Proverbs 6 4-6-21

Who we live for shows who is most important to us. Is Christ your priority?

22 When you walk, they [God leading us through His Word] will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.

What are the ramifications of the whole cross event? One is the new way that God interacts with us. Because of the New Covenant that Jesus inaugurated at the cross and was implemented on Pentecost, He no longer holds us accountable for our sin:

2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV)

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

The Spirit we have been given gives us new desires. We now want to please our Heavenly Father. In our gratitude to Christ Jesus, we willingly pledge to live for Him. What motivates us to set aside, even die to, our own desires?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

How then shall we live? For Christ! The first thing is to spend quality time with Him in prayer and His Word. Our church is reading through Psalm 119. I ask that you join us. We are on the third set of eight verses (it will be easy to catch up). We are praying for a mighty movement of the Spirit. Join us!

Abba, May You get us ready to receive all the new converts that will be coming to us because of another Great Awakening. I’m excited! May You begin today. Amen.

Proverbs 5 4-5-21

What happens to us when we die? We will stand before our Maker, God the Father. What will you be wearing?

7 Now then, my children, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.
21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all your paths.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, He gave them a promise, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” Luke 24:49. What did His Father promise? Clothed with what power?

The night that they celebrated Passover together was only four days before. That night, Jesus told them He would send:

  1. The Advocate- John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7
  2. The Spirit of Truth- John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13
  3. The Holy Spirit- John 14:26
  4. Greek: Parakleteo- He calls us, invites us, beseeches us, entreats us, even begs us; He exhorts us, admonishes us; He comforts us, encourages us, and consoles us. He is our Come-Alongside-er.

We will look at the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 a little closer to Pentecost (in 49 days-the countdown has begun).

What does it mean to be “clothed with power from on high”? For that, we look back on Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14 where we find this verse:

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.

In order to stand in the presence of the King, we must be arrayed correctly. What is the option? For that, we look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-5,

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

What is our conclusion?

  1. Without the clothing of the Holy Spirit, we will stand naked before God in heaven. That in itself is terrifying!
  2. The clothing of the Holy Spirit is something we must receive BEFORE we give up these “earthly tents.”
  3. The fact that the Holy Spirit is a deposit, a guarantee, lets us know that we have a much greater body to which to look forward, one that is suitable for our heavenly dwelling.
  4. When we receive our new, immortal bodies, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” 1 Corinthians 15:54, which is a quote from Isaiah 25:8.

What a future of HOPE we have! I wonder why every person over 50 doesn’t want to reserve their heavenly bodies (our present bodies don’t work well anymore) by following Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. Maybe we need to be telling them about Him! In fact, everyone should know about what Christ has in store for those who believe in Him, which can start today. Let’s listen to His voice today and go where He directs us, say what He tells us, and be witnesses for Him, which is what He told His disciples in Luke 24:48.

Abba, I am SO glad that You have something better in store for us! In fact, Your Word tells us that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it entered into our hearts what You have prepared for us who love you” 1 Corinthians 2:9. In the meantime, may we follow You with all our hearts knowing that You will lead us every step of the way. Amen.

Proverbs 4 4-4-21

It’s Resurrection Sunday! What will you do today to show your gratitude for all the Christ has done for us?

20 My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Imagine yourself leaving Jerusalem with a friend that Sunday morning. You didn’t go to the temple yesterday because you were afraid of the leaders and the mob. You two are talking about all that had happened over the past week and what could have been when you notice someone walking beside you. He asks, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Your faces are downcast as you answer him with a question, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Evidently, he is, because he asks, “What things?” You answer with a short version about Jesus, the trial, the crucifixion, and the death of a dream. You even tell him about the women’s testimony about Jesus being alive, but the doubt is evident in your tone…

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:25-30

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem [seven miles!]. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

This is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Your part was Cleopas, who narrated the story. Even as Cleopas was telling their account, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” After some demonstrations that He was real, He brought everything together for them:

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” It’s a summary of what He told the two disciples in verse 27.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high [the Holy Spirit].”

What a day that was! Since we were not there, we can only imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus in His resurrected form. What we CAN experience is that same “Power from on high,” the blessed Holy Spirit, who opens our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures. Tomorrow, we will delve into the ramifications of some of these Scriptures, but today, let’s enjoy the wonderful celebration of His resurrection.

Lord, we are grateful! We are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, the kind Peter talks about (1 Peter 1:8). May You be resurrected in our lives every day, Lord Jesus. May we be resurrected in Your love each day. Amen.

He is risen.
He is risen, indeed!

Proverbs 3 4-3-21

Does serving a risen Savior scare you a little? It should at least make us seriously consider anything He asks of us!

5 Trust the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Tomorrow, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach. Let’s read it:

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8

There are several points that come into play concerning the resurrection of Jesus.

How are we at following directions? How well do we listen to the Holy Spirit? Do we always reserve final judgement on any orders we are given? I call that attitude, “Selective Service.” Not Good. It’s a whole lot like putting your hand to the plow and then looking back at your old life where you did things your way. Jesus said that such a person is unfit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Also, delayed obedience is disobedience. We would do well to remember that we serve a RISEN Savior, one who beat death! He is our Sovereign Lord. He deserves our undying gratitude and our unquestioning servitude.

  1. Each gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) has a version of the event. Illustration: in a bank robbery, the detective might ask several people if there was a get-away car. Each person might describe a vehicle in a number of colors, makes and models, and even types of vehicle. The conclusion the detective draws is that there WAS a get-away car because no one said there wasn’t; they all described something. In this case, there were several points of view: Mary Magdalene, the group of ladies, and Peter and John. What was the conclusion that a detective might draw? That there WAS a resurrection!
  2. In reading the other gospels, there was one angel who was sitting on the stone; there was an angel in the tomb; there were two angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus had been laid. Here again, what’s the conclusion? There WAS at least one angel!
  3. The first day of the week actually begins on Saturday evening as the sun goes below the horizon. Jesus rose sometime in the night. The angel didn’t roll the stone away until the ladies got there. Of course, He wasn’t there; He had risen!
  4. The angel said that Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee and for the ladies to tell the disciples to join Him there. They didn’t. In fact, Jesus showed up that night in their meeting room! Then, He did it again the next week! THEN, the disciples went to Galilee.
  5. Key in on the ladies’ emotions: “Afraid yet filled with joy.” When we think of the resurrection, what emotions are stirred in us? The mystery might be unsettling–how does one explain the unexplainable? The ramifications are astounding–He really IS God! He really IS the Passover Lamb! We really ARE free in Christ!

Abba, You are our King. May we, who have never lived under an earthly king, grasp the magnitude of Your call on our lives. We have given You our hearts, but we must also give You our lives to be lived as You see fit. Make us fit for the kingdom, Lord. Whip us into shape. Trim our fat and tone our spiritual muscles. May we answer immediately when You call on us even as Moses did, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4), as Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10), and as Jesus did, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees His Father doing” (John 5:19). May we see You at work and join You in Your work. Amen.

Proverbs 2 4-2-21

The crucifixion didn’t just happen. God had a plan and Jesus was working that plan.

7 [The LORD] holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

It may look like God didn’t protect His Son, but He did–right up to the cross. Christ’s death on that cross was the whole reason He left heaven and came to earth (John 12:27-28). Let’s look at His death and burial.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:31-34

41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 19:41-42

This morning, Jesus had been in the tomb for Wednesday evening, Thursday, Thursday evening, and now Friday. He could at any moment come back from the dead, but according to Jewish tradition, the spirit hovered over the body for three days. Waiting three days and three nights fulfilled several criteria:

  1. The soul/spirit would have left the body. He was considered truly dead.
  2. He had said that He would be in the ground three days and three nights just like Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). It was the ONLY sign gave them that they understood.
  3. Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Hosea 6:1-2, which says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”

We know that no one took Jesus’ life (John 10:17-18). He was the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The atonement made by Jesus is our intercession with the Father:

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:23-25

The blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences from acts of sin so that we can be free from the fear of death:

12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:12-14

We are now free to serve God without having to worry about judgement! He loves us! He wants us! He has adopted us! Praise be to God on High!

Because of so great a sacrifice for us, let us serve Him with all we are, holding nothing back, and without reservation.

Abba, You are truly wonderful. Your Plan, which You set into motion before the creation of the world, was to buy us back with Your own blood. Many Jews saw Your sacrifice for what it was; we Gentiles are having to learn it, but as we do, we stand in awe of You. As I learn, my admiration and respect for You continues to soar! Please keep revealing Yourself to me, to us, we beg You. Amen.

Proverbs 1 4-1-21

Is any decision we make truly trivial? Not really. Every decision bears either Christ’s righteousness or our unrighteousness.

2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;

When Jesus had given the Olivette Discourse, He told three parables about the coming of the kingdom of heaven (or, the kingdom of God; see Luke 19:11). Instead of quoting all of them, let’s look at the cruxes of the parables.

Matthew 25:1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Jesus was telling them to be prepared for the Messiah when He came to do what He came to do. The expectations of the people were not in line with what Jesus came to do, which was to be the Passover Lamb for them. The resulting consequence was that they were left out of the kingdom because they missed Jesus, their Messiah.

