This is Breakfast With Dad, a collection of devotions on books of the Bible that I send out to over 150 friends and family members. I hope you will take time to read the most recent blog and maybe one of two from past offerings. If you have an interest in studying the Bible or have been thinking about starting a daily devotion, this would be a good place to begin. I started writing these devotions when my youngest son moved away from home and was having a hard time in his life. I used to fix him a hot breakfast every morning before school, so I decided to send him spiritual food instead to encourage his heart. I hope these "breakfasts" encourage you.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Matthew 12:23-32 Good News!

Matthew 12:23-32  Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”  But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”  Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.  If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How then can his kingdom stand?  And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out?  So then, they will be your judges.  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?  Then he can plunder his house.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

In the above scriptures, Jesus focuses on the danger of speaking against God’s power of deliverance: the Holy Spirit.  In this scene, we see Jesus healing a man who is bound by an evil spirit.  He is unable to speak or hear.  In reality, lacking speech and hearing isolated him from many of the activities of the world.  He could not relate well with his community or even with his family.  His behavior and antics were probably strange to the normal person, even making them somewhat fearful of him.  Jesus does not speak about his condition or his actions; He just heals him outright.  Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  Jesus knew this man’s situation was caused by a demon, a severe and isolating infirmity.  However, Jesus was not merely addressing this man’s condition of bondage by casting out this demon.  He knew that all of Israel to some degree was experiencing the influence of this deaf and blind spirit.  He knew the only power that could deliver people was the power of God: the Holy Spirit.  Because of this reality, we later see Jesus talking about blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because the Holy Spirit is the power that will set men free from the bondage of the devil.  Jesus himself possessed this power.  THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS ON ME, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:18-19)  Jesus understood the crowd before him had all been affected by the spirit of the evil one.  Even though they had ears, they could not hear well the voice of their Father, the Creator.  The devil’s corrupted nature had infiltrated the souls of men, keeping them from knowing God.  Sadly, rather than imaging the God of creation, people were manifesting darkness in their lives.  By not honoring the Creator, people groveled in the dust of the flesh, pursuing what they thought would satisfy their human desires, fixing not on God’s divine nature, but on their own nature of self-interest.   Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  (Romans 1:28-31)  Of course this condition of sin has caused alienation between God and man.  Because the Pharisees’ lives were so distant from God, they claimed that Jesus’ power had to originate with the devil.  Jesus disputes this claim as nonsensical.  If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How then can his kingdom stand?  How can Jesus be in cahoots with the devil if He is attacking the devil’s domain!  And if it were true that He was the devil’s instrument by casting out demons, then what about the exorcising of demons by the Pharisees.  Are they also using the devil’s power to cast out demons?  Of course, the Pharisees could never agree with the idea of them being cohorts of the devil, so Jesus blows their reasoning of him being a partner with Beelzebub out of the water, for if He were a partner of the evil one, so were they. 

Jesus in this healing of the demon-possessed man is pointing out that there is a fecklessness in the power of the religious order of that day.  This mute and blind man was taken to Jesus not to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees’ exorcising was probably ineffective.  People could see through the activities and teaching of Jesus that He had divine power, power even over demons.  Jesus knew the Pharisees’ thoughts of envy and hatred toward him, so He demonstrates his powerful kingdom by healing this man.  Demonstrating how powerful his kingdom is compared with their kingdom, He places his power juxtaposed to theirs.  In his kingdom there is deliverance; in their kingdom there is a form of Godliness, but no power.  The Pharisees functioned as those Paul described to Timothy: they had a form of godliness, but denied its power.  (See 2Timothy 3:5)  Jesus tells the Pharisees, if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  He is saying, if I am doing these things that have never been done from the beginning of time, then a new kingdom has come to you.  For you know, if I were doing this in the weakness of a fleshly man, this man before you would still be bound by the spirit of Satan.  For the fleshly man is too weak to overcome the power of the spirit world.  I am telling you, I have released the hold of the demon on this man’s life!  He is able to live his life free from bondage because I have tied up the demon and cast him out of this man.  I ask you, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?   I have done this today.  If you are not with this work of goodness, then you are against me and the new kingdom I have established.  Jesus lets them know that they cannot be neutral on this deed of goodness.  If they are not with him, they are against him.  If they do not gather with him in promoting the deeds of God, then they have sided with the devil’s work of evil.  They are spreading disinformation, hurting the people they should be serving.  Jesus says, Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Jesus has the same message today: Anyone who is not with me and the Spirit of God in me is on the wrong side of the fight between the evil one and a righteous God.  If we side with the devil by not working with Jesus, if we are idle, just watching, we have actually taken sides with Satan.  Jesus came to give freedom to people who are caught in the devil’s snare.  If we are on God’s side, we will work with Jesus, do his will.  A kingdom cannot stand unless all are working towards one goal.  The Spirit of God is one with the Godhead, the active force against evil, against the bondage within men.  Therefore, if you are actively discrediting this powerful force of God that is delivering men from bondage, you will not be forgiven, for you have sided with the wrong side: the devil and his cohorts.  I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  We can speak against the Son of Man, claiming anything we want against him, but we cannot debunk the power of God through the Holy Spirit that is resident IN CHRIST.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit, mankind will never be delivered from his state of sin.  The Spirit alone releases man from his finiteness, his captivity to death.  To speak against this power that sustains all life, especially the life to come, is an offense that shall never be forgiven in this world and in the world to come.  For the Spirit of God provides eternal life for ALL who believe in the works of God through Jesus Christ the Lord.   As Paul wrote, And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  (Romans 8:11)  Breakfast friends, we are not those who reject God and his work in us.  We are those who trust in Jesus’ work on the cross, those He has made alive.  We do not crucify Jesus again by putting him out of our lives.  We serve him the best we can, so we have confidence that we are not blaspheming the work of the Spirit inside of us.  We hold true to that resident power that God has put within us.  As the writer of Hebrews assures those who might be anxious about their salvation, their place in God.  Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  (Hebrews 6:9-10)  Even though we might be anxious about how in our ignorance we treated the Holy Spirit in the past, we know by our lives that He is the resident power in us to eternal life.  Christ’s life displayed in our lives is the assurance that we are new creatures, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Never lose the understanding that the power of God is resident in you.  You have been forgiven!  You now have eyes to see, ears to hear, and lips to proclaim the Good News, for the Spirit is alive in you.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

