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encouragement theology

To the Comfortable and Complacent

Amos 6

Under the reign of Jeroboam II, the nation of Israel had reached extraordinary wealth and success. They had peace from their enemies and expanded their borders.  A new class of wealthy citizens emerged who showed off their status through their possessions, including their gold and ivory mansions. But the people followed a religion of convenience and had no compassion for their less-fortunate neighbors. It was into this world that God sent the man Amos to preach His judgment. 

This is Amos’ fourth message to God’s people. The Lord had sent His warnings (Amos 3), and yet they had not listened. They minimized God as they built themselves up (Amos 4), yet he pleaded with them to seek the Lord (Amos 5). And now, this next message of judgment is directed to the complacent and comfortable Israelites. 

The message starts with two statements of sorrow (“woe”). The first sorrow is for the complacent, who were confident that God would never punish them! The people were filled with national pride, considering themselves the “first of the nations”. They were secure in the belief that God preferred them to their neighbors and would exempt them from His punishment. But they were no better than the great and mighty nations of Calneh, Hamath, and Gath — all who have met destruction at the Lord’s hand. They push away the warnings of judgment while they pull in their own violence and wickedness.

The second sorrow is for the comfortable, who lived their lives in luxury and leisure. They slept in lavish beds of comfort, eating the best of the flock, and passing their time in music, drinking wine, and the finest cosmetics. But while they rejoiced in their comfort, they had lost their compassion. Their neighbors are headed for disaster and they don’t care! They counted themselves first of the nations, yet they will be the first to exile. Their lives of comfort will be over as they are herded away into slavery.

But the core issue was their pride. They were consumed with themselves and their own accomplishments, and had forgotten that it was the Lord who saved them. They were caught up in their own greatness, yet the Lord swears them to punishment by the greatest thing possible — Himself! Their city will be taken and they will be totally destroyed. The people will fear to even call upon the Lord as their houses are demolished. 

Their pride has turned their justice into poison and their righteous acts only make the world more bitter! To expect justice or righteousness from them is as damaging as running a horse or driving a plow over slippery rocks! They take pride in their accomplishments, never realizing that they have accomplished nothing, and have no strength of their own!

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encouragement theology

Seek The Lord!

Amos 5

Chapter 5 is at the midpoint of Amos’ ministry. After an extended introduction, he has exposed the guilt of Israel’s neighbors, showing also that Israel herself is even more guilty! The Lord has sent His warning and shown His greatness, even when they refused to listen.

Amos next delivers four messages from the Lord. There is grief over Israel’s impending doom, the land will be decimated, yet in the midst of this terror is a call to repent. There is still a chance for rescue if you seek the Lord! And the final message is of judgment for those who don’t return to Him.

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encouragement theology

How Big Is Your God?

Amos 4

One of our greatest dangers is for us to become caught up in our comfortable worlds. We follow what we think is right, forming a routine that should make us a “good person”. We may worship and serve at church regularly, but are we truly listening to God? 

We can get so focused on ourselves that we fail to hear His voice. We no longer hear Him drawing us to the next step. We close our ears when we disobey God, wanting to wallow in our sin more than to come back to Him. 

The problem is not that God isn’t speaking, the problem is that we have stopped listening. Our view of God shrinks to something small, safe, and manageable. We have lost touch with the true God who created the universe.

How big is your God?

The message of Amos 4 is directly addressed to the wealthy and complacent women, who have trampled over the poor in their rise to riches, and whose husbands cater to their every craving. They are satisfied and content, secure in their wealth and their religious devotion.

Amos pictures these women as cows, being fattened up for the day of slaughter. They have trampled the poor and made demands on their husbands. Their religious practices are a show of piety, but they are nothing more than hypocrites, with their false worship drawing them further away from God’s true standards. They lived like animals, and will be driven away like common livestock.

