Posted in John, Mark

John’s Secret

“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.’ Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’” John 13:23-24

Chris Gore (one of the leaders at Bethel in Redding, CA) has a little booklet called, “John’s Secret”, where he contrasts the foundation of John’s faith with the foundation of Peter’s faith. Peter was mostly concerned with how much he loved Jesus, while John’s focus was how much Jesus loved him.

At the last supper Peter declared that “even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” (Mark 14:29) He was sure of his love for Jesus but ended up denying Christ three times and didn’t believe even when he saw the empty tomb.

Peter was sure of his love for Jesus, but John was sure of Jesus’ love for him. All through his gospel, John, the great apostle and prophet, chooses to refer to himself only as, “the disciple Jesus loved.” John was the only disciple that remained at the foot of the cross, and when he saw the empty tomb, he believed. (John 20:8)

The faith and relationship Peter worked so hard for came very naturally to John. We see Peter deferring to John’s relationship in the text above when Jesus had revealed that someone would betray Him. And in John 21 after Peter is told by Jesus how he was going to die, his only response was, “Lord, and what about this man (John)?” Jesus’ answer to him strikes right at the heart of Peter’s competitive, striving spirit. “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:21-22)

I’ve taken John’s secret to heart. I’ve gotten into the habit of reminding myself that Jesus loves me. When I wake up, usually the first thing I say to myself is: “Jesus, You love  me. I am Your beloved, favored, child.” This may sound simplistic but it has had a profound effect on my relationship with God. Maybe you should try it, Beloved?

Posted in Hebrews, Mark, Matthew, Revelation

Wake Up!

“You have a reputation of being alive but you are dead.  Wake up!… Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly.  Repent and turn to Me again.  If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” Revelation 3:1-3

 The Christian life is a long journey at night.  God has ordained that we would have to choose Him in a world of moral darkness that is opposed to the gospel, so that those who choose Him in the dark will never reject Him in eternity when we see Him in the light.  But we have to stay awake!

 Presumption put the church at Sardis asleep.  They had a reputation of being alive, probably gained by past experiences of life and reflected by a doctrine of life, yet in reality, they had become dead.  Like the foolish virgins (See Matthew 25) they presumed that the oil they received at the beginning would be enough, so they didn’t bother to keep their relationship with God fresh.

 America is one of the most dangerous places in the world spiritually.  I’ve had missionaries tell me that they are glad they don’t live here because life is so easy and busy in America that they find it difficult to stay spiritually awake.  On the mission field they sense their absolute dependence on God’s protection and provision so it’s easy to trust Him day by day, but here they find the urgency to seek Him is lacking.

 The enemy seeks to put the church to sleep by the cares, worries, and pleasures of this life. (Mark 4:19)  Do you have a strategy to stay awake?  When I drive at night I make sure there is a passenger to help keep me from dozing off.  I believe God has given the church to be that spiritual passenger for each of us. (Hebrews 10:24-25).  There’s something about gathering together and hearing the word of God that reminds us of who we are, who God is, and of what’s truly important.  Are you part of a group where someone regularly asks you if you’re still awake?

Posted in Mark, Psalms

The Gift God is Offering

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?… One thing you lack: go and sell what you possess and give it to the poor… and come follow Me.” Mark 10:17; 21

 What if the gift we are asking God for is different than the one He’s offering?  The rich young ruler already had a good life but saw it could be better if he had the promise of eternal life.  He asked Jesus what He had to do to ensure that gift but didn’t like the answer.  “But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:22)

 He was willing to do something, but Jesus asked him to let go of something.  He wanted to improve his life, but Jesus wanted to become his life.  He wanted to add a room to his house, but Jesus wanted to tear down the house he had built and start over with Himself as the foundation of a new building.

 He ended up walking away sad.  The gift he asked for was different than the one God was offering.  I wonder if we have answered Jesus’ call to let go of our control, or if we have redefined what He’s offering to accommodate our own desires?  

Better to be sad than deceived. I wonder if the rich young ruler ever reconsidered and followed Jesus on His terms?  If he did, he would have found that God is not opposed to us having stuff; He just doesn’t want our stuff to have control over us.

A few verses after this young man walked away sad, Peter said: “We have left everything and followed You.”  Here was Jesus’ response to him: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

 When we withhold nothing from Him, He will withhold no good thing from us! (See Psalm 84:11)

Posted in 1Corinthians, Genesis, John, Mark, Proverbs, Romans

The Power of Words

“Have faith in God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:22-23

 When God speaks everything changes!  There may be darkness and chaos, but when God speaks, light and order come in response to His word transforming the world. (See Genesis 1)  But what happens when we speak?  I don’t believe there is intrinsic power in our words, but I do believe that our words can be filled with power if we speak out loud what God has spoken to our hearts.

 Speaking expresses faith.  Romans 10:10 says we believe with our hearts and then speak with our mouths resulting in salvation.  What we believe about God and the world will affect what we speak and what we speak will then affect the world around us.  Proverbs 18:21 says, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

 So what is God speaking to this world?  May our hearts be filled with the truth of John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”  We are not called to be positive in a negative world; we are called to be redemptive in a fallen world.  We don’t ever have to live in a bubble that denies the brokenness and darkness all around us; we only have to believe that God has a redemptive plan for everything and everyone who is broken and dark. 

 Moses allowed himself to become frustrated and hit the rock when God told him to speak to it.  The rock, which represented Christ (1Corinthians 10:4), had already been struck (a picture of Jesus dying on the cross), so God wanted Moses to have enough faith to just speak.  If he had spoken to the rock it would have flowed with water for all the people, for God was the One telling him to speak.

 Today He’s telling us to speak His redemption over our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and over this nation.  What are you speaking?

Posted in Daniel, Mark, Matthew

Daniel’s Seventieth ‘Seven’ – Part Two

“He (a coming prince) will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27

After the Messiah is put to death, Gabriel says “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary and its end will come like a flood.” (Daniel 9:26) The next verse, quoted above, is a description of this event that will happen during the seventieth ‘seven.’ 

Jesus said that this “abomination of desolation,” spoken by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15) would be fulfilled in the generation that He lived in.  “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) 

Many commentators don’t believe the seventieth ‘seven’ occurred in Jesus’ generation so they put it off until the generation before the Lord’s return.  They treat the fall of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of the events that will happen again before the coming of the Lord which is why so many are certain the Jewish temple has to be rebuilt. But all this is conjecture and not in the text.  In Mark’s gospel only one question is asked and it’s about the destruction of the temple (not about His coming or about the end times) and the sign they should look for: “the abomination of desolation.” (Mark 13:14)

Yesterday we looked at what actually happened in their generation and the abomination that was set up in the destroyed temple.  Now let’s reread Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ in light of this history: 

“And he (Vespasian) will make a firm covenant with many (Galilean Jews) for one ‘seven.’ (The war went from 66-73 AD)  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. (The temple was destroyed at the three and a half year mark, so sacrifices could no longer be made.) And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation (the Roman ensign was sacrificed to where the temple had been), until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”  Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ was fulfilled in the first century, just like Jesus said it would be.

Posted in Mark

Daniel’s Seventieth ‘Seven’ – Part One

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?…when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be…then those in Judea must flee to the mountains….truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Mark 13:4; 14; 30

When Jesus talks about the abomination of desolation as being the sign that the temple will be destroyed, he is referencing an event that happens in Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven.’ He says that this would all be fulfilled in the generation He was speaking to. So what happened?

A Jewish rebellion to Rome occurred in 66 AD causing the emperor, Nero, to send his general, Vespasian, to subdue it using whatever means were necessary. Vespasian first went to Galilee where he took some of its cities “by treaties, and on terms.” (Josephus, The Jewish War, Preface 8). Josephus tells us that “Sepphoris, the largest city of Galilee, received Vespasian, the Roman general very kindly, and readily promised that they would assist him.” (III:ix:8)

But most of the Jews dug in their heels, so Vespasian pursued them through war. In 69 AD there were three Roman emperors after Nero’s suicide – Galba, Ortho, and Vitellius who eventually gave way to Vespasian – the fourth emperor in one year. The Jewish war continued with Vespasian’s son, Titus, leading the charge on his behalf. In 70 AD, at the three and a half year point of the war, Titus destroyed and burned the temple so completely that not one stone was left upon another. A Roman ensign with Vespasian’s image on it was set up in the wing of the temple area declaring Caesar to be Divine (the outer wing, not part of the temple itself, was all that was left at the time).

Even though the temple was destroyed and all sacrifices ceased, the war continued for three and a half more years as Titus ran down the Jews to wherever they went. The final siege was in the stronghold of Masada. When Titus broke through in 73 AD almost 1,000 Jews had already committed suicide ending the pursuit, and the war against the Jews. Josephus wrote that over a million Jews died during that seven year span by sword, famine, crucifixion, or suicide.  All this was completed 40 years from when Jesus said, “this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.”

Posted in 2Corinthians, Daniel, Jeremiah, Luke, Mark, Matthew

Two Events of Judgment

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.  But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.”  Matthew 24:34-37

 I have come to believe that Jesus is describing two events of judgment in His discourse on the future (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 17 and 21) and that they are very different to prepare for.

One event, the destruction of Jerusalem, will happen in their lifetime, or their “generation.”  It is a time of God’s wrath on the Jewish people for rejecting Christ (Luke 21:22-24); it will feature an abomination of desolation being set up in the holy place (Matthew 24:15); and  it will be horrible but “cut short,” otherwise all of the Jewish elect would be wiped out.

  The rescue for the church at this time is to flee Jerusalem when you see these things happening.  “All these things” were to be expected within their generation and they would be as visible as a fig tree budding indicating that summer is near.  There will be a fulfillment of  “all that is written” (Luke 21:22), a reference to Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ (Daniel 9:27), and Jeremiah’s allusion to a time of Jacob’s trouble. (Jeremiah 30:7)

   The second event Jesus describes is not just in Judea, it’s world-wide (Luke 21:35); Jesus doesn’t know when it’s going to happen; the elect don’t have to flee, they are taken; and there are no signs to prepare for it, so people have to live ready.  This coming event is not a judgment on the Jews for rejecting Christ (that already happened in the destruction of Jerusalem), but on the Gentiles who have rejected Christ. (Luke 21:24) 

 By the end of their generation this second judgment will be imminent, or “at the door,” (Matthew 24:33-34) because it will occur immediately after Jesus appears in the clouds.  We are now living between the first and second judgment events in a time of God’s favor. (2Corinthians 6:2)  This is the time to respond to God’s salvation!

Posted in 1Peter, Acts, Galatians, John, Mark

God’s Timing

“It is not for you to know the times (chronos) or dates (kairos) which the Father has set by His own authority.” Acts 1:7

Two of the Greek words for time in the New Testament are “chronos” and “kairos.” Chronos is the word for sequential time which is how mankind usually thinks about time. There are twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year. We make plans and appointments in sequential time and live our lives trying to fulfill them.

Kairos is a word we don’t have one English word to describe. It is not sequential time, but rather, God’s time for something to happen. 

Vine’s Expository dictionary gives this distinction: “Chronos marks quantity (of time), kairos, marks quality.” (554) So how does recognizing God’s kairos time practically make a difference in our lives? Let me give a number of ways.

  1. Although we live in sequential time our priority should be kairos time. Jesus waited for God’s time to go to the feast while his unbelieving brothers had no such concern. “The right time (kairos) for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.” (John 7:1-2) 
  2. We should not be frustrated by our present difficulties but can have confidence that if we keep doing what’s right, the time (kairos) will come when we will see God’s deliverance. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and in due time (kairos) He will exalt you.” (1Peter 5:6) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
  3. History has a purpose and a direction way bigger than us, so we should be able to put all of our minor irritations in perspective.  Jesus died at the “right time” (kairos) for us (Romans 5:6); and we can be assured that Jesus will come back in God’s “appointed time” (kairos – Mark 13:33).
  4. As we respond to God’s dealings with us with a spirit of repentance, He desires “times” (kairos) of refreshing to come to us from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Posted in Mark, Matthew

God or Money?

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24

Perhaps the greatest distraction to pure devotion to Jesus Christ in this day and age is money. Who is ruling all things in our lives? Is it Jesus, before whom “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess,” or is it money? The one who actually rules our lives is not necessarily what our religion states; it’s the one we make our decisions by and find our comfort in.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Unfortunately, we in America are often guilty of seeking first “all these things” and adding a little religion on the side. Our money says, “In God we trust,” but do we really?

Jesus came across a very moral and religious young man who was bound by the power of money. The Scripture tells us that, “Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, `One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:21-22)

God wanted to free this man from money’s subtle power over him. His property wasn’t the real problem, it was his heart. In the very same chapter Jesus promises that those who have left, “houses…and farms,” for Him will receive back a hundred times, “houses…and farms,” in this life. (Mark 10:29-30) Ultimately Jesus didn’t want his money; He wanted his heart.

Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Does God have your money, or are you holding on tightly to it trying to add a little religion on the side? In these difficult days of shaking it is vital for us to be trusting God in every area of our lives.

Posted in John, Luke, Mark

Destiny or Comparison?

“So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” John 21:21-22

My wife and I were at a pastor’s convention and one of the speakers preached from Psalm 29 on the voice of God. His point was that we are formed by whatever voice we regularly listen to. He asked if we were listening to the voice of destiny or comparison.

He said that when we stop listening to the voice of destiny, the voice of comparison will take over. The fruit of operating out of comparison will either be a competitiveness that wins by making sure others lose, or a complacency that comes from self pity because we don’t think we’re as good as someone else.

The problem is how deeply ingrained comparison is in our hearts. Jesus told the disciples at the last supper that one of them would betray Him. Luke 22:23 says that “they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.” But the argument about who was the worst quickly gave way to another one about who was the best because the very next verse says, “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24) We know Peter thought he was on top from his statement to Jesus, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” (Mark 14:29)

But the text above from John 21 finds Peter in a very different place. He has denied the Lord and has gone back to fishing. He used to think he was the best, but by now, we can imagine, he is convinced he is the worst. To bring him back to his destiny Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. When he says he does, Jesus recalls him into the ministry; “…feed My sheep; …tend My flock; …shepherd my lambs.” It’s not about whether Peter thinks he’s as good at it as someone else, it’s only about loving Jesus and doing what Jesus told him to do. Denying Jesus didn’t change his destiny any more than our failures change God’s destiny for us. God has factored our weaknesses, mistakes, and even our sins into His plan.

After receiving his instructions Peter did what we usually do, he looked at the guy next to him and asked, “What about him?” Jesus said, “What’s that to you? You follow me.” Our job isn’t to keep track of anyone else’s destiny, that’s between them and God. Our job is to get our eyes off of people and on to Jesus. Let’s fight off the persistent voice of comparison, so we can fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.