Flashback Episode — Breadless Yeast: Matthew 16:5-12

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While reading the gospels, I occasionally wonder about the disciples, and how it seems as though they routinely miss the message or truth that Jesus wanted to share with them. Our passage for this episode covers one such time, and the truth Jesus shares is powerful, but also completely different from the overly literal way the disciples seem to understand it.

We learn about this truth during one of the times Jesus and the disciples are crossing the lake and Jesus decides it would be a good time to emphasize a big idea while they are away from the crowds of people. For this episode, we will be reading about this event from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 5:

Jesus’ followers went across the lake, but they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

His followers discussed the meaning of this, saying, “He said this because we forgot to bring bread.”

Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. Do you still not understand? Remember the five loaves of bread that fed the five thousand? And remember that you filled many baskets with the leftovers? 10 Or the seven loaves of bread that fed the four thousand and the many baskets you filled then also? 11 I was not talking to you about bread. Why don’t you understand that? I am telling you to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” 12 Then the followers understood that Jesus was not telling them to beware of the yeast used in bread but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Something about this event sounds funny in my mind. I don’t think the truth Jesus shares is funny, but I do chuckle a little about how the disciples completely miss the metaphor Jesus used to emphasize His warning.

While the disciples rightly connect yeast with bread, and forgetting bread was fresh on their minds, Jesus never once hints at His statement being about bread. Perhaps Jesus planned this metaphor just for this purpose. I wonder if Jesus used this angle not only to share the truth about being wary of the Pharisee and Sadducee teachings, but also to reemphasize the importance of trusting God.

In the simple statement about yeast, we get two truths out of this event. Jesus could have simply said to beware of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but then there would be no visual element to it. By paralleling this truth with the visual of yeast, we can see a picture of how just a little bit of error can slowly affect an entire movement.

It doesn’t take much yeast to cause dough to rise, and with the negative spin Jesus places on this yeast, we can rightfully conclude that it doesn’t take much error or deception to wreck the truth.

Interestingly enough, we could also apply this truth in our own lives. We could say that one sin, regardless of how insignificant it is or was in our past, is enough to separate us forever from God. Even though the sin in question might have lasted only a split second of time, it results in us being condemned. Because of this, the Bible rightfully concludes that everyone who has ever lived has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, or God’s ideal for each of us.

In the case of our own lives, Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconnected to God even after we have sinned. Jesus accomplished this by living a perfect life within God’s will, and living a life without sin, before ultimately dying on a cross when He didn’t deserve death. Jesus took our punishment so that we can accept His reward.

This leads us back to looking at the other truth that we are reminded of in this passage: the truth about bread.

While Jesus challenges the disciples for understanding His statement to be about faith and bread, He reminds the disciples that a lack of food is nothing to be concerned about. While it might weigh on our minds and our empty stomachs, when you are with Someone who could multiply a crumb in the back of the boat into a three-course meal, a lack of food is not that big of a concern.

The truth for each of us in this case is to be intentional about trusting God to supply our needs. When we are living with and for God, He will supply our needs and He knows we need food, clothing, and shelter. While His idea of what each might look like is probably different from our thoughts, He knows what is best in the big picture and long-term view. God’s focus is on saving us for eternity, and that perspective will filter everything He brings into our lives.

God is not going to bless us in such a way that we would lose our salvation, but He also will not curse us when we could have been saved under different circumstances. While I don’t claim to know why certain bad things happen, or why tragedy seems to strike people indiscriminately, I know that I can trust God with my own future and that eternity lasts longer than today’s trials.

God is in the business of saving people forever, and saving the greatest number of people forever that He can!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to seek God first and trust Him with your future. While we don’t always know why things happen the way they do in our lives today, we can trust God is working through the ups and the downs for our ultimate salvation. I firmly believe that God wants each of us in heaven more than each of us wants to be in heaven!

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. I don’t want you to take my word, or any pastor or podcaster’s word for this. Instead, I want you to study God’s love out for yourself, because only you can grow your personal relationship with God into a saving relationship with Him.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 20: When Jesus uses yeast in a metaphor with the disciples, the disciples miss the truth He was trying to share while thinking about bread instead. Discover what we can learn from both what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples, and the subtle truth about faith that they also get challenged by in Jesus’ response.

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Interrupted By Faith: Mark 5:24-34

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As we continue forward through the gospels looking at the miracles Jesus did to help people, we come to a set of miracles that are both completely unrelated, but also connected. During this episode and the next one, we will look at these two miracles. About the only reason these two miracles are connected is because of their proximity to one another. Other than this, these miracles are about as opposite of each other as we could find. About the only thing that connects these two miracles is the simple detail that Jesus does one miracle while on the way to do the other.

