In Jesus’ Words: By what authority? (Matthew 21:23-27)

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The average church sermon is probably only remembered for about twenty minutes after it has ended, or until we get to lunch.  But the words of Jesus have been remembered and recited for over 2000 years after he spoke them.

Jesus only directly answered three of the 183 questions he was asked, according to gospel accounts.  Sometimes he would put the question back on the person and sometimes he stayed silent.

Jesus asked more questions than he answered.  His own questions were intentional, to make people think or challenge their view.  He often asked people what they wanted or what they believed.  “Who do you say I am?’’  “Who do you seek?’’  

Jesus may not have regularly answered their questions, but he always spoke right to their heart. He asked though he already knew their answer.  And when they doubted, he would simply say, “Come and see.”  Jesus’ logic could not be undone then, and it still stands today.

~ Matthew 21:23-27  Jesus’ Authority Questioned ~

When Jesus entered the temple complex, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” 

Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?”

They began to argue among themselves, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we’re afraid of the crowd, because everyone thought John was a prophet.”  So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

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In Jesus’ Words: fake faith (Matthew 21:18-22)

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Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God and not in God Himself.
– Muguel de Unamuno, Spanish philosopher

One morning while Jesus was traveling back to Jerusalem, He became hungry and searched a nearby fig tree for some fruit to eat.  The tree was full of shiny green leaves but had no fruit, and Jesus cursed the tree for being fruitless, or fake, and the tree withered.  Why such harsh actions?  Jesus had been dealing with the Jewish temple leaders and was disappointed to find them to be the same way.  They put on a show and talked about God but didn’t actually follow Him.  They boasted of a Messiah to come, but then didn’t acknowledge Him.  They believed only in the idea of God.  We must also be careful today that we do not fall into that same trap.

~ Matthew 21:18-22  The barren fig tree ~

Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

A friend once confessed to me, “I never talk bad about Jesus just in case he’s real.”  It was kind of a sad statement, and I wasn’t exactly sure where my friend stood with her faith. Though none of us are perfect in our faith, if we’re honest with ourselves, we should be able to self-examine our lives to know if we truly believe and follow Jesus, or if we just like the idea of it.  Don’t cheat yourself out of Jesus’ promises to you.  With true faith and honest prayer and Jesus by your side, you will receive many wonderful blessings.feet with waves cropped

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In Jesus’ Words: Children’s praise (Matthew 21:14-17)

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~ Matthew 21:14-17  Children’s praise in the temple ~

The blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple complex, and He healed them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that He did and the children shouting in the temple complex, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus told them. “Have you never read:

You have prepared praise
from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”

Then He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, he came to the temple.  It was His Father’s house and the place where Jesus showed His authority over His spiritual Kingdom. The temple was to be revered, a place of prayer, and a place of praise.  We too should want to go to our Father’s house.  It seems we’ve lost some of the specialness of such a place, but it is my hope that we will never forget and never take it for granted.  And all children should have the chance to experience the extraordinary grace and love that comes from knowing Jesus. In the middle of our political and selfish chaos of who is right and who is wrong, I hope each of us will continue to do the small things every day to show Jesus’ love, especially to the children.  His light will shine through.feet with waves cropped

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In Jesus’ Words: Anger (Matthew 21:12-13)

jesus_and_moneychangers~ Matthew 21:12-13  Cleansing the Temple ~

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!”

Until now in the gospel of Matthew, the disciple and author Matthew has shown us Jesus’ magnificent compassion for the people, his miracles and healing, and has given us his great Sermon on the Mount.  But now we come to a more serious Jesus.  He is angry at what is taking place in God’s temple.  The gospel of John also records another similar event in which Jesus “makes a whip out of cords” and uses it to drive out the money changers.  Can you imagine Jesus quietly but deliberately putting together a whip?  This passage brings up many things to think about – the reverence of God’s temple (church), the authority that Jesus showed in carrying out these things, and the thought of God being angry, as demonstrated through His Son Jesus.  I have chosen to discuss the latter one – God’s anger and what does it mean.

