June 23, 2014 12:23 PM
Before Jesus takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives and He is betrayed, He prays for unity not only among His current disciples but all the future disciples to come (John 17:20-23). His prayer is that “they would be one just as He and the Father were one.” For Him to teach this at such a critical time says it must be really important. But why?
Unity is a recurring theme in the Bible and one of eight spiritual laws. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us made man in our image” revealing the unity, the agreement and harmony in the God head, the Trinity. When Adam and Eve sinned, they fell out of agreement and harmony with God and it was up to Jesus to restore it by His sacrifice. In Matthew 18:19-20 Jesus said “whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where 2 or 3 come together in my name (in agreement and harmony) I am there in the midst of them,” revealing that there is power in His name, especially in unified prayers.
In fact, unity is so powerful that even when used for evil it can accomplish much as evidenced by the Tower of Babel. Because the people were unified and labored for one purpose, God said in Genesis 11:6, “now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them.”
Nothing? How tremendous is that? If that can be said about people who are defying God, how much more will it apply to those united in His purposes! Think how that would impact the world! But before we can unite with each other we must be unified within ourselves. James 1:8 tells us that a “double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And he describes this unstable man in verses 6-7: “he is like the waves of the sea tossed to and fro by the wind. Let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord.” Matthew 6:24 tells us that “no man can serve two masters.” So as strange as it may sound, we need to be in harmony with ourselves. We need to know what we believe, what we stand for, then live it. And we also need to be unified with God, with His desires, His purposes and not our own.
And once we are so unified, then we will be able to come into unity with those around us: our families, our coworkers, our community, our country—in mission and purpose, working toward a common good or goal. In Matthew 12:25 Jesus says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”
I think that’s what we are seeing in our country right now. We have forgotten that we are all in this together. We have forgotten the common good. We have forgotten that we can be unified and still diverse. We are not called to be clones or robots. 1Corinthians 12:4-7 tells us that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service but the same God gives abilities to everyone for their particular service.”
So though we are different, we can still function in unity. And why is that so important, especially for the body of Christ? John 17:20-23 hints at the answer: So the world can see Jesus in us. And so we can accomplish much for God.
So how important is unity? Vital if we want to reach the world for Jesus. And for Christians, Godly diversity should never be an excuse for disunity.
Until next time,
June 16, 2014 11:11 AM
This is powerful. This is where Jesus makes it so clear what is about to happen and why. This is where Jesus takes bread and wine and says those words that will echo throughout eternity: “Take, eat: this is my body” and, referring to the wine, “Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
I’ve written on the blood covenant several times, saying how it was foreshadowed as far back as Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned and God killed innocent animals in order to cover them. That was the first shedding of blood and it was God Who set up the blood standard. Leviticus 17:11 says “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” and Hebrews 9:22 tells us that “under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.”
This fact cannot be overstated especially because so many people just don’t get it. They still think they can “work” their way into heaven, into God’s good graces; or even buy their way into it. But sin cannot be paid for by gold or silver; or compensated for by good works; or exonerated because of family ties, lineage, or status. And Isaiah brings the point home further by telling us that all our good works are but filthy rags in God’s sight.
Once we truly understand this, it’s easy to let go and admit we are incapable of measuring up to God’s holy standards, that we have missed His mark, which is called “sin.” Then we need to personally accept Jesus’ sacrifice. And there’s joy and peace and rest in this. So why do so many continue to fight it? Because it often means changing deeply held and deeply entrenched opinions and ways of thinking. It means moving out of our comfort zone. It means changing our behavior. And perhaps most difficult of all, it means we are not in charge but God is, for we must surrender our lives to Him.
But when we look at what we’re giving up verses what we are gaining, it seems like such a simple decision for really we are trading our ashes—those mistakes, heartaches, and failures in our lives—for God’s beauty, wholeness, peace and joy. What an exchange!
Yes, what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper and at the cross will echo into eternity, and will directly affect where we spend that eternity. And it’s never too late to harken to His words. He is there waiting patiently for each of us to experience His love and forgiveness.
Until next time,
June 9, 2014 15:42 PM
Jesus was full of comparisons. In Matthew 22:1-14 He compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet (see 6/2/14 blog post) then in Matthew 25:1-13 likens it to ten virgins. Only Jesus could do such a thing and make it work.
