Monday, 10 March 2014 17:07:00
Well, the Pharisees and scribes are at it again in Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:21-26, trying to trip Jesus up and cause Him to fall in disfavor with the people so they could dispose of Him. This time they ask Him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. But first they flatter Him by telling Him they know He’s an honest man and couldn’t lie, and that He didn’t have any personal bias so He couldn’t be influenced. Obviously they were trying to use His integrity against Him, hoping to force Jesus to answer in such a way that He was seen as either siding with the hated Romans or siding with the people who abhorred paying taxes to Roman thus putting Jesus at odds with the Empire.
But at once Jesus asks to see a coin. Then He asks them, “Whose image is this.” When they answer the obvious by saying “Caesar’s” He floors them with His famous line, “Pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” What could they say to that? Nothing. And so they remained silent.
As followers of Jesus there will be times when the world will test our integrity, too: The boss who wants us to fudge some numbers, the friend who wants us to lie to cover his misdeeds, the family members who insist we see that objectionable movie, etc. And at those times we must choose between maintaining our integrity or coming down on the wrong side of an issue. I remember a relative who would deliberately bring up controversial subjects to try to make me look ridiculous. After all, how could any modern-thinking person with any ounce of sense actually believe the Bible is real? Or that it should guide our thinking and behavior?
I learned a lot during those encounters. I learned that sometimes maintaining integrity meant forsaking pride and being willing to look foolish as well as to be disliked or vilified. I wish I could say I passed every test that came my way, but I didn’t. But those times I failed I was left with such an unhappy feeling that I would have traded it for any amount of scorn I would have received had I not succumbed. When we forsake our integrity we wound our soul and end up diminishing ourselves.
As Christians it’s unrealistic to think we will not be called to make choices or that we can remain “neutral.” Jesus has a way of taking us out of our comfort zone and bringing us face to face with unpleasant situations. And remember this: Because the world hates Jesus, it will hate us, too. But we’re not here to court the love of the world. We’re here to glorify our wonderful Lord and be salt and light, and when we do, Jesus is right there waiting to strengthen us and see us through.
Until next time,
Monday, 03 March 2014 17:54:00
Continuing to follow Jesus we finally get to Matthew 21:23-46. By this time the chief priests and elders are desperate to silence Jesus. But fearing the people they can’t chance doing this openly. If only they could discredit Him! Show Him up as a charlatan, then the people wouldn’t care what they did with Him. And how better to do this than by asking trick questions? Jesus must have become weary of this because He tells them two parables which reflect Him opinion of them. The first is the story of the man who asked his two sons to go into the vineyard and work. The first son refused, the second said he’d go. But the exact opposite happened!
In the second parable Jesus tells them the story of a rich master who planted a vineyard then rented it to tenants while he journeyed to another country. When it came time to get his share of the harvest, the master sent his servants to collect the fruit but they were badly mistreated: one was beaten, one killed, the other stoned. The master then sends additional servants but the same thing happens. Finally, he sends his son, the heir, thinking that surely these tenants will respect him. But no. Instead of being respected, the son is killed.
Jesus ends by asking the chief priests and elders what will the master do to these tenants? They answer: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and rent the vineyard to other tenants” of better character. At least they got that right! Jesus responds with “Have you never read in the Scriptures: the very Stone which the builders rejected and threw away has become the Cornerstone . . . for this reason the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce the fruits of it.”
Of course the chief priests and Pharisees knew right away that Jesus was talking about them, and instead of repenting, they become angry and more determined than ever to arrest him.
What a sad picture! And how it must have broken God’s heart! God had poured out such grace upon His people, the Jews, and their nation, and still they refused to listen to the prophets. And now they refused to listen to the very heir to the throne, the King of Kings. It would prove tragic for the nation. It solidified their decline. They would be scattered and abused; doomed to suffer greatly at the hands of the gentile nations. But praise God, He isn’t finished with them yet. He has returned them to their land and has promised that nothing will ever remove them again. And in the coming years He will begin preparing Israel to become the “Head of Nations.”
