Jesus Begins to Prepare the Disciples

Matthew 16:21. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

The next events in Jesus’ ministry on earth were coming together, pointing more and more to the Cross and His sacrifice and resurrection. From this passage onward, Jesus worked slowly and clearly to help the disciples understand what He–and they–would be facing until He returned to heaven. 

Did they “get it”?  Not right away, I’m sure.  There must have been confusion and denial.  Even after Peter’s affirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, it doesn’t seem as if they put it all together with the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth. After all, they loved Him.  They did not easily accept or understand that He would purposefully go to Jerusalem, there to suffer and die for the sin of all mankind.  They were more of a mind to take Him to Jerusalem as the reigning King of the Jews!

It is easy for us to look back and say, “Well, I would have understood!  I wouldn’t have tried to stop Him, and I wouldn’t have left His side during all the suffering.  I would have believed!”

I’m not so sure. The men who were His disciples had been reared in the traditional Jewish manner, learning the Law and the Prophets, learning the oral, traditional law, from the time they were very small.  Yet, they didn’t put it all together until after the resurrection. 

We have the entire inspired Word of God, and we don’t put it all together, either.  If we did, we would live more holy lives. We would witness more.  We would devour His Word and yearn to share it with others.  

I don’t believe we recognize fully Who God is, any more than the disciples did. 

Daily Prompt: Singing the Blues

(We all feel down from time to time. How do you combat the blues? What’s one tip you can share with others that always helps to lift your spirits?)

 

What do I do when I’m blue?  Why, I sing!  It has always been music that has lifted my spirits.

Now, I can’t say that this particular song, well-known as it is, would lift me out of the depths of despair.  After all, it’s not really a sad song compared to the real Blues tradition.

The music I love the most when I’m moping is southern gospel.  Not the twangy stuff, which has never appealed to me much. My Grandpa Shorty used to listen to it on the radio in his truck, and I remember sitting beside him (no seat belts then–we could snuggle) while he sang along.  He’d harmonize, and he had a pretty good voice. Still, I never really got hooked on it.

The southern gospel I like is more along the lines of the older Gaither songs; also the music my parents played on their record player, 45’s and then 78’s, which you younger folks wouldn’t remember. Rudy Atwood at the piano with the Blackwood Brothers, for instance. Wonderful music, positive words, melodies you could sing right along with the artist; and you could also easily harmonize.  I believe that music is what taught me to hear and reproduce vocal harmony when I was too young to know what I was doing.

The churches I grew up in, and the one we loved and served in for 30+ years, used to raise the roof with gospel music. The singing was joyful, hearfelt, and uninhibited.  After a while, I was able to play the piano for the services when I was maybe 12 or so.  I longed to be able to play like Atwood.  Never quite got there, but I sure enjoyed trying!

I used to practice for hours in the little church in St. James where my dad pastored for the years I was in high school.  One of my self-imposed exercises was to play through every song in the hymnal. In doing so, I learned the words to hundred of songs; began to understand different harmonies; and also worked out whatever mope I may have been enjoying 🙂

Music that lifts my spirits also includes the classics.Pachelbel’s Canon is a favorite.  I love Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven.  I tend to prefer the big, booming stuff, although I do dearly love Vivaldi.

What a gift God has given us in music. I am thankful.

_________

Sexual Assault: Focus on Male Victims, part 5

I’m dealing with a topic today that pushes buttons for a lot of people.  It’s always amazing to me how quickly a misbelief can become rock solid truth in our minds, with very little knowledge, research or experience to back it up.

So.  Have you ever heard this one? “If a boy/man is sexually assaulted, it’s because he is or will become a homosexual.”

Ranks right up there with “If a woman is raped, it’s because she was asking for it.”

Evil compounded on evil.

If we’re going to follow that logic, then it would have to be true that if a lesbian is raped by a male, it’s because she wanted to/will become heterosexual.

No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

I’m not going to even try to deal with sexual orientation issues here.  That’s not the point.  The point is what we believe about a boy or man who has been assaulted against his will; who has possibly been seriously hurt in the process; who had no way to prevent or escape the assault, and who is probably dealing with at least some, if not all, of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Why we want to victimize these guys further  is just beyond me, same as it is with women.  They’ve been through enough, already.

The simple truth is, there is no research, there are no statistics, that support the idea that males who are sexually assaulted become homosexuals or were homosexuals before the assault.  So let’s just get this out of the way:  Does it ever happen?  Yes, of course. And here’s the reason why.

Sexual assault is not just an assault on the body.  It touches the heart and soul of the victim. Please remember that the very first thing Adam and Eve noticed after they first disobeyed God was that they were naked.  It had never bothered them before, but now their minds and hearts were polluted by sin, and what God had created to be pure and beautiful in a loving relationship was also corrupted by sin.  Human sexuality was the first thing Satan touched with his scaly finger, and it’s been a problem ever since.  Our minds are so twisted up and polluted by sin, especially in matters of sexuality, that we fail to think biblically about the issue.

