Sunday, July 31, 2011

Matthew 19:3-9


3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus , testing Him and asking, ``Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?'' 4 And He answered and said, ``Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, `FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME, ONE FLESH'? 6 ``So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.'' 7 They said* to Him, ``Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?'' 8 He said* to them, ``Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 ``And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality and marries another woman commits adultery .''

There were two Jewish theological positions on divorce-the strict view of the school of Shammai or the lax view of Hillel. They were trying to test Jesus to get something on which to attack Him. Jesus takes them all the way back to creation, before the Mosaic Law. They then bring up the fact that Moses permitted divorce and Jesus pointed out that Moses allowed divorce, but that wasn't the ideal way it was all intended. Then Jesus makes the statement that gives maybe the only legitimate "loophole" given as a reason for divorce.

On this matter of divorce I am convinced that there are two primary teachings:

1-GOD HATES DIVORCE. It destroys His image that He created in the bonding of male and female. It destroys individuals in the process. It's like glueing two pieces of card-board together, then tearing them apart. It is not a clean break.

2-GOD'S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT. No matter what you have done or choose to do, God's grace is able to cover it. This is not to be used as a "Get out of jail free" card, but this is God's response to our brokenness-whether we caused it or whether it was leveled upon us.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Matthew 19:1-2


1 When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed Him and He healed them there.

Although this is a very brief passage, the impact was monumental!

1-NOTE that large crowds followed Him. Jesus is the most irresistible one of all history. Large crowds continue to follow after Him. It's religion and religiosity that distracts and caricatures Jesus.

2-NOTE that when even large crowds come to Jesus, He is more than willing and able to heal them.

3-NOTE this is what Jesus did, but think in present terms that Jesus IS STILL DOING wonderful things among us today. Instead of WWJD?, maybe it is better to see it as WIJD? (What Is Jesus Doing?). He IS presently still in the healing business and He will heal all who come to Him "there." "There" is where a person finds Jesus!

2 QUESTIONS: FIRST-Are you following after Jesus with your needs?

SECOND-Are you allowing Him to heal you THERE right in your area of need?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Matthew 18:23-35


23 ``For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 ``When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents[about 12 million dollars] was brought to him. 25 ``But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 ``So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, `Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' 27 ``And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt . 28 ``But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii [about 12 dollars] ; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, `Pay back what you owe.' 29 ``So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, `Have patience with me and I will repay you.' 30 ``But he was unwilling, and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

31 ``So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 ``Then summoning him, his lord said to him, `You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 `Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' 34 ``And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 ``My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.''

Jesus told the story of the servant forgiven a great debt who went out and dealt mercilessly with a fellow-servant who owed him a debt that was an infinitesimal fraction of what he himself had owed. And, for this lack of mercy he was utterly condemned. This parable teaches certain lessons which Jesus never tired of teaching.

2. The contrast between the debts is staggering and compares with our relationship with God. If God has forgiven us the debt we owe to him, we must forgive our fellow-men the debts they owe to us. Nothing that we have to forgive can even remotely compare with what we have been forgiven.

We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying-for the sin of man brought about the death of God's own Son-and, if that is so, we must forgive others as God has forgiven us or we can hope to find no mercy.

The essence of it all is your gratefulness to the Lord and in that spirit of gratefulness you will treat others well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Matthew 18:21-22


21 Then Peter came and said to Him, ``Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'' 22 Jesus said* to him, ``I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus goes beyond the Jewish traditional way of thinking about forgiveness-3 times was required!

As I see it, there are five steps in forgiving another person: 1. Remind yourself that this person is only human!

2. Relinquish your right to get even! The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to get (exactly) even. You will either not get back at them enough or you will overdo it. There is just no way to get even!

3. Be ready to hurt in order to heal! You must take the pain all by yourself! This is the real secret to the dynamic of forgiving someone. You must pay for and not demand that they do!

4. Wish them well! This could be the best real evidence that forgiveness has taken place. Try praying for them-for their success!

5. You may have to repeat the process! When Jesus was asked how many times a person ought to forgive another. His answer was 70 X 7 or 490! By the way, this doesn't mean that at 491, you can go them even!

