Archive for April, 2006

Matthew 16

What’s your sign, the Pharisees asked Jesus? Answer: don’t look for a sign. Jonah the unwilling prophet gave a hint; he spent three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, just as the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (roughly Mt 12:39-40) So he told them, ‘you’re asking the wrong questions’ and went away.

Jesus warned the disciples to guard themselves against the ‘yeast’ (teaching) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They worried that they didn’t bring bread. He reminded them of the basketfuls of loaves they recently gathered and they understood. Do you think he was cautioning them: 1) against trusting your good works to bring you close to God, or 2) against a religious system of power and compromise, or 3) some other aspect of the prevailing teaching?

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Simon Peter answered. And Simon becomes Peter, The Rock. The church will be built on this inspired confession. Is that the first reference to a “church”? Do you think they had any concept of ‘church’? I wonder if we have any concept of the church he was referring to …

Jesus predicted his coming suffering, death and resurrection. Peter tried to rebuke him and got a rebuking of his own, followed by some instructions to all the disciples:
Deny yourself.
Take up your cross.
Follow.
Loose life.
Find life.
Gain the world; loose your soul.
How to regain a lost soul?

He tells them they will not die before they see him coming in his kindgom. Do you think that he’s referring to the transfiguration (a week later), or Pentecost, or the post-resurrection appearances… ???

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5:1 (5:15) King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to Solomon when he heard that he had been anointed king in his father’s place. (Hiram had always been an ally of David.) 5:2 Solomon then sent this message to Hiram: 5:3 “You know that my father David was unable to build a temple to honor the Lord his God, for he was busy fighting battles on all fronts while the Lord subdued his enemies. 5:4 But now the Lord my God has made me secure on all fronts; there is no adversary or dangerous threat. 5:5 So I have decided to build a temple to honor the Lord my God, as the Lord instructed my father David, ‘Your son, whom I will put on your throne in your place, is the one who will build a temple to honor me.’ 5:6 So now order some cedars of Lebanon to be cut for me. My servants will work with your servants. I will pay your servants whatever you say is appropriate, for you know that we have no one among us who knows how to cut down trees like the Sidonians.”

5:7 When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was very happy. He said, “The Lord is worthy of praise today because he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” 5:8 Hiram then sent this message to Solomon: “I received the message you sent to me. I will give you all the cedars and evergreens you need. 5:9 My servants will bring the timber down from Lebanon to the sea. I will send it by sea in raft-like bundles to the place you designate. There I will separate the logs and you can carry them away. In exchange you will supply the food I need for my royal court.” – 1 Kings 5:1-9

One thing I have always admired about Solomon was his drive to get things done. Here he was only on the throne for a short time and he decided it was time to get started building the temple. I am sure there were great needs for infrastructure in the kingdom. He could have found plenty of reasons to put off building the temple, but he knew the greatest infrastructure need was the spiritual infrastructure.

We need to look at our own lives in this same way. Are we putting off anything that God is talking to you about. Is there someone you need to make amends with? Is there something you need to remove from your life? Is there something you need to add to your life? Essentially, the real question is, “Is there anything that God has told you, you need to do that you are not doing?”

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your still small voice. Thank you for speaking to me about your will and your way. Help my to always listen and act. I love you Lord. Amen.

Matthew 15

When I read the Gospels and listen to Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, I just wonder what the people around them are saying. Do you think people are saying, “that Jesus guy seems to get them all the time.” The Pharisees are always concerned about the traditions and less concerned about what really matters. Jesus again draws it back to our hearts, it’s not about what you eat but what you say and do. The disciples get a little concerned about the Pharisees being offended but Jesus is not concerned about them. He says, its like the blind leading the blind.

In this chapter, we also see Jesus healing many people but one healing gives me a little concern. Jesus hesitates on healing the Gentile women’s daughter. What do you think verse 26 is saying about the Gentiles? Do you think Jesus is saying that we are like dogs because we not Jewish? I don’t think this is what he is intending to say but what is your view?

In the last part of the chapter, we see Jesus feeding four thousand men along with the women and children. Jesus wants to feed the people and the disciples are questioning his ability to make it happen. Did the disciples forget what happened in the last chapter, he had fed five thousand the last time? I don’t know how much time had passed between these two events but you would think the disciples would have just said, “hey why don’t just whip something up for all of us.”

