Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Seasons of Life--and other seasons

In Matthew 16:1-4,, the Pharisees and Sadducees (the two religious/legal groups in Palestine of Jesus' day), ask Jesus for a sign.
His response:

  • Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.  2 He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; 3 and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed. 
The point is that the people of the day were sort of their own "weathermen:" they gleaned information from what was going on in the sky, and drew conclusions from it.

Jesus implies that it's possible to do that with God's work, as well, especially when something momentous is going on, and He rebukes these men for refusing to think about what's happening in their world.

When He says, "You cannot discern the signs of the times," His meaning is that they are actually unable to do so, because of their spiritual blindness, so they continue to live under the illusions they've held for so long. 

This brings up a question which I ask myself frequently:  What can I do about my own spiritual blindness?? How can I see the "Signs of the times," and react accordingly? It seems to me that the answer is recorded in Matthew and the other Gospels.  Here's the passage from Matthew (13:15):
  • For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
Note what Matthew says (quoting Isaiah): "They have closed their eyes."  In other words, there is nobody so blind as the one who will not see.
Therefore, applying this to myself, I must always strive to maintain an open set of eyes, and actually SEE what's happening, rather than running it through my personal filter and then discounting it because it doesn't fit my prejudices.  
The Pharisees and Sadducees made the decision NOT TO OPEN THEIR EYES.  God calls me to keep my eyes open, my mind alert, and to always be ready to see what He's doing.  That doesn't mean, of course, that I oughtn't to evaluate things and use my Bible knowledge and reason.  It DOES mean that when something is as manifestly true as Jesus' ministry, I must look carefully at it and see what it is--as one of the more astute Pharisees said, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" (John 7:50).

What is God doing in YOUR world that you won't accept as from Him?


Thursday, May 28, 2015

We would take an offering...

It occurred to me, when I was reading the passage below, that this is very much like a situation I've seen before:

From Matthew 15:
32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."
33 Then His disciples said to Him, "Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?"
34 Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few little fish."
35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.
37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.
38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

And now the "modern version:"
It's a retreat! We have a three day mini retreat, complete with miracles and preaching, from the Messiah Himself.  These are the kinds of events for which one PAYS, and then sometime in the middle, an offering is taken for the "needs of the ministry." Of course, there is nothing wrong with supporting ministers, so let me get that out of the way now.
The point is, though, that Jesus "had compassion on the crowds," and saw that they needed His help. So often it's the opposite.  "Help ME," the "minister" says.  "Give to MY ministry." If you give to my ministry, I'll be able to do more for all the people I help.
And of course, the folks who are giving the money must have the secret thought, "But what about me?" My family is breaking up, my job is gone, and I have so little...Oh, well, the ministry needs it." And so they go further "into the wilderness with nothing to eat," waiting for the "ministry" to help them. 
To quote James, "My brethren, these things ought not so to be."
Here are the ways that Jesus' ministry differed from what "ministers" often do today:
1.  He "had compassion on the crowds." He actually SAW their needs.  In this case, they were hungry.
2. He (unlike us) could work miracles--which is a good thing, because he had no money to buy food for anyone, let alone a crowd composed of 4,000 men, plus women and children.
3. Instead of ASKING the crowd, He GAVE to the crowd.
This is what defines ministry.  GIVING rather than asking.  You'll notice, of course, that the gift was just what they needed for right then, and not a winning lottery ticket for each--just enough, not too much, so that they could get back to where they needed to go when He left.
So, if you are IN the ministry (aren't we all, if we are Christians), let's examine what we do with people.  
Do we ASK from them, televangelist style? Or do we GIVE to them, Jesus-style?  I know that Jesus Himself thought that this defined ministry.  He says so:
Mark 10:45: "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
So who are you?  A minister, or a taker?
And of course, I am asking myself the same question at this very moment. 
What God says to you, He says to me as well.  
I hope you have a good day, and think of ways to GIVE.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Friendship.

From Matthew 15:
29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Most of the people listed above simply couldn't get to Him on their own.  They were crippled, and couldn't walk; they were blind, and couldn't find Him; they were lame, and couldn't make the journey; they were unable to talk, and couldn't ask directions; they were deaf, and couldn't hear where He was.

So friends brought them.  Healthy friends, friends who had sympathy and concern for the plight of the sick and suffering.

In a very real sense, this is a parable for today.  Many people--many! either cannot get to the Lord, or cannot find Him, or don't even know He's there.  You and I--the healthy--are called to bring them to Him, whether for mental healing, physical healing, or spiritual healing.  It's not "our job," it's just what friends do when they see people suffering from awful illnesses and problems.  If we look at the ministries God has given us as "ours," so that we gloat in our own selection for these ministries, or if we look at them as our "job," we really mistake a large part of what being Christian is; it's me, and you being a friend, and bringing people to the Lord, who can help them.  This is not to say that friendship is entirely contained in bringing people to Him, since elsewhere we are all commanded to show kindness and give to people who need our help. Friends help their friends, and friendship is defined by deeds as well as words.
When you bring someone to the Lord, and lay them at His feet because you can do nothing more for them to help them, you do well indeed.  In fact, when you bring someone to the Lord, you do the ONE thing for them that they need most--you introduce them to Him, the source of all help.
Someone once said that true Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where the food is. So it is with us.  We are like the crippled, lame, blind, deaf, and mute, and all our spiritual health comes from Him.  The difference between us and them is just this: we found Him already.
Be a friend.  Help someone. Bring them to the Lord.