The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”   The seed, God’s word never changes. It is always good. In Isaiah 55:10-11 God says:  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”   It is the condition of the soil; the condition of the heart of the hearer of God’s word that affects the fruitfulness.  In Psalm 51:10-13 the psalmist says:  Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; indeed create in me a clean heart, one that is prepared to receive the truth of Your word and produce fruit, thirty, sixty or one hundred fold. Thank You that because You bore my sin and shame I have been given more than I could have lost. I am part of the family and household of God.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

He who is not with Me is against Me

Matthew 12:22-45 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23 All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

 

There are several key principles for us in today’s text. It begins saying:  Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.  All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”  And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?”   Jesus statement and question to them was regarding Satan’s kingdom, but it is important to note that He says:  “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”  So the principle of division causing a kingdom or household to fall also applies to every natural kingdom or household as well as the kingdom and the household of God.  In John 13:34-35 Jesus says:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”   In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul says:  I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.   To be in unity; to have no divisions does not mean that we must be without any differences. Unity is not conformity except that we are unified in that we are conformed to the image of Christ. We can have differences and still have love, but if we allow division, we have lost our love. Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the standing of the house of God today is that there is so much division and such a lack of love. The world does not know who the disciples of Christ are because there is so much division and so little evidence of love between those called by His name.

Later in the text Jesus says:  He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”  The reason that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable is revealed by Jesus in John 16:7-8:  But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”   The person who denies or blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is unable to receive conviction regarding sin and righteousness. Without conviction there is no repentance and without repentance there is no receiving of forgiveness by grace. It is also vital that we understand the importance of what Jesus says first here. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”   There can be no neutrality with our faith. Either we are for Jesus or we are against Him. Either we work with Him to gather people into the kingdom or we are working against Him. In Revelation 3:15-16 the Lord says: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.    In John 14:6 Jesus says:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”   Either He is right or He is a liar. If we are for Him we must be in agreement with Him.

Today’s text ends with Jesus saying:  “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”   Here again the spiritual principles Jesus speaks of also apply to other natural areas too. So much of today’s psychology focuses on self. When we attempt to break a habit or addictions we deny ourselves; we change the way we do things, but we ourselves don’t really change. Often we simply substitute one habit with another or one addiction in place of another. We need instead to be changed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:  If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.   When we receive Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit there is no room for any other spirit. Whether self help, self denial or self empowerment, the philosophies of today attempt to improve self by focusing on self. In Mark 8:34 Jesus says:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”   What we find though is that if we take up our cross to follow Jesus, not only are we changed, but our cross is also changed. It is no longer an instrument of death, rather in Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says:Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We become yoked to Christ and through the cross He bore not only our sins and our sickness, but also every difficult thing that we face.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; conformed to Your image, may I love and be unified with those of Your household. May I be for You and not against You. Filled with the Holy Spirit, may there be no room in my heart for any spirit contrary to Your Spirit. May I be filled, changed and made new. May my cross become the thing that yokes me to Your cross so that I will have rest.  Amen.  

 

  

 

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1-21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

15 But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, 16 and warned them not to tell who He was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. 20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. 21 “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”

 

Sabbath is defined as:  The seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians Sunday observed among Christians as a day of rest and worship a time of rest.  The Sabbath was established by God in Exodus 20:8-11 as part of the Ten Commandments. God said:   “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” In today’s text it says:  At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”   What does it mean that Jesus says He is the Lord of the Sabbath? To be Lord of something means to have authority over it. Again, God established the Sabbath; He blessed it and made it holy. Yet, in Mark 2:27 Jesus says:  "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”   The Sabbath was established for man, so that there would be a day of rest from labor; a day set apart to worship God. It is for our benefit, not God’s benefit that we have a time set apart for God.

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says:   “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”   We then should not overlook, diminish or annul the importance of the Sabbath. We should though seek the fulfillment of the Sabbath, not in adhering to laws and regulations, but in Christ Himself.  Jesus says: “that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”   We will not enter the kingdom of heaven because we are faithful to attend church every Sunday. Our righteousness must surpass that of those who knew and kept the law.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says: God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  Our righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees because we have the righteousness of Christ. He is the fulfillment of righteousness in us.

Remember that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest from labor. We saw in yesterday’s meditation that in Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says:  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Jesus, the fulfillment of the Sabbath is not only rest from labor, but He is also our rest in labor. He is not only Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus Himself is our Sabbath. In John 14:27 Jesus says:  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” The text says:  Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.    Just as Jesus is our Sabbath, He is also our healer and our healing.  He is peace and rest. He is healing. He is truth and life. Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of all of the promises of God. It is important that we remember the Sabbath, but it is more important that we remember who it is that is our Sabbath. The Sabbath is no longer just a day set aside for the Lord. Through Christ, we live every day in the Lord.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ my Sabbath; precious Holy Spirit; in You I find rest. You are my all in all. Amen.    


