Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Whole Lot of Angels

A Whole Lot of Angels

God was up to something.

He was going to send His Son - Jesus Christ - to be born on earth.

It caused quite a stir in heaven!!!

The account includes a whole lot of angels.

Before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to his earthly uncle.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Just before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to Joseph, who would stand in as his earthly father.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to his earthly mother - Mary.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Just after Jesus was born, angels appeared outside Bethlehem

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

There are a whole lot of angels in the Christmas story!

Jesus' birth caused quite a stir in heaven!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Glitz and Glitter

Glitz and Glitter

We were at one of the mandatory Christmas Parties last night.

The wife of a good friend was complaining that they had no lights. No Christmas tree. The house was plain.

"Because the kids are all gone?" we queried.

"No. As you know, we came back from the Holy Land a month ago. Everywhere Jesus went, everywhere something happened in the Gospel account, they have put up enormous Cathedrals over there. It was SO over the top."

"Bethlehem was depressing. It is incredibly dirty. They had put up this huge cathedral hundreds of years ago. Now the Muslims have taken the area over and are blaring their propaganda directly at the Cathedral. It was a bizarre and unsettling experience."

"So, no lights and Christmas tree for me this Christmas."

As I reflected on our conversation, I realized we have no Muslims blaring ant Christian messages at a high volume over a loud speaker.

But the glitz and glitter, and the materialism in our culture accomplishes the same thing. It overpowers and drowns out what God did for the world so long ago.

11. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

No Glitz.

No Glitter.

Just a baby lying in a manager...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It is More Blessed to Give Than to Receive

It is More Blessed to Give Than to Receive

It is Christmas, 2011.
The ads on TV are running full force on how you need to give this or that present - basically as proof that you are a good husband or wife, parent or friend.

But one managed to play before I was able to grab the "mute" button.

In it the girl says, "Its is better to receive, than to give"
Her boyfriend says quietly, in the last seconds of the commercial.
"I don't think that's how it goes..."
She replies - "Close enough!"

Cute commercial. Horrible distortion of the saying quoted directly from Jesus himself.

The quote does not appear in the Gospels - the accounts of Jesus life. Interestingly it is the Apostle Paul who quotes this saying from Jesus, way toward the end of his life.

Acts 20:35 "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Then the Son of Man will Appear!

We just went through a period where some guy predicted the end of the world. It must have been a slow news day, because instead of ignoring it, as they have done countless times before, this time the news media picked it up coast to coast.

Countless jokes were made, endless talk shows commented. People were interviewed. Jesus did not come back on the predicted day. Unbelievers treated it as a joke. Believers jumped in to say no one knows the day.

Jesus did not come back... But he did say some pretty dramatic things when he was here!

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[a]

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[b] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[c] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[e] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

So we do not know the day.

But when the leaves come out on the fig tree, summer is near. We are supposed to know the general time.

Is it now?

Am I prepared?

Is it now???

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When will these things be?

When will these things be?

We have always been troubled by, and fascinated by, the future.

Here Jesus talks about the future. The disciples ask the obvious question:
When will these things be?

Matthew 24

The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times

1 "Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather."

Now - in the middle of the Great Obama Depression - people are asking the same thing again. When will these things be?

Are we in the end times? Is Jesus returning soon?

As always, we know what is happening today. We do not know what will happen tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lets Stump the Master

Lets Stump the Master

Matthew 22:34 "Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

The religious leaders were determined to discredit Jesus. They had rehearsed some questions that they were sure would make him stutter and stammer.

This one was a doosy! Their scholars and leaders had wrestled with it for hundreds of years.
37 "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That brought their attack to an end. Then he started in on them, with some questions of his own.

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I put your enemies

under your feet.”’

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions."

Jesus outwitted his religious enemies. They got their revenge by putting him to death shortly after.

Yet all this was according to the purpose and plan of God Almighty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The "holy" way or the Lowly Way

The "holy" way or the Lowly Way

Religiousity or Righteousness.