When you make amends, you don't do it for others, but for yourself!

If you don't solicit forgiveness, you can't work well for God!

If you don't forgive others, God can't work well for you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Matthew 18:18-20


18 ``Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 ``Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 ``For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.''

Although I've understood and taught the simple message of JESUS PLUS NOTHING, I think I've missed something about Jesus and walking with Him. What was missing in my thinking and experience was what we have taught right here. There are two insights here that blow my mind:

1-The principle of 2 or 3 in agreement. The power of 2 or 3 who are in agreement is incredible. This is not just agreeing together about some thought or issue. It is being in the spirit of agreement with a few brothers/sisters. When walking in that kind of agreement, God will respond.

2-The principle of 2 or 3 gathering together. The power of 2 or 3 gathering or walking together is incredible. Remember when Paul, Silas and Timothy strolled into Thessalonica-traveling and in the spirit of agreement together? Their togetherness in Jesus invites Jesus to powerfully move among them and spill over into the hearts of the Thessalonians and He did. The promise here is that when 2 or 3 gather together in the name of Jesus, Jesus will show up!

If you knew that Jesus was going to show up somewhere, wouldn't you do whatever you could do to be there? This brings us back to 3 habits:



THIRD--Waiting on Jesus to lead out-JESUS WILL SHOW UP!

Matthew 18:18-20


18 ``Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 ``Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 ``For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.''

Although I've understood and taught the simple message of JESUS PLUS NOTHING, I think I've missed something about Jesus and walking with Him. What was missing in my thinking and experience was what we have taught right here. There are two insights here that blow my mind:

1-The principle of 2 or 3 in agreement. The power of 2 or 3 who are in agreement is incredible. This is not just agreeing together about some thought or issue. It is being in the spirit of agreement with a few brothers/sisters. When walking in that kind of agreement, God will respond.

2-The principle of 2 or 3 gathering together. The power of 2 or 3 gathering or walking together is incredible. Remember when Paul, Silas and Timothy strolled into Thessalonica-traveling and in the spirit of agreement together? Their togetherness in Jesus invites Jesus to powerfully move among them and spill over into the hearts of the Thessalonians and He did. The promise here is that when 2 or 3 gather together in the name of Jesus, Jesus will show up!

If you knew that Jesus was going to show up somewhere, wouldn't you do whatever you could do to be there? This brings us back to 3 habits:



THIRD--Waiting on Jesus to lead out-JESUS WILL SHOW UP!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Matthew 18:15-20


Jesus gives explicit instructions for what we are to do among family members in the family of Jesus. The normal approach is to sit in judgment or to gossip about it or to simply ignore it. NOTE the steps.

1) If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. It's so important that you understand that this first step will solve the problem most of the time and the person and relationship are salvaged in the process. HOWEVER, most of the time this first step is so rare.

2) But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. Here, again, this is a great second step. You go to the person alone first, then take another or two brothers or sisters with you if he refuses to hear you.

3) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; THEN, if he refuses to listen to the 2 or 3 of you, then you are instructed to take this person before the church. What is the church? The church or assembly of believers that the person has been connected to. Note that it is assumed that this brother or sister is participating in a fellowship of believers and this fellowship has a built-in accountability factor that will save most family members' lives.

4) and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. THEN, if he refuses the urging of the fellowship around him, you are to let them go-view them as an outsider-as a person who is not in the fellowship any longer.

In addition to the clear steps on what to do, it is interesting to me that these believers in the early church were in fellowship with one another. Please understand that if a believer is not connected to an intimate fellowship, there is little hope for the one another dynamic.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Matthew 18:11-14


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

Here is the heart of God. Jesus came to seek out and save those who are lost. He is looking for the one who is lost and doesn't have it altogether. This should be one of the most encouraging of Jesus' words.

In the time of Jesus the flocks were often communal flocks; they belonged, not to an individual, but to a village. There were, therefore, usually two or three shepherds with them. That is why the shepherd could leave the ninety-nine. If he had left them with no guardian he would have come back to find still more of them gone; but he could leave them in the care of his fellow-shepherds, while he sought the wanderer. The shepherds always made the most strenuous and the most sacrificial efforts to find a lost sheep. It was the rule that, if a sheep could not be brought back alive, then at least, if it was at all possible, its fleece or its bones must be brought back to prove that it was dead.