Matthew 25:14-30 The Parable of the Bags of Gold

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

25 I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The rewards and the consequences are according to the actions of the servants. The people of Israel had a choice: Believe in Jesus as Messiah and let Him free them from their chains of sin, or reject Him and stay in the chains of their sin. The consequence of sin is death and destruction. Within 40 years, Israel self-destructed. How could Jesus allow the scattering of Israel to the ends of the earth? What about the covenant God had with His people? That covenant was fulfilled in Jesus. In fact, the first covenant that was established with Abraham is still being fulfilled through all who believe in Jesus. Theirs is the true circumcision, the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:28-29 and Galatians 6:15). What is it that whoever has it, more will be given? Faith. What is it that if a person doesn’t have it, even the little that may reside in him is taken from him? Faith. Faith in what? Faith that Jesus is who He says He is and that He did (and will do) what He said He would do.

Matthew 25:31-46 The Sheep and the Goats

The first thing we notice is that the heading doesn’t say the word, “parable.” The way this one is given is different than the other two and has the feel of reality–it may not be a parable at all! In fact, I believe that it is the answer and conclusion to the previous two parables. It is prophecy.

  1. Jesus referred to Himself in the story: The Son of Man.
  2. The people of all nations are referred to as sheep and goats, a comparison that the people of Jesus’ day would know well.
  3. The truth of verse 34 is enlightening because of the reference to the creation of the world. See Hebrews 4:3c-4.
  4. The answer to this prophecy is found in Isaiah 58:6-9. Jesus wasn’t just pulling examples out of thin air. He was tying His kingdom back to the Old Covenant and the standard of righteousness that God requires. We know that the only way to meet that standard is through faith in Christ. Read it for yourself:

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:20-24

The standard is high because the stakes are high. We must be clothed with Christ in order to stand in the presence of the Father (Matthew 22:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:53). The alternative is the lake of fire–that was not intended for anyone but Satan and his followers (verse 41). Verse 46 spells it out, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The showdown had begun. The problem for the enemy is that they did not understand just exactly what was going down. More on that tomorrow…

Abba, these parables–and prophecy–teach me to consider the gravity of life’s decisions. None of my decisions are trivial in light of Your righteousness. May I learn to “be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Romans 13:14)” in every area of my life. Keep working on me, Lord. You are the Potter; I am the clay. Amen.

Proverbs 31 3-31-21

Jesus came to set things right between us and the Father. Those who did not accept Him paid a heavy price. Still do.

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

We will never know what Jesus would have done for Jerusalem and the people of Israel if they had believed in Him as their Messiah. Instead, they followed their own wicked hearts and it led them to destruction, as it does for all of us. Just know that judgement was not God’s desire. We find His desire in 2 Peter 3:9, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Jesus Laments over Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Scene: Jesus was leaving the temple area. His parting words were not just to the religious leaders, but also to the city itself and its history. His heart breaks as He mourns over her. When, at last, her Messiah came, she refused Him. Now, she will be desolate.

There are two schools of thought concerning verse 39. One is that He was referring to Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came. Since He and the Spirit are One, then Jesus did, indeed, come at Pentecost. The other school of thought is that Jesus was referring to His REAL triumphal entry described in Revelation 19:11-16 and Zechariah 14:3-9. The interesting part is that BOTH can be correct.

Chapter 24 begins with Jesus walking away. Someone called His attention to the beautiful buildings. Jesus’ response was cryptic: And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” He was referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D, which brought to a close the temple sacrifices. I will not print the entire passage here, but I will make some comments:

  1. The tearing of the veil upon Jesus’ death and the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost heralded in the New Covenant of love and grace where Jesus lives in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The sacrificial system ended there, but was not brought to a close until 70 A.D. because the religious leaders refused to believe that Jesus was Messiah. Jesus had to do it for them (from an earthly perspective, they brought it upon themselves with their rebellion from Rome).
  2. The Olivette (on the Mount of Olives; see v3) Discourse is widely disputed. There are some key verses that bear scrutiny.
    1. Verses 4-14: Many of the verses were fulfilled in the 40 years between Jesus’ resurrection and the Fall of Jerusalem. The Greek word for “whole world” is the same one that Luke used in Luke 2:1, which is translated as “Roman Empire.” It specifically means, “known world.” If so, then it refers to the Destruction of Jerusalem. If it refers to the entire world, then it is ongoing, as is Acts 1:8.
    2. Verses 15-26: Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, there are two ways to view these verses:
      1. Luke 21:20-27 helps give a point of reference. History states that Vespasian marched on Israel from the North taking Galilee, Central Israel, and then circled around Jerusalem taking Judea, and then started to tighten the noose on Jerusalem when he got word that Nero had committed suicide and was being called back to Rome, so he withdrew. It was some time before his son, Titus, was appointed to deal with Jerusalem. Luke’s passage now makes sense. The desolation talked about is the destruction of the temple and the erecting of a pagan altar in its place by Titus. It was Rome’s way of finalizing their victory over Israel.
      2. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is another passage that is used to interpret “the abomination that causes desolation.” Many see this passage as a future event along with Matthew 24:15-31.
    3. Verses 28-30: Some see the destruction of Jerusalem as history that has been fulfilled from a heavenly perspective, much like Jesus coming against Israel through Assyria and Babylon (see Micah 1:3-7, Isaiah 13:9-11 and Zephaniah 1:14-16 for examples).
    4. Verses 30-31: Many see these verses as a future event. It can certainly be read that way, and I am sure that Jesus will come again with power and great glory. It can also be interpreted as a fulfillment of the judgement passed on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Even the part where Jesus gathers His elect can be seen as the gathering of all Christians who fled Jerusalem, or an ongoing event rather than a future one. The language used is what is called prophet-speak, and can be read all over the Old Testament (a good example is Daniel 7:13-14 where the term, “coming in the clouds,” stands for His power and great glory).
    5. Verse 34: The term, “generation,” has been interpreted in many ways. Jesus used it often (six times in Matthew, three times in Mark, 10 times in Luke, and in Acts 2:40) and meant the people to whom He was talking. It may have a more general use concerning a future date.
  3. Regardless of our eschatological view, we come away from this passage with some basic truths:
    1. Jesus will return.
    2. No one knows when.
    3. Exact interpretation of this passage is not paramount.
    4. We are to learn the lesson of obedience to Christ from it.

In Jerusalem, on Wednesday, day 14 of the month of Nisan in 30 A.D, Jesus died on a cross. We, as does most of the world, do not go by a lunar calendar as Israel does, but by the Roman solar calendar, so our “Easter” sometimes does not coincide with the true week of Passover. This year, it’s off by four days. Even so, let us give solemn consideration to today as we remember our Lord’s death in our place.

Abba, I love You. Thank You for Jesus and His substitute sacrifice (propitiation) for me on that cross. Because of Him, I am now Your beloved and adopted son, brother to Jesus, and co-heir with Him! May all of my brothers and sisters in Christ give You praise today. WE ARE GRATEFUL! Amen.

Proverbs 30 3-30-21

What would Jesus say about our lives? Do we routinely give Him control and lean on Him for direction? Is He truly our Lord?

11 There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers [see Mark 7:6-13], 12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; 13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; 14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind [contempt].

It was time for Jesus to stir the religious leaders into action. They either needed to repent and receive His words or kill Him. Most of them chose to kill Him. Read now Jesus’ final condemnation:

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 

The scribes and Pharisees didn’t want the system to change, which is exactly what a Messiah would do. In other words, they really didn’t want Messiah to come. Therefore, they rejected Jesus even with all of the evidence of healings right in front of them.

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

This woe is another example of what the leaders did: They would make a law that gave them what they wanted, and then make another law excusing them for their misdeed. But, the Lord knows and has said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” Deuteronomy 32:35.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Lest we get the idea that they took in foreigners, they were looking for Jews to become their disciples. Then, they would teach them to be “good” Pharisees–whose practices Jesus detested.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

These woes show the inner drive of the religious leaders: Gold and gifts. They were all about the things of this world. Jesus was NOT. In fact, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” John 18:36.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

The leaders were all about their rules, even tithing on their spices, but they neglected the more important matters of the law, which were justice and mercy and faith. A gnat was an unclean animal, but very small. The camel also was an unclean animal, but very large. It’s a great analogy that is lost on most Gentiles.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Jesus wanted repentance of the heart. All their deeds meant nothing if their hearts were not right with God.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The religious leaders were all about how they looked and appeared to the public and to each other. Since they set the standard on what was considered holy and righteous, they knew how to look very holy and righteous. Jesus condemned their actions concerning giving to the needy in Matthew 6:1-4, prayer in 5-15, fasting in 16-18, and treasures in 19-21. They were dead inside; they needed His life, His Spirit; Him!

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

History proved that the religious leaders did the same thing that their forefathers did, which was to kill the Messiah, the Prophet spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:14-19. Jesus would hold them all responsible for all the prophets’ deaths. When? At the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

How about us? Are we continuing on the same path as our forefathers? If they were godly, then let us continue upward. If they were not, then let us forge a new path as we partner with the Spirit, leaning on Him and trusting Him to direct our paths.

