Greetings on this day of worship and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ! I pray that all is well with your soul and that you are gathering with God’s people to celebrate our Savior and His victory over death, hell, and Satan! Nothing really replaces your physical presence with God’s people. You are needed and important to the function of His Body as they gather together. Each part is vital and completes Christ’s Body as they come together in common purpose.
As I look back on this past week’s readings, one of the key questions that Luke and the other Gospel writers sought to answer was the question of who Jesus was. Jesus, Himself, questioned His disciples about this. (Luke 9:18-21) As Jesus preached to the poor the good news and healed the sick and cast out demons, large crowds gathered to see what might happen and to try to get in on the action. There were many opinions about who Jesus actually was. In Jesus’ home town, He was just the “carpenter’s son”. To the Pharisee’s, He was a renegade teacher who broke their rules and threatened their monopoly on the people’s respect. To some, He was “John the Baptist” come back from the dead. To others, He was “Elijah” after raising the widow’s son in the town of Nain. To others, He was one of the old prophets come back to life.
The key question for Jesus’ disciples from Jesus was, “Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:20-21) Peter answered immediately, “The Christ of God.” This is a key question for us who live in the last days. Many in the church have varying opinions of who Jesus is. Some think He was a great teacher. Others believe He is one of many ways to come to God. Others think He was just a “spirit”, not a man and certainly not the “Son of God.” The revelation that Jesus is the Christ can come only from God by the Holy Spirit as we open our hearts in faith. (Matthew 16:17) Confirm again today what you believe about Jesus Christ! Confess that with your mouth and your actions by attending public worship!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 23rd: Luke 7-9
“When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'” (Luke 7:20) John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod and his disciples had been keeping him informed of all that Jesus was doing. John, evidently attacked by doubts and wondering if Jesus was really the Messiah, sent two disciples to Jesus to inquire. This should be easy for us to understand, because these doubts are prevalent in most lives and come from our enemy, Satan.
“So He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.”” (Luke 7:21-23) Jesus, Himself, gave this report of His ministry to John to encourage Him. The very works that Jesus did verified that He was the Messiah. No other man did the works that Jesus was doing. However, these miracles alone would not keep a person from falling away. Faith must be anchored in God and His word. Many who saw the miracles were hardened and did not believe.
In fact, some who witnessed Jesus raising the widow at Nain’s son from a coffin stated that they thought Jesus was “a great prophet”, not necessarily the Messiah. (Luke 7:16) The townspeople from the region of Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave after he drove demons from a tormented man. (Luke 8:36-37) This miracle did not convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. Pharisees saw Jesus heal a man with a withered hand and plotted how they might get at Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11) Miracles do not make a person believe. We must put faith in Jesus by choice of our will. In order to do that we must humbly receive truth and believe like a child.
If you have doubts today, take time to read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles with the choice to be filled with awe and wonder at what Jesus did. Wonder opens our spirit to truth. Jesus is the Messiah and can heal and save you!
Scripture reading for October 22nd: Luke 3-6
Jesus was a man with a reputation for hanging around people that were not considered the ‘cream of the crop’ by those in religious authority. He called people to follow Him who were even despised by his own countrymen. Luke recorded Jesus’ call of Levi, (Matthew) a tax collector. (Luke 5:27-31) Levi immediately left his tax collection booth, and followed Jesus. He threw a party for all of his friends and invited Jesus. These friend included other tax collectors. The Jewish religious folks had a fit that Jesus would eat with such people!
“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”‘ (Luke 5:31) Jesus did not view these people as outcasts. To him, they were people who needed healing. They had a “sin” sickness and he had come to seek them out and call them to repentance. He was suggesting to them that He was a “doctor” of the soul who could cure this “sin” sickness! It was a great example of Jesus’ ability to turn hostility around and use it for His purposes.
Jesus had just taken many opportunities to heal people who were truly sick and to cast out demons from some who were bound by them. Jesus cast out spirits with His word and spoke to sicknesses and they were healed! One amazing example was when some men brought a paralyzed man to Jesus, letting him down by ropes through the tiles on the roof. (Luke 5:17-26) The power of the Lord was present to heal the sick. (Luke 5:17) Jesus saw the men’s faith and spoke, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20) This statement angered the Pharisees because it implied that Jesus was God. He said it to provide evidence that He was indeed God!
