The Details

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:24-33)

No matter how bad a mess we make, Jesus will help us clean it up. In the context of Jesus sending his disciples out to proclaim the soon coming of the kingdom of God, Jesus gave them a warning. Don’t be afraid of people, be afraid of God.

Jesus told his disciples that those who denied him before men, he would deny before his Father in heaven. But consider that Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times before a rooster crowed.

Did Jesus deny Peter before his Father? And if so, what does that mean? Since Peter was forgiven and restored after his denial, denial can be forgiven. It’s not a one way ticket to Hell. Just because we didn’t stand up for Jesus today, doesn’t mean we can’t do it tomorrow. What Peter did in a moment of terror did not render him unfit for eternity. Our fear of someone who threatens our life may sometimes overwhelm our fear of God who can do far worse to us. Jesus knew that, and so he warned his disciples. Being human, they were able to keep their perspective better at some times than at others. But Jesus was quick to forgive them when they lost perspective about who to fear. So we can’t be any worse Christians than Jesus’ first disciples. And as bad as they sometimes were, they still turned the world upside down. We can, too.

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Prey and Preditor

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:16-23)

We’re going to suffer. Jesus expects us to. When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to proclaim the Good News and to heal people, he warned them that they were defenseless.

What Jesus described to them was, and ever has been, the experience of the Christian church. Without end, portions of the body of Christ have always experienced persecution, from the time of the Romans until the modern era. Usually that opposition came from the outside, but sometimes it came from inside their own families. And how did Jesus suggest his followers respond to persecution? To endure it if necessary, and to flee from it if possible.

Jesus told his disciples that they would not pass through all the cities of Israel before “the son of Man comes.” Although some take Jesus’ words as a prophesy regarding the second coming, the context seems to suggest something else. The twelve went among several villages in Galilee, then Jesus and his disciples went to Jerusalem and Jesus was crucified. Therefore Jesus’ crucifixion and the resurrection were the “coming” Jesus was speaking of: the redemption of humanity, the beginning of the kingdom of God in the hearts of people everywhere. Since Jesus endured the cross and lives with us today, we can endure anything.

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Are We as Obedient as Demons?

After Jesus had crossed the lake, he came to shore near the town of Gadara and started down the road. Two men with demons in them came to him from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one could travel that way. Suddenly they shouted, “Jesus, Son of God, what do you want with us? Have you come to punish us before our time?”

Not far from there a large herd of pigs was feeding. So the demons begged Jesus, “If you force us out, please send us into those pigs!” Jesus told them to go, and they went out of the men and into the pigs. All at once the pigs rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

The people taking care of the pigs ran to the town and told everything, especially what had happened to the two men. Everyone in town came out to meet Jesus. When they saw him, they begged him to leave their part of the country. (Matthew 8:28-34)

Are we as obedient as the demons? When Jesus told some of them to go somewhere, that’s where they went. Demons were very limited in what they could and could not do. Though they did not care what people thought or what people wanted, whenever Jesus spoke, they did exactly what he said. Did they lack free will? Weren’t they evil? Didn’t they, by definition, usually disobey God?

In fact, demons in the Bible appear to take Jesus’ words more seriously than many of the human beings. They knew who Jesus was, they knew that he was God and they knew that they’d better obey him or else. Certainly, the demons were free to do whatever they wanted to do. But they knew better than to ever disobey Jesus. They knew that disobeying Jesus would be disastrous for them. Of course, entering the pigs did not turn out so well for them: the man they had possessed was freed of them and the pigs were dead. But that was their idea. They had asked for it. Jesus had them go into the pigs because he knew what the outcome would be. The demons thought they would escape. Jesus knew it would bring about their destruction.

Demons are the definition of evil, and yet they still obeyed Jesus’ commands and asked for his permission. Jesus controlled them. Unlike demons, we will sometimes resist doing what Jesus wants us to do. Like demons, we sometimes come up with our own ideas. We should, instead, unlike the demons, seek only to discover Jesus’ will and to do that.

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What If Today?

I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Revelation 16:13-21)

What if you knew Jesus was coming back today? Martin Luther was hoeing weeds in his garden when a member of his church asked him that very question. Martin Luther responded quickly, “I’d be hoeing weeds.”

In the middle of John’s visions about the future, Jesus announced that he was going to come back like a thief. He said that those who were watching for his arrival wouldn’t be like some person rousted from bed naked in the middle of the night to confront the problem. In that part of the world it was warm and humid most of the year, so people regularly slept unclothed. In California, earthquakes are a regular feature of life. Most cause no damage. But I have a friend whose greatest fear is that after an earthquake, she’ll wind up on national television being rescued naked from the rubble of her home. So she makes a point of wearing a lot of clothing when she goes to bed.

Jesus’ point was that he wanted his people to always be doing his will, whatever that might be, whether it’s hoeing weeds or preaching the gospel.

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Communication

After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, at this time are You restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:3-11)

It’s a wonder anyone ever understands anything anyone else says. Jesus had died and been resurrected. He’d spent years telling his disciples about the kingdom of God. But just before he ascended back to his Father, the disciples, with their one question, demonstrate that they were nearly as confused about the kingdom as they had been the first day Jesus called them to join him along the shores of Galilee.

The disciples were still looking for a physical kingdom. Did Jesus remind them of any of his previous lessons to them? No. He just told them to be his witnesses throughout the world. If we want to see the kingdom of God, then we need to get to work spreading the good news. That’s how the kingdom will come: one heart at a time.

After Jesus left, angels appeared and asked them why they were still standing there, staring at the sky. Wasn’t staring at the sky where Jesus had gone a normal reaction? Certainly. But the Holy Spirit was coming and the disciples had work to do. What matters is not staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to come back. What matters is for us to do what Jesus asked his disciples to do: spread the good news of the kingdom.

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Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Don’t Worry

Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:22-31)

Life has all sorts of problems. Jesus never said it didn’t. But during a sermon by the Sea of Galilee Jesus told us not to worry. His prohibition on worry was very practical. Do birds worry? Do flowers? How come? Because the world is full of what they need and God takes care of them. Were birds particularly valuable? Not at all. In the sacrificial system, the sort of animal to be sacrificed depended upon a person’s wealth. Birds were what the poorest people offered up for their sin offerings. Birds were common. Like flowers, they were everywhere. So Jesus point was simple: if God takes care of birds and flowers, what do we ever have to worry about? Do we think we matter less to God than birds and flowers? God knows what we need and he’ll take care of it. So we should find something else for our brains to do. We have no reason focus on the mundane things of day to day life. Food and clothing are givens, like a sunrise or the wind in Chicago. We need to find something else to think about: like the kingdom of God. If we focus our energies on God, we’ll be happier, and it’s a lot more productive. Worrying never did anyone a bit of good or ever changed anything.

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Can’t Wait

When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?”

Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village.

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.

Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”

He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”

Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”

Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (Luke 9:51-62)

When the Samaritans learned Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, they become inhospitable. Why? Because one of the big arguments between Jews and Samaritans was over the question of where to worship God. Jews insisted that Jerusalem was the only right place, while the Samaritans believed that only Mt. Gerazim would do.

James and John suggested Jesus simply wipe the Samaritans from the earth. They didn’t like Samaritans anyway. They believed they were headed to Jerusalem so Jesus could lead armies against the enemies of God. So why not start early and get rid of these troublesome, rude Samaritans?

Jesus told them no. They didn’t understand Jesus’ purpose at all, any more than those along the way who indicated a willingness to join Jesus, but wanted to wait awhile. Those who were giving Jesus excuses were doing so because they wanted to wait to see how things turned out. Was he really the Messiah? Would he really bring in the kingdom. They did not understand Jesus’ real purpose any more than John and James.

The Christian message is called “good news” for a reason. Jesus didn’t come to raise armies, he came to bring the kingdom of God to us by sacrificing himself on the cross for us. He offers us far more than any earthly kingdom. He offers us eternity.

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Good News

He was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her); Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Susanna; and many others who were supporting them from their possessions.

As a large crowd was gathering, and people were flocking to Him from every town, He said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times what was sown.” As He said this, He called out, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!” (Luke 8:1-8)

When you think you’re doomed, it’s very good news to find out you’re not. When a farmer sowed grain, the overwhelming majority of that grain sprang up and grew. Very little seed was ever wasted. No farmer stood on a road when he scattered his seeds. He always stood in his plowed field. Only the smallest handful of grain ever missed the rich dirt, got snatched away by birds, or fell to thorns.

Therefore, the seed Jesus scattered—his words about the kingdom—were mostly effective. Jesus was telling those listening to him that the kingdom would grow and become abundant. Crop yields of a hundred times what was sown were stupendous. Agronomists consider a yield of three grains of wheat for each grain planted the minimum necessary to merely sustain human life. Therefore, to have a hundred fold increase—a hundred grains for each planted—meant no more worry about anything for the farmer: he had enough to sustain him and his family—and an abundance to sell on the open market.

Famine was always a fear in the ancient world. So Jesus’ story would have resonated strongly with those who heard him. Jesus wanted us to know that God’s kingdom would grow, and that it would grow spectacularly well. Evangelism—sharing our faith with those around us—yields mostly rich rewards.

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Poor and Happy

When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.

Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
“God blesses you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
God blesses you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
for in due time you will laugh.

What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. (Luke 6:17-23)

Jesus often said things contrary to common sense. The last people in the world that anyone might think of as blessed were the very people Jesus addressed. The word translated as “blessed” simply means “happy.” Jesus said that the poor—those who were hungry and weeping—were happy. Certainly not the obvious conclusion.

Why did Jesus say such people were happy? Because they were the one’s closest to God, that he paid the most attention to, and so the kingdom of God belonged to them.

Jesus spoke to crowds everywhere he went. And he taught much the same thing to everyone. The words that we find in the Sermon on the Mount got reused in other times and other places. So, in Luke’s gospel, the words that were part of that Sermon on the Mount in the other gospels were repeated on a plain near the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

In a world that, like ours, defined happiness by how much wealth you had, how big your house was, and how much power you wielded, Jesus’ words were a startling breath of fresh air. The kingdom of God was something the poor in spirit possessed by virtue of their relationship with God. We can experience God’s kingdom now, thanks to God’s presence in our lives. No matter our circumstances, the blessing of God exists for us now, because God is with us now. When we have God, Jesus said, we really have everything we need.

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