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Kingdom of HeavenJesus commissioned the boys to go and preach the kingdom of heaven.

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 NASB

There are more instructions that follow. But on this day, the message they were to carry is simple.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Simple message—powerful demonstration.

  • Heal the sick.
  • Raise the dead.
  • Cleanse the lepers.
  • Cast out demons.

The first two times we hear this message—The kingdom of heaven is at hand—we get the message of repentance. This time, repentance is not mentioned, but mighty works accompany these words.

Remember when Jesus told us of His mission?

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD. - Luke 4:18-19 NASB

Let’s break it down.

  • Preach the gospel to the poor.
  • Proclaim release to the captives.
  • Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind.
  • Set free all who are oppressed.
  • Proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

This kingdom of heaven comes with a proclamation of freedom—the end of captivity.

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to verify that Jesus was ‘the one,’ what proof did Jesus send back?

Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me." - Matthew 11:4-6 NASB

What evidence did Jesus offer that the kingdom of heaven was at hand?

  • The blind see.
  • The lame walk.
  • Lepers are cleansed.
  • The deaf hear.
  • The dead are raised.
  • The poor have the gospel preached to them.

The kingdom of darkness is a kingdom of captivity. Many cling to their dark chains because they are forged in fear and selfishness and the locks are made of guilt and shame.

I can’t leave satan’s realm there’s too much to lose—too much to give up.

Sometimes we preach a gospel of religion and ask people to trade one captivity for another. Give up your life of guilt and shame, and take on a new life of self-righteousness. Oh, and by the way, the guilt and shame—bring that along too.

We see Jesus preaching freedom to the captives. Freedom from all their captors, whether they are bound in spiritual darkness, or physical blindness. Jesus comes breaking every chain and sends His followers to do the same.

Is it the same today? Does Jesus still break every chain? Or has the gospel changed? Has it lost some of its power? Does Jesus still send us out the way He sent the disciples, to preach, heal, and deliver?

Lord, today I hear your call to walk with your message of freedom. Allow me to walk into villages of captivity today, and give me the boldness to preach your beautiful gospel. I ask you to confirm the word with signs as you did for your disciples. Do here and now what You did there and then.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by today.

As you go—proclaim freedom!

Ben

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The Prophecy of Agabus by Louis Cheron

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. - Acts 21:4 NASB

I have a question for you.

I've heard smart Christians, godly men and women all, come in on both sides of this question. I'd love to get your take.

Here's the situation:

Paul is traveling all over the world preaching the gospel. Everywhere he goes the disciples (Christ followers) prophecy over him. They have heard from the Holy Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem.

Agabus, by a prophetic demonstration showed him that chains awaited him there.

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. - Acts 21:10-12 NASB

Paul took it as the kindness of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave him foreknowledge of what he faced. He faced hard times as he obeyed the call of the Spirit on his heart to go to Jerusalem.

The others took it as a warning from the Spirit not to go.

What do you think? Why?

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Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. - John 1:35-37 NASB

John the Baptist has a growing ministry. Every day more and more folks are streaming out of the towns and villages round about coming to hear him rant against sin and he was baptizing them in the muddy old Jordan river.

But he, rather than grasping for more power and influence, gladly hands his followers over to Jesus.

John the Baptist saw that his ministry had one purpose – he was a GIGANTIC NEON SIGN POINTING TO JESUS.

How is it with you?

Are you a GIGANTIC NEON SIGN POINTING TO JESUS, or do you have white knuckles holding on to what following you have.

In this day of creating a following – building a platform – gaining cyber friends and followers, we can get obsessed with numbers and stats, and forget that our job is simply to point people to Jesus. If they leave us to follow Him, we have been successful.

If we have preached Christ and Him crucified and they have gone away offended at His word – we are not failures.

Let us, as we minister (what ever that looks like – writing – tweeting – or just talking with friends) send our followers off to follow Jesus. Otherwise all we have is a Christless Christianity.

Jesus – be the center of all I do today – let my words be seasoned with salt and my spirit open to your leading.

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for coming by today.

Don’t forget to shine where you’re screwed in!

Ben

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question-mark

Ok – so I know that I am stepping into controversial territory here. As you can see from my home church’s statement of faith, those who formed this church and wrote this document clearly are in the 'once saved always saved' camp.

We believe that salvation is the free gift of God, entirely apart from human merit or works, and is received through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and that believers are kept secure in Him forever. Ephesians 2:8-9; John 10:27-30; John 3:16-18, John 14:6; Acts 4:12

It would be fair to say there are good solid passionate Christians on both sides of this issue.

I could (and have) argued this from scripture on both sides of this issue.

There are scriptures that sound a lot like you could walk away from faith, like this:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. - Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB

Right on the other hand there are passages like this from Romans 8 that make it seem incomprehensible that anything could ever break a relationship forged by God Himself.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39 NASB

I have known people who have been “Christians” for decades and later renounced Christ. So did they know Christ, or were they faking, or deceived into thinking they were something they were not.

Were they play acting all along, and finally just decided it was not worth playing games.

Here’s the thing. I think the problem is not with the Gospel, and the ability of God to hold onto Christians.

I think the problem is with our gospel and the fact that we are substituting lists of things to think (creeds) for relationship. We are convincing people of facts about Jesus, and they get passionate about this information, but eventually when someone comes along with better information, or a better argument, or more charisma, they finally give up and drop the argument.

Isn't that in effect what happened with Israel time and time again? At the outset God wanted a relationship with people, but the people He chose sent Moses, and said - you talk to God for us, and tell us what He wants us to do. That is the pagan approach to a deity. What He, God, wanted them to do is talk to Him and walk with Him. Over and over in Jeremiah and Ezekiel particularly God says, 'then they will be my people and I will be their God.' (Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 37:23; 37:27)

I am not persuaded that someone who has genuinely received a new heart from the Lord, one who has gotten a heart of flesh, with the law of love written deep within could ever renounce that. I don't see how anyone into whom the Lord God almighty has breathed the breath of life, could turn their back.

We are not good at making disciples (learners under discipline) but we do OK with making converts.

Converts can be converted, disciples are ruined for life. [Tweet This]

I understand that the Bible is ambiguous in this area, and I am ok with that – in fact – I might be a tad ambiguous here too, just to keep it fair.

My plan for life and my advise to you:
Keep your relationship with the Lord real and current. Stay in His word, and obey what He tells you. Listen for His voice, and keep His Word.

Jesus only did what he saw the Father do, and only said what He heard the Father say, and that obedience served Him well. The disciple is not above His master, so you and I need to walk like Jesus.

The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. - 1 John 2:4-6 NASB

There is grave danger in the "Once saved, always saved" attitude as I learned when I went to share the gospel with a young man who I knew to be a womanizer at the time. He was living a loose life and boldly so. When I asked him about his faith, he told me he was a Christian. He had asked Jesus into his heart as a young boy, and was counting on that "prayer" to get him into heaven.

I told him the story of Nineveh, the city that repented and was 'saved' in the book of Jonah, only to be condemned in the book of Nahum without even the briefest opportunity for repentance. They had repented of their repentance. In Jonah, they repented out of fear, but they never believed, put their faith and trust in the God of Israel.

The only secure place is in the vine. If you will abide in the vine, in Jesus, and let Him abide in you, you will do well and your salvation is secure.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Abiding in the vine,

Ben

Jesus is getting ready to leave town. He has checked out of “La Quinta Capernaum” and is headed down toward the docks. As always He is set about with crowds of folks who have been hanging on His every word.

And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” ~ Matthew 8:21

I don’t think this is one of the twelve. More likely someone who was on the hillside for the Sermon on the Mount, or one who happened to be in the synagogue when He declared His messianic mission a week or so earlier. But you know what, it might be one of the twelve for that matter.

In any case, it was someone who had been following long enough to be considered one of Jesus’ students. This word ‘disciple’ means ‘learner under discipline.’

Jesus’ answer always seemed a little cold to me.

But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” ~ Matthew 8:22

I am thinking there are a couple different ways Jesus could have handled this. He could have drawn a map in the dust of the region of Galilee and showed the man where He was heading, so He could catch up again. He could have gone with this man to his father’s funeral. For that matter he could have headed over and raised his dad from the dead.

But I suspect this is not what is going on. I have a hunch that the man’s father was not dead yet.

I knew a man once who made a strong profession of faith and was following for more than a year. But he was from a Jewish background, and his elderly mom was a good Jewish mamma.

One day we were walking together and he began to ask me about his mamma’s future, since she did not know Jesus.

I suggested we pray for her, and that we ask the Lord for ways that he could begin to tell her about what a difference Jesus had made in his life, and how she should come and get to know the Messiah.

He told me he could never tell his mother that he had become a Christian. His exact words were "It would kill her if she knew I was a Christian." He could never believe that his mom needed Jesus. She was a good Jew.

I have a hunch this is what is going on here. The question is not, can you give me 24 hours to take care of my father’s remains and sit with my relatives for a while. It is more like: As soon as my father passes away I will join your band of misfits.

This is why Jesus’ answer seems so harsh.

If you want to be My disciple, stop what you’re doin’, swallow what you’re chewin’, and follow Me.

  • Not soon
  • Not later
  • Not someday
  • Not when I am out of debt
  • Not when I get married
  • Not when I am out of school
  • Not when my children are out of the house
  • Not when I retire

Jesus’ call to you today is simple – Follow Me.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you tomorrow

Ben

Hey, don’t forget Friday’s coming – got questions – feel free to drop in at Friday Q&A so we can toss some ideas around.

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Jesus is getting ready to leave town. He has checked out of “La Quinta Capernaum” and is headed down toward the docks. As always He is set about with crowds of folks who have been hanging on His every word.

And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” ~ Matthew 8:21

I don’t think this is one of the twelve. More likely someone who was on the hillside for the Sermon on the Mount, or one who happened to be in the synagogue when He declared His messianic mission a week or so earlier. But you know what, it might be one of the twelve for that matter.

In any case, it was someone who had been following long enough to be considered one of Jesus’ students. This word ‘disciple’ means ‘learner under discipline.’

Jesus’ answer always seemed a little cold to me.

But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” ~ Matthew 8:22

I am thinking there are a couple different ways Jesus could have handled this. He could have drawn a map in the dust of the region of Galilee and showed the man where He was heading, so He could catch up again. He could have gone with this man to his father’s funeral. For that matter he could have headed over and raised his dad from the dead.

But I suspect this is not what is going on. I have a hunch that the man’s father was not dead yet.

I knew a man once who made a strong profession of faith and was following for more than a year. But he was from a Jewish background, and his elderly mom was a good Jewish mamma.

One day we were walking together and he began to ask me about his mamma’s future, since she did not know Jesus.

I suggested we pray for her, and that we ask the Lord for ways that he could begin to tell her about what a difference Jesus had made in his life, and how she should come and get to know the Messiah.

He told me he could never tell his mother that he had become a Christian. His exact words were "It would kill her if she knew I was a Christian." He could never believe that his mom needed Jesus. She was a good Jew.

I have a hunch this is what is going on here. The question is not, can you give me 24 hours to take care of my father’s remains and sit with my relatives for a while. It is more like: As soon as my father passes away I will join your band of misfits.

This is why Jesus’ answer seems so harsh.

If you want to be My disciple, stop what you’re doin’, swallow what you’re chewin’, and follow Me.

  • Not soon
  • Not later
  • Not someday
  • Not when I am out of debt
  • Not when I get married
  • Not when I am out of school
  • Not when my children are out of the house
  • Not when I retire

Jesus’ call to you today is simple – Follow Me.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you tomorrow

Ben

Hey, don’t forget Friday’s coming – got questions – feel free to drop in at Friday Q&A so we can toss some ideas around.