These scriptures touch my heart on many levels. First I rejoice that God is so merciful and kind, so long suffering and willing to forgive. But I also shudder at His need for justice, and I fear greatly for my beloved America. God has poured out grace after grace upon the U.S.. We have been blessed above all other nations. His Word, as revealed in the Bible, has been freely available to all who care to hear or read it. He has truly made us the head and not the tail. But all that is changing. We are declining, and I believe it can be traced directly to our rejection of God. More and more our “Pharisees” our leaders, those in authority on many levels, are pushing God aside. They, too, are desperate to silence Jesus. Many are overtly hostile to Him, while others try to mock Him by “testing” Him, His Word through foolish devices. Good is condemned as evil and evil is declared good.
God has planted a rich vineyard in America, but where are His fruits? And what will happen when the master of the vineyard comes to collect? Who can say for sure, but this I know, it won’t be a pretty picture.
Something to think about.
Until next time,
Monday, 09 September 2013 11:22:00
So right after Jesus heals the blind man in John 9:1-32 and the Pharisees get wind of it, you guessed it, they begin a campaign to prove it was all a hoax. First they try to prove the man was never blind. When that fails, they verbally attack Jesus. “He’s not from God,” they boldly claim as if they really know what they’re talking about, and saying it because Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath.
Then the former blind man rises up in Jesus’ defense, but surely in fear and trembling because he’s well aware that he’s coming against the “powerful” of his day—men who can make life difficult for him. “Since the beginning of time,” this man tells them, “it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this Man were not from God, He would not be able to do anything like this.”
At once the Pharisees attack the messenger. “You were wholly born in sin from head to foot; and do you presume to teach us?” (vs 34 Amplified) Then they throw him out of the synagogue. Since the synagogue was the center of Jewish life this was harsh punishment indeed. It meant that this former blind man could no longer fellowship with his people. He was now an outcast. But then, and here’s the good part, Jesus hears about it and goes to him and introduces Himself as the Son of Man who has come into the world to make the blind see, the One who desires to make everyone see with their spiritual eyes.
And this is still happening today. When Jesus comes along and cures our spiritual blindness we often become outcasts, too—misunderstood and rejected by our church, our family, our circle of friends. But as the days grow darker and less certain, we need to be willing to become outcasts for Jesus’ sake. That may mean leaving our church, a church that does not preach the word of God but the traditions of men, or a church that allows its pet theology to trump Scripture. It’s not an easy thing to become an outcast, to go against the “powerful.” But it’s an “either or” situation. Either we stand for God and His word, or we cave and compromise in order to keep from making waves, in order to get along, to blend in. But doesn’t this sound too uncomfortably like the Laodicean church? The one God said He was going to vomit out of His mouth? As I see it, we are rapidly approaching a time when fence sitting is out and we’ll have to commit one way or the other.
Do I want to become an outcast? Not really. But it may become necessary if I want to be a true follower of Christ, and it may be so for you, too. After all, Jesus predicted it when he said in John 16:2-3 (Amplified) “They will put you out of, expel you from the synagogues; but an hour is coming when whoever kills you will think and claim that he has offered service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or Me.”
Something to think about. Something to prepare for.
Until next time,
Monday, 29 July 2013 14:43:00
Ok, I admit this story bugs me. John 8:1-11 relays how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the middle of the temple court as they exposed her sin, but their secret motive was to trick Jesus in some way. It’s so wrong on many levels. First, where was the man? Why didn’t they bring him, too? No one can commit adultery alone. So, not only did these so called “holy” men seem to be protecting the offending member of their own sex, they were using the holy law of Moses to further their own agenda of destroying Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses commands that such shall be stoned to death. But what do you say?”
They didn’t fool Jesus one bit. Instead of engaging them in useless dialogue, He bends down and begins writing “on the ground with His finger” and after awhile says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And what do you know? One by one they left. The Amplified says they were “conscience-stricken.” And they left in a strange order: from the oldest to the youngest. I suppose because those who were older had more experience with sin. Finally, the court was empty and the plot to trick Jesus, foiled.