Abba, I pray that I would be a devoted follower of You. May I use my fear of what You Could do to motivate me to depend upon Your grace, trusting in what You Won’t do because of Your great love and my devotion to You. Bless me even as I bless You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 29 3-29-21

Our sin nature wants to fight Jesus for control of our lives. His Spirit will help us relinquish control to Him–if we are willing.

10 The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.
20b “If they persecuted me [Jesus], they will persecute you also.”

If we think that the fighting was dirty before, consider this verse from Matthew 26:3, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.” What had Jesus said or done that could be that bad? This week, we are going to look at the escalation of Jesus’ attacks on the Jewish leadership. The reason for these attacks was two-pronged. First, Jesus wanted the people to know that the leadership was NOT doing things the way God wanted them to, but were unwilling to change. Second, Jesus was prodding them into killing Him (even while holding out redemption to them; see John 10:38)–it was the Plan all along. Here is the first antagonizing teaching.

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

On the surface, this statement seems innocuous enough, but what the teachers of the law were really doing was putting themselves on an equal plane with Moses. They were interpreting the Law according to their own designs. They had rules to control people while they answered to a different set of rules that they made up for themselves. Jesus called them on one of these rules in Mark 7:9-12, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Jesus then turned the people’s attention to the motives of the teachers of the law:

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries [boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

To them, it was all a big ego trip. To Jesus, they were either hired hands who didn’t care for the sheep (John 10:12-13) or actual wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Now, He gives the correct position to have:

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 

The terms, “Rabbi (Teacher),” “Father,” and “Instructor,” are all terms that the religious leaders adored. Lest we get the impression that we are not to use these terms at all, we must understand that a disciple of the Rabbis were to receive and accept whatever the Rabbi taught without question. The other terms carried the same weight. Jesus was saying that they all have one Teacher, Father, and Instructor–Him. Very soon, He would come to live in His believers so that He would abide in them and direct their every step. When? At Pentecost and the Coming of the Holy Spirit. We, too, have that same Spirit in us. Jesus teaches us, and His Father is our Father; the Spirit instructs us and leads each of us as our Partner, our Guide, as one who walks with us every step of the way. We are all His children and on equal footing with Him.

There is nothing too trivial about which He is concerned for us. Why do we fight Him so? The next two verses hold the key to our stubbornness and also the secret to success:

11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

In Jesus’ kingdom, humility trumps pride. In fact, pride undermines all of Christ’s attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s not so much that the Father reprimands those who exalt themselves; He doesn’t have to. They will destroy themselves. Likewise, the “reward” for humility is to be loved and adored by those around them. It’s built in!

May we learn to “humble ourselves in the sight of the LORD, and He will lift us up (James 4:10).”

Abba, may this week be special to us as we read Your Word and articles, listen to teachings and sermons, and watch videos and shows to gain a greater perspective about this special week. If I were to choose something to allow to consume me, it would be learning about this holy week. It is the greatest week in history! Show me more, Lord Jesus. This inquiring mind wants to know. Amen.

Proverbs 28 3-28-21

Learning from Jesus is a constant thing. His Spirit speaks to us all the time–if we will take time to listen.

4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

During these days of teaching in the temple courts, Jesus shared some wonderful truths. The first was due to a question by one of the experts of the law. Mark 12:32-34 shows that he really was an expert in the law and had a pretty good grasp on its meaning.

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together [again]. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind [Deuteronomy 6:5].’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices [based on 1 Samuel 15:22].”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34

Since that exchange had stopped them asking questions, Jesus asked them one of His own (asking questions to make their students think and come to the right conclusion was the mode of teaching back then).

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet [Psalm 110:1].”’

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:41-46

The leading question of Jesus was based upon Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jeremiah 33:17-18. The latter reference gives us one more clue, which is that Jesus is not only King, but High Priest:

17 For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, 18 nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’”

Of course, we know that it is the sacrifice of Jesus that completed all sin offerings. Hebrews tells us so in Hebrews 9:25-26.

Also, Jesus’ use of Psalm 110:1, which was to them a Messianic verse, identified Him with the Messiah. The question was, “How can the King of David be His son at the same time?” Jesus was giving them an explanation of His coming as a person rather than straight from His throne. But, it wasn’t time for Him to do that, yet. He still had to go to the cross, die, be buried, wait, rise again, appear many times, and then ascend back to His throne. Now, He waits for a word from His Father to come and get His Bride. I can hardly wait!

Abba, as we go to our respective churches this morning, may you place upon each of us an awe of being in Your presence in a special way. When we get together as Your children to praise You and worship You, Your Spirit confirms in each of us first our own salvation and relationship with You, and then the connection we all have with each other through that same Spirit. Bind our hearts together this morning, Lord. Have Your way in us. Be magnified in us and by us, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 27 3-27-21

Serving Jesus is wrapped up in one word, “Whatever.” Why would we be selective in serving?

3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool [he who refuses to submit to authority] is heavier than both.

The religious rulers wanted to serve God their way. When Jesus tried to correct them, they resisted—big time! Twice the powers that be tried to trick Jesus. Twice He turned the tables on them. Jesus was all about changing the way people were thinking about the law, God, and heaven. Let’s look at the Pharisees’ trap first:

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

1Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

  1. The intent was obvious to everyone: The Pharisees and the Herodians wanted Jesus out of the way.
  2. They first appealed to His integrity. They assumed that Jesus would tell the truth. They thought they had Him–little did they know…
  3. The imperial tax was “A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens.” The Jews hated having to pay this tax on top of the regular Roman tax, the temple tax, and their own national tax as well as special taxes imposed by Rome.
  4. They asked for a judgement call from Jesus on this tax. To say, “No, it is wrong,” would have put Him in hot water with the Roman government; to say, “Yes, we need to pay it,” would have put Him at odds with the people.
  5. Jesus knew their minds and the intent of their hearts. He called for a denarius to be brought to Him. We have to assume that one of the Pharisees brought Him the coin. The problem is that it had a picture of Caesar on it as well as the inscription “The Divine Caesar.” It was an idol–and they had brought it into the temple area (see 21:23). Busted!!!
  6. Jesus didn’t call them on the coin. Instead, He specified that we are to give to Caesar what He asks for as leader of Rome and to give to God what God asks of us as Lord of our lives. It’s a valid word for today.
  7. Exit—embarrassed—stage right…

Then, the Sadducees came to trick Jesus with this story:

Marriage at the Resurrection

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

  1. The story they told Jesus was based upon Deuteronomy 25:5-6 and was a valid point that was taken to the extreme.
  2. Jesus made a public statement concerning their knowledge of Scripture–or the lack thereof–and the power of God. He schooled them!
  3. Our glorified bodies will be beyond just physical bodies. Our physique and the way it works will not be what we know. Marriage will not be needed. Our intimate knowledge of everyone far outshines the intimacy involved in marriage. Neither will there be any need to procreate. I wish I knew what He meant by “they will be like the angels in heaven.” I can assume that our physical needs and desires will give way to heavenly ones.
  4. Jesus then brought it all home to a correct interpretation of Scripture. He quoted Exodus 3:6 to them. Then He interpreted it for them, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Boom. Mic drop.
  5. The crowds were astonished. The Sadducees were surely embarrassed if not downright ashamed. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

They tried again one more time, but we will have to wait until tomorrow. For today, let’s allow God to interpret Scripture for us. When we read a verse or passage, let’s ask Him to tell us what it means and how to apply it. He may not answer right away, but soon that answer will dawn on us as He shows us. He’s like that.

Abba, may You be my light, my knowledge, my wisdom, my discernment, my understanding, my discretion, and my prudence concerning Your Word. May I heed every instruction that comes from Your lips to my ears. Amen.

Proverbs 26 3-26-21

Do we have the right “robe” of salvation? Are we clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Is He our “Invitation?”

9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand [truth] is a proverb [Christ’s invitation] in the mouth of a fool [who refuses to accept it].

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14 is a strong indictment against the leaders of Israel. There are also several truths–from my perspective–concerning salvation that we can draw from it. Let’s look at it in sections:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the stre
et corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Here is the framework:

  1. Jesus is describing the kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God in Luke 14:15-24).
  2. The King is God and Jesus is the Son. The banquet is found in Revelation 19:7-8 (there was always a banquet with a wedding-see John 2:1-10 for an example).
  3. People gave excuses for not accepting the invitation. Who are these people? The Jews, including the leaders of Israel. It’s everyone who rejects Jesus as Messiah.
  4. The others who are then invited are the Gentile nations. Even Paul said, “Your blood be on your own heads. I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” Acts 18:6.

Jesus was spelling out the conditions of salvation and the consequences of rejection. He was also prophesying the Gospel being shared with the Gentiles beginning with Cornelius in Acts 10.

But wait–there’s more!

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Wedding guests were given an outer robe to wear that identified them with the wedding party. This man did not have a wedding robe. What does this mean?!

