Matthew 2:13 – 3:6

Focus questions:

Is my obedience immediate, even at the sake of being an inconvenient time?

Do I relate more to the wise men or to Herod?

When grief is overwhelming where do I turn? Do I see the Lord’s arms open ready to love me and ministry to me even in the painful hours?

Am I will to lose comforts for Christ?

Why do I go to those I turn to? Do I look past their outward man?

 

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Imagine being an Israelite back then. The scriptures all clearly say that Messiah will be a Nazarene, from Bethlehem, would be called out of Egypt, but those things together did not make much sense, until the story unfolded. I think that can be the same way in our lives. Sometimes God will give us glimpses into the future, and (at least from my experience) they do not make much sense from where we are at the time. The temptation would be to then not trust that it was from God or that it was for you. If that is you today I encourage you to hold them with an open hand up to God and watch as He unfolds His plan. I say open hand because we do not want to be holding on so tightly that we have a preconceived notion of how that thing will unfold and be blinded to anything else. I speak from experience. I have heard things from the Lord, saw how i thought they should go down and got my panties in a bunch, so to speak, when they did not go my way.

Back to the point of the section of scripture we are in. When God told Joseph these things He did not do so saying and you must to fulfill scripture. No, Matthew puts that in there for your sakes, to help us see how the hand of God was working in the fulfillment of all these prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Again notice Joseph’s obedience. It was immediate. Remember that in Joseph’s day they did not have street lights lining every street. No, they made this journey at night with just the moon and stars and potentially torches to light their way. He woke from this dream and took immediate action, moving in the night. If you are like me being awoken early from sleep is not the thing you really want, and when it happens you try and fall back to sleep as soon as possible. I personally wonder how much I have missed of what the Spirit is trying to speak to my heart by fighting to get that good night’s sleep. This is an area I am seeking to grow in this year, being more willing to stop and listen to the Lord’s prompting, especially when it seems to be an inconvenience.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

The wise men coming to worship were exceedingly joyful and Herod is now exceedingly angry. I want to be one that is filled with exceeding Joy. Herod’s angry at not finding this one child leads him to put out a decree that kills all males under the age of 2 in a region, he thought, big enough to hopefully kill this one child. Anger can cause us to do some pretty irrational and terrifying things. Anger is a sin that should be dealt with swiftly. Even if we think we are just carrying it and it’s not like we are going out killing all these babies because of it. Let me ask you, have you done some murdering with your tongue out of anger? I know I have in the past, and I pray that I do not again. When angry we need to bring our hearts before the Lord and allow Him to deal with our hearts. Maybe your anger is “justified”. Even still vengeance belongs to the Lord and we want to be careful not to injury with our tongues and be ones in need of seeking forgiveness.

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

There are many cases where the consequence of living in a sinful world breaks my heart. Herod with his sinful angry just murdered all those precious innocent children. There are few things that tear my heart more than innocents being taken. I could not imagine to be even an unmarried childless women in those times. My heart just breaks for those moms, and for any mom who has had their child taken from them through deaths cruel hands. The grief that was felt in this community was without comfort because of the sheer magnitude of the the trauma.

19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Here again we have another region that our Savior was prophesied to be from and we see the fulfillment of it. Joseph was yet again obedient in going back. His fear that he did have was used by God to bring about another fulfillment of prophecy.

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

That message still stands to this day. The Lord is coming back again and He is going to call His church home to Himself. We still need to repent, turn, change our minds, agree with God and go His way. Do we live like the Kingdom of heaven is at hand? Or do we think we have time left to live how we want to. John was out in the wilderness delivering this message, to anyone willing to come and listen. Those of us who are saved and know Jesus and we speaking of this truth so that others can come and see Him? Speak to all who will listen, speak of our sinful nature and thus need of a Savior and tell them of Jesus urging them to turn and walk with Him.

