Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:7-20

The Passover was to be killed and eaten on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar. Exodus 12:26-27 describes the purpose. “And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses…” While the day was not a Sabbath, it was to be an Holy Convocation or time of gathering to remember what God had done, starting the feast of unleavened bread. During this period there was to be no leavening agents used, or even found in the homes.

Exodus 12:43-48 gives specific guidelines as to who could participate and how the Passover was to be partaken. “And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”

It is under the guidelines God gave in Exodus 12 that Jesus had his disciples prepare to celebrate the Passover. It is a time when they were to be reminded God had done for Israel, reserved solely for those who were beneficiaries of those promises and actions.

“Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare?

And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.

And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.” (Luke 22:7-14)

This was the last meal Jesus would eat with his disciples before his crucifixion. While it was a reminder of the past, it represented what he was to do. He would not partake of it again until he had fulfilled what it pictured for the future.

“And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Lu 22:15-16”

Every aspect of the Passover portrayed what Christ would do when he came. The Passover lamb had to be a perfect lamb without any blemishes, and the bread had to be unleavened, portraying the moral purity of Christ, who “… was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” according to Hebrews 4:15. The care not to break a bone of the sacrifice pictured the prophecy about Christ that not a bone would be broken. The painting of the blood on the door jam pictured the individual application of Christ’s blood for forgiveness and salvation. That it was limited to those who had accepted circumcision as evidence of their faith again stresses the need for individual commitment. The study of the various aspects is fascinating. It was during this feast that Jesus established the communion service or “Lords Supper.”

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” (Luke 22:17-18)

There is a great deal of discussion whether we should use fermented wine for the communion. Notice that none of the gospels or the passage in I Corinthians 11 speak of wine at all at the Lord‘s supper, but of the cup, or of the fruit of the vine. It is significant that both Matthew and Mark stress the new fruit in their reference to this statement of Christ. Mark 14:25 quotes him, “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God,” speaking of fresh juice, rather than old or fermented wine.

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

Some believe that the unleavened bread and the ‘wine’ become literally the body of Christ, and that partaking the communion is essential for salvation. I Corinthians 11:26 tells us it just portrays his death. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.” It is a physical representation of what has happened spiritually, that we have partaken of his sacrifice. The statement that “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you,” reinforces this.

The Lord’s Supper is the Christian version of Passover, a celebration of what the Lord has done for us. There are certain guidelines that need to be followed to make it pleasing to God. I Corinthians 5:7 commands, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Just as there were certain guidelines as to who could partake the Passover there are guidelines as to who may partake of the Communion. I Corinthians 11:27-30 warns, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

It is the individual’s responsibility to determine whether he meets the qualifications. Failure to do so makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice, and may result in sickness or even death. It is not to be taken lightly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Plotting To Kill Jesus

Luke 21:37-22:6

It is hard to realize the timing of this passage. Just the previous Sunday, was palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in chapter 19. The previous sixteen chapters cover a three year period. The last five chapters cover just one week. At this stage in his ministry, things are moving very fast.

“And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him. Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” (Luke 21:37-22:1)

Jesus is spending his last few days teaching during the day and camping on the Mount of Olives at night. Those who have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meet with him early each morning. The crowds following him are really troubling to the religious and political leaders, because his teaching challenges their authority to do many things they have been doing. Fearing that the people may reject their authority, they seek a way of destroying his influence. It is not much different than the smear campaigns of the last election, except our democratic process makes murdering the opposition more difficult.

“And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.” (Luke 22:2-4)

Afraid of the peoples reactions, the leaders seek a way to execute Jesus. They will need to arrest him privately to prevent an uprising, then convince the people of his guilt. An arrest and interrogation will give a sense of legitimacy to the execution, but it needs to be handled carefully. Judas’ betrayal is necessary to lead them to where Jesus spends the night and identify him in the darkness. As one of the twelve, he can get close enough to prevent escape.

Judas was one of the twelve, chosen by Jesus, who had been a part of Jesus’ ministry from the beginning. He had experienced the same miracles as the others, seeing Jesus walk on water, calm the sea, heal hundreds, and feed thousands. In spite of all that, he didn’t believe although all the others did. He was like the Jews who were delivered from Egypt during the exodus, who saw God’s miracles, yet didn’t believe. According to Hebrews 4:2 They all heard the same message, but some were not saved because of a lack of faith. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

All Judas’ time with Jesus changed nothing. As Jesus said in John 6:70-71, long before the current passage. “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” Judas’ entire focus was on the money he hoped to get, yet he was entrusted with their money by the others according to John 12:4-6. “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” His lack of faith made him susceptible to Satanic control. His greed was the handle Satan used to control him. He volunteered to betray Jesus for a fee.

“And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.” (Luke 22:5-6)

Fear of the peoples reaction if they witnessed his arrest lead to a desire to arrest Jesus away from the crowd. Once he was sure of getting paid, Judas began to consider the possible places and times when he’d be away from the crowd.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Misinterpreting Scripture

Luke 21:29-38

While I was in Bible college during the early seventies, There was a lot of interest in the second coming. As the frenzy grew, there were increasing efforts to establish a time frame as to when it would happen. The parable Jesus gives here was often referred to as a basis for setting dates, although they seldom used Luke’s version. We were regularly told that the fig tree represented Israel, and that the fig tree sprouting was referring to the re-establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948.

When Jesus stated that generation would not pass away before all these things were completed, it was assumed that it meant that the second coming would occur before the generation who was alive in that day would still be alive when he came, therefore setting an outside limit to when he would come. Careful analysis of Luke’s rendering of the parable casts the interpretation in serious doubt.

“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” (Luke 21:29-31)

Jesus speaks of the fig tree and all the trees, not just the fig tree. That caused me to wonder because if the Fig tree is representative of Israel, what about the other trees, the other countries? What leaves would they put forth? As I searched, I could not find any scriptural basis for the claim that the fig tree represented Israel. I still haven’t, after nearly forty years of study. Luke’s including all the trees implies that this is not a proper interpretation.

If the re-establishment of Israel isn’t the sign, what signs are Jesus referring to? In the previous verses, Luke 21:20-27, Jesus listed a series of events as having to occur before the second coming.

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:20-27)

Jesus was very specific, “when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” These things had nothing to do with the rebuilding of Israel, other than that it had to be rebuilt before they could happen. Let’s continue with the parable.