For this reason, I debated which miracle to focus on first. While the event and verses surrounding the miracle that happened second begin first, I ultimately decided to focus on the miracle that happened first. The first miracle to happen would otherwise be unknown if it weren’t for Jesus treating this miracle as a necessary interruption while on His way to help with the other situation in need.

Let’s read what happened. Our passage is found in the gospel of Mark, chapter 5, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Jumping into this event in the second part of verse 24, Mark tells us that:

24b A large crowd followed Jesus and pushed very close around him. 25 Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered very much from many doctors and had spent all the money she had, but instead of improving, she was getting worse. 27 When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his coat. 28 She thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Instantly her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed from her disease.

30 At once Jesus felt power go out from him. So he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His followers said, “Look at how many people are pushing against you! And you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus continued looking around to see who had touched him. 33 The woman, knowing that she was healed, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. Shaking with fear, she told him the whole truth. 34 Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, you are made well because you believed. Go in peace; be healed of your disease.”

In this miracle, we discover something amazing as we see what Jesus does here. While almost everyone present in this event is clueless to the thought that a miracle has actually occurred, and while this woman would rather remain anonymous, Jesus insists on shining the spotlight on this situation. If Jesus had ignored the sense that power had gone from Him, or if He had simply honored the woman’s desire to remain secret, we would never have this amazing example of faith.

When reading this passage, we discover that Jesus knew very well what was happening around Him, and we discover through the story of this woman that she had tried everything else she could think of before placing her hope, faith, and belief in Jesus. When the medicine of that era had failed her, this woman knew that Jesus could help.

In an interesting way, this woman’s desire to remain anonymous actually puts more emphasis on this miracle than if she had looked for a more normal opportunity to ask for healing. If this woman had come for help along with a crowd of others during one of the events when Jesus was teaching, preaching, and healing, we might also never know her story. If this woman had looked for a miracle in any other way, we might never know she was healed.

Through this woman’s healing, we discover that faith in Jesus doesn’t need to be extraordinary for it to result in a miracle. Instead, this woman’s faith in Jesus could be described as a persistent, determined faith. Granted, maybe in today’s culture and world, a persistent, determined faith actually is extraordinary when we look out at the culture of the Christian church. Unfortunately, we don’t see extraordinary levels of faith from people sitting in pews, or even from most of those standing up front, like we might have in previous years. When the church faced struggles and trials, faith was clearly present, but when the church gains status and comfort, the faith of Christian believers suffers.

This woman’s faith was so persistent and determined that she pushed through the crowd of people who were pushing to be near Jesus while Jesus was hurrying as best He could to help someone else who needed help. She had determined that all she needed to do to know whether Jesus could help her is for her to simply touch the edge of His robe. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the crowds likely were well aware that any illness, defect, deformity, or even death could not diminish Jesus’ power from God for healing and helping others. The woman, knowing all of this, knew Jesus was well able to heal people of significantly worse diseases than she faced, and because of this, she knew that simply touching Jesus in the least significant way would be just enough to significantly improve her situation.

It is this faith that Jesus wanted to showcase, and the only way He can do this is if He stops everything and everyone to bring this miracle into the open. While the clock is ticking and the situation Jesus was on His way to help was growing more bleak by the minute, Jesus is more interested in focusing on the example that this woman can give all of us regarding faith in Jesus.

When seeing how persistent Jesus was on bringing this woman’s story to the spotlight, we discover that Jesus was just as persistent as this woman was at pushing her way through the crowd. Jesus focused on bringing this woman’s story to the spotlight because in this story, we discover a faith that God wants us to model in our own lives. While it is easy for us to live as lukewarm Christians with little to no faith in today’s world, God warns us that living without faith is significantly worse than we might realize.

Like the first disciples and the early church learned through this miracle, God is looking for a people who are determined, persistent, and won’t back down when their faith is challenged. God is looking for His people, living today, to be persistent, passionate, and determined to live our lives with a faith that will not be shaken by anything that comes our way. We are called to live with a faith that leads us into eternity.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and intentionally place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. Choose to follow and obey God regardless of what the world, or even tradition, teaches. Choose to place your faith in Jesus and in what the Bible has revealed to us from His word.

To learn and know what this is, always pray and study the Bible for yourself and filter everything you learn through the truth the Bible teaches. While a speaker, pastor, author, blogger, or podcaster can give you ideas you can think about, only trust it if it aligns with the truth the Bible teaches. God plans to keep us safe through eternity, and this means that He is more than capable of keeping His truth alive in the Bible through a few thousand years.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 20: While going to help someone, Jesus is interrupted by the sense that power had gone out from Him. If you do not know what happened, or even if you do, discover how this almost unknown event shapes how God wants His people to live their lives of faith in Him.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Answering the Insult: Mark 7:24-30

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In today’s hypersensitive society and culture, it’s hard to imagine Jesus being intentionally offensive towards someone. After all, since God is love, and Jesus came to represent God, shouldn’t Jesus love everyone equally?

In my mind, the answer to this question is a yes, but with this answer, we find several examples where Jesus simply is not overly interested in being kind or nice to everyone. When reading the gospels, we quickly discover that Jesus reserved some harsh comments for the religious leaders. I can understand challenging those who claimed to represent God on earth when they were doing a bad job, however, the passage we will be focusing on in this episode is not about Jesus insulting the religious leaders.

Instead, against all politically correct, hypersensitive advice, our passage focuses in on Jesus insulting a gentile woman who came asking for His help. While this sounds very un-Christlike, I wonder if this insult and the conversation that surrounded it, can teach us something about God’s character.

Our passage for this episode is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it using the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 24, we learn that:

24 Jesus went from there to a place near Tyre. He entered a house. He did not want anyone to know where he was. But he could not keep it a secret. 25 Soon a woman heard about him. An evil spirit controlled her little daughter. The woman came to Jesus and fell at his feet. 26 She was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Pausing our reading briefly, so far, this event is normal. Jesus goes to a place, wants to keep a low profile, but was unsuccessful. When word spreads that He was in the area, people came requesting help. It would not be logical to think that only Jews would come if Jesus is capable and willing to help everyone, so here we have a Greek mother coming to ask for help for her daughter.

So far, this event is pretty straight forward. But in the next verse, Jesus shocks everyone present, and His response should shock us living over 2000 years later. In verse 27, Jesus replied saying:

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

This might just be the most offensive statement Jesus ever made in His entire ministry. In just a few words, Jesus lowers the status of all non-Jews to be equal to dogs – at least that is how our hypersensitive world today would interpret this statement.

Part of me wonders if this is not Jesus’ analogy. While it certainly seems as though Jesus is validating this prejudice by repeating it, I wonder if the Jews, as an unwritten national rule, believed themselves to be God’s only children, and every gentile person was equal to dogs. I don’t believe there is a different scripture in the Bible to support this exact idea, but we do know the Jewish leaders had a very clear “us vs. them” attitude and that they believed themselves to be superior.

I wonder if Jesus made this statement, not for the woman herself, but for those standing around witnessing this request. The implication in Jesus’ words is that this woman should wait in line till the very end – specifically after all the Jews who had come to be helped were through – and if there was time left, and perhaps a little bit of Holy Spirit left after everyone else had been helped, then maybe Jesus would help her. This interpretation of Jesus’ words doesn’t really sound like Jesus, except that Jesus might simply be speaking the thoughts of those witnessing this event.

Perhaps there was a long line of Jews needing help, and first-century culture didn’t say first come, first served, like our culture today. Instead, they had a Jews first, no exceptions mentality.

Once Jesus had everyone’s attention with His harsh response, we discover the woman’s quick reply. Continuing in verse 28, the mother responds:

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “That was a good reply. You may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

30 So she went home and found her child lying on the bed. And the demon was gone.

In this event, if we can step back from Jesus’ insult, we see some amazing themes at work. While it would be easy to focus exclusively on Jesus’ insult and ignore the rest of the event, we would miss an amazing truth that is contained within this passage.

While the woman’s response to Jesus’ insult might have had a feeling of sarcasm, her response displayed an impressive amount of faith. Her response basically says that any crumb or sliver of help will be enough. She isn’t interested in the scraps after the meal, if any “food” is left, but instead she is content with the crumbs that might fall during the meal. Pulling the idea outside of the meal metaphor, this woman tells Jesus she is fine with any help He can offer, and if one of the upcoming miracles doesn’t need all of its required elements, she is happy to have the leftovers.

This level of faith is amazing when we think about it. Looking at the faith of this woman, and the centurion that Jesus helped earlier in His ministry, I get the impression that Jesus’ gentile miracles displayed more profound faith than His miracles for those of Jewish ancestry.

But this isn’t the only theme we see hidden within this short conversation. Within this conversation is the idea that God came to bless the Jews, but that the Jews were to bless others with their blessings. The woman’s response challenges this ideal, saying that this bless-it-forward attitude is not happening. If anything, the Jews give them – the gentiles – crumbs, but generally nothing at all.

This gentile woman exposes the failures of the Jewish people in her response. While Jesus alludes to how God intended for the Jews to model God’s attitude and bless others, the woman’s response shows how this original plan was failing. I wonder if Jesus used this event as a teaching point later in His ministry with the disciples, telling them that they were to help and bless those that God brings their way, regardless of the person’s nationality or ethnicity, or even their race, gender, or beliefs.

