Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live in Reverent Fear of Him


Peter is old when he writes this letter.
He has seen the Good News - the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - spread across the known world.

He has also observed and experienced the hardship of the opposition to God.

He calls his readers (and us) to a life style.

I Peter 1
13 "So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”[c]

17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.

21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters.[d] Love each other deeply with all your heart.[e]

23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God."

Those who accept the Gospel, who believe, have been cleansed from their sins. They have been born again. (Yes, it is in the Bible)

Now we are to rise to that life. Be holy. Show sincere love.

Live in reverent fear of God...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Greetings!

Our entire country is involved in Greetings right now.
Today it is estimated there will be 800 MILLION pieces of mail sent. That is a lot of greetings, and gifts, and packages.

Peter's circumstances were not as easy as ours. He did not have a hallmark card in which to write. But listen to the words he uses to greet the believers!

1 Peter 1


Greetings from Peter

1 "This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.[a] 2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
May God give you more and more grace and peace."

God's chosen people! God the Father KNEW you and chose you!
You have obeyed Him.
You have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a profound greeting!
Have you become one of God's family?
Have you been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ?

This Christmas season would be a great time to become a child of God.
Send me a comment and I can lead you to do what I and hundreds of millions have done around the world.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Such noble thoughts! Such exalted language!

Such noble thoughts! Such exalted language!

Paul is in prison.
In chains.
Uncomfortable.
Being told what he can do, and what he cannot do.
He is innocent. Wrongfully accused.

Here is what he writes...
Ephesians 1:1 "This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.

I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[b] 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding."

No wonder Christianity took over the world.

If it can produce this kind of attitude.
This kind of noble thought, this kind of exalted language...

It is unstoppable!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Faith Brings Joy

Faith Brings Joy

The Bible says it.
Research demonstrates it.
Our culture tries to reject it.
But it is true - faith brings joy!

Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God."

Faith brings joy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Amazing Words, Amazing Power, Amazing Disobedience

This story is filled with high drama!

The disciples - JESUS' disciples - were doing miracles and healings...

12 "The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil[f] spirits, and they were all healed."

The folks who had lots of religious power, but no spiritual power, didn't like it one bit!

17 "The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.

When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council[g]—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”

24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”

So now the religulous arrest them, confront them, threaten them and beat them...

26 "The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.[h] 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.[i] 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

The disciples had amazing power! Amazing words! And never once did they even consider obeying the orders to stop preaching, stop teaching, stop advancing the Kingdom of God!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christian Socialism

Christian Socialism
Permanent pattern or temporary aberration?

In the days following Jesus's resurrection, the disciples were proliferating exponentially. It was an exciting happy time. Here is a description of how they lived.

32 "All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles."

If you look at Scripture and conclude that descriptions of behavior are mandates to act accordingly, then we should still be doing this.

The interesting thing is that, with small exceptions, this pattern has never been followed on a sustained basis by Christ's followers.

Is it that Christians are greedy? Disobedient? Missing the mark?

Or was this a description of a historical event that was not copied even by those that participated in it? An economic model that is unsustainable??

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Empty Threats

Empty Threats

Today's reading reminds me of a story from China. A fearless Chinese evangelist was put in prison for 26 years, because he would not stop preaching the Good News of Jesus. He continued to preach inside the prison.

By the time they let him out, he was an old man. Everyone in his family had died. So he set up next to the prison gates, preaching fearlessly to everyone who came or went.

They would often threaten him, telling him to stop.

"What are you going to do?" he would say. "Put me in prison? I can preach just as well inside prison as I can outside prison!"

In today's story the Jewish religious leaders were making the threats...

Acts 4:5 "The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[b] the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.’[c]

12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber[d] and conferred among themselves.

16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years."

And thus began the explosion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that has continued unabated for 2000 years.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Confronted, Disturbed, Arrested


Jesus created a sensation wherever he went. Even at his birth there was the star, the angels, the shepherds coming in off the fields, the "king" of Israel killing everyone under 2 years old to do him in.

In his ministry he did miracles and healed thousands of people. He cast out demons. But it was his teaching that created the most radical reaction.

Then the mock trial, the illegal beating, the crucifixtion. The earth went dark. The entire area was shaken. The curtain ripped in two from top to bottom, demonstrating that the holy of holies was accesible to men because of Jesus' death.

The resurrection! The massive stone was rolled back. The grave was empty, but the grave clothes were neither cut open or unrolled!! People saw him. He spoke. He did miracles.

Then the assention! He went up into the air before their eyes! Said he was coming back the same way.

The sensation did not end with his death or resurrection. Read today's story...

