Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Imagine the News

Jerusalem Temple Tribune – “Shepherds from Bethlehem Claim Angelic Appearance”

News has come from the region of Bethlehem that some shepherds are now claiming an appearance by an Angel to announce the birth of, as they put it, “A Savior who is the Messiah and Lord!”   The shepherds insist that while they were watching their flocks that suddenly there was a bright light and that a being, having the appearance of a man, told them not to be afraid and instructed them to go to a stable in Bethlehem where they would find this Christ child lying in a feeding trough.”   They further claim that they left their flocks (a violation of their profession) and went to Bethlehem and found a new born baby boy in a feeding trough, just as the angel had said.   Incidentally, they also claim the parents had just travelled from Nazareth for the required Roman census.

When the High Priest and Sanhedrin were asked to comment on this news, those who could be reached scoffed at these tidings stating:

·         Just like the similar report by Zacharias about a year ago, God no longer speaks directly to His people – He has entrusted that responsibility to us.

·         Think about it – would the Messiah actually come as an infant?  Would he be born in a barn and placed in a feeding trough?  Of course not!   And why would He be born in a place like Bethlehem?  At this observation one of the Scribes who asked that his name not be disclosed, did indicate from the prophet Micah, there was the mention that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.

·         They concluded by asking us if there wasn’t any real news that we could devote our time to reporting?

In other "real" news a very bright object has been sighted in the night skies east of Jerusalem that seems to be moving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Imagine the News
Jerusalem Temple Tribune – “Young Girl Claims Angel Appeared to Her”
A young girl of Nazareth recently returned from a 3 month visit to a cousin and was noted to be “with child.”   The family asked that their name not be referenced in this article as they are very embarrassed – not only that their daughter has become pregnant, but that the only reason she has offered is that an angel had appeared to her and told that even though she was a virgin, that she would give birth to a child who would be the “Son of God.”   Per the parents of the girl, “Our daughter has never done anything like this before, yet she persists to claim the reason given is true.”   Recall just a short while a Priest named Zacharias also claimed an angelic experience in the temple.
Our Nazareth correspondent interviewed her fiancé who indicated he was devastated and as shocked as everyone else.  He has indicated his desire to dismiss his wife-to-be without exercising his right to have her put to death for her indiscretion.  
A few days later, our Nazareth correspondent heard rumors that the fiancé is also now claiming to have been instructed by an angel in a dream that the young girl is telling the truth and that the son she will have should be named Jesus, because this child will save His people from their sins.  Further, the fiancé has now decided to take the young girl as he wife, despite the objections of his parents.
After bringing this information to the High Priest and Sanhedrin, this story is once again being dismissed, with the recommendation that parents not accept such ridiculous stories from their children or their friends.      

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Imagine the News

Jerusalem Temple Tribune – “Priest Unable to Speak About His Experience.”

Zacharias, who had been chosen for the great honor of over-seeing the incense offering emerged unable to speak.  Sources indicate he was in shock and had to be helped by those who had gathered to pray.  Later when he had collected himself, he asked for writing materials and indicated an angel named Gabriel had appeared to him with news concerning him and his wife Elizabeth having a son in their old age. Needless to say, this caused quite a stir among those worshipping at the temple, raising questions about this possibly being a prelude to the coming of the Messiah, as a forerunner was expected.

After consulting the high priest and other officials, the account is being dismissed as improbable due to the following facts:
  • The LORD has not communicated directly to his people in over four centuries.
  • Zacharias’ wife is so old, that she is no longer able to give birth to a child.
  • Zacharias must have been overwhelmed by his serving and is expected to fully recover from his so-called experience.
  • If the Messiah was to come shortly surely it would have been revealed to the High Priest and the other authorities.

