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  • You are here: Blogs Directory / Education / Eric Rajaniemi's Blog: James 1:22; Romans 1:20 Welcome Guest
    Eric Rajaniemi's Blog: James 1:22; Romans 1:20
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    Sat, Mar 30th - 10:19PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    Let's continue looking at the previous passage in Luke shall we?

       Jesus said that blessed are the persecuted, the people who are persecuted for His sake.  These are those people who endure suffering for Christ.  This means being hated, ostracized, slandered, demeaned, arrested, imprisoned, and even executed because of firm belief in Christ Jesus.  Of particular note is the attitude a person is to have while being persecuted.  They are to rejoice and leap for joy.  Say what?  How can this be possible?  It is made possible by keeping one's eyes firmly fixed upon the reward.  The reward is reserved in heaven, where it is untouchable by thieves and corruption.  All believers have been amply warned that we shall suffer persecution (John 15:20, 16:4; Philippians 1:29; II Timothy 3:12; I John 3:13; I Peter 4:12f).  Why do we suffer persecution?  Because we are no longer of this world.  We are separated from the prevailing behavior of this world for we are called out of it.  We may live in it, but we do not engage in its behaviors.  Thus the world reacts against us (John 15:19).  As believers we suffer persecutions because we strip away the world's covering of sin.  We live and demonstrate a life of righteousness.  This behavior exposes the sins of people who do not believe in Christ.  We as believers suffer persecution because the world does not know God or Christ.  They do not want any god, no lord other than themselves, other people, and their imaginations.  They wish to do what they want, to fulfill their own desires and not what God wishes and demands (John 15:21, 16:3).  As believers we suffer persecution because the world is deceived in its concept and belief of God.  The world conceives God to be the One who fulfills their earthly desires and lusts (John 16:2-3).  Man's idea of God is either that of a Supreme Grandfather or else that of a sadistic tyrant.  But the true believer teaches against these concepts of God.  God is love, but He is also just and demands righteousness.  The world therefore rebels against this concept of God.

       Yet, the persecuted are given a two-fold promise.  Their reward is great in heaven, and they are following in the footsteps of the great prophets of the past ages.  They experience a special honor now.  They experience a special consolation now.  They are given a special closeness, a glow of the Lord's presence now.  They become a greater witness for Christ now.  They will receive the Kingdom of Heaven eternally one day.  

       It is all well and good to speak about the good things that will happen to those who are persecuted because of their faithful belief in Christ Jesus, even though they are forced to experience persecution in this world.  But we must also look at the judgment leveled against those who chase after materialism in this world and completely ignore the spiritual side of things.  We are able to see that the warning handed out to the rich is a strong one.  Who are the rich?  Realistically, in comparison to what the significant majority of the world has, a rich person is anyone who has anything to put back beyond meeting the true needs of his/her own family.  This is a biblical principal stated three times in the Gospel accounts and in Acts.  Why are the wealthy warned?  It is because wealth draws a person away from the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is difficult for a wealthy person to perceive that they have a need that can't be met through the expenditure of money.  The deception allows them to think that they can purchase love and loyalty from others.  They believe that if they pay the doctor enough money that they will be healed/cured of any illness or disease.  Christ made the point about being "chained" to one's wealth and possessions in speaking to the rich young ruler about giving up everything and following Christ.  The young man walked away dejected because he simply could not envision leaving his possessions and money behind.  It was inconceivable in his mind.  He was manacled to his wealth.  There is a lure, an attraction, a force, a power, a pull that reaches out, latches onto us, and draws any of us who look at or possess wealth.  These pulls are so forceful that they enslave and doom any of us who are rich and fail to turn and embrace Christ Jesus.  

       Wealth tends to create the big "I."  To be wealthy is to be esteemed, honored, and envied.  It brings position, power, recognition, and fame.  It strokes the ego, makes a person self-sufficient and independent in this world.  Because of these things there is a tendency for the wealthy person to feel that they are truly independent and self-sufficient, that they need absolutely nothing.  In this atmosphere God is totally forgotten.  The wealthy rather easily forgets that there are things that money can't buy and events from which money can't save them.  Peace, love, joy, these things that matter the most in life can never be purchased.  Neither can money save one from disaster, disease, accident, and death.  

       Another tendency of the wealthy is that of hoarding.  They will not freely share with those who are desperately in need of the basics in life.  The world continues to reel in desperate need.  National economies continue to swoon and threaten to collapse into deep recessions.  People all over the world are starving, sick, unhoused, and unclothed by the millions.  Untold millions of people are spiritually lost and without God and doomed to die without ever knowing Christ Jesus.  How can we keep from asking: "How can any man hoard and not help?"  Why would anyone keep more than he/she needs for themselves and their family?  So as God looks at the rich, He is bound to ask these same questions.  His questions probably will be much more pointed and forceful.  Let's not allow ourselves to end up in the shoes of the rich young ruler of Matthew 19:21.  

       Wealth tends to make a person selfish.  Not always, but a definite tendency exists there.  The more we get, the more we want.  When we taste the things of this world and become comfortable, we tend to fear losing our possessions.  We struggle to keep what we have and to get more.  Many are willing to make contributions, but only a certain amount, an amount that will not lower their overall estate or standing or level of comfort and possessions.  They will resent quitting cable/satellite television, internet access, and cell phones.  They will claim that these things are now essential to life in this day and age.  Preposterous!  They are not necessary to life.  We all suffer from this affliction, to greater or lesser degrees.  Few are they who give all they are and have to Christ to meet the needs of this world.  It is as Jesus said, "It is difficult, very difficult for the rich to enter heaven."  Without compassion and taking care of our brothers and sisters when they are in desperate need, how can we expect God to have compassion and take care of us when we face the desperate need for heaven?  It is foolish of us to think that these things are different.    How can we think that a loving and just God will meet our need for eternal life when we would not meet the need of our fellowman for earthly life.  It is a matter of wanting to help others.

       One trap of wealth is that it attaches one to the world materially.  It enables a person to be comfortable, please one's tastes, expand their experiences, stroke their ego, stimulate their flesh, stretch their self-image,  and challenge their mental pursuits.  If a person centers/focuses their life upon the things of this world, their attention is only on the physical world and not on God.  That person tends to become entangled in securing more and more "stuff" and in protecting what they have.  Little of their time or money will be given towards heavenly matters.  Wealth, and the procurement of more wealth, consume all of their waking moments in life.  So what?  So, their wealth becomes the judgment of the rich.  The word "received" means a receipt in full.  The wealthy person's only consolation is to be what they have on this earth while they are alive.  They will receive no additional consolation after this life: no help, no aid, no encouragement, and no cheer.  They choose such a life so all the good they shall receive is the good they now experience.  We bring nothing into this world when we are born, and we do not take anything with us when we die.  Material wealth, in and of itself, will do us absolutely no good once we die.  Enjoy it now, for it is the only thing that you will enjoy unless you repent and turn back to God through belief in Christ Jesus.  Use your wealth to help other people who are in need.  

       We then see that the warning is laid upon those who do not hunger at all.  These are the people who never experience lack of food on their dining room table each day.  They are the people who have filled themselves with all that this world has to offer; they are full of themselves, of their own devices, urges, and cravings.  They have no hunger for righteousness.  Scripture identifies these people as those who...fill their bellies with the husks of the world (Luke 15:16), serve their own bellies and not the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 16:18), indulge in the things/sins of this world (I Corinthians 6:13), make their god their belly (I Corinthians 3:19), are filled with all unrighteousness (Romans 1:29-32).  Their judgment shall then be hunger, meaning they shall leave all that filled them behind when they die (Luke 12:20, 16:25); shall have no desires filled after this life is over; shall have no delights fulfilled thoughout eternity; and shall hunger for good and fo rthe good things thoughout eternity.  

       To those who are currently merry, to those who laugh now, the warning comes strongly.  This refers to those who have no sense of sin, no sorrow or regret over evil and suffering, no brokenness over the cross and their own sin.  Their joy then is carnal and sensual.  Laughing now refers to those who are guffawing it up in the world with all of its creature comforts and ease, pleasures and stimulationss, recreations and amusements.  Their joy is the indulgence and entertaining of their flesh.  Laughing now refers to those who pay little or no attention to the reality of this world, a world filled with suffering created from the weight of evil and disaster, greed and selfishness, sin and death.  Their joy is found in denying and ignoring the truth of the world or in giving a pittance of time or money to help in order to ease their consciences. The warning and judgment to the merry is mourning and weeping.  They are doomed because they refused to face the reality of a world lost in sin and evil, a world that needed their attention and help.  They refused to help the needy, those who suffered and wept so much in this world.  Thus, they shall be left alone in the next world to mourn and weep over their great loss.

       The warning given to the prideful and compromising people of this world is strong.  These are those people who are the opposite of them who are persecuted for Christ's sake.  The world speaks well of them for they live as they live, speak as they speak, are willing to compromise, seek their company and approval, and never point out the truth of sin and death, judgment and hell to others.  Worldly people want attention and esteem, position and place, honor and praise, recognition and applause.  Men honor such ambitions and rewards.  Thus they speak very well about the people who attain such things.  But what did Jesus say?  He said that false prophets were those of whom the world spoke well of, and this was their reward, all that they would ever receive.  In coveting worldly recognition and honor they did receive it, but at the expense of heavenly recognition and honor.  Therefore, we are not to be false prophets, slapping each other on the back, acknowledging and compromising with their worldliness.  If we do this, then the world will speak well of us.  But we will lose our heavenly reward.  We must therefore tell the truth to all people:  that all people need a Savior and their eternal fate depends upon their coming to Him for salvation, seeking His righteousness.  "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of (II Peter 2:1-2)."  People do not wish to admit that God came and bought their lives with the spilling of His precious blood on that cross.  To acknowledge this means that they owe God something in return.  People understand this concept.  So they do not want to be indebted to God and use every imaginable means to deny He exists.  People are becoming less and less willing to listen to sound doctrine in the Bible, they would rather cater to their own lusts by finding teachers who stroke their carnal natures.  Society truly is becoming the "You're okay, I'm okay" center, where every behavior is validated as being normal.  I will state this once again:  Acceptance of Christ means nothing less than a transformed life in which personal behavior/conduct must change.  This is true for the heterosexual and the homosexual, for the murderer and the thief, for the rapist and the philanderer, for the burglar and the arsonist, for the voyeur and the abuser, for the idolater and the unbeliever.  It is what Christ came and did while He walked this earth during His public minsitry.  Transformed lives every where He went.  Fishermen, tax collectors, religious teachers, prostitutes, scribes, servants, centurions, and eunuchs all were touched by Christ and had their lives dramatically transformed.  They no longer were the exact same person they were before.  This is what Easter is all about tomorrow.  Newness of life through Christ Jesus.  Being born again spiritually.  Having the Spirit of God residing within you.  Each person needs to survey the wondrous cross, to ponder all that happened to cause an innocent man to be crucified in order to save all of the people.  Who in his right mind would willingly allow himself to be nailed to a wooden cross by his hands and feet, then elevated up into a vertical position by the cross being stuck into a hole in the ground?  Who would be willing to do such a thing for me?  And why?  Because Jesus Christ was God manifested in human flesh, He was able to sacrifice Himself physically to pay for all of our sins, once and for all time.  He did this willingly out of love for each of us, even though we were unlovable.  God places high value upon each human life.  He does not desire that any should perish, and yet there will be those who will choose a path of belief that inevitably leads to eternal damnation.  Take time right now to avoid meeting this destination in your life.  Take care of your personal business with Christ, accept the free gift of redemption He is offering to you, and begin walking in the Light.  May God's grace and peace cover you, fill you, and flow out from you today and in the days ahead.  

    ~Eric


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    Fri, Mar 29th - 7:07PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said, Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you that hunger now: for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you that weep now: for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the same manner did their fathers treat the prophets.  But woe to you that are rich! for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you that are full! for you shall hunger.  Woe to you that laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers treat the false prophets (6:20-26)."

       Jesus Christ completely rejects the materialism of our world and warns those who are worldly and materialistic that severe judgment is coming.  Two things are presented to us here: the promise to those who reject materialism and the judgment to those who follow materialism.  First, a look at the promise.  

       "Blessed are the poor."  This does not translate into meaning that a person must be poverty stricken, destitute, homeless.  Hunger, nakedness, and slums are not pleasing to God in a world of plenty.  This is not a discourse upon material poverty.  If we also draw in what is recorded in Matthew 5:3 we know that we are really speaking about being poor in spirit.  This can mean several things:

    a.  To acknowledge one's complete helplessness before God, one's spiritual poverty, one's spiritual need; admitting that one is completely dependent upon God to meet one's need.

    b.   To acknowledge one's utter lack in facing life and eternity apart from God; to admit that the real blessings of life and eternity come only from a right relationship with God.

    c.   To acknowledge one's complete lack of superiority before all others and one's spiritual deadness before God.  Admitting that no matter what one has achieved in this world (fame, fortune, power), they are no better, no richer, no more superior than the next person.  My attitude toward others is not to be proud or haughty, not superior and over-bearing.  This concept of poorness means admitting that every human being is a real person just like everyone else: a person who has a significant contribution to make to society and to the world.  I approach life in humility and appreciation, not as though life owes me, but as though I owe life.  I have been given the privilege of living; thus, I journey through life with a humble attitude, with an attitude of being poor in spirit and contributing all I can out of a spirit of appreciation.  

       Two critical steps must be taken by me.  I turn my primary attention away from the things of this world, knowing things can never make me rich in spirit.  I also turn my primary attention to God and His kingdom knowing that God alone can make me rich in spirit (Ephesians 1:3).  The opposite of being "poor in spirit" is having a spirit that is full of self.  It is the difference in thinking that I am righteous and acknowledging my deep need for righteousness.  There is the difference between having self-righteousness and of having another's righteousness.  Self-righteousness goes no farther than self, no farther than death.  Another's righteousness, Christ's, lives on forever (II Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).  