The big truth for us living today is to not mess up this plan like the Jewish people did. God loves all people, and He has called His people to love others and bless others. In God’s eyes, His people will not display an “us vs. them” attitude, but instead God’s people will display an “us blessing, helping, and loving them” attitude. This is God’s ideal for His people, and as followers of Christ, it is our challenge living 2,000 years later.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to intentionally love and bless those who God brings into your life. Believe that God wants you to be a blessing to others like He has blessed you, and intentionally choose to be loving, kind, and compassionate to those in the world around you because God has been loving, kind, and compassionate towards you.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God and your connection to the Holy Spirit. We grow closer to God through praying and studying His Word, and while a pastor or podcaster can give you ideas, and things to think about, only through prayer and personal study will you grow your personal relationship.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 19: What happens when Jesus insults a mother who came asking for His help? Discover some truths about God and His calling for our life from this thought-provoking event.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Facing Disappointment with Courage: Luke 8:26-39

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In our last episode, we ran out of time before covering all I wanted to cover, so this episode will pick back up where the last one left off. We were looking at the miracle where Jesus heals the man who had a “legion” of demons in him, and who was living outside of society on the far side of a lake.

Let’s read the whole event and miracle first to give us context, then focus in on what we didn’t have time for in our previous episode. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 26, Luke tells us that:

26 [Jesus and His disciples] sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

In our previous episode, we focused on how Jesus made this trip for one particular person. He arrived on shore in a place where only one person lived, and here at the end of the passage, the people from that region ask Jesus to leave, so Jesus leaves. On the surface, this trip might look like a failure, since only one person was healed – and Jesus doesn’t even let that person join the ranks of followers before being asked to leave. This was at least partially because Jesus allowed the demons to kill the pigs. However, Jesus simply allowed the demons to enter the pigs, Jesus didn’t tell the demons to run the pigs off the cliff.

We then might ask the question, why let the demons enter and kill the pigs. Jesus could have cast them out without letting them possess anything else. While I don’t know all of God’s reasons, one likely reason in my mind was to alert those in town to Jesus’ presence. A miracle like this would definitely turn heads, and it would cause those present to discover the crazy guy they feared was now sane and healed – and that Jesus was the source of that healing. A miracle like this could have prompted those in the area to have faith in Jesus’ God-given miraculous ability and bring all the sick and hurting people to get help. Instead, those who owned the pigs only saw Jesus as someone who was to be feared more than the formerly-demon-possessed man and they ask Jesus to leave.

This event appears to be a failure on many levels. Jesus was only able to heal one person before being asked to leave. Those in the region lost a herd of pigs. Those in the region also missed out on the opportunity of receiving more of God’s help through Jesus. And the man Jesus healed wasn’t allowed to follow Jesus.

However, while we might consider this entire event a failure, Jesus had something else in mind, and this other thing was not what those who were fearful expected. Jesus had just healed and commissioned one of His greatest evangelists. While Luke concludes this passage by saying that “the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him,” Mark’s gospel shares a little more detail.

In Mark, chapter 5, verse 20, Mark concludes this miracle and event by saying, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” The name Decapolis means the Ten Cities, so while those in Gerasenes did not accept Jesus because of this miracle, the man was from a very populated area. In one of the next places the gospel writers mentions the Decapolis, we discover a unique miracle that takes place – which is the focus of one of our future episodes.

The miracle of the healed demoniac is an amazing miracle. While those who owned the pigs felt that their loss was greater than the healing of an outcast, in the big picture, the healing of this man represented so much more in the eyes of God.

In this miracle, and in all the disappointment that happened, we discover that in our own lives, things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes, we don’t get what we want or ask for. However, just because we experience failure, disappointment, or a “no” answer to prayer doesn’t mean that God dislikes us. All it means is that God’s plan is bigger than we realize, and that He is working in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.

While the man experiences disappointment because Jesus didn’t let him join the group of disciples, we discover that this man became a much better evangelist sharing what Jesus had already done for him. In our own lives, when we receive disappointment, we can trust that God has something bigger in mind, and that when we look back on our lives, while some things might not make sense, and while we will have experienced plenty of disappointments, we will likely agree that God’s plan was better than ours.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and trust Him with the path He wants you to walk through life. If we experience disappointment because God has closed a door, trust that the time isn’t right, that there is a better door further down the path, or that we have something more we need to do, learn, or help with where we are at right now. Let’s trust God with our disappointments, and trust that His big picture plans are better than our limited perspective.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow personally towards God. Let God teach you through the Bible and use the Bible as your filter for life. While other people can give you ideas to think about, always filter what you learn through what the Bible teaches to know whether it aligns with God’s truth.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 19: After healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, Jesus does not let him join the group of disciples. Instead, Jesus has a different task for this man. Discover how this man pushes past his disappointment and into the plan God had for his restored life.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.