I’m Not a Punching Bag

I’m Not a Punching Bag

Daily Reading: (Luke 6:29a):

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”

As we go to Luke 6:17 we learn who Jesus is talking to when He tells the crowd to turn the other cheek. “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon.” People who were from Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician. Culturally, the Phoenicians were Canaanites and spoke a variation of the Canaanite language and worshipped variations of the same gods as the Canaanite people in Israel. The most commonly worshipped god was the fertility god referred to as “Baal”. The Romans took the ruined city as a colony in 64 BCE, when Pompey annexed the whole of Phoenicia to the Roman Empire. Tyre was re-built under the Romans. This will be key to know as we continue in the text.

The motive of the people of the large crowd is recording in the next verse, verse eighteen: “who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.”

Jesus makes this profound statement about turning the other cheek to the people of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Roman colony of Tyre and Sidon that has Phoenician heritage. Now if we skip down between verse twenty-six and twenty-seven there is a sub-header inserted that says, “Love for enemies.”This is where we are led to the answer as to why did Jesus say something that sounded so outlandish in Luke 6:29. To come to our answer let’s consider who were the enemies of the audience that were gathered together? Each other. Jews and Phoenicians/Canaanites or Romans take your pick. But here they are gathered together to hear Jesus and receive physical salvation. “Love your enemies” goes beyond ethnic divide here because what Jesus is talking about is that if you are a Jew and you follow Jesus, you won’t just receive this harsh treatment from the Romans you will also receive some of it from a fellow Jew.

“If someone slaps your cheek” does not refer to physical injury, but to insults and indignity. In Jewish culture, the greatest insult, the most demeaning action possible, was a slap on the cheek. It was a deliberate gesture of disrespect. This was the way Jewish synagogue leaders put people out of synagogue – especially Jews who had converted to Christianity. So the slap on the cheek refers to receiving a deep insult. Turning the other cheek means that when you are severely insulted, you don’t trade insults.

Jesus gave us this example in 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate.” That’s why Peter would say in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” Turn the other check simple means that when you are insulted, turn the other cheek or don’t repay evil with evil, insult with insult.

You Can’t Hang on the Law

Daily Reading: (Matthew 22:37-39):

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

What prompted Jesus’ reply? We learn in Matthew 22:34 that “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together to tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

So, to begin with we have to back it up even further and see how Jesus silenced the Sadducees and why that might have embolden the Pharisees to ask Jesus a question as well?

It all starts in Matthew 22:23: “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” We are presented with a hypothetical from the Sadducees, in an attempt to try and argue their belief system of why there can be no such thing as the Resurrection.

Because they don’t believe in the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23)they use a hypothetical situation of a woman having seven different husbands to show how messy it might be in the Resurrection, “whose wife will she be?”

It is important to notice that if there was no Resurrection, death would still have victory over us and we would all remain dead as a result of our sins, so what would the point of this argument even be (Matthew 22:23)? We’d all be in our graves.

So, Jesus says not only is the Resurrection real but….

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

What you might not know is that not only did the Sadducees not believe in the Resurrection they also didn’t believe in angels (Matthew 22:30).

“But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Did you catch that? God is referred to by both Sadducees and Pharisees as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. All three of those men are dead, yet God is the “God of the living”, so they must have been resurrected to life (Matthew 22:32).

So now the Pharisees have a question. “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

This question (Matthew 22:35) was founded on the false opinion that there are relative rankings of importance among God’s commandments. All of God’s commands are important, but they all have the common denominator of love. The law of the land was the law of love. But think about this we don’t need all 613 of them for us to be shown up. Have you ever done these two perfectly all the time?

I think maybe the most important part of what Jesus said is actually the last part and that is the part that is often ignored: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The word “hang” (kremannymi) is the same word used for “one hanging upon a cross.”

You can’t hang on the Law. Some people try to. The only one who can hang on the Law must be blameless and pure. His name is Jesus. Jesus sums up the entirety of the law with 2 Commandments that we all went 0 for 2. We failed at following the Law. So, Jesus hung our law failings on Himself so that we might be given His life and truly live. 

Only By My Spirit

Daily Reading: (Zechariah 4:6-7):So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

Zechariah Chapter 4 says:

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep (Zechariah 4:1).

I have woken up a little more than 14,292 times and I have not once been woken up by an angel before. Have you ever been woken up by an angel that spoke to you?  Probably not because this was the way God would speak to His people in the Old Covenant. In the past God would speak through prophets but the final word over our lives today is Jesus. God speaks to us primarily through His Word, and this is how we are to speak (grace) over our lives. Hebrews 1:2 tells us: “But in these last days” he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Prophets still exist, we find this in Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and if anyone claims to be a prophet or have a word from the Lord whatever they say will not be new, as in adding to Scripture. A word from the Lord through a modern-day prophet will be nothing in addition to what God has already spoken. A prophecy will always agree with scripture or what the Lord has previously spoken.

He asked me, “What do you see? ”I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left” (Zechariah 4:2-3).

Do you know what these are? That’s what the angel asked the prophet.

  • A gold lampstand, with a bowl at the top
  • Seven lamps on it with seven channels to the lamps.
  • 2 Olive trees one on the right and the other on the left. 

The golden candlestick is the Word of God, it is the Light of the World and it represents Jesus. 

The bowl on top held the oil to light the lamp. The fullness of grace in Christ, which is as “a fountain”, as the Word to supply His church and His people; We are the light of the world because Christ lives and flows in us Matthew 5:14.

The 7 lamps represent the seven churches written about in Revelation 2 and 3. The 7 channels or pipes to the 7 lamps lets the oil into the lamps. These are the various gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the members of the Body of Christ.Each lamp is supplied perfectly. The lamps were fueled by pure, specially prepared olive oil that came from the trees and when you know what the trees represent than you will see how this is the gifts the Holy Spirit has given the members of the church flowing into the seven lamps. This gives us a visual of limitless oil and a constant supply.

If you read the entire text, Zechariah only struggles with one symbol, and he asks about it over and over again. This one symbol would have made no sense to him. All he knew is God’s people at that time are the Israelites. He knew nothing about God’s plan to include the Gentiles into His kingdom. So, let’s observe his bewilderment.

Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I said. So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:11-14).

The “two olive trees” are the natural branch (physical Israel), and the grafted in branch (spiritual Israel), the church. These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:14). Zechariah was looking ahead to the day we live in.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it! (Zechariah 4:6-7).

When you look in a mirror, what do you see? If you look a little closer in the mirror, you will still see yourself, but you might also notice things that you don’t really like so much. Wrinkles, age spots, perhaps you might look a little depressed. Maybe when you look in the mirror you see a person who appears weak or you see a person who is broke. Did you know that God does not want us to look at ourselves in the natural way? God wants you to see yourself the way He sees you (Colossians 1:27). God wants you to see yourself as strong, as favored and whole because you reflect Christ.

Let’s go back to a portion from our main verses:“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it’” (Zechariah 4:6-7)!

This isn’t supposed to read, “God bless it. God bless it.” I know that is how the text might read in your Bible but when you study the original text, only one Hebrew word is used twice. The word is (Chen). Shout to your mountain grace, grace! Which means to shout to your obstruction God’s favor, God’s favor! Do you see it? What is your hindrance? What is your mountain? What is the area you need a breakthrough in? Shout to it God’s Word. Speak grace to it. God’s favor is on me and over this hindrance. Speak God’s grace over that thing against you and watch as God levels it. Isaiah 26:7- “The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”

Look in the mirror today and behold as in a mirror the glory of His Son who is in you by His Spirit. As you do this, His Word says that you are being transformed from glory to glory—sick to healed, broken to whole. Mountains before you will be leveled not by anything other than by the Spirit of the Lord.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Two or Three Gathered…

Daily Reading: (Matthew 18:20):

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

You must have heard this before, but where? Not in a sermon typically. Perhaps when you were praying with other believers. What many have done is to take this verse to mean is that prayer with more people means an increase in the likely to gain God’s attention. This is not what Jesus is talking about here.

The truth of this passage is really good news because while it is powerful and important to pray together, in my greatest times of need, when an emergency situation arises, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of calling everyone over for a middle of the night prayer. Does that mean that when I pray by myself, God is not with me or will hear me? Does it mean that my prayer will be less powerful when I cry out to God alone and in distress? Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount the following:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Do I need at least two or three people, should I just always pray in secret, by myself? Obviously, context is important but the simple answer is. Pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17) with others and by yourself.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the greatest and most simple instruction for prayer. When should I pray…always! How should I pray? Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Pastor Matt I am supposed to give thanks in a bad diagnosis at the doctors office. How does that work? You aren’t giving thanks for the cancer because that is not from God. Thank Him that He is your Prince of Peace, and that His peace will arise in you and still the storms in your life. Thank God for being in the situation with you. Thank you for His divine healing made available to you in Jesus’ name.

Pray always with other believers whose prayers can bring encouragement and comfort and also pray by yourself. God hears you and is with you and your prayers are powerful with or without others. “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16).

So, going back to our original text- what is up with that statement that when there are two or three gathered that Jesus says He is with them? Jesus is not saying we need to have three people to be with us in prayer in order for it to be worth Jesus time to show up. Did you know that in Matthew 18:20 Jesus wasn’t talking about prayer?It wouldn’t make sense if He was.

So, what was Jesus talking about if it wasn’t about prayer? In Matthew 18, He’s referring to an important part of Old Testament Law, the part about church discipline.

Jesus is explaining that if you have an issue with someone in the church…

  1. Talk to him or her privately about it.
  2. If they don’t want to hear it…Take two or three believers with you

*The heart of this approach is restoration. 

You know there is a chance he/she might not even be aware of the wrong they did. The word fault here is the Greek word (elegchō) meaning bring to light, expose it (privately). Bring the Word of God, who is the Light of the World into their situation to bring them to repentance, a change a mind about what they’ve done and are doing. If they listen to you, you have won them over. This is a Greek metaphor which means you have helped them escape from evil. You helped them from continuing to sin in that area and sin is destructive and it not only hurts them it hurts others as well.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

Jesus is giving His disciples instruction (Matthew 18:1) about restoring someone who has gone astray (verses 12-14), and offering forgiveness (verses 23-35), and in between these parables of the wandering sheep and unmerciful servant, how the process of reconciliation works (verses 15-20). God assures us that as we go through the process of bringing our brother or sister in Christ back into the fold of the church, God will be a part of it and bless us for it.

I know that ultimately we want to put a number on how many times we should be willing to go through this process with someone. How many times if someone has wronged us should we extend forgiveness? That is what Peter is thinking and asks and that might be your next question too.

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

70×7= 490. 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who chose not to forgive will live a less than abundant life or incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross.

When it comes to forgiveness toward an offender remember how greatly and how much you have been forgiven.

Be Still… In Stillness is Strength

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The most common travesty committed toward Psalm 46:10 is that only a portion of it is quoted.  A portion of this verse is seen on coffee mugs, in artwork paintings, on fridge magnets, and other trinkets. Because only a part of the verse is what is often seen most don’t know how to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The greatest justice we can provide for this verse is to actually quote it in its entirety. What an incredible comfort and reminder to know that we can be still and know that God is in control. Stillness indicates lack of movement but it does not indicate inactivity. We are able to be still as we wait on God’s plan to unfold. We do not have to try and manufacture the work that God is trying to bring forth. Christians who receive God’s rest are the most active people I know which is best illustrated in a story of a lumberjack competition.

There was a story of one man who challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow who took breaks constantly had chopped substantially more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.”

“But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.”[1]  The sword of the Spirit, your spiritual ax is sharpened as you rest and receive from the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall (Psalm 46:2), or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall (verse 6). Be still and know that He is God and your axe or your Sword of The Spirit will be sharp to take down those troubling things that come against you as you speak out verses like our verse today in Psalm 46.

The words “Be still” is raphah which means relax.Relax and know that your God is with you. He is our refuge, our strength, and our ever-present help in time of need. Crazy stuff happens in the world and in our lives, but through it all, watch God work. When trouble comes you have an ever-present help in your time of need. Find shelter, take refuge in the shadow of His wings.

How does acknowledging God impact our stillness?

Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is. His plan for you and me is so much better than anything we could devise on our own. Stillness significance trust. We can look to other things to help us and God can use people to help us in our time of need, but ultimately, I have been at peace and find rest and can relax even in intense moments is when I remember that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in my trouble.

It isn’t into we relax in His presence and we receive His peace that we become at peace. Allow God’s universal triumph to take hold of you and change the outlook of your very life. God’s desire is for rest and refreshment of our soul. What we need is spiritual rest from God’s Word which will lead us to physical rest. How well are you going to sleep at night if you are not relaxed and your spirit is troubled?

Many people in our world today are exhausted, fatigued, and frustrated. Those emotions would describe Peter who had labored all night and caught nothing in his fishing net. What turned it around was the words of Jesus. Because Peter followed Jesus’ guidance, he caught so much his boat began to take on water. Whatever your struggle is today, you can know that God is with you (ever present) and knows exactly how to help (He is your help in time of need).

[1] Source Unknown. https://bible.org/illustration/i-was-sharpening-my-ax.

The Promise of Resurrection

The Promise of Resurrection

Daily Reading: (John 5:28-29):

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”

Resurrection is promised to every single human being, however, the destination is not the same. So, the better question is not who will be resurrected- that is everyone. The better question is who will be resurrected to life?

If you have “done good” you will live, but what does it mean to do good? Jesus tells us a few verses earlier:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

They will never be condemned for their sins, they have already passed from death into life.” You stand right now with Christ’s life because you have already died and been born from above. Doing good, as Jesus defines it, is hearing and believing Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).

The promise of Resurrection is for all humanity. But there are some who are resurrected to be condemned and some who aren’t, and that is why the usual Greek word (katakrima) is not used here. Remember there is absolutely no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). John is telling us that believers will not be judged based on wrong doings. We have been forgiven all of our sins, so our resurrection is a resurrection unto rewards.

So, the Greek word John uses here instead of katakrima is krisis which means a judgment of right or wrong. The righteous are judged on their rights, or a better way of saying it is they are receiving a judgment of rewards, the fruit Jesus bore in their lives. The non-believer is receiving a judgment based on their works, a judgment of wrongs. They have not received the forgiveness of sin, so sin remains and must be judged. I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19) says.

The outcome of the gospel is not merely the forgiveness of sins, as wonderful as that is. It is literally new life, His life.

Many Christians settle at the cross for grace and forgiveness and miss the resurrection.They lead others to the cross and no further and the result is powerless, fruitless Christianity. God saved us so that we might live, really live here and now. Eternal life is knowing God in your present circumstances and trials (John 17:3).

“This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death” (Romans 1:3-4, CEV).

Confess Jesus as Lord and you shall be saved. Do you know what the word “Lord” means? It means Jesus has power and authority. It means He is the living king, on the throne, not on the cross.

When you proclaim the Lord Jesus over your addictions and failings, you are making a bold declaration of faith. You are receiving Jesus’ salvation over your trouble. I cannot defeat you in my strength, but let me tell you about Jesus, my Lord, at whose name every knee shall bow, including yours. Jesus is the powerful Son of God because He conquered death as He was raised from the dead. His salvation is available for you to receive today by faith.

El Niño | Born in Bethlehem |Micah 5:2 | Christmas 2020

El Niño: A Christmas Message

Daily Reading: (Micah 5:2):

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

El Niño as you might know is a tropical Pacific Ocean condition where surface water along the Equator warms up to temperatures above normal, the change in weather pattern affects the entire world, just as the birth of Christ did as well. The name came from locals along the coasts of Peru and Chile. El Niño if you noticed is always capitalized. In Spanish, El Niño means “The Boy.” It’s not just any boy. They were talking about Jesus Christ. During an El Niño cycle the wind along the coastline switches from blowing from the east to blowing from the west. With an easterly wind there is a dry wind in a normally very dry area- a desert. The westerly wind during an El Niño is a wetter wind. Rain increases and one nice benefit in some parts of Peru and Chile is the ability to grow food in a desert. This change in wind direction normally shows up around Christmas.  So, El Niño is known to represent a “Christmas rain gift from the Christ Child, Jesus Christ.

I absolutely love this because the Chileans and the Peruvians celebrate the abnormal weather pattern as a good gift from God. They said let’s name it after the One who is the bread of life, and provides us food in the desert so every time it happens, all glory to God through Jesus the Son. El Niño!

Jesus’ birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Christ has had enormous impact throughout the world and in a lot of ways it has made the seemingly impossible possible (like growing food in a desert) those who were dead in sin, have been given new life. Jesus as our bread of life.

So just as a meteorologist would give the announcement that El Nino is coming, we had an announcement of Jesus’ coming birth and where it would take place.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

Micah is writing at the same time as his contemporary Isaiah in the 8th century before Christ when Assyria captured the northern kingdom and took the ten tribes into captivity. So, the question of Israel’s future was heavy in his mind. What now God? Maybe you have been contemplating your future with the same question, “what’s next?”

Bethlehem was such a strange choice to announce the future birthplace of the Messiah. It was small and humble, yet God chooses to bring his magnificent Messiah out of this town. Why? God chooses the lowly so we can’t boast in merits.

So What do we know about Bethlehem?

Bethlehem was in the district of Ephratah. Bethlehem Ephrathah is an old name for Bethlehem meaning “fruitful”. “It was at Bethlehem that Ruth went forth to glean in the fields of Boaz. In the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a marriage blessing which made them fruitful (Ephratah).

In Genesis 35:19 Bethlehem became a place of sorrow as it was the burial of Rachel the wife of Jacob who died giving birth to Benjamin. Before she died, Rachel named her son Ben Oni (“son of my mourning”). Jacob changed his name to Ben Yamin (Benjamin). “son of the right or south” since Benjamin was the only one of Jacob’s sons born in Canaan, which is to the south of Paddan Aram. “Benjamin was a more appropriate name”. Do you want your child to remember by their name that their mother died giving birth to them? Benjamin’s birth in Bethlehem was a foreshadowing of the birth of Jesus to come. The name change from Ben Oni (son of sorrow) to Ben Yamin (son of the south) was appropriate because the baby born in a manger was to become the real “Man of Sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).

We already discovered that Ephratah means fruitful but Bethlehem itself means “house of bread” as Jesus came to be the Bread of Life and offer Himself as the provision for the needs of men. We are as Christ followers supposed to feed on Him daily, not just during the Advent season. Because of the Bread of Life nourishes our soul as we fill our hearts and minds with His Word.

The deepest meaning of the littleness of Bethlehem is that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is an announcement that God does not bestow the blessings of the Messiah (the blessings of salvation) on the basis of our greatness or our merit or our achievement. So, let us say with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!” Not glory to us. We get the joy. God gets the glory look at what He has done. In the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Christ living in us, the Bread of Life, will make us to be Ephratah (fruitful).

The Promise of Forgiveness

The Promise of Forgiveness

Daily Reading: (1 John 1,7,9, 2:12):

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from allsin.”

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This does not sound like good news to me at all because it sounds conditional. It sounds like there are some things we must do in order to receive forgiveness.

I don’t think confess means what you think it means.” If confession (meaning our ability to list off all of our sins) was needed for forgiveness this would mean that salvation is upheld by us and our sin confessing abilities, but confess means something entirely different (1 John 1:9).

“The problem with a confess your sins in order that you might be forgiven theology is it makes us sin-conscious. Did I confess enough? Life transformation happens as you change from being sin-conscious to focused on our righteousness that Christ gave us, that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The way you relate to God because of the cross will change. God remembers my sins no more and that’s a fact, jack.

Confession is not a bringing to our mind and reciting to God our wrong doings. Why would we try to remind God of the very things God says He remembers no more?

“If we confess our sins,

“Confess”/Homologeō: to say the same thing as another, to agree with (God).

So we are to agree with God about our sins and if we do forgiveness is ours. So, what exactly are we to agree with God about our sins on?  Did you know John already told us the answer two verses earlier- that is why you got to read it in it’s context. Context is king.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

In 1 John 1:9 the word confess (homologeō)- in the Greek remember it means agreeing with (what God has said). Confess does not mean review your sins. The condition for forgiveness is faith in Jesus’ death on a cross to atone for it. Forgiveness is based on Jesus’ work, not ours. If you agree that the blood of Jesus purifies you from all sin than the conclusion of 1 John 1:9 is yours, “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

If you are struggling with how good God’s grace is to you, in the very same letter in the next chapter you’ve got to see this: John will write– 1 John 2:12 – “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12). Did you notice something is missing? There is no mention of confessing needed. For believers in Jesus, our sins have been, not might be or could be, but it is a done deal. We are forgiven because of one thing, on account of Jesus.

When you go back to 1 John 1:9 armed with the correct definition of the word confess means everything else makes sense. When we agree with what God says (that your sins have been forgiven on account of his name—[1 John 2:12] He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The condition for forgiveness is satisfied with Jesus.

You might have noticed a footnote in your Bible inserted for 1 John 1:9 Which says Psalm 32:5 because John is referencing the Old Testament which says:

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” and you “forgave the guilt of my sins.” John quotes this Old Testament verse (Psalm 32:5) to show us that we will not receive the blessing of forgiveness except through faith in the Son of God.

The Promise of Abundant Life

The Promise of Abundant Life

Daily Reading: (John 10:10):

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

There are seasons we all go through where it doesn’t feel like a time of abundance. It feels lean, and the Apostle Paul even acknowledges lean times when he writes from prison the following: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). What this tells us is the abundant life, using the example of Paul’s life, the abundant life is not a life that is never in need. The abundant life is a life that when one has needs, receives all that is theirs in Christ (Philippians 4:11b-12).

So what exactly is the abundant life that I have in Christ and what does that look like lived out in the life of a believer? Those are the questions we should seek an answer to. When you go back to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, we are given a clear picture of Satan’s motive. Satan used to be an angel in heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15), the one who led a rebellion against God and Scripture tells us that he took one-third of the angels with him (Revelation 12:4). Jesus says his purpose is to try and steal, kill, and destroy from mankind. He thought he was victorious as Adam and Eve sinned, but God had a plan. God would send His only Son, whose purpose is to give us who were dead in our sins, life.  he gave us a new life, His life, life to the full.

We have the abundant life in Christ, however, our enemy is still out there trying to steal from us what is ours. 1 Peter 5:8 says:“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His motive has not changed.

Isn’t it interesting the devil has to seek out those whom he may devour? This means that he can’t devour everyone. You can be at a place where the devil will be unable to devour you. The secret is found in the preceding verse, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The secret is to be carefree and not be bogged down by anxieties and worries! Your greatest responsibility is to rejoice in the Lord always. We are not to not worry about past failures, present circumstances, or even future challenges. Release every oppressive thought, worry, and care to Jesus.

Did you also notice that 1 Peter 5:8 says the devil roams about like, or as, “a roaring lion”? In Proverbs 19:12, it says, “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion (Proverbs 19:12). The devil is an imposter who goes about as a roaring lion because he is imitating the King of kings, the real lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. He wants people to think that our King is full of wrath, anger, and rage against us. He comes at us roaring with the voice of condemnation, accusation, and shame and he does it to try and rob from you the truth of who God is and what His disposition toward you is. When you run away from God, you are running straight into the devil’s snare and that is where he can devour you.

“The thief (speaking of Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

“May have” is the Greek word (echo) it means tht we might have and hold, it means you and I possess life (zōē): real and genuine life, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed.

What do you believe about your life? What do you believe about yourself? Do you believe that you are blessed, that you are abundantly blessed? You see the enemy is scared that you might actually believe and live as if your life is a blessed one. The enemy is afraid that you would live knowing that the things you put your hands to, the endeavors you set out for in this life will prosper. The people you encounter will be better as a result of knowing you.

You have and hold the blessed life and you have it to full (perissos): over and above, more than is necessary, superadded

David who found the Lord as His shepherd, the one who watched over him and protects him and loves him said in Psalm 23:5- “my cup runneth over.” “My cup runneth over” means “I have more than enough for my needs”.In desert cultures in the Middle East in times of antiquity, a person is required by laws of hospitality to provide a drink to strangers. The amount that was provided was indicative of how welcomed the guest was, and to pour a full glass or a glass that “ran over” would be reserved only for the most welcomed guest. This is what we have in Christ, super-abounding grace. Our cups overflow. We are the most welcomed guests in God’s presence because He has adopted us as His children. Our life cup runneth over, we are blessed- super-abundantly blessed.