Other Priests serving have been cautioned to not disturb the temple faithful and to maintain order as specified by those in authority.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment   Summary Acronym

Here's a summary to remember the message of this Gospel:

F     Follow Jesus                             4:19  /  9:9  /  19:21 
U    Understand                                13:14-15 
L     Law of LOVE                             22:37-40 
F    Foundation                                 7:24-27  /  13:35
I     Impossible apart from Jesus      5:20-48  /  19:23-26
L    Lost Sheep                                 10:5-7  /  15:24  /  18:11
L    Last to be like Jesus                   19:30  /  20:16, 26  /  23:11  
M   Messiah                                      1:1  / 8:27  /  9:2-8  /  11:2-6  / 16:16  /  26:63 
E    Every Word of God                     4:4
      Every Disease & Illness              4:23-24  /  8:1-17  /  9:18-38  /  12:15 
N   Narrow Gate / Not                       7:13-14,  21-23
T    Take up your Cross                     10:38  /  16:24

Matthew, the Jewish Tax Collector wants us to understand there's no one like Jesus.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 28    Your Response

The importance of Jesus and His death for our sins on the cross cannot be over-emphasized and yet without the information in this chapter it would be meaningless.   Without the resurrection of Jesus, His death would have been the result of His own sins, but the resurrection confirms that His death was for our sins and provides us the hope of eternal life.   This chapter presents us with the possibility of 3 responses:

The Women who encountered Jesus  - they Obeyed.
The Soldiers who guarded the grave of Jesus – they Denied what they knew had taken place.
The Disciples – some Doubted the reality of Jesus resurrection initially, until He appeared to them.

There is only one response that results in eternal life in heaven.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 27     Blood

Perhaps the most important verse and concept of Matthew’s Gospel is verse 25 of this chapter.   Jesus has been handed over to Pilate, the Roman governor, to be crucified. Despite his efforts to prevent the crucifixion, Pilate relents to the demands of the angry mob.  Ceremoniously, he calls for water so he could wash his hands and say to the mob, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”  And the people respond, “His blood be on us and on our children!”   The remainder of the chapter describes the crucifixion.

What irony.  They were assuming responsibility for demanding the death of Jesus, not realizing the very importance of what they were saying.  Without taking the blood of Jesus on them – His death as the perfect offering for their sin – they would just be like Pilate.   None of us are “innocent” of Jesus’ blood – our sins and His love for us made Him give His life for us.  As the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 5:8-9, “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

Is the blood of Jesus on you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 26    Betrayal

Betrayal – what a terrible word and cruel concept.  In this chapter the word is used or implied 12 times and 3 verses summarize well our problem like that of His followers:

Verse 21 – One of you will betray Me.
Verse 31 – You will all fall away because of Me.
Verse 41 – The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Despite the rejection that Jesus had experienced and the betrayal and denial that was now taking place, what would keep Him determined to suffer an agonizing  death on a cross for us?   Only His Great love and our great need.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 25    Choices

Jesus makes one last impassioned plea to believe and follow Him before His impending death.  In three stories He presents 3 choices:

Story                                                              Possibility of Two Different Responses
Parable of the 10 Virgins                                Prudent                                 Foolish
Parable of the Talents                                    Good & Faithful                     Lazy & Wicked
Judgment                                                     Listen & Obey                        Ignore & Pretend

The eternal outcome of the choices is either:
·         Verse 34 – “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
·         Verse 46 – “These will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.”

Choose wisely.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment Chapter 24     Misleading

This chapter has to do with what can be expected to happen between the death of Jesus and His second coming to establish His kingdom.   We’re all interested in what the future holds and many are fascinated with “the end times.”   It’s so easy in a passage like this to get caught up in the minutia and miss the most important message – verse 4 – “See to it that no one misleads you.”   In 28 verses, the warning not to be misled is repeated 4 times and other expressions such as “falling away” and “love growing cold” are mentioned as well.

Satan and this world in which we live are all about misleading us, and presenting opportunities for us to make bad choices.    Jesus’ indicates the right way – “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”   Meaning, by faith believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the forgiveness of your sins and hold onto that faith tenaciously until death takes you from this life.  

Although there is no indication of this in the Bible, imagine if people in hell could sue Satan for misrepresentation, libel and false statements?  Unfortunately, it will be too late for any just settlement.

Make your choice of direction now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment Chapter 23    Woes for Hypocrites

This is one of the most unfortunate descriptions that Jesus gave about those who should have recognized who He is and why He had come.  But just the opposite is true.   Consider His description of the “religious” – those who had decided to come to God how they believed was right, rather than by what God had said:

1.       You do not enter the kingdom of heaven and prevent others as well.
2.       You ignore the Great Commandment and strive for outward pious appearance.
3.       You keep the people from coming to God.
4.       You are blind guides more concerned about material things.
5.       You meticulously observe your own man-made laws and ignore justice, mercy and faithfulness.
6.       You are meticulous about eating utensils, but ignore the deceit and selfishness within them.
7.       You are like white washed tombs, but full of death, hypocrisy and lawlessness.
8.       You are like your fore-fathers, you also will kill God’s messenger.

And yet as Jesus made these observations He did not do so to condemn them (or us), but to get them to see the error of their ways.  He was extending them the opportunity to repent (change the direction of their lives) and come into a relationship with God through Him.  The offer doesn’t expire until you do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment Chapter 22    The Great Commandment

The attempts to trap Jesus continue in this chapter without success but one of the leaders asked a very good question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Now for the Pharisees, there were 613 commandments that they regarded as the Law, which they “thought” they were meticulously keeping.    So to ask which was the greatest was virtually an impossible question to answer and to ask without creating a scene unlike that of the current Presidential debates.

But even this did not faze Jesus.  He quoted from the OT book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, a passage that should have impacted their lives on a moment by moment basis (because this was to be on their hearts, taught diligently to their children, talked about).   He simply said, “Love the Lord Your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.   This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets.”    Are you living a Great life?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 21    Receive or Reject? 

Jesus fulfills the OT passage from Zechariah 9 indicating how the Messiah / King would come into Jerusalem, His throne city.  Jesus rode on a small donkey that had never been ridden before and the people shouted, Hosanna, meaning “God Saves.”    The King enters triumphantly, but unlike their expectation of Him beginning to reign, getting rid of the Roman occupation and restoring the glory of the nation of Israel, back to the days of King David and Solomon, He causes a scene at the temple, and then leaves Jerusalem for the night.

The next day He tells two parables to the Jewish religious leaders who had rejected His ways.   In the second He indicates another fulfillment of the OT passage from Psalm 118:22-24, “The Stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone.”  Jesus didn’t stay in Jerusalem because it wasn’t His time to reign; it was His time to be rejected.   And their rejection of Him would result in the one perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.   Will you let Jesus reign as the Lord of your life or are you still rejecting Him?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 20    First Place Given to the Last

Ever find yourself trying to pick which line to get into hoping that it’ll move the quickest?  The checkout line at the store?   The lane in stopped traffic or approaching a toll booth?   Ever realize this is an obsession and that you always make the wrong choice?   Wrong because you want to be out in front of everyone else and have the pre-eminent position.  Even the disciples of Jesus were concerned about which one of them would be first.

Once again Jesus turns the worldview around and indicates, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.   It is not that way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first amount you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (verses 25-28)

Let your inevitable wrong choices to be first in life remind you that Jesus tells us to put others first, like He did and to realize it will make an eternal difference.  Besides only one person deserves to be first, and that’s Jesus.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 19     Obtaining Eternal Life

This chapter contains the account of a sincere person who came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do to obtain eternal life.”  Knowing the sincerity of this person, Jesus responded, “Keep the commandments.”  Now the person responded to Jesus that he had, but Jesus knew that not one of us could perfectly keep all the commandments for our entire life, so He responded where the person did not keep the law – in the manner of coveting.   Jesus told the man to go and sell all that he had, to give it to the poor and then to follow Him.  As we’re told, “the man went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”

Jesus told his followers, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter then kingdom of God.”    His disciples in astonishment asked, “Then who can be saved?”   You can’t get a camel through a needle (a great illustration of extremes!).  Jesus responded, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”   The moral of this account:   We have no possibility of getting to heaven based on our own efforts or intentions.  Only God can make it possible and He did through His Son as the rest of Matthews Gospel will demonstrate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 18     Forgiveness Extremes

This chapter tells the story of a Master who had a servant that had a debt that he couldn’t possibly pay.  This Master had compassion for the servant and forgave what could not be repaid.   Then this servant went to someone who owed him pennies by comparison and threw him into prison because he couldn’t pay.   Well, word got back to the Master and his servant was called back to him and the Master responded, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way I had mercy on you?  And his Master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.”