Matthew 12:15:21 Justice to Victory!

Matthew 12:15:21  Aware of this (that the Pharisees plotted to kill him), Jesus withdrew from that place.  A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill.  He warned them not to tell others about him.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.  He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.  In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Jesus came to the planet Earth powerless, as a baby without any promise of physical inheritance, for his Father was God, not Joseph.  He was not born out of royalty within a protective, clean environment; He was born in a stable.  He lived the early part of his adult life as a carpenter.  After his baptism, He became an ember of fire for God, touching people through his teachings and actions.  He lived with no aggressive agenda to wrestle power from the world’s established elites.  He organized no demonstrations in the streets.  He did not stir the people to revolt against their leadership.  He did not shout a proclamation of freedom for all to the masses.  He led no insurrection.  He sought no prominent position in the Temple.  Jesus stood not as a conniving politician or a violent warlord seeking power.  He swore to no flag, neither did He give an oath of allegiance to any authority.  Christ, the Lord, came in the form of a harmless baby.  He left earth as the Lamb of God, paying for the sins of all who accepted him, but with no power to determine his own destiny.  No disturbance He made.  Even when He healed all who came to him, He requested that they tell no one of the good deeds done to them.  A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill.  He warned them not to tell others about him.  Jesus did not seek verification from men.  He did not need man’s validation of his mission.  He came to do the will of God, to lay down his life for a rebellious world.  This world desired not to recognize their Creator and figuratively lifted its fist against God, claiming too readily, We will make our own gods in our image!  We do not need any god or any creator to have dominion over us and our will.  We will obey what we desire to obey and disobey any law we do not want to follow.  Whatever we do, we will do it under our own terms and our own will.  In our advancement, we will go to the galaxies, searching for timelessness.  We will create eternal life out of our knowledge of how things are constructed.  We will spark life.  We do not need any other controlling factor in our lives.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.  (Romans 1:21-23) 

