The Mobile Classroom

Life presents many opportunities for us to grow in our spiritual walk.  Many times we miss these learning experiences because of our preoccupation with self-appointed priorities.  We may also miss these teaching invitations due to our religious baggage.  Jesus used many daily occurrences to instruct His followers.  One of the difficulties that He faced was correcting their misunderstanding of the Truth.   Today, for the Truth to be accepted by the spirit of man, it has to break through human misconceptions and doctrines.

Sharing with other Believers has been a very difficult road for me.  Whenever I say anything that might challenge another’s theology, their defense barrier goes up and their attentiveness diminishes.  I desire to share with others what I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me, but some will not accept anything that steps over their spiritual border.  Over the years, I have had Scripture expose the errors of my preconceived beliefs and teachings, and, as a result, I have fallen to my knees in submission to the Truth.  I have asked forgiveness for wrong interpretations, and have sought opportunities to rectify my erroneous teaching.  As I see my sunset approaching, I want more than ever to press toward the Truth.  I urge every Believer to reaffirm your faith in God’s Word, and to open your hearts and minds to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Too many are coasting in the knowledge they have acquired through the years.  It is time to reawaken that hunger for the Word of God!

Jesus conducted mobile classrooms on many occasions.  As they would be walking, Jesus would see an opportunity to bring an illustrated teaching to His Apostles.  On one particular day, His students took notice of a blind man sitting by the side of the road, and asked Jesus whether his own sin or the sin of his parents had caused this man to be blind. (John 9:2)  The Jewish people had been taught through the Law that physical calamity was basically a result of sin.  There seems to be a carryover to some groups of Christians today that believe sin and sickness are related.  (There are certain cases where sin and sickness are enjoined, but not all sickness is related to personal or family sin.)  Jesus simply told them that it is not a question of why, but rather, how the opportunity presented itself to bring glory to God.  (John 9:3)  Why are we so interested in wondering the why of something, rather than the answer to the problem?  When will we start focusing on bringing relief, instead of trying to find the reason for the flaw?  If we take the latter approach, we could open the door to judging someone.  Later on, there may be an opportunity to share what might have caused their negative situation, but it must never precede the restoration!

Jesus tells His men that together they are to carry on the ministry that God had given to Him: to “work the works” of God. (John 9:4 NAS)  Jesus and His Apostles were to reach out together to bring glory to God.  I wonder how many Believers today are pursuing a self-initiated ministry.  The only way Christians will have a successful outreach is if Jesus is in them and working with and through them.  Many churches offer countless programs with the hope of drawing more people to their fellowships.  These endeavors might cause a momentary jump in attendance, but in the long run they fail to achieve a long standing difference.  Jesus with His followers is the combination that will cause both numerical and spiritual growth.  Jesus pointed out to His Apostles that time was of the essence.  He was the light, but that light would briefly go out.  When God forsook His Son on the Cross, darkness filled the land. (Mark 15:33)  No one would work the works of God.  Some of the Apostles even went back to fishing.  When Jesus rose again, He announced that the Kingdom work would begin again.  For the next forty days, He would conduct an advanced course on ministry. (Acts 1:3)  He then commissioned them to begin fulfilling the works of God once again.  But Jesus told them not to begin until they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8)  He had also assured them that He would be with them forever. (Matthew 28:18-20)  Approximately ten days later, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and the working for the Kingdom resumed in power.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

 

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On the Road with Jesus

Jesus did a lot of walking during His ministry.  On this particular occasion, Jesus and His entourage were heading to Jerusalem where He would shortly offer the greatest sacrifice the world would ever know.  There, in the capital city of Judaism, he would be betrayed by one of His chosen followers.  He would be tried in a “kangaroo” court and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

On the road with Him are not only the Apostles, but a number of women and other followers.  Mark tells us that Jesus seems to separate Himself from the group and walk alone.  This is a very different behavior for Jesus and it causes amazement, and even some fear, in the group.  Finally, Jesus stops and takes the Apostles aside and informs them of what will transpire in the days ahead.  Sharing about His impending crucifixion, He also tells them that He will rise again! (Mark 10:32-34)  Almost immediately, Jesus is approached by the mother of James and John, as well as the brothers themselves.  Kneeling before Jesus, she asks if He would grant her a favor, upon which Jesus says, “What do you wish?”  Boldly, she asks that her sons could sit on His right and left side when He establishes His Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20, 21)  The brothers’ mother, along with several women, had accompanied Jesus and His Apostles on many of His “crusades.” (Mark 15:41)  Maybe she feels she has earned enough attention that Jesus will grant her request.  Jesus’ response is that she does not know what she is asking.  She is seeking personal gain and elevated representation for her sons.  Jesus must be surprised and even disappointed with what she is asking, for His life has been a life of service, not a life of positional authority.

