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Saturday, May 31, 2014

God's Ways are Past Finding Out


God’s Ways are Past Finding Out!

Matthew 20



Jesus had so much to teach his disciples and so little time.  He reminded his disciples that time was getting short – that soon they would be traveling to Jerusalem and when they got there He would be betrayed.  (Matthew 20: 17-19)  And Jesus adds that the religious leaders will give him over to the Gentiles and they will put him to death.  (The Roman soldiers who were Gentiles carried out the orders to crucify him.)


All this talk about Jesus dying made no sense.  The disciples did not want to hear what Jesus was telling them.  They were still arguing about which one of them would be the greatest when Jesus comes into his kingdom.  ((Matthew 20: 20-21) So Jesus tells them that the greatest among them will be the servant – the one who serves.  And the one who desires to be first will be a slave to the others.  (Matthew 20: 26-27)  And He tells the disciples that He will be their example.  That He has come to serve them (and us) and He has come to give his life a “ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:28) 


Jesus sat down and told a story to the disciples and to the crowds.  Maybe this story could help them to understand that God sees and judges things differently than we do.  Jesus tells them the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  Jesus starts out this way:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a vineyard owner who goes out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agrees with the workers to pay them a denarius for the day’s work and then he sends them out into his vineyard to pick the grapes. (Matthew 20: 1-2)


The vineyard owner wonders if he has enough workers to bring in all the grapes so he goes out again in the middle of the morning and finds more people standing around in the marketplace looking for work.  He hires these people also and sends them off to his vineyard telling them that he will pay them what is right.  A few hours later the vineyard owner goes out again and hires even more workers to pick grapes and yet again in the middle of the afternoon, promising to pay them all whatever is right.  And then just as the sun is going down the vineyard owner rushes out and hires even more workers for that last hour of work.  He wants to get the job done!  (Matthew 20: 3-7)


The work day was about twelve hours and ends when the sun goes down.  They can’t pick grapes in the dark.  Remember they didn’t have electric lighting back then!  Jesus continues his story:  “The owner of the vineyard asks his steward to call the workers and give all of them their wages beginning with the last group and on to the first.  And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour and received a whole denarius, the first group who had worked all day supposed that they would receive even more money.  But then when the steward gave them their wages they were given a denarius also, like they had been promised.  It didn’t seem fair and they complained to the owner of the vineyard.”  (Matthew 20: 8-11) 


And this is what the workers who worked all day said to the owner of the vineyard:   “These men who came and worked only one hour got the same pay as we did!  Don’t you see that we worked all day and bore the burden and the heat of the whole day?  It isn’t fair!”  (Matthew 20: 12)  And the owner of the vineyard answered the workers that he just wanted to be generous and give the same amount to the men who only worked one hour.  Didn’t he have that right?  And anyway, he had given them what they had all agreed on at the beginning of the day.  Jesus’ story or parable ends with these words:  “So the last will be first, and the first last.  For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Matthew 20:16) 


What do we learn from Jesus’ parable about the workers getting the same amount of pay even though some work long hours and some hardly work at all?  What is He trying to teach us?  One of the lessons here is that God is absolutely sovereign and gracious in granting rewards.  And rewards will be given by heaven’s standards and not earths. The disciples had been arguing about who would receive the grandest reward in heaven for their services.  Perhaps Jesus is trying to rebuke the spirit of serving for the reward itself rather than serving out of love. 


 And I suppose that Jesus is telling the disciples and all his followers that things will be judged very differently in God’s kingdom than we are used to here on earth.  Jesus starts out by saying that the kingdom of heaven is like this parable.  (Matthew 20:1)  It may seem to us that the kingdom of heaven is an upside down kingdom!


We may think that we have never been in a situation where the person who worked twelve hours got the same amount of pay as the person who worked only one hour!   Even God would see this work situation as unfair, we think.  But would He?  We have all been that person at one time or another - the person who worked twelve hours and got the same amount of pay as the person who worked only one!  We have all had chances in our lives to ask why God acted or didn’t act to make things “fair” to our way of thinking.


Have you ever been mad at God because He didn’t do things the way you thought He should have?  He didn’t stop you from that big mistake?  Or from the accident that took your loved ones’ life when others were spared?  Your beloved child died when other children laugh and play and grow to adulthood?  And the disease that is taking over your body isn’t getting better even after you have prayed and prayed about it?  Where is God anyway?   Why is He silent?  It doesn’t seem fair. 