Jesus knew their concerns and addressed them. He then told the man to take up his bed and walk, demonstrating that He had the authority to forgive sins and heal the sick! The man immediately got up, took up his bed and went on his way praising God. Whatever our needs, we can be assured that Doctor Jesus can heal our bodies or forgive our sins! His power is present to heal!
Scripture reading for October 21st: Luke 1-2
The Gospel of Luke mentions two people who prophetically confirmed Jesus Christ as the Messiah shortly after His birth. Simeon and Anna were people of prayer who had the Holy Spirit upon them. They had been waiting for the promised Messiah for many years. Their prayers were answered as Jesus was brought to the Temple by His parents.
Simeon had lived in Jerusalem for many years. The Lord had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. (Luke 2:26) The Spirit of God moved him to go to the temple courts just as Jesus’ parents came that day. Simeon knew by the Spirit that this was the child and he took Him into his arms and spoke prophetically: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) God was faithful to fulfill His promise to Simeon. Simeon spoke of his eyes beholding God’s salvation prepared by Him! This Holy Child was to be a light to the Gentiles. God’s plan was world-wide as well as to the glory of Israel!
After Simeon blessed the parents, he spoke a short word to Jesus’ mother. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34b-35) Simeon warned Mary that her child would be controversial and cause the downfall of many as well as the rising of others. He also told her that she would suffer something that would pierce her heart like a sword.
Anna, a prophetess who was eighty four years old, was widowed early in her life. She was a woman of prayer who spent her time in the temple worshiping God and praying. When she saw Jesus and His parents, she came up to them and gave thanks to God, telling others about the child and His future redemption of Israel. We are blessed to hear about God’s faithful watchmen and women who recognized Jesus soon after His birth.
Scripture reading for October 20th: Mark 14-16
“While He (Jesus) was at Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head.” (Mark 14:3) This event occurred just before the Passover Feast in a small village just outside of Jerusalem. Jesus often stayed in this village as it was also the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. This woman came to where Jesus was eating and brought this expensive gift. Instead of just presenting it to Him, she broke the jar and poured out the contents on His head.
This act of loving sacrifice was met with anger on the part of some present at the meal. They thought this was a waste of expensive perfume, and that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. This perfume represented more than a year’s wages! They rebuked her sharply for her act of kindness.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have Me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on My body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:6-9) Jesus spoke up for this maligned lady. Her sacrifice touched His heart. It showed that this woman was willing to break and pour out her costly perfume to honor Jesus. She probably did not fully realize that she was preparing His body for burial. She did what she could with love!
In contrast to this, Judas went out and sold His Master for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave! Judas seemed not to care that he wouldn’t have Jesus with him always. He was more interested in the money. In fact, it was recorded by John that Judas was the one who objected and ridiculed another woman for doing a similar thing. (John 12:4-8) Which of these two best represents your heart?
Scripture reading for October 19th: Mark 11-13
As the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry approached, many of the religious leaders were looking for ways to trap Jesus and have Him arrested. They plotted together as to how they might get Him to do or say something that would enable them to get rid of Him. Jesus answered their questions with skill and wisdom, avoiding their traps and silencing them with His replies. His good answers caused one of the teachers of the law to ask Jesus a serious question. “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28b-31) To answer this teacher of the law, Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy for the first commandment. (Deuteronomy 6:4) God had impressed the need for loving relationship with Him on His people. What Jesus quoted was known as the Shema (Hebrew for “listen”), and is still recited twice daily by faithful Jews. This commandment was to be taught to the children and passed on from generation to generation. They were to share it as often as they could in every day life and find ways to so impress this on the children that they would never forget.
The second part of this greatest commandment came from Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” God desired good relationships between His people as well. Love was the word God chose to describe His people’s responsibility to act towards their neighbors. After all, God is love and love is of God! (1st John 4:7-8) He is the Lord of love!
