Matthew 13:53-58 “Do You Have Preconceived Ideas?”

Do you have preconceived ideas about people? Matthew shows us our mindset about those who have lived amongst us, moved away and have returned. Try to imagine yourself in the synagogue listening to Jesus teach. Do you react similarly or do you react differently?

After Jesus taught the parables he returned to Nazareth where he began to teach in the local synagogue. As the people listened they were astonished and asked where he got all of this wisdom and miraculous powers. The Nazarenes were much like us. We live in a certain place and become familiar with those in our vicinity. The town gossip has traveled from house to house and all “know.” Nathanael reveals our mindset: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus was the person who moved away and has returned. If you were there how would you have received him?

Now ask yourself what evidence do you feel you need to believe Jesus is the Son of God? Are you like the Pharisees that need a sign? Are you like these Nazarenes who were astonished? How about when a popular movie star says they got “saved.” Do you question their words? Will you be “watching” to see if they are “truly saved?”

Humanly speaking, more often, than not we form opinions beforehand without adequate evidence. Yet when we come face to face with the Messiah we either like Nathanael recognize Jesus as the Son of God or like the Nazarenes deny Him. It was because of their unbelief Jesus could not do many miracles there as He had done elsewhere.

Can you relate? Where are you?

 

 

The goal of our prayer life is to see others come to the salvation and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If we, as a church, are to bring this goal to fruition it is imperative that we have order as the world is watching as well as new believers are watching and seeking to learn what is right.  And as Paul’s disciple, Timothy is charged with leading the Ephesian church which faced a problem.  Instead of preaching and teaching the gospel message which operates by faith, the false teachers brought in myths and interminable genealogies which only promote speculation. Result: disorder and confusion.

So the question was left to Timothy, as churches today, how do you foster what is right and keep out that which is wrong? How do we keep order and peace? First, the order is prayer for all people led by the men of the church that are holy and as they pray they are to pray without anger or disputing. In other words, this is not the time for them to bring up every sordid detail going on in the church body as they pray! That should be done in their quiet time when they seek the face of God. Secondly, the women are to do likewise.

In all of this, we see a key which is the Fruit of the Spirit: self-control. It is listed two times in vs 9 and vs 15. In addition, just as the men are charged with being holy so are the women (in vs 15.) Thus we can see a principle: When the Holy Spirit is in charge His Fruit is evident reflected in the peace and order which God will bless.

1Peter 2 What Would Jesus Say About You?

Nathanael is spoken of only twice in the Gospel of John. Yet in this brief sketch, we learn much about this disciple. He is from Cana of Galilee and those of Nazareth are questionable:  “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet something peeked his interest when Philip tells him he has found the “one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets also wrote about”—and Philip was persistent; “come and see.”

Imagine Nathanael’s surprise when he met this one of whom Moses wrote. Imagine hearing Jesus say: “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Imagine Jesus saying that about you!

In writing to the scattered believers Peter could have been thinking of Nathanael as an example of one who lived, walked and talked the true believer’s life. He had purified his soul by obeying the truth. He was an example of what happens when we accept Christ’s cleansing. The distractions of our old life, which Peter lists are to be put aside. We are a new creation because we have been chosen by ‘THE CHOSEN ONE,’— THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. And now because of all of that, we must hunger and thirst, or yearn for pure spiritual milk so we may become grow up and become pure much like Nathanael, without guile; without deceit.

Jesus had looked into his heart and saw the true Nathanael. What does Jesus see when He looks into your heart?

In grammar we learn about synonyms and antonyms and then there are those dastardly adjectives that roam about saying “use me, use me.” Welcome to Wordville! Thus why we struggle so much to grasp the meaning behind the words that the prophets used and Peter and other NT writers used. Like them, as we write or jot notes we seek to portray our meaning and sometimes we have to sit back and ponder and ask, is that what I truly want to say? Even Peter faced this dilemma as he closed his second letter: Some things Paul wrote are hard to understand. I can relate, can you? Thus my dilemma on what does it mean to love with a pure heart used by both Paul and Peter in different forms. You, the readers have helped with your ideas, thoughts, and verses and for that I am thankful. Thus some notes on the “loving from a pure heart.”