 

   

 

 

 

My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:7-30 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’

11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

Today’s text ends with Jesus saying:    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”    There are some things we need to know and acknowledge about the rest that we have in Christ. First we need to understand that a yoke is an instrument of labor. It is used to harness two animals together so that they can work as a team. So the rest that we have in Christ is not a rest of relaxation or slumber. It is a rest that comes as we labor with Christ. Often with animals, a younger animal would be paired with an older one. The younger might be stronger, but the older one wiser. For us, Jesus is both the stronger and the wiser. Our rest comes when we let Him bear the heaviest part of the load and when we let Him choose the best direction to go.

The second thing we need to understand about being yoked to Jesus can best be understood if we look at what He said to Saul on the road to Damascus. In Acts 26:9-14 it says:   I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.  While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’     If we are engaged in something that is opposed to the will of God, in particular if we are persecuting Jesus Himself, things will be difficult. We might not fully relate to the kicking against the goads analogy, but consider how difficult it is to paddle a boat upstream against a strong current. How much harder will it be if we oppose the will of the omnipotent God?

It is no small thing to be opposed to God.  In today’s text it says:  He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”  Those are certainly strong declarations against those who do not repent. Tyre was conquered and completely destroyed by an opposing army because of their rebellion, as prophesied in Ezekiel 26. Sodom was of course completely destroyed by fire from heaven because of the immorality of its people. If Jesus pronounced such judgment against these cities in His day, what would He say to those in our day, with their rampant rebellion and immorality?  Repentance is critical for all who would follow Jesus and walk and work with Him. Repentance requires that we change both how we act and how we think. It is more than just acknowledging sin. It is turning from sin.  Hebrews 4:15 says:  We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are,yet  without sin.  In the prayer that Jesus taught us, He ends saying:  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'   If we are yoked to Christ, He will never lead us into temptation and He will always deliver us from evil. We need to repent; to change the way we think and rely on Him.

From the beginning of His ministry on earth, in Matthew 4:17 Jesus said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   In today’s text Jesus says:  “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”   We should not measure our greatness against other people. Our greatness is not measured by all that we accomplish on earth. Our greatness is measured in that we repent and prepare ourselves for the kingdom of heaven. You see, not only does Jesus say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, in Luke 17:21 He says:  “Indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”   What could be greater than that we, each one of us who has repented, believed and been yoked to Christ, have within us the infinite and eternal kingdom of heaven?

‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’    

 

 

 

How much more will they malign the members of his household!

Matthew 10:24-11:6 from the daily reading in the One year Bible

 

 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!

26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

11 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

 

Many today question how the church can become relevant and attractive to the world. They seek to bring the church and Christianity up to date with the culture and society. Perhaps, before we change our methods and our message, we should consider what Jesus says in today’s text:  “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!”  Perhaps we should be more concerned if we are not maligned by the world, than if we are aligned with the world. In John 15:18-20 Jesus says:  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”  If we are truly like Christ we should not expect that the world will like us. In truth, we should expect that we will be disliked; persecuted and maligned. Jesus says:  “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”  The question we need to answer is do we prioritize our standing with people or our standing before God? 

Many both inside and outside of the church speak about the necessity of tolerance and inclusion; of accepting every preference of everyone. In the text Jesus says:  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”  Hebrews 12:14 says:  Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  James 4:4 says:  You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Our pursuit of peace with people must not be without sanctification; it must not come at the price of becoming an enemy of God. The peace we have with people should cause them to see God; His holiness and righteousness. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus says:  “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”   Our cross is not that we die for our sins; that was what the cross of Christ was for.  Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Our cross is that we die to sin. Jesus Himself died once for all sin. If we follow Jesus then we must follow Him also to the resurrection, dying to sin we continue to live with Him.

Today’s text ends saying:  When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples  and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”   We can take some consolation in that even John, the forerunner; the one who saw the Spirit come down on Jesus and heard the Father say from heaven, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased," still, at the end of his life, sought reassurance that his faith and his life were not in vain. None of us know exactly how things will turn out. God doesn’t often reveal the fullness and all of the details of His plan for our lives. Perhaps it’s because if we knew all that we would face, we would not begin the journey with Christ. Fortunately for us, it is not important that we know all the details, only that we walk daily in step with the one who does. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says:  I know the plans I have for you,plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says:  “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”       

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; even if I am maligned by the world, may I always be aligned with You. May I be at peace with people, but not a peace born of compromise, rather may it be peace born of the evidence of Your righteousness in my life. May I truly follow You, not only dying to sin, but also living free from sin and may I always trust Your plan, not knowing the future but assured that You are always with me. Amen.