  1. The King is the one who noticed.
  2. The King called the man, “friend.” It is possible that the King was giving him an opportunity to repent. Jesus used the same reference in His parables; He also called, Judas “friend” at His betrayal (Matthew 26:50), thus (possibly) giving one last chance to repent.
  3. The man was speechless because he thought that his own clothes were good enough. Are our “works” good enough? Can we be righteous enough to stand in the King’s presence? Not without the robe of righteousness given to us by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Revelation 3:5).
  4. The consequences of the man’s poor choice was to be cast out. Only those with the right robe are allowed to be part of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb.

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Jesus made it plain in John 12:32 that He calls all people to Himself by His finished work on the cross. The term, “once for all,” is used in Romans 6:10, Hebrews 5:9, 7:27, 9:12, 10:1-2, 10:10, and Jude 1:3. It’s pretty clear that Jesus died Once or All. The condition of salvation is the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, which means that we pledge our faith and obedience, our lives and even our deaths to Him. The neat part is that we get to do it IN PERSON. Our introduction to Jesus is personal and He is ever-present in us from that point on. Cool, huh?

Let’s renew that vow to Him today by acknowledging His Presence, Participation, Provision, Protection, and Pilotry (the One who pilots our ship) in our lives.

Abba, you are my Pilot, my Messiah. May I subject myself to You in every way today. Amen.

Proverbs 25 3-25-21

Who Jesus is demands a decision. Either we believe Him and follow Him, or we choose to go our own way. The decision is ours, but it IS a decision.

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.

Jesus had some wicked officials working in the temple system. His procedure for “cleansing His house” was involved and personal. Let’s look:

The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus isn’t telling a random story. It’s one that the people of Israel knew well. We can read the entire story in Isaiah 5:1-7, but here are some keys verses from that passage:

I will sing for the one I love
    a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
    on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
    and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
    and cut out a winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
    but it yielded only bad fruit.

7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
    is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
    are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
    for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

As we can see, Jesus is calling them into judgement simply by choosing that story from Isaiah. His version of the story includes the sending of the son, which represents Himself. Notice, also, the conclusion that the listeners come to when He asks them what the owner will do:

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Then, Jesus lowers the boom:

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’ [Psalm 118:22-24 a Messianic psalm]?

43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Jesus was declaring that He is the Cornerstone. We know that the taking away of the kingdom is Him inviting the Gentile nations to become “true Israelites” (Romans 2:28-29), which He implemented at Pentecost (Acts 2). Then He tells them, in true Messiah form, that anyone who falls on Him will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom He falls will be crushed. I would rather be broken than crushed, how about you?

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. Matthew 21:33-4

Again, the leaders wanted to arrest Him, but it wasn’t time, yet. That time would come. For us, we will observe the Holy Week beginning this Sunday with Palm Sunday. We will “watch” it all happen through the lens of Scripture and get a sense of the purpose of God. Tomorrow, we look at the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. It’s quite revealing!

Abba, thank You for calling me to fall on You. Break me and then put me back together with Your Holy Spirit so that I look just like Jesus. May I think like Jesus, feel like Jesus, and respond to You just like Jesus. That is my goal for today, Lord. Tomorrow, too. Amen.

Proverbs 24 3-24-21

Are we being honest with Jesus? with ourselves? He knows our hearts whether we mean what we say or not.

26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

The next three parables were an indictment to the religious establishment. They show the thoughts and intents of the leaders’ hearts, which was not about serving the Lord, but about serving themselves at the people’s expense. Let’s study the first one.

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind [regretted-NASB, repented-KJV] and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. Matthew 21:28-32

  1. I like the way Jesus began by inviting His listeners to give their opinion. He was in classic Teacher mode.
  2. The first son said that he would not go, but then repented and went. Jesus’ first sermon was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” Matthew 4:17. This son did the will of the Father by repenting and trusting in the Son in order to gain the kingdom of heaven.
  3. The second son said he would go, but then didn’t. We can surmise that Jesus was referring to the religious leaders. The work was to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. Believing in Him was crucial to pleasing God. The religious leaders were all about pleasing God according to the Law–as long as it met their own agenda, which was control of the people and the treasury. In order to stay in control, they had to work with the Roman government. Being obedient to Roman law was one thing, but using their influence and connections to wield power–especially against Jesus–was quite another matter. They didn’t want a Messiah; they wanted to remain in their positions of leadership and power.
  4. In a sense, both sons said “no:” one with his words and the other with his deeds. Both needed to repent, which was Jesus’ point.
  5. “Ahead of you” – Jesus was still talking to the chief priests and the elders of the people from verse 23. He didn’t pull any punches, did He? They wouldn’t answer Him about John the Baptist, so He called them on it: “John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him” v.32. Wow! They would have done better to have answered Jesus and taken their lumps from the people. They were exposed either way!

I wonder what it was like to see the change in tax collectors and prostitutes after they were baptized by John the Baptist, and then to believe in Jesus as Messiah according to John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:29. How about us? Are we different since we were baptized for believing in Jesus? In order to be like the first son, we must repent of anything that is not in keeping with the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Jesus) in our lives. How do we discern what these things are? By listening to His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:10-18, Isaiah 30:21), reading His Word (Psalm 19:7-11), and then listening again.

Let’s be about the Father’s business today.

Abba, since You called me, I have sought to do Your will–except for those two years in Junior High where I got off-course–and to learn all I can from Your Word. Having a repentant heart is good for me; help me to keep it. May I treasure Your Word as more precious than pure gold and honey from the honeycomb; “by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward,” (Psalm 19:7-11) which is knowing You and partnering with You. You lead; I’ll follow. Amen.

Proverbs 23 3-21-21

We are designed for interaction with the Father, through the Son, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Let’s connect with Him.

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what/who is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. 3 Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.

Yesterday, we read about Jesus going to Bethany when He got into Jerusalem. On His way, He passed a fig tree that was in full leaf. The next morning, Jesus stopped by it to pick some fruit, but it didn’t have any. It deceived Him. Here’s what happened:

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. Matthew 21:18-19

The fig tree was a symbol for Israel (Hosea 9:10). Jesus used the fruitless fig tree to teach the disciples what was going to happen to the Israeli leadership for not believing in Him.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

We know that 40 years later, Israel was subdued and Jerusalem destroyed. Jesus prophesied this destruction with the cursing of the fig tree. The mountain to which Jesus was referring was Mount Zion, the one on which Jerusalem was built. The sea is representative in prophet-speak of a Gentile presence (Rev. 17:15), in this case, Rome. Jesus was saying, “If you believe what the Father tells you, then you will be able to do whatever He tells you to do.” Never are we left to choose on our own. Remember that we were designed for interaction with Him. Jesus Himself said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” The same goes for us.

When the chief priests and elders of the people questioned Jesus, asking, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23), Jesus stumped them with their own judgement concerning John the Baptist.

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They couldn’t answer because either way, they would have condemned themselves.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus was not ready for them to arrest Him for blasphemy by claiming outright to be the Messiah. Every human was playing the political game trying to match wits and manipulate circumstances. Jesus had a specific timeline that led to the cross. It wasn’t quite time, so…

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Jesus finally did confess that He is the King of the Jews (the Messiah) in Mark 14:62, and, sure enough, they crucified Him for that confession. Jesus quoted straight from Daniel 7:13-14, which identified the Messiah:

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of mancoming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence [seated with Him]14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped himHis dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

HERE is where Jesus told them from where He got His authority. It Was Time.

Lest we get ahead of ourselves, we still have a few days–and quite a few parables–before Jesus is arrested. Tomorrow, we will look at how Jesus condemned the religious leaders for their selfish actions, their lust for power and prestige, for usurping the praise of men, and for killing the prophets who came to warn them.

Abba, Your Story is, indeed, the greatest story ever told. It’s more than a story; it’s a true account-it’s History! It is His Story, the story of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Oh Jesus, You are marvelous; You are wonderful; You are my Savior and my Lord. You are my All In All. Be Lord of my life today. Reveal Your will, Your way, and Your treasures to me as I study Your Word. Amen.

Proverbs 22 3-22-21

We must drive out the mocker from within ourselves; if not, then we will be driven out (removed from the situation).

22 Drive out the mocker [one who gets angry, caustic, or contemptuous], and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.

Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a young donkey and then drove the moneychangers and sellers out of the temple. Why the big deal? Let’s find out!

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” [Zechariah 9:9]
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” [“save us”
Psalm 118:25]
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” [Psalm 118:26]
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus was announcing His kingship by riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey thus fulfilling the prophecy. The crowds and children were quoting from the Messianic Psalm 118. Everyone knew that Jesus was proclaiming to be the Messiah.

If we read all four Gospels, we find that Jesus went to the temple area and saw what was going on. He then went to Bethany for the night (Mark 11:11), and then came back the next day and cleared the temple of moneychangers and animal vendors. This was not the first time that Jesus cleared the temple; the first time, He made a whip of cords and drove them out (John 2:13-17). Why was it so important for the temple area to be cleared? The answer is in Jesus’ quote, but let’s include the rest of the verse:

“these I will bring to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
    a house of prayer for all nations
.” Isaiah 56:7

The religious leaders had set up a marketplace in the court of the Gentiles, which is the outer area, and were requiring the people to purchase their lambs instead of the ones they brought, and were exchanging their money for temple money at an inflated price. They not only had effectively crowded out the Gentile worshipers, they were cheating everyone who had come to worship! Jesus was restoring everyone’s right to worship, and restoring to the Gentiles their rightful place at God’s banquet table. He did this through His death, burial and resurrection, and the invitation to Cornelius and then the Roman World through Paul and others. In doing so, He fulfilled the Abrahamic Covenant established in Genesis 12:3. It was a BIG DEAL!

