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Stack of Bibles

It’s another red letter day, and that means Jesus is speaking today.

Jesus speaking to the “Jews” [aka – the religious leaders in Jerusalem] and He says:

You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. - John 5:38 NASB

These are men who live in the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Pharisees, as I understand it, memorized vast amounts of scripture. They would have considered themselves to be full of the words of God. They were the ones who “kept” the law in more than one sense. The likely oversaw the work of the scribes, ensuring accuracy. They committed it to memory. They strove to follow every dictate of the law, and, in fact, took the basic teachings of the law and broke it down for all to understand.

They took, for example, the law of the tithe…

Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S; it is holy to the LORD. - Leviticus 27:30 NASB

…and when their wives went into the garden and gathered up a fist full of mint, they stopped and separated a tenth for their offering to the temple.

They took the words of the Lord seriously, holding to every letter of the law.

But when they came face to face with the embodiment of God’s holy Word, they hated Him.

They were so focused on the letter of the law – how can we manage to keep every single precept – they missed the point of the law – Love the Father with everything you are and love your neighbor in the same way you care for yourself.

They were so used to looking at the back of the tapestry, they didn’t recognize the finished work of art when He walked right into their temple and began to heal and teach.

When Jesus says this – “you don’t have His word abiding in you” – He harkens back to the prophecies about the New Covenant.

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. - Jeremiah 31:33 NASB

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. - Ezekiel 36:26-27 NASB

There’s a place where I start shouting – Hallelujah!

So – what about you?

Are you a home for the Word? Does God’s Word [aka Jesus] find an abiding place – living space – in you?

BN Writers Page 150I’m glad you stopped by today.

Thanks for coming.

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

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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

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.

We can bring our friends to Jesus. [Tweet This]

Why not do it right now? There is someone on your heart, someone who needs their sins forgiven, someone who needs their body mended. Perhaps there is a broken relationship the Spirit is highlighting.

Let’s bring our friends to Jesus today.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

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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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.”

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Have a Red Letter day.

Ben

 

Related article: Spiritual Healing by Keri Wyatt Kent

 

WaterPot
photo credit: MicheleLovesArt via photopin cc

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.

Jesus said:

Fill the waterpots with water. ~ John 2:7

Too random?

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.

Ben NelsonSee you again soon

Ben

10

Don't Neglect the Infrastructure

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.

That word ‘will’ (the first one - thelō) means:

1)    to will, have in mind, intend

  1. to be resolved or determined, to purpose
  2. to desire, to wish
  3. to love

2)    to like to do a thing, be fond of doing

  1. to take delight in, have pleasure

(BlueLetterBible.org)

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.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

The Preacher

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?]

Ben NelsonMore tomorrow

See you then,

Ben

Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm

“Wind and sea at his beck and call!”
Mark 4:41

Hush

Matthew

The strangest thing happened yesterday. I have to tell you this story. I would never have believed it if I had not been right there on the boat.  Every day with Jesus is just amazing, but today . . . I’m not even sure I can make you believe this. I’m still running through it in my head. Thomas and Andrew and I compared notes all the way back from the docks tonight.

It all started this morning as we left the synagogue. Right in the middle of the crowd, a leper walked up, and Jesus healed him on the spot. Then a Roman soldier stopped us and talked with the Master about his servant. When we got to Peter and Andrew’s house, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. She’d had a fever for months, and just like that, she was back to serving us Sabbath dinner.

We spent a few blessed hours around the table, laughing and talking and always learning. Somehow, Jesus managed to teach us about the kingdom of Heaven even when He was just playing around with us.

As we left the house, we found a multitude of people pressing in at the door. The sick and infirm covered every inch of yard and street. There were beds and stretchers and people lying in the dust. Here and there were men and women who looked possessed.

Mind you, it was already after sunset, but Jesus went to each one. He asked what they needed, and He ministered, touched, loved, and cared for every single one of them. He spoke their names. He touched their wounds. He held their hands. He rebuked the demons. He didn’t leave until every single person was whole.