I’ve said it before and I’m about to say it again:  Sexual sin is NOT the unforgiveable sin!  That sin is to deny the deity of Jesus Christ, which is blasphemy. Look it up in Matthew 12:22-32.  We, not God, are the ones who have elevated sexual sin to THE WORST SIN YOU CAN COMMIT.  I agree, it’s awful.  It offends our holy God, and it ought to offend us. But, as I’ve also said before, if there had never been sexual sin, Jesus still would have had to die.  I wish we were just as concerned about lying, or coveting, or using God’s Name in vain as we are about sexual sin.

Anyway.  Please pardon the rabbit trail.  I get churned up sometimes 🙂 Back to the issue.

A boy or man is just as confused and full of self-doubt as a female victim is.  His negative self-talk will include things like this:

“Why did that guy pick ME?  Am I really a homosexual?  I must not be very manly. I must look or seem weak.  I must seem like I WANT to be abused!  Something about me attracted him.  Maybe it’s the way I walk.  Maybe I really do seem attractive to other men.  Does that mean I’m really homosexual?”

One of the most distressing results of sexual assault on a male or female child is that it robs the person of the right to discover sexuality as a loving, wholesome, and binding experience. Childhood sexual assault almost always leads to a host of other problems, including other sexual assault episodes.

What we forget in all this is that the rapist is the one to blame.  The rapist is the one who feels entitled to force himself on someone else. The rapist is the one who breaks the law and creates no end of ongoing grief and sorrow for the victim. Why we seem to so quickly shift the blame to the victim is just amazing to me.

Tell No Man

Matthew 16:20. “Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ.”

Why would Jesus charge His disciples to tell no one Who He really was?  There are some reasons offered in two of my sources that make a great deal of sense to me.

First, He was not ready to assert His claim as Messiah yet, knowing the controversy it would cause. He made no public claim of His true identity at first, but allowed the power of His works to both speak for Him and to fulfill prophecy.

Second,He wanted people to fulfill the law by offering the testimony that Moses commanded  in Lev. 14:4, 10, and 21-22.  The proof of cleansing from leprosy was considered a Messianic  power, and should have convinced the priests that He was the Christ.

Third, He knew  that the time was not right for Him to be proclaimed King. He was not seeking popularity and public acclaim. Such would have resulted in the clamour of the mob to elevate Him, creating utter confusion and confounding His real purpose. When this kind of acclaim did happen, He got away from it (John 6:15-21).

Fourth, Jesus set an example of putting healing to the test before testimony was given of it. Any real healing will stand any kind of test.

There was a man in our church years ago who developed leukemia. This was early in the days of treating that cancer successfully.  He was very sick, and only in his 30’s or 40’s, I believe.  He and his wife had planned his funeral. There seemed to be no hope at all.

Then the pastor and some of the deacons went to his hospital room, laid hands on him, and prayed for his healing.  He was a main player in the growth of the church, and would be sorely missed.  I’m not sure, but it seems I’ve heard he was also anointed with oil.

Now, I know that pastor and most of the men involved, and I know they loved God and believed He could heal. And He did! To the amazement of everyone, the man began to improve and is still alive today, in his early 90’s. The doctors were shocked, and the story is still a favorite among those who were part of the church back then.

God is not required to heal.  We have no right to demand that He do so.  But He CAN, and when it suits His purpose, He will. There was no doubt that the man’s healing was miraculous, no doubt that his illness had been the real thing.  It was an incredible testimony to the doctors, nurses, and staff who treated him, as well as to the church family.

Jesus can still do today what He did during His ministry on earth. We need to pray more.

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 16:19. “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It is partly from this verse that the idea has developed that it is Peter who stands guard at the gates to heaven, deciding who will enter and who will not. This idea makes for some interesting fiction, but it is most certainly not the true meaning of Jesus’ words.

I looked at this verse in several different sources, and most of them came to the same conclusion.  It’s one that makes a great deal of sense to me.

My Dake’s Study Bible notes first that these keys were given not just to Peter, because the same power is promised to all believers (Matt.  17:20; 18:18; 21:22; Mark 9:23; 11:22-24; 16:15-20; Luke 10:19; John 14:12-15; 15:7, and many others).

Second, keys are a symbol of authority (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7). Here, they mean the authority and power to do the works of Christ (Matt. 18:18; 16:15-20; John 14:12-15).

Third, in no place in scripture does Jesus ever equate the kingdom of heaven with the church; therefore, He was not giving Peter authority over the church. He was giving Peter and all believers the authority to do His work.The kingdom of the heavens, in its present form, embraces the whole sphere of Christendom; that is, all who profess Christ.  Remember that not everyone who names Christ is truly a follower of Christ. Not all  who make up Christendom are true believers.