If Jesus hadn’t given the religious leaders enough reason to kill Him, they surely had it now! Jesus was confronting their greed and lust for power. The HAD to kill Him if they were going to keep things they way they liked them,

47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our [position in the] temple and our nation.”
John 11:47-48

Jesus was all about restoring God’s people to Himself, which includes Jews and Gentiles. He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth [crucified], will draw all people to Myself” John 12:32.

Let’s praise the LORD for His marvelous salvation! Let’s worship our Great God and Savior for His wondrous love! Let’s be thankful and bless His name! Let’s give Him our lives as our offering to His greatness.

Abba, blessed be Your name! Thank You for Your wondrous plan to bring to Yourself all who will come. Thank You for giving us the privilege of being a part of Your family. We owe You everything. May we serve You with everything we have and everything we are. Amen.

Proverbs 21 3-21-21

Trusting God for the bigger picture is not easy. It’s what got us messed up in the beginning. It still messes us up!

2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Seeing Jesus from a Jewish perspective is not easy for us Gentiles. Let’s look at a Matthew 16:21-28 this morning; it will help us understand what Jesus was doing.

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Jesus knew what was going to happen. In fact, the cross was why He came to earth. He tells us as much:

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

Get this: Peter rebuked Jesus! I can just see it using the characters on “The Chosen.”

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Peter was just being protective–but then, he may have still had in mind Christ setting up a physical kingdom. It’s all he knew. In fact, there is much that was hidden that the Lord was doing to keep it from the enemy (see Luke 9:45 and 1 Corinthians 2:8). Jesus was not saying that Peter was Satan or that he was being controlled by Satan. He was saying that Peter had his own agenda in mind rather than the Lord’s, which was like Satan.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Jesus mentioned the cross for the first time. Everyone knew what a cross meant: DEATH. A gruesome one, at that. I suspect that they were taken aback by such strong language. It’s not just a one-time decision, either. We must make it every day. Luke actually adds the word, “daily,” to the passage (Luke 9:23).

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

To know what Jesus is talking about here, we must look at what happens next, which is the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to the top of a mountain. Jesus was transfigured there back into His heavenly form. God came and enveloped them and spoke about His Son. Peter, James and John tasted heaven. What do you think this experience did for them when they faced prison, exile, being boiled in oil, and death? I personally think that they were excited to get to go back! Paul, who also tasted heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), gave us insight into how it changed his viewpoint about life:

24 However, I consider my [this] life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

We learned yesterday that Jesus is the Messiah. Today we learned what He came to do. Tomorrow, we will begin looking at the fulfillment of His Plan with the Triumphant Entry.

Abba, help us to trust You to have everything worked out for us. How we live for You and how we die for You is entirely up to You. We will trust You to lead us, strengthen us, give us everything we need to serve You, and the faith to die for You. We trust You for the bigger picture, knowing You will be with us always, and I believe Your presence becomes more and more evident as our time draws near. Just to see Your face and stand/bow in Your presence will make it all worthwhile! Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 20 3-20-21

Caesarea Philippi was considered the birthplace of the world and the entrance to hell. Jesus took His disciples there!

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see–the LORD has made them both.

For Jesus to go to Caesarea Philippi was no big deal because He is Creator of everything (Hebrews 1:2). He knew the legends and He knew the Truth. He wanted to make a point to His disciples: By taking them there, He was saying that He was beginning something new.

So far, Jesus had only eluded to being the Messiah. Today, we read His declaration.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will [already] be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will [already] be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Mathew 16:13-20

There are several things to point out about this passage.

  1. In Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Matthew used the term, “Son of Man.” Why? Because of his Jewish audience. They would have immediately picked up on the Daniel 7:13-14 Messianic reference.
  2. Jesus makes a declaration that Simon is a “rock” and on that rock He will build His church, against which the gates of Hell cannot overcome it.
    1. Simon Peter was to be the lead Apostle once Jesus left. It was a passing of the baton, the mantle.
    2. The “rock” was the confession of Peter, not Peter himself. The confession was that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus Himself is that Rock. He was in Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13, and He is today.
    3. The word for “church” is “ekklesia,” which means “gathering” or “assembly.” This word is used for the sons of Jacob in Genesis 49:2, for the leaders of Israel in Exodus 3:16, and for the congregation of Israel in Numbers 8:9, 10:3, Deuteronomy 4:10, 31:12, and other places. The day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit entered the disciples and 3000 people got saved is what we call the birth of the church when in reality it is the expansion of the church. Those 3000 people were Jewish–100% of them! Not all Jews in the Old Testament times were true Jews in that they kept the Law with all their hearts, souls, minds and with all their strength, and neither are all Jews since Christ true Jews in that they believe that Jesus is the Messiah and have been circumcised of heart. In fact, in both groups, true Jews are the exception and not the rule. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:29 that “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”

Jesus was making it very clear that the Old Covenant Law was done and that He was establishing a New Covenant. Later on, He based His New Covenant on love, His love for us and our love for each other, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” John 13:34-35.

Let’s ask Christ to teach us to love one another so that this world can see Jesus in us. They need hope; they need peace; they need His love reaching out through us. We can “loose” the kingdom of heaven on those around us if we learn it well enough on the inside to show it on the outside. It’s already been loosed in heaven, so what are we waiting for?!

Abba, may You teach us Your love so that we can love those around us. Help us to realize that those who don’t know You–and don’t know you very well–are going to think differently than us. They are controlled by fear and worldly desires. But, when we are obedient and show Your love to them, Your Holy Spirit convicts them and gloriously saves those who will come to You in repentance and obedience, pledging their heart and life to You, dear Jesus, just as we did. We look for those to whom You are speaking and working in their lives. Help us to see with Your eyes, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 19 3-19-21

Why take things as face value? “Study to show yourself approved…” You may have learned false information.

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Our love for the Lord must be more than a feeling; it must grow legs and walk! At the same time, many people run ahead of the Lord because they think that they can guess what He’s up to. WRONG! We are not designed to do anything FOR God, but WITH God. He made us interactive on purpose, and that purpose is to be interactive with Him.

Today, we look at two passages that have been misused for centuries. One is clear if we do the math and the other is clear if we dig a little deeper than the English language. Here’s the first one:

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew 12:38-42

The Pharisees were asking for the sign of Moses, which was manna from heaven. We learn this bit of information from John 6:30-31. Jesus told them the only sign they were going to get from Him aside from His healings: He would spend three days and three nights in the belly of the earth just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. There are two things that are taken for granted; One is that we can get three days and three nights from Friday to Sunday. The other is that Jesus died in 33 A.D. According to the astronomical charts, both are wrong.

  1. The Jewish day began at dusk. Counting backward from Sunday, we get Saturday night–which was really Sunday morning, Saturday, Friday night–which was really Saturday morning, Friday, Thursday night–which was really Friday morning, Wednesday night–which was really Thursday morning, and then Wednesday. Since Wednesday actually began on Tuesday at dusk, the Passover meal was Tuesday evening; Jesus was arrested that night, crucified at 9am, died at 3pm, and buried in Joseph’s tomb before dusk of Preparation day (Wednesday) to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath that began on Thursday that year–which was really Wednesday night. Confusing, right?
  2. Astronomical computer programs can tell us the year that the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Thursday (Wednesday night). It was 30 A.D. This date correlates with other astronomical data (including rulers and moons) placing Christ’s birth at 3 B.C.
  3. The Feast of First Fruits is always on the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus arose sometime after dusk on Saturday as the First fruits of the resurrected. He, indeed, was in the grave three days and three nights.

One more thing about this passage is Jesus’ reprimand of the Pharisees. Nineveh praised Jonah, and the Queen of the South (Ethiopia- see 1 Kings 10:1-13) praised Solomon, but Jesus told them that He was greater than Jonah and Solomon. He was setting them up, but they didn’t realize it.

The second misinterpretation happens in Matthew 16:13-20. We will wait until tomorrow to discuss that one. Today, let us focus on the fact that regardless of bad translations, misguided theologians (from as far back as the 6th century), and well-meaning but proof-texting pastors, the Word of God stands pure, holy, and true. Sometimes, we just have to dig for that truth.

Abba, thank You for all the wonderful tools we have at our disposal today. What theologians throughout the centuries wouldn’t give for that astronomical computer program or the internet! My Bible program that gives me access to many translations and Hebrew/Greek dictionaries is amazing. I even have it on my phone at my convenience all the time! May I not take for granted Your Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Reading Your Word is the most important thing we do besides carrying on a conversation with You all the time. Help us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, Lord. Amen.

For more information about “Easter” and its origin, see “Why Easter? Why NOT Passover?”

