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Archive for March, 2011

Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 24.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

I was at a church service back in 2007 where the pastor was showing a map of Israel and all the people around them who hated them.  He then started showing how the various countries were attacking Israel and how this lined up with the end times.  He went on to joke about running up lots of debt that he wouldn’t have to pay off because of the second coming of Jesus.  More recently, I’ve read about a group of people who firmly believe that the second coming of Christ is May 21, 2011 (www.wecanknow.com).  A guy figured this date out from doing math from the bible and they are taking this as good news!  I think they have the message figured out the best.  They are making billboards and traveling all over the world telling people, with a big smile, that Jesus is coming back and it’s going to be awesome!  They are using their belief to spread the Gospel not run up debt.

This chapter in Matthew deals with eschatology, the end of the world.  Jesus says that many things will happen before the second coming of Christ like famines, earthquakes, wars, persecutions, deaths, the destruction of the Temple and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

It seems to me that all the other things on this list can be checked off here and there as they come to pass, except for the spread of the Gospel.

Is there any way to know when the Gospel has spread to all people?  I don’t think so.  Hasn’t there recently been a group of people found that previously had no contact with other humans? What if there are more?

All these other signs can be seen but not the final one.

I think this is why Jesus talks about the thief in the night.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

I had someone contact me this year asking about what is going on with this May 21st group.  What is going on? he asked.  I said that this group has figured out that the second coming is on that date.  I said I don’t believe they know because this chapter is clear that no one knows.  We went on to talk about the thief in the night.  You or I shouldn’t be prepared for Jesus on May 21st, we should be prepared today and tomorrow.  If we are always ready, we’ll be ready on May 21st and May 20th and the 22nd! Jesus could come before that or He could come years down the road.  It has almost been 2000 years since He said this! We’ve had 2000 years to spread the message to all people and it hasn’t happened yet.

But it will happen, and it could be soon.

Are you ready?

I don’t remember where I heard this, it might have been on the radio.  Someone was talking about being at a theater play with their grandmother.  The grandmother seemed uncomfortable the entire time and when they asked her if she was enjoying the play, she said no.  They asked why and she said “this isn’t what I want to be doing when Jesus comes back.”

Do you live believing the truth that Jesus is going to come back at any time?

 

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 23.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Today we are having a Thanksgiving meal in mid March.  We bought two 13 pound turkeys back in November and they’ve been frozen.  Now, one of them is cooking up for a great meal tonight!  With us having this holiday meal 3.5 months later than usual, thinking about Matthew 23 has brought to mind another holiday.  Last month, we celebrated Valentine’s Day.  One staple of Valentine’s Day is the boxes of chocolates.  Jim Gaffigan, a comedian, does this joke about them.  He says ” Have you ever eaten any chocolate out of those big red hearts with any confidence?  (in a different voice) Well this could either be really good or totally nasty… and I’m just pig enough to find out.  Aw, I got the one filled with toothpaste.”  Not being a fan of coconut myself, I feel like I always pick that one.  It’s hard to tell what is what because they all look pretty much the same and by that, I mean delicious.  It’s not the outside that matters to me though, it’s the inside.

 

Chapter 23 is labeled as “The Seven Woes” by the NIV and out of these, they are often pointing at the same flaw in us.  We seek moral outward appearance more than inward change.  The verse that sticks out the most to me is v27:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

Jesus has gone from saying parables where the teachers of the law and Pharisees might leave thinking, ‘was that about us? Can’t be, we’re super religious,’ to now Jesus completely speaks to them telling them they are wrong.

He starts by talking to the crowd, but I could imagine in verse 8, Jesus starting to make eye contact the with teachers and Pharisees “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

I look at these Pharisees and teachers and think, ‘wow they are messing up,’ but then I might ignore things I do for a good outward appearance.

All through Matthew, we see the people who study the law the most, the people who study the bible the most, are the same people who work the hardest at appearing good, even though in their minds they are playing tricks, harboring hatred and soon will be planning murder.