Outward appearance, or internal compliance.

Today Jesus tells a story...

Matthew 21:28
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

The story is one that every parent can relate to. Even if you only have two children, it is likely that they are each very different from each other.

The first son is what we would now call a "strong willed child." When asked to help his father, his first response was rebellious and confrontive. "I will not go" was his immediate reply. This is a kid who is very hard to manage. He causes his parents a lot of grief. However, in this story he changes his mind and decides to obey.

In this story, the second son is outwardly compliant. "Yes, Dad" was the answer. But he was what we would now call "passive aggressive." He said yes, so the problem of the moment was solved. But he disobeyed, doing whatever he pleased. These children are difficult for a parent because of their back handed and sneaky ways of disobeying.

Jesus asks the obvious question. Even though one kid looked good at the time, and the other kid was rebellious and hard headed, in the end, which kid did the right thing? Which kid obeyed the father?

So those who look so good on the outside, all religious and stuff, were actually not doing the will of God, but just making it hard for sincere people to find God at all.

And those who looked so bad on the outside, living a life of greed and sin, were turning from their wrongful ways, repenting, and coming to God with sincerity and trust.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hi is Risen!

Matthew 28
Jesus Has Risen
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This is the most important celebration of the year for Christians. Jesus came to earth, lived, did miracles, taught, died for our sins. But what validates all of that is that he rose from the dead.

Easter is about Jesus. He is Risen!

Monday, April 18, 2011


Power is a significant part of life.

Power among nations. For much of my life there was a "balance of power" (balance of terror, really) between the Soviet Union and the West, with the number and deadly force of nuclear weapons creating the balance. Now, the United States reigns supreme as the world power, but the present leadership is working diligently to destroy that.

Power among people. People with money have power. People with position have power. People with great strength, or big voice, or fierce temperament have power.

Power in relationships. Often divorces comes as a result of a power struggle between the two people.

Spiritual power. Who is close to God. Who is living a morally pure life.

Jesus gave up all his external power. But he had spiritual power in spades.

Today he dismantles the opposition with one simple question. Read on...

Matthew 21:23 "Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

End of story!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Time to Pay Taxes!

It is April 15 this Friday.
Time to pay taxes!

Of course, we pay them all year long. We pay them every day. We pay them when we buy gas, buy food, pay our mortgage payment. We pay taxes when we die.

But right now, we are concentrating only on the income tax. The more you make, the more you pay.

We hate paying taxes. But no more than the people in the olden days. At the time of Christ, the Roman Empire controlled Palestine. They extorted taxes from the folks. Nobody liked paying those taxes.

It is the set up for today's story...

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."

Ever since, we have used this phrase, first spoken by Jesus himself. Pay to Ceasar what is Ceasars, and to God what is God's.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Invitation - Privilege, but also Responsibility

We get invited to things all the time.

A lot of the invitations - we don't care about and totally disregard. No RSVP, no phone call. We just don't answer and don't go. A seminar, for example, where you know they are going to put pressure on you to buy something you don't want or need.

There are others that you agonize over. Don't really want to go, but really SHOULD. What to do? Depending on how important it is, you find an excuse not to go, but you definately communicate that "reason" that you can't attend.

A third level of invitation you want to go to very badly, and you move heaven and earth to be there. A birthday party, a wedding, a family event.

There is a fourth level of invitation. It is so important that to go is an unbelievable privilege. To not go is inconceivable. An invitation to see the President, or Queen or Prime Minister of your country...

Matthew 22
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1 "Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

This was an invitation that you disregard at your peril.

You also don't show up uninvited!

Jesus is saying the invitation into his kingdom is a big deal. Accept it. Don't reject it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quirky Story

Quirky Story

Today we read one of the oddest stories in the New Testament.
Jesus is hungry. He goes to pick a fig to munch on. No figs! Nothing but leaves...

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
18 "Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered."

He wants figs. There are none. So he curses the tree and it withers right on the spot!

What is with that?

Was this a "right of way" tree, that was just by the road and no one owned it or took care of it?

