The Messiah Test

We have come to the section in Matthew when Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert, Matthew 4:1-11.  Haven’t you ever applied for a job and had to take an aptitude test first? I guess you could compare this to a Messiah test instead of an aptitude.

I believe this test was to show us how qualified Jesus is to be our Messiah. (We, humans, seem to need proof of everything, even from our Messiah.) And to let us know that Jesus understands our struggle with evil. He even gives us examples for spiritual combat.

Now, Jesus has spent forty days and nights in the desert fasting. He is at a very weak and low point physically; and probably emotionally and mentally. Exhaustion along with starvation can kill the normal human body. And isn’t it just like the devil to show up when you are at your worst in life.  He is one sneaky snake of evil.

I bet the devil has been in training all these years while waiting on Jesus’ arrival. Knowing to defeat Jesus would be his victory in domination. So, the devil expertly takes God’s words and twist then around to use them against Jesus. And, he tries the same tactics on us. But, Jesus turns it around and uses the exact words of God from Deuteronomy as His rebuttal.

We can too.

Let’s take a look…

The first temptation, the devil wants Jesus to tell the stones to become bread.  Satan figures Jesus is hungry and weak in body, so why not use the desire of food against Him.

Jesus answers, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Maybe Jesus is not weak in the Spirit, so Satan probably strokes his chin and circles Jesus (my imagery.)  Then he takes Jesus to the highest point on the temple and tells Jesus to throw himself down.  Because God will command the angels to stop Jesus from being hurt.

Jesus answers again, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Now Satan decides to try one last effort and takes Jesus to a very high mountain. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.  Then, Satan tells Jesus that if He will bow down and worship him, Satan will give it all to Jesus.

Jesus final answer to Satan was, “Away from me Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”

Satan left and the angels came to attend to Jesus.

You see we had to be shown that not only can Jesus resist the devil, but we also have tools to resist the devil…God’s words! God makes sure we know that Jesus has no inward desire to sin; unlike us. For Jesus was born without sin. If He was not, Jesus might have considered Satan’s offers.  Because who wants to be nailed to a cross?

Test passed! A+++ and so on. We are about to have our lousy selves saved from the sting of death.

So, what do you do when the devil comes calling at your door? For me, I pray and ask God to show me what to do. I rely on prayer for every situation, emotion, and basically daily life. And I have the real weapon…God’s words. My study bible in the back has a section of bible verses relating to life struggles, too.

And, these days you can Google, “What does the bible say concerning…?” Instant answer. Just make sure they are quoting the bible.

Well, I don’t know about you, but forty days in the desert makes me tired. 😉

Until next time!

God Bless You!

And God Bless America!

 

 

 

 

I Learned Something New!

Yesterday I joined a Christian forum and one of the individuals had posted about the Arabic Symbol which means NUN. The symbol is in the picture above.

 

It refers to the word Nazarene, which is what Christians have been called since the 7th century in the Middle Eastern countries.  The word when used, means to portray us as contemptible and disobedient.

But what I did not know is that, Isis uses the symbol to mark homes of Christians in the Middle East. Either to shame them, have them killed, or to run them out of the country. They try to use our own symbol of Jesus against us.

It will never mean contemptible or disobedient to me. For me, the symbol is a symbol of love. Because it is the symbol of my Lord, Jesus Christ! If we must wear a label in this world, instead of Michael Jordan or Ralph Lauren, Nazarene should be it!

“He will be called a Nazarene.” Matthew, end of the sentence in 2:23.

Our media should be “The Nazarene.”

Our publishers should be “Nazarene Publications.”

Our clothes should be by the designers, “Nazarene.”

Bottled water should be, “Nazarene Living Water.”

I guess I am going a little over board. But when we allow others to disgrace our true moniker, they disgrace our Christ. I am proud to be a Nazarene who follows the one, true Nazarene Jesus Christ!

