I'm so excited to announce the release of my new book:
Encounters With Jesus.
This book was birthed right here at Another Red Letter Day. My interaction with this wonderful community of faith has encouraged me to write, and keep writing. So I want to say a huge thank you to all of you.
It is available in both Kindle and paperback editions.
I'm hoping that you'll share it with your friends.
If you have not been following my blog, let me bring you up to speed.
Encounters is a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus. What is striking about these stories is the way they look through the eyes of the people He touched.
What would it have been like to be on the boat when Jesus calmed the sea?
How would it feel to see your son raised from the dead?
How would you react if Jesus asked you to sell all that you have?
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross?
I walk through the life of Jesus from before His conception to His resurrection speaking in dozens of voices.
To those of you who have shared life with me the last few years as a blogger, I hope you will join me in praying that this simple approach to the life of Jesus will draw men and women to Him. Will you pray with me for the impact of this book?
If you’re on the fence, here are some reviews and such:
I have to tell you, it’s another Red Letter Day today and I want to talk with you about some pretty serious Red letters. Jesus said:
But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’
He was at a reception at the house of His new friend and follower Matthew. The place was crawling with the lowest of the low in the day’s Jewish economy.
When the Pharisees begin complaining about this He gives them this quote from the prophet Hosea to think about. Here is His full comment:
It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."~ Matthew 9:12-13
To tell a Pharisee “go and learn” is quite a slap in the face. These are the men who have spent their life learning. These are the scholars of the day. As I understand it they were required to memorize most, if not all of what we call the Old Testament, certainly all of the books of Moses.
These men knew the law, and kept it. When God demanded 1 tenth of their increase, they would apply it right down to mint leaves, and cumin seeds, one for God and nine for me.
But they did not have compassion.
You see righteousness man’s way leads to a rigid and judgmental heart. When we define a relationship with God in terms of the keeping of the Law, we end up with a system that is always comparing.
A system based on who makes the biggest sacrifice leave everyone a loser. The one who has the least to give feels worthless, the one in the middle falls short, and the one on the top gets puffed up with pride.
A system based on compassion on the other hand makes everyone a winner. If you dare to open your heart to those around you, you will find that your offering of love may take empower the recipient and the giver.
When I say offering, I am not necessarily talking about a money offering.
What does compassion give?
What would you add to the list?
Let’s get free of this stinking sacrificial system. The sacrifice has been made – Jesus – once and for all. Our job is to LOVE, to have Compassion and Mercy, to offer Grace.
As we ponder this story from the gospels of the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, I am energized by what we can see clearly in Mark’s account.
And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. And being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” ~ Mark 2:3-5
I really only want to pull two words out today: “their faith.”
Who “their?” you may ask.
As we noticed last week, the house was full of skeptics, and there was only one “who” in the stretcher, so that leaves the deconstruction team on the roof.
Jesus saw the faith, the expectation in these men. That expectation was clearly expressed by the lengths they were willing to go in order to get their friend to Jesus. They were willing to risk some real world trouble, and face some serious consequences in order to get their friend to Jesus.
This is so encouraging to me today.
For one thing, nothing is said about the one in the stretcher. When you have been sick or disabled for decades, it is pretty hard to stir up any expectation. You, as likely as not, will build up barriers against such expectations, and protect yourself against having hope spring only to be dashed once more.
But what I learn here is that we can bring our friends to Jesus.
I don’t want to build some magic doctrine that says everyone we pray for will be saved or healed.
But I will say this. We can bring our friend to Jesus.
We can do it with our words,
we can do it with our prayers,
we can do it with a posse,
you can do it in that chair.
Today, let’s look at this encounter at the pool of Bethesda.
When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” ~ John 5:6-7
This is another wonderful story of Jesus and His ministry. And it certainly turned out to be a red letter day for the man at the pool, but I want to make an observation about how we guard our hearts, and can miss what the Lord is holding out to us.
Jesus asks a simple question. “Do you want to be made well?”
I wonder whether this man had not yet heard any of the stories of Jesus healing those who came to Him. Otherwise, why would he keep coming to this pool where his chances were slim.
In any case, observe with me how he answers Jesus.
He does not say, “If You are willing,” like the leper.
He does not say, “If you are able,” like the man at the bottom of the mount of Transfiguration.
He does not say, “If I can just touch His clothes,” like the woman with the issue of blood.
He does not say, “Just the crumbs from the table would do the trick,” like they Greek woman.
He does not say, “Yes Please,” my personal favorite.
He just begins to lay out reasons that it will never happen.
This is a defense mechanism many who have been struggling with the same issue for decades use. This man has probably been carried to every place miracles were reported.
After 38 years of infirmity, you might get tired of trying. You might still go to the pool, but you are not really expecting anything from the Lord.
You have done it all.
You have gone to the meetings when the healers came through town.
You have read every book on the subject of divine healing.
You have put your hand on the TV when the Televangelist prayed for the sick.
You sent your money in and received the “blessed” handkerchief in the mail.
So when Jesus shows up, rather than saying, “Yes Lord,” you begin to brace yourself for another disappointment.
I love that none of that stopped Jesus from breaking the power of the 38-year-old sickness.
I pray today that you have not given up. I pray you, yes I am talking to you, will hear the voice of Jesus asking, “Do you want to be made well?” And I pray you will not be afraid to simply say, “Yes Lord.”
Today is another Red Letter day! Do you feel it? Today, Jesus is talking about Waterpots! Well, He is to me anyway, and I want to share it with you.
Fill the waterpots with water. ~ John 2:7
You might be right.
Out of context?
I guess so.
But that is what jumped off the page, so let me just poke it and see if it moves.
Jesus is at a wedding and the host has run out of wine. His mom brings this to His attention, He resists, but mother knows best and simply tells the servers to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Now there is some good advice! Do whatever Jesus tells you.
He takes a look around and sees six waterpots, each of which would hold 20 or 30 gallons.
His instructions are simple. “Fill the waterpots with water,” and you know the rest of the story. One hundred twenty (or maybe one hundred eighty) gallons of the best wine.
The picture here is of our Father, the Master Potter, who formed you in your mother’s womb. He is about to repurpose you.
You were born a waterpot, but the Father is going to use you as a vessel for something much more potent than water. He want to fill you with Living Water – the Wine of the Spirit of God.
When the Father breathes the breath of life over these waterpots, they become vessels of honor.
They bring joy to all around them.
They solve the problems faced by their neighbors.
They change the atmosphere.
They extend the party.
God has taken the leaky bucket of your life, and refashioned you into a vessel, a carrier, a distribution center of the most precious and wonderful, the most powerful and life changing, the most transformational … awww, I can’t find the words.
He fills you with Himself, and makes Himself available to others through you. What a plan! [Tweet This]
Fill the waterpots with water!
Lord, fill me today, and help me to be a vessel of honor dispensing Your life to all around me.
Today, I have some random Red Letters for you because today is another Red Letter Day!
There are tons of folks out there who want to tell you that Jesus’ words are unreliable, that they can’t be trusted. Some of them are scholars who have spent decades researching ancient languages and documents. Others are those who use seemingly impenetrable arguments and logic to “prove” the Bible to be full of holes.
Jesus makes a statement in John 7 that helps me to understand who I should listen to.
If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. ~ John 7:17
Before you can believe anyone’s theology, you need to take a peek at their life. Jesus tells us that the only ones who can rightly judge Jesus’ doctrine are the ones who desire to do the will of the Father.
Do you see it? Only people who are trying to do the will of God have the right to judge the word of God. [Tweet This]
So next time someone tries to talk you out of something Jesus told you – check the fruit. If this is a person whose main desire is to do the will of God, who is striving to walk in the light, and bring light to all around – he might be a good source. But on the other hand, if he is casual about life in general, and careless about the will of God for his life – that is a bit suspect.
If he or she simply rejects Jesus altogether, your job then is to simply love them, pray for them, and preach the Word (Jesus) to them. Leave the rest up to Him.
I know I posted an Anniversary post back on June 9 - but that was my blogging anniversary. Today is the official Word Press Anniversary for Another Red Letter Day.
I am so thrilled and honored by this wonderful community of readers and writers. I am actually quite astounded at the new friendships I have forged in one short year.
Word Press tells me that I have received 19,386 page views as of about noon today. That boggles my mind. There is part of me that can't believe that anyone would care to keep coming back, but many of you do, and I am honored and amazed.
I think I counted 119 country listed in my stats - WHAT - until a year ago my voice could hardly make it out of the NY-NJ metro area, let alone to 119 countries.
The potential power of this platform blows my mind.
Thanks you Jesus! and thank you word press for making this wonderful tool for spreading the Red Letters, and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, to those of you who read and share. You're the best!
Hey - by the way - if you missed yesterday's post - Hush - check it out - I think it is my favorite ever
Oh - yeah - and don't forget to turn in your questions for Friday Q&A! It's great fun to hear everyone's take on those tough Bible conundrums. Click the link in the side bar, or email me at: Ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com
I have been pondering 1 Corinthians 15 for a while, and would love to work through some of it here in this wonderful forum. So I am taking a break from Matthew and going to poke around here in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 for a bit. Here goes:
Paul is going to define the gospel for us in this passage. This is actually to my knowledge the only place in the Bible where it comes right out and says, “This is the gospel.” For me, that is cause to sit up and take notice.
Before we get to the gospel itself, let’s look at the delivery method:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
1) The gospel was preached
2) The gospel was received
3) Those who receive stand
4) Those who receive are saved
5) Those who receive hold fast
Let’s take each of these one by one.
The gospel preached
There are those who quote Francis of Assisi as having said:
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. ~ Francis of Assisi
We love this. Friendship evangelism. And you know what? As groundwork, to earn the right to speak into people’s lives, it is often the right choice. We like to quote Jesus’ own words for this one:
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35
Please notice here, however, Jesus did not say, “by this all will become my disciples,” but that they will know where you stand.
Our love for one another, and for the lost are integral parts of our Christian walk and testimony, but they do not replace the preaching of the gospel.
Consider Paul’s words in Romans 10.
“WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher? ~ Romans 10:13-15
Check this out:
it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:21
And of course from our passage today:
The gospel which I preached to you, ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1
This is what Jesus did, and what the taught the disciples to do.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. ~ Matthew 10:7-8
God has chosen preaching as the vehicle to deliver this wonderful commodity. It can not actually be caught rather than taught. As we will see in the next day or so, there are words involved in the gospel, so it cannot be passed on wordlessly.
What is Preaching?
There are actually two words for preach in the New Testament. The more common is the word “kēryssō,” which means to proclaim with authority. This is the word used when we are commissioned by Jesus at the end of Him ministry to:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. ~ Mark 16:15
But that is not the word used here in 1 Corinthians 15. The funny thing is that the word for preach here, is virtually the same word as gospel.
The word for gospel or good news in the Greek is “euaggelion,” while the word for preached is “euaggelizō.” It is as though Paul good-newsed them with the gospel, if you get what I mean.
It is not unlike the way we use “evangelize” today.
The evangelicals evangelized those who had never heard the “eveangel” (gospel/good news)
Here this: None of the love and good deeds, kind words, smiles and random kindnesses are wasted, or go unrewarded. They are just not the gospel.
So here is the question for the day:
Have you good-newsed anyone lately?
[Please don't take this word as a condemnation of where you have been. I only ask that you open your spiritual antennae to the Holy Spirit today and look for divine appointments. Listen for the words which He will give you. That is the only basis on which we can preach - the words He puts in our mouth - deal?]
For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers have already appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for pruning the vines,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. ~ Song of Songs 2:11-13
OK – I have to come clean, last week I kind of high-jacked Saturday, and rather than looking at the ripened figs in the context of the Song, I talked about false conversion. It is a valid message, and you all are very gracious, but, it had little to do with this developing love story. Forgive me?
So here we go with figs and grape blossoms.
In my reading I see that figs take about 70 days of warm weather to ripen. They are a bit unpredictable, but they need some warm weather to fill out. So we are looking at a place mid to late spring, at least for my part of the country. It has been thawing out for about a month and a half if the figs are ripe.
Grapes on the other hand blossom for a very short season. Because there is such a cluster of grape blossoms, one for each grape, they almost self-pollinate and get right to growing into grapes.
As an indicator of season change, with the addition of the grape blossom, I am sensing some urgency in the Shepherd King’s tone here.
There is a real get up and go to His call to our maiden. It reminds me of Jesus words to His disciples:
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. ~ Matthew 9:38-39
As I have said, we go through seasons at different times and in different speeds. Is the Lord calling you out of the chamber today and into the harvest? Does that seem like a frightening prospect?
Come back next week, and you will find you are not alone.
Today, I am thrilled to share a question from our good friend Debbie. Here it is in her own words.
Hi Mr. Ben! I’ve been reading in 1 Thessalonians and wondered if you could talk about vs 4:13-18. It’s where Paul talks about the dead in Christ rising first. I was just a little confused. Is he talking about their physical bodies, since wouldn’t they already be with Jesus? Thanks for your help! God bless you!
Here’s the text:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
So – I thought Friday Q&A was going to be easy – LOL
First, I have to thank you Deb for bringing me to this scripture today (Monday). A dear young woman we have been praying for over the last couple years as she fought a wicked cancer went home to be with the Lord today, leaving behind her husband and four beautiful young children, as well as her extended family, and her family of faith. It has been a sad day.
Sad because she will be so terribly missed. Sad because her kids face a tough adolescence and their teens without her daily tender care, and for so many more reasons.
But today was also a joyous day. In the words that her 13-year-old son wrote on her medical chart “Today there will be rejoicing in heaven” (as I heard it.)
So I am glad you brought us here Deb.
To the question let’s break it down:
In Paul’s writings this idea of being asleep in Jesus is not about sleeping through the sermon on Sunday morning. It is referring to those who have passed from this life, through the door of death, into the presence of the Lord.
We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:8
That said, he (Paul) does use this idea of asleep in the Lord a lot.
Let me give one more disclaimer there. There are lots of strong opinions about end times. I used to be really dogmatic about a “Pre-Trib” rapture, but since, have seen a good many other wonderful interpretations of these somewhat enigmatic scriptures.
So if what I say here does not line up with your understanding – that’s ok – you can share yours as long as you follow the rules below.
Here goes. (buckle on your thinking helmet so we can bounce some ideas around)
God – heaven – the throne room – all that great stuff is outside of time, or at the very least works on a different schedule
That is why we get things like – Jesus, the lamb slain before the foundations of the earth
That’s why on Isaiah’s day in the throne room in Isaiah 6, he overhears God asking for volunteers in the Godhead to redeem mankind.
That’s why John at age 90ish witnesses the scene of Jesus making His grand entrance into heaven and offering His blood to the Father in Revelation 5 at which time John sees you and I among the 10,000 times 10,000s around the throne.
When a believer dies – he/she is with the Lord. I don’t know for sure if that is instantaneous, or millennium forward, or perhaps millennium backwards. I don’t know if we will be conscious of a time (well - is it time?) before our body is resurrected, or if we get plucked out of time for a period and hang out in heaven as spirit beings. (I pick this one)
There will come a day and a time, when everyone (every Christian) who has not seen an earthly death will be taken up. This is commonly called the rapture. Call it what you want, those who have not tasted death will be called out of what we know now, into what lies ahead. At this time God will add bodies to those who got a head start. I don't know if that is the first trumpet call, the last call, or if they are both the same trumpet call, but when the trumpet blows - I am out'a here.
I believe this all take place shortly before the ultimate worship service John sees. Where the elders throw down their crowns, and we all worship God, and He presents His dearest and most precious son to all creation. I believe we will all be eye witnesses to Jesus presenting His blood to the Father. One translation of the event in heaven in Revelation 5 say "and I saw a lamb having the fresh marks of slaughter." This is the pivotal moment in all of history, and you and I will be there in person!
Much of what is confusing about God, heaven, eternity, and all of that get’s easier to hold loosely if you consider that God is not bound by time as we know it. Time is a creation, like matter, and so it does not have the same kind of impact on God as it does on us.
In our world God works with time, but in His – I don’t know – maybe not.
What do you all think? Is that just a little too Sci-Fi for you? Forgive me.
This one thing I know – Jesus is not just the key figure in human history, He is the central figure of eternity. [Tweet This]
Thanks again for the question Deb. Did that help, or did your head explode?
Join in the conversation – just remember the rules: