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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Proximity to Jesus

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:1-2)

Jesus, apparently in an effort to get high enough to be able to speak to the entire crowd, goes to the top of a conveniently near-by mountain. Next, up came his disciples, while the crowd remained below. There’s a pretty clear separation that we can see here: we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got His disciples, and then we’ve got the untold masses below. Now, perhaps someone put up a sign that told the masses gathered below not to come up to where Jesus was, and Matthew simply forgot to record it, we don’t know. However, as far as we do know, the crowds didn’t come up because they didn’t want to.

They, apparently, preferred to hear Christ’s teaching from a safe distance. A distance, where they could quickly disappear from if Pharisees showed up… Yet, they were still allowed to hear Christ’s teaching, right along with the Jesus’ disciples, who had actually come up the mountain to be with Him. So, what’s the real difference between the masses, and the disciples? Both parties had the chance to follow Jesus around and hear Him speak, but only the masses could hurry off, and not be caught if those opposed to Jesus showed up. So, was the crowd actually in a better position than the disciples, who were physically closer to Christ, were?

Well, it’s true that physical proximity to Jesus doesn’t matter that much. However, Jesus does reward their willingness to openly follow Him later. Only the Disciples got to witness Jesus curse a fig tree. Only the Disciples got to hear Him say, “Peace be with you.” when He appeared to them after His crucifixion. But now, let’s get back to being realistic; how does any of this apply to us? Certainly it’s good for the Apostles to be able to climb the mountain and be physically close to Jesus, but so what? It’s not like we can do that.

The Apostles teach us a lesson: when we walk Spiritually close to Christ, He’ll walk close to us. – When we make Him the focus of our day, and when our aim is to please and to give glory to God, Christ will show Himself to us in new and sometimes unexpected ways.

So, which are we? One of the masses who hears Christ, but will run off the moment opposition arises, or a disciple, to whom Christ reveals Himself in new and different ways?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Interpretations and Applications

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13-16)

Jesus is fulfilling yet another prophecy, not exactly anything new. Except, this particular prophecy is quite vague. All it says is that the land of Zebulun and Naphtali would see a great light. Couldn’t that easily mean something as different as those areas would merely experience a very sunny day? Who is Matthew (aside from a Holy Spirit inspired author of the Bible) to say that this prophecy was of Christ?

Well, a pretty obvious reason for Matthew’s saying that the prophecy refers to Christ, is that he’s Holy Spirit inspired, and so has that authority. Another possible answer would be to draw the line backwards: i.e. to see that Christ went to those areas, and so the verse must refer to Him. A third possibility is to simply look at Isiah’s Character, and draw the conclusion that this man doesn’t make casual prophecies about the weather, and so the verse must have some sort of further meaning. Which, in this case, would be that it was referring to Christ. So, is it one of the three? All three? Something else entirely?

The New, explains the Old. Matthew knew that Jesus is the light which illuminates hearts and minds, and chases away the darkness. Matthew also knew that Jesus was physically passing through Zebulun and Naphtali, so he made the reasonable connection. Which is why we can come to the conclusion that the New Testament, explains the Old Testament. Take this example:

But to each one of us(A) grace(B) has been  given(C) as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives(D)
    and gave gifts to his people.”[b](E) (Ephesians 4:7-8)

(The actual verse, Psalm 68:18, says that God received gifts from men). Paul tells us that grace has been given to us, and then misquotes a verse to confirm what he said. The doctrine he was trying to teach, allowed him to find a verse, and explain it according to how it applies to us. Back then, in the Old Testament, God received gifts from men. He received their sacrifices, and led those captive to the law. But now, He gives gifts of grace to all who ask, and leads captives of grace. As was said, the New explains the Old.

Now, trying to do what Paul and Matthew did can be dangerous, because we have to be sure that we’re interpreting a verse correctly. Otherwise we could see a random verse, and decide that it means something completely wrong. The base rule though, is that the interpretation must actually make sense, and go from applying to the people in the Old Testament, to applying to us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Running to God

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:8-11)

And now we see what the Devil truly desires. His temptations have been continually escalating up to now: first he tries to convince Jesus to turn stones into bread. When that failed, he tried to convince Christ to throw himself off a building. When that also failed, he resorts to offering Christ the World, if He’ll just bow to him. In each of these attacks, notice that we never see Christ asking, “Why me?”, or raging that He’s being tempted. We don’t see Him irritated at Himself for not being able to keep the Devil from tempting Him. We don’t see Him panicking at His situation. And we certainly don’t see Him going to “doctors” for medication to help Him deal with the over-whelming depression the Devil’s put Him into. No, we see none of that. Rather, we see Jesus simply quoting the Bible, and in the last case, telling the Devil to leave.

