Sunday, January 29, 2017


Jesus & John’s Disciples

After John had been in prison for a while, some his disciples reported to him the things Jesus had done. They told him of his preaching, healing and raising the dead. In response, John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask
“are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?”. In other words, John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah.

Since John was Jesus’ forerunner and even pointed him out to others in person, it seems strange at first that John would ask such as question. However, remember John is in prison waiting. He expected Jesus to run the Romans off of the land and free Israel, bringing judgment on its enemies. Day after day he suffered in prison, but Jesus did nothing to free Israel from its enemies. John had spoken the word of God about Jesus: he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (3:9) John was not seeing the fire. (Fire represents judgment.)

Jesus did not answer the question immediately. Instead, he made John’s disciples wait while he ministered. While they watched, he healed many people of diseases and plagues, drove out evil spirits, and gave sight to the blind. (21) It was an object lesson.

After doing these things, Jesus told John’ disciples to go and tell John what they had seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news preached to them. (22)

Why did Jesus do and say these things? He did those things to show he was doing what the Messiah was prophesied to do. If he did the things Messiah was prophesied to do, he had to be the Messiah. To make sure they got the point, he listed those things. He continued the work the Father called him to do, preaching the gospel and showing mercy.

The things Jesus did and then described were the things Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah. For example, Isaiah 35:5-6 says “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

In addition, Isaiah 61:1 says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

John knew these passages and would understand that Jesus was telling him and showing him that he was the Messiah the Father said would come, speaking through his prophet, Isaiah.

Jesus ended his message to John with the words “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (23) He was telling John not to be concerned about his methods or his timing, but to rest of the knowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that he would do what he was supposed to do. In other words, Jesus was saying “John, keep the faith”.

Jesus was also likely referring to other verses in Isaiah. Isaiah 8:14-15 says “and he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah was describing the fate of those who rejected the Messiah. They would not accept him and would be offended by him. We see the Pharisees doing this very thing in the gospels. Jesus was saying to John, do not be like the Pharisees. Believe and rejoice even though your circumstances are difficult.

Jesus did not condemn or criticize John. In fact, he commended him and praised him, while condemning those who rejected his message. After John’s disciples left, Jesus turned to the crowd to deliver a message. (24)

He asked the question “who did you go out to the wilderness to see” three times for emphasis. He answered his own questions in rhetorical fashion. John stood firm for the Lord. He stood up to the Pharisees. He stood up to Herod. He was not a reed shaken by the wind. (24) He had not given up his faith, he just did not understand Jesus’ methods and timing.

He was not nicely dressed, but dressed like Elijah in rough clothes. He denied himself luxuries. He did not get rich off of his preaching. He did not tell people what they wanted to hear. Indeed, Jesus said, John was a prophet. But he was more than a prophet, he was the forerunner of Messiah, the messenger who was prophesied to prepare the way of the Messiah. Jesus referred to the Old Testament prophesy of Malachi 3:1. As that messenger, John was the greatest man in history. (28) He was greater than any of the other Old Testament prophets. They received prophesies about the Messiah, but John was chosen by God to actually see the Messiah in person and direct people to him. Remember how he pointed to Jesus and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus’ next statement is shocking at first. He said “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he”. (28) How could that possibly be?

It is not because of what we have done. It is because of who Jesus is and what he has done. It is because they, and we, have experienced the finished work of Jesus and know the forgiveness of sins through his death on the cross, the power of his resurrection and the gift of eternal life. John was saved and we will see him in heaven. But he did not get to experience the blessing we have of knowing the whole gospel and having a full experience of Christ.

As usual, the crowd reacted to Jesus’ words about John in different ways. Verse 29 tells us that the people who had been baptized by John declared God just. They had received John’s message of repentance to prepare the way of the Lord and had been baptized to show their repentance. They admitted, or confessed, that God was just in that he was correct about their sin and need for repentance.

But others, notable Pharisees and lawyers (teachers of the law) rejected John’s message and God’s purpose for them. (29) They did not desire a salvation that came from God’s grace through faith. They wanted a salvation based on works. They believed that their own adherence to the law caused God to accept them on the bases of their merit.

They rejected John’s call for repentance because they believed they had nothing of which they should repent. Since they rejected John’s message of the need for repentance, they also rejected Jesus’ message of the need for repentance and faith for salvation.

Jesus addressed that rejection. (31) He criticized “this generation”. By that he meant the leaders of the Jews in that generation, the Pharisees, scribes\lawyers, and other religious leaders.

First, Jesus compared them to children reciting a child’s poem. (32) That poem says they did not dance to the flute or weep to the dirge. A dirge is a sad funeral song. In other words, we cannot please you: you will not dance to happy music or cry when the music is sad.