I am always so amazed at the miracles Jesus performed while he was on earth.

3:5 One night in Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said, “Tell me what I should give you.” 3:6 Solomon replied, “You demonstrated great loyalty to your servant, my father David, as he served you faithfully, properly, and sincerely. You have maintained this great loyalty to this day by allowing his son to sit on his throne. 3:7 Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in my father David’s place, even though I am only a young man and am inexperienced. 3:8 Your servant stands among your chosen people; they are a great nation that is too numerous to count or number. 3:9 So give your servant a discerning mind so he can make judicial decisions for your people and distinguish right from wrong. Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours.” 3:10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. 3:11 God said to him, “Because you asked for the ability to make wise judicial decisions, and not for long life, or riches, or vengeance on your enemies, 3:12 I grant your request, and give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you. 3:13 Furthermore, I am giving you what you did not request – riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation. 3:14 If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life. – 1 Kings 3:5-14

I have spent some time lately reading a website call Post-Charismatic. The idea behind the website is there are a lot of people who once left mainline churches and became charismatics. However, over the years they saw the abuses in the charismatic movement and have now gone back to their original denominations or to non-denominational churches. There is one big difference that remains in them. Essentially, they are still charismatics, but they have simply seen what they consider to be Biblically sound theology abused and raised above all other theology. These people are now called Post-Charismatics. I consider myself to be among this group. I was actually raised in the largest pentecostal/charismatic denomination in the world, The Assemblies of God (AG). I did not see much abuse in any of the churches I was part of, but I did see an elitism that was very disturbing. If you spoke in tongues you were “in.” If you did not speak in tongues you were “out.” In the AG, this “out” did not mean you were not a true believer, it simply meant you lacked some level of spiritual maturity because you had not received the “Gift.” However, there are some pentecostal/charismatic churches that put forth a Word Faith doctrine. You may have heard this called “name it, claim it”, prosperity gospel, health and wealth gospel or many other names. The basic belief is that God wants all of his followers to be healthy and rich. If you are not healthy and rich you lack faith.

I think we can learn from Solomon in regards to how we should look at these type of health and wealth teachings. God gave Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything that we wanted. It would not have been out of bounds for Solomon to ask for riches, long life or anything along these lines. However, Solomon wanted more than anything else to serve the living God. This meant he needed to be the best king possible because that was the specific mission God had given him. Solomon understood that his following and serving God was more important than health and wealth. Solomon sought first to serve God and in the end he received the wisdom he needed and he received health and wealth. The truth is there is no right in scripture for us to claim health and wealth. We are not guarantee a “blessed” life after we become Christ-followers. What we are guaranteed it that when we are on mission with God, we will have a life worth living.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for leading me to a place where I can look first to you instead of theologies about you. Thank you for loving me even when I have been wrong (and am still wrong.) Help me to seek first your kingdom and then to let everything else come after that. I love you Lord with everything that I am. Amen.

The twentieth century Madonna wrote a song that began with the words “You can dance,” but there are no reported instances of the first century Madonna dancing. (Sorry, had to say that.)

As Jennifer has noted in her personal blog, the “Herod the Tetrarch” named in this passage is not the Herod who was ruling at Jesus’ birth. But he was certainly part of the Herod family, having taken his brother’s wife (resulting in John the Baptist’s condemnation).

There are cultural differences between American culture and Middle Eastern culture, and one of them is illustrated here. In Daniel 6, we saw that a royal edict cannot be revoked. Something similar is happening here; Herod Antipas gave his word that he would give the (unnamed) daughter of Herodias whatever she wanted. In our culture, we break oaths constantly, but one would not dare to do so here. Thus, John the Baptist was executed. (In his book about Pilate, Paul Maier writes the story so that Pilate is at Antipas’ palace when Herodias’ daughter dances, and when Pilate is executed. As far as I know, this is simply conjecture, however.)

Jesus is grieving. As fully man, He grieves for the loss of His cousin; as fully God, He grieves as He would for the loss of any of us. Yet we pesky people interrupt Him in His grief, and He comes out and heals us.