This parable tells us of the great forgiveness of our sins that God makes available to us through Jesus.  It is a debt we cannot repay but salvation and forgiveness are offered freely to us as a gift.   By comparison how forgiving are we to those who have wronged us?   Notice that the wicked slave would be tortured until he repaid what he could not repay.   This is a subtle indication that hell will be eternal for those who do you accept God’s gift of forgiveness.  But the challenge remains to strive to forgive as we have been forgiven.   Makes more sense instead of options like, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment  Chapter 17     Listen or Little?

There are some great happenings in this chapter, especially for Peter, James and John as they witness Jesus in His glory.  There’s even a great “fish” story at the end.

There isn’t that many times when we get to hear God the Father speaking, so when He does we need to pay attention.   In v5, He says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”   So what’s the response we should make?

Unfortunately, just a little later at v20, Jesus comments on the “littleness” of their faith.

Those who live large in this world have little faith in Jesus.   But those who listen to Jesus will live large for eternity.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 16   Following Jesus

 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.   For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.   For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  (verses 24-26)

The world sends messages like, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” but Jesus tells us that winning for eternity requires a different approach:

1.       Deny self – we need to decide if, “Thy will or mine will be done.”    Remember Jesus knows best.
2.       Take up our cross – the follower of Jesus is told to expect suffering, persecution and trials, but at the same time we’re also told, that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glories of eternity.
3.       Follow Jesus – only He knows the way and will not disappoint you.

So decide if a little short term pain is worth an eternity of gain?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 15   Signs

“Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there.  And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them.  So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”  (verses 29-31)

Jesus came and performed the miracles that the Old Testament had foretold the Messiah would do, the greatest authenticating miracle being the blind being given their sight.  Why?   Because this miracle had never been performed before.   So do you respond like the religious leaders did because Jesus did not fit their man-made rules and regulations (see verses 1-7) and remain spiritually blind?   Or do you accept the authentication provided and ask Jesus to help you see?  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment –Chapter 14   Perfect Provision or Impossible?

This chapter records how a large group of people (between 5,000-15,000) were gathered to be fed and all the food that was available was 5 loaves of bread and two fish.   Jesus told His disciples to feed the people, knowing that they could not.   He wanted them and us to understand what is impossible for us to accomplish is very easy (possible) for Him.  We’re told Jesus blessed the food and had it distributed and when what remained was gathered, there was just enough left to feed the disciples too.   As Jesus can satisfy hunger in the physical sense, He can also satisfy the hunger and thirsting of your soul.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 13  Why Parables?

You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’    (verses 14-15 quoting from Isaiah chapter 6)

Where do you stand with Jesus?  He told parables to draw the listener in to understand greater truths and also to hide them from those who would not believe.   So are you spiritually deaf, blind and indifferent, or have you been cured?    He is the great Healer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 12  Unforgivable Blasphemy

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”   verses 31-32

It’s curious that people often use God’s and Jesus’ name in an inappropriate matter.  Just think of what a mess this world would be in if God heeded every use of His name.    But curiously, I’ve never heard anyone swear or inappropriately use the name of the Holy Spirit, perhaps due to a misunderstanding of these verses.   But this is not the unforgivable sin.

For some people there are several unforgivable sins.  For example, committing suicide or converting to another religion.  But Jesus indicates there is only one such sin – rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit, which is showing a person that the only forgiveness of their sins is through Jesus, the One who offered the perfect sacrifice.   Only the sin of unbelief cannot be forgiven.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 11  An Invitation

Jesus extends an invitation like no other:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and My load is light.”  (v28-30)

He’s waiting for you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 10  Confession

It’s said that “confession is good for the soul,” but according to Jesus it is vital that we confess / profess our faith in Him:

“Everyone therefore who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (v32-33)

For Jesus, confession is more than just words.  A few verses later, “And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life, shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” (v38-39).  

