“Who Does He Think He Is?”

If you want to know who Jesus is; pay attention

Mark 2 If you want to know who this Jesus is, pay close attention, for time is of the essence.

Join Jesus as he teaches and where pious religious leaders, who know the Torah backward and forwards, come to find out who this man is. Outwardly, they are polite, but their heart chastises Jesus with this question: “who can forgive sins but God alone?” Forgiveness followed by healing should have answered their question that Jesus is God in the flesh who can do both. 

Immediately, Jesus removes himself from the crowded home to the seaside where he could teach unencumbered by their stares. He encounters Levi, the tax collector whose heart is prepared, and he steps out of his comfort zone to “immediately” follow Jesus. He invites his tax collectors and sinners to a feast at which the Pharisees mingle so they can ask why Jesus doesn’t follow protocol about fasting.

The following Sabbath, these same outwardly religious leaders tag along through a grain field. They challenge his ideas about the Sabbath, to which Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:27]

Jesus saw to the heart of the matter: The religious leaders wanted to justify their rules; Levi wanted righteousness.

Which do you want?

Angering & Returning to God

God is waiting for us to return to Him

2 Kings 16-17; 2 Chronicles 28 God has his prophets, His Word, and the witnesses of even His enemies to remind us of the truth: obey God, and He will bless. It seems that this is the message we all need to hear. God will use even our enemies to remind us of His truth, yet we all, with hardened hearts, ignore Him and His Word.  King Ahaz is a perfect example. King Ahaz was not a good king and these chapters.   “In every city throughout Judah he set up high places to offer sacrifices to other gods. He angered the Lord God of his ancestors.”

[2Chron 28:25] God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with another, but men continue to ignore Him and His principles. Return to me, says the Lord God, and He will turn to you. “The Lord your God is merciful and compassionate; he will not reject you if you return to him.” [2Chron 30:9]

If you have walked away or turned from Him, take heart, and return to Him that He may bless you is a truth that we all need to hear and to apply.

“The Price of Sin”

God sees our sin

Joshua 7 to 9 Jericho had seemed a sweet victory, but unbeknown to Joshua, God was angry. Fresh from a victory, the Israelites failed to consult God about taking the next city, Ai. Looking with only their human eyes, they saw Ai as a simple takeover, unlike Jericho. Secondly, Joshua foolishly failed to consult God before sending his army into battle. Ai should have been easy; instead, they faced defeat. Returning to camp and hearing the news, Joshua took time to go before God only to hear: “Get up!” Sometimes God has to do that with us as well. We can’t see our sin lying down. We must get up and face the problem.

Even though the Israelites had heard of God’s directive of the ban on all things in Jericho, Achan had casually dismissed it. How like us. We know what God desires, but we fail to think ahead to the consequences of disobedience. Achan not only lost the treasures he stole and hid, but also the blood of his family and thirty-six men were laid to his account.

Do you dismiss sin? Do you think “God will understand?” God does not overlook sin but demands purity and righteousness. We foolishly believe our sin only affects us. Be forewarned; “be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num 32:23]

if you are facing defeat, get up, seek God’s face about your situation and let Him reveal what is truly happening.

Beware of Choosing Second Best

Numbers 32:23 Some men from Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh saw the land on the east side of the Jordan, and, like Lot earlier, they wanted to settle there because it was ideal for cattle. As Moses listened to their argument, he became angry because these choices would discourage the other tribes. Like Lot, they were willing to take the easy route rather than being obedient to the Lord. There will always be the “second best.” Their choice would come at a price, one of which was a reoccurrence of what happened at Kadesh Barnea if they disobeyed. They saw what was in front but not what was ahead. They failed to trust that God knows best.  How often are we like that? We can’t see ahead, but we still think we know better than God.

Being older and wiser, Moses knew that their hearts were lukewarm, but also Moses too did not seek the Lord in this decision. Why he did not is uncertain, but we do know these men were like Lot, thinking of the moment before them rather than the future that God had planned.

Beware of being contented with the lesser when God has the best already set aside for you.  As Moses warned them, if they did not obey, their sin would be found out. [Num 32:23]  

Merciful God & Answered Prayer

Pray for your children

Gen 19 God is the Living and Holy God who loves purity and hates sin. He is gracious to save and a righteous judge towards the sinful.  The book of Genesis provides all of these pictures of God and in contrast, the “man made in His image” as tainted, sinful, and without hope minus the mercy of God.

Abraham’s pure heart is revealed as he asks God if he will destroy the righteous with the wicked. Lot’s heart is revealed as one who wants to be a fence sitter. Even the city dwellers see his hypocrisy. How different Lot is from Noah who lived in the world but was not a part of it. Peter describes Lot as a righteous man, but here we only see him as a man who has lost his testimony in the marketplace and his home. “This man came to live here as a foreigner, and now he dares to judge us!” [Gen 19:9] Even “Mrs.” Lot loves Sodom more than God!

Abraham had begged God for ten righteous to be saved, but only Lot and his two daughters survive.  These daughter’s act of incest is living proof of those who do not train up their children to follow God.  

What are some lessons we can glean from this passage? (1) God loves the prayers of his saints, and our prayers matter. (2) What you sow you will also reap. (3)We must be as bold as Abraham to pray for those who are perishing.