Although Amos’ message begins with the indictment of the wealthy women of Samaria, it soon shifts to the entire nation. Their worship has been false and they have ignored God as He has repeatedly called them back to Him.

God promised in His law that He would send them disasters if they turned from Him. And so He sent to them famine, drought, crop failure, pandemics, wars, and natural catastrophes. Yet despite all of these disasters, the phrase is repeated five times: “yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord”.

God has been calling, but they have been ignoring Him. Therefore, the time to repent is past. Prepare for judgment! God is not a simple formula or ritual for them to perform and then ignore. He is the creator of the world! He is the commander of Heaven’s armies!

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encouragement theology

Will You Hear the Warning?

Amos 3

It is easy to become secure in our comfortable world around us. When life is good, we look back at our job, our money, our relationships, and say that we are successful. But how does God measure success? And more importantly, where do we base our security.

Almost 3,000 years ago, God sent the prophet Amos to speak to a successful, wealthy people. They were secure in their powerful country, their devout religions, and their wealthy lifestyles. Yet God looked on them and announced that they were ripe for punishment! They had forgotten God!

Amos 3:1-2
Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.

Amos opens the chapter with a summary of his message. These are the people whom the Lord had led out of slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and into the promised land. He has guided, protected, and forgiven them throughout their long history.a 

The Lord God had also chosen Israel to be His unique people. He chose pagan Abraham, his unlikely son Isaac, and his younger son, Jacob.5 These men fathered a nation that was unique to God and chosen by Him to be His special people. As the Lord reminded them in Deuteronomy, it was not because of their own goodness but because of His great mercy that He chose them. He chose to build a relationship with them!

But they rejected the God who led them. They received His laws and knew His commandments, yet refused to obey Him. Therefore, the Lord will come in punishment!

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encouragement theology

Close To Home

Amos 2:4-16

It’s so easy for us to point fingers! We can “armchair quarterback” everyone else’s problems around us, knowing that we would never do what they did! We sympathize when our neighbors have problems, but we often — if we are honest — also feel smug, thinking that “they must have had it coming”.

It’s bad enough to have these attitudes toward our friends and neighbors, but what about when our enemies have problems? We are so quick to judge! We forget our own problems as we applaud God’s judgment on those who “deserve it”!

Amos started out his message doing exactly that — he sounded out judgment against all of Israel’s evil neighbors. You can picture Amos’ Jewish audience nodding their heads and shouting “Amen!” to each failure and consequence that comes to each of their enemies! These enemies had been a problem for centuries, and they are now getting their payback!

But then the finger of condemnation comes closer to home. First to Judah, the neighbors to the south, then finally to Israel herself. Israel is even worse than her pagan neighbors, because they had God’s law, yet still rejected the Lord and His justice!

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encouragement theology

Judgment on the Neighbors

Amos 1:2-2-3

One of my favorite books has been The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. In the story, four British children are transported to a magical world of winter, which is under the power of a cruel witch. The central character is the lion, Aslan, who rules the world and has come to stop the witch’s tyranny, and one of the best descriptions of Aslan comes from Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, as they tell the children about him:

“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” 

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” 

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” 

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. 

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”8

Amos presents a view of God that is far from safe! We see God in His greatness and judgment. Like a roaring lion, His voice is going out over the earth. He strikes the fertile pastures and destroys the strongest refuges.a 

Amos 1:2
And he said:
“The LORD roars from Zion
and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds mourn,
and the top of Carmel withers.”

The Book of Amos starts with an extended prologue, showing that all nations are guilty before Him. The pagan nations that surrounded Israel didn’t know God, yet they were still guilty in His sight. They didn’t have His laws, yet they failed to show human decency and compassion to their neighbors.

Amos also uses the repeated refrain, “for three transgressions, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment”. The Lord was not judging these nations for one-time failures, but for consistently rejecting His standards.b Therefore, God’s judgments are not only for the acts listed in these chapters, but for all of their wickedness and cruelty toward others.c

The surrounding nations are shown in this map here:

Categories
encouragement theology

The Book of Amos

Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

The kingdom years of ancient Israel covered over 500 years of tumult. The events covered by Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles in the Bible often read like they could have happened during medieval times. We learn about some of history’s greatest heroes and worst villains. There are accounts of power and foolishness, intrigue and betrayal, and wisdom and faithfulness. Through all of these accounts, the world revolves around the kings and queens. The good and wise leaders lead their people through peace and prosperity, while the foolish and wicked rulers lead the people into wickedness and chaos. 

The people of Israel had existed as a confederacy of twelve tribes until uniting in their wish for a king. God directed the prophet Samuel to their first king, Saul, in about 1100 B.C. Saul failed to obey God, and so the kingdom passed to David, a young shepherd from Bethlehem. David’s reign brought a golden age to Israel’s history, giving the nation expanded borders, peace from war, and, through David’s son Solomon, unequaled prosperity. At the height of Solomon’s kingdom, the nation of Israel stretched from the Mt. Hermon in the north to Sinai in the south, from the Mediterranean in the west, to the Ammonite and Syrian territory in the east. All neighboring nations were either allied or subdued by Israel during David’s and Solomon’s reigns.

From https://bibleatlas.org/full/israel.htm

Despite all of David and Solomon’s success, it took only one foolish act by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to shatter the united kingdom. As Rehoboam came to power in about 950 B.C., the northern tribes sent a delegation asking him to ease their pressure. Instead of granting their request, Rehoboam chose instead to stamp his authority and force them to submit. Jeroboam, who had led the northern delegates, now led them in breaking away from David’s dynasty, forming a separate kingdom. From that time on, the people of Israel were divided into two nations: the kingdom of Judah in the South, consisting of the two faithful tribes to David’s family (Judah and Benjamin), and the kingdom of Israel in the North, consisting of the remaining ten tribes.

One of Jeroboam’s first acts as king of Israel was to move the center of worship. The temple of God was in Jerusalem, where the people would regularly go to celebrate and offer sacrifices. But Jerusalem was also the capital city of Judah, Jeroboam’s rival nation. Therefore, he built two worship centers in the northern city of Dan and in the southern city of Bethel. Instead of directing the people to worship The Lord, he had two golden idols (of calves) built for worship. Jeroboam’s decision may have been politically astute, but he directly violated God’s laws by building idols and moving the people from true worship. These golden idols would be a stumbling block throughout the entire history of the northern kingdom.

The books of Kings and Chronicles tell about the succession of rulers over these two kingdoms. The descendants of David ruled over Judah in the South, with a (roughly) even split between good and wicked kings.a b The northern kingdom of Israel was much less stable. None of the kings followed God, and there was only one dynasty that lasted for more than three generations.

A detailed chart showing the timeline of the kings and the prophets is available here: https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2017/07/updated-chart-of-israels-and-judahs-kings-and-prophets/

The Lord sent prophets to His disobedient people in order to bring them back to Him. He sent “speaking prophets”, such as Elijah and Elisha, to boldly preach His word with power and authority. But then, starting in the 8th century B.C., came the “writing prophets”. Not only did these men preach to the people, but they wrote down God’s message. Through the next 400 years, these men were faithful to write down God’s Word and to record their warnings to the people. Tradition has divided their messages into two groups: the four major prophets, containing the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets, containing the writings of Hosea through Malachi.c The prophets were not divided based on their importance or their stature, but by the size and scope of their message. The major prophets contained much larger writings and tended to cover a very broad scope of prophecy, while the minor prophets tended to have much shorter works, covering (usually) a much smaller scope. For example, contrast the 66 chapters of Isaiah to the single chapter of Obadiah!

It is my goal during the next few studies to look into the message of Amos, one of the lesser-known prophets.

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encouragement theology

Go Make Disciples!

