Week of 7 Easter – Odd -05/11 -23/2015

May 16, 2015

Week of 7 Easter – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.

*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

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Occasional Editorial: What’s Wrong with Our Churches? A commentary on the video: Little Hope Was Arson

In 2011, two church-raised young men destroyed a series of ten churches in East Texas by arson. They had been members of First (Southern) Baptist Church of Ben Wheeler, Texas. Little Hope Bapitst Church in Canton, Texas was the first church destroyed. The fire at that church was at first ruled accidental. During the course of the investigation of the subsequent fires the message “Little Hope Was Arson” was found scratched by one of the perpetrators on a bathroom stall in a local store.

[spoiler alert; watching the video first is recommended]

Little Hope Was Arson:

On demand at iTunes, amazon.com, Google Play, vudu, netflix.com

And at select theaters (see video website, above link)

This video documentary covers the story including interviews with the perpetrators, church and family members, church leaders, and law enforcement personnel involved. It raises a lot of questions without attempting to answer them. We’re supposed to reflect on them and answer them for ourselves. One might focus on economic or societal aspects, but I would like to direct our attention to the spiritual conditions.

Pastor Bill Parr, of one of the churches destroyed, said in an interview that that the congregation not merely sought to help those who came to it, but actively sought out those who needed help. The two young members who committed the arsons clearly needed help and the signs were missed by parents and guardians, church members, church leaders, and their pastor (Rev. Carlton Young).

I believe that this case illustrates a deep problem within the Church in our society today: making members and building buildings, but not making disciples of Jesus Christ. And I believe that the problem is multi-generational.

The arson instigator was Jason Bourque. He lit the first church fire himself. Jason was the son of formerly drug-addicted parents, and his mother, Kim, had given parental custody and supervision to her parents, Bob and Brenda Steel. The Steels were apparently “nominal Christians.” They decided to “drop-off” Jason at church weekly, but didn’t attend themselves at first. Apparently they had given their daughter, Kim, Jason’s mother, at least no more spiritual guidance than Jason, since Kim was un-churched and had gotten into a drug-addiction lifestyle. Eventually, the Steels realized that they needed to attend church with Jason.

Jason, who was described as very analytical, began taking a Bible to public school, and one day he asked his grandmother, Mrs. Steel, for a passage from the Bible to use to correct peers at school about cursing. Later he was successful in school in debate, lost a girlfriend he believed God intended for him, began questioning God, got into drugs, was expelled from college, dropped out of church, and was provided psychiatric counseling by his grandparents.

Jason’s accomplice was Daniel McAllister, described as a quiet misfit, who had been “born into” the church, attending from a few months of age. He had announced that he had been saved at nine years old. Daniel had been a regular church-attendee, but the father, David McAllister, had been a substance abuser and apparently sexually promiscuous in the past, and was angry with God for having let his wife die.

Daniel was mad at God for allowing his mother to die. David believed that she was God’s intended wife for him, and Daniel believed that God had not answered his prayers for her recovery. Daniel and his adoptive sister, Cindy, had cut down David, their father, when he had attempted suicide by hanging after Mrs. McAllister’s death.

One more significant character in this drama is James Ellis, the Sunday school teacher of both Jason and Daniel. To his credit, he has acknowledged his failure and hypocrisy, and has undertaken a new independent mission to seek the lost in a traveling ministry. Of particular note, he described Jason as always having a question at the end of class.

I see this case as the failure of the whole Church (not just one denomination or congregation) over several generations, to make “born-again” disciples. Instead it has been focused on making members and building buildings, despite verbal assertions that the Church is people, not buildings. Generally, the failure to make “disciples” has led to a lack of “born-again” disciples in leadership to the very top levels, including the leaders and teachers of Church seminaries and denominational organizations. I am convinced that it takes disciples to make disciples.

One of the earliest warning signs was missed by a primary “gatekeeper,” grandma Steel: When Jason began taking the Bible to school and asked her for scripture to rebuke his peers’ cursing. Another early opportunity was missed by Mr. Ellis, in responding to Jason’s regular questions in Sunday school. The easy answer is to offer a pertinent “proof-text;” but a better option would have been to open a dialog leading to “discipling” the young man. But probably neither Mrs. Steel nor Mr. Ellis had any prior experience being “discipled” by a mature “born-again” Christian. I don’t know Pastor Young’s spiritual background. He was certainly Church-educated in Bible and Theology, but perhaps not “discipled” by a mature, “born-again” disciple of Jesus Christ. None of these “gate-keepers” would have recognized the distinction unless they had.

The Steels saw to it that Jason received psychiatric counseling, but failed to note his spiritual illness and get spiritual counseling for it. Jason had been taking the Bible to school to read, but didn’t have any Godly guidance in what he was reading from mature Christians (“discipling”). Perhaps they assumed that he was getting that guidance at church. Jason later said in a jailhouse interview that “we both read the Bible day and night, but where you read black I read white.”

Would we be more receptive to hearing that God hates and wants to destroy those who curse, or that God loves and wants to save us from destruction in spite of our cursing? Are we using the Bible to share the “Good News,” or to club the opposition into submission to our agendas? Are we applying Scripture to real-life situations or merely reciting scriptural platitudes?

Daniel said, “If you pray, God will answer and whatever happens is his will” but Daniel prayed that God would heal his grandma and was mad when God didn’t. He couldn’t accept her death as God’s will. Daniel also suggested that it “may just have been God’s will” that he burned the churches. Jason’s grandma prayed after his conviction that she would do whatever God wanted her to do, to get her grandson back (out of jail). They were praying that God do their will, rather than seeking to know and do God’s will.

Jason criticized the Church for “building bigger and grander buildings, and Daniel criticized their materialism, saying, “It’s your spiritual wealth God cares about.”

I personally have raised two now-adult daughters. I had fallen away from church after college, having been born and raised in it. I didn’t come to accept Jesus as Lord and become “born-again” until after I married, around the time of my wife’s first pregnancy.

We brought both daughters to church from the time they were born, and as they grew, we presented the Gospel to them in the form of the video version of the word-for-word text of the Gospel of Luke. Here, for example, is a current version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94WGC_ioQ8E

[A similar video of the Gospel of Mathew is probably available and also a good choice, but I have not had time to research it]

I also personally and individually “discipled” them, using:

What Every Christian Should Know about Growing: Basic Steps to Discipleship, by LeRoy Eims

(Out of print; available used at very reasonable price, paperback.)

Neither girl presently attends church or is open to the Gospel message, so I am not unsympathetic to the challenges of transmitting the faith to the next generation in our present culture.

Becoming a Christian is not a one-time event; its an on-going spiritual-growth process. Discipleship is not an optional category of “super-Christian;” An authentic Christian is by definition a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c). One must be “born-again” by the (gift; anointing; infilling of the) indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5-8), which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34) only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28-18-20).

What can we do?

-Ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior.

-Commit personally to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

-Meet with Jesus daily in Bible-reading with prayer, seeking to know and do God’s will one day at a time.

-Seek a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Bible-living church.

-Seek “discipling” by a mature, “born-again” Christian disciple.

Is this the reality that “The only church that illuminates is a burning church,” as the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durutti said? Are our churches on fire because of hypocrisy, disillusionment and disaffection, rather than aflame with the power of the Holy Spirit?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Podcast Download: Week of 6 Easter – Odd
Sunday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/30/05;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 15:1-11  –   The Year of Release;
1 Timothy 3:14-4:5   –    False Teachers;
Matthew 13:24-34a   –    Parables of the Kingdom;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded that every seventh year was to be a year of release from debts. God’s intention is that there be no poor among God’s people; wealth would be redistributed to the poor. The Lord promised to bless Israel in the land which God promised to give them if they obeyed the commandments of God. Israel would lend to other nations but would not need to borrow from them, and Israel would rule over other nations but would not be ruled by them.

God’s people are to lend to the poor among them, sufficient to meet the needs of the poor. The Lord warned his people not to be hard-hearted and calculating in their dealings with the poor; they are not to withhold from the poor when the year of release draws near. Denying support to the poor and needy will be accounted in God’s people as sin. God’s people are to give generously and freely, and the Lord will bless and prosper his people in every endeavor. There will always be poor people, so God commands his people to be generous in giving to them.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Church is to be the household of God and the pillar and bulwark of truth. The central mystery of our “religion” is Christ, who came in human flesh, “was vindicated (confirmed) in the Spirit,” preached and believed in among all nations, and ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit expressly warns that in latter times (before Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment) “some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Everything God has created is good, and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer as long as it is received with thanksgiving to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught in parables, allowing the hearer to accept or reject his message. Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a person who sowed a wheat field with good seed. But during the night an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the seed sprouted the servants discovered that there were weeds among the wheat and asked the owner if he wanted his servants to pull up the weeds. But the owner told them to let the weeds grow among the wheat until the harvest; otherwise the wheat would be lost or damaged during the weeding. At the harvest, the owner will send the reapers with instructions to pull the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat into the owner’s barn.

Another illustration of the kingdom of heaven compares it to a mustard seed which is a tiny seed, but which grows into a much larger plant than one would imagine from the size of the seed. The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven (yeast) hidden in bread dough. A small amount of yeast in the dough cannot be seen and identified, but in time it affects all the dough and its results are obvious.

Commentary:

Christians are not bound to obey the Law of Moses, provided that they are led by and obey the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:2). Eating pork is no longer a sin, for example, but the Ten Commandments still apply. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to make it possible for us to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). The Lord still commands justice for the poor and the oppressed. It is still contrary to God’s will to covet our neighbors’ things. It is still a sin to take anything that belongs to another by any deceitful or dishonest means, including “tricky,” unethical politics. People who are filled with and led by the Holy Spirit don’t do such things.

Is America the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” the nation of “God’s people” or is it the “New Babylon?”  Are our leaders alleviating poverty or creating it? Is our government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” or is it government of the people, by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful? Do we live by the Golden Rule, or is it Gold that rules? Have we become a two-class society ruled by the rich aristocracy, who regard the common people as “sheep to be sheered?” Do the wealthy and powerful pay their fair share of the cost of government, considering that they benefit most from it? Are the wealthy and powerful bearing their responsibility for the social consequences of their exploitation and unequal distribution of wealth and resources?

The Church is called to be the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The Church hasn’t created poverty, and shouldn’t be solely responsible for alleviating it. The Church needs to make democratic government accountable for policies which increase the unfair distribution of the earth’s resources.

It is the latter times, and many have departed from the true faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, the doctrines of demons, and the pretensions of liars with seared consciences. The earth is the Lord’s “wheat field,” and there are plenty of “weeds” among the wheat. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the seed, which the Lord will cause to grow to fulness and maturity, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we trust and obey him.

Jesus is going to return to judge the earth, and he will cast the “weeds” into the eternal fire of Hell, and will gather the harvest of the “good seed” into his eternal kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46). In the meantime, we are to be “yeast” by trusting and obeying Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to influence the world for the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Podcast Download: Week of  7 Easter – Odd

Sunday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/07/05;
Podcast: Sunday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 3:16-27  –    The Prophet’s Responsibility;
Ephesians 2:1-10   –    New Life in Christ;
Matthew 10:24-33, 40-42  –  Discipleship;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was transported by the Spirit to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. He was overwhelmed (speechless) among them for seven days (Ezekiel 3:14-15; see entry for yesterday, Saturday, 6 Easter, odd year). Then the Word of the Lord came to him. The Lord addressed Ezekiel as the Son of man and told him that he was to be a watchman over the house of Israel, and was to give warning to Israel whenever he heard a Word from the Lord.

If the Lord declares that the wicked will surely die, and the prophet fails to warn the wicked, so that the wicked can change their ways, and their lives be spared, the wicked will die in sin, but the Lord will hold his prophet responsible for their death. But if the prophet warns the wicked and the wicked do not heed the prophet and change their ways they will die in their sin, but the prophet will be saved.

If the righteous turn from righteousness and commit sin and the prophet fails to warn them of impending judgment, they will die in sin, and their past righteousness will be of no avail, but the prophet will be accountable to the Lord for their death. But if the prophet warns the righteous not to sin and they do not sin, they will live because they have heeded the warning and the prophet will have saved his own life.

Ephesians Paraphrase:

Christians have been restored to life when we were spiritually dead because of sin in which we all participated, according to worldly ways, serving Satan, the spirit of evil who rules this present world, whose spirit is at work in those who refuse to obey God. We all once lived to please the desires of our flesh and our carnal minds, and were by our sinful nature destined for (God’s) wrath along with all mankind. But in great mercy and love, even when we were spiritually dead because of our sin, God raised us up with Christ to be with him in his heavenly kingdom, so that throughout eternity he could demonstrate his immeasurable kindness given freely to us in Jesus Christ.

“For by grace (unmerited favor; free gift) you have been saved through faith (obedient trust); and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works (good deeds; obeying the law), lest any (one) should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in (do) them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Matthew Paraphrase:

A disciple cannot expect to be greater than his teacher, nor can a servant be above his master. Being like the teacher or like the master is sufficient. If the world has called our master, Jesus Christ, evil and demonic, Christians cannot expect to be treated any better. But don’t fear worldly people. Truth cannot be hidden. What the Lord reveals to us we must boldly proclaim.

The worst that worldly people can do is to put us to physical death.
We must not allow fear of physical death to prevent us from doing God’s will. Instead let us have godly fear (awe and respect for the power) of the Lord, who has the power of eternal life and eternal death over us. God’s knowledge, power, and authority are vast beyond our comprehension. The most insignificant bird does not die except by God’s will. God knows every detail about each of us, down to the number of hairs on our heads. We are more precious to God than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus to mankind, Jesus will acknowledge to God, but those who deny Jesus to mankind will be denied by Jesus to God.

Commentary:

God called Ezekiel and revealed himself to Ezekiel so that Ezekiel could fulfill God’s purpose by being a watchman over the house of Israel in exile in Babylon. At first Ezekiel was overwhelmed by his call, but the Lord told Ezekiel that the Lord would provide his Word, and that he would hold Ezekiel accountable to faithfully and accurately proclaim it, whether it was heeded or not.

We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) Christians are “reborn” (“born again;” John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34), which he gives only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b) does not belong to Christ. It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

God calls us to be spiritually reborn through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus so that we can do good works God intends for us to do, to bring forgiveness and salvation to this lost world. When we have been restored to spiritual life through his indwelling Holy Spirit we are to be watchmen sounding God’s warning to God’s people in exile in the “Babylon” of this world. Through his Holy Spirit, God reveals his will for each of us personally and individually, opens our minds to know and understand his Word, and empowers us to fulfill his will and purpose for us.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. We are to be discipled by Jesus Christ through his word and his Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26), growing to spiritual maturity. We are to follow Jesus’ example, and continue his ministry of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus has promised to reveal himself to his disciples (John 14:21) through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). We cannot testify to things we haven’t personally experienced. What the Lord reveals to us we must boldly proclaim.

God doesn’t intend for his will and his Word to be a secret or a mystery. God wants us to know his will and his Word so that we can live by it. Worldly people don’t want to hear God’s Word and know God’s will because God’s Word convicts them of sin, and they want to do their own will which is contrary to God’s will.

God’s intended purpose of this life is to provide us the opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). We are to come to personal knowledge and fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit and then testify to the world of that truth. Those who deny Jesus in this world, by word or by deed will be denied by Jesus to God. Denial includes failure to obey Jesus’ teaching and commands (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/08/05;
Podcast: Monday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 4:1-17   –    Prophecy of Coming Siege of Jerusalem;
Hebrews 6:1-12   –    Christian Maturity;
Luke 9:51-62  –   Obligations of Discipleship;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel to dramatize the coming siege of Jerusalem by a series of actions and “visual aids.” Ezekiel was to take a sun-baked brick (softer than fired brick) and draw on the face of it a picture of Jerusalem under siege, with a mound built up against the wall to facilitate the attack, and with battering rams placed against it. Ezekiel was to place an iron plate between himself and Jerusalem and was to face toward it.  This picture was to be a graphic sign to the people of what was about to happen.

Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for three hundred and ninety days, representing the period of God’s punishment of the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel. Then Ezekiel was to lie on his right side for forty days, symbolizing the God’s punishment of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Ezekiel was to face Jerusalem and prophesy against the city until he had completed the days of his demonstration.

Ezekiel was also commanded by the Lord to make bread from a combination of grains of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt (a different type of wheat) to be his only food during the three hundred and ninety days of his demonstration of God’s punishment of Israel, twenty shekels weight a day, once a day, with a measured ration of water. At first the Lord told Ezekiel to bake the bread over a fire of human dung, as a symbol of the rigors of the siege, but Ezekiel asked for consideration, and the Lord allowed him to use dried cow dung instead. God declared that he would break the staff of bread (the physical support of life) and that Israel would experience restricted rations of bread and water, in fear and dismay, so that they would know hunger and thirst, and would see themselves wasting away under their punishment.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Christians are to grow beyond the elementary doctrines of the Gospel which they should already know such as repentance from sin, faith in God, and instruction about baptism, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. We are warned that there is no way to restore those who have once been enlightened and have experienced the gift and power of the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God’s Word, if they then renounce their faith in Jesus, since in doing so they personally crucify the Son of God and subject him to contempt.

We are to be like a garden, receiving the spiritual blessing and nurture, like rain, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and producing the harvest that God has intended. If instead we produce an evil harvest, like spiritual “thorns” and “weeds,” we are worthless and about to receive God’s curse, which will result in eternal destruction.

Hopefully this is not our situation, so that we will produce the harvest which results from salvation. God will reward those work for his will and his kingdom, and who love and serve his saints (all who are saved by obedient trust in Jesus). We are to continue to earnestly seek the assurance and fulfillment of our hope (in Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit; i.e. spiritual maturity) for the rest of our lives, so that we are not unproductive, but instead follow the example of those who receive the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word through faith (obedient trust) and patience.

Luke Paraphrase:

When the time of Jesus’ death drew near, Jesus began to travel toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for food and lodging, but the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus because he was going to keep the Passover feast in Jerusalem. (The Samaritans believed that the true sanctuary was their temple on Mt. Gerizim, and Jews regarded Samaritans as ethnically and spiritually impure.)

When James and John, two of the Twelve disciples, heard of the Samaritans’ rejection, they were angry and suggested that they command fire from heaven to destroy those Samaritans (as Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed; Genesis 19:24), but Jesus rebuked them. (Some ancient texts add that Jesus told them their response was not accord with Jesus’ purpose and would be misuse of the power of the Holy Spirit, since Jesus had come to save people rather than to destroy them.) Instead they went on to another village.

On the way, they encountered a man who wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, but Jesus told him “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus invited another man to follow him, but that man wanted to bury his father first. Jesus told him to let the dead bury their own dead; the man was to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Jesus’ example by proclaiming the kingdom of God. Another person was willing to follow Jesus, but wanted to say goodbye to his family first, but Jesus told him “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

Commentary:

God’s people refused to hear and obey God’s Word or God’s prophet, so God “drew them a picture,” having Ezekiel graphically illustrate what was about to happen, but they still refused to repent and be saved. The only option left was to allow them to starve and waste away under siege, and then be taken into exile. What else can God do with people who refuse to acknowledge and obey him as their Creator and God?

God had demonstrated his goodness and faithfulness by bringing them out of slavery to sin and death in Egypt and leading them through the wilderness and into the land he had promised to give them, but they forgot the lessons they had learned in the wilderness. They hadn’t grown in trust and obedience to God but instead were wasting away.

Christians are the “New People of God.” Are we hearing and obeying God’s Word? Have we learned the lessons of God’s goodness and faithfulness in bringing his people out of slavery to sin and death, and leading them through the “wilderness” of this life and into the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom? Have we heeded God’s prophets’ warning about God’s impending judgment; are we willing to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord? God has “drawn us a picture” of his love and faithfulness for us in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and he has “drawn us a picture” of the eternal consequences of disobedience of his Word in eternal exile and destruction in Hell.

Christians are to grow in discipleship to spiritual maturity, so that they can fulfill God’s will and purpose and produce the spiritual harvest God intended. The Lord intended us to be filled with and guided by his Word and his Spirit, so that we could carry on his mission of forgiveness and salvation from eternal destruction. Are we seeking to know and obey God’s Word so that we can receive the fulfillment of the promise of his indwelling Holy Spirit and eternal life? Are we producing the spiritual harvest which God intended, or are we producing spiritual “thorns” and “weeds” by pursuing our own will and desires?

The Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus because they wanted to worship God on their own terms, instead of accepting God’s terms. Are we worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), or arguing with other Christians over the “proper” way to worship God? Are we seeking to save and restore the lost or are we using “religion” to manipulate people to accomplish our own goals?

Are we willing to be disciples of Jesus regardless of personal cost? Are we willing to follow Jesus now, or is there something else we think we must do first?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/09/05;

Podcast: Tuesday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27   –     The Day of Doom;
Hebrews 6:13-20   –    The Certainty of God’s Promise;
Luke 10:1-17  –    The Mission of the Seventy;

Exekiel Paraphrase:

The day of doom (of punishment; the Day of Judgment) is coming. Injustice and pride have blossomed. Violence has matured into punishment. None (of the wicked) will remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth. There will no longer be any who are great among them. Neither buyer nor seller will benefit from their transactions.

God’s wrath is upon the nation; because of their sin they will not keep their lives. God’s people have prepared for battle and have blown the trumpet but none goes forth. Those who go out into the field are slain by the sword, and those who stay within the city are slain by disease and famine. “Because the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence, I (God) will bring the worst of nations to take possessions of their houses” (Ezekiel 7:23b-24).
God will end their pride and their power, and desecrate their holy places. “When anguish comes they will seek peace, but there shall be none.

Disaster follows disaster, rumor follows rumor” (Ezekiel 7:25-26). They will turn to the prophets seeking a vision but there will be none. The priests and elders will be unable to provide scriptural guidance. The civil leaders will be in despair, and the people will be trembling with terror. “According to their way I (God) will do to them, and according to their own judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27b).

Hebrews Paraphrase:

God promised to bless and multiply Abraham and his offspring, and by enduring patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Because men rely on a sworn oath to bind a promise, God made an oath to Abraham to fulfill his promise. Both God’s promises and his oath are eternal and unchanging, so we can be mightily encouraged to claim the hope he has given us. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine (the holy-of-holies; God’s presence) behind the curtain (veil) where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus appointed seventy of the wider group of his disciples who followed him and sent them in pairs to every place where Jesus was about to visit. He told them that there was a vast harvest of souls, but few helpers to harvest. So Jesus’ followers should pray to Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest, to send (themselves as) helpers to gather the harvest and then to begin the work of gathering the harvest. Jesus warned his disciples that they were sent as lambs into the midst of wolves. Jesus told them not to try to provide their necessities for themselves, and not to get sidetracked and delayed along the way.

Whenever they entered a house they were to offer (the Lord’s) peace to the house. If the household was willing to receive peace, it would rest on them, but if not, it would return to the disciples. They were to remain in the house which receives them, and accept what they provided, rather than going from house to house. In every town where the disciples were received, they were to heal the sick and to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom.

Wherever a town refused to receive them they were to shake the dust of that town from their feet, declaring that the disciples refused to receive even the dust of that town on their feet, but that the kingdom of God had come near to that town. Then the disciples were to go on to the next town. It will be worse, on the Day of Judgment, for the town which has refused to receive Jesus’ disciples, than it was for Sodom on the day of its destruction.

Jesus mourned for Chorazin and Bethsaida, two towns in Galilee which witnessed Jesus’ preaching and miracles, and yet did not accept Jesus. Jesus warned that Tyre and Sidon, notoriously wicked Phoenician cities, would have been more receptive to Jesus’ ministry and would fare better in the Day of Judgment.

Jesus also warned that Capernaum’s human pride and arrogance in refusing to repent and accept Jesus, although Jesus had preached and done many miracles there, would bring them condemnation in the Day of Judgment. Jesus told his disciples that those who heed (hear, trust and obey) Jesus’ disciples heed Jesus and those who reject Jesus’ disciples reject Jesus, and reject God the Father, who sent Jesus. The Seventy returned rejoicing at the spiritual power and resources they had received as they trusted and obeyed Jesus’ command.

Commentary:

The Lord had patiently taught his people to trust and obey him. He had shown them his power and faithfulness, in delivering them from slavery to sin and death in Egypt, and in leading them through the wilderness into the land he had promised to give them. But they forgot all God’s blessings and the lessons of the wilderness. They refused to heed God’s Word and the warnings of God’s prophets that the Day of Judgment was coming and that they would be condemned to exile in “Babylon” for their failure to trust and obey the Lord and his prophets, and for their idolatry (Ezekiel 7:19-20).

Israel had trusted in their power and wealth instead of trusting and obeying the Lord. They had disobeyed God’s Word, and had allowed crime and injustice to fill their land. God’s people had prepared for battle with the enemy in God’s name, but hadn’t gone forth (Ezekiel 7:14). God warned them that their tolerance and practice of injustice, pride, and violence was going to produce a harvest of condemnation. God was going to judge them according to their own judgments.

Those who had refused to acknowledge God as Lord were about to discover that God is Lord, whether they acknowledge him or not. God warned them that his wrath was coming upon them and that when the siege actually began they would then seek spiritual help from their priests, prophets and elders, but would find none because by then it would be too late (Ezekiel  7:26). There would be nothing their civil leaders could do either.
Doesn’t this sound a lot like American and the Church today? In a sense America and the Church are each the “New Israel.”

God’s Word of Israel’s punishment and doom in exile in Babylon was fulfilled. God’s Word and God’s promises are eternal, continuing to be fulfilled as conditions for their fulfillment are met, and they are absolutely true and reliable. Abraham trusted and obeyed the Lord, and by enduring patiently, he received what God had promised. Christians are the spiritual descendants of Abraham as they trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus is our great high priest who intercedes for our forgiveness in God’s presence. Jesus is the “pioneer,” the “trail blazer,” who has opened the veil into the holy-of-holies (Matthew 27:51a), so that we can come into God’s presence through Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord promised to give his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17), and the Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

God’s Word contains both good and “bad” promises; God’s Word contains both blessings and condemnations. We will either heed God’s Word and receive God’s blessings, or we will disobey God’s Word and be condemned and eternally destroyed. God promises that there is a Day of Judgment coming, when every person who has ever lived on earth will be accountable to the Lord for what he has done in this life. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death and destruction (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the “Promised Land” of God’s eternal kingdom in heaven with the Lord. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will receive eternal exile, death and destruction in the “Babylon” of Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46). That’s a promise!

Jesus appointed not just the Twelve, the apostles who were to become the leaders of the Church, but all of his followers, as disciples, to pray to the Lord to send themselves as helpers to gather the harvest, and then to trust and obey the Lord’s command to go, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bringing spiritual healing to the people of the world. (I personally testify to this truth; this is exactly how I came to do this internet ministry.) Are Christians praying for the Lord to send them, or are we prepared for the “battle,” and having heard (or blown) the Trumpet call, unwilling to venture into the battlefield (Ezekiel 7:14)?

Jesus has promised that those who receive his disciples receive Jesus, and those who receive Jesus receive God the Father (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Jesus promises that if we will be his disciples who trust and obey him and go forth in his name according to his will and guidance, we will come home rejoicing at what the Lord has allowed us to accomplish through his Holy Spirit. First we must be prepared by discipleship and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Then we must pray, listen for and obey his call and his instructions.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 7 Easter – Odd

First Posted 05/10/05;

Podcast: Wednesday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 11:14-25  –    Promise of Return of the Exiles;
Hebrews 7:1-17   –    Priesthood of Melchizedek;
Luke 10:17-24   –  The Return of the Seventy;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel that those of Israel who remained in Jerusalem when the rest of Judah went into exile thought the exiles were far from God’s protection, and that the exiles’ property had been given to the remnant in Jerusalem. The Lord said that although the exiles had been taken far from their land the Lord had not completely abandoned them, and God promised to bring them back to their Promised Land.

When the exiles returned to their land they were to remove all the idols which polluted the land. The Lord will give the returning exiles a new, tender heart, in place of their hard, stony hearts, and will put a new spirit within them. Then they will obey God’s ordinances “and they shall be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:20).As for the remnant who did not go into exile, whose hearts go after sinful things and idols, the Lord will repay them according to their deeds.

Ezekiel had a vision of God’s glory, and in the vision God’s glory rose up from Jerusalem and stood upon the Mount of Olives. In a vision the Holy Spirit lifted Ezekiel up and brought him to the exiles in Babylon, and the vision departed and Ezekiel told the exiles all that the Lord had shown him.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God. When Abraham (then called Abram) returned from defeating Chedorlaomer, and rescuing his kinsman (nephew; the son of Abraham’s brother), Lot, who had been held captive (Genesis 14:12), Melchizedek came out to meet Abraham (Genesis 14:17-20; bringing bread and wine; Genesis 14:18) and blessed Abraham. Abraham gave a tithe of his plunder of Chedorlaomer to Melchizedek. The name “Melchizedek” means king of righteousness, and his title, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Melchizedek has no genealogy and no date of birth or death, so he symbolizes and prefigures the Son of God, who is the eternal priest of God.

Melchizedek is greater than Abraham and the Levitical priesthood (which had not yet been established, since Levi, a descendant of Abraham, had not yet been born), since Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham and blessed him. The Levitical priests are mortal men who receive tithes from their brethren, but Melchizedek symbolizes an eternal priesthood. If the Levitical priesthood, arising from Aaron, under whom Israel received the Old Covenant of Law, had been perfect there would not have been the need for another priesthood arising from the order of Melchizedek. Since the Levitical priesthood was established by covenant of law given by God, the change in priesthood would require a change in the law.

Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek, was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, which had no connection with the priesthood, according to the Covenant of Law given by God to Moses. The priesthood of Jesus is not based on the requirement of law, by genealogical descent, but by the power of his eternal life and God’s Word, which declares that Jesus is priest forever according to the priesthood of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17; compare Psalm 110:4).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had sent out seventy of the larger group of his disciples to proclaim the coming kingdom of God (in Jesus Christ) and to heal the sick (Luke 10:1-17; entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 7 Easter, odd year). They returned rejoicing that even demons were under the disciples’ power in Jesus’ name. Jesus declared that he had witnessed Satan’s defeat in heaven, and Jesus had given his disciples power over the enemy (Satan, the enemy of God and of our eternal souls). Jesus told them that the real reason to rejoice was that they were acknowledged in heaven (as God’s children), as their power over evil demonstrated.

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (in the joy of spiritual ecstasy of the Holy Spirit within him) and gave thanks to God for God’s great purpose and design of creation, that, by God’s will and intention, spiritual things are hidden from those who those who pursue and possess worldly wisdom and knowledge, but are revealed and understood by those who are humble, trusting and obedient.  Jesus has been given all things by God the Father. No one can know who Jesus is except by God, and no one can come to know God except through Jesus Christ, as Jesus chooses to reveal him.

Jesus told his disciples that they are blessed to witness the fulfillment of God’s purpose and to recognize and believe the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God. Many kings and prophets longed to see and hear these things and weren’t able.

Commentary:

The Lord sent his people into exile so that they would learn to trust and obey him. The Lord promised to bring them back to their Promised Land at the end of their exile, and that the Lord would give them a new, tender heart, and would put a new spirit (the Holy Spirit) within them. Then they will have the ability and desire to obey God. By being willing to obey God they demonstrate the desire and the fact that they are God’s people, and when people are willing to be God’s people, God is willing to be their God and all that being a good, merciful, loving, just, faithful and powerful God implies.

Ezekiel was a priest of God (Ezekiel 1:3). Because Ezekiel was willing to trust and obey God, God made his Word known to Ezekiel, gave him spiritual vision, and lifted and guided him to proclaim to God’s people in exile what God had revealed to Ezekiel. Ezekiel is an example and forerunner of the new priesthood established in Jesus Christ. He’s an example of the prophetic priesthood the Church needs today, and he is the example of the calling of all Christians to carry on Jesus’ ministry to the world in exile from God.

Nominal Christians, “Church members,” who are unwilling to be subject to the Lord’s discipline and to be in spiritual exile in this world are like those who called themselves God’s people but stayed in Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s time. They thought God was with them and far from those who were suffering in exile, and they thought the inheritance of the Promised Land and the spiritual assets of God’s people belonged to them, even though they did not obey God’s Word or heed his prophets, and allowed “Jerusalem,” God’s holy city, (the Church, today) to become polluted with sin and idolatry.

Melchizedek is God’s intentional symbol and illustration of the priesthood which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our great high priest, fulfilling the prophetic vision given in Melchizedek. Jesus comes to meet us and bless us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper), as we return from fighting and claiming the victory over the worldly king (Satan), which Jesus won for us on the Cross, and from rescuing our “brother,” “Lot,” who had been taken captive by the forces of evil. The priesthood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is not based on the Old Covenant of Law, or on genealogy, but is instead to be based on God’s Word and the power of eternal life: the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Jesus calls all his disciples, not just the clergy (apostles), to carry on Jesus’ ministry to the world. Christians are to be a kingdom of priests serving God and offering God’s forgiveness and salvation to this world (Revelation 1:5b-6). Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, who trust and obey Jesus and have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Born-again disciples are to go into the world to offer spiritual healing and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls his disciples to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to teach them to trust and obey Jesus, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that is the absolutely necessary prerequisite for lay (church members) ministry, or ordained (clergy) ministry in Jesus’ name.

Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34). Jesus only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). Jesus is the only way to come to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with God (John 14:6), and to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, (John 14:23), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b). Jesus reveals himself and God the Father to his disciples through the Holy Spirit (John 14:21).

If we are Jesus’ disciples we can rejoice that we have been blessed with the spiritual insight to see, recognize and believe in the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ, and that we have personally experienced the truth of Jesus Christ in our own lives.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/11/05;

Podcast: Thursday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32  –   Individual responsibility;
Hebrews 7:18-28    –    Jesus our high priest forever;
Luke 10:25-37  –    The good Samaritan;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel that the exiles must no longer blame their forefathers for their exile. All souls belong to God, both father and son. Each soul shall bear its own responsibility. Human judgment might find it right that the son should suffer for the sake of his father’s sins, but not God’s judgment. Each individual who sins will die eternally. The righteous will be rewarded according to their deeds, and the wicked will be punished for their wickedness.

A wicked person who turns from his wickedness and obeys God and does what is right will not die eternally, and his past wickedness will be expunged (forgiven and forgotten). If a righteous person turns from obedience to God and does what is wicked, he will die eternally for his wickedness; his past righteousness will not save him.

God’s ways are just; it is mankind’s ways which are not just. Therefore judgment belongs to God (and not to mankind). He will judge each individual according to the individual’s ways. It is our best interest to repent and turn from disobedience and sin so that we will not be condemned to eternal destruction for our transgressions against God’s Word.

We are urged to stop violating God’s Word and to get a new heart and a new spirit. Why would we refuse to repent and insist on doing what is going to destroy us eternally? The Lord does not take pleasure in destroying anyone, so let us turn to him in obedient trust so that we may have eternal life.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is our eternal high priest fulfilling the prophetic illustration given in the priesthood of Melchizedek (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 7 Easter, odd year). Comparing the Levitical priesthood established by God’s Law, given to Moses, and the eternal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Jesus’ eternal priesthood required setting aside the legal requirement of genealogical descent (since Jesus was not descended from Levi). But the Law was not able to cleanse us from sin; it was intended to show us what God required, but the law could not enable us to do it. God had a better plan and hope for us in the priesthood of Jesus, through whom it is possible to draw near to God.

Furthermore, Jesus’ priesthood is established for all eternity by God’s oath. So Jesus has secured and mediates a better covenant than the Old Covenant of Law mediated by the Levitical priesthood. The former Levitical priesthood required many priests, because the priests’ terms were limited by physical death. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent and eternal, so “he is able for all time to save all who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus is the ideal high priest because he is completely righteous and sinless, and does not need to seek forgiveness for his own sins. Nor does he need to continually offer up sacrifices for our sins, because he accomplished this once for all time and all people (who willingly receive it), on the Cross. In the Old Covenant of Law, priests served in their human weakness, but [in the New Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus], established by God’s oath (promise), our high priest is eternally and completely righteous and spiritually mighty.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was teaching a crowd, and a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses) asked a question to test Jesus. The lawyer asked Jesus what the lawyer should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, asking the lawyer what the law said. The lawyer replied that one must love God completely, and must love one’s neighbor just as one’s own self. Jesus told the lawyer his answer was exactly right and that if the lawyer did what the law said he would have eternal life.

The lawyer (trying to limit his responsibility) asked Jesus who the lawyer must consider to be his neighbor. Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten and robbed and left along the road. A priest and a Levite (both examples of righteousness under the law), traveling separately, both saw the injured man, and walked by on the other side of the road, but a Samaritan (considered racially and spiritually impure by Jews) saw the man and gave him aid, cleaning and dressing his wounds and transporting him to an inn where he took care of the injured man.

The next day, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to continue to care for the man until he recovered from his injuries, and promised to pay whatever additional expenses were incurred. Jesus asked the lawyer, who of the travelers proved to be the neighbor of the injured man. The lawyer answered that the neighbor of the injured man was the one who had mercy on him (i.e. the Samaritan). Then Jesus told the lawyer to go and do likewise.

Commentary:

There is a Day of Judgment coming when everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to the Lord for what he has done (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29). We will all be accountable individually for our own deeds. All of us have sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want us to perish eternally (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

We are urged to repent, to stop disobeying God’s Word, and to turn to the Lord in trust and obedience, and he will give us a new heart to desire what pleases the Lord and a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us, to help us know and do his will and to resist and withstand temptation and sin. Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), which he gives only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17).

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for his Creation which he had before Creation was begun (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s purpose for this present world is to create an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. This life is our opportunity to choose for ourselves whether we are willing to live in God’s eternal kingdom or not.

This life is the opportunity to seek and come to a personal relationship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27). No one can come to God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Lord. The Old Covenant of Law was intended to show what God requires and to keep us restrained until the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our high priest whose blood sacrifice on the Cross has paid for our sins. He has lived in this world and has been tempted just as we are, but without sinning. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we will trust and obey Jesus, Jesus will give us a new heart and a new Spirit through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus, by his Spirit (Romans 8:9-b) within us, is the “guarantee,” and the “down-payment” of the new and better Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; compare Hebrews 7:22).

Jesus didn’t come to make it possible for us to be saved without trusting and obeying God’s Word (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus came to reveal God’s nature and goodness, to demonstrate how God’s children are to live and to make it possible for us to live according to God’s Word and his will.

The lawyer was looking for “loopholes” in God’s law. He wanted to limit his responsibility by narrowly defining who he must consider his neighbor.

Jesus wanted to teach the lawyer that it is not enough to know the law, if one does not apply it, and it is not enough to keep the letter of the law, if one does not keep the intent of the law. Similarly, one cannot truly believe in Jesus without knowing and doing what Jesus teaches and commands.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 7 Easter – Odd

First posted 05/12/05;

Podcast: Friday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 34:17-31  –    The Lord cares for his flock;
Hebrews 8:1-13   –   The New Covenant;
Luke 10:38-42   –    Mary and Martha;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord judges the sheep of his flock. He provides good pasture and fresh water for his sheep, but some of his sheep trample the pasture and muddy the water with their feet. The Lord will deal with unruly sheep who push his sheep around and scatter them. The Lord will save his flock and they will no longer be a prey. The Lord will set up one shepherd like David to care for his flock.

The Lord will make a new covenant of peace. Wild beasts will be banished from the land so that the flock will live in safety in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods without fear. The Lord will bless the land around Zion and send showers of blessing in the proper seasons. Fields and trees will yield their harvest, and God’s people will dwell securely in their land.

When the Lord frees them from the yoke of oppression they will know that God is Lord. Nations shall no longer prey upon them, nor shall beasts of the land devour them. There will no longer be any reason for fear. The Lord will provide abundant harvests so that there will no longer be hunger. They will no longer bear the reproach of the nations. God’s people will know that the Lord their God is with them and that they are God’s people; the sheep of God’s pasture.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus Christ is our great high priest in God’s presence in the true heavenly sanctuary. He performs the function of a priest in offering sacrifice to God, as do earthly priests. Earthly priests serve a copy, a shadow, of the heavenly sanctuary. The Lord gave Moses instructions to make the earthly tabernacle a replica of the heavenly one. Christ’s priestly ministry is the perfection of the ministry of the earthly replica, and the new covenant is the improvement and perfection replacing the old covenant of Law, because the new covenant is founded on better promises.

If the old covenant had been perfect there would have been no need for a new one. The new covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah (quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34; and also prophesied by Ezekiel), is superior to the old covenant, because the people were unfaithful and unable to keep the old covenant. In the new covenant, knowledge of God’s Word and a personal relationship with the Lord will be within all of God’s people (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Prophesying a new covenant presupposes that the first one is “old” and therefore obsolete.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus went to Bethany and visited the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching, but Martha was busy preparing a meal. Martha asked Jesus if he didn’t care that Mary had let Martha do all the work alone. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus replied gently that Martha was worrying about many things that weren’t really necessary instead of the one thing which was really important. Mary had chosen what was truly important, and Jesus would not ask Mary to do otherwise.

God promised through his Word and his prophets that he would establish one shepherd in the nature, tradition, and lineage of David, the shepherd-king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Jesus is that Good Shepherd (John 10:11), descended from David (Luke 2:1-7), born in Bethlehem (the city of David), God’s anointed eternal King of kings (Revelation 91:16-19).

Jesus became the mediator of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 9:20) at the Last Supper on the eve of his Crucifixion. His blood shed on the Cross ratifies the covenant, and is the sacrifice once for all for the forgiveness of our sins (Hebrews 9:21-24).

The new covenant is the covenant of peace and reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of our sins. Those who trust and obey Jesus are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom we come to personal knowledge of the Lord and the assurance that he is present with us and that we are God’s people. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we receive showers of blessings, are spiritually nourished, and guided and empowered to be productive, bearing fruit for God’s kingdom. The indwelling Holy Spirit frees us from the yoke of sin and death. There is no longer reason to fear physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Commentary:

Jesus is our high priest mediating the new covenant, interceding to God on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Sprit (John 1:32-34). Jesus only gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to those who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to put the personal knowledge of the Lord and of God’s Word within us. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life as God’s people (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Mary and Martha are examples of two types of the sheep in the Lord’s flock. One is, in her own human ability, busily following her own idea of what best serves her Lord and demonstrates her love for him. The other is being discipled by Jesus, and seeking to know and do his will by his power within her.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 7 Easter – Odd

First  Posted 05/13/05;
Podcast: Saturday 7 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 43:1-12   –     The glory of the Lord;
Hebrews 9:1-14   –   The earthly sanctuary;
Luke 11:14-23   –   Jesus’ power;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was a prophet to the remnant of Israel in exile in Babylon. After his prophecy of exile was fulfilled, Ezekiel assured the exiles that the presence of the Lord was still with them, and of their eventual return to the Promised Land. The Lord gave Ezekiel a vision of the restored temple, which had been destroyed in 587 B.C.. In this vision the Spirit brought Ezekiel to the eastern gate, and Ezekiel saw the glory of God come from the east (as he had seen the glory of God depart; Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-23).  The glory of God came with a sound like the roar of many waters, and the earth shone like the brightness of the sun. The glory of God entered by the east gate and filled the temple.

Ezekiel heard the voice of God say that the temple was the place of God’s throne on earth where he will dwell among his people forever. God’s people are commanded to no longer defile God’s holy name by (spiritual) harlotry (i.e. disobedience and idolatry), particularly by memorializing (Ezekiel 43:7 note “i,” RSV) their dead kings in God’s temple, or by using God’s temple for political purposes. Israel had been punished for disobedience of God’s Word and for idolatry. Now they are called to repent and return to trust and obedience to the Lord, on which condition the Lord promises to dwell among them forever.

Ezekiel was commanded by God to proclaim to Israel the appearance and plan of God’s temple and God’s laws concerning the sanctity of the temple, so that Israel may be ashamed of their sins, and may obey and perform all God’s ordinances concerning the temple. The entire temple mount surrounding the temple is to be kept most holy. (Israel did return to the Promised Land, and the Temple was rebuilt in 517 B.C.)

Hebrews Paraphrase:

The first covenant (the Covenant of Law) had rules governing worship and the earthly sanctuary (given by God to Moses; (Exodus 25:10-40). The original sanctuary consisted of an outer tent called the Holy Place containing the lampstand, the table and the bread of the presence. Within the Holy Place was a tent called the Holy-of-Holies, separated from the Holy Place by a curtain.

The Holy-of-Holies contained the golden altar of incense, the Ark of the Covenant covered in gold and containing the golden urn containing manna, Aaron’s (almond) rod that budded, and the tablets of the Law (the Ten Commandments) which Moses received from God on Mt. Sinai. Above the ark “were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (Hebrews 9:5). The priests continually performed their ritual duties in the outer tent, but only the high priest entered the Holy-of-Holies, only once a year, carrying blood from a sacrifice offered for himself and the people.

The curtain symbolizes that the way into the Holy-of Holies (into God’s presence) is blocked as long as the outer tent is still standing. In the temple system gifts and sacrifices cannot cleanse the people but instead only regulate the carnal nature “until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10; the new covenant, initiated by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross).

When Christ became our high priest of the new covenant he passed through the heavenly sanctuary into the Holy-of-Holies of God’s presence, taking his own blood, to obtain an eternal redemption. If the blood of animals purified and sanctified sinful flesh, how much more will the blood of sinless Christ purify our eternal souls from sins which cause eternal death, and enable us to serve the eternally living God?

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus healed a mute man of the demon who had caused the muteness, and the man was able to speak. The people who witnessed the miracle were amazed, but some suggested that Jesus’ power was from Beelzebul, the prince of demons, and others asked Jesus to prove that his power was from God.

Jesus knew what they were thinking and told them that a kingdom divided against itself is destroyed. Why would Satan fight against his own kingdom? Jesus was not the only one casting out demons in Israel, so if Jesus’ power was from Satan, then Jewish exorcists must also be empowered by Satan, and they will condemn Jesus’ critics. But if Jesus heals by God’s power then God’s salvation is near.

A well-armed strong man can guard his own property, but if someone stronger attacks and removes the armor in which the man trusted, then he can take the man’s goods. Jesus declared that those who are not with Jesus are against him, and those who don’t join Jesus in gathering cause scattering.

Commentary:

Israel had disobeyed God’s Word, had refused to heed God’s prophets, and had worshiped other “gods.” So God’s glory departed from the temple and he removed his protection, allowing Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed and the remnant of Israel to be carried off to exile in Babylon. God promised to restore his people and bring them back to the Promised Land when they repented of their disobedience and unfaithfulness to God and learned to trust and obey the Lord. God promised that the temple would be rebuilt and re-consecrated, and the glory of his presence would again fill the temple.

God warned that God’s people must no longer defile God’s name by disobedience of God’s Word and by idolatry, with particular emphasis on not using God’s sanctuary to memorialize earthly leaders, or for pursuing political agendas.

The temple was designed according to God’s instructions as a replica of the heavenly sanctuary. Under the Old Covenant of Law, people had no direct access to God. Only the High Priest could enter into God’s presence (in the Holy-of-Holies) only once a year with a blood sacrifice. The curtain (veil) of the temple separated God’s people from God’s presence. At Jesus’ crucifixion the curtain was supernaturally torn from top to bottom (Luke 23: 44-45), symbolizing that the way into God’s presence had been opened by Jesus’ Crucifixion.

Jesus’ crucifixion ended the Old Covenant and initiated the New Covenant of grace (unmerited favor) through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Judaism effectively ended at the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, the Jews were scattered throughout the world, and Israel ceased to exist as a state. It is only since World War II that Israel was reestablished and Jews began returning. The temple has never been rebuilt.

The Old Covenant was dependent upon the temple sacrificial system. Jesus’ blood is now the only sacrifice acceptable to God for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death, and the only way into God’s presence and eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home)

Jesus is the new and living way into God’s presence through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus and are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. “Born-again Christians” are God’s temple, filled with the glory of God by his Holy Spirit. Congregations where two or three “born-again” Christians are gathered are filled with God’s glory and the presence of the Lord (Matthew 18:20).

The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of a New Temple, filled with the glory of the Lord. The resurrected Jesus is our High Priest interceding for us in the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus came to provide the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, to show by word and example how to live as a child of God, and to make possible the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7).

Jesus’ ministry was primarily to bring spiritual healing. The mute man Jesus healed couldn’t speak, physically, but the underlying cause was spiritual (represented as demonic), and the cure was spiritual. Jesus frees us from demonic powers so that we can be filled with, cleansed and guided by his Holy Spirit.

We are in exile in the Babylon of this world, and the Lord wants to free us from slavery to sin and death so that we can be his sanctuary, filled with his glory and eternal life. Are we willing to trust and obey him and allow him to cleanse and fill us?

In one sense both America and the Church are each the “New Israel” (the new “Promised Land” and the new “people of God”). Has the glory of the Lord departed from us because of our spiritual unfaithfulness, our disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophets, and our “idolatry” (loving and serving any one or thing more than our love and serving the Lord)?

Have we allowed God’s temple to be desecrated by things God’s Word declares to be abominations? Can we learn from God’s Word and God’s dealing with Israel to repent and return to obedient trust in Jesus so that the Lord can restore and revive us, or will we have to suffer God’s punishment and exile in “Babylon?”

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 6 Easter – Odd – 05/10 – 16/2015

May 9, 2015

Week of 6 Easter – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

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*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.

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Occasional Editorial: What’s Wrong with Our Churches? A commentary on the video: Little Hope Was Arson

Podcast Download: Week of 6 Easter – Odd
Sunday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/30/05;
Podcast: Sunday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 15:1-11  –   The Year of Release;
1 Timothy 3:14-4:5   –    False Teachers;
Matthew 13:24-34a   –    Parables of the Kingdom;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded that every seventh year was to be a year of release from debts. God’s intention is that there be no poor among God’s people; wealth would be redistributed to the poor. The Lord promised to bless Israel in the land which God promised to give them if they obeyed the commandments of God. Israel would lend to other nations but would not need to borrow from them, and Israel would rule over other nations but would not be ruled by them.

