No Rewards

And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?  But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (Luke 17:7-10).

stdas0089-3333333333333333333Yesterday morning while I was fixing my husband’s lunch, our seven year old son thought that if he did his work, he would get to play Super Mario.  In other words, he thought that because he did all of his school work he would get a reward.  He and I had a conversation earlier and I told him that he shouldn’t do things in order to be rewarded.  His father later said the same thing.  We wanted him to do his work for the right reasons.  We told him that he had done what was expected of him so don’t expect to be rewarded for it.  If we rewarded him for doing what he was told to do, he would expect this every time.  And he would not be doing his work because he wanted to but in order to get a treat.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples about faith and duty, He told them that a servant shouldn’t expect to get any special treatment or privileges from his master because he did what was expected of him.  And the same principle applied to the disciples.  Instead of expecting rewards or recognition or perks, they should just acknowledge that they had done their duty.

When we serve God, we do it out of love for Him and for others, not to get something out of it for ourselves.  In everything we do, we do it for God’s glory not for our gain.

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Paul’s Testimony

Galatians 1:13-17

paul-king-agrippa_1219951_inlIn his letter to the Galatians, Paul shares how he became a Christian. It wasn’t something he ever dreamed would happen. He was a staunch believer in Judaism and its traditions. He was filled with a jealous zeal to protect his religion and was determined to stamp out any other religion he believed was contrary to God and His law. He was bent on destroying the church. He thought he was doing God a favor. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of Paul when I read these words of Jesus, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is offering a service to God. They will do these things to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.  I have told you these things, so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them (John 16:2-4, MEV).

Paul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He kept the clothes of those who stoned him. It was clear that he agreed with what was happening. The scripture stated, “And Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). The stoning of Stephen seemed to add more fuel to his fight to destroy the church. It says that while devout men carried Stephen away to bury him and lamented over him, Saul ravaged the church, entering house by house and dragging out both men and women and committing them to prison (verses 2,3) .

Before his conversion, Paul was on fire. He was like a dragon, breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He was determined to stamp out what he perceived to be heresy so he went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any there of the Way, either men or women, he might arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1, 2). This was an attack on religious freedom. People were being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Satan, through Paul was impeding the work of the saints and the Lord had to intervene. His people had to be free to carry out His commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

So, on his way to Damascus, Saul encountered Jesus. This experience changed his life forever. Jesus got his attention in a big way. As Saul was nearing the city, a bright light shone from Heaven shone around him and he fell to the ground. Then, Jesus spoke to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” It doesn’t occur to people that when they persecute Christians, they are persecuting Jesus too. It’s the same as when we neglect to care for the needy. When we neglect doing good to others, it’s as if we are neglecting Jesus too. When the people rejected Jesus during His ministry, they were rejecting the Father who sent Him. When Saul asked Jesus who He was, Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” There was no room for doubt. Saul was persecuting Jesus when he persecuted the church, after all, Jesus is the Head of the church. Saul was attacking the body of Christ.

Can you imagine Saul, who a moment ago was breathing fire, ready to hunt down and throw Christians into prison or do worse, was now trembling like a leaf and in total shock? Probably sounding like a man who realized now that he was fighting a losing battle, he asked, “Lord, what will You have me do?” When Jesus points out something we are doing in our lives that needs to be changed, do we ask, “Lord, what will You have me do?”

Jesus said to him, “Rise up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” What a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness. Saul had been wreaking so much havoc on His people yet Jesus did not condemn him. Instead, He reached out to him, opening his eyes to what he was doing—that instead of working for God, he was working against God. And Jesus was going to use him. The Lord always has use for us—He will by no means cast us aside once we humble ourselves before Him and are willing to do whatever He asks of us. Saul was willing to do whatever Jesus asked of him. So, now Jesus will find good use for him. We learn in Acts 26:16-18, that Jesus revealed His plan for Saul to him. “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness both of what you have seen and of what I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send you,  to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’

All the time Saul was there on the road in the light, his eyes were closed but when he opened them, he couldn’t see anything. He was physically blind but could see spiritually. His sight was restored and he was baptized. And he began preaching. There was some skepticism of course as people remembered that this was the same man who had done many evil things to the believers at Jerusalem (verse 13). There are a lot of times when we are shocked to see certain people become Christians. We never saw that coming but we forget that with God all things are possible. If anyone could change people, He can and He does. Saul became Paul and his letters are what we have today to help us in our walk with the Lord. That day on the road to Damascus changed not only one life but many.