What an amazing day it was! Right? But there was more to come! I thought we would spend the night at Peter’s house, but Jesus headed down to the docks. He climbed right on Zebedee’s boat—the one James and John brought up a few days ago.

Jesus asked John to head for the other side of the lake, and then He went to the stern and lay down on the cushioned bench across the back. He was asleep in minutes.

Suddenly, the wind picked up, as it often did on the Sea of Galilee. Before I knew it, the waves went crazy, crashing over the sides of the boat. The water rose to my knees in minutes.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John ran bow to stern, port and starboard, yelling words I didn’t understand. After all, they practically lived on boats.

They told me to grab this, haul that, crank the other thing. I’m a tax collector! What do I know? They shouted to me to wake Jesus before He drowned.

We all screamed to Jesus, while two of the boys tried to ready the lifeboats. The sea opened wide, threatening to swallow us whole. I thought we were going to die.

Finally Jesus awoke and dropped His feet down into the water on the deck. He stretched as He rose slowly to His feet, like He wasn’t quite awake yet. We continued to shout:

“Master, save us! We’re going down!”

“Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

“Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

At that moment, the most astonishing thing happened. He looked over the port side of the boat, just noticing the storm crashing around us.

“Hush! Quiet down,” He said.

In an instant, the sea was as flat as glass. It was as though the smallest ripple would shatter the perfect reflection of holiness that surrounded us on every side.

He turned to us, and I could not read the look on His face. Was He angry? Amused? Was He just exasperated with us? Honestly, I’m still not sure. I was in shock.

“Why were you afraid?” He asked. Then I looked down and noticed the deck was dry. “Where is your faith?”

I looked over at Thomas, and I think we said in, unison, “Who is this? What kind of person can talk to the wind and the sea and they obey?”

I’m still trying to figure out what He meant. He asked us where our faith was. He wanted us to see that waking Him shouldn’t have been necessary; we should have been able to deal with the storm ourselves.

He was so calm. I think He actually went back and finished His nap, but I’m not sure I will ever be able to sleep again. With three simple words, the peace that let this man sleep in a storm silenced the wind and the waves.

What manner of man is this?

~~~

To read the original story, see Matthew 8:1-27, Mark 4:35-41,
and Luke 8:22-25.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

Many Waters - SoS header

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

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_fig

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.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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.

Thanks for coming by today.

See you next week

Ben

Casey Lewis from Christianity Matters tackled one those huge questions back on Tuesday of this week. This is one of those questions that when left unanswered, leaves people feeling guilty and filled with shame. I love how Casey answered this question, and I thought it would be a nice addition to Friday Q&A here at Another Red Letter Day.

I hope you will interact with Casey, and check out his blog. He is a good writer and has a heart for the Lord that will bless you.

Unforgivable Sin

What is the unforgivable sin? Who can commit it? How do I know if I have committed it? These questions run through our mind when we hear someone tell us there is a sin that will not be forgiven.

What is the unforgivable sin? In order to answer the question let me start with what it is not.

What the Unforgivable Sin is Not

In Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus says,

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

It is not sin in general or speaking against Jesus – Jesus tells us sin or rebellion against God will be forgiven. Even speaking against Jesus will be forgiven.

It is not Suicide – Some claim if you commit suicide, you can’t be forgiven because you can’t ask for forgiveness. But that is a misunderstanding of the gospel. We are not forgiven because we ask for forgiveness every time we sin. No, we are forgiven based on Christ’s work, not ours. We are forgiven because we turn from our sin to God (repentance). We are forgiven because we believe Christ took the punishment we deserve on the cross (substitution).  Read more

What is the Unforgivable Sin? | Christianity Matters.

Do you have questions – or some topic you would like to discus in the this forum? Click the link in the side bar and ask away.

Ben NelsonSee you again soon

Ben

 

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