Thoughts from Matthew 28…

Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is a well-known and beloved passage. This conclusion of Matthew 28, known as the “Great Commission”, serves as an epilogue of the life of Jesus Christ. Matthew has followed the ministry of Jesus Christ from His birth, through His great sermons, through His ministry in Galilee, to the commissioning of His disciples, to the people’s rejection, to the training of His closest followers, to His journey to Jerusalem, and ultimately culminating in His death on the cross. But the account doesn’t end there, as three days later — much to the surprise and amazement of his followers — Jesus rose from the dead and met with them. Matthew then recorded this final scene as followers gathered on a mountain in Galilee.a They had left Jerusalem to travel north to this meeting place when Jesus came to them.b

The gathering is small and the message is simple, but Jesus was leaving them with one command: go make disciples! As you go into the world, make disciples and stay with them, baptizing and teaching them. But you are not alone. He will be with you until the end of the world!

This is the only command in this scene — make disciples! These men had learned firsthand what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. They traveled with Him, lived with Him, and absorbed His teaching for over three years. They had times of wisdom and times of foolishness, times when they were faithful and times when they ran away. But through it all, they learned what it meant to be a disciple. They listened to His instruction, and obeyed His commands. They followed Him when He was popular and when He was an outcast. They suffered with Him and endured hardship with Him, and when they didn’t understand, they learned to trust in Him.

And now Jesus sent them out to make new disciples. And as these new disciples follow the Lord Jesus Christ, so they themselves are to make new disciples of our Lord. As they learned to listen, obey and follow Him, so they are to teach others to listen, obey and follow Him.

As this command was passed to others, so it passes to us. We are to make disciples as we go into the world. We need to reflect Jesus Christ to others wherever we go, whether it be in worship or in the marketplace. Whether we are in our hometown or in a foreign land. Wherever we are, we are to make disciples.

We are to baptize and teach the new disciples. It’s not enough to look for a decision to accept Jesus Christ, but we also need to help these new followers grow. It starts with baptism. They show their faith publicly as they take the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They identify with the holy God who sent us. We also need to teach them all of Jesus’ commands. We need to follow and teach everything that Jesus taught His first disciples. We obey all of His commands — the easy as well as the difficult, and we trust Him in comfort as well as hardship. The true disciple does not concern himself with his personal comfort or safety, but rather follows the Lord with a whole heart.

And why should we make disciples? Jesus started out His instruction by showing who He is. Get a glimpse of Jesus Christ and all His glory and all His authority, and follow that vision to lead others. Jesus was more than just a great teacher or a noble healer. He was God himself! He has all authority in heaven and all authority on earth — He is in charge of everything! He is equal to God the Father and the Holy Spirit! He is nothing less than God himself! This is why you need to bring others to follow Him!

And finally, know that we are not alone. Jesus Christ, and all His authority and power as God, will be with us every step of the way. He will never leave us nor turn away from us. He will be with us to the very end!

“Christianity is a missionary faith. The very nature of God demands this, for God is love, and God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).” – Warren Wiersbe3

“The world is to be evangelized, not by men invested with ecclesiastical dignities and with parti-colored garments, but by men who have experienced the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and who are visibly endued with the divine power of wisdom, and love, and zeal.” – A.B. Bruce11

“…we are called to represent Him in this world, going to rebels against the authority of the God of heaven and earth, and pleading with them to be reconciled to Him who sent His Son in grace that all men might have life and peace through Him.” – H.A. Ironside2

“Let us embrace this truth reverently and cling to it firmly. Christ is He who has the keys of death and hell. Christ is the anointed High Priest who alone can absolve sinners. Christ is the fountain of living waters in whom alone we can be cleansed. Christ is the Prince and Savior who alone can give repentance and remission of sins. In Him all fullness dwells. He is the Way, the Door, the Light, the life, the Shepherd, and the altar of refuge. He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son has not life.” – J.C. Ryle12

“It isn’t a question of emotion – it is a question of submission.” – John MacArthur8

Previous post: He is Risen!

