Spare Me the Religiosity
The first churches established soon after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were simply referred to as the ‘Church of Christ.’ Once men and their egos got a hold of the idea of founding their own versions of churches, denominations were born. Each was / is a reflection of what the founder of the particular ‘religion’ thought should emphasize – usually consisting of man-made rituals and interpretations of their version of Scripture and the additions or subtractions they made to it.
However, adulteration of God’s word goes back even further. Not long after God Himself laid down the Mosaic Law, scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees mutilated much of the Scriptures with their pagan rituals and rules.
We get to hear our Savior address this when a Pharisee invites Him to dinner. Just before the dinner commences, the Pharisee takes Jesus to task because He did not wash His hands in their ritualistic manner. Bad move on his part. Christ retorts:
…Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. You senseless (foolish, stupid) ones [acting without reflection of intelligence]! Did He Who made the outside make the inside also? But [dedicate your inner self and] give as donations to the poor of those things which are within [of inward righteousness] and behold, everything is purified and clean for you. Lk. 11:39 – 41. AMP
In other words, Jesus was telling the Pharisees to concentrate on keeping their hearts clean. He continues:
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” Lk. 11:42 – 44. NASB
Jesus is saying that the Pharisees (the ‘religious’) were hateful, corrupt and prideful. Moreover, He said that they corrupt their parishioners as well, just by occupying the same space. (He used the Mosaic Law that forbade coming in contact with a tomb because it defiled that person, as a metaphor for the defilement caused by non-Scriptural religion.)
A scribe (also referred to as a lawyer) was present in this dinner as well. He spoke up against Jesus, telling Him that He was insulting the Pharisee. Another bad move:
“Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your fathers…so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” Lk. 11:46 – 48 & 52. NASB
Jesus is calling the lawyers ‘hypocrites’ for building monuments for the prophets when in fact their own ancestors murdered them. Secondly, He condemns them for hoarding the Scriptures (even though they themselves never heeded them), thus keeping the door of salvation closed to the people, in order to justify their place of exaltation over the laity.
Lastly, Jesus convicts them and the Pharisees for making it impossible for the people to live godly lives by keeping the very instructions from God to do so from them, and for laying the burden of all their man-made religious requirements for being a godly person, upon them – knowing that most of them were impossible to keep. Again, like most things religious, these rules were meant to exalt those that teach it.
So, next time you hear someone tell you that their church is better than another church, or that theirs is the only ’true’ church, or they offer a way other than Christ for salvation (e.g. allowing you to ‘donate’ money to them for forgiveness of sins) – RUN THE OTHER WAY!
The Bible is your complete blueprint for the construction and function of your church, as well as the manifesto for godly living and attaining salvation. A real church follows that. Those are the ones you want to make your Jesus contact with…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 25 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The Only Way to Salvation
Jesus was leaving Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles when He and His apostles came upon a blind man. Jesus heals him (on the Sabbath – horror of horrors!) and the man runs off to tell everyone he meets. When the Pharisees got wind of it, they excommunicated him from the Temple. Jesus found out and tracked the man down. When He met up with the him, he fell to his knees and worshiped Jesus.
[It’s important to see that Christ allowed Himself to be worshiped. We know that God demands that only He is to be our target of worship. (Ex. 20:3, 4.) Thus, it can only be explained through that special oneness that the Father and the Son share.]
A crowd gathers around them (including those nasty Pharisees). Jesus takes this moment to bring His mission into an all-or-nothing, black or white type of clarity:
I came into this world for judgment [as a Separator, in order that there may be a separation between those who believe in Me and those who reject Me], to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind. Jn. 9:39 AMP
This bristles the Pharisees (obviously having had their pride admonished) and they call out to Him:
“Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” Jn. 9:40, 41. NKJV
Christ is admonishing the Pharisees because they claim to be so knowledgeable regarding God’s word – including the Messianic prophecies found within. Thus, Jesus is saying that there is no excuse for their continuing rejection of Him. ‘Their sin remains.’ He continues:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Jn. 10:1, 2. ESV
“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jn. 10:3, 4. NKJV
Jesus see’s that the meaning of His metaphor sails right over the heads of the ‘knowledgeable’ Pharisees, so He hits them between the eyes with the message outright:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief does not come except to steal, and kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Jn. 10:7 – 11, 14 – 18. NKJV
Jesus has just revealed a powerhouse of salvation information / promises:
First, the ‘sheep’ are the children of God.