Though this was a small demonstration with Jesus, the idea of God’s anger or wrath is perplexing to many, and sometimes uncomfortable.  But if you read the accounts of evil that took place in the Old Testament, you may ask why God has not done more. The enemies of God during that time were so evil that we can barely imagine it today. They cut off their captives hands and feet, gouged their eyes, filleted them and skinned them alive, sacrificed their own children to the gods, and even cut off the heads of children and made their parents wear their children’s heads on a rope around their necks. Unbelievable evil. The prophet Habakuk gives us a glimpse of this in his prayer in Habakuk chapter 1.

Why do You force me to look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Oppression and violence are right in front of me.
Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil,
and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

The prophet Nahum also sums it up nicely: “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power.” (Nahum 1:3)

First, we must recognize there is a higher power that created us and we are not of our own to do just anything we please in this world.  Ironically, as much as we might like to think we have control of our own destiny, there is so much more out of our control in this world – sickness, death, injustice.

Secondly, God hates evil and the effect it has had on his beloved creation. Evil (or sin) cannot dwell with God.  It is not who He is.  Otherwise God would be less holy and less trustworthy.

Third, God’s Old Testament wrath or anger is meant as a warning to keep us from falling into a deceitful trap which God knows is not the best for us.

Finally, through these warnings, God is drawing us to Jesus so that we may recognize our need for repentance and a Savior, and not have to experience God’s future judgment on sin and evil. This is why the birth of Jesus was such a celebrated celestial event! God’s promise to the world had finally come. Jesus changed the world. We no longer live in Old Testament times. God’s wrath and anger on evil was directed to the cross, where Jesus took our punishment. God wants to redeem us, to forgive us, and to bring us close to Him. But we cannot do that on our own. It is not a system of tallying up our rights and wrongs, or making sure we never make a mistake. That really would be a terrifying and unfair way to live. But instead God has given us a Savior who can fight the evil for us and fight our battles. With Jesus by our side, we never have to be afraid of anything in this world or the next. We are sealed with God forever. We are forgiven no matter what – past, present and future.

While it may seem scary or uncomfortable to think about hell and therefore how we can avoid it, it is much scarier to not think about it at all and leave our lives up to chance.

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In Jesus Words: Who is this? (Matthew 20:29-21:10)

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So many times in this life we want to be right more than anything else. We know best. We want to prove our point is the correct one. (the prideful righteous)

or

Too often we get caught up in dwelling on our past mistakes. We failed. We’ll never be good enough so why try. (the unredeemable sinner)

Neither of these positions is how Jesus wants us to be.

It can be hard to change our habits sometimes based on how we grew up. Some of us grew up in the church. Others of us far from it. The basics of Christianity do not change either way – we must be repentful and believe in Jesus as the one God sent as the Savior for our sins. But other than that, our life and purpose on this earth has more to do with our relationship with others, showing God’s love, and forgiving others. It is in those things that we are most like Jesus, the one we follow and believe.

The problem with the first position (the prideful righteous) is that we put “our” being right above the relationship with others. We might think we’re helping, but we fail to trust God in His ultimate plan, timing and direction. And if we choose not to fully forgive someone in the process of being right (not just forgive on the surface but also in our hearts and actions), then anger and bitterness can spread to others like a wildfire out of control. Our kids see it, other family members are affected, and on and on.

The problem with the second position (the unredeemable sinner) is that we are not fully believing in who God really is. God does not condemn us the way society does. God is ready to offer mercy and grace to anyone who asks for it in their heart. Anyone. No matter what. Good or Bad. “Whosoever believes.” It seems ultimately fair, and yet a little unfair when viewed through the eyes of our world. We think those of us that are “good” have a better standing with God. After all, we’ve tried all our life. We resisted sin. Well, at least the big ones anyway.  But God is fair to all.  Anyone can be saved.  We are all equally valuable and wonderfully made by God.

