Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

Mother of God

Many times, when someone hears a Catholic call Mary the mother of god they are scandalized by the expression. And if the expression meant what many people think it meant, they should be scandalized! What does the title “mother of God” mean what you think it means?

First of all, let me say what the phrase does not mean. It does not mean that Mary created God. Any Catholic you talk to who has any education at all will tell you that is a false teaching. In fact the opposite is true. Jesus is the only infant who created his own mother!

Some would say that Mary is only the mother of the human part of Jesus, but that requires believing in a heresy for it to be true. Jesus is one person, and one person only. That person is fully divine and fully human and is not able to be separated into 2 persons. To do so takes us over into Gnosticism and it’s teaching of the spirit and flesh being separate beings. At no time was Jesus only reacting as a human or only reacting as a spirit. He was always reacting as both.

Well then, how can someone become the mother of a baby? Just as in natural conception, the child is both hers and the Holy Spirit’s. She became the “Mother if God” by giving birth to the person. No true Christian would ever dispute that Mary gave birth to Jesus. In doing so, she gave birth to the complete Jesus who was both 100% God and 100% man. So even though her own child created Mary, she is still “The mother of God” because Jesus is fully God and as a person who is both God and man he went through the birthing process.

So in spite of any misunderstandings, Mary truly does have the title mother of God once you know what that phrase means and does not mean. To say otherwise is to risk falling into heresy where Jesus can divide his natures from each other and is 50% God and 50% human instead of 100% both as one being. I hope that clears things up!

Our Best For God

It all started out so well. The people were amazed at the strength and power of their God, and had seen His love for them manifested in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. As the people of God are taught what the Lord required of them, they were given the greatest commandment, recorded in
Deuteronomy 6:5

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Nothing was to be held back when it came to their single hearted devotion to God. It was to be a love offering of their entire being; heart, soul and mind. But as years passed, a familiarity set in that morphed into contempt. What was once offered as an overflow of gratitude to God became an obligation and duty. Eventually it was looked on as a burden to be borne out of tradition, even while resented. And they acted like it, too. The spotless offerings were changed into leftovers, spares, and animals that would not cost them anything to lose.

Enter the prophet Malachi. God speaks to His people and confronts them with their heart condition when it came to worship.

Malachi 1:6-8
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

God wanted the best from His people, not the cast offs. They would have been better off not worshipping at all than to offer polluted offerings to God. The Lord puts things I. Perspective for the people in verses 11 – 13:

Malachi 1:11-13
For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But you profane it,
In that you say,
‘The table of the Lord is defiled;
And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’
You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

“Wow!”, you might say. “They really messed up. It’s a good thing we are in no danger of that happening to us, since there are no animal sacrifices for worship now”. But wait, there are sacrifices of worship. They just are not animals anymore. But they are offerings of worship in they same way as before, and God expects our best.

Hebrews 13:15-16
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see that? We have sacrifices to give, just like they did. Verse 15 parallels the command to love the Lord our God with our soul, mind and strength, while verse 16 is about loving our neighbor as ourself. You see, whenever we spend time in worship to God, He expects it to be with our entire being. That doesn’t mean that worship has to be an aerobic workout. It does mean that we need to be fully engaged in what we are doing during worship. Focusing on other things, offering half hearted or distracted worship, or inwardly despising and diminishing worship will produce a polluted offering to God!

We each need to examine ourselves when it comes to our worship. Are we doing things out of routine and obligation, or out of love and devotion? Do we look forward to worship, or see it as an interruption? I challenge us all to be fully present during worship today, with our mind, soul and strength focused on our awesome God. Don’t insult Him by offering any less than your very best!

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Worship In The Shadow

The Word of God, at its very beginning, speaks of mankind as being created in the image of God. But what is meant by that phrase? I believe there is a clue or two in the original Hebrew of the text. The word translated as “image” is “tzelem” which comes from the word “tzel” which means “shadow”. So there is a definite connection, since whenever rays of light fall on something it casts a shadow, which is a type of image. So according to the Bible, we are in the image of God in the same way that our own shadows look like we do in a way.