 

  

 

 

Until the Son of Man comes

Matthew 10:1-23 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

 

Today’s text says:  Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness….  These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.”    In Matthew 15:21-26 it says:  Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”It seems clear from these two accounts that Jesus original mission was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He was born a Jew, from the promised line of David, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the nation of Israel. Yet Jesus Himself says, in John 3:16:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”   Jesus might have lived to reach the Jews, but He died to save and redeem whoever believes in Him.

Look at what Jesus says to the twelve as He sends them out: Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.  Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;  and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.”  In Acts 1:6-8, after the resurrection, it says:  When they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”   We too, like the twelve who were sent out, are given power to speak by the Holy Spirit. We though are not to limit our message to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but rather to be His witnesses even to the remotest part of the earth. We too, like the twelve and like Jesus Himself will encounter some resistance and even persecution for the name of Christ. Like the twelve, we should not worry or focus on those who do not receive our testimony of Christ. We should continue to be His witnesses wherever we are and wherever we go.

Jesus gave authority to the twelve to minister to the house of Israel. In Matthew 28:18-21 He says:  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   In Mark 16:15-16 Jesus says:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.  It is not our responsibility either to see that they are saved or to condemn them. We are to be witnesses for Christ. We are to preach the gospel to all creation. We are to teach and make disciples of those who believe and we are to know that whatever we encounter, Jesus says: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; thank You that Your love was and is for all the world; that You saved even me when I was far from You, in the remotest part of the world.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, may I be a faithful witness. May I share the gospel wherever I go and may I always know that whatever I face, You are with me.  Amen.   

 

 

 

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

Matthew 9:18-38 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.

20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.

23 When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 This news spread throughout all that land.

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!” 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

32 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

 

In today’s text we see that Faith is vital for healing. The synagogue official said:  “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.”   According to the account, it does not seem as though he asked in desperation. He spoke calmly with conviction; believing for the result. He was almost matter of fact in his declaration.  The account continues saying:  And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.  This woman too, although desperate from twelve years of suffering, had conviction. Jesus responded saying her faith made her well.  The account continues:  When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder,  He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. This news spread throughout all that land.  The girl’s father had come in faith; with confidence. It seems as though perhaps Jesus didn’t want the lack of faith and the noisy disorder of the crowd to impact the faith required for the miracle. Surely it would have been a spectacular sign for the doubters to see, but the miracle didn’t come till they had been sent out. In Matthew 12:54-58 it says:  He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.  So we see there too, faith was necessary for miracles. It is not that Jesus power is dependant on our faith. He is all powerful; omnipotent like God the Father.  It is our ability to receive the miracles which requires faith. Jesus taught us to pray saying, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven already contains perfection. On the cross, Jesus said “it is finished.”   He already did all that needs to be done for the realities of heaven to be manifested on earth. All that is left is faith to believe and receive.

The text continues:  As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”  Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”  And their eyes were opened.   The key is that Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  While faith is necessary, it is Jesus who does the work. It is in Him that we need to have faith; not in our own ability or worthiness. It is not even that we need a great measure of faith. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says:  “Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”  It is not a great amount of faith that we need. It is that the object of our faith must be the great big God who loves us. The same God who spoke to the formless void at creation and created everything that is good, can also speak to the disorder and chaos in our lives and recreate the perfection of heaven on earth.  

Today’s text ends saying:  Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.  Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  Jesus wants us, He called and comissioned us to be those workers of His harvest. In Mark 16:15-20 it says:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.  Look at the parallel between the works Jesus was doing and the signs He said would follow those who believe. Here is the key. It’s still all about Jesus. He is still the one doing the work of the miracles. In Mark it says:  the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.  In John 14:12-14 Jesus says:  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.   So the question for us is the same as the question Jesus asked the blind men: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” 

Yes Lord. Amen.  According to Your word and the finished work of the cross I believe. I believe You are able and I believe You will. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. By faith may we see the realities of heaven manifested on earth. That is what a miracle is; the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Amen.    

 

 

 

 

What kind of a man is this?