       This is a phenomenal promise being made to the poor.  "Yours is the the kingdom of heaven."  This is not a future promise, as in "yours shall be," but the poor in spirit receive the Kingdom of heaven now.  Those who are hungry right now are to be blessed.  Spiritual hunger, not physical hunger.  Being hungry is not a blessing, it is often sad and tragic.  Jesus said that those who hunger after righteousness, who have a starving spirit that craves righteousness, they shall be blessed by being filled.  

       Now in the Bible righteousness means two rather simple but profound things.  It means to be right and to do right.  We can discover people who stress being righteous and yet neglect doing righteousness.  This disconnect leads to two serious errors.  One is false security that causes a person to stress that they are saved and acceptable to God because they have believed in Jesus Christ.  But they neglect doing good and living as they should.  They neglect obeying what God has said and instead they serve man.  The other is practicing loose living.  The disconnect allows a person to go out and do pretty much whatever the person desires.  They feel secure and comfortable in their faith in Christ.  They know that what they do may affect their fellowship with God and other believers, but they think their behavior will not affect their salvation.  They think that no matter what they do they are still acceptable to God.  The problem with this stress is that is is a false righteousness.  Righteousness in the Bible means being righteous and doing righteousness.  God knows nothing about being righteous without living righteously.

       There are also those who stress doing righteousness and neglect being righteous.  This also leads to a couple of serious errors.  Self-righteousness and legalism are a result and cause a person to stress that they are saved and acceptable to God because they do good works.  They work and behave morally and keep certain rules and regulations.  They do the things a Christian ought to do by obeying the main laws of God.  But they neglect the basic law: the law of love and acceptance.  They neglect that God loves them and accepts them not because they do good, but because they love and trust the righteousness of Christ Jesus.  The other error is that of becoming judgmental and censorious.  A person who stresses that they are righteous (acceptable to God) because they keep certain laws often judge and censor others.  They feel rules and regulations can be kept, for He keeps them.  Therefore, anyone who fails to keep them is judged, criticized, and censored.  

       The problem with stressing this is that it as well is a false righteousness.  The Bible knows nothing about being acceptable to God aside from being made righteous in Christ Jesus.  No person is righteous by themselves, no not one.  Each of us has already come up short of the glory of God, missed the mark, failed to hit the bulls-eye.  Our one hope is that God will love us so much that He will somehow count us righteous.  And that is exactly what God does, He takes a person's hunger and thirst after righteousness and counts that as righteousness.  By seeking out Christ Jesus in our hearts and minds our hunger is fulfilled.  We will be filled with abundant life, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23)."

       Christ states that the sorrowful will be blessed.  Those who weep and mourn, the brokenhearted, experience a desperate, helpless weeping.  It is a broken heart over evil and suffering; it is a brokenness of the self that comes from seeing Jesus on the cross and realizing that one's own sins put Him up there, that one's own sins drove those nails through His hands and feet.  Who are these people who mourn and weep for they are so full of grief and sorrow?  They are those who are desperately sorry for their sin an unworthiness before Almighty God.  Their sense of their sin simply breaks their heart within them.  Another person are those who really feel the desperate condition and terrible suffering of others.  The tragedies, the problems, the sinful behavior of others; the state, condition, and lostness of the world all weigh heavily upon the heart of the mourner.  Lastly, they are those who experience personal tragedy and intense trauma firsthand.

       God's promise to the one who weeps is that they shall laugh.  It means loud laughter that originates from a deep-seated joy and comfort within.  This laughter comes from seeing the end of sin and shame, sorrow and suffering, tragedy and trauma.  It also comes from being comforted in the present with the resultant feelings of settled peace, relief, solace, and a consolation internally.  It comes from suddenly having a fullness of joy, a sense of God's presence, care and guidance; a sense of God's sovereignty, of His working all things out for the good to those who truly love Him.  The laughter also comes from realizing that one is passing from death into life with the resulting wiping away of all tears.  

    That is all the time I have this evening, it is time for Tenebrae.  It may be Black Friday now, but Sunday is coming!  Christ may be nailed up on a cross today, but He will be Risen on Sunday!  Hallelujah!  

    ~Eric


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    Wed, Mar 27th - 9:20PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass in those days, that He went out to a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.  And when it was day, He called to Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom He also named apostles; Simon, (whom He also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, who also was the traitor.  And He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.  And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all (6:12-19)."

       Some commentaries state that Jesus "needs" people who will carry His message of salvation to the world.  I am not sure that that is the correct term to use in this regard.  It would mean that God is not all powerful.  But since He is all powerful, then He does not need us to carry His message of salvation out to the world; He wants us to do this for Him.  By my becoming involved in this entire process I gain greater understanding of what the apostles went through during the early church age.  I am also blessed each and every time a person joyfully accepts the message and believes in Christ Jesus.  This passage of scripture illustrates how Jesus goes about choosing people to serve Him.  

    1)  Christ chose them after prayerful consideration; after praying all night.
    2)  Christ chose them from among His disciples.
    3)  Christ chose them to be apostles, sent ones, messengers of the Word of God.
    4)  Christ chose diverse personalities.
    5)  Christ chose them to minister with Him.

       Christ went up on the mountain and prayed all night long, communing with God in heaven.  The destiny of the entire world and the fate of all mankind was to soon rest upon the shoulders of these twelve men.  If these twelve men failed, the world would be lost and mankind would be eternally doomed.  Christ discussed this entire matter with the Father before making His selections in the morning.  One reason for separating Himself and praying was that He needed renewal spiritually; He desired for His mind to be full of God's presence as He made these critical choices.  To prepare Himself He went where He would not be disturbed.  The mirror that we are staring into right this moment does not yield a very complimentary reflection, does it?  How many minutes each day do any of us spend in genuine prayer before God?  I am as guilty as the next Christian in this regard.  Each of us must strive to do better each day in the area of prayer.  Just praying throughout our busy day is not what God wants from us, is not what satisfies Him.  He desires us to stop what we are doing, find a quiet place, and spend quality time with Him alone.  We need to spend some nights before our God, revealing our heart of hearts to Him even though He already knows what dwells deep within it.  So, we must create time for concentrated prayer, the sort that really moves and causes things to happen.  Fellowship prayer is what most of us engage in throughout our work days.  What God solidly places before us in the above passage is the need to set aside time and place for concentrated prayer (Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; Luke 9:18; Luke 22:41).

       Christ did not choose His apostles from among the multitude who came to be healed.  He chose the twelve from among His disciples.  There were very many disciples.  "Disciple" means a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosophy.  In our world today this term does not carry the same import as it did back in ancient times.  Back then a disciple attached himself to his teacher and followed his teacher wherever he went, studying and learning all he could from the teacher's life as well as from his words.  We find here that Jesus called all of His disciples before Him, all of those people who had attached themselves to Him.  From out of this large number of persons Christ then chose who would become the twelve apostles, His inner circle of workers/students.  These twelve were to serve with Him in a very special way.

       These apostles obviously were "chosen" men, hand picked by God.  They were believers, disciples, and ambassadors, of Christ.  We should keep in mind that "apostle" (apostolos) means messenger.  Messengers are of no use unless they are "sent out."  We deduce that apostles were selected by Christ Himself, or the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:6, 13:2, 22:10; Romans 1:1).  He was a person who had either seen or been a companion of the Christ.    Christ called Himself an apostle (apesteilos, John 17:3) and He is called the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Hebrews 3:1).  Others may have been called apostles (Acts 14:4, 14, 17; I Thessalonians 2:6; II Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; Galatians 1:19; Romans 16:7), however, there is a distinct difference between all of these and the twelve whom Christ called.

       In a sense there is the continuing gift of apostleship today since each believer is an ambassador for Christ and is one who goes out representing Christ Himself.  The believer is to do this by both life and word.  The believer is to reflect the very life of Christ Jesus.  The Lord does choose a few from among the many disciples to serve Him in very special ways.  Every congregation has to have its leaders; and every area, state, country, and generation has to have its leaders.  God, therefore, must choose those who will go beyond in sacrificing, giving, serving, teaching, caring, and ministering to His flock in its many and varied locations all around the world.  

       We note that Christ Jesus also purposely chose men with diverse personalities.  We see at least three businessmen in Peter, James, and John.  They were commercial fishermen with rather large businesses.  One apostle was perhaps wealthy: Matthew, the tax collector.  His home was quite spacious for it handled a large crowd of people for a feast.  One man was a political nationalist, an insurrectionist, Simon the Zealot.  The Zealots were pledged to overthrow the Roman government, and to assassinate as many Roman officials and Jewish cohorts as possible (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).  One man was evidently deeply religious: Nathanael (John 1:48).  As far as is known, there was no outstanding official or famous citizen among the apostles.

       Personality-wise Matthew was bound to be hard-crusted, non-religious, being a tax collector.  The fishermen James and John were rough and tough men with "thundering" personalities.  Simon the Zealot was of a fanatical, nationalistic spirit.  Peter was apparently a rough fisherman with a loud, rough-cut personality.  In each of these men we witness the power of Christ to give purpose and meaning to life and to bring peace among them all.  

       We can also see here the ministry of Christ in action.  The twelve chosen men were now with Him.  He came down from the mountain with them and then stood with them on the plain.  They faced a multitude of people gathered to receive healing.  The twelve were now going to begin learning what their mission was to be.    1)   It was to learn to carry out a threefold ministry of preaching to those who came to hear, healing those in need of wholeness, and of leading people to touch Jesus in order to receive His virtue.  This Greek word dunamis means "power."  The people were yearning to receive a measure of God's power in order to be healed of their afflictions.  Ministers and teachers of God are to preach and teach.  They are to share with all those who come to hear Jesus.  Ministers and teachers of God are to minister to the diseased and brokenhearted of their community.  They are to heal the sick and mend the brokenhearted in the name and power of Christ.  The servants of God are to be instruments of Christ's power.  Jesus' power is to flow through His servants and then outward into others.  

    That is all for today, beloved.  Next time I will cover Jesus teaching the perils of this material world.  Tomorrow marks the time to remember the Last Supper Jesus spent with His disciples before being arrested and crucified.  Perhaps you will be participating in a Love Feast, where you will engage in feet washing, a communal meal, and communion.  Perhaps on Good Friday, or Tenebrae, you will continue to follow the path that Christ walked and experience the pain, anguish, and incredible suffering placed upon Him because of your sin.  After all, Jesus became your Passover Lamb, substituted Himself in your place upon the cross, and died to atone for your sins, as well as mine.  But as black and bleak as Friday may have been, Sunday was coming.  No matter how black and despairing our nights may become, dawn is always coming with its associated sunlight.  The Light of the world streams into our hearts and minds, illuminating every corner, every crevice, chasing away the shadows of wickedness and evil, sweeping out the uncleanness and making room for our new nature to enter in and take up permanent residence.  I pray that this Passion Week of Jesus Christ leads you to either a confession of unworthiness, or else a profession of desire to enter into a deeper walk with your Lord and Savior.  Grace and peace be yours.

    ~Eric


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    Sun, Mar 24th - 9:20PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first, that He went through the corn fields; and His disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.  And certain of the Pharisees said to them, Why do you do that which is unlawful to do on the Sabbath days?  And Jesus said to them, Have you not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was hungry, and they which were with him; How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and also gave to them that were with him; which it is not lawful t eat but for the priests alone?  And He said to them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.  And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.  And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath day; that they then might find an accusation against Him.  But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand out in the midst.  And he rose and stood out.  Then said Jesus to them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil?  to save life, or to destroy it?  And looking around upon them all, He said to the man, Stretch out your hand.  And the man did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.  And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another as to what they might do to Jesus (6:1-11)."

       In life, people tend to institutionalize faith, turning it into religion.  They make it full of forms and rituals, rules and regulations, ceremonies and services.  People too often are guilty of having a form of godliness but are in denial of the power of God.  It is the very point that Christ made with these Pharisees who criticized His actions and the actions of His disciples on the Sabbath.  The power of godliness exists to meet the needs of people but far too often religion is erected between man and his needs.  Maintaining the religious organization and format, keeping things the way they have always been, is considered more important than meeting the needs of people who are outcasts and sinners.  

       We must not forget that this event happened upon the Sabbath Day.  To the orthodox Jew what Jesus Christ did was an extremely serious matter.  In breaking Sabbath law a person was condemned, and if the offense was serious enough they were sentenced to die.  It seems to be rather harsh, but when dealing with the Jewish nation, we must remember that it was their religion that held them together as a nation through centuries of exile and persecution.  Their religion, the Temple, and the Sabbath became the binding force that kept Jews together and maintained their distinctiveness as a cultural group of people.  It protected them from alien beliefs and from being absorbed by other ethnic groups of people through intermarriage.  No matter where they were geographically, they met and associated together and held on to their beliefs.  An example of this can be seen in the experiences of Nehemiah when he led some Jews back to Jerusalem from captivity (Nehemiah 13:15-22).  

       All of this helps explain why the religionists opposed Christ with so much hostility.  They had allowed religion and ritual, ceremony and liturgy, position and security, recognition and livelihood to become more important to themselves than the basic essentials of human life: personal need and compassion, and the true worship and mercy of God.  Here are several things we must note:

    1.   Jesus used David's experience to illustrate His current point.  David had eaten the shewbread in the tabernackle when he was hungry while on the run from Saul. 

    2.   Jesus declared that He, the Son of Man, is Lord also of the Sabbath.  He was at least as great as David, in fact, greater by far; for He was the Son of Man.  Logically then He was the Lord over the Sabbath Day.  

    3.   Jesus shows that human needs outweigh religious rituals and rules.  

    4.   Jesus also shows that the need must be genuine before religious rituals and rules are to be superseded.  We can't abuse, neglect, or ignore religious worship and ceremonies.  However, we must acknowledge that real needs arise that must be taken care of immediately.