Another connection can be seen when, in Exodus 31 God appointed a person named Bezalel to create the Tabernacle and its furnishings. His name in Hebrew, Betzalel, literally means “in the shadow of God”. The Tabernacle was used to facilitate the worship of a God by the ancient Israelites. When a human worships the God of the Universe, it is as though he or she were standing in the shadow of God, who dwells in unapproachable light.

which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (I Timothy 6:15, 16 NKJV)

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But how does this apply to us today? In Hebrews 1:3, the author describes Jesus as the “express image of His person”. We are in the image of God in the same way a shadow shows His image, but Jesus is the express image. It’s the difference between a shadow outline and a photograph. While people can and should be able to tell that God is with us, they will only get a clear and detailed picture of God when they see Jesus. And that biblical imagery should carry over into our worship today. When we worship God, we stand in His shadow as those who are created in His image and looking upon Him who is the perfect picture of the Father.

There are some things that are true when that standing occurs. For one, in order to worship in the shadow of God, like we were created to do, He blocks our view of other things. Those lesser things may be visible in our peripheral sight, but our focus will be on the One who overshadows us. Worship occurs when we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and give our while attention to Him. As we habitually do that, we will slowly but surely be changed ourselves into clearer images of Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)

This may be bold, but I believe it is accurate. Anything that does not point us to Jesus and cause us to focus on Him is less than true worship. In the modern church over the past few decades, there has been a restoration of the truth about the joy of The Lord in Worship. What we need now is a restoration of the awareness of the awesomeness and glory of the One who alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. In doing so, we fulfill the destiny of why we were saved in the first place.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:49 NKJV)

So next time you spend time in worship of God, whether alone, as a family, or with other believers, I would encourage you to focus on the One in whose shadow you stand. Contemplate the brightness of His glory, the perfection of His holiness, and the enormity of His power, and realize that as you stand there, He gazes back in love to you and knows your name, your thoughts, and the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Know that He alone is worthy of worship, and look away form those things which have become idols in your life. Let no rival thrones survive as you gaze upon His majesty. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and from your heart, and love The Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength. You will be ruined for cold ceremony or dead rituals. But you will be worshipping in Spirit and in truth.

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Christian Sovereign Citizens?

I have heard recently about some people who have decided they have a right to declare themselves “sovereign citizens” who are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us. They did not buy into the social contract, and have decided to abstain from government control. Wikipedia, the fountain of knowledge that it is, defines “sovereign citizen” in the following way.

The sovereign citizen movement is a loose grouping of American litigants, commentators, and financial scheme promoters. Self-described sovereign citizens take the position that they are answerable only to common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state or municipal levels, or that they do not recognize U.S. currency and that they are “free of any legal constraints”. They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate. Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to “federal citizens” who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.

What I want to address right now, is not the legal ramifications of such a position, but rather, the question of whether or not a Christian has the liberty to take this course of action. Because in the final analysis, God’s opinion is the only one that matters on any subject! I want to look at the applicable passages with minimal commentary and then draw our conclusions from them.

As our foundation, let’s see what Jesus says about paying taxes to the government,

Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. (Matthew 22:17-22 NKJV)

And here is what Jesus said about paying temple taxes to the religious leaders who were plotting to kill Him.
When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said,

“Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” (Matthew 17:24-27 NKJV)

In his letter to the Romans, Paul expounds upon our responsibility to civil governments.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7 NKJV)

Another inspired writer, the apostle Peter, addressed the matter as well.

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (I Peter 2:13-17 NKJV)

Based on these passages, I truly do not see any way a Christian to declare themselves to be “sovereign citizens”. Keep in mind, that in all of these verses dealing with the submitting, taxes and tribute, they were talking about the Roman government. The Romans had a term for those who declared themselves free of the obligation to submit to the edicts of Caesar — “dead”. In fact, despite the violence and corruption that was rife within the roman system, Paul uses his citizenship as a way to forward the gospel. He also submitted in order to be a good witness for Christ. Even Jesus paid the temple tax in order not to cause offense. I believe there is even scriptural authority in these passages to say that declaring yourself a sovereign citizen is an act of rebellion to God!