So what do we know about these ten virgins? Well, for one, “they took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.” But not all ten were equal. In fact five were wise and carried an extra flask of oil while the other five were foolish and did not. So when the bridegroom “was slow in coming” they all fell asleep and while they slept their lamps ran low of oil. Finally, when the shout announcing the arrival of the bridegroom is heard, they all quickly rise to tend their lamps. But the foolish virgins realize their oil won’t last and ask their wise counterparts to lend them some. Being sensible and intelligent, the wise virgins know if they share they wouldn’t have enough oil for themselves, so they promptly tell the foolish ladies to “go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves.”
And so off the five fools go, and while they are away the bridegroom comes. And here’s the sad part, “those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.” When the other five returned they couldn’t get in and cried, “Lord, Lord, open the door to us!” To which he replied, “I do not know you.”
The parable ends with the admonition to watch carefully and diligently for we don’t know “the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.”
So what does all this mean for us? It means that not everyone in the “church” (the virgins) will partake of the marriage feast. Those who are carnal and not guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit (the oil) will miss out. Remember what Jesus said about Laodicea? That lukewarm church that was neither hot nor cold? He said He would vomit it out of His mouth. Just because a person sits in a church pew every Sunday doesn’t mean he is a follower of Christ. Many will sadly realize that when the “door is shut.” But those who have accepted what Jesus, the bridegroom, did for them, His blood sacrifice, those who remain His disciples by following His word and living by it will enter into the feast.
I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture and I believer that this is just one of the many “types” and “shadows” speaking of it. It will be the true followers of Jesus that will enter into the marriage feast not those who merely fill a pew. But here is where God’s love and mercy comes in. Yes, I believe these carnal pew sitters will miss out in the rapture and have to go through the tribulation, but during the tribulation they can truly come to the Lord and by doing so will be with Him forever and throughout all eternity.
But my question is, “Why wait? Why go through the tribulation at all if we can be spared it by accepting Jesus NOW, by living for Him NOW, but being led by the Spirit and not our carnal nature NOW?
Truly, NOW is the time!
Until next week,
June 2, 2014 13:03 PM
I love weddings: their testimony that love finds love, their beauty, their promise, their pomp and ceremony, and yes, their food, too. So in Matthew 22:1-14 when Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who gives a wedding banquet, I’m all ears. But I soon discover it’s not your typical wedding. First, the invited guests refuse to come. And even when the king sends his servants to personally tell them that all is in readiness, they actually make light of the invitation and give silly excuses why they can’t attend. Then to make matters worse, they even abuse the servants and actually kill some.
What’s the king to do? Well, being a king with all the authority and power of a kingdom at his disposal, he answers this affront by sending his soldiers to punish the murderers and abusers. Not only do they forfeit their lives, but their city is burned.
Next, the king once again sends out his servants to collect guests for the son’s wedding, this time ordering them to go to the highways and byways. Everyone was now welcome, even the assortment of unsavory characters one always encounters along life’s roads. Even so, it pleases the king for now his banqueting hall is full. But wait! There was one who didn’t wear the required wedding garment, the garment provided by the host for each of his guests to wear. And what a sad end for him, for he’s quickly bound hand and foot and thrown out into the darkness where “there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
Of course this speaks about God and the wedding feast He is planning and preparing for His son, Jesus. And the wedding guests refusing to come are His chosen people the Jews. When, as a nation, they rejected their Messiah, the invitation (the salvation message) was extended to all peoples of the world. And oh how fortunate for us! But don’t despair, God is not finished with His people and will, in the last days, bring them to Jesus.
God is love. And that love desires a banqueting room full of people who have accepted His invitation of salvation. And that invitation has been extended to everyone, all of life’s symbolic derelicts, which means us, so no one is excluded. However, like that man who entered the banqueting hall improperly dress and was promptly thrown out into utter darkness, no one will be able to enter without the garment of righteousness that Jesus’ blood sacrifice secured for us. We must wear the garment God provided or we cannot enter.
And oh how sad for those without the proper garment. Instead of a sumptuous wedding feast in a beautiful setting (symbolic of eternal life with Christ) their eternal future will be lived in darkness and weeping and pain.