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. ” (Luke 21:32)

Based on the belief that the budding fig tree represented the rebuilding of Israel, then this verse was accepted to mean that the generation alive when Israel was rebuilt would still be a live when the Lord came back. By determining how long a generation was they could set a date as to how long that would be. Various numbers were bandied about, with some using Job 42:16 to calculate it. “After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations.” Dividing a hundred forty by four gives thirty five years, making the Lord’s return before 1983. Subtracting seven years would put the rapture in 1976. It didn’t happen!

Maybe Job just saw the birth of the fourth generation. If so, then he only saw three generations live out their time period, that would make a generation about 47 years. They all recalculated, and predicted the second coming would happen in 1995, with the rapture in 1988. It still didn’t happen! A lot of people became convinced that the second coming is bogus, and for those who believed that the teaching based on scripture, doubt was cast on the inerrancy of the Bible.

The misinterpretation of scripture produced the very thing Jesus gave the parable to warn us about. It led to a loss of confidence in God’s word, and an unspiritual attitude in the church. As a result the modern church is materialistic, not really believing in the things they proclaim. II Timothy 3:5 describes them as, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…” Jesus was not telling us when he would come, but warning us of the need to be faithful until he does.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

The entire false teaching is a result of a failure to adequately study the scriptures. II Timothy 2:15-16 commands, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” Rather than seeking what the scripture actually said, people accepted interpretations based on worldly ideas, with no sound basis. The result has been an increased level of sin and unfaithfulness in the churches, just as Paul warned. Sincerity is great, but only if it results in a sincere effort to determine what God has actually said.

Comparing Matthew and Mark’s accounts of the parable with Luke’s would have made people aware that it wasn’t just the fig tree, and forced them to abandon the entire lesson, as would careful study of all three passages. One of the very real dangers of topical teaching is that it is so easy to unintentionally overlook verses that do not promote a particular viewpoint, restricting ourselves to those that do. False doctrine can then slip in unnoticed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prepared But Not Panicked

Luke 21:20-27

I am amazed as I see reports of people preparing for hurricanes or snow storms. Growing up in the mountains, fifty miles from a shopping center, we knew that there would be severe snow storms from time to time and made sure we were prepared. It was too late when it started snowing.

Stories about the fishermen along the coasts in New England talk of pulling out covers for their windows and putting them on and getting firewood in when the weather got bad. Today, it seems that when a storm is announced, everyone has to run to the home canter for plywood to cover their windows and generators and food to last a couple of days. As a result, there are always shortages and severe damage. Why don’t they simply save the stuff for the next time? They happen every year or two, and the space required is pretty small.

At the same time, it does not make sense to just leave the plywood over the windows or just use the generator and emergency fuel and food when there are no storms. If we nailed plywood over the windows every time the weather reported the possibility of a storm, we would exhaust ourselves putting it up and taking it down. Instead, the we learn to wait until certain indicators are in place, which still leave time to act but do not cause us to over react. Jesus told us what to watch for to know when to take action, and what action to take.

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22)

Over the centuries hundreds of groups have called on their people to leave the cities and set up a place where they were to await the Lord’s return. Notice that Jesus said they were not to flee until they saw Jerusalem under attack. At that point the people of Judea, what we know as Israel are to flee. It is not a command for people around the world, it is specifically for those in Israel.

We are to fall for such claims, because it will not happen until after the Anti-Christ is revealed. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (II Thessalonians 2:3-4)

The evidence of the need for action will be clearly visible. Jeremiah speaks of it as the time of Jacob’s trouble in Jeremiah 30:7. “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Daniel states that the period is a judgment on Israel as the final act of the period described in Daniel 9:24-27. The tribulation is that final week. It will be a horrible disaster world wide, but the center will be Israel.

“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23-24)

It will involve far more than just a military attacks, and human caused shortages, even including events in space and the collapse of entire nations. Chapters 4-20 of Revelation describe some of the events that will occur during the period.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

Revelation 6:12-17 describes the panic as things rage so completely out of control. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

When these things begin to happen, it is just a little while, just seven years until Christ comes back as the Great king that Israel looked for at the time of his first coming. They only saw the top of the hill in the distance and misjudged time and distance between where they were and what God was promising. Sadly many Christians have made a similar misjudgment, putting their desires ahead of what God said would happen. Those misjudgments do not negate what God has promised. At the proper time, Christ will come.

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:27-28)

When we see these things start to happen, we know that the time is getting close, but we still don’t know exactly when. Acts 1:7 says, “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Anyone claiming to know is a false teacher. Avoid them. Don’t cover the windows until you are sure the storm is coming.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fretting About The Time

Luke 21:12-19

On Labor Day, we had a church picnic about four miles north of the church, on the BLM land. The site was overlooking a small canyon. Numerous junipers and desert plants, contrast sharply with the red sandstone and black shale rocks. The kids thoroughly enjoyed climbing around on the rocks.

A few days later I decided to hike to the same place by following the arroyo near the church. The soft sand and winding path of the arroyo made it hard to tell how far I’d traveled, and which way. Realizing I had to be back soon, I climbed to the top of a nearby hil where I discovered I still had over a half mile to go so I decided to cut straight across. By the time I had crossed the wash five or six times, and back over the intervening hill, I am sure I had traveled at least another mile, and was almost ready to just start home when I finally climbed to the top of the last hill and saw my destination a hundred yards ahead. That last hundred yards turned out to be some of the roughest traveling I had done yet, with steep cliffs and dense brush in some places. It seemed like there was always one more obstacle in the way, and concern about the time was taking away my enjoyment. When I finally stepped out into the spot, it was almost a surprise, because I had been working so hard for so long. I followed the road back because I was tired and I needed to get back quickly.

Like me, Israel knew where they were supposed to go, but had no idea how long it would take them to get there. The book of Revelation tells us what will be there when we arrive, It allows us to see our destination. However, we seldom realize how long it will take us to get there or what we will experience along the way. For present day Christians, most of Revelation serves only to show us where we are headed. Christ repeatedly reminds us that we don’t understand how far away it is and that it will come unexpectedly.

He also warns of some difficulties we will experience before we get there. Luke 21:12-13 warns, “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.” He advises us not to try to plan for these occurrences, but act as he shows us when the time comes in Luke 21:14-15. “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” This is exactly the opposite of advice the Christian Law Association was gving a few years ago.