    5.   Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, should therefore be the One who says when a need should supersede a religious ceremony.  This requires us to be living closely enough to Him in fellowship and worship, sacrifice and ministry to sense what should be done.  

       This group of Pharisees may very well have been Scribes.  These were a profession of men sometimes called lawyers.  They were some of the most devoted and committed men to religion in all of history, and were of the sect known as Pharisees, as mentioned already.  Every Pharisee was not necessarily a Scribe.  A Scribe was like a scholar, more highly trained than the average Pharisee.  Their primary functions were:  a)  To copy the the written law, the Old Testament Scriptures.  They were strict copiers, meticulously keeping count of every letter in every word.  This exactness was necessary, for God Himself had given the written law to the Jewish nation.  For this reason the law was not only the very Word of God, it was the greatest thing in the life of the Jewish nation.  It was considered to be the most precious possession in the entire world.  A young Jew could enter no greater profession than that of being a Scribe.  b)  These men studied, classified, and taught the moral law.  This function brought about the Oral or Scribal Law that was so common in Jesus' day.  It was the law of rules and regulations.  There were so many regulations that over fifty large volumes were required once they were finally written down.  Tragically, through the centuries, the Jews began to place the Oral law over the written law of God.  These Scribes felt that the law was God's final word.  Everything that God wanted man to do could be deduced from it; therefore, they drew out of the law every possible rule they could and insisted that life was to be lived in conformity to these rules.  To them, rules were to be a way of life, the preoccupation of a person's thoughts.  In the beginning these rules and regulations were taught by word of mouth; but in the third century after Christ they were put into writings:  

    The Halachoth: rules that were to govern the ritual of worship.
    The Talmud: sixty-three discussions of various subjects of the law(Mishnah) plus the sacred legends of the people (Germara).
    The Midrashim: the commentaries on the writings.
    The Hagada: thoughts on the commentaries.

    As you can well imagine, it had become rather easy to become quite digressed from what God had actually said in His written Word.  

       Christ mentioned that David had partaken of the temple's shew-bread.  So what?  Well, this term means the bread of the face or the bread of the Presence.  It symbolized the Presence of God who is the Bread of Life.  This shew-bread was twelve loaves of bread that were brought to the house of God as a symbolic offering to God.  It was a thanksgiving offering expressing appreciation and praise to God for food.  The loaves were supposed to be taken to the Holy Place by the Priest and placed on the table before the Lord.  The loaves also symbolized an everlasting covenant between God and His people.  In this covenant God would see to it that His people always had whatever food was necessary to sustain them.  The loaves were to be changed every week.  The old loaves became food for the priests and were to be eaten by them alone.

       It can clearly be seen in today's passage that doing good and saving life are more important to God than religious rituals and rules.  Here was a man with a withered hand.  That is all that we are ever told about him.  But we can see the dramatic background of this event.  Here is the history of the Sabbath, seasoned with the Pharisaic Scribes, a man with a withered right hand, and Jesus.  The Scribes are watching Christ closely to catch Him doing something, anything, that violates Sabbath law in their eyes.  Their only purpose was to accuse Him, with this being why they were in such heated conflict with Him over all sorts of things.  Christ knew their thoughts and so He challenged them to think about a query and to honestly arrive at an answer to it.  Since Christ already knew what they were thinking we have proof of His deity.  Christ claimed to be the Lord of good and the Lord of salvation, the One who does good and the One who saves life.  Then, having set the table, Christ' s love reaches out to these Scribes in the hope that they will repent.  He appealed to them to be open and honest, to think and to reason, to be willing to confess the truth.  Christ then proceeded to do good by healing this man's withered right hand in front of them all.  Did Christ save this man's life?  At the very least Christ gave him back a chance at a changed life.  The man now had two hands that were whole so that he could now go out and work to support himself.  This day was this man's day of salvation.  Doing good and saving life never abuses or violates the Sabbath Day or Sunday worship.  In fact, there is no better day to help and minister than on either of these days.  Consideration must then be given to this concept from the opposite side.  To refuse to do good or save life, no matter the day, means we are withholding good and doing evil to our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-39; Romans 13:10; I John 3:16-19; Micah 6:8). 

       The Scribes then became insanely mad.  It was an insane rage towards Christ.  Mark's account informs us that they stormed out of the synagogue and joined forces with the Herodians and plotted how to kill Jesus.  So in order to understand the motivations and reactions of the Scribes and Pharisees we must understand that the Jews were above all else a people of God's Law.  Their nation was based upon the ten commandments and the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Law or Pentateuch.  This makes Israel unique among surviving nations of our world.  How dominating a force the Law has been in their survival?

    1)   They were a people created by God in one man, Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).  Abraham believed he was called by God to be the father of a great nation, and he passed this belief down to his son, Isaac.
    2)   The Jewish nation grew enormously during the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, originating from the twelve sons of Jacob.  They had been led to Egypt by Joseph to save them from a horrific famine.  The fathers passed on to their sons and daughters the faith of Abraham: that they were the Chosen People of God, chosen to become the greatest of nations.
    3)   The nation itself was officially formed at Mount Sinai when God gave them the Law to Moses.  The nation was appointed for a spiritual purpose: to be the guardian of God's law.  They were being appointed as the messenger of God to go out into the world, to bear testimony to the only living and true God and to His Law.  They were to be missionaries.
    4)   The Jewish people had been conquered and scattered all over the world time after time.  In the Old Testament history they had been conquered and scattered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians; yet they survived attempts at annihilation.  Their common bond was the Law of God and their belief and practice of it.
    5)   A small remnant had been allowed to return to rebuild the capital, Jerusalem, and to start over again under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra.  

       At this point in Israel's history the Scribes were born (about BC 450).  Ezra the Scribe took the Law adn read it aloud to the handful of people who had returned to rebuild Jerusalem.  He then led the people to rededicate themselves to being the people of God's Law.  This rededication was strong and meaningful.  It of necessity had to be for the nation had almost been wiped out.  So the Law became the greatest thing in the people's lives; and the most honored profession became the Scribe who was made responsible to study, teach, and preserve the Law.  The error that consequently was made was in taking the Law of God and attempting to define every key phrase and word in it.  They ended up with thousands and thousands of rules and regulations to govern the life of the people.  Yes, the people would become distinct from all other peoples and be protected from intermarriage.  The Scribal Law finally stretched to fill more than fifty volumes.

       The Pharisees as a group were born about BC 175.  Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria conquered Jerusalem and made deliberate attempts to destroy the Jewish people.  In reaction to these attempts, and to preserve their life as Jews, a group of men dedicated themselves at all cost to keep every detail of the law (Scribal Law).  The practice of the Scribal Law soon became a profession since striving to keep thousands upon thousands of laws simply left no time for anything else.  In reality, it required more time than a man had; thus the Pharisees were born to practice and preserve the Scribal Law.  These men genuinely believed that by obeying the Scribal Law and imposing it upon the people, they were saving their people and their nation.  To them, it was the Law that made the Jewish people, their religion, and their nation different from all other people.  

       This perspective had consequently created two things, extreme legalism and extreme devotion, which were the major traits of the Pharisees.  When these two traits lay within a self-centered heart they can lead to:

    a.   A person becoming a stern monastic, separate from all people.
    b.   A person becoming a stern legalist, laying burden upon burden upon other people.  Such legalism knows little of the mercy and forgiveness of God.
    c.   A person becoming super-religious, or super spiritual, with a holier than thou attitude and air.
    d.   A person becoming prideful because they belong to a certain profession and hold a particular place or position or title, or because they are more disciplined in keeping the rules.  They feel more elevated than others, more honored, more religious, and more acceptable to God.
    e.   A person can become hypocritical.  Human nature militates against and prevents perfect obedience.  There simply is no way to keep thousands and thousands of rules and regulations.
    f.   A person can become showy and ostentatious.  Strict discipline and personal achievement put a desire within a person to show off their achievements and to seek recognition.
    g.   A person can become hypocritical, publicly acting and preaching one thing, but privately practicing another.

    These were the things Christ faced while walking this earth in the flesh.  Do we still face any of these today?  Yes, we most certainly do.  We see the monasteries and nunneries where people seek to be separate from the rest of humanity in order to become closer to God.  But how do they then obey God's commands to go out and do good?  We see legalists in almost every denomination, if not every denomination.  They have their lists of rules that absolutely must be adhered to, or else.  They have no sense of mercy or forgiveness.  We see those people who strive to become extremely spiritual and believe that they are more holy than anyone else.  We also see those who become full of pride because they are deacons, or elders, or associate pastors, or youth pastors, or Christian teachers, or sing in the choir.  They feel that they are a step above everyone else, have pleased God more, and therefore are much more acceptable to God than everyone else.  We see hypocritical people in two forms: those who say that they keep each and every rule without fail and those who in essence tell us to do what they say but do not do what they do.  They say one thing but do another.  All of these things are to be avoided in the Christian life.  All of these things are to watched out for and then corrected when discovered.  It requires one to take the error in behavior and thinking before Christ on bended knee, seeking His forgiveness and asking for His strength in order to not make the same mistake again.

    That is all for tonight, here in snowy central Virginia!  Grace and peace be with you this day, and in days ahead.

    ~Eric


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    Sat, Mar 23rd - 9:52PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And after these things He went out, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He said to him, Follow Me.  And he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  And Levi made Him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great number of publicans and of others that sat down with them.  But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?  And Jesus answered them by saying, They that are whole do not need a physician; but those that are sick need one.  I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  And they said to Him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but Yours eat and drink?  And He said to them, Can you make the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.  And he spoke also a parable to them; No man puts a piece of new garment upon one that is old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new does not agree wit the old.  And no man puts new wine into old bottles; otherwise the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.  But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.  No man also having drunk old wine immediately wants new: for he says, The old wine is better (5:27-39)."

       Five basic missions are revealed to the reader in this passage of scripture.  We see the mission of calling outcasts, the mission of calling sinners to repentance, the mission of bringing real joy to people, the mission of dying, and the mission of a new life and spiritual movement.  

       No human mission can surpass the mission that Jesus was sent to accomplish.  Christ's mission was a quickening mission to make people alive to God; to give people life forever; and to cause people to commit their lives to God unconditionally.  Luke's mission given to him by God was to reveal the great mission of Christ.  He weaves several events together to spell out clearly the great mission of the Lord.  

       Principally Jesus came with the mission of calling outcasts, those who are rejected by society (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14).  We are able to see that Jesus went out into the community with deliberate purpose.  He did not remain within the walls of the Jewish synagogues.  He went out for the specific purpose of seeking the outcasts of His day.  Levi, the publican, was called by Jesus to follow Him.  Publicans were outcasts of society, the most hated of men among the public for they collected the taxes levied by the Romans.  Yet when Jesus reached him He saw a man named Levi, a sinner, a man hurting within, a man who needed a cause bigger than himself.  No one else in Jewish society, except other publicans, would associate with Levi for he was a despised man.  By associating with such a person Jesus exposed Himself to criticism and rejection by the upper class who represented the acceptable and social of society.  Jesus went to where the outcast was, stooped down to reach out to the outcast, not waiting for the outcast to come and search Him out.  Now Jesus' call is issued to all people, for all people are outcasts of heaven.  But there is a condition to becoming an acceptable person to God.  A person must humble themselves before Jesus Christ just as Jesus humbled Himself before us (Matthew 18:3; II Corinthians 7:10; Philippians 2:6-9; Psalm 34:18; Joel 2:12).  The person who is truly an outcast of society, who is rejected and despised by people, can be saved and delivered from emptiness and loneliness.  Jesus Christ will save them, in fact, He longs to save and deliver the outcast (Matthew 11:28-30; Isaiah 55:1; Ezekiel 33:11; Hosea 6:1).

       So what?  What we observe in this passage is that the called outcast of society left all and followed Christ.  Matthew/Levi was a very wealthy man.  Luke emphasizes this by noting that he left all.  This tax collector made a great feast in his own home, enabled by its size no doubt.  He also responded to Christ immediately, without stopping to think of excuses as to why he couldn't follow right now.  How could this man give up so much just to follow Christ?  Could it possibly be because money can't buy joy, happiness, peace, security, completeness, satisfaction, fulfillment, confidence, or assurance?  Money can only purchase things.  This tax collector had many things: land, house, clothes, food, furnishings.  What he also had was emptiness, restlessnes, incompleteness, insecurity, unfulfillment, dissatisfaction, and nonacceptance.  When he confronted Christ, he saw the possibility that Christ could meet all of his needs, really meet them.

       We are told more than once in scripture that it is difficult for wealthy people to enter into heaven for they attach too much importance and value upon their possessions and money.  They are overly attached to the material world.  When they die, none of it can go with them into death.  It remains behind for others to fight over.  Levi was one of the few who was willing to give up all that he had in order to follow Christ.  Therefore, the kingdom of heaven became his (Matthew 19:23-26; Luke 14:33; Mark 8:35-36).  

       This outcast then reached his friends and acquaintances.  He introduced them to Christ.  This is the sort of witness that believers in Christ today must be doing on a regular basis: introducing people to Jesus Christ.  His behavior, and his life, were already changing.  He had to tell his friends so he invited them all to come to a feast at which Christ would be sitting.  He was excited about his faith in Christ.  Levi is the man who ended up writing the gospel of Matthew, after his life was transformed by hearing the call of Christ and responding.  The despised outcast of Jewish society ended up writing the gospel for the Jews.  As I have already mentioned more than once, the tax collector was bitterly hated by the Jewish people.  It was because the collectors served the Roman occupiers.  Most collectors were Jews and the people generally viewed them as having denied their heritage and betrayed their entire nation.  For this reason they were outcasts, ostracized, cut off from Jewish society and excommunicated from Jewish religion and privileges.  They were also cheaters,dishonest, and unjust men.  The Roman government compensated tax collectors by allowing them to collect more than the percentage required for taxes.  They greedily abused their right, adding whatever percent they desired and felt could be reasonably collected.  They accepted bribes from the wealthy who wished to avoid taxes, conned the average citizen, and swindled the government when they could.  Jews also despised these men because they assumed rights that belonged to God.  God alone was King in the eyes of the Jews.  This strong conviction lead to the belief that God and the ruler appointed by God were considered to be the head of Jewish government.  God was their God, and they were His people.  Taxes were to be paid only to Him and His government, which was centered only in the Temple of Judaism.  Paying taxes to earthly rulers was an abuse and a denial of God's rights.  Thus tax collectors were routinely excommunicated from Jewish religion, they could not go to the Temple nor to any synagogue.  