To what is this compared? A painted tomb.  It might look good on the outside, but the inside is rotting flesh, bones, decay, maybe rodents, worms, bugs.  Sure enough there is a smell.  It is a scene that couldn’t be much worse, especially for the person in the tomb.

How do we go from being a painted tomb, to a temple of God?

I think it is in our motives.  The point of looking good to someone, is to make them like you or think highly of you.  If that is your end goal, the respect of the people around you, you mustn’t be following Jesus.  What we do should be honoring to God.  It should be reflective of the love and grace and forgiveness and mercy that come from God, who gives all these things ceaselessly.  Our end goal, should be living for Jesus.

 

-Zack

 

(ps: beware the ides of March)

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Grace and peace,

today we are going over Matthew 22.

There is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

We have this cake recipe for the best cake I’ve ever had.  Assuming everything goes right in making, it is always the same.  Simply awesome.  Awesome might be a word used too much, so instead, it is awe inspiring!  People who don’t eat flour, eat two pieces of this cake.  As the saying goes, like a fine bottle of wine, it gets better with time.  The first day of the cake, it is better than any other cake, except 1 thing.  The same cake aged for a day.  As it sits, it condenses and moistens into a think fudgy cake.  The frosting for the cake? A homemade cream cheese frosting.  This truly is the best cake.  I have made this cake many times for many people and I always tell them how great it is and how it is the best cake they will ever have.  I try to talk it up as much as possible and it never disappoints.  I haven’t had someone say “I’ve had better.”  This is so good, I tell people about it whenever I can (mainly during a conversation about cake).

 

Todays post is simple.  It’s a simple command out of Matthew 22.  Easy to memorize and most people already know it probably.  It’s simple, but also the toughest command there can be.  This command from Jesus, sums up everything.

EVERYTHING.

The Pharisees got together and questioned Jesus.  They said “What is the greatest commandment?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Everything that Jesus did can be traced back to these 2 things.

Everything we do should be traced back to these 2 things.

If we followed this, we’d help someone pulled over on the side of the road, who has a flat.  We’d help a friend struggling to pay a car repair.  We’d be one of the first people to sign up to help at a food shelter.  With the tsunami in Japan, we’d want to know how we can help instead of just talking about how bad it is.

If we followed this, we’d tell people about Jesus more.

The forgiveness and grace and love given freely in a relationship with Jesus changes lives.  It changed my life.  I know other lives it changes as well.

Just like how the chocolate cake is so good, I tell people about it often, a relationship with Jesus is life altering and makes me want to share Him with others.  My best life is found while I seek Jesus and apply His teachings to my life.  All of our lives would be better, if we lived the way Jesus wants us to live, that is, in relationship with Him.

You can have that relationship.

The person of Jesus saves lives, in more way than one.  A relationship with Jesus saved me from my selfish ways and now I work on making His ways, my ways.

Which is a simple rule!

Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself!

 

-Zack

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Arrows

Grace and peace,

today we are going over chapter 21 from Matthew.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Today’s reading has impacted me in a different way.  The passage that I am thinking about from Matthew 21 is v18-19. Only 2 verses but what an impact these verses can have.  I do realize this is lifted out of context but there is truth in it none the less.

Early in the morning, as he (Jesus) was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”Immediately the tree withered.

Jesus is hungry and after seeing a fig tree, His mouth is probably watering a little as He and His disciples are looking for figs on it.  After searching but finding nothing, Jesus has 2 options I could imagine.

1)  He could make the tree grow fruit

or

2)  kill the life of the tree.

He chose option 2.

 

Throughout the New Testament, Christians are pictured as trees.  Our actions are our fruit.  The actions we choose, determine what kind of lives we lead.

We can do good things which leads to good fruit/actions,

we can do bad things which leads to bad fruit/actions, or

we can do nothing which leads to no fruit/actions.

A tree that should bear fruit but doesn’t is kind of a pointless tree, isn’t it?

This next part is what made me stop to think.

The words we choose to speak to someone can instantly ruin them.