“Freaks, Geeks, Seek(ers)”

Luke 14 As a Master Teacher, Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach lessons we all need to learn. As an observer at a dinner party on the Sabbath, Jesus masterfully taught his host and the attendees as well as us some lessons in humility that we would be wise to emulate.

Consider the first guest who was perhaps considered the person least likely to receive an invite due to his physical condition called dropsy [edema due to congestive heart failure.]. We might call him the “town freak.”  The Pharisees invited him not because they cared about him but to watch closely to see what Jesus would do. Consider the next set of guests who sought to sit in the seats of honor. We might call them the “town geeks” because of their self-inflated ego. They miscalculated how the host saw them and found themselves humiliated when asked to move. The third lesson is to the host himself; he is the “town seek” because he is always inviting prominent persons to receive invitations back. Jesus point-blank told him that this smacks of favoritism.

Consider all of these lessons in light of what Jesus might ask us.  Who are we inviting to our homes, and why? At school or work, do we honor some and dishonor others? Do we find ourselves ignoring some while favoring others? Perhaps we can all begin to pray:

May I see others the way God sees them.

Study under the Master

The Master Class 101

Matt 5 This is the first in a series of “Heaven on Earth 101” class, where we will learn how to make the gospel relevant to our society. One of the things we learn from Jesus is that He always took advantage of the opportunities God the Father gave him to “go and make disciples.” So in the chapter on the Beatitudes, we see him using this time to fulfill what we are called to do: “go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching to obey.”  As the master teacher, He used real-life examples to show them that to “just” know the gospel is not enough. The test is demonstrating what we have learned in “real-life.”

Jesus also places some warnings so that we should not hesitate to do what He has commanded. The first is if we break one of the least of these commands to be salt and light, to be meek, and yet do not mourn over sinful habits, then we are no better than the experts in the Law who knew God’s Law but did not live by it.

Truly James was right; the world does not know us and therefore does not know the one we call Savior because our walk and talk don’t harmonize. Beloved, “heaven on earth” is to not just live by the letter but by the heart.

Laundry Problems Solved

Only Jesus can cleanse

Zechariah 3-6 From Genesis to Revelation, we have learned that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. [Rev 12:10] He continues to accuse even today!  Thus in chapter three, we are given a marvelous symbolic example of what each believer can know about the accuser’s work and how we can be cleansed from sin to receive salvation. As we are, we “have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” [Is 46:6] We have a spiritual laundry problem and Satan tries to make us think that our works will make us clean, but that is a lie. “He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:5] We are only worthy because of what Christ has done because, like the priest, Joshua, we too wear the filthy clothes of sin. We need a launderer to cleanse us, and Jesus did just exactly that. Jesus is qualified to wear the robe of righteousness because He paid the redemption price for our sinful deeds and heart. Now He alone can rebuke the evil one. If we accept his gift of cleansing, we are now worthy of wearing fine clothing and a clean turban on our head.

 The Lord of Heaven’s armies reminds us we are worthy to walk among the Body of Christ in our new robe of righteousness.

Bitterness Divides/Forgiveness Unites

Beware of Bitterness

Obadiah: Do you recall the story about a feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s who harbored grudges spanning several years? They were led by a rogue clan member who refused to forgive. Read Obadiah with this tale and the Jacob/Esau story in mind. Just like the Hatfield/McCoy feud, the descendants of Esau/ Edomite’s hearts were full of bitterness. Esau was bitter because his brother Jacob got the birthright and blessing–by trickery. He never forgave him, although when he met Jacob many years later, he “seemed” repentant.

God sent Obadiah to Israel to prophesy about Edom to show them that unforgiveness is a trap laid by Satan. The Edomites harbored a grudge of this event’s outcome from years and years ago. Like the Hatfield/McCoy’s, they rehearsed it repeatedly, probably embellishing the details to the next generation as to why they would not; should not, could not forgive their enemy. The reality is unforgiveness is a sin. Instead: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap  burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you” [Prov 15:22]

Israel lies precariously close to this story because they refused to forgive their neighbor Judah. For us, it is a warning sign of what happens when we cling to hatred instead of forgiving.

Truth Principle: When we do not forgive, we are shackled in our past.

God Judges Sin & The Heart

God is judge

Hosea 8 to 10 If you listen carefully, you will hear that the world says: “do not judge.”   Jesus used that verse to remind us of the standard of judgment and that the standards we apply to others God applies to us. Jesus is teaching that we are not God and we don’t know the motives behind a person’s heart. So what does that have to do with Hosea chapters 8 to 10? God is saying I am the ultimate judge, and I alone can judge the heart.

When God looked at the northern tribes, he saw sin and judged it. Outwardly the people were saying, “God, we acknowledge you!” But, God says, let’s look at the evidence. I found you and raised you only to see that your eyes drifted to man-made idols. This should not be!  What you have sown, you will also reap. I spelled out my law for you in great detail, but you regarded it as nothing. I sent you wise prophets, but you called them fools. My prophet was sent to you as a watchman to remind you of where you have fallen. Like the Ephesians, they had lost their first love. God reminds them to seek Him early while He may be found! Repent and return to the Lord

This is a wake-up call to us as well. Where have we taken our eyes off God and look to the world of its man-made idols and structures? Have we lost our first love?