"We can imagine how the other shepherds would return with their flocks to the village fold at evening time, and how they would tell that one shepherd was still out on the mountain-side seeking a wanderer. We can imagine how the eyes of the people would turn ever and again to the hillside watching for the shepherd who had not come home; and we can imagine the shout of joy when they saw him striding along the pathway with the weary wanderer slung across his shoulder, safe at last; and we can imagine how the whole village would welcome him, and gather round with gladness to hear the story of the sheep who was lost and found. This parable teaches us many things about that love.

1. The love of God is an individual love. The ninety-and-nine were not enough; one sheep was out on the hillside and the shepherd could not rest until he had brought it home. However large a family a parent has, he cannot spare even one; there is not one who does not matter. God is like that; God cannot be happy until the last wanderer is gathered in.

2. The love of God is a patient love. Sheep are proverbially foolish creatures. The sheep has no one but itself to blame for the danger it had got itself into. Men are apt to have so little patience with the foolish ones. When they get into trouble, we are apt to say, "It's their own fault; they brought it on themselves; don't waste any sympathy on fools." God is not like that. The sheep might be foolish but the shepherd would still risk his life to save it. Men may be fools but God loves even the foolish man who has no one to blame but himself for his sin and his sorrow.

3. The love of God is a seeking love. The shepherd was not content to wait for the sheep to come back; he went out to search for it. Jesus came to seek for those who wander away. God is not content to wait until men come home; he goes out to search for them no matter what it costs him.

4. The love of God is a joyful love. Here there is nothing but joy. There are no recriminations; there is no receiving back with a grudge and a sense of superior contempt; it is all joy. So often we accept a man who is penitent with a moral lecture and a clear indication that he must regard himself as contemptible, and the practical statement that we have no further use for him and do not propose to trust him ever again. It is human never to forget a man's past and always to remember his sins against him. God puts our sins behind his back; and when we return to him, it is all joy.

5. The love of God is a protecting love. It is the love which seeks and saves.

God's love is relentless, no matter what!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Matthew 18:7-10


7 ``Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! 8 ``If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 ``If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. 10 ``See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually, see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

It seems obvious that Jesus is not literally talking about plucking out your eye, since you could go on sinning with one eye, one hand or one foot. These body parts are an illustration of allowing yourself to be overtaken and become a stumbling block to any other believers. I believe when Jesus speaks of little ones or little children, these are the same as believers-new believers. All were new baby believers.

Jesus is saying that we must take drastic action not to allow anything we do to be an offense or a stumbling block to other believers.

NOTE one more thing. Stumbling blocks/offenses/sins are inevitable!

Timothy, my son, and I are both a little perfectionistic in certain areas. We both feel so badly when we have blown it in a musical or sermon presentation-something misspoken or some sort of blunder. We commiserate often how horrible the feeling is that we carry with us all week. But this horrible, painful feeling cannot be nearly as intense as what Jesus is warning us to be careful of.

So, take a loss (a foot, a hand, an eye) rather than to participate in the stumbling block movement.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Matthew 18:1-6


Question from the disciples: 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ``Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?''

Answer from Jesus: First-Jesus pulls in a child and declares that no one will enter the kingdom of heaven without becoming like a child.

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, ``Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Second-Jesus gets to the question of the disciples more directly and says that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven has the humility of a child. 4 ``Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Third-Jesus announces the blessing to those who receive one child such as this receives Jesus personally. 5 ``And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

Fourth-Jesus warns of the curse upon those who cause one of these little ones to stumble. 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

NOTE that there are basically two conditions to enter the kingdom: FIRST--Unless you are converted. Converted means to have a change of mind-a change of mind toward Jesus.

SECOND--Unless you become like children. Humble, innocent, respectful and most of all, a teachable, tender heart.

It's very interesting to note that Jesus doesn't talk about "going to heaven", but entering the Kingdom. That's His focus for you. What's your focus?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Matthew 17:24-27


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

The Temple tax was one-half shekel per year for every Jew over 20. It was used to renovate and restore the Temple-to keep the facility functional. Since Jesus was Lord and Owner of the Temple, He and His "children" should have been free of taxation. However, Jesus orders Peter to pay it anyway for both of them to avoid any unnecessary conflict or offense.