What is your testimony? How did Jesus reveal Himself to you? Are you willing to share your testimony with others as Paul did?

Spiritual Adultery

James 4:4

spiritual-adultery-editedFriends usually do things together and have similar interests.  Being friends with the world means adopting the ways of the world–accepting or condoning the things of the world.  James refers to those who are friends with the world as adulterers and adulteresses.

Adultery is straying outside of your marriage.  When the Israelites turned to other gods and indulged in idolatry, they were seen as committing adultery.  They were turning away from God to pursue other gods.  When we turn away from God and pursue the things of the world, we are having an adulterous relationship with the world.  It is like we are going outside of our relationship with God to find something else.  It seems we are no longer satisfied with our relationship with God and are searching for something better which we think the world can give us.  We cannot have it both ways.  We either choose one or the other.

John 3:16 states that God loves the world but the key words or message here is that whoever believes in His Son should not perish but have everlasting life.  The key is for those in the world to believe in Jesus and this will lead to eternal life.

God does not want us to be friends with a world which rejects His offer of salvation and lives in rebellion.  These are the people in the world with whom we are to have nothing to do with.  These are people who love the things of the world more than they love God or people who want nothing to do with God.

This is not to say that we should not go out into the world and interact with people.  We can’t avoid people.  However, we are not to forsake our faith or compromise it because we want to maintain new or old friendships or relationships.  Jesus, when He was praying for His disciples, did not ask the Father to take them out of the world.  They had work to do in the world.  He asked the Father to protect them from the Devil.  He said that like Him, the disciples were not of the world.  So, keeping ourselves unspotted  in the world (James 1:27) and not being friends with the world, means that we live in the world but don’t have the mindset of the world.  We cannot allow ourselves to be worldly.  We are to have the mind of Christ who kept Himself unspotted from the world.

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul wrote, “In the same way, the Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).  As Christians and disciples of Christ, we are to practice what we preach.  We are to live our lives in such a way that the world will know that we belong to God and that it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). 

Appearances

Mark 11:12-14

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples – John 15:8

downloadI am sure a lot of us know Christians who go to church every week, know their Bibles inside out and say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” a lot during the sermons and can sing the hymns without looking at the open hymnals in their hands. Yet, how many of us would be surprised that these same Christians are like the fig tree that Jesus curses because it bore no fruit? They look good, sound good but that is all.

As the story goes, Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree afar and it had leaves. So, He went to see if He could find fruit on it. He found nothing but leaves. It was not the season for figs but the tree gave the impression that it had figs. The leaves of the fig tree promised fruit. Apparently the figs come before the leaves. But for this particular tree, there were leaves but no figs. If it were not the season for figs, why then did it have leaves?

This fig tree is like the religious leaders that had the promise of fruit, the leaves (the outward appearance) but produced no fruit. They were the ones having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).  Outwardly they appeared righteous but inside they were filled with hypocrisy.  They honoured God with their lips but not with their hearts (Matthew 15:8).

For all their rituals, Sabbath-keeping, knowledge of the scriptures, traditions, they were spiritually barren. Much like some Christians today. For all their perfect church attendance, knowledge of scriptures and church doctrines, Sabbath-keeping, they are spiritually barren. They are of no use to God. They are not producing any fruit.

If Jesus were to come to your church, what will He find? People having the appearance of fruitful Christians or Christians actually bearing fruit? Will He find only leaves or leaves and fruit? As the body of Christ, we are not to be ornaments and bench warmers but active in our communities, families, workplaces or wherever the harvest is. No more keeping up appearances. We may fool some people and ourselves but we can’t fool the Lord. We must be out in the field, bearing good fruit for the kingdom.

What can you do today to make sure you are bearing fruit for Jesus? You want that on closer inspection, He will see your fruit and reward you. Don’t be like those who are good for nothing and useless like salt which has lost its flavour. Barren trees and flavourless salt will be thrown out. Be fruitful so that when people see your fruit, they will glorify your Father in Heaven.