In 1Peter  we learn these things. He has taken it for granted, he has assumed, that these he is writing to have indeed been chosen, sanctified and washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as he says, “you have therefore you are to do.”[author’s idea] Sounds a lot like James; show your faith by your works. Peter is saying this in the past tense: you HAVE been born again, you HAVE been ransomed, you HAVE been radically altered from impurity to purity all for one reason; to show sincere mutual love or as Jesus said it “love thy neighbor.”

In other words, there are no if’s, and’s or but’s on this issue. 

So let’s all go and love with a pure heart today in some way.

As Paul languished in a Roman dungeon he thought of his precious Ephesian believers. Recalling his words to them in Acts 20 on the beach, he knew for certain that they had truly begun to falter. Thus Paul sent this letter to Timothy, “my genuine child in the faith” to stay in Ephesus to teach and preach the gospel message to them.

If Paul wrote this letter to you would he acknowledge you as a “genuine child in the faith?” How does one become that? First and foremost one must do as Timothy had done and Peter had told the crowd on Pentecost. You must acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of God’s saving grace and turn and call upon God our Savior for salvation. It is simply as easy as A-B-C.

  • Acknowledge you are a sinner in need of God’s saving grace
  • Believe that Jesus died for your sins and covers them with His saving blood
  • Confess that you believe in Jesus Christ the only Savior
  • Declare Him to the “only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
  • Eternal life is then yours to claim and will be “blessed with every spiritual blessing” that God has for you. You will be called by God as a “true, genuine child in the faith.

The word Faith means you are “forsaking all others and taking Him” to be your Savior. Have you taken these steps?

Peter says that we may have to suffer for a time and even though we do not see Christ we can rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. How is that possible when the unimaginable takes place? In his book, “Prayer Makes a Difference,” Philip Yancey quotes from Etty Hillesum’s Auschwitz journal: “I want to be there right in the thick of what people call horror and still be able to say life is beautiful.”

Can we say the same?

Once again we turn to Peter who writes his letter of encouragement to those in similar situations such as Etty’s. After giving them the reasons in verses 3-6 (please re-read them) he says these precious and most magnificent promises should bring us “an indescribable and glorious joy” even in the midst of suffering.

Where does that joy come from? Here’s an idea to ponder.  Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman revealed her lack of joy and peace of God. As He and she dialogued about the true path to peace and joy, Jesus gently told her that drinking from the water He would give her would quench the thirst of her soul and then she would no longer need to worship in a place such as a temple but could worship in spirit and in truth. That is because God would no longer reside in a fixed place but instead indwell her in the person of the Holy Spirit. She would become as Paul described:  God’s temple where God’s Spirit lives. [1Co 3:16 author paraphrase] and the Fruit of His presence would be seen in the Gift—not gifts but Gift–He imparts. [see Gal 5:22]

The circumstances had not changed for Etty or the Samaritan woman’s, but now both could rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. We can claim that as well when we realize that He is working all things for His purpose.

 

 

Recently at a luncheon, after all of the pleasantries aside, I asked what I thought was a simple question. The stares back reflected that the listeners were either taken aback at such presumption of me or they were simply surprised. I received four answers, focus, wisdom, grace and patience but out of that one word stuck in my mind. It was the answer from a young gal soon to leave her teen years behind and enter adulthood. Her one word answer to how can I pray fone-wordas “focus.” I have been pondering that since our interaction and I think the answer is found in the first chapter of Peter as he counsels the early believers facing the trials of life. He says as you walk through life you truly need to “focus.” But focus on what?

Here’s an illustration as to what I think Peter is saying. You are asked would you like to dance and you respond with an affirmative realizing that only one can lead and the other follow. If the follower seeks to lead then the feet become intertwined and the steps are off. Facing life and trials are like a dance. We must “focus” on following God as lead and our dance steps will be in tune. But, if we step aside and say we want to lead then the steps are not led by God Almighty but us. Therein lay the advice of James to the dance of life which includes trials of all kinds. James tells us that when in a trial focus on this: “count it all joy.” Incredulously we wonder if he is living in la-la land! How can we focus on joy when we are in a trial?  We are exhausted, drained and our light seems to be under the bushel not out for the world to see. Yet James knew that through this dance of trials God produces endurance or steadfastness and a perfect dance with Him. The answer to this paradox is found from the wisdom of Peter. He captures the secret behind that statement having walked with Jesus for three years, denied him three times and then being  asked three times “do you love me?” He has in his quiver or dance card the wisdom that comes from facing many trials.

