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photo credit: gharness via photopin cc
photo credit: gharness via photopin cc

In Matthew 12 Jesus is in the synagogue and there is a man there with a withered hand. After He heals this man the Pharisees are furious with Him and “…conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” (vs.14)

I was struck by the next verse this morning.

But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was. - Matthew 12:15-16

This is only one of many times when Jesus healed all who came to Him.

We could look at this story from many different angles. We could look at how Jesus handled stress, or how the Pharisees hated Him, but today I have a single simple thought.

Following Jesus is a good idea.

It’s a good idea to follow Jesus, even when those around you speak with authority try to warn you off His trail.

Some may tell you that you’re too religious.

Some may say you are a fool to follow Him.

Some may say any religion leads to the same place.

Some may plot to kill is influence in your life.

But I believe that today, if you follow Jesus, you will find that He is still healing those who follow Him.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

He says

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; - John 10:27

My only response to that this morning is

Bbbbaaaaaaa

Come – let’s follow Jesus today!

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping in.

See you again soon.

Ben

 

2

question-mark

I know I said I was done, but I never did answer the question I asked the very first day.

I said in the first post about the Sabbath that when God blesses something He give is a assignment, He confers upon it the authority to carry out that assignment, and He equips it to complete what it was given to do.

For me this begs the question: When God blessed the Sabbath, what did He assign it, and what are the implications for those of us in the faith?

This Sabbath rest we have been given, this one day off in seven, so often ignored by those hoping to increase achievement, and squandered by those who simply swap work for amusement, is intended to refresh and rejuvenate us.

When God rested, He did not withdraw from creation. When Jesus finished His work on the cross, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father, but He did not disengage from that which He labored so hard to win.

Sabbath was the day, in the life of Creation, intended for worship, for reflection, for fellowship, for enjoying that which our labors have produced.

Jesus asked a question that might hold the answer for us.

And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. - Mark 3:4

Clearly the answer that the Pharisees could not come up with is that it is lawful to do good, and it is lawful to save a life.

I would encourage you to let neither sloth nor religion dictate your Sabbath activities, but I would exhort you to give a Sabbath day to the Lord. Let Him guide your activities. I don’t really care if you celebrate Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday, or if your life currently does not allow a weekend based Sabbath, fit one in somewhere.

Some might say, I can’t afford to live if I don’t work seven days a week. That may be true on paper, but I will tell you that I believe the Sabbath day’s blessing in the very beginning of time, gave it the power and authority to provide for those who honor it.

There is no quicker way to “burn out” than to skip the Sabbath.

One last thing: Pastors

You pastors, you’re included. I know many of you work on Sunday from sun up to sun down. You must take a day. And you Christians – make sure you honor your pastor’s day off. We Christians can be the worst bosses in the world. We feel like since it is the money we are “giving” that supports the pastor, that he is at our beck and call.

He is worthy of double honor, and needs to be given that day to refresh and let God stir up that wonderful gift you saw in him the day you hired him.

And that goes double for youth pastors!

Ok – I better not rant on here, or I will hurt some feelings.

Have a blessed weekend. Give your time to the Lord this week, and He will press it down, shake it together and run it over back into your life.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

I would love it if you would “like” my Facebook page here.

See you again soon.

Ben

5

meadows

As we consider the Sabbath and the Red letters, we come to today’s groundbreaking idea. Jesus seemed to thrive on turning the religion of the day on its head, and He sure did with this statement.

Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."- Mark 2:27

With this statement, Jesus is changing the framework through which we see all law (well all of God’s law anyway.)

Have you ever wondered how David could write that poem with 176 stanzas about his love affair with the law of God.

David understood something about the law of the Lord. I have an old Bible that has this verse on the title page:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. - Psalms 119:18

This is often my prayer as I open the word.

And when I read it, or pray it, I can’t help but see the word pair – “behold Wonderful” – so that my prayer runs more like this.

Lord, as I open Your word today, help me see Jesus, the Wonderful One.