And then he feeds us. I personally have no reason to doubt the story. Anyone who could rise from the dead could certainly feed people. Of couse, He could have played guitar better than Hendrix if He had chosen to do so.

Walking on the water has been in the news lately, with a theory that Jesus was actually walking on ice bla bla bla. (However, to fit the story, you would need TWO pieces of ice – one for Jesus, one for Peter – and even then, you have to skew the story to make it fit.)

But forget the news – let’s return to Peter literally “stepping out in faith.” No, Peter was not perfect. Yes, he fell along the way. But he fixed his eyes on Jesus and did things that he could not have done otherwise. And we see that Jesus did not perform miracles just to perform them – in this case, the walking on water miracle resulted in the belief of his disciples.

If I recall correctly, Gennesaret was a non-Jewish area. Jesus ministered in non-Jewish areas throughout His ministry, but His primary focus at the time was with His Father’s people.

24:1 The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go count Israel and Judah.” 24:2 The king told Joab, the general in command of his army, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba and muster the army, so I may know the size of the army.”

24:3 Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God make the army a hundred times larger right before the eyes of my lord the king! But why does my master the king want to do this?”

24:4 But the king’s edict stood, despite the objections of Joab and the leaders of the army. So Joab and the leaders of the army left the king’s presence in order to muster the Israelite army.

24:5 They crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, on the south side of the city, at the wadi of Gad, near Jazer. 24:6 Then they went on to Gilead and to the region of Tahtim Hodshi, coming to Dan Jaan and on around to Sidon. 24:7 Then they went to the fortress of Tyre and all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went on to the Negev of Judah, to Beer Sheba. 24:8 They went through all the land and after nine months and twenty days came back to Jerusalem.

24:9 Joab reported the number of warriors to the king. In Israel there were 800,000 sword-wielding warriors, and in Judah there were 500,000 soldiers.

24:10 David felt guilty after he had numbered the army. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O Lord, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” – 1 Samuel 24:1-10

I have to admit that I really did not get it at first. Why does God really care that David wanted to know the size of his army. Honestly, that seems like such a normal and necessary step. If you are going to go to war (and Israel was always fighting someone) then you needed to be prepared. People would be even more outraged about the war in Iraq if George Bush had just said he was going to send a whole bunch of soldiers over there. In human terms, knowing the strength of your army makes a lot of sense.

But, what about God’s terms? The truth is, Israel has already won many battles when they were vastly out numbered. They had been victorious over armies that were better trained and equipped. Israel had something that no other nation had – God. I wonder if the real sin here was not David’s desire to get out the calculator, abacus or even counting on their ten finger and ten toes. The real sin seemed to be Israel and David’s lack of ability to truly trust God for their victory over the enemies surrounding them. It is interesting to note that in I Chronicles 21:1 the same incident is discussed and it specifically says there was an enemy threatening Israel. I am not sure if this enemy was bigger than any Israel had faced previously, but it does show that the strength of human soldiers was being placed ahead of Godly intervention.

Heavenly Father,

It is human nature to count our own strength, ability and assets when we face problems. Yet, I know you are the God who is above and beyond human ability. My strengths abilities and assets are nothing compared to you. Help me to rely fully on you. I love you Lord. Amen.

A farmer…

A mustard seed…

Yeast…

Hidden treasure…

A net…

I must say – if I were among the crowd hearing these parables, I wouldn’t have gotten them either. I’d like to focus on this one:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

Jesus later explains the parable:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This is one of the biblical passages that is often cited in support of a literal, fiery hell for unbelievers. I think Jesus is speaking metaphorically. What do you think?

18:14 Joab replied, “I will not wait around like this for you!” He took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the middle of Absalom while he was still alive in the middle of the oak tree. 18:15 Then ten soldiers who were Joab’s armor bearers struck Absalom and finished him off.

