23 Oct 2011
October 23, 2011
Will You Take The Easy Way Out?
Matthew 3: 1 - 17
In those days John the Baptist began preaching in the Judean wilderness. His message was, "Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near." Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, "He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: 'Prepare a pathway for the Lord's coming! Make a straight road for him!'" John's clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from every section of Judea and from all over the Jordan Valley went out to the wilderness to hear him preach. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he denounced them, "You brood of snakes!" he exclaimed. "Who warned you to flee God's coming judgment? Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don't just say, 'We're safe - we're the descendants of Abraham. Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize with water those who turn from their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am - so much greater that I am not even worthy to be his slave. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the grain with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, storing the grain in his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire."
Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John didn't want to baptize him. "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, " he said, "so why are you coming to me?"
But Jesus said, "It must be done, because we must do everything this is right." So then John baptized him.
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him."
"Don't just say we're safe - we're the descendants of Abraham. Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire."
These are the words in the above reference that stand out for me....let me tell you why.
I just finished reading 'Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs. He took fairly seriously living the Old Testament....at least he took it at face value. I do not see where he did the same for the New Testament. He declares Jesus someone with high morals whose code may be worthy of following, but he stops there essentially. He hangs on his ancestral background of Judaism, clinging to what his relatives believe(d), indicating the Messiah has not arrived.
Four different people from four different walks of life and belief backgrounds tell the story of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Then, in the letters to the different churches, his life and history, his message for and from God, is expounded upon by others. His deity confirmed. Further confirmed by documents found since then.....the Gnostic Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc. In Mr. Jacob's book, it's like history did not happen. It appears as though he seemingly got bored or tired of his charade when approaching the New Testament and chose the position of his ancestors as an easy way out. But as Matthew tells us, John the Baptist clearly indicated being a descendant of Abraham is meaningless to God unless Jesus is embraced, received, accepted as the Messiah.
Ok, so you could say Matthew was only talking to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Well, then, was Paul only speaking to the Romans and Peter speaking only to the Catholics? In all seriousness, the Bible was not written specifically ONLY for the folks then. It was documented history written for all persons everywhere and intended for reading to eternity. There is clear indication for it's historical authenticity, as well as supporting documentation for all the facts presented....including the resurrection of Jesus.
Consider the historical timeline from Luke in Chapter 3 verses 1-3: It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberious, the Roman emperor. Pilate was governor over Judea; Herold Antipas was ruler over Galilee, his brother Phillip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living out in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. He goes on to say in verses 21-22: One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. And a voice from heaven said, "You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you." This is documented history! Other Gospel writers confirm this. This event was viewed by many, believed, and talked about! Is still talked about....obviously.
Mark and John do not specifically address the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Could they have been of one of those groups? We don't know. Er, I should say I don't know. Matthew and Luke make the exclamation about Abraham's children. All the Gospel writers refer to John leading the way to Jesus and the baptisms. How can that not be a valid event? If one person says something it is expected to be true....if many persons say something that is the same based on what they experienced, you can pretty well be assured that it is a factual event. Santa Claus, flying saucers? Ask A. J. Jacobs what he says. I'll give the rebuttal.
A.J. has clearly not recognized Jesus' voice. Perhaps he is not one of his flock. In reality, he hasn't fully embraced the religion of his forefathers either. Jesus' true sheep do not even listen to him from what is stated. This is directed towards the Jews. In John 10 he references that and says, "I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep....Those who come in through me will be saved....The thief's (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." He goes on to say "I am the good shepherd, I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in the sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd." His other sheep are the gentiles. The original intent was the Jews to be his only sheep. Then he alludes to us all being one. Jesus mockingly, it seems, says 'they' will listen....meaning the Gentiles will listen, tho' the Jews may not. How sad.
Later in the chapter, Jesus states, "I have already told you, and you don't believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. But you don't believe me because you are not part of my flock. My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. The Father and I are one." Pretty tough talk. His proof....the miracles he performed, and, those his followers performed in his name and power....historically documented truth.
Another comment even further in chapter 10 of John, Jesus says, "It is written in your own law that God said to certain leaders of the people, 'I say you are gods!' And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God's message were called 'gods,' why do you call it blasphemy when the Holy One who was sent into the world by the Father says, 'I am the Son of God'? Don't believe me unless I carry out my Father's work. But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don't believe me. Then you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father." Good point.
Ok, so what did he do? The New Testament is filled with documented historical truths of Jesus healing people, he turned water into wine, he raised the dead, he saved many through not only his teachings, but 'were you when they crucified my Lord'? He came back to life....he was raised from the dead. He walked and talked and ate with others....he was alive....after his death. Those in their graves came back to life. And he rose again......this time to heaven. It was a documented event.....many saw him rise. This wasn't a small band of good ol' boys gathering to spin a tale about a big fish, or grannys spinning yarns.
Holy Spirit baptized with fire confirming his resurrection. He told many to stay put in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit descended upon them. This was not an Azuza Street event. This was the affirmation of the resurrection! Jesus told them, "Do not leave Jerusalem, until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." "....But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere - in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1
In Luke 24:25 Jesus said, "You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn't it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory?" And in Luke 11:20 Jesus said, "But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you." He did......it has.
To A.J. and others, I offer the following: Jesus said, "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks." I hope A.J. writes a sequel....with more emphasis on the New Testament.....perhaps his new testament of a life now with Jesus. He is so close, yet his rebellion is eons away.
In John chapter 3 we learn:
After dark one evening a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to speak with Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you."
Jesus replied, "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus replied, "The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. So don't be surprised at my statement that you must be born again. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."
"What do you mean?" Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, "You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don't understand these things? I assure you, I am telling you what we know and have seen and yet you won't believe us. But if you don't even believe me when I tell you about things that happen here on earth, how can you possibly believe if I tell you what is going on in heaven? For only I, the Son of Man, have come to earth and will return to heaven again. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole, so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.
There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God. Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants."
In John 11:25 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish." Do you believe this yet, A.J.? Er....anyone?
John states in Acts 4:8-12: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Leaders and elders of our nation, are we being questioned because we've done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed in the name and power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, 'The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.' There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them."
One of the things that caught my attention about what I read in A.J. Jacobs book was that he wouldn't know how or what to tell Julie, his wife, if he was saved/became a Christian as the result of the preaching in a small church who had a snake handler as a pastor and a zealot preaching the Word of God where Holy Spirit was apparently active. My thought......I'd be more concerned with what God would think....and is still thinking right now. Folks, care more about what God thinks than any person on earth.
So I give to A.J., and others like him, the words of Jesus from Luke 12:8-12: "And I assure you of this: If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I, the Son of Man, will openly acknowledge that person in the presence of God's angels. But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before God's angels. Yet those who speak against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but anyone who speaks blasphemies against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
"And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don't worry about what to say in your defense, for the Holy Spirit will teach you what needs to be said even as you are standing there."
It is my great hope, and that of the Trinity's, that those in the world will not take the easy way out, but seek first the Kingdom of God, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and ask Holy Spirit to baptize you with his fullness, so that you may perfectly love and worthily magnify God. May those of you who choose to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and be baptized by the Holy Spirit, loving God with your whole heart, be raised to new heights of life and love. And may you go forth sharing who he is, that he is, and how wonderful he is. In his name I pray. Amen.
"Don't just say, we are safe - we're the descendants of Abraham. That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire."
Will you be on the threshing floor? Do not take the easy way out and be burned as chaff in the never - ending fire. Be as grain.....stored in his embrace.....receive the fire of the Holy Spirit.....a never ending light of love.
If you haven't prayed the prayer of salvation, there is one way above in the beginning text on this page. If that is not for you, pray something from your heart, asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and for him to come into your life. Ask Holy Spirit to baptize you in the fullness of his Spirit. When you have done that, know that I welcome you into the family of God and embrace you. I hope you feel at home in your heart in the gentle embrace of Jesus' arms and his love. Please find a church home where you can be supported in your walk and where you can learn all you can from the New Testament....where Jesus washed.....he washed your sins away during the documented historical event of dying on a cross and being resurrected to show you a new way.....a way to forgiveness of sins and eternal life with glory. Enjoy!
Let Us Pray
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Forgive me and all in the world now. Thank you. Lord, help me be worthy of your love, the life you have given for me. I know I have to not do anything to receive the gift of your salvation, and I thank you for that. But I do want to show you my gratitude by doing all I can to share your truths and live a righteous life. I know I am not perfect, so don't expect much some days, but I will give it my all....for you, for me, for my family, for others in the world who may need you. May your light of love shine through me, may I not hide or shirk my responsibilities. I'm not sure this is the easiest thing I've chosen to do, but I am willing to go forth, if you will indeed continue to go with me. Let me not walk about in secret, but profess you for all to hear, that I might be supported on my journey and kept accountable. Let me pave the way for a new generation of love. The good parts within me, they must come from you, God. And please take from me all that is not of you, restore my innocence, uplift me to new heights of love and living for you, myself, my family, and others. There will be times you will need to hold my hand. There will be times I no longer want to hold yours. Hold me tighter then, Lord. Hold me tighter, then. Thank you God for allowing your son to be a sacrifice for an unworthy person like myself. Thank you, Jesus, for answering God's call to die on a cross for me....a sinner. Sometimes I think you are nuts....both of you. Most of the time I am just eternally grateful for the opportunity to receive eternal life. I know I have to show you that you really are my Savior. Forgiving me is one thing, granting me eternal life, quite another. May we press on, then, toward the mark for the prize for the high calling of God.....eternal life for me......and others. Carry me, when the going gets rough, will you please? And I will do all I can, to do all I can, to prove to you that I am yours. And I will help others come to you.....bringing you the fruit. I bow down to you, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit. And I thank you. Ok, so, well, let's do it! Onward Christian soldier.....here I go. Into your arms someday.....hopefully not soon. I have a lot of work to do for you yet. Keep me safe. Talk to those angels about me, will you? Help them to surround me. No more radical negative surprises, please....just positive ones from now on.....pleeeeease. Just firmly moving onward. I embrace you and I thank you. I love you for what you have done for me and for what you are going to do for me. I pray you will appreciate my love....as feeble as it may be at times. Remember....PLEASE keep helping me. Send other Christians to help me live this life and get through it, please. Thank you! REally and truly, thank you. Amen.
Lord,LordJesJeJeJJjEJJJ JJThe LORD is king! Let the nations tremble! T***
Let us hear from Paul as he prays:
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT
Scroll down to read Jesus' Prayer of Thanksgiving...'The Unforced Rhythms of Grace'.
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Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this:
I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Our Current Cause
It is time to reach into the community and the world around you to see wherein lies the greatest need. As you choose to focus on these areas, do so with a servant's heart. Whether the need is for children, adults, or animals, or any cause in between that will help those in need, ask God how you can best serve his needs, what path you must take, and how long you should persevere. Sometimes we are to be in the lives of others merely as stepping stones. Sometimes we are to touch those lives forever. Whatever journey you are called to take, whatever team you will be a member, know this: God is with you always...even til the end of time. He loves you, is grateful for you, and will help you along life's way, especially if you are helping others along theirs, persevering with a servant's heart.
Please accept my sincerest thanks....and God's....and may God richly bless you!
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One last thing....
Jesus' Prayer of Thanksgiving
'The Unforced Rhythms of Grace'
"Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father - Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen."
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11: 25-30
And the people said,
I now write most prayers in the position of ' I ' (first person) because most people are sitting at their computer alone, not in groups, and it allows those reading and praying to personalize the prayer as coming from them going to God. Variations may appear on holidays when families may wish to use the prayer provided.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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