Proverbs 18 3-18-21

Whether judged in this world or the next, our judgement is based upon our own decisions. The standard is Jesus.

20 From the fruit of his mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of his lips he is satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit [whether good or bad].

Yesterday, we watched Jesus patiently explain the error in the Pharisees’ thinking. Today, we see Jesus explain the danger in their way of thinking.

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:31-32

If you’ve ever heard of the Unpardonable Sin, this is it. Refusing the Holy Spirit when He comes to a person asking entrance into his heart and life is unforgivable because He is the One who saves us. He is our seal of salvation, our guarantee, the Agent of Transformation, the power of the Resurrection–He is Jesus! The Pharisees were speaking against Jesus as a man and they were unaware–or refused to accept–the Holy Spirit’s role concerning Jesus. Here was their warning.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Matthew 12:33

Our actions always reveal our motives. Jesus was pointing out that righteous deeds follow a righteous heart. Again, it was a warning to the Pharisees that their deeds revealed their heart.

Next is a scathing condemnation of their current deeds. What we must realize is that Jesus was calling their actions to their attention so that they might repent. There was no judgement here concerning punishment; He was simply calling it like He saw it. Here we go:

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word [concerning what they say about the Lord Jesus-see verse 32] they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37

Can you see what Jesus is doing? He is trying to make them aware that they need a heart change. The sad part is that they weren’t having it. People are stubborn, especially if they are enjoying the fruit of their sin. They wielded their power like a sword over the people and they didn’t want to give it up. We are the same way, though. It isn’t until we see our sin as sin that we are willing to change, and that revelation comes from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s put ourselves before the Holy Spirit today and ask Him to reveal anything that is keeping us from hearing Him, seeing Him, and loving Him.

Abba, thank You for the Gift of Your Holy Spirit. His presence and participation in our lives gives us peace, protection, and power to live righteously. He even gives us the want-to to want to! May we learn to give ourselves to His guidance and direction daily–constantly. Amen.

Proverbs 17 3-17-21

Jesus demonstrates His unlimited patience with us as we discover who He is. Learning to trust Him is key to transformation.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests [and knows] the heart.

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows that they are desperately wicked in that our hearts are all about doing what WE want rather than what anyone else wants, even God. But, Jesus is in the business of transforming hearts into hearts that love Him. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone [dead] and give you a heart of flesh [living]” Ezekiel 36:26. That’s good news! There is even better news: “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” Ezekiel 36:27. That last part may not sound like good news, but as we study Jesus’ life and ministry, we find that He redefines what those decrees and laws are for us. More on that later. Right now, we are watching Jesus reveal Himself as Lord of the Sabbath–and therefore, God.

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:9-14

Jesus just redefined the Sabbath rules for everyone. The Pharisees didn’t like it, so they showed their true colors and plotted to kill Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus withdrew from that place, but drew a crowd. Evidently, the Pharisees followed, because when a demon-possessed man was brought to Him…well, read the account yourself:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul [Satan], the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

The people saw Jesus’ healing, which was the work of the Father (John 10:38), and began to ask The Question, “Could Jesus be who He claimed to be: the Messiah?” The Pharisees, though, resorted to slander. Jesus, in His infinite patience, explained the error in their thinking. But then, He cut their feet out from under them, 30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus was drawing the proverbial line in the sand. Who would stand with Him? Who would scatter? The answer to this question separates households still today. Jesus warned us:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6].’” Matthew 10:34-36

We’ll pick it up tomorrow with verse 31. Good stuff! As we are about to see, Jesus really was in charge! He didn’t mince words with those who didn’t take Him seriously and those who set themselves against Him.

Abba, as I read and learn about Jesus, I see more and more that He really is You in the flesh! Thankfully, Your Spirit lives in me and I have Your peace living in my heart and I don’t have to be afraid. Thank You for exchanging my old, dead heart for a new and living one, one that desires to follow You and keep Your commands. Your yoke truly is easy and Your burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). Amen.

Proverbs 16 3-16-21

Understanding the God-hood of Jesus is vital. Otherwise, we can take or leave His direction according to our own desires.

1 To man belong the plans of the [untrustworthy] heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Jesus is more than just a “big brother.” He is God in the flesh; it’s what the word, “Immanuel,” means (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus could change the rules because they were His rules, but He didn’t. Jesus kept the Law of Moses very strictly. There were times that He ignored the rules of the Pharisees because the Pharisees had either misinterpreted or over-interpreted the original law. Here is a for-instance:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-8

You may be saying, “I have heard Jesus quote that verse recently.” You would be correct! It was when we were studying Matthew 9:9-13 at the calling of Matthew that Jesus first quoted that verse to the religious leaders. The law to which they were referring was their own set of laws that were established by them to “help the people keep from sinning.” Actually, it was more about control than anything. Jesus stripped away their interpretation back to its original intent, which was the benefit of man and the worship of the Father.

Jesus gave two examples out of the Scriptures. One is 1 Samuel 21:1-6 when David ate the consecrated bread. This passage wasn’t about the Sabbath, but about how everything that was sacred was for the benefit of mankind rather than the other way around. The pagans kept their “gods” happy with offerings of all kinds. God has everything work for the benefit of mankind because we are His creation, and in Christ, we are His children. The second example was directly related to the temple priests who worked on the Sabbath by offering sacrifices to God. In their work–according to the Pharisees–they desecrated the Sabbath. Their jobs were ordained by God Himself and therefore did NOT desecrate the Sabbath.

Jesus then referred them to Hosea 6:6 and actually chastised them for not knowing its intent. They condemned the innocent disciples for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath by placing their law ahead of the obedient lifestyle of the disciples. Jesus was basically saying, “Do as they (the disciples) do and not as you (Pharisees) say.” Then, He dropped a bombshell on their parade: “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Son of Man– A reference to Daniel 7:13-14, which was a Messianic passage, thus identifying Jesus as Messiah.

Lord– Kurios, Supreme Master, God.

Sabbath– Jesus was creator of the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2-3 , Exodus 20:8-11, and Proverbs 8:30-31).

All in all, Jesus rocked their world by claiming to be the Creator of the Sabbath. He pretty much identified Himself as Messiah. They certainly would have taken it that way. It’s the main reason they wanted to kill Him:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:16-18

Lest we start making excuses for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, Jesus gave them the same opportunity to believe in Him as He did everyone else:

37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 10:37-38

Alas, instead, they tried once again to seize Him (fail). Let’s not miss the opportunity to believe Jesus. Look what He has done for us on the cross! Let’s place our faith and trust in Him and call on Him to guide us every day, in every way.

Abba, understanding who Jesus is frees us from having to defend Him to others and from having to justify every single thing He tells us to do. Jesus, Your direction in our lives is vital for us to have and for us to obey. May we settle once and for all in our hearts that You are King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.

Proverbs 15 3-15-21

Learning how to listen is imperative to hearing correctly. Studying our bibles is how we learn to listen.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Folly is continuing to eat “junk food” instead of that which is good for you–even worse, eating poison! The teachers of the law taught each other and therefore fed each other lies. Jesus came to bring true knowledge; they missed Him, but the disciples of John the Baptist did not, who came seeking answers. Jesus spoke plainly and clearly to them.

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:14-17

In order to understand what Jesus meant by Bridegroom, we must first understand the Jewish perspective of God’s relationship with His people.For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth” Isaiah 54:5. They saw God as their Husband and themselves as His bride. When Jesus said that He was the bridegroom, He was representing God. Every Jew would know this phraseology. He answered them with logic from their own lives: Fasting doesn’t happen at a wedding feast. Once the bridegroom and bride leave, then people can fast, which was part of their weekly worship regime.

Jesus then gives another illustration about patches. This one is pretty straightforward. A patch of unshrunk cloth will tear the old garment the first time the garment is washed with the new patch on it. To do so would make the tear or hole worse than before it was patched. Along with this illustration are the wineskins. To put new wine in an old (unstretchable) wineskin would burst the skin and waste the wine. The inference here is that the old wineskin (the covenant of Moses) was not flexible enough nor big enough to hold the new wine (the kingdom of heaven that Jesus was bringing). Jesus was creating a new wineskin (fertile hearts) for the new wine (the Holy Spirit). The old sacrificial system would be obsolete when Jesus died on the cross.

At one point, when John was in prison (his ministry being complete), Jesus once again addressed his disciples:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Matthew 11:2-6

Jesus knew that passages from Isaiah were the best answers to give John:

say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 35:4-6

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3

John evidently believed Jesus because when he was beheaded, “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus” Matthew 14:12. I am presuming that they stayed with Him from then on. Let’s not forget that Andrew and John were both disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42) and probably knew most of them. Also, they would take John’s word about the testimony of Jesus.

In order to think Jewishly, we need to know the Old Testament Scriptures. We also need to learn about Jewish customs, rituals, and feasts. Our pastor has a Jewish friend who is a follower of Jesus. They will be talking about Passover and other feasts these next two Wednesdays at 10:30 at Wednesday Morning Blessings. Look for Brookwood, OKC on YouTube (best) or for Brookwood Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, on Facebook.

