Flashback Episode — Remaining Faithful: Luke 12:1-12

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One of the things that I am always amazed by is how Jesus explains challenging concepts in simple ways, all while challenging the incorrect beliefs of people who were present. Jesus also had a way of challenging groups of people without singling any one specific person out.

While all four gospels include great sections of Jesus teaching, preaching, and challenging the crowds, the passage we will be looking at in this episode covers quite a number of powerful concepts that we might not make it through them all in one episode.

So without further delay, let’s dive into what Jesus taught His followers. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1:

Meanwhile, thousands of people had gathered. They were so crowded that they stepped on each other. Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. I’m talking about their hypocrisy. Nothing has been covered that will not be exposed. Whatever is secret will be made known. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. Whatever you have whispered in private rooms will be shouted from the housetops.

Let’s pause reading here because it is worth focusing in on the idea Jesus just finished sharing. All too often, we have the idea that we can keep things in our lives a secret, but Jesus tells us that this is a lie. Regardless of whether you believe Jesus’ words to be true or not, we know that in this case, Jesus is sharing truth because of the following reasons:

First, if you look at the recent news, scandal after scandal is being revealed. These things happened because those who are found out to be guilty believed that their actions would remain hidden, however reality discovered their secrets. The first way Jesus’ words are true is when someone breaks the silence and exposes the secret to the world. This could happen while the guilty party is still alive or after they are dead.

Next, Jesus’ words are true because even if it is a secret known only to one, there are truly no secrets known only to one. God, the angels, Satan, and perhaps even those living on other worlds know what is happening here – even when we might think we are doing something that is 100% secret. The secrets we believe are safe will be revealed to everyone when Jesus returns and we get the opportunity to look at God’s record of judgment.

One of the subtle themes in the Bible is that God’s character is on trial because of Satan’s accusations, and while Jesus proved God’s love for each of us, God’s people will get the opportunity to look at history’s record and judge God for His choices throughout history. When we look at history’s record, no secret will stay hidden.

After challenging those present with this, Jesus continues by shifting gears and talking about focusing on eternity. He tells His followers in verse 4:

“My friends, I can guarantee that you don’t need to be afraid of those who kill the body. After that they can’t do anything more. I’ll show you the one you should be afraid of. Be afraid of the one who has the power to throw you into hell after killing you. I’m warning you to be afraid of him.

Pausing again, regardless of what you believe about the nature of death and hell or how this translation words these verses, the clear message here is that God has the ability to determine your eternal destiny, and when faced with challenges in our present lives, they will only be temporary challenges if we choose to stay faithful to God. While remaining faithful to God is not popular in the world today, it is the only way to be safe to save for eternity!

It’s also worth noting that even if we have failed numerous times, we can choose to remain faithful from this point moving forward and God will look at our present choices over our past failures!

Jesus continues in verse 6 by shifting topics slightly again. He tells the crowd of followers:

“Aren’t five sparrows sold for two cents? God doesn’t forget any of them. Even every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. I can guarantee that the Son of Man will acknowledge in front of God’s angels every person who acknowledges him in front of others. But God’s angels will be told that I don’t know those people who tell others that they don’t know me. 10 Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But the person who dishonors the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

This last verse is one of the hardest verses for me to understand in the four gospels. However, the theme Jesus shares is unmistakable: Those who publicly side with Jesus will be acknowledged by God throughout the universe, while those who keep their faith hidden or secret will lose out on this acknowledging.

While Jesus said just a few verses earlier that everything secret will be made known, the idea in these verses is that secret faith is worthless – and the implication is that those who God doesn’t acknowledge will not be saved when God’s angels gather God’s people together.

But verse 10 is perplexing: “Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But the person who dishonors the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” This verse is challenging because it sounds like people are given a blank check to speak out against Jesus, because they will be forgiven, but there is a zero tolerance policy in place for those who dishonor or speak out against the Holy Spirit.

The way I understand this verse is similar to what we have hinted at a number of times in this year of podcasts already, and this idea is that we must be careful about judging things before seeing the results. If God chooses to use something that is outside of our comfort zone to bring people to Him, then chances are His Spirit is at work. If we try to discredit something God’s Spirit is trying to accomplish because we don’t believe God would do this, there is a good chance we might be guilty of dishonoring His Spirit.

It is also worth pointing out that the more we reject the Holy Spirit working in our own lives, the less clear we will be able to see the real Jesus, and the further we will drift away from Him. If dishonoring the Holy Spirit is synonymous to rejecting His Spirit in our lives, there is no way we can truly come to Jesus to be saved.

