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photo credit: via photopin (license)
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;
He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers.
Each one was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit.

Song of Songs 8:11 NASB

Is what you’re doing fruitful?

I know—I’m meddling. My dad used to say to the pastor, after a particularly pointed sermon, you’ve gone from preaching to meddling.

So here I am today - meddling.

Jesus expects fruit. He expects a harvest.

Think of the parables Jesus tells of the master who gave his servants talents according to their abilities.

We know about the man with five who doubled his money, and the one with two who did the same. They hear the words every christian hopes to hear when reckoning with the Lord.

His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' - Matthew 25:23

But what of the one who hid his talent? Listen to the rebuke he receives.

But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. - Matthew 25:26

Not words I want to hear when I settle accounts with the Lord.

Most preachers today will tell you that because of the blood of Jesus, we will all hear those words - ‘Well done.’ This implies that we can continue to be 'wicked and lazy,' after Christ bought and paid for us with His own blood. His precious blood will hide the fact that we have buried our talents and gone on with life as usual. I’m not sure that’s so. It sounds a lot like hiding our lights under a bushel.

The point of being light is to shine.

The point of having seed is to reap a harvest.

The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is ministry. There is a lost and dying world that desperately longs for a touch from the Spirit of God. [Tweet this]

There is good news. Notice in this parable of the talents when He gave the talents—this spiritual currency—He gave according to ability. God does not expect anything from you that is beyond your reach. He has equipped you—predestined you—to manage what He has given you.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10

You can do this!

You can bear fruit.

You can please the Father.

Simply put what God has given you to work—your gift—your talents—your abilities.

Get them out in the field.

He will bring the increase. He loves to breathe life on the things we do in His name.

BenHeadshotOK - enough meddling for today.

Get out there and shine, beloved.

Ben

4

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal. - John 6:27 NASB

These red letters jumped off the page this morning, and I heard the Lord asking me:

What are you working for?

I’m bringing home the bacon.

I’m making bread to put in the bank.

Putting food on the table.

Am I totally missing what Jesus said here?

Is He really giving us a direct instruction not to work for food, but to put all our labor toward eternal food, and that all our payment will come at His hand?

As Fagen says in the Musical “Oliver:”

I think I’d better think it out again!

Ben NelsonJust thinking aloud.

Thanks for coming by.

Ben

2

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

10

Born Again is not a Brand of Christianity. It’s not the trademark for a sect of ultra conservative or fundamental believers.

As I look again at these words in John 3, I am struck by the fact that Jesus is not trying to create a new denomination, He is explaining to a man of the word a fact about the Spiritual world.

You see, He is telling Nicodemus that the kingdom of God is not a physical place.

Until that time, if you asked anyone, well at least if you asked a Jew “What is the kingdom of God?” they would simply answer “Israel.” It was that simple and pretty obvious.

Then Jesus comes on the scene and starts taking about the ‘kingdom of God’ and sometimes interchanging it with the ‘kingdom of heaven.’

[Fun Fact: Jesus used the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ forty-three times plus twenty-nine times He spoke of the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ these later  are all in Matthew’s gospel. Of course with four tellings of many of the events in Jesus’ life, I can see where some of these might be repeats, and some of the ‘heaven’ ones may be repetitions of the ‘God’ ones.]

Check out Jesus’ language here:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." ... Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:3, 5-7 NASB

The idea Jesus is trying to set up for Nic is that it is not physically possible for a man without the Spirit of God on the inside to even see – let alone enter the kingdom of God.

It’s not about the obtaining of a golden ticket, or getting your name on a church membership card. It is about becoming the right species of being.

You wouldn’t wonder even for a minute if I told you that you couldn’t live at the bottom of the sea unless you were born again as a mackerel. [Hey if you were born again again then you could be a holy mackerel – sorry – I couldn’t resist] You need gills – you need fins – you need an appetite for seaweed or krill. You would need to be a new creature.

And so it is with this idea of ‘born again.’

You need to be changed in order to survive in – or even see the kingdom of God, because it is not a physical kingdom. Only one who is born of the spirit can see it.

That’s why Paul says:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

The good news is that it’s not complicated:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13 NASB

Do you believe in – put your trust in – follow – obey – Jesus?

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:17 NASB

So – there you go – you have to be born again as spiritual being with spiritual breathing apparatus to follow this king.

Does any of that make sense?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for reading today.

I appreciate you.

Ben

 

 

2

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? - Matthew 7:15-16 NASB

Is Jesus confused?

Didn’t He mean to say, judge him by his creed? …his denomination? … his credentials? 

Fruit? 

[Tweet This]

We are talking false prophets here!

Shouldn’t we examine every word and try to catch him (or her) in a mistake, and error, and foul heresy?

Don’t get me wrong. I hate it when folks twist scriptures. I hate it when people spew false doctrines.

That’s what makes me crazy about this scripture.