God’s people are to lend to the poor among them, sufficient to meet the needs of the poor. The Lord warned his people not to be hard-hearted and calculating in their dealings with the poor; they are not to withhold from the poor when the year of release draws near. Denying support to the poor and needy will be accounted in God’s people as sin. God’s people are to give generously and freely, and the Lord will bless and prosper his people in every endeavor. There will always be poor people, so God commands his people to be generous in giving to them.

1 Timothy Paraphrase:

The Church is to be the household of God and the pillar and bulwark of truth. The central mystery of our “religion” is Christ, who came in human flesh, “was vindicated (confirmed) in the Spirit,” preached and believed in among all nations, and ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit expressly warns that in latter times (before Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment) “some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Everything God has created is good, and is consecrated by God’s Word and prayer as long as it is received with thanksgiving to God.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus taught in parables, allowing the hearer to accept or reject his message. Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a person who sowed a wheat field with good seed. But during the night an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the seed sprouted the servants discovered that there were weeds among the wheat and asked the owner if he wanted his servants to pull up the weeds. But the owner told them to let the weeds grow among the wheat until the harvest; otherwise the wheat would be lost or damaged during the weeding. At the harvest, the owner will send the reapers with instructions to pull the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned, and then gather the wheat into the owner’s barn.

Another illustration of the kingdom of heaven compares it to a mustard seed which is a tiny seed, but which grows into a much larger plant than one would imagine from the size of the seed. The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven (yeast) hidden in bread dough. A small amount of yeast in the dough cannot be seen and identified, but in time it affects all the dough and its results are obvious.

Commentary:

Christians are not bound to obey the Law of Moses, provided that they are led by and obey the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:2). Eating pork is no longer a sin, for example, but the Ten Commandments still apply. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to make it possible for us to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). The Lord still commands justice for the poor and the oppressed. It is still contrary to God’s will to covet our neighbors’ things. It is still a sin to take anything that belongs to another by any deceitful or dishonest means, including “tricky,” unethical politics. People who are filled with and led by the Holy Spirit don’t do such things.

Is America the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” the nation of “God’s people” or is it the “New Babylon?”  Are our leaders alleviating poverty or creating it? Is our government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” or is it government of the people, by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful? Do we live by the Golden Rule, or is it Gold that rules? Have we become a two-class society ruled by the rich aristocracy, who regard the common people as “sheep to be sheered?” Do the wealthy and powerful pay their fair share of the cost of government, considering that they benefit most from it? Are the wealthy and powerful bearing their responsibility for the social consequences of their exploitation and unequal distribution of wealth and resources?

The Church is called to be the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The Church hasn’t created poverty, and shouldn’t be solely responsible for alleviating it. The Church needs to make democratic government accountable for policies which increase the unfair distribution of the earth’s resources.

It is the latter times, and many have departed from the true faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, the doctrines of demons, and the pretensions of liars with seared consciences. The earth is the Lord’s “wheat field,” and there are plenty of “weeds” among the wheat. Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the seed, which the Lord will cause to grow to fulness and maturity, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we trust and obey him.

Jesus is going to return to judge the earth, and he will cast the “weeds” into the eternal fire of Hell, and will gather the harvest of the “good seed” into his eternal kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46). In the meantime, we are to be “yeast” by trusting and obeying Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us to influence the world for the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/01/05;
Podcast: Monday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 8:1-10   –   Sin of Pride and Self-sufficiency;
Deuteronomy 18:9-14   –   Conforming to Secular Society;
James 1:1-15   –    Strength through Trials;
Luke 9:18-27   –    Confession and Discipleship;

Deuteronomy 8 Paraphrase:

As Israel was about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses warned them to remember the lessons they had learned, in the wilderness, of daily dependence upon God. God’s people are to obey God’s Word, so that they may “live long and prosper” and may take possession of the land God has promised to give them. Israel is exhorted to remember how the Lord has led them during their exile in the wilderness, teaching them humility and testing their commitment to obedience of God’s Word. God had allowed them to be humbled and to experience want, so that he could demonstrate to them that they cannot be self-sufficient but must depend upon God’s providence, by obedience to God’s Word.

The Israelites’ clothing did not wear out, nor did they suffer physical disability during their forty years of nomadic life. Realize completely that God disciplines us as a father disciplines a son.  We must keep God’s commandments by obeying his Word, acknowledging his power and authority, realizing that God is bringing us into paradise overflowing with unimaginable bounty and blessing. We will certainly praise the Lord for his goodness and mercy to us.

Deuteronomy 18 Paraphrase:

The Israelites were warned that they were not to adopt the abominable pagan practices of the native people of the land. God’s people were specifically forbidden to sacrifice to idols or to consult or participate in magic or sorcery, witchcraft, or any form of pagan divination or occult practices. The practice of these things which are abhorrent to the Lord is the reason he is driving the native people from their land and giving it to Israel.

James Paraphrase:

The author is unknown, but probably not James, the brother of Jesus. He is writing to Christians scattered throughout the world, the “New Israel,” the “New People of God.” Trials and tribulations can be appreciated as blessings testing and strengthening our faith, in which we can rejoice, as we grow to spiritual maturity.

We can ask God for true wisdom, which only comes from God (compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7), and he will supply it generously and without reproach. “But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-8).

The humble will be exalted and the rich will be humbled. The life of man is, like grass, quickly fading and unable to withstand heat. The rich (and proud) will pass away like the fading beauty of grass. “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). It isn’t God who tempts; God is not tempted to evil nor does he tempt anyone to evil. We are tempted by our own selfish, carnal natures. We are enticed by our own desires, which lead us to sin, and sin results in eternal death.

Luke Paraphrase:

One time when Jesus was alone with his disciples for prayer, Jesus asked them who people thought Jesus to be. The disciples answered that some thought he was John the Baptizer, and others thought he was Elijah, or one of the prophets, who had returned to life. Then Jesus asked who his disciples thought Jesus to be, and Peter answered, “The Christ (Messiah) of God. Jesus told them not to tell this to anyone, and Jesus told them that the Son of man (Jesus) would suffer and be rejected by the elders and religious leaders of Israel, would be killed, but would be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Jesus told his disciples that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus must be willing to deny himself, and willingly suffer daily, following Jesus’ teaching and example. Those who are willing to sacrifice and lose their physical earthly lives will gain eternal life, but those who value their present physical earthly lives more than Jesus, will lose both their earthly physical lives and eternity in God’s kingdom.

What good is it if one gains every worldly and material thing in this world, if he loses eternity. On the Day of Judgment, when Jesus returns, Jesus will be ashamed of everyone who is ashamed of Jesus, now, in this world. Jesus declared that some will not die before they see the kingdom of God.

Commentary:

God had led Israel daily during their forty years in the wilderness, in order to teach them to depend on God to provide for their daily needs. God allowed Israel to experience trials and want, so that they would realize that they were not self-sufficient, and had to rely on the Lord’s guidance and providence by obedience to God’s Word. As they were about to enter the Promised Land the Lord warned them through Moses not to forget the lessons they had learned in the wilderness. Unfortunately, Israel kept forgetting.

As results of forgetting the lessons of trust and obedience to the Lord, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was conquered by Shalmanezer, King of the Assyrians, in 721 B.C. with the fall of the capital of Israel at Samaria; and the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom were deported and ceased to exist. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell to the (Chaldean) forces of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 B.C. The Lord had promised to restore a remnant of Israel to the Promised Land after seventy years of exile, and that prophecy was fulfilled in 517 B.C. with the restoration of the Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem.

Israel had again forgotten the lesson of dependence and obedience to God’s Word in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and they crucified Jesus, God’s promised Savior and King. The result was that Jerusalem and the third temple, Herod’s Temple, were destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans, and the remnant of Israel was scattered throughout the world. Israel as a nation and as the religion (of the people of God) ceased to exist (because Judaism is dependant upon the temple sacrificial system, and the will of God*). Only since World War II have the Jews returned and re-established Israel as a State; the Temple has never been rebuilt.

As Israel was about to enter the Promised Land they were warned not to adopt the abominable pagan practices of the people of the land. The “Promised Land” of America today is flooded with pagan and occult practices. I doubt that there is any newspaper in America which doesn’t publish a daily astrology; a form of pagan divination specifically forbidden by God’s Word. Do you get your daily guidance from God’s Word or from astrology and “Annie’s Mailbox?”

America is the “New Israel,” the “New Promised Land,” founded as a Christian nation. The Pilgrims, founding fathers, and pioneers who settled the wilderness realized their dependence on God’s providence and protection. Have we forgotten the lessons our ancestors learned in the wilderness? As America has grown and prospered in this “land of milk and honey” we have come to think of ourselves as entirely self-sufficient.

Have we adopted the pagan practices of the secular society in which we live?  Have we exchanged the wisdom of God for the folly of men (1 Corinthians 1:20)? Have we become “double-minded,” with one set of values during the work week and in civil affairs, and a separate set of values on Sundays? Have we become so used to comfort and luxury that we are unwilling to suffer the slightest inconvenience for the name of our Lord? Is the reason we seem to be running out of natural resources these days because we have not acknowledged our dependence on God’s providence, and have not obeyed God’s Word?

Who do we say Jesus is? Who do we claim to be?

Christians are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26c) who trust and obey Jesus (Matthew 28:20), who deny themselves, and take up their crosses of suffering for the sake of his name and his kingdom, daily, and follow his example and teaching in our daily lives. Are we so in love with our lives in this world that we’re willing to lose eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*Judaism effectively ended at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As Christ died on the Cross, the veil of the Temple, separating the people from the presence of God in the Holy-of-Holies was supernaturally torn in two (Matthew 27:51a; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Christians now have direct personal access to God the Father through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is now the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of our sin (Acts 4:12, John 14:6)


Tuesday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 01/07/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 8:11-20    –   Obey God’s Word;
Deuteronomy 18:15-22   –   The Prophet of the Lord;
James 1:16-27  –    Doers of the Word;
Luke 11:1-13   –  The Disciples’ Prayer;

Deuteronomy 8 Paraphrase:

As Israel was about to enter and take possession of the Promised Land, the Lord warned them not to forget the Lord and fall away from obedience to God’s Word. Israel is warned that when they had become successful and wealthy in the Promised Land, not to become proud and to imagine that their wealth and success is their own, human accomplishment. They must not forget all that the Lord had done to free them from bondage in Egypt, and how the Lord led them through the wilderness, protecting them from serpents and scorpions and providing water from the rock and feeding them with manna.

The Lord allowed them to be tested in the wilderness for their benefit, so that they would grow in obedient trust in the Lord). It is God who gives his people the power to get wealth, and who blesses them in fulfillment of his promise to their fathers. If God’s people forget the Lord and turn to other gods and serve them, the people will perish. If Israel disobeys God’s Word The Lord will destroy his disobedient people as he is destroying the native people of the land in order to give it to Israel.

Deuteronomy 18 Paraphrase:

The Lord promised to raise up from among Israel a prophet like Moses, and him they must be careful to obey. The Lord’s prophet is to be a mediator between God and his people, as they asked for at Mt. Horeb when they were terrified by God’s voice and God’s glory. The Lord’s prophet will speak God’s Word by God’s authority, and God will hold accountable anyone who does not obey the words of God spoken by his prophet.

But any person who presumes to speak, in God’s name, words God has not commanded and given him to speak, or who speaks in the name of another god will die. God’s people will distinguish the prophet of God from false prophets by the fulfillment of prophecy. Those who speak a prophecy which is not fulfilled are not prophets of God, but are false prophets, and God’s people are not to fear or heed them.

James Paraphrase:

We are not to be deceived; every blessing and good gift is from God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, who is completely faithful and unchanging. God’s people are to be like an offering of first fruits, the Lord’s portion of the harvest of his creation. Let us be sure to learn and remember that each of us should be quick to hear God’s commands and to be slow to speak and slow to anger, because mankind’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. So we are to put away all uncleanness and wickedness, and humbly accept into our innermost being God’s Word, which is able to save our souls.

“But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Those who hear God’s Word but do not apply and live by it in their daily lives, are like a person who sees himself in a mirror, and then turns away and immediately forgets what he looked like. Those who hear God’s perfect, liberating law (the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the law of the Spirit; Romans 8:2) and apply it with perseverance, not hearing and then immediately forgetting, but acting on what they have heard and living by it, will be blessed as they act according to God’s Word in obedient trust. “Religion” is useless if one doesn’t apply it in his words, his thoughts and his deeds.

Luke Paraphrase:

One day when Jesus had gone apart with his disciples to pray, one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray as John the Baptizer had done with John’s disciples. So Jesus gave them what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer” as a model. Simple and sincere petitions are all that are necessary, because God already knows what is in our hearts and what we need.

The disciple acknowledges God as our Father in the sense that he has created us, and as our spiritual Father through our rebirth by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that his name is holy and worthy of reverence, and our commitment to reverence it in all that we think, say and do. His kingdom will come, but we pray that it will come to us, and that we may cooperate with and work for its coming. God’s will shall be done, whether we pray for it and ask to know and accomplish it or not; we ask that we will know, obey and work for the accomplishment of his will in all that we think, say and do.

We acknowledge that the Lord alone is the one who provides for all our needs, and ask him to provide for us this day, one day at a time. We ask him to forgive our sins, recognizing our obligation and commitment to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us. We ask for his leading, so that we may resist and avoid temptation, and to give us ultimate victory over sin and temptation.

Jesus used a parable to teach them about prayer. A man might have unexpected company arriving late at night, and he might ask a friend to lend him bread for his guests. The friend might not be willing to get up, because of the inconvenience, and lend the food for the sake of his friendship, but if the man persists, his friend will ultimately do what the man asks just to be rid of the nuisance.

Jesus promises that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, if we knock, it will be opened to us. Most human fathers, though sinful, would not give their children something evil when the children ask for what is good and necessary. “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13).

Commentary:

The Lord used the forty year wilderness experience of Israel to train them to trust and obey his Word. As they were about to enter the Promised Land, which was a lush paradise in comparison to the wilderness, God warned them not to forget the lessons of the wilderness of dependence upon the Lord in obedient trust.

God’s Word is absolutely trustworthy and true. God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses from the people of Israel, and Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus Christ is the “New Moses” who speaks God’s Word by God’s authority, and who leads us out of bondage to sin in the “Egypt” of this world, through the “wilderness” of this life by his indwelling Holy Spirit, the “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21-22), leading us through the darkness of this sinful world and into the light of God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven.

Jesus is the “Rock” who supplies the water of eternal life in the wilderness, by his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 4:14; 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus is the mediator between sinful humans and our righteous God, making it possible for us to be in God’s presence and hear God’s Word without fear of destruction. The distinguishing characteristic of God’s Word is that it is always fulfilled. Jesus is the Word of God, fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14)

Every good thing in this world comes from God. God’s ultimate free gift is forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in Heaven through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1;31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal fellowship with Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who guides and empowers us to know and do God’s will. This life is our only opportunity to come to personal knowledge and fellowship with the Lord and to learn to hear and obey him. God’s Word promises that we will be blessed as we trust and obey him.

God’s Word is always fulfilled, and God’s will shall be done, but he has given us the freedom in this lifetime to choose whether we, individually, will trust and obey him or not. The Lord knows how to give good gifts and he wants to bless us. The best gift he can give us is the joy of his love and his presence now and eternally. The Lord promises that if we seek, we will find; if we ask, we will receive; if we knock, it will be opened to us.

Have we truly sought the Lord, his will, and his presence? Have we asked for his forgiveness with sincere repentance, and his providence with genuine thanksgiving? Have we asked for his will and his guidance with real commitment to trust and obey? Have we asked him to open his Word to us, and to open our hearts and minds to receive it?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/03/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 6 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 19:1-7   –     Cities of Refuge;
James 5:13-18   –    Effectiveness of Prayer;
Luke 12:22-31  –   Warning against Anxiety;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord was going to cut off from God’s favor the native people of the “Promised Land” so that Israel would be able to take possession of the land, and they would receive houses and cities already established by the native people.

The Lord commanded Israel to set apart three cities of refuge (in Canaan) by dividing the land into three equal parts with a city of refuge in each part, and they were to prepare roads to them (Deuteronomy 19:3). The cities were to be safe refuge for those who accidentally kill someone, where there is no indication of past enmity with the victim. For example, if a man and his neighbor go into a forest to cut wood, and the axe slips, killing the neighbor, the man may flee to the nearest city of refuge and be saved from blood revenge of the neighbor’s family. The man does not deserve to die for accidentally killing his neighbor.

James Paraphrase:

If a Christian is suffering, he should pray, and if he is rejoicing, let him sing praise. If a Christian is ill, he should call the elders of the Church to come and pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. “The prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15; also see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

Believers should confess their sins to one another and pray for one another so that we are healed. “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16b). Elijah is an example of the effectiveness of righteous prayer. Elijah prayed for drought and there was drought for three and a half years (1 Kings 17:1). Then he prayed for rain and the drought ended (1 Kings 18:1).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the necessities of daily life, because life is about more than getting food and clothing. God provides food for the birds daily, without their need to plant, harvest, and store food, and God values us much more than birds. A person cannot add the smallest amount of time to his lifespan by worrying, so if worrying doesn’t accomplish the slightest benefit, why worry about bigger things.

God has provided for flowers and grass which are here today and gone tomorrow, and God will much more certainly provide for us. So we should not worry about food or drink or the necessities of life as the people of this world do, because God knows we need them. Instead we should seek God’s kingdom, and God will provide for our earthly needs as well.

Commentary:

The Lord taught Israel that the way to survive in the “wilderness” of this present world is to trust and obey the Lord and to be led by him. The Lord intends for the history of his dealing with Israel to be an example to us. Jesus is our “Moses” and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is our “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21-22) to guide us through the darkness of this sinful world into the light of the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom. God was going to give Israel the land with houses and cities already built, but the gift was conditional upon their trust and obedience of God’s commands.

“The Lord is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Lord provides mercy and forgiveness if we repent of our sins. Prayer and praise are the paths into the Lord’s presence where we can be comforted and healed. In one sense, the Church is the “New People of God” who are heirs of the spiritual facilities built by the “native people” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). The Church is to be a “city of refuge,” where the leaders are mature, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ who visit the sick, hear confessions, pray for and assure the penitent of God’s forgiveness, and disciple new believers to spiritual life and health.

Jesus promises his disciples that, if we will first seek the Lord and his kingdom, he will provide for our physical and material needs. There is no real security in any one or any thing, except the Lord. The people of the world try to protect themselves from every worry, and every trouble, but those “protections” are just illusions which can be wiped out in an instant. If we choose to provide our own security instead of trusting and obeying the Lord we are taking on an impossible task.

If we put off seeking the Lord and his kingdom until we’ve paid for the house and car, the kids’ education, our retirement, and on and on, we will never get around to it. Instead, if we seek the Lord and his kingdom first, we will be secure in the Lord, no matter what happens to us in this world, and the Lord is abundantly able to provide for us.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/04/05;
Podcast: Thursday 6 Easter – Odd

Ascension Day

Ezekiel 1:1-14, 24-28b   –    The Glory of the Lord;
Hebrews 2:5-18  –    The Suffering of Jesus;
Matthew 28:16-20  –   The Great Commission;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet among the exiles of Judah in Babylon in 563 B.C. in the thirtieth year of his calling as a prophet of the Lord, the fifth year of exile of Jehoiachin, King of Judah. The date of his vision would be July 31, 593 B.C..* Ezekiel saw a vision and received a Word of the Lord, and the hand of the Lord was upon him in the land of the Chaldeans (Babylon).

The vision was of a stormy wind (compare 1 Kings 19:11) from the north, and a great, bright cloud (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 13:21), with fire (1 Kings 19:11-12) flashing from it and glowing in its midst like gleaming bronze.  From the midst of the Cloud came four living creatures (Revelation 4:7; cherubim, guarding God’s throne; Exodus 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28). Their faces are symbolic of attributes of power, intelligence, and mobility. The creatures darted quickly, like lightning, with their wings, and when they stood still they lowered their wings. When the creatures moved, their wings made a loud sound like a waterfall, or the sound of great battle, or like thunder.

A voice came from heaven, and looking into heaven, Ezekiel saw a great throne, and the likeness of a man seated on the throne. The throne and the man and the area around the throne were bright and radiant like fire or gleaming brass, and there was a brightness around the throne like a rainbow in the sky. This is Ezekiel’s description of the vision of the Lord’s glory.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is greater than the angels, and he will reign over the new world which is coming. Jesus came in human form in humbleness and obedience to God, and God has crowned him with glory and honor and given him authority over everything. Nothing has been withheld from Jesus’ control. Everything isn’t yet submissive to Jesus’ authority. Jesus has been given glory and honor because he was humble and obedient and suffered death in our behalf.

Jesus is the pioneer who shows us that the way to salvation and spiritual maturity is through humility, obedience, and sacrifice. Jesus is our sanctifier through whom we are sanctified (purified; made spiritually complete; mature). Jesus and his followers have the same Father, and he is therefore our brother. Jesus has revealed the nature and character of God to us, and is an example for us of glorifying God through trust and obedience. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus has come, not for the benefit of angels, but for God’s people, the (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Jesus had to become fully human like us, so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest, providing the forgiveness for our sin through his sacrifice. Since he himself has suffered and been tempted he is able to understand and help us when we suffer or are tempted.

Matthew Paraphrase:

The eleven (of Jesus original) disciples went to the mountain in Galilee, as Jesus had directed them (Matthew 28:10). “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17) “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Commentary:

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet among God’s people in exile in Babylon. His role was at first to warn of impending judgment, and then to proclaim hope and restoration of God’s people to the Promised Land. Ezekiel was called by God and given God’s Word and a vision of God’s glory in heaven.

Ezekiel attempted to describe things which are beyond human experience. His description of heaven corresponds to Israel’s experience of God’s manifestation at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-25) and also to the construction of the Ark of the Covenant according to God’s instructions (Exodus 25:10-22), which God intended to be an earthly representation of God’s throne in Heaven (Hebrew 8:5; see also Hebrews chapter 9). This is Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord on his throne in his heavenly kingdom.

Jesus came in human flesh to reveal God’s nature and character to us, to be the sacrifice once for all people for all time for forgiveness and salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home) from eternal death, and to show by example how to be God’s children, through obedient trust and self-sacrifice. Jesus trusted and obeyed God’s will to the ultimate self-sacrifice of death on the cross, and God has rewarded Jesus with glory and honor. As we follow Jesus’ example and his teaching we will be his brothers and sisters and will share in his eternal glory and honor in heaven with him.

Jesus is our sanctifier, who purifies us and brings us to spiritual completeness and maturity through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which he gives to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are guided, comforted and empowered to resist temptation. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). By the indwelling Holy Spirit we know that Jesus is eternally alive and that we are eternally alive through him. Through obedient trust in Jesus we are freed from sin and eternal death.

Jesus is our “Ezekiel,” the priest and prophet of God in our exile in the “Babylon” of this world. He warns us of impending judgment, and provides hope and the promise of restoration to the Promised Land of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom. We are also called to follow Jesus’ example and be “Ezekiel” to the world, when we have received God’s Word, and God’s hand is upon us by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ disciples trusted and obeyed Jesus’ instructions to go to the mountain in Galilee, and there they saw Jesus as Jesus had promised. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is Lord of lords and King of the Universe, but not everything has submitted to his authority yet.

Jesus will return in great glory and power on the Day of Judgment, and in that day everything will be subject to his authority. He told his disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinity), teaching them to trust and obey Jesus. Jesus promised that as his disciples trust and obey him they will “see” Jesus and Jesus will be with them personally and individually through his indwelling Holy Spirit until the end of this present age and the coming of his eternal kingdom.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Ezekiel 1:1-3n, p.1000, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.

Friday 6 Easter – Odd
First Posted 05/05/05;
Podcast: Friday 6 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 1:28-3:3   –    Ezekiel’s Call to Prophesy;
Hebrews 4:14-5:6   –  Jesus our High Priest;
Luke 9:28-36   –   The Transfiguration;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel had a vision of the glory of the Lord on his throne, and prostrated himself before the Lord. The Lord addressed him as “son of man” and told him to stand up. As the Lord spoke, the (Holy) Spirit entered Ezekiel and Ezekiel heard the Lord speaking to him. The Lord sent Ezekiel to the people of Israel, who had rebelled and transgressed against the Lord. The Lord described them as impudent and stubborn. Ezekiel was to prophesy in the name of the Lord. Whether they were willing to listen or not, the Lord declared that they would come to know that there had been a prophet among them.

The Lord told Ezekiel not to be afraid of the people, or of their words or angry looks, even though Ezekiel might suffer and be extremely uncomfortable. Ezekiel was called to prophesy, whether the people were willing to hear or not. Ezekiel was warned not to be rebellious like Israel, and the Lord told Ezekiel to open his mouth to eat what the Lord was giving him.

Ezekiel looked and saw a hand stretched toward him holding a (papyrus) scroll, written on both sides, containing words of lamentation and mourning. The Lord commanded Ezekiel to eat the scroll, and then go and speak God’s Word to Israel. Ezekiel did as the Lord commanded, and the scroll was as sweet as honey in taste.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

Jesus is our great high priest who has “passed through the heavens” (has entered into the “holy-of-holies” in heaven, into God’s presence) so we are exhorted to hold firmly to our faith. Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, but without committing sin, so he is able to sympathize with our weakness. We can approach him in time of need, confident that he will be merciful and will freely give us help when we need it.

Human high priests are chosen and appointed (by God) to offer gifts and sacrifices on behalf of men in relation to God. A high priest can deal gently with human weakness because he also shares in human weakness, and he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for those of his people. The office of high priest is not to be held by human choice, but by God’s call. Even Christ did not presume to appoint himself, but was called by God who declared Jesus to be his Son and eternal priest according to the priesthood of Melchizedek (an eternal priesthood).

Luke Paraphrase:

About eight days after Peter confessed his belief that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) of God, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he took his three closest disciples: Peter, James and John. As Jesus was praying, his face and his clothes appeared to glow brightly (compare Exodus 34:29-30), and two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared with him, talking about Jesus’ departure (by his death) which was to take place in Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John were sleepy but not asleep, and they witnessed Jesus’ glory and the presence of Moses and Elijah. As the men were departing, Peter suggested that the disciples should make three booths (shrines), one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, not realizing what he was saying. As he was speaking a cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen (or Beloved); listen to him” (Luke 9:35). When the voice finished speaking, Jesus was alone with the three disciples, and the disciples told no one at that time what they had witnessed.

Commentary:

Ezekiel was called by the Lord to proclaim God’s Word to his people, whether they wanted to hear it or not. First he came to a personal experience of the Lord’s presence through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom he heard God speaking to him. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit he was called to a specific ministry by the Lord, and he was given the resources to accomplish his commission. The Lord counseled him not to be afraid or discouraged, and reassured him. The Lord filled Ezekiel with the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Christ, who opens our minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience a personal relationship and fellowship with the Lord (John 14:23). It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we hear God’s voice and understand and are guided in God’s will for us personally and individually. Jesus came to make it possible for us (his disciples) to be filled with the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8).

Jesus didn’t decide on his own to become the Messiah. Jesus was called and appointed by God in fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah, our Savior. Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Jesus is God in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28) Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12).

God’s purpose for Creation has always been to create an eternal kingdom of people who trust and obey him. God’s plan of salvation (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) in Jesus Christ has existed from the beginning of Creation and has been “built” into it (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is our high priest, who sacrificed himself once for all people for all time for the forgiveness of sin for those who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is our mediator who intercedes for us to God, and restores us to fellowship with God through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Moses was a forerunner and prototype of Christ, but he wasn’t God’s Son and Messiah (anointed eternal king; “chosen;” “designated”). Elijah was the great prophet of Israel who ascended into Heaven without experiencing physical death, but he wasn’t God’s Son and Messiah either. Ezekiel was filled with the Holy Spirit, but that didn’t make him God’s Son and Messiah. Believers are “born-again” by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5-8) and become God’s children by spiritual “adoption” as we trust and obey Jesus as our Lord and eternal King (John 1:12-13).

Jesus is God’s first-born and only begotten Son (John 1:14) and God’s anointed Savior and King of Creation. The entire Bible is God’s Word of testimony to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Messiah. Jesus is the only way to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God and to eternal life (John 14:6).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 6 Easter – Odd
First posted 05/06/05;
Podcast: Saturday 6 Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 3:4-17    –    The Watchman;
Hebrews 5:7-14   –    Christian Maturity;
Luke 9:37-50  –   True Greatness;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

The Lord told Ezekiel to go to Israel and proclaim God’s Word to them even though Israel would not be willing to listen, because they were not willing to listen to God. People of a foreign language would be more willing to hear and understand God’s Word than Israel. Israel is a people with thick foreheads and stubborn hearts, but the Lord had given Ezekiel the ability to overcome their stubbornness and rebellion.

Ezekiel was to hear God’s Word and receive it into his heart, and then proclaim it to the exiles of Israel, whether they listen or refuse to hear. The Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel to Telabib, a Jewish settlement in Babylon near Nippur (in present day Iraq). Ezekiel dwelt among the exiles for seven days, overwhelmed. At the end of the week, The Lord commanded Ezekiel to be a watchman over the remnant of Israel, faithfully warning Israel whenever he received a Word from God.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

During Jesus’ earthly life he prayed to God, who was able to save him from death, and his prayer was heard because of his godly fear (trust and respect of God’s power and authority). Although he was the Son of God, he learned obedience through suffering, and when he was complete and mature in obedience “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

God has designated Jesus to be our eternal high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. There is much to know and understand beyond the elementary doctrines of the Gospel, and Christians should be growing to spiritual maturity through discipleship, and then becoming teachers of discipleship to others, but many haven’t mastered the first principles of God’s Word. Lack of basic knowledge and understanding of God’s Word prevents them from growing to spiritual maturity through training by practice to know how to live according to God’s Word, which is the objective of discipleship.

Luke Paraphrase:

When Jesus returned from the mountain of his Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) with Peter, James, and John, to the rest of his disciples, a great crowd met him. A man in the crowd asked Jesus to heal his only son who was an epileptic. The man had asked Jesus’ disciples to heal the child but they had been unable. Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you” (Luke 9:41)? Then Jesus told the man to bring his son to Jesus, and while he was coming the boy had a seizure, but Jesus rebuked the epilepsy and healed the boy. The crowd was astonished by the power and greatness of God, but while they were praising Jesus, Jesus told his disciples “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44) But they didn’t understand what Jesus meant, and they were afraid to ask him.

The disciples began to argue among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus knew what they were thinking and brought a child to his side and said to his disciples that whoever receives a child in Jesus’ name receives Jesus, and whoever receives Jesus receives God. Jesus told his disciples that the one of his disciples who is least among them is the greatest. John told Jesus that they had rebuked a man who had been casting out demons in Jesus’ name, because he was not a disciple of Jesus, but Jesus told him not to forbid such people, because whoever is not opposing them is working with them.

Commentary:

The Lord called Ezekiel to proclaim God’s Word to God’s people, and to be a “watchman” to give them warning of God’s judgment, whether God’s people were willing to listen and obey or not. Ezekiel was to first hear and know and live according to God’s Word (receiving it into his heart), and then to proclaim it to God’s people in exile in Babylon. This is what all Christians are called to do: to be discipled in God’s Word, learning to apply it in their own lives, and then to be watchmen warning the world in exile in the “Babylon” of this life.

Jesus is our example of how to be children of God. Even though he was the Son of God he had to learn to trust and obey God’s Word through suffering and self-denial. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is the example of his struggle to trust and obey God’s will. Because Jesus accepted the discipline of obedience and self-denial, he accomplished God’s purpose and became the source of eternal salvation to all who trust and obey Jesus.

Jesus’ prayer was answered. God did deliver Jesus from death after Jesus had gone through death on the Cross, by raising him from death to eternal life. Christians are to follow Jesus’ example and learn to trust and obey God’s Word by going through suffering and self-sacrifice, not by praying and expecting to avoid it.

Jesus had left most of his disciples to carry on his ministry while Jesus went to the mountain to prepare spiritually for his death. When he returned, he found that they had been unable to bring spiritual (because the condition was understood to be demonic; Luke 9:39, 42) healing to an “epileptic” child. Jesus was exasperated by his disciples’ spiritual immaturity. Jesus was soon to be crucified, as he had repeatedly told them, but they didn’t understand what he meant, and they were afraid to ask him.

Jesus’ Twelve disciples were to be the leaders of his Church on earth, to carry on Jesus’ mission. They were to be the source of eternal salvation in Jesus’ name, by discipling others as they had been discipled by Jesus. They were to lead others to spiritual maturity; to know and understand God’s Word and to learn by practice to live according to it. Instead, when Jesus returned from the mountain, he found his disciples arguing among themselves over who was the greatest, and trying to restrict ministry in Jesus’ name by those outside of their “select” group, instead of carrying on Jesus’ ministry of spiritual healing.

Jesus has gone to the “mountain” of God and has left his disciples to carry on his ministry of eternal salvation by making disciples of Jesus Christ who are to learn to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20). He hasn’t left us alone (John 14:18); he gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to enable and empower us to know and do what he asks (John 14:15-17). Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the city of God on earth; the Church) until they had received the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). They were not sent into ministry until they had been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It takes “born-again” disciples to make “born-again” disciples.

Jesus has promised to return for his disciples (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11). When he returns will he find his disciples carrying on his ministry of disciple-making? Are we willing to hear God’s Word? Are we seeking to understand God’s Word, or are we afraid to ask?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 5 Easter Sunday – Odd – 05/03 – 09/2015

May 2, 2015

Week of 5 Easter – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions* The daily readings are according to a Calendar based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.
________________________________________
*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.
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Podcast Download: Week of 5 Easter – Odd
Sunday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/24/05;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:1-15 – Jeremiah Buys a Field;
Colossians 3:18-4:18 – The Christian’s Duties;
Luke 7:36-50 – The Woman who was a Sinner;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In early 587 B.C. a ‘Word from the Lord” came to Jeremiah. It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah had been imprisoned in the court of the palace guard by King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, the remnant of Israel, because Jeremiah had prophesied Judah’s defeat by Babylon. Jeremiah had told Zedekiah that Zedekiah would be captured and taken to Babylon.

The Lord told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, would come to Jeremiah offering to sell him a field belonging to their family so that it would remain in the family. When this prophecy was fulfilled Jeremiah knew that this was God’s Word, and he bought the field. Jeremiah paid seventeen shekels by weight in silver.

The deed was signed, witnessed and sealed in the presence of buyer and seller, the witnesses, and the Jews sitting in the court of the palace guard. Then Jeremiah gave both the sealed deed and an open copy, for reference, to Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, with instructions to seal both in an earthenware jar so that they would be preserved for a long time. This was the Lord’s Word of assurance that fields and vineyards would again be bought and sold in Israel.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Wives are to be subject (obedient) to their husbands (as to the Lord), and husbands are to be loving and gentle with their wives (as the Lord is to them; compare Ephesians 5:22-30). Children are to be obedient to their parents as we have the example in Christ, and their parents are not to be unreasonable with their children (as we have the example of God the Father). So also servants are to serve and obey as serving the Lord, not merely having the appearance of obedience in order to receive worldly approval. We are to fulfill whatever our worldly role is, as serving the Lord, knowing that by doing so we will be rewarded by the Lord in eternity.

Every one who does evil will be punished, because God is totally impartial. Masters are to treat their servants justly as the masters would themselves wish to be treated by our Lord. We are to be in prayer daily, being alert to pray for needs as they occur (rather than allowing ourselves to become careless and lax). Let us pray also for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they may do so boldly, accurately, enthusiastically and completely. Let us use the time we have, constructively, to reach the lost. To that end let our speech always be gracious, but pointed, so that we can convey the truth and reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. A woman of the city heard where Jesus was and came with a flask of ointment; and kneeling behind Jesus at his feet, began to wash his feet with her tears, and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

The Pharisee was thinking to himself that if Jesus realized that the woman was a sinner he should not have let her touch him. Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and Jesus told him a parable about a creditor with two debtors, one of whom owed a large sum and the other who owed a small amount. Jesus said that the creditor had forgiven the debts of both debtors, and asked the Pharisee who he thought would be more grateful. The Pharisee chose the debtor who owed the greater debt, and Jesus told him that he was right.

Then Jesus said that when Jesus had entered the Pharisee’s house, the Pharisee had not provided him with the hospitality of washing Jesus’ feet, anointing him, or greeting him with a kiss, but the woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and had kissed them and anointed them with ointment. Then Jesus said that her many sins had been forgiven because she loved much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus told the woman that her sins had been forgiven. The guests of the Pharisee were critical of Jesus for pronouncing forgiveness, but Jesus told the woman she could go in peace because she had been saved by her faith.

Commentary:

God revealed his Word to Jeremiah because Jeremiah was committed to trust it, obey it, and proclaim it faithfully and accurately, regardless of who it might offend. Jeremiah told the king what the king did not want to hear and consequently the king had Jeremiah imprisoned. But Jeremiah’s imprisonment did not keep God’s Word from being fulfilled. Judah was conquered by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and King Zedekiah was captured and taken to exile (in about 587 B.C.) in Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jeremiah. 32:4,5; 34:2, 3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11).

As Jeremiah trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God revealed his power and faithfulness to Jeremiah. The Lord consoled and assured Jeremiah, who was in prison for declaring God’s Word. God told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin would come to Jeremiah offering to sell a plot of family land. When that happened, Jeremiah was certain of God’s will and he had no hesitation to buy the land with the assurance that God’s promise of return and restoration would be fulfilled. Jeremiah’s obedience was a testimony to Judah of the faithfulness of God’s promises. This is what the Lord wants to do for us as we begin to seek to know and obey his Word and will.

Christians are to learn to live according to the example and teaching of Jesus; we are to be disciples of Jesus, learning to trust and obey Jesus. As we do, he will lead us to spiritual maturity as we experience his power and faithfulness. In every relationship, we are serving as witnesses to the world of the truth of Jesus Christ, so we need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

We should be in fellowship with the Lord daily in personal Bible study and prayer, seeking his will and guidance as well as his provision for our needs. We should pray for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they will do so boldly faithfully, accurately, enthusiastically and completely.

Let us make the most of the time we have been given to use it effectively to reach the unsaved. We are to become evangelists and witnesses of the Gospel after we have been discipled, empowered and led according to his specific will for us individually, by the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Discipleship is not instantaneous. The original apostles lived in constant fellowship with the Lord twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for three years, personally witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, and yet were not ready to fulfill their ministry until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

We must come to know the entire Bible, and we must learn how to be led by the Lord by his Word and his Holy Spirit. We must learn to wait on the Lord, for his guidance and his authorization, rather than just going in our own direction and our own human strength. We can actually waste what time and opportunity we have by not being willing to wait for and seek the process of spiritual growth. We need to be disciples in order to make disciples, and we need a personal experience of fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit to be able to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet believed God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation in the Messiah, and that Jesus was the Savior God had promised. She trusted God’s Word and acted on it, and she received what had been promised. She was saved by her faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

The Pharisees thought they were righteous by their own “goodness.” In fact they thought they were more righteous than Jesus, because Jesus associated with sinners, and Jesus had assumed the prerogative of God alone in declaring the woman’s forgiveness. Their response revealed that these Pharisees’ sins had not been forgiven.

We are all sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10); see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) but only those who trust and obey Jesus are forgiven and saved from eternal destruction (Romans 6:23). What do our actions in daily life reveal about us?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/24/05;;
Podcast: Monday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:1-15 – Jeremiah Buys a Field;

Colossians 3:18-4:18 – The Christian’s Duties;
Luke 7:36-50 – The Woman who was a Sinner;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In early 587 B.C. a ‘Word from the Lord” came to Jeremiah. It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah had been imprisoned in the court of the palace guard by King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, the remnant of Israel, because Jeremiah had prophesied Judah’s defeat by Babylon. Jeremiah had told Zedekiah that Zedekiah would be captured and taken to Babylon.

The Lord told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, would come to Jeremiah offering to sell him a field belonging to their family so that it would remain in the family. When this prophecy was fulfilled Jeremiah knew that this was God’s Word, and he bought the field. Jeremiah paid seventeen shekels by weight in silver.

The deed was signed, witnessed and sealed in the presence of buyer and seller, the witnesses, and the Jews sitting in the court of the palace guard. Then Jeremiah gave both the sealed deed and an open copy, for reference, to Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, with instructions to seal both in an earthenware jar so that they would be preserved for a long time. This was the Lord’s Word of assurance that fields and vineyards would again be bought and sold in Israel.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Wives are to be subject (obedient) to their husbands (as to the Lord), and husbands are to be loving and gentle with their wives (as the Lord is to them; compare Ephesians 5:22-30). Children are to be obedient to their parents as we have the example in Christ, and their parents are not to be unreasonable with their children (as we have the example of God the Father). So also servants are to serve and obey as serving the Lord, not merely having the appearance of obedience in order to receive worldly approval. We are to fulfill whatever our worldly role is, as serving the Lord, knowing that by doing so we will be rewarded by the Lord in eternity.

Every one who does evil will be punished, because God is totally impartial. Masters are to treat their servants justly as the masters would themselves wish to be treated by our Lord. We are to be in prayer daily, being alert to pray for needs as they occur (rather than allowing ourselves to become careless and lax). Let us pray also for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they may do so boldly, accurately, enthusiastically and completely. Let us use the time we have, constructively, to reach the lost. To that end let our speech always be gracious, but pointed, so that we can convey the truth and reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. A woman of the city heard where Jesus was and came with a flask of ointment; and kneeling behind Jesus at his feet, began to wash his feet with her tears, and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

The Pharisee was thinking to himself that if Jesus realized that the woman was a sinner he should not have let her touch him. Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and Jesus told him a parable about a creditor with two debtors, one of whom owed a large sum and the other who owed a small amount.

Jesus said that the creditor had forgiven the debts of both debtors, and asked the Pharisee who he thought would be more grateful. The Pharisee chose the debtor who owed the greater debt, and Jesus told him that he was right.

Then Jesus said that when Jesus had entered the Pharisee’s house, the Pharisee had not provided him with the hospitality of washing Jesus’ feet, anointing him, or greeting him with a kiss, but the woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and had kissed them and anointed them with ointment. Then Jesus said that her many sins had been forgiven because she loved much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little.

Jesus told the woman that her sins had been forgiven. The guests of the Pharisee were critical of Jesus for pronouncing forgiveness, but Jesus told the woman she could go in peace because she had been saved by her faith.

Commentary:

God revealed his Word to Jeremiah because Jeremiah was committed to trust it, obey it, and proclaim it faithfully and accurately, regardless of who it might offend. Jeremiah told the king what the king did not want to hear and consequently the king had Jeremiah imprisoned. But Jeremiah’s imprisonment did not keep God’s Word from being fulfilled. Judah was conquered by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and King Zedekiah was captured and taken to exile (in about 587 B.C.) in Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jeremiah. 32:4,5; 34:2, 3; 39:1-7; 52:4-11).

As Jeremiah trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God revealed his power and faithfulness to Jeremiah. The Lord consoled and assured Jeremiah, who was in prison for declaring God’s Word. God told Jeremiah that Jeremiah’s cousin would come to Jeremiah offering to sell a plot of family land. When that happened, Jeremiah was certain of God’s will and he had no hesitation to buy the land with the assurance that God’s promise of return and restoration would be fulfilled. Jeremiah’s obedience was a testimony to Judah of the faithfulness of God’s promises. This is what the Lord wants to do for us as we begin to seek to know and obey his Word and will.

Christians are to learn to live according to the example and teaching of Jesus; we are to be disciples of Jesus, learning to trust and obey Jesus. As we do, he will lead us to spiritual maturity as we experience his power and faithfulness. In every relationship, we are serving as witnesses to the world of the truth of Jesus Christ, so we need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

We should be in fellowship with the Lord daily in personal Bible study and prayer, seeking his will and guidance as well as his provision for our needs. We should pray for all who are proclaiming the Gospel, that they will do so boldly faithfully, accurately, enthusiastically and completely.

Let us make the most of the time we have been given to use it effectively to reach the unsaved. We are to become evangelists and witnesses of the Gospel after we have been discipled, empowered and led according to his specific will for us individually, by the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Discipleship is not instantaneous. The original apostles lived in constant fellowship with the Lord twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for three years, personally witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, and yet were not ready to fulfill their ministry until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8).

We must come to know the entire Bible, and we must learn how to be led by the Lord by his Word and his Holy Spirit. We must learn to wait on the Lord, for his guidance and his authorization, rather than just going in our own direction and our own human strength. We can actually waste what time and opportunity we have by not being willing to wait for and seek the process of spiritual growth. We need to be disciples in order to make disciples, and we need a personal experience of fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit to be able to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet believed God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation in the Messiah, and that Jesus was the Savior God had promised. She trusted God’s Word and acted on it, and she received what had been promised. She was saved by her faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

The Pharisees thought they were righteous by their own “goodness.” In fact they thought they were more righteous than Jesus, because Jesus associated with sinners, and Jesus had assumed the prerogative of God alone in declaring the woman’s forgiveness. Their response revealed that these Pharisees’ sins had not been forgiven.

We are all sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10); see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) but only those who trust and obey Jesus are forgiven and saved from eternal destruction (Romans 6:23). What do our actions in daily life reveal about us?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/25/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:16-25 – Jeremiah’s Prayer;
Romans 12:1-21 – The Consecrated Life;
Luke 8:1-15 – Parable of the Sower;
Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had obeyed the Lord’s command to buy a field from his cousin, even though the Chaldeans (the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon) were preparing the siege of Jerusalem which would conquer Judah, the southern and only remaining kingdom of divided Israel (Jeremiah 32:1-15; see entry for yesterday, Monday, April 25, 2005). After the purchase, Jeremiah had given the deed to Baruch, his secretary, to be sealed in a jar, so that it would last a long time. Then Jeremiah prayed to the Lord acknowledging the Lord as creator of the universe whose power is unlimited. The Lord’s love is completely faithful, but he is also a righteous judge.

The Lord is great in wisdom and in deed. The Lord knows everything; the thoughts and deeds of mankind cannot be hidden from him, and he repays every person according to that person’s deeds. God has revealed his greatness to Israel and to all mankind. God has delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and fulfilled his promise to give Israel their own land. Yet Israel did not obey God’s voice or live according to God’s Laws.

Because of Israel’s disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophets, God has allowed Judah to be attacked and conquered by their enemy. Israel will suffer from sword, famine, and epidemic disease, and will be conquered by the Chaldeans. God had warned Judah, the remnant of Israel, through Jeremiah’s prophecy (but Judah did not heed, repent and return in obedience to the Lord) and now God’s Word has been fulfilled. But even now the Lord had told Jeremiah to buy the field in the presence of witnesses, although the nation has been given to the Chaldeans.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urged Christians to give themselves, by God’s mercy, as living sacrifices to the Lord’s use, in lives devoted and obedient to God as an act of worship. We are not to adopt the ways and values of the worldly culture in which we live, but to be transformed by understanding, and living life in a new way according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can experience and demonstrate that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect. We should examine our daily conduct and our spiritual growth honestly and seriously, not deceiving ourselves.

The Church is like a human body, made up of many members, each having different functions, but connected and working together. We have differing gifts given to us according to God’s will and purpose, which we should employ for God’s service. Some examples of such gifts are prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, aid assistance. Whatever our gifts we should employ them diligently, enthusiastically and cheerfully so that the Lord will be glorified and his mission accomplished.

Christians are urged to truly love others, to reject what is evil and to pursue what is good. We should love one another with brotherly affection and show them respect. Let’s not become tired of doing what is right but instead be radiant with the Holy Spirit, serving the Lord. Let’s rejoice in our hope, pray regularly and often, and be patient in tribulation. Remember to contribute to the needs of Christians (and the poor) and to practice hospitality.

Christians should always bless our enemies instead of cursing them. We should rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are mourning. Let us live in harmony with one another, without haughtiness or conceit, but instead be friendly with those who are poor and humble. Don’t return evil with evil but instead do what is noble in everyone’s eyes; we should try to live peaceably with all, and should leave vengeance to God’s wrath. Instead, let us be kind to our enemies, so that their consciences will bother them. Evil cannot be overcome with more evil; instead let us overcome evil with good (as Jesus has done at the cross).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus traveled around from village to village preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, accompanied by his twelve disciples and numerous women, some of whom Jesus had healed of physical disabilities or demons, who provided for the group from their resources. Among them was Mary Magdalene, who had been healed of seven demons.

When Jesus attracted a large crowd, he told them the parable of the sower broadcasting seed by hand. Some seed fell on the path and was stepped on, or eaten by birds. Some fell on rock, and as it sprouted it withered because it was unable to take root. Some fell among thorns, and as it sprouted the thorns choked it out. Some fell on good soil and grew to maturity, producing a great harvest.

Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus privately what the parable meant. Jesus told them that he taught in parables so the crowds were free not to see and understand, but the secrets of the kingdom of God are revealed to those who choose to be Jesus’ disciples. The seed is God’s Word. The soils are hearers. The path represents those who hear God’s Word but Satan takes it away so that they won’t believe and be saved. The rock represents those who hear God’s Word gladly, but don’t allow it to take root, and then when temptation comes, they fall away. The thorny soil represents those who hear the Word but allow other worldly things to interfere and prevent the Word from growing to maturity. The good soil represents those who hear God’s Word and apply it in their lives allowing it to root and grow to maturity.

Commentary:

God’s Word warned Israel that judgment was coming upon them for disobeying God’s Word and God’s prophets, but Israel did not heed God’s Word of warning and repent and return in obedience to the Lord. God’s Word of warning is not given with the intention to destroy us, but to lead us to repentance and salvation. At the time when God’s punishment was about to carried out, God promised through Jeremiah that he would save and restore those who trust and obey his Word.

God’s Word is completely reliable and always fulfilled. It is eternally true, and is fulfilled over and over as conditions for its fulfillment are met. Judah was conquered by the Chaldeans, the Jews were carried into exile in Babylon, and were returned to their land seventy years later just as God’s Word promised (Jeremiah 25:11-12).