Jesus finishes the passage we are looking at by warning His followers that they will be put on trial for what they believe. He tells us in verses 11 and 12:

11 “When you are put on trial in synagogues or in front of rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. 12 At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”

As a public speaker, I know firsthand the value of preparing beforehand. I know that without preparation, my speaking will fall flat. However, I also am fully aware and embrace the fact that every single presentation I have given has gone differently than I have pictured it going in my head. The more I’ve prepared, the better the difference is, whereas the less I’ve prepared, the more I’ve felt like I flopped.

However, Jesus’ challenge is that when others accuse us or put us on trial, we should trust that the Holy Spirit will speak through us and through our defense. While I don’t believe this means we shouldn’t prepare a defense, I believe that any preparation we do should help us push aside our worry. I believe the Holy Spirit will use what we have prepared for His purposes and for His glory when we let Him. Experience has taught me to prepare and then let God speak through me and give me the exact words to say.

While there have been plenty of cases in history that those on trial for belief in Jesus have faced death, their lives and witness has carried the movement forward and their lives demonstrate what faith in God truly looks like. I have no doubt that these people will be with us in Heaven, and that their lives helped lead others to a saving relationship with God!

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

Choose to place God first in your life. Be confident about acknowledging your faith in God and in Jesus, and be proud of your belief in what Jesus has done for you. Never let someone intimidate you into being quiet about what God has done for you, because when we declare publically that we are on God’s side, God will tell His angels that we are safe to save for eternity.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow a personal relationship with God. It is through a personal relationship with God that we learn and know what He is like, and included in every strong foundation for this faith is a confidence in the promises of His word.

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 27: Discover some strong words Jesus challenges His followers with, and how Jesus’ words can help us live for God today!

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

Missing the Signs: Mark 8:11-13

Focus Passage: Mark 8:11-13 (NASB)

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, Mark’s gospel describes a time where some Pharisees come to Jesus and test Him by demanding a sign. While Jesus responds to a similar scenario in Matthew’s gospel by pointing forward to a sign, in the event we find in Mark’s gospel, we see a different response from Jesus.

Mark tells us that one of the times Jesus was pressured to perform a miraculous sign from heaven, “Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’” (v. 12)

After answering this demand, Jesus simply gets into the boat and crosses to the other side of the lake.

It is profound to think about how Mark describes Jesus’ reaction. Mark tells us first that Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit”. This is significant to think about because we can imagine in our mind’s eye Jesus letting out a long, deep sigh as the weight and implications of the request hits Him.

However, what Jesus says when He ultimately answers the challenge is amazing. The Pharisees are demanding a sign so that they can know if He is from God, and Jesus denies their request while grouping them with their entire generation.

What is incredible to think about is that while Jesus refused to give these leaders a clear sign like what they were wanting, the generation they were in was the one that received most of the signs. To those who were paying attention, almost every prophecy was being fulfilled in one way or another through Jesus’ life, and while many prophecies focused on His death, those paying attention could clearly see God moving powerfully through Jesus’ life and ministry. In a strange almost ironic twist, those living in that generation missed seeing what every other generation wished they could have been present to witness!

Jesus refuses to give that generation a sign because they were closed to the idea that God was already giving signs all around them. If these religious people were not perceptive enough to recognize the signs God had already given, no miraculous sign from heaven would be enough to convince them Jesus was sent from God.

If we demand God prove Himself to us through specific signs, we are likely to be disappointed. However, if we look for signs that He is moving in the world around us, we will have more than enough evidence that He exists and that He loves each of us!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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The Sacrificial Gift: John 6:1-15

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In our last episode, we looked at how Mark described the events leading up to Jesus feeding the crowd of over 5,000 people. However, in our last episode, we ran out of time before we could cover the miracle itself. While in other episodes, we focused in on the same gospel for multiple episodes, since this miracle is in all four gospels, I thought we could look at a different gospel this week. As I’m sure you noticed in the intro, the gospel we’ll be using this week is the gospel of John.

Let’s read how John describes this miracle, and then talk for a few minutes about some things we can learn from this miracle. This event is found in John, chapter 6, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

In this miracle, we see an amazing theme that God is able to supply all of our needs, and in many cases, God is willing to bless us with more than just the bare minimum of our needs. While the disciples calculate among themselves that 200 days wages would be enough for a light snack for everyone present, Jesus fully knows there is a boy in the crowd who had the foresight to bring a lunch with him, and that this boy is generous enough to give his lunch to Jesus.

While the disciples and the crowd had an amazing story to tell, nothing would match the excitement we could imagine the boy telling his parents his side of this story, if they weren’t already present, and specifically about how Jesus took the lunch they packed for him and used it to feed over 5,000 people.

From the boy’s perspective, we can see another huge theme within this miracle. From this perspective, we learn that Jesus is able to multiply the little we give to Him into a lot of blessing. When we give to God, we don’t have to worry about whether it is too little to be considered significant because God will multiply it to be more than enough. Generosity is one key we can use to see and experience God’s blessings.