How many of us today center our petitions around ourselves?  We seek personal blessings instead of opportunities to bless others.  We desire personal edification instead of edifying others.  We seek financial relief as a result of our careless spending instead of financial growth in order to bless others.  I wonder how many of our petitional requests would warrant the same response that the mother of James and John received.

The request that was made to Jesus was based on the Jews belief that Jesus would reestablish the Jewish Kingdom under His authority and rule.  They believed that once again the Jewish people would be restored to prominence and respect.  I believe one of the motives behind Judas’s betrayal was to force Jesus to implement His Kingdom.  This mother was requesting that her two sons would be co-rulers with Jesus.  What Jesus was saying to her was that she did not under-stand what His ministry was all about.  Today, we too, misunderstand Scripture, take things out of context, and base our beliefs on those misinterpretations.

Jesus looked past the mother and asked the two brothers if they were able to drink the “cup” that He would shortly take and able to submerse themselves in the sufferings He would experience.  They responded with confidence that they were able to do so.  Jesus affirmed their resolve and told them that was exactly what they would do.  Are we willing to follow Jesus no matter what it takes?  I am sure we will verbally proclaim our allegiance, but are we willing to take up our cross and follow Him no matter the cost?

When the other Apostles heard what James and John had requested, they became indignant with them.  Jesus, sensing the disharmony, shared that rulers will lord it over their people, but that is not what His followers were to do.  If they wanted to be great in the Kingdom, they would have to become servants.  Today, we have so many positional Believers and so few servants.  We must stop looking at what the Church can do for me; but being the Church, let us learn what we can do to serve others!  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

(Ref: Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:32-42)

 

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A LOOK AT THE RICH YOUNG RULER

A ruler came to Jesus one day and inquired how he could have eternal life.  He was rich and probably had no want for materialistic things, yet there was something missing in his life.  (Today, it seems we have reversed the requests from spiritual matters to desiring how we can attain riches.)  When the ruler came to Jesus, it was as if he was coming to a teacher of the Law, or to one with respected religious knowledge.  He expected to hear things he needed to do to achieve eternal life.  Staying with the Jewish tradition of works as the doorway to eternal life, he was ready to hear what he was supposed to do.  Jesus responded on the level that the ruler was operating on, and told him to keep the commandments.  The young man wanted specifics so he asked Jesus, “Which ones?” Jesus then shared six of the Ten Commandments.  The six He shared were requirements of works.  The ruler claimed he had done all of those since his youth, so what was missing?  Jesus told him to sell what he had and give the proceeds to the poor and by doing that he would have Heavenly wealth.  Jesus was implying that when he would part with his materialistic goods, he would have to trust and have faith in Him to supply his needs. (We still have not learned that lesson today.)

If the young ruler was really serious he would “come and follow” Him.  The ruler rejected what Jesus told him because he had too many possessions. (Matthew 19:16 -22)  The young man was unable to see that it would not be by works that eternal life is achieved, but by a “new and living way” which Jesus would offer through faith.

Today, people are confusing works and faith as a prerequisite to obtaining eternal life.  Some believe that displaying attributes of compassion and doing to others as they would want done to them evidences spiritual character and, as a result, eternal life awaits them.  Some believe that if they don’t smoke, chew, drink, or swear, and do go to church regularly that they have their ticket already punched for Heaven.  I met a young man who believed that attending mass regularly was all that God required of him.  I asked him what would happen if he didn’t go regularly, and without blinking he stated he would not go to Heaven.  Obviously, that is an extreme belief, but it centers on misconceptions of what constitutes eternal life.  Going to church regularly, reading the Bible, helping one another, being generous, not gossiping, and just being a well rounded individual does not guarantee eternal life.  What these things do is to help us have an abundant and full life, but they are not the determining factors in whether or not we will have eternal life!