3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’ ”

John the Baptist was the one prophesied to be the forerunner for the Messiah. He speaks of repentance and of preparing the way for the Lord. Think about it, if you know that some high ranking official is coming to your town and the path in which they will take to get there you are going to go out and make that path just as perfect as you can get it. John is saying that the Lord is coming, let’s start doing some things to agree with Him. Make the path straight for Him. There is work that only the Holy Spirit can do and point out, but there are things we know we do wrong, at least that is true of me. John is saying repent of them, start straightening out the path. He is the voice calling in the wilderness. The wilderness is barren, empty, or overgrown and unruly. We can relate to one part of that in our time before the Lord. Now that we know Him are we one, like John, being a voice in someone else’s wilderness being a voice pointing to the Lord. That is my prayer. I never want someone to hear me speak or read what I have written, or just interact with me and think wow she’s  got it going on. Sure there are parts of my heart that want that, but those parts I try and always keep in check with the Lord. What my heart wants is for people to see, hear, interact with me and walk away knowing Jesus just a little bit better, loving Him just a little bit more. I want to be one that is remember for simply affecting people’s hearts toward Christ Jesus.

4 Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

That does not sound comfortable nor appetizing to me. Sometimes what the Lord calls us to my not be the most comfortable of choices. He was bold and he was out there. Would you allow the comfort, or lack thereof, be a determining factor in what we agreed to do with and for the Lord? John’s choice of food, though limited, was nutritious and sustaining. Most importantly it was readily available to him in the wilderness. He was not traveling into town to spend money in the market on food, he used what was available to him and was satisfied with it. Those of us who are American Christians really need to take a hard look at that question, are there certain comforts of living that we expect and are unwilling to do without, even at the risk of not following God? One simple aspect of this that will get most of us is what are we doing with our money. Are we spending money on American “necessities” (ei. Going out to eat, make-up, all the sports/ movie channel extras) that God is asking us to repurpose for things pertaining to eternal life, things that will affect where other’s spend eternity? What about our time? Most of us spend 40 hrs a week at work, an hour or 2 a week at church/ church functions. What about the rest of our time? Are we glued to the TV, Phone, or anything else that is a time sucker?

I say these things and ask these things not to try and condemn anyone. These are simply the things that God has put on my heart and that He is speaking to me about personally. I am not a scholar with degrees and philosophy fueling my writings. What you see is simply an outflow of time I have spent with the Lord and of the things He has been showing and teaching me. Some are things that I look back on as scripture reminds me of past things He has taught me. Other things, like this little section here are from God is speaking to my heart now. When I bring up hard questions it is because the Lord has first brought them up in my life.

5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins

Everyone was coming out to meet him, repenting, being baptized and confessing their sins. Guys, we just covered what he looked like and eat. They were not coming out for dinner with him, or because of his fancy clothes and high standing in the community. No they were coming to him because of his message, because he pointed them to the coming Messiah, and because He spoke the truth. Let that be why people come to us.

Matthew 1:1-2:12

Focus Questions

Do you think you are too insignificant to be used of God?

Are you willing to bring your life and lay it at His feet regardless?

When face with emotion, do you simply react?

When making plans do we take the time to stop and think and invite the Lord to speak on the matter?

Are we looking for Jesus in all situations?

What is the Lord asking of me in this new year?

 

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

Matthew is going to take us through Joseph’s side of the geneology, Luke does so through Mary’s line. Now it might seem a little off to offer Joseph’s line when he is not actually Jesus’ father, but this shows Jesus legal right to the throne.

2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob.  16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

If you are like me you get to these genealogies and the temptation to just skim right past them to find the rest of the story is intense. I have never been one that likes history and tracing roots back and all that stuff. I am learning though to stop and take a closer look at these lists of names. Scan through and see if you recognize any of these names. Remind yourself of their stories. Find one that sticks out to you and reread through some of their story. Is there a name that you know nothing about? Do some digging and see what you can find out of them through scripture.

For time and length of post sake I am not going to go through this whole list, I am just going to do a quick overlay. As you read through you will quickly realize that this is not simply a list of the big shots. Jesus did not come to this world through only the most reputable people, the hotshots of society. I know I can get lost in what I am not from time to time, and I think that is a very human thing to do. I look at what I am not, where I am not meeting the mark and think God could never use me.

When I get to the genealogy of Christ I am reminded that God is not looking for shiny perfect people. He is simply looking for those He can use. That is not permission to be stubborn and unchangeable, remember God used Pharaoh in the hardness of his heart to bring out the release of his people Israel from Egypt. That story is great for the Israelites, but not so much for Pharaoh. I want to be usable by God in a way in which He betters me. The point is just that our past does not have to be perfect for God to use us, and we do not even need to clean up the act before turning to the Lord, we simply need to turn and look to Him.

Some highlights in this genealogy for me are Rehab the prostitute, Tamar who by trickery prostituted herself to her father-in-law resulting in her pregnancy and birth of the twins, Ruth a gentile, Bathesebia (whose name is only inferred) who was an adulteress. Then there is David. Remembering his story gives me hope for my life. He was King and was doing well… then he did not go off to war, instead he stayed home and he saw and gazed lustfully at Bathesebia. That led him not only to the sin of adultery, but to murder. When the sin, and God knowing of it was brought to his attention, David did what we all need to do. He repented. That is to say he not only felt sorry for what he had done and agreed with God that it was wrong, he turned from those ways.

I ended up going off into a tangent I did not fully intend to go to make this one simple point: it does not matter what your background was or was not. God wants your heart now. Look at the people He used through the ages all building towards bringing the long awaited Savior into the world. He wants to use each one of our lives as well. The question is are we willing to bring our lives to Him, even if they seem insignificant?

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

Again I am not a scholar of genealogies by any means, but it is not just fourteen between each grouping it is only so in the way that Matthew set this up. As Matthew made his list he deliberately left some names out. The reasons why I do not pretend to understand. If you are someone who likes these kind f things I encourage you to look into them and make a study out of it, but do not get stuck there. James warns us against looking endlessly into genealogies. It is likely that Matthew simply did this to make it an easier list, one that could me memorized and one that simply shows Jesus legal right to the throne.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

Could you Imagine being Mary? Luke’s gospel Gives us a little more detail into how this went down. Remember that in that culture being betrothed, or engaged, is a legal binding deal. Mary was already legally Joseph’s wife, they just have not consummated the marriage yet. So her she is, young, virgin, and found to be with child. I cannot imagine that Mary went off announcing to everyone what the angel had told her. And now it is found out. Nothing like this has ever happened before, or since, who is going to believe her claim even though she is speaking the truth. I can imagine this was a exciting, scary, wonderful, fearful time for her. Will Joseph believe her, will he leave her thinking she was unfaithful to him. The emotions that must have been there… But we do not see either Mary or Joseph act on those emotions alone. Sure they affected Joseph’s thinking, but he thought it through.

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Remember that legally speaking they are married, at this point in the game it would take a legal divorce to back out of the marriage. Joseph, though likely hurt and not believing the claim of immaculate conception, choose to honor and respect Mary in it. He was a just man. He sought to do this secretly, with as little people involved as possible. If you were in a situation where you were seemingly wronged and hurt would you look to do things in such a gentle respectful manner? Would you just react without thinking of the damage you could inflict? Let’s seek to be just in the way we behave towards each other, even if they other has wronged you.

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

He had a plan, he knew he was wanting to divorce, yet he still sat and considered such things. Are we people that just react all the time, or do we stop and think about things. If we are people that make a plan and just run with it we leave little to know room for the Lord to step in and speak to our hearts. Are we even looking for His leading and for Him to speak into our lives and our hurts? In this time of thinking the Lord was able to speak to him and give him a plan and just knowledge of Mary’s character, that she did not cheat, that she was chosen for a special task.

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

God with us. How awesome is that. God is with us, He is not just some far away God that we worship. He is God with us. He came down and made His dwelling among us. He is here with us every day. His Spirit is with us and in us and empowers us to be able to live the life He has called us to. Immanuel might be my favorite name, it reminds me I am never in this alone, no matter what I face.

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Oh how I want that testimony. Joseph’s obedience was immediate. He did not sit there and analize what just took place. He knew that this was from the Lord and he went with it. His plan was to divorce, God said marry her and this is what Joseph did.

Joseph was not intimate with Mary until after Jesus was born, implying that afterwards they had a fully consummated marriage. Mary was not a perpetual virgin as some have wrongly taught and believed. As we go through the gospels we will see that Jesus does in fact have other brothers and sisters.