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encouragement theology

He is Risen!

Thoughts from Matthew 28…

He is risen! The post below covers many of the scenes after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through all of the terror and chaos of the previous three days, there is a mix of fear, confusion, regreg, and joy as they reunite with the Risen Lord!

Previous Post: It Is Finished!

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1 Corinthians 15:3-7
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:14-15
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

“Had the body of the Lord Jesus Christ never…

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encouragement theology

It Is Finished!

Thoughts from Matthew 27…

I had an opportunity to study the Death of Jesus Christ recently with the study below. Every time I read the passages from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, I am amazed at how much He has given us! The weight of our sin is taken away! It is finished!

I am having difficulty being able to reblog this from WordPress so I am posting a new link.

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Previous post: The First Three Hours

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encouragement theology

The First Three Hours

Thoughts from Matthew 27…

This is the first part of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This has to be of the most amazing passages in Scripture, especially in light of how much He loves us!

Previous Post: Before the Governor

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In the first century A.D., The Roman empire stretched across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. This was a time of peace, called the Pax Romana, where the Roman government was able to manage all of the various languages and cultures under its single rule.

However, the thought of revolution terrified the Roman government. Rome needed to control a massive empire with a much smaller force. Any revolts in the Roman provinces could cause a disaster. The Roman governors in various provinces must keep the peace at all costs!

Rome’s most effective way to keep peace in the provinces was through fear and intimidation. Any man who was caught trying to revolt against Rome would be made an example. He would be subjected to one of the most cruel, lingering, and public executions ever devised by mankind: the crucifixion.5

Crucifixion was invented by the Assyrians and the Persians…

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encouragement theology

Before the Governor

Thoughts from Matthew 27…

This is the second part of Jesus Christ’s trial. These are the series of trials before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.

The drama of the scene increases in the early morning hours as Jesus is lead in chains to the Roman governor. Pilate tried every attempt to free Him, but in the end was forced to capitulate to the demands of the priests and the Jewish people, and sent Him off to be crucified.

Previous Post: Before the High Priest

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During the Roman time of peace in the first century (the Pax Romana), Rome would allow the provinces a level of self-government. This self-government allowed vassal kings to rule over their own provinces as long as they swore allegiance to Rome.

Herod (also known as Herod the Great) ruled all of Palestine until his death in 4 BC. After Herod’s death, his kingdom was divided among his three sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip. Philip ruled the regions to the East, Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea, while Archelaus ruled Judea and Samaria.

Archelaus proved to be the worst of the three sons. He was corrupt and inefficient and by 6 A.D., the Jews had begged Rome to replace him. The Romans removed Archelaus and replaced him with a series of governors (also known as procurators). These governors were Roman commanders who were responsible for governing the regions and reporting to…

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encouragement theology

Before the High Priest

Thoughts from Matthew 26…

After Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives, He was hurried to the home of the High Priest for a quick, overnight trial. The priests and leaders of the people wanted to have capital charges against Him by morning, so that they could bring Him to the Roman governor for execution.

Even re-reading these passages again, I am amazed by the drama of this entire scene. The priests and elders, the leaders of the people are railroading over justice in order to destroy their enemy. Peter has noble intentions, but he is scared out of his mind by a servant girl! And yet through this all, God is still in control!

Previous post: The Trial of Jesus Christ

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It was Thursday night before the Passover. At some time after midnight, Judas had led the temple guards and the Roman soldiers up the slopes of the Mount of Olives to where they found Jesus. There it was that the entire crowd fell down when this Rabbi called upon the name of God. There it was that one of His disciples charged into the crowd with a sword, severing a servant’s ear. There it was that Jesus healed the man’s ear and made His disciples leave (see here).