The history of Israel’s exile is also a metaphor for life in this world and God’s impending judgment. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14), God’s only provision for our salvation from eternal exile in Hell, and the only way to return and be restored to eternal life in the “Promised Land” of God’s kingdom in heaven (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. We are to be witnesses to the truth of salvation and renewal by faith in Jesus Christ, like Jeremiah testified to God’s Word of salvation by buying that plot of land. In order to do that we have to trust and obey God’s Word of salvation in Jesus Christ, by applying Jesus’ teachings and receiving his Holy Spirit as Jesus promised (John 14:15-17). One can only be a witness of what one has personally experienced. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds and enabled to live, now, in God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 12:2 RSV).

God’s intention and purpose for us is to experience and demonstrate to others that God’s will is good, acceptable (within our ability, and enjoyable) and perfect (in our ultimate best interest). The gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit provides the knowledge, resources and guidance to accomplish God’s specific will for our individual lives in his service, so that the Lord will be glorified and the Lord’s mission of proclaiming his salvation and his kingdom will be accomplished by us together as the Church. Christians need to be honest and serious in examining our own individual conduct and spiritual growth to see if we are growing and fulfilling God’s purpose.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ and are called to complete Christ’s mission on earth. The Lord opens our minds to understand the Bible when we are committed to be his disciples and to trust and obey him (Luke 24:45), but to the rest of the world, God’s Word is veiled, so that they are free to not understand and see God’s truth (2 Corinthians 3:14-17; 4:3-4). What kind of “soil” are you; what have you done with God’s Word? What kind of “Christian” are you?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/26/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 32:36-44 – Promise of Restoration;
Romans 13:1-14 – The Christian and the State;
Luke 8:16-25 – Wind and Sea Obey Him;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had bought a plot of land in Israel when Jerusalem was about to be conquered by the Chaldeans, the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 5 Easter , odd year). Jeremiah had prayed to the Lord as the city was about to be conquered, and the Lord replied, promising that he would bring his people back to the Promised Land from where they had been driven by God’s anger at their idolatry and their disobedience of his Word and his prophets. In that day of restoration, the Lord will again give them security, and they will be God’s people and he will be their God.

The Lord will unite them in one heart and one way; they will fear the Lord (respect God’s power and authority) for their good and for the good of their descendants. The Lord will make an everlasting covenant with them and put the fear (awe and respect) of God within them so that they will not turn from obedience to God and they will be firmly established in the Promised Land. The Lord declared that just as his promise of punishment of Israel for disobedience was fulfilled, so will God’s promise of return and restoration be fulfilled. The land of Israel is about to become a barren desolation, given to the Chaldeans, but Israel will again own land in the Promised Land.

Romans Paraphrase:

Christians are to be obedient to the governing authorities because God is the ultimate authority, and those who govern are accountable to God. Rulers restrain bad conduct, not good conduct. So if we want to live peaceably under the rulers, we should do what is right and we will receive approval from those who govern, because they are God’s servants for our benefit.

But if we do wrong, the rulers have authority from God to punish wrongdoers. So we must be subject to rulers not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of our consciences. For the same reasons we must pay taxes, and honor, and respect those in authority. We should repay all of our debts and not become obligated to anyone, except for the obligation to love one another. If we truly love one another we have fulfilled all of God’s commandments regarding our relations with people because love does no wrong against another.

Now is the time to be alert and apply the Gospel in our daily lives, because Jesus could return at any moment and our opportunities are slipping away. So let us be done with sinful worldly ways, and put on the armor of faith (obedient trust) in Christ. If we have the light of Christ let us walk in it, instead of doing shameful things which we would prefer to keep hidden, like drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy. So let us live in obedient trust in Jesus, applying his teaching in our daily lives, instead of seeking to indulge and gratify our sinful natures.

One doesn’t light a candle and then attempt to hide the light. Instead it is lit to give light to those who are in darkness. Nothing can be hidden or kept secret that won’t eventually be discovered and made known. Let us be careful to listen attentively to God’s Word, and to apply what we have heard. The Lord will reward those who seek spiritual things, but those who don’t will lose everything.
Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus’ mother and brothers came seeking Jesus but the crowd which had gathered prevented them from getting close. Jesus was told that they wanted to talk to him, but Jesus looked at the crowd around him and told them that those who hear God’s Word and do it are his true mothers and brothers.

One day Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples, and a windstorm arose, threatening to sink the boat, but Jesus was asleep. His disciples woke him to warn him that they were sinking; Jesus awoke and commanded the wind and waves to stop, and there was a great calm. Jesus asked his disciples what had become of their faith. The disciples were awestruck and said to one another, “Who is this that he commands even wind and water and they obey him” (Luke 8:25)?

Commentary:

Israel had been called by the Lord to be his people in the world, living in obedience to God’s Word. From the beginning of Creation, God has had a purpose and plan to create an eternal kingdom of people who will trust and obey him. Jesus has been God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) from before God’s Creation was begun (John 1:1-5, 14), and salvation through Christ alone has been built into Creation. God punished Israel for disobedience to God’s Word, for ignoring the warnings of his prophets, and for worshiping other “gods.” God had warned Judah that punishment was coming, but they refused to repent and return in trusting obedience to the Lord.

Although Judah (the remnant of Israel) was about to be exiled to Babylon, God promised he would bring them back to their Promised Land, and he would make a new, everlasting covenant with his people. God would put the fear (awe and respect for God’s power and authority) within them so that they would not turn away from obedience to God and so that they will be firmly established in the Promised Land. Israel’s disobedience did not prevent God from fulfilling his purpose and plan, but the exile was seventy years, a virtual life sentence for those who were adults at the beginning of the exile. It was virtually a “renewed” (“re-born”) people who God restored to their Promised Land.

The history of God’s dealings with Israel is also a “parable;” a metaphor for life in this present world. Those who refuse to trust and obey God’s Word and ignore the warnings of God’s prophets will be eternally exiled in the “Babylon” of Hell. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus is God’s everlasting New Covenant (Mark 14:24 NKJV; Jeremiah 32:40) with his people. It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that God puts the awe and respect of God’s power and authority within us and enables us to be obedient to God’s will. It is also how we have personal fellowship with the Lord, experience his love for us, and have a foretaste of eternal life with the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who fulfills God’s promise, uniting God’s people in one heart and one way (Jeremiah 32:39). It is by the Holy Spirit, by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, that God’s people are renewed, restored and returned to the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom in Heaven.

Christians are the “New People of God.” We are to be witnesses to the world, testifying to and demonstrating the truth and goodness of God’s will and God’s salvation by our obedience to God’s Word in Jesus Christ. Now is the time for us to learn to trust and obey our Lord, so that we can be filled with his Holy Spirit. We are to be children of light in the darkness of this sinful world. The armor of light is the Gospel of Jesus and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

In order to fulfill our calling to give light to those in darkness in this sinful world, we must listen attentively to God’s Word and begin to live in obedient trust in Jesus. The meaning and purpose of life in this present world is so that we can seek, find and come into personal fellowship with the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 17:26-27) so that we will have eternal life in God’s kingdom.

The Lord rewards those who seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness (which is only through faith in Christ; Romans 3:22; and see Matthew 6:33). Those who don’t seek him now while there is time will lose everything, including eternal life in Heaven. Those who seek Jesus must hear and obey God’s Word (Luke 8:21).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. The forces of nature obey his command because Jesus is their Lord and Creator (John 1:1-3). He is also our Lord and Creator, whether we acknowledge and obey him or not, but he has given us the freedom to choose whether to accept him as Lord and trust and obey him or not. He could command us to obey him but he has given us the freedom to choose. But there is a day coming when he will command and we will have no choice but to obey (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Easter – Odd
First posted 04/27/05;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Easter – Odd

Jeremiah 33:1-13 – Judgment and Restoration;
Romans 14:1-12 – The Strong and the Weak;
Luke 8:26-39 – The Gerasene Demoniac;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah had been imprisoned by Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, because Jeremiah had prophesied the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and Zedekiah’s capture. The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the prison in the court of the guard a second time (for the first, see Jeremiah chapter 32). The Lord, the Creator of earth, said to Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3).

The houses of Jerusalem which had been built up against the city wall were torn down as part of the defensive preparations for the siege by the Chaldeans, Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The Lord told Jeremiah that the Chaldeans would breach the walls and fill the city with the dead bodies of Jews whom the Lord would slay in his wrath; the Lord had removed his protection from the city because of Judah’s disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophet, and because of their idolatry.

But the Lord promised that he would heal his people and restore their prosperity and security. The Lord will restore the circumstances of Judah and Israel and rebuild them to their former prosperity. The Lord “will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me” (Jeremiah 33:8). The land which is about to become desolate will be restored. It will again be populated by God’s people who will rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and steadfast love. The Lord will restore their former prosperity. Barren wasteland will become pastures and refuge for shepherds and sheep.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urges Christians not to argue with one another over personal expressions of faith. Some Christians are vegetarians while others believe they have been freed from any dietary laws and can eat anything (see Acts 11:5-12). Each should follow their conscience and not be judgmental and condemning of the other, because each will be accountable to the Lord, and the Lord is able to uphold each of them. We have no right to judge the servant of another.

Similarly, Christians are not to judge one another over matters like the observation of Sabbaths and holidays, as long as each does so giving honor and thanks to God. None of us is living solely for ourselves; whether we live or die (physically), we belong to the Lord. Jesus died and arose from physical death to eternal life so that he could be Lord of the living and the dead. We should not be judgmental or despise our brothers and sisters in the Lord because each of us will be accountable to the Lord. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall give praise (or confess) to God” (Romans 14:11, quoting Isaiah 45:23).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore. When they landed they were met by a man of the city (probably Gadara) who had demons. The man had lived among the tombs like a wild animal, without clothes. The people of the community had tried to bind him with ropes and chains but he was able to break them.

When the demoniac saw Jesus he knew Jesus’ name and acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. The demoniac asked Jesus what he was going to do with him and pleaded with Jesus not to torment him. Jesus asked the man’s name and he replied, “Legion” because the man was possessed by many demons. The demons begged Jesus “not to command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8:31).

There was a large herd of pigs nearby, so Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the pigs, and when they did so, the pigs stampeded down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned. When those herding the pigs saw what happened they fled in terror to the city and told the people what had happened.

The townspeople returned with the herders to see for themselves. They saw the demoniac clothed and in his right mind, and heard how he had been healed by Jesus, and they were frightened and begged Jesus to leave. So Jesus and the disciples got back into the boat.

As they were doing so the healed demoniac asked to go with them, but Jesus told him to return to his home and tell them how much God had done for him. So the man did as Jesus had said, telling everyone he encountered how much Jesus had done for him.

Commentary:

God has planned from the beginning of creation to establish an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey him. God created us to have free choice to seek him or not; to trust and obey or to reject and disobey. The Lord has designed this world as a selection process for eternal life in the kingdom of God, and he has given the choice to us. The meaning and purpose of life in this world is to seek God, groping for him in our spiritual darkness, so that we might find him and come to personal knowledge of, and fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27).

God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ existed before creation, and has been built into it (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the only way to have personal knowledge of and fellowship with God, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus can give (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). In Jesus Christ, God is inviting us to call upon him in obedient trust and he will answer us and open our spiritual eyes and our minds to understand the Bible and receive his divine, spiritual wisdom.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is meant to be a parable, a metaphor for life in this world. In a sense, we are all God’s people, because he is our creator. God invites us to seek him while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6; and see Deuteronomy 4:29; 2 Chronicles 15:2). The Lord promises to cleanse us from the guilt of our sin and rebellion (through obedient trust in Jesus Christ, who died as the sacrifice for our sin), and God promises to restore us to the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom. But those who reject Jesus and refuse to obey him will be eternally slain and exiled to the eternal “Babylon” of Hell, the “abyss,” with the demons (Luke 8:31).

In another sense we are all in exile in the “Babylon” of this present world. The Lord’s purpose is to bring to his eternal kingdom people who rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and steadfast love (Jeremiah 33:11), who have learned to trust and obey him.

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when each one who has ever lived in this world will be individually accountable to the Lord for what each has done in this life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven, but those who have refused to accept Jesus as their Lord and have not obeyed Jesus will receive eternal death and destruction in Hell with all evil (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge him or not; right now we’re free to accept him as our Lord and trust and obey him or not. In the Day of Judgment everyone will have no choice but to acknowledge him as Lord, and he will command and we will obey.

Jesus came to a place called the region of the Gerasenes, and he healed a man who had been a great problem for the community for a long time. Jesus demonstrated his goodness and his power to heal spiritual illness and bondage, but the response of the community was not gratitude and rejoicing. Instead they were afraid of Jesus’ power and authority, and angry that Jesus had and might continue to ruin their “pig” business.

The demonic had been restored to his “right mind” and he wanted to remain with Jesus, but he trusted and obeyed Jesus’ command; he had been spiritually healed. The townspeople, who thought they were in their “right minds,” rejected Jesus, and the spiritual healing only Jesus can provide. Even demons know that Jesus is the Son of God, and don’t want to spend eternity in the “abyss” of Hell.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/28/05;
Podcast: Friday 5 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14 – The song of Moses;
Romans 14:13-23 – Christian freedom and love;
Luke 8:40-56 – Jairus’ daughter;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The Lord commanded Moses to write this psalm as a guide and witness to true faith, to confront and rebuke the people of Israel (the people of God) when they deviate from obedient trust in God (Deuteronomy 31:16-22). Moses calls the earth to listen to his teaching of God’s Word, that it may encourage spiritual growth like dew and gentle rain on tender plants. Moses proclaims the name (character and power) and greatness of the Lord. Moses calls the Lord the Rock (a stable and dependable foundation; a place of refuge and security, and source of God’s providence, as was the rock in the wilderness; Deuteronomy 8:15; Exodus 17:6).

God is completely faithful and without any iniquity. God is just and righteous in everything. Those who deal corruptly and perversely with the Lord reveal that they are no longer his children. Is this how God’s people should repay their Lord’s goodness? Do we deny that the Lord is our father who created and established us? Remember what the Lord has done for us in ages and generations past. Ask our forefathers and our elders and they will tell us.

The Lord apportioned to the nations their inheritance and separated the sons of men, fixing their boundaries according to “the number of the sons of God” (compare Acts 17:26-27; Deuteronomy 32:8c RSV; divine judgment; referring perhaps to the heavenly court of divine beings; 1 Kings 22:19; alternatively: “sons of Israel;” MKJV). The Lord has chosen Israel as his portion and heritage.

The Lord found his people in the wilderness; he encircled, provided for and protected them, like an eagle for its young, providing shelter under its wing; catching them when they fall, carrying them on its wings. In the wilderness Israel was led by God alone, and did not follow idols. The Lord elevated his people and provided the finest resources for them beyond physical worldly expectations (i.e. supernaturally).

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul urged Christians not to be judgmental of others (because the Lord will be our righteous judge), but instead to be considerate of others and not use our freedom in any way which hiders another or causes him to stumble. Paul was convinced that no food or drink is sinful in itself, but if exercising our freedom causes another to be shaken in their faith, we are violating the law of love. We must not use our freedom in sinful ways.

God’s kingdom is not about feasting, partying, and self-idulgence, but about righteousness (doing what is right according to God’s standards), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Those who serve Christ in that manner will be acceptable to God and mankind. So let us pursue peace and those things which encourage and strengthen one another in faith.

We must not let our personal religious practices or attitudes interfere with God’s work, but instead let those issues of faith (devotion) be between ourselves and our Lord. We will be happy when we have no reason to condemn ourselves for our beliefs and behavior. But if we do what we believe is not according to God’s standards of righteousness, we are guilty of sin because we have violated our faith.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples returned by boat from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and were met by a crowd who had been waiting for him. A man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue, fell at Jesus’ feet begging Jesus to come and heal his daughter who was very sick and dying. As Jesus went with Jairus the crowd was pressing close to Jesus and he was being jostled by them.

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years and had found no cure came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his garment and immediately knew that she had been healed. Jesus asked who had touched him. When no one admitted it, Peter suggested that it must have been someone jostling him in the crowd, but Jesus said he knew someone had touched him because he felt power go forth from him.
The woman realized she could not conceal what had happened, so she came trembling to Jesus and fell down and declared to all that she had touched Jesus and had been healed immediately. Jesus addressed her as daughter, and told here she had been healed by her faith, and could go in peace.

While Jesus was speaking, a messenger from Jairus’ house came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died, and Jesus was no longer needed. But Jesus told them not to fear but to believe, and she would be well. When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t allow any to enter with him but the girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John (three of his disciples).

Mourners had gathered, but Jesus told them not to weep, because the girl was not dead, but sleeping. They laughed at Jesus, because they were sure the girl was dead. But Jesus took the girl’s hand and commanded the child to arise. The girl’s spirit returned to her and she got up. Jesus told the parents to give her something to eat. Her parents were amazed, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Commentary:

It was by God’s will and command that Moses taught Israel to obey and trust in God, and declared God’s Word to the world through the Old Testament scriptures. Those who heed Moses’ call to listen to (hear and obey) God’s Word will experience the spiritual growth God promised through Moses. God’s Word is intended to witness to and guide us in obedient trust in the Lord, and to rebuke and correct us when we deviate from that obedient trust.

In one sense we are all God’s children because he is our Creator. But the true children of God are those who trust and obey him. Those who deal corruptly and perversely with the Lord demonstrate that they are not God’s children. Moses counsels us to remember what the Lord has done for his people in past ages and generations, and to seek that testimony from our spiritual forefathers; that testimony is recorded in the Bible, including the testimony of Moses.

The history of God’s dealing with Israel is recorded in the Bible for our instruction; it is intended to also be a parable, a metaphor for life in this world. As the Lord chose Israel and led them through the wilderness, protecting, providing and leading them to the Promised Land, he has also chosen us to be his people to be led by him through the wilderness of this world and into his eternal kingdom.

Jesus Christ is the “New Moses,” and the Holy Spirit is the “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21; Numbers 14:14) which leads us through the spiritual darkness into the light of Christ and eternal life (John 8:12). The Lord wants us to be led only by his Word (the Bible and Jesus Christ who is God’s Word in human flesh; John 1:1-5, 14) and his Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

Paul urged Christians to live according to the true faith; the scriptural, apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to live according to Jesus’ teachings. We are to live in peace with our fellow Christians and encourage and strengthen each other in that scriptural apostolic faith.

We should not deviate from the true faith by insisting on “legalism,” the keeping of Jewish laws (“works righteousness”, salvation by works, “the circumcision party;” Acts 11:2; compare Galatians 5:2-6). Nor should we deviate from the true faith in the other direction by preaching “Cheap Grace,*” salvation by God’s grace (free gift, unmerited favor) without requiring discipleship or obedience to Jesus (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus had returned from the region of the Gerasenes on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where the people had refused to receive him and had lost the spiritual healing that only Jesus can provide (Luke 8:26-39; see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 5 Easter, odd year). On the western shore there was a large crowd eagerly seeking and waiting for Jesus and when he arrived they welcomed him. Jairus asked Jesus to come and heal his dying daughter.

On the way, a woman whose hemorrhaging had been a spiritual as well as physical disorder, because a hemorrhaging woman was regarded as ritually unclean and restricted from worship and fellowship in the religious community, reached out in faith to touch Jesus and she was instantly healed. Jesus knew healing power had gone forth from him and he wanted people to understand that it was by faith in Jesus that she had been healed.

The messengers from Jairus’ home came to tell him that his daughter had died, and everyone assumed there was nothing more that Jesus could do, but Jesus told them to trust in him and she would be well. The Lord can do more that we can possibly imagine. Nothing is beyond the Lord’s power to heal if we come to him in faith (obedient trust) and do what he says.

Jesus asked the child’s parents not to publicize the child’s healing, because Jesus’ mission was primarily to bring spiritual healing, and sensationalism over physical healing would obscure his spiritual message. The people seeking and waiting for Jesus, who welcomed him, received healing when they asked him in obedient trust.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?
________________________________________
*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6
________________________________________

Saturday 5 Easter – Odd
First Posted 04/28/05;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Easter – Odd

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (42) 43 – Vindication for God’s People;
Romans 15:1-13 – Bear with the Weak;
Luke 9:1-17 – Feeding the Five Thousand;

Deuteronomy Paraphrase:

The corruption of the nations is being stored up for God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. The day of calamity is coming, when they will stumble and fall. “The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants” (Deuteronomy 32:36). The day is coming when those who put their trust in other gods, and who seemed to prosper in their idolatry, will have no refuge from disaster.

Know that God is the only true God; there is no other god beside him. God has sovereign power over all things, including life and death, punishment and healing. There is nothing which can deliver us from his judgment. God’s promises are eternal.

When the Lord takes hold of his sword in judgment he will take vengeance on his adversaries and avenge himself against those who hate him. The destruction of his enemies will be terrible and total. Let his people and the nations praise the Lord, because the Lord will avenge his servants and punish his adversaries. He will purge and cleanse his people’s land.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are spiritually strong should be patient and forgiving of those who are weak, seeking the good of others rather than pursuing self-interest. We should try to strengthen others and build them up, as we have an example in Jesus, who bore reproach for us. The Bible accounts of God’s dealings with his people in the past have been written for our instruction, so that the faithfulness and encouragement of the scriptures will give us hope. May God who is the Lord of faithfulness and encouragement help us to live in harmony with one another in accord with Jesus’ teaching, that in unity we will glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the Lord has welcomed us without reservation we should also welcome others. Christ came humbly as a servant to the Jews, in fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarchs of Israel, not to exclude the Gentiles but to include them, so that they could also rejoice in God’s mercy. The salvation of the Gentiles through Jesus Christ was not an afterthought, or a second choice; God planned it from the beginning, as the scriptures and the prophets show. May God fill us with joy and peace through faith, so that we may abound in the hope which only God can provide, by the power of his Holy Spirit.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus called his Twelve apostles (Luke 6:13) together and gave them power and authority to heal and to cast out demons. Jesus sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. Jesus told them not to carry any provisions for their journey. They were to accept the hospitality of one household wherever they went, and wherever they were not welcomed they were to shake the dust of that place off their feet in testimony against that place.

They departed and did as Jesus had told them, healing and preaching everywhere they went. News of Jesus’ activities reached Herod and he was puzzled, because some said that John the Baptizer, whom Herod had beheaded, had been raised to life, or that Elijah or one of the other prophets had risen, so Herod sought to see Jesus.

When the apostles returned they reported what they had done, and Jesus took them away to an isolated spot near Bethsaida. When the crowds found out where Jesus was going they followed him, and he welcomed them and preached the kingdom of God and healed the sick. As evening approached the apostles suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to buy food and lodgings for themselves, but Jesus told the apostles to feed the crowd.

The apostles said that they had brought only five loaves of bread and two fish, and that they would have to buy a lot of food in order to feed the crowd of about five thousand. But Jesus told the apostles to have the people sit down in groups of fifty, and they did so. Jesus took the bread and fish, prayed and then broke them into pieces and gave them to the apostles to distribute. All ate and were satisfied, and the apostles collected twelve baskets full of leftovers.

Commentary:

God has sovereign power and authority over all things, including life and death, punishment and healing. God has created us to have fellowship and eternal life with him in his eternal kingdom. Life in this world is intended to be an opportunity to seek and find a personal relationship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit, by learning to trust and obey Jesus Christ (John 14:15-17; see also entry for Thursday, 5 Easter, odd year, above).

Today is the day of healing and salvation which God offers us through his Son, Jesus Christ, who came and died for the forgiveness of ours sins, so that we could have eternal life with him in God’s eternal kingdom. But God promises that there is a Day of Judgment coming, when everyone who has ever lived will be accountable to God for what they have done in this life. Those who have rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord, and have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal destruction in Hell with all evil, but those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in God’s kingdom in Heaven (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. Only those disciples of Jesus who trust and obey Jesus are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). Those who are spiritually strong (mature) are to be patient and forgiving with those who are “young” (new) Christians (regardless of how long they have professed faith in Christ or have been church members), and mature Christians should lead young Christians to grow to spiritual maturity. Mature Christians are to follow and live according to the example and teaching of Jesus, serving the spiritual best interests of others, rather than building up their name, position and interests in the Church and community.

Disciples of Jesus are called to make disciples, not merely “church members.” Church leaders need to be “born-again” disciples; one cannot make disciples without being a disciple, and we’re to make disciples of Christ, rather than disciples of ourselves. We’re to seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit; only by the indwelling Holy Spirit do we have a personal relationship with Jesus and are guided and empowered to become spiritually mature. We can only testify to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by his indwelling Holy Spirit if we have a personal relationship with Jesus and have experienced spiritual “rebirth.”

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of spiritual healing and eternal life. Jesus is the example of the ministry of the Gospel that we are to follow. We are to be his disciples growing in spiritual maturity until we receive power and authority from him, by the gift of his Holy Spirit (Luke 9:1; compare 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8), to go out into the world and preach and heal in Jesus’ name. We are to obey his commands and trust Jesus to supply what is needed to accomplish his command and to produce results.

Jesus took his disciples on a spiritual retreat, to be renewed, after the demands of ministry in his name. But Jesus always was welcoming and ministering to the needs of people who sought him. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away unfed and unhealed. Jesus physically healed and fed the five thousand, but his primary ministry was to offer spiritual nurture and healing.

Jesus wasn’t able to heal and feed people in his human flesh alone. It was only by the Spirit of God within him (John 1:33-34; Colossians 2:8-9) that he was able minister to people (But understand that the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit does not make us “god” or equal to Christ.) Jesus is inviting all to come to him for forgiveness, spiritual healing and nurture, fellowship and eternal life with him.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Easter 4 – Odd – 0/26 – 05/02/2015

April 25, 2015

Week of Easter 4 – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Easter 4 – Odd

Sunday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/16/05;
Podcast: Sunday Easter 4 – Odd

Genesis 18:22-33   –   Abraham Intercedes for Sodom;
1 Peter 5:1-11   –    Final Exhortations;
Matthew 7:15-29   –   Build on the Rock;

Genesis Paraphrase:

Abraham (formerly named Abram) had been called by God to found a nation of God’s people (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham had a personal relationship with God as he trusted and obeyed God’s call. The Lord visited Abraham and revealed that he was about to destroy Sodom (and Gomorrah) because of their great wickedness, illustrated by unbridled lust and homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-12).

Abraham’s nephew, Lot, had accompanied Abraham to the “Promised Land” and had settled in Sodom (Genesis 13:1-13). Abraham asked God whether God would destroy the righteous along with the wicked. Abraham asked God if he would spare Sodom if there were fifty righteous people there, and God promised he would spare Sodom for the sake of fifty righteous people.

Abraham acknowledged that God is the righteous judge of the entire world, and that God would not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. Abraham kept interceding for Sodom and God agreed not to destroy Sodom if ten righteous people were found there. Ultimately Sodom was destroyed and Lot, his wife and two daughters were warned and escaped the destruction (Genesis 19:16). Lot’s two “sons-in-law” didn’t take Lot’s warning seriously and were destroyed (Genesis 19:14).

1 Peter Paraphrase:

The elders (leaders; pastors) of the Church are to be “born-again” (John 3:3, 5:8), mature Christian disciples like Peter, who have personally experienced Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit, like Peter. Peter exhorted church leaders to tend their congregations as a shepherd tends his flock. Elders (pastors and leaders) are to perform their duties willingly and enthusiastically (in love for the Lord and his children), not as a “career choice,” not as a “business,” and not to exert power and control over others. They will be abundantly rewarded with an eternal reward by Jesus, the chief Shepherd, when he returns on the Day of Judgment.

Members of the congregation are to submit to the leadership and guidance of such faithful Elders. All, both elders and members, are to conduct themselves with humility, remembering that “the Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace (unmerited favor) to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5, quoting Proverbs 3:34). We are to submit ourselves obediently to the Lord with confidence that he will exalt us in his perfect timing. We are to surrender all our worries to the Lord, because he cares about each one of us.

Let us be sober and watchful, because Satan, our adversary, is like a hungry lion looking for easy prey. We are to resist him, holding on to our faith, knowing that self-denial is required of all Christians. Whatever we suffer for the Lord is only for a short while, and then God, who has unlimited power to bless us, who calls us to his eternal glory in Christ, will personally restore, establish, and strengthen us. Let him be our sovereign ruler for ever.

Matthew Paraphrase:

Jesus warns us to watch out for false prophets, who pretend to be “sheep” (Christian) but who really are “ravenous wolves” in disguise. We can distinguish false prophets from authentic Christians the same way we can be sure of an apple tree if it bears apples: By their “fruit.” Good “trees” do not produce bad “fruit.” We are like trees, and God expects us to bear good “fruit.” Those who do not produce good fruit will be cut down and destroyed.

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father (God) who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). On the Day of Judgment, many will claim to have preached and healed and done many great deeds in Jesus’ name, but Jesus will reject them because their works are evil. Those who trust and obey Jesus’ teaching are like a house built on a rock (on a strong foundation), which will withstand and survive the “storms” of this life. But those who ignore Jesus’ teachings are like a house built on sand. The first strong storm that comes along will wash them away and they will be utterly destroyed. The crowd who heard Jesus was amazed that he taught with complete authority, not relying on other teachers or traditions.

Commentary:

God called Abraham, and Abraham trusted and obeyed God’s call and became the patriarch of God’s people. God revealed his Word of judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham because Abraham was in fellowship with the Lord. God would have spared Sodom if there had been ten righteous people living there but Lot and his family were the only ones who heeded God’s warning and escaped destruction. Lot tried to warn his sons-in-law, but they didn’t take Lot’s warning seriously. If God looked today, would he find ten righteous, truly “born-again” Christians in the typical congregation; in your Church?

The Church needs to be led by Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus Christ, not by people who see it as a “career choice” or a “business.” It is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in order to make disciples, and disciples are to make disciples, not of themselves, but of Christ. The goal is for the disciple to come to a personal relationship with Jesus through Jesus’ indwelling Holy Spirit.

Members are to seek congregations which are led by Spirit-filled, Bible-believing, Bible-preaching disciples who are fulfilling Christ’s command to make disciples who know, trust and obey Jesus and Jesus’ teachings. Members need to read and know the Bible for themselves. Discipleship requires self-denial, obedience and submission to Jesus. It is more “fun” to indulge our self-interests and desires, but the pleasures of sin are fleeting (Hebrews 11:25) and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Discipline is not pleasant, but the rewards are great and eternal.

Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets. There are many false prophets and false teachers in the world and in the “Church” today. Christians are to produce the fruit of obedient trust in Jesus, and the only way to do that is through a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 15:1-6). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Faith in Jesus is more than calling ourselves Christians; real faith is obedient trust, not like “wishing on a star.” Calling Jesus Lord doesn’t make it so. Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge it or not, but if he is our Lord we will do what he says; not the other way around. Jesus warns that on the Day of Judgment there will be many people who called themselves Christians and called Jesus their Lord who will be rejected because they have never known Jesus personally through his indwelling Holy Spirit even though they have been very active in their “Church.”

Salvation is not by church membership, not by Baptism, not by “good deeds,” not by “cheap grace” (a free gift without the requirement of discipleship and obedience to Jesus’ teaching; see see “False Teachings,” sidebar, top right, home). We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) and it is a free gift, which must be received by faith (obedient trust), not by “good works,” but so that we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God intended the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to be a demonstration of the consequences of disobedience to God’s Word. The Lord is going to judge the whole world on the Day of Judgment; the physically living and dead, and the spiritually living and dead” (1 Peter 4:5; John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). God isn’t going to withhold his condemnation and punishment if a certain number of righteous people can be found. The righteous people are those who hear God’s Word, trust and obey it, and flee from the coming destruction by coming to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Are you ready for Christ’s return? Have you build your life upon the “Solid Rock” of Jesus Christ?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/17/05;
Podcast: Monday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 30:1-9   –   Promise of Restoration;
Colossians 1:1-14  –   Deliverance Through Christ;
Luke 6:1-11  –   Lord of the Sabbath;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah foretold the coming exile of Judah to Babylon as God’s punishment for their disobedience of God’s Word, their disregard of God’s prophets, and their worship of other gods. The Lord commanded Jeremiah to write down God’s Word which he revealed to Jeremiah. The Lord declared that the day would come when God would restore the fortunes of his people and bring them back to the Promised Land from their exile.

The Lord declared that, first, Judah would be in panic and anguish like a woman in childbirth, because of the travail of God’s judgment; it would be a time of great distress for God’s people, but God’s people would be saved out of it. In the Day of God’s deliverance God will break the yoke from their necks and their bonds which enslaved them. They will no longer be the slaves of foreigners, but will serve their God and the eternal King and heir to the throne of David, whom God will raise up from the descendants of David.

Colossians Background:

Paul was the prototype of the “post-Resurrection” and “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciple and apostle (“missionary”), having apparently never known Jesus during Jesus’ earthly lifetime.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Paul wrote to the Church at Colossae in Phrygia (in modern-day western Turkey). Paul gave thanks for their faith in Jesus and their love for their fellow Christians through their hope in the eternal promises awaiting them in God’s kingdom in Heaven. The Colossians had heard the Gospel from Epaphras, a Christian missionary sent by Paul to preach the Gospel to them, and Paul gently reminded them that faith in Jesus requires spiritual growth in order to produce “spiritual fruit” through their obedient application of the Gospel in their daily lives.

Epaphras was a faithful minister of Christ and had told Paul of the Colossians’ love for one another prompted by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul prayed regularly for them that the Colossians would grow to fullness in the knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they would be able know what is worthy and pleasing to the Lord and be able to live accordingly, producing the “fruit” of good works through obedience to the Lord’s teachings, and growing in their knowledge of God.

Paul prayed that they would be strengthened by God’s power (within them by the Holy Spirit), so that they would have endurance, patience and joy with thanksgiving to God for allowing them to share in the inheritance of his children for eternity. The Lord has delivered us from the bondage of sin, spiritual ignorance, and eternal death, and given us citizenship in the eternal kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ, who has paid the price to free us from bondage and provided for the forgiveness of our sins.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, and his disciples were snacking on ripe heads of grain. Pharisees (legalistic Jews) accused the disciples of violating the Sabbath Law by “harvesting.” Jesus replied that scripture recorded that David (the great shepherd-king of Israel) had fed himself and his men in time of need with the sacred bread of the temple, which only priests are allowed to eat. Jesus declared that the Son of man (Jesus, who used that name for himself so that people would be free to decide for themselves who they believed Jesus to be) is Lord of the Sabbath.

On another Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when he encountered a man with a “withered” arm. Jesus knew that the Jewish religious leaders were watching him, hoping to catch Jesus violating Jewish law, so Jesus asked the crowd if it was acceptable to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm. Jesus made eye-contact with the people in the crowd, and then told the man to stretch out his hand, and the hand was immediately restored. But the Pharisees were infuriated and plotted among themselves how to destroy Jesus.

Commentary:

God disciplines his children like a good father (Hebrews 12:5-13). His discipline is meant to correct and guide us so that we will grow into the people God intended us to become, and so that we will avoid eternal death and destruction. Judah refused to listen to God’s Word and God’s prophets, so God allowed them to be captured and exiled to slavery in Babylon, but God promised to ultimately release them from the domination of their captors and bring them back to the Promised Land.

God promised to raise up an eternal king from the descendants of David. Through Jeremiah, God foretold that Judah would be exiled, and would later be allowed to return to their land, and his Word was fulfilled. God promised to raise up an eternal king who would free them from bondage to their enemy, and Jesus, the descendant of David, is the fulfillment of that promise. It is only through Jesus that we are freed from bondage to death and Satan’s power.

God’s Word is eternally true, and is fulfilled over and over, as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. He will also deliver Christians from our exile on earth and bring them to the eternal Promised Land in heaven. I also believe he will deliver the remnant of the Jews through their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah during the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:29-31) which precedes Christ’s return on the Day of Judgment.

Jesus is God’s anointed eternal king who delivers us from bondage to sin, spiritual ignorance, and both physical and eternal death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin, and purchased our forgiveness and eternal life by his death on the Cross. We must accept and receive that salvation by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

Jesus has been God’s plan and only provision (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) for our salvation from the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14; see also God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). The meaning and purpose of life in this world is the opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge and fellowship with the Lord (Acts 17:26-27), through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which is only given by Jesus (John 1:32-34) to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Jesus said that one must be “born again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (1 John 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has been filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Paul is the prototype, both teacher and example, of the first of all post-Resurrection “born-again” Christian disciples, like ourselves, who did not know Jesus in Jesus’ physical lifetime on earth, but who was filled with the gift of his Spirit through trust and obedience to Jesus (Acts  Chapter 9; Paul was formerly named “Saul”). Paul was telling the Christians at Colossae that, having heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they were to continue to grow to spiritual maturity in the knowledge of God’s Word, nature and will, and in spiritual wisdom, through personal fellowship with the Lord, so that they would be able to produce the fruit of “good works” through obedience to the Lord and his will. It is only by the gift of the Holy Spirit that these goals are attainable.

The Pharisees were using “religion” to oppress people. Christian discipleship is not “religion;” it is a (restored) “relationship” with the Lord; it frees us to be all that God our Creator intended. Jesus loves us.  He wants us to have a day of rest and spiritual refreshment from our worldly lives, but he doesn’t use his “purpose” to oppress us. People’s physical needs for food, health or restoration take precedence over his intended purpose of rest from our labors and worries. Notice that the Pharisees “thought” they were righteous in keeping the Sabbath law, but they were actually violating it by plotting evil on the Sabbath against the Son of God, their intended Savior, and also by being unsympathetic to the physical needs of people.

Do you know Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/18/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 30:10-17   –    Return and Restoration;

Colossians 1:15-23   –    Supremacy of Christ;
Luke 6:12-26   –    Beatitudes and Woes

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord spoke through Jeremiah in the decade preceding the first Babylonian attacks on Judah, the remnant of Israel. The Lord allowed the Babylonian captivity as punishment for Judah’s disobedience of God’s Word and God’s prophets, and for their worship of idols. But God promised that after the travail of his judgment, he will save Israel and bring them back from Babylon to their “Promised Land.”

The Lord assured Judah that he would be with them to save them. God will destroy Judah’s captors, but although God will punish Judah justly, God will preserve a remnant of Israel. Judah’s wound is incurable and grievous, and there is no medicine or healing for Judah, because God’s punishment is unavoidable.

Israel’s punishment is because of her great guilt and flagrant sins. The Lord will allow their enemies to punish Israel, but God will punish Israel’s enemies. “For I will restore health to you and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17a). Her enemies think God has abandoned Israel and no one cares about what happens to Zion (Jerusalem; the People of God; the Temple mount) but God will be faithful and has the power to heal the incurable and restore the abandoned.

Colossians Paraphrase:

Jesus “is the image of the invisible God…the first-born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Every thing in creation, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, was created by and for Jesus and exists for him (Colossians 1:16; see also John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus existed before all things and he maintains all things by his power.

Jesus is the head of the Church: he is the first-born (of many children) of God to rise from physical death to eternal life and he is preeminent in all things. “For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19; see also 2:8-9), and God’s purpose is to reconcile all things, in heaven and earth, to himself through Jesus, making peace through the blood of Jesus by his sacrifice on the Cross.

We were all once separated from God and hostile to him, doing evil (see Romans 3:23; 1 John 1: 8-10), but we are now forgiven and restored to fellowship with God by Jesus’ physical death as a sacrifice so that we can be holy and blameless in God’s judgment, provided that we continue to live in obedient trust of Jesus, without turning from the hope of the Gospel (the scriptural, apostolic Gospel, which Paul and the other apostles taught and is recorded in the Bible).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been traveling about with the large group of his disciples, from whom he selected twelve to be in his inner circle, and to be his “representatives.” Jesus spent all night in prayer before making his selection, and then he called his disciples and appointed twelve whom he named Apostles: Simon Peter and Peter’s brother Andrew, James and John (sons of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew (Nathanael), Matthew (Levi; son of Alphaeus), Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas (Thaddaeus) the son (or brother) of James, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.

When Jesus had appointed the Apostles, he began to teach them, surrounded by the larger group of his disciples and a great crowd of people who had come from all over, from Tyre and Sidon (to the north) and Judea and Jerusalem (in the south) to hear Jesus and to be healed or be freed from demons. People sought to touch Jesus, because of the power which went forth from him.

Jesus looked at his disciples and told them that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor, hungry and sorrowful now. Those who are hated, persecuted, and excluded now by the world because of Jesus will be rewarded. We should take joy in knowing that we have great reward in heaven, because the world has always hated God’s prophets.

But woe to those who are rich, satisfied and rejoicing now (in this sinful world), because this is all the reward they will have; in eternity they will have nothing but misery and mourning. We should take warning when we have the world’s acclaim and approval, because this is how the world treats false teachers and false prophets.

Commentary:

All Creation belongs to God. God has had a purpose for his Creation from the very beginning, and that purpose is to create an eternal kingdom of people who know, trust and obey God (see Acts 17:26-27). Abraham responded in trust and obedience to God’s call and became the patriarch of God’s people. Through Israel, God gave us his Word, his prophets and his Savior.

When Israel deviated from obedience to God’s Word, God disciplined them like any good father, to prevent them from being eternally destroyed. The “world” (the enemies of God) succeeded in plundering and enslaving Israel only because God allowed it to happen, so that a remnant of his people would return to him to be saved and restored. Before it happened God told Israel by his prophet Jeremiah that punishment was coming and why. God warned them that their wound would seem incurable but God promised to redeem them and restore them.

God fulfilled that promise. Babylon was conquered by Cyrus of Persia, and Cyrus allowed Judah to return to their “Promised Land” after 70 years of exile. There will be a difference between God’s punishment of his people and his punishment of the worldly enemies of God. God’s enemies will be eternally destroyed, but God’s people will be redeemed and restored when they turn to the Lord in obedient trust.

God’s Word is eternal. His Word continues to be fulfilled as the conditions for its fulfillment are met. His Word applies today to the Church, which is the “New People of God,” and to “Christian” nations, particularly America, which is in some ways the “New Promised Land” and also the “New Babylon.” And it also applies to the world.

Judah’s exile in Babylon is a parable and metaphor of life in this world. If we disobey God’s Word he punishes us so that we will turn to him for him to redeem and restore us. But if we refuse his discipline, reject his promise of salvation in Jesus Christ, and refuse to trust and obey him, we will exiled eternally from God’s presence in eternal death in Hell.

Jesus Christ has been God’s plan from before Creation, and God’s Plan of Salvation (see sidebar, top right, home) has been “built into” Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus is God made visible. Jesus is God’s fullest revelation of himself in physical form, but the Holy Spirit, who is given only through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ, is God’s ultimate revelation of himself to us personally and individually in this world.

Jesus came to reveal God’s love and power. Jesus died as a sacrifice so that God could forgive our sins and give us eternal life through his Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s victory over sin and evil, and reveals that there is life beyond physical death.

Those who heard Jesus’ words and trusted and began to obey and act on them in faith became Jesus’ disciples. They followed Jesus daily, being taught by Jesus, and experiencing Jesus’ power to heal and restore. From those obedient disciples Jesus chose the twelve Apostles to begin to be his emissaries to proclaim Jesus’ message to the world.

Jesus gave his disciples the command to go into the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands, but that was to be after they had been completely discipled and had learned to trust and obey Jesus, after they had witnessed the resurrected Jesus, and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit through whom the Lord “touches” us, and through whom his power goes forth through us to the world (Luke 6:19).

This process still applies today, and it began with Paul, who was the first post-resurrection “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple and God’s choice to replace the Apostle Judas who betrayed Jesus, rather than Matthias (compare Acts 1:15-26: note that this took place before the disciples had received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; Acts, Chapter 2). Matthias was never heard about thereafter in the New Testament, whereas after Paul’s conversion, most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul.

Jesus warned his disciples, not just the twelve, but all, and the larger group of those “seekers” coming to hear the gospel and seek healing, that it is those who realize that they’re spiritually poor, hungry and sorrowful who will be blessed now and eternally as they come to Jesus and learn to trust and obey him. Jesus warns that it not the world’s approval that should motivate us, but God’s approval. Jesus warns that those who seek worldly approval and are comfortable and satisfied with life, now, according to worldly standards, even nominal “Christians” and “church people,” will have only that, and  will ultimately lose what they have, and spend eternity in torment.

Are you seeking Jesus’ touch? Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/19/05;
Podcast: Wednesday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 30:18-22   –    Promise of Restoration;
Colossians 1:24-2:7  –  Spiritual Growth;
Luke 6:27-38  –   Sermon on the Plain;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In the decade before Judah was conquered and exiled to Babylon, God promised through Jeremiah that he would bring Judah back from exile in Babylon, and would restore their circumstances. The city and the palace will be rebuilt. The inhabitants will again rejoice and sing and give thanks. The Lord will cause his people to be great in multitude, with honor among nations. There will again be plenty of children. “Their congregation shall be established in the presence of the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:20b).

The Lord will punish all who oppress his people. Their leaders will again be from their own people (instead of foreign oppressors).  Their ruler will come forth from them. The Lord will draw him near, and he will approach the Lord. Who would dare to approach the Lord unless the Lord draws him? “And you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22).

Colossians Paraphrase:

Paul was in prison for the Gospel when he wrote to the Colossian Church. Paul was able to rejoice in his suffering, because he regarded his suffering as the completion of Christ’s suffering for the Church. Paul had been called and appointed by the Lord to be a minister of the Gospel on behalf of the Church, which includes the Colossians.

His purpose is to make God’s Word fully known and to reveal God’s plan (of salvation through Jesus Christ) which had been a mystery for a long time, but which had now been revealed to his saints (all true believers in Christ; “born-again” Christians). To them God has revealed the richness of the blessings of God’s plan for all people (not just the Jews), and the mystery is Christ within each believer (by the indwelling Holy Spirit), which is the hope of glory (inclusion in the happiness of the eternal kingdom of God in heaven).

Paul’s mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, warning them and teaching them in wisdom (Godly wisdom; see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-8), so that every believer will grow to spiritual maturity in Christ. Paul pursues this mission with all the energy and enthusiasm the Lord provides.

Paul wants the Colossians and fellow Christians at near-by Laodicea, and all Christians who do not know Paul personally, to know of his work for the gospel on their behalf, so that they might be encouraged and grow in love for one another, “that they might have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Paul wants them to have personal knowledge of the Gospel and of Christ, so that they will not be deceived by “smooth-talking” false teachers. Although physically separated, he is spiritually connected to them, rejoicing in their “good order” (their obedience) and firm faith in Christ.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus taught his disciples to love and pray for their enemies, to repay evil with good, to return curses with blessing. We should not resist robbers, or refuse those in need who beg from us. If a guest uses our hospitality to steal from us we should simply not invite him again (rather than seeking retribution).

We should treat others as we wish to be treated. If we only love those who love us, only give to those who give to us, and lend only to those who can repay, we are no better than wicked and lost sinners. We are to go beyond that by loving, doing good and lending to those who do not reciprocate. We will have great reward and we will glorify God as we prove to be his children by emulating his nature.

If we don’t want to be judged or condemned, we should not condemn or be judgmental of other. If we want forgiveness we should be forgiving. As we are generous to others we will be abundantly rewarded. We will receive according to what we have done.

Commentary:

God had revealed that Judah was going to be taken into exile in Babylon, and even before that prophecy was fulfilled, God promised that he would later bring them back to their own “Promised Land” and restore their circumstances. God fulfilled both prophecies.

God’s Word is eternal and continues to be fulfilled as the circumstances for its fulfillment are met. It applies today to the Church as the “New People of God” and to America as the “New Promised Land” (and also the “New Babylon;” see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 4 Easter, odd year). God’s Word of return and restoration is also an illustration and metaphor for God’s promise and faithfulness to bring us back from exile in the “Babylon” of this world to the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom in Heaven.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah and eternal King, is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a ruler to come forth from Israel, through whom we are drawn near to God, through whom we become God’s people, and through whom we are restored to eternal life in his kingdom. God’s people are those who trust and obey Jesus, and God promises to be all that being the loving and merciful God implies, to those who demonstrate that they are his children by trusting and obeying Jesus.

Paul’s mission was to make God’s Word fully known to all people, and to reveal the mystery of God’s plan of salvation, which existed before Creation (John 1:1-5, 14; see “God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home) but was a mystery to mankind until Jesus Christ came and revealed it. The riches of the blessings of God in Jesus Christ are received through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the fullest revelation and fulfillment of the mystery of Christ within us.

The Holy Spirit within us is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal fellowship with the Lord and we experience the foretaste of the joy of inclusion in God’s eternal kingdom and the assurance of that hope. It is the Holy Spirit who draws us into fellowship with the Lord, and it is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that our minds are opened to understand God’s Word and we grow to spiritual maturity by obedience to his leading.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus. We are to know and apply Jesus’ teachings in our daily lives. If we begin to do that, Jesus will give us the gift of his Holy Spirit within us, and he will lead us to spiritual maturity and sanctification (purification and dedication to God’s use). We will have great reward and we will glorify and please God as we follow the Lord, and we will prove that we are his children by following Jesus’ example and teachings.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/20/05;
Podcast: Thursday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 31:1-14   –   Everlasting Love and Faithfulness;
Colossians 2:8-23   –   Warning Against False Teaching;
Luke 6:39-49   –   Jesus’ Teachings;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord promises to restore Israel. When Israel turned to the Lord in the wilderness they found grace (God’s unmerited favor) and the Lord responded when they cried to him. The Lord’s love and faithfulness are everlasting. The Lord will rebuild Israel. Israel will be as a young girl going to a dance. Again Israel will plant vineyards in their own land and will harvest the fruit. Again they will make pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

The Lord promises to save his people and “bring them back from the north country” (Babylon; Jeremiah 31:8) and gather them from the farthest corners of the earth. The Lord won’t abandon or exclude any. The Lord will lead them in a straight path along streams of water, and keep them from stumbling. The Lord is like a good father to Israel.

The Lord scattered Israel, and he will gather them. He will keep Israel as a shepherd keeps his flock. The Lord will ransom Israel and redeem them from the overwhelming power of their adversary. They will return with rejoicing to Zion; “they will be radiant over the goodness of the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:12b RSV). The Lord will bless them with abundance like a well-watered garden. They will languish no more…the Lord “will turn their mourning into joy” (Jeremiah 31:12e, 13c), will comfort them and will replace sorrow with gladness. The souls of the priests will be feasted with abundance, and the Lord will satisfy his people with his goodness.

Colossians Paraphrase:

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:8-9). We come to fulness of life in Christ, who is sovereign above all other rulers. In Christ we are “circumcised” spiritually by putting aside our carnal nature.

We are baptized into Christ’s death so that we can be raised with him to eternal life by trusting in God’s power and faithfulness. We were spiritually dead because of sin and the rebelliousness of our flesh, but now God makes us spiritually alive with him, by forgiving all our sins. The just penalty for our sins has been “crucified” with Christ. The Lord defeated every other ruler and power and displayed their defeat, and Christ’s triumph over them, to the world, at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Christians are not to be condemned over issues of what’s ok to eat or drink, or regarding the observances of festivals or Sabbath, because those issues aren’t really important. What really matters is belonging to Christ (by obedient trust in him).

Don’t let false teachers mislead you by unbiblical doctrines devised by worldly human minds. Instead, hold on to the true Gospel of Christ as taught by the original Apostles and recorded in the Bible, and maintain daily fellowship with the Lord. Christ is to be our leader, like a human head directs a physical human body, so that we can grow and mature spiritually.

If we have died to worldly carnal nature, why would we submit to worldly human teachings and traditions? Such teachings and traditions have the appearance of wisdom, religious devotion and discipline, but they have no spiritual value.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus taught that the spiritually blind cannot lead others to spiritual vision. One must first come to spiritual sightedness, before attempting to lead others. A teacher must know more than his students, because when they have been fully taught the best that students can hope for is to know as much as their teacher.

One can distinguish between good and bad in people and their teaching like one can distinguish a tree by its fruit. The character and beliefs of people will be revealed by what they do. Not everyone who calls Jesus their Lord is really a Christian or a disciple of Jesus (see also Matthew 7:21-24).

Commentary:

Authentic Christians are disciples who know Jesus’ teachings and trust and obey Jesus. Those who know and apply Jesus’ teachings are building their lives on an eternal and unshakable foundation. Those who do not obey Jesus’ teachings are building their lives on “sand” which will wash out from under them in the first storm and they will suffer eternal destruction.

Through Jeremiah, the Lord foretold that Judah would go into exile in Babylon, because God’s people had not obeyed God’s Word or heeded God’s prophets, and had worshiped other gods. Before this prophecy was fulfilled, the Lord promised that he would bring his people back from exile to their “Promised Land.” The Lord promised to lead them and take care of them like a “Good Shepherd.”

God fulfilled both prophesies. Judah was conquered and exiled in Babylon, and after seventy years was allowed to return to their land by Cyrus of Persia, who had conquered Babylon. But God’s Word is eternal and continues to be fulfilled as conditions for its fulfillment are met. God’s Word applies to the Church as the “New People of God,” and to America as both the “New Israel” and the “New Babylon.”

The Biblical history of God’s dealing with Israel is also a metaphor for life in this world. In a sense, we are all exiles in the “Babylon” of this world. God promises to return and restore us to the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom in heaven, when we turn to the Lord in obedient trust through Jesus Christ, who is the “Good Shepherd (John 10:11).”

It is by the Holy Spirit, whom only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17), that we are led on the straight path, and kept from “stumbling.” It is through the Holy Spirit that we become radiant with the goodness of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter (John 14:16 KJV), through whom the Lord satisfies his people with his goodness.

All of God’s promises are fulfilled only through Jesus Christ, to those who trust and obey Jesus. Watch out for false teachers who deny that Jesus is fully human and also fully God. Watch out for false teachers who teach human traditions instead of or in addition to the Biblical Apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ. Watch out for false teachers who teach that we must keep Jewish laws. Watch out for false teachers who claim that it is not necessary to obey and live according to Jesus’ teachings.

Don’t let people tell you that you can have the fulfillment of the promised Holy Spirit by a religious ritual, without your conscious awareness of the Spirit. There are a lot of false teachers and teachings in the world and in the “Church” today (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right). The only way to avoid being misled is to know and read the Bible in its entirety.

Jesus warns us not to be led by spiritually blind teachers, and he warns us not to be spiritual teachers until we have experienced spiritual sightedness through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We cannot lead others to Jesus if we haven’t been there ourselves. We can’t make disciples of Jesus if we aren’t disciples of Jesus ourselves.

Jesus warns us to be spiritually discerning. We need to know God’s Word to be able to tell good spiritual fruit from bad.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday Easter 4 – Odd

First Posted 04/21/05;
Podcast: Friday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 31:15-22   –   The New Age;
Colossians 3:1-11  –   New Life in Christ;
Luke 7:1-17  –    Healing the Sick and Raising the Dead;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Rachel (Jacob’s wife; mother of Joseph and Benjamin) whose tomb is near Bethlehem, is heard in Ramah (about 12 miles north; near Gibeon), weeping for the loss of her children, with inconsolable grief. The Lord tells his people not to weep, because their work will be rewarded. They will return from exile in the land of their enemy.

There is hope for their future; their children will return to their own land. The Lord has heard Ephraim (the tribe of Ephraim, the Son of Joseph, born in Egypt; symbolic of God’s people) mourning. Ephraim received the chastening and instruction of the Lord and repented of his disobedience, the sins of his youth, acknowledging that the Lord is his God, and praying for God to bring him back and restore him. The Lord loves Ephraim like a dear son and a darling child; though the Lord disciplines, he still loves him and will have mercy upon him.

The Lord warns Ephraim to remember the mistakes he made which brought God’s punishment, so that he will not repeat his errors. God calls Israel not just to return their land and cities but to return to God in obedient trust. God warns her not to delay and vacillate; God has created a new thing, a new age, wherein the usual expectations of the world will be reversed.

Colossians Paraphrase:

If we have been raised to new, eternal, life with Christ, we are to seek the eternal, spiritual things of the kingdom of God in Heaven, where Christ is, instead of pursuing worldly things. We must consider our worldly lives dead and buried with Christ so that when Christ who is our eternal life appears, we will appear with him in glory. So we are to “crucify” whatever is worldly within us, like immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness, which is a form of idolatry.

God’s wrath is coming upon the world because of these worldly behaviors. We all were once guilty of them, but now we must put them away. We must no longer allow anger, wrath, malice, slander, foul language, and deceit to continue in our lives.

In Christ we take off our old nature, like a filthy garment, and reclothe ourselves in a new nature, which is being “cleansed” and renewed as we grow in spiritual knowledge until we resemble our Creator’s nature and likeness (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). We must no longer allow racial, ethnic, gender, or economic differences to separate Christians, but make serving Christ our common and unifying purpose, through his indwelling Holy Spirit in each one of us.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus returned to Capernaum. The beloved slave of a Centurion was ill and near death. When the Centurion heard of Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal the slave. The Jewish elders told Jesus that the Centurion deserved Jesus’ healing because he loved Israel and had financed the building of their synagogue.

Jesus went with them to the Centurion, but as he drew near, the Centurion sent friends to Jesus, telling him the Centurion felt unworthy to receive Jesus. The Centurion was a man of military authority, and accustomed to having his orders obeyed. He acknowledged Jesus’ authority and trusted that Jesus’ word would be fulfilled, without Jesus’ personal visit. Jesus commented to the multitude that followed him that Jesus had never found such faith even in Israel. When the messengers returned to the Centurion’s house, they found that the servant had been healed.

Soon thereafter, Jesus went to the city of Nain (20 miles southwest of Capernaum; in Galilee), and as he approached the gate a funeral procession was coming out. The man who had died was the only son of a widow. Jesus had compassion on the woman, and told her not to grieve. Then Jesus touched the bier and commanded the dead man to arise, and the man sat up and began talking. The people were amazed and frightened and they glorified God, acknowledging that Jesus was a great prophet and that “God has visited his people” (Luke 7:16). The news of this spread throughout Judea and the surrounding region.

Commentary:

God’s eternal prophetic Word applied to Judah’s 70 year exile to Babylon and their return, but it also applied in the day of Jesus’ physical life, and it also applies to us today. The prophecy of Rachel weeping was fulfilled when Herod killed all the male children in the region of Bethlehem, who were born around the time of Jesus’ birth, in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16-18). Ephraim is the son of Joseph who was born in Egypt, and is symbolic of the children of Judah who would be born in exile in Babylon who God will bring back to the Promised Land after they have been punished for their disobedience and unfaithfulness to God.

God’s Word is also a metaphor for life in this world, where we are exiles in “Babylon.” God’s discipline is necessary and is intended to bring us to spiritual maturity and eternal life in the “Promised Land” of God’s kingdom in Heaven. Ephraim’s response to the Lord’s discipline was to acknowledge God’s authority and to accept his discipline with true repentance, and a renewed commitment to learn from his mistakes and to trust and obey God, so that Ephraim would not repeat them.

That response is what brings restoration and return to the “Promised Land.” God promises a new age living under God’s rule according to God’s standards instead of worldly ones. Only in Jesus is there hope for our eternal future.

This New Age begins now in Jesus Christ. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ we are raised with him to new, eternal life, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit within us. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

It is by the Holy Spirit within us that we are cleansed, taught, guided and empowered to grow to spiritual maturity. We must choose to pursue spiritual, eternal things rather than continuing to pursue worldly things, but when we make that commitment the Lord will help us to achieve it. Jesus tells us to seek his kingdom first, and we will also have the worldly things we need (but not necessarily everything we want; Matthew 6:33-34). If we don’t make his kingdom and righteousness our first priority we will never get around to it, and we will wind up with nothing.

The Centurion was a foreigner but he acknowledged Jesus’ authority and he trusted that Jesus’ word would be fulfilled. It wasn’t because of anything the Centurion did for “the church,” or the fact that he was a big financial contributor to “the church.” He received what Jesus promises because he trusted and acted on them. His behavior revealed that he believed Jesus.

Jesus had compassion for the widow of Nain, because her son would have been her only means of support. Jesus raised the man to life and returned him to his mother.

Jesus’ miracle revealed that he is the Lord and Giver of Life (in the words of the third article of the Nicene Creed). The people who witnessed the miracle glorified God and acknowledged that Jesus spoke the Word of God and, in Jesus, God has visited his people (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28).

God comforts us with hope for the eternal future, resurrection from physical death to eternal life, and a new age now, through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Who do you say Jesus is?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday Easter 4 – Odd

First posted 04/22/05;
Podcast: Saturday Easter 4 – Odd

Jeremiah 31:23-25    –   Souls Satisfied and Replenished;
Colossians 3:12-17  –    Put on the New Nature;
Luke 7:18-28 (29-30) 31-35   –  Jesus and John the Baptizer;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Before Judah went into exile in Babylon, God promised that he would restore their fortunes and bring them back to the Promised Land. God promised that they would again praise him. “For I (the Lord) will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25).

Colossians Paraphrase:

We who have believed in Christ are to put on the new nature made possible through Christ (by his indwelling Holy Spirit). We are God’s chosen ones whom he loves and has set apart and dedicated to his service. We are to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient and forbearing. We must forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us. Above all else we are to love one another, because love unifies us and keeps us in harmony with each other.

We are to let the peace of Christ govern us, because this is God’s purpose which unites us in one body. Remember to be thankful in all things. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16a) as we teach and admonish one another in the wisdom God gives, and as we worship and praise the Lord in thankfulness to God.

Luke Paraphrase:

John the Baptizer had been imprisoned by Herod (Luke 3:18-20). He heard of the miracles Jesus was doing, and he sent a couple of his disciples to Jesus, asking for confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. In the presence of John’s disciples, Jesus healed many who were sick, demon-possessed, or blind, and Jesus told John’s disciples to go and tell John what they had seen and heard: that the blind, lame, lepers, and deaf are healed, the dead raised and good news is proclaimed to the poor (in fulfillment of scripture: Isaiah 29:18-19; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19). Jesus declared that those who take no offence at Jesus will be blessed.

After John’s disciples left, Jesus asked the crowd why they had gone out to John in the wilderness. Obviously they had gone to hear a prophet. Jesus declared that John was more than a prophet; he was the fulfillment of scriptural prophecy (Malachi 3:1) of the messenger sent to announce the coming of the Messiah. Jesus said that John was the greatest of men in the world up to that time, but from then on those who were least in God’s kingdom (through Jesus) would be greater than John.

The people, including tax collectors, accepted Jesus’ message and God’s purpose, because they had been baptized by John (and thus prepared for Jesus’ coming), but the Pharisees and lawyers (scribes) were not prepared for Jesus because they had not accepted John’s call for repentance. Jesus compared that generation of Israel to children who expect others to conform their wishes; to play their “games.” They called John “crazy” for living in the wilderness on foraged food and abstaining from wine (Matthew 3:4), and they called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard because he ate and drank like everyone else.

Commentary:

God always fulfills his promises. God promised beforehand that Judah was going to be exiled in Babylon for seventy years as punishment for disobedience of God’s Word, failure to heed God’s prophets, and worship of other “gods,” and that’s exactly what happened. Before that even took place, God promised that he would bring them back to the Promised Land and restore their circumstances when they had learned to repent and return to the Lord (Jeremiah 31:18-20), and he fulfilled that promise.

God’s Word is eternal and continues to be fulfilled as conditions for its fulfillment are met. Just because it has been fulfilled doesn’t mean that it won’t be fulfilled again and again. God promised to satisfy and replenish the weary and languishing soul, and he fulfills that promise in Jesus Christ. Jesus refreshed John’s languishing soul by revealing himself to John as the fulfillment of scripture.

God’s Word also applies to us today. The exile in Babylon is a metaphor for life in this world. We are all exiles in the “Babylon” of this world. God promises to bring us, through Jesus Christ, to the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom in Heaven. Through Jesus he restores our circumstances and satisfies and replenishes our weary, languishing souls by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

We who truly believe Jesus are to put on the new nature which is only through Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit. It is by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are “reborn” (John 3:3; 5-8) to eternal life, to a new nature, and through whom our souls are refreshed and replenished. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

It is by the Holy Spirit that the peace of Christ reigns in our life and unites believers in God’s purpose. It is by the Holy Spirit that the word of Christ dwells within us. Jesus has promised to give the gift of his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him, and we receive what he promised as we fulfill those conditions.

God promised to send the Messiah (Christ), the Savior, and before he did he promised to send a messenger to precede Messiah’s coming, to call people to repent and prepare to welcome the Messiah. John the Baptizer was the fulfillment of that scripture.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus’ words and deeds are the fulfillment of scripture and reveal who he is to anyone who can spiritually “see” and “hear.”

John fulfilled God’s purpose to announce the coming of the Messiah and call the people to repent and prepare for his coming. The ones who heeded John’s message, who repented and began to look for the Messiah were prepared to receive him. But some ignored John’s message; they thought they didn’t need a Savior, because they were “good people” according to their own standards. They were like children who want others to play by their rules. They were not prepared for Jesus’ coming.

It is God’s world and it is God’s rules. God’s Word will either revive and restore us or it will condemn and destroy us; it will either offend us or bless us. Jesus has promised to return on the Day of Judgment. Everyone who has ever lived will be accountable for what they have done in this life. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will live eternally with him in the kingdom of God in Heaven; those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will be condemned to eternal destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-8).

God has warned us beforehand; he has announced his plan for our salvation. How we respond to his Word is a matter of eternal consequence.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Easter 3 – Odd – 04/19 – 25/2015

April 18, 2015

Week of Easter 3 – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


 

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of Easter 3 – Odd
Sunday Easter 3 – Odd
First Posted 04/09/05;
Podcast: Sunday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 4:1-18   –   Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree;
1 Peter 4:7-11   –    The end of all things;
John 21:15-25  –   Until Jesus comes;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream, so he called all the wise men of Babylon and told them the dream, but they could not interpret it. Finally Daniel was summoned. (Daniel was a Jew in exile in Babylon who the King had made chief of magicians because of his ability to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s previous dream; Daniel 2:1-49.) Nebuchadnezzar had given Daniel the name of a Babylonian idol, and acknowledged that the Spirit of the holy God (or “gods”) was in him.

The king told Daniel the dream. He had seen a great tree in the middle of the earth (conceived as being a flat disc). The tree reached the heavens and its branches spread to the edge of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant and it provided food and shade for all the creatures of the earth. An angel came down from heaven and decreed that the tree should be cut down, stripped of it’s leaves, fruit and branches, but its stump was to be left in the ground, bound in iron and brass, in the grassy field. The stump would be wet with dew, and his human mind would be changed to a beast’s mind, for a period of time, so that the people of earth may know that the Most High God rules over the kingdom of men and gives authority over it to whomever he chooses. Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret the dream, because the wise men of Babylon had been unable.

1 Peter Background:

Peter’s letter is thought to have been written in Rome to Christians in Asia Minor after Nero had begun his persecution of Christians in 64 A.D..

1 Peter Paraphrase:

Peter told his readers that the end of the age (the Day of Judgment) was at hand, and urged them to keep sane and sober, attending to their prayers, to love one another unfailingly “because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; compare Proverbs 10:12), to practice hospitality, and to be good stewards in using, for the benefit of all, the gifts given them through the indwelling Holy Spirit. When speaking, we should speak as a spokesman for God; in doing good deeds, we should give the glory to God, so that in everything we do God will be glorified through Jesus. The Lord is worthy of glory and dominion forever.

John Paraphrase:

After the resurrection Jesus revealed himself to his disciples again (John 21:14) in Galilee (Matthew 28:7). Jesus prepared breakfast for them on the shore of the Sea. After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter three times if Peter loved him, and Peter declared three times his love for Jesus and his faith that Jesus knows everything. After each affirmation Jesus told Peter to “feed” Jesus’ “sheep.”  The third time Jesus asked, Peter was grieved that Jesus had asked him a third time.

Then Jesus told Peter that Peter had always made his own decisions and had been free to go his own way, but the time was coming when Peter would have no choice and would “stretch out [his] hands” (as in crucifixion; John 21:18) and will be carried where he did not wish to go. Jesus said this to show by what death Peter would glorify God, and then told Peter to follow Jesus.

Peter turned and saw [John] following behind them and asked Jesus about John’s future, but Jesus said “If it is my will that he remain until I come (Jesus’ “Second Coming”), what is that to you? Follow me” (John 21:22). Because of this saying, a rumor spread among the early Christians that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur before John died, but that is not what Jesus said or meant.

Commentary:

King Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself as the center of the earth; he thought his glory and power reached to the heavens and extended to the ends of the earth. God’s judgment was coming on Nebuchadnezzar so that all people on earth will know that God rules the kingdom of mankind, and he gives authority over it as he chooses, according to God’s will and purpose.

God’s will and plan is not revealed to those who are wise according to worldly standards, but only to those who are filled with the gift of God’s Spirit. So in the final Judgment, those who consider themselves to be wise, rich and powerful on this earth will be stripped of their pride, power and possessions and be cut off from God’s eternal kingdom (Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C.  In 539 B.C. Babylon was conquered by Cyrus of Persia, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel).

The early Christians thought Jesus’ return was imminent, partly because of the persecution which arose against Christians. The end of the age really began at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Satan was defeated at the Cross of Jesus Christ. The end was at hand for many First Century Christians at the hands of their persecutors.

The end is at hand for us also, although we may not face the persecutions those first Christians faced. No one knows when our individual end will come, or whether Jesus will return before our physical death. Peter urged Christians to live as though Christ’s return was imminent, not by quitting the normal activities of life in this world and sitting around doing nothing, but by applying Jesus’ teachings in our daily lives.

Christians should grow daily in prayer, and Bible study, seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit and personal fellowship, guidance, and spiritual growth in the Lord. Once we have received the indwelling Holy Spirit we should be guided and empowered by the Spirit to develop and use our spiritual gifts to carry on Christ’s mission in the world, according to his individual will for us.

We are called to “follow Jesus” and to “feed his sheep.” We should live in such a way that the Lord is glorified in all that we are and do, rather than seeking our own personal glory. The letter of Peter to the Church in Asia Minor illustrates Peter’s obedient fulfillment of Jesus’ command to feed Jesus’ flock.

Peter had denied Jesus as his Lord three times on the night of Jesus’ betrayal.  Jesus forgave and restored Peter to discipleship and the ministry of the Gospel, by asking Peter to re-affirm Peter’s love, once for each of his denials. Peter was grieved that the Lord had to ask him three times if Peter loved him. Imagine how it must have grieved Jesus to hear Peter deny him three times.

Jesus asked Peter to show his love for Jesus by “feeding” Jesus’ “sheep;” by spiritually caring for and providing nurture for “lost souls,” for new disciples (John 21:15), and all believers. Jesus said Peter would suffer for the Gospel, but told him to follow Jesus’ example of suffering and obedience to God’s will. Jesus told Peter to focus on following Jesus’ individual will for Peter rather than comparing himself to other disciples or trying to figure out the time of the Second Coming.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday Easter 3 – Odd
First posted 04/10/05;
Podcast: Monday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 4:19-27   –   Daniel interprets the king’s dream;
1 John 3:19-4:6  –    Christian assurance and discernment;
Luke 4:14-30   –   Jesus rejected by his home synagogue;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a disturbing dream which the wise men of his kingdom could not interpret. Nebuchadnezzar told the dream to Daniel (a.k.a. Belteshazzar), a Jewish exile whom the king had selected to be trained as the king’s advisor, and who had demonstrated that the Spirit of God was in him (Daniel 4:8-9 RSV notes g & i). Having heard the dream, Daniel was frightened to tell the king what it meant, but the king told him not to be afraid.

Daniel prefaced his interpretation by saying he hoped that the interpretation would apply to the king’s enemies rather than to the king. Then Daniel told the king that the tree in the dream, which grew strong, reaching to heaven and visible to all on earth, providing shade and fruit for the entire earth, represented the king. The holy watcher in the king’s dream represented a messenger of God’s decree. The tree was to be cut down and destroyed, but its stump would remain among the beasts of the field for seven units of time (until the perfect time according to God’s will).

Daniel told the king he would be driven from his throne (by insanity) and would live like a wild animal without any protection of the elements, eating grass like an ox, until the king came to realize that God rules over all the kingdoms of earth and delegates people to rule for him as God chooses. When the king has come to that realization, quits sinning (disobeying God’s Word) and begins to live according to God’s standard of righteousness, showing mercy to the oppressed, his kingdom will be assured, and he will hopefully live a long time in (God’s) peace.

1 John Paraphrase:

By living the commandment of love for one another, rather than just talking about it, we will know and be confident that we are living according to God’s truth, rather than being condemned by our consciences, or being harassed by Satan. God is greater than our consciences (and he is greater than Satan). God knows everything and is able to judge us on the totality of our lives rather than a single portion or incident. If we have clear consciences, we can be confident before God because we have been obedient to God’s Word and have done what is pleasing to God, and we can pray to God with confidence that God will do whatever we ask (if we ask in obedience to Jesus’ teachings).

God’s commandment is that we should believe in (trust and obey) the name (character, power and authority) of God’s (only begotten) Son, Jesus, and love one another just as Jesus has commanded us. “All who keep his (Jesus’) commandments abide in him and he in them [by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus confers (John 1:32-34), only upon his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17)].  And by this we know that he abides in us, by the (Holy) Spirit which he has given us” (1 John 3:24; compare 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:1-2). Any spirit that denies Jesus, is not of God, but is the spirit of Antichrist, which the Bible prophesied, and which is now in the world. Believers (“little children”) are God’s children and have overcome the world through the indwelling Holy Spirit, because the Lord (whose Spirit is within us) is greater than the world and spirit of antichrist in it.

Worldly people, false prophets and the spirit of antichrist are of this physical, material, temporal world; what they proclaim is worldly wisdom and knowledge (compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7) and worldly people listen to them. We [“born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples] are of God; and whoever knows God (who at least believes in God from reading God’s Word, the Bible, or from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ) will listen (attentively) to us and recognize God’s Word. Those who do not recognize God’s Word in the Gospel of Jesus Christ don’t know God, regardless of what they think or profess. This is how we can discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.

Luke Paraphrase:

After Jesus had been tempted by Satan in the wilderness, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Luke 4:14). He began teaching in the synagogues in Galilee, and people were praising him. He came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, he went into his home synagogue on the Sabbath, where he had worshiped regularly, and he was given the book of Isaiah to read. He opened it and began to read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2). Then everyone was looking attentively at Jesus and he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

At first the congregation spoke well of Jesus and his gracious words, but they wondered how the local boy, the son of Joseph whom they knew, had gotten his authority and insight. Jesus knew what they were thinking and told them they were wondering why he hadn’t done the kinds of miracles in his hometown that he had done elsewhere. Jesus acknowledged that a prophet is not honored in his own neighborhood.

Jesus pointed out from scripture that there were many widows in Israel in the time Elijah (one of the great prophets of Israel) when there was a famine, but Elijah went only to the widow of Zerepath (a Phoenician town between Tyre and Sidon). In Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but Elisha (another great prophet of Israel and heir to Elijah’s anointing) had cleansed only Naaman the Syrian. When Jesus said this, the entire synagogue became enraged and they dragged Jesus out of the city to a cliff, intending to throw Jesus off, but he passed through them and went away.

Commentary:

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was a warning from God about God’s judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (also see entry for yesterday, Sunday, 3 Easter, odd year). Nebuchadnezzar regarded himself as the center of the world, and thought of his kingdom reaching the heavens and to the ends of the earth. But Nebuchadnezzar would be cut down and stripped of his worldly power, position, and wealth, and cut off from eternal life in God; he would live out his days living and thinking like an animal, unless he came to realize that God rules over all the earth and appoints and deposes rulers according to God’s will. Only if Nebuchadnezzar realizes God’s sovereignty, quits disobeying God’s Word, and begins to live according to God’s standard of righteousness, showing mercy to the poor and oppressed, will his kingdom and long life in God’s peace be assured. God’s warning to Nebuchadnezzar also applies to all of us today.

Nebuchadnezzar had been thinking and living like an animal, because he had no awareness of God’s sovereignty and will, and lived only to please and serve himself. He couldn’t understand God’s Word concerning himself because he was spiritually blind and deaf, but he at least recognized God’s wisdom and insight in Daniel through Daniel’s anointing by what Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged as God’s Holy Spirit (Daniel 4:8b, 9b RSV, notes g & i).

The author of the First Letter of John exhorted Christians to live according to Jesus’ commands, including the commandment to love one another. If we live in obedience to Jesus we can have confidence in our salvation and eternal life, and not be vulnerable to attacks of Satan or our own consciences. If we obey God’s Word and do what is pleasing to him we will have no reason to be afraid of God, and we can be sure that God will hear and answer prayers made in accordance with Jesus’ teachings (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home) . God’s will and commandment is that we should trust and obey Jesus and love one another. If we trust and obey Jesus, he will give us the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

John’s Letter warns us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see if they are of God. Any spirit which denies the Biblical Apostolic (as taught by the Apostles) Gospel of Jesus Christ is not of God, but is the spirit of Antichrist, the spirit of error. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b), the Spirit of the only, true, holy God (Romans 8:9a; compare Daniel 4:8-9, RSV, notes g and i). Authentic Christians, the true children of God, are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey Jesus and have been “born-again” (by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit; John 3:3, 5-8).

The Lord only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has been filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). Authentic “born-again” Christians are of God, and those who know God and Jesus through the Bible or through a personal relationship, will listen to us and recognize God’s Word in Jesus and in his “born-again” disciples. This is how one can discern the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of error.

After his baptism, Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit, who led him in the wilderness for forty days (Luke 4:1; recalling the forty years Israel was led in the wilderness by God’s Spirit in the pillar of cloud and fire; Exodus 13:21-22). After withstanding Satan’s temptations he returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). [Jesus’ disciples were subsequently filled with the Holy Spirit, beginning on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-42). Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the modern equivalent is the Church; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5) until they had received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, before going out into the world to continue Christ’s ministry of the Gospel.]

Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture of the Spirit-empowered Son of God, our Savior, and our example of Spirit-empowered ministry in Christ’s name. Jesus’ fulfillment wasn’t intended to be the only fulfillment of that scripture. His Spirit-empowered disciples are intended to carry on Jesus’ mission and continue to fulfill that scripture in Jesus’ name (his character, power and authority; also see John 20:21).

Jesus was unable to do the miracles in his hometown that he had done elsewhere because the people were unwilling to trust and obey Jesus. They lost the gifts and blessings only Jesus could give them, which were received by others instead. They thought they knew so much about him that they were unable to see who Jesus really was. They liked him as a local boy, until he challenged their established ideas. Jesus had come to heal the spiritually blind and deaf, but when he tried to show them their spiritual disabilities, instead of turning to him to heal them, they hated him; they threw him out of “church” and out of “their” community! Perhaps that’s the reason “nominal Christians” are so hard to reach with the Gospel.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Easter 3 – Odd
First Posted 04/11/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 4:28-37  –    Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction;
1 John 4:7-21  –    God is love;
Luke 4:31-37  –   Jesus’ ministry at Capernaum;

Daniel Paraphrase:

Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was fulfilled. A year later Nebuchadnezzar was looking out over his kingdom from the roof of his palace and thinking how great he was for having built Babylon and how great his power and glory were, when the Lord spoke to him from heaven, telling Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom had departed from him and that Nebuchadnezzar would live among the animals in the fields, eating grass, until Nebuchadnezzar realizes that God is the ruler of all the earth, and God gives authority over it to whomever he chooses.

Immediately Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his palace into the fields with the animals for a long period of time. At the end of those days Nebuchadnezzar “looked toward heaven” and he regained his sanity, and blessed God and gave him praise and honor. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God’s dominion is eternal and that no one can question God or thwart God’s will. Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his kingdom and resumed his role as its king. Nebuchadnezzar testified that all God’s ways are just and righteous, and God humbles the proud and arrogant.

1 John Paraphrase:

John urged Christians to love one another because love is God’s nature, and those who are born of God (“born-again” by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit; John 3:3, 5-8) share God’s love for us with each other. Those who are unloving or hateful do not know God. God revealed his love for us by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we might live eternally through Jesus.

God did this, not in return for our love for him, but while we were sinners in rebellion against God (Romans 5:8). Jesus gave his life for us so that our sins might be forgiven. If we realize God’s love for us we should love one another. No human has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God (who is revealed to us through Jesus) will abide in us (through the gift of his Holy Spirit) and his love will be matured and completed in us.

The gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us is our assurance that we abide in God and he in us. Those who have been “born-again” have experienced and testify that Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Those who confess that Jesus is God’s Son abide in God and God in them. We know and believe God’s love for us (through personal fellowship with him through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Love for one another is evidence that we abide in God and God in us.

When God’s love has grown to maturity in us we will have no reason to fear God’s judgment. Perfect love overcomes fear, because mature love does nothing deserving punishment. We love because we have experienced God’s love for us. One cannot love God if one hates one’s brother. How can we love God whom we cannot see, if we cannot love our brother who is right here. Failure to love our brother is a violation of God’s commandment.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had been thrown out of the synagogue and town of Nazareth (Luke 4:29), so he went to Capernaum. Jesus began teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and the people were amazed by the authority with which Jesus taught. A demon-possessed man was in the crowd in the synagogue, and the demon acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth was the Holy One of God. Jesus rebuked the demon and commanded him to come out of the man. Immediately the demon threw the man down and came out, leaving the man unharmed. The people were amazed that Jesus had authority even over demons by the power of his word, and news of Jesus spread throughout the region.

Commentary:

God warned King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream that Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and self-centeredness, and his failure to recognize and acknowledge God’s power and authority were going to bring God’s judgment upon the king. Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t understand God’s Word (through the dream), and none of his worldly counselors was able to interpret it for him (2 Corinthians 3:14-17; 4:3-4). But Daniel, whom Nebuchadnezzar realized was filled with the Spirit of God (Daniel 4:8-9, RSV, notes g & i), was able to interpret God’s Word.

A year later, Nebuchadnezzar had not heeded God’s Word and had not demonstrated any repentance, so Nebuchadnezzar heard God’s voice of judgment, but then it was too late to repent; he had to suffer the punishment. Only after a long time of misery did Nebuchadnezzar look to Heaven (to God) and then he was restored to his health and his position. Then Nebuchadnezzar praised God and acknowledged God’s eternal sovereignty and power. He testified that God’s ways are good and righteous, and that God humbles the proud and arrogant.

God’s Word is absolutely true and reliable; what God says, he does. God promised to send his Savior and he fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ. Jesus promises that if we will trust and obey him he will give us the gift of his Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). We cannot truly believe in Jesus without obedience to his teaching and his commands. What we do reveals what we truly believe.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has been filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who removes the “veil” and opens our minds to understand God’s Word. (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit through whom we have personal fellowship with the Lord and experience his love and goodness (John 14:18-23; Revelation 3:20).

The city of Nazareth threw the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah and Savior, “Jesus of Nazareth,” out of “their” community because they were offended by the Word of God which Jesus spoke. It wasn’t how he said it (Luke 4:22a), but what he said; he told them the truth. Jesus interpreted God’s Word for them so that they could understand it, and they didn’t like what they heard. Jesus moved his ministry to another community which benefited from his teaching and his healing power. Are we listening, Church?

Jesus spoke the Word of God, which is “living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus teaches with the authority and power of God. Jesus’ word has power over demons (and the forces of nature; Matthew 8:23-27).  Jesus has the power to heal and restore us when we acknowledge and accept Jesus as our Lord. He could command us to trust and obey him, but he gives us free will to choose whether to trust and obey. Even demons know Jesus is the Holy One of God, but Jesus lets us decide for ourselves who we believe him to be.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Easter 3 – Odd
First Posted 04/12/05:
Podcast: Wednesday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 5:1-12   –   Handwriting on the wall;
1 John 5:1-12   –   Christian assurance;
Luke 4:38-44   –  Jesus’ preaching and healing;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, although the Jewish author of this text apparently thought he was Nebuchadnezzar’s son. While a young man, he gave a great feast for his friends, and during the feast he commanded that the sacred vessels of gold and silver, which had been looted from the temple in Jerusalem, be brought, and he and his guests used the sacred vessels to drink wine toasting their many idols of “gold, silver, bronze, iron, and stone” (Daniel 5:4) Immediately the king saw a man’s hand writing on the wall. The king was terribly frightened, and his face became pale and his knees shook.

The king commanded that the royal wisemen be brought to read and interpret what had been written. But the Babylonian wisemen could not read or interpret the writing. The queen heard the commotion and came into the dining hall. She told the king that Daniel, a Jew in the Babylonian exile, had been able to interpret dreams and solve riddles because he had the Spirit of God within him and had divine wisdom (Daniel 5:11, RSV, note k). Nebuchadnezzar had made Daniel (whose Babylonian name was Belteshazzar) chief of the Babylonian magicians, sorcerers and astrologers because he was able to do what the Babylonian wisemen could not.

1 John Paraphrase:

Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) are children of God, and those who love God will love his children. Loving the children of God means loving God and obeying his commandments. If we love God we will obey his commandments, and his commandments are not too hard for us. When we are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), Christ’s Spirit within us helps us to overcome the world, because Jesus has overcome the world, and our obedient trust in him gives us his victory. Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God overcome the world. Jesus comes to us by his Spirit through the water of baptism and the blood of the cross (received through the sacrament of Holy Communion). “The Spirit is the witness because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:7).

The water (of our baptism), the blood (of the cross and the sacrament) and the infilling of the Holy Spirit testify that Jesus is the Christ. If we accept the testimony of mankind, God’s testimony is much more trustworthy. Those who believe in the Son of God have God’s testimony to his Son within them (through his indwelling Holy Spirit). Those who do not believe God’s testimony to his Son call God a liar. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son (within him by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit) has (eternal) life; he who has not the Son of God has not (eternal) life (compare Romans 8:9b).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house, and Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Her family asked Jesus to heal her, so Jesus stood by her bed and commanded the fever to leave her and she was healed. She got up and served her guests. At sunset everyone in the community brought those who were sick to Jesus and he laid his hands on each one and healed them. Jesus also cast out many demons, who acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus forbade them to speak because they knew he was the Christ. The next day, Jesus went to a place of solitude, but the people sought him and came to him, begging him to stay with them. But Jesus told them that he must proclaim the Gospel of God’s kingdom to other villages.

Commentary:

God’s Word is “the handwriting on the wall” (Daniel 5:5). God has declared what will happen to those who do not trust and obey him but use what God has given them, which God intended for his service, to pursue their own wealth, power and pleasure, and to worship and serve other gods. The world offers many “spiritual” alternatives; seeking spiritual answers from any other source than God’s Word will ultimately prove futile and disastrous.

Daniel was able to read and understand God’s Word because Daniel had the Spirit of God within him (Daniel 4:8-9, RSV, notes g & i.) God’s Word is “veiled” to those who are spiritually dead (2 Corinthians 3:14-17; 4:3-4), and it is only by the indwelling Holy Spirit that the “veil” is lifted and our minds are opened to understand God’s Word.

God’s Word declares that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). God warns us that the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our salvation from eternal death (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34). Jesus only gives the Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

Jesus comes to believers, to be received by faith (obedient trust), through the water of baptism for our repentance, the blood of sacrifice of the Cross and the Communion for our forgiveness, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, for our regeneration (spiritual rebirth) and sanctification (spiritual growth). Those who truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God have God’s testimony to his Son within them (through the indwelling Holy Spirit). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has been filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). Can you read the handwriting on the wall?

Only Jesus can heal us spiritually. Jesus has won, at the Cross, the victory over Satan and the forces of evil in this world. At the Tomb, Jesus won the victory over physical death. Only Jesus can free us from physical death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and give us eternal life through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The people in Jesus’ home town and his local “church” threw Jesus out because his message made them angry (Luke 4:16-30; see entry for Monday and Tuesday, Easter 3, odd year, above).

The people of Nazareth lost the opportunity for healing that only Jesus can provide. Jesus went to Capernaum. There the people welcomed Jesus and they received physical and spiritual healing. The people of Capernaum begged Jesus to stay with them, but Jesus in the flesh couldn’t be two places at once, and he needed to fulfill his ministry of the Gospel in other places.

How are we doing? Do we realize that Jesus is the only way to forgiveness and fellowship with God; the only source of spiritual healing? Do we realize what Jesus has done for us on the Cross? Through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus is able to be with us individually and daily. Jesus won’t force himself upon us; he wants us to decide individually for ourselves whether to trust and obey him or not. Are we begging Jesus to come and stay with us, or do we hate him and turn him away because we refuse to hear the Truth?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday Easter 3 – Odd
First Posted 04/13/05;
Podcast: Thursday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 5:13-30   –    Interpreting God’s Word;
1 John 5:13-20 (21)  –   Christian Assurance;
Luke 5:1-11  –   Miraculous Catch;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Belshazzar, a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, had desecrated the sacred temple vessels looted from the Jewish temple by drinking toasts to Babylonian idols of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. As he did so the hand of God wrote God’s judgment on the wall of the dining hall. The wizards and seers of Babylon could not read or interpret God’s Word, so Daniel, a Jew in the exile in Babylon was summoned (see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 3 Easter, odd year).

King Belshazzar had heard that the Spirit of the Holy God was in Daniel and that he possessed light, understanding and (divine) wisdom. The king promised to reward Daniel with royal clothing and jewelry if Daniel could interpret God’s Word. Daniel told the king to keep his gifts and to reward someone else, but Daniel would interpret God’s Word without charge.

Daniel told the king that God had given the king’s ancestor, King Nebuchadnezzar, greatness and power which enabled Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish all that he did. But Nebuchadnezzar grew proud of himself and his accomplishments, so God took his glory from him. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne and he lived like an animal in the open fields until he realized that God rules the kingdoms of earth and gives authority over them to whom he chooses.

Daniel said King Belshazzar knew what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar, but made the same error and exalted himself against God. The King had used the sacred vessels of the temple of God to praise the Babylonian idols of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Idols are deaf and blind; they know nothing and are powerless, but the king had honored the idols and failed to acknowledge God who has the power of life and death over mankind.

The writing on the wall was “mene,” “mene,” “tekel” and “parsin.*” Daniel told the King that God had “numbered” the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom; Belshazzar  had been “weighed” by God’s judgment and found lacking, and his kingdom would be “divided” and given to the Medes and Persians. King Belshazzar gave Daniel the royal clothing and jewelry which he promised, and made him “third-in-command” of his kingdom. That very night Belzhazzar was slain and “Darius the Mede” (perhaps Gobyras, the general of Cyrus, King of Persia, the actual conqueror) took control of the kingdom.

1 John Paraphrase:

John wrote his message to those who believe in (trust and obey; see also 1 John 5:10-12) the name (the character, power and authority) of the Son of God (Jesus Christ). Those who trust and obey Jesus and pray according to his will can be assured that God hears our prayers, and if we know that he has heard us we can be confident that we have received what we request (see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home). Christians are to pray for fellow believers who sin unintentionally. Continuous, deliberate sin is not to be tolerated (1 John 3:6; and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin; Mark 3:28-29).

Those who are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the indwelling Holy Spirit do not sin because they are guided by the Holy Spirit and empowered to resist Satan. “Born-again” Christians are of God (and protected from Satan’s power), but the whole world is in the power of Satan. “We know that the Son of God has come (in flesh, and also by his indwelling Holy Spirit) and has given us understanding, to know him who is true (God) and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Christians are to avoid any form of idolatry (including pride of self).

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus was preaching to a crowd on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Gennesaret), and the crowd was so eager to hear God’s Word that they were pressing forward to Jesus and pushing him to the water’s edge. There were two boats nearby on the shore, and the fishermen were cleaning their nets. One of the boats was Simon Peter’s, and Jesus asked him to launch the boat so that Jesus could preach from it. When Jesus was finished preaching, he told Peter to go into deeper water and put out his net to catch some fish. Peter said that they had fished all night and had caught nothing, but he was going to trust and obey Jesus.

When Peter lowered his nets he caught a shoal of fish, so many that the net was in danger of breaking. Peter called to his partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to come with the other boat to help with the catch. The catch filled both boats to the point of sinking.

When Peter realized what had happened, he realized his own unworthiness in Jesus’ presence. But Jesus told Peter not to be afraid; that from then on Peter would be fishing for human souls. When the boats landed Peter, James and John left everything and followed Jesus.

Commentary:

King Belshazzar and his advisors were unable to read and understand God’s Word because there is a veil which lays over the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 3:14-17; 4:3-4) and it is only by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that the veil is removed and our minds are opened to understand God’s Word (See also entries for Monday through Wednesday, 3 Easter, odd year). The Queen recommended Daniel, who was recognized has having the Spirit of God within him (Daniel 5:11, 14 RSV, see note “k”). Daniel told Belshazzar that the king had known about God’s judgment on his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, but had not learned from and avoided Nebuchadnezzar’s error. King Belshazzar had honored the useless Babylonian idols and had failed to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, so King Belshazzar had come under the same condemnation. That night Belshazzar died and the kingdom was taken from him.

We are like King Belshazzar, and America is the New Babylon (but God’s Word applies to the other nations as well). We need to seek our spiritual advice from Spirit-filled disciples and apostles (messengers) of Jesus Christ. We need to learn from God’s Word and apply it in our lives before it is too late and “the writing is on the wall;” before we die and lose the eternal kingdom.

John is an example of the Spirit-filled disciple and apostle of God’s Word. His message to Christians is that we are to be disciples who trust and obey Jesus Christ, who are “born-again” by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us which bears witness and is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (1 John 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has been filled with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

It is the Holy Spirit within us which assures us that God has heard our prayers (1 John 5:15). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of and close, personal fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father (1 John 5:20). We need to hear God’s Word interpreted by authentic “born-again” preachers and evangelists, in whom we recognize the Spirit of Christ, and we need to apply God’s Word in our daily lives while there is still time to avoid God’s judgment and condemnation.

The people of Galilee were eager to hear God’s Word, and they realized that Jesus was teaching God’s Word, so they thronged to him and pressed toward him trying to get close enough to Jesus to hear him. Peter trusted and obeyed Jesus, even though what Jesus asked of him went against worldly wisdom. As a result, Peter was spectacularly successful. When Peter experienced Jesus’ power in his own life, Peter realized that he was a sinner and unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence, but Jesus accepted Peter and made him welcome. Jesus calmed Peter’s fears. Worldly success was no longer important to Peter. He left his huge catch, his boat and his fishing business to follow Jesus.

King Belshazzar, like his predecessor, was full of pride in himself and he pursued worldly idols instead of seeking and following God. He ignored God’s warning that those who pursue self-interest and material things will lose their worldly accomplishments, possessions, and physical life, and also their eternal lives and God’s eternal kingdom. Instead of being filled with himself and worldly things Peter (and his partner John, who eventually wrote the letter of 1 John) humbled himself and followed Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we get close enough to the Lord to hear him speaking to us.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* Aramaic for weights and thus coinage: mina, shekel, and half-mina but which can also be understood as meaning “to number,”  “to weigh” and “to divide.” They imply the diminishing worth of Nebuchadnezzar’s successors, and the numbering, weighing, and dividing of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus of Persia. -The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Daniel 5:25-28n, p. 1076, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Friday Easter 3 – Odd
First Posted 04/14/05;
Podcast: Friday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 6:1-15  –    Conspiracy against Daniel;
2 John 1-13   –    No fellowship with false teachers;
Luke 5:12-26   –   Leper healed; sin forgiven;

Daniel Paraphrase:

The Babylonian empire was conquered and the King was killed (as Daniel had prophesied; Daniel 5:1-31; see entry for yesterday, Thursday, 3 Easter, odd year). Darius, a Mede, became king. King Darius appointed governors of the provinces, and over the governors he appointed three presidents, one of whom was Daniel, a Jew in exile in Babylon. The governors were accountable to the three presidents, so that the King would not be cheated. Daniel distinguished himself above the other presidents, because “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3; compare Daniel 4:8-9).

The king planned to give Daniel authority over his entire kingdom, but the other presidents and governors were jealous, and plotted to destroy Daniel. They looked for some basis for complaint in Daniel’s administration of his office, but found none. Because Daniel was of a different religion, his enemies decided to use it as their only hope of eliminating Daniel. The provincial rulers came to the King as a group, and suggested that the King issue an edict that for thirty days everyone in the empire be required to pray only to the King, or be killed by being thrown into a lion’s den.

The law of the Medes and Persians required that any edict signed by the King could not be revoked. Darius signed the decree. Daniel knew that the decree had been signed, but he continued to pray to the Lord God of Israel three times a day as was his custom. The provincial leaders caught Daniel praying to God, and reported it to the King, reminding the King of his edict and the irrevocableness of Medo-Persian law. The King was greatly troubled by this situation, and he tried all day to find some way to deliver Daniel from the penalty of the law, but the governors returned, demanding Daniel’s execution.

2 John Paraphrase:

This letter was from John to a Church (the Elect Lady), probably in Asia Minor, and her “children” (members). John declares his love for Christian brethren who know and hold on to the truth (of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), which abides in believers and will be with us eternally (through the indwelling Holy Spirit; John 14:17). Grace, mercy and peace are ours from God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in truth and love. John rejoiced that some (but not all) members were following the true Gospel according to God’s Word. John urged the congregation to follow the commandment to love one another, and that love is revealed by obedience to Jesus’ teachings (John 14:15-17, 21).

John warns that there are many deceivers in the world who do not acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (that Jesus is fully God and fully human; Colossians 2:8-9).  Those who do not acknowledge Jesus’ divinity are deceivers and the antichrist (all forces opposed to Christ). John warns Christians to be careful to hold onto the true Gospel (as recorded in the Bible and as taught by the original Apostles, including John) so that they will not lose the full reward (eternal life in God’s kingdom).

Anyone who deviates from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ does not have God, but those who hold fast to the Gospel of Jesus have both the Father (God) and the Son, Jesus the Christ (Messiah; God’s anointed Savior and King). John warned the church not to receive or greet anyone who comes to them who does not hold to this scriptural, apostolic doctrine. Anyone who gives any kind of support or encouragement to such false teachers shares in their wicked work. John hoped to visit the congregation soon and speak with them directly.

Luke Paraphrase:

A leper came to Jesus, bowed down, and addressed him as Lord, declaring his faith that Jesus could make him clean if it was Jesus’ will to do so. Jesus declared that it was his will, and commanded the man to be clean. The man was healed of his leprosy immediately, and Jesus told him not to publicize his healing, but to show himself to the priest and make an offering for the cleansing according to God’s commandment to Moses. News of the healing spread despite Jesus’ admonition, and great crowds came to Jesus seeking physical healing, but Jesus went into the wilderness to pray.

On one occasion when Jesus was in a house, teaching a crowd, there were religious authorities present who had come from every region of Israel; “and the power of the Lord was with him (Jesus) to heal” (Luke 5:17 RSV). Some men were bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus on a stretcher, but there were so many people they couldn’t get near enough to Jesus. Since the house was roofed with loose tiles, they went up and removed some of the tiles and let the paralyzed man down through the hole to Jesus. When he saw their faith Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. But the religious authorities discussed Jesus’ words among themselves, accusing Jesus of blasphemy, since only God can forgive sins.

Jesus knew their thoughts, and asked them whether it would have been easier for Jesus to tell the man his sins were forgiven, or to tell him to get up and walk.  Jesus said he had told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven so that people would know that Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus told the paralytic to rise, take his stretcher and go home, and the paralytic was healed and did exactly what Jesus had commanded, praising God on his way. The crowd who had witnessed the healing was amazed and glorified God, declaring that they had seen something supernatural, beyond human ability.

Commentary:

Daniel was in forced exile in a very worldly culture. The culture in which he lived recognized that he had the Spirit of God within him. His life was above reproach, but still his colleagues hated him and wanted to destroy him, and they conspired to use Daniel’s religion to destroy him. The king was deceived and forced to do what was contrary to his own judgment and interests, because he listened to flattery from Daniel’s enemies, who told the king that he should be treated as divine.

John warned Christians that there are many deceivers and false teachers in the world. Christians must hold firmly to the biblical apostolic gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they will not lose the “full reward” (2 John 8; i.e. eternal life) which that gospel promises. The enemies of the true Gospel often use flattery to deceive believers and lead them astray by telling them what they want to hear, instead of the truth which they need to hear.

Christians must be familiar with the Bible in order to recognize and avoid deception. One major warning sign is a “teacher” who relies on some other book in addition to the Bible. Another warning sign is anyone who denies the deity of Jesus in human flesh; Jesus is fully God who came in a fully human body (Colossians 2:8-9).  Christians and congregations are warned not to welcome and tolerate false teachers in the Church.