Someone who doesn’t have any positive fruit in their life, just might not know they are supposed to.  They might not know what actions they are to take to be a positive influence in the world.

As a Christian, it is my job to come along side someone and work the soil and plant the seed so that as they do grow in Christ, they will produce the fruit that will distinguish them as His.

 

I’ve heard speech described like an arrow.  Once an arrow is shot, you can’t stop it and it pierces to the heart.

When your words are released, do they pierce the heart and help people overcome and grow, or do they kill?

 

-Zack

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Grace and peace,

today we are going over chapter 20 in the Gospel of Matthew.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

Two things from this chapter have struck me.  The first being the workers in the vineyard.  How the people who accept what is offered to them late in the day are given the same as the people who have worked all day.

The other is the blind men.

I think this is a story I can relate to much more.

The story is simple, there are these 2 blind guys and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they called out to Him “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd with Jesus was like, ‘leave Him alone you beggars’ but they called out all the more!

“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

(pick up in verse 32-34)

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

I feel I can relate to these guys not because I am blind, I don’t even wear glasses, but because it is so easy to be spiritually blind.  In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul talks about the things of God being discerned through the Spirit of God.  Paul says

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

I often read something and I don’t get much from it.  If I spend time seeking wisdom from God and guidance in what I am reading, a chapter can open up for me.

I can see a miracle like healing the blind and be shown how blind I am.

I, like them, need to call out to Jesus and seek eyes that can see.

Jesus wants to heal the blind so they can see clearly the things of God.

This is why we have the Spirit of God, to help us understand the things of God.

Man, God is good.

 

I encourage you to seek sight so you are not reading blind.  Although we have the Spirit dwelling inside of us, as we have seen before on the sea of Galilee, we can be in troubled waters fearing for our lives, and Jesus is sleeping because we never go to Him and ask for help.

Go, ask and receive sight.

 

-Zack

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Costly Wealth

Grace and peace,

God is Good,

Today we are going over Matthew 19,

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

When I was but a wee lad I lived for a period in the deep south. This was oh just a few years ago.  After college, I moved from New York to New Orleans and I joined a mission organization called Crossroads Missions.  I went from having my own room in college to sharing a 1,000 square foot room with 5 other guys.  We had community bathrooms, community showers with no hot water, and a big kitchen where our meals were made for us (the staff) and the groups that came down to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which averaged around 100 people but grew upward to 200+.  It was truly awesome community.

Jesus is approached in chapter 19 by a man who wants to know more about how to gain eternal life.  Jesus tells him to keep the commands to which he says that he has done that. Jesus then tell him one other thing and this is where we will pick it up:

“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

Why did this man go away sad?

It was because of his great wealth…yeah, it says right there,

but that isn’t it alone.

Great wealth can give you a feeling of security.  I lose my job, how am I going to pay the bills?  If I were rich, it wouldn’t bother me.  If I get hurt or sick and don’t have insurance, the costs can skyrocket fast.  If I were rich, I could pay cash and probably get a discount.

But these riches are deceiving.

What would you rather have in life, riches or relationships?  Why not both?

I would be happy to leave what I have here for Melanie and I to rejoin a community of believers like down in New Orleans.  When troubles came up, people gathered their money to help me.  When I had no place to stay for the night, people found a cabin by a lake for me to stay in.  When my internship was over and I was moving to an unfamiliar city, fellow believers let me stay at their houses and fed me and gave me a warm bed to sleep in and found me a job.

This man went away sad and it gives me hope that his story ends there.  God knows (an accurate use of that phrase) what this young rich man ended up doing.  He went away sad, but he still had the opportunity to repent of the reliance found in his wealth and rely on God and maybe he did later.  Maybe he gave it all up and became a disciple.

 

We often find security in the stuff we have.  We buy things and bring them home because we like them, but who wouldn’t trade ‘stuff’ for good community with Christ and fellow believers.

I learn from this passage to not seek security in wealth but instead seek security in our Almighty God who can do infinitely more than we can imagine.

 

-Zack

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