If it belonged to a farmer, was he not hurting their livlihood? Was he cursing the tree because they should have been pruning it so it would be fruitful?

20 "When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked."

The disciples have no issue with him cursing the tree. They were all involved in the mechanics. "Whoa! He cursed the tree and it withered! Right on the spot, man! It just shriveled up... just like that!!!"

Of course, Jesus had a lesson to teach from the experiencce with the tree.
21 "Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

He keyed into what the disciples were amazed at - the power to do cool things.

A quirky story, to be sure...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jesus was a man's man.

Jesus was a man's man.

I have always objected to pictures of Jesus as the holy whimp. He was, after all, a carpenter in the era before power tools. Think of that! This guy was built.

And he was no coward. Taking on his enemies with wit and wisdom, never running or backing down from a confrontation.

Today it gets physical!
It was Jesus all alone against the merchants.
And Jesus won!!!

12 "Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."

13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

I can just see the glint in his eye, feel the bite of the whip, hear the chaos of tables overturning, pigeons flying, coins rolling on the ground!

Yes, Jesus was a man's man!

14 "The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants

you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night."

This is a gentle man.
A spiritual man.
But also a very powerful man.

He goes from overturning tables to healing the sick from one moment to the other.

Jesus was a man's man...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Was this the high point?

Was this the high point?

It would seen that the high point in Jesus' "career" was when he came into Jerusalem, riding on the preferred steed of kings, hailed as a king, and adulated by all.

Matthew 21:1 "As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Of course, we know the end of the story.
Just a few days later, another crowd in the same city is saying, "crucify him!"

What are the lessons to be learned?

Positive public opinion is sweet!
But it is also fickle!

Jesus received it, but did not rely on it. He did not internalize it. It did not change him, or even affect him.

A truly humble person does not ever entirely believe or internalize the adulation of the masses, or the glory of fame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Glimpse Into Eternity

A Glimpse Into Eternity

The people around Jesus were getting one amazing experience after another.

In today's story they are on vacation.

Matthew 17:1 "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."

The three friends got a glimpse into eternity.

9 "As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

We live in two worlds. The physical, present world, and the spiritual, unseen world. Most of us are only aware of, or present in, the physical world.

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

These three friends got a glimpse into eternity.
And were never the same...

When Your World is Rocked

When Your World is Rocked

Some times we go along in life, when suddenly our world is rocked. Our little three year old girl dies suddenly. Our wife leaves a note saying she has taken the kids and they will not be back. Divorce papers coming. Or a visit to the doctor over some malady brings the prognosis - you have three months to live.

Some times we go along in life, when suddenly our world is rocked.

Today's story rocked the world of those around Jesus.

They are on vacation. Jesus makes an announcement.
And their world is rocked.

Matthew 16:21 "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

Didn't you just prove that you were the Messiah?
Weren't those words ascribed to you? And you accepted them?

22 "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Peter found his voice. The others were in stunned silence. What did he mean? This couldn't happen. No! No! No!
23 "Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

We weren't there. But I wonder how long the awkward silence was after that remark!
24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The disciples were stunned. Confused. Their heads were spinning.

Kind of like us, when our world is rocked...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

One of the most enduring questions down the ages is:
Who Am I?
Along with, Why am I here?, and What is the purpose of life?

It used to be common for young people to go to Europe, or India to "find themselves." (To which my attitude has always been - What, go to India to find yourself? Just look in the mirror! There you are!!!)

Jesus asked this same question, but with a very different slant. Who Am I?

13 "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

I think it is hard for us to understand what a huge statement this was. The Messiah. The Long Awaited One. The Savior. Christ.

Jesus understood the significance of that little statement:

17 "Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

This is huge, Jesus is saying. So huge, in fact, that it was revealed to you by God the Father!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Abstruse Message

Abstruse Message

Jesus often spoke in an abstruse, or abstract way.

Here is a simple problem. They are travelling, and someone forgot to be prepared, so they had no lunch.