Job asked these questions when he had sores all over his body and God had allowed all of his children to die and all of his wealth to disappear.  God had called Job a “righteous” man.   And since Job was so righteous, where were his rewards for being so good?  Job wondered about that and didn’t think it was fair!  He wanted God to come down and explain it to him.  He wanted to argue his point!  A human arguing with God!


 But then God did show up and answer Job.  But God’s answers to Job were really questions.  Job got a glimpse of God’s mighty sovereignty and total power and overwhelming love.  Job could visualize God’s great loved for him and how God plan was working only good things into his life.  Job fell on his face and worshipped his God accepting the fact that he could not understand how God worked by rational thinking but only by faith alone.  Job’s faith finally rested in the fact that God’s will toward him was good and that God’s ways are past finding out.      


Scripture says that: “Humans judge by outward appearances but God judges the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)  We judge a person by the number of hours worked or by how much physical strength or beauty he or she has.  We judge by how many games a sports team can win and how much money a person can make.  We can only judge what we can see on the outside and on the surface and we don’t ever see the whole picture!


 Our judgments are influenced by the opinions of others around us and clouded with prejudices.  We often join a crowd in believing something because at the moment it is the “in” thing to believe and we want to fit in.  We often believe what is in vogue and what we are “supposed” to believe!  And even though we think that we are judging “fairly”, in truth we humans are fickle and as Scripture puts it: “Now (on this earth) we see through the glass darkly…” (1 Cor.13:12)       . 


But God can adequately assess how faithful we are, how much we love and obey, and what we are all made of.  God can see it all.  We are to let God judge because He is “faithful and just” and He is always fair.  He is the One who created the whole world and keeps it moving and He sees the whole picture.  God is holy and merciful and full of love.  We need to trust God in all of his judgments and rest in his unfailing grace.  He sees the beginning from the end and His will for us is good.  (John 10:10)   “Oh the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable are His judgments, and  His ways are past finding out.”  (Romans 11:33)    




Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jesus Talks about Divorce



Jesus Talks about Divorce

Matthew 19




The Pharisees followed Jesus everywhere he went trying to trick him into saying things that they could use against him.  They caught up with him as he was traveling east of the Jordan River with his disciples, healing and teaching as he went.  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” they asked Jesus.


And Jesus answered: “Haven’t you read that God who created the human family in the beginning made them male and female.  So for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?  So then, they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not humans separate.”  (Matthew 19:4-6) 


The Pharisees questioned back: “Then why did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and put the wife away?” (Matthew 19:7)  Every Jewish person knew that God led the Jewish nation to their promised land through Moses.  So if Moses gave out certificates of divorce to the husbands who wanted to divorce their wives then God must have allowed Moses to do that. (In the patriarchal societies of the ancient world, husbands could divorce their wives but wives could not divorce their husbands!)  


The Pharisees were referring to a law concerning divorce given by Moses and found in Deuteronomy 24:1-2)   Here it is:  “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some fault in her, he can write her a certificate of divorce, put it in her hand, and send her out of his house.  When she has departed from his house, she can go and becomes another man’s wife.”  This certificate of divorce for the wife had the effect of nullifying all the husbands’ rights to the dowry (money) she had brought into the marriage.  So the certificate is a protection for her.


 Does this law given by Moses provide divine sanction for divorce or does it simply recognizes that divorce was practiced among the Israelites?  God’s perfect will would be that every marriage would last till death and would be a great love affair!  But alas, we humans have been given free will by God! And our forefathers quickly chose to use their free will to sin.


  Because people are sinners and not perfect, marriages are not perfect either.  Scripture says that God hates divorce.  But sometimes divorce is the only way out of an impossible situation.  And I don’t believe that God wants to leave his children stuck in impossible situations such as abuse or mental cruelty or abandonment. 