18:16 Then Joab blew the trumpet and the army turned back from chasing Israel, for Joab had called for the army to halt. 18:17 They took Absalom, threw him into a large pit in the forest, and stacked a huge pile of stones over him. In the meantime all the Israelite soldiers fled to their homes. – 2 Samuel 18:14-16

19:1 Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning over Absalom.” 19:2 So the victory of that day was turned to mourning as far as all the people were concerned. For the people heard on that day, “The king is grieved over his son.” 19:3 That day the people stole away to go to the city the way people who are embarrassed steal away in fleeing from battle. 19:4 The king covered his face and cried out loudly, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!”

19:5 So Joab visited the king at his home. He said, “Today you have embarrassed all your servants who have saved your life this day, as well as the lives of your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your concubines. 19:6 You seem to love your enemies and hate your friends! For you have as much as declared today that leaders and servants don’t matter to you. I realize now that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, it would be all right with you. 19:7 So get up now and go out and give some encouragement to your servants. For I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out there, not a single man will stay here with you tonight! This disaster will be worse for you than any disaster that has overtaken you from your youth right to the present time!”

19:8 So the king got up and sat at the city gate. When all the people were informed that the king was sitting at the city gate, they all came before him. – 2 Samuel 19:1-8

Joab is kind of an enigma in the administration of King David. He is a man who seems fiercely loyal to David on one hand. He could have easily betrayed him and handed the kingdom to Absalom, but on the other hand he seems to be very treacherous. He kills Absalom against the direct order of David and he kills the person David seeks to put in place of Joab over the army. It seems like Joab has the sense that when it comes to military matter he understands more that David. Joab had a wrong attitude about what it meant to truly followed God’s chosen leader.

Earlier we saw how David had the right attitude about following God’s chosen leader. David followed Saul until God removed Saul from power. This did not mean that David did things that Saul commanded that were against God’s will, but it did mean that he always gave Saul proper honor and respect. Joab on the other hand did not give David proper honor and respect. Joab was truly a man who did not deserve the status, honor and respect he was receiving based upon his position as commander of the army.

We have the same choice in our relationships. We can either follow God’s leaders with respect even when we disagree with them. This does not require us to do things we believe to be wrong, but it does require us to not backstab, gossip and try to overthrow them. Our other choice is to follow the example of Joab and do the exact opposite that God leader asks us to do because we believe we “know best.” I chose to do my best to follow David’s example and not Joab’s.

Heavenly Father,

You have given us a choice. We can either follow your leaders or we can follow our own way. It is not always easy to follow those you have placed in charge when we do not agree with what is going on. I ask that you always help me to respect and give proper honor to those you have placed in authority especially when I disagree with their actions. Help me to not to come to everything with an “I know best” attitude. I love you Lord. Amen.

Matthew 12

If I could have picked a chapter I did not want to write about this would be it. There is so much in Matthew 12 that I find perplexing, but here goes.

Sabbath

The Pharisees in there usual legalistic way begin to berate Jesus and his disciples because they are not following the “rules” for the sabbath. I love how Jesus really gets in their face and basically tells them I am God, so I decide what is allowed on the sabbath. Jesus tells them that he desire mercy and not sacrifice. The Pharisees never did come to understand that Jesus was more interested in how well we love others in his name than how well we follow a bunch of rules. This is further exemplified by their burning desire to kill him after he shows mercy and heals the man with the withered hand instead of following the rules against healing on the sabbath. How often do our “godly rules” get in the way of showing mercy?

Justice

The words Matthew quotes from Isaiah take this whole idea of mercy over sacrifice a step further. We are called to be people of justice. I have been thinking a lot about what real justice means. I am still very much in a questioning phase over the Biblical meaning of justice, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

A House Divided

The Pharisees are so desperate to pull the people away from following Jesus that they actually make the claim that he is casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus turns this around on them and basically shows how ridiculous the whole idea is. Satan would be foolish to turn against himself. This is also where Jesus brings up the “unforgivable sin.” So do you think this verse supports the idea that the unforgivable sin is when we attribute God’s works to Satan? I am not completely convinced of this idea, but I would love to hear what you think.

Good Fruit, Bad Fruit

Jesus seems to be teaching here that we will literally be judged by the words that come out of our mouths because we say what comes from our hearts. Our heart condition does seemed to be the primary factor in our lives. Do we do good because it comes from an overflowing love? Do we do good because people speak well of us? Do we do good because we believe society expects it of us? This is what I find confusing. We can do or say the very same thing but our motivation can be all right or all wrong. Jesus is teaching we will be judges based upon our words. It would seem to make more sense to me that we be judged based upon what is behind our words. Thoughts?

