Thursday, March 24, 2016

Betrayal! - March 24, 2016

 
Psalm 41:9 (New Living Translation)
9 Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.

Matthew 26:14-16 (Amplified Bible)
14Then one of the Twelve [apostles], who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

15And said, What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you? And they weighed out for and paid to him thirty pieces of silver [about twenty-one dollars and sixty cents].

16And from that moment he sought a fitting opportunity to betray Him.

Mark 14:10-11 (New International Reader's Version)
10 Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve. He went to the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them. 11 They were delighted to hear that he would do this. They promised to give Judas money. So he watched for the right time to hand Jesus over to them.

Luke 22:3-6 (New International Reader's Version)
3 Then Satan entered Judas, who was called Iscariot. Judas was one of the Twelve. 4 He went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard. He talked with them about how he could hand Jesus over to them. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money.

6 Judas accepted their offer. He watched for the right time to hand Jesus over to them. He wanted to do it when no crowd was around.


How do we feel when we are betrayed by a close friend? How do we react when one we hold dear "sells us out" for personal gain? It is bad enough when a dear friend hurts us, but when they agree to accept personal gain for doing so,...now that hurts deeply.

Although the betrayal of Jesus by Judas fulfilled prophecy and was orchestrated for God's purposes, I am sure it was extremely hurtful to Jesus. I am also sure that this act probably hurt Jesus more deeply because it was done for money. You really can't get more callous than that.

But before we jump on the bandwagon in condemnation of Judas' act, we need to be sure to look at ourselves as well. How often do we betray our love for Jesus, when we make decisions that involve money and discount what we believe in? How often do we ignore what Jesus would have us do when it comes to our behavior around others? How do you think Jesus feels when we continue to commit sins that we ask forgiveness for long ago, yet we repeat them over and over again?

There are many times when we deny our beliefs when it seems inconvenient to be known as a Christian. Each and every time we sin or behave in a manner that is not worthy of what Jesus has done for us, we are in a sense betraying him and his sacrifice on our behalf. It is important as we approach the final days before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion, that we examine our hearts and ask ourselves if our behavior or character is betraying His love for us.

Photo of the Fresco,Kiss of Judas(El beso de Judas),Giotto di Bondone, Scenes from the Life of Christ: 15. The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas). (1304-06)Current location, Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, Italy

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Amazing Prophecy - March 23, 2016

Isaiah 53 (New International Version)
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Matthew 20:17-19 (New International Version)
17Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"

Its amazing that these events were foretold through the prophet Isaiah almost 700 years before they occurred. If you are skeptical about the Bible or have a difficult time understanding the events surrounding Jesus and the crucifixion, take the time to read these verses and compare them to those from the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh linked here. What other ancient texts or religious writings that you know of have prophecies that were written over many centuries, that were all fulfilled? These were in one person, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The End - March 22, 2016

 
Matthew 25:31-46 (New Living Translation)
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”


What should we be doing as we prepare for our ultimate end in this life? Many of us work on leaving a legacy for our children that will provide them a connection with us once we are gone. Others of us build businesses or invest in real estate to leave something for our children and to provide for their needs after we pass on. What ever we do, we do things in preparation so that those we leave behind are taken care of. But what are we doing to provide for our own spiritual investment and to leave a spiritual legacy when we are gone?

As Jesus was doing his final teaching in the temple prior to facing the cross, he wanted to be clear with his disciples of what to look for in the end times, how to be prepare for these times, and what it would be like at the final judgment. The text above was given to describe what it would be like in the kingdom in heaven, and the things that people would be judged for in the end. These words were meant to prepare the hearer for right living, or as I define it, Next Worth.

As we journey with Christ towards the cross, we should be checking our character and measure it against the standard that Jesus sets above. We need to also be sure that the legacy we leave behind is one that will witness to all who see it that God had a place in our lives, and that Jesus Christ had influence in our lives. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus today and always.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Invitation - March 21, 2016

 
Matthew 22:1-14 (New International Reader's Version)
1 Jesus told them more stories. He said, 2 "Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king (God the Father) prepared a wedding dinner for his son (Jesus Christ). 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited(The Jewish People) to the dinner. The servants told them to come. But they refused.


4 "Then he sent some more servants. He said, 'Tell those who were invited that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my oxen and my fattest cattle. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding dinner.'

5 "But the people paid no attention. One went away to his field. Another went away to his business(Caught up in the cares of this world). 6 The rest grabbed his servants(The Prophets of God). They treated them badly and then killed them.

7 "The king became very angry. He sent his army to destroy them. They killed those murderers and burned their city.

8 "Then the king said to his servants, 'The wedding dinner is ready. But those I invited were not fit to come. 9 Go to the street corners. Invite to the dinner anyone you can find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled with guests(The Gentiles...You and Me).

11 "The king came in to see the guests. He noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes(Clothed in Righteousness). 12 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man couldn't think of anything to say(He was not a true believer).

13 "Then the king told his servants, 'Tie up his hands and feet. Throw him outside into the darkness. Out there people will sob and grind their teeth.'

14 "Many are invited(Those who hear the Word), but few are chosen(Those that Believe)."

Italics and comments mine)

In the last few days before his crucifixion, Jesus spent time in the Temple in Jerusalem giving final rebuke, teaching and instruction. He relayed much of what he was trying to say in parables. He related things that were common to the people, so that they would understand and take to heart what Jesus was saying. I believe that this final week of teaching in Matthew is some of the most important in Scripture, and it speaks to us today and calls us to make decisions in our lives.

The parable noted above is both comforting and concerning, depending on where you find yourself in the story. Here is how I read it:

God has prepared a place in Heaven. He prepared the way to this place in Heaven from the time that man disobeyed Him in the Garden. He has always wanted His most precious creation to be reconciled to Him, made right, with Him.

The first to have be invited where the Jews, who God selected as His chosen people. He sent prophets and teachers to explain what need to be done to be acceptable to God, but the Jewish people got caught up in their own traditions and ways, and they rejected those sent and even killed some of them. So He extended the invitation to all of humanity; to anyone who would listen, and He provided them the clothing(the Way through Jesus) to be found acceptable in His eyes.

God has given us all a choice to make. The story of Jesus as Lord and Savior of mankind has been taught to humanity for two millennia. It is the Way that God has provided for all people to be reconciled and found acceptable to God. Almost daily I emphasize this truth, because I feel that too often it is not taken seriously enough in our world. In our society and todays' world Christianity has been relegated to being "just another religion", and thinking of our faith in that way has huge implications for how people will spend eternity.

Here in the South, many of us might even take being a Christian for granted, because we attend church and say the right things. But it has to be made very clear that we are not truly chosen by God until we fully believe that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came down from Heaven and gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we will confess those sins and agree in our hearts that He is the only way that we can be forgiven, then and only then will we be forgiven in God's eyes.

As we look to Jesus' work on the cross, and you prepare yourself for this year's Easter celebration, be sure that you have made the right decision and clothed yourself in the righteousness that God, through Jesus Christ, has provided. At the same time, let us not be too casual with that decision, for ourselves or the loved ones around us. Let us not assume, but be sure, that those we love will be with us at the wedding dinner.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Yaweh Saves! Palm Sunday - March 20, 2016

 
Matthew 21:1-11(New International Reader's Version)

1 As they all approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two disciples. 2 He said to them, "Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey tied up. Her colt will be with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them. The owner will send them right away." 4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would come true. It says,

5 "Say to the city of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
He is riding on a donkey's colt.' " —(Zechariah 9:9)

6 The disciples went and did what Jesus told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt. They placed their coats on them. Then Jesus sat on the coats. 8 A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" —(Psalm 118:26)
"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, "Who is this?"

11 The crowds answered, "This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

Hosanna! Save, Now! Hosanna in the highest! These are the words that were shouted as Jesus(meaning Yaweh saves, Yaweh is salvation, God saves, God delivers) was entering Jerusalem on his way to the week that would end with his crucifixion on a wooden Roman cross. We celebrate it today as Palm Sunday, when the Jewish people celebrated the arrival who they believed to be their Messiah, the King who would save them from their oppression.

Our King has come to save us from the oppression of sin in our lives, and it is up to us to worship and rejoice His coming deliverance, or to ignore Him as just another prophet, another man written of in the history books.

We need to ask ourselves who we will look to as this Holy Week progresses. Will we welcome Him in our lives, and rejoice? Will we join countless Christians in saying, Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! God saves!

Image from the Assisi Frescoes: Entry into Jerusalem, by Pietro Lorenzetti, about 1320, Fresco Assisi, Lower Basilica, San Francesco, southern transept,Italy

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fair Warning - March 19, 2016

Isaiah 1:18-20(New Century Version)
18 The Lord says,

"Come, let us talk about these things.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they can be as white as snow.
Though your sins are deep red,
they can be white like wool.
19 If you become willing and obey me,
you will eat good crops from the land.
20 But if you refuse to obey and if you turn against me,
you will be destroyed by your enemies' swords."

The Lord himself said these things.

By God's grace, we are in a time and place where we have very little to worry about. Yes, there may be personal struggles, difficulties, and stresses that we encounter, but the outcomes will in most cases be okay. That is not the case in other parts of the world; there are many that exist day to day with the prospect that it will be their last day, and there are others that each and every day suffer unspeakable troubles.

Few of us think that anything really bad will ever happen to us. Because of this, we as a Nation have become arrogant and foolish. We have forgotten and in some cases forsaken our Creator, in favor of a god of material wealth and quick pleasure. We have lost our deep reverence and "fear" of God who has made it all possible for us, and expected that because of our great blessing, we should be responsible to those less fortunate around us.

The nation of Israel found themselves in this very place during the time of the prophet Isaiah; God could not allow their sin to go unpunished, and Israel would soon be overrun by its enemies and conquered. Even though they had fallen to deep and had run away so far from God, He carried them through their troubles, and would later bring restoration of all mankind through them. All He ever expected from them was their love and obedience, but like many of us, and us as a Nation, a different path of indifference and disobedience led them to their destruction.

We stand at a crossroads, both as people and as a Nation. We have a choice that we need to make, and we have been given fair warning. We need to choose to go God's way, or we need to choose to turn our backs on Him and suffer the consequences. You need only to watch television and surf the internet, and you see the troubles already brewing. He wants to restore us and all He asks is for our obedience. What will be your choice, yield to Him, or choose the way of the world?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Salvation Living - March 18, 2016



2 Peter 1:3-11 (New International Version)

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


When you come to belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, life takes on a whole new meaning. As new believers we are excited and have a hunger for God's word and anything that will continue your knowledge of Christian living. At the same time though, along with the joy of our new relationship with Jesus, we may find that there the more we try to do the right things, the Adversary(the Devil;Satan) will do all he can to trip us up.

You see, if your believe that there is a God, you have to believe that their is Satan. But Satan is no more than a fallen angel, created by God, that is always looking to torment those that are not following him and the ways of the world. It is his mission to lead as many as he can away from the love and grace of God as he can. Because of your new life in Christ, you may soon realize that many things you found desirable and appealing about your old life no longer are, and some of your old friends will no longer recognize you as one of them.

So how do you overcome these negative pressures and bad influences on your life? The answer is made very clear in the scripture verses from the Apostle Peter noted above. The step-by-step approach to "insulating" yourself is given starting in verse 5 where is states, "add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." What's even better is that God gives you the divine power and ability to follow through on the steps.

So if your ready to embrace "salvation living" and grow deeper and stronger in your relationship with God, follow the step-by-step instruction from Peter, and you will soon see that you will have a new perspective on what happens to you, and you will experience the joyful life of following Jesus.