Paul was asked if a believer in Jesus should leave or divorce his/her marriage partner if they were not a believer.  And this is his answer:  “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. …But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave, a brother or a sister in Christ is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace.”  (1 Corinthians 7:12,13,15)


 Paul is telling church members that they can get a divorce if their unbelieving spouse doesn’t want to stay in the marriage and leaves or abandons them.  In such cases God has called them to peace, he says.  (1 Cor. 7:15)  I have known church leaders today who have ordered their church members not to ever divorce under any circumstance!  This goes against Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce – and Paul’s also.  And according to some church leaders the person who was abandoned in the marriage is still mired in marriage with the person who ran off and remarried, making life for these unfortunate ones even more confusing!.  These judgmental churches try to make the person who has been divorced feel like the worst sinner around.  Instead of helping these miserable ones, these churches leave a lot of lonely people feeling guilty and stuck forever in limbo.    


God allows us to do what we choose and He will not force us to remain in a marriage against our will.  It is God’s will that we choose to love our spouses and be faithful in our marriages, but He gives us our own free-will to make our own choices.  Love is always to be given freely - a high and beautiful choice each partner must make.  And it is impossible to order or force a straying husband or wife to return and love their spouse.  The fact that both the husband and the wife in a marriage choose freely to love each other for a lifetime, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer – this choice to love is one of the reasons that the covenant of marriage is so sacred and holy! 


God’s perfect will for his children is love and peace.  Scripture says that God hates divorce  And God hates war and killing too.  But sometimes nations are forced by an aggressor into war and killing.   God does not call for those nations under attack by aggressors to be passive and not fight to protect themselves and their children.  And God does not call for a husband or wife in a marriage that is under attack by unfaithfulness or abandonment to remain in the path of destruction forever with no way back to sanity.  In both situations - war and divorce- I believe that God calls us out of the ugliness of divorce and back to love and to peace.    


Jesus answered the Pharisees:  “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts, but in the beginning God did not make marriage to end up in divorce.  And I (Jesus) say to you, that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.  And whoever marries the divorced wife commits adultery too.”  (Matthew 19:8-9)


 Jesus also repeated this command concerning divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 when He was preaching the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus seems to be saying that adultery is the only sin that could tear up a marriage.  And since marriage is a binding promise before God between the two partners, the marriage wouldn’t have to be broken by adultery if the partner who committed adultery would repent and the other partner would forgive.     


Jesus’ disciples were amazed and they murmured back and forth about this.  “If this is the case (if it is a sin to divorce your wife unless she is sexually unfaithful) then it is better not to marry.”  (Matthew 19:10)  Even Jesus’ disciples seemed to think that divorce should be for more reasons than sexual infidelity.  


The divorce rate in our society is high.  The movies and the media would make you believe that everyone is cheating in their marriages and no one can be happily married for long.  People divorce for seemingly any and every reason: and this is wrong.  The marriage partner finds another person outside the marriage more attractive than the person they are married to.  So they dump their spouse and up grade to the newer more attractive person in their eyes.  Thus the marriage partner is treated like an object to be used and then discarded.  There is a God who will judge! 


 Jesus says that divorce is caused by the hardness of hearts or by selfishness.  So God would call us to develop soft hearts and unselfish attitudes for our marriage partners.  To never treat a beloved husband or wife as an object.  And to be faithful in our marriages!  To take the promises we made before God to love and serve one another through this life seriously.  The instability divorce causes, tears at the fabric of society.  But the ones who are hurt the most by divorce are the children left behind in the wreckage. 


I have the habit of reading the obituaries in the newspaper.  I like to read about how people lived out their lives.  And everyday I read about people who have been married for fifty, sixty and even seventy years to a devoted spouse when they died.  It just takes two people with soft faithful hearts to make a good marriage work.  Over the years we have met hundreds of couples who are dedicated to one another and have wonderful blessed marriages.  These couples are everywhere.  True romance and grand love affairs are what God has in mind for his children.  Let’s enjoy! .       

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Jesus Teaches us how to Treat Those who Harm us

Jesus Teaches us how to Treat Those who Harm us

Matthew 18



Jesus’ disciples were sure if they followed Jesus long enough they would become famous!  That’s what they really wanted!  Someday they would sit on golden thrones in heaven and the world would bow down to Jesus and to them.  But they were still arguing among themselves as to which one of them would be the greatest and the most important?  Once before they had fussed with each other about which one would be the top man in heaven and Jesus hadn’t commented.  So they asked Him outright: “Who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1)  And Jesus shook his head and tried to teach his disciples some lessons about humility. 


