Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Mark 14:43–16:20
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 42–43
New Testament Only: Colossians 1:24–2:15
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Weed Out The Thorns

Matthew 13:1-53, Mark 4:1-34, Luke 8:1-18

weedingRepeatedly in this blog I have written about the idea that the biggest problem for many of us Christians is the problem of “busyness”. I have written that we are too easily distracted by the hustle and bustle and noise of this busy world; that we fill our lives up with the issues, things, and worries of this world and it takes our focus off of God. I find confirmation for this assertion in the Parable of the Sower; a parable we read in today’s passages of Scripture.

Matthew 13:3-9 ESV

“[3] And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. [4] And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. [5] Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, [6] but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. [7] Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. [8] Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. [9] He who has ears, let him hear.’”

It is the seed that fell among the thorns that grabs my attention. Jesus explained this parable to His disciples and this is what He had to say about those thorn choked seed.

Matthew 13:22 ESV

“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

God is not against you earning a living; He isn’t even against wealth per se. He is against the distraction that the pursuit of wealth causes. Jesus teaches us not to worry about tomorrow for there are enough worries for today and God knows what you need and will provide. He teaches this because, like wealth, the cares of the world can distract us. What happens when we are distracted by wealth and the cares of the world? We become “unfruitful”. Unfruitfulness is the greatest failure a Christian can experience. The reason we are still on this earth, rather than in Heaven right now, is because we have a job to do; we are to be fruitful; we are to share the Gospel with the Lost.

How often do we skip fellowship with fellow believers because we are tired from the previous week? Skipping fellowship because we are tired from our busy lives shows the world our priorities. The busyness of our life is more important than worship of God and fellowship with believers. Earning money, watching the game, cleaning the house, getting the kids to and from various activities and events, none of these things should be a greater priority than doing the will of God.

I recently wrote of how I would rush from one item on my To Do list to another, never leaving time to interact with others around me. I mentioned that I had thought I was never really around Lost people but that I was missing the fact that I came across the Lost when doing everyday things like going to the store. Why would buying my groceries be more important to me than sharing the Gospel; especially when I could be doing both at the same time?

Brothers, it is easy for us to let the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke that which Christ sowed within our hearts. You need to get busy pulling those weeds, those thorns. Get rid of that which distracts you from your purpose. I don’t mean sell everything you have and stand on a street corner with a sandwich board and a megaphone – unless God calls you to do that of course. What I mean is focus the eyes of your heart on Jesus. You don’t have to quit your job or neglect your home or family. It isn’t an either or proposition. As God told us “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” Get to work pulling those thorns!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 2–3
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 47–49
New Testament Only: Colossians 3:18–4:18
(Current Plan is Chronological)

The Right Side Of Eternity

Matthew 10; 14, Mark 6:7-56, Luke 9:1-17, John 6

HeavenOne of the titles of Jesus is “Prince of Peace” which is why His statement in Matthew 10:34 is so shocking.

Matthew 10:34-38 ESV

[34] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Jesus says that He did not come to bring peace. He did not come to unify. Jesus brought a sword to divide. Later in Matthew Jesus tells us of the separating of the sheep from the goats. He came to find His own; to separate them from the world and self-centeredness. I feel these verses very deeply. When Jesus says that a person’s enemies will be those of his own household I am reminded of my own family members who don’t so much hate me as what I believe. In fact they are so skewed against Christianity that they actually believe things like the false claim that the Nazis were Christians or that all Christians are haters and hypocrites. These, of course, are ad hominem attacks, which is to say that they attack Christian character because they hate what Christian belief. They don’t address the belief, they hate the one who believes.

Now Jesus will save everyone who is willing to acknowledge that He is God and they are not. Unfortunately there are millions of people who will never accept anyone as god but themselves. The Gospel is designed to draw out those who belong to God. Not everyone will be saved and it isn’t because they can’t be, but because they don’t want to be.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace; He brings peace to the heart that truly belongs to Him. Some time He will bring peace to the Earth, but that will only be after He has drawn to Himself those who belong to Him, and unfortunately only after much pain and suffering in this world. Remember, He does not require pain and suffering. Pain and suffering exists because man deliberately has separated himself from God. Pain and suffering in the world is a symptom of man’s inhumanity to man.

So brother, do not fret when you experience difficulty in your life. That difficulty will either be the natural consequence of wrong doing on your part or natural consequence of living in the world man has perverted. If you are a Christian trouble will come. Just be glad you are on the right side of history and eternity.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

No Reading Today

by | October 19, 2014 | In Daily Reading No Comments

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Mark 13:1–14:42
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 39–41
New Testament Only: Colossians 1:1–23
(Current Plan is Chronological)

No Reading Today

Sleeping ManOur current chronological reading plan has no reading for Sundays. Take this day to reflect on what God has said to you through His Holy Word this past week.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Mark 11–12
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 37–38
New Testament Only: Philippians 4:2–23
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Banish The Darkness From Your Eyes

Matthew 12:22-50, Mark 3:22-35, Luke 8:19-21; 11:14-54

Eye with CrossI’m going to try something a little different today. There were, as usual several passages in today’s reading that caught my attention. Instead of just picking one I picked three and I’m going to briefly comment on each one. Let’s see how that works out.

First are a couple of verses spoken by Jesus about the only sin that cannot be forgiven.

Matthew 12:31-32 ESV

“[31] Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. [32] And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

We as Christians know there is no such thing as a hierarchy of sin as far as God is concerned. Sin is self-centeredness which reveals our desire to be our own God. All sin is self-centeredness, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the little white lie you tell to “save someone’s feelings”. The truth is that little white lie is told because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable; the truth can do that to you at times. All sin separates us from God because it places us on the throne of our own hearts. Fortunately, through Jesus Christ, all sin can be forgiven; well all sin but one.

Jesus says that even speaking against the Messiah can be forgiven but not speaking against the Holy Spirit. Since the Messiah, Jesus, is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, this may seem confusing but it is really quite simple. It is the Holy Spirit who calls people back to right relationship with God. It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to realize we are sinners in need of a Savior. Now you cannot be forgiven for something you don’t admit is wrong. Why would you even ask for forgiveness if you don’t think you are doing anything wrong? You see if you reject the Holy Spirit, if you say you have done nothing wrong, if after hearing the truth you reject it, you are rejecting forgiveness. Rejecting forgiveness makes a person’s sin unforgiveable.

Now one of the many nice things about submitting one’s life to Christ is that upon doing so one is immediately adopted into the family of God. If, after submitting your life to Christ, however, you ever wonder if you are truly a member of the family of God, Jesus provides us a trait we can look to for confirmation.

Matthew 12:46-50 ESV

‘[46] While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. [48] But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” [49] And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! [50] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”’

Whoever does the will of God is part of the family of God. Let me be clear, part of the will of God is that you accept the gift of His Son’s sacrifice on the cross and thereby be saved. If you haven’t done that you haven’t done the first thing He wills for you to do. After allegedly submitting your life to Christ, is your life any different than it was before? Are you still living for yourself or are you seeking God? Are you pursuing God’s will or your own? That really shouldn’t be a hard question to answer.

Finally, the will of God is well described in the following analogy provide by Jesus in the book of Luke.

Luke 11:33-36 ESV

[33] “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. [34] Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. [35] Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. [36] If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the one ray of hope, the one ray of light that exists in this dark world. When one submits their life to Christ His light comes to reside within. When your eye is healthy it lets in the light but when your eye is not healthy darkness takes the place of the light. What are you letting into your eyes? Are you letting in the light or are you letting in the darkness? Repeatedly in the Bible God tells us to seek after Him. He is to be our focus. Our eyes are to remain on Him. When we take our eyes off of Him, the Light, the only place they can go is to the darkness. Have no part of darkness! Keep your eyes upon Jesus and let His light illuminate your life!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Mark 9:2–10:52
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 33–36
New Testament Only: Philippians 3:1–4:1
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Staring Right Past Him

Matthew 8:5-13; 11:1-30, Luke 7

Eye Chart with glassesOkay. One thing really jumped out at me as I read today. It is amazing to me how often I can read a section of Scripture and yet the very next time something really resonates and stands out. The words and their meaning have not changed but my recognition of truth sharpens each time I read. The following verses are spoken by Jesus about John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:12-15 ESV

“[12] From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. [13] For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, [14] and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. [15] He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Every year at the end of the Passover Meal, or Seder, Jewish celebrants pour a fifth cup of wine (the “Cup of Elijah”), open the front door of their homes, and recite biblical passages, primarily from Psalms, beseeching God to pour out His wrath upon the persecutors and oppressors of the Jewish people. The Jewish faithful believe that the return of Elijah will precipitate the coming of the Messiah who will bring redemption in His wake, and so they long for Elijah because they long for the Messiah.

Do you see why Jesus made the point of saying that John the Baptist IS Elijah? Redemption had come in the person of Jesus who is the Messiah following the arrival of John the Baptist who is Elijah. Jesus was saying “Redemption has come!” Two thousand years later the Jews are still looking for the Redeemer! He already came, and today is He still standing ready to enter the door to their hearts if only they will invite Him in. I find that thought so heartbreakingly sad. Redemption is here and yet they cannot see it. They have their religious ritual but they have not salvation. They are staring right past Him!

As I considered this sad situation I’m reminded that every book of the New Testament, with the exception of Luke, was written by a Jewish man. These men were well versed in Judaic Law. Some of these books of the New Testament were written specifically for Jewish audiences. These “Messianic Jews” show observant Jews where to look for redemption. How will Jews today find redemption if someone won’t show it to them? I would think that all we need to do is get them to read the New Testament. I think they need to read passages like the one quoted above.

You and I need to be prepared to share the Gospel with the Jewish people. Jesus Himself tells us in the first paragraph of today’s reading what is at stake.

Matthew 8:10-12 ESV

“[10] When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Jesus says that there will be many non-Jews who will enter Heaven and sadly many Jews who will not. Realize He is not saying there will be no Jews in Heaven since He mentions that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are already there and, of course, all the first followers of Christ were Jews. There are many Messianic Jews today who will also be in Heaven just as there are far more non-Jews who will not be. You see it isn’t about being Jewish or non-Jewish. It is about becoming a child of the Living God. Whether Jew or Gentile the only people getting into Heaven are those who are adopted into God’s family through acceptance of Jesus the Messiah as their personal Lord and Savior.

The Lost, Jew or Gentile, must see Jesus for who He is if they are to have any hope at all. You and I are here to do our Father’s work. This is our Father’s field and the harvest is ready. Unfortunately the workers are not always willing to do their work. Brother, please get to work. Please show Jesus to the Lost who are staring right past Him.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Mark 7:1–9:1
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 30–32
New Testament Only: Philippians 2:12–30
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Sermon On The Mount

Matthew 5-7, Luke 6:20-49; 11:1-13

Sermon on the MountToday we read the Sermon on the Mount. I enjoyed the commentary of James Montgomery Boice on this passage of Scripture and have provided a portion of that commentary below. I wish I could provide all that he wrote about each of the eight “Beatitudes” but that is a bit much for the daily post. I hope just the intro will be sufficient for today.

“The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the nature of the kingdom of heaven and the kind of life required of those who desire to become a part of it. This is clear from the repetition of the words “kingdom of heaven” and from the way they are used. Reference to the kingdom is found in the first of the beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:3); it closes the beatitudes (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:10); it is given as the reason for the place of the Old Testament law in the kingdom (“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:20); it appears at the start of the Lord’s Prayer (“Your kingdom come,” Matt. 6:10); and it is at the sermon’s climax (“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 7:21). The Sermon on the Mount also follows Matthew’s statement about Jesus preaching the “good news of the kingdom” throughout Galilee (Matt. 4:23–25), which clearly means he was teaching about the nature of that kingdom.

But here is a problem. The standards Jesus erects in this sermon are so high, the morality so difficult, that numerous attempts have been made to explain why it is not to be taken seriously as a way of living demanded of God’s people by Jesus. Here are two of the most important.

  1. Dispensationalism. According to this popular approach, the Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the principles on which the coming messianic kingdom would be founded. If Israel had repented of its sin and welcomed Christ, Jesus would have established this kind of righteousness on earth. But Jesus was rejected, and as a result, the kingdom of heaven was postponed. I. M. Haldeman wrote, “This sermon … cannot be taken in its plain import and be applied to Christians universally. … It has been tried in spots … but it has always been like planting a beautiful flower in stony ground or in a dry and withering atmosphere.” Along the same lines, the earliest edition of the Scofield Reference Bible says, “The Sermon on the Mount in its primary application gives neither the privilege nor the duty of the church.”

But it does, of course! In fact, it is precisely a world such as ours with its manifold evil and injustice that the sermon has in mind, not a millennial kingdom in which only righteousness will exist. This is so obvious that some later dispensationalists have modified their earlier teaching by speaking of the sermon’s timeless ethics, while nevertheless continuing to drive a wedge between it and authentic Christianity.

  1. Lutheran orthodoxy. Lutherans take the Sermon on the Mount seriously, as they do the whole of Scripture. But in line with their characteristic emphasis on law and gospel, they view it as an exposition of the Old Testament law designed to drive men and women to grace. There is something to this, of course. Law must drive us to grace, because none of us can please God by achieving the law’s standards. But this is not all the Sermon on the Mount is about. The sermon does point us to God’s grace, but it also tells how we are to live as God’s people. Lutherans think of the righteousness referred to in the sermon as Christ’s imputed righteousness, but it is an actual righteousness that must characterize the lives of all who are truly a part of God’s kingdom (see Matt. 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33).

At the other extreme from these two inadequate approaches to the Sermon on the Mount is its use by the Social Gospel movement, which flourished at the beginning of the twentieth century. In those years, social reformers such as Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch offered the sermon as a sort of road map to social progress, believing that the kingdom of God could be actualized if people would only take Christ’s ethical teaching seriously. These men should be commended for their sensitivity to social ills and their desire for an improved society, but their vision was destroyed by two world wars, repeated recessions, mass genocides, and many types of social and economic oppression. The problem with the Social Gospel movement is that it tried to urge Jesus’ ethics on those who did not possess Jesus’ life, and they could not do it.

Which points us to the right way to view Christ’s sermon! The nature of the kingdom (1) drives us to despair of ourselves and our morality in order that (2) we might turn in faith to Jesus Christ and that, as a result of finding new life in him, we might (3) live as Jesus himself lived when he was in this world. In other words, the sermon is about how we are to become and also live as God’s new humanity.”

Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

The beatitudes, like the Old Testament Law is intended to show us our need for grace. Brother, walk humbly with the Lord.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!