A Sign

During a Bible study my small group completed on Matthew just a few short months ago, one person kept on saying that the disciples just did not seem to ever get it. While, I agree with him, I was even more amazed that the Pharisees never seemed to get it. They had memorized all of the Scriptures and should have seen that Jesus did fulfill the prophecies. Yet, when Jesus tells them the only sign they needed was the sign of Jonah, they simply did not (or refused to) get it.

Unclean Spirits

When people removed horrible stuff from their lives they need to replace it with the right stuff. An alcoholic who has quit drinking will often replace the addiction with another – smoking or overeating for instance. This is one possible way to look at this teaching of Jesus. We live in a time when we don’t like to believe that evil spirit really exist(ed). Yet, people really did believe they existed back then (and many still do today). Was Jesus really talking about demon possession here or was he talking about replacing those evil things in our lives with good things (him, for instance.) I tend to believe the evil spirits did and do exist, but I also don’t believe we should attribute everything to the work of Satan or his demons. What do you think?

Jesus Family

This is definitely my favorite part of this passage. Jesus is saying when we are on mission with God we are part of his family. We could not ask for anything better than this. Just thing, we truly do have the opportunity to be considered brothers and sisters to Christ, Children to God. What does this also say about how we should treat other Christ-followers? What does this say about how we should treat other Christ-followers we disagree with on one doctrinal issue or another?

16:20 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?” 16:21 Ahithophel replied to Absalom, “Have sex with your father’s concubines whom he left to care for the palace. All Israel will hear that you have made yourself repulsive to your father. Then your followers will be motivated to support you.” 16:22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom had sex with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

16:23 In those days Ahithophel’s advice was considered as valuable as a prophetic revelation. Both David and Absalom highly regarded the advice of Ahithophel. – 2 Samuel 16:20-23

17:7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “Ahithophel’s advice is not sound this time.” 17:8 Hushai went on to say, “You know your father and his men – they are soldiers and are as dangerous as a bear out in the wild that has been robbed of her cubs. Your father is an experienced soldier; he will not stay overnight with the army. 17:9 At this very moment he is hiding out in one of the caves or in some other similar place. If it should turn out that he attacks our troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘Absalom’s army has been slaughtered!’ 17:10 If that happens even the bravest soldier – one who is lion-hearted – will virtually melt away. For all Israel knows that your father is a warrior and that those who are with him are brave. 17:11 My advice therefore is this: Let all Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba – in number like the sand by the sea! – be mustered to you, and you lead them personally into battle. 17:12 We will come against him wherever he happens to be found. We will descend on him like the dew falls on the ground. Neither he nor any of the men who are with him will be spared alive – not one of them! 17:13 If he regroups in a city, all Israel will take up ropes to that city and drag it down to the valley, so that not a single pebble will be left there!” – 2 Samuel

17:14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite sounds better than the advice of Ahithophel.” Now the Lord had decided to frustrate the sound advice of Ahithophel, so that the Lord could bring disaster on Absalom. – 2 Samuel 17:7-14

People are always looking for sound advice. If there is one piece of sound advice we can all take away from the totality of scripture, it is be on God’s side. As you read through the wonderful story of God’s work in our world, we see time after time where God caused this to happen, or hardened this persons heart so another thing would happen, or situation where we think something evil occurred, but God used it for good. The truth is, God really is in control. We absolutely do have free will to make decision, mistakes, and wise moves. We are largely in control of our own lives. However, in the end God can and does make his will become a reality. We have a choice to either be a part of this reality or work against it, but either way God wins. It is not always easy to take this sound advice and be on God’s side. We want to do things our way in our timing, but it still will not work. God wins, so be on his side.

Heavenly Father,

Even as we seek to understand the delicate balance of free will and sovereignty, I know you win in the end. You let us go our own way, but your way will win. Help me to be on your side and not my own side. Help me to conform to your will and not my own. Help me to serve you instead of myself. I love you Lord. Amen.