There are several major heresies (false teachings) which began in the first-century Church and are refuted in the New Testament, but are still present, today, within “churches” that call themselves “Christian.” One is “Legalism” (“Works Righteousness”; earning salvation by doing “good works” or by keeping Jewish laws; the “circumcision party of the New Testament; see Ephesians 2:8-9).  Another is “Cheap Grace,” first named and described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.* “Cheap Grace” is preaching salvation by grace (free gift; unmerited favor) without requiring discipleship or obedience to Jesus’ teachings (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

As a Leper, the man was considered ritually unclean and denied fellowship with God’s people and participation in worship services. Jesus wanted to restore the man to access to God and to the religious community. (Note that the leaders of the Leper’s “religious community” were hostile to the deity of Jesus and used “religion” to try to destroy Jesus.) Jesus healed the man physically, but his primary purpose was to restore people spiritually to forgiveness and fellowship with God. Jesus didn’t want publicity for physical healing, because it would attract people who sought only what Jesus could do for them physically. That’s why Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. Physical health is of no eternal benefit, unless our sins are forgiven and we are restored to eternal life with the Lord.

Both men had faith that Jesus could heal them; the Leper had called Jesus his Lord, but did he obey Jesus’ command to tell no one? According to Mark (Mark 1:40-45), the man didn’t obey, and Jesus’ ministry was hindered because of the crowds seeking only physical healing. The Leper received physical healing and was restored to his “religious community,” but he lost the “full reward” of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life in personal fellowship with the Lord. The paralytic also received healing, but he obeyed Jesus and his sins were forgiven, as Jesus promised. Just calling Jesus “Lord” doesn’t mean much if we don’t do what Jesus says (Matthew 7:21-24; Luke 6:46).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6


Saturday Easter 3 – Odd
First posted 04/15/05;
Podcast: Saturday Easter 3 – Odd

Daniel 6:16-28   –   Daniel in the lions’ den;
3 John 1-15  –    Apostolic authority;
Luke 5:27-39   –   Call of Levi;

Daniel Summary:

Daniel’s enemies had used his religion to force King Darius to sentence Daniel to death in a lions’ den (see entry for yesterday, Friday 3 Easter, odd year). Daniel was thrown into the den, and the King hoped that Daniel’s God (the God of Israel) would deliver Daniel from harm. A stone closed the den, and it was sealed with ropes and sealing wax, so that it could not be tampered with. The King spent the night in his palace worrying about Daniel.

At daybreak the King hurried to the den and called out to Daniel to see if he was still alive, and Daniel answered that he was fine. The Lord had shut the mouths of the lions, because the Lord had found Daniel blameless before God and also before the King. The King was glad that Daniel was all right and commanded that Daniel be brought out of the den. Daniel had no injuries at all, because he had trusted in God.

The King ordered Daniel’s enemies, who had set Daniel up to destroy him, to be thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children, and they were immediately mauled by the lions. King Darius made a proclamation that throughout his empire all people were to fear and worship God because he is the eternal living God who is sovereign over all the kingdoms of earth. God delivers and rescues, and does great miracles in heaven and on earth, and has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. As the result, Daniel was very successful during the reign of Darius, and of Cyrus the Persian.

3 John Paraphrase:

John was apparently having trouble with Diotrephes, a member of a church, probably in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), who did not accept John’s authority as an apostle and elder. John wrote to Gaius, a faithful and reliable member of the congregation. John rejoiced in Gaius’ faithful obedience to the Gospel truth, and for Gaius’ hospitality to traveling Christian leaders and missionaries, who relied on the hospitality of Christians to provide food and lodging. The Church leaders communicated with individual congregations by letter or by personal visits by themselves or their emissaries.

John had sent a letter to the congregation, but Diotrephes opposed John’s authority, disparaged John among the congregation, refused hospitality to John’s emissaries, and expelled members who did receive and welcome them. John intended to personally visit the church soon, to deal with Diotrephes. In the meantime he counseled the faithful Christians not to follow the example of those who do evil, (like Diotrephes) but to follow good examples of faithful Christians (like Gaius). Those who are of God will do what is right. Those who do evil demonstrate that they do not know and follow God. Demetrius (possibly the bearer of the letter) was attested to by faithful Christians and by John for his true understanding of the Gospel. John greeted the “friends” (faithful Christians) in the congregation on behalf of himself and fellow Christians.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus passed by the office of a tax collector named Levi (Matthew, the son of Alphaeus; Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14), and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew left everything and followed Jesus. Matthew provided a great feast at his home for Jesus and his disciples, and Matthew’s friends, including many tax collectors.  The Pharisees (the predominant, legalistic leaders of Judaism) criticized Jesus for eating and fellowshipping with tax collectors (collaborators with the occupying Roman government) and sinners. But Jesus told them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The Pharisees replied that John the Baptizer’s disciples practiced fasting and so did the Pharisees’ disciples (as part of their observance of Jewish law), but Jesus’ disciples apparently did not (compare Luke 7:33-34; Matthew 11:18-19). Jesus answered by comparing his situation to a wedding feast. Jesus is the bridegroom, and his disciples would not fast while Jesus was present; but the time would come when Jesus would be taken from them (by his crucifixion) and his disciples would fast in those days.

Jesus also told two parables to illustrate what he meant. One does not cut up a new garment to repair an old one, because in so doing both will be ruined. Neither does one put new wine in old wineskins, because old skins cannot handle the pressure of fermentation and will break, ruining both the wine and the skins. New wine must be put in new skins. Jesus also said that the disciples of John and of the Pharisees who continued the old form of religion after hearing the Gospel of Jesus were like those who prefer aged wine.

Commentary:

King Darius was a weak leader because he let the flattery of Daniel’s enemies induce him to do what was against his judgment and best interest. (He had signed a law that forced him to sentence Daniel, his best and most trusted administrator, to death). Daniel in contrast, trusted in God and did what was right in the judgment of God and King. God saved Daniel from destruction and death and gave him victory and success over his enemies.

This is exactly what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Satan is the enemy of our souls who wants to destroy us. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, God saves us from death and eternal destruction and gives us victory and success over our enemy (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The Apostle John was having trouble with a person who had become a leader in a church congregation, who wanted to change the Gospel message to suit his own preferences. He did not acknowledge the authority of the Apostles to proclaim and maintain the Gospel truth as they had received it from their direct discipleship by Jesus Christ. Diotrephes refused John’s guidance, disparaged John to the congregation, refused to receive and welcome John’s emissaries, and expelled members who supported or sided with John in any way.  This kind of deviation from and opposition to the true biblical apostolic Gospel is quite evident within the “Church” today. Particularly in the American “Church” some members seem to think that the “Gospel” they believe and proclaim is a matter of majority vote, and many members are not familiar enough with the Bible to know what the true scriptural apostolic Gospel is.

Jesus came to invite the “lost” and sinners to follow him. We are all sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and God’s Word says that the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). The problem is that unless we recognize and acknowledge our sinfulness, Jesus can’t heal us.
The Pharisees thought that they were righteous because they thought they obeyed Jewish law. Jesus said that they had the outward appearance of righteousness and that they required others to keep laws that the Pharisees couldn’t keep (Luke 11:39; Mark 7:5-13). The Pharisees had structured their “religion” to please and serve themselves instead of trying to please and serve God.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Easter 2 – Odd – 04/12 – 18/2015

April 11, 2015

Week of Easter 2 – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Week of Easter 2 – Odd
Sunday Easter 2 – Odd
First posted 04/02/05;
Podcast: Sunday Easter 2 – Odd

Isaiah 43:8-13  –    The Lord’s witnesses;
1 Peter 2:2-10   –   Living stones;
John 14:1-7   –  The Way, the Truth, the Life;

Isaiah Paraphrase:

Assemble all the nations; people who are spiritually blind and deaf. Who among them can prove their claims for their idols? Let them produce witnesses who can prove that their gods are true. God’s people are God’s witnesses, God’s chosen servants, so that we might believe and come to know and understand that the Lord alone is God.

There has never been any other god before, nor will there be any other god after the Lord. The Lord alone is God and there is no other Savior. The Lord declared, saved and proclaimed, when God’s people had no other god, and they are his witnesses. God will be the only true God from now on, forever. There is no one who can deliver from God’s power; no one can hinder God’s purpose.

1 Peter Paraphrase:

New Christians are like newborn babies; they should desire and seek “pure spiritual milk” (the pure Gospel, as taught by Jesus and his original Apostles, and recorded in the Bible) so they can grow to spiritual maturity and salvation, having tasted the Lord’s kindness. Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture of the Messiah as the chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion (City of God; the Church; Isaiah 28:16). We are to come to him (Jesus, the cornerstone) and be built, like “living stones,” into the spiritual house of God. We are to be a nation of priests, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

To believers, Jesus is a jewel; a precious stone. But to unbelievers, who reject him, he is a “stumbling stone” who will trip them up and make them fall (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14-15).  Unbelievers will stumble and fall because they have not obeyed God’s Word and will suffer the consequences of disobedience. But God’s people “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

God’s people are to declare the wonderful works of God in bringing us out of the darkness of sin into the marvelous light of his righteousness. God has gathered a nation of God’s people from those who formerly did not belong to any one specific group. Once we were under God’s condemnation, but now, through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, we have received mercy.

John Paraphrase:

Faith in Jesus does not conflict with faith in God, but enlarges our faith and knowledge of God. Freedom from fear and anxiety are only possible through faith in God the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus promised his disciples that he was leaving them (by dying physically on the Cross) to prepare a place for them in eternity. Jesus promised to return for his disciples to take them to be with him in his eternal kingdom.

Jesus told the disciples that they knew where Jesus was going and the way. Thomas did not understand where Jesus was going so he thought he couldn’t possibly know how to get there. So Jesus told him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). He went on to explain that those who have come to personally know, “see,” and fellowship with Jesus have known, “seen,” and fellowshipped with God.

Commentary:

God alone is God. God knew the consequences of creating mankind with free will and made provision for it from the beginning of Creation. The universe was created by the Word of God, which declares that the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death (Romans 6:23). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10).

God’s purpose has always been to create an eternal kingdom of his people who will trust and obey God. God’s purpose for this life is to provide an opportunity for us to seek and come to know, trust and obey God (Acts 17:26-27). This life is a selection process for eternity.

Jesus has been God’s only plan for our salvation from the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5, 14; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). It’s God’s way or the highway to Hell and eternal destruction; it’s the narrow way to God and eternal life through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, or the broad way that leads to eternal condemnation and destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). No one can deliver us from God’s power, and no one can thwart God’s purpose.

New Christians (no matter how long they have been “church members” or nominal “Christians”) are to seek spiritual nurture by reading the Bible and by being discipled by disciples who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. They are to spend time in daily Bible reading, prayer and fellowship with the Lord. They are to seek the gift of the Holy Spirit and then grow to spiritual maturity and salvation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is by the Holy Spirit that we come to personal knowledge and fellowship with the Lord, and through whom we experience the kindness and love of the Lord. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that our minds are opened to understand the scriptures, through whom we come to know God’s individual will for our life, and through whom we are empowered to carry out his will and mission (John 16:13; John 14:26). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience and are empowered to declare the wonderful works of God.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

The Church is built of “living stones”, “born again” Christian disciples (John 3:3, 5-8), founded on obedient trust in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, who are led and empowered by his Holy Spirit and who are one spiritual body in the Lord through his indwelling Spirit. We are to be a kingdom of priests carrying on Christ’s ministry of reconciliation and salvation to the world. Only disciples who have been “born-again” by the gift of the Holy Spirit can testify to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Faith in Jesus does not conflict with faith in God. It is only through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus that we can come to God and know, “see” and have fellowship with God, through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 10:22). Jesus is God made visible in human flesh (Matthew 1:23b; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus is the truth, and Jesus is the only source of salvation and eternal life (John 14:6). Jesus gave up his physical life by dying on the Cross, as a sacrifice to God, to provide our forgiveness and salvation, so that we could live eternally with him in his heavenly kingdom.

We should be willing to surrender and live our earthly lives to him, so that we can carry on his ministry of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus’ disciples knew where Jesus was going because they believed and had come to know that Jesus was from God. They knew the way to God because they knew, trusted and obeyed Jesus.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday Easter 2 – Odd
First Posted 04/03/05;
Podcast: Monday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 1:1-21  –   Daniel and his friends;
1 John 1:1-10   –   Right attitude toward sin;
John 17:1-11  –   Jesus’ high priestly prayer;

Daniel Paraphrase:

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon attacked Jerusalem in the third year (606 B.C.) of King Jehoiakim of Judah. The Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to capture Jehoiakim and some of the sacred vessels of the temple which he took to Babylon (a.k.a. Shinar). He placed the sacred vessels of God in the treasury of the temple of Marduk, the idol of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar commanded his chief eunuch to bring educated young men from the royalty and nobility of Judah to be trained in the Chaldean language of the Babylonian empire. These youths were to be trained for three years, and fed with the rich food and wine of the king so that they would be and look healthy. After their training they were to serve the King.

Among them were Daniel and three other youths from the tribe of Judah. They were given Babylonian names. Daniel was called Belteshazzar and the other three were called Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego.

Daniel was determined not to violate Jewish dietary laws by eating the food of the King, so he asked the chief of eunuchs to allow him to avoid defiling himself by eating forbidden foods. God blessed Daniel by giving him favor and compassion from the chief of eunuchs. The chief of eunuchs’ concern was that if Daniel appeared weaker and less healthy than the other youths, it might cost the chief his life.

The chief of eunuchs had appointed a steward over Daniel and his companions, and Daniel persuaded him to allow a test by giving them only vegetables and water, and then comparing them with the rest of the youths who were fed the King’s rich food and wine. At the end of ten days, it was obvious that they were healthier and stronger than those who had ate the king’s diet, so the steward allowed them to continue to eat vegetables and water.

The Lord blessed Daniel and his three companions with learning, skill and wisdom, and Daniel was able to interpret dreams and visions. At the end of their training the chief of eunuchs brought them before King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and his three friends excelled beyond any of the other of the King’s advisors. They were found to be ten times wiser than all the magicians and enchanters of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Daniel continued to serve Nebuchadnezzar until the first year (538 B.C.) of King Cyrus of Persia, almost seventy years after Daniel had been brought to Babylon.

1 John Parapahrase:

The Gospel, the Word of (eternal) life, which existed from the beginning (of Creation; John 1:1-5, 14) was witnessed and attested to (in the New Testament Scriptures) by the original Apostles. Jesus reveals and fulfills God’s Word of eternal life, and the Apostles heard, saw, and touched, and now proclaim it to us, so that we may have fellowship with God the Father, and with the disciples through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. John wrote this so that our joy, both his and ours, would be complete.

The Gospel message is that God is the “light” of spiritual knowledge, truth and righteousness; there is absolutely no “darkness” (evil; wickedness) in God at all. Those who claim to have fellowship with God while doing evil and wickedness are liars who do not live according to the truth. But those who live according to God’s righteousness have fellowship with the disciples of Jesus Christ, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make (call) him (God) a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

John Paraphrase:

On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus had comforted his disciples in preparation for his separation from them by his physical death on the Cross. Then he prayed for his fulfillment of God’s will through Jesus’ perfect obedience unto death on the Cross, and for his disciples who would be left in the world after Jesus’ ascension.

Jesus acknowledged that the hour of his death had come, and asked that God would glorify Jesus, so that Jesus could glorify God. God has given Jesus power and authority over all mankind, to give eternal life to all who God had given to Jesus (those who come to Jesus in faith -obedient trust). Eternal life is in knowing God personally as the only true God, as God is revealed to us through our personal fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, whom God has sent, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus glorified God during his earthly ministry which was now about to be completed, and now asked to be restored to the glory of God’s presence which he had before Creation. Jesus has revealed God’s name (his character, power and authority) to those who God has given him (those who trust and obey Jesus; who obey God’s Word). They have believed and know that everything Jesus has done and said is from God. They have believed that Jesus came from God, by God’s will and command. Jesus prayed specifically for his disciples, who belong to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ prayer is that his disciples will be one (united) in the Holy Spirit as Jesus and God the Father are one in the Holy Spirit.

Commentary:

God’s Word prophesying seventy years of exile of Judah (the remnant of Israel) in Babylon, because of Judah’s disobedience of God, was fulfilled (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10)! In exile in Babylon, Daniel made a personal commitment to obey God’s Word, and God was faithful and blessed Daniel as Daniel fulfilled his commitment. Daniel trusted that the Word of God was in his best interest, and by living according to God’s Word he proved it. As Daniel began to live according to God’s Word, God prospered him above Daniel’s peers, and enabled Daniel to keep God’s commandments.

Jesus has demonstrated for us the truth of God’s Word. God’s plan of salvation through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ has been built into Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). From the beginning God has foreseen the consequences of giving mankind free will. God’s plan from the beginning of Creation has been to build an eternal kingdom of God’s people who trust and obey God’s Word.

This lifetime is an opportunity for us to seek and find God (Acts 17:26-27) and to learn to walk in obedience to him through the Holy Spirit. Temporal life is a selection process for eternity. Jesus set the perfect example of obedience to God’s Word, and demonstrated through his resurrection, which was witnessed by over five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), the truth of God’s Word and the reality of eternal life.

God created the universe by his Word, which declares that the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death (Romans 6:23). All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). Jesus Christ is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12: John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). The Apostles witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and attest to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the reality of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the only way to forgiveness and eternal life in fellowship with God (John 14:6). Forgiveness and eternal life are the free gift of God to all who trust and obey Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34). Jesus only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and the guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Easter 2 – Odd
First Posted 04/04/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 2:1-16   –   The king’s dream;
1 John 2:1-11   –   Love and obedience;
John 17:12-19   –   Jesus’ prayer for his disciples;

Daniel Paraphrase:

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream which troubled him so much that he was unable to sleep, so he summoned the seers and diviners of his kingdom and they assembled before him. The king commanded them to tell the king what he had dreamed (as a test of whether they were able to discern the occult, so that the king would know if their interpretation was reliable) and then to give the king the interpretation of the meaning of the dream.

The Chaldeans (the group of wise men who dwelt in the kingdom, as distinguished from Daniel and his three companions who were Judeans in exile; see entry for yesterday, Monday, 2 Easter, odd year) asked the king to tell them the dream and then they would give him the interpretation. But the king insisted that the wise men tell him what he had dreamed, and threatened to kill them and destroy their houses and families if they didn’t comply. He promised to reward them if they could tell him his dream and its interpretation.

Again the Chaldeans asked the king to first tell them the dream and then they would interpret it. Again the king refused, saying that they were stalling, lying to the king “until the times change,” (Daniel 2:9; trying to put off execution for their failure to do as the king had demanded). Then the wise men told the king that there is no human on earth who could do what the king had demanded. “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and none can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:11).

1 John Paraphrase:

The message from John was written to encourage the spiritual growth of its readers, and to warn against and correct false doctrine creeping into the Church. Christians are not to deliberately engage in sin, but if we sin unintentionally, Jesus is our advocate, who pleads with God on our behalf for our forgiveness. Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world.

Those who know and are in Christ are those who obey Jesus’ commandments. Those who claim to know and be in Christ, but disobey Jesus’ teachings are liars, and do not know the truth. Our love for God is revealed and measured by our obedience to his Word.

Those who truly abide in Jesus will live in accordance with Jesus’ teachings. The commandment to love one another is not a new commandment. It is the basis of the Law which God gave to Moses, but it is always fresh and current, and it has new power and meaning since the coming of Christ.

The darkness of sin, despair and death is now giving way to the light of real, eternal life, hope and righteousness (through Jesus). Those who claim to be enlightened by Christ and yet hate their brother still abide in darkness, but those who love one another abide in Christ’s light, which keeps us from stumbling. Those who hate one another are in darkness, and they do not know where they are going, because their (spiritual) eyes are blinded by the darkness.

John Paraphrase:

On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, he prayed for his disciples. While he was physically with them in his earthly ministry, Jesus had kept them in God’s name (in true faith in God’s character, power and authority). Now Jesus would no longer be physically present with them, and Jesus prayed that they would have Jesus’ joy (the joy of Jesus’ victory over sin and death) fulfilled in them.

Jesus had illustrated and taught God’s Word. The world opposes God’s Word, and hates Jesus’ disciples as the world has hated Jesus, because they have not conformed to the ways of the world. Jesus prays that, although they must remain in the world to carry on Christ’s mission of forgiveness and salvation, that they would be protected from evil. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be sanctified (purified and set apart, dedicated to God’s service) through faith (obedient trust) in God’s Word.

Jesus has given them the commission to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, as God had sent Jesus. Jesus consecrates himself to God’s will so that his disciples will also be consecrated through obedient trust in God’s Word.

Commentary:

The Chaldean wise men, although they didn’t know God, realized that only God could do what Nebuchadnezzar demanded. They trusted in idols, which couldn’t do anything; which didn’t even have human ability. Their “gods” were remote; they didn’t dwell with humans. The Chaldean wise men were willing to give the king “spiritual guidance” according to worldly wisdom.

The Lord is the God who truly is God. He’s not remote and indifferent to our needs. God gave us his Word through his personal relationship with the Patriarchs and prophets of Israel, to give us spiritual guidance according to divine wisdom (1 Corinthians1:18-25; 2:6-8) and he sent Jesus Christ, his Son, God in human flesh (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28), to live and teach among us, by word and example, in fulfillment of, and the personification of, God’s Word (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation which has been God’s plan from the beginning of Creation (See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home; also see entry for yesterday, Monday, 2 Easter, odd year).

Those who know and are in Christ are those who trust and obey Jesus’ teachings, because Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have personal knowledge of, and fellowship with, Jesus and God the Father. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Through the indwelling Holy Spirit the Lord is not only with us but within us, personally and individually, giving us direct and personal spiritual guidance.

Spiritual growth is the process of discipleship by which Christians become “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8), beginning with a commitment to trust and obey Jesus. As disciples begin to fulfill that commitment, first learning what Jesus teaches, and beginning to apply those teachings, one by one, day by day, they receive the gift of the Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit is source of enlightenment and empowerment, who opens our spiritual eyes to understand God’s Word, recall his teachings to our remembrance and make it possible for us to “walk” in Jesus’ way without stumbling. Jesus himself disciples us, individually, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who purifies us and guides and empowers us to serve God and carry out Christ’s mission in our world. Those who trust and obey God’s Word will receive what God promises. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience the love, joy and power of the Lord within us. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s personal and individual will and guidance for each of us, and keeps us in true faith in God through Jesus Christ.

The King of the Universe wants us to obey his commands. He has the power of eternal life or eternal death over us. We cannot meet God’s expectations and cannot be saved except through Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (“God with us”). Are we trying to stall the king, trying to prolong our lives ourselves and avoid execution, hoping that times will change? Are we trusting some other “god” for our salvation? Do we trust and obey human masters more than we trust and obey the Lord?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Easter 2 – Odd
First posted 04/05/05;
Podcast: Wednesday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 2:17-30  –  Dream revealed to Daniel;
1 John 2:12-17   –  True relationship to God and world;
John 17:20-26   –  Jesus’ prayer for the Church;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had decided to kill all the wise men who had been his advisors, because they had been unable to tell Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed (see entry for yesterday, Tuesday, 2 Easter, odd year). When Daniel learned this he asked for an appointment with the king to tell him his dream. Then he went to his home and told his three companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to pray that God would have mercy on them and reveal the dream to them, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the wise men of Babylon.

God revealed the dream to Daniel in a vision at night. Daniel praised God for God’s wisdom and God’s power to bestow wisdom and knowledge on people. God is Lord of time and seasons. He raises up kings, and he removes them. God knows deep and mysterious things, even those things which are hidden in darkness, since God is the creator and possessor of light.

Daniel thanked God for giving him wisdom and strength, and for God’s faithfulness in answering Daniel’s prayer. Daniel told the man whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon that he knew the king’s dream and its interpretation, and the man brought Daniel to the king in haste.

The king asked if Daniel could tell him the dream, and Daniel answered that no human could know the answer by worldly wisdom or occult practices, but God in Heaven knows and reveals mysteries and had revealed to Daniel the king’s dream.

By the king’s dream God revealed what would happen in the future. Daniel told the king that it was not because Daniel was greater than other people in any way, but so that God could make known to the king what would happen in latter days.

1 John Paraphrase:

John’s message was written to Christians to encourage their spiritual growth, and to refute false doctrine arising within the Church. The author addressed the entire congregation as little children, including the “fathers” who are spiritually mature and the “young men” who are earnest new Christians. All believers have God’s forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. The mature Christians have come to a personal relationship with Jesus. The new believers have overcome Satan by accepting Jesus. The congregation knows the father (because they have accepted Jesus, his son). The mature have known Jesus personally (through the indwelling Holy Spirit). The new believers are strong because the Word of God abides in them, and they have overcome Satan (by accepting Jesus as their Lord).

We cannot love God and also love the world and worldly things, because the ways and things of the world are contrary to God’s ways. The things of the world which conflict with God’s Word involve sinful physical gratification, impure mental or emotional delight, and idolatrous reliance on self and material possessions (1 John 2:16; compare Genesis 3:6). This world and worldly lusts will pass away, but those who do God’s will abide for eternity in him.

John Paraphrase:

On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, he prayed for himself, his disciples, and then for the Church. He prayed for all who would believe in Jesus through his disciples, that they would be unified by the indwelling Holy Spirit, so that they would be in Christ and Christ in them as Jesus and the Father are one in the Holy Spirit, so that the world may believe that God had sent Jesus, and realize the love of God (in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit) for the world.

Jesus prayed that those who believe in him might be with him eternally and see Jesus’ glory which God gave him before the world was created. Mankind has not known God, but Jesus knows God and his disciples have believed and have come to know that Jesus has been sent by God. Jesus has revealed God’s name (his character, power and authority, and love), and Jesus will continue to reveal God (in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and personally and individually by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit).

Commentary:

True wisdom is the wisdom of God, not what the world falsely calls wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-7). God has the power to bestow his wisdom and knowledge and it is his desire to do so. He will give us his wisdom and knowledge if we will listen attentively and trust his Word. God is Lord of time and seasons. He alone knows what will happen in the future, and he wants us to know, and has been revealing it progressively since the beginning of Creation.

The Bible is God’s Word through which God first gives his divine wisdom and knowledge. Reading the Bible is the place to start to grow spiritually, and to recognize and avoid false doctrines. Christians are “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is not “optional,” and neither is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not automatically conferred by Baptism, Communion (“The Lord’s Supper;” the Eucharist) or by Church membership. Those who believe in Jesus receive the power (the promise) to become children of God (John 1:12), born by the Spirit (John 1:13), and they receive the fulfillment as they trust and obey Jesus. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of God’s wisdom and knowledge, because he opens our minds to understand God’s Word, the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), and reveals God’s will to us personally and directly.

The Church is not only to preach the Gospel but to “disciple” new Christians. Christ’s ministry was to make disciples, and then send his disciples out to make other disciples, carrying on Jesus’ ministry in the world. The Church needs to have mature, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) disciples of Jesus Christ to disciple new Christians. It takes a born-again disciple to make born-again disciples.

Jesus gave his “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20) to his disciples to fulfill, after they had personally experienced the risen Jesus and after they had received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:3-5). Once disciples have been “born-again” the Lord himself continues to disciple them to spiritual maturity.

Jesus prayed for his Church, that those who believed in Jesus through his disciples’ testimony would be unified by the indwelling Holy Spirit in the same way that Jesus and God the Father were one through God’s Spirit in Jesus. Jesus had revealed God the Father to his disciples in what Jesus said and did during his earthly ministry. He revealed even more of God through his death and resurrection. The fullest revelation of God through Jesus is by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, through whom we personally experience God’s love.

God has been progressively revealing himself to us through his Word and his prophets, then his Son; and the ultimate revelation of himself in this world is within us by his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Lord has revealed and wants us to know what is going to happen in the “latter days,” at the end of this age. This life is preparation for eternal life. It’s our only opportunity to seek and come to personal knowledge of God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e, John 14:15-17).

There is a Day of Judgment coming when every one who has ever lived will be accountable for what he has done in this life (John 5:28:29; Matthew 25:31-46). All have sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23) in Hell with all evil. God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish, but to have eternal life with him in Heaven (John 3:16-17). Jesus came and died for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to die eternally for them ourselves (Romans 5:8).

Forgiveness and salvation (from eternal death) are a free gift, to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, not by works (good deeds; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus is God’s only plan for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday Easter 2 – Odd
First Posted 04/06/05;
Podcast: Thursday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 2:31-49  –    Daniel interprets the Dream;
1 John 2:18-29    –    Loyalty to true faith;
Luke 3:1-14  –    Ministry of John the Baptist;

Daniel Paraphrase:

The Lord had revealed to Daniel the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation, in answer to Daniel’s prayer. The king had seen a great image, large, very bright and frightening. The head was of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly iron and partly clay. In the dream the king had seen a large stone quarried supernaturally. The stone struck the image on the feet of iron and clay, breaking them in pieces and causing the image to disintegrate and blow away like chaff in the wind. The stone became a great mountain which filled the earth.

Daniel interpreted the dream. The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. God had given Nebuchadnezzar the power, strength and glory to rule over the kingdoms and people of earth. After Nebuchadnezzar will come other kingdoms, inferior to Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, represented by the silver and bronze. Then there will be a fourth kingdom strong as iron, but divided, like the feet of the image which are partly of iron and partly of clay, partly strong and partly brittle. The divided kingdom will intermarry but will not mix or hold together. In that time, God will establish an eternal kingdom with sovereignty above the other kingdoms and peoples of earth, and shall bring the other kingdoms to an end.

When he had heard the interpretation of the dream, King Nebuchadnezzar knelt and gave homage to Daniel and gave an offering and burned incense to Daniel. He declared that Daniel’s God is God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries. The king gave great honors and gifts to Daniel. Daniel was made ruler over the province of Babylon, and head of all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel asked the king to make Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators of the province of Babylon, and Daniel remained in the king’s court.

1 John Paraphrase:

John’s message was written to exhort Christians to grow spiritually, and to refute false doctrines arising in the Church. The end of the age has come upon us. Antichrist (the forces opposed to God), which scripture predicted, have appeared, heralding the end of the age. False teachers have gone out from the true Church, because they were not of the true Church. If they were true believers they would have stayed in the true Church. But true Christians have been anointed by the Holy One, and we all know (everything; the truth; the whole truth). This message from John is to those who know the (Gospel) truth.

We can distinguish lies from truth and realize that lies have no part in truth. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is a liar and antichrist, who denies the Father (God) and the Son (Jesus). No one who denies that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, has the Father (God), but those who acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah know and have fellowship with God also. We must abide in the true scriptural, Apostolic Gospel (as taught by the Apostles and recorded in the Bible) to abide in the Son and in the Father, and to receive eternal life as he has promised.

John is writing to Christians to warn us of those who would try to deceive us; “But the anointing (the indwelling Holy Spirit) which you have received from him (the Lord) abides in you, and you have no need that any one (any human) should teach you; as his anointing (the Holy Spirit) teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him” (John 1:27).

We are urged to abide in the Lord, so that when Christ returns we will have confidence and a clear conscience so that we will have no reason to be ashamed at his coming. If we realize that the Lord is righteous, we will realize that those who are truly born of him will not do what is not right.

Luke Paraphrase:

In 26-27 A.D.* John, Zechariah’s son, received God’s Word in the wilderness “and began to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3) throughout the Jordan River region. He was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, of a voice crying in the wilderness telling people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

Crowds came out to John to be baptized, and he said “You brood of vipers (poisonous snakes)! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father;’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9).

When the Crowd asked what they should do John told them to share with others and help the poor; they should not take economic advantage of others, not cheat, not steal, and to refrain from violence and false accusations.

Commentary:

The great kingdoms of the earth will pass away, but God’s kingdom is eternal and sovereign over all earthly kingdoms. We all have “feet of clay;” we’re immortal souls in earthly bodies which will die and decay and return to dust. God is God above all gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords. God is the revealer of mysteries, who has revealed the mystery of his eternal purpose through his Word (the Bible), his prophets, and his Son (see also entry for yesterday, Wednesday, 2 Easter, odd year).

God is building an eternal kingdom of his people in Heaven. This life is a selection process for life in eternity. This life is our opportunity to seek and come to personal fellowship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through his Son, Jesus Christ, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is the rock on which God’s eternal kingdom is founded. Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Jesus is the foundation (rock) on which we must build our lives in order to live eternally (Matthew 7:24-27). We must choose for ourselves, by trusting and obeying Jesus, to live eternally in Heaven with the Lord or we will die eternally in Hell with all evil.

True Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who have been “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is a discernable, ongoing experience which one can know with certainty for oneself (Acts 19:2; 1 John 2:20). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him (Romans 8:9b).

Only Jesus anoints with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), and Jesus gives the Holy Spirit only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit teaches disciples the full, complete truth of Jesus Christ. There are lots of false doctrines and false teachers in the world today. We must hold on to the scriptural apostolic Gospel; we must trust and obey Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 7:21-24) in order to abide in Jesus and he in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and in order to know with certainty that we have eternal life.

John the Baptist is the herald of the coming of God’s kingdom through the coming of the Messiah (Christ), Jesus. Jesus is coming again to judge the earth (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46). All those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord, but those who have rejected Jesus or refused to trust and obey him will receive eternal death in Hell (see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

John’s call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins applies to us today. Are we ready for the return of Jesus? Are we bearing the fruit of repentance, or are we merely trying to avoid the coming judgment? Do we imagine that we are saved because we happen to have been born into or joined the Church? Are we bearing fruit for God’s kingdom or for eternal destruction? Are we believing and teaching the biblical apostolic Gospel, or are we believing and teaching false doctrine?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Luke 3.1n, p. 1244, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Friday Easter 2 – Odd
First Posted 04/07/05;
Podcast: Friday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 3:1-18   –   Nebuchadnezzar’s idol;
1 John 3:1-10  –   God’s children;
Luke 3:15-22   –  The baptism of Jesus;

Daniel Paraphrase:

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a large gold-plated idol about ninety feet tall set up on a plain in the province of Babylon. All of the officials of his kingdom were assembled for the dedication of the idol and were commanded that all the people of the kingdom were to fall down and worship the idol daily whenever they heard the sound of music. Anyone who did not worship the idol would be immediately thrown into a fiery furnace (kiln).

Shortly thereafter some Chaldeans (citizens of Babylon) maliciously accused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, (Jews who were in exile in Babylon who had been appointed to leadership in the province of Babylon; Daniel 2:49), of disobeying the decree to worship the idol.

Nebuchadnezzar was furious and ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego brought before him, and he asked them if it was true that they didn’t worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods or the idol which he had set up. Nebuchadnezzar told them if they weren’t willing to worship his gods and the idol they would be thrown into the fiery furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar asked them what god would be able to deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment. The three replied that they would not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods or the idol, and if he ordered their execution their God would deliver them from the furnace and from Nebuchadnezzar’s power.

1 John Paraphrase:

God loves us and wants us to be his children, which we are. The world does not recognize us as God’s children because the world does not know God. We are God’s children now; we don’t know what we will be when the Lord appears, except that we will be like him, and will see his true nature.

Those who hope in the Lord are being purified so that we will be pure like him. Every one who sins is guilty of lawlessness, because sin is disobedience of God’s laws. Jesus came to do away with sin, and he is sinless. So no one who abides in Jesus continues to abide in sin. Those who persist in sin have not seen or known Jesus.

Don’t be deceived; Jesus is righteous and those who desire to be righteous must follow his example. Those who continue deliberately in sin are children of Satan, because sin is Satan’s nature. Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of Satan.

No one who is truly born of God (“born-again” by his indwelling Holy Spirit; John 3:3, 5-8) continues to abide in sin because God’s nature abides in him and he cannot continue in sin because he is guided by God’s nature (compare 1 John 5:18). So we can tell who are children of God and who are children of Satan; those who do not live according to God’s Word or do not love their brother are not born of God.

Luke Paraphrase:

The people of Israel were living in expectation of the coming of the Messiah, so they wondered whether John the Baptizer might be the Christ (Messiah). John told them that John’s baptism was with water (for repentance; to prepare them for the coming Messiah), but the Christ who was coming would be much greater than John. The Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 19:2-6).

John described Christ’s role as a spiritual winnower harvesting “wheat” and separating grain from chaff. The grain will be gathered into his granary, but the chaff will be burned with unquenchable fire.

John preached “Good News,” the Gospel of forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God. But Herod had John arrested and imprisoned because John had rebuked Herod for marrying Herod’s brother’s wife and other evil things, and Herod added to them the imprisonment of John.

Jesus was baptized by John along with a crowd from the surrounding area, and after the baptism, the Holy Spirit in the bodily form of a dove descended upon Jesus and a voice from Heaven declared, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22; compare John 1:32-34).

Commentary:

No matter how big we make our idols, no matter how much importance or how much value we attach to them, they cannot save us or deliver us from the fiery furnace of Hell. Idolatry is allowing anyone or anything to become more important to us than the Lord. Only God, through our faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, can save us and deliver us from eternal destruction.

God’s Word declares that we have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Jesus’ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted and obeyed God’s Word instead of going along with the worldly society they lived among, and God delivered them from their enemy and from death.

In a sense we are all God’s children, because he is our Creator. But the true children of God are those who have been “born-again” by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus. The world doesn’t recognize the children of God, because they do not know God. They may claim to know and believe God, but if they did they would recognize that Jesus is God’s Son.

Jesus is the only way to come to God and know God (John 14:6). Similarly, there are those who claim to be Christian but who don’t know, trust and obey Jesus. There are those who claim to be “born-again” but who have not been filled with the Holy Spirit because they aren’t willing to be disciples of Jesus and trust and obey him. What we do reveals what we believe.

John’s ministry was to herald the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the people to receive the Messiah by calling them to repent and turn to the Lord and by baptizing them with water for the forgiveness of sins. Those who responded and were baptized were then ready to receive the physical coming of the Messiah, who was revealed to John when Jesus had been baptized by him.

Jesus’ ministry was to provide the forgiveness of our sins by his sacrificial death on the Cross, to reveal the reality of the Resurrection and life beyond the grave, and to baptize his disciples with the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

John’s ministry prepared people to receive Jesus, and only those who receive Jesus, who become his disciples and trust and obey Jesus, receive his indwelling Holy Spirit (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

This process is still going on today. Christians are calling people to repentance in preparation to receive Jesus and become his disciples through hearing and reading the Gospel, and then as disciples of Jesus, to be filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

This life is a selection process for life in his eternal kingdom. It is a spiritual harvest, and Jesus is the winnower who will separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” on the Day of Judgment (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

John preached “Good News:” God’s forgiveness of sins and restoration to personal fellowship and eternal life with him through obedient trust in Jesus Christ, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Some people responded by their repentance and return to obedience to God’s Word. Some people responded with hatred and refusal to obey God, adding that to their other sins (Luke 3:19-20; compare John 3:17-18). How have we responded?

Jesus is coming again. We are called to repent and to turn to God in obedience so that we can receive forgiveness and eternal life with God through Jesus Christ, through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday Easter 2 – Odd
First Posted 04/08/05
Podcast: Saturday Easter 2 – Odd

Daniel 3:19-30  –   The fiery furnace;
1 John 3:11-18   –   Love of the brethren;
Luke 4:1-13   –   Jesus’ temptation;

Daniel Paraphrase:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jews in exile in Babylon. Even though threatened with death in a fiery furnace (a kiln) they refused to worship the golden idol which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They had declared that their God would deliver them from the fire and from Nebuchadnezzar’s power. Nebuchadnezzar was furious at their refusal, and he ordered the furnace heated hotter than usual, and he had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bound fully clothed and thrown into the fire.

The furnace was so hot that the guards who threw the men into the fire were killed by the heat. The king watched them thrown into the fire, and saw them walking in the fire with a fourth person, who was described as a “son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar went near to the furnace and called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come forth out of the fire. All the leaders of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom were gathered and they witnessed that the three Jews came out of the fire unscathed. Their hair wasn’t singed, and their clothes didn’t even smell of fire. Then Nebuchadnezzar praised the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who had sent his angel to deliver them from the fire because they trusted in God and had refused to worship any other god.

Nebuchadnezzar decreed that anyone who spoke against God would be torn limb from limb and their houses destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that only God could have delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in this way.

1 John Paraphrase:

God’s command from the beginning has been for us to love one another, and not follow the example of Cain, who murdered his brother. Cain murdered his brother Abel, because Abel’s deeds were righteous and Cain’s were evil.

Christians should not be surprised that the world hates us. Those who love their brothers have passed from death to life. Those who hate their brothers are murderers and do not have eternal life abiding in them but remain spiritually dead.

Genuine love sacrifices one’s life for his brethren, as Christ gave his life for us. If someone has material things and sees his brother in need, but does not help his brother, he does not have God’s love abiding in him. Christians are to truly love others with love that manifests itself by our deeds, not merely claiming to love without the deeds of love, or by claiming to love but doing what is unloving.

Luke Paraphrase:

Jesus had received the Holy Spirit from God at his baptism by John the Baptizer in the Jordan River (Luke 3:21-22; Matthew 3:13-17). Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1), came from his baptism in the Jordan and was led by the Holy Spirit for forty days in the wilderness.

When the forty days were past, Jesus was hungry, and Satan tempted Jesus, saying that if Jesus were really God’s Son, Jesus could command the stones in the wilderness and change them into bread. Jesus answered him by quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Satan showed Jesus a vision of all the kingdoms of the world, and offered all their authority and glory if Jesus would worship Satan. Jesus again quoted scripture: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (Deuteronomy 6:13).

Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and Satan quoted scripture, telling Jesus that if he were really the Son of God he should prove it by throwing himself off the temple, because scripture promised that God’s angels would protect Jesus and catch him as he fell, to keep him from being injured. Jesus again quoted scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:16). Satan had no further temptations, and left Jesus until a more opportune time (to try again).

Commentary:

Christians are God’s people in exile in the “Babylon” of this world. The present ruler and “god” of this world is Satan, but he is not going to “reign” forever. Satan will try anything to get us to serve him and to destroy us.

One of his strategies is to convince us that he does not exist. If that doesn’t work he will reveal himself and try to convince us that he will make us rich and powerful, or fulfill any other worldly desire. The fiery furnace is Hell.

If we serve the “gods” of this world, Hell is where we will wind up. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only one who can deliver us from Satan’s power and eternal destruction in the fire of Hell. We must trust in Jesus and refuse to serve the “gods” of this world if we want to escape the fiery furnace and the power of Satan.

Jesus summarized all God’s commandments into two: Love God, and love one another (Matthew 22:37-40). Cain represents worldly people, the children of Satan, and Abel represents the children of God. Cain hated Abel because Abel’s deeds were righteous and Cain’s deeds were evil. We are all born sinful (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), like Cain. Abel chose to worship and serve God. Cain chose to follow his sinful nature. The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ is our example of God’s love abiding in him. Jesus loved us and gave his life for us, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God and live eternally with him (see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Through trust and obedience to Jesus we receive the gift of his Holy Spirit abiding in us (John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit we personally experience God’s love in us, and are guided and empowered to love one another. Through the Holy Spirit we are transformed from Cain into Abel.

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit by God at his baptism by John, and was guided by the Holy Spirit through the wilderness for forty days. Jesus’ wilderness experience, led by the Holy Spirit, recalls the forty years of Israel’s wilderness wandering, led by the Lord in the pillar of fire in the darkness (Exodus 13:21-22).

At the end of forty days, Satan tempted Jesus with the desires of the flesh (hunger), the desires of the eyes (worldly possessions) and human pride (to prove himself to be the Son of God; compare Genesis 3:6; 1 John 2:16 ). Jesus answered and resisted each temptation by quoting God’s Word from scripture. Satan also knows God’s Word, and he tried to use it by taking it out of context, but Jesus replied with scripture putting it in context.

The Lord wants us to trust and obey him, and he wants to give us the gift of his Holy Spirit to lead us through this wilderness and the spiritual darkness of this world. Jesus was tempted just as we are, but without sinning. We can resist and conquer the temptations of this world by knowing and applying God’s Word as Jesus did.

Satan can quote scripture; we need to know God’s Word as well as Satan does. If we have read God’s Word and have received the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit will help us understand the Bible, and will recall to our minds appropriate scriptures to enable us to resist temptation and to serve the Lord. If we resist the temptations of this world and trust and obey the Lord he will help us and deliver us from the trials of this life and the fiery furnace in eternity.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Easter – Odd – 04/05 – 11/2015

April 4, 2015

Week of Easter – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

I will post weekly by Saturday, noon, (God willing), Pacific time (UTC-8:00) for the week of the Church Season which begins on Sunday. Please scroll down for the desired day, or save the week to your desktop/hard drive.

Podcast Download: Week of Easter – Odd
Sunday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/26/05;
Podcast: Sunday Easter – Odd

Exodus 12:1-14  –  The Institution of Passover;
Isaiah 51:9-11   –   The Ransomed of the Lord;
Luke 2413-35    –   The Road to Emmaus;
John 20:19-23   –   Mission in Christ’s Name;

Exodus Paraphrase:

In Egypt, the Lord told Moses and Aaron to prepare to observe a feast of Passover. On the tenth day of Nisan (March-April) each family was to select a perfect lamb, without blemish, one year old, according to what they could eat. Small families were to share a lamb with their neighbors. They were to keep the lamb until the fourteenth day, when they were to kill the lamb. The Lamb’s blood was to be put on the doorpost and lintel of the houses where they eat the meal. The flesh of the lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.

None of the lamb could be boiled or eaten raw, and it had to be consumed that night; any leftover lamb was to be burned. They were to eat in haste, dressed and prepared for travel. The Lord was going to pass through the land and kill all the first-born of the people and animals of the land of Egypt, but he would pass over the houses of the Israelites marked with the blood of the lamb, sparing them from the plague of the death of the first-born.

Isaiah Paraphrase:

The prophet calls the Lord to awaken and come to deliver his people, as he has done in the past. The Lord had won the primeval combat with the chaos-monsters (Rahab; the dragon); he had dried up the sea so that the Israelites could pass over, redeemed from slavery in Egypt (and headed for the Promised Land). “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion (Jerusalem; the city of God; the eternal kingdom) with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).

Luke Paraphrase:

The day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of his disciples were going to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, discussing the events of the resurrection. Jesus himself approached and joined them, but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus asked them what they were discussing, and one of the disciples, Cleopas, expressed surprise that he seemed to be the only person from Jerusalem who had not heard the news.

Jesus asked him what he was referring to and he and the other disciple began to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth, a great prophet who they had hoped would redeem Israel, who had been condemned to death and crucified by the priests and leaders of the people. This was the third day since his crucifixion, and some of the women among his followers had gone to the tomb early in the morning and had found it empty, and had reported that they had seen angels who told them that Jesus was alive.

Some of the men had gone to the tomb to see for themselves and they had found it as the women had said. Then Jesus, saying they were foolish and slow to believe the scriptures, began to show them from the scriptures the prophecies regarding the Messiah.

Approaching the village, Jesus seemed to be continuing on, but the disciples invited him to stay with them, since evening was approaching. So Jesus came in and stayed with them, and at dinner he took bread and broke it and gave it to them, and their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures’” (Luke 24:32)?

That same hour they returned to Jerusalem to the Eleven (of Jesus’ original disciples, minus Judas, his betrayer) and the rest of Jesus’ followers, who told Cleopas and his companion that Jesus had appeared to Simon (Peter). Then the two told them what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how Jesus had made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread.

John Paraphrase:

On the evening of Jesus’ resurrection, his followers were gathered together, and the door was latched, because they were afraid of the Jewish priests and leaders. Jesus appeared among them and said “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side (where he had been wounded by his crucifixion). He repeated his blessing of peace, and told them that as God had sent Jesus, so also Jesus was sending them. Then Jesus breathed on them and commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them that they had the power to forgive or to withhold forgiveness of sins.

Commentary:

God’s plan of salvation (which see, sidebar, top right, home) existed before the creation of the world (John 1:1-5, 14). The Exodus experience of Israel is not only a historical record of God’s deliverance of Israel, but also a metaphor, a “visual aid” illustrating God’s plan of eternal salvation.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover feast God commanded Moses to institute in Egypt. Jesus is our “Moses” who leads us out of slavery to sin and death through the “Sea” of Baptism, through the wilderness of this world, through the “Jordan River” of death and into the eternal Promised Land of God’s kingdom in Heaven. Jesus is our “Passover Lamb” whose blood marks us to be “passed over” by the angel of (eternal) Death. Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples on the night of his betrayal and subsequent crucifixion, and fulfilled its meaning; it became the “Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist). The unleavened bread became his body, and the wine became his blood.

The Lord fulfilled his promise in the prophecy of Isaiah to deliver his people as he had delivered Israel. The Lord has won the primeval battle against evil; against the ancient dragon, Satan, at the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Lord has dried up the waters of slavery of sin and death, so that we can pass over, redeemed from slavery, ransomed from sin and death and come to Zion, the eternal city of God with singing and everlasting joy, where sorrow and sighing will be no more.

Christians are disciples on the way to Emmaus. We’ve heard the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus joins us on the road, but our spiritual eyes are kept from recognizing him. If we will allow him, he will open our minds to understand the scriptures. Those who are slow to believe or don’t believe the scriptures in the light of Jesus Christ are foolish. If we believe the scriptures, the Good News, we will invite Jesus to come into our hearts and he will come in and dine with us (Revelation 3:20).

Jesus promises that he will reveal himself to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:21). Jesus will make himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread; in Communion with him at the Lord’s Table; in the intimate fellowship with him through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus is present and will manifest himself wherever his disciples are gathered together in his name. Jesus reveals to his disciples the marks of his suffering which bring us forgiveness and peace with God, and then commands us to carry on his ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation according to his example. He commanded them to receive his Holy Spirit so that they could carry out that ministry.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/27/05;
Podcast: Monday Easter – Odd

Jonah 2:1-10   –   Jonah’s Prayer;
Acts 2:14, 22-32   –  Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost;
John 14:1-14   –  The Way, the Truth, the Life;

Jonah Summary:

Jonah had been swallowed by a large fish. In his distress, Jonah prayed to the Lord. His prayer is an expression of faith in the Lord, echoing the expressions of the psalmists which fit his circumstances (compare Psalms 18:6; 42:7; 69:2; 88:3-12; 120:1; 143:4). He called to the Lord, trusting that the Lord would hear him and answer him.