~ Matthew 20:29-21:10  Who is Jesus ~

Two blind men were sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd told them to keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  “Lord,” they said to Him, “open our eyes!” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him.

Jesus came into Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two disciples telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.
Shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One!
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”

The chief priests and Pharisees asked the temple police, “Why haven’t you brought Him?” The police answered, “No man ever spoke like this!” – (John 7:45-46)

Jesus upset both positions – the righteous and the sinner.  Jesus changes lives.  The crowds may say keep quiet, stay in your place, but Jesus says differently.  Let Jesus take the burden and then let Him work out the rest.  All He asks you in return is to have faith in Him to works things out, to love others and to forgive.  Oh, and don’t forget to forgive yourself too – Jesus already has.feet with waves cropped

 

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31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 31 – a Kingdom with no end

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He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the oppressed, a friend to sinners, the light of the world, conquered death and was resurrected, he was loved, he was hated, he is the image of the invisible God.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy. He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:5-6

Baby Jesus grew up. But his story does not end after the Christmas season is over.  It is only beginning, and his Kingdom has no end.

 

The Gospel of John was written by John, a fisherman and personal friend and disciple of Jesus.  John was part of Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James and John.  He witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ, was there during the Crucifixion, and Jesus asked him to take care of his mother Mary when Jesus was being crucified.  John was the first disciple to recognize Jesus after His Resurrection, and he went on to live a zealous life and death for the sake of Christ.  He was put into boiling oil and tortured, but when that couldn’t kill him, he was exiled to the Greek island of Pathmos.  John had a deep personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and it shows in his writings.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Indeed, we have all received grace after grace
from His fullness
for the law was given through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ – John 1:14, 17

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.”
– Jesus, John 14:1-4

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 
– Jesus, John 14:6

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
– Jesus, John 10:10

From Genesis 3:15 when God first promised us a Savior, to the most famous verse of the Bible found in John 3:16, God tells us that the Savior has come!

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

A New Year – a New Hope.  It is easy sometimes to dwell on our past and look back on our mistakes, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God immediately wipes away our past and welcomes us with the righteousness of His Son Jesus.  God hates the evil that tries to destroy this world and keep us away from Him, but God loves us even more and is willing to forgive us for any wrongdoing if only we ask and turn our heart towards him.  Jesus’ life on earth shows us that His grace is not determined by how good or knowledgeable we are, who we are or where we happened to be born, but it is all because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us.  Through our faith, we can have assurance that we will someday be in heaven with Jesus and His kingdom that has no end.

 May you have a blessed year getting to know Jesus as your Savior and personal friend.
God’s mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23)

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31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 30 – Three prophecies complete the birth story of the Messiah

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The Wise Men finished worshiping the child Jesus and departed for home, being warned in a dream not to return by way of King Herod.  Joseph was also told by an angel of the Lord to take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt by night, because Herod wanted to destroy the child Jesus.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Hosea), saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” – Matthew 2:15

When Herod found out that he had been deceived by the Wise Men, he was very angry and put to death all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two, trying to kill the one who was Jesus.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.” Matthew 2:17-18

When Herod was dead, the angel appeared again to Joseph and told him to take the Child and his mother to the land of Israel.  And also being warned by God not to return to Judea where Herod’s son was reigning, Joseph and his family went to the region of Galilee, to the city of Nazareth.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23

Nazareth was considered a lowly area with not much of a reputation. While there are no written prophecies about Jesus becoming a Nazarene, it was most likely meant as a description for someone who would be despised.  The prophecies in Psalms and Isaiah describe this:

Psalm 22:6-8
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Isaiah 53:3
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

I pray that your new year will be filled with the hope of Jesus!  No matter what your situation, Jesus understands.  He has been there, as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He can help you overcome!

* Happy New Year *

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