Maybe if we flooded the world; its’ apparel, technology, food, and anything else which requires signage, we might perk up some curiosity. And then we can tell the world about the real Nazarene, Jesus Christ.  Conversation must start somewhere, why not with the symbol of the Nazarene?

Of course those wearing the symbol, whether representing a person or a company, must adhere to Jesus’ rules for life. Because it is through demonstration the message is accepted. You can’t wear a t-shirt with the symbol and then cuss someone out who made you mad. But you can state your point of view. Jesus did.

I am probably dreaming the impossible, I always do.

So for now, we Nazarene, must go forward and live our lives according to God’s will and Jesus’ ways. And pray for this world.

 

God Bless You!

God Bless America!

 

Let It Be So Now…

In Matthew 3:13 – 3:17, Jesus comes to the Jordan river for John to baptize him. John tells Jesus that it is Jesus who needs to baptize John. What would you do?

This would be like Jesus coming to me and saying, “Joni write me a story.”

All of my stories come from God. How could I write something that Jesus does not already know I am going to write? And if I write on my own human failings, how inadequate my words would appear to the One who saved me!  I know exactly how John feels.

Jesus replied to John, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to this to fulfill all righteousness.”

John baptizes Jesus and the Spirit of God descends to light on Jesus as he raises out of the water.  Then a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

My study bible tells me that by Jesus’ baptism demonstrats he is consecrated by God, and that he can identify with our sins. Which translates to me that Jesus understands us and our human nature. Jesus can empathize with us and help us through our failings. And Jesus knows deep inside of each one there is the desire to be loving and good.

Don’t ever forget Jesus loves you! He wants the very best for you! And He wants you to live with Him in eternity!

 

God Bless You!

God Bless America!

A Brood of Vipers !

In the next section of Matthew 3:7 -12, Matthew is visited by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Now the Pharisees were a group who hypocritically kept the law of Moses and the unwritten “tradition of the elders,” like our Republicans. The Sadducees were more politically correct and did not care about theology, like our Democrats.

I know I would be thrilled to see these two groups coming to see what I was doing.  Saying this as I bite a hole in my cheek. Remember when the group of Republican candidates invaded the small towns of America? The same thing. They do not care about you until they need something from you.

Since John the Baptist is Jesus’ front man, he pretty much lays them out.

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

You go John!

Did you see any fruit production when the candidates came around? Or was the stench more rotten? So you see, not much has changed since Jesus’ day.  Maybe the time, place, and technology, but the people are still the same.

John goes on to tell them that he will baptize them with water, but the one who comes after him, will baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Of course John is referring to Jesus.  John does not baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees because they can not show any form of repentance or fruit.

John also goes on to tell them of Jesus’ second coming when he states…

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Ouch, I do not want to be the chaff!

So, can you see it? People say the bible is antiquated and non-relevent to today’s world.  To me, I see the exact opposite. The bible is a guidebook to life with God’s word never-changing or failing!

John talks about the fruit we each should be producing in our lives.  The fertilizer to our roots is God’s words, Jesus is the living water to sustain us, and the Holy Spirit is our sunshine to help us grow.

We are not chaff, but children! We are not rotten, but fresh!

And that is how we should be living each day!

 

 

God Bless You!

God Bless America!

Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is Near!

Matthew 3:1 begins by telling us that John the Baptist is preaching in the Desert of Judea.  We are told John declares over and over again…

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Just like a town crier.

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Matthew is quick to inform us again that this fulfills the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy.

“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

John is preparing the way for Jesus, not only by his proclamation but in his attire and way of life.  Because John wears clothes made of camel-hair and a leather belt around the waist.  And his diet consisted of locusts and honey.  My study bible tells me these were among the “clean” foods they could eat. In my opinion John is keeping his body pure as an offering to God and to be worthy of his job at hand.

My study bible tells me that John lives his life this way to protest the self-indulgence of the day.  When we, Christians, are told we will be known by the way we conduct our lives…nothing could be truer.  Today I guess we would have to protest by… no cell phone,  or computer, living in a tiny house, wearing clothes from good will, riding a bike for transportation, and eating vegetarian food. Then our actions would have to be the exemplification of Jesus’ words about loving our neighbors as He loves us.

Next, we would have to become a town crier like John.

“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

Oh, yeah, people would give us the “kookie” sign to wear.

It is very interesting to say the least. Could you do it? Could you take even part of the list and live that way? Or maybe you can see other areas of your life you could simplify to start putting God and His words first on your agenda. I do.

Back to Matthew. By Matthew 3: 6 and the end of this part of the discussion, we see the people of Jerusalem and Judea taking John’s “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” serious. Multitudes were traveling to the Jordan river to confess their sins and be baptised by John.

Now, let’s step forward into the present. I have a question for you. Do you remember or have you seen; people standing either in public sporting arenas or public news worthy areas with signs that say “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near,” and/or wearing John 3:16 t-shirts?

I remember them and when I was younger I viewed them as some kind of religious fanatic.  Once I became older and wiser, I reviewed my stand on this thought. Maybe they are trying to carry on for John the Baptist. To remind a fallen world Jesus is returning! Since, we have no time line or guarantee of when Jesus will return, maybe heeding their advice is a good thing.

It also, makes me wonder how many people during John’s time thought he was nuts?  From the numbers at the Jordan river, I would say not too many; except for the usual bureaucrats. Maybe my own thoughts were more in line with the bureaucrats and Pharisees, than with John. I hope not, but probably so.

You know, when I look at our society, I see no pressure or motivation for change.  Each generation after Jesus expected His return. Could it be because the time has been so long without His return, from the human perspective, we have become complacent? Even lazy concerning putting God first and more energetic about putting materialism first.  Just some thoughts.

Obviously, we do need reminders!

So, I have one more thing to say…

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

 

God Bless You!

God Bless America!

 

 

Must Chase Pokemon! Are People Crazy?

I have heard it all from the populace because every one appears to have an opinion on the new craze of chasing Pokemon.  Some think it is a waste of time and ridiculous, and others think it is fun. At first I thought it was silly, but then I thought about some of the silly and stupid things we did for fun growing up.

So maybe, chasing Pokemon is not as bad as some people think.

Like any activity in our lives we do to relax our minds, for enjoyment, or to exercise our bodies; i.e. kayaking, running, dancing, Facebook, Twitter, etc, moderation is the key. Because too much of one thing, clouds our view of God and the world we are living. Focus and dedication are great attributes, unless they engulf every aspect of your life.

In the bible we are told…

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5

“And every man who strives for the mastery is temperate in all things.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

Good words to remember.

I want to give you some statistics on “chasing Pokemon.”

  1. It was the highest grossing mobile app in the US, 13 hours after its release.
  2. 21,000,ooo average daily users of the app.
  3. The hashtag #GoPokemon was used 5,982,616,734 times the first week of its release.
  4. Businesses are finding ways to make those chasing Pokemon into new customers.  Giving a discount for customers who find a Pokemon in their establishment, or being a PokeStop.

Pretty popular wouldn’t you say?

Now, I know there have been some circumstances where crime or violence has taken place during these chases. With all adventures, there has to be certain precautions, for example… be aware of your surroundings, go in a group, and once again moderation! Evil can turn anything into something bad. Do not give evil an opportunity.

As a matter of fact, I see an opportunity for Christians to turn the tables. Think of all the ways you can embrace this activity into a family fun adventure.  Scavenger hunts can become Pokemon hunts with the losing team having to buy pizza for the winners.  Bible study groups can use Pokemon when finding bible verses for the younger generations. (You will have to print your own Pokemon and hide them throughout your youth room.)