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

These wise men are not Israelites. They came from the east. They saw His start in the heavens and are searching Him out. These are men who are seeking. They have enough information to have seen something happen in the sky and to interpret it as the king of the Jews having come. How this all works I am not sure, but I know these men were paying attention and took action. They have come to seek Him out and Worship Him.

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

I can understand the king being troubled by this. He we king and ruler over the Jewish people and now one known as King of the Jews is suppose to have come into the world. His throne is threatened by that very knowledge, but why were the Jews troubled? If we stick to the traditional christmas story we are picturing 3 men each bearing a present. It is more likely that this was a entourage of men. It could be the near mass of people that have them fearing. Maybe they fear what Herod would do hearing that there was a new king on the horizon.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

It has been so long that this has been prophesied that it is likely no one just knew these facts, they had to go search the scrolls to find the information. He gathered some people and got the information he was after.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Herod is being super sneaky right now, and he is playing it off as though it is because he wants also to be a worshipper. He finds out when the star appeared and ascertains an approximate age for this baby to be. He sets them out in search of the young kid and asks for word when they find him so that he can worship as well.

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

They departed, again looking to the heavens to guide their way and the star leads them right to where the child is. I’ll take this moment to point out that Jesus is not a baby in the manger when the wise men find him, he is a young child at this point. They see the star and are rejoicing.

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The only right response to seeing Jesus is to fall down and worship Him. They presented Him with gifts that are worthy for a King. Sometimes we can get so familiar with just the story of Jesus and His birth that we forget He is King. Is he the King of your heart? As we have just exited the christmas season let me ask, what did you do with Jesus? What will you do with Him today. Is He just a story that you are familiar with and can quote like your favorite book or movie, or is He really King of your heart?

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

I love that it ends with them not looking to the stars for their guidance, which God totally used in their searching, but is a pagan practice. Instead they are divinely warned in a dream, just like Joseph is warned of things in Jesus early years. God will use all things, wherever we are at, to call us to Himself, but once we are His He calls us to righteousness and calls us to leave the old things behind. As we enter this new Year are there things that you use to do before Christ, things that God may have even used to call you, that have no place in the life of a Christian. Can we end this time today allowing the Holy Spirit to search our lives and direct us to things that should go in our lives?

John 1:29-51 May 1st 2018

Focus Questions:

  1. When you discover who Jesus is were you willing to lay everything else aside to follow Him?
  2. When you started following Jesus did you want those close to you to meet Him as well?
  3. Are you willing to simply be an Andrew, or are you only wanting to follow Christ if you can be a Peter?
  4. When you hear of Jesus do you believe or doubt? If you doubt are you willing to have Jesus speak truth against those doubts?

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Here we have John’s testimony of who Jesus is. This is clearly some time after Jesus had been baptized by John. John reminds the people, and tells this new group of people who exactly Jesus is. John did not say that Jesus was just a good example to follow, someone that we can learn some good lessons by which to live our lives. No, john tells us plainly that He is the Son of God and He has come to take away the sins of the world. Jesus comes to baptize us with the Holy Spirit, which is amazing and a needed thing, especially if you are someone who is in ministry. This is such an important thing, and something that I think we miss in alot of our churches, I know I did in the church I grew up in. therefore I am going to make a seperate post that explains what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and I’ll give the part of my testimony that pertains to being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

These guys were disciples of John and they heard John’s testimony about who Jesus was and they went out to follow Jesus. They wanted to see where Jesus was staying, they wanted to see what He was really all about. Jesus’ response is simple, come and see. He invites us all to do the same thing, come and see who He is and what is all about.

40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

How awesome is that. Andrew went and found his brother to bring him along to meet Jesus.without that we may not have had Peter as a disciple. Classic Peter who often speaks when he should not, makes some awesome claims only to fall back on them and deny the Lord three times, who then becomes an awesome spokes person in the early church. That is all because Andrew thought of his brother and went to tell him that the Messiah was there.

43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Here we have another example of someone who knows who Jesus is and does not what a friend to miss out. He goes and tells Nathanael of Jesus.

46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Now Nathanael does not immediately believe what he is being told. He is stuck on the place from which Jesus came, wrongfully thinking that no one good could come from such a place. As wrong as it is we can all have those notions as well, thinking that there are placing that are just rough and wrong places to be and that nothing good can come from there. Jesus proves that all wrong. As Nathanael approached Jesus, Jesus knew the doubt that was in him and calls him by name. He then tells him that he knew where he was before Philip even found him their. Nathanael’s mind is blown and believes and follows Jesus. Jesus then informs him that he will see even crazier things than that. This is the way it always is with Jesus. In the beginning of walking with Him we see some awesome things, and they just continue to come as we continue to walk with Him.

Caitlin Renne

John 1:1-28 April 30th 2018

Focus questions:

  1. In your day to day life do you stop to consider that everything we have came from Jesus?
  2. Does the fact that Jesus was there at creation literally forming the world that He choose to come down to and be mistreated by in order to redeem us impact your daily life?
  3. Do you have a right perspective on yourself, or do you think of yourself more highly than you ought?
  4. Are you willing to be bold for Christ, even if that means leaving some comforts behind?
  5. Do you love the dark or the light? Another way of asking that is do you have a secret life that you would be ashamed if it came out, or are you an open book with nothing to hide?

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

God is three in one. He is one God but has three distinct persons. It can sometimes be tempting to think of things to simply and think God the Father was there from the beginning and created everything. Then Jesus showed up some 4,000 years later and walked the earth living the only perfect life and dying the death we deserve. Then sometime after Jesus ascends into heaven is when the Holy Spirit comes into play. At least that was the understanding I had from growing up in church. The truth of it hurts your head to try to understand. The truth is that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all present at creation. There was God the trinity and nothing and then God created everything through spoken word, that Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt amongst us. All things were made through Christ Jesus. In Jesus is the only place that we can truly have life. He is the light of the world and has come to shine in our dark world.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

I love John. This is not John the disciple that wrote this gospel we are reading, this is John the Baptist. John had an important role to play, he was the forerunner to Christ. The one who came before to make the way straight, yet he knows his place. He does not think of himself more highly than he ought, but he seems the reality of the situation. John knows he was hear to bear witness to the light. We are much the same, our lives are meant to bear witness to Christ. If that were not the case we would be saved and brought right into heaven. Our lives have meaning and purpose, especially once we know our creator. Our purpose at the core is to make Jesus known by our lives. That will play out different in each person’s life, but that is the basis of everyones calling.

9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

As many as receive Him He gives life to them. Jesus as come for the sake of all, but not all receive Him. He came to His own, meaning the Jews, but they received Him not. He came to the Jews first, but then He came to the entire world as well. Do you know Him? Have you received Him?

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Really sit in that for a moment. The Word, Jesus, who was there from the beginning, who formed and created everything, took off His majesty and put on flesh to  come and dwell among us. He left the splendor of heaven to come down here and dwell amongst us, all the while knowing the death that He would ultimately face in order to ransom our souls, so that we could one day have the hope of entering the glory of heaven and spend eternity with Him there. Sometimes we can quickly pass by verses like these, especially if we have grown up in church and it seems like the millionth time we have heard it. The reality of how awesome this fact is does not change, regardless of how many times we have heard it. As we grow in the Lord the reality of what this really means should deepen each time we hear it and we should be in awe of our God.

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Jesus is one who was before John because He was there at the beginning of creation. But in a physically sense He came after John. From other gospels we know that elizabeth was about 6 months along with John when Mary visited knowing that she was with child, that she had just began to carry Jesus. Jesus though is preferred before John, He is the one that all of Israel had been longing to see revealed. He brings grace and truth into our lives. His grace is grace upon grace, it is grace in abundance. We never see the physical form of God the Father, but we do see God revealed physically in the form of Jesus.

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

They could tell that John had something different going on, but they could not quiet figure out what was going on. They knew that they were waiting for the Messiah and they also knew that Elijah was to come before the Messiah came. Os they set out to ask some questions. They have also spent four hundred years now in silence, no prophets. Elijah answers them all truthfully that he is none of them.  