However, while we talk about the boy’s gift and his generosity, it’s worth pointing out that nothing in this entire event hints at the boy only partially giving a gift. John doesn’t describe the boy having a basket with six loaves and taking one before giving the remaining five, with the two fish, to Jesus. While the boy could have had eight loaves and three fish when he left home that morning, whatever he had eaten prior to his gift isn’t relevant because his gift contained all that he had left.

Up until his gift, the boy was simply carrying food for himself to enjoy, but when he learned that Jesus might need something to eat, he is more than willing to give all he can to help Jesus. This boy sacrificially gave, because, like the disciples, this boy had no idea that he would be able to eat much more than his original gift supplied. When we sacrificially give, God is able to bless in extraordinary ways.

The last theme I want to draw our attention to as we begin wrapping this episode up is that we should bring people to Jesus regardless of whether we believe the gifts they have to offer are significant or not. While Andrew was doubtful what this small gift could become, he had enough faith to bring the information, and the boy with his gift, to Jesus. Like Andrew, we are called to bring people to Jesus, and we are to bring people to Him regardless of what we think their potential, or lack thereof, is in God’s kingdom.

We might say that we should bring people to Jesus simply because we know that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins. There’s no better reason to invite someone to God than because of what Jesus has already done for us.

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

Always seek God first in your life and intentionally invite others to experience Him for themselves. While this can be done in a church setting, serving others is also a great way to invite people to experience God for themselves. Never discount your invitation based on what the person you are inviting appears to offer. Instead, freely extend your inviting because you know that God loves them and because Jesus died for them.

Also, as always, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow your faith. While it is easy to simply take someone else’s word for it, God wants a personal relationship with you and that means learning directly from His Word, with no-one else in the middle. While many people are happy to share their opinions with you, filter everything you learn through the truth contained in the Bible.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 27: When a boy gives his lunch to Jesus, we discover one of the most significant miracles in all the gospels. We know this because this is the only official miracle included in all four gospels. Discover several things we can learn from this event that we can apply into our own lives today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

The Secret to Marital Success: Matthew 19:1-12

Focus Passage: Matthew 19:1-12 (NCV)

After Jesus said all these things, he left Galilee and went into the area of Judea on the other side of the Jordan River. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to trick him. They asked, “Is it right for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he chooses?”

Jesus answered, “Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, ‘he made them male and female.’ And God said, ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.’ So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.”

The Pharisees asked, “Why then did Moses give a command for a man to divorce his wife by giving her divorce papers?”

Jesus answered, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God’s teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if his wife has sexual relations with another man.”

10 The followers said to him, “If that is the only reason a man can divorce his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus answered, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but God has made some able to accept it. 12 There are different reasons why some men cannot marry. Some men were born without the ability to become fathers. Others were made that way later in life by other people. And some men have given up marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. But the person who can marry should accept this teaching about marriage.”

Read Matthew 19:1-12 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Hidden within this journal entry’s passage that makes many people uncomfortable is a clue about how to avoid failing at God’s ideal in our most significant relationship. While many people shy away from these verses because they speak against divorce, also included in this passage is a clue about how to have a successful marriage.

This clue is found as Jesus finishes teaching us what God’s ideal is in verses 4-6. Jesus ends this description of marriage by saying, “God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.

The big idea here is that God is the one doing the joining, and if this is truly the case, God will be in the middle of a successful marriage. It will also be true that we must be connected to God in order to truly connect well with our significant other half.

A statistic I learned about recently confirms this idea: A Gallup Poll done in 1997 by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement showed the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. If we were to make that into a percentage, it would be 0.087% — Less than 1/10th of one percent.

In culture today, where divorce is more common than we want to admit and marriage is not viewed as “till death do us part”, it would seem like the missing piece in our equation is God being the connecting link. Most people who want to get married want it to last forever, and most of those who have faced divorce don’t wish for their failed scenario to be repeated by themselves or others in the future.

In this passage, Jesus seems to imply that God is actively involved in a person’s marriage; but He doesn’t recognize divorce. We see this in Jesus’ words about God doing the joining, and also in the warning about not separating what God has joined and in the reality that God views second marriage sexual relations as adultery.

This is not condemning those who are divorced or who have remarried, but instead, it expands the definition of sin to be anything that is outside of God’s ideal/will. We all have fallen short of God’s ideal, and that is why Jesus came.

God wants us to experience the best life possible, and that includes the best marriage possible if marriage is in our present or future life. In this passage that speaks about God’s ideal regarding marriage, Jesus shares the secret to what makes a marriage successful: Don’t separate what God has joined together. God is the one doing the joining, and only by staying connected to Him are we able to truly stay connected with our spouse.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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