We are marvelously made, but also dangerously made, for we have the ability to do many phenomenal things, both positive and evil.  At the present time, we are flying a helicopter on Mars.  We are investigating other planets, maybe even to disprove that this planet is unique.  Perhaps our desire is to put the creation story at rest, that life supposedly started with God.  This nature of rebellion has been in the hearts of men from the beginning.  Satan capitalized on that spirit and said to Eve, "You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  (Genesis 3:4-5)  Eve rallied to that idea and partook of the tree.  If her eyes would be opened, she too could be as God, with dominion over everything.  But instead of finding freedom and power, oppression and chaos entered man’s existence.  Adam and Eve knew immediately they were naked; they became ashamed of their lack of clothing.  Something was wrongthey were not even comfortable in their own skin.  God dealt with them kindly, clothing them.  However, now because of their rebellion, they could not stay in the Garden.  Sin is cancerous: longevity only increases sin’s destructive ability.  They lost freedom and their intimate relationship with God; they gained bondage.  Jesus came as a servant to destroy the bondage that had captivated humankind.  He came not in the robe of a master or a ruler.  He came as a servant to all the Adam’s and Eve’s that ever existed.  Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.  Jesus came to rectify the condition of men, to establish justice on earth, to heal the brokenhearted, to care for those who have lost out in this life.  He came with no retinue to prepare the way for him.  He came with a gentle spirit, serving others, seeking to help the wounded and the blind.  He would not clamor in the streets for attention, but instead treated the needy in a tender way, telling them, I will heal you, I will take care of you.  Jesus will not take advantage of the powerless, the broken, the needy.  He will not champion his cause of deliverance until justice for sin is paid for by his own sacrifice.  He will proclaim that victory has been won for all who will honor his name and put their faith in his works and not their own.  Then his disciples would receive the freedom to express God’s validation of Jesus on the mountaintop.  A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.  (Luke 9:35-36)  People would hear about the lion of Judah, not just the Lamb of God.  All would understand that God has come to earth incarnated in Jesus the man.  In trusting Jesus and his works, all people, all nations, can be delivered from the bondage of sin and its concomitant destitution.  Jesus came as a baby and left as the Lamb of God, but will return as the Lion of Judah.  His greatness will be revealed and his loving and just heart will be exposed to all men.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.  The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.  (Psalms 147:3-6)
As people of God who trust in the work of Jesus, we too are servants: we too represent the nature of God.  We are willing to do good to all people without clamoring for attention or resorting to violence and disruption to win our cause for Jesus.  We are gentle, peaceful, loving, and caring; for we are children of the Most High.  We represent a different world, one that is not competitive, one that does not spar with God for attention or for authority.  We are subservient to his will, no matter how inconsequential it is.  Our love for Christ goes beyond our desire to be self-willed.  Let God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven is or motto in life.  Yet, we are special people, chosen by God to be his own.  He has cleansed us with the blood of his own Son.  We are not our own, but we have been bought with a high price.  Jesus’ blood has paid the complete price for our sins.  His blood has made us completely acceptable to the Father God, the Creator of all things.  As with Paul, we are chosen instruments to proclaim God’s goodness, his plan of salvation for the world.  The Lord said to Ananias, “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”  (Acts 9:15-16)  We are marvelously made to be instruments of God.  Because of Jesus, we are described as children of God.  Implied within that term is that we have his Spirit, his power, resident in us.  Consequently, we need to fall under his plan for us in this world.  We need to complete the task that He has designed for us in this existence.  We are to finish each day, each month, each year, completing the task of representing God in everything we do.  Jesus was kind and tender.  He did not wish for notoriety.  He desired to manifest God in everything that He did.  In fact He said, I always do my Father’s will.  Let us also be as He was as He walked this earth.  Let us always do the Father’s will, let our hearts rejoice in our Savior, let our ears be tuned to his words.  If so, all people around us will hear and see the works of God, and they will put their hope of eternal life in God’s hands.  People everywhere will know God.  In his name the nations will put their hope.  Today, Jesus is calling each of you to put your hope in him.  He says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)   


Monday, April 19, 2021

Matthew 12:9-14 Healing in His Wings!

Matthew 12:9-14 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.  But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

In Jesus’ time there were many synagogues in Israel and many priests, some say at least 7000 priests.  In this account, Matthew records that Jesus and his disciples went into the synagogue where those who accused them of breaking the Sabbath worship0ed.  He went into their synagogue.  He and his disciples went into a place of worship where the accusing priests and teachers of the law felt at home.  In their safe haven, he exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites, dishonest in their accusations against Jesus’ disciples about breaking the Sabbath by eating grain in the grain fields.  Now in this instance with the man with a shriveled hand, Jesus presents a hypothetical case to them of a sheep being in distress on the Sabbath.  Because the Pharisees owned sheep, they would be familiar with such a situation or with similar events that Jesus is describing.  Probably this kind of situation had happened many times in their surrounding agriculture environment.   If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!  Since the Pharisees owned sheep, Jesus knew their perspective on such a difficult situation.  Are sheep more valuable than humans?  Are people to consider sheep that are in a dire situation more important than humans who need to eat to survive?  Is their love for sheep in need greater than their love for humans in need?  Of course, the obvious answer for them, no matter what they thought about the Sabbath, is that sheep are not more important than humans.  Jesus probably had sparks of fire in his eyes as He looked from one man to the next.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.  (Mark 3:5)  We see Jesus had compassion for a man who was in the midst of the group.  As with so many situations in Jesus’ life, his focus was on the disadvantaged, the disabled, the weak, the troubled, the poor, and the like.  He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)  He brought the man to the front of the room so that all could see that this man was living with physical distress in his life.  He wanted all to evaluate in their hearts if this man was more important to them than the sheep they cared so much about rescuing.  By Jesus placing the man in front of them, they were confronted by the hardness of their hearts, willing to place the law of the Sabbath above a man’s suffering.  They were more concerned about men eating grain on the Sabbath than doing good.  They were willing to see a man continue with a disabled hand than be healed on the Sabbath.  Jesus told the man with the crippled hand to stretch his hand out in front of the group.  The hand was completely restored.  

God is merciful and full of grace and loving kindness.  This group of Pharisees and teachers of the law cared more for sheep than they did for men.  Their hearts were hardened against doing what is right on the Sabbath.  Their religious attitudes taught them criticism and accusations, not grace and mercy.  They seemed to champion division and separation rather than love and caring for others.  Jesus recognized their hard hearts and knew they were false teachers.  He said, Can the blind lead the blind?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  (Luke 6:39)  Paul states what a true follower of God should exemplify.  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  (Colossians 3:12-14)  The Pharisees and teachers of the law should have been displaying the nature of God, but instead they were displaying the nature of competitive man, trying to show themselves as more holy and correct than the disciples and Jesus.  They placed the letter of the law above the mercy and grace of God.  Rather than emphasize the goodness of God, they chose to separate themselves from those who they thought were not following their own religious laws and what they thought of as the law of God.  The religious customs that they were familiar with went way beyond the written law of Moses.  But they chose to pile these laws on the people because they thought it made them appear more holy that the average Jewish person.  When Jesus exposed the hardness of these religious leaders’ hearts when he healed the crippled hand, He infuriated them.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.  (Mark 3:6)  They wanted him dead because Jesus was exposing their rotten spirits, the deadness in their hearts and customs.  He was showing the world that they were not men of God, but men of the flesh, seeking honor in a carnal, unrepentant society.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23:27-28)  Jesus in THEIR SYNAGOGUE highlighted their hypocrisy and wickedness.  They looked good on the outside but their hearts were full of carnality and death.  The Bible says, People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel 16:7) 

Religion produces death if faith is not built upon God and his Spirit.  As we say so often in these breakfasts, the Spirit’s attributes reveal the Fathers nature: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  In Christ we see God’s likeness on Earth.  We see Jesus extending grace and mercy even on the Sabbath.  He heals on the Sabbath, He restores on the Sabbath, He comforts on the Sabbath.  He is the Sabbath, the day of rest; He is the Lord of the Sabbath, the Creator of all that comprises the Sabbath.  Christians should be leading people to the comfort of the Sabbath, leading them to rest in the Lord of the Sabbath.  Paul tells us directly that we as Christians should be expressing the cohesiveness and love that Jesus, our Rest, brings to the world.  Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  (Philippians 2:1-4)  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were fretful of losing their place in the Jewish society.  They held a place of great honor in the culture of that day.  Consequently, their attitude against Jesus and his followers was full of selfish ambition and vain conceit.  They tried to belittle Jesus and his followers.  They categorized the followers of Jesus as lawbreakers, not good people as they were claiming.  But Jesus knew these leaders were hypocrites in their hearts.  They were lawbreakers themselves because they were violating the greatest tenant of the Father God: to love God wholeheartedly and to love others as you love yourself.  They were not full of compassion for the people and their needs: they used people to bolster their own positions in the culture.  As Christians we should put on the garment of love and caring for all people.  We should not be separating ourselves from others who love the name of the Lord.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  We must remember that Jesus Christ brought together the Jew and the Gentile.  These two groups of people despised each other.  Jesus broke down the wall of separation between them as He has done with the law-bound or lawless, the barbarian or civilized, the slave or free.  Christ is all that matters.  He lives in us, regardless of our opinions or position in the world.  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were caught in their own web of deceit.  They built their lives on evaluating what is good or best for them.  But by doing so, they lost the tenderness in their heartsthey became hardened to the mercy and goodness of the Lord.  Dear friends do not follow that self-centered trail, leading to the hardness of your hearts.  Opinions and lifestyles will disappear in time, giving way to other opinions and lifestyles, but God’s mercy and grace will never disappear.  Christ is the solid Rock, from everlasting to everlasting.  Be people who stand before a world of hardhearted people and say: stretch out your hand my broken world, I bring you Jesus with healing in his wings.  The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.  (Malachi 4:2)   


Monday, April 12, 2021

Matthew 12:1-8 Sabbath Peace!

Matthew 12:1-8  At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look!  Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”  He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent?  I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.  If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law constantly assessed Jesus’ teaching and activities to find fault with him.  Since Jesus was gathering many followers, the religious leaders worried about him displacing them as authorities about God and how to please him.  They could not duplicate Jesus’ miraculous healing, but they could attack Jesus as unfaithful to the law of Moses.  They berated Jesus many times for doing unlawful acts on the Sabbath.  For the Jewish people, the Sabbath was a day of rest when no one would do any work.  When they saw the disciples crushing heads of grain between the palms of their hands to dispel the kernels from the heads of the grain, they evaluated that effort as work.  Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.  Their classification of this activity as work was meant to discredit Jesus as a divine messenger from God.  If the Israelites decided affirmatively that Jesus was divine and truly a messenger from God, the religious leaders knew their time of deference with the people would soon disappear.  Jesus and his doctrines would replace their position of authority and adulation within the Jewish culture.  Consequently, they followed Jesus everywhere, critiquing actions and his teachings.  Jesus responded to their criticism about his disciples eating in the grain fields by pointing to the most revered king in their history: David.  Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  David who was not from the house of Levi ate the showbread that was eaten only by those from the lineage of Aaron.  No one else had the privilege of eating this sacred bread, only the priests could partake of these loaves..  Take the finest flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf.  Arrange them in two stacks, six in each stack, on the table of pure gold before the Lord.  By each stack put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be a food offering presented to the Lord.  This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant.  It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in the sanctuary area, because it is a most holy part of their perpetual share of the food offerings presented to the Lord.  (Leviticus 24:8-9)  The religious order might have considered David’s violation of God’s directive as being okay because he was a man after God’s own heart.  Maybe God would allow this exception to his law, but David also gave this bread to his men who of course were ordinary men with no special dispensation from God.  This whole scene was an abomination to God’s authority and his laws, but Jesus points out that God is full of mercy and grace.  He knew David and his men were famished and needed their strength restored, so He allowed this desecration of his holy place and the sanctified bread.  In using David as an example of violating the Sabbath rules, Jesus emphasizes a major weakness in the religious leaders’ understanding of God.  They served a rigid and harsh God, without the qualities of mercy and grace.  This misunderstanding caused them to pile up even more laws on the people, coming from their own wicked perceptions of the God of the universe.  Heaping more laws on the people elevated their position of importance, for they tithed a tenth of everything, even their spices.  But Jesus  knew their hearts were far from God, for they placed huge burdens on the people, making them unable to please the God of perfect righteousness.  In combating their negativism about Jesus and the disciples’ actions that day, Jesus quotes Hosea: For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.  (Hosea 6:6)  By quoting an honored prophet, Jesus exposes the religious leaders’ nakedness in their knowledge of God.  To know God, a  person must appreciate God’s heart of love and compassion for humankind.  The God of grace and mercy would allow David, his passionate follower, to eat of the showbread under the dire circumstances surrounding him and his men.

Jesus points out that the Pharisees and the leaders of the law are really hypocrites, for they criticize his disciples for an activity that is allowed even in their own homes of feeding themselves on the Sabbath.  Eating is a necessary activity on the Sabbath to maintain one’s health.  All the Israelites were permitted to eat on the Sabbath, but work was not allowed.  Finding themselves in the grain fields, the disciples had a table of food set before them.  All they had to do was use their strength to separate the food from the chaff, just as a person in the home would have to lift his hand to his mouth to eat: both demanded work.  This was considered appropriate in the law, as with eating within the priests’ homes.  But any work outside of this necessary act might be considered a violation of the Sabbath.  Jesus points out that work does take place in the temple on the Sabbath, necessary work to honor the God of the living.  On the Sabbath day, make an offering of two lambs a year old without defect, together with its drink offering and a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephod of the finest flour mixed with olive oil.  This is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.  (Numbers 28:9-10)  Yet this work is not considered a desecration by God, for it reveals God is a God of mercy.  By doing this act, God’s mercy will cover the sins of a willful people.  If eating for survival is a violation, then the sacrificing of animals on the Sabbath is a violation even though it is a necessary act to keep the penalty of death away from the Israelites’ door.  If the Pharisees are going to criticize Jesus’ disciples, then they must also consider their own acts on the Sabbath as a violation.  Both conditions are necessary for survival: eating to promote health in the body, sacrificing to keep the judgment of death away from a sinful people.  Jesus points out that God is a God of grace, considering the needs of people above the rigidity of the law or the requirements of holiness.  Jesus understanding of God supersedes the shallowness of the religious leaders. 