Jesus says, “you will know them by their fruit.”

Well then…

Hey – thanks for coming by.

It is a red letter day – let’s listen to the red letters today.

Ben NelsonShine in the darkness in which God placed you.

Ben

5

treeDo not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. - Matthew 7:1-2 NASB

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ relates our judging of one another to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The idea is that when we judge others, we are in effect relying on our own ‘knowledge of good and evil’ to make sense of what someone else is doing or saying, which is after all the forbidden fruit.

This was the temptation that brought down the entire human race! I want to be like God. I want to be able to distinguish between good and evil, and I set myself up as judge.

The thing is, the very eating of this fruit, bars access to the tree of life. When we judge men, we presume to KNOW them. We become pretenders sitting in Christ’s judgment seat.

How many times have I eaten this fruit, only to find it rotten in my belly? I judge, I pronounce my decision on the matter, then God opens the matter up for all to see. I have created wounds where I should have been offering the healing balm of Christ’s compassion. I build walls that separate between my brothers and me, rather than pressing for unity, and love.

The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is poison and brings death. [Tweet This]

There is a tree of life.

Let’s choose better fruit today.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Shine where you're screwed in!

Ben

4

GreaterGlory

That’s the question Nicodemus asked Jesus when Jesus said this:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. - John 3:3

And again when He reiterates it in verse 7

Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:7

Today, I am going to draw together from a number of places in the Bible what it says about how you can be Born Again.

First, let me be clear. The phrase Born Again has been used as though a Born Again Christian was a particular flavor of Christian, but that is not the case.

Born Again is just one of the ways Jesus and the Bible describes becoming a Christian. You can’t be a Christian and not be Born Again.

Some of the other terms for those who are Born Again in the Bible are:

  • Christians
  • Believers
  • Followers of the Way
  • The Body of Christ
  • The Bride of Christ
  • Followers of Jesus
  • The Flock of God
  • Redeemed
  • Saved
  • Sheep
  • Laborers in the Kingdom
  • Friends of Jesus
  • New Creations
  • Children of God
  • The Church
  • The saints

Becoming a Christian is sometimes referred to as entering the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

So I will start with what Jesus says right here in John 3 when describing how to be born again to Nicodemus, but we will expand it a bit to include some of the things Jesus said about following Him, and some of what Paul said about the Christian too.

Paul is a really good source for this information since most of his writings were addressed to the Church (the community of Born Again people) specifically.

Back to John 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.

In the midst of this conversation, Jesus uses the word “believe” three times and then John comes back and repeats it at the end of the chapter just in case we missed it above.

The key verse of John 3, and perhaps the most familiar bible reference in the word, John 3:16 has oft been called the gospel in a nutshell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Right on its heals, Jesus lays out this staggering contrast.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18

And John finishes up the subject at the end of the page with his own contrast.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. – John 3: 36

Please notice in these last two verses we go back to the fact we have mentioned before, a man without Christ is both under condemnation and the living in the wrath of God.

Also notice in verse 36 the contrasting word to believe is ‘not obey.’ In the Greek it is apeitheō – where we get the word apathy. John contrasts believing and just doing nothing. Hear this, the wrath of God abides on those who hear the Word of God and just do nothing. This is why over and over in His preaching Jesus talks about those who hear and do, and James exhorts us to be doers of the word.

[Sorry – I am starting to preach – that was not the plan here]

So – the first thing we learn about HOW to be Born Again is to believe – trust in – obey Jesus.

Is there anything else to it?

Check this out:

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14-15

When talking to Nicodemus it was just believe, but here we have another element.

Repent.

I have written and taught extensively on repentance and its wonderful power to bring us victory over sin, but let me here give a simple explanation of repentance.

The word simply means to change your mind, but Paul lays down some instruction on how to allow this change of mind actually transform your life.

Remember in Romans 12:2 that Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so repentance, or changing our mind, is the key to moving from the wishy-washy worldling you once were into the image of Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul tells us exactly how to repent:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

Repentance is not tears at the altar it is a passion for purity wrought over time until your body, mind and soul are free of that which once enslaved you. [Tweet this] Glory to God!!!

So we have repent and believe, is there more to being Born Again?

Let’s look at Romans 10. When I was a kid, a young man at the time taught me a simple way to remember this verse. He said it was dynamite! Spiritual TNT – Romans Ten:Nine & Ten (TNT)

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. - Romans 10:9-10 (now that’s dynamite!)

This confess is not the same as telling someone you sinned. What is meant by confess here is simply tell someone you believe in Jesus.

This is why when we baptize folks we ask them to give their testimony before they go under the water. They need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and believe in their heart  - in what? – in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Now we have Repent – Confess – Believe.

So Ben, are you telling me that if I DO these things I am automatically a Christian.

I could try really hard, even get passionate about beating my sin.