When Jesus comes looking for fruit, make sure He finds some.

Mark 14:12-31

isitiLordThe disciples learned a few things at the Lord’s Supper:

  • Jesus was going to be betrayed by one of them
  • His blood would be shed for many
  • They would desert Him in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy
  • Peter would deny Him three times

It must have been hard and seemed impossible that one of them would betray their beloved Lord; that He would die; that they would all desert Him and that Peter, one of the three who were close to Jesus, would deny knowing Him.  Later they saw for themselves that all these things came to pass.

Let us not deny Jesus.  Let us confess Him before everyone.  Let us not scatter but remain close to Him.  Let us not betray Him by conforming to this world or holding on to sins or things in our lives that would separate us from Him.  Let us not put ourselves, others, the world or anything before Him.  Let us put Him first in our lives, thoughts and hearts.

 

The First Disciples

Read John 1:35-42

p_0003John the Baptist, when he was with his two disciples, acknowledged Jesus as the Lamb of God–thereby, revealing the Messiah to his disciples.  Immediately, the two disciples followed Jesus.  They heard what John had said and heeded his words.  How many of us have heard about Jesus and know of what He did on the cross but still don’t follow Him?  How many of us have been given the opportunity to know Him but have decided not to?  Our indecision is a decision in itself.  Andrew and the other disciple seized the opportunity to follow Jesus–to have a relationship with Him.  They left John who had prepared the way for others to follow the Messiah.  They didn’t doubt John.  In faith, they took him at his word, believed that the One he pointed out was the Messiah and they went after Him.

Jesus saw them following Him and He asked them what they were looking for.  He already knew because He was omniscient but, perhaps He wanted them to state their reason.  What would you say to Him if He were to ask you, “What seek ye?”

The disciples’ question answered Jesus’ question.  They wanted to abide with Him so they asked Him where He was dwelling.  Jesus invited them to go and see.  They were willing to be with Him wherever He was.  They went with Him to see where He was staying and they stayed with Him.  How many of us are willing to leave the past behind and pursue a new life–a future with Jesus? How many of us are willing to forsake our old lives for a new one with Jesus?  How many of us are willing to leave the familiar and comfortable behind and pursue the unfamiliar and sometimes hard, uncomfortable future?  Yet, Andrew and the other disciple did so.  They left their familiar life with John whom they knew, to follow Jesus whom they did not know but had long heard of.  Their faith in God’s promise of the Messiah and John’s testimony led them to go after Jesus.  We have more than John’s testimony and those of the prophets.  We have the testimony of Jesus Himself yet many of us do not follow Him.

Andrew went to his brother, Peter and told him that he and the other disciple had found the Messiah.  He took Peter to Jesus.  When we find Jesus, like Andrew, we should be eager to share Him with others.  When Jesus saw Peter, He identified him as the son of Jona and named him Cephas (Peter) which means stone.  It was Peter whom He asked to feed His sheep.  It is interesting that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him in front of the other disciples.  Why did Jesus do that?

Was it to give Peter a chance to redeem himself?  Was it to show Peter that though he had denied Him three times it by no means meant that he didn’t love Him?  Was it to reassure Peter who might have questioned his love for Jesus because of his denial?  Was it to show Peter and the others that despite what had happened that Jesus had forgiven him and still wanted him to be a big part of His flock?  He wanted Peter to carry on the ministry–to spread the Gospel–to feed the lambs and the sheep.

Peter denied Jesus three times and three times he was forgiven.  My study Bible says that Peter had been restored privately and personally but now it was to be a public matter.  He had disowned Christ in public three times.  Now he must own Christ three times in front of the other disciples.  Peter had sinned but Christ forgave him.  Handling the responsibility of Christ’s ministry was Peter’s way to redeem himself.

Jesus founded His church on Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  This was revealed to Peter by God Himself.  Jesus recognized that Peter would be a great follower–that he would achieve great things in His name, that he would bring many to God.  Like Peter, Jesus sees great potential in each of us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knew Peter would deny Him but He also knew that Peter would further the ministry, leading many to repentance.  He knew that far from denying Him, Peter would glorify Him, teach others about Him even at the risk of persecution and death.

Peter counted it worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).  Far from denying Him, Peter and the others continued to teach and preach about Jesus though they were commanded not to.  Love for Jesus and his desire to carry out His command to feed His sheep far surpassed any fear Peter might have had.  If we truly love Jesus we should be willing to teach and preach about Him despite the risks, persecution, rejection we may face.  Like Peter and the other disciples we are to take up our crosses and follow Jesus no matter what.  Like Andrew and the other disciple, we should seek Him and abide with Him.

Two Sabbaths?

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome – 1 John 5:2, 3.

Last Sabbath I read this definition in my Bible’s dictionary:

Sabbath  A holy day of rest and worship (Exodus 20:8).  The seventh day of the week, from Friday evening to Saturday evening, is the Jewish Sabbath.  The first day of the week, or Sunday, became the Christian Sabbath in memory of the day of Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:2).  Early Christians “came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7) on the first day of the week.

According to this definition there are two Sabbaths.  Are there indeed two Sabbaths–one for Jews and one for Christians?  Where in the Bible is this distinction made?  According to the Bible the Sabbath existed long before the Jews did.  So, hSabbath6Gsmow could a day be made for people who did not yet exist?  Simple.  And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27).  The word used for man here is anthrōpos which means a human being, male or female.  It is clear from Jesus’ own words that the seventh day Sabbath was made for everyone–not just the Jews.

When God created the Sabbath, He had everyone in mind.  It was supposed to be a day of rest for all of us–Jews and Gentiles. We read in Genesis 2:1-3:  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Keeping the seventh day Sabbath was so important to God that it was one of His ten moral commandments.  By His own finger, He wrote: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

Would Jesus thank His followers for changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first?  The Sabbath was created as a memorial to the creation and was written in stone which means that it was never meant to be changed.  The moral law represents God who is unchanging.  It represents Jesus who says He is the Lord of the Sabbath because He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The fourth commandment is the only one which begins with the word, “remember”.  It was given as a reminder to the Jews who were not practicing Sabbath worship while in bondage in Egypt.  So, now that they were free, they could keep the Sabbath.

As Christians, we are supposed to follow Jesus’ example.  It was His custom to worship or attend the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).  Paul kept the Sabbath.  If the day had changed to the first day of the week as some claim, why did Paul wait to preach to the Gentiles the next Sabbath instead of preaching to them on the following day?  Acts 13:42:  And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbathOn the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God (Acts 13:42, 44).  And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:4).

Compare Exodus 20:8-11 to: ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Exodus 20:11 is a direct reference to Genesis 2:2, 3.  In Deuteronomy 5:15 is a reminder that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord had delivered them.  As their Deliverer, He was commanding them to keep His Sabbath day holy.  So, we see that the Sabbath reveals God as our Creator and our Redeemer.  Just as God delivered His people from the land of Egypt where they were slaves of the Egyptians, Jesus, delivers us from slavery to sin.

The Sabbath is symbol of restoration, deliverance, liberation.  Many of Jesus’ healings took place on the Sabbath.  It was lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  There is the example where the ruler of the synagogue objected to Jesus healing a woman with an infirmity on the Sabbath, saying, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”Jesus response was, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” Jesus had loosed the woman from her bondage.  He had delivered her from Satan.  The cripple by the pool was healed from an infirmity he had for thirty-eight years.  Jesus said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:5-14).  Jesus was not breaking the Sabbath as some accused Him of doing.  He was doing the Father’s work.  He was healing people of their infirmities and of their sins and delivering them from the enemy.

Some people use Acts 20:7 to support the idea that the Sabbath had changed.  Let’s see what it says in verses 7-12.

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

This was not a worship service.  The disciples had come together to break bread.
In the Jewish community, to break bread was to share meals.  When the term “breaking bread” is used in the New Testament writings, it is either in context of the Passover Seder, or the weekly community meal (Breaking of Bread the Jewish Understanding
By: Luana Fabri). 

They were in an upper room and Paul was leaving the next day so he had lots to say to them.  This was a farewell meeting.  In fact, he spoke to them until midnight.  No weekly worship service would have lasted that long!  After he revived the young man who had fallen to his death, Paul broke bread and ate then continued talking until daybreak before leaving.  Breaking bread was a regular thing.  In Acts 2:46, 47 we read, So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Some people cite 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 as evidence of Sunday worship.  Paul wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”  There is no indication here that this was a public meeting. Paul was merely telling the church members to set aside what they have on the first day of the week and to store it up until he comes.  The person was to begin saving early in the week at home so that he or she didn’t have to wait until Paul came to determine how much would be donated.  Paul didn’t want people to still be collecting donations when he arrived.

No one seemed to have told Paul that the Sabbath had changed.  In Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and his company went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down (Acts 13:14). When he and Luke were in Philippi, on the Sabbath day they went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made and sat down and spoke to the women who met there (Acts 16:13).  One of them was Lydia, the first European convert to the Christian faith (verse 14).  In Acts 18:4, Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. Paul was a Christian who was keeping the Sabbath of the Lord his God holy.

Roman Catholic and Protestant churches admit that there is no scriptural evidence of a Sabbath change.  Read their confessions here.

The commandments are mentioned after the resurrection which makes it clear that they were still binding.  Paul wrote, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).  James in his warning against church members showing favoritism, said, If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:8-12).  John warned believers, Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  As we can see from these scriptures the commandments are still the same, why is it that the commandment about the day of worship is the one that was changed? 

There are indeed two Sabbaths–one is God made and the other is man-made.  Many Christians are worshipping on a day which God did not bless or sanctify or claim ownership of.  In the Bible, God says that He is the Lord of the seventh day Sabbath.  Jesus said that He was Lord of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath God made was for everyone not just one group of believers.  The man-made sabbath excludes Jews.  However, as followers of Christ, we ought to be following His example and keep the seventh day Sabbath as was His custom.  After His resurrection, Jesus did not ask His followers to keep the first day of the week as a memorial to His resurrection.  He would not have encouraged them to replace the day which His Father had blessed and had rested upon.  Jesus said, Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

Baptism, not Sunday worship is the memorial of Christ’s resurrection.  Baptism is the memorial of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.   Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 3:3-6).  

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5, 6) and one Sabbath which is the Lord’s.  Which Sabbath are you going to keep–the Lord’s or man’s?

The Anointing at Bethany

“Why was this fragrant oil wasted? – Mark 14:4

she-anointed-his-head-matt-26-7Before the Passover, Jesus and His disciples were at the home of Simon, the leper.  As they sat around the table, a woman whom John later identified as Mary, Lazarus’s sister, came with an alabaster jar filled with expensive oil.

As the others watched, she broke the jar and poured the oil on Jesus’ head.  It amazes me how some of them reacted.  They were moved with great indignation.  “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor,” they demanded.  Didn’t they think that Jesus was worthy of being anointed with costly oil?  He was the Messiah.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was their Teacher who came to share the Good News of salvation.  Didn’t He deserve this honor?  Mark went on to say that they criticized Mary sharply.

Jesus defended Mary.   “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”  This is true.  Sermons have been preached about the alabaster jar of oil and there are songs about it.  Mary had done a marvelous thing.  She had shown that Jesus was to be the Passover Lamb and that’s why she anointed Him. 

The disciples failed to see the significance of her actions.  They were more concerned with the things of this world.  John tells us that Judas Iscariot was those who objected to what Mary did and spoke about giving the money to the poor but he didn’t care about the poor.  The poor would not have seen any of that money because Judas was a thief and was stealing from the moneybox (John 12:6).   And Jesus made a very good point.  The poor would always be around but He wouldn’t be.  Mary always seem to know how precious little time she had with the Savior and always made the most of it.   She had given Him her best.  This was her way of doing something for Jesus–giving Him something that was valuable in gratitude for what He had done for her.  While her sister Martha was preoccupied with serving, Mary’s focus was on Jesus.

Before this time Jesus had told His disciples that He would die and be raised up on the third day.  Mary knew that Jesus was going to die and she came prepared.  She brought oil to anoint Him for His burial.  She accepted what the disciples couldn’t bring themselves to acknowledge–the Lord was going to die.  The disciples didn’t want to think about this.  Mark mentioned that they were afraid to ask Him what He meant (Mark 9:31, 32).  It didn’t fit in with their idea of Jesus and His kingdom.  They, like many others, believed that Jesus would overthrow the Romans and set up His kingdom.  They believed that Jesus’ kingdom was of this world.  Some people tried to force the issue (John 6:15).  When He was before Pilate, Jesus made it clear, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). 

The disciples still didn’t get it.  In Acts 1:6, they asked Him just before He ascended to Heaven, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were still expecting Him to set up an earthly kingdom before He left them.  It was perhaps in this kingdom which they argued about who would be the greatest (Mark 9:33, 34).  Yet in the kingdom in heaven which Jesus came to set up, greatness has to do with service to others.  It is the humble who are exalted, not the great or the proud.  Mary is not remembered for any greatness but for a simple yet profound act of love.

Matthew tells us that when Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him (Matthew 16:21, 22). Peter and the other disciples didn’t want to hear about their Lord, the Son of the living God being killed.  On the flip side, Mary who had heard the teachings of Jesus did not recoil in fear of His impending suffering and death.  Instead she prepared herself and Him for that moment.  And Jesus commended her for her “good work”.

Mary showed such love and devotion to Jesus that it’s a shame she was criticized for it.  It occurred to me that some of the people were acting self-righteously.  It was as if they were saying, “How could she waste money on expensive oil?  I would never do that.  I would use the money to help the poor.”  Are we the same way?  Would we have said to ourselves, “I wouldn’t have done what she did.  I would have given that money to help our church to spread the Gospel or to a charity.”

Do we find ourselves criticizing those who, through their actions show their faithfulness and devotion to Christ in ways we might not have thought of?  When at church do we find fault with other believers?  What should we do instead?  What can we learn from this story?

  • Always put Jesus first.  He is more important than anyone or anything else, even the poor
  • Give your best to the Lord
  • Expense or cost doesn’t matter when it comes to expressing love for Jesus
  • Don’t let criticism discourage you
  • Don’t defend yourself.  Let the Lord do that
  • Love in action
  • Don’t be critical of others
  • Don’t be self-righteous

The Importance of Prayer

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.  And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:  Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor – Luke 6:12-16

MH900409444When it comes to making big decisions what do you do?  Do you call a friend?  Do you struggle to make a decision?  Do you put off making a decision?  Or do you seek God in prayer?  Before choosing the twelve disciples whom He also named apostles, Jesus sought His Father in prayer and spent all night communing with Him. He had a big decision to make and needed wisdom and guidance.  He was setting an example for us.  When faced with big decisions or life changing situations, we need to go straight to the Source of all wisdom and knowledge.  He knows the beginning and the end and He knows what is best for us.

Prayer is extremely important.  It is our best option when faced with tough choices or trials or problems or challenges.  When Solomon was faced with the daunting task of ruling God’s people after his father died, he sought God in prayer.  It was a beautiful prayer and it even pleased God.  “Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.  Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:9, 10).  Solomon was young and wanted to be an able leader for the people but he knew that he couldn’t do this without God’s help so he appealed to Him to give him the tools he needed to be an effective leader–wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer is our connection to God who cares about us and is ready to provide whatever we ask for.  Jesus encouraged persistent prayer.  He encouraged us to pray in faith, believing that what we ask for we will receive.  Instead of worrying, Paul advises us “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).  Many times I have been overwhelmed by something going on in my life and I turned to God in prayer. In the midst of my anguish, I feel God’s peace come over me, calming me, assuring me that He will get me through this.

Seek God in prayer daily.  Daniel prayed three times a day.  You can pray anywhere and anytime.  As you are sitting on the train on your way to work, you can pray.  As you fix breakfast, you can give God thanks and ask Him to help you get through your day.  You can pray as you walk to the bus-stop or the office.  That’s the beautiful thing about prayer, it is not limited by time or place.  And God is always there, just waiting to hear from you.

Prayer is a privilege we should never take for granted and should always take advantage of.  Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross has made it possible for us to have easy access to God through prayer.  Thanks to Him, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

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