Friday, April 25, 2008

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?

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!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

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!

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!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

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?

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.

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!

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 the only occasion on which Jesus was ever 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.

Matthew 15:15-20


15 Peter said to Him, ``Explain the parable to us.'' 16 Jesus said, ``Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 ``Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated ,? 18 ``But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 ``For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications , thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 ``These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.'' What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we actually do, but what we wish in our heart of hearts to do. "Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention."

There is always a natural tendency to externalize everything that is spiritual: 1-The creation of the golden calf 2-Icons and idols out of a variety of religious communities 3-The Pharisaic emphasis upon the externals over the internals.

This is where Jesus took direct aim. He took everything back to the heart of man. Remember, a couple of days ago I mentioned that we tend to build or bring flower pots and planters, while Jesus brings a seed. He is continually saying to us. This thing of salvation? It's internal! This thing of walking righteously before God? It's internal! This thing about religion? It must be internal! You see, Jesus is saying that it's all an INSIDE JOB, because it's all about Him. It truly is JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Nothing can be added to make it any better, but only has the potential to diminish Him.

I'm reminded of the interchange with Jesus: MAN: "Jesus, I have a problem. It's me!" JESUS: "Son, I have the answer. It's me!"

Matthew 15:1-14


1 Then some Pharisees and scribes came* to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 ``Why, do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.'' 3 And He answered and said to them,

The Pharisees came to Jesus with all of their add-ons and religiosity, criticizing His disciples for not following the tradition of washing. All of what they bring to Him is a manmade system of do's and don'ts.

``Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 ``For God said, `HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' 5 ``But you say, `Whoever, says to his father or mother, ``Whatever, I have that would help you has been given to God,'' 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother .' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 ``You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 `THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 `BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' ''

Jesus' response was to point out that their manmade traditions did to the truth: 1. Violated the commandment of God

2. Invalidated the Word of God

3. Taught as true teachings of God the made-up rules of man.

10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ``Hear and understand. 11 ``It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.'' 

Jesus then turns to the crowd around Him and teaches them a valuable lesson. What proceeds out of the inside of a person is what defiles a man and not something he takes in from the outside. In other words, Jesus is tracking on one of His major themes-internal over external. 

12 Then the disciples came* and said* to Him, ``Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?'' 13 But He answered and said, ``Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 ``Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.''

Jesus then turns back to His disciples and handles their concerns about offending the Pharisees. He tells them clearly to leave the results to God.

So, what traditions or comfort levels do you make more sacred than the simple commands and desires of God? What do you add on to JESUS PLUS NOTHING? - church - denomination - job - special relationship - things - possessions

Whatever it is that becomes a non-negotiable with God is not only an add-on, but becomes your add-on god.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Matthew 14:34-36


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

This is one of those small transitional segments of Matthew that might seem insignificant, however this visit to the region of Gennesaret is very revealing about Jesus. This is somewhat connected to village of Capernaum where Jesus had performed many miracles and Jesus had recently fed 5000+ people! This activity created the best marketing ever-WORD OF MOUTH. There are several observations of note in this little passage.

FIRST-People were greatly attracted to Jesus and wanted His help.

SECOND-Jesus didn't refuse those who were in need and came to Him for help.

THIRD-In this setting Jesus seemed to heal them all.

FOURTH-Apparently, there is no teaching or preaching mentioned here, just healing.

FIFTH-Jesus taught what God was like by showing them what God was like. He didn't tell people that God cared; He showed them God cared. No one can understand the words of a song until they like and resonate with the music.

Here in its most basic form is the essence of the Gospel-Jesus plus nothing! He was all they needed and wanted! Just to touch Him would be effective, or His robe. [I think this was most likely a superstition that had followed the stories of what Jesus was doing among the people. What's interesting is that Jesus even accommodates their superstitions and heals them in that way, too.]