5 "When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Jesus didn't bawl them out for being unprepared.
Didn't even address the deprivation they would all feel when lunch time rolled around.
He made a comment that had them all scratching their heads...
6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

They didn't understand what he meant at all.
8 "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?"

Jesus wasn't actually talking about bread at all.

"But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Finally they got what he was talking about.

So what was the point in talking like this?
Was it to show his superior intelligence?
Was it to keep them on their toes?
Was it to show them that he was on a higher plane than them?

I suspect not...
It seems that Jesus took everyday moments as his teaching points. Making everyday moments into teachable moments.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Was Jesus Calloused and Hard Hearted?

Was Jesus Calloused and Hard Hearted?

Matthew 15:21 "Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Since Jesus seemed to be completely ignoring her, the disciples picked up on that.

"She is a nuisance, Lord. Send her away. She is making a ruckus and it is annoying. Just get rid of her. She is a problem!"

Then Jesus engages her.  But his statement and questions seem more calloused and hard hearted than his silence!

24 "He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

This woman was persistent!

And desperate!!

She would not go away.
She would not keep silent.
She answered every apparently cruel statement with a rebuttal!
28 "Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment."


And Jesus healed her daughter.

What a lesson for us all in faith, in persistence, in perserverance.

Sometimes God seems to ignore our prayers. Sometimes we pray and things only seem to be getting worse!

Yet he hears... He knows... He cares...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Inside Out

Inside Out

What matters most? The inside? Or the outside?

If you ask our culture, the outside matters most. Whether music, sports, movies or even politics, your good looks open doors, and your poor looks close doors.

But to God, the inside matters most.

The religion of the day put a lot of emphasis on obeying religious rules. Jesus says it is the heart that matter most to God.

Matthew 15:10 "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

If you are unfamiliar with the life of Jesus this comes as a shocker.
Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

But, but, but, you say... Didn't he claim to be God? Is that not the source of ALL religion?

Yes and no. Yes he did claim to be God. Repeatedly, in many ways and to many people. The entire New Testament agrees that Jesus is God Incarnate - God in flesh.

But God and religion have issues. Jesus came to bring people to God.

But he considered religion to be a gate to keep people FROM God. I'm pretty sure he feels the same way today.

Matthew 15:1 "Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus is not against the JEWISH religion. He is against ANY and ALL religion that makes rules about how to get to God, and ends up keeping people away from God.

God wants your heart. He wants your life. He doesn't want your performance, your ritual, your adherence to "religious" rules.

He wants YOU! And he wants to have a relationship with you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Storm!

Storms are scary things.
You are uncomfortable, out of control, and you literally don't know if you are going to live or die.

"the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."
These guys were experienced boaters. But this squall had caught them off gaurd, and now they had been in it all night long. They were tired and afraid.
25 "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear."

I have no idea why Jesus decided to walk to them on the water. To show his divinity? To help them believe? Did he know what Peter was going to do?
27 "But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed."

Certainly a dramatic story! Perhaps one of the most oft told. Not of how Jesus walked on the water, but how Peter walked on the water - however briefly that was!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An exhausted Jesus Says Goodbye

An exhausted Jesus Says Goodbye

The story of Jesus walking on the water has more paintings made of it than any other event in his life.

Yet it is a footnote to the real story.

Jesus cousin was senslessly murdered by a wicked polititian. When Jesus got the news, he went away with his friends to grieve.

The crowd anticipated where he was going, and there was a huge throng. He healed them, and fed them.

Then, worn out emotionally and physically, he sends his disciples on ahead in the boat.

He says good bye to all the people, then he went up the hill a ways and poured his heart out to the Father. He prayed until late into the night.

THAT is the real story. His catching up with the disciples was an appendage to the real story...

Matthew 14:22 "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jesus is Sad

Jesus is sad.
He just got word that his cousin, who we know as John the Baptist, was senslessly murdered by the ruling polititian of the day. The whole thing was sleasy and wrong. An innocent man was murdered.