Matthew 8:18-34 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

 

In John 10:10 Jesus says:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Many people interpret the abundant life in Christ to mean that we should have an abundance of things. They attach the idea of abundance to material possessions or wealth. It’s not that it is wrong to have wealth, but the abundance Jesus talks about and promises is not wealth or possessions.  In today’s text it says:  Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.  Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”  The true abundance of Christ is related to the heavenly realm, not to worldly things. In Matthew 6:33, speaking even about basic provision of food, shelter and clothing, Jesus says:  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  To follow Jesus is to be focused on and to value the things of heaven more than the things of earth. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   The abundant life of Christ is described by the psalmist in Psalm 23:1:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want and in Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.   In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says:  I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  In Philippians 4:19 he continues saying:  My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  He will supply all of our needs, but that doesn’t mean that He will satisfy all of our greed. The abundant life in Christ is to be content; fully satisfied in Him.

The text continues saying:  When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.  The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”  At this time the disciples had walked with Jesus for a time. They had seen miracles of healing and provision, yet they were amazed and questioned what kind of man He was; that the winds and sea obeyed Him. Do we truly know and believe what kind of God we serve? Do we, who have walked with Him for a while, believe that He still commands the winds and the sea? Do we truly believe that He still heals and raises the dead? What kind of man/God do you believe that He is? Do you believe He can calm the storm in your life? Call out, He doesn’t sleep. He will hear and respond to your cry.

Finally the text ends saying:  When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them.  The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”  And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.   It’s hard to imagine that after seeing so great of a miracle of deliverance, the people would ask, actually implore Jesus to leave. Yet is it really hard to imagine?  In John 14:15;23-24 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”   Many people would rather continue in the familiar, even if it includes bondage, than accept the change that abiding with Jesus will bring to their life. Many today implore Jesus to leave them rather than loving Him and keeping His commandments.  In Revelation 3:20 the Lord says:  Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”   Will you open to Him and receive His abundance or will you implore Him to leave?

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; I open the door of my heart. I say yes come in and abide with me. I delight in You. May my focus always be on the kingdom of heaven, so that Your kingdom will come and Your will, will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.

It shall be done for you as you have believed.

Matthew 8:1-17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”

 

Today’s text begins saying:  When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.  And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.   I think it is important to see that the man with leprosy was both completely submitted to the will of Christ and also completely confident in Jesus ability to heal him and make him clean. I think there are times for many of us, at least for myself, that when we are faced with the need for a miracle, we pray for God’s will to be done, but at times it is not as much about submission to His sovereignty as it is a lack of confidence that we might actually receive the miracle we need. Sometimes it’s almost as though we say Your will be done so that we have a reason for our prayer not to be answered. If we lack confidence in prayer it is an indication of one of two things; either we do not believe God can do what we need, or we do not believe we are worthy to receive the miracle.  The truth about the first part is yes He can. God is omnipotent; all powerful. He created the heavens and the earth by His command. In Genesis one it says:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good.    The same pattern continued throughout creation, God spoke and whatever He commanded came into being, additionally all that He created was good. The Hebrew word that is translated formless and void, tohu wa-boho, could also be translated chaos. God spoke to the chaos and created order. In the same way, whatever is no longer in alignment with the order of God’s good creation can be brought back into alignment by God’s word. He can turn chaos to order today just as He did in creation. The truth about the second part, whether we are worthy to receive is that no we are not. Fortunately though it is not about our worthiness, but rather the worthiness of Christ of whom the text says:  “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”   If we allow our own unworthiness to hinder our ability to receive a miracle, we nullify the price that Jesus paid. It is possible that something we ask for will not be answered in the way that we expect it, but it is not because God is not able and it is not because the answer is based on our worthiness. It is as God says in Isaiah 55:8-9:  “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”   Sometimes we simply can’t fully understand or comprehend God’s will and plan from our limited earthly perspective. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12:  Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

In today’s text it says:   And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”  Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.   Most often when we look at this portion of scripture, we focus on the faith and understanding of Christ’s authority by the centurian. That surely is an important part of the message of this account, but we should not fail to see what else Jesus said.  “Many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Faith is necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  Revelation 21:5-8 says:  He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”   The unbelieving are listed with the abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars. John 3:16 says:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  If we do not or cannot believe in Jesus for miracles, it is an indication that we don’t truly believe in Him.  In John 10:10 Jesus says:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   We need to believe not only for eternal life through Christ, but also for abundant life in Christ.

Jesus response to the faith of the centurian was to say: “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. In Mark 11:24 Jesus says:  I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”   God is able and if we pray His word fully submitted to His will and fully believing He can, it will be done for us as we have believed. When we pray Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we are asking that the realities of the heavenly realm would be manifested in the circumstances of our lives. Jesus taught us to pray that way, so we can be certain that He is willing.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for Your word which reveals Your will. I believe that You are willing and able to do all that You said You would. Amen.

 

 

 

 

     

You will know them by their fruits.