Jonah felt swallowed up by death, cast into the depths of the ocean, cast from the Lord’s presence and despairing of being able to return. He feared that he would be imprisoned by death, but trusted that the Lord would bring his life back from the grave. When his soul despaired, he called on the Lord, and the Lord heard his prayer.

Those who worship idols are giving to that which is worthless what we are rightfully obligated to give to our Creator. Jonah recognized that there is deliverance in none but the Lord, and Jonah will acknowledge that deliverance with thanksgiving. Then the Lord caused the fish to vomit Jonah up upon the land.

Acts Summary:

When the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit had been given to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, a great controversy arose among the people of Jerusalem and Judea, the remnant of Israel, who had gathered to see what the commotion was about (Acts 2:1-13), and Peter spoke to explain the significance of what had happened. Peter said that God had attested to Jesus as the Messiah through the miracles Jesus had done; that Jesus had been crucified by them at the hands of lawless people according to the definite foreknowledge and plan of God. But God had raised Jesus from the dead to eternal life having freed him from bondage to death.

Peter quoted Psalm 16:8-11, showing that Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of David’s prophetic psalm, which also applies to all who trust and obey Jesus. Those who focus on honoring the Lord will not be shaken; they will have joy and hope, confident that the Lord will not abandon them to death and Hell any more than God abandoned Jesus.

God makes his ways, which lead to eternal life, known through his Word, the Bible, and through his Son, Jesus Christ, the “Living Word” (John 1:14). He fills us with the gladness of his presence through his indwelling Holy Spirit. David did die, and his earthly body did decay, so it wasn’t David who fulfilled this prophecy, but Jesus Christ, the Son of David (his descendant; the Messiah; Matthew 1:1-17), and the eternal heir to David’s throne, as God had promised. God raised Jesus from the dead and all those who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), and those who have come to a personal fellowship with the risen Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit since the Day of Pentecost, including Paul (a.k.a. “Saul;” Acts Chapter 9), attest that Jesus has risen from death to eternal life.

John Summary:

Jesus told his disciples not to be grieved or afraid but to believe in God and in Jesus. Jesus told them that the reason he was leaving them physically was to prepare a place for them to be with Jesus eternally, where there is room for all who trust and obey Jesus. Jesus promised that he will return to bring all his disciples to himself. Jesus told his disciples that they knew the way to where Jesus was going, because they knew Jesus and his teaching. Jesus is the (only) way to the Father and to eternal life. Jesus is the (eternal) truth. Jesus is (eternal) life (John 14:6).

No one can know and come to reconciliation and fellowship with God except through obedient trust in Jesus Christ. Only those who have a personal fellowship with the risen Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit know God. No one can see God, except as revealed by Jesus. Philip asked Jesus to show him God the Father, and Jesus told him that Philip had seen the Father in Jesus. Jesus is God in human flesh (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28).

The words that Jesus speaks and the miracles Jesus does are done by God’s Spirit within Jesus, and Jesus is completely in God in word and deed. Jesus asked his disciples to trust and obey his word because of their faith and personal experience of Jesus, or else to believe Jesus because of the miracles Jesus does. Jesus declared that those who truly believe in Jesus will do the works that Jesus does, and greater works, because Jesus is going to return to God the Father. Whatever Jesus’ disciples ask in Jesus’ name (in faith, and the power and authority of Jesus), Jesus will do for them so that God may be glorified.

Commentary:

Jonah felt swallowed up by death. Jonah’s disobedience of God’s Word had led to his predicament (Jonah 1:1-3). He feared his imprisonment and separation by death from the presence of the Lord, but he called out to the Lord in his distress, trusting that the Lord would hear and answer him, and that the Lord would bring his life back from the grave.

Jonah acknowledged that only the Lord, our Creator, is worthy of our worship, that there is deliverance in no one and nothing else, and Jonah will acknowledge that deliverance with thanksgiving. I can personally testify that, in my own personal distress, I cried to the Lord and he heard me, answered, and delivered me!

We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1: 8-10).  Jesus is the fulfillment of Jonah’s hope for forgiveness and deliverance from eternal death and separation from God. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of an eternal king to inherit David’s throne. Jesus is the fulfillment of “the sign of Jonah;” Jesus was in the grave for three days as Jonah had been in the belly of the whale (Matthew 12: 39-41).

God attested to Jesus as the Messiah by the miracles Jesus did and ultimately by Jesus’ resurrection, which was attested to in the New Testament scriptures by many eyewitnesses, but also by all those “born-again” Christians who have come to a personal relationship with the risen Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit since the Day of Pentecost. Those who trust and obey Jesus can be assured by his indwelling Holy Spirit within them that we will also be raised from physical death to eternal life in God’s presence, just as Jesus has been.

Jesus has promised his disciples that he is preparing a place for us to be eternally with him in Heaven, and he has promised to return to take us there. Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness, salvation and restoration to eternal life in God’s presence (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way to know and have fellowship with God, and the only way to enter God’s eternal kingdom; Jesus is eternal truth, and eternal life (John 14:6). Jesus promised to give the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17).

One cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus or know God apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we experience the joy and gladness of his presence within us. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). The miracles Jesus did and the words he spoke, recorded in the New Testament scriptures attest that he is the Messiah (Christ) the Son of God.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/28/05
Podcast: Tuesday Easter – Odd

Isaiah 30:18-26  –   Hope for the afflicted;
Acts 2:36-41 (42-47)    –   Call to repentance;
John 14:15-31  –   Call to obedience;

Isaiah Summary:

The Lord is waiting to be gracious and to show mercy to us, but he is the God of Justice, and those who wait for him will be blessed. The people of Zion (the Church; the eternal city of God) will weep no more. When we cry to him he will hear and be gracious to us. “Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more” (Isaiah 30:20). We will hear his voice guiding us on our way in life. Then we will realize how worthless idols are, and will rid ourselves of them.

The Lord will bless and cause his people to prosper “on the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall” (Isaiah 30:25; the Day of Judgment). The light of the moon will be as bright as the sun, and the sun will be seven times as bright, when the Lord heals the wounds of his people which he inflicted.

Acts Summary:

Peter had preached the Gospel to the Judeans who had gathered to see what was causing excitement among the disciples at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He told them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, had been delivered to death at their hands by the will and foreknowledge of God. Peter concluded, saying “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ (Messiah), this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36; see Matthew 28:18).

When the people heard this, they were conscience-stricken, and asked the disciples what they could do to make amends. They were told to repent (confess their sins and change their ways) and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and their sins would be forgiven and they would receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The promise [of Salvation by grace through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus; Ephesians 2:8-9] is for them and for all who are far from God, who the Lord our God calls to him (Revelation 3:20).

Peter continued to exhort them, saying “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40 MKJV). Those who took Peter’s words to heart, who believed and acted upon them, were baptized, about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching (they were discipled; see Matthew 28:19-20), fellowship, breaking of bread (Communion; the “Lord’s Supper;” Eucharist; at that time celebrated in the context of a communal meal), and prayers.

Every soul had great awe and respect for the power and authority of God, and many miracles were done through the Apostles. The Jerusalem Christians regarded one another as family and shared everything with each another, as anyone had need. They had great fellowship with one another in worship and in daily life. They were characterized by joy, generosity and praise to God, and the number of believers was growing day by day.

John Summary:

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (advocate; comforter) to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him or knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). Jesus (speaking of his physical death) told his disciples that he would not leave them “desolate” (deserted; barren).

Although the world would no longer see Jesus, his disciples would “see” him; and because they would know by his indwelling Holy Spirit within them that Jesus lives (eternally) they would know that they have eternal life with him also. When the disciples had been filled with the promised Holy Spirit they would know that they are in Christ and Christ in them, as Jesus and God are one in each other. “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest (reveal) myself to him” (John 14:21).

Judas (perhaps Thaddeus; not Iscariot, the betrayer) asked how Jesus could manifest himself to his disciples and not to the world, so Jesus said that if someone loves Jesus he will keep (obey; apply) Jesus’ teachings, and God the Father will love him and Jesus and God, who are one in each other (John 14:20), will come to him and dwell within him (compare Revelation 3:20). Anyone who doesn’t live according to Jesus’ teachings doesn’t really love Jesus, and Jesus’ teachings are the Word and authority of God. (Jesus is the only way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God; Acts 4:12; John 14:6)

Commentary:

The Lord is waiting to be gracious and show mercy to us. That is the purpose of this lifetime; that is why he doesn’t instantly punish sinners. But he is the God of Justice, and there is a Day of Judgment coming, the day of the “great slaughter and the falling of towers” (the accomplishments of mankind to exalt themselves). We will either wait in faith and hope for our Lord and Savior and live eternally with him in Heaven, or we will die eternally in Hell with all evil, where the Lord isn’t (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Isaiah’s prophecy of the revealing of the Teacher was fulfilled in Jesus and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on his disciples beginning on the Day of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2). It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we come to a personal fellowship with the Lord and understanding of his teachings (Luke 24:45). It is the voice of the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit who reveals God’s will for us personally and individually, and guides our spiritual growth to maturity. When we have experienced the Lord’s love and power through his indwelling Holy Spirit we will realize how worthless the things and idols of this present world really are.

Are our Churches so filled with the authentic Holy Spirit that people are coming to see what the excitement is all about? The message is still the same; We are all guilty of Jesus’ death, because we are all sinners (we have all disobeyed God’s Word) and we have all fallen short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is (eternal) death (Romans 6:23; See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

We have all individually made Christ’s death necessary so that we might be forgiven and restored to eternal life and fellowship with God. The remedy is still the same: we must repent and turn to obedient trust in Jesus Christ. We must confess our sin and change our ways by beginning to live according to Jesus’ teachings. As we begin to obey Jesus, we will receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Jerusalem Church is our example. The Judeans heard Peter’s sermon and took it seriously, they believed and began to apply it personally by repenting and being baptized. They began to worship regularly, and they were discipled by disciples who had been discipled by Jesus, and who had been filled with his Holy Spirit.

As they began to live according to Jesus’ teachings they were filled with his Holy Spirit. There was a noticeable change in their lives, not just a superficial outward “façade” but complete, authentic, spiritual change. The Church was growing daily, not because it was “seeker friendly,” not by some “Church Growth” strategy to make worship more “entertaining,” but because the authentic power of the Holy Spirit was obvious among and within them.

Jesus promised that his disciples who obey his teachings will be filled with the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). No one can come to Jesus unless they’re willing to hear the truth. It wasn’t “fun” for the Judeans to hear that they were personally guilty of killing their long-awaited Savior and Messiah. It wasn’t pleasant to hear that they were sinners. But the ones who were willing to hear the truth, confess their sin and repent by changing the way they lived received forgiveness and eternal salvation.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (see John 14:19-20; compare 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). When we are baptized we receive “power” to become children of God, reborn by the will of God (John 1:12-13 RSV), but that power is applied and the fulfillment actualized as we are discipled and walk in obedient trust in Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (the Church is our equivalent) until they have received the Holy Spirit, before going out into the world in ministry. Neither Baptism nor Church membership automatically confers the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:15-17). The anointing of the Holy Spirit is a discernable and ongoing event (Acts 19:2). If we believe Jesus’ promises and act in obedient trust in those promises we will receive what Jesus has promised.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/29/05;
Podcast: Wednesday Easter – Odd

Micah 7:7-15   –  Restoration of Israel;
Acts 3:1-10,    –   Healing in Jesus’ Name;
John 15:1-11   –   Jesus, the True Vine;

Micah Paraphrase:

The servant of the Lord will look to the Lord for restoration and vindication. He will wait for God’s promised salvation, and the Lord will hear him. The enemies of Israel (of God’s people; the Church) are warned not to rejoice at her tribulation. When Israel falls, she will rise again, by the help of the Lord, her helper in times of (spiritual) darkness. Israel will bear the discipline of the Lord, but he will also be her advocate who will vindicate her. The Lord will bring her into the light (of God’s righteousness); he will deliver her from evil.

The enemy will see the restoration and vindication of God’s people and will be ashamed for ridiculing her God. Then it will be Israel’s turn to rejoice at the downfall of her enemies. In that Day the walls of Jerusalem (the Church; the eternal city of God) and her boundaries will be greatly extended. In that Day the people will come to Jerusalem from the farthest corners of the earth, but the earth will be desolate because of the wickedness of the worldly inhabitants.

The Lord will shepherd his people and provide for their nurture comparable to the lush pastures, forests and beautiful plains of Bashan and Gilead. The Lord will protect and give them victory over those who oppose them as he gave Israel victory over Og, king of Bashan, when the Lord first brought them to the Promised Land from the barren wilderness. The Lord will show them marvelous things (like the plagues brought upon Egypt, and Israel’s deliverance through the Sea while their pursuers perished) as he did at the time of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John went to the temple at three P.M. for a daily prayer service. A man who had been born lame was being carried to the “Beautiful Gate” (probably the east side, separating the court of the Gentiles and the court of the women), where he regularly begged money from the people entering the temple. The lame man called out to Peter and John, and they turned and looked at the man. The man thought they would give him a donation.

Peter told him that they didn’t have money, but would give him what they did have, and Peter commanded him in Jesus’ name to walk. Peter took his hand and helped him stand, and the man’s disability was healed instantly. The man entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. The people saw him walking and praising God; they recognized that this was the man who had begged at the gate and they were amazed at his healing.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus declared that he is the true vine (the true faith; the true Israel). God the Father is the vinedresser, who prunes away the unfruitful branches and prunes the fruitful branches so that they will bear more fruit. Believers have been cleansed (forgiven) by believing Jesus’ words. But we must stay connected to Jesus so that we will bear fruit. We cannot be fruitful apart from Jesus. Those who do not abide in Jesus (stay connected daily, obeying his indwelling Holy Spirit), will be cut off, discarded and burned in the fire (of Hell).

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).  Fruitful disciples demonstrate that they are Jesus’ disciples and glorify God by their fruitfulness (not necessarily success as the world defines it). Jesus has loved us just like God the Father has loved Jesus, but we must remain in his love by obeying Jesus’ commands just as Jesus’ has obeyed God’s commands and remains in God’s love. Jesus has told his followers this so that they might have the joy of Jesus within them (through his Holy Spirit) and their joy might be complete (in him).

Commentary:

Those who trust and obey the Lord will be restored and vindicated. Those who wait for the Lord’s salvation will be delivered from all evil. The world will ridicule and persecute the Lord’s people now, in this world, but there is a Day of Judgment coming when the enemy of the Lord and his people will be condemned and punished eternally. People from all corners of the world will enter into the eternal Jerusalem in Heaven (through obedient trust in Jesus), but the earth will be desolate because those who refused to trust and obey Jesus will have been condemned to eternal death in Hell with all evil (Mathew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

Peter and John are examples of disciples who produced “fruit” for the kingdom of God through trust and obedience to Jesus Christ. Peter and John had spent time with the Lord daily, had been discipled by the Lord, and had been filled with the indwelling Holy Spirit. Real healing and salvation come only through Jesus Christ, not through wealth and material things of this world.

Our real needs of healing and salvation are spiritual rather than physical. The man was healed as he trusted and obeyed through faith in Jesus. As the man trusted and obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his faith became apparent to those who had known him; he showed himself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and he bore fruit for the kingdom of God through his praise.

Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ who trust and obey his teachings, are filled with, led and empowered by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, and who abide in his word and presence daily. Apart from that personal relationship with Jesus through his Holy Spirit, we cannot bear fruit for his eternal kingdom. The discipleship of authentic “born-again” Christian disciples will be apparent to those around them, and they will glorify the Lord in their words and deeds.

It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we personally experience God’s love and the joy of his touch and his presence. We cannot have real, lasting joy apart from personal fellowship with Jesus. If we want our prayers to be heard and answered, we must abide in Jesus (John 15:7; see Conditions for Answered Prayer, sidebar, top right, home).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/30/05;
Podcast: Thursday Easter – Odd

Ezekiel 37:1-14   –   Dry Bones;
Acts 3:11-26   –   Peter’s Second Sermon
John 15:12-27   –  The Love Commandment;

Ezekiel Paraphrase:

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet to the Israelites in exile in Babylon. He was transported by the Holy Spirit to a plain covered with many very dry bones. The Lord asked Ezekiel whether these bones could live again, and Ezekiel replied that the Lord (alone) would know that.

The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones that the Lord declared that he would cause breath (the same word means also “spirit” or “wind”) to enter them, he would cause sinews, flesh and skin to come upon them and cover them. The Lord would put breath (spirit) within them and they will live, and they will know that God is Lord. Ezekiel prophesied to the bones as the Lord had commanded, saying “thus says the Lord God,” and as he prophesied, the bones began to come together with a sound of rattling.

Ezekiel watched as sinews, flesh and skin came upon the bones, but there was no breath in them. Then the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath (spirit; wind) in the name of the Lord God, commanding the breath to come from the four winds and breathe upon the dead bodies, so that they might live. The bodies came to life and stood upon their feet, a very great multitude.

The Lord told Ezekiel that this multitude was the entire nation of Israel. In exile in Babylon, Israel felt that their bones were dried up, their hope had been lost, and they had been severed (from their Lord and their homeland). The Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to them that the Lord had declared that he will open their graves and raise them from their graves and bring them home to the Promised Land. When the Lord raises them from their graves they will know that the Lord had declared it and had fulfilled his Word.

Acts Paraphrase:

On their way to the temple, Peter and John had healed a lame man, and the miracle had attracted a crowd (Acts 3:1-10; see entry for yesterday, Wednesday, Easter Week, odd year). Peter spoke to the crowd explaining the significance of what had happened. Peter told them not to think that Peter or John had healed the man themselves by their own power or piety (devoutness to God).

The God of Israel and of the patriarchs of Israel glorified his servant (or “child”), Jesus. They had delivered Jesus into the hands of Pilate to be crucified, and then had rejected Pilate’s offer to pardon and release Jesus, “the Holy and Righteous One,” (Acts 3:14) asking Pilate to pardon and release a murderer instead (Barabbas; Luke 23:13-25). They killed the “Author (“pioneer;” “founder”) of life,” but God raised him from the dead. Peter and John attested to Jesus’ resurrection. It was by faith in the name (person, character and authority) of Jesus that the lame man had been restored to perfect health.

Peter acknowledged that the Jews and their leaders had acted in ignorance, but they had fulfilled what God had foretold by his prophets and scripture of the suffering of Christ. Peter urged them to repent so that their sins could be forgiven and that they could be renewed and restored by the presence of the Lord, and that Christ Jesus will return for them at God’s appointed time for the fulfillment of his eternal purpose.

Moses had prophesied that God would raise up a prophet (the Messiah)  like Moses, and commanded God’s people to listen to and obey all that the Messiah tells them (Deuteronomy 18:15). Moses warned that every soul that does not listen to (pay attention to, and obey) the Messiah will be destroyed from the people (Deuteronomy 18:19).

As the scripture records, all of the other prophets who God raised up also prophesied the coming of the Messiah, and the people Peter was addressing were the sons of those prophets and the heirs of the Covenant and promises of God given to their forefathers. God had promised that through Israel all the families of the earth would be blessed, and God sent the Messiah first to Israel to bless them in turning them from their wickedness.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another as Jesus had loved them. Being willing to give up one’s life for one’s friends is the greatest act of love. If we are Jesus’ friends we will do what Jesus commands (compare John 14:15, 21, 23). Jesus does not regard us as his slaves, but as his friends. A slave is not privy to his master’s plans and intentions, but Jesus’ followers are his friends, with whom he shares all that he has heard from God the Father. Jesus isn’t our servant; Jesus has chosen and appointed us to work for him, following his commands so that we can accomplish results which are eternal, so whatever we ask in Jesus’ name God will give us. Jesus’ commandment is that we should love one another.

Commentary:

The original context of Ezekiel’s prophecy was Israel’s Babylonian exile. Israel felt dead and in a tomb, cut off from their hope, their Promised Land and the presence of God. God promised that he would bring them back to Israel, and his Word was fulfilled in 517 B.C., when the exiles were allowed to return after seventy years and the temple was rebuilt.

God’s Word is eternal, and this prophecy is also a metaphor for God’s eternal purpose for us. God promises to bring us back from exile in the “Babylon” of this life, and into his presence in the “Promised Land” of heaven, through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ.

We are all spiritually dead because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23) and the penalty for sin (disobedience of God’s Word) is eternal death (Romans 6:23; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, God fills us with the gift of his Holy Spirit, giving eternal life to our spiritually dead bodies. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

Jesus only gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). There is a Day of Judgment coming when Jesus will return to judge the (physically and spiritually) living and dead; all those who are in the grave will come forth at his command (John 5:28-29). Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in the Lord’s presence in the “Promised Land” of his eternal kingdom in heaven. Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to trust and obey him will be sent to eternal exile, eternal death, in the eternal “Babylon” of Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

In one sense we are all guilty of crucifying Jesus, because we are all sinners, making his death necessary for our forgiveness and salvation. God has planned for our salvation through Jesus Christ from before Creation (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness, salvation and fellowship with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).

Jesus died and was raised to eternal life from death, so that by obedient trust in him we could be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God and to spiritual, eternal life through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by over five people hundred (1 Corinthians 15:3-9), and is attested to by every authentic “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciple since then.

Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates that there is life beyond the grave, not “nothingness” and not reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus has promised to return to judge the world and to take his disciples to live with him eternally in his heavenly kingdom. We are urged to repent (confess our sinfulness and change our ways) so that our sins can be forgiven, so that we can be renewed and restored by the presence of the Lord within us through his Holy Spirit, and so that we will be ready, whether we are living or physically dead, to be with him eternally when he returns to fulfill his eternal purpose.

Jesus gave up his physical life on the Cross so that we could live eternally with him. Jesus lived the example he proclaimed. Those who are Jesus’ disciples (who choose to be Jesus’ friends) will do what Jesus says, and those who do what he says will receive what Jesus’ promises. Jesus is not our servant but God’s, and we are to serve Jesus, not as slaves but as friends. Jesus has chosen us to be his friends; we must choose whether to be Jesus’ friend and do what he says, being willing to surrender our lives and our plans to accomplish his purpose. Only by trusting and obeying Jesus can we accomplish what is truly fulfilling and eternally worthwhile.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday Easter – Odd
First posted 03/31/05;
Podcast: Friday Easter – Odd

Daniel 12:1-4, 13   –  The End of the Age;
Acts 4:1-12    –   Peter and John Arrested;
John 16:1-15   –  Jesus Warns of Persecutions;

Daniel Paraphrase:

An angel revealed to Daniel a vision of the last days (before the end of time and the coming of the Day of Judgment. Michael is the patron angel of the Jews). Daniel was told that there would arise a time of great tribulation, but that the Jews whose names are recorded in the (Lamb’s; i.e. Jesus’) book (of life; Revelation 21:27) will be saved. Graves will be opened and the dead will rise, some to eternal life and some to shame and eternal contempt (compare John 5:28-29). Those who are wise and those who turn others to righteousness will receive eternal glory. Knowledge of the end times is to be sealed until that time. “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4). “But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13).

Acts Paraphrase:

Peter and John had healed a lame man at the temple, and Peter had proclaimed the Gospel to the crowd that had gathered (Acts 3:1-26; see entry for yesterday, Thursday, Easter Week, odd year). The religious authorities, including Sadducees, who reject belief in the resurrection of the dead, discovered Peter preaching Jesus’ resurrection to the crowd and had Peter and John arrested and jailed until the next day, since it was already evening.

The next day, they brought Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (the official Jewish court) presided by Annas, the high priest (from 6-14 A.D. Caiaphas was Annas’ son-in-law, and John -of Acts 4:6; not the apostle- might be Jonathan, a relative of Annas, who succeeded Caiaphas*). The disciples were asked what power or name they had used to heal the lame man. Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8; compare Luke 21:12-15), declared that the man had been healed by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom the Jewish authorities had crucified, but who had been raised from the dead by God.

Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy of the stone rejected by the builders (Jewish leaders), which God made the cornerstone (of his Church; Psalm 118:22). “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus warned his disciples that they would experience persecution, but by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit they would endure and prevail. Jesus told them they would be expelled from synagogues, and even be killed by those who think they’re serving God but who have not known either God the Father or Jesus. Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples for what would come after Jesus’ crucifixion, when he would no longer be with them physically.

The disciples were sad to think that Jesus was leaving them, physically, but Jesus assured them that his death and resurrection was for their benefit, because it would make it possible for them to receive the gift of his Holy Spirit, the Counselor; the Comforter. The Holy Spirit will convince the world that unbelief in Jesus is sin (John 16:9), of God’s righteousness revealed by Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 16:10), and of God’s judgment because evil has been defeated at the Cross (John 16:11).

Jesus told his disciples that when they had received the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit) he would guide his disciples into all the truth. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and the Holy Spirit is truth. The Holy Spirit will speak God’s Word by God’s authority, just as Jesus had, during Jesus’ earthly ministry (compare John 14:10). The Holy Spirit will reveal to disciples what is going to take place, because he knows the will and works of God. The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus because he will reveal Jesus and Jesus’ teachings to us, just as Jesus revealed God and the Word and works of God during his earthly ministry.

Commentary:

There is a Day of Judgment coming, when Jesus will return to judge the (spiritually and physically) living and the dead. The Day of Judgment will be preceded by a period called the Great Tribulation. Many believe that “born-again” (John 3:3; 5-8; “Spirit-filled”) Christians will not go through the Great Tribulation because they will have been caught up to be with Jesus in what is called the Rapture; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). Jews (and nominal Christians) may be saved during the Great Tribulation through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

Those who are wise are those who have been enlightened by God’s truth and God’s wisdom, not what the world calls wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Those who have been Jesus’ disciples, who have been filled with his Holy Spirit and have carried on his ministry of salvation, will receive eternal glory. Those who have rejected God’s truth, Jesus Christ, and have refused to obey Jesus will receive eternal condemnation and destruction in Hell (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

People are hurrying about, pursuing worldly things, and pursuing worldly knowledge. At the Second Coming people will be rushing here and there seeking Jesus (Matthew 24:23-28). Born-again Christians should not get caught up in all that; we have no need to worry about the Last Days. Christians are to just keep going on with the ministry of the Gospel in the fellowship of Lord through his Holy Spirit and trust in him.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the only way to know and have personal fellowship with God (John 14:6). Religion won’t save us; there are lots of religions, but there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. Church membership won’t save us. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit will save us.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). It is possible for one to know with certainty whether one has received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

Peter is an example of the enabling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Peter had denied his Lord three times, once to a maid and once to a slave (menial servant) on the night of Jesus’ betrayal (John 18:17; 26). Now, after receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2), he was boldly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to large crowds, and testifying to it, in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (Luke 21:12-15), before the religious and political leaders of Israel, in the Jewish court which had condemned and crucified Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples to await the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into God’s truth, empower them to withstand persecution and enable them to testify to the Gospel (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8). The disciples trusted Jesus’ word and did as Jesus commanded, and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2) as Jesus promised.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Acts, 4:5-6n, p. 1321, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


 

Saturday Easter – Odd
First posted 04/01/05;
Podcast: Saturday Easter – Odd

Isaiah 25:1-9   –  Psalm of Thanksgiving;
Acts 4:13-21 (22-31)  –   Boldness in Declaring the Gospel;
John 16:16-33  –   Jesus Comforts his Disciples;

Isaiah Summary:

The prophet declares that the Lord is his God and the prophet will exalt and praise God for the wonderful things he has done and will do in fulfillment of age-old plans. Mankind’s attempts to provide his own security come to nothing. Therefore mighty people will glorify the Lord and ruthless nations will fear him. The Lord is the stronghold of the poor and the needy in their distress. The Lord is a shelter from the storm, a shade from the heat, and deliverance from the ruthless.

On Zion (the mountain of the Lord; the holy city; the Church) the Lord will prepare a sumptuous feast of rich food and aged vintage wine. “And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7). “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8). “It will be said on that day, ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9).

Acts Summary:

Peter, who had denied the Lord three times on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, had now boldly preached to the people in the temple after healing a lame man. He and John had been arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin and Peter had boldly proclaimed the Gospel to them (see entry for yesterday, Friday, Easter Week, odd year). The priests and elders of the Sanhedrin, realized that Peter and John were uneducated common men; they were amazed at their boldness, “and… recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). But since the healed man was present beside them they couldn’t refute Peter’s testimony.

They sent the disciples out, so that they could discuss the matter privately among themselves, and they decided to order the disciples to speak no more to anyone in Jesus’ name. But Peter and John, when told of the decision, replied that the Sanhedrin must decide for itself whether it was right for the disciples to obey them rather than God, but the disciples declared that they could do nothing other than speak of what they had seen and heard. The Sanhedrin made further threats against them and then released them, finding no way to punish them, because all the people of Jerusalem praised God for the miracle done by the disciples. The man who had been healed had been lame for forty years.

When Peter and John were released they went to their friends (the Church) and told what had happened, and the Church acknowledged that opposition to the Gospel was foretold in scripture. God’s plan anticipated the opposition and was fulfilled by it. The Church prayed for boldness in declaring the Gospel. When they had prayed, the place they were in was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed God’s Word with boldness.

John Summary:

Jesus told his disciples that he would be separated from his disciples for a short time. He told them that he was going to God the Father, and then they would see him again. The disciples discussed among themselves what Jesus had meant. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and asked them if they were wondering what he had meant.

Jesus said that the time was coming when the disciples would weep and mourn, but the world would rejoice. Jesus told them their sorrow would turn to joy, as when a woman in labor gives birth, her joy at the birth overcomes the anguish of labor. Jesus declared that when they see Jesus again the disciples’ sorrow will be replaced by immutable, unquenchable joy. Jesus told his disciples that if they asked God the Father for anything in Jesus’ name (according to Jesus’ nature and teaching) God would give it to them, so that their joy might be complete.

Jesus told his disciples that he had been speaking in figures, but the time was coming when Jesus would make his teachings clear. Jesus had come into the world from God, and was leaving the world to return to God. His disciples thought they now understood what Jesus was saying and they were now convinced that Jesus knew everything and had truly come from God.

Jesus told them that what they felt so certain about at that moment would be soon become doubtful. The disciples would be scattered and fearful, abandoning Jesus. But Jesus would not be abandoned by God the Father. Jesus was telling his disciples these things so that they would have peace in the midst of worldly tribulation. Jesus told them not to worry, because Jesus has overcome (the ways and rulers of) the world.

Commentary:

Those who make the Lord their God will rejoice in the wonderful things he has done and will do. God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ existed before the creation of the world (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Mankind’s attempts to protect and save themselves will fail. The most powerful and ruthless of mankind cannot prevail against the Lord and his people. Through his Church, through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ, God removes the veil which lies over the minds of mankind keeping them from understanding God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:12-16; Exodus 34:29-35).

The veil separating mankind from God is symbolized by the veil of the temple separating the Holy of Holies from the people. That veil was torn in two, from top to bottom at Jesus’ crucifixion, symbolizing direct access to God through Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51).

The Lord has prepared a sumptuous feast for his disciples in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, in Heaven, when Jesus will be united with his Church for eternity (Matthew 26:26-29).  We have a foretaste of that feast now in Communion with him in the “Lord’s Supper” (Holy Communion, the Eucharist). Those who wait for the Lord will rejoice in their salvation.

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish court made up of seventy priests, scribes (lawyers) and elders, presided by the chief priest, had violated Jewish Law in condemning Jesus. Now they ordered Peter and John to disobey God and obey the Sanhedrin’s command not to preach in Jesus’ name. Peter told the Sanhedrin that they must decide for themselves whether to obey God or men, but the disciples had chosen to obey the Lord and were compelled to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which they had seen and experienced. Peter, who had denied his Lord on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, was now boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the highest Jewish court and legislative body which had condemned Jesus to be crucified.

Peter’s boldness was his visible transformation by the empowering of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. When the Jerusalem Church prayed for boldness in declaring the Gospel in the face of persecution, the Lord heard and answered their prayer immediately. The congregation was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began proclaiming the Gospel boldly. Praying for boldness in carrying on the ministry of the Gospel in the name of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is the kind of prayer which is according to Jesus’ nature and teaching, which the Lord will answer, if we pray in faith (obedient trust) in Jesus.

Jesus comforted his disciples in preparation for his crucifixion. He promised them that although separated by Jesus’ physical death, he would be raised to eternal life and would be restored to fellowship with them, first, before his ascension, to assure them of the resurrection, but then also within them, in a new way, by the gift of his Holy Spirit. Through his Holy Spirit, Christ is with each individual disciple, no longer separated by physical time and distance.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the risen Jesus (Romans 8:9b), who removes the “veil” and opens the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). It is through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that his disciples experience the true joy of Jesus’ resurrection and eternal life. That joy is immutable, unquenchable, and eternal. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit which gives us peace in the midst of worldly tribulation and assures us that Jesus has overcome the world, that we are in Jesus and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The Lord has swallowed up death through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus comforts his people through his indwelling Holy Spirit, the “Comforter” (John 16:7 KJV). Can anyone tell if you have been with Jesus?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – O4/04/2015

March 29, 2015

Week of Holy Week – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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Podcast Download: Holy Week – Odd
Palm Sunday – Odd
First posted 03/19/05;
Podcast: Palm Sunday – Odd

Zechariah 9:9-12    –    Prince of Peace;
Zechariah12:9-11; 13:1, 7-9   –   God’s Shepherd;
1 Timothy 6:12-16    –   Fight the Good Fight;
Matthew 21:12-17  –   Cleansing the Temple;

Zechariah 9 Paraphrase:

Rejoice, children of Zion (the city of God; the Church), “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9b; compare John 12:14-15). The chariot (of war), the war horse and the battle bow will be eliminated from God’s people and he will command peace to the nations. He will reign from sea to sea, and from the River (the cradle of civilization; Euphrates) to the ends of the earth. By the blood (of Jesus; Mark 14:24) of God’s (new) covenant with us God will set free the captives (of sin and death) from the “waterless pit” (Hell). “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare to you that I will restore to you double” (Zechariah 9:12).

Zechariah 12 Paraphrase:

On the coming Day of the Lord, the Lord will destroy all who come against Jerusalem (the city of God; the Church). The house of David (from whom the Messiah came) and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will mourn, as for an only child, for the Messiah that they have martyred. Jerusalem will mourn for the Messiah as greatly as the pagans mourn the (annual) death of the fertility god on the plains of Megiddo (the battlefield of Israel; scene of the Battle of Armageddon).

Zechariah 13 Paraphrase:

On the Day of the Lord a fountain will be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. On that Day the Shepherd will be stricken, and the sheep scattered. Two thirds of the inhabitants of the land will be destroyed, but one third will remain. This remnant will be refined by fire like gold and silver. They will call upon God and he will answer; God will call them his people and they will acknowledge that the Lord is their God.

Timothy Paraphrase:

“Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession” (of faith in Jesus Christ; 1 Timothy 6:12). Paul exhorts Christians to keep the commandment (Jesus’ teachings) unblemished and unreproached until the Lord’s return, remembering that Jesus made the good confession before Pontius Pilate, and that God sees everything.

Christ’s return will be revealed at the right time by God, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no [mortal] has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Matthew Paraphrase:

After entering Jerusalem on a young donkey over a carpet of palm branches, to shouts of Hosanna (meaning, “O, save!”), Jesus entered the temple and drove out all the merchants who bought and sold, and he overturned the moneychangers’ tables. Jesus told them that the Lord’s house was a house of prayer but they had made it a den of robbers.

Jesus healed the blind and lame who came to him, but when the religious authorities saw the miracles he did and the children praising him, saying ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15) they were indignant, and rebuked Jesus for allowing them to say such things. But Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 suggesting that perfect praise comes from the young and innocent.

Commentary:

Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled, and continues to be fulfilled; Jesus, the King of Peace and King of kings, entered Jerusalem, humbly riding on a young donkey. Jesus will cause warfare to cease and will command peace to the nations. He will reign over all the earth.

He has already begun to reign in the hearts of his followers. By the Blood of Jesus, his disciples who trust and obey him have been set free from sin, death and eternity in Hell. His disciples are prisoners of hope in Jesus; he is our stronghold. The Lord will abundantly reward us.

The Lord is going to return in triumph and victory, to destroy the enemies of The Lord and his people. In one sense, each one of us is guilty of crucifying Jesus because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10) and made his sacrificial death necessary for our forgiveness and salvation.

Jesus Christ is the cleansing fountain (see John 7:38-39; Revelation 21:6). We will either mourn now for our sins in repentance and be forgiven and saved or we will mourn on the Day of Judgment, when it will be too late to be saved from eternal condemnation.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was slain for his sheep (John 10:11). Jesus is the Son of David (Matthew 1:1-16; 21:9, 15; Luke 2:4-7). God’s people are those who acknowledge by deed as well as word that Jesus is their Lord.

The good fight of faith is to make the good confession, that Jesus is our Lord, and to keep his commandment (teachings) unblemished and unreproached until the Lord’s return. We are to be Jesus’ disciples, trusting and obeying him until his return. We are to live with Jesus as our King, reigning in our hearts and in our lives.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem he was greeted enthusiastically at first, but when he came into the temple, he criticized worldly practices which had corrupted worship. He started making changes, and offended the church leaders and those who had been profiting from their religious affiliations. He attracted and ministered to the poor and marginalized of society. He encouraged “emotionalism” and displays of praise and worship that the leaders and “mature” members found “unseemly.” By the end of the week many were ready to kill him.

Jesus has promised to return to judge the world on the Day of the Lord. Those who have trusted and obeyed Jesus will receive eternal life in Heaven with the Lord; those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal condemnation to death and destruction in Hell with all the wicked (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will return in the same way that his disciples saw him ascend into Heaven after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:30-31). When Jesus returns, will you be shouting Hosanna, or will you be trying to hide?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/20/05;
Podcast: Monday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 11:18-20; 12:1-16 (17)  –    Jeremiah’s lament;
Philippians 3:1-14   –    A warning;
John 12:9-19   –   Palm Sunday;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord revealed to his servant (Jeremiah; but also the Christ) a plot to destroy him. The servant was like a gentle lamb led to slaughter. The enemy hoped to destroy the fruit tree with its fruit, and destroy the memory of his name. But the Lord who judges righteously will avenge his servant, because the servant has entrusted his cause to the Lord.

Why do the wicked flourish? They prosper and bring forth fruit. God is on their lips, but not in their hearts. The servant entrusts himself to the Lord, who judges fairly and who knows our innermost thoughts. There will be a Day of Judgment when the Lord will destroy the wicked. Until then Nature is in mourning for the wickedness of those who dwell in wickedness.

People think that they can escape God’s notice and judgment. But the Lord warns that if they have striven with mankind and become tired, how can they hope to succeed against the Lord? The Lord mourns the necessity of removing his protection from his “beloved,” but his beloved has raised up her voice against the Lord, and become like a wild beast, pursuing her own appetite. So the Lord is assembling wild beasts against her to devour her.

Many unfaithful shepherds have destroyed the Lord’s vineyard and have made the Lord’s garden into a wilderness. Although the desolation of the land by the wicked can plainly be seen, no one is alarmed and makes serious effort to change.

The Lord’s punishment will destroy all the wicked from one end of the land to the other. “No flesh has peace” (Jeremiah 12:12c). They have reaped evil from what was good; they have worn themselves out pursuing what is worthless. “They will be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the Lord” (Jeremiah 12:13c).

The Lord is going to send his people into exile (as corrective discipline) and he will also chastise the neighbors and enemies of his people. The Lord will bring his chastened people back to their heritage in the Promised Land, and he will also restore Israel’s neighbors and enemies (the Gentiles), provided that they learn the ways of God’s people and trust and obey the Lord. But those who won’t learn to trust and obey the Lord will be destroyed in his Day of Judgment.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urged the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. He warned them to be on guard for false teachers demanding circumcision of (and keeping the Jewish law by) Gentile Christians. Real circumcision is spiritual circumcision which is reliance on the grace (free gift) of God in Jesus Christ rather than reliance on the flesh (our ability to keep the law).

Paul points out that if anyone could rely on his ability to fulfill the requirements of the law in his flesh, Paul could. Paul had been circumcised as a newborn according to Jewish law, he was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a member of the Pharisees (the most legalistic sect of Judaism), so zealous for Judaism that he had persecuted Christians, and who was blameless of any transgression of the Law. But he gladly gave up whatever advantage he may have had under the law, for the sake of Christ.

The reward of a personal relationship with Christ made everything else worthless by comparison. Paul gladly surrendered everything else for the reward of being in fellowship with Christ, and being accounted righteous, not on any merit of his own through keeping the law, but by faith in Christ, the righteousness which only comes from God through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul valued above all else his personal experience of fellowship with the Lord, and the power of Christ’s resurrection. Paul was willing to share Christ’s suffering and even his death in order to attain eternal life. Paul did not consider that he had attained spiritual perfection and eternal life, but he was willing and able to strive toward that goal by keeping his heart focused on that goal, without looking back or longing for “the good old days.”

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had come to Bethany, just a couple miles outside of Jerusalem, to keep the Passover, knowing that he would be crucified. He stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (whom Jesus had raised from the dead). When the people of Jerusalem learned he was in Bethany a great crowd came, not only to see Jesus but Lazarus as well. The religious leaders planned to execute Lazarus also (as they were plotting to execute Jesus), since many of the people were believing in Jesus because of Lazarus’ resurrection.

The next day a great crowd gathered again to see Jesus enter Jerusalem. They cut palm branches and went out to meet Jesus, shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name (authority) of the Lord, even the king of Israel (the Messiah)” (John 12:13b). Jesus was riding on a young donkey, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

The disciples didn’t understand the significance at that time, but after Jesus’ resurrection they remembered and realized the connection between the prophecy and the fulfillment. The people who had witnessed Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus had told others, who came to see Jesus’ arrival because of their testimony. The Pharisees were frustrated because it seemed that the whole world was turning to Jesus.

Commentary:

The original context of this prophecy was a plot to assassinate Jeremiah, but because God’s Word is eternal it also applies to the Christ (Messiah), and it applies to the disciples of Christ in every age, as they follow Christ’s example. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus is Lord’s servant, the gentle lamb led to slaughter who entrusted his cause to the Lord.

Judah, the remnant of Israel, the people of God, were the original intended recipients of this message. It was they who were exiled to Babylon for seventy years as the Lord’s corrective discipline, because they had rebelled against the Lord and followed the appetites of their own flesh; their own selfish desires. It was they who had been misled by unfaithful shepherds.

After the exile, the Lord led them back to their earthly promised land as God’s chastened people, fulfilling this prophecy. But the prophecy also applies to the Church, which is in exile in the “Babylon” of this world, subject to the Lord’s corrective discipline, whom he will ultimately lead into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom.

The Lord promised that he would also restore the neighbors and enemies of Israel (God’s People), provided that they learn God’s ways and trust and obey the Lord, which he began to fulfill with the ministries of Peter and Paul to the Gentiles. There is a Day of Judgment coming when those who have refused to trust and obey Jesus, God’s only provision for forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; See God’s Plan of Salvation, Sidebar, top right, home), will be condemned to eternal death and destruction (Matthew 25:31-46).

Paul is the prototype of the modern “born-again” Christian disciple, who came to personal fellowship with Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, after Jesus’ earthly life, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven (Acts Chapter 9). He was a Jewish Christian who preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, because his fellow Jews refused to receive it. He exemplified the Lord’s servant who entrusted his cause to the Lord, and was willing to surrender all other things to follow and serve Jesus.

Paul warned his flock to rely on the grace (unmerited favor) of God through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, rather than relying on the flesh and their (imagined) human ability to keep the law; and he warned them to be on guard against false, unfaithful shepherds whose teachings are contrary to the scriptural (as recorded in the Bible), apostolic (as taught by the Apostles) Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul recognized and taught Christian discipleship and spiritual growth.

The occasion was the Feast of Passover, when each Jewish family sacrificed a perfect, unblemished Lamb, to be eaten at the Passover meal. The Lamb’s blood was used to mark the door of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt to spare them from the Lord who passed through Egypt and killed all the firstborn, on the eve of Israel’s Exodus (Exodus 12:12-13). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Jesus’ flesh is the Bread of Life (John 6:51), and his blood saves his people from eternal death.

His disciples didn’t understand the connections between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament events until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and their anointing with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:4-5; Acts Chapter 2). Jesus is the resurrection and the life (eternal; John 11:25-26). Those who have experienced personal fellowship with Jesus and the power of his resurrection, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, like Paul (and like the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus), are to tell others, so that the whole world will turn to Jesus.

Are we concerned by the spiritual desolation of our land? Have we wasted our strength pursuing what is worthless? Are we learning the ways of the Lord? Is God in your heart?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/21/05;
Podcast: Tuesday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 15:10-21    –    Jeremiah’s second lament;
Philippians 3:15-21   –    Confession and exhortation;
John 12:20-26   –    Jesus concludes his public ministry;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Jeremiah mourned his birth. Although he had neither borrowed nor lent (or done anything else likely to stir up and justify their behavior), he had incurred strife and contention with every one of his countrymen. It is unjust, because he had interceded to the Lord for their good, and had prayed for his enemies. The threat from the north is overwhelming. The Lord will give the riches of Judah as spoil, without cost, to the enemy as the penalty for all Judah’s sins.  The Lord will give Judah into slavery in a foreign land, because the Lord’s anger kindles a fire which will burn forever.

Jeremiah prayed, acknowledging that the Lord knows everything, and asking him to remember and avenge Jeremiah upon his persecutors, and not allow Jeremiah’s persecutors to prevail. Jeremiah had come to know God’s Word, had incorporated God’s Word into himself, and delighted in God’s Word in his innermost being; Jeremiah was known by the name of the Lord. Jeremiah had not joined those who seek their own gratification, nor had he rejoiced in worldly celebration. Instead he was alone in mourning because his obligation to God’s Word made him indignant (against ungodliness).

Jeremiah’s pain was unceasing and his wound seemed incurable. Would the Lord fail him, like a deceitful brook that ceases to flow? The Lord promises that he will restore and uphold those who turn to the Lord. If the Lord’s servant speaks what is precious rather than what is worthless, God will speak through him. The Lord will make his servant invincible; his enemies will fight against him but will not prevail, because the Lord will be with him to deliver him from the wicked and ruthless.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urges Christians to press on to spiritual maturity, allowing the Lord to guide and help us, revealing areas where we need to grow. Let us hold fast to what we have attained. Paul urges us to follow the example of Paul and all those who follow Jesus’ teachings.

Many live as enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They live with minds focused on worldly things, pursuing the gratifications of their flesh shamelessly; their end is (eternal) destruction. But Christians are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and we await our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will change our earthly bodies into glorified bodies like his by his sovereign power over all things.

John Paraphrase:

Some Greeks (Gentile converts to Judaism) had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They came to Philip asking to see Jesus. Philip went and told Andrew and they went together and told Jesus. Jesus told them that God’s appointed time for Jesus to be glorified had come.

Jesus described what that glorification entailed with an analogy to a seed. A seed must be buried in the ground in order to produce a harvest, but when it is buried it sprouts and produces much fruit. So those who are unwilling to give up their lives in this world lose the opportunity to harvest what is truly life, abundantly and eternally. But those who are willing to surrender this earthly life will gain eternal life. Jesus said that those who want to be his servants, his disciples, must follow Jesus’ example. Where Jesus is there his servant will be also, and anyone who is Jesus’ servant will be honored by God the Father.

Commentary:

Jeremiah is an example of a servant of the Lord. Those who proclaim God’s Word are not going to be popular with the people of this world. Jeremiah was so unhappy with his life that he mourned his birth. But Jeremiah had come to know God’s Word, had applied it in his daily life, delighting in it in his innermost self. He had come to be known by the name of the Lord and his words and deeds were glorifying the Lord.

Jeremiah prayed for his enemies, and he entrusted his cause to the Lord, leaving vengeance to the Lord. The Lord is absolutely able and faithful to uphold those who turn to him. Jeremiah had chosen what is precious instead of what is worthless. He chose what is truly life rather than what leads to destruction.

The prophecy against Judah was fulfilled. Judah was taken into Exile in Babylon (the enemy in the North) for seventy years, in fulfillment of this prophecy. But it is also a metaphor and a warning of eternal Judgment. Because Judah had refused to obey God’s Word and rejected the warnings of his prophets, God gave them into slavery and death. (Seventy years is a virtual life sentence for those who were adults.) God’s anger kindles a fire which will burn forever (Jeremiah 15:14 RSV). The worldly treasures that the people of Judah had spent their lives pursuing were taken from them by their enemy.

Judah is the example of those who are called God’s people, but who pursue the things of this world and the gratifications of their flesh, instead of pursuing what is precious and eternal. Paul told the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia that we are to be guided by the Holy Spirit to grow to spiritual maturity.

We are to live in this world as temporary visitors who are citizens of God’s eternal kingdom. We are not to serve the desires of our fleshly bodies. We are to follow the example of Jesus and of Paul and all those who follow the example of Jesus. We’re to follow the example of Jeremiah, God’s servant.

Jesus’ glorification was accomplished by his obedience to God’s will and his surrender of his earthly life in order to accomplish God’s purpose. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the Lord’s Servant. He had done nothing deserving hatred, but had incurred strife and contention among his own people. He knew and delighted in God’s Word; he was God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

Jesus is the name of the Lord (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28). Jesus did not pursue his own desires; he was obedient to God’s will even unto death on the Cross. His commitment to God’s Word made him indignant against ungodliness (Matthew 21:12-17). He didn’t seek his own vengeance but entrusted his cause to God the Father, and God restored and upheld him; his enemies did not prevail. God delivered him from the wicked and the ruthless.

Jesus warns us that those who want to be Jesus’ servants must follow his example. We must choose to give up what we want, in order to accomplish God’s purpose. Where Jesus is (by example) there we must be; if we are where we should be as servants of Jesus, Jesus will be with us.

If we choose to proclaim God’s Word instead of the teachings of this world, God will speak through us.  God will make his servants invincible. We cannot expect to avoid strife and contention, but we can be certain that we will prevail. Ultimately the enemies of the Cross and the Gospel of Christ will be punished and we will be vindicated and glorified.