He does not say a thing (that is recorded) but he does withdraw. Goes to a solitary place. There he can be alone (with his buds) and grieve...

13 "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns."

But like so many famous people, he is allowed no alone time. Soon people began appearing. Clusters of families, groups of guys, entire villages...

Oh well! So much for quielty grieving!!!

14 "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

So he got up, and got to work. Healing the people until it got close to dusk.

There is a lesson here.

Today we are busy addicts. Busy makes us feel good. Busy makes us feel important. We have a wonderful work ethic that gets pleasure in accomplishment.

The down side is - what are you like when you are interrupted?
Grouchy? Impatient? Rude? Brusk?

Jesus just needed time alone.
He didn't get it.
His response? Graciously attend to the needs of the people...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sleazy, Slaughter and Savior

News Flash!
Drunk Polititian has Sleazy entertainment and the result is the Slaughter of an innocent man!

Matthew 14:1 "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus."

The Sinless Saviour of the world hears about it and is Sad for his cousin the beheaded prophet and the king who is an unrepentant sinner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Hometown Effect

The hometown effect.
For some of you it is the family effect.

Those who know you the best sometimes can limit you by their over familiarity.

They remember your awkwardness as a Junior Higher. The crazy things you did as a teen ager. The dramatic statements you made in your early twenties. And they underestimate you.

In todays reading Jesus goes back to his home town. Where he was raised. They did not know him as the miracle worker. The amazing teacher. The one who claimed to be God. They knew him as a carpenter, son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Matthew 13:53 "When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters 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 own town and in his own home.”

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."

Don't allow yourself to be limited by the family effect.

Or the home town effect either...

Monday, February 28, 2011


How do you value something?

Mostly it is supply and demand.
Sometimes it is value that is perceived.

Prince Andrew gave an engagement ring to Katie. It was said to have cost around $40,000 when his father, Prince Philip gave it to his mother Lady Diana. However, now it should be worth at least twice that, and given the love of Lady Di around the world, and the controversy around her life, her marriage and her death, it is probably priceless.

Today Jesus talks about value.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

This real estate had value. It had value as a piece of land. It had more value depending on the orchards that were already planted, or the water rights it enjoyed, or the possibility of growing crops on it. Maybe it had value for some buildings on it.

But the man who found the abandoned treasure suddenly valued it far above all of that. It had supremely high value to him.
Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like that.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

This is much like the blood diamond in Africa, or the Star of India jewel. They are unusually beautiful, and big, and valuable.

Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Matthew 13
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
31 "He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”[b]

The Parable of the Weeds Explained
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear."

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom...

This is good news, or bad news, depending on your choices right now!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Decides?

Jesus is telling stories.
Stories with a purpose.

The Kingdom of Heaven, he says, is like a field in some ways. There may be weeds in with the good seed.

Who decides which ones are weeds and which ones are wheat?
Well - their look and function make them pretty obvious. They aren't interested in what God is interested in. They don't act like people of the kingdom.

So, who should decide which ones are wheat, and which ones are weeds? Read on...

Matthew 13:24 "Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Let God decide.
He is the only one who knows the inside of a person. He knows the heart. He knows true motivations. He is the only righteous judge of good and evil.

Let Him decide...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Teaching from a boat

Lots of people wanted to see and hear Jesus at this point. Today he got in a boat, and taught from there...

Matthew 13:1 "That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore."

Sound carries very well over water. There is a natural carrying and even amplifying effect. He taught a long time...

3 "Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

This is a very natural story. Understood both visually and practically by everyone that heard it. We still understand it today. The miracle of the seed. A kernel of corn will grow a hundred or more kernels, when sowed and planted.

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them."

As always, Jesus was dealing in more than one plane. Both the physical, earthly plane; but also in the spiritual, supernatural plane.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!

A seemingly simple request to Jesus brings a very hard response!

Matthew 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here."

This question, this request, came after Jesus drove a demon out of a man who was both blind and mute. The demon left, and the man was healed. He had just given them an amazing sign.