Some of the worst conflicts will come from where they are least expected. Jesus warned that serving him would result in these conflicts in Matthew 10:34-36. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” He repeats himself in this passage.

“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:16-19)

Like my hike to the picnic area, the last period before we arrive will probably entail the worst persecution and discouragement of history. It is clear that the persecution will get even worse in the tribulation period, with those who turn to Christ being killed. Before that time, however, Jesus promises that not a hair of your head will perish. We are to keep serving him in patience, knowing he will come at the proper time.

I find it very difficult to sit and wait for some one to arrive, especially if they don’t come as soon as I expected. I have found that by having something to keep myself occupied, I don’t fret about the time as much, relieving a lot of stress. I think a lot of Christians would relieve a lot of their stress by getting busy about the Lord’s work rather than fretting about the time. Jesus said to “occupy till I come.”

He also said we wouldn’t know when he was coming so not to get stressed out over it. Paul instructed the Thessalonians in II Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

To put it simply, much of the absorption with the second coming is contrary to God’s command. He is coming again, and he will deliver his people, but when and how are his business, not ours. Our job is to obey him till he comes, trusting him to take care of us.

Friday, February 18, 2011

But It Doesn’t Seem like Enough To Bother With

Luke 21:1-4

A couple of years ago, on the Television program, The Apprentice, two well known entertainers were in charge of raising money for a charity to help homeless veterans. The man who raised the most money was declared the better manager. As I watched , and thought about what happened, I concluded that in reality, the scoring was wrong.

The Country and Western singer worked to contact thousands of ordinary people who sent as much as they could, and became involved with personally assisting veterans in their home town. Several of his acquaintances in the music field donated items for the auction, or came and bid for the items. Several also held special concerts and donated the proceeds.

The other man came from a very wealthy background. He called a couple of his well known rich friends for donations to the auction. He contacted another friend who is the CEO of a multinational corporation to bid at the auction.

The final day. The Country singer had invited a number of veterans to take part, though they couldn’t afford the tickets. He also had a room full of other people. The winner, on the other hand, simply had a check for tickets for a large group who didn’t bother to come. The CEO made such high opening bids for the things the second man had gotten donated that no one else could even bid. Naturally, Donald Trump fired the Country singer because he didn’t raise as much money.

In reality, the winner only had to contact half a dozen personal friends for help. They could get huge tax write offs and national recognition for giving such a huge amount. The same amount of advertizing using normal means would have cost far more, and would not have been tax deductible, so they mad money by doing it, while not having get involved at all.

The country singer, on the other hand had to contact hundreds of people and inspire them to get involved. Most of them received no national exposure or free advertising, and many became personally involved with helping the veterans, raising awareness of their fans with their concerts. Though he raised less money, he did far more to help the veterans. Too often we judge on the basis of outward appearance without looking to see what is really happening.

“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)

The disciples discounted the little boy’s lunch as useless to feed five thousand men, yet it was enough to feed them and have twelve baskets full left over, but what if he’d refused to give it? The actual physical size of what is given is meaningless when God is involved. What is important is the heart attitude. II Corinthians 8:12 declares, “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” It is an ungodly attitude that values the apparent size of the gift more than the intent.

Down through the years I have repeatedly heard about how much a certain person gave up to serve the Lord. The man who gabe up a successful medical practice or athletic career has not given up any more than the man who gave up a job repairing cars. Both have given up their chosen lifestyles to please God. If they haven’t, according to Luke 14:33, “…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Rather than thinking we don’t have enough to give, we need to realize it is what God has given us to use for him. I Corinthians 7:17 instructs, “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” We are not to obligate people to give, but to allow them to give freely as they choose, according to II Corinthians 9:7. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

I Peter 4:10 commands, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We are just to make use of what God has given us. It is what he wanted us to use so he will get the glory. When some one gives something big, usually he gets the credit rather than God, although we might say “praise the Lord” as a token show of appreciation. Paul reminded the Corinthians of the giving of the Macedonians.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;” (II Corinthians 8:1-3)

People who have given a little regularly are often amazed at how much it amounts to at the end of the year.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Examine Yourselves

Luke 20:41-47

The Priests and the Sadducees had asked Jesus questions they hoped would cause him to answer in a way that they could use to discredit him. In each case, he answered in a sincere way that left them with nothing to say. Now he asks them a question that will force them to think about their own position if they give an honest answer.

“And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?” (Luke 20:41-44)

Israel had looked for the Messiah, or Christ for centuries, eagerly anticipating his coming to restore the Davidic kingdom, somewhat similar to what Charlemagne attempted in establishing the Holy Roman Empire. His goal was to reclaim the glory and power of the original Roman Empire, inferring that it was the ultimate.

Under David, Israel reached it’s military and political peak, which it retained throughout most of Solomon’s reign, even expanding and reaching greater economic heights, but it had already begun to weaken by the end of Solomon’s administration, and split immediately after his death.

David, the greatest of Israel’s leaders, recognized that Christ would be greater than he was, referring to him as his Lord. Culturally, the child is not greater than his progenitors, nor can a servant be greater than his master, so how can David make such a claim? Solomon, David’s son was considered the greates king they ever had, yet in Matthew 12:42, Jesus proclaimed himself greater. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” The leaders of Israel need to review their position before becoming too sure of their own superior understanding.

“Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.” (Luke 20:45-47)

The desire for prestige and public recognition is spiritually dangerous. It encourages a major show of piety in an effort to gain approval, even as they violate other of God’s commands. The scribes, the ones who were to be teaching the law, as the ones trained in it, would spend hours in prayer and fasting to make it clear how spiritual they were. Today people make an issue of dress or of charitable activities to impress others with their goodness.

Those same highly respected scribes would then cheat a widow out of her home in the name of good business, ignoring commands like Exodus 22:22, “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child,” or Deuteronomy 24:17, “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge.” As God clearly warned in Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”

The facade of extreme piety and respectability usually conceals a thoroughly rotten core. As the old saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Real things have flaws, and so do real Christians. Perfect ones are fakes and can be dangerous. Jesus has attempted to make the leaders examine their position, but warns the people against fakes. In II Corinthians 13:5, Paul instructed us to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

The test is not some religious activity, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, as demonstrated by the attitudes he produces. Galatians 5:22-23 lists these attitudes. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Does The Bible Say?