Abba, what a grand time to learn about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they come up in a couple of weeks. May You open our minds to the meanings behind the events, especially concerning Your fulfillment of them. May we have spiritual eyes and ears, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 14 3-14-21

Believing Jesus is important. If we believe what He says, then we will do what He says.

6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning [those who are looking].
35 A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful [disobedient] servant arouses his fury.

As we continue viewing Matthew’s account of Christ’s ministry, we read in chapter 9 about two events which include the teachers of the law being both mockers and shameful servants.

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it [but not the leaders], they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8

There are several things to note concerning this passage:

  1. Jesus was in His home town of Nazareth. He more than likely knew all the players.
  2. We know from Mark 2:4 that they cut a hole in the roof and let the man down in front of Jesus.
  3. Jesus knew the thoughts of the teachers of the law. He knows all our thoughts!
  4. Which IS easier? Are they not both impossible for man? “But with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
  5. The man was obedient. Wouldn’t you be?
  6. All the glory went to God (v. 8).

I’m sure that it would seem that Jesus was blaspheming, but the proof that He is Messiah was proven by His healing the man. Only God can do such things. How did they respond? Eventually, they would conspire to kill Him.

Jesus went on to Capernaum and called Matthew to follow Him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice [Hosea 6:6].’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  1. Jesus was comfortable with those whom the religious leaders considered “sinners.”
  2. Jesus broke a lot of the pharisaical rules, not to mention the societal ones.
  3. The religious leaders did not consider themselves sinners, nor sick and in need of spiritual health.
  4. Hosea 6 is an indictment of the religious leaders and their poor leadership. Surely they picked up on it.
  5. Jesus was not there to call mockers, but those who realize they need a Savior–THE Savior.

As we go to church this morning either in person or online, let us consider: Do we need a Savior? Were we sinful enough for Christ to have to die for us? If we believe we do and that we are, then we will get much out of church today. We will go with grateful hearts and dry sponges ready to slurp up spiritual truths. We will sing praises to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we will give our lives–once again– to Him with humble hearts.

Abba, I surely do! I praise You for loving me and doing what it took to reinstate me as Your child. Thank You for wanting me; Your presence in my life and your interaction with me makes life worth living. The fellowship we share means more than I can express. I bless You and praise You today, Lord Jesus. May my life honor You. Amen.

Proverbs 13 3-13-21

Are our lives sending the right message? Do our lives lift high the name of Jesus? Know Him; serve Him; show Him.

5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

As we continue on our study on the Jewishness of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns His listeners to be careful to whom they listen. The religious leaders would have them follow the Law of Moses, particularly the way that they spin it. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and to usher in a New Covenant.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

The real question is, “Is a person’s life growing in godliness and righteousness?” Another way to say it is, “Am I becoming more like Jesus and expressing His values, His love, and His grace?” It’s a good question to ask ourselves every morning!

Jesus then hit the teachers of the Law between the eyes:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus linked the Law back to a relationship with the Father through Him. See it? “I never knew you.” At another time, Jesus tells them what the Father’s will is for mankind, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” John 6:29. If the religious leaders didn’t follow Jesus, then they were wolves in sheep’s clothing, bad fruit, and a bad tree (we’ll discuss the bad tree later this month). Jesus Himself linked loving Him with obedience, “If you love Me, keep my commands” John 14:15. He was about to give them explicit commands to follow that changed them and changed the world:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides [lives, camps out] in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:9-11

I included verse 11 because I want us to be reminded of the telltale sign of a growing Christian: Joy. When we abide in Christ daily, His joy washes over us. Even in difficult circumstances, we can rest in His love and feel His joy. His peace reigns in our hearts because of the promise of eternal connection with Him and eternal life in Him.

Let’s not be like the religious leaders who decided for themselves how they would serve, but ask Christ how we may best serve Him.

Christianity is interactive;
we were never designed to do things FOR Him, but WITH Him.

Abba, may we “get it” today. Serving You is not doing things for you, but with You. It’s always been about the relationship. May we not grieve You today by ignoring Your Spirit within us. Teach us to listen closely; You are forever speaking to us. Unplug our ears, LORD. We want to hear Your sweet voice! Amen.

Proverbs 12 3-12-21

Not wanting to change is what got the religious leaders in so much trouble. We can be the same way.

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

As we continue to look at Jesus’ correction of the teaching of the day, we begin to see why the religious leaders hated Him so. He upset their applecart. Not only that, He called into question their motives behind their rules. Take oaths, for instance:

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn [Numbers 30:2].’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:33-37

The passage in Numbers was a clarification that a person should keep his word. Jesus interpreted oath-taking as unnecessary for a person to keep his word. Jesus was taking away the teaching of the religious leaders by specifically listing the things by which NOT to swear: heaven, earth, or Jerusalem. But, it was worse than that. Matthew records Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the teachers of the law in 23:16-22,

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

Jesus summed up the practice of oath-taking with this warning, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Did the religious leaders stop taking oaths? Not at all. They would rather kill Jesus than do as He said.

Next on the list was the binding of an old law and the loosing of a new one. It includes a rebuke of the religious leaders’ passive resistance against Rome. Jesus had something to say about that, too.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:23-25].’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Without actually saying it, Jesus was telling them to love one another as He loved them, a command that He gave His disciples His last night with them ([John 13:34-35]. The closest He got to telling the people this command is in 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” As for the one-mile rule, by Roman law a person was duty-bound to carry a soldier’s pack one mile. I have heard it said that the cities had markers at every mile so that they would know when they had carried the pack exactly one mile. Jesus wanted them to change their attitude toward their adversaries. He was trying to get them to show God’s love instead of national pride. Sounds like a good lesson for today, doesn’t it?

Verses 43-48 are a continuation of this theme. If a person would discipline himself with this knowledge, he would not have to be corrected (see the Proverbs verse for today). Also, he would “be perfect even as his heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Abba, may You make us just like Jesus, who was just like You. We want to be perfect: whole, complete, mature, lacking no good thing in us. Like I said, we want to be just like Jesus! We don’t want to be stupid, Lord. Help us to listen, trust and obey. Amen.

Proverbs 11 3-11-21

Why is sexual sin so pervasive? Because it is at the base of our self-control, which is the hardest fruit to grow.

22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

Today we look at adultery and divorce from the Jewish leaders’ perspective. Jesus raised the bar impossibly high for guys concerning adultery. Let’s look at it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30

The first part of this passage everyone gets. Jesus moved our responsibility from the physical to the mental. It’s the next part that we have to work through. He is basically saying that whatever you look at that causes you to commit adultery is something that needs to exit our lives. The same goes for what we do, as well. Our guardrails need to be such that we don’t get close to the temptation if we have anything to do with it. Personal responsibility is a thing. It’s part of having free will. If we were to have free will, then God had to give us total free will. He is still in charge of the basics in our lives, but any choice we have is, indeed, our choice. The passive judgement that God passed on mankind is to allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin–unless we cry out to Him for help. He is ready and willing to save us whenever we call.

Now, we look at divorce:

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[a]32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32

Jesus elaborates in Matthew 19:1-12 concerning marriage, sex, and abstention from sex. In that passage, He says, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” The partnership of marriage is a picture of our relationship with God. God does not give up on us, therefore, we are not to give up on each other.

The religious leaders then try to throw Him a curveball by asking about Moses’ certificate of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus set the record straight that it was because of their hard hearts that this concession was given. “But it was not this way from the beginning.” Jesus wanted them to know the whole truth about marriage and God’s design.

In verse 9, there is an exception. If the woman (speaking to men) is unfaithful, then he is free to divorce her. Men who want a divorce are usually the ones who have been or are wanting to be unfaithful. Jesus said no. When the disciples claimed that it would be better not to marry, Jesus set a bar that is impossible to meet without the Holy Spirit:

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Jesus said by using the word, “eunuch,” that unless we are married, then we are to be chaste unto the Lord. In other words, “No Sex Outside of Marriage.” They were not free to do as they wanted. God has rules for marriage that are designed to protect both the man and the woman as well as the picture marriage shows to the world. The question is, are we willing to give up our desires to do what is best for our Lord? It all comes back to self-control and being under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion: Jesus reinstated God’s original plan for marriage
that the religious leaders had corrupted. [mic drop]

Abba, may I learn more and more about Your original intent concerning marriage and self-control. I know that if we get our bodies under control, then most of our fight with the “natural man” goes away. When the fight goes away, our overall peace level goes way up! “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth (Psalm 86:11).” Amen.

Proverbs 3-10-21

A Ready Guide to Worship

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence [it’s a heart issue].

Worship is different than praise and thanksgiving. We praise the Lord and give thanks to His holy name. Worship is a response to His Spirit speaking to us. It requires “listening ears” that we can only get when our hearts are tuned to Him. I love the first verse of Come Thou Fount, which reads, “Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Somewhere in a service, we need to move from talking about God to talking TO Him. When we acknowledge Him, His Spirit speaks to us in the music, the prayers, the sermon, and the invitation. It’s important for us to move from praise to worship.