It seems so foolish. The invitation is for all and the only requirement is that we are dressed in God’s proper garment. So why do so many make light of the invitation and give silly excuses?
Until next time,
May 26, 2014 15:04 PM
We all know that freedom isn’t free. Thinking of all the brave men and women who have given their lives so we might enjoy ours. We honor them by remembering the day.
And to the family and friends who survive them, thank you, also, for your sacrifice and courage.
Until next week,
May 19, 2014 14:48 PM
After the religious people grilled Jesus with tough questions it was Jesus’ turn to ask His: “How can people say that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is David’s Son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, the Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet. So David calls Him Lord; how then is He his Son?” (Luke 20:41-44 Amplified)
What Jesus was saying is that the Messiah is much much more than a mere descendant of David. He is actually David’s LORD. Someone who is far above David. But to Jesus’ question/statement no one gave an answer, I suppose because this was simply too much for them to take in. They already knew that many believed Jesus was the Messiah and were trying hard to redefine Him. Others had openly tried to discredit Him. But this didn’t keep Jesus from making His numerous references to how He and the Father were one, indicating His deity. And now Jesus challenged them with this scripture, a scripture they were surely familiar with, and still they wouldn’t acknowledge the obvious. They still wanted to make Jesus less than what He was.
Nothing changes. The secular world and even some “religious” people still want to make Jesus less. Oh, they might grudgingly acknowledge He was a good man and a good teacher but little more. Like those in Jesus’ day, even when confronted by the scriptures they refuse to accept them, refuse to answer the tough questions, even refuse an honest evaluation of them.
And here’s the strangest part: I’ve yet to meet someone who claims he doesn’t believe in the Bible who has actually read it! They may have heard snippets of it preached in church or heard someone else give their views on it, but they have never read it for themselves.
On the other hand, I’ve head many many stories about people who started out not believing in Jesus, and ended up totally committed to Him after reading the Bible through with an open mind. God’s word is powerful. It will clearly acquaint one with the person of Jesus Christ, then change them, heal them and give them a hope and a future. I think that’s why Satan tries so hard to discredit it and to discourage people from reading it. But it’s in scripture that the toughest question—who is Jesus—will be answered, and it’s scripture that will help answer the other tough questions in life, as well.
My prayer is that God births in each of us a new desire to read His word and then to live it.
Until next time,
May 12, 2014 14:58 PM
How could the apostles live with Jesus, eat with Him, work with Him, and yet fail to get who He really was? And this happened so often, like in John 14:7 after Jesus said, “If you had known Me you would also have known My Father. From now on you know Him and have seen Him,” and Philip answers “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we ask, then we shall be satisfied” (John14:8 Amplified).
You can well imagine what went through Jesus’ mind, but He was kind, and though I’m sure He must have been frustrated, He didn’t call Philip “dull-witted” or “faithless” or “beyond hope.” Rather He said, “Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say then, Show us the Father?”
Perhaps Philip’s statement wouldn’t seem so foolish if Jesus hadn’t already told His disciples in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One.” And again in John 10:38 He said, “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father (One with Him).” You’d think when someone claimed something this radical the person hearing it would remember those words. But it seems that not one of Jesus’ disciples did.
And so it is with us. There are countless claims about God in the Bible, radical claims about Who His is; what He did for us and why; how He’ll never leaves us or forsake us; how He is our healer and provider; how the battles in our lives are His to fight; how He has a plan and purpose for our lives; how we are fearful and wonderfully made; how we are more precious to Him than we can imagine; how we are more than conquerors; and so forth, and STILL we forget. So often when things go wrong, we fail to remember who Jesus is and how much He has invested in us, how much He loves us and wants the best for us. And we often forget all the wonderful things Jesus has already done for us in our lives. Like Philip, we are flesh and blood and often foolish. We are also prone to forgetfulness especially when we’re in a pickle. And at those times I think most of us say, “show us the Father; show us your hand in this, show us your love, because I can’t see You right now.”
And yes, I wonder if Jesus doesn’t say under His breath, “Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet?” because He so wants us to know Him, really know Him, and count on Him and trust Him and understand that He really does love us and He’s there for us, even when it’s not always in the way we want and even when we can’t detect Him at work.
But like He did for Philip He’ll answer us without ridicule or disgust because He knows our frame. So for those who are weary of well-doing, who are hurting, who are in despair, who feel overwhelmed, my prayer is “show us the Father.”
Until next time,
May 5, 2014 16:47 PM
Jesus didn’t want us to be ignorant of His future plans or the times in which He’d return so He gave us a string of events to watch for. In fact, He commands us to watch for them! “Watch, give strict attention, be cautious, active and alert!” (Mark 13:37 Amplified) And if He commands us to do this, then it must be possible to understand the signs of the times and the nearness of His coming.
It’s true that since the days of the apostles and many times since, believers in Jesus have expected His return. And because one blog can’t possibly do this subject justice, I’m forced to write in general terms so suffice it to say there has never been a time when the string of events Jesus spoke about have been so evident or so manifold.
What are some of the things Jesus told us to watch for? Here’s a list: 1) the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed – this happened in 70 A.D. 2) false Messiahs would come and mislead many 3) wars and rumors of war 4) nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom 5) earthquakes in various places 6) famines and calamities 7) persecution of believers 8) Gospel to be preached to all nations 9) believers arrested and tried and executed 10) Christians hated 11) The Anti-Christ will desecrate the new temple in Jerusalem 12) tribulation will occur the kind never seen since the beginning of creation 13) the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light 14) the heavens will be shaken 15) The Son of Man will come in the clouds in power and glory.
Jesus also gave us two other important clues: 1) We are to watch the fig tree and that “as soon as its branch becomes tender and it puts forth its leaves” we’ll know that the time for Jesus’ return is near. 2) And that this will all happen in one generation. So did the fig tree “put forth its leaves? Yes, in 1948 when Israel became a nation, for the fig tree in scripture represents the nation of Israel. Well, then, how long is a generation? How much more time do we have? Hard to say. Some claim a generation is 40 years, some say 70, while others say 120 and still others give different numbers. But the operative word here is “one.” One generation. It’s all going to come down to one generation, and that generation is the one that sees the fig tree blossom.
Well, we’ve seen it. Now what? Because we certainly haven’t seen all the signs Jesus spoke about. And one could even argue that many of these signs have been present throughout the ages: wars, famines, earthquakes. Yes. All true. But Mark 13:8 (Amplified) tells us that these wars and earthquakes and famines and false Messiahs are just the beginning of birth pangs. And here in is the answer. It’s not that these things in themselves herald the coming of Jesus, but like in any birth, when these labor pains become exponentially more and more severe then we’ll know time is running out. So have these things increased exponentially? The answer has to be, “Yes.” Almost every part of the globe is experiencing some form of war/terrorism/or rumors of war. Then there’s the weather. It’s going nuts, with extremes of everything, including earthquakes. Also Christians are being slaughtered around the world and false cult leaders abound. But what we have yet to see is massive global famine, the rise of a one-world government and its leader, the Anti-Christ, or the 7 years of tribulation the likes of which the world has never experienced. Nor have we seen the building of a new Jewish Temple and its desecrated, or the heavens shaken. But it’s coming my friends, and sooner than most expect.
So what now? Should we cower behind locked doors waiting for the “sky to fall in?” Of course not. But we shouldn’t be squandering our time on foolish pursuits, either, pursuits that have no eternal value. Rather we should try to live all out for the Lord and strive to fulfill our God-given destinies.
Time is short, my friends. Let’s use it wisely.
Until next time,
April 28, 2014 17:27 PM
The subject of heaven has aroused a lot of interest lately as evidenced by the many new books and movie. I guess that’s only natural, for as the world worsens so does the longing in people’s hearts for a place of peace, safety and love—all traditionally associated with heaven.
While some of these resources are better than others, we really don’t need to look to them for confirmation of heaven’s reality for Jesus Himself spoke of it. Take, for instance, the Last Supper when He said in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye many be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
In this one paragraph, Jesus tells us several things. First, that in heaven (His Father’s house) there is room for many. That word “house” in the Greek is oikia and means a specific place, and implies an extensive family dwelling. By this we know heaven is an actual place, not some nebulous cloud-like spot without definition. It’s a real place with real boarders and with a real purpose—that of housing the family of God. Next, the King James calls these places in God’s house “mansions.” It’s molis in the Greek and this is the only time in the New Testament when this word is used. Its meaning is interesting and hardly what I expected for it means “with difficulty, scarce, and with much work.” It’s clear that these “mansions” have been prepared with difficulty and they are not common but are of great value and points to the fact that these mansions were built upon the difficult work of Jesus’ death on the cross and His scarce and valuable blood that was shed.
Jesus goes on to say if this wasn’t true about His family estate, He would have told us. Meaning, it is true! If it’s not then that would make Him a liar and not God at all, wouldn’t it? Then Jesus says He’s going to prepare a place for “you,” meaning the disciples and by extension all His disciples, all those who follow Him. And what exactly is this place in this house with many mansions? That Greek word for place, is topos and means a specific spot, but not only that but also it means a scabbard, a sheathe which hides and protects a sword. More on that later. And Jesus Himself is going to prepare this place, and that word “prepare” means to adjust, fit, make ready—adjust, fit, and make ready a place specifically for each one of us. There will be no cookie-cutter mansions in heaven. But rather each place will be prepared by Jesus Himself, specifically for you and specifically for me. It will be a unique place, tailor-made for each of us. And since He knows us better than we know ourselves, He’ll know exactly what we would love to have in our new abode.
The next thing Jesus promises is that He is going to come again and “receive us” unto Himself that where He is we may be also. Since Jesus is currently in heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father, this is where He will bring us after “receiving us.” This speaks of the rapture and the time when Jesus will take us up to heaven during the seven years of tribulation, placing us in His “scabbard” His sheathe of protection to hide us during the worse events the world will ever see where His sword of judgment will be unleashed upon the earth but not upon us.
Jesus then tells His disciples that they (and we) know the place and that we know the way. In verse six He makes it even plainer by saying that He “is the Way, and the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.” So in order to get to this wonderful place called heaven and escape the wrath that is to come during the tribulation period, and stay sheltered and protected in our own individual dwelling Jesus has prepared for us, it can only be through Him. There is no other way. Jesus is it. There is only one road to heaven. And yes, it’s for real!
Until next time,
April 15, 2014 13:18 PM
Easter is right around the corner and many Christians will celebrate the most momentous occurrence in world history, that of Jesus paying the ultimate price and restoring a fallen world back to God. At the Last Supper Jesus offered the elements of bread and wine declaring them to be His “body and blood” and that they were ushering in a new covenant.
But why blood? Of all the things God the Father could have chosen to satisfy His justice, why did He chose this one thing? Since I wrote about that in a blog nearly four years ago, I’m reprinting it now, at least in part:
Recently I was talking to a friend about who shed the first drop of innocent blood in the Bible. Her answer: “Cain.” There was a time when I would have said the same thing. But since reading every scripture from Genesis to Revelation that mentioned blood, I know the real answer is “God”. Yes, God Himself shed the first drop of blood when He made coats of animal skins for Adam and Eve after the fall. That meant an innocent animal had to die in order to cover their sins.
From this we can see that right from the beginning God set up the blood standard, that “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Sin was not to be paid for by gold or silver; or compensated for by good works; or exonerated because of family ties, lineage, or status. That’s why in the Old Testament under the Law the priests slaughtered animals and sprinkled their blood over the altar to atone not only for individual sins but for the nation’s sins. “In fact, under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins” (Hebrews 9:22 Amplified Bible). Still . . . all this was but a foreshadowing of things to come; a foreshadowing of the perfect solution.
Enter Jesus, the Lamb, who allowed Himself to be slaughtered for you and me. “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”(1 Peter 18-19)
I don’t know why it took me over thirty years to connect the dots, thirty years to move from a vague knowledge that Jesus came and died for the sins of the world to the absolute knowledge that He died for me; that all my good works were but filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6); and that the only standard that God acknowledges is the blood standard. And that God not only instituted this standard but actually completely satisfied it Himself. Period. The end.
This Easter I want to dwell anew on this fact. It is something that should never be taken for granted or dismissed lightly. Jesus paid a tremendous price to make for us a way back to the Father, and those who accept that offering, that sacrifice, will not only have peace with God but will be with Him for all eternity. That’s His promise to us. That means I’m accepted. I’m forgiven. I have a hope and a future that extends far beyond this earthy realm. And so do you if you confess your sins and accept what Jesus has done. I can’t think of anything more wonderful.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter.
Until next time,