The people were astonished, and began to wonder, out loud, if this Jesus really was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the long promised redeemer of Israel.

After this astonishing miracle, the religious leaders ask for a sign. Jesus said to them, "You have more than enough signs, but you have hard hearts and do not believe..."

Then Jesus gives us some fascinating insight into the unseen world.

43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

So - A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Do you let your critics define you?

Do you let your critics define you?

There was only one perfect man in the entire history of the world.

So, of course, he did not have any critics, right?

Wrong. Today he is accused of working by the power of the devil. Do you have critics? Do you define yourself by what they say? Jesus most definately DID NOT!!

Matthew 12:24 "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

All the people were astonished!

After leaving the place where the religious leaders had started to plot to kill him, Jesus withdrew and healed everybody who was ill.

Matthew 12:15 "Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”[b]

Jesus and Beelzebul
22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

Apparently people had gotten somewhat used to Jesus healing people. However, healing and casting a demon out of a man created astonishment.

Who is this man? Might he really be the long awaited Messiah? Might he be the Christ??

Monday, February 14, 2011

What, or Who is the Final Authority?

Today there is a story that revolves around a debate.
The debate is:

What, or Who is the Final Authority?

That debate is still raging today.
The Bible says - sex before, or outside of marriage - is sin.
Culture says - we will have sex whenever, and with whomever, we want. And you cannot tell us otherwise!

The Bible says - Thou shalt not murder!
Culture says - if we have sex but don't want the baby, we have full right to kill it - right to the time it will be born!

In Jesus day, the debate was a little more simple.
Who was the final arbiter of God's will on earth? The LAW, which they had had for thousands of years, or some itenerant preacher who could do miracles?

Matthew 12:1 "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus."

The argument that Jesus, as God in human flesh, was the Lord - was blasphemous to the religious leaders.

Even though he was doing miracles, and healing people and doing good, they decided they had to find a way to kill him!

Today the same debate. Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

And the reaction is equally hard and even violent!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Come to me - if you are weary or burdened

We live in the richest country in the world.
Our society, with its freedom and abundant opportunity, is the envy of the entire world.

Why, then, would we be weary? Or burdened?
Oh, but we are...

Jesus words, spoken to downtrodden peasants in Palestine 2000 years ago, still resonate today!

Matthew 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”

Come to me, says Jesus.

Who WAS he, to make such an offer?

I will give you rest. You WILL find rest for your souls.

Only God could speak that way. Only God could deliver on that promise. Especially 2000 years later. Only God...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jesus and John

Jesus and John
One of the most enigmatic parts of Jesus' life was his cousin John. John was a true prophet. Totally dedicated to the message God had given him. Not at all concerned about his personal life, or hygene, or even health. Never married. With his appearance and radical lifestyle, probably never even came close.

He had a strong message, and a good group of followers.

His bold statements against a political leader had landed him in jail. With time to think, he was wondering about Jesus...

Matthew 11:1 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]

2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’[c]

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever 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 has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe 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, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Hard Message

You couldn't accuse Jesus of softpedaling.
Today He teaches what I would call the Hard Message.
I would entitle it:

What Will Happen to My Followers. Are You Up For It?
Matthew 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[b]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

The hard message. Everything He spoke about has happened to His followers over the years. Only if His kingdom truly was not of this world would it all be worth it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the masses to the few

From the masses to the few

Jesus' miracles had attracted masses of people following him wherever he went. He now directs his attention to the few:

Matthew 10:1 "Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

Although Jesus' instructions had application to the immediate time, He was also giving a commentary on what would happen to all disciples down through the ages.

More Christians are beaten, abused and killed today than ever before in history. A pastor in India last month was accosted by three men and beaten. He was told to never come back to that village. A pastor in a closed Muslim country left a pastors reunion two months ago that was held in a safe country. He went back home and was never heard of again. Presumed tortured and killed.

Jesus went from the masses to the few.
And He told them clearly what would happen to them...