Peter is saying to these early believers and to you and me—when you are faced with the trials of life, and you will face them, “focus” on God as your dance partner. “Focus” on God’s protection. “Focus” on the fact that your dance of faith is seen by the angels of heaven and the world watchers and they marvel to its genuineness. “Focus” on what you do have; a new dance partner who was raised from the dead giving you a re-birth into a living hope. “Focus” on what you read in your dance card; an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away not as the many trinkets we gather and turn to rust and decay.

And that, in a nutshell, is how you “focus.” Read through 1 Peter 1 because it is here that you learn how to dance through the trials of life with God as lead. Peter teaches us what he and James have learned. The key is “focus” on the word JOY…Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Does your dance card say: G.U.I.D.A.N.C.E? God U & I Dance! You lead and I will follow!

 

 

 

 

Protected by the Power of God…1Peter 1:5a

I love my cup of java early in the morning. I sit with Jesus, my Bible, notebook and a cup of coffee. My coffee tastes even better with the creamer I add giving it a taste of sweetness. Perhaps that is you as well.  A couple of days ago I was enjoying my cup of coffee and found my mind focused in 1Peter where I have been for about a month now and only in the first chapter. Peter is speaking to my heart and it is my hope that He will be speaking to yours as well. Peter is counseling, giving advice, directing his words to a group of Christian believers who are stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place. They are “all in but hanging on” for dear life as they face suffering. What keeps them going are the words of Peter saying stay true to the One who paid the price for you chosen by the foreknowledge of God, sanctified by the Spirit FOR obedience to Jesus Christ whose blood was shed for you.

Listen to his words in vs 5a as he tells them they are “protected by the power of God.” That is how you weather the storms of life; trusting in a God whose heavenly armies and God’s love has reached down to protect His own. But too often we find ourselves like the Terrified Ten of Numbers 13.  They were like the half and half creamer we put into our coffee. They wanted God’s protection but their fear of the enemy was greater than the power of God. Peter is saying to these first-century believers that even though “God is capable of helping or defeating,” as the man of God told King Amaziah,  He won’t do it for those who are like the coffee creamer, half and half. God wants us all in like Joshua and Caleb so He gets the glory not us.

So where are you today? Are you all in but hanging on? Trust in God the maker of heaven and earth who can calm the wind and waves and your storm.

A noteworthy evangelist, Greg Laurie, uses the term “fran-gelism” in his explanation of how and why we are to be sharing the good news with everyone we meet. Fran = friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. Peter is doing just that in his letter sent to the scattered “aliens.” He is carefully crafting his letter to them who have chosen to move to avoid persecution. The ironic thing is that persecution has followed them. Now, lest these believers think that now they can live as many today, enjoying the good life, Peter says let’s get this straight. Let’s see, you were born again to a living hope, you were redeemed not with indulgences or petty works but by the very life of Christ and His precious blood. You heard the word of the gospel preached to you because those who dead in their sins need a preacher to do just that. Do not forget that someone shared the good news with you and you believed. It was because of their “preaching” you called upon the name of the Lord (Acts 4:12).

Beloved, Peter is saying to you and to me, you are that preacher and you do it with “fran-gelism.” So what is our excuse friend, relative, associate, or neighbor for not sharing? You say you don’t know how? Today this video came across my feed…enjoy it and if you like it, send a note to the creator to thank them:  http://www.crosscheck.org.uk/

 

Proverbs 13 Wise & Foolish Sheep  

Some sheep/children are teachable and some will refuse correction. Solomon was the teachable child, Solomon demonstrated his loyalty to the Lord by following the practices of his father David,” [1Ki 3:3] but Solomon’s own son was incorrigible.  Solomon is saying do not lose heart; I have placed before you wisdom I have gleaned.

 A wise son (daughter) accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

 Sadly, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, chose to flounder with fools rather than walk with the wise. He was spiritually deaf as many are today wishing to have their ears tickled rather than heed the counsel of God. We must hide God’s word in our hearts so that we have the wisdom to not only understand the type of child God has placed in our care but how to raise them properly in the ways of God so that they can pass on to the next generation these lessons of wisdom. [Ps 78] “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”[2Tim 2:15]