Jesus used the poem to refer to the Pharisee’s rejection of both John and Jesus, though for different reasons. John abstained from regular food and wine. He ate locusts and wild honey. He denounced sin and called for repentance. He played the dirge, in the words of the poem. The Pharisees claimed he had a demon because he did this. (33)

In contrast, Jesus ate good food and drank wine. (34) He played the happy music, proclaiming salvation by grace. Therefore, they called him a glutton and drunkard, as well as a friend of sinners. You could not please them. They would criticize no matter what the person did. And they would reject the message from God no matter who brought it. As my mother would say “there is no pleasing some people!”.

The same thing happens today, of course. One person will say, I do not like Jesus because he has all these rules. Another will say, I do not like Jesus because he he condemns me and wants me to repent. I want him to accept me as a good person. Another will say, I do not like Jesus because he allows bad people to get saved and ignores the work of good people like me.

Jesus ended his talk by saying “wisdom is justified by all her children”. (35) Jesus’ message of salvation is wisdom. It is justified, or shown to be right, by those who follow him.

We must receive Jesus exactly as he is. We do not have the authority to redefine him or his message. John wrote that “to all who did receive him
(Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God”. (John 1:12)

We must also proclaim Jesus as exactly who he is, not “watering down” the gospel to make it more palatable to non-believers. They cannot be saved by a false savior, only the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"When you hear...of death, you must think not only of the grave and the coffin, and of the horrible manner in which life is separated from the body and how the body is destroyed and brought to naught, but you must think of the case by which man is brought to death and without which death and that which accompanies it, would be impossible...namely, sin and the wrath of God on account of sin."

Martin Luther 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A good example of praying scripture:


Jesus & the Centurion

Having finished his sermon, Jesus continued with his traveling ministry. He went back into Capernaum. You might remember that he has been there before and he attended Sabbath services in the town’s synagogue. There he cast a demon out of a man. After the services, he went to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law. These events are recorded in Luke 4. You can imagine, then, that Jesus and his power over demons and illness were already well known in Capernaum. That sets the stage for the first event Luke recorded in chapter 7.

There was a Roman centurion living in Capernaum. (2) A centurion was an army officer who had charge of 100 soldiers. There must have been a Roman garrison in or close to Capernaum and this man was in charge of it.

Several centurions are mentioned in the gospels. They are always portrayed as good men. This one is no exception. He is well thought of by the Jews, as evidence by the fact that the elders approached Jesus on his behalf. (3) The elders called him “worthy” of Jesus’ attention, because he loved the nation of Israel and even built the synagogue in Capernaum. (4-5)

The centurion wanted Jesus to heal his servant or slave. (3) Luke said the servant was highly valued by the centurion, so he likely had took care of many of the centurion’s affairs and was trusted by him. When the servant fell ill and appeared to be on his deathbed, he wanted to help him and turned to Jesus for healing.

There are two interesting facets to this event. First, the centurion exhibited great faith in Jesus’ ability to heal and respect for Jesus’ authority. That is shown by the fact that he sent some friends to Jesus saying you do not need to come all the way to my house. You can heal him from where you are.

The centurion also demonstrated humility also when added that he did not feel worthy for Jesus to come to his house. (6) That is amazing since he was an important and powerful figure in the area. It also shows how great his respect was for Jesus.

Jesus praised the man’s faith, saying the faith of this gentile was greater than any he had found among the Jews. (9) And he healed the servant.

This event shows us again that Jesus had authority over human illness. He did not have to touch someone to make it happen. Evidently, he just commanded it silently to himself and it happened. His authority over illness showed his deity.

This event also shows us that Jesus responded to the faith of Gentiles as well as Jews. Isaiah had prophesied this centuries before, although many Jews had forgotten it and resented it. It was a sign that he was indeed the Messiah or anointed one.

Jesus Raises A Dead Son

Jesus traveled from Capernaum to Nain, a small town about 9 miles south of Nazareth. As he approached the town, he saw a funeral procession coming out of the town. The dead man was the only son of a widow. (13) His death would both leave the widow without family and also likely without financial support.

Jesus, as God, saw the result of man’s rejection of God. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) He also saw the need for his coming, to atone for that sin and give eternal life.

When Jesus saw her crying, he had compassion on her. (13) So we see that, while Jesus performed miracles as signs of his deity, he also acted out of compassion to help those who were suffered. He care about those who were sick, those who were demon possessed and those who grieved the loss of loved ones.

Jesus commanded the dead man to rise and he did. (14-15) Jesus demonstrated authority over death. He would later say “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. (Matthew 28:18)

He has life in himself and he has the authority to give life. John 5:26 says “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” His dramatic demonstration of his authority brought fear of God upon the people and they glorified God for the miracle.