As New Testament Christians, we are people known for our love. We are people that love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! We love because He first loved us and we have experienced that love in Christ. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit brings a river of God’s love into our hearts. (Romans 5:5) We are then able to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Scripture reading for October 18th: Mark 8-10
“Some Pharisees came and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. (Mark 10:2-6) Questions about divorce were prevalent in Jesus’ day as they are in ours. The religious leaders came to test Jesus in His views. In that day, they believed that if a woman was not pleasing to the man, he could just write her off. They took the writing of Moses and justified their legal ruling. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)
Jesus told them that it was because of hard hearts that Moses allowed this to take place. He took them back to God’s original plan from Genesis, also a writing of Moses. God designed marriage. It was to be with one man and one woman, male and female. The man was to leave his mother and father and be united with his wife and the two would become one flesh. God joined them together in such a way that they should not be separated! (Mark 10:6-9)
The disciples later questioned Jesus about this teaching. He answered them with further insight about divorce. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Jesus tied divorce to the breaking of one of the ten commandments, which is a sin against God. That particular sin was punishable by death under the old covenant. God was trying to help mankind understand the need to stick with His plan for marriage and raising godly children. (Malachi 2:15) Divorce was destructive to what He had joined together, the one flesh relationship. Adultery defiled the relationship and caused violence between those who once loved and were intimate. (Malachi 2:16) God hates divorce for what it does to the family and children!
In our present time, divorce is common, even in the church. It is not the unforgivable sin, but we take it much too lightly. It is having a devastating effect on the fabric of the church and nation. We must humble ourselves and pray for obedience to our loving Jesus. “Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:9)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in the Wonderful Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and coming King! What a privilege it is to gather freely today to worship and read God’s word! Many around the world do not have this privilege and meet secretly at great peril of being found out and identified. We should not take for granted what God has blessed us with!
As I reflect on the reading of this past week, I am fascinated by Jesus’ family and His response to them. After Jesus was baptized and tested, He called His disciples to follow Him. Jesus was doing many miracles and casting out demons in every place He went. Great crowds gathered seeking Jesus, and the disciples had so much to do they could not even take time to eat. (Mark 3:20-35) His own family heard all that was happening and apparently thought that Jesus was out of His mind! Then the teachers of the Law from Jerusalem came down accusing Jesus of being demon possessed!
When things happen that we can’t logically explain, we tend to label them as crazy. If we are threatened by what is happening, we want to be sure others know that we aren’t at fault or don’t think that way. Evidently Jesus’ own mother and brothers came to take Him home and away from the crowds. Jesus explained that if Satan cast out Satan, his end had come. A house divided against itself could not stand. He warned them that all sins and blasphemies of men could be forgiven, but that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven! He said this to counter the charge that He had an evil spirit in Him!
“His mother and brothers came and were announced to Jesus. “Who are my mother and my brothers?”, He asked. Then He looked around Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Mark 3:33-35) Faith in Jesus and obedience to Him brings adoption into His family. Natural relationships mean nothing in His kingdom. We must be careful in our assessment of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be too hasty to label the things of God as phony because they threaten you or don’t make sense.
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 16th: Mark 4-7
Ministry is hard work. People draw energy from those who minister. After a season of intense ministry, I often have to go away for a while and be alone to re-charge my soul. Jesus also experienced this, as did His disciples. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:30-31)
This simple statement of Jesus brings encouragement to our hearts. Jesus is compassionate and understands the demands of ministry! He took good care of His workers! However, when Jesus and His disciples arrived at what they thought would be a quiet place of rest, a crowd of needy people greeted them! “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Even when tired, Jesus still had compassion! He had the heart of a shepherd and always put the needs of the sheep ahead of His own needs! He taught His disciples through this process what kind of a heart must be in those who follow the Lord.
In fact, Jesus taught them all day and then had the disciples prepare a meal to feed that multitude! All they could find was five loaves of bread and two fish in that lonely place, but when given to the Lord of compassion, they fed the multitude with twelve baskets full left over! (Mark 6:37-44) He sent the disciples away to row across the lake and He went up on the mountain to pray. He came to them in the night, walking on the lake and terrifying the disciples. They have not slept for quite a long time! Upon arrival on the other side of the lake, a multitude then gathers and they minister to many sick and afflicted again!
As we reflect on the heart of Jesus for the sick and afflicted, we are amazed by His compassion! Even when tired, He reached out and ministered! We must remember His example and ask for strength in secret prayer! Our energy is from the Spirit, not just our bodies!