Jesus called a little child over and as the child stood there with Jesus in front of the disciples, Jesus answered their question: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child like this one in My Name welcomes Me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the sea.”  (Matthew 18:3-6) 


Children are humble and unpretentious.  And Jesus is calling his followers to be like little children and simply trust and depend on God.  The way to greatness in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus is saying, is to become like little children and be harmless and meek.  I don’t think the disciples were expecting Jesus to give them that answer.  And perhaps we followers of Jesus today don’t want to hear him when He calls us to be like a little child.  We are too busy jockeying among ourselves to be one of the “important” people-and we compete with our fellow workers to be on top – or to be the greatest! 


But Jesus is teaching us that we are to put all of that aside when we follow Him.  If we welcome a little child or the sick, the person in prison, the grieving and the needy, we welcome Him. And Jesus says we should not harm or lead astray one of these little ones and cause them to sin.  And then Jesus starts talking about offenses.  He says: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!  Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7) 


God created us humans to be united as one big family.  But that unity is strained and often broken by these offenses that Jesus spoke about.  And it breaks God’s heart to see his beloved children throwing away that unity – throwing away family.  God commands us to treat one another with love and fairness.  And He gives us his Holy Spirit to help us do that. But we can throw it all away when our feelings get hurt or when we disagree with a loved one or when we are treated unfairly! 


 Arguments and disagreements can surface quickly and tear apart the unity of the family that God put together.  And wars and violence tear the fabric of the human family even more.  So Jesus is saying: “Woe to the person through whom they (harmful offenses, violence, etc.) come” I think Jesus is saying that his followers are to be peaceful, childlike and humble and not insult or hurt or be offensive to one another when they disagree. They are to do their best to protect the unity of believers and the peaceful relationships with all people.   


Then Jesus tells three parables that have the same theme.  They all teach about how God wants us to behave toward one another.  First Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.  (Matthew 18:10-14)  The Good Shepherd has one hundred sheep and one sheep is lost.  Is this sheep lost and missing because of sin or missing in a relationship?  Jesus doesn’t say.  But the shepherd doesn’t write that sheep off.  He goes out all night long, leaving the ninety-nine behind and he searches over the hills and through the valleys looking for his one lost sheep.  And when he finds it he is excited and rejoices and throws a party.


  Isn’t Jesus telling us here that every lost person is very important to God?  Important enough for Him to frantically search for the lost one through the long dark night!  Jesus reminds the disciples about who He is and what his mission is about.  Jesus tells them:  “The Son of Man has come to search for and save that which is lost.” (Matthew 18:11) 


Since the lost are so important to our Lord and since He searches all night to bring them back, shouldn’t the lost be important to us too?  Important enough for us to go out into our dark night looking and praying and grieving until we find these lost ones and bring them back into unity -the unity of family –or the unity of the body of Christ?  Unless the missing refuses to come back and wants to remain missing that is.  Isn’t Jesus telling his disciples that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are the ones who join our Lord in searching for those who are lost in their midst?


Right after Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep, He tells the parable of the sinning brother.  This is another story about how we should deal with relationships that have been strained or broken.  Jesus advises that we show the brother his fault and then take several others with us if he doesn’t listen to us the first time.  Finally we even bring the matter up to the church and get their help in bringing back peaceful relations between ourselves and our brother(or sister).


Jesus says that if the brother refuses to reconcile even when the church is there encouraging him to, we may have to forget him!  Here is what Jesus says to do if the brother will not reconcile: “treat him as you would a pagan or a (hated) tax collector.”  (Matthew 18:17b)  That sounds pretty hopeless doesn’t it?  Is that really what the Lord wants?  I don’t think so!


But then Jesus immediately adds: “But I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 18:18-19)  Is Jesus telling us here that if we pray for these seemingly “hopeless” situations – the situation where the brother or close relative refuses to reconcile – that we will have what we ask for?– that what we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven?  If we will love the one who hates us and forgive and pray that God will change his heart, then we will have what we ask for.  It doesn’t say how long that might take but it will happen!  I do believe that that is what Jesus is saying here!  What do you think? 


It seems Jesus is telling us to work and pray hard at straightening out problems that have caused a strain or break in a close relationship, even by using help from others if possible.  We are an individualistic society and many times when we have been treated badly by another person (or we have hurt them) we feel hurt and we criticize behind the other persons’ back.  And never deal with the person face to face and try to reconcile or clear up bad feelings.  And the community usually leaves it alone.  So the problem is never resolved and the unity and love that was meant to be is never restored. 


Jesus finishes with a third parable, the parable of the unmerciful servant.  This servant had an enormous debt of ten thousand talents that he owed to the king.  And since he couldn’t pay his debt he and his family were about to be thrown into prison forever..  But the servant fell down on his knees and begged the king to forgive his huge debt and amazingly the king took pity on him and forgave him the whole ten thousand talents. 


The servant was free and forgiven!  A great burden had been lifted from his soul!  Overjoyed he danced out of the court but then he just happened to see a man who owed him a very small amount of money.  The smile disappeared from the servant’s face and a scowl replaced it.  “Pay me my money immediately or go to prison” the forgiven man snarled!  The poor man who owed him the tiny debt fell down on his face and begged for more time to pay.  But the unmerciful servant refused to listen to his cries for help and threw him and his family in prison. 


Jesus is telling his disciples that since our heavenly Father is merciful to us and forgives  all of our sins, that we are to be children of our Father and be merciful to the people who sin against us and forgive them too.– write off what they owe us.  Move on.  Peter asks Jesus: “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  And Jesus answers: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  (Matthew18:21-22) 


Jesus taught many lessons in Matthew 18 concerning how we are to love each other and how we are to treat those who harm us. How we are to forgive and forgive again and how in all our dealings we are to have a humble heart like a child.  Jesus invites us to join Him in going out and searching for those who are lost.  And He tells us that if we care enough what we bind on earth will be bound in heaven!  That He will answer our prayers for the lost. Jesus begs us to live in peace and He gives us his Holy Spirit to speed us along the way.  While we are on this earth people may harm us and some will offend us.  But Jesus calls us to take his lessons from Matthew 18 to heart and to live out our lives in peace and love.  Can we do it?









Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Disciples Could not Heal the Boy with the Demon


The Disciples Could not Heal the Boy with the Demon

Matthew 17:14-21



One day as Jesus and the disciples were out in the countryside preaching and healing a man rushed up and knelt down trembling in front of Jesus.  He was desperate for Jesus to help him.  “Lord, have mercy on my son.” He begged.  “My boy has seizures and is suffering greatly: for he often falls into the fire and into the water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”  (Matt.17:15-16) 


Jesus was upset to hear that his disciples could not heal the boy and He asked the father to bring the boy to Him.  And when the boy was standing in front of Jesus, Scripture says that, “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment on.” (Matthew 17: 18)


Shortly after this the disciples came to Jesus and asked him why they were not able to drive the demon out of the boy.  And Jesus answered them: “Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth.  If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.  However this kind (of demon) does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”  (Matthew 17:21)   


This short story of the boy being troubled with a demon may leave us with questions.  Let’s go over the story and try to find some answers.  Some people say that they don’t believe that demons or “evil spirits” can influence their lives.  But we believe that the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and influences us.  Scripture teaches us that when we believe in Christ that the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and empowers us and helps us and guides us into God’s ways.  We can’t live the Christian life by ourselves.   .


Unfortunately the opposite can happen.  People can open themselves up to “help” from evil spirits when they allow hatred, murder, lying, drugs, violence, etc to take up residence in their lives.  Evil spirits can harass people, make them physically or mentally ill or even hold them captive with addictions and such. Scripture teaches that the devil goes about like a lion “seeking whom he may devour or “eat up” (1 Peter 5:8)  The devil is the “father of lies”(John 8:44).  And he is a murderer. (John 8:44)  He is out to do us harm if he can, so if he can harass or invade our lives he will.  The Bible says: “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  (Ephesians 4:27) 


Even though some people may open themselves to evil spirits by embracing an evil lifestyle, I believe that the little boy in our Bible story was innocent of any such wrong doing.  His actions were not responsible for the evil spirit being there in his life making him miserable.  Many times innocent people suffer terribly and we will not be able to understand all the reasons why.  We will just have to leave some of these things to God. 


