Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 7:1–8:21
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 59–62
New Testament Only: 1 Thessalonians 4
(Current Plan is Chronological)

The Sons Are Free

Matthew 17-18, Mark 9:2-50, Luke 9:28-56

Prison - boy behind barsWe read of the transfiguration in today’s passage, but since I’ve written about that before I thought we would look at something else. There is an interesting little story in Matthew that my Bible labels as “The Temple Tax”. You may remember this story concluding with Peter being instructed to throw a hook into the sea and find a shekel in the mouth of the first fish he pulls up. That certainly is a miracle, but I don’t think it is the real point of that story. Take a look at the following verses.

Matthew 17:24-26 ESV

“[24] When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” [25] He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” [26] And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free.’”

I think that final phrase is the point of this story; “Then the sons are free”. Jesus’ point is that the Children of God are not liable for a tax or toll; they don’t have to pay the price. God is just, and justice requires blood for sin. Every person has sinned and so every person must pay the price. Every person, that is, except those who are Children of God. Just as Jesus paid the Temple Tax for Peter, He paid the blood debt of sin for all who accept His gift. That gift was His sacrificial death upon the cross. All who confess their sin, acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus the Christ, and ask for forgiveness through His sacrifice become Children of God.

Brother, your debt, your tax, has been paid. As a Child of the Living God, the King of Kings, you are no longer required to pay that debt. Jesus paid it all, and because of His sacrifice you are free! Knowing this, how should you live?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 6
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 55–58
New Testament Only: 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Liberal vs Conservative

Matthew 16, Mark 8:11-9:1, Luke 9:18-27

donkeyelephantLiberal versus Conservative; that seems to be all the rage in politics today. There really doesn’t seem to be anything in between – even though almost everybody thinks of themselves as a “moderate”. There are those who view themselves as Independent but the way party politics work, there really isn’t such a thing as an Independent candidate and no matter who you vote for they will caucus with either the Liberal or Conservative party. All of this comes to mind because we are just weeks away from an election and because of something Jesus said in today’s passage.

He told His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”.

Matthew 16:11-12 ESV

“[11] How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” [12] Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

You see the Pharisees were the Conservatives of their day and the Sadducees were the Liberals. The conservative Pharisees were all about the rules and they had little pity for those who struggled under their weight. The Sadducees were more inclined to ignore or deny any rules they found inconvenient at the moment. For one side there was unbending rigidity for the other no foundation. You see they got lost in the battle of their ideology which had little to do with the real issues of life.

God taught in the Bible that it isn’t about the rules, it is about the heart. The hearts of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were in the wrong place. Their practice of faith was all about them, not about God, which has been the problem from the very beginning. To be in right relationship with God, we must deny ourselves and follow Christ; we must obey God, not our self-centered desires. “I want. I want. I want.” Pharisee, Sadducee, Conservative, Liberal, Right, Left, Republican, Democrat; it really doesn’t matter, they all want things to work the way they want. God’s will is not part of the equation.

I’m amazed that people think the problems of this world, or even just our nation, can be solved with politics. Do we really think that if we get the right party, the right person, the right policy, the right court ruling, life for everyone will be greatly improved? Nonsense. The world has been struggling with parties, and politicians, and policy and court rulings for a very long time and moderate improvement is the absolute best that can be hoped for. The problem isn’t any of those things. The problem is people.

People are self-centered. None of us is immune. We want what we want when we want it. Even if we think it is for the good of someone else, it is still about what we want. The thing is, what people need most aren’t material things. What people need most is right relationship with God. Now you might think that’s great for eternity but what about right now? You can’t eat right relationship with God.

I want you to think for a moment about a world where everyone puts the wellbeing of others above themselves. Would there be any homeless, hungry people? Would a little girl die of a disease just because mom and dad couldn’t afford the cure? It is true that even the Lost can exhibit random moments of selflessness, but those few acts are not enough to change the character of humanity. Man’s inhumanity to Man is the longest running show on Earth. If the answer was going to come from Man, it would have been here by now.

I do believe an American Christian should vote and, like any other citizen, exercise his right to speak out and to participate in the political process. I don’t believe a Christian must recluse himself from public office, but I do believe that a Christian has a greater responsibility to change this world by telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Only God can change the world in any long-term, meaningful way. Only by acknowledging Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior can a person be saved from the prison of depravity fallen Man built for himself with his own self-centered hands.

Jesus warned His followers not to be misled by the “leaven”, or teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We Christians should not be misled by the political teaching of the day, left or right. The will of the people is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the will of God. You want to change the world, invite someone to church or Sunday School; tell someone about Jesus.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 4–5
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 50–54
New Testament Only: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:16
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Watch Your Heart

Matthew 15, Mark 7:1-8:10

Heart ClayThere is a problem when we only focus on the rule rather than the purpose of the rule. The Pharisees were all about the rules; in fact they often manipulated the rules so they could do what they wanted. The rules kind of became their god. You see man-made gods are made so the one who made them can call the shots. In other words they get to be their own god. I mean, if you get to determine what your god calls right and wrong, then you are the real god of your life. The Pharisees liked to manipulate the rules so it would be easier for them to do what they want while feeling like they were earning their way to Heaven. Their problem was a heart problem. In their heart, what they wanted was more important than what God wanted.

Sinfulness grows from the seeds of self-centeredness. When these seeds sprout in our hearts they lead to sinful fruit. In today’s reading we find the Pharisees challenging Jesus because His disciples didn’t always wash before a meal as the Law of Moses required. Jesus used the opportunity to call these men on their hypocrisy. He then explained that it wasn’t what went into a man that defiled him but what came out.

Matthew 15:17-20 ESV

“[17] Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? [18] But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. [19] For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. [20] These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Self-centeredness can grow in a man’s heart and lead him to ever worse sin. It is what is in our hearts that defiles us which is why we need to constantly search our heart for these seeds. We need to constantly tend the garden of our heart pulling every self-centered thought and desire up by the root. Watch your heart brother!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 1
Old Testament Only: Isaiah 44–46
New Testament Only: Colossians 2:16–3:17
(Current Plan is Chronological)

The Cost Of Following Christ

Matthew 8:18-34; 9:18-38, Mark 4:35-5:43, Luke 8:22-56; 9:57-62

Tresure box with silverI get pretty offended by those who preach a “prosperity gospel”. You’ll notice that I didn’t capitalize the word gospel in the last sentence. That is because the Gospel is the good news that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The word “gospel” means good news and those that preach a prosperity gospel preach the good news of prosperity. Now that is good news to the worldly man but is meaningless to the true Christian.

No my friend, Jesus didn’t promise you worldly wealth and well-being. In fact He promised a great deal of difficulty for the sake of the Gospel. In today’s reading we see an example of Jesus warning of the cost of being His disciple.

Matthew 8:18-22 ESV

“[18] Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. [19] And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” [20] And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” [21] Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” [22] And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”

Here Jesus warns one who says he will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus warns that following Him will be costly; He doesn’t even own a place to sleep at night. How can we expect greater worldly wealth than that of our Lord? In the later verses of this quote Jesus tells a disciple that he doesn’t need to bury his father but rather to follow Jesus. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus puts it another way. He says that whoever doesn’t hate his mother and father can’t be His follower. Now He wasn’t being literal. He was being hyperbolic to teach a truth. We must count as loss everything that we once cherished.

Nothing can be more important to a Christian than obedience in Christ. We must be prepared to lose everything this world loves and desires. Looking to Jesus to provide us worldly wealth is making our relationship with Him all about us. That is a wrong relationship. Our relationship with Jesus is about us obeying His will, not the other way around. Brother, what do you desire out of your relationship with Christ? I hope it is eternal treasure not worldly treasure.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

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!