Jesus Mingled With People

He saw something no one else saw. In those despised by society, He saw royalty – Sons and daughters of God. Though far away from Him, they were loved, cherished and not forgotten. He heard something that no one else heard. He heard the heart cries of publicans and sinners when no one cared enough to listen. He heard their cries for a better life. He heard their cries for deliverance from the chains that bound them to lives not in harmony with their purpose.

“This man receiveth sinners” Luke 15:2

His approach to ministry was strikingly different than those who were the pillars of society. There was no pretentiousness in His dealings with those He met. The Bible simply says, “and the common people heard him gladly.” Mark 12:37 His love and compassion broke down barriers of suspicion and mistrust. His kindness disarmed the skeptical. His words of truth penetrated minds who were the objects of scorn and derision by the religious rulers. He came to give life, and life more abundantly, even to the least of these.

It’s that same love and compassion that has brought us into the family of God. His methods, when adopted by His servants, still have power to change lives for eternity. This week we have an opportunity to reexamine the methods of Jesus. Not only how He did what He did, but why. Continue reading

Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1

As an American, I find the timing of this week’s lesson on Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1 providential. Our nation, not unlike nations around the world, is grappling with social unrest that includes the question of Justice and Mercy. How justice is meted out and how mercy is applied leaves a lot to be desired.

As the church of today wrestles with the controversial and many times explosive issues of our generation, we know one thing – we should be different. The church should be the salt that seasons with love, kindness, forbearance and tolerance all who come within the sphere of its influence. Unfortunately, in too many cases what we should be is not what we actually are.The church, made up of individuals of our communities, finds itself hard-pressed to offer any meaningful solutions to the questions of the day. Do we the church serve as the light out of the darkness around us or have we become silent observers?

I’m convinced that the answers for the church and society at large are found in the written Word of God. We all have our opinions and although well meaning, we often take up ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s will for our lives. We need divine guidance for our journey through this life.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 Continue reading

Restoring Dominion

We live in a world obsessed with a quest for dominion. Brutal crimes are perpetrated, schemes of deception are levied against the helpless and the strong take from the weak. Innocent lives are wiped out en masse with little recourse to justice in large part due to a quest for dominion.

Man was given dominion over all earthly life when he stood innocent in the Garden of Eden. His rule of care and direction was a characteristic of his God-given power. It was an element of his perfection.Church politics, once an aberration, is now considered the norm. Jockeying for influence, power and control in the church has resulted in the development of institutions of religion that are far from righteous.

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”Genesis 1:31

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Last Day Events

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

The Pharisees and religious rulers were standing in the way of salvation.

Matthew 23 is a scathing condemnation of the most revered men in Jewish society. The reverence, respect and fear of these men touched all areas of life. In essence the people were enslaved to the very ones appointed by God to show to the world the path of salvation. Jesus, in order to break the corrupt priesthood’s hold on the people, spoke plainly about the dangerous errors of their ways.The Pharisees and religious rulers were standing in the way of salvation.

Even before we examine the particulars of this discourse we are again reminded of the power of tradition and blind faith that often impedes our advancement in the things of God. We look back at the exchanges between Jesus and His avowed enemies and we wonder how could anyone be as callous and malicious as those leaders were? How could anyone deny the power of Jesus and discount the miracles He performed right before their eyes?

The answer is quite simple — a thirst for power. The quest to be in control, coupled with a desire to be extolled and praised is a dangerous combination. It has destroyed relationships, caused divisions within churches and led to wars of aggression. Continue reading

Peter and the Rock

One of the men I admire most in my life is T. Marshall Kelly. I admired his rich baritone voice as he sang meaningful gospel songs. What a privilege it was for me to one day entertain him and his wife at my house for a Sabbath dinner.

One of the songs T. Marshall Kelly is known for is titled “It Takes Everything to Serve the Lord” (YouTube link here). The chorus to that song is as follows:

It takes your hands and your head,
And your heart, yes, your all,
It takes everything to serve the Lord.
It takes your time, and your means,
And your prayers lest you fall,
It takes everything to serve the Lord.

That simple song is but a paraphrase of the words of Jesus found in this week’s lesson on Peter and the Rock. Matthew 16 is packed with fascinating exchanges between Jesus and His disciples and Peter in particular. Continue reading

Resting in Christ

I wish I had understood the Sabbath much earlier in my Christian walk. I’ve been a Sabbath keeper for decades. I was born into a Sabbath-keeping family with many Sabbath-keeping relatives. I’ve calculated that I’ve willingly “kept” the Sabbath over two thousand times. Yet, for most of those past years I can honestly say that I missed the mark in my Sabbath observance.

I know all too well the verbal importance we place on the Sabbath. Many of us, including myself, have at times used the facts of the Sabbath as an evidence of theological superiority. It’s biblically indisputable that the Sabbath is still binding upon man. Those that claim that it was done away at the cross find themselves without a foundation with simple questions such as, “Were all of the other commandments done away with also?”This week as we talk about Resting in Christ, we have the opportunity to reexamine what the Sabbath is all about. It’s more than a day off work, and it’s more than a day in church. The Sabbath means much more.

Proving the validity of the Sabbath is easy. Understanding why we keep it seems a much harder task. Continue reading