       There is also seen the mission of calling sinners to repentance.  Christ was questioned by the religionists about His association with the outcasts and sinners.  They criticized and judged Christ,not realizing that they, too, were sinners and outcasts of heavenly society.  They were upset that He associated with those who were not the social equals of themselves and were not socially acceptable.  Talk about prejudicial behavior and thought!  They felt that outcasts and sinners had rejected society and forsaken the ways of acceptability.  Why would He associate with such people?  Those types of people rebelled against society and its approved behavior.  Christ was hanging out with those who were religiously and ceremonially unclean.  They were guilty of breaking every law of religion and decency.  Their behavior and uncleanness were bound to be contagious, contaminating and misleading anyone who got too close to them, including Christ.  So what?  Jesus answered their question by illustrating and stating His mission.  The sick people (sinners) are the ones who need a physician (Him, the Savior).  People can be sick and not be aware of it; therefore their illness does not get healed.  People can be sick and not call a physician; therefore their illness does not get healed.  Christ's mission was not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  Healthy people do not go to the doctor to get healed, for nothing is wrong with them.  A thought here is that the righteous either do not know or do not accept the fact that they need repentance.  Sinners, do know, but they may not accept the depth of their need nor turn away from their sin in order to be saved by Christ.  They may be more afraid of the unknown than of the known sins that they live in on a daily basis, so they remain in the condition that they know (Luke 19:10; John 3:17; John 10:10; John 12:47; I Timothy 1:15; Revelation 3:20).

       We also see the mission of bringing real joy to people.  The religionists of the day questioned Christ's "loose behavior" and the fact that He was teaching His disciples the same "loose behavior."  Jesus' disciples were eating and drinking, actually feasting when they should have been fasting, according to the Pharisees.  By Law religious Jews fasted twice per week, every Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12).  Christ was not only religious, He was a religious teacher, and even more, He was claiming to be the Messiah Himself!  Why in the world was He not fasting?  The religionists fasted as a ritual; their days for fasting were already determined.  The ritual or the custom and tradition determined their fast.  Their need for God, for a very special sense of God's presence had absolutely nothing to do with fasting.  Fasting in their minds was purely a matter of ritual and custom; something that every good Jew must do.  What was Christ's response?  He said that He was the Bridegroom, and as long as he was with them on earth, there was no need for anyone to fast.  He was saying that His very presence brought joy and vitality to life, not ritual and ceremonial demands.  There was no need to be fasting for a special sense of God's presence if God , the Son of God, was already present with them.  Christ's mission was that of a Bridegroom, to bring joy and vitality to life.  Naturally, where there is a Bridegroom there must also be a Bride.  The Bride is none other than the body of believers in Jesus Christ.  

       There was also the mission of dying.  Christ said that the Bridegroom shall be taken away.  He was speaking of the fact that He must physically die.  Dying upon that wooden cross was His primary mission for coming down to earth from heaven.  This death of His enables His Spirit to be present with all believers wherever they may happen to be (John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13).  This death brings sorrow to the heart of any who see it and understand it.  However, His death brings joy soon after, for there is the knowledge that Christ lives forever (Johyn 16:16-22; Hebrews 7:25; Ephesians 1:19-23).  This death and its cleansing power can be forgotten (II Peter 1:9).  The Lord's presence can fade from our consciousness.  We can allow ourselves to become so busy and preoccupied with the affairs of our world that we lose our awareness of God's presence.  At these times we must get alone with God.  Our concerns for the presence of God should become greater than anything else, greater than even food or drink or sleep.  Nothing matters except regaining the awareness of God's presence.  This then, this is the time to fast and pray, pray and fast.  So what?  Well, His disciples did not fast while He was physically with them.  But once He died upon the cross the disciples began to fast.  This fact ought to cause all of us to stop and seriously ponder why, and then begin fasting.  So when we first learn of His death and what that really means to us, we should begin fasting.  Afterwards, when we are forcibly reminded that He died for us we should experience heart-rending times, ushering in times of precious prayer and fasting.  We need to get alone and meditate upon His death, allowing nothing to interfere or distract us, not even food.  

       Finally, there is the mission of a new life and a new spiritual movement.  Christ gave three parables, illustrations, to get His meaning across to the listener/reader.  A piece of new cloth can't be used to patch an old garment for it fails to match the old garment.  God had not come to patch up the old life, but to start a new life and a new movement spiritually.  A patch does not remove the hole in the old garment, it merely covers it up.  The next illustration concerned putting new wine into old, used bottles.  Doing this causes the old bottles to blow up.  God was not putting His teaching into the old life and movement, but was launching a new life and movement for God so that the person's life would not "blow up."  The final illustration is that "new wine" is hard to accept if one has been drinking old wine.  God's new life and movement would be difficult to accept; it would take some time.  People were slow to give up the old life, for they were very content/comfortable with it (their religious traditions, customs, rituals and self-righteousness).  Therefore, people would often refuse to even consider the new life and movement, preferring what they are currently used to.  

       This can be seen in the world today.  People refuse to accept the new way of Christ and the movement of His Spirit within them, it simply can't work that way!  But it does work that way.  Transformation must take place in the life of the person who claims to be a Christian.  The old nature must be rejected and replaced by the new nature.  The new nature must be fed more than the old nature so that it becomes ever stronger and more vibrant.  Christ becomes engrafted into our nature, becoming part of us, with us 24/7.   This new reality forces us to reconsider what we watch, what we read, what we say, what we listen to, who we associate with.  It is a reality that fundamentally changes our behavior, forever.

       This completes chapter five of Luke.  Next time I begin chapter six, where Christ teaches that need supersedes religion.  Until then, grace and peace as we all prepare for Palm Sunday, the prelude to the Passion Week leading up to Easter.  From  hallelujahs to crucify Him!  

    ~Eric


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    Wed, Mar 20th - 9:12PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins, but God alone?  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered saying to them, What reasoning are you doing in your hearts?  Whether it is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven; or to say, Rise up and walk?  But that you may know that the Son of man has power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said to the sick of the palsy) I say to you, Arise, and take up your bed, and go into your house.  And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that bed upon which he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today (5:21-26)."

       Those Pharisees and scribes clearly understood that the only one who could forgive sins was God.  No mortal man could do this.  They clearly stated out loud that the power required to forgive sins was only to be found in God.  The religionists knew this truth, but they failed to see that Jesus Christ was One with God.  If He could forgive sins of other people, then He must be God.  That is the inevitable destination of logical thinking.  But all that they could say was that they had definitely seen strange things that day.  Jesus had demonstrated in front of them that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior, the Living God.  Instead of crying out Hallelujah! these men stood there reasoning in their hearts how this could not possibly be God's doing.  They could only conclude in their minds that Jesus was committing blashpemy.  So much for having living, breathing, evidence stand right before your very eyes so that you can believe.  Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, come to seek and to save that which is lost.  Religionists today continue to stumble all over the fact that Jesus is God incarnate, in human flesh, come to save the entire world (John 3:16; John 10:36).

       Clearly the religionists' thoughts could be read by Jesus, giving further proof of His deity.  Jesus saw their unbelief, selfishness, worldliness, impurity, deception, and wrongness.  They could not hide it from Him.  See here how Jesus set out to prove His deity.  1)   His Word and the fact that it worked proved His deity.  He proposed a test of God's power.  All that He had to do was to speak the Word, "Rise up and walk."   2)   His claim proved His deity.  He was not afraid to put Himself to the test.  He desired all men to know and to believe.  He purposed to prove His power in the lives of those who sought forgiveness (JOhn 9:35-37; John 1:34; Matthew 8:20).  3)   His power proved His deity.  Jeus spoke the Word, and the man palsied rose up from his bed and walked.  He was healed immediately, not hours or days later.  When Jesus spoke the Word of forgiveness, the man was forgiven his sins.  "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth Matthew 28:18)."  "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him (Acts 10:38)."  4)   His impact proved His deity.  The healed man glorifed God.  The people were all amazed, and they too glorified God and were stricken with fear (awe and reverence).  These proofs of Jesus' deity ought to be closely studied by all skeptics and religionists. 

       I see four points made here.  a) Jesus is still willing to speak the Word of forgiveness and healing.

                                                    b) Jesus is the Son of Man and purposes to forgive the sins of all who are willing.

                                                    c) Jesus has both the power and the will to speak the Word of forgiveness and healing to those who seek it.

                                                    d) The impact of Jesus' life upon so many is evidence of His deity.  The fact that some are genuinely glorifying God and serving Him in awe and reverence

                                                        is strong evidence that Jesus has the power to forgive sins.

       The common belief back in Jesus' time was that suffering was caused by sin.  So Jesus healing of this man was proof that his sins were forgiven.  Sins could only be forgiven by God, thus Jesus must be God.  The religionists could not logically deny the fact that Jesus had the power to forgive sins.

       Finally, I must consider Jesus' statement that He was the Son of man.  Jesus is not only what an ordinary man is, a son of man; Jesus is what every man ought to be, the Son of Man Himself.  He is the Ideal Man, the Representative Man, the Perfect Man, the Pattern, the Embodiment of everything a man ought to be.  Everything that God wants a man to be today is seen perfectly in Jesus Christ.  The title also means the Ideal Servant of man.  It stresses His sympathy for the poor,  the broken-hearted, the captives, the blind, the bruised, the outcasts, the bereaved.  Jesus is the Model/Pattern for perfect concern and caring for others.  He served and set a perfect example of how every man ought to serve other men. 

       About eighty times Jesus calls Himself "the Son of Man."  This title is probably based upon the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14.  We are also given a picture of Jesus as the heavenly Son of Man contrasted with Adam as the earthly Man (I Corinthians 15:45-47).  Further passages to read in relation to this concept are: Matthew 9:6; Matthew 16:13,16; Matthew 20:28; Mark 8:38; Luke 19:10; John 5:26-27; John 6:53; John 13:31-32; Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:12-13.  This picture consistently runs throughout the New Testament and is to be found in the Old Testament as well.

       So what?  What does any of this prove?  It demonstates that Christ Jesus came as the embodiment of the Perfect Man.  The only means of doing this was through His being the Living God, Jehovah.  All God and all man, wrapped up in one body.  Come to seek and to save that which was lost.  Why?  Out of love for the creature He had made.  Jehovah has been, and always will be, all about having relationship with His creation.  God walked in the Garden of Eden alongside Adam and Eve daily.  They conversed, they shared things, and those two people learned about who God was.  So what?  It did not prevent them from doubting what God had already told them.  Free wii came into play.  They chose to listen to, and believe, what that possessed serpent said to them about the tree in the middle of the Garden.  Adam should have been calling for a time-out.  He ought to have grabbed Eve's arm and gently steered her away from the Tree of Knowledge and to other parts of the Garden.  He needed to redirect her focus from the Tree, to other things that they needed to be doing.  But he did not.  He failed in his responsibilities towards Eve, his help-mete.  So what?  The beginning of the need for God to become incarnate in human flesh in order to redeem fallen mankind began right here in the Garden of Eden.  Everything in the Bible from this point forward concerns Jesus coming as the Lamb of God, the Perfect Sacrificial Lamb to obtain atonement for mankind's sins.  Everything in the Bible is a preparation for the First Advent of Jesus into our world, being born in Bethlehem in a lowly manger.  Right through these passages in Luke and on to the cross of Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem, all of it consistently points towards the coming Messiah.  Some have called it the Scarlet Thread.  It is an appropriate phrase. 

       That is all for midweek.  I pray that Lent is going well for all of you.  Each of us must recognize at some point that prayer is essential to living an effective Christian life.  Daniel had learned this at an early age and kept faithful to it his entire lifetime as a captive in a foreign land.  King David also knew the value of prayer as seen in Psalm 105:4.  So, seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually my brothers and sisters!

    ~Eric



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    Tue, Mar 19th - 12:37PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting nearby, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before Him.  And when they could not find a way that they might bring in because of the multitude, they went up onto the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.  And when He saw their faith, He said to him, Man, your sins are forgiven you (5:17-20)."

       A Pharisaic investigation committee came to visit Jesus one day.  Representatives from several communities gathered, their intent was to discover how Jesus did what He did.  This group of religionists were symbolic of people who have a lack of commitment to God, are critical of God's ways, and tend to remain by the wayside in church.  This group of Pharisees and doctors of the law came from the major areas of Israel.  These were religious leaders of Israel (Luke 6:2, Acts 23:8).  By coming and sitting nearby they were in a position to listen to all that Jesus said and what He chose to do.  They chose to not participate, only to witness the activities and dialogue.  

       Jesus Christ's power was firmly set to face their opposition.  The power of God was upon Him, and thus He continued to heal people despite this group's presence nearby.  Jesus did not allow known critics of His ministry and teaching to deflect Him from doing what He had come to do.  He remained immoveable in His message and call.  In view of this, we must therefore be aware that there are always people who just sit by, who are just spectators, never actually listening and learning, never actually becoming involved.  There are always people who are critical, who set themselves up as "knowing best", who are censors and judges of what the preacher or teacher does.  They are self-appointed "religious police" on the alert for things to not become too different.  The preacher or teacher must continue on in his/her call and ministry; we must not point at others and ask why they are not doing certain things like you are.  God gives each person specific tasks to perform that others are not asked to perform.  It is why some preach, some teach, and some are missionaries to foreign lands.  But we all are ministers to others.  

       In verses 18-20 we discover the approach necessary for forgiveness.  It was not simply up to the person who required the healing touch of God.  The men who took their friend up onto the roof utilized four steps in seeking God's forgiveness and healing from Jesus Christ.  These same four steps are necessary for anyone today to receive forgiveness of sin.

    1)   The man sought help.  He needed the help of his friends, and they all were ultimately seeking the help of Jesus.  This man was incapable of helping himself, to secure forgiveness and wholeness by his own efforts.  He had to have help.  The same applied to the friends of this man.  They were incapable of providing forgiveness and wholeness to their sick friend.  They, too, understood that they needed the help of Jesus and of each other.  We learn here then, it is always necessary to seek Jesus Christ's help.  Often it will require the seeking of help from friends.

    2)   They believed and had confidence in Jesus ability to forgive sins and to heal.  They believed that if they came, Jesus had the power to help, and that He loved and cared enough to help.  Notice the inconvenience and difficulty they then faced in coming.  Their friend could not leave his bed, so they hoisted it and him up onto the roof of the house in which Jesus was located.  This, after having carried both bed and friend through the streets crowded with people milling around trying to get in to see and hear Jesus Christ.  What determination and belief!  

    3)   These men persisted despite great difficulty.  The crowds were to large to force a way through them, so they managed to navigate alongside of the house and climbed up onto its roof.  They proceeded to remove some of the roof tiles, creating a sizable hole, and used ropes to lower their friend on his bed down into the house.  The bed settled down right in front of Jesus.  Jesus observed all of this, knowing what these men had been doing the entire time.  The spirit of their boldness, determination, and persistence, paired with their belief, touched Christ's heart and still touches His heart today.

    4)   They were seeking forgiveness.  The sick man was seeking forgiveness of his sins as well as healing of his stricken body.  The man suffered from paralysis, perhaps from an injury or some kind of illness.  It was the common belief of that day that suffering was due to sin.  So this man's mind was centered upon his sin as the cause of his problem; therefore, he wanted Jesus to forgive him of his sin and thus heal him.

       But now we must also note that Jesus saw "their faith," the faith of friends as well as of the sick man.  Often we must rely upon the assistance of our friends to help us gain spiritual healing, their faith lifts us up.  The faith that Jesus saw here was a faith that believed and persisted against all sorts of obstacles.  Do we too easily give up because things get in our way?  Do we surrender, throw our hands up in the air, and mutter that it is just too difficult to do?  Jesus Himself forgave the man's sins.  This is a critical fact too easily overlooked.  Jesus did not say, "Man, God forgives you of your sin."  He said, "Man, I forgive you of your sin."  Only God can forgive sins, thus Jesus is God.  

       Lastly, I point out the nature of most houses back in Jesus' day.  They usually had an outside stairway that went up to the second floor.  The roof was easily reached from this stairway.  Roofs were flat and made out of tile-like rocks matted together with a mixture of straw and clay.  It was sturdy enough for people to sit upon and talk to one another and carry on activities.  So these men dug the straw-clay mixture out from between several of these tile-like rocks in order to create an opening large enough to lower that bed with their friend upon it down into the house below.  No small feat, that!  Nothing was going to prevent them from helping their friend reach the presence of Jesus Christ so that he could be forgiven and healed.  Theirs was an unstoppable faith.  How about ours today?  What do we allow to stop us from approaching Christ?  Television?  Internet?  Partying?  Mockery?  Golf?  Pride?  Arrogance?  Guilt?  Physical illness or disease?  Disabilities?  Why allow these things to dictate whether or not we will go into the presence of God?  We need to become determined to "dig the dirt" out of our way and force an opening through which we can present ourselves to Christ, to secure cleansing and forgiveness of our sins.  

       That is all for today my friends.  Next time I will finish looking at the rest of this particular passage.  May you feel the presence of the Living God today and gain His grace and peace for your own.  We need to be ever thankful for the faithful witness of believers in Christ of all ages.

    ~Eric


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    Mon, Mar 18th - 5:55PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and begged Him, saying, Lord if You will, You can make me clean.  And He put out His hand, and touched him, saying, I will: you be clean.  And immediately the leprosy departed from him.  And He charged him to tell no one: but go, and show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.  But so much more fame went abroad of Him: and great multitudes gathered together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  And he withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed (5:12-16)."

       In every culture society treats some people as though they are untouchable.  Some people are so enslaved, so depraved and destitute, so different, so down and out, so helpless and hopeless that they become untouchable to a large segment of society.  No one really wants to associate with them.  Few wish to live near them, walk close to them, sell anything to them, or have them near their places of business.  But these people are not treated like this by Jesus.  This is what the entire point of the above text is all about.  Jesus will touch the untouchable of this world and He will cleanse them all, if they but ask Him.

       This man plagued by leprosy saw Jesus in the streets and by faith spoke to Him.  This poor man believed Jesus had the ability to heal him completely.  His belief is what caused Jesus to then reach out and remove the leprosy from his body.  Back in those days leprosy was a horribly disfiguring disease.  Sores and wounds upon the extremities would fester and exude puss.  Not being able to feel when the skin had been cut or punctured caused infection to take place in the wounds over time.  In its own way, pain and suffering allows each of us to feel when something is wrong with our bodies and we then tend to our wounds.  Leprosy takes this ability away from those afflicted by it.  This man existed outside of direct human contact and comfort.  No touching was allowed to him.  If he had been married with children they no longer had anything to do with him.  He could only watch from afar, no more hugs or kisses.  No more expressions of love to be experienced.  Isolation and loneliness were this man's daily experience.  

       So this man saw Jesus and forgot all else.  He forgot the people surrounding Jesus, forgot the shame of his condition, forgot the embarrassment, and forgot that he was not to approach within six feet of any person.  Desperation and hope drove him, the possibility that Jesus would help even him.  Can you picture how those people must have scattered?  None of them desired to contract leprosy!  More can be found of this event in Matthew 8:1-4 and Mark 1:40-45.  But here we notice several things.

    a.   The man's determination to seek out Jesus' help.  Nothing and no one was going to prevent him.
    b.   The man's humility.  He fell flat on the ground, face down in the dirt before Jesus.
    c.   The man's confession of Christ.  He called Jesus "Lord."
    d.   The man's request was to be cleansed, not healed.  He was asking for spiritual and physical cleansing for he knew that he was dirty and defiled both within and without.

       As I have already said, leprosy was the most horrible disease in the day of Jesus.  It was disfiguring, caused loss of digits and limbs, sometimes even fatal.  Biblically, leprosy represented a type of sin.  The leper was considered to be utterly unclean.  He could not approach anyone closer than six feet, including their own family members.  Leviticus 13:45, "His clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean!"  There was to be no sneaking up and surprising people.  He was judged as dead, the living dead.  He had to wear a black garment so he could clearly seen as from among the dead.  He was banished as an outcast, completely ostracized from his society, from his community of fellow human beings.  He was considered to be without any hope of going to heaven.  Again, Leviticus  provides us with some information: "All the days in which the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone; outside of the camp shall he live (13:46)."  He couldn't live inside the walls of any city or town.  He was thought to be polluted, incurable by any human means whatsoever.  Leprosy could only be cured by God Almighty.  We must stop and imagine the anguish and heartbreak of a leper being completely cut off from family and friends, from coworkers/colleagues, and from society.  We must imagine the emotional and mental stress and strain, the pain suffered.  Who are the "lepers" of society today?  How are we reaching out to them?  How are we meeting their needs?  

       Leprosy pretty much was a death knell back in those days.  Then Jesus Christ strode onto the landscape and began cleansing the untouchable.  Jesus was moved with compassion as we learned in Mark 1:41.  The sight of this man simply gripped Jesus' heart.  So Jesus reached out and touched this man, an unheard of act.  I can imagine the horrified gasps of the crowd.  This man was an untouchable!  He was full of leprosy, a deadly contagious disease that seemingly ate the flesh away.  Yet Jesus lowered Himself to touch this man.  No one else dared to touch him for fear of contracting leprosy themselves.  This man had had leprosy many years, for it says he was full of it.  He had not been touched by another human being for so many years he probably could not even remember what it felt like, to feel the soft touch of another person's hand.  What did Jesus say to this man? "I will...you be clean."

       This was no partial removal of what afflicted this poor man.  Jesus willed him to be clean.  The man was immediately fully restored to health.  Restored in his own heart and restored within society.  Every person in this world of ours who has become "untouchable" is being sought out by Jesus Christ, to be restored and made whole once again.  Jesus spoke the Word of cleansing.  He saved the man spiritually, physically, and socially.  No hocus pocus required here, simply cleansed by the Word of Jesus.  We too can be cleansed by the Word of Christ today.  We simply need to approach Him and express our genuine belief that He is able to cleanse us, able to restore us, able to redeem us.  

       Finally, we see that Jesus charged this man to do two things. 1)   Jesus demanded that he tell no one.  Few people ever go so deep and become so full of sin.  This man had been saved from so much and he was now full of so much joy and thanksgiving.  But there was a danger in running all around telling everyone about what had happened to him.  There was the danger of pride and boasting within himself and of jealousy and envy arising within others towards him.  2)   Jesus demanded that this man rush and obey God by going to the priest at the Temple.  The man needed to worship and offer thanks to God and learn to obey God's Word before doing anything else.  In the naturally occurring unlikely event that a person suffering from leprosy became cured, there was a detailed list of laws and rituals they had to go through.  These rituals gave the priests time to confirm that the person was cured, and led the leper to make a thanksgiving offering to God.  Jesus charged the man to observe the ordinances of the Temple so that he could be certified as being clean once again.

       What did Jesus then do?  The crowds of people increased even more, forcing Him to retreat out into the wilderness so that He could find time to be alone with the Father in heaven.  Curing leprosy was huge in those times, the news must have spread like wildfire.  People were steadily getting the message:  Jesus had both the message of salvation and the power to heal infirmities.  Jesus knew the source of His message and power: God alone, and prayer.  So He withdrew away from the towns and cities to be alone with God and to seek His face and commune with Him.  These all are things which we must be doing today, if we wish to carry on thriving ministries of helping people in need.  We must take time to be alone with God, seeking His face, praying to Him to strengthen us and enable us to carry on in doing His work.

       That is all for today beloved!  I hope you all have had a beautiful day!  Just remember that the sun is always shining down upon us all, no matter the weather all around us.  Grace and peace be with you.

    ~Eric 


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    Sat, Mar 16th - 5:31PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And it came to pass, that as the people pressed in upon Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.  And He entered one of the ships, which was Simon's, and requested that he launch out a little from the shore.  And He sat down, and taught the people from out of the ship.  Now when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, Launch out into the deep water, and drop down your nets for a draught.  And Simon replied to Him, Master, we have labored all night long, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.  And when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and their net broke.  And they beckoned to their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them.  And they came, and filled both ships, so that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of fishes which they had caught:  And so was James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from now on you shall catch men.  And when they had brought their ships back to land, they forsook all, and followed Him (5:1-11)."

       Here is where Jesus called His very first disciples to follow Him.  We can observe the steps involved in this process of calling.  Here is how Jesus goes about calling people to help Him in the task of reaching this fallen world.  

    1.   Seeing a vision of people who need to hear the Word of God.
    2.   Seizing resources.
    3.   Removing reluctant obedience.
    4.   Demonstrating godly power.
    5.   Stirring a deep confession.
    6.   Challenging people to discipleship, to catch other people.
    7.   Watching for the decision to forsake all.

       Lake Gennesaret also goes by the name of the Sea of Galilee.  What God teaches us in this passage is that the very first step to calling people is seeing a vision of people who need the Word of God in their lives.  Why were all of these people on shore pressing in upon Jesus?  They wanted to hear the Word of God.  They craved, hungered, thirsted after, righteousness.  Here in this passage, and in other scriptures, Jesus met the needs of the multitudes.  "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6)."  "But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14)."  

       The second step is seizing resources.  There was a need to properly handle the multitude of people pressing in upon Jesus, He needed to address the situation at hand.  Looking around Jesus noticed a couple of fishing boats moored at the shore nearby.  Knowing who worked these boats, Jesus strode over to them and began to deploy His plans.  The boat was used as a pulpit, its nets as a prop, and the owner would become a disciple.  By using the boat Jesus was able to create some space between Himself and the crowd.  He had the vision of the people desperately needing the Word of God, utilized the available resources to enable Himself to speak more effectively to all of them, and included others into His ministry in the process.  

       The third step is to remove reluctant obedience.  As soon as Jesus finished preaching to the people, the time had arrived to win Peter's loyalty and discipleship.  He humbled Peter by showing that He, the Messiah, could look after and take care of him.  Despite them having fished all night without positive results, Peter listened to Jesus suggestion and shoved out into deeper water in order to lower his net.  He was not confident at all that they would catch any fish, yet he obeyed reluctantly.  Peter was reluctant to obey, he objected to what Jesus asked of him.  He must have been exhausted from working the nets all night long.  Disappointment was all over him for they had caught absolutely nothing.  He needed to go home and fall into bed.  He was already late since he had agreed to loan his boat to Jesus so that He could preach to the people on shore.    But Peter caught himself in the midst of objecting and reluctantly obeyed.  Perhaps Peter changed his mind due to the size of the crowd of people who had gathered here to listen to Jesus.  Perhaps he had already heard of this man's amazing miracles done in the surrounding area.  Peter must have followed his heart, for his mind screamed that there were no fish to be caught.  His experience screamed that this was not the right time of day to go out fishing.  His body screamed that this was the time to go home and fall asleep, to rest up for the next night's fishing endeavor.  