Jesus made a total commitment to us by taking our punishment for sin upon Himself and for our own good, He expects us to be totally committed to Him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 9  Your Sins are Forgiven

Jesus made a bold statement and proclamation in this chapter when he said to a paralyzed man, “Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.”  Now this caused quite a stir among the leaders of the Jewish faith, because only God can forgive sins.    But Jesus asked them, what’s easier to do, tell someone their sins are forgiven (because how can it be proved) or to tell a paralyzed person to get up and walk?  So to prove He has the authority to forgive sins, He then told the paralyzed man to get up, walk and take his mat home with him.   And that’s just what the man did – his life was forever radically changed.

And Jesus can just as radically change yours too, no matter what the so-called religious experts may say or think.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 8  An Unlikely Follower

If we were to ask a Jew during the time of Jesus who the most unlikely follower and believer in Jesus would be, an officer of the Roman army would probably be near the top of the list.  And yet, here at Capernaum, a Roman Centurion is concerned about a paralyzed servant of his and asks Jesus, as one demonstrating authority like him, to merely say the word to heal the servant.   The Centurion knew it wasn’t permitted for a Jew to go to the home of a Gentile, let alone a Roman.  He was satisfied to have Jesus merely choose to heal his servant from a distance with the faith  trusting that Jesus could do just that.

Jesus marveled at the faith of this one, saying, “I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.”  If you feel you’re at the top of Jesus’ least likely to believe in Him list, you would be wrong,  In fact, the most unlikely are generally the ones who respond.  Because they find in Him what they have not been able to find anywhere else.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 7  Two Choices

The way to heaven – picture rush hour traffic on a multiple lane highway in Los Angeles.   The crowd is rushing as fast as they can in the direction of traffic, but you are trying to go against the traffic and travel in the opposite direction.   “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter it.   For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life and fare are those who find it.”    This pretty much dispels the popular notion that all religions lead to the same God.

So how do you find the way?  Verse 24  “Therefore everyone who HEARS these words of Mine and ACTS upon them , may be compared to the wise man who built his house on the rock.”     How’s your foundation?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 6  When, not If

Notice how many times the word “when” is used in this chapter:  verses 2-3 when you give;  verses 5-7 when you pray;  verses 16-17 when you fast.   These are expectations of our Heavenly Father  so we will draw nearer to Him and place less confidence in our possessions and more trust in Him instead of being anxious.

As Jesus stated in verse 33:  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Get on with “whenning!”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 5  Think You’re Good Enough?

This is a great chapter in Matthew’s Gospel – lots to discuss and react to.   But the 48 verses in this chapter can be summed up by 2 of the verses:

Verse 20   “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes of and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom.”

Verse 48   “Therefore you are to be perfect and you heavenly Father is perfect.”

here’s no way I can please God or become holy and perfect by my own efforts.   But God loves us so much He provided a way to Him – Jesus.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 4  Temptation

It’s difficult to deny the existence of the devil from an account involving Jesus Himself.    And the forty day period -   Israel had failed during a 40 day period and the result was they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before being permitted to enter the Promised Land.   Jesus underwent a similar period of testing, but He remained obedient and faithful.   He became the perfect Mediator able to represent a holy, perfect God and able to fully understand the temptations and difficulties we as mankind face.

The writer of Hebrews expressed the confidence and hope we can have this way:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in our time of need.”   Hebrews 4:14-16

The Bad News is we can’t.  The Good News is Jesus can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 3  Make Ready the Way of the Lord

This chapter takes us from Jesus as a child to a man to be presented to Israel.   It begins with the call of one known as John the Baptist, whose message was to repent.  Repent means to change direction / turn around.  In other words to change the direction of your life to quit living in a way that only results in sin and separation from God and to turn to Jesus and the new life He offers.   Has the direction of your life so far left you longing for something more; more satisfying; more certain as to your eternity?