JESUS PLUS NOTHING. We continually tend to bring decorative flower pots or planters to the world to share with them the Good News and fragrance of God's salvation. Jesus plants a seed in your heart! Jesus is all you need. He will transform you-inside out! Jesus doesn't bring something tangible for you to hold or watch or worship. He brings you Himself. JESUS PLUS NOTHING. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Matthew 14:28-33


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

So, Jesus comes to the rescue of His disciples after sending them out on a mission to cross the Sea of Galilee on a boat. He came to save them by walking on the water. Peter was caught up in the excitement of seeing Jesus walking on the water and said to Jesus, "Lord, if this is really you, then command me to come to you on the water." Jesus did just that. He commanded Peter to "Come!" to Him.

Now, here's the real key! Jesus is not the only one who ever walked on water, because Peter did, too! Peter walked on water! He actually did it! He got out of the boat, walked on water and came toward Jesus! This is incredible! BUT while walking on the water toward Jesus, Peter took His eyes off Jesus.

1-He became distracted by the wind and subsequent waves. 2-He became frightened. 3-He began to sink.

Now, Peter is in a crisis and had to scream out for Jesus to save him! Jesus then took hold of Peter and saved him from drowning. Then Jesus rebuked Peter for doubting Jesus-for losing his focus on following the command of Jesus to come to Him by walking on water-for being distracted-for not trusting (not faithing) Jesus fully to keep him walking.

Doesn't this sound familiar? We are called to do something for God, we then become distracted by all of the circumstances around us and stop trusting Jesus fully in our mission. Jesus wants us to trust Him fully and totally! To quote a friend of mine, "This 'walking with Jesus' is the toughest thing I've ever tried to do!" It's not the walking alongside Jesus that causes the trouble. It's the "trusting" Him fully that is the problem. I have spent most of my life "doing things my way for God", when He was simply waiting for me to trust His lead, not lead out and asking Him to bless it. But it's so easy to pay too much attention to life's circumstances around me and allow those things to distract me away from the trusting.

We have made fun of Peter for years for being so impatient and impetuous, but Peter actually walked on water! I want to trust Jesus enough to be able to "walk on water." I want to experience that kind of trusting relationship with Jesus. How about you?

Matthew 14:22-27


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

This is one of the most interesting snippets in the life of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus sends His men on a trip and while on this mission from their Lord troubles almost overcame them. Now, think about this. Jesus sent them on this boat ride to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When you believe you are on a mission for God, there is a sense that all will work out alright. No great problems. I mean, Jesus certainly wants us to fulfill this mission, so nothing should be mission-threatening or life-threatening! Yet Jesus must have known exactly what He was doing in sending them on this mission, knowing that there would be trouble along the way. And, just like Jesus, He showed up in the midst of their life-threatening crisis!

Ever been on a mission that you knew was of God and yet all hell seemed to be breaking through around you? Wow, I have! In fact, just today hell seemed to be dumping on me or lobbing out all kinds of bombs and emotional hand-grenades in my path to discourage the mission I was on. I had only one sure solution to these devilish explosives. His name is Jesus. DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT HIM!

Matthew 14:15-21


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

Within this miracle is the classic progression of being on a mission for Jesus.

1-He gives the orders-"You give them something to eat."

2-Our response is normally to point out how little we have and how impossible it is to do what He is asking-"We only have 5 loaves and 2 fish."

3-Jesus gives the only answer to this impossibility-"Bring them to me."

4-Jesus takes the little bit and puts it into His hands-"He took the five loaves and two fish."

5-Jesus channels His work (His miracles) through His disciples-"He gave them to the disciples." And, "the disciples gave them to the crowds."

6-The people touched by Jesus through His disciples are always full and satisfied-"they all ate and were satisfied."

7-Even after the amazing miracle, there is still an overflow of blessing-"They picked up the leftover pieces. 12 baskets full."


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Matthew 14:13-14


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

Jesus spent lots of time alone or with a few. 1. When He saw a crowd coming toward Him, He slipped away.

2. When He found Himself being pressed by lots of people, He pulls out of the crowd.

3. When He was tired, He rested.

4. Here He hears some bad news and feels the need to be alone.

Jesus continually felt the need to be alone or with a few friends. So much of the time Jesus felt the need to pray. Remember, praying is not just talking away and going through your lists, but listening and receiving. Now, if Messiah Jesus, King of kings, the God-Man, felt the need for so much prayer and alone time, what does that say to us? The principle for us today is: COME APART FOR AWHILE OR YOU MAY COME APART!