       What we must realize is that in these sorts of circumstances, we should always give in to obedience to God.  Our spirit needs to try for God, no matter what the obstacles are, or how big they appear to be.  When we are drawn to Christ, we need to obey our heart and to obey it immediately.  "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, since you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58)." 

       The fourth step is a demonstration of godly power.  Peter's obedience resulted in fantastic results.  Fish were not only caught, the incredible amount almost sank both boats.  It was no ordinary catch of fish.  It caused the fishermen to stop and ponder more deeply who this Jesus really was.  We can sense that Christ really laid it on Peter in a big way.  Peter was exhausted, despondent, cranky, and a little bit worried over the loss of revenue for the night.  Jesus just took it right to Peter, showing him that there was going to be a lot more to exhaustion than what he had experienced during the night.  Christ loved Simon Peter, even at this time in their relationship.  He simply was seeking Peter's loyalty, even if meant He had to drop Peter dead tired in his tracks.  Jesus provided these fishermen an immense financial boon in creating this immense catch of fish.  Peter's net broke, but he did not get angry about it.  Peter called to his partners to quickly come over to help them draw the entire catch into their two boats.  So many fish.  Two boats almost sinking due to the weight of fish packed into them.  Did their work end right then?  Of course not.  Fishermen must unload their catch once reaching shore.  Fish must be processed and gotten to the market before spoiling.  Exhausted?  The work simply had to be finished or else all would be lost.  

       Peter realizes his unworthiness to question this man of Nazareth.  He can't comprehend how Christ knew where the fish were.  He can't comprehend how many fish had been caught.  Here was a big man, a fisherman, falling to his knees before Jesus.  A fisherman being proven wrong by a carpenter's son.  Peter was broken in humility before Christ, and this experience was only the first of many such experiences yet to happen.

     
    the fifth step is stirring a deep confession in the one called.  Peter knew exactly what had just happened.  He had been reluctant to obey, and had objected.  He was not initially any too happy over the huge fish catch.  But, he was a skilled fisherman and clearly understood the meaning of obtaining such a huge wealth of fish after not catching anything all night long.  It was a miracle of God meant to teach him to obey without question.  It leads to Peter's confession at Jesus' knees. "Leave me, for I am a sinful man!"  Peter knew that he had not believed they would catch anything at all.  He confessed his sin of disobedience and unbelief: he had objected and questioned Christ's will, knowledge, and power.  We must do these same things today, beloved.  Notice that Peter called Jesus Lord.  Earlier Peter had simply called Him "Master."  This word was used to address anyone in authority.  But later Peter changed his thoughts and called Jesus Lord, the One who is holy and convicting, who must be obeyed and followed.  We see Peter voicing a fear, a reverence, an awe, for the Lord.  "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of host (Isaiah 6:5)."  

       The sixth step is challenging people to discipleship, to catch other people.  "Fear not" indicates that Peter was actually scared and frightened at the prospect of being in the presence of Jesus Christ.  Jesus calmed him down, telling him to trust Him and to stop being afraid.  The call to Peter was to catch men.  "Catch" (zogreo) means to catch alive or to catch for life.  Peter's purpose in life was no longer to be catching fish for death but to catch people for life.  

       James, the brother of John, was the son of Zebedee.  He along with John and Peter left all, in order to follow after Jesus.  James is not ever mentioned separately from John.  Herod killed him with the sword (Acts 12:2).  James the less was the son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3).  There are two other men mentioned in the NT by the name of James.  One is James the Lord's half-brother.  He and the Lord's other brothers and sisters did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah until after His resurrection.  James did become a great leader and pastor in the early church.  He pastored the Jerusalem church and he wrote the Epistle of James.  There is also James who was the father of Judas (Luke 6:16).  

       The seventh step is watching for the personal decision to forsake all in order to follow after Christ Jesus.  We see in the above passage that the men responded immediately.  They left everything behind; their business, their professions, their friends and family, and the absolute biggest catch of fish in their entire lives.  The three men followed Jesus for He was the Lord who had spoken, and they were to be His disciples.  

    What about us today?  Do we hear the call of Christ?  Do we see resources being taken and used to better reach out to people who are in desperate need?  Have we removed our reluctance to obey Christ?  Do we reluctantly obey God's commands place upon us?  If so, have we then witnessed the demonstration of God's holy power?  Has there been created within our hearts a deep confession of our unworthiness to remain in the presence of God?  Have we been challenged to become disciples of Christ, to be trained in order to "catch" other people?  Finally, have we decided to forsake all that we have so that we may follow after Jesus, wherever He may beckon us to go?  I hope so, I surely hope so.

    ~Eric


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    Thu, Mar 14th - 5:16PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And He stood up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's house.  And Simon's mother-in-law was taken with a great fever; and they begged Him to do something for her.  And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she stood up and ministered to them.  Now when the sun was setting, all of them that had any sick people with diverse diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them,  and healed them.  And devils also came out of many people, crying out, and saying, You are Christ the Son of God.  And He rebuking them would not allow them to speak: for they knew that He was Christ.  And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place: and the people looked for Him, and came to Him, and stopped Him, that He should not leave them.  And He said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities as well: for therefore am I sent.  And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee (4:38-44)."

        Jesus went and healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law of a horrible fever that had laid her up in bed.  Jesus simply rebuked the fever and it left her body.  It was miraculous.  This woman was desperately ill, unable to function.  She did not speak, was unable to get up out of her bed to welcome Jesus even.  It did not take several hours for this woman to be healed, it was mere seconds.  She got up and began to serve them, as she would have been doing if she had not been ill.  We see Jesus as the great hope of those in the most need.  It does not matter how desperate, or helpless or weakened they may be, Jesus will speak His Word of healing.  People simply need to be willing in heart and mind.  Unable to even speak?  Not a problem.  Simply think and God hears clearly.  

       Jesus then proceeded to heal all of the diseases afflicting the people all around that region.  It was early evening and the sun was setting, He had been ministering most of the entire day, and even though being tired, He remained approachable.  At any hour people could approach Jesus, and it remains this way even today.  There are no closed doors to His presence to the person honestly seeking Him out.  We see that these people were totally helpless, others had to bring them to Him.  This implies that someone cared enough about them to bring them to Jesus.  We too must care enough about people in order that we will bring them to Jesus.  This is also a challenge for each of us.  Do we care enough to bring the helpless into the presence of Jesus?  Do we bypass, or overlook, certain individuals?  Or do we touch everyone, inviting them to come, and to see?  No matter what condition a person may be in, they must be invited to come.  

       Again we see Jesus driving out evil spirits from people.  These evil spirits clearly know who Christ is, they name Him.  But Jesus stopped them from announcing to the people who He was.  The time was not right for this, as well as the fact that these were demonic spirits who were unrepentant.  

       After having ministered to people for the better part of 24 hours, Jesus looked to go out to a deserted place in order to rest and pray to the Father in heaven.  Exhaustion must have certainly been a big factor in His decision to go.  But we notice that the people went and found Him.  They begged Him to stay with them, to help them some more.  Desperation can do these sorts of things.  But Jesus informed them all that He could remain in one place forever, that He had come to preach to all of the cities of Israel the kingdom of God.  

       It can be learned from this passage the importance of rest and renewal during ministry.  We need to renew ourselves, our bodies, and our spirits, by entering the Lord's presence.  We must seek Him out and beg Him to help us now.  Now that His Spirit resides within us we can request His assistance.  In Luke 4 Jesus could only minister to those whom He was surrounded by.  But today He is in the Spirit and able to minister to everyone, everywhere, simultaneously.  But so few people are seeking Him out.  We also see the lesson of how to manage our ministry in Christ.  Jesus stuck firmly to His mission despite pressure coming at Him from the crowds to stay and to teach just them.  He had to fulfill His mission.  Other people had to be given the opportunity to hear and believe the gospel.  The Greek word here for "stayed or stopped" means tried to prevent, hinder, stop, hold back.  We find in our ministries times when people attempt to prevent us from moving on in our ministry.  They wish us to stay with them, to continue teaching them, and to not expand or change the direction of our ministry.  We must remain focused upon the fact that we are ambassadors of Christ, sent by Him out into this world to preach, teach, and to lead others to Him.  We are then to baptize them and continue to train them to be disciples of Christ.  It is to be a self-duplicating process, one in which we produce clones of ourselves.  If we have properly been cloned from Jesus Christ, then we will accurately clone others to be just like Him.  This is what the apostles went about doing during the first century church. It is what we are to do today as well.  

    That is all for today, beloved.  I wish you God's grace and the peace of Christ which surpasses all human understanding.

    ~Eric


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    Tue, Mar 12th - 6:54PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.  And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power.  And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Leave us alone; what do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?  Are You come to destroy us?  I know who You are; the Holy One of God.  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold your peace, and come out of him.  And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and did not hurt him.  And they were all amazed, and spoke among themselves, saying, What a word is this!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country all around (4:31-37)."

       Here is what can be considered the "launch" of Christ's ministry.  Jesus walked to Capernaum after being rejected, dragged up the hill, and almost thrown down it at Nazareth.  It was a tiring trip no doubt.  Luke was directed by God to provide us with a "snapshot" of a day in the life of Jesus.  He arrived at Capernaum and began to teach the people who gathered in the synagogues each sabbath day.  This city became the headquarters of Christ's outreach to nation Israel.  It was a manufacturing center of Palestine and so was strategically located.  It experienced a flood of travelling merchants along the great roads passing through its borders.  These roads connected with such cities as Damascus, Jerusalem, Tyre, and Sidon.  The great caravan route going to the Mediterranean Sea also ran through this city.  The gospel was able to spread rather quickly along all of these roads.

       We see that Jesus preached His message with power.  It was not the sort of teaching that the people were used to hearing in the synagogues.  It astonished them.  What He was teaching them blew their minds.  His Word had power, it had authority, His message had a commanding force to it, and His message had a quickening influence upon the hearts of His listeners.  This doctrine that He taught them came from God the Father "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.  If any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.  He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he that seeks His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (John 7:16-18)."

       Jesus was going every sabbath day to the synagogue and then one day a man shows up there who has an unclean spirit inside of him.  Possessed by this spirit, the man entered the synagogue.  He wasn't outside of its entrance, he walked right on in.  He was attending the worship service inside, even though he was unclean, possessed by a spirit not his own.  The spirit that possessed him was that of an unclean devil.  "Unclean" means that the man was both morally and ceremonially unclean, dirty, disheveled, filthy.  His corruptness affected his entire life and being.  Yet here he was worshiping.  The devilish spirit had intelligence.  It recognized who Jesus was, and spoke out loud to Him.  This spirit knew three things:

    a.   He had nothing to do with Jesus Christ.  He was not connected to Christ.  Christ was clean and pure and undefiled while this spirit was the exact opposite in nature.

    b.   He knew that he was to be destroyed by Jesus, that a day of judgment was coming.  Was it to be that very day?

    c.   He knew that Jesus was "the Holy One of God."  This devil proclaimed that he stood face to face with the true Messiah, the Son of the most High God, the Holy One of the Living God.

       What are we being taught here?  One thing is that it is foolish to assume that everybody who attends worship services is spiritually clean.  Some will enter the sanctuary while under the influence of demonic forces.  They will be morally unclean and corrupted, enslaved by the demonic presence within them.  These demonic spirits cry out "Leave us alone!"  "What do we have to do with You?"  "You are the Holy One of God!" 

       Another thing taught here is that Jesus Christ has the power to rebuke demonic spirits.  Jesus stopped the acknowledgement, not wishing him to proclaim publically at this time of His glory.  Why?  Because it was a false witness, coming from a fallen creature.  There was no accompanying profession of faith in Him, just voicing what was evident to the demonic spirit.  The demonic spirit had not been born again, there was no repentance in him.  We also learn that Jesus was able to cast out the demon and save the man.  Did He require hocus pocus hand movements?  No, all Jesus did was speak.  All power in heaven and in earth is His.  His Word is sufficient.  He told the unclean spirit to be quiet and to come out of the man.  All that the spirit could do was fling the man down onto the ground as he came out of him.  Then we see that those who witnessed this miracle, were amazed.  Shocked.  Stunned.  Jesus Christ's words were uttered with the power of God Almighty.  The most unclean person can be cleansed by the Word of Christ.  We learn also that His fame was spread all over the area via those roadways that intersected in this city.  They witnessed to His healing and cleansing power, to His authoritative words.  This was something that they had never seen before.  We must never think that any person is beyond the cleansing power of Christ Jesus.  No sin is too great, no wickedness to evil, to overcome or withstand the grace of Christ. 

       That is all for today, beloved!  More will come tomorrow!  Grace and peace be yours this late winter's day.

    ~Eric



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    Mon, Mar 11th - 7:08AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And all bore Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which He spoke.  And they said, Isn't this Joseph's son?  And He said to them, You will surely say to Me this proverb, Physician heal Yourself: whatever we have heard that you've done in Capernaum, do also here in your country.  And He said, Truly I say to you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.  But I tell you a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three and a half years, when great famine was throughout all of the land; But to none of them was Elias sent, except unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them were cleansed, save Naaman the Syrian.  And all of them in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And they rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill upon which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headfirst.  But He passed through the middle of them all and went His way (4:22-30)."

       What was the general response to Jesus' words?  Did the people rejoice at being told that their beloved Messiah had finally come, and was right there among them?  Did they throw a welcome party?  Nope.  The people declined what Jesus said to them.  They did not simply tell Jesus they did not believe what He had said to them, they violently rejected His claim.  Notice how their reaction progressed:

    1.   First, they were all impressed with Jesus' speaking skills.  His knowledge and wisdom of the Torah, His ability to read it so well, all impressed them for they recognized that He was Joseph's son.  "Wondered" comes from a Greek word that means to marvel, to be astonished.  Initially they all took pride in one of their own neighbor's being so capable of public speaking.  
    2.   Second, came their questioning.  This change came quite quickly.  In Matthew's account we are given more of the words of these people in the synagogue.  There we are told that they all became offended by Him.  They stumbled over Jesus' words.  They simply could not imagine someone from their own hometown, someone that they had known since early childhood, could possibly be their Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
    3.   Third, they were already thinking in their minds that Jesus ought to do for them what He had already been doing for others around Capernaum.  Jesus pointing this out to them before they could even say the words cut deeply into their feelings.  They became offended at this.  They were stumbling over His claim of Messiahship while sitting there listening to Him.  Their response changed from being impressed to being offended to demanding proof.  

       Many people today are impressed with Jesus Christ at first, but when they are shown His claims and the cross at Calvary, they suddenly become offended and demand proof.  His claim to be the Incarnate God in human flesh, to be the virgin-born Son of God, who must die for mankind's sin by being crucified upon a vulgar, wooden, cross, is offensive to some.  Many people refuse to accept such phenomenal claims and vulgar scenes.  They refuse to accept the concept of an unconditionally loving God willingly doing this for them.  It is inconceivable!  They would prefer a religion of grand images, beautiful pictures, stained glass windows, an soft words.  Some wish to not be imposed upon by such things at all.  Still, there are some today who continue to make such requests of God.  "Then said Jesus to him, Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe (John 4:48)."  "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness (I Corinthians 1:22-23)."

       Jesus kept on speaking, directing His words toward the hometown group.  He knew that in their hearts they had already rejected Him, so He would not satisfy their curiosity and demands for signs and wonders.  He did not continue to preach either.  Instead Jesus gave them a warning.  Jesus told them that no prophet is ever welcome in His hometown.  Familiarity breeds contempt and eventually envy.  Even though this passage is directed immediately towards the people of Nazareth, Jesus was referring to all of Israel for the nation would eventually reject Him as well.  Jesus warned them of the consequences of unbelief in Him.  Two well known accounts from the history of Israel were thrown in their faces.  This Jewish audience could not possibly miss the point being made.  In the past, God had not given His mercy to people who just thought they were "God's People", but God had given His mercy to those whose heart was turned toward Him and who accepted and believed Him.  We are taught through these things that salvation requires more than simple profession,  more than just thinking one is chosen of God and that one will never be rejected by God.  A person's heart must be turned toward God (repentance) and must accept God (belief) in order to be saved.

       Then the people's true spirit becomes revealed.  Jesus told them that God would turn and give His mercy to someone else if they did not accept Him.  God would turn to those who were responsive to His call.  He would not waste more of His time by appealing to those who always reject His existence.  Jesus also made another statement, that God would turn from Israel if Israel continued to reject Him.  At this the people acted as all mobs do: they seized Jesus and dragged him out of the synagogue, out of their town, and attempted to throw Him off of the top of the hill that their town sat upon.  Their close-mindedness led to insane wrath.  They insanely attacked Jesus, leading to a violent attempt at ending His life.  Their insane behavior was fueled by emotions allowed free reign to act.  Jesus used His divine abilities and walked right through the midst of the mob of insane people to freedom.  It was not the appointed time for Him to die.  

       What do we take away from this passage then?  God will not continue to seek after a person forever.  A person can go too far too often, and end up facing eternity without the presence of God.  While there is yet time, a person must surrender their will to Jesus, to the Spirit of God.  A person or people may wish to silence Jesus Christ and His disciples, but their efforts will be to no avail.  The message of the gospel can't be silenced, it can't be eradicated, it can't be prevented.  "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My Words shall not pass away (Luke 21:33)."  

    That is all for this passage of Scripture today.  Next time I will begin looking at verses 31-44 in which we will find where Jesus went after escaping from the insane mob in His hometown.  Grace and peace be with you today.

    ~Eric


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    Sat, Mar 9th - 6:55AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And He came to Nazareth, where He had been raised: and, as was His custom, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up in order to read.  And there was given to Him the book of the prophet Esaias.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."  And He closed the book, and He gave it back to the minister, and sat down.  And all the eyes of them who were in the synagogue were fastened upon Him.  And He began to say to them, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing." (4:16-21)

       Hometown boy returns.  Resumes doing what he normally did on the sabbath day.  Except this time the boy does the dramatic, utters a phenomenal claim.  Jesus Christ claimed to be the Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament prophecies.  He entered the local synagogue to do what He always did on that day, worship God.  He was always faithful to the Father in heaven.  Here He was, attending the same synagogue in which He had been raised as a child.  This small community was a place where everyone would know everyone else, Jesus and those attending were neighbors; some even close to His own family.

       There were no actual preachers or ministers in the synagogue as we would know them.  The leaders would invite someone to read and then preach.  They had been hearing a lot about their neighbor, Jesus, so they quite obviously invited Him to read and then preach on this particular Sabbath.  What is seen at the beginning is Jesus' dramatic reading from the book of Isaiah the prophet.  Isaiah 61:1-2 centers around the Messiah, the Promised One.  We see that Jesus stood and reverently read this scripture.  In like manner, we too should stand and reverently read God's Word.  When listening to others read the Scriptures we should then listen reverently as well.  We notice that the Messiah was to be anointed by the Spirit.  He was to be both called and equipped by God's Spirit.  This informs us that those whom God calls, He anoints; He equips the called one with His Spirit.  The Holy Spirit then goes with the called one wherever they happen to go. 

       The Messiah was to preach the gospel.  This word means to evangelize.  So the Messiah was to evangelize people.  He was to evangelize the poor, which means both those materially poor as well as those poor in spirit.  He was to also preach deliverance to the captives.  This pictures people who are like prisoners of war.  Too often we forget that we are living in occupied territory, that this world is Satan's domain.  We forget that each day we are involved in spiritual warfare.  Those people who have been "captured" in this world are then "prisoners of war," and are therefore captives.  The Messiah was to minister by healing the brokenhearted.  This classification includes those who are:  crushed by grief, shattered, opposed, cut off, blemished by sin, violated by sin, infected, diseased, weakened, subdued, injured, or bankrupt.  He was to give sight to the blind, whether they were spiritually blind or physically blind.  In many cases He would give sight physically first, and spiritually second.  He was to set at liberty those who were bruised.  These are those people who are physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bruised.  This includes those who are disabled, suffering, injured, wounded, afflicted, and battered.  Are you and I one of these?

       The Messiah was to also preach the age of salvation.  The phrase "acceptable year of the Lord" means the era, the age or day of the Lord's salvation.  It means the age of the Messiah had finally come.  Now, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 but He stopped in the middle of verse two.  Why?  Because the last part of that verse speaks about judgment and Jesus' ministry at this time was all about salvation.  Judgment was not to come until in the future, when He returned from heaven. 

       We also have here the phenomenal claim made by Jesus that He was their Messiah.  The scene in the synagogue was one of eager anticipation and expectation.  Jesus calmly closed the book, handed it back to the leader, and sat down in His seat.  All done according to custom.  All attention was focused upon Him, waiting for Him to preach upon what He had just read.  "This day is this scripture fulfilled in you hearing."  Not what they had been expecting.  "Today" is an important word.  All of the Israelites thought of the Messiah's coming and the Messianic age in terms of the future.  Jesus proclaimed that Messiah was here, that the Messianic age had begun, that all the Scripture of Isaiah was now fulfilled in Him.  Jesus proclaimed that He:  was the One upon whom the Spirit abode; was the One anointed to preach the gospel to the poor and captives; was the One who healed the brokenhearted; was the One who gave sight to the blind; was the One who freed the bruised; and was the One who preached the acceptable year of the Lord, the age of salvation.  "The woman said to Him, I know that Messiah comes, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.  Jesus said to her, I that speak to you am He (John 4:25-26)."  "For the Son of man comes to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10)."  "The thief only comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10)."  Abundantly here does not mean to become materially wealthy.  It means to become free from being held captive to sin, to bondage, to fearfulness, and to walk out into the Light of God and live the life He always intended you to live. 

       That is all for today my friends.  Next time we shall look at what the response of those attending sabbath in the synagogue was to Jesus' claims.  Until then, grace and peace be yours.  If you live within regions under daylight savings time, remember to turn your clocks forward one hour tonight. 

    ~Eric



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    Wed, Mar 6th - 9:10AM

    STUDY IN LUKE



       Picking up on verses 5-8 of chapter four of Luke, I return to the next temptation.

    TEMPTATION: Compromise to Satisfy Ambition

       This second temptation was for Jesus Christ to seek God's Kingdom through compromise.  He had come to earth to seek and to save men eternally, to secure their loyalty for God, and to set up the Kingdom of God forever.  This was the ambition of Jesus Christ.  The only way to fulfill this ambition was by the cross for that would free people from sin, death, and judgment.  We need to note what did happen:

    a.   Satan enticed Jesus in a moment in time.  Satan presented all of the kingdoms of the world in their enormous glory.  He created a "Wow!" moment in order to sway Jesus into compromise.

    b.   Satan claimed that he controlled the possessions and glory of the world.  Was this true?  Later on Jesus substantiated Satan's claim.  Jesus said in John 12:31, 14:30 that Satan was the        prince of this world.  Other Scripture says that he is the prince, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).  We are also told that Satan is the god of this world.  He is in limited  control of events here on earth, subject to God's will.

    c.   Satan offered Jesus all the possessions and glory of the world.  Satan was able to offer these things since the world was under his control and influence, he was fully able to give it to anyone whom he wished.
    d.   Satan piggybacked one condition on his offer.  Jesus had to worship Satan, follow and obey the way of Satan's world.  In other words, Jesus would have to compromise Himself by altering His standards and behavior; by altering His loyalty and faithfulness to God; and by altering His ministry and mission.  Jesus would have to forfeit obtaining redemption for all of mankind from sin, for He would no longer be going to die upon the cross outside of the walls of Jerusalem. 
       Jesus Christ's answer to Satan was quick and decisive, totally dependent upon the Word of God to conquer and turn aside the temptation.  Today, we must worship, follow, and serve God alone, not compromising ourselves with the way and standards and wickedness of this world.  We are to follow God even it it means not attaining my personal ambition.  There is always a right way and a wrong way to achieve one's end and purpose in life.  There is nothing wrong with ambition and desiring to fulfill one's calling in life.  There is nothing wrong with experiencing the power and glory of whatever one's calling is.  The wrongness can be found in following Satan when tempted to satisfy one's desires and ambitions instead of following God. 
       The power and the glory of the world comes from very many things.  They can come from:
    *  houses                            *  authority                                  *  cars                               *  excitement
    *  lands                              *  influence                                   *  possessions                   *  fame
    *  wealth                            *  success                                     *  stimulation                    *  position
    A person is often taken up onto a "mountain" by Satan and shown all of the possible power and glory to be gained throughout the world.  They are offered whatever he/she wants if they will just do but one teeny, tiny, thing: worship Satan, follow the path of worldliness.  A person feels that if they compromise and go along with the world (why, everyone else is!), they will get what they want and move ahead ever so much faster.
       TEMPTATION: Sensationalism at the expense of Obedience
       This temptation was aimed at getting Jesus to be sensational, extravagant.  If He were to fling Himself out into space from off of the highest pinnacle of the Jewish temple God would not allow Him to hit the ground and be harmed.  God would dispatch angels to catch and lower Him safely to the ground.  This would cause the people on the ground to be stunned into belief and become His devoted followers immediately due to the "sensationalism" of the act.  Jesus had not yet performed any miracles, and Satan had no idea what those miracles would actually be, or what the reaction of people would be. 
       Satan's last temptation was three-fold:
    a.   Satan tempted Jesus to choose some way other than God's way.  God's way was the path of the cross on Calvary and of identifying with man in our trials and sufferings.
    b.   Satan tempted Jesus to misuse Scripture by twisting it to suit His purposes.  Scripture did say that God would take care of His Son no matter what.  The heavenly angels were, indeed, given
          charge to help Him in everything. 
    c.   Satan tempted Jesus to give people sensationalism, a religion of feelings and emotions.  People do not flock to a life of self-denial and sacrifice, of too much discipline and control.  People
         desire the spectacular, the quick fix within a half an hour, the answer without any effort to gain it.  They seek for that which stirs their emotions and flesh; that stimulates their feelings and
         gives gratification; that meets their needs with less and less effort on their part; and that feeds their body and soul without any sort of cost. 
       Jesus Christ's answer was direct and to the point.  "You shall not tempt the Lord your God."  The only way is God's Way; God's Way alone is the one to be pursued and followed.  God's Word is not to be stretched or distorted trying to create yet another "way."  People must be taught the truth: The way to God is the way of the cross.  People are tempted to to try and by-pass God, to pick a different path in attempting to get to heaven.  Because the Way of the cross is difficult they attempt to avoid it altogether.  Avoidance of the cross only spells doom for the person. 
    the Way of Jesus creates peace between people and God.  It creates redemption through the blood of Christ and people become reconciled with God, and with each other.  Perhaps what most of us overlook is that we become reconciled with ourselves, it eliminates self-shame and guilt, allowing us to become what God has always desired us to be.  Some people try to twist the Word of God in order to allow them to do what they want (sin) or else they devise a variety of ways to achieve eternal life filled with bliss without involving God.
       What was the conclusion to these temptations of Jesus?  Satan left Him for a season.  He went away.  The victory was achieved.  Temptation was conquered and Satan forced to flee.  Would Satan come back?  Most assuredly.  But right now there was peace and freedom to carry on in the ministry.  What else do we see here?  We see Jesus Christ's great power demonstrated, His great fame being spread all over, and His great ministry in the synagogue being admired.  We must realize that victory over temptation does not mean that we are forever freed from temptation.  Temptation will always return in this world of ours.  If it did for Jesus, then it most surely will return for us as well.  We must also realize that victory over temptation will lead to great results in our lives.  It brings greater power, testimony, and ministry. 
       That is all for today, beloved.  Next time I will begin studying the announced mission and public ministry of Jesus Christ, which stretches from 4:16-9:17.  I will begin by looking at 4:16-30 in which we learn that Christ flung down the gauntlet before the religious leaders of His day.  We learn what the Messiah has come to preach to the people, and what Scriptures He has come to fulfill as well.  Grace and peace be yours this late winter's weekend!
    ~Eric


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    Sat, Mar 2nd - 2:51PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted by the devil.  And in those days He ate nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward was hungry.  And the devil said to Him, If You be the Son of God, command this stone be made into bread.  And Jesus answered him, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.  And the devil took Him up to a high mountain, and showed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, All this power will I give You, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and I will give it to whomever I choose.  If You therefore will worship me, all shall be Yours.  And Jesus answered him, Get you behind Me, Satan:  for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.  And the devil brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him up on a pinnacle of the Temple, and said to Him, If You be the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here: For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You: And in their hands they shall bear You up, otherwise at any time You smash Your foot against a stone.  And Jesus answered him, saying, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.  And when the devil had ended all of the temptation, he left Him for a season.  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee: and there spread out news of Him all through the region.  And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all (Luke 4:1-15)."

       In my life victory over temptation is essential before I can live and minister for God.  No temptation can confront me that Christ has not already been confronted by.  The outward form might change, but the basic temptation does not.  Jesus reveals through His temptations recorded here what lies behind each one and how to conquer it. 

    Temptation #1:  to meet the necessities of life by His own power.

    Temptation #2:  to seek His ambition through compromise.

    Temptation #3:  to prove Himself through sensationalism.

    Conclusion:  Satan left Jesus for a period of time.

       Being led out into the wilderness through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was being prepared to serve God.  His work would determine the eternal fate of the world and of every man, woman, and child.  A couple of things were involved in His preparation.  Jesus had to be totally committed to carry out God's plan, no matter what.  God's plan had a destination of the cross, the way of sacrifice and suffering in order to help others.  Jesus would always be tempted to choose the easier path, the easier way, of self, power, and glory.  He needed to gain the victory once-for-all.  He needed a strong moment of victory to show that He could conquer the temptation.

       His preparation involved a personal need for strength and assurance.  The only way to gain these things was through being tempted.  Through His struggle against temptation He became tough and strong, assured that He could conquer and be victorious over the trials of life.  We find in the first two verses of this chapter the four essentials necessary for preparation of disciples of Jesus today, and any day.  I need to be prepared to serve God.  I must become "full of the Holy Spirit."  At some point there must be a dramatic experience that changes me forever.  I must be led by the Holy Spirit.  The Greek phrase deriving this last part of verse one is, egeto en toi pneumati.  The Greek word en means "in" and so Jesus was not only led by the Spirit, He was led IN the Spirit as well.  I must daily be in the Spirit to be led by the Spirit.  I must spend time alone with God.  I must get away from the distractions of my daily life to become prepared to serve God.  I must face trials so that I become toughened and become stronger.  In this fashion I gain assurance and am able to face whatever lies ahead of me.  I must be led to fast and pray before I can begin any great work for God. 

       Perirazo is the Greek word for temptation.  It can be used in both a good and bad sense.  In the good sense, it means to test, to try, to prove.  It does not mean to seduce into sin.  Its purpose is not to defeat or to destroy.  The Holy Spirit does not seduce, entice, or tempt people to sin (James 1:13).  I am tested, proved, strengthened, reinforced, and purified through the trials of temptation.  In the bad sense, it means to tempt, to seduce, to entice, and to draw someone away from God into the way of sin, of self, and of Satan (Matthew 4:1; I Corinthians 7:5; I Thessalonians 3:5; Galatians 6:1; James 1:13-14). 

       Six things exist concerning overcoming temptation: 

    1.   It has its root in passion and appetite.  It comes directly from within us, from our heart, not from externally.  It does not come from God.  God can't be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any person (James 1:3).  What God does is look upon His people as we endure temptation, and He strengthens us in order to bear the tempation and not surrender to it.  This way He teaches us discipline and obedience. 

    2.   No one confronts any temptation that is not common to all people(I Corinthians 10:13).

    3.   God does not allow the believer to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure.  There is always a way supplied for us to escape, we simply must be observant and thinking in order to see it.

    4.   Jesus Christ understands our temptations.  He was tempted in every way imaginable and yet He never sinned.

    5.   Jesus Christ is sympathetic as our High Priest, helping us through temptation (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15).

    6.   Temptation is overcome by submitting to God and resisting Satan, and by using and obeying Scripture to combat temptation.

    FIRST TEMPTATION

    Self Sufficiency in Obtaining Necessities of Life:  Satan tempted Jesus to provide the necessities of life by using His own power. 

    a.   This temptation was for Jesus to misuse His power and His ability.  Christ definitely had the power to create food for Himself to satisfy His hunger.  Satan tempted Him to abuse this power and ability.  What was wrong in meeting His need in this manner?  Christ's power had not been given to use upon Himself, but to demonstrate His deity by showing people that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus never used His power upon Himself or to satisfy His own needs, not even when He was hanging upon the cross.  His power was continually used to help people and thus gave evidence that He was the Son of God sent to save the world.  If Jesus had used His power upon Himself He would have been trusting in Himself and not the Father in heaven.  He would have become independent of the Father and His will.  He would have validated people relying upon their own abilities to center upon themselves instead of helping a world lost in need.  He would have taught that people could use their abilities to build themselves up (pride of self) instead of honoring God and His will.

    b.   Jesus Christ's answer was that something more than physical food was required.  People need to be fed spiritually.  Our spiritual needs must be met.  Jesus alone can meet our spiritual needs; therefore He, the Son of God, must use His power only as the Father wills.  There are legitimate needs in life.  They are: food, clothing, shelter, friends, acceptance, recognition, self-esteem, work, and rest and recreation.  Problems crop up when we become tempted to use our abilities and forget God's will and do not allow God to work through us.  Problems crop up when we focus our ability upon ourselves, getting and banking more and more instead of meeting the needs of those all around us.  Problems crop up when we use our abilities to build ourselves up instead of acknowledging God as the source of our abilities.  Too many of us seek fame, honor, and applause for selfish ends.  Too many of us want to be recognized as superior and better, having more position, authority, clothes, houses, cars, lands, and beauty.  So what?  What is wrong with all of these things?

       It is wrong to misuse our ability.  We forget about God and His will and we simply focus upon ourselves.  We end up living for the physical and not for the spiritual, for getting and not for giving.  The physical and material does not satisfy our spiritual hunger.  We can gain the entire world's treasures and still be wanting spiritually, our souls remaining with a void unfillable by what this world  offers.  Only Jesus Christ can fill that void deep down inside of each of us.

       Grace and peace be with you.  Continue to prepare your heart as the season of Lent moves forward this month. 

    ~Eric



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    Fri, Mar 1st - 9:44PM

    STUDY IN LUKE



    "And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, ...Which was the sonof Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God (3:23-38)."

       I chose to not clutter up this post with all of this lineage.  You can open up to Luke chapter three and review it for yourself as we go along here.  We have seen that Jesus was preparing to begin His public ministry to Israel first, and then to the Gentiles.  Did He have the right to do this?  What proof was there that He was actually the Messiah, the Son of God?  Luke in this passage says that even the origins of Jesus, His genealogy, prove He is the Messiah.  His roots give Him the right to claim Messiahship, to claim that He is the Savior, the Son of God.

       This passage reveals to us that Jesus was about thirty years old, He was a descendent of king David and meant to be the Messianic King, He was the heir of Adam and meant to be the Messianic High Priest, and finally, He was the Godly heir and meant to be the Messianic Prophet of the Living God.  There are two significant facts to see here.  Luke follows Mary's lineage and he follows it all the way back to Adam.  This is to show the connectedness of Jesus (the Second Adam) to the first Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Luke wrote to Gentiles who placed great emphasis on a transcendental God, a God way out in space somewhere who they thought was far removed from the daily affairs of mortal men.  Luke shows us that Jesus was, indeed, a man who was fully human.  He was born of a woman, full of emotions and feelings and personal day to day experiences just like any other person. 

       Back in the Book of Matthew the genealogy given is different.  He wrote primarily to Jews who put great value in pure lineage.  Impure lineage deprived a Jew of their nationality, of the right to be called a Jew, and it meant they lost their right to be called a child of God.  Therefore Matthew traced Jesus' lineage back to Abraham to demonstrate that Jesus had the legal right to the throne of David and to the promises made to Abraham.  It is not that Jesus was the actual physical son of Joseph, but rather that He was the Son of God and was sent into the family of Joseph.  As such He became the legal heir of Joseph.  These things mean that Jesus was legally of the pure line of the Jewish nation. This fulfilled the OT prophecies which stated that the Messiah would be born of the Jewish nation.  Second, as a Jew and as the Son of God, Jesus had the legal right to claim Messiahship.  He had the legal right to the Davidic throne and to the promises made to Abraham. 

       The age of thirty is mentioned.  Why did Jesus wait until now?  This was the age at which a Levite would begin their work in the Temple of God (Numbers 4:47).  This was also the age at which a Scribe was allowed to begin his teaching ministry.  This was also the age at which the Jews believed a man reached full development and maturity.

       So Jesus spent thirty years living as other people lived, learning and experiencing the same things as other people, maturing in the rigors of daily living.  Why did He do this?  He needed to prove Himself faithful in duties of work, of family, of physical growth, of mental growth, and of spiritual growth.  He needed to demonstrate how men should live in routine, daily things of life.  He needed to experience mortal life so that He could teach people from experience exactly how they should live.  Through what He personally experienced He was able to identify with people and better able to help them "plough" through their day- to- day routines. 

       Jesus was the Davidic heir, fulfilling the promise God made to David of eternal government (II Samuel 7:12, Psalm 39:3, 132:11).  The Jews devoutly believed these promises of God.  It should be noted how frequently Jesus was called the son of David, at least nine times.  This was the common title and popular concept of the Messiah.  Generations of Jews had looked forward to the promised deliverer of Israel to come and set them all free.  He was anticipated to be a great general who would crush the national enemies and drive all non-Jewish occupiers from their Promised Land.  He would then restore the nations's dominance and greatness once more.  They felt that the Messiah would become the world ruler who would make Jerusalem the center of the entire world.  He would execute 'the Messianic fire of judgment" upon the nations and peoples of the entire world.  Luke sought to show that Jesus must be taken very seriously when He claimed to be the Messiah.  Here are just a handful of passages to demonstrate this:

    "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David My servant, Your seed will I establish for ever, and build up your throne to all generations (Psalm 89:3-4)."  "I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth...His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and His throne as the days of heaven...His seed shall endure forever, and His throne as the sun before Me.  It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven (Psalm 89:27, 29, 36-37)."  "In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek (Isaiah 11:10)."  "Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name by which He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 23:5-6)."  "Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.  To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.  Behold, He comes with coulds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him (Revelation 1:5-7)." 

       We are informed in this day's text that Jesus was the Adamic heir.  He was qualified to be the Perfect High Priest who represents all mankind before God and God before mankind.  This is what the function of a High Priest was: to represent men before God and God before men.  It is what took place within the Holy of Holies once per year in both the Tabernacle and the Temple.  In relation to the Messiah this meant two things:

    1.   The Messiah must know man perfectly, and He must know God perfectly.  There could be no room for error or mistake.  He must be the Perfect God-Man in essence, in being, in person.  Mortality in human flesh was necessary to die as was being immortal as God Incarnate in human flesh.  He had to be born of Adam, of human flesh; but He had to also possess the very nature of God.  It was the only way acceptable to God for man to ever have a Perfect High Priest.  This High Priest was absolutely necessary because of the nature of our depraved world.

    2.   The Messiah must also be able to represent God before man and do so perfectly.  He had to also represent man perfectly before God.  So the Messiah must live as Perfect God in order to represent God to man and must also live as Perfect Man in order to represent man before God.  We are taught through Scriptural witness that Jesus lived a Perfect Ideal life, committing no sin whatsoever (II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15, 9:28, 3:5). 

       The Messiah was typified in the OT by two men, or priests.  Melchizedek the king of Salem in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 is pointed out for us.  Aaron, brother of Moses, is presented to us in Exodus 40:12-15.  We also see that the Messiah High Priest was prophesied by reviewing such passages as Jeremiah 30:21-22; Zechariah 6:12-13; and Hebrews 3:1-2:  "Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him."  "Seeing then that we have a great high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted just like us, yet without any sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)."

       Lastly, Jesus is the Godly heir, qualified to be the Messianic Prophet of God Himself.  He proclaimed what the Messianic Prophet of God was to do.  "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:  they that live in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shown (Isaiah 9:2)."    "And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God has visited His people (Luke 7:16)."  "Henceforth I do not call you servants; for the servant does not know what His lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard My Father speak I have made known to you (John 15:15)." 

       I will stop right there for now, beloved.  There are many, many, verses that could be additionally looked up and added to what I have put before you.  Jesus the Christ came in order to reveal to mankind who God truly is, and what God expects of mankind.  He came to seek that which was lost, separated from God spiritually, and to offer redemption to those who would simply believe.  Jesus did not come to create a new religion.  Jesus did not come to create a new set of rules to alienate people from one another.  Jesus came to save that which was condemned, to purchase that which was in bondage to sin and death.  Jesus came with the power to transform and restore that which had been corrupted by sin. 

       Next time I once more scrutinize Jesus' temptation out in the desert.  Hope you return again!  Grace and peace be with you all.

    ~Eric



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    About Me

    Name: Eric Rajaniemi
    ChristiansUnite ID: ejroyal
    Member Since: 2007-09-08
    Location: Bedford, Virginia, United States
    Denomination: Born-again, Church of the Brethren
    About Me: I refrain from any denomination as much as possible since my faith has to do with Jesus Christ and not denominations. My wife and I are charter members of Lake Side Church of the Brethren for they desire to follow the New Testament precepts. We hav... more

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