Second, Jesus is the only door to God; He is the Good Shepherd who guides the children of God into His Father’s presence. There is no one other than Christ who can bring you into the kingdom of God. Furthermore, those who say that they can (e.g. the Pharisees) are false shepherds – liars looking only to fulfill the agenda of their father (Satan).
Third, Christ has come to shower your life with abundance – filling it with the light of God.
Fourth, Jesus willingly laid down His life for your salvation. No one forced Him to do so; He chose to do so solely out of His loving obedience to His Father and because of His undying love for you.
Fifth, our Savior has the power of life within Him; and He used that power to resurrect Himself in order to complete our Father’s plan of salvation.
Sixth, Jesus came not only for the salvation of the Jews, but also for all of humanity throughout the ages (‘which are not of this fold’) who choose to follow Him – gathering a global flock that rests in the eternal protection of the Good Shepherd.
And you too can rest in that same eternal promise, that only way to salvation, when you make that Jesus contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 20 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Are You Declaring Jesus?
Christ and the apostles attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in the fall of 29 A.D. Jesus entered the Temple and began to teach – astounding the hearers with His command of the Scriptures. Yet ever humble, He shifts their focus of amazement off of Himself by glorifying His Father:
“My doctrine is not Mine, but His Who sent Me…He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Jn. 7:16, 18, 19. NKJV
Jesus just declared that He speaks for God to glorify Jehovah. Furthermore, He is inferring that He can do so because He presents Himself as the only sinless example of His Father.
Some of those listening began to grumble about whether Jesus should be arrested or killed. Others wondered if He was indeed the Messiah, and those from His home town clung to their disbelief out of their familiarity with Him.
Jesus’ next declaration boldly separated Him from His detractors:
Do you know Me, and do you know where I am from? I have not come down on My own authority and of My own accord and self-appointed, but the One Who sent Me is true (real, genuine, steadfast); and Him you do not know! I know Him [Myself] because I come from His very presence, and it was He [personally] Who sent Me. Jn. 7:28, 29. AMP
Jesus is laying it on the line! He says they may know His earthly form but that they have absolutely no understanding of His divine nature, nor can they see that God sent Him. Moreover, He is attempting to make them acutely aware of their ignorance, by contending that they don’t have a clue about who God is.
That was all the convicted people could take. The chief priests and scribes in the midst of the listening crowd tried to have Jesus arrested, but He was supernaturally delivered from their grasp.
On the last day of the Festival, Jesus returned to the Temple and said:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jn. 7:37, 38. NKJV
The day after, He entered the Temple again and proclaimed:
“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Jn. 8:12 NKJV
So, not only is Jesus the only one who has seen God and sent to speak for Him, He is also the living salvation of God.
Not unexpectedly, the Pharisees in the Temple called Jesus a liar, reminding Him that Mosaic Law requires corroboration of two witnesses to His Messianic claims in order for them to have any veracity. Jesus responds:
“Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I come from and where I am going; but you do not know…” Jn. 8:14 NKJV
You [set yourselves up to] judge according to the flesh (by what you see). [You condemn by external, human standards.] I do not [set Myself up to] judge or condemn or sentence anyone. Jn. 8:15 AMP
“Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” Jn. 8:16 ESV
“I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” Jn. 8:18 NASB
Jesus produced His witnesses: He and God Himself.
(Note that Jesus is not contradicting Himself when He says said that ‘I do not judge…Yet even if I do judge…” Christ did not judge during His earthly ministry. When He comes back, well, that’s another story.)
Flustered, the Pharisees demand that Jesus reveal the whereabouts of His ‘Father.’ He answers:
“You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:19, 23, 24. NKJV
Jesus is saying that He and His Father are exactly alike in intent, Spirit and power, and if they don’t believe that, they will pay the ultimate price.
He then steps up His conviction against the Jewish naysayers by telling them that their mistaken belief that just by being Abraham’s descendants they will be heavenly bound, will in fact bring them no salvation. (Jn. 8:37 – 40.) Moreover, He accuses them of acting in a rebellious manner against Abrahams works because they follow the devil instead:
“If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God…you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth…” Jn. 8:42 – 44. NKJV
In their collective anger over being declared guilty, the crowd asked Jesus if He thought that He was greater than Abraham. Jesus drops a bomb:
“If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him…but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Jn. 8:54 – 56. NKJV
Thus, Jesus is saying that coming of the Messiah was revealed to Abraham. The crowd responded by asking how in the world could Jesus have seen Abraham, being that he was born some 1800 years prior to their present time. Jesus gives them an out-of-the-world answer:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jn. 8:58 NKJV
He just said the He is eternal, just like God Himself. Indeed, claiming the ‘I AM,’ He is saying He is the explicit image of Jehovah. Shouts of blasphemy and pelted stones were sent towards Jesus’ way, but again He supernaturally disappeared from the Temple…
Are you declaring Jesus? After all, isn’t that the ‘Great Commission every follower of Christ is called to perform? Well, here we have Jesus Himself telling us how to declare Him – by declaring Him as He declared Himself.
Jesus said that He spoke for God, not for His Himself. Being sinless, He is the only one who can do so – this Messenger Son sent by God Himself to bring salvation with the light of life and the living waters to those who bring their faith.
He is that loving eternal Savior who does not judge, but instead opens His arms to usher us into His Father’s presence.
When you make this life-changing declaration, you are making your Jesus contact and opening the way for the lost children of this world to do the same…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 11 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Taking The Road Less Traveled
Jesus and the apostles’ ministerial travels take them to the region near Caesarea Philippi (a city 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the northernmost part of Israel). It was there that Christ asked Peter to tell Him whom he thought Jesus was. Peter replied:
You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Mt. 16:16 AMP
Jesus responds by revealing how Peter will take the ‘road less traveled:’
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say this to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Mt. 16:17 – 19. NKJV
Jesus is telling Peter that he could not have perceived His divine nature unless God had opened his eyes. He is also exercising a little wordplay with Peter’s name. Peter’s full name was Simon Peter. ‘Peter is translated from the Greek word petros, meaning ‘rock.’ Jesus is alluding to Peter’s rock-like faith – the kind of foundational faith that Christ will build His church upon.
(This scripture is the first in the Bible to contain the word ‘church,’ translated from the Greek word ekklesia, referring to a ‘Christian assembly.’)
Jesus is not pointing to Peter as being in a relationship with Him that is more special that His with the other apostles. They all (with the exception of Judas Iscariot) had equal authority in the church. The ‘keys to heaven’ were given to them all. Peter held no special office (e.g. some kind of ‘pope.’)
Anyone who walks the road less traveled for Jesus (in faith) can be a part of the foundation of His church. You too can ‘bind’ problems (e.g. casting out a demonic spirit) and ‘loose’ a problem (e.g. helping someone to break free from sin).
Christ never said the road would be easy. Indeed, at this juncture of His ministry, He shifts His focus towards preaching about the necessity of His death. (Mt. 16:21) Moreover, He said that anyone who desires to follow Him must be willing to suffer as well:
If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget himself, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living, and if need be, in dying also.] Lk. 9:23 AMP
In other words, obeying God’s will should always come first – regardless of what our personal interests are at the time. The God walk is a walk on the road less traveled because it can be difficult and generally stands in opposition to the ways of the world, the ways of the flesh. For example, we must be humble before all:
“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mk. 9:35 NKJV
Jesus placed a child in front of Him to emphasize His point to the apostles:
Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. Mt. 18:3 AMP
“Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18:4 NKJV
Apparently the message didn’t quite sink in because late the apostle John boasted to Jesus about stopping a man from practicing a Christian ministry because he wasn’t one of the 12 apostles. (Looks like how denominations could have begun, yes?)
“Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.” Mk. 9:39, 40. NKJV
Christ is saying that His church consists of all who follow Him. I believe that the concept of denominations would have been abhorrent to Jesus.
The road less traveled also demands that one practices compassion and non-judgmental mercy towards their brothers and sisters in Christ who backslide into sin:
If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen take along with you one or two others so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. Mt. 18:15 – 17. AMP
Jesus is revealing the godly way for handling offenses that all peoples will perpetrate at one time or another. We first try to handle the matter privately with the offender. If the offender is unrepentant, we try again in the presence of 1 or 2 witnesses (as per the dictates of Mosaic Law, which Jesus is imputing still applies). If the offender wishes to remain in sin they would be asked to meet with the church elders. Finally, if the offender doesn’t accept and abide by the correction meted out by the church, he or she must be disfellowshipped so as not to pollute the church.
In other words, Christ asks us to go the extra mile to try to save them.
Jesus is committed to helping you stay on the road less traveled. He knows its going to be difficult, but He doesn’t ask you to do anything He doesn’t do for you.
Near the end of September on 29 A.D., near the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), Jesus and the apostles were in the region of Galilee. Jesus did not want to go to the festival because He could foresee that Jewish religious officials were there waiting to kill Him.
However, it wasn’t fear that kept Him from going. He didn’t go at that exact moment, because He had a divine timetable to adhere to. Even Jesus’ brothers tried to get Him to go so He could perform miracles. (They didn’t believe He was the Messiah at that time.) Jesus answers:
My time (opportunity) has not come yet; but any time is suitable for you and your opportunity is ready any time [is always here]. The world cannot [be expected to] hate you, but it does hate Me because I denounce it for its wicked works and reveal that its doings are evil. Go to the Feast yourselves. I am not [yet] going…because My time is not ripe. Jn. 7:6 – 8. AMP
Because Jesus brings the righteous light of exposure to sins that people try to keep hidden and / or attempt to legitimize, they hate Him and all who represent Him.
Not long after Jesus’ brothers left, His time to go manifested. (Lk. 9:51) Jesus and His apostles traveled through Samaria towards Jerusalem. The Samaritans refused to lodge them along their way and James and John got upset – even to the point of asking Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy them. Jesus rebukes them by showing them that a traveler on the road less traveled needs to stay on message:
“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Lk. 9:55, 56. NKJV
He was telling James and John that their intent was in error because the spirits of Christ’s followers are those that readily offer peace and love through the free sharing of the gospel – not the rendering of punitive anger towards those who refuse to receive it.
Lastly, Jesus teaches us about the vision and commitment it takes to walk the road less traveled: He was approached by three would-be followers on the road to Jerusalem who struck up a conversation:
“Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another said to Him, “Lord I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” Lk. 9:57 – 61. NKJV
Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God. Lk. 9:62 AMP
Jesus’ responses clearly show the parameters for, and the consequences of following Him. It will be challenging because we must give up the (supposed) security of all things worldly, and place out absolute trust in Christ to provide. Second, He is not telling us to ignore our familial obligations, but to make our obedience to Christ our highest priority – to spread the gospel in order to expand the kingdom.Third, we must face forward and not look back, (Remember Lot’s wife?) so that we do not veer off course.
We cannot keep one leg in the world and try to straddle the other in heaven. It’s an all-or-nothing choice.
Let’s all go out and help others make that Jesus contact so that the road less traveled takes on more commuters…
Goodnight and God bless.
August 07 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Living Off Of Jesus
In the spring of 29 A.D., Jesus and His disciples were finishing their ministerial preaching for the day, when the apostles told Jesus to send away the crowd who had gathered about them (numbering 5000). Instead, Jesus told them to feed the gathering.
The apostles freaked out, telling Jesus that they only possessed 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Christ broke the bread, blessed it, placed it in a basket and as it was passed around, it fed the 5000 with enough left over to fill 12 additional baskets!
There were some converts made on that night! Later, Jesus and His retinue would journey to the city of Capernaum, whereupon He encountered another crowd who had heard of His miracle of feeding the 5000. They were looking to get their bellies filled as well.
Jesus uses this opportunity to try to get the crowd to transcend their flesh:
“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because the Father has set His seal on Him.” Jn. 6:27 NKJV
What Jesus is saying is that God has placed His own authority upon His Son. Furthermore, Christ is teaching that through His Father’s authority, He is speaking the gospel – which is the key to eternal sustenance.
The crowd doesn’t get it. The Pharisees have told them previously that one must earn their way into heaven. So, they ask Him what kind of work it is that they must do. Jesus responds:
This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger]. Jn. 6:29 AMP
The crowd lets that go right over their head and instead asks Jesus to perform a miracle similar to how God sent manna from heaven during the Jew’s exodus from Egypt. However, Christ is not deterred:
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn. 6:31 – 33. NKJV
Christ couldn’t be clearer, but the crowd can’t get their collective selves off of their flesh. They ask Him to literally give them some of this ‘bread.’ Our Lord of infinite patience, love and mercy continues:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:35 – 40. NKJV
Jesus is calling them, inviting them to heaven. He’s telling them that He is their ticket to eternity – the walking, talking plan and method of God’s redemption for all of mankind. All they have to do is have faith in who He is and what He came for. Still, He’s facing a tough crowd who are unwilling to part with their doubts regarding His claim to be their Savior.
Christ loves us so much; He remains undaunted and persevering in His quest to save mankind:
“Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall be taught by God.’ (Is. 54:13) Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Jn. 6:43 – 51. NKJV
This is the complete picture of our God-connection! When we seek God, He leads us to Christ. Jesus in turn, when we accept Him as our Savior, connects us to God through Himself.
Jesus willingly vacated His seat next to His Father in heaven to inhabit flesh on earth, so that we could relate to Him and to the redemption that God offers through Him, which is accomplished through the sacrificial gift of Christ’s flesh and blood.
This crowd of hardened hearts and blinded eyes cannot get past their literal take on Jesus’ allegories. They become angry and horrified at the notion of eating Jesus’ flesh. Thank God Christ doesn’t back down:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” Jn. 6:53 – 57. NKJV
Jesus is attempting to break through the Pharisaic conditioning that binds and blinds them, so that they can comprehend the spiritual implications of His death and resurrection. He’s planting seeds of faith – the faith that will be required to hold onto the hope of salvation when those events take place.
Christ is trying to get them to see that His flesh is in reality the ‘spiritual food’ found in His gospel – that they must ‘eat’ (bind to their hearts) in order to walk a godly path towards their salvation. In addition, He wants them to understand that His blood (life) that He is going to shed for them must be ‘drunk’ (believed in) so that them can receive God’s atonement for their sins to pave the way for their reception of that same salvation.
In order to live in eternity, they must start living off of Jesus during their life on earth!
Unfortunately, most of the crowd (including some of His followers) began to abandon Him because of their misunderstanding of this teaching. He entreats them one more time:
“Does this offend you?…It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” Jn. 6:61 & 63. NKJV
God gives us life through the Holy Spirit. Christ maintains that life on earth. If we want our piece of the blessed hereafter, we need to start living off of Him now. We do that, when we make contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
July 21 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Are You With Jesus?
During Jesus’ ministry, he brought a widow’s dead son back to life.
As He continued His ministry, crowds begin to surround Him. He addressed one such crowd and said:
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal to Him.” Mt. 11:27 NKJV
We’ve seen that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and that He can heal the sick and raise the dead. Now we see that in addition, God has given over all of His authority to Christ, to be expressed by His Son. Furthermore, we see that we cannot even connect to God unless we first receive the grace of Jesus.
Jesus’ intent here is not to impress, but to get them to understand that whatever comes out of His mouth is an unquestionable imperative. Yet at the core of that immeasurable power, comes limitless love – which Jesus immediately demonstrates as He changes His tone and humbles Himself as He invites us into His arms:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Mt. 11:28 – 30. NKJV
Jesus knows we carry the trouble of the world and the pain of our mistakes in our hearts. This all-powerful God-Man wants to lighten our load and shine the Light in our lives. He’s making Himself available. Are you with Jesus?
Christ and His apostles are going from town to town to preach the gospel. During that time, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Well, those pesky Pharisees were lurking in the background at this miracle event and accused Him of casting out demons with the power of Satan. Jesus came right back at them and told them the devil wouldn’t be so stupid as to work against himself. (Mt. 12:25, 26.)
He then drew a ‘red line in the sand:’
“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Mt. 12:30 – 32. NKJV
There is no middle ground! You are either with Jesus or you are not. You’re either promoting the kingdom or obstructing it.
(By the way, this sin that Jesus is referring to is commonly called the ‘unpardonable sin.’ You can’t get forgiveness for that one? Why is that? It seems to run against the gospel.
The reason is that the Holy Spirit is only available to those who willingly make the choice to embrace Jesus as their Savior. The Holy Spirit’s primary purpose is to bring revelation to the gospel and to further illuminate the nature of Christ to God’s children. Thus, a committed child of God could never commit the ‘unpardonable sin’ because, by definition, they’ve accepted Christ.
Who can commit that sin are those who turn their back on God and continually and unrepentantly refute who Jesus is and why He came. So, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit would be to deny His purpose, which is to glorify the Father through Son and to bring God’s truth.
At the end of this encounter, someone comes to Jesus and tells Him that His brothers and mother are nearby, waiting to speak to Him. Jesus, who never let’s a teaching moment go by, answers for the whole crowd to hear:
“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Mt. 12:50 NKJV
Are you with Jesus?
Jesus decided to magnify His efforts to expand His Father’s kingdom by sending out the apostles to teach and preach, empowering them for their efforts:
He gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Mt. 10:1 NKJV
He also gave them distinct instructions:
“And as you go, preach, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give…” Mt. 10:7, 8. NKJV
“And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city!” Mk. 6:11 NKJV
[The Jews believed that only the land of Israel was holy. So, if they ever left Israel, upon their return, they would shake the ‘unholy’ dirt from their sandals. Jesus is intimating that those who refuse the gospel are ‘unholy.’ (Are they not committing the unpardonable sin?)]
…everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me], I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him. But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I will also deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven. Mt. 10:32, 33. AMP
Are you with Jesus?
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and however loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt. 10:37 – 39. ESV
Christ, the Son of God, the representative of God, our Savior, must reside at the summit of the hierarchy of what’s important in our lives. God is asking us to set our will aside and follow His, through Jesus:
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Mt. 10:40 NKJV
Let’s go be with Jesus. Make that contact…
Goodnight and God bless.
July 16 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Building Your Foundation
Jesus wraps up His Sermon on the Mount by telling us to build ourselves a firm foundation upon the word of God. When we persistently do that, God makes Himself available:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Mt. 7:7, 8. NKJV
We ‘knock’ by remaining tenacious in prayer – confident in our faith that if our prayers align with God’s will, they will be granted.
When God’s word is our foundation, it will show up in our behavior as well:
So then, whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, even so do also to and for them, for this (sums up) the Law and the Prophets. Mt. 7:12 AMP
This scripture is commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Rule.’ Jesus would later restate it, referring to it as the ‘second greatest commandment:’
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:39 NKJV
God is love. And so, when we make Him our foundation, we are all about love. God left us a path (in His word) by which we can gain that foundation. Jesus tells us that path is clearly marked but often ignored:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Mt. 7:13, 14. ESV
Thus, standing in faith on our God foundation is a continuing imperative because we will be repeatedly attacked by the world for that faith – even by those who seem well-intentioned, who want to show us their better way, i.e. the way through the ‘wide’ gate. Jesus warns us of this very thing:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” Mt. 7:15 – 17. NASB
Our job is to be one with our foundation, living out the will of God to the best of our ability. Jesus knows who we are, as well as He knows those who are only going through ‘religious motions’ to garner the favor of others. There will be a ‘day of reckoning’ for each:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” Mt. 7:21 – 23. NKJV
We have been given the blueprints. If we construct our foundation with the word of God, we stand upon the rock of His insurmountable strength:
“Therefore whoever hears these saying of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Mt. 7:24, 25. NKJV
That’s keeping your Jesus contact.
Those who do not, well, that’s a different story:
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Mt. 7:26, 27. NJKV
Stand on the Rock…
Goodnight and God bless.
July 07 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Continuing with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mt. 6:19 – 21. NASB
Jesus in not prohibiting the saving of money or of having material possessions. What He’s saying is that these things are only temporal. They do require a good and responsible stewardship on our part, but Jesus is reminding us that our primary focus should be on things eternal (spiritual).
It’s all a part of us having our highest and best life. When our focus is on God, His focus is also placed upon us. We have complete control of our focus, and thus the outcome as well:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.” Mt. 6:22 NKJV
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Mt. 6:24 ESV
Jesus is using money as an example of the material things that tend to worm their way into our central thoughts. He’s saying that there is always a fork in our path and He’s urging us to take the way that keeps us dependent upon our God:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil or do they spin, yet I say to you not even Solomon clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?” Mt. 6:25 – 30. NASB
In essence, Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t worry. Be happy!’ Why? Because God takes care of our every need – but only after we see to our spiritual needs first, in order to keep our God-connection intact:
“For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Mt. 6:32, 33. NKJV
Seeing as how we are speaking of spiritual focus, understand that keeping it also applies to how we look at other people. We are all equal in God’s eyes. Yet there is a human aspect of each of us that indulges in judgment. Jesus warns against this practice in a big way:
“Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and look a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Mt. 7:1 – 5. NKJV
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Lk. 6:37 NKJV
Jesus is saying that it is far better to judge no one. We must judge at times; e.g. when we perform jury duty. But even then we want to focus on our spiritual duty to apply the same fairness and mercy that God showers upon us, because His portion is directly proportional to what we measure out.
When we find ourselves indulging in judgment, we can stop, breathe and focus upon the roots of our judgment. Often they are a reflection of something we don’t like in ourselves. We can ask God to show it to us, and then we can give it up to Him for healing…
Another part of keeping our spiritual focus in place is shown when we share the word of God with everyone – to advance His kingdom by sowing His seeds into their hearts.
Some will willing accept it, some won’t. Others will even aggressively rebuke you, because indirectly you are exposing their conviction to live in the ways of the world, which stirs up their own spirit to rebuke their flesh.
You are only responsible to bring God’s message of salvation and expound upon it if they are willing to listen. What they do with that message is between them and God.
Jesus warns us about these stubbornly unrepentant aggressors. Sinners like to recruit others to join them in their sin in order to attempt to bring some external acceptance to their actions. In short, they will try to diminish your faith. Our Savior says to walk away:
“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Mt. 7:6 NKJV
You are a wonderful child of God and you have a divine mission. Thank God for that spiritual focus in front of you to both use and to lean on…
Goodnight and God bless.
July 02 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
We are continuing in our examination of Christ’s teachings at the Sermon on the Mount. He first covered some principles about how to live a godly life, (see Jesus Contact 9 & 10). Jesus wraps it up by telling us to act out our new righteousness that He provides us with, by performing acts that reflect the transformation of our salvation – solely out of the love we have for God and from our desire to please Him.
This behavior stands in stark contrast to those who perform ‘pious acts’ in public to garner the favor of man in order to stroke the performer’s ego.
Jesus then applies this same principle to prayer as well:
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your secret room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Mt. 6:5, 6. NKJV
Prayer is a sacred ‘love exchange’ between you and God; it’s how you make your God contact. But you demean it if you pray in public in an effort to demonstrate your piety. (Public prayer has its place, but it is generally rendered for the benefit of others.)
Jesus renders further clarification by giving us a ‘template’ (commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer) so that we know how to effectively talk to God:
“In this manner, therefore pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Mt. 6:9 – 13. NKJV
Jesus is not telling us that we need to pray this prayer verbatim. What He is doing is giving us the proper structure for an effective prayer.
Thus, Christ’s model suggests that our prayer begin with a preface – a declaration of just Whom (God) it is that we are praying to. Notice too that we meet God in prayer on the most intimate level – as our heavenly Father.
Following that, we offer up praises for His limitless love, grace, peace, abundance, life and mercy – along with offerings of reverence that recognizes Jehovah’s lordship over all things.
Next we ask God to bring His kingdom to earth (where at this point in our prayer we can also remind ourselves of our own role in forwarding that kingdom by asking that He helps us keep our hearts open to His will).
We petition Him for our ‘daily bread,’ i.e. our physical necessities. And note that we pray for ‘us’ – not just for ourselves but also for our brothers and sisters in Christ. (I believe that this would be the space where we would pray for anything else that is on our heart as well.)
Continuing, Jesus says that we pray for the forgiveness of our ‘debts’ (transgressions we and our brothers and sisters have committed against God), bringing our confession and repentance as well, to restore our love-connection with Him. We immediately follow by asking God to help us to be forgiving towards others who have perpetrated ‘sin debts’ against us – just as our Father forgives us.
The next petition in the ‘template’ (And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one) may seem confusing on the surface. Why? Because God does not tempt anyone into sin:
Let no one say when he is tempted “I am tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away be his own desires and enticed. Then when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:13 – 15. NKJV
Thus, this final petition is really about praying that when we are tempted, we would be strengthened in Him so as not to follow through in the commission of the related sin because we did not enlist His help. So, this would be a continual component of prayer because that’s how often the devil throws temptation your way.
Finally, we conclude our prayer with additional praise for our Creator and as we will learn later, we must seal that prayer with the name of Christ – through Whom God grants all things:
“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Jn. 14:13, 14. NKJV
In other words, we complete our God contact when we make our Jesus contact.
At this point, Jesus finishes with the structure of prayer but He immediately introduces a caveat to the petition for forgiveness:
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Mt. 6:14, 15. NASB
How about that? We have a direct line to our Creator at any time. And now we know how to dial the right number…
Goodnight and God bless.
June 23 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
Applying Our Godliness – part two
Continuing with Jesus’ principles for godly living as He delivered them at the Sermon on the Mount:
“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.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No;’ anything more than this comes from evil.” Mt. 5:33, 34 & 37. ESV
At this time, the Pharisees were teaching that the only way that one’s words were made true was if they were uttered in an oath. However, Jesus is saying that it is unnecessary to take any oath. Instead, He is teaching us to stand on our integrity, leaning only on our commitment to speak truth.
Next, Jesus takes on the Pharisees again, this time for their practice of justifying personal revenge:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Mt. 5:38, 39. NKJV
‘An eye for an eye’ is taken from Dt. 19:21 – a Mosaic Law that teaches the punishment for a crime should be limited to the severity of the violation in order to prohibit excessive punishment.
Instead of revenge, Christ is instructing us not to retaliate when we are wronged but instead to try to compassionately defuse the situation with the perpetrator and try to reconcile with him or her (if that’s a safe thing to do). It’s a metaphor! Jesus is not telling us to stand still and let someone beat us to death.
Then Jesus confronts the human tendency to be self-centered and indifferent to the plights of others:
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Mt. 5:42 ESV
Jesus asks us to extend our compassion to everyone in need, doing whatever is in our power to help him or her. Why? Because it is a way to apply our love, mercy and integrity:
“And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Lk. 6:34-36. ESV
Our motivation needs to be love-based; and even though we shouldn’t focus on self-interest, look at how we are blessed for that love:
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Lk. 6:38 NKJV
When we live a life of godly integrity by walking in the light that Christ has shed upon the word of God, we’ll be living in a way where we resist anger, honor matrimony, reach out to help our brothers and sisters and in so doing, revenge and indifference will become a practice of the past. In fact, when we step into the shoes of Christ, even the concept of ‘enemy’ can no longer exist. Indeed, Jesus winds up His examples of ‘evolved’ Mosaic Laws with that very thought:
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ ” Mt. 5:43 NKJV
(‘You shall love your neighbor,’ is a quote from Lev. 19:18. The ‘hate your enemy’ part was added by the Pharisees and thus non-scriptural.)
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you, that you may be good sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good…” Mt. 5:44, 45. ESV
When you walk that walk, you cannot have enemies in your heart. And that’s what it’s all about – seeking to become more like God, by following the example of His Son…
Goodnight and God bless.
June 18 2016 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »