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Archive for February, 2011

Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 18,

here is a link on biblegateway.com

Jesus tells a parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23-35.

A servant owed the King 10,000 talents and when the King was about to sell the servant and his family into slavery in order to pay it back, the servant ….

well… let me just give you the story instead of a paraphrase, it’s only 13 verses.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[g] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.[h] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

What are these numbers? The first servant owed 10,000 talents. In dollars,  would be similar to owing millions of dollars!

MILLIONS!

Think of debt that you might owe a credit card company or a bank.  I know from experience, and maybe you do too, that debt is a heavy burden to carry.  This guy owed millions, I read in a commentary that he owed more money than what existed at that time in his country! Could you imagine owing more that what the United States has in it?!?!? In 2008, there was over $853 Billion dollars worth of currency in circulation in the United States.  His situation was like owing more than that!

And he claims he will pay it back!

The King looks at this guy and must think, no way could you pay this back but the king might see he is trying his best and so he releases the servant from this crushing debt.

This is how God treats us when we repent.  When I am honest in repentance and move from sin towards God, I am granted forgiveness.  You are too.

This guy, who has been forgiven more than I could imagine having, must feel amazing! To have been in debt myself and to now be out of debt is a huge difference.

Somehow, this servant goes from being elated that he is free from this debt to choking someone who owes him money.  It would seem like he could understand where a fellow servant is coming from in being short on money because he himself ran up millions in debt! What was owed to him? Only a matter of a few dollars!

The first servant was amazed by the grace of the King but didn’t give that same grace to others.

 

How often is my life like this?

It can be easy to hold a grudge because someone wronged me, but how often do I/you wrong God?

Can we work like the guy in the parable to pay back God for our wrongs? Maybe like build up a “Good” account and hope it is bigger than our “Bad” account? No, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  The only way we can be released from our debt to God is through forgiveness.  That forgiveness is freely accessible through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  He laid down his life for me and you to bring us into a right relationship with our King.

 

I need to forgive because God has forgiven me a debt I could never repay.

 

-Zack

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Seeds of Power

Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 17,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com.

I am reading a book called “Lectures to my Students” by Charles Spurgeon.  Early in the book Spurgeon starts to talk about prayer and how important it is to ministry.  One of the things he talks about is our role in ministry and God’s role in ministry.  How conceited we must be, he says, to think that our preaching or our eloquence is what wins souls and moves hearts.  It is our job to go out and tell people about the Gospel but it isn’t our job to change hearts.  That is what God does.  It is our job to go to God in prayer and intercede for the people to whom we are speaking.  Seeking God first and asking Him to go before us to prepare the harvest frees us from worry about being good enough because it isn’t us speaking but instead God moving.

Matthew 17 has a story about a demon possessed boy.  In v15-16, the boy’s father brings him to Jesus to be healed:

” “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

Previously, Jesus had sent out the disciples in chapter 10 of Matthew.  The disciples healed all types of illnesses and casted out demons.

When they first went out, they had their instructions from Jesus.  The first person they went to, I’m sure they relied on the authority of Jesus to heal them AND IT WORKED!

The same with the next person and the next person.

A person possessed with an evil spirit comes and through the authority of Jesus it was driven out!

How long they healed and casted out demons, I don’t know, but do you think it would be safe to say it became formulaic for them?

If you do something like put on an event or party and it is successful the first time, it seems that logic would indicate that you should follow that same pattern because it worked before.

The first time they might have said “By the authority of Jesus, you are healed” and it worked.

Maybe they said that every time.

Maybe they began to see these healings as something they are doing by saying their coined phrase.

Once we begin to see the power of Jesus in someone’s life as us changing that person, we will begin to rely on our own power, which is little, instead of the power and majesty of God.

Maybe their phrase began to not work and they started to lose faith because what they said didn’t work.

When I’m not the one doing the work, but instead I am bring the work to Jesus, the power of God is evident.

This next line is a great lesson in this verse.

The person healed wasn’t the man who pleaded with Jesus, but the person who was pleaded for.

Take the example of this man who approaches Jesus.  He seeks Jesus to intercede for others.  This is an example we should apply to our own lives.

We shouldn’t think that it is you or I who have the power to change people, it is the workings of the Creator.

We should be seeking His Will and asking Him to Move in the lives of the people He and we love.

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 16,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Early in January, I went to an all staff conference that Impact Campus Ministries was putting on.  One morning we spoke about communication and since then, the thought of communication has entered into my mind over and over.  We brainstormed about different ways of communicating.  We probably had over 50 ways, there were a bunch.  There are a bunch.  People mentioned speaking, road signs, email, letters, blogs, written letters, braille, morse code, prayer, yard signs, sign language, license plates, texts, pictures, photographs, voicemails, facebook liking, facebook posts, facial expressions and even not speaking can communicate.