Are we serving the Lord or are we serving ourselves? Are we bringing glory and honor to the Lord’s name? Do we know and apply God’s Word in our daily lives? Are we holding on to our faith and allowing the Lord to lead us in spiritual growth to maturity?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/2205;
Podcast: Wednesday Holy Week – Odd

Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17, (18);
Philippians 4:1-13;
John 12:20-26;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The person who trusts in humans, and relies on the strength of his flesh, and turns away from relying on the Lord, will be accursed. Like a shrub in the desert, he will experience only hardship. He will dwell in drought in the wilderness in an uninhabited salt wasteland.

Blessed is the person who trusts and hopes in the Lord. He will be like a tree planted near water. His roots grow near, and he doesn’t worry when heat comes. His leaves stay green and he continues to bear fruit in years of drought.

The human heart is totally deceitful and corrupt beyond all things. Only God can understand mankind. The Lord searches the mind and tests the heart of each person, to repay each for his path in life and the fruit of his deeds.

Only you, Lord, can heal me; only you can save me, and I will give you praise! Scoffers ask, “Where is the [fulfillment of the] Word of the Lord? Let it come!” But I have not desired the hastening of the Day of Judgment and disaster. The Lord is my refuge, not a terror, in evil times. (Let those who persecute me be put to shame and dismayed, intead of me. Let the evil day come upon them and destroy them completely.

Philippians Paraphrase:

Paul urged his beloved brethren in Christ, who Paul regarded as his joy and reward, to stand firmly in the Lord. He asked two women, Euodia and Syntyche, in the Philippian Congregation who had been arguing with each other, to find agreement in the Lord. Paul also asked one, whom he considered a partner in ministry, to help these women, whom Paul also regarded as fellow workers in the Gospel together with Clement (and others whom are known to the Lord) for their partnership in the Gospel.

Paul exhorted believers to always rejoice, and to be forebearing of all people. The Lord is at hand (through his indwelling Holy Spirit; and also his imminent return). Therefore we should not worry about anything, but let the Lord know all our needs, in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Thus the peace we have with God, beyond what we can understand, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Believers should focus their minds on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy. We will have the peace of God as we practice the examples we have heard, been taught, and learned from Paul.

Paul thanked the congregation for the gift which had been sent from them to Paul by Epaphroditus (see Philippians 2:25-30). The gift had been an opportunity to express their concern for Paul (who was in prison in Rome, awaiting trial). Paul would not complain of his circumstances, because he had learned to be content in any situation. Paul knew how to be content in abundance and in want. Paul was assured that he could do whatever was required of him, through Christ who gives him strength (through the indwelling Holy Spirit).

John Background:

With his disciples, Jesus had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast, knowing that he would be crucified. His triumphal entry into the city is what the Church celebrates at Palm Sunday. Many people had also gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast.

John Paraphrase:

Among those who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration were some Greeks (Gentiles), who approached Philip (one of Jesus’ Twelve disciples, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee), and asked to see Jesus. Philip went to Andrew (another disciple of the Twelve, who was also from Bethsaida), and together they went to tell Jesus.

Jesus told them that his “hour” to be “glorified” had come. Jesus said that a wheat seed must be buried (as in physical death) in order to produce any “fruit.” Jesus said that those who love their lives in this world will lose them; but those who hate their lives in this world will find true, eternal life. Those who want to serve Jesus must follow his example. His servant will be where Jesus is, doing what Jesus is doing, and God the Father will glorify the servant for serving Jesus.

Commentary:

It is hard to learn to rely solely on the Lord. Sometimes we must do what seems contrary to common worldly, human, wisdom.

This lifetime is our only opportunity to learn to trust and obey the Lord. As we begin to trust and obey the Lord we will encounter tests, and as we act in faith and obedience to the Lord, we will learn that the Word of God is absolutely reliable, and our faith will grow to spiritual maturity at the Day of the Lord’s Return. This is the process of Christian Discipleship.

We must overcome our worldly experience and human instinct to seek immediate, human help, in order to learn to seek and rely on the Lord’s guidance. For example, a new disciple is tempted to call his Pastor on the phone for immediate answer to a personal problem, instead of the “uncertainty” of praying to the Lord for guidance and waiting for an answer.

In order to be able to receive guidance from the Lord, one must be committed to being his disciple, learning to seek his will, and to trusting and obeying it. The Lord doen’t reveal his will to “window-shoppers;” those who want to know God’s will before they decide whether to do it.

One must get into the condition to receive the Lord’s guidance. Have you read God’s Book? The Holy Bible is God’s manual for life in this world. Are you seeking the Lord’s guidance day-by-day, one day at a time (Matthew 6:11, 34)? Often we wait until a crisis comes, and then seek the Lord’s guidance, without having prepared. But crises are sure to come along in life.

Often the Lord doesn’t get our attention until the crisis happens. When we make a committment to seek guidance from the Lord he will begin to reveal his will and guidance to us, even though we haven’t read the Bible or established daily personal devotions. But we must start acting on the committment. We must not be praying that if the Lord helps us this time, we’ll never bother him again!

Philip was a disciple, learning to be guided by the Lord, but he had not yet received the “baptism” (anointing; infilling; gift) of the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t sure what was the right thing to do. He had some of Jesus’ teaching, and may have remembered that Jesus had said that he had come only for the Jews (Matthew 15:24). Philip wasn’t sure what to do, so he sought out another disciple, Andrew, who was a friend, who knew the Lord, for assurance, and together they went to the Lord.

This is an example of Christian Discipleship. A young disciple turned to another disciple, to consider Jesus’ teaching, and then together they went to the Lord. Andrew was one of the first of the Twelve to recogninze Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), and he had led others to Christ, including his brother, Simon Peter. The friend could be one’s pastor, or just a believer in Jesus who has more experience in discipleship. Going to the friend is not just to seek his worldly opinion and advice, but to consider and be guided by God’s Word, and then to go together to the Lord in prayer.

One must be careful, when learning to seek and be guided by the Lord. We all know of instances where terrible things were done proportedly at the Lord’s guidance. The Lord will never lead us to harm ourselves or others, and will never guide us to do anything contrary the God’s Word (in the Bible, and in the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, the “living Word,” fulfilled, embodied and exemplified in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). We should seek confirmation from mature Christian disciples, and we should learn to “pray back” what we think the Lord is guiding us to do, for confirmation.

The Church is intended to be a partnership in the ministry of the Gospel. New believers are to be “discipled” by mature, “born-again” (John 3:3, 5-8) Christian disciples until they are “born-again,” and then they are to repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul’s discipling of Timothy is one example; Paul was discipling the Philippian Congregation, which was the first church founded by Paul on European soil (Acts 16:11-15).

The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) is the prototype and example of a modern, post-resurrection, born-again disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ as we all can and should be. He was confronted by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, where he was intending to persecute Christians (Acts 9:1-5). Paul acknowledged Jesus as Lord and became obedient to Jesus (Acts 9:6-10). He was discipled by a born-again Christian disciple, Ananias, until Paul was born-again, by the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 9:10-18).  Then Paul began his ministry of evangelism and disciple-making (Acts 9:20-22).

After Paul’s “re-birth” most of the rest of the New Testament is by or about Paul. Paul’s ministry was accomplished only by the power, guidance and enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit within Paul. Paul didn’t depend upon Church sanction of his ministry (Galatians 1:11-17).

Paul was fulfilling the “Great Commission” which Jesus had given his disciples after Jesus’ Resurrection, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to trust and obey all that Jesus taught  (Matthew 28:18-20), only after they had received the baptism of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Jesus taught that one must be born-again by the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to be a “teacher” of God’s People (John 3:3-5-8).

Only Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that one is in Christ and has eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is possible for one to know with certainty for oneself when one has been born-again (Acts 19:2).

Sadly, many parts of the nominal Church today are failing to make born-again disciples and are settling for making “members,” fair-weather “Christians” who participate in Church if it offers entertaining and interesting programs, and members don’t have something more important or interesting to do. If Churches don’t make born-again disciples of Jesus Christ, there won’t be born-again disciples from whom to choose born-again preachers, evangelists, missionaries and disciple-makers, and in too many instances that is what has happened.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Maundy Thursday – Odd
First posted 03/23/05;
Podcast: Maundy Thursday – Odd

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, commemorating the Lord’s Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.

Jeremiah 20:7-11 (12-13) 14-18  –    Personal lament;
1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32   –   On Communion;
John 17:1-11 (12-26)  –   Jesus’ high priestly prayer;

Jeremiah felt tricked by God, overwhelmed and driven by God’s power into a position of ridicule; Jeremiah had become a laughingstock to everyone in the land. He was unable to resist preaching (God’s) wrath and destruction, causing him reproach and derision from his hearers.

Jeremiah’s adversaries were plotting against him to denounce him and take revenge against him. But the Lord was with him as his bodyguard, so Jeremiah’s enemies would not prevail, and would be put to shame. Jeremiah entrusted his cause to the Lord, the righteous judge, who knows the hearts and minds of humans and who will avenge evil and uphold the rights of the weak and poor. Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth because his life had become nothing but toil, sorrow and shame.

Paul warns Christians not to participate in the worship of idols. In worship the participant becomes one with the object of worship. Instead of being joined with demons, which are behind idols; (1 Corinthians 10:20-21), we are to become one with Christ through participation in the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion; The Eucharist). The Cup (the fruit of the vine) is participation in the blood* of Christ, and the Bread is participation in the body of Christ. Christians are united with one another in Christ through their participation in the blood and body of Christ in faith.

Whoever partakes of the elements of Communion in an unworthy manner is “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).  So Christians are exhorted to examine themselves, and thus be prepared to participate in Communion worthily. Anyone who participates in the Lord’s Supper without faith (obedient trust) and without discerning the spiritual significance of Communion brings judgment (punishment) upon himself.

Paul says this is the reason many are weak, ill and dying. If we really examine ourselves objectively, we will have no reason to receive judgment (punishment). The Lord’s judgment on believers is corrective discipline so that we may avoid condemnation which is coming upon the world.

The setting of Jesus’ high priestly prayer was the Last Supper (John 13:1). Jesus acknowledged that the hour determined by God for Jesus to accomplish his purpose had come. Jesus asked God the Father to glorify his Son (to help Jesus accomplish God’s purpose to the glory of God) so that the Son would glorify God.  God’s purpose was that those who trust and obey Jesus will receive eternal life through personal knowledge and fellowship with God the Father and the Son, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus had glorified God through his ministry on earth, and Jesus asked God to restore him to the glory in God’s presence which Jesus had from before creation. Jesus had revealed God’s name (his person, power and authority) to Jesus’ disciples, who God had given him.

The disciples knew that Jesus was from God, sent by God, and they had received God’s Word through Jesus.  Jesus prayed for unity among his disciples as Jesus and God are one in unity. Jesus prayed that God would keep Jesus’ disciples in unity in God’s name (person, power and authority; the name of Jesus).

While Jesus was in his earthly ministry, Jesus had kept them in his name (in true faith). Only Judas had been lost; he had chosen to be the son of perdition (eternal damnation), thus fulfilling God’s Word and purpose. Now Jesus knew he was leaving the world to return to God’s presence, and he prayed that his disciples would have Jesus’ joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus had given them God’s Word, and his disciples are hated by the worldly because the disciples do not conform to the world’s standards. They must remain in the world to continue Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus prays for their protection by God from evil. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be sanctified (purified and consecrated to God’s service) by God’s Word which is eternal truth.

Jesus prayed also for all who would come to believe in Jesus by the testimony of his disciples, that the Church would be united by the indwelling Father and Son through the Holy Spirit, so that the world will come to know the love of God in Jesus Christ through his disciples.

Jesus asked that his disciples would be with Jesus in heaven to behold his glory. The world has not known God, but Jesus has revealed God’s name, power and authority, so that God’s love would be within them through Jesus.

Jeremiah was a faithful servant of the Lord. He faithfully proclaimed God’s Word and was hated by the world for it. But he entrusted his cause to the Lord and the Lord was with him to protect and preserve him.

The Lord knows the thoughts and desires of mankind, and he is the righteous judge who will avenge evil and uphold the rights of the weak and poor. Jeremiah’s suffering for God’s Word prefigures the perfect fulfillment of the faithful servant in Jesus Christ.

Paul taught the early Church that Communion is the spiritual participation in the blood and body of Christ. Through faith (obedient trust) in Jesus, believers are united with Christ in one body through participation in the elements of Communion, by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Lord knows the innermost thoughts of our minds and the desires of our hearts. We cannot automatically be filled with the Holy Spirit just because we receive the elements of Communion. We should examine ourselves so that we will not participate in Communion in an unworthy manner and bring judgment upon ourselves

In his prayer at the close of the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for the mission of his Church and for his disciples (his followers; the members of his Church; Christians), that they would receive eternal life through personal knowledge of and fellowship with God the Father and the Son, through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus promised his disciples that those who trust and obey Jesus will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit; the Spirit of truth; the Counselor (John 14:15-17); the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b).

Jesus promised that he and God the Father would dwell within his disciples (John 14: 23-26). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16).

The gift of the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and consecrates us to God’s service and protects and empowers us to carry on Christ’s ministry. It is the Holy Spirit who unites Jesus’ disciples into Christ’s Body, the Church. It is through the Holy Spirit that disciples personally experience the love of God in Christ and the joy of the Lord’s presence within us.

Christ’s mission to the world cannot be carried out without the personal gift of the Holy Spirit. Believers should be discipled within the Church until they have received the indwelling Holy Spirit, before they are sent out into the world to carry on Christ’s mission (Luke 24:46-49: Acts 1:4-5, 8).

The world hates God’s Word. The world hated Jeremiah, hated Jesus, and hates Jesus’ disciples. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit within us that keeps us in true faith, who guides and comforts, protects and enables us to carry on Christ’s ministry.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*According to Jewish Law, Jews were forbidden to drink blood or eat meat with its blood (Genesis 9:4), because it was believed that the blood of an animal contained its spirit. Jesus declared that the wine of Communion was his blood. God wants us to be filled with his Holy Spirit; not with the spirits of animals. The wine of Communion contains a promise to be received by faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ.


 

Good Friday – Odd
First posted 03/24/05;
Podcast: Good Friday – Odd

Genesis 22:1-14  –    Testing of Abraham;
1 Peter 1:10-20   –    Exhortation to Godliness;
John 13:36-38   –    Peter’s denial foretold;
John 19:38-42  –   Jesus’ entombment;

Genesis Paraphrase:

To test Abraham, God told him to take his only son, Isaac, the heir to the promises of God, and sacrifice him on a mountain to which God would direct him. So Abraham did as God had told him. He arose early, cut wood for the burnt offering, and took Isaac and two servants to follow God’s direction. On the third day Abraham saw the mountain in the distance, and he left the servants and the donkey there, while he and Isaac traveled the remaining distance.

Abraham carried the fire and the knife, and Isaac carried the firewood. Isaac noted that they had the fire, the wood and the knife, but didn’t have the lamb for the sacrifice. His father told Isaac “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).

When they came to the place God had led them, Abraham built an altar, laid the firewood on it and bound Isaac and laid him on the altar. When Abraham took the knife to kill his son, the angel of the Lord stopped him, telling Abraham not to harm the child. Abraham had demonstrated his fear of God (respect of God’s power and authority), since Abraham had been obedient even to sacrifice his only son.

Abraham looked and saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket, so he killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named the place “The Lord will provide” because on the mountain of the Lord it shall be provided.

1 Peter Paraphrase:

The prophets who foretold the grace of our salvation sought to know by the Spirit of Christ within them the identity and time of the coming of Christ when they predicted Christ’s suffering and subsequent glory. They learned that the prediction was not for their own age but for ours, and the fulfillment of their prophecy, which even angels have longed to see, has been announced to us by those who preached the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. So collect your senses, be sober, and hope completely in the grace which is coming to us at the revealing of Jesus Christ.

We are to be obedient children, not following our former ways when we were ignorant of the Gospel; instead we are to be holy (pure and consecrated to God) in all conduct, since God is holy (perfectly good and righteous; divine; 1 Peter 1:16; compare Leviticus 11:44-45).  If we claim God as our Father, we should conduct ourselves with fear (respect of God’s power and authority) at all times, remembering that we are in exile during this life, and that God judges all people impartially, according to their deeds.

We have been ransomed from futile worldly ways we inherited from our earthly fathers, not by perishable material wealth, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, “who was like a lamb without spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19). Christ was destined for our salvation before creation, but has been revealed at the end of time for our sake.

John 13 Paraphrase:

Jesus had told his disciples that he would be leaving them. Peter asked where he was going, and Jesus replied, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward” (John 13:36). Peter asked why he could not follow Jesus yet, declaring that he was willing to die for Jesus. Jesus questioned Peter’s declaration, and told him that Peter would deny Jesus three times that very night.

John 19 Paraphrase:

After Jesus’ death on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple who had not confessed Jesus publicly because he feared the religious authorities, asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, brought the spices used in the Jewish burial custom, and they wrapped Jesus’ body in linen cloths with the spices. Jesus had been crucified near a garden where there was a new tomb which had never been used. Because it was the day of preparation (for the Jewish Sabbath), they laid Jesus’ body in the garden tomb, since it was nearby.

Commentary:

God tested Abraham’s faith by asking Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son, the heir through whom God’s promise would be fulfilled. (The promise was that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, and through him all the people of the world would be blessed; Genesis 12:1-3. Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise of an heir of Abraham and Sarah, who had been childless: Genesis 15:1-6; 18:9-14).

Abraham not only respected God’s power and authority but trusted in God’s providence and faithfulness. Because Abraham trusted and obeyed God’s Word, God provided “himself” the Lamb to die in place of Isaac, the son of the promise.

God provided the ram in the thicket to die instead of Isaac, and God provided “himself,” in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, so that the sons (and daughters) of the promise, who trust and obey the Lord as Abraham did might live eternally.

God’s plan of salvation (which see, sidebar, top right, home) in Jesus Christ, existed before the creation of the world. God created this universe with his purpose of salvation built in. The Old Testament Prophets prophesied by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ within them. We have received the Gospel of Jesus Christ from those who have proclaimed it by the Holy Spirit, and we must be filled with the Holy Spirit to carry on the mission of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.

I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to provide the opportunity to seek and find the Lord and come to personal fellowship with him (Acts 17:26-27). This life is a selection process for eternal life, and we get to make the selection for ourselves.

We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). We are ransomed from bondage to sin and death by the blood of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus is the Lamb of God, perfect, without spot or blemish, who was slain for us. We come to personal fellowship with and knowledge of the Lord through his indwelling Holy Spirit, which he only gives to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

If we claim God as our Father through Jesus Christ (no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ; John 14:6) we are to be his obedient children. We are to no longer live according to worldly ways, but instead live in obedience to God’s Word and be filled with, guided and empowered by his Holy Spirit.

Peter claimed to be willing to die for Jesus, but when he encountered a little opposition from the world, he denied Jesus three times. Joseph of Arimathea considered himself a disciple, but did not want it known publicly, because he cared about what his friends and neighbors would think.

Nicodemus had first come to Jesus by night, so that wouldn’t be criticized in his society. Jesus was willing to die on the Cross for us. Are we willing to live for him? Are we willing to confess him and follow him openly in the world or is it something we want to keep secret? Can the world tell, from what we do as well as what we say, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


Good Friday is the day commemorating Jesus’ death on the Cross.


Saturday Holy Week – Odd
First posted 03/25/05;
Podcast: Saturday Holy Week – Odd

Job 19:21-27a   –   My Redeemer lives!
Hebrews 4:1-16   –   God’s promised rest;
Romans 8:1-11   –   Life in the Spirit;

Job Paraphrase:

Job longed for a friend to comfort him in his affliction. He didn’t understand why trouble continued to pursue him, apparently not satisfied with anything less than Job’s death. Job longed for his cause to be recorded in some eternal manner. Job believed his Redeemer (vindicator) lives, and at last will stand upon the earth. Job believed that beyond physical death he will see God.

Hebrews Paraphrase:

God has promised that those who trust and obey him will enter his rest (Hebrews 3:18-19 RSV), but this promise must be appropriated through faith (obedient trust). The Israelites in the wilderness failed to receive it because they didn’t respond to God’s Word with faith.

We should learn from their example and be careful, so that we might not come into judgment for failing to reach God’s promised rest. God rested on the seventh day from the work of creation. Although God finished his work of creation on the seventh day, creation does not automatically enter God’s rest. Because disobedience prevented the Israelites from entering God’s rest, we must be careful now, today, not to harden our hearts against God’s Word.

The Israelites did not automatically enter God’s rest when Joshua led them into the Promised Land, because David, centuries later, spoke of a Sabbath rest remaining to be received by faith. So a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people to appropriate by faith. So let us strive to enter that rest so that we don’t fail to receive it because of disobedience of God’s Word.

“God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No creature is hidden or can hide his actions or his innermost thoughts and desires from God.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are in Christ Jesus are free, now, from condemnation and eternal punishment. Those who are living in obedient trust in Jesus Christ through his indwelling Holy Spirit have been freed from the Law of sin and death. God’s plan of salvation (see sidebar, top right, home) through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s (only begotten) Son, accomplished what the Law could not do, because of our human weakness.

Jesus came in human flesh to condemn sin in the flesh and to destroy the power of sin, so that those who walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, rather than in obedience to our selfish human nature, can fulfill the just requirements of the Law. Those who live in their physical nature pursue material things and physical desires, but those who live according to the Spirit pursue spiritual and eternal things.

Pursuing physical and material gratification leads to eternal spiritual death, but pursuing the things of the Spirit leads to eternal life and peace (with God). Those who live according to their physical human nature are hostile to God; they do not and cannot submit to or please God. “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) really dwells in you.

Commentary:

Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) does not belong to him (Christ; God)” (Romans 8:9). If Christ is truly in us, by the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, then although our physical bodies are dead because of sin, our Spirits are alive because of (Christ’s) righteousness. If God’s Spirit dwells in us God’s Spirit will give us eternal life just as he raised Jesus from the dead.

Job felt alone and unjustly afflicted. He was afraid that he would continue to suffer through the rest of his physical life. Job’s hope was that there would be some eternal record of his unjust suffering and that a Redeemer would judge the earth and vindicate Job at last. Job acknowledged that the body of flesh passes away, but also hoped that beyond physical death he would be in God’s presence and have personal fellowship with God.

For Christians, Jesus is our Redeemer and vindicator. He has promised to return to judge the earth, to vindicate his disciples who trust and obey him, and to condemn the wicked to eternal punishment. (Matthew 25:31-46). Our Redeemer lives! Jesus is our friend and Comforter (John 14:16 KJV) through his Holy Spirit within us. On the Last Day, he will stand upon the earth. Those who have trusted and obeyed him will spend eternity in the presence of our Lord in Paradise.

God has promised that those who trust and obey him will enter his rest. God’s rest has existed from the completion of Creation. We have a foretaste of that rest now, if we choose to honor the Lord’s Day. Christian disciples await eternal rest from the labor and tribulation of this life in eternal life in the Lord’s presence in Heaven. That promise of eternal rest must be appropriated by obedient trust in Jesus Christ, now. God knows our inner thoughts and desires and cannot be fooled.

We can and must begin to live, now, in the presence and fellowship of our Lord through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, to be able to live with him in eternity. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). The Lord gives his Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).  It is possible for us to know for ourselves with certainty whether we have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).

We are free, now, from bondage to the Law of sin and (eternal) death, from condemnation and eternal punishment, provided that we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. We can choose whether to live according to the Holy Spirit or according to our human nature and desires. Those who live to please and gratify themselves condemn themselves to eternal destruction.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Week of 5 Lent – Odd – 03/22 – 28/2015

March 21, 2015

Week of 5 Lent – Odd

This Bible Study was originally published at

http://shepherdboy.journalspace.com/, (now defunct)

based on the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year Daily Lectionary for personal devotions*  The daily readings are according to a Calendar  based on the Church Year, which begins on the first Sunday of Advent, usually sometime at the end of November in the year preceding the secular calendar year.

I will continue to publish My Daily Walk online as long as possible.


*Lutheran Book of Worship, Daily Lectionary, p. 179-192, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1978.


A 3-Year study based on the Revised Common Lectionary is also available at:

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Shepherdboysmydailywalk’s Blog

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To get the most from these studies, it is suggested that you first read the scripture texts for the entry, and then the paraphrase and commentary. It is also recommended that you look up the scripture references, unless you recognize and recall them from memory.

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For Next Week:

Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – 04/04/2015

 http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/holyweek_odd.html

Podcast Download: Week of 5 Lent – Odd
Sunday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/12/05;
Podcast: Sunday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:16-32   –   Against false prophets;
1 Corinthians 9:19-27   –   Christian freedom;
Mark 8:31-9:1   –   Discipleship;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

We are warned not to listen to false prophets who give false hope, prophesying from their own imagination instead of God’s Word. They give false reassurance to those who do not honor God’s Word and those who stubbornly pursue their own selfish, worldly desires. The false prophets have not been in the presence of God, and have not received God’s Word.

Know that the wrath of God will fall upon the wicked unrelentingly until it has accomplished God’s purpose. Afterward it will be clearly understood. The prophets prophesied falsely by their own authority and self-will. If they had been God’s prophets, speaking his Word by his authority they would have spoken God’s Word and would have rebuked the people’s sinfulness, turning them away from doing evil.

Is God limited to one place (so that he cannot know what is going on somewhere else)? Can one hide from God so that God cannot see what he is doing? The Lord fills heaven and earth. He has heard the lying prophets who prophesy the lies of their own hearts. They cause the name of the Lord to be forgotten.

The false prophets prophesy lies, but the prophets of God proclaim God’s Word faithfully. The difference should be obvious to anyone who cares to be discerning. God’s Word is like fire (consuming what is wicked), and like a hammer smashing rock. The Lord is against false prophets who lie, invoking the name of the Lord; he opposes those who prophesy lying dreams and lead God’s people astray, who prophesy without God’s command or authority.

1 Corinthians Paraphrase:

Paul had complete freedom in Christ, but chose to be servant of all, so that some might be saved (from God’s condemnation and eternal death). In Christ, Paul was no longer obligated to keep the Jewish laws, but he chose to conform to the customs and laws of Judaism, so that he could win Jews to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To the Gentiles he became like the Gentiles, not bound by the customs and laws of Judaism, but yet not doing what is contrary to God’s Word, being under the law of Christ (living according to the Holy Spirit; see Romans 8:2-4).

To those who are weak in conscience, Paul surrendered part of his freedom by self-discipline so that his freedom might not offend and impede acceptance of the Gospel among them (1 Corinthians 8:8-13). Paul was willing to be the servant of others for the sake of the Gospel, so that some might be saved, and so that Paul might share in the blessings of the Gospel.

Paul compares Christian life to an athletic competition. As worldly athletes practice discipline and self-control in hope of gaining a worldly and perishable prize, Christians should also diligently pursue the eternal reward of the Gospel. The Christian’s life should not be aimless; one should not just “shadow-box” (looking like a boxer, without actually boxing; without fighting the fight). Instead Paul disciplined his body so that he wouldn’t be disqualified by failing to do what he advocated to others.

Mark Paraphrase:

Jesus told his disciples that the Son of man (Jesus) would suffer, and would be rejected by the religious authorities, he would be killed, and rise again after three days. Peter began to rebuke Jesus, but Jesus told Peter that Peter’s reaction was contrary to God’s will and was facilitating Satan’s battle. Jesus called the crowd which was following him and told them that anyone who wanted to follow Jesus must deny himself and take up his cross (personal suffering and sacrifice) and follow Jesus’ example and teaching.

Those who want to hold on to this worldly life will eventually lose physical and eternal life. But those who are willing to give up their earthly life for Jesus and the Gospel will save their eternal lives. What good is it to own all the things of this world if it cost us our eternal lives? What would a person be willing to pay for eternal life in paradise?

Those who are ashamed of Jesus and his words now in this wicked, morally and spiritually adulterous world will be shamed in Jesus’ presence when Jesus returns in glory and power. Jesus declared that some in his hearing would not personally experience death before seeing God’s kingdom come with power.

Commentary:

Aren’t there false prophets in our churches and in our society who claim to speak God’s Word, but give false hope and reassurance of God’s approval to those who do not obey God’s Word and who are pursuing selfish, worldly desires? Aren’t there false prophets who claim to preach God’s Word who have not been in God’s presence?

If there are authentic prophets preaching the authentic Word of God, wouldn’t they be rebuking the peoples’ sinfulness, calling them to examine their behavior in the light of God’s Word and to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord? Do we know the Bible well enough to recognize God’s Word when we hear it?

Paul recognized that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ he had to sacrifice his personal comfort and indulgence and exercise discipline and self-control. Paul had personally experienced the Lord’s presence through Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9b). He was willing to sacrifice his own personal desires and even his earthly life so that others might also receive the blessings of the Gospel.

Worldly athletes have a trainer, and they practice their skill. They have a goal, and they pursue it. Runners have to run; fighters have to fight, or there is no reason for all the practice and discipline. So Christians must be guided by the Holy Spirit, must spend time in discipleship, and then, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, must get out on the field and put the practice and discipline to work. They must not only proclaim the Gospel to others but live it in their own lives.

Jesus warned that people would have to make personal sacrifices to be his disciples, and they would have to follow Jesus’ example and teaching if they wanted to follow him and receive eternal life. We must be willing to surrender our earthly lives in order to experience real spiritual life now and eternally. When we come to the end of our physical lives, none of the material things of this life which seem so important now will mean much anymore.

If we pursue what we think is our self-interest, we will come to realize that we have missed what is truly important, but if we surrender our will to the Lord and do his will we will find that we have accomplished what is truly fulfilling. Those who are ashamed of Jesus now will find out what real shame is on the Day of Judgment. Those who trust and obey Jesus now will experience God’s kingdom and true life before they have experienced physical death.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Monday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/13/05;
Podcast: Monday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 24:1-10   –    Rotten Figs;
Romans 9:19-33    –   God’s Sovereign Choice;
John 9:1-17   –   A Man Born Blind Receives Sight;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) had invaded Judah in 606 B.C. in the reign of Jehoiakim, carrying off the sacred utensils of the temple, and some of the princes, to Babylon. Then in 597 B.C..* Nebuchadnezzar carried off all the able-bodied Jews, leaving the old, poor and weak. The Lord showed Jeremiah a vision of good figs and also rotten figs. The Lord told Jeremiah that the people who had gone into exile were like the good figs, but those who had remained in the land or had fled to Egypt would be like the rotten figs.

The Lord promised to bring the exiles back from Babylon and to build them up, because they would return to the Lord with their whole heart. But the Lord declared that Zedekiah, who Nebuchadnezzar had appointed to take the throne of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Zedekiah’s princes, and those who remained in the land or fled to Egypt would become a horror and a reproach, and the Lord would drive them out of the Promised Land and utterly destroy them.

Romans Paraphrase:

Why does God find fault with us, since we cannot resist his will? How can a creature rebuke his creator; how can a clay pot question its potter’s work? The potter can make from the clay whatever he chooses, making one pot for beauty, and another for menial use. Perhaps God patiently endures the wicked “pots” who will ultimately be destroyed so that his power and condemnation of the wicked can be displayed, and the richness of his glory and grace can be made known in the vessels of mercy, even us, both Jew and Gentile, whom he has called.

The prophecy of Hosea (2: 23; 1:10), saying that those who were not God’s people will become God’s people and sons (and daughters) of the living God, has been fulfilled in the Gentiles through faith in Jesus. Isaiah also warned that although the descendants of Israel will be as much beyond any reckoning as the sands of the sea, that only a small remnant will be saved because God will execute judgment with rigor and efficiency (Isaiah 10:22; 1:9). Isaiah declared that if God had not saved the remnant of Israel’s children, Israel would have been completely destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.

The result is that Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness (didn’t try to keep God’s Law) have obtained righteousness by faith (in Jesus; obedient trust), but Israel who attempted to achieve righteousness by keeping God’s Law, did not succeed, because they did not pursue righteousness by faith, but by their works (keeping) of the law. They have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, stumbling over the “stumbling stone” and “rock of offense” (Isaiah 28:16; 8:14-15; 1 Peter 2:8).

John Paraphrase:

Jesus encountered a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked whose sin had caused his blindness, but Jesus told them that it didn’t matter who or what had caused the blindness, but that it was an opportunity for God to reveal his power to heal (spiritual) blindness and give light in (spiritual) darkness. Jesus said that he must accomplish the work of God during the short time he was in the world providing spiritual light. Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did as Jesus had told him and returned seeing.

People who had known him before wondered how he had been healed, and some didn’t believe that it was the same man, but only someone who looked similar. The former blind man testified that it was he. They asked how he had been healed and he told them that Jesus had anointed his eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and when he had done so he received his sight. They asked where Jesus was, but the man didn’t know.

Some Pharisees suggested that, because he had healed on the Sabbath, Jesus could not be from God, but others said that if he were a sinner he would not have been able to do such a miracle. The people were divided in their opinion of Jesus, so they asked the healed man what he would say about Jesus, and the man testified that Jesus was a prophet.

Commentary:

Zedekiah had been appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to replace Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, and Judah was subservient to Babylon. Then Zedekiah made a pact with Egypt to break free of domination by Babylon.

By making a treaty with each enemy, Zedekiah and his administration hoped to avoid God’s punishment and discipline of Judah (the remnant of Israel) in exile in Babylon, but ultimately, God brought his chastened people back from exile to the Promised Land, and to reconciliation with, and obedient trust in the Lord. But the ones who had resisted the Lord’s discipline and correction, and those who had fled to Egypt or remained and had prospered at the expense of the exiles*, were utterly destroyed.

Just as God’s discipline and punishment of his people by exile in Babylon was intended to restore them to right relationship with God and to the Promised Land, God’s salvation through Jesus Christ requires some sacrifice and discipline of us. Zedekiah and the Jews who tried to find salvation by alliance with the world (symbolized by Egypt) and the enemy (Satan, symbolized by Babylon) are like those who try to obtain reconciliation with God and salvation on their own terms, rather than accepting God’s Plan of Salvation (see sidebar, top right, home) through Jesus Christ.

The Jews stumbled over the “stumbling stone” at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, because they were trying to work out their own terms of salvation through keeping the law rather than accepting God’s plan of salvation, the discipline of life guided by the Holy Spirit through trust and obedience in Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the only way to reconciliation and restoration of fellowship with God (John 14:6). We need to be aware of God’s power and wrath as well as his love and mercy, because we cannot begin to appreciate his gift of salvation until we understand what he is saving us from. Those who refuse to accept the Lord’s discipline now will suffer his wrath eternally.

It did not matter to Jesus how the man had become blind. It was an opportunity to show that Jesus can heal spiritual blindness, and that Jesus can provide light in the darkness of this sinful world. We are all born spiritually blind and in darkness because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The important question is, having encountered Jesus, are we going to stay in spiritual blindness and darkness, or are we going to trust in Jesus’ words and do as he commands? The man received his sight and was freed from his darkness as he trusted and obeyed Jesus.

Having been healed, he had opportunities to testify to his neighbors about what Jesus had done for him. Not everyone believed the man’s testimony. The Pharisees rejected God’s salvation because they were trying to work out their own plan of salvation by keeping the law. But some saw the power of God working through Jesus, and some began to believe in Jesus because of the man’s testimony.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


* The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Jeremiah, 24.1-10n, p.944, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Tuesday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/14/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 25:8-17   –   Seventy Years of Exile;
Romans 10:1-13   –    Righteousness by Faith;
John 9:18-41    –   Spiritual Blindness;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord declared to Jeremiah that because Judah had not obeyed God’s Word, he was going to send Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, against Judah as God’s instrument of punishment. The Lord would cause the land to be utterly devastated. The Lord would cause mirth and gladness to disappear, and the ordinary routines of daily life would be disrupted. The land would become a ruin and a wasteland.

The Lord declared that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years, and then the Lord would punish Babylon; Babylon will suffer the same punishment which she executed on other nations. Babylon would be repaid according to her deeds. The Lord gave Jeremiah the cup of God’s wrath to be given to the nations to whom Jeremiah was sent.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul’s desire was for the Jews to be saved. They were eager for relations with God, but that enthusiasm was not enlightened. They tried to establish their own righteousness by keeping the law, not knowing about the righteousness which comes from God through faith in Christ.

Christ is the end of the law, so that everyone who has faith (obedient trust) in Jesus may be judged righteous. Moses said that anyone who desires to be righteous according to the law, must practice (keep) the law (Leviticus 18:5). But righteousness based on faith doesn’t require us to do the impossible; Christ is not far off in Heaven or in the kingdom of the dead.

The word of faith is as near to us as our lips and heart. “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Everyone who truly believes from his heart, and confesses by his words and actions will be saved, regardless of his race or nationality, because the Lord is Lord of all and gives his blessings to all who call upon him in obedient trust (Joel 2:32).

John Paraphrase:

The Jewish religious authorities didn’t believe that the man claiming to have been healed of blindness by Jesus had actually been blind, so they interrogated the man’s parents. The parents verified that the man was their son and that he had been born blind, but they deferred the question of how he had been healed to their son, who was legally an adult, because they were afraid of the religious authorities.

The Jewish authorities had already ruled that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) was to be excommunicated from the synagogue. So the religious authorities again summoned the man and warned him to tell them the truth, saying they knew that Jesus was a sinner (because he healed on the Sabbath). The man said he did not know whether Jesus was a sinner, but the man testified that he had been blind but was now able to see.

The authorities again asked the man how Jesus had healed his blindness, and the man asked why they kept questioning him. They had heard the first time, but hadn’t believed. He asked if they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples. They replied sarcastically that the healed man was Jesus’ disciple, but they were disciples of Moses; they knew God had spoken to Moses but they didn’t know the source of Jesus’ power and authority.

The man was surprised that they doubted that Jesus was of God, because only God could heal a blind man, and God does not listen to the prayers of sinners. The authorities were enraged and told the man that he had been born in total sin and yet presumed to teach them. They expelled him from the synagogue.

Jesus heard that the man had been excommunicated and he went to the man and asked if he believed in the Son of man (Jesus). The man asked who Jesus was referring to, so that he could put his faith in him. Jesus said the man had seen him and was speaking with him. The man addressed Jesus as Lord, declared his faith, and worshiped Jesus.

Jesus said that his coming into the world would result in judgment. He had come to give sight to the spiritually blind, and to reveal the blindness of those who think they have spiritual vision. Some Pharisees (strict legalistic religious leaders) nearby asked Jesus if he considered them blind, and Jesus replied that if they had acknowledged their blindness they would have been forgiven, but since they denied their blindness they revealed their guilt.

Commentary:

Judah had disobeyed God’s Word and had refused to heed Jeremiah’s call to repent and return to obedient trust in the Lord. The Lord declared that he was about to punish Judah by exile in Babylon for seventy years. This prophecy was written after Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Egypt at Carchemish in 605 B.C.,* just before Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and carried them off to Babylon from 587 to 517 B. C. (seventy years). Then Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and the Judeans were allowed to return to their Promised Land. God’s Word was fulfilled, but it is also eternal. God will judge and punish the nations as he judged and punished Judah and Babylon, according to their deeds.

The Jews had an enthusiasm and desire for a right relationship with God, but they were spiritually blind. They were trying to establish their own righteousness on their own terms by keeping the law according to their own interpretation, instead of accepting God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus. Those who attempt to be righteous by keeping the law must keep all of the law, which is impossible (Galatians 2:16; 5:2-4).

God’s forgiveness and salvation are a gift to all who are willing to trust and obey Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way to know and come into fellowship with God (John 14: 6). Faith is not like “wishing on a star,” though; not receiving whatever we believe if we believe “hard enough.” The name of Jesus is not a “good luck charm” that we can grab hold of in an emergency. If one truly believes in Jesus, he will do what Jesus says.

The religious authorities were spiritually blind. They had already decided that Jesus was not the Messiah (John 9:22) and they refused to believe physical evidence and personal testimony which contradicted their judgment. They thought they were righteous because they kept the Sabbath law, but they violated the law by condemning Jesus without a hearing.

The healed man did not pass judgment on Jesus, but testified to what he had experienced. The man had been born physically blind, but he trusted and obeyed Jesus (John 9:11) and Jesus healed both his physical and spiritual sight. Jesus asked the man whether he believed in the Son of man, and the man demonstrated that he was ready to believe the one Jesus revealed him to be. If we trust and obey Jesus, he will reveal himself to us (John 14:21).

The Jewish authorities illustrate the deficiency of righteousness by keeping the law, in contrast to the righteousness by faith in Christ illustrated by the blind man. The Pharisees demonstrated their spiritual blindness by failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. We’re all born in sin and spiritual blindness. If we acknowledge our sin and blindness, Jesus will forgive and heal us.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Jeremiah 25.1-14n, p. 945, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Wednesday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/15/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 25:30-38  –   The Lord’s judgment;
Romans 10:14-21  –   Israel’s responsibility;
John 10:1-18   –   The Good Shepherd;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord proclaims his judgment against all the inhabitants of earth. His voice will resound to the ends of the earth, bringing judgment on all flesh, and the wicked will be slain. The bodies of the wicked will extend from one end of the earth to the other; they will not be mourned or buried, but will lie like dung on the surface of the earth. The rulers of the people will be slaughtered; there will be no refuge or escape from God’s wrath. The Lord will destroy the “pastures” and “sheep folds” of the wicked. The land will become a wild land where the lion stalks his prey.

Romans Paraphrase:

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But people can’t call upon someone whom they haven’t believed, and they can’t believe someone of whom they’ve never heard. People can’t hear the Gospel of Christ unless someone is sent to preach the Gospel. The efforts and personal sacrifices of those who are missionaries of the Gospel are beautiful, but not everyone has heeded the Gospel.

Faith comes from hearing the Gospel, and the hearing of the Gospel comes from preaching Jesus Christ. But people cannot claim that they haven’t heard the Gospel because the Gospel has been proclaimed to the farthest corners of the earth. Nor can people claim that they did not understand the Gospel, because it has been understood by the most insignificant nations and least educated people. Those who didn’t seek the Lord have found him and he has revealed himself to them, while Israel, who claimed to know God and to be his people, has rejected and disobeyed the Lord.

John Paraphrase:

One who attempts to enter God’s “sheepfold” by some way other than the door is a thief. The shepherd enters by the door, and is known by the gatekeeper and by his sheep. He leads them out and they follow him. Sheep will not follow a stranger; instead they flee from him.

His hearers didn’t understand what Jesus meant by this illustration, so Jesus said that he is the door to God’s “sheepfold.” All other attempts to enter the “fold” are dishonest. God’s “sheep” do not heed the “false shepherds.” Jesus is the door to God’s sheepfold. Those who enter by Jesus will be protected and spiritually nurtured. False shepherds come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep and gives his life for them so that they will have abundant life.

The false shepherds are like hired people, who don’t care about the sheep; they’re just doing a job for what they can get out of it, personally. The hireling sees a wolf coming and he abandons the sheep and flees, because he cares only for himself. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and he knows each one of his sheep, and his sheep know him in the same way that God the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father.

Jesus has other “sheep” (beside the Jews; i.e. Gentiles). His sheep heed his voice, and they will be one flock with one shepherd. God loves Jesus because Jesus is willing to obey God’s will and to lay down his life for God’s “sheep.” Jesus gives his life voluntarily for his sheep, and he has the power to take up his life again by God’s authority.

Commentary:

There is a Day of Judgment coming when the “false shepherds” and their “sheep” will be destroyed. Like a roaring lion, the wrath of God will be carried out upon them. Judah had been led by unfaithful shepherds, and the people had not heeded God’s Word or the warnings of God’s prophets. This prophecy was fulfilled by the conquest and the exile of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from 587 to 517 B.C. It was also fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and the Jews were scattered throughout the world.

But God’s Word is eternal, and it also describes the second coming of Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment. It describes the punishment of false shepherds, and the slaughter of the sheep who followed them and belonged to the false shepherds.

The Church is the “New Israel”, and the “New People of God.” The Church and those who claim to be Christians should take warning from the experience of Israel that it is not those who claim to know the Lord and to have a special relationship with him, but those who trust and obey him, who are God’s people (Matthew 7:21-24).

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), but the name of Jesus isn’t some magical incantation. It isn’t a “good luck charm.” Only those who have believed in Jesus, who have trusted and obeyed him, can call on his name for their salvation.

Those who have rejected Jesus and have refused to obey him will not be able to claim ignorance, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ has reached every corner of the world. They won’t be able to claim that they couldn’t understand the Gospel, because it doesn’t take intelligence or education to understand. What it takes is willingness to trust and obey.

Jesus is the door to God’s eternal “sheepfold” and “pastures.” There is no other way to forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life with God (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Those who are trying to get into heaven some other way, by doing certain “good deeds” or by following some other “shepherd” will be eternally destroyed.

Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him, personally, through the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, which only Jesus gives (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Jesus and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus leads his “sheep” by his Holy Spirit. We recognize his “voice” by his Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/16/05;
Podcast: Thursday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 26:1-16 (17-24)   –   The temple sermon;
Romans 11:1-12   –   Israel’s rejection;
John 10:19-42   –   Opposition to Jesus;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

In the reign of Jehoiakim (about 609 B.C.), the Lord directed Jeremiah to stand in the court of the temple and preach God’s Word to all who came to worship, urging their repentance and return to obedience to the Lord. Jeremiah was to warn them that if they did not listen to the Lord and obey his law and the word of his prophets, the Lord would destroy the temple and Jerusalem, as had happened to Shiloh. [The temple at Shiloh (near Bethel in the territory of Ephraim), considered heretical by Jerusalem, had been destroyed around 1050 B. C.* (Psalm 78:56-72; 1 Samuel Chapters 4-6)].

When Jeremiah had finished proclaiming this message, the priests and prophets and the people arrested Jeremiah, intending to execute him for preaching against the temple and the city. The princes of Judah came from the palace to the New Gate of the temple to conduct Jeremiah’s trial.

Jeremiah testified that the Lord had sent him to preach against the temple and city. Jeremiah called for the people to repent, change their behavior and become obedient to God’s Word. Jeremiah warned them that if they executed him they would be guilty of murder. The princes and the people told the priests and prophets that Jeremiah did not deserve execution, because he had truly spoken God’s Word.

Some of the elders recalled that Micah had preached a similar message in the days of King Hezekiah, and Hezekiah responded to the message with repentance, and the Lord had withheld his punishment. Another prophet, Uriah preached a similar message, and King Jehoiakim tried to execute Uriah, but Uriah fled to Egypt, so Jehoiakim sent men to find and arrest Uriah and bring him back, and Jehoiakim killed Uriah and buried him without honor. Jeremiah avoided a similar fate by the influence of Ahikam, the son of the royal secretary.

Romans Paraphrase:

God has not rejected the Jews. Paul himself was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul recalled that Elijah thought he was the last remaining Jew faithful to the Lord, but God told him that there were seven thousand faithful Jews remaining, who had not worshiped idols. Paul said that likewise in his time there was a remnant chosen by grace (unmerited favor), not by works (keeping the law).

Paul says that the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews is providential, making it possible for the Gentiles to receive salvation. But the Jews’ rejection need not be permanent. If the Gentiles were blessed by the Jews’ rejection, they will be blessed even more by the reconciliation and inclusion of the Jews.

John Paraphrase:

There was a controversy among the Jews about Jesus; some thought he was crazy and had a demon, but others said that Jesus’ teachings and his miracles were not the ravings and deeds of a madman. During the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem, Jesus was walking in the portico of Solomon in the Temple and the Jews (the religious leaders) came to Jesus and asked him to make a public declaration, if he was the Messiah (Christ). Jesus said that he had already told them, but that they had not believed.

Jesus said that the works he did confirmed who he was. The reason the Jewish authorities did not believe was because they did not belong to Jesus’ “flock.” Jesus said that those who belong to him hear his voice and follow him, and Jesus knows them. Jesus gives the members of his flock eternal life; they will never perish and no one can separate them from Jesus, because it is God’s will that they remain with Jesus. Jesus declared that he and the Father are one.

The Jewish authorities picked up stones to kill Jesus, but Jesus asked them for which of his good deeds they were executing him. They replied that they were going to execute him for blasphemy, because Jesus had claimed to be one with God. Jesus quoted Psalm 86, saying that if those who received God’s Word were called sons of God in scripture, and were not guilty of blasphemy, how could they accuse Jesus, whom God had anointed and sent into the world (as the “Messiah,” which means “anointed”). Further, Jesus’ miracles demonstrate that Jesus is doing the works of God, and that Jesus is in God and God in him.

Again the authorities tried to arrest Jesus but he escaped them. Jesus went to Perea (the region east of the Jordan River from the Arnon River to Pella), and many people came to him there and believed in him, acknowledging that what John the Baptizer had said about Jesus was true.

Commentary:

God’s Word either heals people or offends and condemns them. Jeremiah was led by the Lord to proclaim a message of warning, calling them to repent and return to trust and obedience to the Lord and his Word. Jeremiah’s message offended and angered the religious and civic leaders and the people. They didn’t want to hear that message, but when they gave Jeremiah a fair hearing, they recalled other times when a similar message had resulted in repentance,  forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with the Lord. They realized that Jeremiah was truly speaking God’s Word and spared Jeremiah’s life.

God has not rejected the Jews. Paul felt that he, like Elijah, was the last faithful Jew, but that there would be a remnant who would be saved, not by keeping the Jewish law, but by God’s grace (unmerited favor; through faith in Jesus Christ). In Paul’s own case, he had tried to proclaim the Gospel to his fellow Jews, but had been forced, by their rejection of his message, to take it to the Gentiles. The Gentiles had benefited, but their acceptance did not disqualify the Jews from sharing in that grace and blessing through Jesus Christ.

Jesus caused controversy among the Jews. To some his message was offensive but others recognized that it was God’s Word. Some thought Jesus’ message was the ravings of a madman; some thought his deeds were evil and demonic. Jesus made some angry enough to want to kill Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are those who hear his voice and follow him in trust and obedience. It is those who trust and obey Jesus who will be saved from God’s wrath and punishment, by grace, through faith in Jesus.