I could tell people about the fact that I am a Christian.

I believe all the things they tell me about Jesus, and for sure I believe He rose from the dead. Am I a Christian now?

Strangely enough – even though we talk about what you must do to be saved, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms, that it is not about things you can do.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

You can’t by your own effort be born again, just as you had nothing to do with your first birth. You could not make it happen and you could not stop it.

You do get to choose to believe – to trust – but that is the extent of what you can do.

There are bunches more places we could go to look at this topic, but that is all I have time for today.

Tomorrow I am going to take one good long look at what this salvation is. And let me tell you, it’s a BIG DEAL.

Thanks for coming by today.

If you have never known Christ in this way, and want to, it’s not difficult, and you don’t have to wait till you get your act together (because that day will never come – I promise)

Today, if while reading this you felt a tug somewhere inside – that was the Spirit of the Living God inviting you to come – inviting you to be Born Again.

God is not willing that any should perish (die without Him) but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Repent today – start by telling Him you’re sorry for anything He brings to mind that has offended Him, then follow Him through that repentance. Put your trust in Him today, and tell somebody about it. (I would love to hear about it – either below or via email  - ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com)

Ben NelsonThanks for reading. I know these are fairly long posts, and I appreciate you taking the time to read all the way to the end.

Walk in the light today.

Ben

9

 

The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. - Matthew 12:42

It strikes me this morning that Jesus is a big deal.

I am sitting here, honestly in a bit of a funk, and I hear the voice of my Wonderful Savior whisper sweetly in my ear:

It’s not about you.”

Jesus speaks of a judgment in this scripture that I have not considered before.

We know that every man will stand, on his own before the throne of God and his deeds will be judged – your life reduced to a crazy heap of wood, hay, stubble, gold silver and precious stones, and the Word of the Lord which is like fire (Jeremiah 23:29) will consume all the combustibles and purify (Malachi 3:3) all that remains.

But Jesus speaks of a couple other judgments.

Matthew 25 describes nations or people groups being separated like sheep and goats. Apparently we have a responsibility to be an influence of righteousness in our nation.

But here Jesus speaks of the judgment of a generation.

I have not really thought too much about this before, but Jesus tells us here that the age when He walked the earth would be judged, and those who worshiped Him in the past would testify against them.

How is it with our generation?

Does our age stand in danger of condemnation from the Queen of Sheba? Will Rahab who turned against her own nation and generation and chose Christ, will she stand in judgment against our nation and our generation for making it all about us and not considering it all about Jesus?

I hear the voice of the Lord calling me to re-focus on Him.

Will you turn your eyes upon Jesus today?

Lord, forgive my selfishness, forgive me for making it about me, forgive my self-pity, and help me see Jesus today.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

I’m gonna’ follow Jesus. You coming?

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

11

Wheat

OK, we have gone long enough talking about the Sabbath, without getting into the Red Letters. Today, I would like to unpack a few of Jesus’ comments about the Sabbath.

The fact is Jesus’ words and actions on and about the Sabbath were a major contributing factors to the Jewish leadership’s hatred for Him.

Let’s jump in.

I want to start with one of Jesus’ most provocative statements:

For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. - Matthew 12:8

This is the end of a story in Matthew 12, one of two piles of trouble Jesus pressed through on a busy Sabbath during His early ministry.

The boys were walking through a grain field, and popping off the heads of the grain in the gleanings and eating them. (Gleanings were the edges of the fields left by the land owners to give the poor and hungry some place to gather food – someday we should talk about God’s welfare plan that included working rather than begging – ooopps did I write that out loud.)

They were breaking so many Sabbath laws – they were “gathering” – they were “preparing food” – they were “eating without washing” – and who knows what else, but they got busted. The Pharisees were right there to point out this problem and quiz the Master.

But Jesus had an answer, three actually. He gave them a theological answer using an example from the life of David. He gave a legal answer, talking about how the priests break the Sabbath in the keeping other laws.

But it all end with Him stating in no uncertain terms “the Son of Man is [aka – I AM] Lord of the Sabbath.” [Tweet This]

Wonder if that got Him in any trouble? Jesus takes on these religious muckety-mucks by simply declaring His own deity.

I hear folks say Jesus never claimed to be God, but you really have to ignore His words to come to that conclusion.

God refers to the Sabbath as “My Sabbath” fifteen times in the Old Testament and yet here Jesus takes ownership, or Lordship over the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord and not just Lord of the Sabbath, although that is a great title for this King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is Lord of all.

Lord Jesus, I worship you today for you are Lord, you are Lord of the Sabbath, and Lord of my life. Have your way today. Reign over this day in my life. – Amen

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.
This study is blessing me a bunch, and I hope it’s doing you some good too.
Come back tomorrow. There is lots more from Jesus, and then we will press on to Paul and the writer to the Hebrews. We are not done yet.
Bye for now
Ben