But how did Jesus handled the woman? Adultery is a serious offense in the sight of God. Did He stone her? He was the only one without sin in that entire place, the only one who had the right to do it. But no. Instead He said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” and “she answered, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.”
Oh what a wonderful Savior we have! How kind and tender He is to us. We are all sinners. And while the world, that is full of its own sins, seeks to throw stones—to humiliate, to accuse—Jesus’ heart desires to restore us, to love us, to bring us into His fullness. And at no one does the hypocritical world love to throw stones more than believers. “How can you call yourself a Christian after you did (fill in the blank)? Yes, we must deal with our sins, confess them and endeavor to “sin no more.” And then God is faithful and just to forgive us (1John 1:9). What’s more, He’ll never throw our sins back in our face, or rehash them over and over again. Rather, our sins, after they are confessed and forgiven, will never be remembered again.
I like to think that that woman went on to live a full life in the Lord, transformed by His love, perhaps the only real love she had ever experienced. And the wonderful thing is so can we all.
Until next time,
Monday, 29 April 2013 15:15:00
While Jesus is dinning at the house of Simon the Pharisee a woman suddenly bursts in carrying an “alabaster box of ointment” (Luke 7:36-50). That word “ointment” is muron in the Greek and means myrrh, a costly resin used in not only perfumes but in medicine to deaden pain, for the purification of women, in incense, in priestly anointing oil, and for anointing the dead. It also means bitter. Perhaps it symbolized this woman’s own bitter circumstances, and her desire to pour out her pain upon Jesus. To pour out her sins and be purified, to be made a sweet fragrance to the Lord, as well as the acknowledgement that Jesus was not only teacher but a priest before God and that He could do all these things. I believe it also speaks of the price Jesus was willing to pay in order to accomplish this for her, His very death, thus making it as much an anointing oil for His death as it was her oil of purification.
But it obviously cost her much. Perhaps up to a year’s wages. She is weeping. And then she does something shocking. She bends over Jesus’ feet and begins washing them with her tears, then drying them with her hair. Finally she smothers His feet with kisses before applying the costly perfume.
You can imagine Simon’s reaction! It was so typical of the proud “religious” sect. At once his mind is filled with unkind thoughts: If this man Jesus was really a prophet he would know what a gross sinner this woman was and would never let such an unclean person touch him! The Pharisee had no idea that Jesus could discern the thoughts and intents of his heart.
At once Jesus tells him about a “certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.” Then Jesus asks Simon, “who would love the creditor most after he forgives both their debts?” Simon’s answer: the one who was forgiven most. “That’s correct,” Jesus says, before exposing Simon as a hypocrite by contrasting him to the woman.
This woman, Jesus goes on to tell him, had not stopped washing and kissing His feet since she came while he, Simon, didn’t even offer Jesus water to wash his feet before dinner, a basic courtesy offered to guests by every good host. On top of that Simon had not greeted Jesus with a kiss, nor anointed him with oil, all of which the women did. It seems this gross sinful woman had outdone Simon the Pharisee at every turn.
At the end Jesus tells the woman her “sins are forgiven” and to “go in peace,” while I’m sure the Pharisee sat red faced not knowing what to say.
There are many lessons here, one being we are incapable of judging others properly, that’s why the Bible instructs us not to do it. One may seem like a paragon of virtue while another a gross sinner but the secret inward condition of their heart might tell a different story. It also shows us that we, too, can bring our own bitter circumstances, our pain, our sins, our wish to be purified, to be a sweet fragrance to the Lord—we can bring it all to our Savior and High Priest. And of course it reveals Jesus’ own heart, always so tender toward sinners and so ready to forgive. And it gives depth to other passages of scripture such as “We love Him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Nothing should keeps us from our wonderful Savior, not our gross sins, not our unworthy state, not even our own selfish inflated estimates of ourselves, for while our hearts may be “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus does knows it and loves us anyway.
Wow! It’s simply mindboggling!