Matthew 16 opens with the Pharisees and Sadducees seeking a sign from heaven from Jesus.

Feeding thousands, healing everyone brought to Him, teaching with authority, and casting out demons weren’t enough of a sign.  They wanted a sign from the heavens.  Maybe something like darkness during the day or the sky changing color for no reason.

Jesus answered by not giving a sign.

Jesus and His disciples had left that region and were crossing the sea when Jesus said something to them in v6:

” Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” “

As we discussed before in the post Censure of the Yeast, a little yeast is used to affect the entire batch of dough.  The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees isn’t actual yeast, but Jesus tells us it is their teachings.

Jesus has already denounced their love of following tradition and their self aggrandizing actions.  What here is He talking about?

I think it is their doubts.  They see His actions and His miracles but then say, that isn’t enough, show us more.  In this section, they might not be verbally teaching people that Jesus is a phony but their actions say that they don’t trust or believe Him.

They are communicating that Jesus can’t be trusted to the people around them.

Jesus says not to trust the Pharisees and Sadducees in this.  Their doubts will spread to more people but you need to be aware that they are wrong.

 

How does your relationship with Jesus influence others?

I seek to shape my life, both private and public to be more like Jesus.  I want to live my life as a good example of what following Christ is like.  I might stumble and mess up, but I only know of one person who hasn’t.  This isn’t an excuse, only a reminder of who I am supposed to be like.

What can be learned from this section?

A bad example can easily spread.  People will look at us and say “so that is what a Christian is like”.  Hopefully that thought comes after a time of love and compassion and not comments on CNN’s Belief Blog where self described Christians are calling people idiots and stupid and maybe stupid idiots.

In our private life or public life we should strive to be like Christ.

Christ is who we want people to see.

 

Godspeed,

-Zack

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Clean Hands

Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 15,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

What has God been teaching you lately? For me, it is figuring out why I do what I do in the sense of why do I end prayers with “in Jesus’ name I pray”  There isn’t a formula to prayer that says it has to end like that but it has become popular because Jesus says to ask things in His name.  After awhile, others learn from us to end prayers like that and sooner or later a mass of people pray like that.  The first people and maybe the next generation know why, but further down the line they might only be following tradition.  This thought is applied to many more things than just that.  Like dressing up for church, or praying before a meal, or saying bless you when someone sneezes.

Here in Matthew 15 we see the pharisees (teachers and experts of the law of Moses) confronting Jesus in v2:

“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

They are confronting Him over tradition! It’s not a rule or a law.  It is not sinful but it isn’t how they do it, they tell Jesus, You should do it our way, it’s better.

Jesus answers them in v3-6:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’  he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

It was part of the 10 commandments to honor your mother and father, this included taking care of them if they needed it. It was custom not law to dedicate things to God.  For a modern example, we might think of a deli.  They have a slicer that is dedicated to slicing only cheese, no meat would be cut using it.  Similarly, Jesus is telling them that their custom of telling their parents that all of their work is dedicated to God is sin.  In short they are telling their parents, I can’t work for you, I can only work for God.  God clearly wants us to take care of our parents but they would try to get around it with that excuse.

Jesus then gives them a rule in v11 that is more basic than their ritual of hand washing before a meal,

Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’

The pharisees washed their hands to remain ceremonially clean but Jesus tells that a sign of being clean or unclean is the what comes out of your mouth not if you hands are dirty.

Their denouncing of His disciples shows more about their state of being ‘clean’ than the disciples not washing their hands.

 

God is having me take a long look at why I am doing what I am doing, and why I believe what I believe.

I hope this encourages you to look at your faith and find reasons for what you believe.  They are there, we just have to look for them.

 

-Zack

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Water Shoes

Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 14,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Peter always seems to get a bad reputation for his thoughtless speech.  Not thoughtless in the sense of being mean or hurtful but in the sense of blurting out something without thinking too much on it.  We see this on a mountain in chapter 17, we see this chapter 16 in Peter being the first to speak and we see it here in chapter 14.  I say it is a bad reputation but could we see it as boldness?

Here is what plays out in chapter 14:22-29.

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.   When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

Imagine the disciples in a boat in the middle of open water with wind blowing them towards the other side.  Then this teacher you have been following, comes walking across the water towards you.  I would think they are rightly scared!  This is something they have never seen before and all experience says that he should fall through the water.

Boldly though Peter calls to Jesus and requests that Jesus calls him to join Jesus on the water.  Jesus says “Come.”

Peter than steps out of the boat, ON to the water.