The soldiers bound Jesus and took Him back to the high priest’s palace in the city of Jerusalem. There, at the palace, were two of the most powerful men in Judea. Annas was the former high priest who had been deposed by the Romans. But Annas still directed the religious leadership in Jerusalem and he had placed in his own son-in-law…

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culture theology

The Trial of Jesus Christ

As we study the trials of Jesus Christ, it is good to start out with the initial understanding of what these events were like. It is amazing at how much this was a travesty on the Jewish judicial system!

Previous post: The Kiss

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The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell that Jesus Christ endured a three-part Jewish trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin:

These four accounts describe the trial before the Sanhedrin, but they also raise a lot of questions related to the history and the culture:

What is the Sanhedrin? Weren’t the Romans in charge?

Why are there two High Priests mentioned? Who was in charge?

Doesn’t a trial require proof? Were there any laws to protect the accused?

The notes below are an attempt to address these questions.

The Great Sanhedrin

The ancient Jews had a very elaborate legal system. Every town…

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The Kiss

Thoughts from Matthew 26…

This is the scene in the garden of Gethsemane when, after Jesus arises from prayer, He is met by by the arresting mob, being led by Judas. The groups of people in this scene are intriguing. Judas is evil. The guards and soldiers are wary. The disciples are terrified. But Jesus is calm.

May we follow His example and be rooted in the Lord during our difficult times!

Previous post: The Garden

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It is the night before Passover.

Jesus had spent the last few hours in agonizing prayer (see here). He was consumed with horror and despair as He considered what He was about to face.

Slowly and painfully, He came to terms with the Father’s will. “Not my will, but yours be done”.

Meanwhile, the disciples slept.

As Jesus woke the sleepy disciples, the lanterns and torches were visible through the trees. Nearly a thousand men were converging on their small garden!

The Chief Priests and their servants were there. They had wanted to kill Jesus Christ ever since He had raised Lazarus from the dead (see here).

The Temple Guard was there. This group of men was responsible for maintaining order in the temple. They were especially busy during Passover time. These guards were not allowed to use lethal force, but were nevertheless armed with clubs.

There were

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encouragement theology

The Garden

Thoughts from Matthew 26…

This study covered the Lord’s struggle in Gethsemane. Once again, as I read this passage, I am amazed how difficult of a time this was for Jesus Christ. It is far from the deep, serene images that we are accustomed to, and was an emotional, spiritual, and physical battle!

Previous Post: It Was Night

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The garden.

Gethsemane.

There were moments in the life of Jesus Christ whenhe suffered greatly, but this was total agony!

Here, in the garden, is the greatest struggle that Jesus will face. He will endure hardship, torture, and death at the hands of men on the way to the cross. But there was no struggle as he went to his death. The great struggle for Jesus Christ was here in the garden, in Gethsemane.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “my food is to do my Father’s will” (see here). But now the horror of the cross draws near and it terrifies Him! It is not the physical pain that Jesus Christ fears, but the separation from His Father. He, the one who knew no sin, will take upon himself the guilt of all the sins of the world!

Jesus contemplated his upcoming death on Tuesday…

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encouragement theology

It Was Night

Thoughts from Matthew 26…

This study below is about the Last Supper, where the Lord identified the betrayer and allowed him to leave. Judas, who had sold his allegiance for the price of a slave, now leaves to get the soldiers to come and arrest Jesus. Jesus continues to teach His faithful eleven disciples and to prepare them for His upcoming death and resurrection.

Previous post: Dare to Waste!

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It is an awesome responsibility to teach or to lead another person. Whether you are in the role of a parent, a teacher, or a mentor, it is a great privilege to teach another.

But what do we do when things go wrong? What do we do when a student turns away from what they have learned? When they reject the teacher? We can blame ourselves, but we cannot change another person’s decisions.

You could be a perfect teacher, and yet some would still turn away. The best teacher who ever walked on the earth had a student walk away from him.

That student did more than turn away from him. He turned him in to the authorities to be arrested, tortured, and then executed.