Luke 20:27-40

An article by Michael Masterson describes how he got into the restaurant business. Because he ate out a lot and had a lot of experience in business, he was sure he knew wha tit would take to make a restaurant successful. He bought an old café and started remodeling. Looking at the kitchen, he decided that it was way too small to handle the number of customers he expected to reach, so he consulted a friend in the restaurant business about new appliances. His friend asked to look at what he had before he invested more. When he described his plans, the friend stated that the present kitchen was adequate for more than three times as many people as he was planning for.

When another café owner told him the same thing, he decided to wait before enlarging the kitchen, and learned that they were right. The decision saved him several thousand dollars. He began to consult with them about a lot of other things, because it was obvious they knew things about running a restaurant he didn’t know. As he describes his experience, he was acting on outside knowledge, assuming far more knowledge than he actually had.

In Navajo society, there are a large number of young people who did not grow up in traditional customs, but were introduced to traditional ceremonies in school or college as a key element of their culture. While most of them don’t know what the ceremonies mean, they still practice them in the belief that it is what makes them Navajo. Their knowledge of the Navajo way is very superficial. A lot of people who consider themselves Christians are very much the same way, it is just part of their heritage, but has no real importance.

The Sadducees were the same way, practicing the Jewish faith solely as a cultural affair. Acts 23:8 states, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” Jesus’ teaching condemned their actions as well as that of the Pharisees and other leaders, and they also wanted to silence him, so they questioned him with that intent, except that unlike the Pharisees, they didn’t even believe in wha they were asking. They are assuming outside knowledge based on what they think others believe.

“Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.” (Luke 20:27-33)

Their question involved a custom prescribed by the law in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 and practiced by Israel. “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”

Jesus states that their question is based on ignorance of the scriptures and disbelief in Mark 12:24. “And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” Under the Jewish system, land belonged to a family. It could be leased out for a period, but in the year of Jubilee, it reverted to the original family. This law ensured that land would not be unclaimed. Because they were not interested enough to learn the entire command they assumed it related to eternity. Not believing in a resurrection anyway, they didn’t bother to learn what was involved. Though their question was clearly frivolous, and designed to entrap him, Jesus answered it seriously.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” (Luke 20:34-38)

Heaven will not be just an improved version of this life with no problems, as so many expect. Only those deemed worthy will be allowed to go there. They will be like the angels, but not be angels, and from what I Peter 1:12 says, the angels would gladly trade places with them. Since no one dies there, there will be no need for people being born to take their place, and thus no reason for procreation. It will be so different from this life that I Corinthians 2:9 says we can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Jesus then addressed their lack of belief in a resurrection. Their whole culture was based on Moses’ teaching, and Moses clearly indicated that the resurrection was true in his statements at the burning bush. Failure to believe what he taught about it implied they were not really Jewish despite their keeping the rituals.

“Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.” (Luke 20:39-40)

Because Jesus took the trouble to treat the question seriously, and give a valid answer, they quit asking such questions. Jesus demonstrates what Paul told Titus about the need for ministers to have a sound understanding of God’s word. Titus 1:9 says the pastor must be a man, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” One reason many hate questions is that they have not studied themselves and thus are not equipped to give valid answers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Entrapment Failed

Luke 20:20-25

A few days ago, I read an article about the Pfizer Pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately I didn’t keep it, and will have to depend on my memory. According to the article, because they couldn’t get FDA approval for human testing of a new drug in the United States, Pfizer decided to test it in one of the African countries. As a result of the testing, 2639 children either died or suffered permanent injuries. The country’s Attorney General filed a nine billion dollar lawsuit for damages against the company on behalf of the families.

Rather than contest the suit in court or acknowledge guilt, Pfizer lawyers got the trail postponed while investigators researched the Attorney General’s background. They then used the results to blackmail the Attorney General into dropping all criminal and damage claims except for a charge of illegally conducting human testing, for a fine of less than $30,000 per child, even though some of the survivor’s medical bills will cost their families over $100,000. The total fine totaled less than one hour’s profits for the company.

As a result of the settlement, Pfizer faces no possibility of future lawsuits, and has no convictions on their record, leaving them free to continue business as usual, as one of the largest and richest drug manufacturers in the world, with revenue of billions annually. The writer of the article concluded that he would personally not use Pfizer products if an alternative was available, since they obviously had little concern for people’s lives, preferring to give his business to more ethical manufacturers.

Jesus had just warned the Priests and Jewish leaders of the penalties they faced for their blatant rejection of God’s authority. Just as Pfizer looked for a way to destroy the Attorney General, rather than taking responsibility for their actions and doing what they could to make it right, The chief priests and Leaders looked for a way to destroy Jesus. While the disciples said “God forbid”, or in modern terms, “no way”, to the idea of renters killing the owners heir, The leaders actively pursued the option, seeking some way to destroy his influence.

“And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” (Luke 20:20)

The leaders set up a sting operation with undercover agents to try to entice Jesus into say or do something contrary to Roman law so they could get the Roman government to take him off their hands. They tried to convince him that they were in full support of his teaching and believed it was the word of God.

“And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?” (Luke 20:21-22)

The Jews especially hated having to support the Roman government with their taxes, and just as today, there were some who believed it was wrong to pay taxes to such a wicked system. It was an easily believable position for him to take. For him to take such a stand would make him popular with many, but would give a cause for the Romans to arrest him.

“But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.” (Luke 20:23-24)

Jesus was not fooled by their deceit. He pointed out that they were trying to tempt him to do wrong. Satan is still using this same idea to tempt Christians to destroy their testimony in the world. Jesus asked who manufactured and authorized the money, and whose name was on it. They answered that it was Caesar’s.

“And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.” (Luke 20:25)

Obviously, if Caesar had it made, and it has his name on it, it belongs to him. It is stealing to keep what belongs to someone else without permission. Though I may not approve of how the government spends the money, when it says United States of America, it is their money and to refuse to give it is stealing. I can and should try to get men who will use it in a better way elected, but I must not sin against God in the process.