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John answers rightfully about himself. He is simply one crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord. He was literally in the wilderness. The wilderness can also be a dry and weary land, spiritually speaking. I think we can all agree that we live in that place of spiritual dryness. Are we a voice calling out pointing the way to Christ? Do we follow John’s example in that?

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Baptism was something that was already being practiced. It was an offshoot of ceremonial cleanses and was mostly used for gentiles who were wanting to become Jews. Those who were questioning him wanted to know why he thought he had the authority to do such a thing. John then goes about explaining to them what his baptism is really all about. It was a simple and humble admittance of repentance and a heart that was wanting to prepare for the coming Messiah. Even in this answer John points to Jesus the Messiah as one who is greater than he who John recognizes he is not even worthy to do even the most degrading task of taking off someone’s shoe. Do we hold Jesus in such High esteem in our lives?

Luke 20:1-26 April 20th 2018

Focus Questions as you read through today’s study.

  1. When you inquire of the Lord is it because you want to know and want to see things His way or are you trying to find a loophole to get your way with something?
  2. When an answer is required of you by the Lord or His people are you manipulating what you say to be seen in a better light and not have your heart exposed?
  3. Do you diligently seek the Lord, or just read through the section of scripture and call it good? What is your motive for seeking the Lord on a specific issue, or in general?
  4. When we know the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts on a subject do we get hurt by it and huff away, or do we hear Him out and allow change to take place?

 

1 Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him 2 and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

Remember that it was just in yesterday’s reading that Jesus had cleansed the temple of those that were doing wicked in there. We  have already seen many things that the Lord has spoke against the religious leaders of the day. The religious leaders really did not like Jesus much at all and it seems that after He cleansed the temple they came became set on getting rid of Him. they were hoping to trip Jesus up. They are asking what His authority was, not because they suspected He might be God and wanted to worship Him, but because they wanted Him to claim deity so that they could get Him on blaspheming. As we move through this conversation you will see it more clearly.

3 But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: 4 The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?”

Jesus sees that their hearts are not wanting to know, but are instead planning wickedness. Therefore He poses a question back to them, one that instead gets them trapped in their words and in their thinking.

5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it was from.

It was in and through that baptism that He spoke of Christ coming soon, and John even baptized Jesus. If they say that John was a prophet of God then they must accept what he has spoken and john pointed at Jesus and said behold the Lamb of God. If they say from God then they will also being saying that Jesus is the Christ. If they say of men then they can deny the Christ Jesus is Lord, but at the stake of the people rising against them. They all believed John to be a prophet and to speak against that would put hat person in a bad light in the midst of the whole community and could even be reason to be stoned.

8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Because they were not coming with right motives in their asking Jesus did not answer them. James 4:3 speaks to this truth. We can ask with wrong motives and we do not receive. God is gracious and our motives are not going to be 100% pure all the time, but when we are coming at it just to bring others down we can be assured that we will not find our answers. However, the Lord loves to answer us. When we search for Him diligently He will be found by us (Hebrews 11:6). And all who seek will wil find (Matthew 7:7-11). In the context of that verse it is seek and keep on seeking.

9 Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ 14 But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

This parable is speaking directly against the religious leaders, both of that day and times past. This is speaking about what happened to some of the prophets that God sent out on His behalf. Jesus has come on the scene now and they are not listening to Him, in fact they are planning His end. God sent Jesus in hopes to gain the people, including the religious leaders of the day, back to Himself.  This is the way in which Jesus is going to die, outside the city at the hand of the religious leaders.

16 He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.”And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!”

Interesting to note that the religious leaders knew this was spoken against them and were upset by it, but did not allow it to change their thinking and certainly not their actions. The truth is that all that deny Jesus will come to an end, and the vineyard is already in the hands of others, in us the gentiles who go and express God’s love for people.

17 Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? 18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Jesus is the chief, He is head of all and the most important one around. The truth is when we truly come to Christ there is a brokenness that takes place, broken over our sins, broken away from our pride and self-focus. If we do not choose to fall on Jesus and break we are choosing to be crushed by His righteous judgement in the end.