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 we’re told, “God has planted eternity in our hearts.”  Romans 1:18-20 indicates, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident with them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  Instead of turning our backs on God, He wants us to turn around and come to Him.   He extends that invitation to us through Jesus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 2 Unexpected Visitors and News

Imagine your surprise if you were the Roman appointed king over Judea and a spiritually elite, political group of highly educated individuals had traveled a great distance over an extended period of time to ask you, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:2)

In this chapter Matthew shows us that the prophet Micah, had disclosed 8 centuries before that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.   And something had happened in the sky / heavens that had gotten the attention of these individuals known as the magi – wise men specializing in astrology, medicine and natural sciences.   Daniel in the Old Testament was one of this elite group and it’s quite possible that they had become knowledgeable of the Scriptures as the Jews would have brought them with them.   They described what led them on their journey as a star, which eventually brought them to Bethlehem.   And there they fell down and worshiped a child, presenting him gifts of gold (a gift for a king), frankincense (incense only burned on the altar in the Temple – an offering by a Priest to God), and myrrh (a perfume used in embalming – a sign of a death / sacrifice).

The passage tells us they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy and returned to their country.   These men had traveled far and found what their hearts were longing for.  Have you?            

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment – Chapter 1 Credentials of the Christ

Pedigrees are important, especially when it comes to royalty.   Matthew begins his account by showing us there is no one like Jesus.   He traces Jesus human lineage back to Abraham (the one to had been told that all the people of the earth would be blessed through a descendant of his) and David (the great king of Israel who was told a descendant of his would reign on his throne forever).   After describing that Jesus was born into this world through a woman who had never “known” a man, Matthew indicates this was to FULFILL the promise God had made through the prophet Isaiah:

Behold, the virgin will be with child and bear a Son, and they will call His name                     Immanuel” which translated means, “God With Us.”(Isaiah 7:14 quoted in Matthew 1:23)

And this child born to Mary, who has engaged to Joseph, would be given the name Jesus, which means God is Salvation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Matthew – the Gospel of Fulfillment

Michael Card has written a book on this Gospel, which he regards as the Gospel of Identity, as it would have spoken to early Jews who believed Jesus was the promised Messiah and were looking for His return.  This meant they were no longer welcome in the synagogue or their former Jewish community and now they were struggling to understand and live out their new identity found in Jesus.   This is a great observation for the first readers / hearers of this book, but what about the reader today? 

Perhaps more than any other of the Gospels, Matthew wants us to see the connection of Jesus to the Old Testament Scriptures and how Jesus is the FULFILLMENT of the promised Messiah / Redeemer / King.        

And God chose a man named Levi, who Jesus gave the name Matthew (meaning God’s Gift).   As a tax collector for the Romans, he would have been regarded as unworthy and a traitor (e.g., He spends his time with tax collectors and sinners…).  Yet, as an accountant, Matthew would have been detail oriented and kept careful records.    And he certainly had an excellent working knowledge of the Old Testament to point out the fulfillment to those like him who were looking for proof that Jesus is the Messiah.

Over the coming weeks we’ll look at the evidence this early IRS agent offers – a very compelling case.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

So What's the Difference - Atheism / Evolution

While not intended to be inclusive, the following chart provides a basic summary for comparison and discussion.  

                                         Worldview                             Atheism / Evolution

Authority              The Bible, the Word of God                  Science's observations from nature 
                           The only infallible source of truth            only.  Yet, 95% of all matter in the 
                                                                                      universe is not observable, so
                                                                                      conclusions are made on only the
                                                                                      5% that is.

Only source of       Bible, Word of God                            Bible is regarded as magic / super-
truth                       2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16                         stition resorted to in order to 
                              Romans 1:16                                   explain what we don't understand
                              John 1:1-5,14                                 
                              Matthew 4:4                                     

Core Beliefs         1 Corinthians 15:1-3  Jesus               No agent needed if mechanism of 
                                was crucified, died, buried              nature (life & universe) works.
                                & rose from the dead.                    
                           Ephesians 4:4-6 - one Body                  
                               (church composed of all                  
                                believers), one Spirit, one               
                                hope of your calling (heaven),         
                                one Lord, one faith, one baptism,    
                                one God & Father of us all.           