When Peter was confronted with the question of taxes, Jesus told him that while we were not citizens of the world and technically do not owe them the taxes, we ought to pay them for the sake of our testimony in Matthew 17:27. “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”

This must have been a totally frustrating answer to the leaders, who hated paying the Romans anyway, and even worse, it supported the Roman position, so that the Romans clearly had no excuse to arrest him.

“And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.” (Luke 20:26)

What can one say when the response is so totally different than what was expected? Their expectations were based on their own worldly attitudes and assumptions. They were incapable of understanding his thinking, according to I Corinthians 2:11. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Israel’s Rejection of God

Luke 20:9-16

When I first went to college, computers were not widely available because of their expense and size. Very few programs were available for the ones there were. Since it was recognized that engineers would be using them, part of the curriculum included a course in programming, using Fortran IV. While I understood how to write the programs, I had no idea what they actually did or why it mattered until my senior year when, in the advanced programming class, we got to see and use a computer. Finally we were not just talking about a theory, but of giving instructions to an actual machine that could carry them out.

Story telling is very much like a demonstration of the computer in that it lets us apply what we are learning to a real situation in a physical sense. Even when the story is only an illustration, it gives some concrete reference points, enabling us to more completely grasp what is taught. It is a major reason Jesus used so many parables. In addition, even those who have no interest in the subject matter can still enjoy the story. While many would have no understanding of the meaning of this parable, they could still enjoy it. While Luke gives no explanation of this parable, Mark 4:33-34 tells us that Jesus always explained them in detail to his apostles.

“Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.” (Luke 20:9)

In this parable, the landowner represents the Lord. He had planted and established a vineyard, Israel, in the world. He then put others, the various kings and priests, in charge to care for it until he returned, knowing that he would be absent for a long period. They were to give him a portion of the results in exchange for the use of his vineyard.

“And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.” (Luke 20:10)

When it came time to pay their share, refused to pay up, beating up the ones sent to collect the rent. Throughout their history, Israel regularly refused to obey God, frequently killing the prophets sent to remind them of their covenant. God sent numerous prophets to warn them.

“And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.” (Luke 20:11-12)

In a final effort to get them to fulfill their agreement with God, he sent his own son, Jesus Christ to offer them clemency it they would just pay what was owed. He recognized the risk but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.” (Luke 20:13)

They could use the excuse that the other collectors, the profits, might not have the authority to collect from them. It would be very hard to deny the son’s right to collect however since he was the heir and ultimate owner of it all.

"But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." (Luke 20:14)

The renters saw it as an opportunity to get rid of any claims by he owner and take it for themselves. Since he’d have no heir, it wouldn’t be worth fighting for. Israel’s leaders saw killing Jesus as a way of cementing their control over Israel, by getting rid of the one who challenged their actions, ignoring their covenant with God.

“So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.” (Luke 20:15)

The people could not believe that anyone would be so crooked as to so such a thing. Would a landowner who’d been done that way ever take out a contract with anyone else? Jesus then uses the illustration of a stone that the regular masons rejected as not fitting into their wall as being the one the master mason, God, used to key his entire wall from. Other stones dropped on it will break, but if it falls on a lesser stone, it will crush it.

And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. “ (Luke 20:17-18)

Refusing to give God his due will result in opposition by God just as the refusal to pay angered the landowner. Destroying his son, however will anger him to the point of destroying them. The leaders of Israel became even more determined to get rid of him as a result.

“And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.” (Luke 20:19)

While some of the people may not have understood the parable, the leaders clearly did, and would have killed him on the spot if they dared.

Looking Through Binoculars

Luke 21:5-15

Israel was expecting Messiah to com as the white knight and deliver them from their oppressors. Imagine their reaction when Jesus told them it wasn’t going to happen the way they thought.

“And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."(Luke 21:5-6)

The temple in Jesus’ day was not the one Solomon had built as that one had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and rebuilt in Ezra’s day, and was far less impressive than Solomon’s. Herod had restored it after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated it under his administration, and the Jews were proud of the new one. Now Jesus tells them that it will be completely destroyed, with not even one stone left in place. It will be very humiliating to again have no worship center and being reminded that it is a result of their sin.

Today, many are looking for the rapture in much the same way, as an event that will deliver Christians from the worlds problems. As a result, they are looking desperately for a date when this will happen and for assurance that they will escape the judgment. They become susceptible to false teachers who claim to have special information that will ensure escape. The Jews were looking for the same kind of information.

“And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” (Luke 21:7-9)

Jesus warned that there would be many claiming to be the true messiah, and that the disciples were not to be deceived by them, or let their proclamations of the Lord’s return shake them up. Wars and disasters would happen repeatedly before the Lord’s return. During the tribulation period described in Revelation, natural disasters and wars of a scope never before seen will occur. The ones we see in our day, terrible as they are, are just a hint of the severity of the ones in that day, resulting in death of half the world‘s population.

From my kitchen window, I can see a long ridge running east and west about a mile and a half north of the house. In between lies a wide open area that seems to gradual undulate toward the top of the ridge. If one walks from the house however, about a n eighth of a mile from the house one drops into a valley that is a hundred feet or so lower than the house. There are numerous arroyos and hills to cross before one climbs back up to the areas that were visible from the house. Beyond that first ridge is a second, and much higher ridge, but it can only be seen where the first ridge dips low enough to see it, with many more hills and valleys between the two ridges.

Prophecies give view of the future some what like what I see looking out my window with a pair of binoculars. I can clearly see the upper part of the ridge, and as a result, it is hard to realize how far away it is, because I cannot see most of what lies between my window and it. In some of the low spots I can see the top of the next ridge, and it appears almost as part of the first one. It hard to realize that the second ridge is over three miles away. In the same way, it is easy to mistake prophecies about separate events as being part uf the same event. Just as hiking across the land gives a totally different perspective, living through the period gives a completely different understanding of what the prophecy means.

Many interpretations of prophecy are like the kids who came to visit and decided to just run up to the rocks on the hillside, convinced that it would only take a few minutes because they saw them so well. It took over and hour just to get there, and they were exhausted after climbing up and down over the intervening hills. The Jews had made this mistake, and Jesus warned them that before what they were looking for happened, some other things must take place.

“Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.” (Luke 21:10-13)

Before the Lord comes back and sets his kingdom, and even before the wars and disasters described in ‘revelation there will be a period of persecution and struggle for believers. The last two thousand years have seen numerous periods of intense persecution, and periods when there was very little. God did not say how many there would be or how severe. He just showed us what we could expect on the other side, like what I see looking at the ridge. To get there however, I must go through the things between me and the ridge. Christians have to go through what lies between them and the Second coming. They don’t always know what that will entail, they just have to take each obstacle as it comes, knowing where they will eventually arrive.

“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” (Luke 21:14-15)

Because the hiker cannot know exactly what lies between him and the ridge he is heading for, he must wait until he comes to each obstacle and then act according to what his eyes and experience tell him is needed. In life, we don’t know exactly what we will encounter. It is foolish to make hard plans until we know what will work. God says we are to follow him and trust him to guide us when an action is required, just as the hiker adjust his route as his eyes indicate. Too rigid a plan based on what we saw through the binoculars may lead to disaster. When we let God lead, the results are assured.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is the Basis for Authority?

Luke 20:1-8

Just the last few weeks, the FDA has decided that they need to review the levels of fluoride in drinking water. Amazingly, every other developed country has banned it completely because of serious health threats. About a thousand children a year die of fluoride poisoning after eating toothpaste. In addition, it interferes with thyroid function and is suspected of contributing to various problems including Alzheimer’s. The FDA’s recommended dosage is higher than the EPA considers safe in natural settings.

“Experts” had insisted that it needed to be added to water and toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay, although only two of more than three hundred studies indicated any beneficial effects. Research just completed indicates that rather than acidic foods dissolving tooth enamel, it may be the result of the fluoride, forcing the reexamination of the recommendations.

It seems the authorities who wrote the reports supporting the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing tooth decay faked the results of the studies. If true, many of the dental problems today may be the result of the treatments that was to prevent them. Interestingly, the two studies that claimed it beneficial were authorized and funded by the manufacturer. All of the studies that were not sponsored by the manufacturer found no benefit or serious problems.

It is worthwhile knowing what the source of authority is for any action or information. Vested interests may cause unintentional distortion of the truth by honest people, while dishonet ones deliberately lie to accomplish their purpose. It is well to ask what the basis is.

“And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?” (Luke 20:1-2)

Jesus’ authority had already been established by John the Baptist, by the announcement of God, and by the miracles he did throughout Israel. Questioning it was kind of like some purported expert questioning Henry Ford’s ability to design a workable car twenty years after he began production of the Model T. His abilities were already pretty well established. In essence, Jesus asked them to establish their authority for doubting his authority.

“And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?( Luke 20;3-4)

Since John had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, if John’s teaching was from God, they must accept what he said as valid, but if it wasn’t, then his claim for Jesus must also be false.

“And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.” (Luke 20:5-7)

Their answer? “We’re agnostic”, we don‘t know. In reality they had already decided, but they were not willing to pay the price of their decision. The word agnostic does not actually mean to ‘not know,’ but ‘opposed to knowing.’ Once people know, they are responsible for what they do. By refusing to know they hope to escape the consequences of their decision.

“And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:8)

The old saying, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” is true. Since they have already made up their mind not to believe, regardless of the evidence, there is no point in Jesus trying to convince them otherwise. Jesus himself said we shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine. It’s like trying to convince some Democrats that a Republican has a good idea or Rush Limbaugh that a Democrat does. You’re wasting your time, since they refuse to even consider the possibility. Israel’s Rejection of God

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Asleep At The Switch

Luke 19:41-48

The Jews had been looking for Messiah’s coming for hundreds of years. Daniel’s last prophecy was written about five hundred years before Christ was killed, and many others were even older.
As a result, the Jews were expecting Jesus to come and set up the kingdom at any time. Realizing this, it is shocking that when he came, only a very few realized what was happening.

At his birth, only a few shepherds were aware of what happened. A couple of devout older people knew who he was when he was dedicated in the temple. A small group of wisemen from a far country came to bring him gifts. The priests and Pharisees were oblivious until the wisemen asked where it happened, as were the vast majority of the people. After three years of hearing his teaching and seeing his miracles, most were still undecided and the leadership was convinced his death would be necessary to protect Israel from retaliation by the Roman authorities. Jesus was fully aware of their attitude.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)

Jesus was saddened by their failure to believe what was so obvious. Had they just accepted his teachings they could have had the peace God wanted to give them. Just as the failure of Israel to believe God in Moses’ day, as described in Hebrews 3 and 4, resulted in the forty years in the wilderness, Israel would suffer terrible judgment for their unbelief. Its like they were asleep at the switch, knowing what was happening, and what they needed to do, but so focused on other things they missed the very thing they were hoping for.

“For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:43-44)

In sixty A.D. Rome would fulfill Jesus’ prophecy, surrounding the city, knocking down every wall, and killing most of the population to stop their rebellion. It all took place because they would not yield and obey God. From there, he went to the temple and found people trading in the temple.

Many Jews who had been scattered around the world by the Assyrians in II Kings 17:6 came to Jerusalem for the Passover. Because of the distances, it was easier to carry money to buy sacrifices with than to bring the sacrificial animals themselves. Money changers were needed to convert different currencies to enable people to buy sacrificial animals locally. For the convenience of worshippers, sellers of sacrificial animals and moneychangers were allowed to set up booths inside the outer court of the temple.

Early in his ministry, Jesus had condemned the practice in John 2:16, telling them, “Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise,” using a scourge to drive them out. Three years later, they were again using the temple as a place of business, buying and selling items for religious use.

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:45-46)

As Jesus chased them out again he reminded them that God intended his house for a place of worship, not a place for making money. Because the people who came to the temple were far from home, they were forced to buy at whatever price the temple vendors asked, rather than the going rate for local people. His actions further antagonized the priests and business leaders who were profiting from this trade.

“And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.” (Luke 19:47-48)

There is an old saying that if you really want to hurt someone, hit him in the pocketbook. Jesus’ action was definitely cutting into the profits, giving additional incentive for getting rid of him.

Ever wonder what Jesus would say about the sale of books and recordings and the fund raising programs that are so common in churches today?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus has spent over three years in ministry at the time of this incident, having traveled over almost all Israel. It is just a week before his resurrection, and he will fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, once again proving he is the Messiah. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” It is a miraculous event.