It's a curious incident and I think there may be two basic teachings here for us: 1. Some things just don't matter that much. This is an illustration of Jesus' willingness to comply with the conventions of the society of which He belonged. This traditional application of an Old Testament law was not worth arguing over. It wasn't worth a battle!

2. It's OK, even a good thing, to contribute to good things-synagogues and churches, because these religious organizations do good work-relieve pain, poverty, hunger, etc.

Again, I am struck with the fact that Jesus nor any of His apostles took a stand against the synagogues of their time (churches today). Even though Jesus was out to build His church (His gathering or assembly of His followers) and wanted His disciples then and now to BE THE CHURCH, He was still willing to financially support good things.

Jesus was even willing to perform a miracle to illustrate His point. So, this reminds me of the concept we call "orbiting". We practice being the church of Jesus by gathering together around the apostle's teaching, prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread, but we are to orbit around the synagogues (churches) of our day. Why? Looking for those who are God-fearing, attracted to the person of Jesus and His kingdom and when we discover interested people, we begin walking with them ALL IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Matthew 17:22-23


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

Immediately after discussing how little faith the disciples had, Jesus shares with them the upcoming plan-to be killed and be raised from the dead 3 days later!

What's happening here? Their response to Jesus' announcement was to be deeply grieved. Why? 1. One option is that they were so strongly attached to Him, so they were sorry that He was going to leave them.

2. Another option might be that they were unwilling to believe what Jesus was saying.

3. They simply didn't understand what was going on! They could not see how He could be the Messiah and yet be put to death. They simply didn't get the "resurrection" possibility. Their faith was being manipulated by their emotions and not their trust in the person of Jesus.

4. I think there is a fourth reason for their grief. The disciples just didn't like Jesus' plan. They were geared up for winning in the political movement of Jesus, the ground-swell excitement that was growing around Him. Then, Jesus tells them His plan. He was going to die. Die? Are you serious? They just didn't get it that the real message of Jesus' movement was the message of sacrificial love, not a movement of political power.

The disciples had their own agendas regarding what they wanted to do with Jesus, the role they wanted Him to play for them. This is just another way of "living life your way in the name of Jesus." They never got it, until after the resurrection occurred! It's just like us today. We miss the simple point of Jesus' role in our affairs, until after He comes through on our behalf in the midst of death and dying, then and only then do we begin to get it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Matthew 16:28-17:21


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

Here Jesus makes an astounding statement that many have discussed its meaning for years and will continue to do so. Some who were standing right there would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. Jesus' first message was to announce: "The Kingdom of God is near, here and among y'all." Apparently, Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth and it is here right now. In a progressive mode the Kingdom of God will ultimately fill the earth in its full form.

Most of what Jesus is doing is to demonstrate His Kingdom. Here He does it most dramatically with what is called the transfiguration of His body, where Jesus' body becomes the undeniable, visible presence of God. He takes three men to come and see it for themselves. Let's look at it.

1 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter said to Jesus, ``Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'' 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ``This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!'' 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ``Get up, and do not be afraid.'' 8 And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

Notice how Jesus is joined by Moses, the Jewish representative of the Law, and Elijah, the representative of the Prophets. In these three personages the entire story of the Jewish faith rested. But note just as quickly as they appeared, Moses and Elijah disappeared. I think this is the beauty of this dramatic scene. All of the Law and the Prophets dissolve into Jesus standing alone. It is truly Jesus plus nothing and no one else.

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?" 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.

After Jesus put Elijah into perspective, identifying him with John the Baptist, He moves from classroom to another lab experience to demonstrate the Kingdom and His position as the Son of Man.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." 17 "You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 20-21 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

In order to move into being disciples with the faith Jesus requires, it seems when He mentions "little faith" He is not referring to a certain amount of faith. In the next sentence Jesus suggests that all that is needed is faith as small as a mustard seed in order to live in the realm of the impossible. We are learning that it's all about developing a consistent, ruthless trust in Jesus, counting on Him to do His work in your life in His way. It ultimately means leaving the results-good and bad-to Him. Are you up for such a lifestyle? Give it a try and watch Jesus at work!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Matthew 16:24-27


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

It's all about Jesus! Remember what we say about being created to be dependent upon God, and if we aren't dependent upon Him, then we will surely become dependent upon something or someone else? This is where the 'rubber meets the road' in that at the core of being dependent upon God is "denying himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus."

There is a vacuum in the heart of every person that aches to be filled and satisfied. And, no matter what you try to stuff into that vacuum, it will never fill it or satisfy, UNTIL YOUR HEART IS FILLED AND SATISFIED BY JESUS. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? What part of this are you having trouble understanding?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Matthew 16:21-23


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

Immediately after giving the right answer-the confession about Jesus that when a follower expresses, it becomes the foundation for the church that Jesus is building, Peter is now in a most vulnerable position. Just as soon as he had been on top of the spiritual mountain, the devil shows up to use him to trip up Jesus' plan.

We have to assume that calling Peter, Satan, was not a slip of the tongue. Jesus recognized the plan of Satan being acted out by Peter. The plan? To do everything possible to stop Jesus from going to the cross to die and rise from the dead in victory over all things. Once Jesus announces His plan to suffer, be killed and rise up again, Peter takes control of the situation. Satan was actually using Peter's actions to thwart the work of God.

NOTE Jesus scolds Peter for setting his mind on man's interests rather than God's. Peter was doing things his way for God. And who is the driving force behind this? The devil himself. WHEN JESUS MAKES IT CLEAR THAT HE MUST DO CERTAIN THINGS IN A CERTAIN WAY, YOU MUST NOT ALTER HIS PLAN. And when you do, you're playing into the hands of the evil one and ignoring the best way of doing things--Jesus' way!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Matthew 16:13-20


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

Years ago when working on university campuses, we made it our goal to do whatever we could to make Jesus the issue on the campus. We did this by speaking to the needs of the students and then relating Jesus as the solution to those needs. This was the atmosphere during the times of Jesus in the 1st Century. He was the issue that everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion about Him.

Jesus asked "What are people saying out there?" Then, turns the corner and asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter came through with the answer: "YOU ARE THE CHRIST (Messiah), the Son of the living God!" Just when Peter was about to take credit for this observation, Jesus points out that His Father gave him that insight.

Then Jesus makes one of the most important statements of His early ministry. "You are Peter (little rock) and upon this rock (big ledge) I will build My church." He refers to some sort of huge rock or ledge upon which Jesus will build His church. Here are the most common options: FIRST-He is speaking of Peter as the foundation of the church. (This would place Peter as THE leader-even the Pope of the church. This would give great power to the leadership of man and especially those who are successors of Peter.)

SECOND-He is speaking of the words Peter spoke-the confession of who indeed Jesus is-the Messiah, the Son of the living God. (This would place words and theology as the governing foundation and force of the church of Jesus.)

I have difficulty accepting either of these explanations of Jesus' words. And, in fact, at the rate of 70+ churches shutting down in the USA every week, it seems that the gates of Hades may be overpowering them. These are not the churches of Jesus. They are based upon man's leadership and man-made theological structures. I think the best is the third option.

THIRD-He is speaking of the actual living confession of Peter to make this testimony and assessment of Jesus. The church of Jesus that will not be destroyed by the gates of Hades is the testimony of the followers of Jesus as they speak of Him. It is the beauty of people from a variety of backgrounds and status who are given by the Father the power and courage to confess that they are followers of Messiah Jesus, the Son of the living God.

NOTE that Jesus says that He will build His church. That's the only kind of church that will not be overpowered, or more accurately here, this is the kind of church that cannot be stopped. So if Jesus is building the church (His movement of followers on earth), what does He want us who follow Him to do? Let's get it straight: HE BUILDS THE CHURCH. WE ARE TO BE THE CHURCH. We are to be the movement of people who are gathered to follow this irresistible Jesus. Nothing can stop that!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matthew 16:5-12


5 And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, ``Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'' 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, ``He said that because we did not bring any bread.'' 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, ``You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 ``Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 ``Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 ``How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'' 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Wow! This story almost hits too close to home! Jesus is speaking about spiritual things while the disciples are thinking about the physical. Jesus was dealing with something that mattered-very important. The disciples were thinking in terms of something that didn't matter and not very important in the scheme of things. In the presence of Jesus bread was simply not a problem. He had proven this in a dramatic way a couple of times earlier.