We, likewise, aren’t to be frightened when we are tempted. God promises to be our refuge, if we’ll only run to Him; to His word, so we really have no reason to get worked up. – It happens to everyone, older or younger, without exception. Even babies are tempted to be selfish, and only care about themselves, and not care about how much sleep others in the family get as a result.

The point being this: temptation is nothing new. Satan tempted Jesus Himself. We aren’t suddenly non-Christian if we fall under the Devil’s scrutiny. So, when we are tempted, let’s run to our shelter; run to the living Word.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Interpretations

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:5-7)

Now, here we see the Devil actually telling a part-truth. He’s quoting an actual verse, and is quoting it correctly. And in fact, he’s even applying it to Jesus semi-correctly… And if Jesus hadn’t compared that verse to the rest of Scripture, He may have thought that the Devil made a good point.

Now, Jesus, and us, are about as different as can be, but the Devil uses the same basic principle that he used on Jesus, on us. i.e., he’ll sometimes use Scripture, taken out of the context of the rest of the Bible, to confuse us. Our problem is that once we see something which we think may support what we want, we tend to latch onto that, and not look at what the verse’s context may say. We need to learn to see if God is pointing us there, or if it’s the Devil. So, for the sake of example, let’s look at a random verse and draw what conclusions we can from it:

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.(O) (Psalm 91:13)

Taken out of context, we can easily draw a very wrong, and very dangerous conclusion: that we can go jumping on lions and snakes without ill effect. But when we look at the context of the verse, we see that the psalmist was using this as an illustration (and an illustration only) of what the wo/man that loves God will be able to do. (See verses 9, and 14-16 to see the context I’m talking about). The Bible never lies, and I’m not saying that it does. However, sometimes we can see things in a light which they are not meant to be seen… Something which begs the question, “What’s the right “light”?”

I’m not some sort of authority that’s able to say what the exact right way to understand every word of the Bible, correctly, is. But, that being said, Paul  does gives us a clue about how to do it:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom(A) as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] (B) I came to you(C) in weakness(D) with great fear and trembling.(E) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words,(F) but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,(G) so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.(H(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul calls what he did, “preaching”. Now, what is true preaching, if not expounding on the word of God? So, it’s safe to assume that he expounded on the word of God. (And, evidently he did it correctly, as he claims to have come to the Corinthians with wisdom from God). – But how did he expound the Scriptures? He says two things that tell us:

  1. He says that he proclaimed to them the “testimony about God”. Now, this could easily mean almost anything, because we don’t really know what the “testimony about God” is. But the second thing he says clarifies it for us:
  2. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. So, we can draw a parallel between his resolution to know nothing while he was among them, but Christ-crucified, and his preaching to them.

Christ’s death is the way to understand Scripture, as according to Paul. Something we can see if we return to the verse we used as an example earlier:

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.(O) (Psalm 91:13)

We’ll be able to “tread” on the Devil’s power and lies, because we love God. (The Devil is described as a lion, and at one time actually appeared in the form of a snake. In the first case, we see the Devil’s “power”, and in the second, we see the Devil’s lies. Thus it isn’t unreasonable for us to draw the conclusion that God is referring to the Devil here, through the psalmist.) Yet, why should God protect us after everything we’ve done against Him? Because His son died to forgive us of what we’ve done wrong.

The point being this: in every verse we see, we’re to look at it in context, and we’re to see how it can relate to the cross.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today was one of my dad’s days off from preaching, so we decided to go to a different Church. The sermon was wonderful, though I’ll admit to being confused at the title: “Nothing Can Stop Us Now”. That aside though, he preached out of Luke 8:40-56. His three main points where as follows:

  1. We are not to doubt Jesus’ power. The example he used here, was of the people who laughed at Jesus when He told them that Jairus’ daughter was only sleeping. [vs. 52-53] – They doubted Christ.
  2. We are not to trust in the power of man. Here he took a slight step back, and started talking about the first incident mentioned in the verses he was going off of. – A women who had a “discharge of blood”, being cured. A little more specifically, he talked about how, before coming to Christ to be healed, she had gone to doctors to be cured. (For the record, I’m not, and neither is the pastor, trying to discourage anyone from seeking medical help. However, his point was that we should be trusting in God, and not doctors, to heal us. And if God chooses to use doctors to heal us, so be it.) [vs. 43]
  3. His third and final point, was that we should trust in Jesus. Here, he returned to the formerly dead girl who had Jesus had raised to life, as well as to the healing of the women. – We are to trust Jesus to heal us, not men. Whether the disease is something physical, or not. [vs. 44 and 54-55]

Feel free to share any thoughts you have.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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Temptation

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:1-4)

There are two particularly clear things to learn here: first, don’t let yourself get over-anything. The Devil attacks hardest (or, at least seems to) those who he believes to have the weakest defense. – We just have to ask ourselves to prove this, when would temptation affect us the most? When we haven’t slept in a week, or when we’re well rested? (Now, for the record, I’m not saying that Jesus’ fasting was something wrong. Fasting can be a good thing. But during the time you fast, you need to be particularly careful and watchful.).

The second thing which Jesus shows us, is to use Scripture to defend ourselves when Satan attacks. Christ, who is the living word of God, is the only way we can defend against Satan. By ourselves, we’re completely helpless to do anything except give in to temptation. Even Adam and Eve, who had everything perfect, and who actually talked and walked with God, still gave into temptation. So who are we, who don’t exactly live in a perfect World, or have ever seen God, much less talked to Him, think that we can stand up against Satan’s attacks by ourselves? We can’t! Our only hope in every matter, is to run to the Word – to run to Christ. He died to save us, He won’t let us fall to Satan if we ask for help.

So, in general, the point is this: we shouldn’t starve ourselves physically (except for short periods of fasting), or Spiritually, by depriving our Spirit of the Word. That, and when we’re attacked by Satan, regardless of our physical condition, we should always run to Christ for protection.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Zealots and Lessons

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:1-4)

“Repent! For the kingdom of God is near!” zealot-preachers, are a dime a dozen (at least, now they are. Perhaps there were a couple of these “end of the World” preachers back in those days too.). Loonies living in the desert and eating locusts for religious reasons? Also quite common. So what separates this guy? What makes John special enough to earn him a mention in the Bible? (Aside from the fact that he’s fulfilling the prophecy made about him). And, perhaps more importantly, why should any of this even matter to us?

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)

John is in the Bible to teach us several important lessons. The two we see here, are that:

  1. We should know our place compared to God’s. John says that he isn’t even worthy of trying Christ’s sandals, and he was right. We, who are now sons of God, are somewhat different. But, being that as it is, the fear of God is still the beginning of wisdom.
  2. That we shouldn’t be afraid of persecution or taunting. That being said, we shouldn’t take our attire, or our meal choices, from John. The point, being that we shouldn’t be afraid of other people’s opinions of us, so long as those opinions derive from our being Christian. We should be some-what concerned if people consider us prideful, or arrogant (and we should be very worried if those things are actually true).

Christ did both of these things: He, when He came to Earth and became a man, recognized His place before God [Philippians 2:6-7], and He was the exact opposite of being afraid of persecution or taunting. We see Him doing these two things most clearly, on the cross. Where, though He was being both taunted and was enduring the ultimate in persecution, He forgave His tormentors. And where we see Him submitting to God – recognizing His own fully human and fully God state, to be both inferior and equal with God. Thus we see Him submitting to death, and at the same time over-coming the sin of the entire World.

The point being this: John tells us to

  1. Now our place. And,
  2. Not fear man, but to fear God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Strength in Weakness

Hello again!

Yesterday we finished up with Hebrews, so now we’re going to take a leap back in the books of the Bible, to the Gospels, to look at the two (Matthew and Luke) that we didn’t read before. – This is what God gave me today in His word:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, (Matthew 1:1-5)

Well, this is quite an interesting way to open up a book. What could we possibly learn from a string of names, like this one here? — Well let’s take a closer look at them:

Jesus is the son of David the adulterous, of Jacob the deceiver, of Judah, who was also adulterous, and of Ruth, the Moabite. Not exactly the most impressive heritage ever. – Though, granted, He was also the son of  God almighty… – So, why did God chose people such as these to be the ancestors of the Savior of the World? Wouldn’t it have been better for Him to choose the best of the best?

Well, no, in fact, it would not have been better. God uses weakness to show His glory for fully. When Jesus died on a cross, it seemed like He was defeated, rather than victorious. Yet that was how God chose to save the entire World, and because of it, His power is shown even more clearly (i.e. He has power to use even a cross). God also used those specific people, to give us hope. – He used even them; He used even a cross, so, in spite of our weaknesses and failings, perhaps He’ll use even us.

The point is this: yes, we’re weak, and yes we have failings, but so did Jacob, and look where he ended up. So, rather than worry about what we don’t have; whether it’s courage, ambition, or something else entirely, let’s focus on what God can do. – Use even us to spread His word.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Eternal Covenant

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Now, notice the first half of the above the verses: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,” Now, people in the Bible writing down a prayer that God would equip someone, is nothing new. In fact, its down right common in some sections of the Bible. Except, this part is somewhat new: “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” Now what is this doing here?

Just what it should be doing: pointing to Jesus. Well, specifically, it’s pointing to the “eternal covenant” of Christ’s blood. A covenant, which apparently is how God equips us with, “everything good” that we may, “do His will”. “The blood of the eternal covenant” (which by context, we can see is the “eternal covenant” of Jesus’ blood. i.e. that if we believe in Jesus, that God no longer has reason to seek justice for our sins) is how God chooses to disarm the powers and authorities of Satan, and it’s how He chose to equip us with everything good.

Now, we’ve talked about this several times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Christ and His death is all-important! This is just another confirmation of that. Our goal should be to look for Christ in everything, in doing that; in studying the eternal covenant, God will give us “everything good” to do His will.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

Note: I’ve decided to close this post to comments (track-backs, etc., are excluded from this). I appreciate everyone’s point of view, and you can still contact me at this address: mikes_son_joshua@yahoo.com Thank you for your understanding.

 
 

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Acceptable Worship

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:26-29)

We should indeed be thankful that we have an unshakable kingdom. – After all, Christ gave His life up as a sacrifice, so that we could have that kingdom (along with many other things). However, the bit after ‘let’s be thankful’ may seem a little confusing. “Let us offer to God acceptable worship”. At first glance, it’s really quite straightforward: we’re to offer up acceptable worship to God. Not much to it. Yet, we must ask, what is acceptable? What is the distinguishing mark between unacceptable, and acceptable worship? Is not all worship, worship? And as such, acceptable in any and every form which it comes in?

God doesn’t want just any kind of worship. He doesn’t want pagan forms of worship, in which He is put level with all the fake “gods”. He doesn’t want false worship, which is not worship at all. No, He wants worship which He can delight in; which He finds acceptable. So, again, what is acceptable?

Well, we know for a fact that Christ offered acceptable worship when He was crucified. – Jesus’ crucifixion was an act of worship, because there has never been, nor ever will be, a time which brought more glory to God. And bringing glory to God, is pretty much what worship is. – Otherwise God would’ve never raised Him from the dead. So let’s look to Him for an example. There are a couple of specific points about Christ’s worship to focus on:

  1. His act of worship involved sacrifice. Jesus’ type of sacrifice only had to be made once, and could only be made by Him. Thus, our sacrifices are on a far less dramatic scale. An acceptable act of worship now, would involve “sacrificing” time, money, or energy.
  2. His act of worship served others. As with His sacrifice, Jesus’ act of worship at the cross only needed to be made, and could only do what it did, one time. Thus, anything we do to serve others, can at most, involve Earthly things. Unlike Christ, who served others by giving up His very Spirit. But we are still to serve others, in whatever way which God calls us to.
  3. His act of worship spread the Gospel. Granted, Jesus’ act of worship was the Gospel, but, in that, it was also the greatest spreader of it. That aside though, any acceptable act of worship, spreads that which saves, and gives glory to God: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So then, the point is this: we are commanded to offer acceptable worship. Acceptable worship, is not comfortable worship (which is unacceptable). God wants us to grow up into Christ [Ephesians 4:15], and one way which we do that, is by offering worship like Christ’s. – Sacrificial service which spreads the Gospel (along with, no doubt, many other attributes).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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