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, and now I'm working my way through the New Testament. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage. I'm still writing, of course, and my written posts appear here.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Broken Flask, Mark 14:3

14:3 "And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,a as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she

broke the flask

and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denariib and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.

"She broke the flask."

This was probably her most prized possession--her "one special thing," that she had always kept for herself. Many sermons have been preached about her gift, but the thing that struck me as I read this was that she broke the flask. I asked myself "why was that mentioned? When I thought about it, it was obvious. Once the flask was broken, she couldn't go back. She had to lavish all of her most precious thing in this world, to literally "waste all of it" on Jesus. It was reckless. It was beautiful. That's the point. Sometimes, if you don't do it all, you won't do it at all. If you don't "break the flask" and dump the contents, you won't do anything. "Breaking the flask" was her way of forcing herself to give all of the best thing she had in this world to the Lord. He didn't order her to do it. She didn't have to. She did it because she cared for Him.

Let's be like her. No holding back. All for him.

"Joyful recklessness."

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Psalm 23: Transitions

Psalm 23 is full of transitions. We'll explore them today.
First things first, though. I know I've said this before, but this Psalm begins with David already saying, "The LORD is my Shepherd." The key to understanding this Psalm lies in the little word "is." This is the diary, so to speak of a converted man--one who already knows God and loves Him. It's incredibly important to know that this is a Psalm about relationship through life. It's about God and David, just as your own story should be about you and God.
Spiritual relationships have to be established. There is no such thing as an automatic relationship with God. You have to COME to the Lord, and ASK Him for His gift of salvation. When you do, you start a relationship that lasts forever, and that cannot end, because you already have eternal life:
Jesus said it this way (John 5:24)
"He who hears my word, and believes Him who sent me, HAS everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life. Your life with God begins here, but it never ends.

That is how David starts this Psalm, with the relationship already established, with himself and the Father already in an "I Thou" relationship. .We see this throughout the Psalms. David and God. God and David. Always. Forever. Now. God never leaves, and David is with Him.

So the first word we have from David is, "The LORD (Yahweh) is my Shepherd. I shall not want." This is the topic sentence of the Psalm, and David proceeds to demonstrate what he is saying by referring to what he's experienced, and then by telling us how the future will go for him. David was a prophet, so we trust his words, but it's clear from some of the Psalms he wrote that he suffers like the rest of us. He has enemies. He is persecuted. He has troubles and trials common to all of us, but he always comes through them, because God is with him, and he is with God.

First transition:

Ps 23:2: "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters." God provides food and drink. They never fail. Note that when difficult times come, David still has all the "good stuff" that's part of being one of God's children and having Him as Shepherd and Father. In other words, the things David mentions first are like the base of a pyramid, with everything else placed on top, so that the blessings he receives just keep piling up.

Second Transition:

Ps. 23:3 "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
This is a reference to the times we fail, and of course it's historical, because David had some spectacular fails in his life, many of them in 2 Samuel and related to his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah her husband.
When he went through this, David needed restoration and leadership. God was there. He didn't give up on David. Instead, He restored David's soul, and led him in the paths of righteousness. You and I often need the same. We mess up. We sin. We do horrible things. What then? Confession (Psalms 32, 51), and restoration (here). After we have done such evil, we not only need to be restored, we need to be led in the right paths. Our instincts are pretty much gone, and we have a tremendous amount of self-doubt. God takes pleasure in restoring us and leading us back into a righteous life. Even though you think this is impossible, He's right there, and He knows what to do with us, and if we work with Him, He never fails. confess and be freed, restored, and directed.

3rd Transition:

Psalm 23:4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
The lexicons suggest that the "proper" translation for this is "The Valley of Deep Shadow," but they miss the point, which is that sometimes you really are in darkness. It's shadow, but it's dark. That's one of life's transitions--the days when you don't know what's going to happen; you don't even know what IS happening, so the future looks bleak and even the present is a great unknown. What happens when you are in that valley is this: The Shepherd is with you.  He never leaves. He gives you strength even when you don't know how you're going to survive. Remember Job. Everything is going great, and then...disaster from all corners, and no way out. That's the "Valley of the Shadow of Death." it's a time of fear. It's a time of suffering. It's a time that seems like it has no end--but the Shepherd's there, if you look for Him.

Isaiah 50:10 refers to this time: "Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God." It sometimes takes a lot to trust in Him, and sometimes will be saying things like, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him," but when you seek Him, He appears and that rod and staff (protective and guiding) comfort you and keep you. I'm not saying it's easy. It's not. I've been there more than once, when it seemed so dark in front of me that I despaired of the future. Yet there He was. I just had to let Him show Himself to me. And he always was there. Always.

In fact, the darkness often gives way to the kind of blessing that David describes when he says,
23:5: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

Final Transition, 23:6:
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 

and

I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever." 

I separated these two clauses to show you what I believe is happening--that the final transition isn't a real one

We really make a big deal over death. It IS a big deal, if you're not a Christian. You die, and then the next thing on the agenda is judgment. No do-overs (see Hebrews 9:27). On the other hand, if you ARE a Christian, you go immediately into the Lord's presence; Paul, the most prolific of the New Testament writers, puts it like this: "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." That's right. The final transition is like shedding an uncomfortable shell, and becoming what you really are, a son/daughter of the living and true God.
David doesn't mention it. What he does is move from "surely goodness and mercy..." to "I shall dwell." It's not, "I shall die and go to heaven," but a sudden event. One nanosecond, you're alive. The next nanosecond, you're Home. That fast. So fast it's immeasurable in terms of time. It's like you don't feel the transition part. It's like closing your eyes on earth, and opening your eyes in the presence of the Lord.  That is true, of course, ONLY if you belong to the Lord (see above), and if you are not just pretending to be Christian. Can you see how important it is to be real? To follow the Lord? 

This is the greatest blessing of all, because to the Christian, death is not death. It's going Home. It's like you say, "Beam me up," and even before you know it, you're there. It's an event apart from time. 
Jesus actually said the same thing:

John 11:25-26: "He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
There is no promise like this. Eternal life. Now. Never die. Never. 

Yours if He's YOUR Shepherd.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Psalm 23--"Forever in the House of the LORD."

Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known Psalm of all. In its 6 verses, it encompasses all of the believer's life. Although it's in the Old Testament, New Testament doctrine shines through its words, and testifies to life with God to all of us who believe in the Bible as the Word of God. Today I want to share some insights on Psalm 23. Hope you enjoy:
First, the Psalm itself:

Psalms 23: The LORD, the Psalmist's Shepherd. A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 


1. The thought here is the same as John 10 (the whole chapter is full of blessing and power), but from the opposite perspective, where Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd:" David is looking up at the LORD; Jesus is looking at His sheep, because He is the Shepherd (Think about that. Jesus is declaring Himself to be the LORD of the sheep). He said, "I am the Good Shepherd." He is directing our thoughts to passages like this one, Psalm 23. 

2. Jesus ALSO said, (John 10:27-30): "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. "I and the Father are one." 
The punchline, of course, is that Jesus actually SAYS, I am The LORD, the Shepherd when He says, "I and the Father are One." The Jews understood this quite well. They "Picked up stones to stone Him." What this means to you is that when you read the 23rd Psalm, you can as well put Jesus Christ in the slot, "The LORD" as the Father. They are united. 

3. The entire Psalm is about His presence. He is THERE. He is never absent from your life once you turn to Him. You may not always feel Him, and you almost never see Him, but He really is right there. He is never absent. 
Later in the Scriptures, He says, Isaiah 43: 1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. These are the same ideas. God is WITH you. JESUS the LORD is with you. Therefore the corollary is also true. He is never NOT with you. He is always there.

4. The entire Psalm is also about His care. In every circumstance, the Living Lord, the God-Man who died to give you everlasting life, iis there, always caring, always watching, always guiding. That's why David could say: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want (lack)." He's there. He cares. He sees and knows every thing through which you go in this life, and He will be with you into the endless days of forever.

More to come later.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Major Announcement:

To everyone who reads this blog, or watches the videos I produce, effective immediately, I will no longer put my YouTube videos on this blog. I will instead write individual blog posts. I will, however, continue to make videos, which you can find announced elsewhere and posted on YouTube.

The reason is as follows: I understand that in many parts of the world, YouTube is blocked. That means whenever I post a blog presentation on YouTube, there are many people who are locked out. I did not fully understand this until today, so as of today, I'm splitting my ministry into two: written material and videos.  I will notify folks about both types of media--written and video,  on my facebook page (I'm registered there as stevencbradley), on Twitter (registered there as stevencbradley as well), and a couple other social media accounts. The purpose is to give everyone a chance to read what I speak and write.

For those who do watch the YouTube videos, I urge you to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you will know whenever they come out. I also post them on other social media, as I've indicated.
For those who cannot watch, but have the freedom to read my posts, I do not post political material on this blog, nor do I write anything that I believe is disloyal or problematic if you live in a country that has issues with political posts.

As you know, if you've followed this blog for any length of time, the purpose of the material I write and produce is to lift up Jesus Christ, His love, His grace, and your opportunity to live with Him forever and follow Him now. If the blog and video together will bless more of you, then I consider this a great decision.

Comments are welcome. In fact, comments are appreciated, since I'm taking this step without full knowledge of your circumstances.

God bless you all, and may He fill your life with His presence and love.