Matthew 7:15-29 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

 

In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says:  “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”   There are many people, even those who do not believe in the truth of God’s word, who will quote these verses in an attempt to say that Christians who oppose sin are not adhering to God’s word because they are judging. First, let’s look at what the rest of the verses following these words from Jesus say.  “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”   We are not to judge others, but we are to help them see clearly once we have made sure that we ourselves are seeing clearly. There is a difference between judgment and speaking truth. In today’s text Jesus says: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.”   We are not to judge people, but we are to be judges of their fruits. Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.   If the words and actions of a person produce fruit of evil and unrighteousness, then we can be assured that they are false prophets. Anyone who claims to speak truth, but instead speaks lies is a liar or false prophet.  In Isaiah 5:20 God says:  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
  There is also woe to those who fail to discern what is false and so also call evil good and good evil. That is why Jesus warns us to beware. In Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus says: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”    Surely today, in our society and culture many false teachers and prophets speak what is contrary to the truth of God’s word. We should know them by their fruit.

Jesus says:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”  Once again, many who are outside of the church will point to these verses in order to condemn Christians; those who call Jesus Lord. It is necessary though to look at all of scripture rather than just the verses that support a particular agenda. 1 Peter 4:18 says: “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”   Those who judge Christians by the standard of scripture although they do not themselves believe, forget that, “in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”     In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says:   “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”   When Jesus says, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, it is not exclusive either to believers or unbelievers, but rather to anyone who relaxes the commandments of God and teaches others to do the same.

In today’s text Jesus says:  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”   It is not good for us when we speak to generalize and say everyone or no one. We should not judge individuals by the actions of others. When Jesus speaks though, He speaks truth. When He says everyone, it means everyone. When He says whoever it means who ever.  In John 3:16-21 Jesus says:  “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”  Philippians 4:8 says: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Galatians 5:19-23 says:  Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,  sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,  factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.   We should be whoevers that believe, dwelling on whatever is good, living with and bearing the good fruit of the Spirit, that our deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.  In John 12:24, Jesus speaking of His own death says:  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; because I believe, may my life bear fruit according to the seed that You have sown. Amen.

  

                                                                           

 

   

The Cure for Anxiety.

Matthew 6:25-7:14 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

The Cure for Anxiety

 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Judging Others

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Prayer and the Golden Rule

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

 

Today’s text begins with the subtitle The Cure for Anxiety.  The statement on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website says:  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year… People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.     The total annual cost of anxiety disorders in the U.S. exceeds 40 billion dollars.   I in no way want to minimize the severity of living with anxiety. Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists offer no cure; only treatment for anxiety.   Let’s look then at what scripture says is the cure for anxiety.   Jesus says: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”    If only it was that simple, but perhaps it is.  Jesus says:  “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,  yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’”  There are many things we can worry about; many things that can cause anxiety, but God is God of all of them. In the Hebrew language there are names for God that correspond to His many attributes. Jehovah-jireh is the God who provides. Jehovah-rophe is the God who heals. Jehovah-nissi is God my banner; who gives victory. Jehovah-shalom is God of peace. Jehovah-rohi is God my shepherd. Jehovah-shammah is the ever present God. These are all names the Hebrew people called God by because of who He is.Another name for God in the Old Testament is I Am. That is the name God called Himself by. God is everything we need. Jesus says: “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  We need to know I Am for whatever we need today.  Helen Mallicoat wrote a poem titled “My Name is I Am.”

I was regretting the past
And fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I Am.” He paused.
I waited. He continued,
When you live in the past
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard. I am not there,
My name is not I WAS”.
When you live in the future
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.
When you live in this moment,
It is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.

In today’s text Jesus says:   “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  I Am will give us what we need from the resources of who He is.

 

The closing portion of today’s text has the title: The Narrow and Wide Gates

Jesus says:  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Jesus too is I Am. In John 14:6 He says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.    He is the narrow way; the only way. He is the answer to our every need and He is the cure for anxiety. In John 16:33 Jesus says: These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” In John 14:27 He says:  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit because You are, I am saved, content, at peace. I have all that I need. Amen.

 

 

  

 

“Pray, then, in this way"

Matthew 6:1-24 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

 

Today’s text continues with Jesus saying:  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”   It is the motive for our righteousness that Jesus is addressing. It is never wrong to practice righteousness, but if our motive for giving or for helping other people is to be noticed by and receive credit from people, then that notice and credit is our reward.  