Here are some guidelines for encouraging worship:

  1. Tune your heart to sing His praise. Singing our faith and our intention helps us focus on Him. I know somewhere down the line, men have gotten the idea that it’s okay for them not to sing–wrong! Tell that to King David, or Jesus. They both sang. Men, we need to model true praise and worship by singing to the Lord. Perfection is not necessary; just a willing heart.
  2. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” List in your mind everything that comes to mind for which you are thankful. Be sure to include His attributes and His love, His greatness and His goodness. Allow yourself to be carried along by the music and the flow of the service.
  3. Keep something handy on which to take notes during the sermon. The Lord highlights things for us; when He does, make a note. Expect God to speak to you through your pastor–whether in agreement or in rebuttal. Try to see from his perspective, which includes age, temperament, history, and education.
  4. Keep comments to others, whether by mouth or phone, to a minimum and make sure to not say anything negative about what is being said. If you have a question or disagreement, jot it down for another time. Pray about it; study on it; discuss the topic, but not the disagreement. It’s important to not defame anyone. Stay away from disparaging* and caustic** remarks. Instead, PRAY.
  5. Don’t “check out” during the invitation i.e. packing up your things getting ready to go, checking your phone for messages, etc. Instead, pray for God to move in hearts–especially yours! Now is a great time to hear from Him as we lay our hearts and lives before Him in an attitude of humility.

God is speaking to His Church. What is He saying? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to His church” Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22.

“Speak, LORD, Your servant is listening.” These words were spoken by Samuel the first time he heard Your voice. I am sure that he spoke them many times in his life. How can I be so sure? Because I speak them often, as well. May I never impose my will over Yours. Twice lately, I have misheard You and have been corrected and then mildly rebuked. No worries; I consider them as training. I now know better how to hear Your voice. I have learned that when there is a question, don’t go any further until I am sure of Your answer even if I miss an opportunity to do or say something. “When in doubt, don’t.” I’m learning, Lord. I’m only 60. When I’m 80, maybe You’ll call me like You did Moses. If You do, then I am sure You will equip me with everything I need to do Your will. In the meantime, keep training me, Lord. Amen.

*disparaging-tending to belittle or bring reproach upon.
**caustic-capable of burning, corroding, or destroying living tissue; severely critical or sarcastic.

Proverbs 9 3-9-21

Thinking that we can live our lives our way and then make things right with God near the end is inviting disaster.

12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

We continue looking at the book of Matthew from a Jewish perspective. Jesus was dealing with unforgiveness and breach of fellowship among the family; He then turned the conversation from horizontal to vertical.

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:25-26

The statement assumes the guilt of the person with the adversary. Jesus is referring to Himself as the adversary and the Jewish people, particularly the Jewish leaders, as the guilty person. There will come a time when it will be too late to repent. We know that the time to which He is referring is the destruction of Jerusalem (and much of Israel) in 70 A.D.

Let’s talk about judgement. First of all, we will see it spelled two ways, “Judgment” and “Judgement.” There is no difference in meaning, so we won’t worry about it. Secondly, we tend to think of a judge or a ruler who decides to pass judgement upon people, many times randomly or capriciously. This is not the case with the heavenly Father. “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar” Romans 3:4. God always judges rightly. But there is more to it than just passing reasonable judgement. Thirdly, God’s judgement is both passive and active. It is passive in that He decided (passed judgement) in Genesis 2:17 that He would let mankind suffer the consequences of their own sin based upon their own decisions.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die [spiritually and later physically].”

It is not God’s nature to mete out wrath. He is a good and gracious God. His desire is that all mankind come to repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Even so, there is an active side to His judgement. He uses natural occurrences and people to carry out judgement. He used the Assyrians and the Babylonians as His tools to judge Israel. From a human aspect, if God had not told us that He was doing it, we would have assumed that everything occurred naturally. Concerning Israel and the Assyrians, Israel called upon the Assyrians to help them in a battle. The Assyrians got a taste for the good things in Israel and soon came to invade Israel and take all the plunder. Israel did not repent, and the Assyrians came back and carried everyone off as slaves. Likewise, Hezekiah, king of Judah, showed the Babylonian emissaries his treasuries; eventually, they came and took everything he had shown them (it took several generations, but it happened just as Isaiah said it would in 2 Kings 20:15-18). I believe much of Revelation is like this natural judgement.

The religious rulers of Jesus’ day did not receive His warning and admonition. Instead, the conspired to kill Him. Even after His resurrection, they refused to believe, and persecuted the Church. Their subsequent rebellion against Rome cost them their temple, city, and homeland. Temple sacrifice was eliminated. Why? Because the final Sacrifice had been made when the Lamb of God was slain on the cross. From then on, all true Jews call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Paul said it best:

29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Romans 2:29

14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Galatians 6:14-15

Abba, I, too, want to boast in nothing except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the world be crucified to me, and I to the world, daily. Make me new every day, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8 3-8-21

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8. He has always wanted us back.

27 When he [the Father] prepared the heavens, I [Jesus Christ] was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: 30 Then I [Jesus Christ]
was the craftsman by his side day after day, and I [Jesus Christ] was filled with delight, rejoicing always before him; 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27-31 (compiled from several versions)

So, when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago…” we know that He was the One who said it. He knew what He meant; He needed no one to interpret for Him. Jesus came to explain the Law and then fulfill it. Read on!

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ [an even worse term of contempt] will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus was, of course, talking about the Israelites at Mount Sinai when the 10 Commandments were given. I think He phrased it that way so that the people were forced to remember what they knew about the event. It brought from the subconscious to the conscious more than what would have been thought of if He had simply said, “When God gave the 10 Commandments, He said…” Jesus immediately set the record straight that it was not just about the actual act of murder, but also about the thoughts and intents of the heart. If we want to be like God, then we must think like Him. Since only the Spirit knows the mind of the Lord (1 Cor. 2:11), then we need the Spirit with us and in us. Hence, the cross, resurrection, and Pentecost.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus then gives an example of a good time to forgive: Before coming before the Father with an offering. He was still talking to Jews who bought sacrifices to the temple in Jerusalem. What Jesus was asking was BIG. Consider that you are from Nazareth and are in Jerusalem about to offer your annual sheep at the temple and the Lord brings to mind a fellow Jew who thinks you cheated him. Jesus is saying that you should leave your sheep with someone in Jerusalem and make the trek back home (70 miles), reconcile to that person, and then return and give your offering. Jesus was saying that reconciliation was a more proper sacrifice to God than the sheep. He would know.

Verses 25 and 26 we will save for tomorrow. Good stuff there.

Abba, may we take our offering as seriously as Jesus wants us to take it. May we not only forgive those who do us wrong, but be reconciled with them (if they are willing); the first is a heart issue while the second is a fellowship issue. Thank You, Jesus, for setting the record straight. We want to be like You because that makes us like our heavenly Father. Give us more, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 7 3-7-21

Chapter 7 is about who I call the Mistress. If we are not careful, we all may have one. Do you?

15 I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!

Each week as we prepare to go to church, we get the chance to ask ourselves this question: Is there anything that I have put in front of the Lord in my life? If so, then we have a mistress. We don’t choose her; she looks for us–a better term may be “hunt.” Satan and his demons seek those who have weak spots in their hedge of protection, chinks in their spiritual armor. It’s the main reason God has us set aside one day a week to be all about Him. The sabbath was the time in Israel’s week when they stopped all activities and focused on the LORD. Nowadays, we don’t celebrate quite the same way, but we do have a day in our week that we interrupt our schedules to spend time together in celebration and praise of Him, prayer, learning, and fellowship. It’s called, “Church.”

So, let me ask again: What in your life comes before the Lord? Your job? Your medicine (liquid, recreational, or whatever)? Your fun? Your will? Your desires? Your kids’ success? Jesus describes anything that comes between Him and us as masters.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [that which satisfies, specifically wealth]. Matthew 6:24

Those who refuse to look because they know that they have a mistress have lost their fear of God. If they were to look closely, they would find that God wants us to fear Him so that He can lead us in a way that we are not destroyed by sin. To think that we are on the same level with God usually winds up with us deciding that our way is better than God’s way. What we forget is that He has a complete view of everything and a pure heart that wants only our good. If we could get past our feelings, we would be able to see clearly that His way is always best for us. Sadly, Psalm 36:2 describes a lot of people, even Christians, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”

May we not be like that! Let’s open our eyes and look at ourselves with a discerning heart. Let’s ask the Spirit to shine His light on any area that is not surrendered to Him. Let’s make our sabbath be what it was originally intended to be: A day of introspection and celebration with God the Father, through the Jesus the Son, with the help of the Holy Spirit as we recognize His sovereign place in the world and in our lives. Let’s make today all about Him.

Abba, as I look at my life, I pray that You will open my eyes to anything that I am keeping to myself and not letting You have. I know that everything I surrender to You becomes sanctified and is used to make me more like You–even sin! I praise You that You have changed my relationship with sin so that it no longer separates me from You–I still have to deal with the consequences, but not being in Your presence is not one of them–but now has become a tool in Your hand as You shape me into Christ’s image. Thank You that in Christ I am still being “fearfully and wonderfully made” as I am transformed into His image. Keep it up, Abba. I want to be just like You! Amen.