Salvation by          Faith in Jesus Alone                      Not applicable - you life your life  
                                John 3:16; 14:6                           to add to the gene pool and
                                Ephesians 2:8-9                          information of mankind.  
                                Romans chapter 3, 10:9,17          

Life of faith            Loving God & Others (Luke 9:27)    Naturalism - can only believe what   
 characterized by   Living for Jesus (the walk) &             can be observed.
                                imitators of His life                        
                                Ephesians chapters 4 thru 6       Focused on self / individual, since   
                                Colossians 3:1-4:6                       life is all about the survival of the
                             Telling others of Jesus 2 Cor. 5        fittest.

Afterlife belief       Millennial kingdom - Jesus will        None.
                              return & reign for 1,000 year as        
                              promised.   Revelation 20:4         A belief system without hope.
                            Heaven, paradise, the New             
                              Jerusalem - eternal                           
                              Philippians 3:20-21, Revelation        
                               chapter 21 & 22.                            
                            Hell - place of eternal suffering           
                              for those who rejected God &             
                              Jesus.  Revelation 20:10-15

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

So What's the Difference - Mormonism

While not intended to be inclusive, the following chart provides a basic summary for comparison and discussion.  

                                         Worldview                             Mormons / Latter Day Saints

Authority              The Bible, the Word of God                   Book of Mormon (direct quotation of 
                           The only infallible source of truth            86% of the King James Bible, plus)
                                                                                     Teaching of Joseph Smith - the 
                                                                                       supreme authority.  No closed canon, 
                                                                                       God speaks through leaders today. 

Only source of       Bible, Word of God                             Bible is a resource, but not primary.
truth                       2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16                         
                              Romans 1:16                                   
                              John 1:1-5,14                                 
                              Matthew 4:4                                     

Core Beliefs         1 Corinthians 15:1-3  Jesus                 Gods (there has been an eternal    
                                was crucified, died, buried                succession of gods.)
                                & rose from the dead.                     Joseph Smith & successors are 
                           Ephesians 4:4-6 - one Body                   God's mouthpiece.
                               (church composed of all                  Keep the commandments.
                                believers), one Spirit, one               Temple / Missionary service 
                                hope of your calling (heaven),         
                                one Lord, one faith, one baptism,    
                                one God & Father of us all.           

Salvation by          Faith in Jesus Alone                         General (for mankind) - faith in 
                                John 3:16; 14:6                               Jesus for forgiveness of Adam's                                                              Ephesians 2:8-9                              sin which all inherit.
                                Romans chapter 3, 10:9,17           Individual - works of personal service   
                                                                                      thru Latter Day Saints Church

Life of faith            Loving God & Others (Luke 9:27)      Works / "valiant service" of the Latter 
 characterized by  Living for Jesus (the walk) &                Day Saints Church.
                                imitators of His life                        
                                Ephesians chapters 4 thru 6          Blacks not permitted in church until 
                                Colossians 3:1-4:6                         1978.
                             Telling others of Jesus 2 Cor. 5        Polygamy practiced.

Afterlife belief       Millennial kingdom - Jesus will           3 Realms:
                              return & reign for 1,000 year as        Celestial - highest level for the faithful
                              promised.   Revelation 20:4               where they become gods.
                            Heaven, paradise, the New               Terrestrial - place of second chance for  
                              Jerusalem - eternal                           the unfaithful and backslidden.  Will 
                              Philippians 3:20-21, Revelation          never see the current God the Father.
                               chapter 21 & 22.                            Telestial -  for the wicked after they've
                            Hell - place of eternal suffering            been cleansed in hell. Will never see
                              for those who rejected God &            Jesus or the current God the Father.   
                              Jesus.  Revelation 20:10-15