Monday, July 28, 2008

Matthew 28:16-20


16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ``All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 ``Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.''

MAKE DISCIPLES is the only command here from Jesus with 3 vital participles that describe the action of making disciples. It is MAKE DISCIPLES!

1. By going-This is the act of initiative or introducing another to Jesus on your part!

2. By baptizing-This is the act of identification of those who trust in Jesus, that they are willing to follow Him the rest of their lives.

3. By teaching-This is the act of instruction of all that Jesus taught!

One of the most troubling things about Jesus' command here is that we must begin with ourselves. In other words, are you a disciple?

There are 3 requirements Jesus gives for being one of His disciples: FIRST--Requirement of PRIORITY. He must be your highest priority over every other relationship. It's Jesus plus nothing!

SECOND--Requirement of PERSEVERANCE. You must be willing to go through anything-problems, circumstances, struggles, trials-and still follow Jesus!

THIRD--Requirement of POSSESSIONS. You must renounce personal ownership of everything, including your life. You are a manager of all you are and have!

So now, let's return to the core question. ARE YOU A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

Matthew 28:1-15


1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him 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 has been crucified. 6 ``He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 ``Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.'' 

8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted, them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ``Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee and there they will see Me.'' 

11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted, together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, ``You are to say, `His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' 14 ``And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.'' 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

As in each of the Gospels the resurrection is the pinnacle of it all! Then, in the book of Acts-the acts of Jesus-the theme continued to be the resurrection. Without this historical, space-time, event Jesus is not much greater than other leaders. The resurrection from the grave sets Him apart from all others. And, because of His victory over the power of death, we, too, have that same hope.

Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even though he dies, will live. Do you believe this?" Because He lives, we live!

But there's more! Brennan Manning discusses in his book, Abba's Child, the "present risenness", which means that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but is presently alive and active in our lives right now! Jesus is risen and alive in those who follow Him.

Matthew 27:57-66


57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. 

62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, ``Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I am to rise again.' 64 ``Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, `He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first.'' 65 Pilate said to them, ``You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.'' 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.

According to Jewish law, even a criminal's body might not be left hanging all night, but had to be buried that day. "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day" (Deut 21:22-23). This was doubly binding when, as in the case of Jesus, the next day was the Sabbath. According to Roman law, the relatives of a criminal might claim his body for burial, but if it was not claimed it was simply left to rot until the scavenger dogs dealt with it.

A rich man who had become a follower of Jesus went to Pilate and requested the body for burial. This is a most revealing look into the nature of the followers. What is missed most often is that Jesus was Jewish and was actually another of many rabbis who presented their teachings, looking for followers. Through His teachings and accompanying miracles, Jesus' ministry had spread to a variety of levels of society. All of this becomes more clear as the letters to the churches are sent out. There you'll find slaves, noblemen, Roman soldiers, religious leadership, business men and women, and the formerly disabled, lame and blind.

This is the same today when Jesus is turned loose into society. Our responsibility is to get out of the way and trust Jesus to do His work among our friends and family-in our churches, synagogues and mosques, in the corporate marketplace and throughout our communities. Jesus is even more relevant and resonating to individuals of all cultures, religions and ethnicities than he was, even from the beginning.

This is why we must take upon ourselves to advance the conversation of Jesus into every crevice of society. And, Jesus will bring new life to any and all who seek to know Him personally.

Matthew 27:27-56


27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ``Hail, King of the Jews!'' 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling, to drink. 35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots . 36 And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37 And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, ``THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.'' 

38 At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, ``You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.'' 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 ``He saved others; He cannot, save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 ``HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, `I am the Son of God.' '' 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. 

45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ``ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?'' that is, ``MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?'' 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, ``This man is calling for Elijah.'' 48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, ``Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him .'' 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ``Truly this was the Son of God!'' 

55 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

What a horrendous scene! Jesus is separated from His Father. Jesus was sent to die as THE LAMB OF GOD who takes away the sins of the world

NOTE two things that happened away from the cross experience: FIRST-The Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. Since the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil separated the people from the presence of God. Once it was torn, there no longer is a separation between God and man. AND NOW the very presence of God lives in those who believe. That was the veil beyond which no man could penetrate, except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. It was the veil where the Spirit of God dwelt! NOW that same Spirit dwells in those who believe and trust in Jesus.

SECOND-The tombs were opened. The symbolism of this is that Jesus conquered death. In dying and in rising again he destroyed the power of the grave. Because of his life, his death and his resurrection, the tomb has lost its power, and the grave has lost its terror-death has lost its ultimate tragedy!

NOTE the witness of the centurion! When Christ is lifted up (Jesus says), I will draw all kinds of men to Me. Here is a most unlikely one-a Roman soldier! The religious were repulsed by Jesus and made to feel uncomfortable with His teachings. The non-religious Roman soldier is attracted to Jesus. This is the same thing we find today.

The religious don't want Jesus to mess with their traditions and doctrinal teachings. Oh, by the way, note all the disciples had split, but the women remained.

There is one more significant observation here. Jesus spoke in Aramaic. This is why Mel Gibson shot his movie, "The Passion", all in Aramaic. The Aramaic Jesus spoke on the cross, ``ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?'', has been mistranslated in the Greek New Testament and has caused lots of difficulty for those who are trying to get their brains around who this Jesus is. The question usually arises, "Why is it that God forsook Jesus, when God promises never to forsake?" The Aramaic says this phrase in a totally different way. Jesus is really saying, "My God, My God, this is my final destiny!" He is speaking consistently with His struggle in the garden, when He was praying, "Not my will, but yours be done." This changes the meaning dramatically. This is a good example of how we have passed things down year after year without ever questioning its veracity.

Now even though I have heard and taught this passage all my life in the traditional way, I am eager to learn more so that I can understand Jesus better. To me, this is a great insight by the use of the tool of the Aramaic language for us to get a little closer to what Jesus said and intended for us to understand. Don't be afraid to be a learner and not one whose mind is already made up. Remember, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He didn't say your translation or your understanding of your translation is the way, the truth and the life. This is how friends, colleagues and denominations end up in division. In Jesus all can be united. In our differing translations and understandings there is division. Stick with Jesus.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Matthew 27:11-26


11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, ``Are You the King of the Jews?'' And Jesus said to him, ``It is as you say.'' 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, ``Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?'' 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge , so the governor was quite amazed. 

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, ``Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?'' 18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over. 

19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ``Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.'' 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, ``Which of the two do you want me to release for you?'' And they said, ``Barabbas.'' 22 Pilate said to them, ``Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?'' They all said, ``Crucify Him!'' 23 And he said, ``Why, what evil has He done?'' But they kept shouting all the more, saying, ``Crucify Him!'' 

24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, ``I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves.'' 25 And all the people said, ``His blood shall be on us and on our children!'' 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

"Pilate was officially procurator or governor of the province; and he was directly responsible, not to the Roman senate, but to the Roman Emperor. He must have been at least twenty-seven years of age. That was the minimum age for entering into this office. He must have been a man of considerable experience, for there was a ladder of offices, including military command, up which a man must climb until he qualified to become a governor. Pilate must have been a tried and tested soldier and administrator. He became procurator of Judea in A.D. 26 and held office for ten years, when he was recalled from his post."

"When Pilate came to Judea, he found plenty of trouble, and much of it was of his own making. His great handicap was that he was completely out of sympathy with the Jews. More, he was contemptuous of what he would have called their irrational and fanatical prejudices, and what they would have called their principles.

The Romans knew the intensity of the Jewish religion and the unbreakable character of Jewish belief, and very wisely had always dealt with the Jews with kid gloves. Pilate arrogantly proposed to use the fist." "He began with trouble. The Roman headquarters were in Caesarea. The Roman standards were not flags; they were poles with the Roman eagle, or the image of the reigning emperor, on top. In deference to the Jewish hatred of graven images, every previous governor had removed the eagles and the images from the standards before he marched into Jerusalem on his state visits. Pilate refused to do so.

Later, Pilate decided that Jerusalem needed a better water supply-a wise decision. To that end he constructed a new aqueduct-but he took money from the Temple treasury to pay for it." 

"Later Christian legend was sympathetic to Pilate and tended to place all the blame for the death of Jesus on the Jews. Not unnaturally, legend came to hold that Pilate's wife, who it is said was a Jewish proselyte, and was called Claudia Procula, became a Christian. It was even held that Pilate himself became a Christian; and to this day the Coptic Church ranks both Pilate and his wife as saints. 

3 observations about Pilate:

1. Pilate was clearly impressed with Jesus.

2. Pilate sought some way of escape.

3. Pilate sought to unshoulder the responsibility for condemning Jesus. There is that strange and tragic picture of him washing his hands.

However you view Pilate and his actions, his question still penetrates our world when he said, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?" So, what will we do with Jesus? What will you do with this Jesus?
 Everything banks on that one question. Jesus?

Matthew 27:1-10


1 Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred, together against Jesus to put Him to death; 2 and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. 

3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, ``I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.'' But they said, ``What is that to us? See to that yourself!'' 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ``It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.'' 7 And they conferred, together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers. 8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ``AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; 10 AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER'S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME.''

The leadership agreed that they must get rid of Him-to death, if possible. Their basic charge all along was blasphemy-claiming to be equal with God. Yet they did not dare put him to death by stoning as the law commanded in case of blasphemy, because they feared the people. They therefore consulted, or took counsel together, to determine on what pretence they could deliver him to the Roman emperor, or to fix some charge of a civil nature, by which Pilate might be more likely to condemn Him. The charge which they fixed on was not that on which they had tried him, and on which they had determined he ought to die, Mat 26:66; but that of "perverting the nation," and of "forbidding to give tribute to Caesar," Luke 23:2. In other words, it was a political accusation, hoping that the Romans would do the deed of ridding them of this Jesus Who had turned their little positions of power upside down.

Pontius Pilate was the governor appointed by the Romans over Judea. The governor commonly resided at Caesarea; but he came up to Jerusalem usually at the great feasts, when most of the Jews were assembled, to administer justice, and to suppress any little uprisings or demonstrations, if any should arise. The duties of the office of governor were chiefly to collect the revenues due to the Roman emperor, and, in certain cases, to administer justice. Pilate was appointed governor of Judea by Tiberius, then emperor of Rome. John says John 18:28 that they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment-that is, to the part of the praetorium, or governor's palace, where justice was administered. The Jews did not, however, enter in themselves, because this would defile them, especially during the Feast of Passover. In Nu 19:22, it is said, that whosoever touched an unclean thing should be unclean, For this reason they would not enter into the house of a heathen, lest they should contract some defilement that would render them unfit to keep the Passover.

This brings us right back to the leadership, always conniving, calculating and consulting with one another how they might stay in power! People are always expendable at this point, when their positions are threatened. This is such a subtle morsel that all leadership seems to swallow and struggle with. This is precisely what I've seen within the Church. When a normal, humble person takes on a position of leadership, something changes. They take on an air that looks down upon others and then naturally move into protecting their positions of power. It is subtle and it is ugly!

Judas didn't realize that this whole thing would go so far as to put Jesus to death! He had found a slippery slope and went straight to the bottom-fast! Note that those who used Judas as a tool to betray Jesus had problems with receiving back the "blood" money. So, their conscience was a bit twisted. They felt a sense of moral compulsion to not handle the "blood" money to receive it back into the Temple, BUT they felt fine about offering the "blood" money to get rid of a person who threatened their man-made existence.

I can't help but think of the passage that applies to everyone in this paragraph: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (or any portion of it) and lose his soul?"

Matthew 26:57-75


57 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. 

59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. 60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, ``This man stated, `I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.' ''

62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, ``Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?'' 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, ``I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.'' 64 Jesus said* to him, ``You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter , you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.'' 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ``He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?'' They answered, ``He deserves death!'' 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68 and said, ``Prophesy to us, You Christ ; who is the one who hit You?''

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, ``You too were with Jesus the Galilean.'' 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, ``I do not know what you are talking about.'' 71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said* to those who were there, ``This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.'' 72 And again he denied it with an oath, ``I do not know the man.'' 73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ``Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away,.'' 74 Then he began to curse and swear, ``I do not know the man!'' And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, ``Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'' And he went out and wept bitterly.

Everything turns real dark for Jesus and things are moving fast! He knew it was coming. He warned His disciples that it was coming! BUT NOW, just as Jesus warned Peter personally that he would deny Him, it all unfolds.

Have you ever known clearly what is the right thing to do, then you did the wrong thing? THEN, you remember what the Lord says or you are reminded what Jesus would do in that situation. You feel awful about your performance or lack of performance.

Have you ever experienced this kind of thing?

Well, if you do, then Jesus has a later word for you. It happened to Peter after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus found Peter and his buddies fishing. When they came around the fire to sit down with Jesus, very little was being said because they were all so guilty for scattering, especially Peter! Jesus only wanted to know one thing, when speaking to Peter. Do you love me? In other words, no matter how bad your performance or lack thereof, Jesus is most concerned about your heart's response to Him. "Do you love me", he says. Well do you?

Matthew 26:47-56


47 While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied , by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ``Whomever, I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.'' 49 Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ``Hail, Rabbi!'' and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, ``Friend, do what you have come for.'' Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. 
51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, ``Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 ``Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54``How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?'' 

55 At that time Jesus said to the crowds, ``Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. 56 ``But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.'' Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

Matthew simply tells us that one of the disciples drew a knife and, prepared to resist to the death and to sell his life dearly, wounded a servant of the High Priest. When John tells the same story (Jn 18:10), he says that the disciple was Peter, and the servant was Malchus. The reason why John names Peter, and Matthew does not, may simply be that John was writing much later, and that when Matthew was writing it was still not safe to name the disciple who had sprung so quickly to his Master's defence. This was a courageous move by Peter, not just an impulsive one. He was willing to take on the mob alone.

Here is a perfect illustration of Jesus' struggle of "not-my-will-but-yours" now applied with respect to Peter. Jesus' arrest and subsequent death are all part of God's will to deliver all mankind. Although Peter was good-intentioned, he was working for the wrong side. 

This is why we must keep disciplining ourselves to wait on Jesus to lead out BEFORE we take over! I struggle with this every day! I get caught up in making things happen for God rather than waiting on Him to do those same things His way. What's interesting is that doing it my way always takes so much energy, stress with a little worry thrown in, all maybe not even producing the desired results. That's the natural way of doing life! His way usually is so much easier, seems so right and almost normal AND the results are beyond our wildest imaginations. That's the supernatural way of doing life!

I think this has a lot to do with Jesus' approach to everything. You see, Jesus calls His disciples into REST, not to be STRESSED. How's that working for you?

Matthew 26:36-46


36 Then Jesus came* with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said* to His disciples, ``Sit here while I go over there and pray.'' 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said* to them, ``My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.'' 

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ``My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.'' 40 And He came* to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ``So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 ``Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'' 
42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ``My Father, if this cannot, pass away unless, I drink it, Your will be done.'' 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came* to the disciples and said* to them, ``Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 ``Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!''

There are many things that could be said here, but three observations stand out to me:

FIRST-Jesus sure did slip away a lot to pray! In Luke's Gospel you can see this same kind of thing frequently. If Jesus felt the need to pray in order to walk with the Father, then I am certainly in more need than I normally think.

SECOND-Jesus struggled humanly with this cup of being the sacrificial Lamb-with what He had to do-then turned the struggle into "Not my will, but yours." It's OK to struggle. In fact you must expect it. But as you struggle you want to end up right where Jesus did-NOT MY WILL, BUT YOURS, LORD!

THIRD-What were they doing when they prayed so long? This is where I've missed it a good part of my life. Ever try praying for an hour or two? I have and either I fell asleep or my mind continued to wander or I ran out of things to say. What I've come to realize is that an extended time in prayer is not all about me and my prayer requests. It's about letting my requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6ff) for sure, but then it's all about listening to what God has to say to me. I've practiced a form of this for years. I pray something at night-a question-and wake up in the morning with the answer or many options to a sticky situation. I take this as a word from God. That's exciting! But this is a little different. After talking my heart out to the Lord, then it is important and so very instructive just to sit there and listen to what He wants me to know. So, with pen and paper or a blank computer screen I am learning to wait and listen for God's heart and His orders for my next steps. People come to mind. Actions pop up. NOW THAT IS EXCITING!

Prayer doesn't need proof that it works; it needs practice!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Matthew 26:31-35


31 Then Jesus said* to them, ``You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, `I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.' 32 ``But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.'' 33 But Peter said to Him, ``Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.'' 34 Jesus said to him, ``Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'' 35 Peter said* to Him, ``Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.'' All the disciples said the same thing too.

Well, the time has come for Jesus to be taken away to be sacrificed as the Lamb of God. He warns His disciples that this will prove to be most traumatic to them and they will fall away from Him for a time. Then He says BUT after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.

Jesus specifically warns Peter that he will deny Him 3 times "before a rooster crows." Peter protests that this won't be true of him, but that he will die with Jesus, if necessary! And the other disciple agreed with him.

When we look at this situation, we really don't think it applies to us. But it truly does! When it is clear that we're going to fail at something, we persistently try to show God and everyone else that we can do it. We tend to become defensive and deny any vulnerability. It's important to realize God doesn't allow anything in our lives unless it goes through His loving hands.

IT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU, BUT HOW YOU HANDLE WHAT HAPPENS THAT COUNTS. This is not the time to either deny or wallow in your failure, but see it as a special graduate course from the Lord from which you will learn and grow significantly through it.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Matthew 26:26-30


26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ``Take, eat; this is My body.'' 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ``Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 ``But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.'' 30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus was celebrating the Passover dinner with His disciples. The first Passover is described in Exodus chapter 12: one lamb was sacrificed for every household and the blood painted onto the lintels and doorposts. This was done in order that the angel of Death would not slay the first-born son of the Jewish households, but only those of Pharoah's people, whom God had warned He would judge. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" the Lord told the children of Israel (Exodus 12:13). They were to eat the lamb, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, in haste prior to their departure from Egypt. The eating of unleavened bread was to continue for seven days, as their sustenance to exit Egypt and escape Pharoah's slavery. God ordained that the children of Israel would commemorate the Passover every year to remember their deliverance, almost 3,450 years ago. It is a reading of the Exodus 12, Psalms 113 and 114.

The Passover was a definite foreshadowing of God's Messiah, Who was still to come. There are several direct references to the Messiah in the celebration. There is an empty chair set for Elijah, if he should show up, presenting the Messiah. At one point in the dinner, the youngest of the family leaves the table and goes to the door to see if Elijah is here. He returns year after year with sadness that Elijah didn't show.

Another interesting reference comes with the "breaking of the bread." The head of the family takes the middle one of the three flat cakes of unleavened Matzah bread; he breaks it and puts one half aside, wrapped in a white linen cloth. The hidden bread is called the 'Afikomen' (meaning dessert or that which comes later). There are three pieces of bread to remember that the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is One who keeps His covenant; He is the One Who delivered the children of Israel from bondage (Exodus 6:2-9). But why is it the middle piece that is broken? This is because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is an indication of the tri-unity of God. Just as Abraham was willing to offer up His "only son" (Genesis 22:2,12), so God the Father willingly offered up His Son, Jesus (John 3:16). Jesus was broken on the cross for our redemption (I Corinthians 11:24) and wrapped in linen for burial (Luke 23:53).

The entire meal is based upon 4 cups of wine-sanctification, deliverance, redemption and praise. It was the cup of redemption (the full payment for our freedom-the Lamb) that Jesus references as Himself. Also, there was a lamb that was killed in the original Passover event and one day God will provide His Lamb for the freedom of the entire world.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of this provision and that it will be a New Covenant (New Testament) with His people that will not be written on stones, but on the hearts of His people. This gives some rich meaning to John's words (John 1:29) when he says, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

The setting of the Lord's Supper at the heart of the Passover meal explains its meaning. Jesus Christ is Himself the Passover lamb, offered up for the redemption and deliverance of His people (I Corinthians 5:7), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The bread and wine speak of His death, and of the new covenant it affirms, reconciling God and man. Jesus says "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24-25), telling His disciples that the Passover is fulfilled in Him. Until He comes again (Luke 22:18; I Corinthians 11:26), we are to remember the significance of what He has done for us.

NOTE one more thing: This is called "communion" within the Christian world and is not a biblical term. Jesus speaks of it as a covenant. And that is the way I see it. It is a covenant between you and Jesus and between you and those with whom you are walking-all in the name of Jesus.

Matthew 26:20-25


20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, ``Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.'' 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, ``Surely not I, Lord?'' 23 And He answered, ``He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 ``The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.'' 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, ``Surely it is not I, Rabbi?'' Jesus said to him, ``You have said it yourself.''

NOTE the following observations: FIRST--Judas had to work behind the scenes-in secret-to do his dirty deed. WE ARE AS SICK AS OUR SECRETS!

SECOND--Judas, being the treasurer of the disciples, was very concerned about the physical things over the spiritual-he was not happy with the woman who washed the disciples' feet with an expensive ointment, was focused on the political and external dimensions of the movement around Jesus and was willing to take 30 shekels (pieces of silver) in order to point Jesus out to the soldiers.

THIRD--Jesus confronted him personally, not blasting him, but gently revealing that He really knows what's going on.

This is an interesting and maybe a little encouraging to those who are working with others, attempting to bring them along in Jesus. Jesus chose 12 and lost 1 out of them to the Devil, so don't get discouraged about those who seem to fade away or fallout with things of the Lord. Just keep on keeping on in the name of Jesus.

Matthew 26:14-19


14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, ``What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?'' And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. 

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ``Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?'' 18 And He said, ``Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, `The Teacher says, ``My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.''''' 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

THE BETRAYAL DINNER IS SET. I love the thought-provoking words of Max Lucado in his writings, Shaped By God. He calls this section "Judas, the Man Who Never Knew":

"I've wondered at times what kind of man this Judas was like. What he looked like, how he acted, who his friends were.

I guess I've stereotyped him. I've always pictured him as a wiry, beady-eyed, sly, wormy fellow, pointed beard and all. I've pictured him as estranged from the other apostles. Friendless. Distant. Undoubtedly he was a traitor and a quisling. Probably the result of a broken home. A juvenile delinquent in his youth.

Yet I wonder if that is so true. We have no evidence (save Judas' silence) that would suggest that he was isolated. At the Last Supper, when Jesus said that his betrayer sat at the table, we don't find the apostles immediately turning to Judas as the logical traitor.

No, I think we've got Judas pegged wrong. Perhaps he was just the opposite. Instead of sly and wiry, maybe he was robust and jovial. Rather than quiet and introverted. He could have been outgoing and well meaning. I don't know.

But for all things we don't know about Judas, there is one thing we know for sure: He had no relationship with the Master. He had seen Jesus, but he did not know him. He had heard Jesus, but he did not understand him. He had a religion, but no relationship.

As Satan worked his way around the table in the upper room, he needed a special kind of man to betray our Lord. He needed a man who had seen Jesus but did not know him. He needed a man who knew the actions of Jesus but had missed out on the mission of Jesus. Judas was this man. He knew the empire but had never known the Man.

We learn this timeless lesson from the betrayer. Satan's best tools of destruction are not from outside the church; they are within the church. A church will never die from the immorality in Hollywood or the corruption in Washington. But it will die from corrosion within-from those who bear the name of Jesus but have never met him and from those who have religion but no relationship.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ. Let's make it our goal to know. JESUS.

Matthew 26:6-13


6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. 8 But the disciples were indignant when they saw this and said, ``Why this waste? 9 ``For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.'' 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ``Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11 ``For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12 ``For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13 ``Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.''

John's Gospel shares this same story and identifies this woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

NOTE some things that this story teaches. FIRST--It shows us the extravagance of love. The woman took the most precious thing she had and poured it out on Jesus. Jewish women were very fond of perfume; and often they carried a little alabaster vial of it round their necks. This was very valuable perfume! Both Mark and John make the disciples say that this perfume could have been sold for three hundred denarii (Mk 14:5; Jn 12:5); which means that this vial of perfume represented nearly a whole year's wages for a working man.

SECOND--Mary gave this to Jesus, because it was the most precious (valuable) thing she had. Love never thinks how little it can give; love's one desire is to give to the uttermost limits.

THIRD--It shows us that there are times when the commonsense view of things fails. Common sense obeys the dictates of prudence; but love obeys the dictates of the heart. A gift is never really a gift when we can easily afford it; a gift truly becomes a gift only when there is sacrifice behind it, and when we give far more than we can afford.

FOUR--It shows us that certain things must be done when the opportunity arises or they can never be done at all. There are some things which we can do at any time; there are some things which can be done only once; and to miss the opportunity to do them then may be to miss the opportunity for ever.

It tells us that the fragrance of a sacrificial deed lasts for ever. I'm reminded of the saying I first heard as a child. Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last. What you do for Jesus lasts forever!

Matthew 26:1-5


1 When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2 ``You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.'' 

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4 and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5 But they were saying, ``Not during the festival, otherwise, a riot might occur among the people.''

Once again, Jesus reveals His upcoming death to His disciples. It seems they didn't really get the full impact of what He was telling them, because they still had in their minds a hope of Messianic victory over the Roman occupation.

This is an interesting snapshot of how a negative response is usually painted by the leadership. It's always the leadership that paves the way-either negatively or positively. Jesus was loved by the masses. It was the leadership that was threatened by His teachings and His presence. It was the leadership that rejected the Messiahship of Jesus. This is why Jesus was very hard on the religious leaders of His day.

FIRST--He called them snakes.

SECOND--He called them white-washed tombs, pretty on the outside, but totally dead inside.

THIRD--He warned them that if they were to lead any "little ones" astray, there would be the harshest judgment from God upon them.

Two things come to mind here: 1. Be careful of the leadership you follow-listen to, hang out with, those who influence you the most. Even the news media becomes a major influence on spiritual things and world-wide perspective.

2. Your relationship with Jesus doesn't have to depend upon the leaders in your life. Note that Jesus spent most of His time hanging out with the non-leadership kind of people, the little people, the laity. It was easier for them to relate to this most attractive one. They had nothing positionally to lose!

The special thing about following Jesus is that he trumps everything else-all leaders and organizations. So, be careful to draw close to Jesus today. Thank Him for walking with you throughout your day, for caring what happens to you and your family today! Do the toughest thing you can do-do your best to walk with Him. See what He does and listen to what He says, then DO IT!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Matthew 25:31-46


31 ``But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 ``All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 ``Then the King will say to those on His right, `Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 `For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 ``Then the righteous will answer Him, `Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 `And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 `When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 ``The King will answer and say to them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 

41 ``Then He will also say to those on His left, `Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 ``Then they themselves also will answer, `Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 ``Then He will answer them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent, that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 ``These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.''

NOTE two things here: FIRST--Those in need are at the heart of God-hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned. Human nature is to take care of those who can do something for us. Therefore, we look to treat those who are important from an earthly perspective-the athlete, the musician, the highly positioned person in society. BUT Jesus points us in another direction entirely!

SECOND--Ministering to the needy is in fact ministering to Jesus, Himself. So, if you want to find and interact with Jesus, He is right there in the midst of those in need.

So what does this mean to you? Where is Jesus in your world?

Matthew 25:14-30


14 ``For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 ``To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 ``Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 ``In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 ``But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 

19 ``Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 ``The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, `Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' 21 ``His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 

22 ``Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, `Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' 23 ``His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 

24 ``And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 `And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' 

26 ``But his master answered and said to him, `You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 `Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 `Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' 

29 ``For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 ``Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This teaching, as all of Jesus' messages, has an immediate application as well as a universal one for us today! The immediate is another warning to the Scribes and Pharisees and anyone who follows them. For us there are, at least, four principles.

FIRST-God gives men different gifts. It's not what is given a person, but how he or she handles it that matters. Although talents aren't equal, effort is.

SECOND-God's reward of "well done" leads to more work to do. Each of the two who received their rewards for their great effort are given the opportunity to carry an even greater responsibility in the Kingdom work.

THIRD-God's punishment is only given to the one who was not willing to try. He didn't lose it, but he was unwilling to invest it that it might become more productive. In other words, this man missed the point of what he was given. All that is given to us by God is given for us to manage, not to own for ourselves. It is given to use for the Kingdom. And, if we are seeking His righteousness and His Kingdom, God will take care of our security needs.

FOURTH-The only way to keep God's gift is to use it and then more will be given in the process. If you don't use it, you will surely lose it!

Matthew 25:1-13


1 ``Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 ``Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 ``For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 ``Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 ``But at midnight, there was a shout, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 ``Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 ``The foolish said to the prudent, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 ``But the prudent answered, `No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10 ``And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 ``Later the other virgins also came, saying, `Lord, lord, open up for us.' 12 ``But he answered, `Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' 13 ``Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Jesus continues His warning of being ready. BE READY and BE PREPARED for the most important event yet to come in your life. The Bride-groom is coming! God's Messiah (the Bride-groom) is coming for His Bride.

In its immediate significance it was directed against the Jews. they were the chosen people; their whole history should have been a preparation for the coming of the Son of God; they ought to have been prepared for him when he came. Instead they were quite unprepared and therefore were shut out.

The only way I know to BE READY is to have a fresh, daily, relationship with Jesus, strengthened by my relationships with other followers of Jesus.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Matthew 24:42-51


Prophecy is so fascinating and those who claim to have it all nailed down and figured out have missed what Jesus is saying so simply. For instance, in the last paragraph, Jesus sets the context as "in the days of Noah" and one is taken and the other is left. Who was taken and who was left behind? Those who were the faithful were left behind, yet one of the all-time best-sellers ever is the "Left Behind" series. In that series, they teach just the opposite! Go figure!

Jesus goes on warning His disciples to be on the alert: 42 ``Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 ``But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 ``For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 
45 ``Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 ``Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 ``Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 ``But if that evil slave says in his heart, `My master is not coming for a long time,' 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. BE READY!

There is a fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them there is no God." Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God." The second said, "I will tell men there is no hell." Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell." The third said, "I will tell men there is no hurry." "Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin them by the thousands." The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time to get your act together with Jesus. The most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow. There are things which must not be put off, for no man knows if for him tomorrow will ever come.

Think of the tragic morning of September 11th. That morning rocked our world dramatically! It just doesn't take much to turn the world on its head. This brings a new perspective on "one day at a time." We are to set our course for the long haul, but live as if this is all we have. Jesus may come for even you today! Are you ready?

Matthew 24:32-41


32 ``Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door . 34 ``Truly I say to you, this generation [normally, this word is translated "race"] will not pass away until all these things take place.[When you see all of the these signs coming to pass, then you will know that the Messiah's coming in glory and victory is near.] 35 ``Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 36 ``But of that day and hour no one knows, [What part of "no one" do you not understand?] not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37

``For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 ``For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, [Even though Noah had been preaching and telling the story of the impending judgment of the flood, they did not understand it all until it actually happened and then it was too late!] 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. [In the flood, the people who did not "get it" were removed from living on the earth. They were going on with their lives, ignoring the message that was being preached. So, in the same way, the masses of people on earth will ignore the preaching of the coming of the Messiah in glory and will face the same kind of ending to their lives.] 40 ``Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 ``Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

No matter how you interpret the 2nd Coming of Jesus, there is one universal fact that must not be ignored. Jesus is coming! After a fresh trip in my mind of visiting the people of Israel-Muslim, Jews (religious and secular), Christians, and Druze, everyone is poised toward this great, supernatural event!

FIRST--Muslims are looking for Jesus to return and bring world peace!

SECOND--Religious Jews are looking for the Messiah (already rejected Jesus' Messiah-ship) to come and bring peace!