It is all about opening your mind and finding new ways to shine God’s light onto something evil might use for its advantage. And moderation! Do it once or twice for youth groups or family night, then move onto something else. Kids get bored so easily these days anyway.

Pokemon Chasing like all the other fads that have come and gone,  will fade away one day. So, if they aren’t Satan worshipping, getting drunk, using drugs, and committing crimes; can Pokemon chasing be that bad?

Once again I come back to Jesus who says we are to love one another as He loves us. And loving is understanding we are all different and have our own interests as individuals.

Have you hugged your Pikachu today?

God Bless You!

God Bless America!

Listening to God, Again.

In Matthew 2:19 – 23, we are told Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are returning to Nazareth. Once again Joseph is informed by an angel, in a dream, to take his family back to the land of Israel. He knows that those who want to kill the child are dead: i.e. Herod.

Upon arriving in Israel, Joseph discovers that Archelaus, son of Herod, was King. Afraid of Archelaus  and wanting his son to be safe, Joseph decides to go to the district of Galilee and a town called Nazareth.

Now Matthew, once again, tells the reader about the prophecy being fulfilled.

“So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets; “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew knows the readers are probably Jewish, and fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets is the only way they will accept Jesus as the Messiah. So he is very careful to note this in his writings when it occurs.

I have to say the more I read about  Joseph, the more I admire him.  First he marries a woman who is pregnant with someone else’s child. And he believes God when God tells him that the child is the Messiah.  Then Joseph had to take his family to Egypt to keep them safe because God said so. And finally, after living in Egypt for a number of years, God tells Joseph to uproot his whole life and return to Israel.

He did all of this because God told him to do it!

I wonder if today’s Christians would leave their home and family, and go where God tells them? Or would we pass it off as a crazy dream or even run in the opposite direction like Jonah?  In today’s world, God is more like a figurine on a shelf.  We take Him down and dust Him off when things are not going well in our lives. And when life is great, back on the shelf God goes.

Personally, I have experienced God telling me we were going to live in a new area of the country. And my free will can be very stubborn and selfish at times, so this was a test which I endured and survived. So did my family.

Two years before we moved to Texas, almost four years ago, I knew we were going to be moving to Texas.  God made me very aware that this would be our destination on a summer visit to Texas. And I begged and tried to bargain with God, not to make me leave our grandchildren in North Carolina.  God listened and His plan for our lives proceeded.

Boy, I was pretty upset and mad. God could have made the plans change.  He could have brought about new opportunities in North Carolina for my husband’s work! Texas was too far away from family and it made life more difficult! Did God not understand?

So, for two years, I closed my heart to being in Texas.  I became depressed, belligerent overweight, and down right unhappy. My responses to life where like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.  Instead of seeing the possibilities open to us, I saw dark rain clouds. And I spoke negative words about everything!

I did not want to be here! I did not want to be here! I did not want to be here!

I felt lonely, and God seemed far away.  Even though He was not; God had stepped back and allowed me to have my temper tantrum filled with a daily pity party.  But He was not changing His mind. God was just waiting on me to quit fighting Him.

Finally I did.

You see, God is my daily manna that I feed on, and I found myself starving.  The hunger gnawed at my insides and nothing could fill it.  Finally, I realized that my life was lost without God and His will for myself and my family’s lives.

No journey is ever complete without forgiveness. God forgave me and He began to reveal the opportunities for my life, even here in Texas. And, I saw the reason my family needed to be here for now.  Their futures were blossoming in a place I had once called “hell.” So was mine.

Joseph obeyed God immediately and maybe that is why God chose Joseph to be Jesus’ father here on earth.   Knowing Joseph would follow His will for Jesus’ life, even if it meant totally disturbing Joseph and Mary’s lives. Even if they had to move to Texas!

We, Christians today miss out on so many opportunities because we chose to use God as a convenient figurine.  Instead of allowing Him to direct us into an unimaginable life filled with promise, peace, and love!

 

God Bless You!

God Bless America!