Jesus concludes his response to the Pharisees and teachers of the law by saying,  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  In actuality, He tells them that He created the day of rest.  After the six days of creation ended, God ceased from his work.  God assessed his work to be good and He rested.  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  (Genesis 2:2-3)  The seventh day was to be holy—without any work of creating.  It was a day of peace, no activity at all.  The seventh day in man’s historical accounts has never been a day of rest.  Trouble, conflict and war have always been present on the Sabbath.  The activity of man to disrupt and hurt has never ceased on a certain day of the week.  The Sabbath is like every other day, a day corrupted by man’s disease of sin.  Even today, when people try to observe the seventh day as set apart, holy, there are disruptions, fights and hurts on that day, even under the best of intentions.  Man has not been able to rest in the goodness of creation and the Creator.  Strife and contention have always been a part of every day.  Of course, the hearts of men long for a Sabbath, a place of peace and tranquility.  By saying He was Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus fulfilled everything the Sabbath should be.  He is peace.  He breaks down the division or the wall of separation between people.  He not only reconciles people with each other but also to the God of creation.  Without his dominion no peace will be found on Earth.  We can sign treaties about peace; we can make agreements about peace, but peace or rest will never be accomplished in men’s hearts.  We are a warring people, violators of every rule and law that is set before us.  In Judges, God said that people did what was right in their own eyes.  They each decided what they wanted to do or did not want to do, based on what they thought was best for them with little or no consideration for others.  Judges reveals there was no authority in the land, no king.  In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.  (Judges 21:25)  We might say no governing principles presided; not even God’s light penetrated the darkness.  People say they desire peace, but without the Lord of the Sabbath, men and women will never take on the mantle of peace.  A person’s soul is disquieted, unrepentant, demanding of his or her own way.  We have a DNA in us that is uncontrollable outside of Christ.  Paul found this DNA in his own soul, unable to find rest or a Sabbath.  GOD RESTED THE SEVENTH DAY.  We need to rest!  Our rest is our hope in Jesus Christ who is our peace.  He alone satisfies the unruly condition of the heart.  He provides an eternal perspective of God resting on the seventh day.  In him we find rest, the eternal Sabbath.  Dear friends, trust in the Lord of the Sabbath, and He will bring eternal peace to your souls, that which is beyond belief.  If you are hungry, the Lord of the Sabbath will satisfy your soul.  Amen!  



Monday, April 5, 2021

Matthew 11:25-30 Find Rest!

Matthew 11:25-30  At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  “All things have been committed to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

We live in a day where the world glories in its knowledge—its great discoveries and universal secrets.  We reach out for eternal life in our own making as we reach for the stars and other galaxies, thinking there is no limit to our abilities.  Jesus said to his Father, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  We boast about our much learning, about our ability to use the computer to further our knowledge of truth and reality.  Jesus speaks of understanding reality and acknowledging the truth of existence, Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do, to reveal to the immature, the uninformed, about the hidden understanding of life and the reason for humankind.  Of course, all knowledge, all wisdom exists with the Father God and is found in his Son.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; WITHOUT HIM NOTHING WAS MADE THAT HAS BEEN MADE.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  (John 1:1-4)  As men we stand in our minds as the pinnacle of success in evolution.  We are the most educated and knowing of the animal kingdom.  But God said that we were made in his image to glorify him, made to be in intimate relationship with him, given language to communicate with him.  Nothing exists beyond his creative hands.  He made everything as He desired.  No “oops" in the Creator’s design, no mistakes, no mishaps.  The omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God has a purpose behind every design, every entity, every existence.  All of this He reveals to the children of faith, the little ones of faith.  To know anything about the truth of existence, one must accept Jesus as Lord for He alone has been with the Father.  This faith step is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.  All things have been committed to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.   The world with its expanding chest of truth, with its taxonomy of facts and information is considered by the God of the Bible as being foolish.  Do not deceive yourselves.  If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.   (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)  Knowledge and wisdom are not bad: they help us to navigate this world successfully.  When man’s understanding and facts line up with God’s knowledge, it is good, but nothing can be substituted for knowing the God of all reality and the truth of everything through faith.  Jesus says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  He says, I will satisfy your desire of knowing what or who you are, and I will give you a purpose in life.  I will give you rest in your soul.  The turmoil that you wrestle with about living will be quenched when you place your lives in my hands.  I will give you rest, just as a little child rests in his or her confidence of safety in a parent’s arms.  Jesus’ cry to all humans at all times is, I will give you rest.  But as humans, we generally resist this call, for our hearts are hardened with our grandiosity: we will decide our fate, not God.