“And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.” (Luke 19:28-31)

Just outside Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent his disciples into the nearby village. They will find an untrained colt tied up, and if any body asks them why they are taking it, they are to say the Lord needs him. When they get to the village and find the donkey, the owners asked them why they were taking their donkey. When they said the Lord needed him they just let them have him. That’s not a normal response.

“And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.” (Luke 19:32-34)

Having broke a few horses to ride, I know that it is not normal for them to just allow people to get on unless they have been worked with quite a lot. Flapping coats being put on his back or thrown down in front of him would normally cause a panic. This donkey allowed Jesus to ride him without protest even when they threw their coats in front of him. It was unusual enough that all four gospels record the event.

“And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:35-38)

The multitude of his disciples recognize him as the Messiah, the rightful king, and that he has fulfilled scripture. This occurs on Sunday. On the following Thursday, many of the same group will be calling for his execution, after the Pharisees stir them up. Even that day, while his disciples are celebrating his being king, the Pharisees are working to hush it up.

“And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)

Apparently they decided it would be easier to discredit the claims of the people than it would if the rocks started talking. “Dumb as a rock” would have a whole new connotation that might be hard to explain.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Waiting For The Lord’s Return

Luke 19:11-27

“And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” (Luke 19:11)

Many of the Jews were looking for the Messiah to appear, drive out the Romans, and set up the kingdom. By doing so he would eliminate all their problems and Israel would take it’s proper place as the world leader, validating all their religious and moral standards and practices. Many people today anticipate the rapture in much the same way. This parable is especially for those who are expecting his return.

“He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:12-14)

The nobleman obviously represents the Lord himself. Just before he left to take his rightful place in another land, he left his servants to do a job while he was gone. The Lord ascended into heaven to take his rightful place at the right hand of God in heaven. Just before he left, gave specific instructions to his disciples, as we see in Acts 1:6-8. “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

The nobleman entrusted his servants with his wealth to invest for him until he returned. Jesus entrusted his gift to his servants to invest to reach out to the rest of the world. Another point of commonality is that the nobleman’s citizen’s hated him and rejected his rule over them. Jesus is rejected by the majority of the worlds population, except for his servants. Unlike true stories, every detail of a parable can be made to parallel the intended lesson, and Jesus has done so with this one to reinforce the lesson.

“And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” (Luke 19:15)

The nobleman had day of accounting for his servants on his return. In II Corinthians 5:9-10, Paul describes the necessity of actively serving the Lord if we are to be pleasing to him. “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

The nobleman rewarded his servants according to what they had done. One had worked really hard, and his reward was in direct proportion with, but far greater than his work. He had earned ten pounds, he was given authority over ten cities.

“Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:16-17)

The Second servant had only done half as much, but again, his reward is based on what he had done, and is far greater thatn the actual results of his effort. He had gained five pounds and he was rewarded authority over five cities. Notice that Luke describes them each as having received one pound to start. Each Christian starts with the same salvation and Holy Spirit. Their gain will be directly related to how they have applied what they received.

“And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.” (Luke 19:18-19)

The third servant had made no effort to make a profit. In fact he went and hid the money, according to Matthew 25:18. “But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.” He had the same opportunity to serve the Lord, but instead, made sure there was no possibility of it producing benefit. He was like the politician who said “I’m a Christian, but I don’t let it influence my actions.” It is impossible that a person could truly take such a position if they actually have the Holy Spirit in their life.

“And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.” (Luke 19:20-21)

Essentially, he used the excuse that he didn’t want to be a bad testimony so he just hid what he had, because after all, he knew that the Lord would gain some even without him doing anything. He is to be judged on what he has used for an excuse for not doing anything.

“And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?” (Luke 19:22-23)

Knowing that the Lord would reap even without his doing anything, he had deliberately hid what he had, preventing it from being able to produce anything. He could have had some profit just by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in his life, and have left the Lord pleased with him. He had refused to even do that.

“And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Luke 19:24-26)

He has effectively denied Christ and Matthew 10:32-33 warns, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” While he had the same opportunity, he is going to lose even that he appears to have, as Luke 8:18 states, “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” It appears that he has never actually received the Lord, and will lose even what he appeared to have earned. The noble man commanded “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” in Matthew 25:30. The book of Hebrews deals with this in depth.

“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27)

Those who have openly rejected the Lord will be finally punished with no possibility of relief. Revelation 20:12-15 describes this. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

That Tax Collector

Luke 19:1-10

The Roman Empire was immense, including parts of Africa, almost all of Europe and parts of Asia. Administering such a vast area was expensive and difficult so the Romans assigned rulers over the different regions, often encompassing several countries. These rulers then subdivided their region. Rome needed money to pay for administration so it demanded each area pay taxes sufficient for administering it, and for maintaining the Empire rulers.

In order to meet Rome’s demands, the kings and governors of the various regions would auction off the right to collect taxes in an area, and use the proceeds of the auction to pay their region’s obligation. The winners of the auction were then free to collect taxes from the district they had bid for, including a profit for themselves. They often auctioned off smaller districts to other individuals who also added a profit of their own. They could then seize people’s property if people refused to pay, with the backing of the Roman army. Tax collectors were free to set their own tax rates, so the system was fraught with corruption.

The feudal system of Medieval Europe was essentially a continuation of the system, with kings giving control of vast areas to those who would agree to support them in exchange for the right to collect from those in the area. Eventually, they would be able to seize almost all the land and make the people serfs. When a king wanted more money he raised the taxes on the rich. They then charged the poor more, until the people rebelled. It was the same old raise the taxes on the rich philosophy that we are hearing today.

Such a system attracted the greedy and corrupt, and the entire system grew to be hated by the people. All publicans or representatives of the government were viewed with distrust, and especially tax collectors, because many, if not most were corrupt. They became rich by taking advantage of their positions.

“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.” (Luke 19:1-4)

Zachaeus was one of the tax collectors who had gotten rich by his activity. While he had considerable official standing, nobody felt any affection for him or wanted to do him unnecessary favors, so they refused to let him through. Being short, he could not see over the crowd, and was forced to climb a tree to see.

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.” (Luke 19:5-6)

Can you imagine the shock this hated little man must have felt when Jesus, who could have been welcome in almost any house in town, said he wanted to eat with him? Almost nobody would even talk to him and Jesus wants to. He probably almost fell out of the tree in his excitement.