The law, as we saw a couple days ago, and specifically the Sabbath was a gift from God to His people. The Sabbath is not intended as a curse or burden.

One indicator that you don’t understand God’s law, particularly under the new covenant, is when it becomes burdensome. Believe me, this happens to all of us. We look at what God is calling us into, some new level of discipleship or commitment, and we think “God, why are you putting me through this?”

When we do as the old song suggests, trust and obey, when we walk by faith and not by sight, He will lead us into more joy, more passion, more victory (perhaps more persecution, more trouble, more fiery furnaces) and ultimately more of His presence.

How often do we wield the law like a battle-axe to break others? That is what the Pharisee’s were trying to do with Jesus and the disciples. They were always finding fault. But the law of the Lord is meant to be a mirror. Consider this:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:23-25

As I read this, I wonder if we are getting close to an answer for the question I posed on Monday. What is the Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a believer?

The Sabbath was made for you! It’s a gift. It is intended for your good. As you embrace it you will find that you “will be blessed in what he [you] does [do].”

Oh, while we are on the subject of the benefits of the law, and in particular the Sabbath, I have to throw in one of my favorites here.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

The law, and in particular, the Sabbath is a gift. It was made for you.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by. I will be back on this, so come back again.

For now, for today, press in!

Ben

6

Sometimes cousins can be really different. Here I am showing my age, but do you remember the Patty Duke show? Two teenage cousins who looked exactly alike, but were different in every way – one wild and free, one poised and governed by self control.

The Bible gives us a set of cousins who are likewise considerably different.

'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. - Matthew 11:17-19

How can these two men, John the Baptist and Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of man, how can they both be servants of the Most High God, and yet be so different?

That’s what the disciples of John wanted to know, and that’s what the Pharisees wanted to know.

There is one area where they were the same.

They did not dance to the world’s tune.

The world is always trying to get us to compromise what the Lord has put before us.

John came as the final chapter of the Old Covenant. His was the closing hymn, the final chord, of a grand mournful requiem. He came preaching and demonstrating the crushing weight of unrepentant sin, and demanding that men change, and then come to be baptized.

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. - Luke 3:7-8

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus preached repentance too. I am not saying that repentance is not part of the Christian walk.

But unlike John, who dressed in an itchy shirt, ate bugs and cried in the wilderness, Jesus sat at the dinner table with all kinds of sinners.

There are two very different dinner tables we read of in the life of Jesus, Levi’s table, with tax collectors and sinners, and Simon’s table, with Pharisees and the religious elite.

These are the same two types of people that came out to John.

Neither group could influence either man.

They played the wedding march for John, but he preached a funeral message in the wilderness.

They played a funeral dirge for the Lord, and He drew them to a wedding feast.

How does the world’s tune influence you?

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to play the Christian life to the tune the world is playing, but I suggest to you today, that you tune your dial to the song of heaven.

What music would heaven have you dance to today.

Lord, help me hear from You what song You are singing over me, and let me live my life to Your rhythm. [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon.

Shine today!

Ben

 

Many Waters - SoS header

How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Mount Gilead.

Song of Songs 4:1

Before we dig into this amazing description of the Shulamite through the eyes of the Lover of her soul, I want to step and look at the birds eye view of what’s going on.

The Journey into the Image of Christ

At the end of Chapter 2, you may remember, our maiden demonstrated here own failure, her fear of walking out into that to which the Lord was calling her. Though it was the desire of her heart to run with Him, to follow Him with abandon, in the day of her first calling she held back, she hesitated.

How does the Lord correct His beloved? How does He draw her further? How does He help a Christian grow?

We see a three step plan which not only restores her, but creates a platform for growth in the very area of her weakness.

I want to remind you here. None of us come to the Lord without shortcomings and places we must grow. In fact Christianity is the only club you can join where the only entrance requirement is your lack of qualification.

In some circles the pressure to perform in a Christ-like manner beyond our actual growth creates groups of Pharisee-hearted followers to whom the Lord would say,

"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 9:13

The very fact that we are growing in Christ likeness, growing in godliness, says that we have weakness. This growth process is the Christian life. This is, in effect, one of the major patterns of the vibrant Christian life.

Three Step Plan

First, the Lord goes on without her. He let’s her feel His absence. He lets her feel the impact of her choice, the cost of her weakness. God is so good. He draws us forward into areas He know we struggle with, specifically so we can gain personal understanding of why we need to grow out of that weakness.

The next step in her (our) restoration and growth is that Christ shows up and demonstrates His overwhelming strength in that very area of weakness.

She was afraid to go out into the wilderness, so He shows up with sixty armed guards. That is quite a show of force.

Chapter four of the song we find the final step in her restoration, and we will see that she takes a HUGE step of growth in faith when it is all said and done.

Step three consists of affirmation. The Shepherd King now speaks to her for the first time since her failing manifested.

His words are not correction.
He does not speak of disappointment.
He does not speak of any weakness at all.

He affirms her, and declared into her life the beauty and character that He sees.

It is a prophetic declaration, because the Lord sees our potential, and speaks into that potential, so that we can see it too.

As with Peter on the beach after the resurrection, there is no mention of the failure here, only affirmation of who we are called to be, and who He is growing us into.

As we look at these affirmations over the next couple weeks, let them stir up faith in the Lord how is growing you into the image of His Dear Son.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Have an awesome Lord’s day.

See you again soon.

Ben

2

Super simple point today.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Matthew 9:9

In Matthew’s account it seems as though Jesus is, at this stage of the gospel, hanging around His own home town, Nazareth. (see Matthew 9:1) and He runs into the tax collector, and they connect.

Was He there paying His taxes?

I can see this going down like this.

Jesus walks up to the table or booth, or how ever it was set up. Maybe it was like the DMV and they had to stand in line with a security detail lurking about to keep the troublemakers at bay. I don’t know.

But Jesus walks up to Matthew puts His money down, looks Him in the eye, and hears the voice of the of the Spirit with a message from the Father.

“Son, this one is one of mine. I have put an Apostolic call on his life. Draw him to Me.”

Was there more to their exchange than the “Follow me” that we get in scripture? We actually see this account in three of the gospels, and in each, that is all that we hear.

Next thing we know though, Matthew is at Jesus’ house with a number of his old friends, hanging out with Jesus.

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. - Matthew 9:10

I like the way Jesus does evangelism. [Tweet This]

Lord, help me see the calling in Your folks today, and help me to draw them to the Father too.

Ben NelsonHey – thanks for stopping by.

Walk with Jesus today.

Ben

7

“I Shall Be Whole” { The Woman with an Issue of Blood } Painted by Al Young http://alyoung.com/art/work-hem.html
“I Shall Be Whole”
{ The Woman with an Issue of Blood }
Painted by Al Young http://alyoung.com/art/work-hem.html

Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" - Mark 5:30

When I read this, two things jump off the page for me.

First, Jesus sensed power flowing out of Him

Next, taking the passage at face value, He did not know where the power went.

(ok – let’s say three things)

Finally (for now) He did not cause the power to flow.

Power:

This power is tangible. Jesus could feel it flow or at least was aware of changes in it. This helps to inform me on what was up in Luke when he reports that:

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. - Luke 5:17 NKJV

Jesus carried an anointing for healing everywhere He went. There were times when He healed everyone, and there were times when He healed just one. There were times when He did amazing and over the top miraculous stuff, and there were times when ...

“He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.”(Mark 6:5)

So then – at least this time (I am loath to put Jesus in a box and say He does this under these conditions – so we will observe what He did do, but not assume that He does it exactly the same in every circumstance – is that fair?) Jesus was more or less a spectator, or perhaps a commentator on what God was doing with this woman.

She determined what to do. She pressed into proximity of Jesus. She touched Him. The power of God He was carrying responded to her faith.

Is that what happened? Does that sound too New Age-ey?

Did her faith move the power of God that was resident in Jesus without His knowledge or participation?

That’s the way I read it. How about you?

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

See you again soon.

Ben

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?

Friendship
Shelter
Protection
Equipping
Resources

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.

Ben NelsonLearn what that means!

See you again soon

Ben

9

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rode_1.jpg

Jesus is teaching a bunch of folks, seems like it might take place in His own house, as I look at the various tellings between Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Four men have a friend who is paralyzed, and they bring him to Jesus to be healed. They can’t get into the house, so the climb up on the room, and using some ropes, lower their friend down in front of Jesus.

So – What are you going to do now Jesus? You have the home field advantage, and this guy everyone knows has been crippled for ages. You could show them once and for all that you are in fact moving with the finger of God here on earth. You could stop all the naysayers, and get your own hometown behind you. You might even get some of the Pharisee’s to believe.

But Jesus jumps the rails. He gets tossed this easy pitch, and what does He do? He  changes the game.

Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. ~ Matthew 9:2

Sins? Who said anything about sins?

You may say that Jesus talked about his sin because that was his deeper need, and that is true, but I believe we can get at least one more lesson here.

Forgiveness and healing are never far parted in the Bible.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases ~ Psalm 103:1-2

But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! ~ Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)

Why the link? Why does Jesus stop the show and show us both healing and forgiveness?

Perhaps He is demonstrating to the people in the room, that He was not just an amazing healer, but that He was here to bring deliverance to the whole man.

Perhaps He was bringing attention to this permanent link between forgiveness and healing.

"But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins--then He said to the paralytic--“Rise, take up your bed, and go home." ~ Matthew 9:6

One piece of this that is of interest to me, is that forgiveness is not immediately visible from the outside, whereas healing is. When Jesus forgives the sins of this man, there is no visible change.

This may lead us to believe it takes more faith to be healed then to be forgiven, but this is not so.

The problem is the good news about forgiveness has been preached for hundreds of years, and the good news about the fact that Jesus heals has been much less prevalent. As we meditate more and more on the total salvation offered by Jesus, we see more and more men and women saved, healed and delivered.

I am so glad Jesus took the time to give us this lesson in His wonderful salvation.

Ben NelsonAren’t you?

See you again soon.

Ben

By the way, if you missed the first hand account of this day in Jesus life, you should check out "Arise, Take up your bed and walk"

2

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rode_1.jpg

This story of the paralytic who was carried to the Master by four of his friends appears in 3 of the gospels. Each of course has it’s own highlights and details.

I particularly like how it starts out in Luke’s gospel.

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. ~ Luke 5:17 (NKJV)

I love this note at the end of this first part of Luke’s tale. “the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” This intrigues me.

Luke wrote this work as a documentation of historical facts, and probably worked from Mark’s earlier account for laying out the events, but clearly gathered information from other first hand witnesses.

It is clear to me that someone he spoke with was aware of the presence of a particular power that accompanied Jesus. I suppose it could be that he is simply stating the fact that since Jesus was there, and He heals folks, that the power of the Lord was there to heal or perhaps the fact that He was teaching, and His teaching was almost always accompanied by healing. Or it may be that someone in the room had been around the Lord when He healed in the past and was able to see the tell tale signs of this healing virtue, or power.

Do you remember the account of the woman with the issue of blood? It says virtue, or power flowed out of Jesus when she touched the hem of His garment, and He sensed this flow of power.

I believe that is what the writer is talking about here, a palpable sense of the power of the Lord to heal, that someone who had been around Him for a while would be able to discern.

The sad part here is that there was a house full of people who were not there to receive, they were there to pass judgment.

Who does this youngster think He is?

I taught Him to read and write, and now He thinks He is something?

What is all the fuss? Isn’t He the one who made my dining room table?

How do you approach the Lord and His word?

How do you listen when the word is preached? Are you a judge, or a recipient.

I have a really simple point today.

Next time you sit under the preaching or teaching of the word, take off your Pharisee’s robes, and put on your student’s (disciple’s) tunic.

The Sun of Righteousness comes with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

By the way, if you missed the first hand account of this day in Jesus life, you should check out "Arise, Take up your bed and walk"

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