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them.

Let's see. Killing the leader didn't work. Maybe arresting the followers would...

1 "While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.[a]
5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

That is an excellent question!

Is what I believe, what I follow, how I live my life - an extraordinary power, with authority from on high?

Or is my life quiet?
My religion powerless?
My beliefs meaningless?

Do I quietly grumble that Christ is not present in government, in education, in culture?

By what power?
In whose name?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oh What a Difference He Makes!



When Jesus was being betrayed, all his disciples fled except for Peter and John. They hung out all night as Jesus went through the horrible events of that night.

But IN that hostile environment, when Peter was confronted by a number of the people hanging around, he denied that he knew Jesus.

Then the Holy Spirit came.

Oh what a difference He makes!!!

Acts 2:1 "On the day of Pentecost[f] all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,[g] as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

Peter Preaches to the Crowd


14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.
19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below—
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will become dark,
and the moon will turn blood red
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’[h]

22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene[i] by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All Authority on Heaven and Earth


The disciples had just come through an amazing and scary week. Jesus was cricified. He rose again.

For 40 days Jesus had been with them.

Now he leaves.

He gives them a command and a promise.

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

And with that He went up into the clouds!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

They stood there in unbelief!



They stood there in unbelief!

The two women had said that Jesus had risen.
Peter and John reported that Jesus had risen.
The two disciples came into the group and reported that Jesus had risen.

When Jesus Himself came to stand among them, they stood there in unbelief!


35 "Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[f] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.
49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

A most unusual conversation

A most unusual conversation

It had been a puzzling week. Two of Jesus' disciples are walking, and talking, about the events of the day. Suddenly...

The Walk to Emmaus
13 "That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,[d] he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[e]”

Didn't our hearts burn within us?

Shouldn't we have known?

Wasn't it obvious all along??

He Is Alive!!!

He Is Alive!!!

Three small words that changed the world forever.

Jesus - carpenter, prophet, rabbi, miracle worker, teacher.
Jesus, who was crucified, IS ALIVE!

That is both the message of Christianity and the power of Christianity. That is why Christianity the the only truly universal belief system. Why it alone explains God's plan for earth, God's plan for salvation, God's plan for having a relationship with God Almighty!


The Resurrection
1 "But very early on Sunday morning[a] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man[b] must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened."

Bewildered then. Ecstatic later!

Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, is ALIVE!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Universe Was Shaken!


God incarnate.

Suffering and dying on a cross.

For the sins of the world.

This event split history into Before Christ and After Death.

33 "At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”[f]
35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”
37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
39 When the Roman officer[g] who stood facing him[h] saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph[i]), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there."

God the Father, in an agony we cannot imagine, brought darkness to the earth.

Split the curtain in the temple in two.

Matthew 27:50 "Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people."

God the Father shook the earth.

Split rocks apart.

Released many from the grave...

The Universe was shaken!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not so scary now, are you?

Jesus amazing miracles, and even more amazing words had created a lot of awe and wonder in Palestine.

Some believed.

Some did not.

32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene,[g] and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

The soldiers did not believe:

35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[h] 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. 37 A sign was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Two revolutionaries[i] were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

Many people did not believe:

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The religious leaders did not believe:

41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

One of the two thieves crucified with him did not believe:

44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

It is the same today:

Some believe.

Some choose not to.

God has designed this whole thing so we have free will.

Some believe.

Some do not.

Oversight of the military

The job of the military is to impose the rule of those in power on the subjects.

The military is sanctioned to kill people and has all the tools and power to do that.

The life of a soldier rotates between boredom and violence. In battle the soldier is often fighting for his life. In peacetime the soldier is often bored.

This shows why the military has to have strict oversight. The combination of power over life and death, the tools of killing, and boredom can make for a pretty dangerous combination

Here is a group of soldiers, in a time of peace, who are cleared bored.

One day they are given a prisoner to kill. This one is unusually interesting. He reportedly has the power to do miracles. And it is said that he claimed to be the king of the Jews.

This assignment, gruesome as it was, was going to have some entertainment value!



Mark reports Mark 15:16 "The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified."

Of course, they had no notion it was the King of Glory they were taunting. That each one of them would appear before Him after they died. That He - the righteous judge of heaven and earth - had the ultimate power.

They didn't know any of that.

They were just bored.

And had an unusually interesting prisoner...

Navigating the legal, political, religious and military maze


The Jewish religious leaders needed to get rid a big problem that was getting bigger. They couldn't impose the death penalty, but the government could.

The political leaders wanted to avert an insurrection in their domain. Appeasement of the masses. They didn't want to make the restless, resentful subjects even more angry than they already were.

The military was taught to blindly carry out the orders given to them. They would intimidate, brutalize or kill anyone or any group that stepped out of line of the rule of the empire.

Jesus himself knew that he must die, a sinless sacrifice, to pay for the sins of the world.

Mark 15:1 "Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council[a]—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

2 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
3 Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, 4 and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” 5 But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

6 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. 7 One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. 8 The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

9 “Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

14 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

15 So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified."

Jesus - sinless - was condemned to die!

The accountant jumps out the window

We in tough times right now.

This is the worst it has been financially since the last great depression - in the 1920's.

The most notorious images from that time is people jumping out the window to their death below. It must have been a desperate situation to feel like things have turned out so bad that your only alternative is to jump to your death.

Today we are in the last days of Jesus.

His accountant commits suicide...

What series of events made HIM feel so desperate that he literally jumped to his death?

Here is the story.

Matthew 27:1 "Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. 2 Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”
5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.
6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.”[a] 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. 9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,
“They took[b] the thirty pieces of silver—

the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,

10 and purchased the potter’s field,

as the Lord directed.[c]”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!


As a culture we have learned to feel for animals.

Not so much for plants.

Today Jesus is describing a process we all know well.

It is called pruning. A competent arborist, or even a back yard gardener, knows that you have to prune fruit trees or they get all leafy and overgrown, and don't produce fruit.

But today Jesus applies that rather violent example to us!

Ouch!!

John 15:1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tough Times


They say tough times build character.

That may be true, but it seems to me that tough times reveal character more than build character.

In today's reading we are with Jesus during the toughest time of his life.

He was still with all 12 of his disciples, but he knew one would betray him, one would deny him, and all would abandon him.

How did he act around these fickle friends?

John 13:18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’[d] 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah.[e] 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”
21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled,[f] and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.[g] 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night."

Tough times reveal character.

Mine is fully exposed.

How is yours?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Scathing indictment!!


Scathing indictment!!

Jesus said, bring the little children to me, because the kingdom of God is made up of such as these.

Today he said to the religious leaders - Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

So, he is drawn to simple faith. Uncluttered desire to please God.

And he is pretty hacked off at people who create barriers to God. Who make legalistic hoops to jump through, making it difficult and discouraging to begin and maintain a relationship of love with the creator.

Read on...

Matthew 23:1 "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.[b] 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’[c]
8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.[d] 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

He is not finished. But it is long. And not pretty!



13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.[e]
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[f] you yourselves are!
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![h]
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’
31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. 33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
34 “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. 35 As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Theft and Community Involvement


Jesus was poor.
He needed a ride.
So he borrowed one.

It looked like theft to those standing around.
So they appropriately stepped in, and objected.

Mark 11:1 "As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’”


4 The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. 5 As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it."

I am learning there are lots of creative ways to accomplish what you want to do when money is tight.

Jesus was not afraid to borrow transportation.

I don't think insurance was an issue.

And the owner granted permission.

But I am impressed that the guys near the ride didn't let it just be stolen.

That in itself is a good lesson for today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jesus likes Kids. I do too...


In Jesus day kids were abundant. And not considered as important as adults. So Jesus surprised his disciples, and the culture...

Luke 18:15 "One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.

16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Here is a recent story from my older daughter.
"On the way to the conference in the car our discussion turned to money and how everyone wants it. Bobby said to our 7 year old son, “But money doesn’t make us happy does it?” From the back comes a, “Noooo.” So Bobby asked, “What does bring true happiness then?” And our son said "God and Jesus and candyyyyyy.”  That made us laugh!

Monday, November 1, 2010

How do you stand out in a crowd?


Blind Ben and his buddy Bill were sitting by the road begging.

No seeing eye dogs back then. No employment for the disabled. Their life was reduced to begging for food, and depending on their family to get them to and from their begging spot for the day.

They had heard about Jesus. It seemed too good to be true that he was healing people. He healed people of every kind of disease.

One day he happened to pass right by where they were sitting.

But there was a huge crowd! How to get His attention?

29 "As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. 30 Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

They were a distraction. An embarrasement!


31 “Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them."

Now Jesus must be near. They could hear the size of the crowd. The excited chatter of people. This was their only chance. Their chance of a lifetime!
"But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

No one was going to shut them up. They were yelling their heads off!

Suddenly the crowd stopped. There was a hush. They could tell that Jesus was coming over to where they were.
32 "When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

33 “Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” 34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him."

Can you imagine the glee?

Can you imagine the devotion?

Two new disciples. Unstoppable. Unembarrased. Unashamed.

I was blind, but now I see!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The invitation


Today Jesus is invited to dinner.

We don't do hospitality like they do in other cultures. Apparently this was a big deal, in a big house, with a big group.

He starts with a healing, and teaches about what the relationship of love vs legalism.

Luke 14:1 "One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. 2 There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen.[a] 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” 4 When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son[b] or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” 6 Again they could not answer."

He uses the shuffling for seats as a moment to teach.
7 "When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: 8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? 9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Goes on to help us understand social psychology from God's point of view...

12 "Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Then puts an overbearing, and overeager guest in his place.
15 "Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet[c] in the Kingdom of God!”
16 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

Altogether a most interesting dinner party!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Homeless Man is Filled with Joy!


OK. I'll admit. The title is a twist.

But in this time of high unemployment, severe financial stress, massive foreclosures, and general discontent, I wanted to highlight something.

Jesus was homeless.

Jesus was unemployed.

He lived entirely off of donations.

He had no retirement plan.

He had no cash reserves.

In today's reading we read that He was full of joy.

21 "At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.


22 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. 24 I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

Let's disconnect the relationship between money and joy.

And experience the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Which comes, not from comfort, security or circumstances.

But from God.

I am one of the 72



Today Jesus sends out 72 disciples.

We don't know any of them by name (other than the 12)

We never hear of this group again.

They never became famous, either in Scriptures or in history.

Luke 10:1 "The Lord now chose seventy-two[a] other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields."

Yet they had an important part in the spread of Jesus' message and the Kingdom of God.

3 "Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
5 “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 6 If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. 7 Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.
8 “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. 9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ 10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ 12 I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day."

I feel like I am one of the 72.

Never done anything grand for the kingdom.

Just quietly plugging along.

But hopefully making a difference...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why is there adversity? Whose fault is it, anyway?


Why is there pain?
Why is there difficulty in life?
Why do people suffer?
Whose fault is it anyway?

These are all age old questions, yet every time we get "close and personal" with pain, adversity, untimely death, difficulty - we ask them all over again.

Like we were the only ones to experience it. The only one to suffer...

The scenario today was Jesus walking along.

There was a man born blind. One of the great puzzles of the universe. (Why do children suffer? What did they ever do?)

Go to a modern cancer wing in a children's hospital and this question smacks you hard in the face.

Why do children suffer?

The religious leaders asked the obvious question. Was their interest genuine, or semantic? We don't entirely know...

John 9:1 :As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.[a] The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

A most unexpected answer, to be sure! The story goes on...
 
6 "Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
8 His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

The man is simple, and his answer was simple, and classic...

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this,[b] because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Religion or relationship?

Jesus is God among us. He is teaching. Doing miracles. Explaining the way to God.

The religion peddlers come to see him. They want to know God? They want to learn from him? They want to find out how he does the amazing healings and miracles?

No, no, no and no.

They are annoyed that some of their plethora of onerous religious rules aren't being followed.

Matthew 15:1 "Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

Jesus nails them. He is not nice. Not polite. Not diplomatic.
3 "Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents.[c] And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

8 ‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

9 Their worship is a farce,

for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’[d]”

Wow!

The same Jesus who was so compassionate toward repentant sinners is straight out hard on proud religion peddlers.

It is about relationship with God, not blind obedience to religious rules...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oh we DO LOVE those Taxes!!


As I write this we are in the last few weeks before the mid term elections.

Obama and his "kin" are being excoriated for never seeing a tax hike they didn't like. We have plunged further into debt in the two short years he has been in office than all the other 234 years of this country's history COMBINED. Patty Murray and Gregoire are being taken to task for the 8 BILLION deficit in the State of Washington. The way out is more taxes. Tax and spend.

Come to find out, taxes weren't that appreciated in Jesus' day either. The taxes for the oppressive Roman government were collected by entrepreneurs, who could use their power and position to enhance their personal wealth. (Sounds like our Senators) But in that day they were called what they were - sinners.

9 "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?[d]”

Did you catch that? Sinners and scum...

12 "When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[e] For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

OK. OK. The real story here isn't taxes or government. Many abusive governments have come and gone since Jesus was walking the planet.

The real story is that Jesus knows that we are ALL sinners. That our artificial categorization of the righteous and the sinner breaks down under the scrutiny of the high holy standards of God Almighty.

That Jesus came to SAVE sinners. That the first step toward a relationship toward God is the free admission of our own sinfulness. That God loves every single one of us. No one is excluded.

Not even polititians.

Or IRS agents...

Friday, October 15, 2010

When God Doesn't Seem to Care


We're in the life of Jesus now. Jesus does lots of miracles.
LOTS of miracles. He heals people. He casts out demons. He makes things happen that could not happen in the natural.

As an aside - Buddha never did a miracle. Mohammed never did a miracle. Those are man made religions. Jesus, God in flesh, did miracles one after the other.

So now, there are 13 men in a boat. They cross this large lake.

23 "Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

Say what?

Jesus was sleeping.

I know, in the natural world, he was exhausted. He would routinely get up before dawn (about 4:30 am) to pray to his heavenly Father.

Then he was pursued all day long by people with needs and demands. Sort of like the combination of polititian and celebrity.

He had delivered some sermons to a very large crowd. So he was tired. And was fast asleep.

25 "The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”


I have felt like them many times. Lord, do you not know? Do you not care? Is it just me? Have I done something wrong, and now I'm being punished? Lord, save us! We're going to drown!!!!

26 "Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm."

It was so easy! Jesus is God. Nothing happens that He does not allow.

27 "The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

I'm always amazed, in retrospect. But at the time, its

Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”





Monday, October 11, 2010

Things I Don't Understand

There is, of course, a lot I do not understand.
Here is one of the many things that puzzle me...

Jesus said,
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’[p] 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,[q] carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow."

I have never met a person who does this.
I don't know any Christian community that fully embraces this.
We all are influenced by it.
But what would happen if all Christians everywhere fully embraced it?
Already in Muslim countries Christians are routinely killed for their faith.
Would we all perish?
All become pooor?

It is one of those things I really do not understand...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Words of Jesus

The Words of Jesus

A few days have gone by and all of a sudden the reading is in the sayings of Jesus. Not his lineage, or miraculous birth, or the 30 years of life before he began his "career" as an itinerant preacher.

The words themselves.
I have read the story of many people who, as adults, were introduced to the New Testament and were blown away.

I remember the story of Anil Kant, a singer/composer from India who said he started reading the New Testament and could not put it down for 3 weeks.

Or Mark Ishmael from Egypt who wept as he read, and could not eat or sleep as he read the words of Jesus.

Here, for today, are a few of the words of Jesus...

1 "One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you[c] and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lost Dreams

Fast Forward to the New Era of God speaking to man.

Luke Chapter One.

Doctor Luke is setting up the background of Jesus birth and life.

He begins, interestingly enough, not with Jesus or his birth, but with an obscure priest called Zechariah.

5 "When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old."

A couple, married many years, and no kids.

Luke, the doctor, points out that it was Elizabeth, not Zech. That seems a little cruel today. Was the doctor just being precise in where the problem lay? Don't know, but anyway, he points that out.

Many many years after they had been married, and many years after they had given up ever having their own baby, this happens.

8 "One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.[b] 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,[c] and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

The angel was scarry! But the news he gave was astonishing! Have a baby? Now? They had given up years ago...

Even though life is hard, sometimes dreams do come true...

Monday, October 4, 2010

You are very precious to God

Buried inside the bigger story of Daniel's prayer, and prophecy, and end times, it this delightful statement...

  20 "I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. 21 As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. 23 The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision."

you are very precious to God

Hmmm. We need to be reminded...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A great man begs God in prayer


It starts with Daniel reading the Scriptures. He was reading Jeremiah, written shortly before...

"I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.[l] 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes."

He prays a prayer of repentance.

4 "I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. 5 But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. 6 We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.
7 “Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. 8 O Lord, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. 10 We have not obeyed the Lord our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice.
“So now the solemn curses and judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured down on us because of our sin. 12 You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster as happened in Jerusalem. 13 Every curse written against us in the Law of Moses has come true. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the Lord our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. 14 Therefore, the Lord has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The Lord our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him.
15 “O Lord our God, you brought lasting honor to your name by rescuing your people from Egypt in a great display of power. But we have sinned and are full of wickedness. 16 In view of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. All the neighboring nations mock Jerusalem and your people because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors.
17 “O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary.
18 “O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.
19 “O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.”


He prays - We have sinned. I repent for my people.
For your sake, Lord. FOR YOUR SAKE, please deliver your people...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tried by Fire


Many times we use this expression.
I was tried by fire.
It was a trial by fire.
He made it through the trial by fire.

None of what we refer to compares to the real deal...

Daniel 3

1 "King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide[h] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 So all these officials[i] came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

4 Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments,[j] bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

7 So at the sound of the musical instruments,[k] all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 But some of the astrologers[l] went to the king and informed on the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[m] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

The Blazing Furnace


19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.

24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.

25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god[n]!”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon."

Now THAT was a trial by fire!