“And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)

The other people were not thrilled. Some of them had hoped to have some time with Jesus themselves, and were probably a little insulted that he chose Zacchaeus instead. A really good man surely wouldn’t associate with the likes of Zacchaeus.

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Zacchaeus had gotten rich by taking advantage of everyone around. Now he commits to paying everyone back and giving half of what he had to the poor. What a difference. II Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The person who has truly received the Lord will not live the same old life they used to, because they have the Holy Spirit in them, and he changes them. They can’t live that lifestyle any more. I John 3:9-10 states, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest…”

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.“ (Luke 19:9)

Jesus said he’d been saved on the basis of the change. Galatians 5:15 says that what matters is the change. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Not everyone who had been born into Abraham’s famly was truly of God, as Paul states in Romans 9:6-7. “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: …” By faith Zacchaeus became one of Abraham’s children in spirit as well as by birth.

A huge Snow storm in 1967 dumped four feet of snow on the reservation and then kept snowing every day for two weeks. The national guard helicopters were called out and a system of signs to be stamped in the snow was broadcast so people could get assistance who needed it. Kids playing in the snow made patterns the Guard didn’t recognize and were forced to land to see what was wrong. No one knows how much time was wasted because kids wanted to see what would happen.

A man was spotted high in the mountains, struggling through the snow, so a helicopter landed to see if he needed help. He didn’t speak English so they flew him to Window Rock to find out what he needed. Imagine their chagrin when they had to take him back. He had just been out getting some firewood and didn’t need rescuing.

Like the National Guard, Jesus came to help those who had real needs. Those who don’t think they need help resent the interference in their lives, and some waste our time and God’s for their own amusement, with no real interest. Zacchaeus recognized his need, although most people didn’t realize he had it. It was for the lost sheep that strayed from the rest that Jesus came.

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Anybody’s Welcome

Luke 18:35-43

Not long after we started the church at Navajo, New Mexico, an early teen girl visited the church and enjoyed it. The next week, she asked her older brother to bring her, and because she was the only girl, with six brothers, she could get almost anything she asked. Bob, (not his real name), was drunk and stayed in the truck waiting for her. Every week, he did the same thing. When it got colder, Mom got concerned for him and invited him several times, but he refused because he was drunk and didn’t want to cause a disturbance. One morning the temperature was well below zero, and Mom refused to take no for an answer because she was afraid he would freeze while he waited, as the sister had told her the heater didn’t work.

He sat at the very back, with his hat pulled down and refusing to speak to anyone, obviously drunk, but caused no problem. When the invitation was given, he came forward and accepted the Lord. The next Sunday, he came in sober, wearing clean clothes, with his hair cut and a smile on his face. He went around and shook hands with everyone in the building. That was in early 1964. Today he and his wife are still members of that church. We really wondered if he could even understand enough to get saved when he was that drunk, but he did. We learned later that Bob had been told he couldn’t go into other churches because he was drunk. People toled the blind man in todays story he couldn’t come either.

“And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.

And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.” (Luke 18:35-39)

The blind man Hadn’t seen Jesus, but he’d heard about him, and believed he could help him, so he cried out for help. The crowd was embarrassed by the disturbance and tried to shut him up, but he continued to ask for help. Jesus heard, like he always does, and responded, ordering them to bring him to him.

“And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.” (Luke 18:40-41)

While he believed Jesus could and would help him, nothing happened until he told Jesus what he wanted. Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Our faith accomplishes nothing until we act on it, as James 2:13-26 teaches. Just asking was all the man had to do, and it is all we have to do to be saved. When he asked, Jesus responded.

“And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.” (Luke 18:42-43)

Not only did he receive his sight, but he was saved. It was an immediate result. Like Bob, he didn’t go back to what he used to do, but began following the Lord, praising God.

This is the second time people tried to keep somebody from coming to Jesus because they didn’t want to be embarrassed or disturbed. We have no authority to deny anyone access, whether they be rich or poor, old or young, or of another race. Jesus commanded to let them come, and even to bring them.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Could They Not Understand?

Luke 18:31-34

One of my bosses and I were headed to a job near Durango Colorado. After following a sequence of dirt roads, our directions said to go until you come to the tree in the road, then turn left at the next driveway. Since the terrain was hilly we didn’t dare go fast because we didn’t know what to expect. Our assumption was that a tree had fallen and not yet been removed, and we didn’t want to hit it.

Suddenly we came to a large pinon tree growing squarely in the middle of the road. Whoever built the road had simply put one lane on each side of it rather than take out the tree. We had not even considered such a possibility, and yet the words exactly described the situation. The tree was literally in the road.

Isaiah 53:7-9 made it clear that Messiah would be tortured and killed. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

Several other passages also teach the same thing. One of these, Daniel 9:26, even identified when it would occur, 434 years after Jerusalem was rebuilt in Nehemiah‘s day. “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” Despite such clear statements, the Jews were expecting the Messiah to deliver Israel from the Roman occupation and establish his kingdom on earth. They had no more understanding of what God was saying than my boss and I had of what was meant by the tree in the road. If he died they could not imagine how he could do the other things so logically they apparently assumed the statements of his death referred to something else. From our vantage of knowing what happened, it is difficult to understand how they failed to understand, but we need to remember we have a lot more information. Jesus specifically tells his disciples what is to happen.

“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)

Notice the detail Jesus goes into in describing what was to happen. He will be scourged or whipped, mocked, abused, and spit on before he is killed. Then he will rise from the dead the third day. How much clearer could he make it?

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” (Luke 18:34)

While they understood the words exactly, and believed Jesus implicitly, What they had been taught, and their hope for national independence prevented their understanding what Jesus said. We have the same propensity to ignore or even reject things that do not jive with what we have been taught or hope for. We tend to get upset when these preconceptions are challenged.

Peter rebuked the Lord when he insisted he would be killed, rejecting what he said in Matthew 16:21-22. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee."

The Lord’s response to Peter for rejecting his word is one of the sharpest rebukes he ever gave. “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23) I wonder how often our doctrine is an offense to God because it is based on human ideas and logic rather than what God actually said.

The Bereans were greater Christians than the Thessalonians in Acts 17:11 because “…they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” They were willing to lay aside their preconceptions and honestly study to see if what they had heard was true, rather than trying to prove they were right. II Timothy 2:15 commands, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." If we are to please God with our doctrine we must study honestly.L