Once when Jesus healed a blind man, his disciples asked him whose sin caused the man to be blind?  His sin or the sin of his parents?  And Jesus answered: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  (John 9:3)  When things don’t seem fair we have to trust God with the answers and know that someday (in heaven) “every valley will be lifted up and every mountain and hill made low and the rough places will be made plain.”  (Isaiah 40:4)    . . 


From the description of the boy’s suffering in our Bible story, we believe that he was physically ill.  He had spasms and fell into the fire and into the water.  And this illness was due to a demon according to Scripture.  (The boy was healed when Jesus cast the demon out!) So it would seem that demons can cause some physical illnesses. Probably today doctors could treat this child’s illness with medications.  Again we don’t have all of the answers.    


In this life Scripture says that we are fighting a spiritual war!  When Jesus speaks about the boy’s demon He says: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Jesus must mean that some demons or mountains are stronger and more entrenched than others.  Some of our mountains require more prayer than others and even fasting too in this spiritual war against evil.


 When we think about a demon we may picture an ugly little man with a pitchfork or horns.  But a demon is an evil or unclean spirit.  And the bad news is that an unclean spirit can possibly show up in a person’s life as a stronghold or as an addiction.


 But the good news is that there is a Deliverer – Jesus Christ!  (Psalm.18:2)  Jesus has come to set the captives free!  Scripture says that He has come to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.  Jesus is the Truth and the truth will set us free.  (John 8:32)  (Gal 5:1)While He was on earth Jesus went about healing the sick and casting out demons.  And Jesus has also given his followers (that’s us) the authority to heal and cast out demons in his Name.  Jesus sends us into the world to do the work that He did and He gives us his authority to do that work.  (John 14:12)  Scripture says: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My Name they will cast out demons: and they will speak with new tongues:” (Mark 16:17)


Scripture says: “the seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your Name.’”.  And Jesus replied “I see Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  See, I give you the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  (Luke 10: 17-19)  


Jesus had given the disciples his authority to move mountains (and we have been given this authority too).  But Jesus told the disciples that they were not able to use his authority because they didn’t have enough “faith”.  Jesus encouraged them (and us) by saying that we don’t need a lot of faith in order to move mountains.  (a mountain is a trouble or demon or sickness) A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds and Jesus said we only needed a “mustard seed” amount of faith to move our mountains! So what is this thing called faith that is so important?


Scripture says that we have all been given a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3) God gives it to us, but I would guess that we need to take care of it.  And the Bible also says that faith comes alive by “hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17)  So we need to feed our faith by reading God’s Word.  And nurture our “measure” of faith and help it grow by studying the Bible


Of course we need to believe God’s Word.  But faith is more.  Scripture also says that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17)  Faith is a whole lifestyle- a relationship with God.  We need to commit everything (our lives) to God and try to let Him lead us.  Scripture says: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”  (Psalm 37:4-5)  


Some of us think that if we work hard and just believe something hard enough or say the right words the right way that that is faith.  But faith isn’t a formula.  And it’s not just saying correct words.  Faith is committing all your ways to God, and loving God with all your heart and your neighbor too.  Faith is repenting and humbling yourself and asking God for forgiveness when you fail.  It’s letting God clean you up again and again.  Clean up your words and your attitudes too.  And letting the Holy Spirit guide you along the way.  And there is joy and freedom along the faith way.  It’s letting go and letting God with your mustard seed sized faith.  .      




Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jesus' Natural Body is changed into his Glorified Body


Jesus’ Natural Body is changed into his Glorified Body

Matthew 17:1-13



The angry religious leaders were closing in on Jesus and it was getting closer to the time when He would suffer and die on the cross for our sins.  Jesus knew that his time was near and He had been telling the disciples that He would have to die in the near future and then be raised up on the third day.  But the disciples did not want to hear any of that!  Jesus had so much to share with his disciples but they were not ready to take it all in. 


One day Jesus asked Peter and James and John to climb to the top of a mountain with Him.  Jesus wanted to share something with these three: They were confused about his coming death and He wanted them to understand Him better. So Peter, James and John followed Jesus up a high mountain which Biblical scholars believe was probably Mount Hermon.