You can tell, though, that they were still not quite sure who Jesus was. Some referred to him as a great prophet and that God had visited them to bring the healing.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The true Christian's nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool. Alexander Whyte, Scottish preacher.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When we live a life focused on temporary pleasures, we can only expect temporary happiness. Melissa Kruger.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God--
Naught else is worth believing.

Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.

I'll trust in God's unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,

Martin Luther


Judging\Condemning Others

Part of being merciful and loving others is to recognize our own shortcomings before we condemn the shortcomings of others. The way we treat others will be turned back on us. (38)

Do not judge or condemn and you will not be judged and condemned (37) This verse is often abused as people claim we cannot say any actions are wrong. Yet, Jesus said we can discern right from wrong. But this verse is also often ignored, because we want to point out the failings of others and ignore our own. We are judgmental and critical of others.

Be careful about holding people to standards you cannot meet. Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this. He said they imposed burdens on people they could not bear themselves.

Also, be careful about ascribing bad motives to people who do something you do not like, but which is not necessarily bad. For example, once a dinner, a guest complained about something the pastor had announced during the service, saying he only wanted to get more money. I replied that the guest could not know that to be true. He said it was obvious. I said you cannot know that just from the announcement. The guest asked how I could be so sure? I told him it was my idea. I had persuaded the pastor to do what he did and not for money. Our presuppositions, especially the cynical ones, can lead us to violate the law of Christ.

In contrast, if you forgive others, you will be forgiven. Since we all mess up, this is a great idea. Your turn will come.

This is even in the Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6:12. Jesus said to pray for the Father to forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us. Offering forgiveness to others is a sign of your repentance and faith in Christ, of your membership in his kingdom.

If you give grace and forgiveness to someone who needs it, it will also be given to you. That is, if you are generous in giving grace to someone who asks you for it, you will receive generously when you are in need.

With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (38) None of us want judgment - we all want mercy! So, extend mercy. When Jesus says it will be given to you in good measure, he is giving an example from the marketplace. It you went and bought grain, for example, the seller might put it in a cone or jar or some other container. If he gave good measure, he would shake it to let the grain settle, and pour some more on top. Then he would press it down and pour some more on top.

Jesus told some parables to illustrate his point. First, he said a blind person cannot lead another blind person (39) This may have provoked a laugh, because you can see what a disaster that would be.

That example of both leader and follower stumbling around has a spiritual application. If you cannot see your own faults, you cannot help another person with theirs. But, Jesus’ statement is also a caution to be careful whom you follow. A person who is harsh and condemning cannot lead you to act like Jesus in giving mercy.

Second, a student is not above his teacher (or else he would not be the student) but, after being taught, he becomes like his teacher. (40) Followers tend to be like their leaders. If you want confirmation of that assertion, pick a cult and study it. Then study a person who devoted himself to learning and obeying Jesus’ words in the Bible and became like Christ. When we follow Jesus, we become like him. If our leaders follow Jesus’ teaching, they will lead us to become like Jesus. If our leaders do not follow Jesus’ teaching, they will lead us into spiritual blindness.

Third, Jesus spoke of a speck verses a log. Human nature sees a small problem in another and ignores its own larger problem. That makes you a hypocrite. (42) First take out your log, then worry about the other person’s speck (42). In other words, know yourself & deal with yourself before you deal with someone else’s shortcomings.

Fourth, Jesus compared the human heart to a fruit tree. A good heart produces good deeds & good words. (43) A bad heart produces bad deeds & bad words. If you speak hatefully, act vengefully and hurt others, you do not have the heart of Christ, who loved his enemies, prayed for them and worked for their good. When your own heart if sanctified by Christ, it will produces goodness and mercy directed to others. Until you get to that point, it is better not to speak to others about their problems.

All of this sounds a bit crazy in our culture doesn’t it?

But Jesus said you must build your life on hearing his words and doing them, counter-cultural or not. That is a foundation of rock that cannot be shaken or broken (48) Think of Job as an example. He suffered horribly, but did not sin.

In contrast, the one (especially who claims to follow Christ) who does not obey Jesus’ words has a house that will crumble and fall when trouble comes. (49)

This is difficult teaching. It is not difficult to understand, but it is difficult to practice. But my prayer is that you will not ignore it because it is difficult. Rather, I pray you will meditate on this passage and grapple with your heart to produce the fruit of following Christ.  

Sunday, January 08, 2017


After the blessings and woes, Jesus continued to teach. And he continued to say things that run contrary to the way most men and women think.

First, Jesus said to love your enemies. (27) This is in contrast to loving those who speak well of you, who love you. (26)

For a people under the domination of a powerful foreign country, those were hard words. The Jews did not have to look far to find enemies. The Romans built garrisons in the country, including in Jerusalem. They built castles for the king appointed by the Romans. Roman soldiers could push you around. Plus, there were Jews who cooperated with the Romans and were considered enemies.