NOTE that Jesus didn't remain in a monastic mode, but was moved by compassion for the people and their needs. This is the balance I want in my life. I want to be more disciplined to pull away from the crowds and be silent-seeking and listening and resting before God. Remember, Jesus calls His disciples to HIM in order to REST. On the other hand, I want to be awaiting those Jesus sends to me who need compassion and the healing touch of God. How about you?

RESTING. TRUSTING. WAITING for Jesus to lead us with His orders and opportunities.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Matthew 14:1-12


1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, ``This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.''

Herod believed Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the dead. He was so overwhelmed and obsessed with guilt over what he had done with John.

The Herod of Matthew 14 was Herod Antipas. He was a son of Herod the Great who put to death the babies in Bethlehem following Jesus' birth. He was called Herod the tetrarch because he ruled over one-fourth of Palestine. Herod silenced the voice of God when he beheaded John. Jesus did not give him another chance to hear God's voice. Herodias was the daughter of another son of Herod the Great.

Philip, another of Herod the Great's sons married his niece, and then his brother, Herod Antipas, seduced her away from him. Because of his incestuous relationship with his niece, Herodias. John had great boldness to speak out against such a powerful man. He was imprisoned for speaking out against Herod, and ultimately it cost him his life. They buried his body, then went to the Lord Jesus.

The next few verses are a flashback that Herod experienced: 3 For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, ``It is not lawful for you to have her.'' 5 Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. 6 But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before, them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever, she asked. 8 Having been prompted by her mother, she said*, ``Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'' 9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and honorably buried it and Herodias pierced the tongue of John with a needle in many places and buried the head in an unclean place. However, God's punishment quickly befell this group of evil doers. Prince Aretas, in order to cleanse his daughter's honor, attacked Herod with his army and defeated him. The defeated Herod was sentenced by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile at first to Gaul and later to Spain. As exiles, Herod and Herodias lived in poverty and humiliation until the earth opened up and swallowed them.

Here's a lesson from this story: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Gal 6:7-10

Matthew 13:53-58


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

Here is Jesus teaching in His local synagogue "so that they were astonished!" However, even though they were astonished, they were offended by His confidence and His teaching. He was a local with a family and natural roots, so how could He be anything special? Jesus goes on to say that a genuine prophet will enjoy honor and respect, except in his own home town and among His family. This is why you may not be the best person to reach out to your family and closest friends. They already have you pegged and have great difficulty seeing you in any other light. Don't be discouraged by this. It isn't a hard, fast rule, but a general principle of life.

NOTE a most significant point in the last sentence of this paragraph. "Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief." Jesus delights in showing Himself among His people-those who trust in Him. Jesus operates in and through a community of faith! This is exactly what Jesus was saying in John 6:29: ``This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'' The work of God that you and I must do is to believe (trust) Jesus!

In thinking this through today I find myself moving toward trusting Jesus that He will always come through on my behalf, whether His answer for me is YES, NO, WAIT or MAYBE SO. I count on that. I trust in that and so must you!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Matthew 13:47-52


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

There were 3 basic methods of fishing in the time of Jesus.

1. A line and a hook was used to catch one fish at a time.

2. A one-man casting net, used in shallow waters to look for a school of fish.

3. A huge dragnet stretched out over as much as a half square mile. Good fish were taken in and packed up and the bad fish were thrown away. This is the word used here.

NOTE the basic teaching here is that there will be definite judgment for everyone. No one will escape it. This reminds me of Who will do all of the judging--Jesus. Jesus is the only One Who counts. He's the only One Who can judge, YET He is the One is spreading all the love around. Check out Romans 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:9-11

Every knee will bow someday, better bow your knee today or you'll be forced to bow later! Jesus always leads with His love and not with condemnation, but some day even the author of Love, Jesus, will have had enough!