In Matthew 18:18, Jesus repeats His words, addressing not just Peter but all the disciples. Peter was not given special or sole authority over the church; nor was he the only one who went on to perform miracles after the Day of Pentecost.

Arno C. Gaebelein says that the keys are knowledge (preaching and teaching): and baptizing, citing Matthew 28:12. He doesn’t make clear how he considers baptizing to be a key to the kingdom of heaven; surely not in the sense of salvation, but rather in the sense of discipleship and obedience. I’m confident of this because his teaching on salvation is very clear, and baptism is not the vehicle of salvation.

The binding and loosing have nothing to do with salvation, either. It would most logically refer only to discipline on the earth.  We will look more closely at these two words when we get to Matthew 18 and matters of discipline in the church.

Please understand that there is much, much more to be said about all this.  It is a topic that can hardly be exhausted.  These three verses, Matthew 16:16-18, have been preached upon for centuries, and I’m sure their true depths have never been plumbed. If you are looking for more, I urge you to study it out for yourself.  There are excellent sources online, if you are discerning and willing to compare one writer to another and all of them to scripture.

The importance of these verses cannot be overstated.  It is, after all, the church that Christ will take as His bride, the one He loves to the point of sacrificing His very life to save. Nothing is more important than that.

Daily Prompt: Memorable Moments

(What are the three most memorable moments — good or bad, happy or sad — in your life? Go!)

This is a tough one. There are so many memorable moments!  So I’m going to focus on the good:

Image

1. Learning to read and getting my first library card

2. Falling in love and knowing it was the real thing

3. Holding each of my four children and nine grandchildren for the first time (I know, 13 moments there. So sue me 🙂 )

Upon this Rock

Matthew 16:18. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Without any doubt, this verse is one of the most important, most-often misinterpreted verses in all of scripture.  Not all of you will agree with what I’m about to write. Please read it with as unbiased an eye as you can, as I prayerfully and carefully tell you what I believe the truth to be.

First, Jesus blessed Peter.  This blessing is the same for every believer who acknowledges Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The surname Barjona indicates that Peter was the son of Jona; it also mean son of a dove. It is interesting that the dove is the emblem and type of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit of God that revealed to Peter Who Jesus was, just as the Holy Spirit touches every person who comes to Christ.

Then, Jesus gave Peter a new name. He said, “Thou art petros.”  Petros is a part of a rock, a smaller stone.  Then He said, “Upon this Petra I will build My church.” Petra is a rock, out of which the petros, smaller stone, is broken.  Jesus used the word Petra for the first time in Matthew 7:24-25. The house there is built not upon a small stone, petros,  but upon a large rock, Petra, that cannot be moved by storm nor flood. “This Rock” is a clear reference to Jesus Himself.

My dad taught years ago that the King James translators would have done better to write it this way: “Thou are petros, a smaller stone. But upon this Petra, Me Myself, I will build My church.”

Think about it now. Wouldn’t you rather be part of a church built on Christ Himself than on a mere man?

So why use petros here, since it seems to have caused so much confusion?  I believe all of us who have come to Jesus for salvation are petros; we are all part of that huge, strong, unbreachable Petra, the Rock of Ages; the One upon Whom the church is built, and against which nothing, not even Satan himself, can or will ever prevail.

Here are Peter’s own words, from I Peter 2:4-6: “To Whom coming, as unto a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scriptures, Behold, I lay in Sion a Chief Cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.”

Peter understood that Jesus was the foundation of the church. He knew that Jesus was the Rock upon Whom the church would be built.

It is also important to understand that the church was still a future entity. The word Jesus used was ecclesia, or called-out assembly. There was no church in the Old Testament.  Israel was not the Old Testament church. When Jesus said these words, His ministry on earth was not yet complete. The building of the church was still future. He was only beginning to reveal the mystery of the church

The words the gates of hell shall not prevail against it have been interpreted to establish the infallibility of Peter. Not so. Those words establish that Jesus Christ and His church will stand victorious over every attempt of Satan to destroy it.

As I think of the history of the church from the ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost, I can only marvel at the way God has preserved His church throughout centuries of Satan’s efforts to tear it apart. Satan has used everything he can think of, from misinterpretation of scripture, to corruption of church leaders, to the active torture, persecution and death of believers, to the banning of God’s Word in many countries, to the division of God’s people over dress, standards of behavior, music, versions and translations of the scripture to outright denial and the rise of atheism as a political power. None of it has destroyed the church, and none of it ever will. Where Satan manages to stifle the gospel in one place, the dispersion of persecuted believers causes it to rise up in many other places. The gates of hell WILL NOT prevail against God’s church.  Not now, not ever.

Amen!