 When they reached the top of the mountain, Peter, James and John stood trembling and watching in amazement as Jesus’ natural body was transformed before their eyes into his glorified body! (John17:5, 2 Peter 1:17)  Bible passages in Matthew describe what happened on that mountain top this way: “Jesus was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”  (Matthew 17:2)  And passages in Luke say: “As Jesus prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and his robe became white and glistening.” (Luke 9:29)  Words could not describe it.


Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain revealed his majesty and glory to these three disciples. Christ’s heavenly glory had been veiled or hidden while He was here on earth in his human form.  But His glory and majesty as the Son of God was shown to Peter and James and John .and this glory will again be fully revealed to us at the end of the age when Christ returns.  (John 17:5: 2 peter 1:17)  

After Jesus was transfigured from his natural body to his heavenly body, Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain top with Him and talked with Jesus about his coming death on the cross, as Peter, James and John watched and listened.  (Luke 9:30-31)

Bible scholars believe that Moses and Elijah appearing there with Jesus in all his glory helped the disciples to understand that the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) are there to support Jesus in His mission to bring salvation through his death.  The Law had been given to the nation of Israel by God through Moses, so Moses represented the old covenant of the law and the distant promise of salvation, which was soon to be fulfilled in the death of Jesus.  And Elijah was one of Israel’s Major Prophets and appears as the appointed restorer of all things.  (Mal 4:5-6)

 So seeing Jesus in his majesty with Moses and Elijah helped the disciples to better understand that Jesus’ future death would not be incompatible with the Old Testament- a problem they had been struggling with.  And that Jesus’ coming death would be the fulfillment of the law and also a fulfillment of what their Jewish faith had taught them.  This helped them to understand later that Christianity is Jewish!    

And then while Jesus, Moses and Elijah are still talking with one another, Scripture says that: “a bright cloud overshadows them, and suddenly a voice comes out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!’”.  (Matthew 17:5)  God is telling these three that Jesus is His Son.

All of this is so overwhelming for Peter and James and John that they slump to the ground stunned and shaking with terror.  Jesus comes over to them and comforts them and holds them and tells them not to be afraid.  Jesus is back in his natural body now and Moses and Elijah are gone. 

Jesus and Peter and James and John get up and slowly make their way back down the mountain.  Peter tells Jesus that he will build three shelters on the mountain – one for Jesus and one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Good old Peter!  He has just been in the presence of Jesus arrayed in all his glory and majesty along with Moses and Elijah – and his very first thought is to build three little shelters!!  And aren’t we just like him?  If we had been there on the mountain top, instead of worshipping the Lord in his majesty, wouldn’t we have our cameras or cell phones out snapping pictures?

Jesus told the three disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen up on the mountain top until after He dies and is raised from the dead.  And the disciples asked Jesus why the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come again before the Messiah comes?  If Jesus is the Messiah then Elijah should have come, so they were thinking.

The Jewish prophet Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come again before their Savior did.  “See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”  (Malachi 4:6)  Jesus answered that Elijah had already come and that the Jewish people did not recognize him but treated him badly. (John the Baptist was beheaded)  And Jesus told them that He would be treated badly also.  And the story ends with Peter, James and John understanding that Jesus was speaking to them about John the Baptist since scripture says that John the Baptist had come “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”  (Luke 1:17)

Jesus wanted his disciples to know that He was the Son of God and Savior even while they would soon have to watch him suffer and die.  But the disciples being influenced by their culture were having a hard time understanding that their Savior would have to suffer and die.  That did not fit their expectations.  The disciples were arguing among themselves over which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom while Jesus was begging them to stay awake and pray with Him in his suffering.  They couldn’t even do that.  It seems these men were buffoons and not very spiritually sensitive. 

But then would we have done any better?  As Jesus’ followers today we may be so influenced by our culture that we also miss what He is trying to show us because it doesn’t fit with our expectations.  And some of us spend our time arguing among ourselves over who is the most important while Jesus is begging us to reach out to the needy and be kind and loving to one another.  We may not be very spiritually sensitive either.

But even though his disciples all left Him and scattered when He was crucified, Jesus still gave them his Holy Spirit and his power and He loved them so dearly.  Even though they were imperfect, they still meant so much to Him.  And I believe that even though we mess up again and again, He uses us and gives us his Holy Spirit and He loves us so dearly because we mean so much to Him too.  I’m so glad about that, aren’t you?