Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Poem

This is a re-post of my original Christmas poem.

It’s the Christmas season
and we all know what that means.
Shopping, pageants and parties
with stress in between.

It’s the time of the year,
when we think more about our fellow man.
We show our love by giving gifts
to the less fortunate when we can. 

But, why be so nice
just at this time of the year?
Could it be the first Christmas
that we remember so dear?

When a long time ago a man Joseph
and his wife Mary,
Traveled a long way on a donkey,
the unborn Christ child she carried.

Back to the city from where Joseph
had once belonged,
To be counted for the census
they journeyed, the two of them alone.

When they arrived in Bethlehem
the city was filled within,
With fisherman, tailors and merchants
                        and all their next of kin.      

            Mary was tired and weary
                        with her time drawing near,
            To give birth
                        to a Heavenly Child so dear. 

No room in the inn
            and no warm bed,
They found shelter with dry hay
            in a barn instead. 

That night the long awaited babe was born,
            a gift greater than gold.
Fulfilling a prophecy the ancient saints
            had long ago foretold. 

With awe and love in her heart
            Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
And placed Him gently
            in the cattle’s troth. 

Angels worshipped and sang and
            there shone a great heavenly light,
out in the fields as the shepherds
            watched their flocks by night. 

“Go to Bethlehem
            and worship the newborn King,
for God has sent us a Savior”
                        the angels did sing.           

            What a joy and fulfillment
                        that first Christmas to tell.
            What great love God gave us
                        in Christ Jesus, our Emmanuel.           

            Why can’t we show love toward others
                        the rest of the year,
            And not just at Christmas time
                       should we care?           

            So don’t let your heart be a busy inn
                        and no room for thee.
            May it a cradle for the Living Christ
                        and His nativity.           

            Be thankful to God
                        in all He has done,
            Loving one another, for in His
                        power we have won.          

            With all our hearts and souls
                        we must ask Him to be our own
            and He will always comfort us.
                        We will never be alone.           

            To those who choose to follow Him
                        He will take away all our sin.
            Praise to God and may peace on earth
                        bring good will year long to all men.
                                    --- Linda Vittitow

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Matthew 13 Part 1

Up until this chapter Jesus had preached in the synagogues, which became more and more difficult.  The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees watched with critical eyes just waiting to accuse Him and tear apart His message.  Now He begins to teach outside the synagogues in homes, on the seashore, in the desert, on the roads, and anywhere people gathered to hear Him.  Many people gathered around Him, but most were confused and indifferent to His message.  They heard with their ears, but chose not to respond with their hearts.

He began to speak to them in parables.  A parable is a story that illustrates lessons and truths or as I have heard people say, "An earthy story with a heavenly meaning."

Matthew 13:1-23, Luke 8:4-15 - The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:3-8 - "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." 

The disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the people in parables.  Jesus responded by saying that the secret of the kingdom of heaven has been given to the disciples, but not to the people.  He said, "Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." - Matt. 13:11-12.   In other words the more we seek and desire Him, the more our understanding will increase; those who are willing ignorant to hear the Word, it will be harder for them to understand.  Then He quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matt. 13:14-15.

The farmer or the sower is the believer, follower, or disciple of Jesus.  The seed is the Word of God.  The soil is a person's soul or heart.  Jesus explains the parable in Matt. 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15 .  There are 4 different places or soils the seeds are sown:  1.  Along the path without much soil - someone who hears the message, but does not understand it because he has a closed mind.  2.  Rocky places - one who hears and receives joy, but that joy lasts only for a short time.  3.  Thorns - those who hear, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth make them unfruitful.  4.  Good soil - those who hear the word, understand it, accept its authority, and produce good crops or fruits.

The reasons the good soil produces crops are in these scriptures:
John 14:15 - those who obey God's commands will yield good crops.
John 15:5 - those who remain in God bear much fruit
Acts 5:29 - those who obey God rather than men
Phil. 2:12-13 - those who continue to work and act according to God's purposes.

Through the Holy Spirit we Christians sow the same seed when we preach, teach, or speak about the truths of the Bible.  God calls us to sow His seeds and to trust Him to give life where He will.  Each time you read the Bible or hear it spoken, the seed falls on the soil of your heart.

What kind of soil is your heart?.
What change will you ask God to make in the soil of your heart?

Jesus says the evil one, Satan snatches away the message of the kingdom. Satan snatches the message away today in many ways.  People hear God's Word and don't understand it.  They do not try to understand it by reading and studying the Bible.  They are not regular church goers - they go when it's convenient.  Satan makes them busy with life like soccer or golf games on Sunday mornings, their jobs, etc.  It's all about them, when it should be all about Jesus.  They simple do not seek or desire Him.

Jesus described the disciples'  privilege.  They are blessed that they can hear and see the truth.  Their hearts were open and they were seeking Him and trying to understand.

How are you actively seeking Him?
Do you take time for Bible study and prayer daily?

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 - The Parable of the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30 - "Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'  "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'  "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

In Matt. 13:36-43 Jesus explained the parable.  The two sowers are Jesus and Satan.  The good seed is Jesus.  The field is the world.  The weeds are the unbelievers (those who have never received eternal life from God).  The wheat is the believer.  The enemy is the devil or Satan.  The harvesters are the angels.  The harvest is the end of the age when Jesus returns for judgment.  "While everyone was sleeping" means that while we are least expecting Satan, he slips in.  We need to be alert at all times.

Satan plant weeds (unbelievers) in churches among the Christians (wheat) and sometime it's hard to tell which ones are true Christians.  Only when Jesus returns and the harvest (judgment) begins will we be able to tell the weeds from the wheat.  That doesn't mean we should stop planting and sharing God's message.

At the end of the age the weeds will be burned up.  "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear." - Matt. 13:41-43.

There will be judgment when Jesus returns and judgment is forever.  God will punish.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." - Rom. 1:18.  "For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." - Acts 17:31.  "God is just.  He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubles.." - 2 Thess. 1:6-7.  This world is not all there is. 

Which are you, weed or wheat?
Do you know where you will be going, heaven or hell?
Do you resist God's Word?   When you do, you resist Him.  When you receive God's Word, you receive Him.
Have you come to Christ in faith and repentance?

Make sure you are not a counterfeit Christian.  Ask God to show you the condition of our heart.

Your response to God's Word has consequences now and forever.
People are responsible to hear and receive God's Word.
Counterfeit Christians will be recognized and removed from Christ's church.
Jesus said those who hear His Word are blessed.

See you in January 2014 for Matthew 13 part 2.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Matthew 11-12

Matthew 11:1-19 - Rest From Doubts

Jesus continued to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee, but His ministry had increasing opposition.  While John the Baptist was in prison, he heard what Christ was doing.  He send word by his disciples to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" - Matt. 11:3.  Why would John ask this?  Perhaps he thought God had forgotten him and that Jesus would come and rescue him.  Maybe he thought Jesus would rise up as a political king.  He was probably depressed and kept in a dungeon and even tortured.  Doubts may have set in.  He didn't realize this would be so hard.  He is like people today with confusion and doubts when times get hard.  When we doubt, we should bring it to Jesus just as John did.  He understands and will be there to assure us.  Jesus answered by pointing John to the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament telling him Isaiah's words were being fulfilled and that Jesus was the one.

Are there times when you doubt?
Did you take your questions directly to Jesus?

Isaiah's prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus' ministry:
Isaiah 29:18-19 - The deaf will hear, the blind will see and they will rejoice.
Isaiah 35:5-6 - Again the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be unstopped, the lame will leap, the mute will shout for joy.
Isaiah 61:1-3 - He preached the good news, bound the broken hearted, comforted the mourners.

Jesus told the crowd that no one was greater than John.  "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." - Matt. 11:11.  John was the greatest because he was chosen to testify to the world about the coming of Jesus, but in heaven the lowest ranked person is greater than John because Jesus saved them from their sins.

God reveals Himself and removes doubt as we sincerely seek Him in His Word.

Matthew 11:20-30 - Rest From Rules

The people in the cities of Galilee heard Jesus' teaching and saw His miracles, but they did not repent.  Jesus compared them to Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.  These were sinful cities God brought great judgment on in the Old Testament.  The Galilee cities would experience greater judgment, because had Jesus and witness His miracles and still did not believe.  They needed to confess and believe if they wanted eternal life.  How scary!  We today have the whole story of Jesus and how He forgives, yet people today still do not repent.  If people do not repent, their judgment will be even greater than the Galilee cities.

The Bible has warnings and rules, but rules are not where salvation come from.  It's all about the heart.  We worship God because He has given us grace.  He reveals Himself to us not because we deserve Him, but because He loves us.  We are to worship Him and Him alone.

Jesus gives us a beautiful invitation in Matt. 11:28-30 - "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  He promises to  give us rest, if we lean on Him He is always there to help, comfort and guide us when we are down or stressed or overworked.  When we let go of our control and lean on Him, that's when we get rest.  A yoke is used to direct oxen.  His yoke directs us.  Follow Him and He will direct you.

True rest is found only in Jesus Christ.

Are you tired of trying to fit into a mold that God never meant you to be in?
Do you let Him guide you and give you rest?

This doesn't mean you will never get tired serving Him.  There is nothing more fulfilling than to be weary in service for God.

Matthew 12 - Eternal Rest

The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by attacking His disciples.  They accused them of breaking the Sabbath when they picked grain to eat.  Jesus points out examples of David and his men when they ate the consecrated bread on the Sabbath when they were hungry.  He also pointed out the priest did sacrifices on the Sabbath yet were innocent.

Jesus also healed a man on the Sabbath which the Pharisees questioned.  Jesus said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (Matt. 12:12).  Jesus saw human suffering and did not worry about people pleasing.

The Sabbath is all about being with Jesus.  It was not about rules, but about spending time with Jesus.  They lost sight of the dos and don'ts and forgot about mercy.  The Pharisees then went out and plotted how to kill Jesus.

Jesus then healed a demon-possessed man.  The people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" - Matt. 12:23.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said it was by Beelzebub, the prince of demons that it was done.  Jesus knew their thoughts and said, "If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself." - Matt. 12:26.  Jesus calls Satan "the strong man" and those under Satan's control his "house". 

Jesus talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a sin that will not be forgiven.  What is a sin against the Spirit?  It is the sin that continues to reject the Spirit.  He always forgives when we repent, but it you do not repent and believe then that is a sin against the Holy Spirit.

We must all give an account on the day of judgment for every careless words we have spoken. (Matt. 12:36).  Our words are so easy, but so powerful.  Words are what is in our hearts.  Words can acquit or condemn.   Ask God to show you where your words need to change so they will not come out again.

The Pharisees ask for Jesus to show them a sign that He was from God.  Jesus said they were wicked and adulterous for asking.  He used the sign of Johan being in the fish for 3 days and the future sign would be Jesus' resurrection in 3 days after His death.

Jesus said if we get rid of evil or sin in our hearts and replace it with nothing, then it comes back even stronger.  We need to replace it with God. (Matt. 12:43-45).  You can't take a neutral position.  To be indifferent is to be against Jesus.

Jesus invites you to be part of His family in Matt. 12:46-50. 

Those who follow Jesus are part of His family; those who reject Him are excluded.

Do you have the privilege of being in God's family?
How do your words show you are a part of His family?

See you next week for Matthew 13.