Jesus continues saying:  “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   So it is not that we should not pray in public. It is not that we should not pray frequently, persistently and even at length. It is that we should remember who it is that is the audience of our prayer. Whether we pray in private or in public, it is God that we are speaking to. Surely we are mistaken if we think that He will be impressed by our eloquent speech. Jesus says we should not use meaningless repetition because God knows what we need before we ask. In truth He knows what we need even when we don’t. Our prayer then is not as much a petition to God as it is a demonstration of our faith. In Mark 11:24 Jesus says:  I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”   Remember though that God knows what we need. If we pray for something that we do not need or for something that is not in line with what God knows is best for us we are not guaranteed to receive it just because we invoke the name of Jesus.

Jesus continues saying:   “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread.  ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’   We should keep in mind that Jesus says we should not use meaningless repetition.  The Lord’s prayer is more of a model for our prayer than it is something we should just repeat over and over. When we begin saying, Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name, we acknowledge who it is we are praying to. When we say hallowed be Your name, we acknowledge that we are having a conversation with the holy, righteous, omnipotent and omniscient creator of the universe. We could pray for hours just acknowledging His greatness. When we say, ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven, we acknowledge that we want to be aligned with His will. Our prayers should not be an effort to convince God of anything, but rather that we would come into the knowledge of and in alignment to God’s will. When we say,  ‘Give us this day our daily bread, we are asking for more than just food, we are acknowledging that God is our complete sustenance. In John 4:34 Jesus says:  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”   When Israel was in the wilderness, they had to go out and seek the manna that God provided from heaven each day. Our daily bread is all that we need. It is food and it is also God’s word. We need all that God has for us each and every day. When we say give us this day our daily bread, we acknowledge that we are ready to receive what He has provided.  When we pray, ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we acknowledge that our walk in faith is not a one time decision. It is instead day by day, even minute by minute that we must choose to walk in obedience to Him. In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Step by step with Jesus is the only way we can walk each day.  When we say:  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen,’ we again align ourselves with God. We acknowledge again that He is all powerful and all knowing. We acknowledge that anything we do apart from Him is foolishness and futility.

‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread.  ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’       

 

 

I will give it to you.

Genesis 13 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went [b]on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

In yesterday’s text from Matthew 5; Jesus sermon on the mount, we saw that Jesus said:  “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth… Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”   In today’s text we see the principles Jesus spoke about demonstrated in the life and actions of Abraham.  The text says:  Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”  Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.  The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”   Abraham or Abram, as he was called before God changed his name, could have fought with Lot over the better land. He could have been forceful. Instead he was gentle. He was a peace maker. Abram allowed Lot to choose. There is another principle that we as believers are to follow demonstrated in today’s text. It says:   Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says:  We walk by faith, not by sight.  Lot chose based on what he saw; he chose what looked pleasing to the eye. In doing that he chose a land where the people were exceedingly wicked and against God. In the end, Lot’s choice did not work out as well as it originally seemed that it would. Abram on the other hand, trusted in the Lord. In faith, he was pursuing the promise of God, In Genesis 12:1-4 it says:  Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;  And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;  And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him.

Look again at what God said and did for Abram because he walked by faith; because he was gentle and a peace maker:  “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”   God renewed His promise to Abram. It is vital that we, like Abram walk, by faith and not by sight. We need to know the promises of God, both the promises that He has for all of us as His children and what He has spoken individually to us. Isaiah 55:6-12 says:  Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace.”     God will do all that He said and promised. If we will live by faith, trusting and believing Him; following and pursuing Him, we will be His children and receive an inheritance.  Romans 8:11-17 says: If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—  for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  In John 16:33 Jesus says:  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”   We too, if we trust in Him, will overcome and receive the full inheritance of children of God.

May the words of the psalmist in Psalm 37 be our declaration and prayer: Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.   Amen.

 

  

   

 

Blessed

Matthew 5:1-26 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

 

Today’s text says:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”   Isaiah 55:6-8 says:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”    It’s hard for people to fully understand the ways of God because they are often contrary to the ways of the world. Why would Jesus say that those who mourn are blessed? It is because the blessing and the comfort of God is more than just words of comfort. It is more than a nice verse to encourage those who are mourning and grieving, it is a promise from the God of creation. The verse says they shall be comforted. It is without question that those who mourn will be comforted by God if they seek Him. If we recognize the truth that God’s ways are higher than our ways, we can take comfort in submitting to His will. Because we know that we are citizens and residents of God’s eternal heavenly kingdom, nothing in this finite world can take that peace and comfort from us. Jesus says:  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus continues saying:  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”   We are not to let the things of this world overcome or over shadow us. We are to be what affects the world, rather than allowing the world to affect us. In John 16:33 Jesus says:  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”   We should overcome through Christ and not be overcome by the world.