How many times do we find ourselves worried about or fussing over things that just don't matter while something very serious is going on?

Leaven has a second meaning which is metaphorical and not literal and physical. It was the Jewish metaphorical expression for an evil influence. To the Jewish mind leaven was always symbolic of evil. It is fermented dough; the Jew identified fermentation with putrefaction; leaven stood for all that was rotten and bad. Leaven has the power to permeate any mass of dough into which it is inserted. Therefore leaven stood for an evil influence liable to spread through life and to corrupt it.

Jesus was probably referring to the leaven in these ways: 1-With the Pharisees. Their leaven that is bad and dangerous was their negativity, filled with "thou shalt nots" and their emphasis upon the external actions over that of a person's heart.

2-With the Sadducees. Their leaven was their emphasis upon their wealth-their material perspective of life. They were wealthy and political and therefore cared a lot about positions and prosperity.

The true blessings are the blessings of the heart; and the true change is not the change of outward circumstances but the change of the hearts of men. The warning here is to not get caught up in externals, positions and prosperity, but be people of the heart, bent toward God Himself. That's the way of Jesus!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Matthew 16:1-4


1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, ``When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 ``And in the morning, `There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 ``An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign ; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.'' And He left them and went away.

They are looking for a sign other than Jesus! It is Jesus' reply that the sign was there, if they could only see it. They were well aware as to how to read the signs of weather.

"A red sky at night is the shepherd's delight; A red sky in the morning is the shepherd's warning."

They knew very well that a red sky in the evening was a sign for fine weather; and that a red sky in the morning was the warning of a storm to come. But they were blind to the signs of the times. Jesus told them that the only sign they would receive was the sign of Jonah. Jonah was the prophet who was used by God to reach the people of Nineveh and turned them from their evil ways toward God. Now the sign which turned the people of Nineveh to God was not the fact that Jonah was swallowed by the great sea monster. It was the sign of resurrection, coming back from sure death. The sign of Jonah was Jonah himself and his message from God. It was the emergence of the prophet and the message which he brought which changed life for the people of Nineveh.

So what Jesus is saying is that God's sign is the sign of resurrection. He will show them this sign a couple more times and ultimately will illustrate this sign by His own resurrection. So, the ultimate sign is Jesus Himself and His message. It is as if he said to them: "In me you are confronted with God and with the truth of God. What more could you possibly need? But you are so blind that you can't see it." There is truth and there is warning here. Jesus is God's last word. Beyond him the revelation of God can't go. Here is God plain for all to see. Here is God's message plain for all to hear. Here is God's sign to man. It is the warning truth that, if Jesus can't appeal to men, nothing can. If Jesus can't convince men, no one can. If men can't see God in Jesus, they can't see God in anything or anyone. When we are confronted with Jesus, we are confronted with God's final word and God's ultimate appeal to mankind.

It's all about Jesus. Again, it's JESUS PLUS NOTHING. If you miss Jesus, you miss it all!

Are you looking for any sign other than Jesus?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Matthew 15:32-39


32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ``I feel compassion for the people , because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing, to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.'' 33 The disciples said* to Him, ``Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?'' 34 And Jesus said* to them, ``How many loaves do you have?'' And they said, ``Seven, and a few small fish.'' 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

Again Jesus feels compassion for the people and wants to feed them. Before it was the 5000 and now it is the 4000. Many scholars think that the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand are different versions of the same incident; but that is not so. The date is different; the first took place in the spring, the second in the summer. The people and the place are different. The feeding of the four thousand took place in Decapolis. Decapolis literally means ten cities, and the Decapolis was a loose federation of ten free Greek cities. On this occasion there would be many Gentiles present, probably more Gentiles than Jews. It is that fact that explains the key phrase in Matt 15:31, "They glorified the God of Israel."

