951 E Dalby Rd,
Union WA 98592
Daily Devotion June 2020
Good morning, Blessed Family of God.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Sc6SSHuZvQE
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of . . . (completion at the end)
Have you ever used the services of a mediator in your life? A mediator can be a great help during a difficult time. Job was certainly going through a difficult time in his life after the following happened in a single day: his oxen and donkeys stolen, farmhands killed, sheep and shepherds struck by lightning and killed, camels stolen, servants killed, all his children killed in a house collapse. Later Job was struck with terrible boils from head to toe.
In Job 16:21 Job said: I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job felt distanced from God, and he needed someone who would talk to God on his behalf. I imagine he would want the mediator to ask God, “Job wants to know what’s going on. He has been blameless. He’s been a man of integrity. He fears you, and he has stayed away from evil. Why have all these bad things happened to him? Are you mad at him? What does he need to do or not do in order for things to get back to how they used to be?” Job would love to hear God’s response because right now he is completely confused as to why God would allow these catastrophes to happen to him.
Let’s jump ahead more than 2000 years. John wrote:
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Jesus has always been. He is God—without beginning. However, He didn’t have flesh and blood until He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Virgin Mary. After Jesus lived a sinless life, He was crucified for our sins (we should have been the one on the cross), and He rose from the grave on the third day. He ascended into heaven, and He is coming back to judge the living and the dead when He returns to set up His Kingdom.
1 Timothy 2:5a tells us:
There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
This verse says a lot! There’s only one God and that is Yahweh or Jehovah. Buddha is not God. Neither is Allah, Muhammad, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, Mahavira, Vishnu, Durga, Krishna, you, me, or anyone else. There is one God in three Divine persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
God the Son is Jesus Christ who is the only Mediator between God and humanity. Only Jesus can reconcile God and humanity. God is just; humanity is unjust. God is righteous; humanity is unrighteous. God is perfect; humanity is imperfect. God is sinless; humanity is sinful. The two do not mix.
The separation started when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Sin alienated us from God. There was nothing we could do to reunite us with God. However, God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for our sins. We needed to die for our own sins, but Jesus loved us, and He was the only substitute that was eligible to die in our place because He was sinless—the perfect Lamb of God. His life sacrifice made it possible for us to be reconciled to God: reunited, brought back together again, friendly relations restored, harmony restored, peace restored, differences resolved, brought to terms.
1 John 2:1-6 says:
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
In a sense Jesus became our umpire or referee. An umpire or referee makes a call when a violation of the rules of the game comes into play. In some games, the referee’s call may be challenged. However, it’s still the referee who has the final say. It’s possible that a referee can make the wrong call especially with the game happening so quickly. Regardless of the call, some people will be satisfied with the call and others will be dissatisfied. Fortunately for us we have Jesus as our referee, and He never makes a wrong call. He can see things no one else can see. His call is always right and just. He takes everything into consideration.
This becomes of utmost importance because Jesus isn’t calling the shots in a game; He’s the one who makes the call as to our final destination for all eternity: heaven or hell. His call is final, and it is fair and just. When we stand before God in judgment, Jesus is our Mediator. All of us should be sentenced to hell for our sins, but Jesus is able to step up for us and say, “I gave my blood for this person. I who am sinless paid the death penalty for this person, so this person does not have to be sent to death. This person is able to have eternal life because he/she acknowledged me before others as their Lord and Savior. By your grace and mercy, allow this person into your eternal kingdom.” Jesus is the only one who can say that. He is the only one who is worthy. On Judgment Day there is only going to be one referee—Jesus.
Romans 10:9-13 says:
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
Notice how the last part of 1 Timothy 2:5 says: He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. If we remain slaves to sin by our choice, we will pay a high penalty. Jesus has purchased our freedom with His death on the cross. Romans 6:6-11 says:
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
It’s also good news that Jesus gave his life for everyone: all nationalities, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, sinners, worse sinners, worst sinners, those who persecute, slaves, rulers . . . everyone. 2 Peter 3:9b says: [The Lord] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
I would not want to stand before Father God all alone—I would be terrified! Like Isaiah I would say, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5) I would want Jesus right by my side, and I would want my Mediator doing all the talking. I don’t stand a chance without Jesus by my side. How close of a relationship do you have with your Mediator?
Verse Completion: . . . both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)
Good morning to everyone looking out for the spiritual and physical well-being of others.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/DioI2k4IIjs
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· Rejoice . . .
· pray . . .
· in everything . . . (completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Death and Taxes” based on Matthew 17:22-27:
After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?”
“Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house.
But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?”
“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”
Jesus and the disciples were traveling from Caesarea Philippi southwest to Capernaum. Their journey’s destination was Jerusalem. Jesus told them He would be betrayed. Jesus also said He would be killed and be raised to life. The disciples have come to the realization that this would happen. Prior to this, they were in denial. The news fills them with grief.
Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a model for the Five Stages of Grief. The grief involved relates to grief after receiving the news of a terminal condition such as dementia or cancer. The grief process begins when we find out someone is going to die. Jesus has given His disciples His diagnosis but not the details. One of the stages in grief is depression—the suppression of life as we know it that includes joy and happiness. The disciples realize life will change and never be the same. Mark 9:32 says:
[The disciples] didn’t understand what [Jesus] was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
Jesus wants the disciples to understand that His suffering, death, and resurrection are key to the gospel message. This concept of the Messiah is foreign to the disciples; they saw the Messiah as a conquering king in the line of David who conquered Goliath and the Philistines and who controlled the entire area of Canaan and beyond.
When the disciples envisioned a resurrection, they imagined seeing Jesus when they went to heaven. That didn’t fit with the three days Jesus talked about. They lacked understanding.
When they arrived in Capernaum, they were asked to pay the Temple tax which was equivalent to two days’ pay. Exodus 30:11-16 says:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Whenever you take a census of the people ofIsrael, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD. Then no plague will strike the people as you count them. Each person who is counted must give a small piece of silver as a sacred offering to the LORD. (This payment is half a shekel, based on the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs.) All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this sacred offering to the LORD. When this offering is given to the LORD to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less. Receive this ransom money from the Israelites, and use it for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring the Israelites to the LORD’S attention, and it will purify your lives.”
2 Chronicles 24:6 says:
So the king called for Jehoiada the high priest and asked him, “Why haven’t you demanded that the Levites go out and collect the Temple taxes from the towns of Judah and from Jerusalem? Moses, the servant of the LORD, levied this tax on the community of Israel in order to maintain the Tabernacle of the Covenant.”
The Temple was looked at as the dwelling place of God’s presence. The Temple was the center of Judaism. The tax helped maintain the Temple. This wasn’t a Roman tax; it was a tax collected by the Pharisees. Israelites were proud to pay the tax. Priests and rabbis did not pay the tax. The tax collectors were asking the disciples if Jesus paid the Temple tax. If Jesus didn’t pay the tax, it would imply he was not a true Israelite.
The question Jesus asked Peter was whether a king would tax his own family. The answer is obviously he would not. Typically, nations would go to war, and it was the conquered nation that would pay taxes to the victor. Jesus was asking Peter, “If your father was the king, would you pay taxes?” The answer is negative because children are exempt. The taxes on the Temple were for God’s house. Jesus is the Son of God so He would be exempt from paying taxes.
When Jesus was twelve years old his parents lost track of Him, but found him three days later in the Temple. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49) Since Jesus is the Son of God, legally, He would not have to pay this tax. But Jesus told Peter they would pay the tax because they didn’t want to offend anyone. From the Greek word for offend used here we get our word scandal: to trip someone up; cause someone to stumble; to trap someone. There’s a principle that’s above the Law here, and that is the principle of relationship. Jesus doesn’t want to do anything that would cause a person to stumble and ruin their spiritual well-being. Jesus gives up His right to not pay the tax for the spiritual well-being of others. This principle comes out in Romans 14:1, 7, 13, 15, 17, 19-22; 15:1:
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.
So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.
We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves.
As disciples of Christ, we care about the spiritual well-being of others. It’s not about our rights. Jesus gave up His rights so we can have everlasting life.
If Jesus had refused to pay the tax, others might have said, “Well, if Jesus isn’t going to pay the Temple tax, then I’m not going to pay it either. I’m going to be rebellious just like Jesus.”
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. It’s not about our rights. We need to give up our rights so we don’t cause another person to stumble. We want their spiritual well-being over our rights.
Churches right here in Washington State sued the government over their right to congregate as a church in spite of COVID-19. They put their own rights above the well-being of others. Some people feel like the government does not have the right to make people wear masks. It’s not about your rights; it’s about the well-being of those around you. Is it about the law or is it about relationships?
Jesus is helping his disciples understand why the Messiah would suffer. Every other kingdom is about power, might, and strength. The kingdom of heaven is about weakness, suffering, dying to self, and denying self. Jesus wants the disciples to understand that the Messiah will die and a kingdom will start with that death and resurrection.
It’s not about the strictness of the Law; it’s about the salvation of people.
Completions to Verses:
· . . . always;
· . . . without ceasing;
· . . . give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)
Good morning, Faith Stretchers.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LqBpifDpNKc
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate . . .
· and with your feet fitted with . . . (completions at the end)
Have you ever put God in a box? I know I have. When I was praying for a wife, I told God it would sure be nice to marry someone who attended the same church I did so what church we attended wouldn’t be an issue. I really liked the church I was attending. Since I was a teacher, I told God it would be great to marry a teacher—someone who understood what all was involved with a teaching career. I also prayed that the lady I met would not have any children living at home. I told the Lord I liked animals, but I wanted a lifestyle that was free from the responsibilities associated with owning animals. Oh, and another thing I asked God for was someone who was committed to regularly giving money to God through the church.
I knew God wouldn’t give me everything on my wish list, but I was hoping He would provide a wife that had at least some of what I desired. The box I had God in was far too small. God gave me ALL I had on my list and so much more: someone with a happy disposition, someone who found joy in giving to God and others, someone who liked to laugh, someone who could laugh at herself, someone who liked adventures, someone who loved to ski, play tennis, hike, camp, and swim. God gave me someone deeply rooted in Him.
Evidently, Laurie must have been praying for a husband with tremors, skin issues, and liked riding motorcycles, because that’s what she got.
Amaziah had God in a small box. 2 Chronicles 25:1-9 says:
Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Jehoaddin from Jerusalem. Amaziah did what was pleasing in the LORD’S sight, but not wholeheartedly.
When Amaziah was well established as king, he executed the officials who had assassinated his father. However, he did not kill the children of the assassins, for he obeyed the command of the LORD as written by Moses in the Book of the Law: “Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.”
Then Amaziah organized the army, assigning generals and captains for all Judah and Benjamin. He took a census and found that he had an army of 300,000 select troops, twenty years old and older, all trained in the use of spear and shield. He also paid about 7,500 pounds of silver to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel.
But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the LORD is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim! If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.”
Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”
The man of God replied, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this!”
Amaziah needed to let God out of the box he had Him contained in. Ephesians 3:20 says:
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
During Passover some prayer warriors put God in a box, too. The story is found in Acts 12:1-17:
About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.
There’s no size of box that can contain our God! David had a good grasp of who God is when he prayed:
“O LORD, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.
“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!” (1 Chronicles 29:10b-13)
Moses and the people of Israel sang praises to God that included:
“Who is like you among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders? You raised your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies. With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.
The LORD will reign forever and ever!” (Exodus 15:11-13, 18)
Isaiah wasn’t putting God in a box when he said:
It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
How big is the box you have God in? Today let’s blow the sides, top, and bottom away and let God accomplish that which you believe is impossible. Jehovah God created the universe. He has always been, and He will always be. He had no beginning, and He will have no end. There’s no limit to His power. NOTHING is impossible with Him. Let God out of the box you have Him in, and let God be who He is—Yahweh.
Completions to Verses:
· . . . of righteousness in place,
· . . . the gospel of peace as a firm footing. Ephesians 6:14-15 (NIV)
Good morning, Faithful and True.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/JJ7nO0al-fs
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: The harvest is plentiful, . . . (completion at the end)
One of my favorite Bible characters is Stephen.
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God. This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. (Acts 6:8-12)
Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?” (Acts 7:1)
At this point, Stephen went into quite a lengthy explanation of the history of the Jews starting with Abraham in Mesopotamia. Around the halfway point of his speech, Stephen said:
“But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of the heaven as their gods! (Acts 7:39-42a)
Let’s try to put this into perspective in 2020. There are computers today that have programs where the operator can create characters to accomplish feats. The operator can manipulate the characters to create a virtual city. There’s artificial intelligence where the characters can think for themselves up to a certain point. What would happen if characters could be created on the screen that could actually think and act completely on their own? The operator could tell the characters to dig a well for water. What would happen if they responded with, “No, we don’t have to do what you tell us to do. You’re not our boss. The mayor of the city is our boss”?
“But I’m the one who created the mayor of the city,” the operator might say.
“We’re cutting our ties with you. Our allegiance is with the mayor. If he tells us to dig a well, we will dig a well. We don’t answer to you any more.”
“Remember, I’m the one who created you. If you don’t do what I ask of you, I’m going to hit the delete button, and you’ll be history.”
The operator might wonder why his creations were turning against him and pledging allegiance to their own creations or a creation of the operator rather than the operator himself. The created beings are being unfaithful to their creator.
God calls this spiritual adultery. Here is what God said to the people of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16:16-22, 30-32:
“You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols, where you played the prostitute. Unbelievable! How could such a thing ever happen? You took the very jewels and gold and silver ornaments I had given you and made statues of men and worshiped them. This is adultery against me! You used the beautifully embroidered clothes I gave you to dress your idols. Then you used my special oil and my incense to worship them. Imagine it! You set before them as a sacrifice the choice flour, olive oil, and honey I had given you, says the Sovereign LORD.
“Then you took your sons and daughters—the children you had borne to me—and sacrificed them to your gods. Was your prostitution not enough? Must you also slaughter my children by sacrificing them to idols? In all your years of adultery and detestable sin, you have not once remembered the days long ago when you lay naked in a field, kicking about in your own blood.
“What a sick heart you have, says the Sovereign LORD, to do such things as these, acting like a shameless prostitute. You build your pagan shrines on every corner and your altars to idols in every square. In fact, you have been worse than a prostitute, so eager for sin that you have not even demanded payment. Yes, you are an adulterous wife who takes in strangers instead of her own husband.
Here is where God uses the delete button:
“Because you have poured out your lust and exposed yourself in prostitution to all your lovers, and because you have worshiped detestable idols, and because you have slaughtered your children as sacrifices to your gods, this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you. I will punish you for your murder and adultery. I will cover you with blood in my jealous fury. Then I will give you to these many nations who are your lovers, and they will destroy you. They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols. They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked. They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords. They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women. I will stop your prostitution and end your payments to your many lovers.” (Ezekiel 16:365b-41)
God does not take spiritual unfaithfulness lightly! When we pledge our allegiance to God, and then worship other things, He is very disturbed just as we would be if we found out our spouse who pledged to be faithful to us went back on their word.
James 4:4-5 puts it this way:
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.
As Stephen reminded the high council and the high priest of this part of their history, it probably did not sit well with them. Then Stephen turned the heat up on them:
“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.(Acts 7:51-60)
As Christians we daily need to remember to whom our allegiance is due—our Creator. He made us. He has the right to call the shots. Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”? (Isaiah 29:16b) The best part is our Creator loves us so much He took our death penalty upon Himself so we could live. He is 100% faithful to us. We need to be 100% faithful back to Him. We have to be diligent in not allowing any idols to creep into our lives, because divided loyalties don’t work in God’s kingdom.
Let’s pray that God would give us the same kind of boldness Stephen had and the same spirit of love and forgiveness he demonstrated to those who desired to kill him and did kill him.
Verse Completion: . . . but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:2 (NIV)
Good morning, Salt & Light.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/kIoKHyVub20
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Let the man who has two tunics . . . (completion at the end)
The lyrics to a song say, “the darkest hour is just before dawn.” In other words, if you are going through a difficult time, hang in there; dawn is coming; better times are just around the bend.
In the book of Esther, we find Mordecai and Esther in their darkest hour. The king at the time was Xerxes and his right hand man was Haman. Haman was the most powerful official in the empire. Esther 3:8-11 tells why Mordecai and Esther became so depressed:
Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.”
The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. The king said, “The money and the people are both yours to do with as you see fit.”
This took place in April. The date set for the annihilation of the Jews was March 7 of the following year. Keep in mind that whatever was written in the king’s name and sealed with his signet ring could never be revoked.
Mordecai and Esther were both Jews. Mordecai caught wind of what was to happen and told his cousin, Queen Esther, who was married to King Xerxes. Mordecai enlisted the help of the queen, but it came at a great risk. Esther would have to go before the king uninvited. The punishment for this was death unless the king held up his gold scepter. Esther risked her life, the king held up his scepter, and Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet.
Haman despised Mordecai. Mordecai did not kowtow to Haman even though Haman held the highest office. Mordecai would not bow down and show Haman respect even though it was the king’s command. Haman had had enough of Mordecai and decided to have Mordecai impaled on a sharpened 75-foot pole.
Meanwhile, the king discovered in his records that Mordecai had exposed the plan of two men who had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes. Esther 6:6-10 says: So Haman came in, and the king said, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?”
Haman thought to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?” So he replied, “If the king wishes to honor someone, he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, “This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!”
“Excellent!” the king said to Haman. “Quick! Take the robes and my horse and do just as you have said for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the gate of the palace. Leave out nothing you have suggested!”
One can only imagine how humiliated Haman must have felt.
Later, the king and Haman attended Queen Esther’s banquet where the king said to the queen:
“Tell me what you want, Queen Esther. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half of the kingdom!”
Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, I ask that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us. If we had merely been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would be too trivial a matter to warrant disturbing the king.”
“Who would do such a thing?” King Xerxes demanded. “Who would be so presumptuous as to touch you?”
Esther replied, “This wicked Haman is our adversary and our enemy.” Haman grew pale with fright before the king and the queen. Then the king jumped to his feet in a rage and went out into the palace garden. (Esther 7:2b-7a)
The king ordered Haman to be impaled on the sharpened pole Haman had prepared for Mordecai.
It was still a dark hour though as the king’s decree to kill the Jews was still in effect. Queen Esther again risked her life to ask the king for help. The king made a decree:
The king’s decree gave the Jews in every city authority to unite to defend their lives. They were allowed to kill, slaughter, and annihilate anyone of any nationality or province who might attack them or their children and wives, and to take the property of their enemies. (8:11)
The king’s decree helped the Jews to be victorious over those who attacked them. As a result, Mordecai called for an annual festival to celebrate what took place.
This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy.(9:22b)
The Bible has many more examples of people whose sorrow was turned into gladness. Here are a few:
· Sarah was past the childbearing years when she gave birth to Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. (see Genesis 21)
· Abraham was called upon by God to sacrifice his only son to Him, but God’s angel stopped Abraham. (see Genesis 22)
· Joseph was sold into slavery and became a powerful ruler. (see Genesis 37-45)
· Job had seven sons and three daughters. He had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He had many servants. He basically lost everything. He was struck with boils. God restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as before. (see Job 1,2,42)
· Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, but God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths. (see Daniel 6)
· Jonah spent three days and three nights inside a great fish. God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. (see Jonah 1-2)
· Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten and thrown into prison. Their feet were clamped in stocks. There was a great earthquake, and the next day they were released. (see Acts 16)
· Jesus was flogged with a lead-tipped whip, given a crown of thorns, mocked, and crucified on a cross. On the third day He rose from the grave. (see Matthew 27-28)
Do you have a story of when God turned your sorrow into gladness or your mourning into joy? After 24 years of marriage, my wife filed for divorce. I was devastated. It was so difficult. Then God brought Laurie into my life. My sorrow was turned into gladness.
Sometimes we are allowed to go from sorrow to gladness in our lifetime, but sometimes we don’t see the gladness return until after we have died—as in the case of Jesus. Are you in a time of sorrow? You’re not alone. Others have been where you are and understand what it’s like.
I heard this poem some time ago:
I spent an hour with Laughter
We chatted all the way
But I barely remember a single thing
From what she had to say.
I then spent an hour with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she
But, oh, the things I learned the day
That Sorrow walked with me.
Sorrow can be a great teacher. I know it taught me to have more empathy for those who were going through a similar experience.
I’m so thankful for God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. He is full of compassion and mercy. He sees my sorrow and your sorrow, and He cares. He is able to turn our sorrow and mourning into joy. Praise Jesus!
· Call someone today to check up on them.
· You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians on our Media menu.
· Join Lola in prayer on Wednesdays at 10:00 am on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live You can also call the church office for prayer: 360-898-7855.
· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays.
· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live
Verse Completion: . . . share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise. Luke 3:11b (NASB)
Good morning, Family of God.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-f4MUUMWMV4
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For . . . (completion at the end)
Some people have turned an idea into big business. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004. It is now a $350 billion company. Larry Page and Sergey Brin saw the need for a smarter search engine and got to work. The result was Google with a value of $605 billion. Chad Hurley and Steven Chen wanted a simpler way to share videos with friends online. They started YouTube while working in a cubicle. The company is worth $40 billion and serves up more than a billion videos a day. Apple was launched from a garage by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who had an idea for a computer. Jeff Bezos had an idea for improving shipping. He started with shipping books out of his garage. Amazon is now a $292 billion company.
All these financially successful companies were started with an idea. Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” The mind can come up with some impressive ideas. But where does the mind come from? Genesis 1:26-27 says: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Human beings have a mind created by God. The mind can be used for good or it can be used for evil—to build up or to tear down.
Romans 12:1-3 says: And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
What does a transformed mind think about? Philippians 4:8 tells us it’s that which is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
Around 430 B.C. the walls of Jerusalem were broken down making the city defenseless. Nehemiah saw the need for the walls to be rebuilt and he did something about it. In spite of much opposition, in just fifty-two days the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Nehemiah 6:16; 7:1-5 says: When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors in the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. I said to them, “Do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day. And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.”
At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt. So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah.
What ideas has God given to you recently? Have you asked God to give you any ideas recently? God gave Nehemiah an idea to improve Jerusalem, and he acted on it.
Sometimes ideas we get transpire into multi-billion dollar companies. Usually, they do not. The examples given at the beginning are real, but they are the exception. A large number of businesses fail. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of businesses fail in their first year and about 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year.
Ephesians 5:15-20 tells us how we should live: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes God gives us ideas like He did when he revealed to Nehemiah what He wanted him to do. Notice how Nehemiah had already completed the rebuilding of the wall when God gave Nehemiah another idea. When we step out in faith and attempt something for God, He takes notice. When we go about our day without a thought of God and His desires, He’s probably not going to be filling our minds with His ideas.
What are some ideas we might seek from God? Here are a few suggestions:
· What can I do to reach others for you, Jesus?
· What ministry exists that could use some help?
· I see an area of need: ___________. What can I do to fill that need?
· What could I say in a note that would encourage another person?
· Who needs a phone call?
· How can I use what I have been blessed with to bless others?
Let’s close with a prayer requesting an idea from God:
Dear Heavenly Father, I know you give people ideas. You gave Nehemiah the idea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and register the people who lived inside the walls. This was a good thing for the people. I’m asking you, Father, to give me an idea that would improve the life of another person or persons. It might be something very simple like giving a glass of water to someone who is thirsty, or it might be something that completely changes the course of my life like when you called Steve and Joline Moore to Haiti for 16 years. I know if it’s you, God, that gives me the idea, it’s a great idea. I also know your ideas sometimes lead to wealth, but often they lead to difficult times that involve struggles and challenges. However, when it’s your idea, it will be a rewarding experience. Steve Moore had no desire to go to Haiti, but he went there for 16 years and wouldn’t change that experience for anything. It’s what you wanted him to do, and it brought him great joy.
So, Lord, put in my mind an idea that comes straight from you. Plant it there, and don’t let it leave me. May it be an idea that would directly or indirectly further your kingdom. Your ideas are the best ideas. Your ideas can see into the future while my ideas are so often concerned with the here and now. May the idea you plant in my mind take root and come to full fruition because I was obedient and acted on your idea.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Verse Completion: . . . the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15
Good morning, Truth Seekers & Finders.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Pz7578ZNwNU
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: No one who is born of God . . .(completion at the end)
How do we decipher truth? One of the ways is to examine how long what is being said has been around. In other words, we give it the test of time. I’m definitely not saying that everything that’s been around for hundreds or thousands of years is truth. I’m saying it is one test we can apply. Let’s look at an example in Acts 5:17-42:
The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.
When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”
The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”
The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.
The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”
Gamaliel was a wise man. He basically told the council to give Jesus the test of time. Theudas had 400 followers, but what he was teaching was not truth. It didn’t withstand the test of time. Judas of Galilee had his followers, too, but his message was not truth; it didn’t withstand the test of time. Gamaliel was saying it was too early to determine if what Jesus was saying was truth or false teaching. He encouraged the council to leave things as they were for the time being and watch to see what happens in the future. Afterall, if the teachings they were hearing about Jesus were true, then the council could be found to be fighting against God! That would be a serious mistake! Gamaliel encouraged the council to sit back and see what happens.
It’s been two thousand years since this conversation took place. Do you think that’s enough time? According to a Pew Research Center demographic analysis in 2015, Christians are the largest religious group in the world. Here’s the breakdown:
1. Christians—2.3 billion
2. Muslims—1.8 billion
3. Unaffiliated—1.2 billion
4. Hindus—1.1 billion
5. Buddhists—0.5 billion
6. Folk religions—0.4 billion
7. Other religions—0.1 billion
8. Jews—0.01 billion
Just because Christians are the largest group, it doesn’t make it the true religion and all the others false. However, it clearly shows that Christianity has stood the test of time. Gamaliel was so right when he said, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” What Jesus spoke was truth, and there’s nothing that can destroy truth. Many have tried to stamp out truth, but it will never happen. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
As we attempt to decipher truth, another aspect to consider is suffering and persecution. Throughout history the people of God have suffered persecution even to the point of death. Notice that the council had the apostles flogged and “ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus.” The apostles completely ignored the order in spite of the flogging they had received. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18b)
James 1:2-4 says: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.When we know Truth, we have a joy the world can never take away from us.
In about five minutes, Ravi Zacharias answers the question: “How do I defend the Bible?” https://youtu.be/1u5cXb4zHbM
Verse Completion: . . . practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9 (NASB)
Good morning, Disciples of Jesus.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/f8TkUMJtK5k
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are . . .
· you were bought at a price. Therefore . . . (completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael spoke on “Revealings and Reminders” to a virtual congregation at 8:30 a.m. and a live congregation at NCCU at 10:30 a.m. His sermon was based on Matthew 17:1-21.
When we learn a new skill, if we don’t use it we lose it. The disciples are learning from Jesus: salvation is by faith alone, Jesus is the Messiah, and the method of salvation.
Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.
As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”
Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist. (verses 1-13)
Jesus and the disciples are traveling from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem for the Passover which is about a month away. Jesus takes three of his disciples high up on a mountain. Luke’s account says, “Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31) There are some correlations here with Exodus 24:1-2: Then the LORD instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the LORD. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.”
In Luke, the disciples talked about Jesus’ departing (His exodus) the earth and going to the promised land—heaven. In Exodus, three of Moses’ disciples are named that go up the mountain with him. Moses is given instructions to lead the people into the promised land—Canaan.
When Jesus is transfigured, He is metamorphosized from a human body to a glorified body. Revelation 1:14 says, “His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire.” The glory of Jesus is revealed to His disciples. John mentions this in John 1:14: So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. Peter mentions it in 2 Peter 1:16-18: For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. God the Father was confirming for the disciples that Jesus was the Messiah.
Peter volunteered to make three shelters because they were going to spend the night on the mountain. Peter was concerned about the physical realities, but Jesus wanted them to be concerned about the spiritual reality that He truly was the Messiah. The bright cloud overshadowing them can be compared to when the LORD came down in a cloud in Exodus 34:3-7.
The voice out of the cloud is very similar to Matthew 3:17: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” This is another confirmation of who Jesus is: The Messiah—the Savior of the world. Then we have the imperative statement: “Listen to him.” Perhaps this statement is a fulfillment of the prophesy we find in Deuteronomy 18:15: Moses continued, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
We must listen to Jesus because He has the words of life; He has the words of death; He has the words of salvation; He has the words of everlasting life; He has the words of forgiveness. He also has the words of judgment and punishment. We must listen carefully to His words! Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
There was a Jewish belief that Moses and Elijah would come together to announce the coming of the Messiah. It’s possible Moses and Elijah are the ones who appeared so there would be no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah.
Notice how Jesus touched the disciples when they were face down on the ground. Jesus was never afraid to touch people—even lepers. There’s something about physical touch that encourages us and takes away fear. It’s comforting.
The disciples understand that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. What the disciples still don’t understand is the suffering of Jesus that will take place. A suffering Messiah just doesn’t match their concept of a triumphant Messiah. Notice how the disciples don’t ask Jesus any questions when He says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus didn’t want them to tell anyone what they saw because they don’t understand the significance of it. The disciples think the kingdom of God is about power and authority, not suffering and death.
The four of them likely spent the night on the mountain. When they come down, they see the following:
At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”
Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.
Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (verses 14-21)
The disciples have faith, but their faith needs to grow. They tried to bring healing to the boy on their own strength, and it wasn’t enough. They failed to understand that it’s not by their power, not by their works, not by their strength, not by their wisdom, not by their wealth, not by their position, not by their influence, not by their goodness. Salvation and sanctification come from God’s power, not ours.
The disciples needed to learn to die to self. They had to learn that salvation comes through the suffering and death of Christ. The disciples wanted to use resurrection power out on their own without suffering and death, but death has to come. It’s death to self; life to Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:25-31 teaches us that it’s not about wisdom, our own strength, or how good we are. Christ chose the weak to show His strength. Christ chose the foolish to show His wisdom. Salvation, sanctification, and ministering for Jesus are the result of dying to self, not exalting self.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. Our own personal goodness is not going to carry forth the kingdom of heaven. Anything kingdom oriented comes about by the grace of God and not by our own goodness. When we realize this, then nothing is impossible because it’s all about the power of God within us.
Learning about the kingdom of God is difficult. Just when we think we have it, God shows us we need another lesson. The disciples never gave up. They continued with Jesus. We need to do the same. We are insufficient, but God is all-sufficient.
Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness answer the question “Who is responsible for evil?” in less than eight minutes: https://youtu.be/xUohtd2hP78
Completions to Verses:
· . . . not your own;
· . . . honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
Good morning, Contenders for the Gospel.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/tGvJ-fFHT_k
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was . . . (completion at the end)
In twenty-five lessons Dr. Michael Wedman taught the book of Philippians during Fireside Fellowship; that’s roughly twenty-five hours of teaching! Today, we are going to summarize the second half of those lessons. Undoubtedly, some key points will be left out but the hope is that this review will still be profitable.
By investing in Paul and the gospel, the church at Philippi was investing in things eternal. Epaphroditus was sent to help Paul while Paul was in prison. That meant that Epaphroditus would stay in prison with Paul and provide for his needs including food and clothing. Epaphroditus is like-minded and united with Paul in faith, function, and fight. They are both apostles. The word apostle means messenger. In this case, they are messengers delivering the words of Jesus to others.
Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the church because Epaphroditus is longing to see everyone there. You might say he’s homesick for home. What would be best for Paul would be for Epaphroditus to stay in prison with him, but Paul doesn’t think about what’s best for him; he thinks about what’s best for Epaphroditus and the church. Paul is looking out for the best interests of Epaphroditus; Paul has his back.
Paul and Epaphroditus risked their lives for the work of Christ. They felt risking their lives for the gospel was worth the risk because death is gain for the Christian. Christians are willing to risk their lives for Christ.
When a professional sports team gets into a slump, what does the coach do? He takes the team back to the basics. Paul wants the church to be well grounded in the fundamentals of their faith. To mature in Christ, we have to have the fundamentals down. It’s upon the fundamentals that we build and grow. The fundamental message that we never tire of hearing is the gospel: the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit in us, the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, how to serve, unity, rejoicing . . . it’s all about Jesus. We don’t mature when we don’t practice the basics. The basics help us decipher right from wrong; they help us identify what is false.
Anything that prevents us from understanding God, from knowing God, from obeying God, from serving God, from humbling ourselves before God is being uncircumcised. Circumcision is that act of getting rid of anything that separates us from a relationship with Jesus.
Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is never by works or by the law. We can never be good enough to earn salvation; it is a gift.
Paul realized his prestigious ancestry and high position as a Pharisee actually prevented him from knowing Christ. Those things he held in high esteem—what he thought was working to draw him closer to God—were actually working to prevent him from knowing God.
Paul is saying to us, “Be careful what you think is profit.” We all have a profit and loss sheet in our mind based on our goodness and accomplishments. Paul says it’s all garbage. The word garbage can be translated dung. It’s not just neutral; it actually can prevent a person from knowing God. Our trophy cases prevent us from knowing and growing in Christ. Paul puts NOTHING in the profit side of his sheet except Jesus. He knows his whole life is by the grace of God. Paul is doing the works of God and not the works of Paul.
Acts 27:13-26 has the story of Paul and the storm at sea. The ship Paul is on is in danger of sinking so the crew begins throwing the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. The cargo was in the profit side of their ledger, and yet they were throwing it into the sea. What was on the profit side is now worthless to them. However, the thrown over cargo is not neutral now; it is on the loss side because the captain is going to have to pay for that cargo. The only thing of value to the crew was life, and they were willing to do anything necessary to save their lives.
The only thing that matters, the only thing we should be desperate for, the only thing that should be in our profit column is one word— Jesus. Salvation is by grace alone through faith. It’s not by our works, our descent, or our greatness. It’s not by how many committees we sat on, how much money we’ve given, or how long we’ve attended the church. If any of these are in your profit column, move them over to the loss column, and put Jesus only in your profit column. These are the things that prevent us from following Jesus. If we don’t give up everything we have in our profit column, we will not gain Jesus. It’s so easy to want Jesus and . . . in our profit column, but that will never work. In our profit column has to be Jesus only.
Paul doesn’t want to know about Jesus, he want to know Jesus; He wants a personal relationship with Him. You get to know someone by spending time with them. You get to know someone by living life with them. Paul wants to live life with Jesus.
If we have Christ living in us, we will suffer for Him because we will be countercultural. We become separated from those who choose to live a sinful life. When people reject Jesus, they reject those who follow Him. The deeper you go with Christ, the more you can expect to be persecuted.
When Paul says he is forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, he is saying he is forgetting all that used to be in his profit column of his ledger. Now that he has only Jesus in the profit column, there’s no reason to look back.
As we mature in Christ, our goal needs to be leaning into, straining into, and pressing into the life of Christ. Paul is telling us to keep moving forward in spite of suffering. Look ahead to the resurrection. Never give up.
Grumbling and complaining always leads to anger, strife, division, and disunity. What do we do if we don’t like something? We should express our opinion correctly, leave it in God’s hands, and pray.
People believe they will go to heaven because they are basically good people. They believe God will let them into heaven when God sees how extensive their profit column is. They believe they should be allowed into heaven on their goodness. They feel they deserve heaven based on what they have done. This is humanistic thinking. It’s not biblical.
Humanism doesn’t take into account sin. Sin is real, and sin separates us from God. “Good” people do not like the word sin. They see themselves as good and want others to see them as good. The fact is we all have sin in our lives. The Pharisees saw themselves as upright people—pillars of the community, and they became very upset when Jesus called them sinners. The Pharisees felt they were faultless according to the Law. They were the “religious” people who put a lot of effort into being perfect. They were appalled when Jesus called them sinners.
A relationship with God starts not by displaying our goodness but by recognizing our sinfulness. Displaying our goodness is religion, and it doesn’t help us develop a relationship with Jesus. In fact, it keeps us from having a relationship with Jesus.The only way you get to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus not based on works or personal goodness. Personal goodness does zero for you as far as earning you salvation. We become acceptable to God through a relationship with Him. Our works may raise our social standing before people, but our works do nothing to raise our social standing before God. All the good things we do belong in God’s profit column, not ours. If we boast, we boast in the Lord, not us. The hard work of salvation, the hard work of maturing in Christ, is moving what we used to have in our profit column and moving it to our loss column.
Would you allow your children to do whatever they wanted, and when they did something that displeased you, allow them to flippantly say, “Oh, sorry”? Of course not. God doesn’t allow it with us either. When we receive salvation, we die to sin, and we live to Christ. Don’t live anything but the gospel.
Paul told about a citizenship that was even greater than Roman citizenship; he told them about a heavenly citizenship. Once a person has grasped heavenly citizenship, they are happy to put Roman citizenship in the loss column of their ledger—counts for nothing. Citizens of heaven live for Christ, honor Christ, take the customs of Christ, talk like Christ, act like Christ. Citizens of heaven eagerly wait for Jesus to return as their Savior.
Paul doesn’t want the church to ignore the division that’s taking place in it because it will end up killing the church. Paul knows about disagreements; he had a sharp one with Barnabas (see Acts 15:36-41). They ended up parting ways, but they never slandered the other. They knew that would destroy the body of Christ. They wouldn’t do anything that would hurt the spread of the gospel.
It’s difficult to argue with someone sitting right next to you. We need to realize the body of Christ is a team, and we shouldn’t oppose someone on the same team as us. We need to keep Christ in the center. Let’s be contenders for Jesus and not contenders against one another.
Joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. We are told to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice because of Jesus in us. Rejoicing invites Jesus into the pain of circumstances. Rejoicing makes Jesus the center of one’s life. We don’t lean into our circumstances; we lean into Jesus. Be people of praise. Praise God for who He is. Our joy comes from Him.
When teachers make allowances for their students based on their knowledge of the students, that’s an example of gentleness. It’s not about the strict adherence to the letter of the law; it’s about the person.
John 8:1-11 is an example of Jesus extending gentleness to the woman caught in adultery. Gentleness looks past the law to the person. However, this does not mean that people who break the law shouldn’t be punished or have consequences for their behavior. Gentleness is more than justice because it takes into account the person—not just the action.
Prayer says, “You are God, and I am not.” Prayer recognizes God has the power to do something about the situation.
Peace comes from God. When we rejoice, when we are gentle, when we pray, God gives us peace.
What we think about is important. It affects how we see the world and interpret the world. What you read will affect how you live. What we think about affects how we act, react, and interact with the world around us.
The eight virtues of Philippians 4:8 help us to live out the gospel. They are what we are to think about—that which is: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. While we think on these, let’s give others something virtuous to think about as they observe our life. These virtues are similar to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The Holy Spirit is in us and is transforming our character. We need to be thinking about God and His kingdom instead of thinking about ourselves and the earthly kingdom.
Paul says that contentment is not about anything we have; it’s not about material possessions. We need to learn to be content with little or much regardless of the circumstances. The secret to contentment is Jesus; He’s the one who gives us the strength to be content. Contentment is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. Christ is all sufficient. Contentment is about being satisfied, and Jesus satisfies fully. Contentment involves moving everything we have in the profit column of our lives and moving it over to the loss column of our lives, so only Jesus is left in the profit column. We trust Jesus with our lives. If we trust Jesus and He is all-sufficient in our lives, then we can be content no matter what the circumstances. Contentment doesn’t come in a day; it’s a lifelong journey with Jesus.
Paul did not want to be known as a traveling sophist or charlatan. Paul was not speaking to gain money or wealth. His purpose was to tell others about Jesus. Paul recognizes there are false apostles who are only in it for the money. Paul doesn’t want people to confuse him with them, and that’s why he would not take money for the preaching he did. Paul is not preaching the gospel so he can pad his bank account. Paul wants to separate himself from the sophists and charlatans. He wants people to know that with him it’s not about money; it’s about Jesus. The gospel message is what’s important. The sophists and charlatans wanted gain for themselves; Paul wants gain for those who hear and respond to the gospel.
When we give to benefit others, we are giving unto Jesus. We don’t give for our own gain: position, influence, or power. We give to gain nothing. We give because we love God and want to see His kingdom built. At that point, God credits us spiritually.
Paul’s life is all about Jesus. It’s not as if Paul added Jesus to his life; Jesus was his life. Paul greeted people in Christ, said good-bye in Christ, he boasted in Christ, he lived in Christ, he remained in Christ, he taught in Christ, he was empowered by Christ. Christ was central in his life; He was everything.
Jesus gives us faith, brings us to faith, leads us to faith, strengthens our faith, increases our faith, guards our faith, rewards our faith. It’s all about Jesus. We need the centrality of Jesus to become the centrality of our life. We need to empty out the profit column and let Jesus become central in our life. When we do that, we gain everlasting life.
Jesus can’t be part of our life; He has to be all of our life. We can’t go somewhere or do something and exclude Jesus. He’s with us constantly when He’s central in our life. It doesn’t work to have Jesus on the periphery of our life and call Him in when we need Him. We need to let the centrality of Jesus be with us in the centrality of who we are.
Pastor Tony Evans does a superb job of preaching on the topic of racism in less than 50 minutes: https://youtu.be/KbhNCTJ-dUI
Verse Completion: . . . thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NASB)
Good morning, United in Christ.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LaRHOItRfZg
Complete the Verse and Name the Book: And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were . . . (completion at the end)
In twenty-five lessons Dr. Michael Wedman taught the book of Philippians during Fireside Fellowship. That’s roughly twenty-five hours of teaching! Today, we are going to summarize half of those lessons and the other half tomorrow. Undoubtedly, some key points will be left out but the hope is that this review will still be profitable.
Paul and Timothy classify themselves as servants or slaves to Jesus. They do what their Master asks of them. They put their will aside to do Christ’s will. They are also saints because they received Jesus as their Lord and Savior and were forgiven of all unrighteousness.
A theme of the book is togetherness or unity. This is counter culture because the world makes distinctions between people: race, socioeconomic level, heritage, looks, athleticism, education, accomplishments, etc. God does not make these distinctions. As believers we are all servants of Christ that have received God’s grace or undeserved favor. We can’t do anything to earn God’s grace; it is a gift that comes from the heart of God who loves us. When we allow Jesus to be the master of our lives, He gives us His peace. We are safe and secure in Christ.
The church at Philippi became interested in how they could be a part of spreading the gospel to others. They found a partner in Paul. Partners walk along side of you; they are going the same direction you are going. A partner is supportive in time and resources. Paul is thankful for the partnership he has with the church. He is joyful he has this partnership. He prays for the church. Partnering in the gospel leads to prayer for the gospel. Do we pray for one another regularly?
We need to be loving others in such a way that they are built up, strengthened, and encouraged so they can go deeper with Christ. We’re partners and participants in the gospel.
The gospel is the power of God. If we want the church to be more powerful, then then church needs to promote the gospel more. Evangelism spreads the gospel. There were those who were preaching Christ, but they were envious of Paul. When Paul was placed in prison, they saw that as an opportunity to grow their followers. They shamed Paul because he was in prison. However, Paul wasn’t looking for people to become his followers (on Facebook—ha); he was looking for people to become followers of Christ. It’s a spiritual disease when part of the body of Christ tries to destroy other parts of the body of Christ. The bottom line is people are able to come to know Christ no matter who is preaching the gospel. It’s the words of Jesus that bring people to repentance and salvation. What we should care about is that Christ is preached. Use whatever circumstances God puts you in to promote the gospel.
Paul’s goal in life was to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, but his future was uncertain. He couldn’t predict what would happen to him. In spite of his circumstances, he didn’t have a complaining spirit, a martyr mentality, or a victim mentality. What was important to Paul was not his circumstances but rather having a relationship with Jesus and insuring the promotion of the gospel. He knew there was a chance that his imprisonment would end in death. However, he knew deliverance in one form or another would come. Regardless of what happened, Paul expected God to be exalted in his body.
Nothing can disrupt what Paul knows, and he knows Jesus. He wants more and more of Jesus. He wants everything he does to exalt God. It’s been said that our lives are the theater in which Christ is played out. We’re on a stage and others watch us. Jesus will be exalted or not be exalted by what we say and do. What’s happening on your stage? Is Jesus exalted?
Paul promotes the gospel unashamedly. He knows the only thing that has power for salvation, power for transformation, power for everlasting life, and power for the forgiveness of sins is Jesus Christ.
Paul knows Jesus, and he desires to physically see Jesus. He knows the minute he is loosed from this life, he will be able to see Jesus. He will gain eternal life. Death is always better than life when we know Jesus. Death is nothing to be scared of.
Paul is not being suicidal. He’s not in great pain. He hasn’t been diagnosed with a terminal disease. However, he is in prison, and life is uncertain there. He could be killed at any time. He knows at some point his life will end, but he’s not worried about it. On the other side of death, is eternal life with Jesus.
Paul’s mission was to bring as many people as possible to Christ and see them mature in Christ. Paul wanted to see other people have their lives transformed by Christ just as his was. Paul wanted other people to experience the joy in their lives that only Jesus can bring. What’s the purpose of your life? Is it your job, your kids, your grandkids . . . or is it the progression of the gospel?
In Philippi, citizenship was important. The people who lived there were proud of their Roman citizenship. There were benefits to being a Roman citizen. Paul wants the church at Philippi to know they are citizens of Christ. He wants them to know that the benefits of being a citizen of heaven far outweigh the benefits of being a Roman citizen.
We are citizens of heaven. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Christ are to conduct themselves in a way that’s different from others: they don’t get drunk, participate in orgies, swear, create chaos, steal, tear people down, and so on. Disciples act, react, and interact differently than the world does.
We have been granted grace to be disciples of Christ and to suffer for Him. We probably wouldn’t put the word grace and the word suffer together, but suffering for Jesus and the gospel is a grace that God grants us. We should be suffering for our own sins but instead we suffer for Christ who took our place on the cross. Persecutions can send us away from God or to God. Paul and James say to run to God. Let the persecution produce maturity in you. The Holy Spirit is our power and strength.
Selfish ambition wants to be the head; it wants to be in the driver’s seat. Selfish ambition wants to be equal with God, but we are God’s slaves. Selfish ambition in the church wants eyes focused on them. Selfish ambition says, “Look how amazing I am.” On the other hand, a servant’s heart says, “What can I do to bring glory to God?”
The transformative solution to selfish ambition and vain conceit is humility. Humility is insufficiency. It’s recognizing, “I’m insufficient to do the work God has called me to do. I’m insufficient to sing in the choir. I’m insufficient to greet people at the church door. I’m insufficient to preach on my own.” Humility recognizes God as all-sufficient. Everything we do is done in the sufficiency of Christ.
Ralph Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Our actions speak louder than our words. Paul wants us to take a look at our actions in relationships. To the degree in which we imitate Christ in our relationships is the degree to which we will promote Christ to those around us. The mindset of Christ is different from the mindset of the world; it’s often opposite. The world says to step on everybody else as you climb the ladder to success. Jesus says to be a servant.
Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins (taking the lowest place), God exalted Him to the highest place. This is how things work in the kingdom of God: If you want to be exalted, take the lowest place.
We have to produce the fruit of salvation, and in order to do that, we have to work out our salvation. How do we do that? Definitely not by working for salvation. There’s no amount of goodness, works, giving, proper conduct, or high morals that can get us into heaven. Good works do not lead to eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.
We don’t work for salvation; we work because we have salvation. The works we do are what God asks us to do, and those works produce fruit in keeping with repentance. We are focused on God’s purpose and not our own.
When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are completely saved. However, as we continue in obedience to Christ, our salvation grows: we know God more, we understand God more, we love God more, we mature. When we gain salvation in the sense that we gain everlasting life through dying, this is what is known as full salvation. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “For me to die is gain.” When we experience full salvation, we don’t have to deal with sin, pain, or darkness any longer. Paul is saying to continue to walk with Jesus right up to the time of full salvation. We are to persevere, and draw closer to God.
You may have heard the words: “Only one life ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It’s true. We must remain in Jesus or our life is for nothing. Sometimes we get disconnected from the vine, and we try to do things on our own. We soon discover we don’t have energy. To receive energy, we have to stay in the vine.
As disciples of Christ, there is no room for grumbling, arguing, and complaining. Grumbling is dissatisfaction. When we grumble, we are discontent. We don’t like how something is. We want the situation to change. We grumble about things that don’t suit us. When we grumble, we are saying, “I am the master and commander of the universe. It’s my preference that matters.” We grumble about things that are not right in our eyes. When we grumble, we make ourselves to be the authority of what is right and wrong. When we grumble and complain, we are not grumbling and complaining to anyone in particular but to everyone in general. Grumbling and complaining always want company. We diminish others to raise ourselves up. Much of grumbling and complaining is based on assumptions and falsehood. Motives are assigned that were never there in the first place. Grumbling and complaining are, ultimately, directed at God.
Paul was rejoicing in prison that he could pour out his life for the gospel. We need to be people of rejoicing that rejoice in: the fact I’m a disciple of Christ, the free gift of salvation, having my sins forgiven, having freedom from guilt, having everlasting life, having a book that tells me how to get to know God, the fact that death is gain. Let’s change from grumbling, complaining, and arguing to rejoicing. We have much to rejoice over!
Jesus, Paul, and Timothy have the same interests: that all people would come unto salvation, that people would receive Jesus, believe in Him, receive forgiveness of sins, and receive everlasting life. They want to see: the gospel progressed in people’s lives, relationships changed, people remain in Christ, and rejoice in the Lord. How do you put Christ first in someone else’s life? You do what’s best for them. You do what will draw them to Jesus. You do what will grow them in Christ.
Timothy renounced everything for the gospel. What have you renounced for the gospel? To what things have you said, “These are not as important as the gospel?”
Pastor Tony Evans does a superb job of preaching on the topic of racism in less than 50 minutes: https://youtu.be/KbhNCTJ-dUI
Verse Completion: . . . judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. Revelation 20:12 (NASB)
Good morning, Faithful Servants of God.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TYSJj-EHAAk
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
This became . . . (completion at the end)
On Tuesday Pastor Michael wrapped up his study of Philippians, and today we will wrap up quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Notes have been added in different places to aid in understanding the quotes:
Note: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was involved in several assassination attempts on Hitler.
“Who stands fast?” [Bonhoeffer] asked. “Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.”
This was how Bonhoeffer saw what he was doing. He had theologically redefined the Christian life as something active, not reactive. It had nothing to do with avoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets. It had everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action. It did not merely require a mind, but a body too. It was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the one who had made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny. It was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a life lived in a kind of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom—that was what it was to obey God.
Bonhoeffer talked about how the German penchant for self-sacrifice and submission to authority had been used for evil ends by the Nazis; only a deep understanding of and commitment to the God of the Bible could stand up to such wickedness. “It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith,” he wrote, “and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.” Here was the rub: one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin. One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God’s purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes. One’s obedience to God must be forward-oriented and zealous and free, and to be a mere moralist or pietist would make such a life impossible.
Note: Bonhoeffer wrote the following:
If we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.
It is we ourselves, and not outward circumstances, who make death what it can be, a death freely and voluntarily accepted.
Note: Bonhoeffer spent a year and a half at Tegel, a military prison, while he awaited his trial. Paul von Hase was Bonhoeffer’s uncle. Von Hase was the city commandant of Berlin in 1940. In 1942 he became part of a group of men who decided to overthrow Hitler.
Bonhoeffer’s noble bearing and generosity were noted by many, even up until his last day. At Tegel he used his own money to pay for legal help for a young prisoner who couldn’t afford it; another time he imposed upon his own defense lawyer by asking him to take the case of a fellow prisoner.
When in the summer of 1943 he was offered a cooler cell on the second floor of the prison, he refused it, knowing that his own cell would only be given to someone else. And he knew that much of his better treatment was because of who his uncle was. He wrote that when the prison authorities found out who his uncle was, “it was most embarrassing to see how everything changed from that moment.” He was immediately offered larger food portions, but refused them, knowing it would have been at the expense of other prisoners. Bonhoeffer was sometimes grateful for the small mercies of the preferential treatment and sometimes disgusted by it. Some of the prison staff actually apologized to him after they found out who his uncle was. “It was painful,” he wrote.
Bonhoeffer was outraged by injustice, and the way many of the senior guards abused prisoners infuriated him, but he used his position to speak out for those who had no power. At one point he even wrote a report on prison life, intending to draw the authorities’ attention to those things that needed improving. He knew his position as von Hase’s nephew would bring some attention to these problems, so he gave chapter and verse of the injustices he observed, being the voice for the voiceless just as he had always preached those in the church must do.
Bonhoeffer was trying with all his might to express the almost inexpressible paradox of a proper relation to God. He had a very high view of marriage: it is “more than your love for each other,” and it “has a higher dignity and power, for it is God‘s holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time.” Perhaps the sermon’s most memorable sentence is this: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Bonhoeffer said the Psalms and Revelation were a great comfort to him during those days, as were the hymns of Paul Gerhardt, many of which he knew by heart. Note: Here is a sample of one of Gerhardt’s hymns: https://youtu.be/pU1RIkC6PLo
In a nutshell, he saw a situation so bleak, by any historical measures, that he was rethinking some basic things and wondered whether modern man had moved beyond religion. What Bonhoeffer meant by “religion” was not true Christianity, but the ersatz and abbreviated Christianity that he spent his life working against. This “religious” Christianity had failed Germany and the West during this great time of crisis, for one thing, and he wondered whether it wasn’t finally time for the lordship of Jesus Christ to move past Sunday mornings and churches and into the whole world. But this was simply an extension of his previous theology, which was dedicatedly Bible centered and Christ centered.
Bonhoeffer was thinking in a new way about what he had been thinking and saying for two decades: God was bigger than everyone imagined, and he wanted more of his followers and more of the world than was given him. Bonhoeffer recognized that standard-issue “religion” had made God small, having dominion only over those things we could not explain. That “religious” God was merely the “God of the gaps,” the God who concerned himself with our “secret sins” and hidden thoughts. But Bonhoeffer rejected this abbreviated God. The God of the Bible was Lord over everything, over every scientific discovery. He was Lord over not just what we did not know, but over what we knew and were discovering through science. Bonhoeffer was wondering if it wasn’t time to bring God into the whole world and stop pretending he wanted only to live in those religious corners that we reserved for him.
All concepts of reality that ignore Jesus Christ are abstractions.
Bonhoeffer was saying that apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know what is right or do right. We must look to him in every situation. Only in him can the fathomless evil of the world be dealt a death blow.
Note: In his book, Ethics, Bonhoeffer wrote the following concerning abortion:
Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.
The only fight which is lost is that which we give up.
Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom.
Note: In a sermon Bonhoffer gave while in London, he said:
Life only really begins when it ends here on earth; all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up—that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of you, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?
Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.
Note: The prison camp doctor wrote the following:
Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
Note: Bonhoeffer’s execution took place on April 9, 1945, at Flossenbürg concentration camp.
Two weeks later, on April 23, the Allies marched into Flossenbürg. In another week Hitler committed suicide, and the war was over.
Ravi Zacharias answers the question “Does God care about our happiness?” in less than six minutes: https://youtu.be/4vtUQ1BksGQ
Good morning to everyone who wants Jesus to be central in your life.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/zqX9OgA6HP0
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And the one on whom seed was sown on the good ground, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday Dr. Michael Wedman concluded the study of Philippians with his Fireside Fellowship topic of “Christ of the Gospel” based on 4:21-23:
Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Casesar’s household.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
In verse nine, Paul wrapped up his doctrinal teaching. In verses 10-20 he gave thanks to the Philippians for all they had done for him. In these last four verses he is saying farewell.
Paul uses the phrase “in/for/with Christ Jesus” twenty-six times in this book because Paul is all about the centrality of Christ. He refers to Christ/Jesus 40 times in this book. If one includes Lord being used with Christ/Jesus, it’s 46 times. Paul’s life is all about Jesus. It’s not as if Paul added Jesus to his life; Jesus was his life. The purpose of Paul’s life was to know Jesus more deeply. Jesus wasn’t something Paul pursued on Sundays; Jesus was who he pursued 24/7 with his whole being. Paul greeted people in Christ, said good-bye in Christ, he boasted in Christ, he lived in Christ, he remained in Christ, he taught in Christ, he was empowered by Christ. Christ was central in his life; He was everything.
We too need to be Christ-centered. We always need to be thinking about Jesus. Our actions, reactions, and interactions need to reflect who Jesus is in our life. We need to greet others with kindness and with a generosity of encouragement. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” There’s a bond that believers share in Christ. There’s a family connection which is a spiritual connection that’s even closer than a physical connection.
Everyone has a profit and loss column in their life. We recognize we’ve done some good things and some bad things during our life. We put the good in the profit column and the bad in the loss column. We concentrate on our profit column, and we compare our profit column with other people’s profit column. However, as soon as we do this, we lose the centrality of Jesus in our life.
When Paul said “the brothers who are with me send you their greetings,” he’s talking about Timothy, Epaphroditus, Silas, and others who traveled with him. When he said “all the rest of God’s people send you greetings,” he’s talking about the church in Rome. Even though the two congregations hadn’t met each other, there was a family connection between them; they had the same Spirit of Christ in them.
Every believer in Christ is part of the global family of God whether we live in India, the United States, or anywhere else. We have an instant connection with each other when we meet. It’s as if we know each other, and it’s because we are both in Christ. You are not alone in this walk with Jesus. There are people around the world who would instantly pray with you. However, if we put our own personality as the center of the universe, we don’t have a unity with other believers. The only person we have unity with is ourselves and those we can manipulate to agree with us. When we are in Jesus, we are automatically in unity. In order to keep unity, we keep Jesus on the throne of our life.
When Paul says “especially those in Caesar’s household,” he is referring to those who are part of the imperial civil service—those who are employed to keep the government flowing (judges, clerks, servants, slaves, guards, etc.). People who had jobs with the imperial civil service were proud of their jobs. It was an honor to get to work for the emperor. It’s believers within this household that Paul is addressing. They used to boast in working for Caesar, but now they boast in the Lord. They are proud to be Christians—followers of Christ.
Philippi was a leading Roman city in Macedonia. Many of the people living there used to be in the military. After twenty-one years of service they became Roman citizens who often worked in Caesar’s household. Paul was widely known among those working in Caesar’s household. They would talk about Paul to each other, but to talk about Paul was to talk about Jesus because the two were inseparable. Christ was central in Paul’s life.
The gospel was being spread as people talked about Paul. The message of Christ can’t be stopped. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Christ’s church will never be stomped out. The gospel was progressing and the Philippians were part of this. There were people who were for Christ who were working in the government that was against Christ. They were being salt and light. We need to pray for those who are in leadership positions in government.
Colossians 1:15-20 says:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fulness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Not only is Jesus central to our lives, but He is central to the entire universe. When we grasp who Jesus is, it makes our arguing, grumbling, and complaining seem so trivial.
Paul started the book with grace: May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace (1:2), and he closes it with grace: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit (4:23). Grace is unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor that is given to us through Jesus. The centrality of grace is Jesus. We can’t work for grace; it’s given to us freely because Jesus loves us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Jesus gives us faith, brings us to faith, leads us to faith, strengthens our faith, increases our faith, guards our faith, rewards our faith. It’s all about Jesus. We need the centrality of Jesus to become the centrality of our life. We need to empty out the profit column and let Jesus become central in our life. When we do that, we gain everlasting life.
Jesus can’t be part of our life; He has to be all of our life. We can’t go somewhere or do something and exclude Jesus. He’s with us constantly when He’s central in our life. It doesn’t work to have Jesus on the periphery of our life and call Him in when we need Him. We need to let the centrality of Jesus be with us in the centrality of who we are.
Ravi Zacharias discusses faith, morality, the problem of suffering, the case for a creator, and more in this hour long interview with Ben Shapiro: https://youtu.be/f_EpoJAcOOs
Good morning, Faithful Servant of the Lord.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/GJBI3QLtQQE
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· This people honors Me with their lips, but . . .
· But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines . . . (completions at the end)
Today we continue with the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer—Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes in different places to aid in understanding the following quotes from the book:
Note: Bonhoeffer helped many prospective pastors prepare for the ministry. At the start of World War II, a large number of these men were drafted into Hitler’s military. The following is a circular letter Bonhoeffer wrote to the brethren telling of the death of one of these men on the third day of fighting:
I have received the news, which I pass on to you today, that our dear brother Theodor Maass was killed in Poland on 3rd September. You will be stunned by this news as I was. But I beg you, let us thank God in remembrance of him. He was a good brother, a quiet, faithful pastor of the Confessing Church, a man who lived from word and sacrament, whom God has also thought worthy to suffer for the Gospel. I am sure that he was prepared to go. Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also was and is his God.
Note: The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.
It was very clearly the case that whoever refused the draft in the case of war would be beheaded, would be executed. Was this the point at which we should give up our lives, and thereby also our care for our family, and everything which was important to us?
Note: Canaris was an admiral in Germany’s military. The SS was the Schutzstaffel—a small paramilitary formation that grew to be one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany.
In his diary Canaris wrote, “I pointed out to General Keitel that I knew that extensive executions were planned in Poland and that particularly the nobility and the clergy were to be exterminated.” Canaris was referring to the plan that the SS called the “housecleaning of Jews, intelligentsia, clergy and the nobility.” All Poles with leadership abilities were to be killed.
There had been warnings all along, the loudest being Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf.
Since the SS perpetrated the most wicked acts, Hitler could keep the worst of it from his military leaders.
Note: Many of the military leaders did find out about the atrocities committed by the SS, and they made a fuss.
. . . but they came to realize that making a fuss was not succeeding. More Jews and Poles were being butchered every day. They must plan another coup. Many of them were Christians and had no qualms about calling what they saw evil, and felt a duty to stop it at all costs. Many felt that to be good Germans and faithful Christians at that time meant turning against [Hitler].
All his life, Bonhoeffer had applied the same logic to theological issues that his father applied to scientific issues. There was only one reality, and Christ was Lord over all of it or none. A major theme for Bonhoeffer was that every Christian must be “fully human” by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some “spiritual” realm. To be an ethereal figure who merely talked about God, but somehow refused to get his hands dirty in the real world in which God had placed him, was bad theology. Through Christ, God had shown that he meant us to be in this world and to obey him with our actions in this world. So Bonhoeffer would get his hands dirty, not because he had grown impatient, but because God was speaking to him about further steps of obedience.
Note: In his book, Ethics, Bonhoeffer wrote:
In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done. . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.
God was interested not in success, but in obedience. If one obeyed God and was willing to suffer defeat and whatever else came one’s way, God would show a kind of success that the world couldn’t imagine. But this was the narrow path, and few would take it.
Jesus took the Old Testament laws to a deeper level of meaning and obedience, from the “letter of the Law” to the “Spirit of the Law.” Following the letter of the law was the dead “religion” of which Barth, among others, had written. It was man’s attempt to deceive God into thinking one was being obedient, which was a far greater deception. God always required something deeper than religious legalism.
To be true to God in the deepest way meant having such a relationship with him that one did not live legalistically by “rules” or “principles.” One could never separate one’s actions from one’s relationship to God. It was a more demanding and more mature level of obedience, and Bonhoeffer had come to see that the evil of Hitler was forcing Christians to go deeper in their obedience, to think harder about what God was asking. Legalistic religion was being shown to be utterly inadequate.
So the day had come. Bonhoeffer had officially joined the conspiracy. He would be enfolded into the Abwehr’s protection and, in the guise of a member of Military Intelligence, would be protected by Oster and Canaris. The levels of deception were several. On the one hand, Bonhoeffer would be actually performing pastoral work and continuing his theological writing, as he wished to do. Officially this work was a front for his work as a Nazi agent in Military Intelligence. But unofficially his work in Military Intelligence was a front for his real work as a conspirator against the Nazi regime. . . . He was involved in a high-stakes game of deception upon deception, and yet Bonhoeffer himself knew that in all of it, he was being utterly obedient to God.
Like others at the time, Barth was perplexed about Bonhoeffer’s mission. How could a Confessing Church pastor come to Switzerland in the midst of war? It seemed to him that Bonhoeffer must have somehow made peace with the Nazis. This was one of the casualties of the war, that trust itself seemed to die a thousand deaths.
Even if Bonhoeffer could have explained that he was in fact working against Hitler, many in the Confessing Church would still have been confused, and others would have been outraged. For a pastor to be involved in a plot whose linchpin was the assassination of the head of state during a time of war, when brothers and sons and fathers were giving their lives for their country, was unthinkable. Bonhoeffer had come to a place where he was in many ways very much alone. God had driven him to this place, though, and he was not about to look for a way out any more than Jeremiah had done. It was the fate he had embraced, and it was obedience to God, and he would rejoice in it, and did.
In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ. Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives us over to death so that he can live within us. Thus our inner dying grows to meet that death from without. Christians receive their own death in this way, and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with the One who at his own death was able to say, “It is finished.”
If we inquire the will of God, free from all doubt and all mistrust, we shall discover it. Always give thanks for all things. Everything we cannot thank God for, we reproach him for.
Only in peace with God, with others, and with ourselves will we hear and do God’s will. In this we may have great confidence and need not become impatient or act rashly.
Completions to Verses:
· . . . their heart is far away from Me.
· . . . the precepts of men. Matthew 15:8-9 (NASB) See also Isaiah 29:13
Good morning, Cross Bearers.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/gGUo0-A_Gz8
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am . . .
· and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have . . . (completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael preached his last sermon to his 100% virtual congregation. Next Sunday, he will preach to a split congregation: some virtual and some in person. The topic yesterday’s sermon was “Death and Denial” based on Matthew 16:21-28.
Life has its benchmark moments that we can consider turning points—the point at which one chapter in life is closed and another one is opened. This is where Jesus is at with His disciples. The disciples have learned from Jesus and participated with Him for around two years.
Notice how verse 21 starts out: “From then on . . .” This indicates a turning point. The disciples understood the gospel message is taken by faith through grace and not by works. This was a different message than the Pharisees were giving. A proper relationship with God comes by faith; it comes by trusting in Jesus.
The disciples understood that Jesus was the Messiah. The gospel involves a message that involves a person--Jesus. The disciples understood the message of Jesus and they recognized He was the Messiah, but there was one more thing the disciples needed to understand:
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
Jesus began His teaching that He was going to suffer and die. He had talked about this earlier, but they didn’t understand. Jesus said in Matthew 16:4: “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (see also Matthew 12:39-40) Now Jesus was telling the disciples that they needed to go back to Jerusalem. They had been away for around six months. The disciples were apprehensive because they knew Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus. The governing body of Israel, the Sanhedrin, wanted to get rid of Jesus.
The disciples had grown close to Jesus, and they had witnessed many miracles performed by Him. Whenever there were dealings with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus always had the upper hand. Jesus was not intimidated by them. But now Jesus is telling the disciples that things are going to change, and He will not have the upper hand any longer. In fact Jesus would be killed. That just didn’t fit with what they had seen: there wasn’t a disease He couldn’t heal, there wasn’t a demon He couldn’t cast out, there wasn’t a Pharisee He couldn’t confound. Jesus was unstoppable! There was nothing He couldn’t overcome. Suffering and death didn’t make any sense to the disciples. They recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed the conquering king who would restore Israel to power and rule Israel.
But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
Generally, when you pull a person aside to talk to them, you have some difficult things to say to them. Peter was saying, “Jesus, you are a great man, but there are some things you need to know. You have something wrong, and I want you to change your way of thinking. You are the Messiah, and I want you to remember who you are. You are not going to suffer and die.”
When we receive a bad report from the doctor that we have a terminal disease and our days are numbered, our first response is “No! This can’t be. There’s some mistake. What needs to be done to change this way of thinking?” This is how the disciples responded to the news Jesus gave them.
Why does Jesus respond so harshly to Peter? These are the same words Jesus spoke to Satan when he tempted Jesus (see Matthew 4:10). Jesus said the words to Peter because Peter didn’t understand the method of salvation. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus had to die on a cross, that there’s no salvation, there’s no forgiveness of sins, there’s no penalty paid for sins unless Jesus died. The whole purpose of Jesus coming to Earth was to die for my sins and die for your sins. Jesus loved us so much He was willing to die for the sins of the world so we could have salvation from sin and have everlasting life. Jesus wanted people to be put back into a right relationship with God.
Here we have Peter telling Jesus He doesn’t have to die. When he said that, he was not promoting the kingdom of God; he was promoting the kingdom of Satan. Peter was rejecting the words of God. When Jesus said He would die, Peter told Jesus His words were not true. However, everything Jesus says is true because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). In rejecting the words of Jesus, Peter is by default using the words of Satan. When we reject God’s words, we are rejecting God and by default accepting the words of Satan. We’re saying, “I’m going to reject Jesus in favor of Satan.”
Peter didn’t know he was being used by Satan. Peter was well intentioned. He didn’t want Jesus to die; he wanted to encourage Jesus. He was well intentioned, but he didn’t know what he was talking about. Jesus did not say to Peter, “I know you mean well, but you are using Satan’s words. However, don’t worry about it because I know you have a good heart.” What Jesus did say to Peter was, “Get out of here, Satan! You are rejecting my words and you’re accepting the words of Satan! Stop what you’re doing! You are baiting a trap for me and trying to tempt me out of my purpose!” Peter is being used by Satan to try and tempt Jesus. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand the method of salvation; they didn’t understand why Jesus came from heaven.
We often have a mind tuned into our concerns and not the concerns of God. We want our way, our will, our words, our preferences, our opinions, our authority—not God’s. When this happens, we are promoting our kingdom and not the kingdom of God. We put our concerns above God’s concerns. Whose mind do you have—God’s or Satan’s? If we reject the words of God, we are accepting the words of Satan by default.
The method of salvation was through suffering and death, and that’s why Peter was rebuked so sharply. If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, there would be no forgiveness for sins. Hebrews 9:22b says, “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” If Jesus bypassed suffering and death, we would not have everlasting life. The centrality of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and Peter tried to stop Jesus from dying. Notice how none of the disciples inquired about a resurrection.
Salvation comes through suffering and death. Sanctification comes through suffering and death. Following Jesus comes through suffering and death.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.
We must put to death our own kingdom. We must crucify it. We must put it up to shame. Everything we have in our profit column (look at all I’ve done for God, look how much I’ve given to God, look how many years I’ve served) is shameful because it keeps us from the kingdom of God. We think our works will save us, and they won’t. The profit column must be emptied and be replaced with Jesus alone. Galatians 2:20 says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Romans 6:6-7, 11-12 says, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” This is picking up your cross and following Him. It’s dying to self. It’s crucifying our ways, our will, and our words. It’s not going without chocolate, not watching television or giving up coffee for 40 days. We don’t want our Christianity to become minor inconveniences.
When we die to self we give up those things we know we can’t give up. When you give up arguing, stop pushing your preferences, stop manipulating and controlling people, then you’re on your way to dying to self. Dying to self is saying, “I don’t count at all; what counts is Jesus in me. I want Jesus to live, not me.” Dying to Christ is knowing a commitment to Christ will cost you your family, your job, your house, and even your life. Dying to self means we don’t take offense at what somebody says. It means saying, “I’m not that important that I need to be offended.” We aren’t following unless we’re dying.
Jesus is using words of profit and loss. You can’t choose Jesus and . . . it’s Jesus only. We can only have one master. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” (Matthew 6:24) You can’t expect to have it the world’s way and God’s way. It’s all or nothing.
We’re not disciples of Christ unless we take up our cross and follow Him. Sanctification or maturing in Christ is a process. It’s doesn’t happen overnight but eventually disciples of Christ get it; they understand denying self and following Christ.
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
There’s a reward for those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and followed Jesus. There’s no reward for leaving the cross on the ground. There’s no reward for following our own kingdom. Jesus is coming again. How we live now matters then.
The Son of Man coming in his Kingdom started the day Jesus was resurrected. Pentecost, Saul the greatest persecutor of the church becoming Paul the greatest proponent of the church, the inception of the church with its millions of followers of Christ is the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. It’s not referring to the second coming of Christ.
In order to be raised from the grave, we need to die to self and live for Jesus. Like the disciples, we need to know the message, the Messiah, and the method.
Completions to verses:
· . . . the first and the last,
· . . . the keys of death and of Hades. Revelation 1:17-18 (NASB)
Good morning to everyone standing firm against the schemes of the devil.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/SzZZb6RbLJs
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, . . . (completion at the end)
Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.
Note: National Socialism is another word for Nazism—the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party. The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism during Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.
The National Socialists’ strategy of dividing and conquering its opponents, of confusing and delaying, was working with the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer knew that something of this unwillingness to speak out with boldness had to do with money. The state provided financial security for the pastors of Germany, and even pastors in the Confessing Church would jeopardize their incomes only to a certain point.
The Nazis did their best to portray Germany as a Christian nation.
For Bonhoeffer, the challenge was to deliver the Word of God as purely as possible, without feeling the need to help it along or to dress it up. It alone had the power to touch the human heart.
[Bonhoeffer] commented on how the ecumenical movement and the Confessing Church had sometimes engaged in well-intentioned dialogue with Hitler and Reichskirche:
“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). The promise of grace is not to be squandered; it needs to be protected from the godless. There are those who are not worthy of the sanctuary. The proclamations of grace has its limits. Grace may not be proclaimed to anyone who does not recognize or distinguish or desire it. Not only does that pollute the sanctuary itself, not only must those who sin still be guilty against the Most Holy, but in addition, the misuse of the Holy must turn against the community itself. The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it, and it will not only trample upon the Holy, but also will tear apart those who force it on them. For its own sake, for the sake of the sinner, and for the sake of the community, the Holy is to be protected from cheap surrender. The Gospel is protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty. The key to loose is protected by the key to bind. The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance.
In 1937, the Nazis abandoned all pretense of being even-handed and came down hard on the Confessing Church. That year more than eight hundred Confessing Church pastors and lay leaders were imprisoned or arrested. Their leader, the outspoken Martin Niemöller of Dahlem, was among them. On June 27, he preached what would be his last sermon for many years. Crowds had overflowed his church week after week. That final Sunday, Niemöller was no less outspoken than he had always been. From the pulpit he declared, “We have no more thought of using our own powers to escape the arm of the authorities, than had the Apostles of old. No more are we ready to keep silent at man’s behest when God commands us to speak. For it is, and must remain, the case that we must obey God rather than man.” That Thursday he was arrested.
Bonhoeffer was an eternal optimist because he believed what God said through the Scriptures. He knew that whatever befell him or the faithful brethren would open new opportunities in which God would operate, in which his provision would become clear.
But these gentlemen from the Prussian officer tradition were all too well-bred to know how to deal with someone as vulgar as Hitler. On the one hand, he was an uncouth embarrassment, a feral clod hardly to be taken seriously. On the other hand, he was the legal head of their beloved Germany, to whom they had sworn oaths. For most of these men, he presented some kind of obscene Chinese puzzle. Most of them loved their country and hated Hitler, and they rightly saw his war plans as breathtaking in their foolhardiness and immorality. They were convinced that he would smash their great nation on the rocks, and they were quite right. From that meeting forward, they were intent on removing him.
The new head of the Reichskirche was Dr. Friedrich Werner, and as a triple-jointed sycophant, he wouldn’t be outdone. His grand sense of occasion alone would catapult him into the lead because, for his obsequious gesture, he chose the Führer’s birthday. On April 20 he published in the Legal Gazette a sweeping ordinance demanding that every single pastor in Germany take an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler.
Many Confessing Church pastors felt that taking this oath would be like bowing down to a false god. Just as early Christians had refused to worship images of Caesar, and Jews had refused to worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, so they refused to take this oath to Adolf Hitler. But the messianic attitude toward Hitler was widespread, and few dared to stand against it.
Bonhoeffer often spoke of Jesus Christ as the “man for others,” as selflessness incarnate, loving and serving others to the absolute exclusion of his needs and desires. Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ existed for “others.” And since Christ was Lord over the whole world, not just the church, the church existed to reach out beyond itself, to speak out for the voiceless, to defend the weak and fatherless. . . . [Bonhoeffer’s] gaze was in a new way directed away from his own trials and toward the trials of God’s people, the Jews.
Note: November 9, 1938, came to be known as the “Night of Broken Glass.” Violence against the Jews broke out across Nazi Germany. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were vandalized and looted, dozens of Jews killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for being Jews and sent to concentration camps.
In his Bible that day or the next, Bonhoeffer was reading Psalm 74. This was the text he happened to be meditating upon. What he read startled him, and with his pencil he put a vertical line in the margin to mark it, with an exclamation point next to the line. He also underlined the second half of verse 8: “They burn all of God’s houses in the land.” Next to the verse he wrote: “9.11.38.” Bonhoeffer saw this as an example of God speaking to him, and to the Christians in Germany. God was telling him something through his Word that day, and as he meditated and prayed, Bonhoeffer realized that the synagogues that had been burned in Germany were God’s own. This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself. The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. The Jews in Germany were not only not God’s enemies, they were his beloved children. Quite literally, this was a revelation.
For [Bonhoeffer] prayer was the display of the strongest possible activity.
Throughout 1938, the inability of the Confessing Church’s leaders to be bold and stand firm disheartened Bonhoeffer, not least because the pastors were not receiving the encouragement and support they desperately needed. He wrote in his Advent letter that year:
I’m not quite sure how we have largely got into a way of thinking which is positively dangerous. We think that we are acting particularly responsibly if every other week we take another look at the question whether the way on which we have set out is the right one. It is particularly noticeable that such a “responsible reappraisal” always begins the moment serious difficulties appear. We then speak as though we no longer had “a proper joy and certainty” about this way, or, still worse, as though God and his Word were no longer as clearly present with us as they used to be. In all this we are ultimately trying to get round what the New Testament calls “patience” and “testing.” Paul, at any rate, did not begin to reflect whether his way was the right one when opposition and suffering threatened, nor did Luther. They were both quite certain and glad that they should remain disciples and followers of their Lord. Dear brethren, our real trouble is not doubt about the way upon which we have set out, but our failure to be patient, to keep quiet. We still cannot imagine that today God really doesn’t want anything new for us, but simply to prove us in the old way. That is too petty, too monotonous, too undemanding for us. And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful”: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.
Christians cannot be governed by mere principles. Principles could carry one only so far. At some point every person must hear from God, must know what God was calling him to do, apart from others.
Bonhoeffer knew what few others knew, that the killing of the Jews was beyond anything they had conceived. He felt a responsibility to stop it, to do anything he could.
Reflecting on the American church scene, he was fascinated that tolerance trumped truth.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
Verse Completion: . . . he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NIV)
Good morning, Givers & Receivers.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/QZW4_8_zCBE
Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Credit for the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:14-20:
Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.
At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.
Paul is thanking the church at Philippi for partnering with him in the gospel. He also appreciates the gifts that were sent to him.
At this point, Paul has known the Philippians for around ten years.
Paul was not preaching for financial gain. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 says,“Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.”Paul was a tentmaker and received an income from working with his hands. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 says,For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”Paul worked for a living, and he preached.
Why did Paul work? Let’s get some background. At this time there were sophists who were traveling philosophers. They traveled from town to town giving speeches or lectures, and they became well known. To hear them speak, one would have to purchase a ticket. The best known sophists made a lot of money from doing this. They might speak on: how to improve memory, how to become a better parent, or some other self-help topic. They had great oratory skills, and they knew how to work a crowd. They were charismatic individuals who were dressed to the nines.
In addition to the sophists were charlatans—those who imitated the sophists. What they were after was strictly the money. A play, “The Runaways,” was written during this time that depicted these charlatans who gave a quick talk and then ran away with their money in hand.
Paul did not want to be known as a traveling sophist or charlatan. Paul was not speaking to gain money or wealth. His purpose was to tell others about Jesus.
To further complicate matters for Paul, there were false traveling apostles. They would preach their form of the gospel and get paid for it. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:5-15:
But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.
Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.
But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
Paul recognizes there are false apostles who are only in it for the money. Paul doesn’t want people to confuse him with them, and that’s why he would not take money for the preaching he did. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:2b-5:
Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.
There were those who taught and preached in the church who found that pretending to be followers of Christ could lead to financial gain. They discovered the money that could be made by watching the sophists. 1 Corinthians 9:14-18 says,
In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.
Paul is not preaching the gospel so he can pad his bank account. Paul wants to separate himself from the sophists and charlatans. He wants people to know that with him it’s not about money; it’s about Jesus. The gospel message is what’s important. The sophists and charlatans wanted gain for themselves; Paul wants gain for those who hear and respond to the gospel. He knows that in giving there is receiving. When we give, something is credited to our account. Paul is talking about spiritual credits; he’s talking about treasures in heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Paul doesn’t desire gifts to pad his personal bank account; he rejoices over what the gifts do for the givers’ spiritual bank accounts. Whenever we give, we receive. Whenever we give physically, we receive spiritually. God credits us in our heavenly account. Paul is traveling around not to gain for himself, but he wants to see credits put in other people’s spiritual bank accounts. Paul’s life is all about the interests of others. He wants to see them grow and mature in Christ.This is what he wants to see go into their spiritual bank accounts.
We need to empty out our physical profit column of things we have done, fill the column with only Jesus. When that has been accomplished, Jesus begins to credit our spiritual profit column. A sign of spiritual growth is to start giving; a sign of spiritual maturity is to keep on giving. Spiritual maturity adds spiritual credits to our spiritual profit column. When we give for the glory of God, that’s when God credits our account. We have to be in a relationship with Jesus in order to have Him put anything in our spiritual profit column.
Leviticus 1:9b says, “It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” Notice how Paul uses similar language in verse 18b: They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. When we are in a right relationship with God and when we offer God the things in our life, it’s a pleasing aroma to Him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says: Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Jesus gave all that He had—His very life. God the Father credited it to His account and raised Him from the dead.
Our giving is not just about money. When we give out of sacrificial love for the gospel and for Christ and out of a personal relationship and love for God, then it’s an acceptable sacrifice, and it’s a pleasing aroma to God. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” This is in the context of giving a drink to someone who is thirsty. When we give to benefit others, we are giving unto Jesus. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” We don’t give for our own gain: position, influence, or power. We give to gain nothing. We give because we love God and want to see His kingdom built. At that point, God credits us spiritually.
Paul told the Philippians that God would supply all their needs. There’s a physical and a spiritual component to giving. God will credit our spiritual accounts, and He will take care of our physical needs:
· The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
· If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!Proverbs 19:17
· “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:8-10
· “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38
Giving is a spiritual act of worship. Paul rejoices because the Philippians have learned that. He rejoices not in whathecan gain, but in whatwecan gain by giving. When we give with the right heart, we are credited in our account by God Himself. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Verse Completion: . . . mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Good morning, Transitioning Isolationists.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/btSfmBR-sMQ
Complete the Verses & Name the Book:
· Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a . . .
· Instead, you ought to say, . . . (completions at the end)
Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.
[Bonhoeffer] felt that what was especially missing from the life of Christians in Germany was the day-to-day reality of dying to self, of following Christ with every ounce of one’s being in every moment, in every part of one’s life. Christ must be brought into every square inch of the world and the culture, but one’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust. It must be free of cant and “phraseology” and mere religiosity, or the Christ whom one was bringing into the world and the culture was not Christ at all, but a tawdry man-made counterfeit.
[Bonhoeffer] longed to see a church that had an intimate connection with Christ and was dedicated to hearing God’s voice and obeying God’s commands, come what may, including the shedding of blood.
Why didn’t others see that unless they first recognized evil, it would continue to have power and cause destruction?
I only worry about being so afraid of what other people will think as to get bogged down instead of moving forward.
Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.
I recently came across the fairy tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which really is relevant for our time. All we are lacking today is the child who speaks up at the end.
Note: National Socialism is another word for Nazism—the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party.
Bonhoeffer saw that a large part of the problem was Lutheran theological education, which produced not disciples of Christ, but out-of-touch theologians and clerics whose ability to live the Christian life—and to help others live that life—was not much in evidence. The rubber and the road were strangers, and the church was out of touch with the people to whom it was supposed to minister. As far as that went, Ludwig Müller and the German Christians were dead on in some of their criticisms, but their soapy solution was simply to be a dedicated National Socialist. To them, all that business about doctrine was folderol that didn’t matter to the man in the street. Bonhoeffer’s attitude was that it must be made real to the man in the street, and that was where the church was failing.
Most of the ordinands [candidates for ordination] in that course and the subsequent four courses would end up serving in the military, and Bonhoeffer never tried to argue them out of it or make an issue of it. He was not a committed pacifist in that sense and was certainly not convinced that Christians must be conscientious objectors. Bonhoeffer was respectful of the students’ points of view. He never wanted his classes or the seminary to become a cult of personality, centered on him. He was interested only in persuading via reason. Forcing his thoughts on others was something he thought of as fundamentally wrong, as worthy of a “mis-leader.”
Note: Bonhoeffer taught at seminaries in Zingst and Finkenwalde. He had a strict daily routine that involved spiritual disciplines. The following quotes give you an idea of what it was like:
Each day began with a forty-five minute service before breakfast, and ended with a service just before bed. One student from Finkenwalde, Albrecht Schönherr, recalled that the morning service began within minutes of waking:
“Bonhoeffer requested us not to say a single word to each other before the service. The first word to come was supposed to be God’s word.”
The services took place not in the chapel, but around the large dinner table. They began by singing a choral psalm and a hymn chosen for that day. Then there was a reading from the Old Testament. Next they sang “a set verse from a hymn,” using the same verse for several weeks, followed by a New Testament reading.
One meditated on the same verse for an entire week, a half hour each day. Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann recalled that they were not allowed to look at the text in the original language or to consult reference books or commentaries. They must deal with the verse as though it was God’s word to them personally.
Selfishness, laziness, self-pity, poor sportsmanship, and the like were not tolerated.
Another aspect of this “life together” that proved quite difficult was Bonhoeffer’s rule never to speak about a brother in his absence. Bonhoeffer knew that living according to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount was not “natural” for anyone.
Whatever they thought of the disciplines and the daily devotions, no one at Finkenwalde could complain that there was no fun. Most afternoons and evenings a time was set aside for hiking or sports. Bonhoeffer was forever organizing games, just as his mother had done in their family. There was a lot of table tennis, and anyone looking for Bonhoeffer would try the table tennis room first. They also played soccer. Schönherr recalled that “Bonhoeffer was always at the head of the pack because he was such a fantastic runner.” He had always been competitive, and Bethge remembered that “he hated to lose when we tried shot-putting—or stone-putting—down the beach.”
Albrecht Schönherr remembered that after dinner and recreation, around ten o’clock, there was another service of about three-quarters of an hour, “as the last note of a day with God. After that, silence and sleep. That was the way the day went.”
Bonhoeffer took preaching seriously. For him a sermon was nothing less than the very word of God, a place where God would speak to his people. Bonhoeffer wanted to impress this idea on his ordinands, to help them see that preaching was not merely an intellectual exercise. Like prayer or meditation on a scriptural text, it was an opportunity to hear from heaven, and for the preacher, it was a holy privilege to be the vessel through whom God would speak.
The ordinands must see in [Bonhoeffer] someone who lived what he meant to teach them, just as Jesus did. The teaching and the living must be two parts of the same thing.
In 1932 Bonhoeffer told Hildebrandt: “A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a fine red apple or offering a thirsty man a cool glass of water and then saying: Do you want it? At Finkenwalde he effectively said the same thing: “We must be able to speak about our faith so that hands will be stretched out toward us faster than we can fill them. . . . Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. . . . Do not defend God’s Word, but testify to it. . . . Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity!”
The church had been instituted by God to exist for the whole world. It was to speak into the world and to be a voice in the world, so it had an obligation to speak out against things that did not affect it directly.
Note: The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism during Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.
Bonhoeffer believed it was the role of the church to speak for those who could not speak. To outlaw slavery inside the church was right, but to allow it to exist outside the church would be evil. So it was with this persecution of the Jews by the Nazi state. Boldly speaking out for those who were being persecuted would show the Confessing Church to be the church, because just as Bonhoeffer had written that Jesus Christ was the “man for others,” so the church was his body on this earth, a community in which Christ was present—a community that existed “for others.” To serve others outside the church, to love them as one loved oneself, and to do unto them as one would have others do unto oneself, these were the clear commands of Christ.
Around that time, Bonhoeffer made his famous declaration: “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” As far as he was concerned, to dare to sing to God when his chosen people were being beaten and murdered meant that one must also speak out against their suffering. If one was unwilling to do this, God was not interested in one’s worship.
Completions to Verses:
· . . . vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
· . . . “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:14-15 (NASB)
Good morning, Contented Followers of Christ.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/BH-t5HPcymA
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, . . .
· and that every tongue . . . (completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with a study titled “Contentedness in the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:10-13:
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
One of the major themes of Philippians is joy/rejoicing. Paul wants the church to know he rejoices in God over them. He rejoices over the physical things they have provided, but he is also rejoicing on a spiritual level.
We find the origin of Paul’s trip to Philippi in Acts 16:9-10:
That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Paul’s trip resulted in the start of the church in Philippi. They became participants and partners in the gospel with Paul. They wanted to see the gospel promoted and progressed, and they wanted to provide for the physical needs of Paul. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 says:
Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be.
The Philippians continued to support Paul even when he was away from them. They knew Jesus was the center of life, that He died on a cross, was buried, and rose on the third day. They knew it’s Jesus who forgives sins, redeems us, and grants us everlasting life. They knew salvation was through faith by grace and not by works. They embraced the gospel and wanted to see it spread. The gospel was the fulfillment of their lives.
Paul does not rejoice in the gifts themselves; he rejoices in the Lord. He knows the reason they are giving to him is because they are committed to Jesus. He knows that a sign of spiritual growth is to give to the spread of the gospel. A sign of spiritual maturity is to keep on giving. Paul praises God because the spiritual reality in their lives plays out into the physical realities in their lives. They are providing for Paul’s needs.
It’s difficult to begin giving, and it’s easy to stop giving. An exercise program is difficult to begin, and it’s easy to stop. Spiritual growth is difficult to begin, and it’s easy to stop. Paul recognizes that the Philippians have not only started giving to him but they have continued to give to him. They have not stopped. It speaks to their spiritual wellbeing in Christ.
Paul is not asking for more gifts here. He isn’t preaching the gospel so he’ll receive more things or accolades. He preaches the gospel because that is what God has called him to do. His reward is with God. Paul has learned the secret of contentment.
Stoic Greek philosophers used the word contentment as meaning self-sufficiency independent of anything or anybody. Self-sufficiency was their highest goal in life. They believed contentment was a state of mind. To achieve self-sufficiency, they believed one needed to eliminate desire and eliminate emotion. Socrates was asked, “Who is the wealthiest person?” He answered, “The wealthiest person is the person who is content with the least, because contentment is nature’s wealth.” Socrates would say the wealthiest person was the one who was most self-sufficient: didn’t need anyone, didn’t need anything, who in and of himself had everything. The Stoic Greek philosophers said emotions cause desire for things, so one must get rid of emotions. One must not care about anything or love anything or anyone. The Stoic’s aim was to abolish every feeling in the human heart. It was to come to the point where one didn’t care about anything. To the Stoic philosopher, contentment was the result of inner fortitude.
Paul does not use the word contentment in this way. He is taking the way the Stoics used the word and turning it upside down. Paul has learned to be content with little or much. Contentment does not depend on circumstances or material possessions. Human nature is to want more, and it doesn’t matter if a person has little or much. An entitled mentality or a victim mentality can drive a person to want more, too.
Paul says that contentment is not about anything we have; it’s not about material possessions. We need to learn to be content with little or much regardless of the circumstances. The secret to contentment is Jesus; He’s the one who gives us the strength to be content. Contentment is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. Christ is all sufficient. Contentment is about being satisfied, and Jesus satisfies fully. Contentment involves moving everything we have in the profit column of our lives and moving it over to the loss column of our lives, so only Jesus is left in the profit column. Complete sufficiency of Christ in our lives is contentment. We trust Jesus with our lives. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says:
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
Jesus told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)
This is the exact opposite of Stoic philosophy. Paul said contentment comes in knowing we are weak and need help.
"So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Corinthians 12:9b-10)
The disciple of Christ says contentment is a grace from God—a gift from Him. Contentment isn’t something we drum up. Contentment is the result of Jesus being Lord and Savior in our lives. It’s the result of us emptying all we have in our profit column and asking Jesus to be our all-sufficiency. When we put Jesus on the throne of our lives, then we can rest—be full, be satisfied, be content.
Picture yourself getting into a rowboat with Jesus and going down a river. Jesus tells you, “I’m in control. You won’t be needing that paddle that’s on the floor of the boat. Just trust me. Be satisfied with me in control.” The journey begins and everything is great. The water is calm, and everything is so peaceful. We have no trouble trusting Jesus. However, later in the journey, the river narrows and the water picks up speed.
We ask Jesus, “Do you want me to start paddling?”
“No, what I want you to do is trust me,” Jesus replies.
The water now begins to get choppy and the boat begins to rock. Water splashes into the boat. The rapids can be felt, and we think we see some really bad rapids ahead. We ask Jesus, “Do you know where you’re going? Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I have some things in my profit column that could be very useful now.” We reach for the paddle, and we try to help Jesus, but the rapids get worse just as we anticipated. Then we hear a waterfall ahead. We know this is very serious. We grab the paddle firmly and wildly backpaddle. At this point we have forgotten Jesus is even in the boat much less in control of the boat. At this point, we are working against Jesus, and we are making things worse.
Jesus wants us to drop the paddle and relax. He knows the river, the rapids, the waterfall. The question is whether we believe it or not. Do we trust Jesus? Is He all-sufficient in our lives? If we trust Jesus and He is all-sufficient in our lives, then we can be content no matter what the circumstances.
John the Baptist’s disciples see John’s work diminishing because of Jesus and they share their concern with John. John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.” (John 3:27) You and I can receive only in this life what God gives us. No matter how hard we paddle, no matter how hard we strive to be sufficient on our own we will only receive that which God gives us. Contentment says, “I will receive only that which God gives me from heaven. I will trust Jesus. I will remain in the boat. I will leave the paddle alone. I’ll remain with Jesus no matter where He takes me.”
Contentment doesn’t come in a day; it’s a lifelong journey with Jesus.
In less than eight minutes, Ravi Zacharias shares an amazing story from Vietnam as he talks about the meaning of life: https://youtu.be/ZzzxpfLk0BA
Completions to Verses:
· . . . of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,
· . . . should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB)
Good morning, Prayer Warriors.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/_dR0H0tAYT8
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:When you give a banquet, invite . . .(completions at the end)
The following letter was published on June 4, 2020, by the board of a church denomination. It called for a day of prayer and fasting which has come and gone. However, the specific day isn’t what’s important. What matters is that we call on God in prayer. Here is the slightly modified letter:
The last few days have been exceedingly difficult for the global family. For months now, the world has encountered the deadly effects of the coronavirus, which has affected our societies, our churches, and our families. Yet, this week, the news of an older virus that continues to affect many segments of our society—and even our churches—has added to the world’s grief. The virus of ethnocentrism, expressed in explicit and/or veiled racism, has struck again the core of our society; we are now witnessing the many ways in which people respond and react to such a rampant disease. People are in the streets calling for justice and a human cure to this endemic sin of the heart manifested in violence, political division, and great suffering.
With so much bad news, what does it mean to be a people of hope? More specifically, what is Christian hope and how does it change our perspective?
Two fundamental aspects of Christian hope are absolutely linked together.
Christian hope is based in a Person.
Hope is not the power of positive thinking. It is not based on circumstances, either good or bad. It is not new and better ideas, utopian philosophies, or reformed politics. It is objectively focused in the person of Jesus Christ who has been revealed to us as “the grace of God,” “the salvation of all people” and our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:11-13). Hope in anything else will not give us what we are looking for. Jesus is the only One who can satisfy the deep hunger of our hearts and the pain of our world. A deep embracing of Jesus’ life, teachings, and sacrifice will give the world the true sense of peace, justice, and harmony that brings about hope.
Christian hope looks forward to a promised future.
Our hope in Jesus Christ is the hope that there is coming a day when God will make all things that are wrong in the world right again. Our hope is that God will remake the world the way He intends it to be. Our hope is that we will live a resurrected life with Jesus and with all the family of God, from all races, cultures, and times. Christian hope looks forward to a better future.
That hope changes us.
Looking forward in hope changes our behavior. Suddenly we find ourselves acting very differently and thinking very differently. “It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12). The old way of life does not have the same pull on us that it used to. Looking forward in hope changes our purpose. Our priorities change. Our passions are redirected. “It teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). We begin to live today as though God’s promised future were already at hand. Looking forward with hope means we see God’s vision of a world with no more injustice, no more violence, no more poverty, no more prejudice.
Because that is a picture of what our future hope looks like—as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and people who believe that God always keeps His promises—we start working toward that vision right now, here on earth.
We begin to long for, and pray for, and work for a time where there is justice and peace; where hungry people can eat and where diseased people can be made well; where holy love enables us to live together joyfully even in our great diversity. We begin to live toward the time where there is no hatred, prejudice, unjust systems, or racism. We live today the way God wants His world to be tomorrow. Hope demands we do more than speak a good word—it is a call to act on behalf of God’s preferred and coming future.
Because of our deep sorrow for the way things are, and our profound hope in God’s faithfulness to bring about a more just and loving world, we are calling for a day of prayer and fasting. The prophet Joel declares, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly” (Joel 2:15-16).
Here is a six minute clip of Ravi Zacharias answering the question, “Why does God seem silent when you need Him the most?” https://youtu.be/g-ss2d0GtAs
Completions to Verses:. . . the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, Luke 14:13 (NIV)
Good morning, Overcomers.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ErwiBz1QA4o
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that . . . (completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael continued to speak to his virtual congregation giving the sermon “Revelation and Responsibility” based on Matthew 16:13-20. You’ve heard the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” If you don’t know your car engine is about to go out because you know nothing about engines, then you aren’t worried about it. Ignorance is bliss. However, if you know about engines and you realize your car engine is on its last legs, it’s easy to worry about it because you’re going to be the one responsible for fixing it when it quits.
Knowledge changes us. As we gain knowledge, we have to do something with that knowledge. We have to determine if the new knowledge is true or not; we have to determine to what degree it’s true or not true.
The disciples were gaining new knowledge from Jesus. The Judaism that they knew had become a religion of works, regulations, and rules. It had evolved into the belief that salvation was by works. However, Jesus taught salvation wasn’t about works; it was about faith. Grace comes through a personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus wanted the disciples to understand who He is.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Caesarea Philippi is 25 miles NE of the Sea of Galilee. He took the disciples away from Israel so He could speak to them with less distractions. This was an area that was predominantly Roman. It was a place of many temples and many gods.
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Herod Antipas is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded. When Herod saw Jesus, he wondered if Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life. Elijah was a great prophet of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5 says, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.” They believed that when Elijah came back, the Messiah would come.
John the Baptist is the one who prepared the way for Jesus. John said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)
Jeremiah was the great prophet of Jerusalem. He lived during the time when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Tradition said before the Babylonians came to Jerusalem, Jeremiah took the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense and he hid them away in a mountain. Their tradition said Jeremiah would return and bring back the ark and incense. When they would be returned, then everyone would know the Messiah had come.
The people were saying Jesus was a great prophet who was getting ready for the Messiah to come. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah—God with skin on; the Savior of the world.
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
That’s a tougher question. It’s personal. Peter stepped up and took the risk of getting the question wrong.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Peter got it! Peter was saying, “You are God with skin on.” In the midst of all the darkness of beliefs in many gods, Peter declared Jesus is God. He proclaimed the Light. He proclaimed the Truth. He declared all the other gods to be dead, and Jesus to be the one, true, living God.
The disciples got it. They understood the two essentials: salvation is by faith, not works, and Jesus was the Messiah. In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss; knowledge is bliss.
God reveals Himself to the world; He reveals Himself to us. Without His revelation, we could not know God on our own. We need God in order to know about God. Jesus said, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” (John 6:44) God is the one who allows us salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. Jesus is the only path to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”(John 14:16-17)
Salvation is the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9) Salvation is all by God’s doing. This is the exact opposite of what the Pharisees were teaching: doing works, following rules. Jesus taught salvation is a gift from God: His drawing, His calling, His convicting. Peter and the other disciples got it.
Be careful what you read because it will change your life. Once you gain knowledge, you have to do something with that knowledge. You can’t ignore it. Ignorance is not bliss. We know the message of salvation. We know the person of salvation. It’s by faith through grace in Christ alone; it’s a gift of God not by works lest anyone should boast. Now we have to do something with that knowledge.
Notice Jesus says “my church.” He doesn’t say your church or anyone else’s church. The church belongs to Jesus. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Jesus is the head of the church, and we are His body. We are the “called out” ones—called out from a life of sin and called into a life with Jesus. Jesus is the one who died for the church. It’s His church, and He is going to build it.
We have possessions that are important to us. What do we do with them? We take care of them. We don’t want them to break, but if they do, we fix them. We are God’s possession, and we’re important to Him. He watches over us and cares for us. He fixes us when we need fixing.
Gates keep things in or keep things out. The gates of hell are trying to keep everybody in. The kingdom of Satan is trying to trap people and keep them from entering the kingdom of God. Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail. The gates of hell have no power over Jesus.
The kingdom of Satan will not destroy the church. We are the overcomers by the power of Jesus. Colossians 2:13-15 says, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” Jesus triumphed over the kingdom of Satan. Satan has no authority over Jesus or His people. Romans 16:20a says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Jesus is building His church; He’s building us. It doesn’t matter who comes against us because they are coming against Jesus. When people bring things against Jesus, they are going to get crushed because Jesus triumphed over Satan. There is no power that can destroy the church, and you and I are the church. The gospel is powerful. It transforms lives. It breaks open the gates of hell and takes people out of the kingdom of Satan and brings them into the kingdom of Jesus.
When Jesus said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means “rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it,” He did not mean He would build His church on Peter. This passage means that on the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that is what Jesus is building His church on. The church is built on the rock that says Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah. It’s not built on Peter’s life. The church is built on Jesus. The cunning of man won’t build the church. The wealth of man won’t build the church. The wisdom of man won’t build the church. The rock of Jesus will build the church—the fact that He is the Messiah; He is the Christ; He is the Lord and Savior of the world. When your life is built on the rock of Jesus, when the storms of life come, you will be able to stand (see Matthew 7:24-27). The powers of hell won’t conquer you.
The key to heaven is Jesus—the message of the cross, the message of salvation, the message that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, the message of everlasting life. Our responsibility is to use the keys; open the doors of heaven for people. Our responsibility is to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We are blessed in the heavenly realms. Matthew 28:18-20 says, Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Romans 10:14-15 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?" That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” You and I are called to go and preach and proclaim Jesus to all those around us. We need to use the keys we have.
There is spiritual warfare going on. We’re all part of the war even if we don’t know it. With the power of Jesus, we have the power to open and close doors. We have the power to bind and release. Matthew 18:18 says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” We can bind people who are trying to destroy the kingdom of God and loose people who are building the kingdom of God. We do this through prayer. When God agrees with us in our prayers, it will be done for us. We have the spiritual authority to bind and loose according to God’s will.
Ephesians 6:10-12 says, "A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." These are the powers that are trying to destroy us. These are the powers trying to destroy churches. We are warring against the kingdom of Satan. We are able to be victorious because of the power of God in us. We have the full armor we need to do battle (see Ephesians 6:13-18).
We are citizens of heaven. We have resurrection power. We don’t need to fear the kingdom of Satan. We have the revelation of Jesus, and we need to use this knowledge to bring people to salvation. Knowledge is bliss. Tell people about Jesus.
Completions to Verses: . . . He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a
Good morning, Citizens of Heaven.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Q7EPZV56PuA
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:Do not be overcome by evil, but . . .(completions at the end)
Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.
But even in 1933, the anti-gospel of Hitler was moving toward the legal murder of these people who, like the Jews, were categorized as unfit, as a drain on Germany. The terms increasingly used to describe these people with disabilities were useless eaters and life unworthy of life. When the war came in 1939, their extermination would begin in earnest. From Bethel, Bonhoeffer wrote his grandmother: “It is sheer madness, as some believe today, that the sick can or ought to be legally eliminated. It is virtually the same as building a tower of Babel, and is bound to avenge itself.”
He often mentioned the Tower of Babel in his sermons as a picture of man’s “religious” attempt to reach heaven on his own strength. But here he linked it with the Nazis’ Nietzschean worldview in which strength was exalted and weakness was crushed and eliminated. One was about works, and the other about grace.
As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents.
[Bonhoeffer] had become convinced that a church that was not willing to stand up for the Jews in its midst was not the real church of Jesus Christ.
A church synod had officially voted to exclude a group of persons from the Christian ministry simply because of their ethnic background. The German Christians had clearly broken away from the true and historical faith. Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt called for the pastors to stand up and be counted by resigning from office. But Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt were voices crying in the wilderness.
Many years later, after Niemöller had been imprisoned for eight years in concentration camps as the personal prisoner of Adolf Hitler, he penned these infamous words:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew.
And then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
[Bonhoeffer] had begun to see that the overemphasis on the cerebral and intellectual side of theological training had produced pastors who didn’t know how to live as Christians, but knew only how to think theologically. Integrating the two was increasingly important to him.
Note: Bonhoeffer was convinced the church should oppose Hitler. In a letter to Erwin Sutz, he wrote:
And I believe that the whole of Christendom should pray with us that it will be a “resistance unto death,” and that the people will be found to suffer it.
Even his closest allies, such as Franz Hildebrandt, could not see what he was seeing. He seemed to be operating on an impossibly high theological plane, seeing things in the distance that were invisible to those around him.
While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead.
Note: Pastor Bonhoeffer gave his congregation a sermon on Jeremiah:
The opening words were typically intriguing: “Jeremiah was not eager to become a prophet of God. When the call came to him all of a sudden, he shrank back, he resisted, he tried to get away.”
The sermon reflected Bonhoeffer’s own difficult situation. It is extremely doubtful whether anyone in his congregations could understand what he was talking about, much less accept that it was God’s word to them that Sunday. If they had ever been puzzled by their brilliant young preacher’s homilies, they must have been puzzled now.
Pastor Bonhoeffer was beginning to understand that he was God’s prisoner, that like the prophets of old, he was called to suffer and to be oppressed—and in that defeat and the acceptance of that defeat, there was victory. It was a sermon that applied to anyone with ears to hear, but few could actually hear it.
Note: In a letter to Henirod, Bonhoeffer said the following:
We must shake off our fear of this world—the cause of Christ is as stake, and are we to be found sleeping? . . . Christ is looking down at us and asking whether there is anyone left who confesses faith in him.
Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick decreed that discussion of the church disputes, both in public assemblies and in the press, was illegal. The decree was no different from Müller’s previous “muzzling decree,” except that now it was the state, not the church, that had issued it, so there was no chance to dispute it. It was the law of the land. State and church were being welded together at every point.
The oath that new pastors would take read: “I swear before God . . . that I . . . will be true and obedient to the Führer of the German people and state, Adolf Hitler.”
Note: Bonhoeffer held a youth conference, and here are comments from two participants:
· Bonhoeffer told us that our work cannot and must not consist of anything but listening together to what the Lord says, and in praying together that we may hear aright. Listening in faith to the words of the Bible, hearing one another as listeners who obey, this is the core of all ecumenical work.
· Bonhoeffer reminded us that our primary object was not to commend our own views, national or individual, but to hear what God would say to us.
Bonhoeffer’s hope that the youth conference would result in some bold and substantive resolutions was not disappointed. The fifty delegates drew up two resolutions. The first said that God’s commandments utterly trumped any claims of the state. It passed narrowly, with many of Bonhoeffer’s Berlin students registering contrary votes. The second condemned Christian support for “any war whatsoever.”
[Bonhoeffer’s] thoughts on this would be expressed in his book Discipleship, in which anything short of obedience to God smacked of “cheap grace.” Actions must follow what one believed, else one could not claim to believe it.
Note: James 1:22 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
Note: When Bonhoeffer was 28 years old, he said the following:
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.
It is high time we broke with our theologically based restraint towards the state’s actions—which, after all, is only fear. “Speak out for those who cannot speak.” Who in the church today realizes that this is the very least that the Bible requires of us?
The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.
Completion to Verse:. . . overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NASB)
Good morning, Redeemed by Jesus.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XRW-jr_PnbQ
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord . . . (completion at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Carry out the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:8-9:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Paul is telling us to think right and act right. Paul knows that what we think about, what occupies our mind, what we mull over, what we get comfortable with, what we invite in, it’s these things that impact our life. How we think is how we act. What goes into our mind is what comes out. Garbage in; garbage out.
What we think about is important. It affects how we see the world and interpret the world. What you read will affect how you live. What we think about affects how we act, react, and interact with the world around us. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, Don’t be fooled by those who say such things for “bad company corrupts good character.” When a person hangs out with people who hold a certain worldview, that person will be affected by what is said and done. Be careful what T.V. shows you watch and what books you read because they affect our character.
Philippians 2:5 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” It becomes easier to be people of unity when we are thinking the same. Our minds needs to stay attune to the gospel.
Romans 12:1-2 says, And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. As our mind takes in who Jesus is, and as we think on the gospel, our minds are transformed. We act, react, and interact differently. As our minds are transformed, we are able to know the heart of God more. As our minds are transformed, we act more like Jesus.
Paul is saying to make a choice with your mind as to what you are going to allow into your mind. What we allow into our minds determines how we will act and what we will speak. It determines our character. Philippians 4:7b says, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Jesus will guard what goes in and out of your mind if you let Him.
Paul gives us eight things to think about:
1. True: that which is reliable, valid, honest. God is all these things. John 3:33 says, “Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true.” John 14:6 has the following words of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Psalm 19:7 says, “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” We are to seek the truth. The armor of God includes the belt of truth. The center of our being is to be bound by truth. How much time do we spend a day listening to half-truths or untruths?
2. Noble: a quality which makes people worthy of respect. 1 Timothy 3:8a says, “In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity.” Titus 2:2a says, “Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely.” We are to be noble people in the sense of having holiness—Christ in us. We are to be separated from the unholy. A noble person is on a higher plane. A noble person sees the world as the temple of God. There’s a respect for God. It’s understanding that God’s ways are more noble—they are higher. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
3. Right: uprightness, justice, fairness according to how God determines it. Give proper due to who God is and who people are. We are to be in a right relationship with God and a right relationship with others. When thoughts enter our minds, we can ask, “Is this something God would approve of? Is this something that would conform to the standards of God? Is it true? Is it noble? Is it upright?”
4. Pure: morally undefiled, having a sense of chasteness, not stained by sin, fit to be brought before God. We might ask ourselves, “What would Jesus think on?” Paul is saying to have a clean mind—not a dirty or off-color mind. Our thoughts need to be pleasing to God. If there’s a joke Jesus wouldn’t laugh at, then we shouldn’t laugh at it or repeat it. It also involves having a mind that doesn’t think of evil things such as how to take advantage of another person.
5. Lovely: pleasing, agreeable, amiable, attractive, winsome, calls forth love, attracts people by words and deeds, not bitter, involves kindness, sympathy, patience, unity, gentleness. Esther 5:1-2 says the king found Queen Esther to be pleasing or lovely.
6. Admirable: praiseworthy, rings true to God’s highest standards of truth, truth speaking, giving a good report, pleasing to others, that which lifts others up. 2 Corinthians 6:7-8 says, “We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us imposters.”
7. Excellent: every kind of excellence, anything pleasing to God, anything in regard to God’s ways. It’s opposite to the things which are debased in life. Don’t scratch with the chickens; soar with the eagles. Strive for excellence. Don’t wallow with the pigs when you can run with the stallions. Put your mind on the plane God has for us.
8. Praiseworthy: that which brings praise to God; that which glorifies God. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m reading, watching, or thinking about bringing glory to God?”
These eight virtues help us to live out the gospel. These virtues are similar to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The Holy Spirit is in us and is transforming our character. We need to be thinking about God and His kingdom instead of thinking about ourselves and the earthly kingdom.
Paul uses four verbs in verse nine: learned, received, heard, seen. Paul wants the church at Philippi to remember all he has taught them and put it into practice. He wants them to remember how he has modeled for them how to live, and he wants them to live the same way. Paul said in Philippians 3:17: Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. He is saying, “Carry out the gospel in your life as I’ve been carrying out the gospel in my life.”
Let’s remember that the early church didn’t have the benefit of the Bible as we do today. Most of the teaching that took place was oral so they learned by listening. They also learned by watching others—seeing how others applied the learning. They weren’t just being taught, they were being trained. Mentoring was important. It wasn’t about book learning; it was about life learning.
What would people learn by observing my life? 1 Corinthians 15:32b-33 says, And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” We need to ask ourselves, “Does my company cause others to be corrupted, or does it cause others to move closer to God?”
The peace of God comes when we carry out the gospel. We have peace with God through Christ when we follow Christ. Let us think like Christ, let us think about Christ, and let us carry out how we think into the way we act, react, and interact with the world around us. Let’s give others something to think about: that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Let Dan show you how to use our church’s webpage: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/videos/1001653896934772
Completion to Verse: . . . will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NIV) See also Joel 2:32.
Good morning, Truth Finders.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/887jcen5Pec
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be . . .
· For it is not you who speak, but it is . . . (completions at the end)
[Bonhoeffer] said the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians.
[Bonhoeffer] said the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians.
Note: The Enabling Act went into effect in March of 1933; it allowed the Reich government to issue laws without the consent of Germany’s parliament. It laid the foundation for the complete Nazification of German society.
One week after passage of the Enabling Act, Hitler declared a boycott of Jewish stores across Germany. The stated purpose was stopping the international press, which the Nazis maintained was controlled by the Jews, from printing lies about the Nazi regime. They always cast their aggressions as a defense response to actions against them and the German people.
On the day of the boycott in Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s grandmother was shopping. The patrician ninety-year-old was not about to be told where to shop. When SA men tried to restrain her from entering one store, she informed them that she would shop where she liked and did so. Later that day she did the same at the famous Kaufhaus des Westens, the world’s largest department store, ignoring the silly kickline of SA men stationed in front. The story of Julie Bonhoeffer marching past the Nazi gorillas was a favorite in the Bonhoeffer family, who saw in her an embodiment of the values they sought to live by.
Most Germans believed Hitler was basically “one of them,” however, and they welcomed the Nazis’ plans to reorder society, including the church.
Everything in German society must fall in line with the Nazi worldview. This included the world of books and ideas. Note: The burning of books followed.
One sometimes hears that Hitler was a Christian. He was certainly not, but neither was he openly anti-Christian, as most of his top lieutenants were. What helped him aggrandize power, he approved of, and what prevented it, he did not. He was utterly pragmatic. In public he often made comments that made him sound pro-church or pro-Christian, but there can be no question that he said these things cynically, for political gain. In private, he possessed an unblemished record of statements against Christianity and Christians.
Hitler’s attitude toward Christianity was that it was a great heap of mystical out-of-date nonsense. But what annoyed Hitler was not that it was nonsense, but that it was nonsense that did not help him get ahead. According to Hitler, Christianity preached “meekness and flabbiness,” and this was simply not useful to the National Socialist ideology, which preached “ruthlessness and strength.” In time, he felt that the churches would change their ideology. He would see to it. Unlike his top men, Hitler had an instinctive political sense of timing, and now was not the time to take on the churches directly. Now was the time to pretend to be pro-Christian.
Note: Jesus said, “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.” Matthew 24:24-25
Since Hitler had no religion other than himself, his opposition to Christianity and the church was less ideological than practical.
Rosenberg’s plan is some of the clearest proof that exists of the Nazis’ ultimate plans for the churches. A few points of his program illustrate what Hitler was open to approving and, under cover of war, would move toward:
13. The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany . . .
14. The National Church declares that to it, and therefore to the German nation, it has been decided that the Fuehrer’s Mein Kampf is the greatest of all documents. It . . . not only contains the greatest but it embodies the purest and truest ethics for the present and future life of our nation.
18. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints.
19. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword.
30. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels . . . and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika.
Note: Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18b) Hitler is gone, his regime is gone, but the church of Jesus will never be gone.
After four hundred years of taking for granted that all Germans were Lutheran Christians, no one really knew what Christianity was anymore.
If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.
Pastor Niemöller had been a U-boat captain during the First War, who was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery. He had initially welcomed the Nazis, hailing them as the heroes who would restore moral order. Niemöller met with Hitler privately in 1932, and Hitler had given him his personal assurance that he would keep his hands off the churches and would never institute pogroms against the Jews. This was good enough for Niemöller, who was sure the Nazis’ victory would bring about the national religious revival for which he had long prayed. But he soon saw that he had been taken in. When Niemöller finally turned against Hitler, he did so without any fear, and the sermons he gave at his overfilled church in Dahlem, a working-class section of Berlin, were listened to with the greatest interest, not least by members of the Gestapo. Niemöller knew this and mocked them openly from the pulpit. It was thought that if ever anyone outside the military could lead a movement against Hitler, Niemöller was the man.
[Bonhoeffer] was calling the church to behave like the church, but his declarations fell on deaf ears.
[Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt] suggested that the churches effectively go on strike against the state to assert their independence. If the state did not pull back and let the church be the church, the church would cease behaving like the state church and would, among other things, stop performing funerals. It was a brilliant solution.
As would always be the case, their suggestion was too strong and too dramatic for most of the conciliatory Protestant leaders. Bonhoeffer’s decisiveness was unsettling to them, since it forced them to see their own sins in what was happening. Just as the politically compromised military leaders would one day balk when they ought to have acted to assassinate Hitler, so the theologically compromised Protestant leaders now balked. They couldn’t muster the will to do anything as stark and scandalous as staging a strike, and the opportunity was lost.
Ravi Zacharias’ daughter’s tribute to her dad (around 11 minutes): https://youtu.be/uMeDssgP_BA?t=269
Completions to Verses:
· . . . given you in that hour what you are to speak.
· . . . the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Matthew 10:19-20 (NASB)
Good morning, People of Rejoicing.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/bIP1PusCcQY
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor . . .
· nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to . . .(completions at the end)
Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Character of the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:4-7:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
In this passage we see three characteristics of the gospel that should be in us if we are people of the gospel. The first is rejoicing (having joy) or being people of praise (see 1:3, 18; 2:17-18; 3:1). A foundational characteristic of a follower of Christ is joy. It’s not easy to have joy because this world is geared against followers of Christ. However, as Christians we are told to rejoice; it’s not an option.
Joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. We are told to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice because of Jesus in us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) 1 John 5:12 says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” When we invite Jesus in to be our Lord and Savior, He gives us eternal life. This is something to rejoice over no matter what circumstances we face. However, if we focus on the circumstances in our lives, we are going to lose the joy and become grumblers and complainers.
Rejoicing invites Jesus into the pain of circumstances. Rejoicing makes Jesus the center of one’s life. We don’t lean into our circumstances; we lean into Jesus. Be people of praise. Praise God for who He is. Our joy comes from Him.
When Paul was in prison and he didn’t know if he would be alive the next day, he rejoiced. He rejoiced that the church at Philippi had received Jesus. He rejoiced that they were preaching Jesus. He rejoiced because the message of Jesus continued to go out to others.
The second characteristic of the gospel that is to be part of our life is gentleness. It’s a difficult word to define. It can mean: reasonableness, leniency, good will, kindness, forbearing, yielding, goodness, giving. Gentleness is not a strict adherence to the law. It’s more than justice. A gentle person does not demand justice. 1 Corinthians 6:7 gives us an idea of what gentleness looks like: “Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?”
When teachers make allowances for their students based on their knowledge of the students, that’s an example of gentleness. It’s not about the strict adherence to the letter of the law; it’s about the person.
John 8:1-11 is an example of Jesus extending gentleness to the woman caught in adultery. The story ends with Jesus asking the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Gentleness looks past the law to the person. However, this does not mean that people who break the law shouldn’t be punished or have consequences for their behavior. Gentleness is more than justice because it takes into account the person—not just the action.
Gentleness looks beyond the letter of the law to the person. Sometimes people need to be cut some slack because of what’s going on in their lives. We shouldn’t be eager to lower the boom every time an infraction occurs.
The third characteristic of the gospel that is to be part of our life is prayer. Pray about everything. Don’t be anxious or worry. Anxiety results when we focus on an issue, and it consumes us. Anxiety results when we take Jesus off the throne of our life and we step back into the place of leadership. We trust ourselves more than we trust God.
Don’t be the person that feeds the anxiety, adding fuel to the fire; be the person who prays. Prayer puts Jesus back on the throne and keeps Him there. Prayer recognizes that we need Jesus. There is no situation too big for the power of God. There’s no situation too small for the care of God. When we pray, we humble ourselves before God.
Thanksgiving recognizes God’s work in our past. Thanksgiving recognizes Jesus can do these things in the future. Thanksgiving recognizes the relationship with Jesus in the present. As we spend time with God, we recognize there’s no fear in love.
Prayer says, “You are God, and I am not.” Prayer recognizes God has the power to do something about the situation. Prayer trusts God.
Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Peace comes from God. When we rejoice, when we are gentle, when we pray, God gives us peace. We can’t understand His peace. How can we understand someone going through great trials and tribulations and yet being at peace and even being joyful? Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Jesus. As a military guard screens who goes in and who goes out of a military base, so God will screen our hearts and minds. He will protect our hearts and minds from the enemy.
This week let’s be people of prayer, rejoicing, and let’s allow our gentleness to be evident to all.
Enjoy and be challenged by this conversation between Ravi Zacharias and Francis Chan: https://youtu.be/J22GVIj4jj4
Completions to Verses:
· . . . things to come, nor powers,
· . . . separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)
Good morning, Meditators on God's Word.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/fylsIaNsJ5o
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:If therefore the Son shall make you free, . . . (completions at the end)
When you read the Bible, you must think that here and now God is speaking with me.
On one hiking trip, Bonhoeffer had [the students on a retreat] meditate on a Bible verse after breakfast. They had to find a place on the grass and sit quietly for an hour and meditate on that verse.
The Christian life must be modeled. Jesus did not only communicate ideas and concepts and rules and principles for living. He lived. And by living with his disciples, he showed them what life was supposed to look like, what God had intended it to look like.
Note: The following is from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his theologically liberal brother-in-law:
First of all I will confess quite simply—I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; there is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in our heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us along with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible . . .
If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament . . .
And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way—and this has not been for so very long—it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.
On January 30, 1933, at noon, Adolf Hitler became the democratically elected chancellor of Germany.
Two days later, on Wednesday, February 1, a twenty-six-year-old theologian gave a radio address at the Potsdamerstrasse radio station. Bonhoeffer’s speech was titled “The Younger Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” It dealt with the fundamental problems of leadership by a Führer, explaining how such a leader inevitably becomes an idol and a “mis-leader.” Before he could finish, the speech was cut off.
The good leader serves others and leads others to maturity. He puts them above himself, as a good parent does a child, wishing to lead that child to someday be a good parent. Another word for this is discipleship. [Bonhoeffer] continued:
The individual is responsible before God. And this solitude of man’s position before God, this subjection to an ultimate authority, is destroyed when the authority of the Leader or the office is seen as ultimate authority . . . Alone before God, man becomes what he is, free and committed in responsibility at the same time.
The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, be it of a Leader or of an office, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him. The eternal law that the individual stands alone before God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted. Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish.
With the tools of democracy, democracy was murdered and lawlessness made “legal.” Raw power ruled, and its only real goal was to destroy all other powers besides itself.
The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty . . . before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away; he cannot join us in the house of God . . . The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned.
In the first nine months of Nazi rule, the speed and scope of what the Nazis intended and had begun executing throughout German society were staggering. . . . No one dreamed how quickly and dramatically things would change.
There was at this time a group that stood solidly behind Hitler’s rise to power and blithely tossed two millennia of Christian orthodoxy overboard. They wanted a strong, unified Reichskirche and a “Christianity” that was strong and masculine, that would stand up to and defeat the godless and degenerate forces of Bolshevism. They boldly called themselves the Deutsche Christen (German Christians) and referred to their brand of Christianity as “positive Christianity.” The German Christians became very aggressive in attacking those who didn’t agree with them and generally caused much confusion and division in the church.
Governments are established by God for the preservation of order. The church had no fundamental quarrel with the state being the state, with its restraining evil, even by use of force.
Then [Bonhoeffer] moved on to clarify that the church does, nevertheless, play a vital role for the state. What is that role? The church must “continually ask the state whether its action can be justified as legitimate action of the state, i.e., as action which leads to law and order, and not to lawlessness and disorder.” In other words, it is the church’s role to help the state be the state. If the state is not creating an atmosphere of law and order, as Scripture says it must, then it is the job of the church to draw the state’s attention to this failing. And if on the other hand, the state is creating an atmosphere of “excessive law and order,” it is the church’s job to draw the state’s attention to that too.
The state which endangers the Christian proclamation negates itself.
Bonhoeffer then famously enumerated “three possible ways in which the church can act towards the state.” The first, already mentioned, was for the church to question the state regarding its actions and their legitimacy—to help the state be the state as God has ordained. The second way—and here he took a bold leap—was “to aid the victims of state action.” He said that the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society.” And before that sentence was over, he took another leap, far bolder than the first—in fact, some ministers walked out—by declaring that the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.” Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians. Bonhoeffer then quoted Galatians: “Do good to all men.” To say that it is unequivocally the responsibility of the Christian church to help all Jews was dramatic, even revolutionary. But Bonhoeffer wasn’t through yet.
The third way the church can act toward the state, he said, “is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” The translation is awkward, but he meant that a stick must be jammed into the spokes of the wheel to stop the vehicle. It is sometimes not enough to help those crushed by the evil actions of the state; at some point the church must directly take action against the state to stop it from perpetrating evil. This, he said, is permitted only when the church sees its very existence threatened by the state, and when the state ceases to be the state as defined by God. Bonhoeffer added that this condition exists if the state forces the “exclusion of baptized Jews from our Christian congregations or in the prohibition of our mission to the Jews.”
The church was the place where Jews and Germans stand together. “What is at stake,” he said, “is by no means the question whether our German members of congregations can still tolerate church fellowship with the Jews. It is rather the task of Christian preaching to say: here is the church, where Jew and German stand together under the Word of God; here is the proof whether a church is still the church or not.”
Many would have remembered Galatians 3:28, declaring that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In the spring of 1933, Bonhoeffer was declaring it the duty of the church to stand up for the Jews. This would have seemed radical to even staunch allies, especially since the Jews had not begun to suffer the horrors they would suffer in a few years. Bonhoeffer’s three conclusions—that the church must question the state, help the state’s victims, and work against the state, if necessary—were too much for almost everyone. But for him they were inescapable. In time, he would do all three.
In less than five minutes you can hear Kayleigh McEnany’s tribute to Ravi Zacharias: https://youtu.be/vYIY6Scmayc
Completions to Verses: . . . you shall be free indeed. John 8:36 (NASB)
Good morning, Truth Seekers.
Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/2SaBhN2idbM
Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not . . .
· does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not . . .
· does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but . . .
· bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, . . . (completions at the end)
Pastor Michael is still preaching to his virtual congregation. The topic yesterday was “Food, Pharisees, and Faith” based on Matthew 15:21-39; 16:1-12. Have you ever had the experience of having someone trying to teach you something, and you just didn’t understand it no matter how they try to explain it to you? Perhaps that could happen in a calculus class—a problem goes up on the blackboard, and you have no idea how to arrive at the answer.
Jesus has been teaching his disciples for quite some time, but they just don’t get it. It’s important that they get it because they are going to be the ones who carry on the work of Jesus.
Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”
The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”
Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”
They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”
So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.
They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.
Tyre and Sidon are in the northern Gentile region of Phoenicia. Tyre is about 40 miles from Galilee. Sidon is an additional 30 miles. This would have been around a 140 mile journey by foot. This trip would have taken them four to six months. This is the only time when Jesus left the boundary of Israel. Jesus wanted to be alone with the disciples. He needed some time to put more problems on the blackboard for them. It appeared they needed some remedial instruction since He had worked with them for around three years, and they were still having trouble grasping concepts.
When verse 22 says a Canaanite woman came to see Jesus. The term Canaanite would have had a negative connotation because God told Moses to drive out the Canaanites from the land. It’s this Canaanite woman who recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David. She knew Jesus was the only hope for her daughter.
The word for dog that Jesus used is not the word for a stray, dangerous dog; it’s the word that means little dog or friendly dog or pet. Jesus was saying the food meant for the family is not to be given to the family pet. The woman replied that even the pet dog benefits from the master’s table by eating the crumbs that fall to the floor. She knew the Messiah was coming for the salvation of the whole world, and that meant she was included. Jesus wanted her to grab hold of Him, and she did. Jesus tested her faith, and she passed the test.
To understand why this story was included here, we need to look at the next story. The trip to Tyre and Sidon is over. A vast crowd gathers around Jesus seeking healing. Jesus feels sorry for them as they have been with him for three days, and they have to walk home. Jesus didn’t want to send them home hungry. The disciples responded with, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”
Jesus was probably thinking, “Didn’t we have this same problem on the blackboard before? Don’t you remember the solution?” In Chapter 14, Jesus fed the 5,000. The problem in Chapter 15 gets solved in the same manner as Chapter 14.
To understand why there would be two different stories of the same problem and solution, we need to go to the next story.
One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away. (verses 1-4)
The Pharisees and Sadducees were enemies with each other. The Pharisees were more popular while the Sadducees were more wealthy. They didn’t see eye to eye with each other but here they join ranks against Jesus. They want Jesus to prove to them that He is the Son of God—the Messiah. This is the same tactic Satan used when he tempted Jesus in Matthew 4. They want Jesus to sin. They want to destroy Jesus. Their hearts were hardened. There had been so many miracles done by Jesus and yet they were asking for some miraculous sign from heaven to prove Jesus was the Messiah. Just as Pharaoh had hardened his heart against truth, the Pharisees and Sadducees had hardened their hearts.
Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (verses 5-6)
Immediately, the disciples thought of the physical.
At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (verses 7-12)
The Pharisees and Sadducees are false teachers. They have hard hearts. They are all about religion and works. Jesus is warning the disciples to be on their guard against such people. He’s warning them to be on guard against people who aren’t in a relationship with God.
What ties all the stories together from Matthew 14 to this story in Matthew 16 is bread; it’s food that ties them all together. It isn’t physical bread that’s the key; it’s spiritual bread. It’s not that the physical bread was so amazing; it’s that Jesus was so amazing. What a person eats is not what’s important; it’s what’s in the heart that matters.
The Canaanite woman is the only one who understood the problem on the blackboard the first time it was presented. She understood the message of Jesus that even though she wasn’t an Israelite, she was an object of God’s love. A relationship with Jesus was still possible because of His love. Because she understood the spiritual reality, Jesus gave her the physical reality she desired, and He healed her daughter. Jesus was teaching that He was the essential element of life, and she got it.
Was the purpose of manna for the Israelites in the wilderness about physical reality? No, whenever they gathered manna, they thanked God for it. They knew it came from God because He loved them, and they could be in a relationship with God. Manna was a spiritual reality of God’s presence in their lives.
Psalms 23:5a says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” It’s not about a physical feast; it’s about God’s provision, His protection, and His presence. The physical idea of the banquet is the spiritual reality of God’s presence in our lives even in the midst of our enemies, even in the midst of Satan trying to destroy us, even in the midst of our suffering.
In Matthew 4:3-4 says:
During that time the devil came and said to [Jesus], “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
The essential element of life is not physical bread; it’s the spiritual reality of a relationship with God. When Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples, he broke bread and said, “This is my body . . .” We finally get it: the physical bread is not what it’s all about; it’s the spiritual reality that Jesus is the Savior of the world and is the essential element of our life. We are first and foremost spiritual beings. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Jesus is the essential element of life.
Jesus said, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Look first to faith in Christ. We focus on the physical things in life when we should be focusing on the spiritual. The Pharisees and Sadducees never got it. The disciples finally got it. The Canaanite woman got it right away. Do we get it? Jesus is the only essential element we need.
In less than 10 minutes, Ravi Zacharias answers the question, “How do you know that Christianity is the one true worldview?” https://youtu.be/nWY-6xBA0Pk
Completions to Verses:
· . . . brag and is not arrogant,
· . . . take into account a wrong suffered,
· . . . rejoices with the truth;
· . . . endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)