16 ``For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 ``For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 ``He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18

Matthew 13:44-46


This is one of the most fascinating observations about how people actually receive the message of the kingdom. He offers two ways:

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

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

BY SURPRISE Here is a person, not particularly looking for it, yet finds it hidden in a field. He is overjoyed with his discovery. He hides it again. Then sells all that he has to buy the land where it is!

BY SEARCHING Here is a merchant who has been searching for fine pearls. He finds a fine pearl of great value. Then goes, sells all that he has to buy this valuable pearl!

Do you know people who are like these two? The one who by surprise discovers the kingdom treasures. The one who never would have imagined being 'caught dead' sitting among a group of believers. This person, along with many onlookers, are quite surprised that this person found it.

OR the one who by searching out truth or the meaning of life or whatever finds himself delighted to have found a satisfaction that no one can take away.

NOTE both have the same response. They each sell all they have and buy their new-found treasure! Now this has nothing to do with purchasing or performing well enough to gain a place in the kingdom. However, it has everything to do the comparable value of being with the King in the Kingdom rather than rocking along, living a life that is routine and predictable with all of the traditional comforts of life, without the King and outside the realm of His Kingdom.

So, how do you value your relationship with the King and His Kingdom? Is it the most valuable, priceless, place to be, ever? Or, is it a convenient place to visit from time to time? This is the difference between being a spectator and a participator!

Matthew 13:36-43


Matthew interrupts the series of parables by inserting what Jesus said concerning the wheat and the tares (false wheat).

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, ``Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.'' 37 And He said, ``The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 ``So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 ``The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 ``Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

NOTE that it is Jesus-the Son of Man-Who is the Sower of the good seed and the devil is the sower of the seed that is called the tares-false wheat. Jesus is the sower. So, how does He do this through us? 1. Jesus works in us through Incarnation. (Seeing Jesus in you!) You are to take on being like Jesus in everything you do!

2. Jesus works through us through the process of Infiltration. (Seeing Jesus with you!) You're a part of God's movement-kingdom on earth!

3. Jesus works in and through us through a universal Invitation. (Seeing Jesus in others!) Can I help you in any way?

THINK ABOUT IT THIS WAY. #1-Jesus is calling you today! a) You who are interested-Believe in Me!-whosoever will!

b) You who are believers-Follow Me!

c) You who are followers-Make Disciples of Me!

#2-Jesus believes those He calls are good enough-you can do it!

#3-Jesus believes you can be like Him-to perpetuate His yoke!

#4-Jesus empowers you by His presence as 2-3 gather together in Him!

"The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Matthew 13:33


So, now we are at the 4th of 7 parables. 1. Sower-the kingdom will now be characterized by a massive sowing-an invitation for all to receive the message of the Gospel-Jesus.

2. Wheat & Tares-the kingdom will have many imitations that spring up all around the wheat. This is none of your business, just beware.

3. Mustard Seed-the kingdom enjoy incredible growth. Don't be concerned with a small number at first. The kingdom of God will grow immensely from very small to very great.

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

4. Leaven-the kingdom of God will be irreversible. Nothing and no one can stop it from spreading-not communism, fascism, racism, religiosity, cults, false religions, or churchianty. You see, when the kingdom spreads it supersedes all sorts of movements and organizations. This is why to follow Jesus most effectively, we must be kingdom people first and foremost. To be anything else is to be so much less! This is why your allegiance to a denomination or to a local church (a localized assembly in the name of Jesus) over the kingdom is foolishness and will be proven to be so.

When you meet King Jesus personally, you must sign off as king of your personal kingdom and submit to your new King-Jesus. We then move into 3 natural, action steps:

First-seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Jesus, Himself) before and above all others! You are now in partnership with Jesus.

Second-share in His kingdom with all of the other kids of the kingdom! You are now in fellowship with all other followers of Jesus.

Third-spread His kingdom everywhere by the sowing of seed-being salt & light where you are! You are now into discipleship of those Jesus brings your way.

Partnership. Fellowship. Discipleship. That's the way of the Kingdom as it grows irreversible.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Matthew 13:31-32


So far we know that the primary activity of the Kingdom is the sowing of the message of Jesus, that there will be genuine believers and imitation believers in the kingdom AND NOW the kingdom will enjoy incredible growth.

3. MUSTARD SEED (Incredible growth). 31 He presented another parable to them, saying, ``The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.''

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds of all-almost as small as a grain of pepper. When this seed grows, it will grow into a large garden plant or a small tree. This is what is going to happen now in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is going to experience incredible growth!

This has nothing to do with the mega-churches of the USA. In fact, this is not speaking of the organized church at all. The organized church with its signed-in membership may grow locally, but has no chance of penetrating the culture or the marketplace. This is because the organized church tends to have a "holy" facility that must be used, filled and paid for. Therefore, it becomes a paramount thing to invite people to "come to church" and join it to make it a stronger entity in the community. Jesus' thinking always has to do with "going" not "coming". The only "coming" is to "come" to Jesus, Himself.

The kingdom is a completely different thing. The kingdom of God or the kingdom of Jesus is where the King resides, where the King's presence is. The kingdom is invisible. You certainly don't expect a massive growth, but it occurs silently and covertly, but it is the real thing. The kingdom can penetrate any culture and supersedes any organization, no matter how large or active it may be.

By the way, this is why throughout the book of the Acts of Jesus, there is a constant emphasis and demonstration of two themes-the person of Jesus and the kingdom of God. There is no talk of building the church, well, there is, but it was Jesus Who said, "I will build My church!" What He wants from us is to BE THE CHURCH OF JESUS and to be the church of Jesus is to participate daily with the King, with the King's kids and to embrace the principles and teachings of the King and His Kingdom as a lifestyle.

So you can join a church built by man or join the Kingdom of God, which is the church (assembly or gathering) which Jesus is building!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Matthew 13:24-30


2. Wheat & the Tares (Imitation). 24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, ``The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 ``But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away. 26 ``But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 ``The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 ``And he said to them, `An enemy, has done this!' The slaves said to him, `Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' 29 ``But he said, `No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 `Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ``First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'''''

The parable of the Sower was the key parable of the seven! The seed is the word-the message of the kingdom-the Gospel. Sowing in those days was done by scattering seed widely, not by carefully placing a seed into a pre-dug hole, hoping to water and watch the plant grow up. Sowing is the only action step Jesus sets up for the Kingdom. Sowing is THE KINGDOM ACTIVITY! In other words, we as disciples are to be sowing the seed of the Gospel indiscriminately in all that we do. The Gospel is the most important thing! And remember, THE GOSPEL IS JESUS, the seed is Jesus. We are to share Jesus-the life of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the light of Jesus-simply Jesus to our world. The 4 soils describe the ways in which the seed is received as it is sown.

Now, Jesus' second parable makes an observation and gives a caution: The observation-When you are doing the work of sowing, you will likely find tares that are sown along side the wheat. Tares are empty wheat pods-chaff without wheat kernels. False wheat looks like wheat, but isn't. He applies this observation in that the genuine wheat are those who believe in the Gospel and the tares are those who look good, but are not true believers. They are all together in the same field and it may be difficult to tell the difference.

The caution-The disciples ask Jesus if He wants them to gather up the tares out of the wheat field-to separate the wheat from the tares. Jesus quickly responds, "Allow both to grow together until the harvest." The reason being that if you attempt to pull out the tares from the what, you are likely to uproot the genuine wheat along with the tares. In other words, it is none of our business who is IN and who is OUT. Only Jesus knows for sure! And, if we try to separate the real believers from those who seem to be but are not, then we will most likely damage the genuine wheat in the process.

By the way, this is a favorite pastime of church leadership and it must be stopped! Jesus wants us to sow the seed and He will take care of the results. It's that simple, yet I find it most difficult for a control-freak like me. I want to help Jesus out a bit. BUT I must discipline myself to stick to sowing the seed of Jesus in the lives of everyone I meet-from the bank-teller to the toll-booth clerk to your superior to the policeman to the store clerk to the cleaning lady to your fiercest competitor. Sow the seed of Jesus everywhere you go! That's the action of the Kingdom!