Jesus says:  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  We should remember again what God says in Isaiah 55:6-8:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”   We should not annul or as another translation says, relax the commandments of God. Jesus taught us to pray saying: Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We are to align with God’s word and His will, not to expect that God’s word and will would align with us. God is eternal so His word and His will do not need to be updated to be aligned with our culture. We are to align our culture to God’s word and His will.

In the text Jesus says:  “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”   Far too often we are more focused and concerned with what we have against others than what they have against us. Rather than truly seeking reconciliation, we want them to come into agreement with us. The model for reconciliation when we have something against others is Jesus on the cross, in Luke 23:34 He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  We don’t need to make sure others know how they have offended us. We need to ask the Father to forgive them. If we do go to be reconciled to others; asking their forgiveness, we need not to attempt to justify or explain our side of the story. To say I am sorry but… is not an attempt at reconciliation. It is an attempt at winning the situation rather than winning our brother or sister.

Jesus says:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit; I am blessed by You, in You and through You. May I also be a blessing to You and for You. Your kingdom come and Your will be done, in and through my life, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.  

     

 

 

 

Proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom

Matthew 4:12-25 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
[a]By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

 

There are many people who say that if Jesus came back today He would avoid the church and associate instead with those outside of the church; with “sinners” and outcasts. They make that claim because Jesus did associate with people outside of the religious community. But they are in error in several ways. First, Jesus will not return in the same way that He came 2000 years ago. He will not come as Savior, Redeemer; as the sacrificial Lamb of God to die for our sins. He did that once for all on the cross. When He does return, it will be as a conquering king and a righteous judge.  Second, Jesus Himself, when He explained His reason for the association with sinners and outcasts, in Luke 5:31-32 says:  “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  In today’s text it says:  Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:  “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—  “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”
 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”… Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…   In Luke 4:14-21, we see a little more detail about the account of the beginning of Jesus ministry. And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.  And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.  And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,  The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”  And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”    So we see clearly that Jesus began His ministry teaching in the synagogues and He continued to teach there throughout His ministry. Whether He spoke in the synagogue or to the sinners and outcasts in the towns, villages and even the remote places, Jesus message was the same, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   It is important that we understand that repent means to change both the way we think and the way we act. For the sinner, there needs to be a change in behavior. In John 8:10-11, When Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery, it says:   “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”   For those in the church who stand on their own righteousness for salvation, there needs to be a repentance of belief; a change in the way we think. Ephesians 2:8-10 says:  By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  We need to change the way we think. We are not saved because of our good works, but rather, because we are saved, we do the good works of God. Because we are saved by grace we change both how we act and how we think.

Today’s text says:  Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.  The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.  Jesus is not coming again as He was before, but until He returns, He has commanded and commissioned us to continue to do His work. In John 14:12-14 He says:  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”   In Mark 16:15-18 He says:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Verses 19-20 say:   So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.     If we want to see the miracles and signs that Jesus did and that He said we would do, whether in the church or to the outside world, we need to speak the message that He spoke, “Repent, for the kingdom ofheaven is at hand.”  The signs will follow, He will work with us, in fact He says, I will do it.”

 Lord Jesus Christ thank You that You came as Savior and Redeemer. Until You come again as Righteous Judge, may I walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to continue Your work and do the things that You did. May I preach the message that You preached so that others would repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. May Your signs accompany Your works to confirm Your word.   Amen.      

 

 

 

 

 

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Matthew 3:7-4:11 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’;

And ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

 

Today’s text begins saying:  But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.  The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Keep in mind that John spoke these words before Jesus spoke John 15:1-10 which says:  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”    John’s words were spoken before Jesus told the parable of the tares and wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 which says: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”  In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And  then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”    It’s not enough that we say Jesus is Lord if we continue to practice lawlessness. It is not enough to say we repent, if we do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance. As disciples of Christ we are the fruit of His teaching, His life and His death on the cross. Bearing fruit is reproducing the life of Christ in others. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus called and commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. Ephesians 2:8-10 says:  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.   We are not saved by our own works, but our works; bearing fruit, making disciples; doing the good work that God prepared for us is our response to His salvation by grace. It is the evidence of our repentance.

Look at the end of today’s text which says:  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; And ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.    Hebrews 4:15-16 says:  We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  In John 16:33 Jesus says:  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”    Jesus withstood and resisted every temptation of the devil. He overcame the deception of the devil with the truth of God’s word. We also need to know the truth to stand against the lies of the devil. But, ultimately we overcome because Christ has overcome. In James 4:7-8 it says:  Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.   When we submit to God and draw near to Him the devil will flee because he knows he has already been defeated.