In his teaching of the blessings and woes, Jesus basically said there are you who suffer for my sake and there are those who make you suffer. How do the sufferers relate to those who make them suffer?

Jesus said to love your enemies and he gave four examples. Notice that none of these are about feeling. They are all about actions.

Example 1: do good to those who hate you. That is seriously a difficult command to follow. If you have ever had someone hate you, undermine you and try to bring harm to you, you know the last thing you want to do is to do good to them. I know this personally. You may struggle even to be neutral and not do harm to them, but going even further to do good to them is really difficult.

Example 2: bless those who curse you. When someone speaks to you rudely, or about you wrongfully, you should respond with blessing.

Example 3: pray for those who abuse you. Not only should you do good to your enemy and bless them verbally, you should ask God to bless them also.

Example 4: if someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other for them to strike. Yes, this is where the saying “turn the other cheek” comes from. Naturally, we want to fight back. You may have even been raised that way. The context here seems to be a slap as an insult as opposed to an assault or fist fight. Jesus was saying do not escalate an insult into a fight and do not return the insult. If anything, remain vulnerable to the insult, especially if it means suffering humiliation for following Christ.

Example 5: if someone takes away your cloak, let him have your tunic.  This would be like saying today, if someone takes your coat, give him your shirt also, or your sweater. I think this is more about borrowing than stealing. Jesus said give to everyone who asks and do not demand the items back. (29-30)

The summation of this teaching is what we know as the “golden rule”: as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. It helps us to judge what we should do. I want someone to let me merge into traffic, or pull out of the Starbucks parking lot onto a busy street. I want someone to let me have the parking space I am waiting on and not zoom around me and get it. I want people to say hello and smile at me when I walk by. I want people not to cut in front of me in line. I want people to be nice on the telephone, to not insult or demean me, or to talk bad about me behind my back. So, I should do all those things.

Why did Jesus demand this of us? I believe it is so that we will reflect his nature to men and women who do not know him.

Who were Jesus’ enemies? First of all, it was the Romans, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. How did Jesus treat them? He prayed for them. As his enemies drove nails into his hands and feet, he prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34)

But, the fact is, all human beings who have not received Jesus as savior and lord are enemies of God. That is because a sinner is one who is in rebellion against the rule of God. You are either a subject of the king or an enemy of the king.

How did Jesus treat us, his enemies? He loved us and died to reconcile us to God. Romans 5:8 says “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. And verse 10 says while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

If we hate our enemies, we act like the world. If we love our enemies, we act like Jesus and testify about him as we reflect his character.

This is what Jesus means in verses 32-35. If we love our friends only, we just act like the world. If we do good to our friends, if we lend only to those who can repay us, we just act like the sinners, the unsaved. It is of no benefit to our sanctification and it does not glorify Jesus. But, it we do good to people, even lending to them, not expecting any return, we will be rewarded by God, the Most high. We will be seen as sons of God.

The final word on this topic is in verse 36. It is short but powerful. Jesus said to be merciful as your Father is merciful. The fact is that we received from God the ultimate mercy. He did not give us the death we deserved as sinners. (Romans 6:23) Instead, he gave his Son to die in our place and gave us eternal life.

Having received that mercy, how dare we be unmerciful? What a defamation of the name of the one who saved us. But, we often are not merciful. We look at hose who suffer and say they deserve it. Therefore, we will not help them. They are just experiencing the consequences of their sin. That is all true. But, Jesus tells us to love them and show mercy to them even though they do not deserve it.

When I first went to work after graduating, I had an experience of this that is very common. One Saturday, one of my bosses took me to breakfast. As we walked along, a man stepped up and asked if I would give him money to call a relative to come pick him up. I found two quarters in my pocket and held them out to him. But my boss stopped me and told me not to give him money because he would just “drink it up”.

I have found that to be the common attitude among people, including Christians. In effect, they say do not show him mercy, let him experience the full force of his sins”. All the while, they do not apply that principle to themselves. They do not want punishment for their sins, they want mercy. And in fact they have received mercy. Jesus said to testify to God’s mercy by showing mercy.

I do not think you can love your enemies except in the power of the Holy Spirit. The natural man or woman hates their enemies. It is what we do. Even teaching you this short lesson has likely created a war in your soul as you wrestle with the command versus your desire. You have thought of excuses and exceptions already. Just know those exceptions and excuses are yours not Jesus’.

The works of the flesh include enmity, strife, jealousy, & fits of anger
all those things you want to do to your enemies. (Galatians 5:19) The fruit of the Spirit includes love, peace, patience, kindness,  & gentleness.
These are the things necessary to love your  enemies as Jesus said to do, to be merciful.