19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people —for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.

They did not like what Jesus was saying here because it was speaking against their pride. They wanted to kill Jesus over the words that He spoke against them? Have you ever gotten that mad at someone over something? What was your heart like at the time? Where was your focus, all on you? Let’s be people that lay our hearts open before the Lord and allow Him to direct us. Our feelings and desires may differ from time to time from what God says. We need to lay those aside and follow God, our feelings and desires will eventually catch up to us.

20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. 21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

They switch tactics here some. Instead of going after Him according to their laws and get Him into their court systems they switch the focus to the Roman empire that is governing them. The thought was if He says no the the Roman government would be after Him and they would take care of it. If He answers yes then He will lose favor with the jewish community and they may even turn to see His life as well.

23 But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? 24 Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.”25 And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus sees right through this one as well and His answer is quick and sly, in a good way. Rather than just a simply yes or no answer He invites them to look at things a bit closer. The money has the Roman emperors image on it. It is therefore reasonable to pay the taxes to them since it was their money system. Those things which the Lord has blessed our live with should be given back to Him and those things from the government back to the government. With that answer He both appeases the people and the Roman government.

26 But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.

They may keep silent, but their plans have not yet come to an end, they are determined to catch Jesus somehow. They are really sitting back waiting for the ideal situation to arise in which they can get Him.

Caitlin Rene’e

March 5th 2018 Mark 12:18-37

18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”

The sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. They did not come asking because they really did not know and have been wondering. We can all have some questions that once asked we realize the absurdity of them, but that was not the case here. They were asking in hopes of making the resurrection seem absurd. It is true that in the law they were commanded to marry their deceased brother’s wife in order to give him offspring and have his name live on. But the Sadducees were twisting what was meant to try and make their point. So they ask about seven brothers all having had the same wife and wanting to know whose wife she will ultimately be.

24 Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Jesus goes to work correcting their thinking. He is always  so faithful to do this and I love when He steps in and does this in my life. I love it because I do truthfully want to have the mind of Christ, I want to see things the way that He does. That is not so with the Sadducees, they have long ago made up their minds on where they stand in this regard. Who are we going to be like? I pray that I always remain open to what the Lord is saying to me, even if it is in correction. See I know that I am human and will get things wrong sometimes, I want God to be able to speak truth back into my life when my thoughts start to get carried off. So Jesus starts with you are mistake, you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. Can that be said of me and you as well? Do you know the scriptures? When you want to know something about a subject matter do you first look and see what the Scriptures have to say on it? Do you know the power of God? I know it in part, I know that He took me as the sinner I was an cleaned me up and did something new with my life. But I know I do not yet get it in full. The Sadducees were thinking that even if there was to be a resurrection it would just be a continuation of this life we live now, same rules and regulations apply, but that is not the reality. When we rise with Christ we are given new bodies that are fit for eternity. And things are different. The angels do not have babies and neither will we when we get to heaven. Therefore the sexual component of marriage is gone and marriage will cease to be important in Heaven. We do not know exactly what things will be like there. A few things we do know is it will be perfect, there will be constant worship of God and things will ruin differently because we will be under His control and not living in the world that is under satan’s control.

26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”

If there was no resurrection and they just died and that was the end God’s word choice would have been different here. God says I am, present tense, the God of… If they died and that was the end of it the sentence would have read I was the God of… God is the God of those who are alive. The Sadducees had it wrong.

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

This question was another trap of sorts. They were wanting to see if in Jesus answer which is the first, greatest, commandment what if anything He would leave out from the law. Another way of seeing this question is in them asking which law is it most important that I obey.  We can do that in our lives, can’t we? Where we see the whole of it and think it is to overwhelming so we want to be given just a glimpse of something small that is obtainable to do. We want the easy. Give me the greatest command, the one of most importance and that is the one I will follow.

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus sums up the law rather than giving the greatest commandment. Everything that is required of us is summed up in two things. First love God with all you have. Love Him with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind. Do you love God with all that you have? The second one is similar, love your neighbor as yourself. If our relationship with God is right then loving our neighbor is easier. If our relationship with the Lord is off then loving others becomes a challenge.

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul,and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

God is not really interested in our sacrifice as His is in our hearts and in our love. This guy sees that. He knows that the way we please God is through love and obedience, not through what we come bringing to Him.

34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.

This guy gets it and is close to actually being part of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one thing he is missing is the one thing that matter most, that Jesus is the Messiah.

35 Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? 36 For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ 37 Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” And the common people heard Him gladly.

Jesus, the Messiah was both before and after David. Wrapped in that truth was something that the scribes had yet to consider. Jesus does not take this time to trap them they way they do Him, instead He uses this opportunity to get to the heart of the matter. He is challenging them to think about who He truly is.

Caitlin Renee

March 5th 2018 Mark 12:18-37

18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying: 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also. 23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.”

The sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. They did not come asking because they really did not know and have been wondering. We can all have some questions that once asked we realize the absurdity of them, but that was not the case here. They were asking in hopes of making the resurrection seem absurd. It is true that in the law they were commanded to marry their deceased brother’s wife in order to give him offspring and have his name live on. But the Sadducees were twisting what was meant to try and make their point. So they ask about seven brothers all having had the same wife and wanting to know whose wife she will ultimately be.

24 Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Jesus goes to work correcting their thinking. He is always  so faithful to do this and I love when He steps in and does this in my life. I love it because I do truthfully want to have the mind of Christ, I want to see things the way that He does. That is not so with the Sadducees, they have long ago made up their minds on where they stand in this regard. Who are we going to be like? I pray that I always remain open to what the Lord is saying to me, even if it is in correction. See I know that I am human and will get things wrong sometimes, I want God to be able to speak truth back into my life when my thoughts start to get carried off. So Jesus starts with you are mistake, you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. Can that be said of me and you as well? Do you know the scriptures? When you want to know something about a subject matter do you first look and see what the Scriptures have to say on it? Do you know the power of God? I know it in part, I know that He took me as the sinner I was an cleaned me up and did something new with my life. But I know I do not yet get it in full. The Sadducees were thinking that even if there was to be a resurrection it would just be a continuation of this life we live now, same rules and regulations apply, but that is not the reality. When we rise with Christ we are given new bodies that are fit for eternity. And things are different. The angels do not have babies and neither will we when we get to heaven. Therefore the sexual component of marriage is gone and marriage will cease to be important in Heaven. We do not know exactly what things will be like there. A few things we do know is it will be perfect, there will be constant worship of God and things will ruin differently because we will be under His control and not living in the world that is under satan’s control.

26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.”

If there was no resurrection and they just died and that was the end God’s word choice would have been different here. God says I am, present tense, the God of… If they died and that was the end of it the sentence would have read I was the God of… God is the God of those who are alive. The Sadducees had it wrong.

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

This question was another trap of sorts. They were wanting to see if in Jesus answer which is the first, greatest, commandment what if anything He would leave out from the law. Another way of seeing this question is in them asking which law is it most important that I obey.  We can do that in our lives, can’t we? Where we see the whole of it and think it is to overwhelming so we want to be given just a glimpse of something small that is obtainable to do. We want the easy. Give me the greatest command, the one of most importance and that is the one I will follow.

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus sums up the law rather than giving the greatest commandment. Everything that is required of us is summed up in two things. First love God with all you have. Love Him with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind. Do you love God with all that you have? The second one is similar, love your neighbor as yourself. If our relationship with God is right then loving our neighbor is easier. If our relationship with the Lord is off then loving others becomes a challenge.

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul,and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

God is not really interested in our sacrifice as His is in our hearts and in our love. This guy sees that. He knows that the way we please God is through love and obedience, not through what we come bringing to Him.

34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.

This guy gets it and is close to actually being part of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one thing he is missing is the one thing that matter most, that Jesus is the Messiah.

35 Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? 36 For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ 37 Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” And the common people heard Him gladly.

Jesus, the Messiah was both before and after David. Wrapped in that truth was something that the scribes had yet to consider. Jesus does not take this time to trap them they way they do Him, instead He uses this opportunity to get to the heart of the matter. He is challenging them to think about who He truly is.

Caitlin Renee