In one sense we are all “Jews,” created to be God’s people. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). The penalty for sin (disobedience to God) is eternal death (Romans 6: 23). Jesus is God’s only plan for our forgiveness and salvation from his wrath and judgment (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar top right, home).  Jesus is calling us to repent and turn to the Lord in trust and obedience. Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh (John 1:1-5, 14).

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

 


*The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Ed. by Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, Jeremiah 7.1-15 n, p 919, New York, Oxford University Press, 1962.


Friday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/17/05;
Podcast: Friday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 29:1 (2-3) 4-14   –   Letter to the exiles;
Romans 11:13-24   –    The olive tree;
John 11:1-27  –    Raising Lazarus;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

After the first general deportation of exiles to Babylon (in 598 B.C.), Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles. The Lord told them to establish themselves in Babylon, building houses and planting gardens. They were to marry and have children, and their children were to marry and have children. They were to multiply, and they were to live as citizens, working and praying for the good of the state. But the Lord warned them not to believe the prophets and diviners among them, because they were not serving the Lord, but were prophesying lies.

The Lord promised that after seventy years in Babylon the Lord would bring them back to the Promised Land. The Lord assured them that he had plans for their welfare to give them a future and hope. Then they will call upon and pray to the Lord and he will hear them. When they seek God with all their heart, the Lord will allow himself to be found by them. The Lord will restore their fortunes and gather them from wherever they have been scattered and bring them back to the Promised Land from which the Lord had sent them into exile.

Romans Paraphrase:

Paul, a Jew, had become an apostle (messenger; of the Gospel) to the Gentiles but he hoped through his ministry that his fellow Jews might become jealous and want to share in the Gospel with the Gentiles and so be saved. The Jews’ initial rejection of the Gospel led to reconciliation with God for the Gentiles, so the Jews’ acceptance will give life to those who were (spiritually) dead. The patriarchs of Israel were holy and their descendants are consecrated through them.

Israel is symbolized by an olive tree; the patriarchs are the root, and the People of God are the branches. The Lord has removed some of the branches, and the Gentiles, like wild olive shoots, have been grafted in. Gentiles are not to boast over the natural branches, but to remember that it is the root which supports them and gives them life. Some natural branches were removed because of unbelief, but if they repent they can be grafted back in more easily than the wild shoots. The Gentiles remain only as they hold firmly to faith (obedient trust), because the Lord can remove them as easily as he removed natural branches. Remember that God is kind to us as long as we remain in his kindness, but if we depart from him we will be cut off.

John Paraphrase:

Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, of Bethany in Judea, were friends of the Lord. Lazarus became ill and when Jesus heard about this, he stayed where he was for two days, before announcing that he was going to Judea. The disciples questioned why Jesus would go to Judea, since the religious authorities there were plotting to kill Jesus.

Jesus said that, like a person walking in daylight does not stumble, so Jesus would work during the time he was given in the world according to God’s will. There was a time coming when Jesus would no longer be able to work.

Jesus told them that Lazarus had “fallen asleep” but that Jesus was going to him to wake him. The disciples said that if Lazarus was sleeping he would recover on his own, so Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was dead. Jesus said that, for his disciples’ sake, he was glad that he had not been there to keep Lazarus from dying, so that his disciples’ faith would be strengthened. Thomas declared his willingness to go with Jesus even if it meant his death.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Since Jerusalem was only a couple miles from Bethany, many of the religious authorities from Jerusalem had come to console Mary and Martha.

When Martha heard that Jesus was approaching, she went out to meet him, while Mary stayed in the house. Martha declared her faith that, if Jesus had been present, her brother would not have died, and that even now God would grant whatever Jesus asked. Jesus told her that her brother would rise to life again. Martha declared her faith in the ultimate resurrection of the dead.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus asked Martha if she believed this, and Martha said “Yes, Lord” and declared her faith that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) the Son of God, whose coming had been promised by scripture and was now being fulfilled.

Commentary:

The Lord has plans for us for our good, to give us hope and a future. In a sense we are all exiled in Babylon for about seventy years. We’re to live our normal lives and work for the good of society. During the exile we’re to learn to call upon the Lord; we’re to seek the Lord, so that we can find him and have a personal relationship with him, when we seek him with all our heart (see Acts 17:26-27). We’re to learn to trust in his promises, and he will show us he is able and faithful to keep those promises. He promises that if we will seek him and rely on him he will bring us into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom.

God’s plan for our good was to gather a kingdom of his people, and it began with the patriarchs of Israel, through whom we all received the scriptures and the fulfillment of the promises of a Savior and eternal life, provided that we trust and obey Jesus. Jesus is God’s only provision for our salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Jesus says that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, and if we knock it will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7).

The Lord promises that if we trust and obey him, he will reveal himself to us (John 14:21). Jesus is the shoot from the stump of Judaism (Isaiah 11:1-2) which has become the trunk to which we are grafted into God’s kingdom. In order to thrive we must remain connected to Jesus by trust and obedience through his indwelling Holy Spirit. The Lord warns his people not to listen to false, worldly prophets or practitioners of the occult.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us hope and a future; he restores our fortunes, gathers us from our exile in “Babylon,” and leads us back to the Promised Land of eternal life in heaven. In this world we’re in exile and under a spiritual death sentence (Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and only through Jesus are we forgiven and saved (See God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home).

Jesus’ miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus demonstrates that Jesus is the “Lord and Giver of Life” (in the words of the third article of the Nicene Creed). Jesus frees us from the bondage of sin and fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus’ resurrection gives us the assurance of resurrection and an eternal future, and that real, spiritual, eternal life begins right now, through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 5 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/18/05;
Podcast: Saturday 5 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 31:27-34  –   The New Covenant;
Romans 11:25-36    –   Israel’s salvation;
John 11:28-44  –    Lazarus raised;
John 12:37-50   –  Spiritual blindness;

Jeremiah Summary:

The Lord will repopulate the Promised Land which he caused to be depopulated by the exile. He will cause Israel to be fruitful. Israel will no longer feel they are suffering for the sins of their fathers. The Lord will hold each person accountable for their own deeds. The Lord will make a New Covenant with his people different from the Old Covenant of Law, which God’s people failed to keep, although joined to the Lord like husband and wife.

Under the New Covenant, the Lord will put his law within them; it will be written upon their hearts. The Lord will be their God and they will be his people. People will no longer teach one another to know the Lord, for they will all know the Lord individually, regardless of their social status, because the Lord will forgive their sins and remember their sins no more.

Romans Summary:

Lest the Gentiles become conceited, Paul wanted us to understand that Israel’s rejection of the Gospel is only temporary, allowing the Gentiles to receive salvation. Paul quoted Isaiah 59:20-21, prophesying that the Savior would come from Zion (Jerusalem; Israel; the city of God) and will banish ungodliness from Jacob (Israel; father of the heads of the twelve tribes; the People of Israel). In Paul’s time Israel was the enemy of God, concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they are still God’s chosen and called people because of God’s steadfast faithfulness to their forefathers.

The promises and call of God are irrevocable. God has been merciful to the Gentiles who were once disobedient to God, and God will show the same mercy to Israel, who is now disobedient. God’s wisdom, knowledge and gifts are beyond human calculation and his ways and his judgments are beyond human understanding.

Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13, Job 35:7 and 41:11 affirming that God’s knowledge and judgment are far above human ability and his loving kindness to us is far beyond our ability to repay. All things originate with him, belong to him and are given to us through him. He is worthy of glory for ever.

John 11 Summary:

Jesus, knowing that Lazarus had died, had gone to Bethany to the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11:1-27; see entry for yesterday Friday, 5 Lent, odd year). Martha had gone out to meet Jesus, and then she returned to the house and told Mary that the “Teacher” was asking for her.

Mary went out to Jesus, and the religious authorities from Jerusalem who were there comforting Mary and Martha followed her, thinking she was going to Lazarus’ tomb. Mary came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, weeping, and said that if Jesus had been there (when Lazarus was sick) Lazarus would not have died. Jesus was deeply moved by Mary’s grief, and by that of the mourners, and Jesus wept.

Jesus asked where Lazarus had been entombed, and they led him to the place. The tomb was a cave sealed with a large stone, Jesus told the mourners to remove the stone. Mary told Jesus that Lazarus had been dead four days, and that there would be an odor. But Jesus told her that if she trusted him she would see God’s glory.

They removed the stone, and Jesus prayed aloud to God the Father, so that the witnesses would give God the glory rather than thinking that Lazarus’ resurrection was a work of magic or the occult. Then Jesus called Lazarus by name and commanded him to come out, and Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound with the burial cloths (compare John 5:28-29). Jesus commanded the witnesses to unbind and free him.

John 12 Summary:

Although Jesus had done many miracles revealing who he was (“signs”), the Jews (religious authorities) did not believe in him. Their rejection of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy given through Isaiah 6:9-10. Because they refused to believe the “signs,” the evidence of who Jesus is, they became spiritually blind to the truth. Isaiah foresaw the Christ and spoke of him.

Many of the Jews, even the religious leaders, believed in Jesus, but did not confess it, because they were afraid they would lose their standing in their religion and their society. What people thought of them was more important to them than God’s approval. God is fulfilling his promise to repopulate the eternal Promised Land through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus declared that those who believe in Jesus believe God, and those who see Jesus see God. Jesus came into the world as spiritual light, to dispel spiritual blindness and darkness. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Jesus does not condemn those who do not obey Jesus’ teachings; those who reject Jesus and his teachings will be condemned on the Day of Judgment by the word Jesus has spoken, because Jesus has declared God’s Word, by God’s authority and command. (Obedience to) God’s Word leads to eternal life.

The Lord promised a New Covenant with his people, through which his Word would dwell within each individual. Each of his people would have a personal fellowship with the Lord; they would know him individually and personally. They would be freed from the Covenant of Law, which they couldn’t keep, and God would forgive and forget their sins.

That New Covenant is fulfilled through Jesus Christ. It is through obedient trust in Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God. Only Jesus gives the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34), only to his disciples who trust and obey him (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have individual, personal fellowship with the Lord. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that God’s Word is opened to our understanding, and written upon our hearts. It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are enabled and empowered to know and do God’s will. In the New Covenant, each individual will be personally accountable to God for what each has done in life.

In the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9), each individual receives the same mercy and the same grace. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Gentiles are not denied salvation because of their ancestor’s disobedience and neither are the Jews. But neither does either group have God’s special favor by accident of birth; neither group is God’s special people because they happen to be born into their religion. The Gentiles received the scriptures and the promises of God through the Jews, but the Jews receive the fulfillment through acceptance of and faith in Jesus Christ.

Those who believe (trust and obey) Jesus will see God’s glory. Jesus is the Lord and Giver of Life (third article, Nicene Creed; see entry for yesterday, Friday, 5 Lent, odd year, above). Jesus will reveal himself to his disciples who trust and obey him (John 14:21).

Jesus did many miracles revealing who he is. Those who see these “signs” and believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Savior, believe God. Those who see who Jesus is, and see what Jesus does are seeing God. Jesus is God revealed in human flesh (Colossians 2:8-9; John 20:28; Matthew 1:23).  Jesus is the light of the world that dispels spiritual blindness. Jesus is the Word of God made visible (John 1:1-5, 14). Those who refuse to trust and obey Jesus are condemning themselves to eternal death.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

For Next Week:

Holy Week – Odd – 03/29 – 04/04/2015

 http://shepherdboy.byethost12.com/dw_bible/oddyear/holyweek_odd.html

Week of 4 Lent – Odd – 03/15 – 21/2015

March 14, 2015

Week of 4 Lent – Odd

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Podcast Download: Week of 4 Lent – Odd
Sunday 4 Lent – Odd
First Posted 03/05/05;
Podcast: Sunday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 14:1-9 (10-16) 17-22   –   Spiritual drought;
Galatians 4:21-5:1    –  Allegory of Hagar and Sarah;
Mark 8:11-21  –   Miraculous signs.

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

Judah was suffering catastrophic drought. The southern kingdom of Judah, and Jerusalem, the civil and religious capital, mourned, prostrating themselves on the ground, praying for rain. The cisterns were dry. Nobles and farmers (rich and poor) were both humbled and dismayed by the lack of rain. Wild animals and farm animals were starving because there was no grass.

In a Day of Repentance the people confess their sins and their backsliding, praying that the Lord will be with them and save them, reminding the Lord that they are his people, called by his name. But the Lord said that the people had only returned and called on God because of their need; when things are going well they had wandered far from God. So God did not accept their lament and their prayers; he was punishing them for their sin.

The Lord declared that he would not accept prayers for his people. Fasting and sacrifices are not acceptable; God will consume these people by sword, famine and pestilence. False prophets among the people were assuring them that they would not see sword or famine, and they would have peace. But the Lord declared that he had not sent these false prophets, and they were not speaking God’s Word.

The Lord declares that the false prophets will be destroyed along with the people who put their trust in them. Mourn night and day for people who were once like God’s virginal daughter, now grievously wounded by calamity. “Both prophet and priest ply their trade, and have no knowledge (Jeremiah14:18c RSV). The people acknowledge their sin and plead for God’s mercy for his name’s sake, recognizing that only God can restore them and provide what they need.

Galatians Paraphrase:

Those who desire to be righteous by keeping the law (Jewish law; Jewish scripture) should hear what scripture says. The scriptures say that Abraham had two sons; one by his slave, Hagar, and one by a free woman (Sarah, his wife). Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was born according to the flesh, but Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born in fulfillment of God’s promise.

This is an allegory: Hagar is Mount Sinai (where Moses received the Covenant of Law from God) and she represents earthly Jerusalem. She is in slavery with her children (to law, sin, and death). But the heavenly Jerusalem is free and she is Christ’s Church, the “mother” of Christians.

Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1, showing that the desolate one, Sarah (who had been barren and beyond childbearing age) gave birth to the son through whom God’s promise will be fulfilled. Christians are children of promise like Isaac. As Ishmael persecuted Isaac so those born of the flesh now persecute Christians. But Paul quotes Genesis 21:9-12, to show that it is the children of the promise that inherit God’s promise; the children of the flesh and slavery will be cast out.

Mark Paraphrase:

The Pharisees (leaders of the predominant, strict, legalistic faction of Judaism) argued with Jesus and sought a miraculous sign from Jesus as a test of his authenticity. Jesus was greatly saddened, and asked why this generation sought “signs.” Jesus said that none would be given.

Jesus and his disciples departed by boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had only one loaf with them, and had forgotten to bring more. Jesus was telling them to watch out for the “leaven” (a symbol for “sin”) of the Pharisees and Herod.

The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread, and discussed among themselves their lack of bread. Jesus was aware of what they were discussing, and asked them why they were worrying about bread. Hadn’t they yet understood, after seeing Jesus feed the four thousand and the five thousand? Did the disciples also lack ears that heard and eyes that saw; were their hearts too hard to believe what they experienced? Jesus asked them to remember the baskets full of leftover bread and fish from the feedings of the multitudes. Then he asked them again if they still didn’t understand.

Commentary:

Judah had turned away from obedience to the Lord and refused to hear the Word of God and God’s prophets. Instead they listened to false prophets who assured them that they had God’s presence, favor and peace. They had not learned from God’s punishment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and had not heeded the warnings of Jeremiah that similar punishment was going to come upon them.

But when God lifted his providence from them and they began to feel his judgment, then they began to repent. Their repentance was only an attempt to avoid the judgment that was coming. God told them that he would not accept religious ritual; He wants genuine spiritual reform. Judah wanted to make a confession, burn a sacrifice or two, and say a few prayers so that they could avoid the consequence of their habitual, continued disobedience.

Two false teachings began to appear within the Church during the lifetime of the Apostles. One is now called “Cheap Grace;*” which is salvation by grace, without requiring discipleship and obedience to Jesus Christ. The other is called “works-righteousness” or “justification by works.” It was represented in the New Testament Church by the “Judaisers” or the “circumcision party,” (see Acts 11:2 for example) who wanted Gentile Christians to be required to keep the Jewish Laws, including circumcision (see False Teachings, sidebar, top right, home).

Paul is addressing the “Judaisers” in this text. The scriptural, apostolic Gospel is midway between these two extreme false teachings. Salvation is by grace (free gift; unmerited favor) to be received by faith (obedient trust), not by works (keeping of the law; Ephesians 2:8-9; compare Galatians 2:16). Those who attempt to be saved by doing “good deeds” or by keeping Jewish laws are forfeiting God’s promise of salvation through faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:3-4).

The Pharisees represent the legalism of Judaism versus the promise and grace through Jesus Christ. The Pharisees trusted in their righteousness by their outward keeping of the law, but refused to believe in Jesus without some sign to prove himself. For those who need proof in order to believe in Jesus there is none, because proof makes faith unnecessary. But for those who truly believe, who trust and obey, there is “proof” all around us, as it was for the Pharisees. Jesus was in the temple daily healing the sick under the noses of the Pharisees.

Paul told Timothy,  a young minister of the Gospel whom Paul had trained, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having ‘itching ears,’ will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings (the people’s), and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). That’s what had happened in Judah in the time of Jeremiah, and many similar cases can be seen today, where religion has become a trade (a business; Jeremiah 14:18c RSV), and preachers are telling the people what the people want to hear; that they have God’s presence, favor and peace, while the people are in flagrant disobedience to God’s Word.

I believe that America and the Church, at least in America, are in the midst of a great spiritual drought, and the only way to avoid the catastrophic consequences of that drought is not by one national Day of Repentance, not by a few outward displays of repentance through religious rituals, but by a genuine confession and repentance, truly returning to trust and obedience to Jesus Christ by each one of us. Do we trust and obey Jesus and seek his guidance daily, or do we only turn to the Lord when things aren’t going our way?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


*See: The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., NY 1963 ISBN 0-02-083850-6


Monday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/06/05;
Podcast: Monday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 16:(1-9) 10-21  –  Israel’s punishment and restoration;
Romans 7:1-12   –   Law and sin;
John 6:1-15   –   Feeding the five thousand.

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah not to marry or have children, because God’s judgment was upon the children born (in Judah), and they would be killed by plague, war and famine. The Lord commanded Jeremiah not to participate in mourning, or comfort the mourners of Judah, because the Lord had removed his peace, steadfast love and mercy from them. The Lord had sworn to remove mirth, gladness and celebration from them (Jeremiah 16:9; compare Jeremiah 7:34).

When the people asked why this had befallen them, Jeremiah was instructed to tell them that their fathers had forsaken the Lord and had not obeyed God’s law and had served and worshiped idols, and that their children had done more so and worse than their fathers. Each pursued his own evil desires, refusing to listen to the Lord. Therefore God was going to cast them out of the Promised Land into exile in a foreign land (Babylon) where they would be forced to serve other gods.

The Lord declared that the time was coming when Israel would no longer consider deliverance from Egypt but rather from Babylon as God’s great act of deliverance. Their return to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon would be the “New Exodus.”

Israel could not conceal her sins from God, who will send fishermen and hunters to track them down and catch them. God will punish them fully for their sins, because they have polluted God’s land with idols and abominations.

The Lord is the strength and fortress of those who take refuge in him. All the nations will come to the Lord, realizing that the religions inherited from their fathers are lies and worthless, and acknowledging that it is impossible for man to make his own gods, since such “gods” are powerless. The Lord will reveal his power and might, so that all will know that he alone is Lord.

Romans Paraphrase:

Just as the death of a spouse releases a person from the legal obligations of marriage, so followers of Christ have been discharged from obligation to God’s law through their participation in Christ’s death, as members of his body. We have been freed from the power of sin and death so that we can belong to and serve Jesus and be productive in working to accomplish God’s purpose. While we were living according to our carnal nature the law increased our temptation to sin, and yielding to that temptation leads to spiritual death.

Now Christians are dead as far as obligation to God’s law is concerned and freed from its condemnation so that we are free to live in (accordance with) the Spirit. The law isn’t sin, nor does it cause sin, but it makes us aware of our sin and increases our temptation to sin.

Before, our awareness of our obligation to God’s law sin was dead is far as we were concerned, but when we learned of God’s law, sin revived and we were condemned to die eternally (we died spiritually). The law which promised life (to those who obeyed the law in every detail; Leviticus 18:5) brought spiritual death. God’s law is holy, just and good; it is sin which deceives and tempts us to disobey.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat. The crowd coming to Jesus seeking healing saw them leave and followed them. Jesus had gone up into the hillside and sat down with his disciples. Jesus saw the crowd coming to him and asked Philip, as a test, where they could buy bread to feed the crowd, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied that it would take two days’ wages to buy enough for each person to have a small portion. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said there was a boy with them who had five loaves of bread and two fish, but that would hardly begin to supply what was needed.

Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down on the grassy hillside, and he took the boy’s bread and fish and having prayed in thanksgiving, he broke them into pieces and had the disciples distribute them to the crowd of about five thousand people. All ate as much as they wanted and were satisfied, and there were twelve baskets full of food left over.

When the people saw and realized what had occurred they declared that Jesus was the prophet who was expected to appear (before the coming of the Messiah). Realizing they were about to force Jesus to be their king, he withdrew into the hills.

Commentary:

God fulfills his promises. Judah was taken into exile in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar for seventy years from 587 B.C. to 517 B.C. Seventy years is virtually a life sentence. Those who went into exile died in Babylon; those who returned were a different generation.

God is the only true God, the Creator of the Universe. All other so-called gods are the creation of man’s imagination: idols. Idolatry represents mankind’s attempt to manipulate God; to get God to do our will. God is our creator and it is his purpose to select people who will trust and obey him. I am convinced that the meaning and purpose of life is to seek and find God, and to come to a personal fellowship with him through his Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 17:26-27).

God has revealed his power and might in Jesus Christ and people from all nations have turned from idols and come to the Lord God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our Salvation (Acts 4:12; see God’s Plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home), and has been his plan from the beginning of creation (John 1:1-5, 14). No one can know, come to God, be forgiven, reconciled and have peace, fellowship and eternal life with God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). God has planned from the beginning of creation to give us freedom to choose, during this life, whether to trust and obey him or not. This life is a selection and training process for eternity. God’s discipline of the disobedient is intended to bring us to repentance, obedience and salvation.

God’s will is our best interest. His law was intended to teach us what is good and right. Real, good, life, as God intended it, is only possible if we obey God’s law. The law shows us what is good and what is sin, but we are incapable of keeping it. The law promises life to those who keep all the law, but it condemns to eternal death those who fail to keep every bit of it.

We have all sinned (disobeyed God’s Word) and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10), and the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all to have eternal life (Romans 5:8; John 3:16-17). God forgives our sins as a free gift to be received by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are freed from the condemnation of the law, provided that we trust and obey Jesus and are guided by his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9).

The multitudes followed Jesus because they saw the miraculous physical healings that he did (John 6:2). Jesus fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish, and there were twelve baskets of left-overs! When the people saw and realized what had occurred, they wanted to force Jesus to be their king, because they wanted free “Medicare” and “free lunches.” They were not thinking about how to serve him, but how he could serve them! They weren’t interested in the spiritual healing and the spiritual feeding that Jesus offered them.

Jesus fed the five thousand, but they soon were physically hungry again. Spiritual healing and spiritual feeding are eternal; they’re more necessary to us than physical food and health. How many of us are more concerned with physical health and physical gratification than spiritual health and nurture? Many people think that spiritual things are “imaginary” but they are more real and lasting than the physical things we think are solid and true. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy our spiritual needs.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Tuesday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/07/05;
Podcast: Tuesday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 17:19-27    –    The Sabbath law;
Romans 7:13-25   –    Inner conflict of sin;
John 6:16-27  –   Walking on water;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to stand in the Benjamin Gate of Jerusalem, which the kings of Judah use to enter and exit the city, and also in the other gates of Jerusalem and warn the people, for the sake of their lives, not to violate the Sabbath rest by carrying burdens on the Sabbath, or do any kind of work. The Lord had given this commandment to the patriarchs, but Israel had been stubborn and disobedient and had not listened and obeyed the commandment. The Lord promised that if Judah would obey the commandment and keep the Sabbath holy, the kings of the line of David would rule, their sacrifices would be acceptable to the Lord, and Jerusalem would be inhabited forever. But if Judah violated the Sabbath law Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Romans Paraphrase:

The law of God is good; it is sin that causes death, not the law. So sin is revealed to be sin. The law is spiritual (divine; holy) but we are carnal, slaves to desires of the flesh. We can desire what is right within our souls and yet do what is against it in our bodies. Thus it is sin, dwelling within our flesh, which causes us to do what is contrary to the law and to our souls.

We can will to do what is right and yet be unable to do it. We can desire to do what is good and yet do what is evil. Whenever we want to do right we must be careful, because evil is surely close at hand. Our souls delight in the law of God, but in our flesh sin enforces another set of laws which is in opposition to the law of God, enslaving us to the law of sin. Thank God that in Jesus Christ we can be freed from the law of sin and death so that we can serve God.

John Paraphrase:

Jesus had fed the five thousand and then gone into the hills to pray. When evening came, the disciples got into the boat to return across the sea to Capernaum without him. A storm arose and the wind and waves were against them. After rowing three or four miles they saw Jesus coming toward them, walking on the water. The disciples were frightened, but Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid. Jesus got into the boat and immediately the storm ceased and they were at their destination.

The next day the crowd who had been fed came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. They had seen the disciples leave without Jesus, so they asked Jesus how he had gotten here. Jesus replied that the crowd had come looking for Jesus not because the miracle of the feeding had revealed to them that Jesus was the Messiah, but because they were seeking another free meal. Jesus told them not to pursue material things, like food, which perish and cannot satisfy eternally, but to instead pursue the spiritual food which nurtures and sustains the soul to eternal life. That spiritual food can be provided only by Jesus, whom God authenticated by the miraculous sign which Jesus had done.

Commentary:

Failure to keep the Sabbath law was symptomatic of Judah’s failure to obey God’s Word. God gave them the Sabbath rest for their own benefit (Mark 2:27), but they were so anxious to pursue their own agenda that they went ahead and did what they wanted to, knowing that it was contrary to God’s Word. Jeremiah warned Judah to keep the Sabbath rest for the sake of their lives.

The Lord promised that if God’s people obeyed God’s Word, they would be led by the heir to the throne of David, and Jerusalem would be an eternal city (Jeremiah 17:25). But disobedience of God’s Word would lead to destruction.  How could God’s people expect God to accept their sacrifices and offerings, their rituals of worship, if they were unwilling to obey God’s Word?

God’s Word is being fulfilled. Jesus is the heir to the throne of David, and his church is the new eternal city of Jerusalem on Earth. God’s people are those who trust and obey Jesus. But because they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, earthly Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A. D. by the Romans and the Jews were scattered throughout the world, and only began returning to the Promised Land following World War II.

Keeping the Sabbath won’t entitle us to salvation and eternal life, and breaking it won’t condemn us to eternal damnation, but it is a symptom of our obedience and relationship to God. God says that we are to rest from our labors on the Sabbath, but we think about the stuff we think we need to do and we think we have only Sunday in which to do it.

The fact that we shop on Sunday reveals that we desire material things too much. The fact that we work and sell on Sunday reveals that we desire wealth and success too much. If we didn’t buy things on Sunday, businesses would not be open on Sunday, and most people would not have to work on Sunday. There was a time in America when businesses were closed on Sunday. Do we even commit regularly to an hour or two on Sunday morning to worship in God’s house, or do we attend only if something else doesn’t come up?

Paul recognized that there is a law within our flesh which is opposed to God’s law, and that only through obedient trust in Jesus can we be freed from the tyranny of our own flesh. Only Jesus can set us free from the dominion of sin so that we can truly serve God. In Jesus we’re no longer slaves of sin, provided that we choose to be led by his Word and his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-9).

The people who had been fed realized that they had seen a miracle, but the miracle was given so that they might know that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. The people weren’t interested in spiritual food, and they weren’t interested in a spiritual king. They wanted a political king who would deliver them from Roman occupation; they wanted an economic king who would provide them with abundant free food. They sought to follow Jesus only for the material benefits he could provide. But Jesus wants followers who are willing to be his disciples; who are willing to trust and obey him; who will set sail through the storms and darkness of this world, trusting that Jesus will be with them, will give them assurance in the darkness, will calm the wind and waves, and deliver them safe on the other shore.

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Wednesday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/08/05;
Podcast: Wednesday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 18:1-11  –  Allegory of the potter;
Romans 8:1-11   –   Life in the Spirit;
John 6:27-40   –   Jesus the bread of life;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

The Lord told Jeremiah to visit his local potter, and there Jeremiah would hear the Lord’s Word. So Jeremiah went and saw the potter at his wheel shaping a pot of clay, but the pot was spoiled in the working process, so the potter reshaped it into another form, according to the potter’s desire. Then the Lord told Jeremiah that the Lord is like the potter and Israel (God’s kingdom; God’s people) is like the clay. Was not the Lord allowed to reshape the clay to suit his will and purpose?

At any time during the molding process, the Lord can break down and destroy a nation or kingdom (which is not in accordance with the Lord’s will), and if that nation or kingdom turns from evil the Lord can change his mind and not destroy it. Conversely, if a nation or kingdom which the Lord has molded and shaped doesn’t do what the Lord intended when he created it but does evil and doesn’t heed God’s Word, the Lord can change his mind and withhold the good he intended to do for them. The Lord declared to Judah that the Lord is shaping calamity (condemnation; the opposite of good) against them, so they should repent of their evil ways and change their behavior.

Romans Paraphrase:

Those who are in Christ are no longer under condemnation. The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ frees us from the law of sin and death. The law, weakened by our flesh, was not able to make us righteous, but God sent his Son in human flesh to put sin to death, so that we might be able to fulfill the just requirement of the law by walking according to the Holy Spirit instead of walking in the flesh. Those who walk according to the flesh are focused on worldly, carnal things, but those who walk according to the Spirit focus on spiritual things.

Pursuing things of the flesh leads to spiritual death, but pursuing things of the Sprit leads to eternal life and peace with God. The carnal mind is hostile to God; it cannot and will not submit to God’s law and thus cannot please God. “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

Although our bodies are dead because of sin our souls are alive because of righteousness, if Christ is really within us through his indwelling Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit is the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, and he will give eternal life to us also through his Spirit within us.

John Paraphrase:

After Jesus had fed a crowd of five thousand people, they followed Jesus to Capernaum (see John 6:1-15). Jesus told them not to pursue and work for physical food, which perishes and doesn’t satisfy, but instead pursue and work for spiritual food which truly satisfies and endures to eternity. Jesus Christ is the only source of that spiritual food, and God had authenticated Jesus Christ as the source of that spiritual food, in one instance, through the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

“Then they said to him, ‘What (works) must we do to be doing the work of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:28-29). Then they asked Jesus for a miraculous work, or sign, so that they might believe in Jesus. They said that in the wilderness Israel had eaten manna, the “bread from heaven.” Jesus replied that it was not Moses who gave them bread from heaven; God gives the true bread from heaven. The true bread from heaven comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. The people asked Jesus to give them that bread always.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). But Jesus told them that they had seen Jesus and yet did not believe. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out” (John 6:37).

Jesus came into the world by God’s will in order to do God’s will, which is to save all those who God has given him, and raise them up to eternal life on the Day of Judgment. God’s will is that all who see that Jesus is God’s Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and Jesus will raise them to eternal life on the Day of Judgment.

Commentary:

The Lord is the creator of the Universe, and he has created us for a purpose. It is God’s purpose to create an eternal kingdom of his people. This life is an “audition” for eternal life. We have the opportunity to seek and come into personal relationship with God (Acts 17:26-27) through Jesus Christ (John 14:6), by his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17). We’re to learn how to live in accordance with God’s Spirit now, so that we can live with him eternally.

The Lord is the potter, and we are the clay. If we resist his attempts to shape us into what he wants and is useful to him, he can destroy us and make something else. He can withhold the good he was intending to do for us. Because Judah was resisting God’s will and pursuing her own desires, the Lord warned her to repent and change her ways, or be destroyed. Judah didn’t heed God’s warning through his prophet Jeremiah, and so God did reshape Judah like clay through her 70 year exile in Babylon.

Those who resist God’s will and pursue their own worldly desires are like stubborn clay which refuses to be molded by the Potter’s hand. They are under condemnation. God’s law is our best interest, but in our human weakness we cannot do what the law requires. Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and accounted by God as righteous, freed from the condemnation under the law, provided that we trust and obey Jesus.

Those who trust and obey Jesus receive the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who guides us and enables us to live according to God’s will (John 14:15-17). The Lord will mold and shape us by his indwelling Holy Spirit, if we will trust and obey him and be his disciples. We have personal fellowship with the Lord and the assurance of eternal life through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

The feeding of the five thousand was a “sign” which reveals that Jesus is from God and that he is the source of spiritual bread and life. The people who had been fed realized that something miraculous had occurred (John 6:14), but they followed Jesus seeking physical food and healing; for what Jesus could do for their earthly lives. They were focused on their flesh.

Jesus told them to labor instead for spiritual food, and they asked what work that involved. Jesus replied that it is not our work that earns our salvation; faith is God’s work in us when we trust and obey Jesus. When we believe Jesus’ words and act on them, God causes our “mustard seed” (Luke 13:19; 17:6) of faith to sprout and grow to spiritual maturity. As we have personal fellowship with the Lord we come to know that he is able and faithful to do what he says (see John 6:68-70).

The crowd then asked Jesus to do some miraculous sign so that they would believe in him. They had already seen the sign of the miraculous feeding, but hadn’t believed (John 6:36). For those who need to see “proof” in order to “believe” there is none, but for those who believe there is abundant proof. They wanted Jesus to give them at least another free meal, and preferably a regular, unlimited supply of daily bread, like the manna in the wilderness.

Jesus is the bread of life, the bread from heaven which gives eternal life to those who come to Jesus and believe in him. Jesus’ gave his own body on the Cross as the bread of life (John 6:51). God gives to Jesus all who trust and obey Jesus; no one who comes to Jesus will be rejected. All who see Jesus’ works and recognize that Jesus is of God receive eternal life now through his indwelling Holy Spirit, and will be raised from death on the Day of Judgment.

Do we need to see proof before we’ll believe? Do we follow Jesus seeking what he can do for us physically? Do we want God to do our will, or are we willing to do his will?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Thursday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/09/05;
Podcast: Thursday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 22:13-23    –   The fate of Jehoiakim;
Romans 8:12-27   –   The Spirit and sonship;
John 6:41-51   –   Bread from heaven;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

He who practices unrighteousness and injustice so that he can live in luxury is condemned. Living in luxury, in a mansion, doesn’t make one a king (or a great person). The forefathers lived according to justice and righteousness and all was well with them. They dealt justly with the poor and needy. Isn’t this what it means to know the Lord?

Woe to those who look for and desire dishonest gain, the shedding of innocent blood; those who practice oppression and violence. The Lord declared of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, that no one would mourn Jehoiakim’s death; no one would regard him as a brother, or honor him as a noble person. His death will be treated like that of an animal; he will be dragged out of Jerusalem and cast aside (left to rot without burial). Israel (the remnant; Judah; God’s people) will mourn from Lebanon (a mountain at the northern border), Bashan (east of the Jordan River) and Abarim (a mountain in the south, east of the Dead Sea), because her lovers (idols; the objects of her spiritual adultery) are destroyed.

In prosperity, Israel would not listen to the Lord’s warning; she had been disobedient and had not obeyed the Lord’s voice from her youth. Her leaders will be scattered to the wind; her idols will be carried away. Because of her wickedness, Israel will be ashamed and confounded. The king, who took refuge in his palace made of cedar from Lebanon (Jeremiah 22:14), will groan like a woman in travail at the judgment coming upon him.

Romans Paraphrase:

Believers are obligated to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than according to our own carnal nature, because if we continue to live according to our flesh, we will die eternally in our flesh. But if we, by the Spirit, put the deeds of the flesh to death, we will live eternally. The children of God are those who are led by his Spirit.

God’s Spirit does not enslave us or cause us fear; we have received the spirit of adoption, by which we become God’s children. When we, moved by the Spirit, call God our Father, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. If we are God’s children then we are God’s heirs, and share in Christ’s inheritance, provided that we share in his suffering so that we can share in his glory.

The suffering we may have to endure in this lifetime for the Gospel is nothing, compared to the glory of eternal life. All creation longs for the revealing of God’s children so that creation can be released from futility and bondage to decay and share in the glorious liberty which God’s children will receive. All creation has been groaning like a woman in childbirth, and we also, who have received the first fruits (down payment; security deposit) groan in our spirits as we long for adoption and the redemption of our bodies, because this is the promise we received when we were saved through faith in Jesus.

We don’t see the complete fulfillment of that promise yet, but we wait for it patiently. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit sustains us in our human weakness. God knows our heartfelt needs and desires, and the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will.

John Paraphrase:

The Jews (the religious authorities) criticized Jesus’ statement that he was the bread which came down from heaven. They thought Jesus could not have come down from heaven because they knew Jesus’ mother and (earthly) father. Jesus told them not to question his statement. Jesus said that no one could come to faith in him unless drawn to Jesus by God, and that those who come to Jesus will be resurrected on the last day (the Day of Judgment). Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13, saying that everyone who has heard and learned from God will come to Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who has known God personally, because Jesus came from God. Jesus said that those who believe him have eternal life. Jesus is the bread of life. Israel’s forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, but they died. The spiritual bread Jesus supplies is the true bread from heaven, and those who receive that bread will never die spiritually. Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven, and those who partake of that bread will live forever, and the bread Jesus gives for the life of the world is his flesh.

Commentary:

Judah’s behavior demonstrated that they did not know the Lord. When their ancestors had lived according to justice and righteousness, all had been well for them. But Judah had become greedy for luxury, comfort and wealth, and in pursuing those “idols” had violated God’s Word. In their pursuit of material things, they had pursued dishonest gain (deceptive business practices, usurious interest rates, inflated prices), had shed innocent blood, and oppressed the poor and needy. In her prosperity, Israel refused to hear and obey God’s Word. Material wealth and worldly power does not make individuals or nations just or righteous. The result was that God lifted his protection from Judah and allowed them to be carried off into exile in Babylon for seventy years.

Calling ourselves God’s people doesn’t make it so. God’s people are those who are led by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, which he gives only to those who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17). In Christ we have the freedom to seek and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christians are obligated to live according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit instead of living according to their worldly desires.

The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). The Holy Spirit is the “first fruit,” the “down payment,” the “security deposit” on eternal life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we have personal fellowship with the Lord now, as a foretaste of the complete fellowship we will have with him in eternity.

When we worship, it is the Holy Spirit prompting ecstatic praise which testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children. The Holy Spirit sustains, encourages, guides, and enables us and intercedes for us during our earthly “exile.” Following Jesus will require accepting suffering for the sake of the Gospel at times, rather than seeking our own personal satisfaction and comfort.

Jesus said that everyone who has heard God’s Word and has learned from it will come to Jesus. They will recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word. Jesus is the only way to personal knowledge of and fellowship with God (John 14:6; 10:22), and that way is through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 21, 23).

How are we doing? What does our behavior say about us, individually, as a church, and as a society? In our prosperity, have we become deaf to God’s Word? Are we seeking and obeying God’s Spirit and God’s will, or are we pursuing material comfort, pleasure, wealth and power? Do we live in wealth and luxury at the expense of the poor and needy? Do we imagine that our wealth and luxurious standard of living is a sign of God’s approval?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Friday 4 Lent – Odd
First posted 03/10/05;
Podcast: Friday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:1-8    –     The righteous branch;
Romans 8:28-39    –    Our confidence in God;
John 6:52-59   –    Jesus’ flesh and blood;

Jeremiah Paraphrase:

“’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1).  The Lord condemns the rulers of God’s people, who have not taken proper care of them and have scattered and driven them away. God will punish them for their unfaithfulness. The Lord promises to bring the remnant of his people out of all the countries where they have been driven and bring them back to their fold, where they will thrive.

The Lord will set faithful shepherds over them who will properly care for them. They will no longer fear or be dismayed, and none shall be missing. The Lord will raise up a righteous Branch from David, who will reign as king. He will rule wisely in justice and righteousness. “In his day, Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely. And…he will be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). The day is coming when God’s people will no longer regard the Exodus from Egypt, but the return from Exile in Babylon, as the great saving act of God.

Romans Paraphrase:

God is constantly working for good with those who love him and are called to fulfill his purpose. God knew beforehand who would respond to that call, and he planned beforehand to conform them to the example and likeness of his Son, so that Jesus would be the first-born of many children. Those he knew and predestined he called, and those who responded to his call he justified and glorified.

If God is for us and working for good, we need not fear anyone or anything. Who will accuse us? Since it is God who judges us as righteous, who is there who would be able to condemn us? Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and is at God’s right hand interceding for us. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love or the love of God, which is revealed in Jesus; not even death or the forces of evil.

John Paraphrase:

The Jewish religious authorities kept disputing Jesus’ claims. Jesus had said that he was the true bread from heaven, and the authorities doubted his heavenly origin, because they knew his earthly parents (John 6:41-42). Then Jesus said that the bread which he offered the world was his flesh, so the religious leaders questioned how Jesus could give his flesh to be eaten. But Jesus said that those who eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood have eternal life, and will be resurrected to eternal life on the Day of Judgment.

Jesus declared that his flesh and blood was the true spiritual sustenance, and that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood abide in Christ and he in them. God, who has eternal life, has given eternal life to his Son. So also Jesus gives eternal life to those who partake of his flesh and blood. Thus Jesus is the only true bread from heaven. Israel’s forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, but it did not confer eternal life. Jesus is the bread from heaven which gives eternal life. Jesus taught these things in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Commentary:

The civil and religious leaders of Judah in Jeremiah’s day were condemned for their unfaithfulness as shepherds of God’s people. They violated God’s Word, and they didn’t heed God’s prophet. They listened to false prophets who proclaimed that they had God’s presence and approval while living contrary to God’s Word (Jeremiah 14:13-16; 23 16-17). The same conditions apply to us today. God promised to raise up a Good Shepherd, a righteous Branch who would be the eternal king of God’s kingdom, the heir to the throne of David. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise.

Jesus truly is our righteousness. We cannot be righteous in God’s judgment by our own efforts. All have sinned and fall short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). But by faith (obedient trust) in Jesus we are forgiven all our sins and are accounted righteous (Romans 3:22), so our Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness (compare Jeremiah 23:6b).

Christians are the New People of God, the New Israel. The Israel of Jeremiah’s day was exiled in Babylon for seventy years, and the Lord did bring them (their children) back to the Promised Land. Exile in Babylon is also a metaphor for eternal condemnation and return illustrates the salvation we have in Jesus; seventy years is virtually a life sentence for those who were adults.

God is good and he is constantly working for good with those who respond to his call to fulfill God’s purpose. His purpose is to create an eternal kingdom of his people who are like Jesus, who follow Jesus’ example and teaching. Jesus reveals God’s love and goodness, and if we trust in Jesus we can be assured that God is working for our best interest. We can trust God to protect us from all evil and to bring into his eternal kingdom; into creation restored to paradise, freed from decay and death and all evil.

It wasn’t coincidence that God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness. God has had a purpose from the very beginning of creation, and the ultimate manifestation of that purpose is in Jesus Christ. Just as manna didn’t confer eternal life to Israel in the wilderness, “good works” or keeping the Law of Moses doesn’t save us; only a personal relationship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit gives us eternal life. Those who believe Jesus’ words receive what Jesus promises, but to those who reject Jesus, his words seem to make no (worldly) sense.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus instituted what is called “the Lord’s Supper” (Eucharist; Communion), using the elements of bread and wine and declaring that these were his flesh and blood. (These words were spoken by Jesus, who existed and participated in Creation (John 1:15-14), whose command is obeyed by the forces of nature (Mark 4:41) and who raises the dead (John 11:43-44).

God had specifically forbidden his people to drink blood or eat flesh with its blood (Genesis 9:4), and it was believed in that time that blood contained the spirit of the animal. The Lord wants us to be filled with his Spirit, not the spirits of animals.

The Lord does not give his Holy Spirit to everyone who partakes of the elements of the Eucharist; only those who trust and obey Jesus Christ receive what he promised. The Holy Spirit is not necessarily conferred in participation in the Eucharist, but we are spiritually sustained by that participation, if done in obedient trust in Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is the New Passover feast, instituted during Jesus’ celebration of the Passover feast before his crucifixion. (The Christian symbolism of Passover would reward your further study.)

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?

Saturday 4 Lent – Odd
first posted 03/11/05
Podcast: Saturday 4 Lent – Odd

Jeremiah 23:9-15   –   Oracles against the prophets;
Romans 9:1-18   –    Israel’s unbelief;
John 6:60-71   –  Words of eternal life;

Jeremiah Summary:

Jeremiah mourned for his land, because the priests and prophets were corrupt. The land was under a curse because of the adultery of its people. Its prophets and priests were ungodly and even committing wickedness in the Lord’s temple. Their way will become a slippery path, and they will stumble into disaster in the year of God’s punishment.

Samaria’s prophets prophesied by Baal (the Canaanite idol), but Jerusalem had become worse than Samaria, committing adultery and speaking lies. Jerusalem’s leaders strengthened evildoers instead of calling them to repentance. They had become like Sodom and Gomorrah in their wickedness. The Lord declared that he would punish the prophets, feeding them wormwood (a bitter, toxic herb) and would give them poisoned water to drink. The prophets of Jerusalem had spread ungodliness throughout the land.

Romans Summary:

Paul mourned for his Jewish people. If it were possible, Paul might even have been willing to sacrifice his own salvation for their sake. They were God’s chosen people, to whom belonged God’s sonship, glory, covenant, law, worship, and promises, the patriarchs, and the Christ (Messiah). But their rejection of the Messiah did not mean that God’s promise had failed.

Not all the physical descendants of Israel and Abraham are their spiritual children. God promised that it was the descendants through Isaac who would be reckoned as the spiritual descendants. Therefore it is the children not of flesh but of promise who are God’s children.

Isaac was the son God had promised to Sarah (although Sarah was past childbearing age). God also promised that Jacob, the younger son of Isaac’s wife Rebecca, would be exalted above the older son, Essau, although they had not yet been born, and so God’s will was not based on their merit or behavior.

This is not injustice on God’s part, because God has the sovereign right to choose, and God’s call does not depend upon mankind’s will or exertion but upon God’s mercy. Paul suggests that God raised up Pharaoh to power in Egypt for the purpose of showing God’s power (in delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh), so that God would become known to the world.

John Summary:

Jesus had declared that he was going to give his flesh to the world as the bread of (eternal) life. His statement was unpleasant for his disciples to hear and accept. Jesus knew their inner thoughts and asked how they would feel about seeing Jesus ascending into heaven.

Jesus told them, “It is the spirit which gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words I have spoken are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Jesus was aware that some did not believe, and he knew from the beginning who would betray him. Jesus said that no one can come to him unless allowed by God.

Many of the wider group of disciples no longer followed Jesus after this teaching, and Jesus asked the Twelve original disciples whether they would also quit following him. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Jesus pointed out that he had chosen the Twelve, and yet one of them was an ally of Satan, referring to Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.

Commentary:

Jeremiah mourned for Judah, the remnant of Israel, because they had been chosen by God and had received God’s Word and God’s promises, and yet chose to pursue their own wickedness. Judah had failed to learn the lessons of Samaria and of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Lord condemned the priests and prophets because they had turned from God to idols and wickedness; they had preached lies instead of God’s truth. They had allowed the people to turn from the Lord, and they had spread their ungodliness throughout the land. As a result the Lord declared that the land would lose its productivity and their water would be polluted.

The Lord declared that the paths of the priests and prophets would become slippery causing them to stumble. The Lord’s prophecy was fulfilled. The Lord withdrew his favor and protection and Judah was carried off into exile in Babylon for seventy years by Nebuchadnezzar, who God used as an instrument of his punishment of Israel. Ultimately the Jewish religious leaders slipped and stumbled over the “stumbling stone and rock of offense” Jesus Christ (see entry for yesterday, Friday, 4 Lent, odd year).

Israel was God’s chosen people. They had the scriptures, the history, the worship, the promises, and the Savior, but they missed the fulfillment and salvation, because they didn’t respond to God’s call in trust and obedience. God’s promises are faithful and true. Salvation is by God’s grace (unmerited favor; free gift) and mercy. It’s not based on our merit or behavior, our will or effort. It was God’s sovereign will to choose to give eternal life to all who trust and obey Jesus. God’s will is going to be accomplished whether we obey it or not. God used Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Judas to accomplish his purpose to the glory of his name.

Jesus is God’s only provision for our forgiveness and salvation from condemnation and eternal death (Acts 4:12; see God’s plan of Salvation, sidebar, top right, home). Jesus is the only way to come to knowledge of, and fellowship with God (John 14:6). God’s children are those who trust and obey Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior. They are the spiritual children of Abraham because they believe God’s promise. Jesus is the spiritual bread of life. The physical world and flesh are not eternal. It is the spiritual world which is eternal.

Jesus declared that it is the spirit which gives life. It is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit within Jesus’ disciples which is the seal and guarantee that we are in Christ and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9b, 11, 15-16). Jesus is the only one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), and Jesus only gives the anointing of the Holy Spirit to his disciples who trust and obey Jesus (Isaiah 42:5e; John 14:15-17).

Those who trust and obey Jesus will come to know that he truly is the Holy One of God. Faith in Jesus becomes sure knowledge.  Jesus will manifest himself to them (John 14:21), and they will have a personal fellowship with Jesus through his indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:23-24).

How are we doing as individuals, as a Church, and as a Nation? Have we become worse than Samaria; worse than Sodom and Gomorrah? Are we guilty of spiritual adultery, pursuing the idols of wealth, possessions, power, status, comfort and pleasure? Are our civic and spiritual leaders denouncing wickedness and calling for repentance and reform, or condoning it and allowing and encouraging it to spread, even within God’s house? Is there moral corruption among our civic and spiritual leaders? Are our prophets proclaiming God’s Word, or are they preaching lies, proclaiming God’s approval and blessing on our churches, our people and nation, while we are in flagrant disobedience of God’s Word?

Is Jesus your Lord (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)? Are you Jesus’ disciple (John 8:31)? Are you trusting and obeying Jesus (John 14:21)? Have you received the indwelling Holy Spirit since you first truly believed (Acts 19:2)? Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:18-20)? Do you know with certainty where you will spend eternity (1 John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13-14)?


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