The disciples wanted to know why Jesus spoke in parables instead of speaking more plainly to people.  Jesus replied, Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  (Matthew 13:11-12)  Jesus and John the Baptist knew the people’s hearts were hardened.  The people were used to slavery, just as the Israelites were used to slavery in Egypt; they could not conceive of any other way of life.  What they were living was their reality of life.  Because of that understanding of life, the Israelites during their Egyptian slavery rejected Moses as their leader and his way out of slavery.  As the Israelites of old, the Jews of Jesus’ time rejected Jesus’ leadership out of bondage to the world’s system of slavery to sin.  Because of their blindness to a better way to live, Jesus spoke in parables.  He quotes Isaiah as Paul does later to the Jews in Rome who rejected his message of deliverance. You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.  (Matthew 13:15)  Jesus knows the Jewish culture and society of his time would never open their ears to hear clearly his message of redemption.  He knew their rejection of him would be so complete that they would eventually glory in his murder.  Even though He would become their Passover lamb out of slavery, they would not be able to know that because their hearts were hardened by their false thinking.  Their knowledge and wisdom was foolishness to God.  But Jesus had twelve disciples and other followers who had begun to see him as the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel.  Jesus said to them, But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  Matthew (13:16-17)  The Spirit of Light, the Holy Spirit, is within every Christian; He sensitizes our eyes and ears to see and hear of things that have been hidden from the foundation of the earth.  Jesus spoke in parables because He would have been throwing pearls to those who would not want to see or hear clearly.  Their hearts were hardened, just as the Israelites hearts were hardened in Egypt.  When Moses broke up a scuffle between two Jewish slaves, one of the Israelites demanded, Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  (Exodus 2:14)  Jesus faced the same hardness of heart from the Jewish leaders and priests: who chose you to be our Messiah, and are you going to replace our leadership roles with you as the leader?  If Jesus would have spoken more clearly of his coming role, He would have faced violence even sooner, for they would have trampled his pearls of knowledge as the Messiah in the dust.  Their hearts were hardened to that message.  But for the disciples and his followers, Jesus promised them an abundance of knowledge about God’s purpose on Earth.  The secrets of the kingdom would be given to them liberally.  As little children of faith, they would know the purpose of their existence and would understand their coming relationship with God the Father as his adopted children.  Sadly, as we read in Matthew 13, Jesus said to those whose hearts have been hardened by the thinking of this world, relying on the knowledge and wisdom of the regime of flesh, making a mishmash of spiritual understanding, even what they have will be taken from them. 

We who are the temple of the living God should live with the responsibility of telling the world that the Messiah has come.  The world has no answers to eternal life or even for why we exist on this earth.  The best people can do is to duplicate God’s blueprint of life as they read it.  We will design hearts, organs and other forms of organic life to perpetuate our existence—all of that can be considered good.  In the coming decades and centuries, man will try to wiggle out of his finiteness, not necessarily bad either.  But we will not be able to replace God with ourselves.  Jesus tells us to stop our struggle to know ourselves, but literally to come to him in faith.  All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  (John 6:37)  Then we will have an abundance of God’s purpose on Earth.  And because of that we should propagate the word of life, not death.  Life, goodness, and eternal life rest in Christ.  What a message of deliverance!  Moses led the people out of Egypt.  Jesus is leading us to a new world, a new existence, known as the Kingdom of God.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  We are to learn of Jesus, to know his heart and his ways.  We are not to run around the tree of temporal existence, continually trying to please God through our works of righteousness.  We are not to attempt to please God; we are TO PLEASE GOD THROUGH Our RIGHTEOUSNESS that comes from cavalry’s tree.  Jesus said, take this cup of wine in remembrance of me.  This cup represents the blood I spilt on the cross.  This cup of my blood ushers in the new covenant that God the Father has made with mankind.  This covenant is not maintained by the blood of animals that had to die continually to cover the sins of men, to withhold the judgement of God on wayward men.  This is my blood, Jesus said.  I died for sinful man.  My blood is always before the Father God, confirming my death to make people right with God.  His wrath towards sin has been eternally satisfied by my work on the cross.  Christ died on the cross for us to be delivered forever from the slavery of the evil one.  We are free, free indeed, forever in the household of God.  Jesus in the flesh is the first fruit from his sacrifice.  We are followers of that destiny, to be with God forevermore.  We are God’s own, known as his children, joint heirs with Jesus, the ONLY BEGOTTEN, ETERNAL SON OF GOD.  If you are weary or burdened, come to Jesus, and He will welcome you into his loving arms and give you rest.  


Monday, March 29, 2021

Matthew 11:20-24 Keep In Step!

Matthew 11:20-24  Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens?  No, you will go down to Hades.  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the above focus, Jesus criticizes the Jewish people for not turning completely to God in repentance.  He relates how places such as Capernaum and Bethsaida had seen wonderful miracles performed in their midst, yet did not respond to God in a wholehearted way.  They thought of themselves being right with God, in the center of God’s acceptance, ready to be received in heaven.   But Jesus sarcastically asks, And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens?   The answer is, No, you will go down to Hades.  Their failure to repent and to turn to God because of Jesus’ teaching and miracles will be accrued to them as despicable sin, rebellion against God’s actions and words.  Jesus says, non-Jewish cities, known for their wickedness throughout Israel will be judged more leniently than the cities of Israel who turned their back on the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, for they are more sensitive to God’s call than the Jewish people.  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  Even wicked Sodom will be received better at the judgment seat than cities such as Capernaum and Bethsaida, who have rejected God’s direct intervention in their lives through the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Sodom would have repented if they had observed such a move of God in their midst.  Otherwise, even Sodom in all its sinfulness had softer hearts than the Jewish people of Jesus’ generation.  As Pharaoh rejected the miracles of Moses because of his hard heart so were the Israelites rejecting the miracles and teachings of Jesus because of their hard hearts.  God knew this would be a time when the Jewish people would not accept the Messiah even though He performed marvelous miracles in their midst.  God through Jesus’ words and miracles was freeing people of the world from their internment in the land of slavery.  Jesus was bringing freedom from the judgment of sin to all people, everywhere.  Yet the Israelites’ with their hardness of heart rejected his call, but God knew they would, just as he knew the Pharaoh of Egypt would initially reject his call to release the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  In Jesus’ case, the Lamb of God paid the price for the release of sinners from the judgment of God for sin.  In Pharaoh’s case, he paid the price with his own death in releasing the Children of Israel from the hand of slavery.  The recalcitrant attitude of both generations, their hardness of heart, freed God’s hand to achieve what He intended to do from the beginning of time: to make a people of his own, known forever as his children.