Jesus had intensely taught his disciples for three and a half years. They all saw him teach, work miracles, and raise the dead. Each of them were able to…

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encouragement theology

Dare to Waste!

Matthew takes time in the Passion Week narrative to reflect on an earlier event. Jesus had stayed in Bethany on the way to Jerusalem, and celebrated dinner with a cleansed leper named Simon. During the dinner, Mary scandalizes the crowd by breaking a costly bottle of perfume over the Lord’s head and His feet, and then wiping them with her hair. Judas led the disciples in criticizing her until Jesus rebuked him, shutting him up.

Now, three days later, an angry and bitter Judas comes to the chief priests, offering to deliver Jesus to them, away from the crowds.

Previous post: The Final Judgment

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Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), causing many to believe in him. But this also provoked the anger and jealousy of the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were all united in their plans to kill him (John 11:53).

Jesus had retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover. Within a couple weeks of the Passover, He had traveled north from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11), and joined the bands of Galilean pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem [2].

As the crowds neared Jerusalem on Friday, Jesus had split from the group and spent the Sabbath in the nearby town of Bethany. It was there in Bethany that Simon, a healed leper, had hosted a feast for Jesus and his disciples on…

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The Final Judgment

Thoughts from Matthew 25…

Are you ready for Jesus to return?

Shortly before He left the earth, Jesus told a story to His closest friends. A rich man went away on a journey, leaving part of his fortune with three of his stewards. The first steward was efficient, doubling his master’s return on his investment. The second steward was not as efficient, yet he still was able to bring his master a sizable return. But the third steward hated his master. Expecting the master to never return, he hid his share away, making plans to keep it for himself. 

But the master did return and asked for an accounting of his assets. He commended the first two stewards for their diligence and return on the investments given to them. But the final steward responded with hostility until he was stripped of all his belongings and sentenced to severe punishment.

Jesus then compared this message with the judgment on the world. After the final suffering of the world (see here), Jesus will come back to earth and divide all of the people who remain. His true followers will have demonstrated their faith by caring for the persecuted believers, including feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, clothing the destitute, and visiting the prisoners and infirmed. They will be blessed by God and welcomed into His kingdom.

By contrast, those who have refused Jesus Christ will have demonstrated their true hearts by their lack of compassion. Regardless of their words and their appearances, they never knew Jesus Christ. They will be cursed, and sent to eternal punishment.

These were Jesus’ final words about His return. How do these two scenes fit with the rest of Jesus’ words? How do they fit with the rest of Scripture?

Categories
encouragement theology

Be Ready!

Thoughts from Matthew 24…

We are now past the midpoint of 2021, yet it is still good to reflect on the previous year. How many of us, in 2019, would have believed anyone who predicted what actually happened in 2020? We experienced a virus that shut down the world. Our country saw severe political and social unrest. Many of us went through job and workplace changes. None of us were prepared for 2020!

But it is hard to prepare for the unexpected. No one could have predicted these recent events, nor do we completely know what is going to happen over the next couple years. 

But if we can’t anticipate the unknown, how well do we do at preparing for events that we do know will happen? Are we ready for the future?

Jesus was talking with His disciples about their great temple when He gave them a disturbing promise: it would all be totally destroyed! But He had much more to tell them when they asked about the future. How would they know when He returned? What should they look for?

These same warnings and promises from Jesus Christ are as meaningful for us today as they were for His disciples two thousand years ago. There will be unrest and confusion. Believers will face persecutions and mistrust across the world, but don’t be led astray. Trust in the Holy Spirit (see here). There will be a time of trouble, greater than has ever happened before, but do not fear — God is still in control and He will return in power (see here). He will come and destroy those who oppose Him, and take away His own forever!

But Jesus had a specific point for teaching us about these events. He concluded by repeating the message four times — be ready! You don’t know when He is returning, but be ready! Be ready! Be ready!