To the Gentile crowds this was a demonstration of the power of the God of Israel. There is another curious little hint of difference. In the feeding of the five thousand the baskets which were used to take up the fragments are called kophinoi in the feeding of the four thousand they are called sphurides. The kophinos was a narrow-necked, flask-shaped basket which Jews often carried with them, for a Jew often carried his own food, lest he should be compelled to eat food which had been touched by Gentile hands and was therefore unclean. The sphuris was much more like a hamper; it could be big enough to carry a man, and it was a kind of basket that a Gentile would use.

NOTE that this time Jesus did the distribution personally and this time there were 7 large baskets left over rather than 12.

NOTE that when Jesus intervenes to meet a need that all involved are satisfied.

NOTE that when Jesus miraculously fed the crowd, He produced enough for the disciples to eat, too, becomes your add-on god.

When you're following Jesus on one of His missions, you can count on it. You will be taken care of, too.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Matthew 15:29-31


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

NOTE that in the previous scene Jesus' disciples didn't want Him to receive the pleading Gentile woman. Now, in contrast, Jesus receives everyone who comes to Him and heals them all! NOTE THE CONTRAST:

FIRST-Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees blind leader who were leaders of the blind. Jesus heals the blind.

SECOND-The scribes and Pharisees were defiled by their words. They would have been better off if they had been mute. Jesus heals the mute.

THIRD-The scribes and Pharisees positioned themselves as the whole and beautiful people. The to-be-pitied, full of life's ugliness were received by Jesus and made whole.

FOURTH-The scribes and Pharisees gloried in their spiritual walk from Jerusalem, yet were stumbling and falling in response to Jesus' teaching. Jesus made the lame to walk.

FIFTH-The scribes and Pharisees were so proud of their traditions-the man-made add-ons of religiosity-and sought to show off as the highly regarded ones. Jesus was the one who was praised and highly regarded, not their traditions.

This is why we must hang out with and cling to JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Matthew 15:21-28


21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ``Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.'' 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ``Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.'' 24 But He answered and said, ``I was sent only, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'' 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ``Lord, help me!'' 26 And He answered and said, ``It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.'' 27 But she said, ``Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.'' 28 Then Jesus said to her, ``O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.'' And her daughter was healed at once,.

This is an occasion on which Jesus was outside of Jewish territory. The supreme significance of the passage is that it foreshadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers. The Gospel was intended for the Jews first and then the Gentiles. There was no place in Palestine where he could be sure of privacy; wherever he went, the crowds would find him. So he went right north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon where the Phoenicians dwelt. There, at least for a time, he would be safe from the hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees, and from the dangerous popularity of the people, since no Jew would be likely to follow him into Gentile territory.

But to Jesus there was a problem here. Here was a woman with great concern for her daughter and she was a Gentile. Jesus was primarily aiming His mission to the Jewish people, even though their response was quite negative. He had to begin with the Jews; and here was a Gentile crying for mercy. There was only one thing for him to do; he must awaken true faith in the heart of this woman.

So Jesus at last turned to her: "It is not right to take the children's bread and to throw it to the pet dogs." It is the word for pet dogs rather than the street dogs. They were household pets. The woman was a Greek; she was quick to see, and she had all a Greek's ready wit. "True," she said, "but even the dogs get their share of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." And Jesus' eyes lit up with joy at such a strong faith; and he granted her the blessing and the healing which she so much desired.

This woman's remarkable approach: 1. She had great love for her daughter!

2. She had great faith! She, even as a Gentile, recognized Jesus as the Son of David (Messianic) and ended up calling Jesus Lord.

3. She had great, persistent hope! She would not be discouraged. She didn't view Jesus as a possible helper, but her only hope!

4. She had a great, cheerful spirit! Her sense of quick wit and humor with Jesus is attractive to Jesus. He seemed to enjoy this spunky faith and hope possessed by this woman.

I think there is a lesson here on how we can approach Jesus. 1) Approach Jesus with a great love for others.

2) Approach Jesus with a great faith and trust.

3) Approach Jesus with an indomitable spirit of hope.

4) Approach Jesus with a cheerful hearted attitude.

This is the kind of approach that gets through to Jesus.

Sunday, July 03, 2011



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.