I know it’s a pun, but with faith like this, it is no wonder Jesus chose Peter to be the rock on which the church is built.

What amazing faith Peter must have to walk on water.

This faith though, quickly waned.  Peter feared for his safety and began to sink, but calling out to Jesus for help, he was saved from his doubts.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:30-31)

Peter, even though he was the second person to EVER walk on water, started to lose faith in Jesus, but that isn’t where this story ends.  It ends with Jesus saving Peter from himself and revealing to them that He is the Son of God.

How easy it is to lose faith while working in God’s Will.  How easy is it to have a successful event or ministry experience and think “I did a good job with that.”  We need to know that it is not under our own strength or cunning or wisdom that people come to know Jesus but only through the power of God.  This is what I see happen to Peter.

Peter forgets that the only reason he is standing on water is thanks to Jesus.

The same is true for me, the same is true for you.  I am in service to God because that is where He has led me.  If I were to take this as my own burden, it would surely crush me, thinking I am the one who is supposed to change hearts.

But as it is, I am the one… you are the one… who is supposed to share the Gospel, God’s part is changing hearts.

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 13,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Matthew 13 opens with the parable of the sower.  Jesus starts the parable in v4.

A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.   Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.   Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  He who has ears, let him hear.

If someone was to come to me and share this story, I’d take it at face value.  I’d remember that I need to be sure to be more careful in planting my fields, that I need to find that good soil.  Normally in this region of the world, crops would produce between 5-7 times the amount sown, so to hear Jesus talk about getting 10-20 times the normal amount is amazing!

But if I look at this parable through the ministry of Jesus, I see something else.  I see this number of 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown, and think that can’t be possible, what is this guy talking about?

For me today, it’s easy to understand! Just keep reading down the chapter!  But 2,000 years ago, this passage was the first hearing of this parable, it didn’t have an explanation written shortly after it.

The disciples went to Jesus and asked Him why He speaks in parables.  Probably with the mindset of, “we don’t know what you are talking about, why are you speaking in these riddles, these parables? We have left everything to follow you and we don’t understand you, help us understand.”

Jesus tells them that prophecy is fulfilled through His teachings, then He says:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear

Jesus then explains the meaning of the parable in v18-23.

This parable, like others, has a meaning more than face value.  For people who don’t seek Jesus, it’s a story of farming and fable at that, who gets 100x what was sown.  For followers of Christ, we seek Him further to gain the understanding of His teachings.

So what have I learned from this?

There is often parables that don’t make sense, but by going to Jesus in prayer and asking for understanding, by seeking the wisdom in these parables, we can gain knowledge about Jesus, the kingdom of Heaven, and how to live our lives here on this side of eternity.

-Zack

 

P.S. the lastest 5 posts and all of our events for Impact are now at

http://www.impactalbany.com

Check it out!

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Dogma

Grace and peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 12,

here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Todays is the day of the big snow storm here in Albany, NY!  The forecast the past few days has called for 15-30 inches of snow and classes and events are being closed everywhere you look! I’ve seen people saying “it’d be a shorter list to say what is open!”  Now that it is mid day, we have only received around 8″ of snow, 4 yesterday, and 4 during the overnight, nothing really today, but the day isn’t over…  With all this snow, I have been out 3 times to clear the driveway.  It seems every time I clear the driveway, shortly there after, we hear the rumbling of the plow and now there is a foot bank or more at the end of the driveway.  This last time, even though the roads were already decently cleared, they pushed the big banks along the road further back which extended them across the driveway again…

Matthew in v43-45 Jesus teaches through a parable:

When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.

At first read, this passage tells us that when an evil spirit is sent out from you, you should fill that void with God for He is the one who saved you from the evil spirit.  If you don’t, that evil will come back with worse spirits and they will fill that void.

Maybe you wouldn’t say that you have an evil spirit within you but you do have an addiction or a bad habit.

Maybe you struggle with

anger

or

hatred

or

worry

or

lust

or

control

or

procrastination

or

truthfulness

or

sloth

or

jealousy

or

gluttony

or

pride…

God can give you deliverance from these things and more but you need to fill your life with the Spirit otherwise your neatly organized life, can be easily consumed with your struggles of the past.

In the context of this chapter, Jesus is teaching the truth of the law to the pharisees who prefer the ideas they have come up with compared to the ideas of the One who created the law.  Jesus corrects their misunderstanding but instead of filling their hearts with His teaching, they ignore it and are once again consumed with their own beliefs.

What is to be learned here?

When truth is given to you, don’t reject it for the familiarity of dogma, but instead let it correct the misunderstandings and move forward filled with the truth of God in your heart and mind.

 

-Zack

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