Jesus was showing the young ruler that works would not bring him to the reality of eternal life.     Once we understand faith, we will exhibit it through our works.  Living by faith identifies the Grace of God.   Eternal Life is offered through the shed blood of Jesus.  It is exciting to know that by our acceptance of Him, we have an eternal place when our heart stops beating.  Until that time, let us enjoy the life that God has set before us.  By our works our faith is evidenced.

When the Apostles saw the rich ruler walk away broken hearted, they became confused as to who could have eternal life.  They believed works was what opened the gates to Heaven, and if a rich man could not make it, who could?  Jesus simply stated that it all rested with God.

Let us understand that works does not produce faith; rather, faith produces works.  The Jewish people believed works was the way to Heaven, but Jesus came to change their thinking.  He was exchanging the old wine skins for the new.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

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Dealing with Offenses

Every person has been offended sometime or other in their life.  It may have been verbally, mentally, or even a physical incident.  How we responded to those offenses is a good barometer of our spiritual maturity.  Some of the offenses may have been relayed to us by second and third parties.  For example, someone may tell (gossip) us what somebody else said about us.  Sadly, sometimes we interpret what the messenger says as factual.  We then begin to build up a case for rebuttal or even plan out an opportunity to reciprocate.  The 70 times 7 rule (Matthew 18:22) is not applied due to what some believe is their obligation to give a rebuttal response.  The “cheek turning” maneuver (Matthew 5:39) is rationalized away by claiming the other cheek will be exposed to more ridicule.  It is only after their response has been administered that Christians settle back into spiritual complacency, but it does not end there.  Sadly, some Christians file all offenses leveled against them in their memory bank.  Periodically, their accounts are opened to remind them of past hurts.  Some memories are so active that, even though an offense was experienced many years ago, every minute detail can still be remembered.  Why is it that some Believers seem to have a more active memory bank than those who are not Believers?  How do we handle direct one-on-one confrontation?  Instead of second and third parties becoming involved, we should come face to face with the offender.  Many times we falsely interpret the words as offensive due to our inconsistent spiritual walk.  Sometimes in our daily routine, things are not going the way we would like and, as a result, our radar is in search of someone or something to draw attention off of ourselves.

How should we deal with offenses in our lives?  The Bible makes it clear that if someone, particularly a fellow Believer, has offended us we have an obligation to address the offender in person.  The Greek word for offend may also be interpreted sin.  On the road to Damascus, Paul was confronted by Jesus and asked a simple question, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4)  Paul felt he was serving God by arresting and charging heretical followers of a false religion.  Jesus was simply telling him that he was, in effect, persecuting Him.  Whenever we release negative charges against our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are actually doing it as onto the Lord!  Simply put, when we initiate or pass on unsubstantiated remarks against someone, we are sinning!  If we are on the other side of verbal innuendoes, we are to go to the offender and work to alleviate the flawed rhetoric.  If there is no reconciliation, the offended should take two or three people with him to try and resolve the conflict.  If that does not work, the next step is to bring the individual to the body of Believers (church) and hope for restoration.  If that fails, fellowship is broken. (Matthew 18:15-17)

The problem is that some Believers choose to follow a different course of action when it comes to being offended.  Too often these approaches only exasperate the situation.  Ignoring offenses only causes the “seed of hurt” to fester in our minds.  Eventually, the offense will reappear from the storage barn of the mind.  Satan loves to bring up past hurts, and by our not dealing Biblically with those acquisitions, he will continue to water the seed of offense until it becomes a stumbling block to spiritual progress.

Whenever we sin, the Holy Spirit is there to question our action.  It is very difficult for a Believer to offend Jesus by words and deeds and not be confronted by the workings of the Trinity.  God will not let us violate His Word without challenging our behavior.  Jesus will remind us through the Word that He is always cognizant of our behavior.  The Holy Spirit will continue to convict us of carnal behavior.  Every Believer needs to forgive those who offend them, and that is accomplished through offered reconciliation.  Jesus forgives our offenses and expects us to forgive our offenders.  When we are offended, let us seek communication with the offender, with the attitude of forgiveness.  It is hard to forgive, but even harder to harbor resentment and bitterness.

 

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A Different View of Peter

 

 

The Apostle Peter was the “alpha male” in the Divine appointed position of Jesus’ inner circle.  Time and time again Peter would put his foot in his mouth with initiatives and responses to appropriate and inappropriate situations.  For some reason he was always ready to give his opinion or observation to whatever presented itself.  It did not matter what someone said or the circumstances, for he was always ready to give his editorial.  Today, the scale of human interaction leans to displays of opinions on almost every subject.  Everyone has an opinion about something, no matter if they understand what they are responding to or not.  Why do we feel we always have to promote our viewpoints?  Don’t get me wrong, for there is a danger of not speaking when the need arises.  What I am saying is that the world does not go around us, and sometimes the best thing to do is be a good listener.

As one studies the Gospels, one cannot miss the self-centered Peter.  One day, after Jesus had used Peter’s boat to minister to the people on shore, He told Peter to head out to sea and let down his nets for a great catch.  Peter told Him that they had fished all night and had caught nothing, but he acquiesced and said he would go out and let down “a” net. (Luke 5:4, 5)  Peter was responding, but on his own terms.  Instead of letting down all his nets, he would only put down one.  I wonder how many Believers adjust their submission to qualified obedience.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, when he saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus, Peter blurted out that it was good for the disciples to be there and what they needed to do was make three tents (tabernacles) in honor of those three.  Peter felt he had to say something, even though it made no sense. (Mark 9:5, 6)

One day, Jesus began to share with His men that His life would end, but that He would rise again on the third day.  Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him, telling Him it was not going to happen. (Matthew 16:21, 22)  Later, Peter would confront Jesus with his fellow Apostles seeking to know what they would expect to get from Him for their time of service. (Matthew 19:27)  It was in the Upper Room, after the last supper, that Jesus knelt down to wash the feet of His chosen.  Peter questioned whether He was going to wash his feet, and when Jesus implied He was Peter once again challenged Jesus’ authority by telling Him that he would not allow it. ((John 13:5-8)

It was during a storm on the Sea of Galilee that the Apostles, many of whom were professional fishermen, literally feared for their lives.  It is interesting to note that Jesus had told them to row over to the other side of the sea, not to go down to the bottom of the sea!  Suddenly, appears Jesus walking on the water.  The Apostles think they are seeing a ghost and cry out in fear.  Jesus calls out and tells them it is Him and not to be afraid.  Alpha male Peter then yells out that if it is really Him command him to come out to Him.  Here again, Peter feels he has to say something, even though it makes no sense. (Matthew 14:26-28)  Suppose it was an evil spirit and it told Peter to get out of the boat and come, what would have happened to Peter?  When Jesus told him to come, I wonder what his initial response was.  Did he hesitate, wondering if this was a wise thing to do?  Peter walks on the water for a few steps and then starts to drown.  He cries out and Jesus catches him.  Jesus then asked him why he doubted.  After the resurrection, Jesus tells Peter to follow Him, upon which Peter points to John and asks Jesus, “What shall this man do?” (John 21:21)

What do we learn from these selected accounts from Peter’s life?  We need to meditate on these incidences and see what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us.  The lesson from Peter’s “foot boarding” incident is to stop being tossed about with everyday problems, and start walking over those problems while keeping your eyes on Jesus.  Stop looking at the problem and start “being of good cheer” for Jesus is in control!  Happy studying!

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DO YOU REALLY KNOW HIM?

Do you know Him?  I am not asking if you are a member of a certain church, for when you accepted Christ as your Savior you automatically became a member of The Church.  I am not asking if you read your Bible or pray daily.  What I am asking is do you really know Whom you are reading about and to Whom you are petitioning and making requests?  I believe we are so hung up with blessings that we fail to know the Blessed One.  We examine the Scriptures in search of something that will elevate ourselves to the point of human contentment.  Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ arrogance by exposing their flawed knowledge of the Scripture.  They were claiming to know Scripture, but their understanding fell short. (John 5:38, 39)

Instead of “deep word diving” in search of the benefits of Kingdom citizenship, let us pursue a relationship with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Many seek healing, financial deliverance, and materialistic prosperity in lieu of fellowship with their Creator.  Positional rank seems to be a desire that many pursue in order to exhibit their spirituality.  You may be a board member, worship leader (?), teacher, or even a pastor, but the real question is do you know Him?  On one of Jesus’ last trips to Jerusalem, He looked out over the city and said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NKJV)  I believe God wants the same relationship with His people today, but Believers are so wrapped up in religion that they fail to respond to His invitation.  Do you know Him?  We rejoice over our forgiveness, but lack relationship with our Forgiver.  We rejoice over our redemption, but lack true relationship with our Redeemer.

There are religious tools that are promoted to help those increase their spiritual repertoire, but there are so few publications on how to establish a personal relationship with God.  Books and recordings produce millions of dollars of profit to the agents of monetary growth who are more interested in popular acceptance than in Biblical truth.  Many pursue their faith in quest of personal edification, rather than pursuing “less of me and more of Him.”  Do you know Him?

When we set our desires on Him instead of ourselves, we will grow into the likeness of Him, rather than a “new creation” fashioned after self-centeredness.  It is not a question of what I can get out of the Kingdom of God, but rather how can I contribute to the Kingdom?  It is not how much money I can reap by my financial sowing, but how much can I give so others can reap the benefits.  Do you know Him?  When is the last time we just worshiped God?  When is the last time we laid aside our personal prayer requests and just “set your (our) affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)  Let me paraphrase, “Let us set our desires on Him and not on our own wants.”

Some of the greatest times on my spiritual journey have been the times I just reflected on God and His love for me.  The more time we spend in fellowship with Him, the more we will understand what Jesus meant when He said He came that we might have an abundant life. (John 10:10)  Do we really know Him or do we just have knowledge of who He is?

Let us put aside our religious rhetoric and learn to fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  Let us appreciate Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Let us learn what walking with God is all about.  When we do, our spirits will transcend our minds and will bring spiritual satisfaction as never before.  Do you know Him?

 

 

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A Different Look at Parables

What is the purpose of a Parable?  Is it to illustrate a teaching so as to bring understanding to the recipient or is it to hide its true meaning?  Debate on this subject has covered decades of speculation.  Foregoing personal definitions and scholarly responses, and going directly to the Bible would seem to bring a coherent understanding of the purpose of Parables.  One would think that reading Jesus’ teaching on the subject would put to rest any uncertainty as to the objective of Parables.  Yet, when Jesus explains the use of a Parable, one cannot help but display an uncertainty of understanding.  Reading Matthew’s account of the exchange between Jesus and His Apostles on this subject will cause one to go in search of understanding through commentaries, books, and recordings.  Jesus stated directly that He speaks to the Jewish people in parables because “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)  If Jesus would have stopped with that explanation there would have been no uncertainty as to the purpose of Parables.  Instead, Jesus proceeded to quote Isaiah 6: 9, 10 and to state that Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled through His ministry!  To put things into perspective one needs to understand what Isaiah chapter six is all about.

The Jewish people were in rebellion against God.  It got so bad that God used heathen nations to ravish Jerusalem.  The Truth that God had brought to His people from generation to generation was to be withheld from them until their judgment was fulfilled.  God told Isaiah to hide the Truth from them, to make “their ears heavy, and shut their eyes,” and keep their hearts from understanding.  If the Truth would be brought with understanding they might return to God and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10)  God would grant understanding, but not until their chastisement for disobedience was completed.

Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it (Matthew 5:17) Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel to restore them to the Father. (Matthew 15:24)  For generations the Jewish people failed to hear and see the Truth.  Their heart was void of true understanding, but when Jesus came, He came as a liberator, setting people free as their hearts grasped the real Truth.  To bring them to understanding He used Parables to help them to grasp the “new wine.” He was fulfilling Psalm 78:2 which stated, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:35)

Jesus told the Apostles that they did not need Parables because their ears and eyes were open to the Truth.  He told them that the prophets and righteous men desired to see what they were seeing, but failed to achieve its reality. (Matthew 13:16, 17)  Sadly there were times the Apostles failed to understand simple illustrations and were questioned by Jesus for their inconsistencies. (Mark 4:13).  In fact, Jesus would use Parables as teaching tools for the Apostles because they would not appropriate the Revelations that were available to them.  It was not until the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry that the Apostles finely began to fully understand Jesus’ teachings.  They told Jesus they did not need to have Him speak in Parables any more, for they were hearing His teachings “plainly.” (John 16:29)  They told Jesus, “Now, we are sure that you know all things….we believe that you came forth from God.” (John 16:30)

Maybe what we need in the Church today is more Parables, for it seems that the average Believer is not grasping the Revelations that the Holy Spirit is giving to those that have “ears to hear.”  Much of the teachings today are keyed to those on the “stony places” who have no “root in themselves.” (Matthew 13: 20, 21)  Parable teaching is the only approach to “selective” hearers, for until they are willing to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit, they will not be able to comprehend the intended purpose of God’s Word.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

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THE HIGH CALLING

 

The choosing of the twelve Apostles was not done through random selection or a lottery system, but by Divine initiative.  During a night of prayer and supplication Jesus would receive the names of the twelve finalists who would serve as Apostles. (Luke 6:12-16, John 17:6)  For the next three years, Jesus would tutor His ministerial successors.  As one reads the Gospels, the awareness of their training becomes self-evident.  Some Believers make the mistake of adopting the instructions to the Apostles.  The result of aligning themselves with apostolic teaching puts greater pressure on performing and experiencing Biblical obedience.  Failure to implement those instructions could result in discouragement.  The hardest part of Jesus’ ministry was not trying to convert the religious authorities, but to change the mindset of the Apostles.  Today, the same challenge is still prevalent.  How to get new converts to see things from a spiritual point of view, instead of by their carnal minds, is a daunting task.  Jesus likened it as sewing a new piece of cloth into an older garment; it simply would not hold. (Matthew 9:16)

When Jesus sent out the Apostles for the first time, there were serious challenges and directions given.  They were not to go to the Gentiles or into the city of the Samaritans.  Their ministry was to the “lost sheep” of Israel.  They were to seek out those who were “worthy” [deserving; serious].  If their message was not received, they were to shake off the dust from their feet and walk away.  There are some today that want nothing to do with the Gospel, yet are willing to engage in meaningless rhetoric.  To engage in spiritual dialogue with an “unworthy” [not serious or deserving] individual is to be drawn into discouragement.  Jesus told the Apostles that they would be as sheep in the midst of wolves; as a result, they were to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  They would be delivered up to authorities and experience false charges.  They were not to worry as the Holy Spirit would speak through them.  They would experience families divided against one another, and it would become obvious that these divisions were caused by the Truth they were responsible to bring.  He assured them that God would oversee their ministry.  He told them that as they continually confessed Him before men, He would confess them before God.  He pointed out that the only fear they should ever have is of God who is able to destroy soul and body in Hell.  (Note: The Apostles were not to seek honorariums for their service.  See Matthew 18:8b)

When Jesus appointed the twelve Apostles, He continually emphasized the degree of commitment that was to be required of them.  The greatest commandments in the Bible are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, AND our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:33)  It is upon these actions of faith that the Apostles’ ministry was built.  Jesus stated clearly that their calling was to be a total commitment to Him.  If they would love their fathers or mothers, sons or daughters more them Him, they were not worthy of Him.  If they were not willing to take up their cross and follow Him, they were not worthy of Him.  The Apostles were to function with such zeal that whoever received them, would actually be receiving Jesus; and if they received Jesus, they would also receive God who sent Him. (Matthew 10:5-40)  What a responsibility the Apostles had!

For those who want to enter the ministry, there must first be a calling.  One does not choose to be a pastor/teacher, but is chosen by God to assume that position.  Going to seminary or applying for a mail-order certificate does not validate Christian service.  Deciding to lead a group of people does not constitute a church.  There is no “grandfathering” into the ministry just because one’s father was a pastor.  When one receives a “calling,” there is a complete sold-out commitment to the One who has called.  If a minister does not understand this, his ministry will be people pleasing instead of God honoring.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

 

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YES VIRGINIA THERE IS A CHRISTMAS TREE

Dear Virginia,

I know that you are excited about Christmas and can hardly wait until that special day comes. You will probably get up early and run into the room where the Christmas tree is all lit up and the presents are sitting there waiting to be opened. As your family gathers around the tree, you may sing a few Christmas songs and then sing happy birthday to Jesus, for this is His day. The celebration begins and the packages quickly become unraveled. I know the excitement of opening the gifts is one of the most exciting times of the year for you. You realize, of course, Virginia, that the greatest gift anyone has ever received is God’s gift of His Son. I know you knew that, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again.

Now I understand that you have been hearing from other kids that Christmas trees do not belong in a Christian’s house. Don’t blame your friends for saying such things, they probably don’t understand, but that’s what they have been taught. You see, there are many different interpretations of the Bible and some people, to be very truthful with you, don’t understand what they read, yet they tell others what they think it means. Let me explain. In Jeremiah 10:1-6, Jeremiah is telling the people of Israel (God’s special people) that there are individuals who don’t believe in God. Instead, what they do is make things and worship them as gods (idols.) What they did in this story was to go out in the woods and cut down a tree and then decorated it with silver and gold. They then took nails and hammered them into the base of the tree to keep it from falling. Then they, can you believe this, began to worship it! Jeremiah was telling the people of Israel that there was only one God and that was the God whom they were serving.

Is it wrong to have a Christmas Tree? If you worship that tree and make it the center of your attention, then it can become an idol and that would be wrong. But to decorate a tree as well as our house, both inside and out, would not be a bad idea. Remember that birthday party you went to a couple of weeks ago? All those balloons and decorations, wasn’t that fun? Well, why can’t everyone throw Jesus a big party, tree and all?

The Evergreen tree can represent the “ever presence” of Jesus in your life. The lights can show that we are all a light and we surround Jesus with our love. The gifts around the tree show our love, not only for Him, but for others. So Virginia, yes, there is a Christmas tree, but it is not to be the center of our celebration. It is not something we bow down to. It is not something we worship; rather, it is just a decoration that reflects the joy we feel in our hearts. Oh, by the way, it wouldn’t hurt to invite some of those “other” friends over sometime during the Christmas break. They still might not agree with the way you celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but at least you will show them there are no hard feelings. Remember the reason for the season, and celebrate it with a party you will not soon forget!

Your Friend,
Simplyrhetorical

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The Misunderstood Bible

The Bible is probably the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented collection of books and letters ever published.  The problem is not with the Author, but with the reader.  Scripture is interpreted through filters of reason and human manipulation.  The Bible is looked at as a treasurer chest of riches that bypass man’s spirit to fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Isaiah saw the danger of ignoring the intent of the Holy Scrolls by “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Is. 29:13)  From generation to generation man has continued to dilute the Word through human interpretations.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their manipulations of the Word.  These spiritual leaders changed the intent of God’s Word to serve their own agendas.  Jesus stated that they “made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6)  Jesus likened His generation to the blind leading the blind. (Matthew 15:14)

Today we continue to distance ourselves from the intent of God’s Word.  Never have I seen such a manipulation of the written Word.  Some of the teachings that have evolved over the years have amounted to nothing more than fake doctrines.  Seasonal interpretations are teachings that only last for a certain period of time, and then give way to new doctrines that feed the hopes and expectations of Christians.  As the progression of teachings continues to illuminate Believers, uneasiness looms until the doctrines prove to be true.  When one experiences a hesitation in expecting the reality of a teaching, it should immediately signal that something is wrong.  God’s Word will never bring confusion or uncertainty.  When one’s spirit is restless, something is wrong.  Let me give an example; if a teaching urges one to give financially in order to reap monetary benefits, it should cause a caution light to go off in the Believer.  The question should be asked as to what Jesus really taught on the subject of money.  Did His life promote financial abundance?  Instead of listing all the questionable doctrines that have swirled around Christians, let me challenge all Believers to lay aside their preconceived and predetermined teachings and read the Gospels as if for the “first time.”  The foundation of the Gospels is the Grace of God which is evidenced by the giving of His Son.  Through Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice, the “whosoevers” of the world can experience the forgiveness of sin. Through Jesus’ death on Calvary, His resurrection, and ascension, every individual who accepts Him becomes part of family of God.  There can be no challenge to that doctrine.  Every other teaching and instruction must be examined through unbiased study of the Word.

I am sure many teachings that the Believer has received will pass the Biblical test.  It is reassuring to know the life we have built through the Word will stand every challenge and test that we will face.  But, if we have built our faith on false teachings, there will be evidences to validate our errors.  Some may say it is dangerous to examine our faith through reevaluating Scripture.  I believe that the real danger is failing to recognize if there are flaws in our accepted teachings.  I believe there are some very difficult and challenging times ahead and, if our lives are not in line with the rightful intent of the Word, we will suffer from our instability.  Our faith is not measured by our emotional responses, but by our stability.  Just because we don’t feel God’s presence does not mean He is not very close.

It is time to reintroduce ourselves to the Gospels.  It is time to once again walk with Jesus through the powerful Gospels, and as we do, we will see things we missed or reaffirm what we have believed.

 

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