Jesus describes his generation very accurately when he talks about demon possession.  When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.  That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”  (Matthew 12:43-45)  In this analogy we find a generation willing to be clean of an impure spirit.  They clean the house of their dwelling by following laws and regulations, even many repenting.  They are able to make the dwelling hospitable, but it is still unoccupied, clean but unoccupied.  The effort to make it clean worked, but without an occupant, it is open to invasion by other spirits.  The first spirit, who finds no rest anyplace else goes back and finds his former dwelling place without any occupant; consequently, he brings seven other stronger spirits to take over the dwelling.  The Messiah is the occupant they should have received.  He would have kept the dwelling place clean an orderly, but they refused to accept Jesus as the Lord or the dweller of their household.  They chose to follow the old ways of rules and regulations.  Willing to go to the Temple and pray, to sacrifice and to give alms, but they were unwilling to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.  Without a Lord in their house, they were open for evil spirits to invade their culture, their society, their political framework.  Jesus calls their obdurate behavior wickedness, causing their final condition to be worse than when they first set out to clean their house.  And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.  Of course, the leaders of the Israelites wanted proof that they should allow Jesus to be the occupant of the Jewish culture, their way of living.  Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”  (Matthew 12:38)  They were content with the way the Jewish people were living, their way of serving God through the priesthood and the Temple.  They did not want anything to change, so they asked Jesus to do a spectacular miracle so that they could accept this alteration in the way they lived and served God.  But Jesus would not take the bait, for He knew no matter what He did the priests and the teachers of the law would never accept him as the Messiah, for they would lose their preferred position with the people.   He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!  But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Matthew 12:38-40)  Yes, they were adulterous, for they preferred their lifestyle and choices over the commands and authority of God.  They would never accept the message of serving God and him only, for if they did they would have to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

To accept Jesus as the occupant of your heart (house) there should be a change in the way you live and act.  Your words should reveal that the house is clean and that there is a different spirit in your life.  If the house is infiltrated by foreign spirits, not of God, your life will still be full of resentment and hurt.  Words towards others will not be uplifting, but destructive.  We are all open to different spirits other than the Holy Spirit’s nature.  How many of us are always kind, generous, quick to forgive, loving, caring, open to revealing an uplifting nature, rather appearing dark and foreboding, thinking evil about others.  We might deceive ourselves by categorizing our nature as mostly good, but others will be better interpreters of who we really are.  Mirror, mirror on the wall can be misleading if we incorrectly interpret what we see, forgiving ourselves of our flaws as we analyze ourselves.  In today’s focus, we see Jesus dealing harshly with the Israelites.  They see themselves as beautiful, ready to be lifted into heaven.  But Jesus sees something different—a stubborn, recalcitrant people, who will eventually turn completely away from him, screaming: crucify him.  These are the people He sees in the verses above.  These are the people of a fickle generation, a people with hardened hearts who do not care a wit about what He has done for others.  They followed him around Israel looking for the fishes and the loaves, looking for a miracle to deliver them from their infirmities.  But to yield their lives to him as Lord, the occupier of their land, was another story.  Even today, as we experience confusion on the internet, many are giving their domain over to other spirits, more wicked than the ones that first occupied their unregenerate souls.  All of us can move into that arena, but the devil is wily; he knows how to deceive and defeat the nature of Christ if we allow ourselves to be open to his abode.  Jesus is talking about God’s judgment of his generation, but our generation is as dangerous as his was, for we can seek our own priest who will tell us how to act, what truth is.  We now have the ability to spend our leisure time focusing on all kinds of voices.  We must remember always as Peter says, it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and it begins with us.  (1 Peter 4:17)  Let us not deceive ourselves, but understand fully who is in our household.  Bitter water cannot produce sweet water.  Hate and anger do not produce love and goodness.  If necessary, sweep out the house daily and put it in order with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  Paul goes on to tell the church, Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:25)   Do not be left behind bound by fleshly pursuits and attitudes.  Today, keep in step with the Spirit, keep in tune with his voice and his guidance, and you will experience inexpressible joy in the Lord.