The text says:  After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,  and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”  We too need to hear the father speak those words concerning us. Romans 8:15-17 says:  You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

Zephaniah 3:17 says:  The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Amen. Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit that I am saved because of Your grace. I am victorious because You are victorious. I am Your child because I am in Christ and in Christ I will bear fruit for the kingdom. Amen.

   

 

 

 

He became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children

Matthew 2:13-3:6 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

 

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Herod Slaughters Babies

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’”

Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

 

Today’s text begins saying:  Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”  So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”  Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.   We know of course that Jesus was protected and preserved from Herod’s plan. He lived to fulfill His purpose. The text also says:  Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’”  Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan;  and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.   John, who was Jesus cousin, born six months earlier than Jesus, was also preserved from Herod’s plan to kill all the male children. This of course is not the first time that a ruler tried to kill the male Jewish children. Moses was another child spared, protected and preserved to fulfill his purpose for God. It is encouraging to see the hand of God working in protecting these men to fulfill their destiny. Still in both of these times, there were many innocent children killed. Surely Herod and Pharaoh answered for the evil they committed when they stood before God.

The devil’s methods and schemes don’t change. What he did before, he continues, even in our day. The devil still enlists people to carry out his evil scheme; killing innocent babies to prevent them from reaching their destiny. Just as both Pharaoh and Herod had the authority to make the killings legal, it didn’t mean that it was right; so too now, just because abortion is legal, it doesn’t make it right. All of the women who submitted to the laws of Pharaoh and Herod were not guilty of the deaths of their children. In that way what we see today is different. Women today are not required to kill their unborn children, atleast not yet. Still they are encouraged to choose. While the individuals may answer for their “choice”, those who enacted and enforce the evil laws of abortion will also answer not only for one “choice,” but for millions. Abortion is not the only evil scheme against our children today. As in the past, the male gender is targeted today. Gender neutrality attacks the distinctions between male and female that God created and intended. Throughout creation there are distinct differences between male and female. A rooster cannot identify as a hen and so lay eggs. A female deer cannot identify as a buck and grow antlers. God created people with a free will, but it is our ability to choose which opens us up to the deception and evil schemes of the devil. Just because we can choose doesn’t mean there are not consequences for wrong choices. As with abortion, those who choose will answer for their choice, but those who facilitate the deception of others will answer for the millions of choices they influence.

The answer today is the same as it was in Jesus and John’s time. It is as the text says:   “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’”  In John 16:33 Jesus says:  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”   Jesus survived the scheme of the devil and Herod. He lived so that later, according to the will and purpose of God, He would die for our sins; to forgive and redeem us from the consequences of our wrong choices.

Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit, while the devil’s schemes do not change, neither does the truth that You have overcome. Of all the choices we have, the greatest is to choose to believe.     Amen.     

 

     

 

 

A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.

Psalm 1 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

The Righteous and the Wicked Contrasted.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

 

Acts 13:22 says:  He (God) raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.'   The world says that Christians should love, tolorate, accept and embrace the “choices;” the sins of everyone. David, the man after the heart of God says: How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.  The world says we are hypocrits because we do not love. What the world does not know or won’t accept is that as it says in 1 John 4:19, We love, because He first loved us.  The only reason we can love at all, is because God first loved us. How does God love us? How did He demonstrate His love for us? Romans 5:8 says:  God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”   So we are to love even sinners, after all every one of us has sinned, but our love is first a response to God’s love for us. So our first love is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. Then, we are to love others as we love ourself. So, we love them with the demonstration of God’s love; that Jesus died for us. Many will argue that Jesus associated with sinners and outcasts when He was here.  He did not though, walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.  Jesus came to do the will of the Father. He did not just hang out with sinners, He called them to repent. In Luke 5:32 He said: "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."  Look what the heart of God says about the one who does not embrace sin.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

In contrast, look at the fate of the wicked: The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.   If we truly love those in world, we will not want this as their fate.   2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  God’s will is that none would perish. If we then would be like David, people after the heart of God, who would do His will, we too would do whatever we can to call people to repentance so that they would not perish, but have eternal life. If the world rejects the love of God demonstrated in the cross, then they will reject our love also.  In John 15:18-25 Jesus says:  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”   If we would be hated by the world, may it be for the cause of Christ.

Still, God is patient toward themnot wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  God’s love is also patient. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  God’s love and the love we have for others does not act unbecomingly, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. In John 14:6 Jesus says:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Jesus is the truth that we rejoice in.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your love demonstrated in the cross, that You did not come to associate with sinners, but to forgive and redeem us from sin. Holy Spirit empower me to love as God loves, to be patient and kind. Help me to not act unbecomingly, to not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoice with the truth. Help me to be a person after the heart of God that does His will. Help me to patiently declare the truth that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Him.  Amen.