I know this will anger some, and there will be those who believe it is justified anyway. But the plain teaching of scripture is that your need to be a good witness for Christ trumps any perceived right to defy the government. Your only exception is if you are told to disobey God. At that time, the only faithful response is “we must obey God rather than men”. But if Jesus, Peter, and Paul can submit to the oppressors as wicked as the Romans, we can submit to our government, too. In fact, Paul spoke of that very government when he wrote the following by direction of the Holy Spirit:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (I Timothy 2:1-3 NKJV)

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Collections For The Saints

It was a desperate time in Jerusalem. Poverty roamed the land, not caring about its next victims. The young church in Jerusalem was not exempted from this suffering. Word of their plight had reached their brothers and sisters in the churches of Rome, Macedonia, Achaia (Romans 15:26), Galatia and Corinth (1 Corinthians 16) whose loving response was to seek the advice of the apostle Paul as to how they could help their fellow believers in Jerusalem. Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to gather funds from the churches and send it to relieve the saints in the Jerusalem congregation. Paul responds to this specific collection to a question that had been posed by the church at Corinth.

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ESV)

By beginning the paragraph with “now concerning”, Paul is referring to a question that had been posed to him in writing prior to this letter, just as he had done in chapter 7 verse 1. What we have here is an example of many congregations of saints pooling their resources to help others within the Body of Christ in a time of need. The motivation here is clear — love. This was a true “love gift”, unlike what is talked about by television evangelists. In Romans 15:26, Paul uses the word “koinonia” which has unfortunately been rendered as “contribution” in some translations, because they all saw this as an expression of fellowship with other suffering believers. What Paul had described earlier in chapter 12 was indeed the case.

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26 ESV)

This event also serves as a biblical example for some things, but not for others. Here’s what I mean by that!
Example number 1 – from the way Paul speaks of the first day of the week, it is obvious that this was the day on which they were already meeting. Paul does not write that they should start meeting on the first day of every week. He is, in effect, saying that they should collect this money when they have their regular meetings. Paul even mentions that this was what the churches of Galatia were doing, so this is not the day that only the Corinthian church gathered together.
Non-example number 1 – That being said, this is also not an example of something — the ongoing method of supporting the local church. Think about this for a second. Why would Paul have told them to take up a collection on the first day of every week if they were already taking up collections on the first day of the week? If this were some sort of binding example, why didn’t Paul insert the phrase “from now on, on the first day of every week”? One must be careful not to take a biblical example and stretch it beyond its original intended application.
The fact is, there is no prescribed method for how the funds for the local church are to be collected, or how often that is to happen! Does that mean it is wrong to take a collection on Sunday? Certainly not! With a lack of divine instruction on methods or frequency of collections, each congregation of saints is free to do was is wise and expedient for their particular situation. Want to pass the plate? Fine. Want to just have a box in the corner where saints can drop in offerings on their own? Go ahead. The error lies in taking and example of a special collection designed for a specific need with logistical planning and make it binding on every collection in every church for all time when teaching about the ongoing support for the church. Doing so is a mishandling of scripture and “going beyond what is written”. Of course we do not want to swing the pendulum too far and change what is written, like baptism by sprinkling, or communion with cake and ice cream. That being said,what we have in the New Testament on this matter is liberty to decide locally the most appropriate method for supporting the local work. Whether that is a collection plate, a box in the back, or giving online, give with a smile and not under compulsion (i.e. tithing).

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)

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Blue Skies and Rainbows?

Back when I was in youth group (during the Carter administration), we would sing a song at devotionals and at Sierra Bible Camp called “Blue Skies and Rainbows”. It was and is a happy song about what the world around us is like when we have Jesus in our hearts. The verse and chorus went like this:

“Blue skies and rainbows
And sunbeams from heaven
Are what I can see
When my Lord is living in me

Jesus is well and alive today
He makes his home in my heart
Never more will I be all alone since he
Promised me that we never will part.”

The song was light hearted and fun, and we just assumed that with Jesus in our hearts life would be wonderful. But then life actually happened. There was loss, failed relationships, the death of a loved one, or even of a child. Life didn’t turn out to be full of blue skies and rainbows after all. For awhile, I resented this song because I saw it as one giving a false promise that Jesus was going to guarantee us a carefree life. But that has changed as time went on.