THIRD--The secular Jews are so desperate that they quietly hope there is a supernatural work of God such as the coming of Messiah!

FOURTH--The Christians (in their hundreds of Heinz varieties, all believing that Jesus will come and affirm their way of thinking) are looking for Jesus to bring peace!

FIFTH--The Druze (a Muslim spin-off) are looking for the Messiah to come and bring peace (although in their thinking, He will be born through a man.)!

In other words, there are people all over the world who are looking up into the skies and seeking the God of gods to do something dramatic. So, where are you looking?

Thursday, July 03, 2008



On this day of celebration of our freedom in this great country, there is a greater freedom to celebrate! In fact, the freedom I am speaking of has to do with personal freedom. It's the freedom that if you have it, then you could live under political domination and still be free. Or, if you don't have it, you could live in the freest of countries and still be enslaved. There is only one kingdom on planet earth where you can celebrate true freedom inside out and that is in the kingdom of God, where Jesus is King. Where the King is, there is the kingdom. And where Jesus is, there is FREEDOM.

I grew up enslaved as a kid by people who didn't understand this freedom. You see, you can know lots about Jesus and still not experience His freedom. The letter to the fellowship of believers in Galatia deals with this issue as its primary theme. In Galatians 5 the writer says, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love."

The letter to the fellowship of believers in Rome is the basic source for the Galatian letter and in chapter 8 Paul says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." You can't get much clearer than NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE IN JESUS.

Jesus said to those who believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Now the way I figure it, those of us who are doing the best we can to walk with Jesus, walk with others and wait on Jesus to lead out are walking as disciples of Jesus and continuing in His word, therefore we ought to know His freedom in our lives and celebrate it!

In the Acts of Jesus (13:38-39) this freedom is summed with, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

The best invitation to freedom is from Jesus Himself when He says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." All who are weary and burdened down with all of the religious systems of performance out there that produce every level of guilt imaginable. You are the ones Jesus is calling to COME TO HIM. Then note He is calling you and me into REST. That rest is the freedom of not having to pay attention to the religiosities of our world and world systems and of our church and cultural systems that weigh us down. JESUS IS CALLING US TO BE HIS DISCIPLES AND THAT CALL IS AN INVITATION TO REST. AND THAT REST IS AN INVITATION TO FREEDOM.


Matthew 24:15-31


Question #3-What is the sign of your coming? 15 ``Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 ``Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 ``Whoever is in the field must not turn back, to get his cloak. 19 ``But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 ``But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.

21 ``For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever, will. 22 ``Unless those days had been cut short, no, life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 ``Then if anyone says to you, `Behold, here is the Christ,' or `There He is,' do not believe him. 24 ``For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.[The deception by these false messiahs will be so believable that the true believers may be misled.]

25 ``Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 ``So if they say to you, `Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, `Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them.

27 ``For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. [The sign will be like a lightning flash from the east to the west.] 28 ``Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

29 ``But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

THEN, 30 ``And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 ``And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

The point here is that Jesus will not come in a secretive, humble manner as when He first came, so that His coming might occur unnoticed. But He will come in a dramatic way following a great world-wide tribulation, claims of false messiahs and major changes in the heavens (sun, moon and stars). When Jesus comes back, no one will be able to miss it! The question again is: "Are you ready?"

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Matthew 24:4-14


Question #2-What is the sign of the end of the age?

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, ``See to it that no one misleads you. 5 ``For many will come in My name, saying, `I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. 6 ``You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 ``For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 ``But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. It's not so much the fact of famines and earthquakes, but the frequency and intensity like the birth pangs of pregnancy. 

9 ``Then they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 ``At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 ``Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 ``Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 13 ``But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 ``This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Some believe that the "nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom" was the 1st world war, then the increase in frequency and intensity of the famines and earthquakes, great persecution, false prophets rising up and deceiving many, lawlessness increased, love for one another will be more and more scarce, THEN, the gospel of the kingdom will be presented in the whole world as a testimony of God and THEN THE END WILL COME.

So, the end of the age will come after several, cataclysmic events and the ugly atmosphere of a loveless world will prevail. What do you think? Is it near?

I used to believe I had the prophetic end-times all worked out. I could draw the charts and come very close to nailing down the time of Jesus' return and the end of the world as we know it. The more I've learned about simply and really following Jesus, I've come to realize that maybe I didn't know as much as I thought I did.

What fascinates me the most out of this passage is verse 14: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come." Now that we are working with the many cultures of the world where people are becoming followers of Jesus without abandoning their cultures, WHEN Jesus comes back is not nearly as important as focusing on the WHO of Jesus Himself. He is already showing up within the many cultures of the world. Now, that is thrilling to me!