Until next week,
Monday, 01 April 2013 13:42:00
“He drives out demons through the prince of demons,” the Pharisees said regarding Jesus in Matthew 9:34 after Jesus healed a dumb man and the man spoke. It’s hard to imagine saying such a thing after seeing the wonder of Jesus’ miracles. But scoffers in Jesus’ day came in all forms, but none more odious than the “church” people, the so-called “religious” crowd. The ones who should know better.
And nothing has changed. Today, people still scoff at the miracles and ministry of Jesus, and that includes “church” people. How many times have you heard a “believer” say, miracles aren’t for today? That was only for the times of the apostles in order to build up the church. Really? Where in scripture does it say that? My Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
So what’s the problem? Why do people scoff? Especially church people? Why must the body of Christ disagree so? And find so much to criticize? It’s because of the enemy within. The enemy that is within all of us. The enemy of Self. Just like in Jesus’ day, today many in the church allow Self to reign in their lives instead of Jesus.
When you boil everything away, there are only three kingdoms: the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Satan, and the Kingdom of Self. And we all serve one of them. Note they are listed in order of power, Self being on the bottom. Satan will never be able to defeat the Kingdom of God. In fact the only kingdom he can conquer is the Kingdom of Self that’s why it pleases him when we walk in self will. He knows it’s only a matter of time before he will conquer us and we will be serving him.
Self wants to be as God. It wants to call the shots and be elevated. It is the true enemy within. The enemy that will close itself to the Word of God thinking it knows best. The enemy that will divide a church because of pride. The enemy that will seek to exalt itself even at the expense of others. The enemy that can look at the proof of Jesus’ miracles and say it is the act of Satan or look at the very Word of God and then twist it to suit its own purpose or motive.
The enemy within is one we must all guard against. Even after coming into the saving knowledge of Jesus we are still flesh and blood and wrestle against the power of darkness as well as possess a mind that is in desperate need of being transformed by the Word of God. It is a struggle that can only be won through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
Oh, that we may all be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ and love one another! Only then will we experience, in the measure that God desires for us, that other kingdom, the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Until next time,
Monday, 25 February 2013 18:25:00
Here’s a contrast for you. Both Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11 talk about how Jesus went into a synagogue on the Sabbath and saw a man with a withered hand. At once the Pharisees perk up. Maybe here was their chance to get something on Jesus! Of course Jesus knew their mind and at once tells the man with the injured hand to stand up. Then Jesus asks “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life or to kill?” When no one has the courage to answer, Jesus becomes angry because of “the hardness of their hearts,” and at once commands the man, who was probably trembling at this point, to stretch out his poor withered hand. And as soon as he does, his hand is healed. And how did the Pharisees react? They left and took counsel on how to kill Jesus.
What? Kill Jesus for healing on the Sabbath when He had already told them He was Lord of the Sabbath? Not exactly. Then kill Jesus out of jealousy and use this perceived violation of the Sabbath as an excuse? Yes, and that’s exactly what they try to do.
Where does such jealousy come from? The answer is simple: Satan. He used these men to try to prevent Jesus from blessing the man with the withered hand. Jesus had already told these types of Pharisees in John 8:44 that they were of their “father the devil.” And these Pharisees were just acting like their “father.” The truth is, Satan doesn’t want any of us blessed by God. He doesn't want us to have what he cannot. And he'll do all in his powered to keep us from our blessings. He doesn’t want us saved or healed or delivered or prospering in any way. He would prefer to see us lost, sick, tormented and poor in mind and spirit as well as in material matters.
On the other hand, God is jealous, too. In Exodus 20:5 God says, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them (graven images), nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.” It even carries a severe penalty because if you continue reading that same passage, it says “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” But it’s also followed by a promise in verse 6, “and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
God is serious about our relationship with Him. And He wants that relationship to be exclusive, intimate, and deep so He can freely pour out His blessings on us, which are many; the chief among them being His loving presence and fellowship.
Make no mistake. In this life we will be touched by the first type of jealousy or the second. For my part I prefer the second.
Until next time,