One thing I saw, after carefully reading the lyrics, was that there was no such false promise in this song. There would be trials and pain in this life, but what the words say is that even in the hardest and most trying of times, we will be able to see the blue skies and rainbows that are there above us. You see, you can’t look at blue skies and rainbows when you are looking down or at yourself. Want this song says is that, by virtue of the fact that Jesus lives in our heart, we will have the strength to look up and see the blessings that are still around us and persevere in hope. Yes, we would be able to “count it all joy when [we] go through various trials” (James 1) and endure to the end.

But what is the basis of that promise? How is the reality of that strength ensured for us? The chorus is the key. “Jesus is well and alive today”. Our guarantor of hope is that this same Jesus who died for our sins did not stay dead, but is alive and well today. This same Jesus ever lives and makes intercession for us at the throne of God!

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27 NKJV)

And not only that, “He makes his home in my heart.” This is not a temporary residence, where he makes an occasional visit. As the lyric promises, “never more will I be all alone since He promised me that we never will part.” What a glorious promise, and yet it is just a reminder of what the Word has already spoken.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)

So now I can sing this song, in spite of all I have been through, or will ever go through. I can look up to the One who loves me and will never forsake me. I can look to the one who makes His home in my heart, and see the witness of nature around me that He is indeed “well and alive today.”

(In case you don’t know the song or haven’t heard it in a long time: Blue Skies and Rainbows )

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Preaching, Teaching & Discipling

One of the things we discover in the art of education is the difference between types of learning and methods of instruction. In many subject areas, there is a set progression of instruction, and often one that involves changes in delivery and interaction as the student progresses. The same is true of the truth found in the New Testament. There is, I believe, a discernible pattern of instruction that will be helpful to grasp so that we are doing the things that are most beneficial to ourselves and those who hear us.

The first type of instruction is preaching. This is different than teaching, which is why the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to use a different Greek word for each. The word translated “preach” is kerusso, which means “to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel):–preacher(-er), proclaim, publish.”
This involves the initial public proclamation of the Gospel message. Like a herald, we preach Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23) to a lost world. This preaching is evangelistic, and calls people’s attention to Jesus Christ and what has been done to bring them to God.

but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:23, 24 NKJV)

This is the work of an evangelist, like the young Timothy, and is a never ending obligation of believers as we go about in the world.

As the message goes forth, there will be the need to teach those who respond to our preaching. Paul links the two nicely when giving instruction to Timothy.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (II Timothy 4:1, 2 NKJV)

There is no hint here of getting people saved and leaving them to fend for themselves. Rather, there is the sense that after preaching, people need to be taught “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19). The word for teaching is different than for preaching (didacho). This teaching incorporates instruction and example as a means of learning spiritual truth. But in order to be effective, teaching must be done to those who have responded to the preaching and been saved. An unsaved person cannot understand spiritual things, so we are wasting our time teaching without first preaching.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

The most in depth level of instruction is discipling. The Greek word is matethouo. This is the ultimate goal for everyone we encounter. In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t stop at preaching or at teaching, but at “making disciples”. This includes hearing the truth, seeing it lived out, and then internalizing it by personal practice. Discipleship can only be fully learned by doing. That is one reason that those who teach must be careful, not only of what they say, but what they do.
Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (I Timothy 4:15, 16 NKJV)

This is the way to make mature Christians, who will be able to go and make disciples themselves.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:2 NKJV)

Only by following this pattern of instruction will we practice biblical spiritual growth. We must not be like those who preach, but do not teach or disciple. That is a recipe for weak Christians who are dependent on someone keeping them alive by feeding them nothing but milk. They are unable to teach others and will never have the fruit of being or making disciples.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12 NKJV)

May this never be said of us! But instead, may we follow the pattern of preaching, teaching and discipling that results in many saved and bearing much spiritual fruit, as we exercise the gifts which Christ has given for our benefit.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

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Chasing the Bulls

The pursuit of happiness.
For many, the pursuit of happiness means one thing — the pursuit of wealth. After all, isn’t that the American dream? We want to be better off financially than the previous generation was. We want to have a house that is paid for, two cars, 3.2 kids, a dog, and a flat screen TV. But there is a question that needs to be asked. Just because that is the “American Dream”, is it necessarily God’s dream for us? We need to examine what the Bible says about this dream, and see if it lines up with what God desires for us. And while there is nothing inherently sinful about having money, it does come with some serious warnings. Like fire, it can be beneficial, but used in the wrong context, it can kill and destroy us and those we love.

There are two dangers, from what I can see, in pursuing wealth — idolatry and covetousness. But there are also two remedies — contentment and gratitude. Lets see what the Bible says about it.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Want to get ahead, and have great gain in life? Great! There is your key to success — godliness and contentment. The Greek word for contentment here indicates satisfaction with what one has. The Stoic philosophers liked contentment because it indicated self sufficiency. But for the Christian, contentment reflects Christ’s sufficiency. We are secure in the knowledge that as we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, (Matthew 6;33), that our God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). Our lives are completely in His hands, and contentment reflects a trust that God knows what He is doing.

But some folks are driven no constantly attain more and gather up wealth for themselves. What follows is that money, which is supposed to be a useful servant, becomes a tyrannical master. Eventually, money, or mammon, becomes our God. We think about new wealth strategies day and night and constantly need to have the latest and greatest. Money becomes an idol.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:9, 10 NKJV)

Again, you may be either blessed or cursed with riches. But a conscious effort must be made to make sure the servant doesn’t become the master. Jesus put it this way:

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

You see, Jesus didn’t say it was difficult to serve God and money. He didn’t even say it requires great skill.

    He said it is impossible!

Knowing that, why would any of us mock God and act as though Jesus was mistaken on this point?

So how do you know if you have crossed over into the pursuit of mammon instead of the worship of God? Well, what would happen if God took it all away? Or better yet, if He told you to give it all away? Could you release it, since it belongs to Him anyway? Those are hard questions that deserve much thought and self examination. Please don’t go over them lightly.

Down in the financial district around Wall Street in New York City, there is a large metal statue of a running bull. For some, it would symbolize a profitable, or “bull” market. In one way, perhaps unintentionally, that state is a warning to those who would worship wealth. Just like the golden calf that the Israelites built at Mount Sinai was an idol that caused death and destruction of lives, covetousness changes money into an idol that destroys us spiritually. And like the bull statue illustrates, it will turn on us without mercy and run us over and leave us behind.

If you have wealth, make sure you are also rich toward God, willing to share, and eager to serve God, not mammon. Are you poor? Don’t think that covetousness cannot consume you as well. Rest in God, and trust in His loving care for you. Serve Him fully, and with an eye single to His glory. Walk in godliness.
And be content.

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Leaving Jericho

The city of Jericho is significant is Scripture. This city was initially destroyed by God when the Israelites first came into the Promised Land in Joshua 6. Later, the people rebuilt a city by that name at a nearby location. In Jesus’ time, he visited the city and performed the miracle of healing a blind man. Jericho is symbolic of the place of destruction and judgment. This miracle, and the circumstances surrounding it, have application for us today.

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. (Mark 10:46 ESV)

Bartimaeus was a blind man who was very familiar to the residents of Jericho. Some have even suggested that his father had also been blind, since the word for blind in the local Aramaic was similar to Timaeus. In all likelihood, Bartimaeus sat by this road every day of his life, just like his father had. He was used to the smell and taste of the dust, and to hearing what people were saying as they passed by.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

No doubt, Bartimaeus had heard people talking about this man from Nazareth who was healing all who came to him. Word of these miracles was a topic of conversation of many in Jericho who would stop and give money to him. Evidently, Bartimaeus believes their stories, and realizes that walking past him is the only glimmer of hope he has ever had of escaping the life of darkness and destitution. So he cries out, not saying “son of man” or “son of Mary”, but “son of David”, which was a term used to describe the promised Messiah. Just like Bartimaeus, the only hope for a lost sinner, sitting in the place of judgment, spiritually blind and destitute, is to call upon the name of The Lord (Romans 10:13).

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48)

And just like today when someone decides to cry out to Jesus, there were those who rebuked him. Today, there are those who warn you not to get too radical about Jesus, or not to openly talk to people about Him. But my question is, if you are blind and destitute, what have you got to lose? Do whatever it takes to get to Jesus!

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” (Mark 10:49)

Yet there is a message of hope for all who are lost. Jesus is calling you! He is not walking by and waiting for you to fix yourself up, or to somehow regain your spiritual sight and put on fresh clothes before you come to him. Come to him now, just they way you are. He wants to give you sight, cleanse you, and clothe you with robes of righteousness.

And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. (Mark 10:50)

In ancient times, in order for people to know who was a legitimate beggar, they were given a special outer garment. In this way, they could be identified as someone who was genuinely lame or blind and not a scam artist trying to make easy money. When Jesus calls to Bartimaeus, he threw off his outer cloak. He tossed away that which had always identified him as blind, and ran to Jesus. In the same way, we are to cast off those things which label us as beyond hope, even if we inherited them from our family. What the world has labelled you as will no longer apply to you once you come to Jesus. He took this blind man and changed him from “Bar-Timaeus” (son of the blind) to being a child of the Living God. And when you come to Jesus, He will do the same for you!

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:51, 52)

When Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness, he did not leave, thinking he had gotten what he came for. No, he really did believe Jesus was the Son of David, the promised Messiah. Those were not words of flattery used to get Jesus’ attention. He really meant them. Bartimaeus leaves the place of judgment, poverty and blindness, and follows Jesus in the way. And that is what He calls everyone to do. This is not about a one time event of receiving salvation and deliverance, but about casting off the old, receiving a new identity in Christ, and beginning a new journey with Him. But keep in mind, that if Bartimaeus had not called out to Jesus, none of this would have happened and we would never have known his name. Cry out to Jesus today. Now is the day of salvation. If you have the faith to come to Him, He will give you a new life, and you can begin to follow after Him and leave your old life behind.

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Two Men Praying

This is a story, aka parable, is based on the story Jesus used that is recorded in Luke chapter 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector. I wanted to update the characters, without changing the story, but the first obstacle was that some may think I am referring to specific people I know. That could not be further from the truth. Both people are conflations of many hundreds of people I have met in 50 years of living. So if you think I am talking about you, you are wrong. If, however, you are convicted by what the story says, then maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to get your attention regarding some things and attitudes you may be harboring. As before, I still get none of the credit or blame for the results. So here goes.

One day in a church building in a typical city, a lifelong churchgoer stopped during lunch to pray. He had been reading many stories about various ones who were preaching error, as well as articles on apologetics aimed at exposing false doctrines that disagreed with the conclusions from Scripture of the author. With all this going through his mind, he prayed this way:
“Lord, I thank you that I am not like others who go to denominational churches. I don’t listen to worldly music, I attend every church service, I only associate with those who teach correctly and agree with me, I partake of weekly communion, don’t believe any false teachings, have been baptized in water, and worship only with those acts you authorize. Thank you that I am we’ll pleasing in your sight and am doing those things necessary to stay saved.”

Out in next to the curb by the church building is a man who is too ashamed to come inside. His guilt from sin is overwhelming and he is at the end of his rope. He cries out to God and can only say a simple prayer. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

One of these men went home that day justified.

Why? Because whenever we start thinking that our standing with God is based on the quality or quantity of our performance, we are basing our salvation on our works, not on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Our standing with God produces good works, and not the other way around. When we deny salvation to those who have not performed a ceremony, or are not doing some list of required works to maintain their saved status, we have fallen from the gospel of grace.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2, 3 ESV)

But wait, those men in Luke 18 were under the old law and not under the new system. For one, are you saying that under the New Covenant it is more difficult to be saved? Well not to worry. In Luke 16:16 Jesus said that the law and the prophets were only in force until John the Baptist, but after that people could enter into the Kingdom of God. Yes, people were being saved when they believed on Jesus even during His earthly ministry.

So I would ask you to read the little story again and ask yourself this question in light of Romans 10:9-10 –
In the story above, which one went home justified before God?

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