Reading Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is being tempted by the Devil. Every time the Devil says to do something, Jesus replies with Law (Deut. 8:3, 6:16; 6:13). More specifically, Michael points out that in Matthew 4:6, the Devil quotes scripture to Jesus Christ to get him to sin against God. This is why it’s so important to read scripture accurately.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Have you ever come into the middle of a conversation, and it sounds really interesting, and you try to get what everyone is talking about, from the context?
I mean, first you are quiet and you just nod your head, “mmhhm, mmhhm,” and you hope no one has noticed you have just inserted yourself. Inside you are scrambling to piece it all together. But, at some point you realize there is just too much you don’t know, you have too few puzzle pieces for you to understand what’s going on.
I think that is how we hear the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We try to get why this event is so momentous it shows up in all four gospels as the commencement of Passion Week. But, there is just too much important background information that is missing for us to really grasp the importance—and symbology—of what was happening in this scene.
First, we will look at the passage, then I am going to tell you four stories, so you will have all you need to understand what is going on. Then we will go back to the passage and piece it all together.
(There was something going on with my microphone, so throughout this talk you will hear glitches. Hopefully, the talk itself will overcome that minor annoyance)
Triumphal Entry, Mark 11:1-11 Grace and Peace, Joanne
Michael Furlonger Shares The Gospel Through The Old Testament Law
The biggest questions that I come across is, “What do I do after I accept faith in Jesus Christ?” It’s a good question. After all, if we are “saved by grace through faith,” what do I do with everyday problems?
Is my porn addiction under the guise of grace? No, it’s not. Is my swearing covered under the guise of grace? No, it’s not. Is my disrespect for my parents, my spouse and my boss covered by the guise of grace? No. It. Is. Not.
You never recognize how bad something is until you are free of it. I never knew how crippling pornography was until I tasted the freedom that godly living provided. How isolating this sin was to me.
I never knew how disrespect hindered me from making genuine connections until I was free of it.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)
First we taste, and then we see.
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:24)
Did I just strike a nerve? You may be freed from an addiction of pornography or disrespect or swearing, but find yourself still drawn to sexual thoughts, anger, bad language. After Apostle Paul asks, “Who will save me from this body that is subject to death,” that is ‘subject to sin’, he says,
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)
In the passage that comes before this one, Mark talked about a scribe who had asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. And he was impressed with Jesus’ answer.
Jesus was also pleased. He told the scribe he was very close to entering the kingdom of heaven. With such a warm endorsement from a scribe, this was a rare teachable moment. The right moment, in today’s passage, for Jesus to talk about Messiah. And to teach His disciples the difference between a false reading, and a true reading of scripture.
In this half-hour video, I’ll give a talk that falls into three divisions:
I Christ for the World, Mark 12:35-37
II Court of the Women, Mark 12:38-40
III Coins of the Widow, Mark 12:42-44
At the end of this teachable moment Jesus had with His disciples, you and I will learn that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
It is God’s pleasure to give to us. Then, real lovers of God, worship Him by joyfully sharing His spiritual and material wealth with others. In this way, they uphold the receiver’s dignity and deflects attention from the giver.
What do you and I have that we can now see God is calling us to share with someone else, as a matter of generous love towards God Himself? This kind of sharing ends up making all of us richer.
The Widow’s Mite Mark 12:35-44 Grace and Peace, Joanne YouTube Channel
Yet, first century Christians continued to struggle and wrestle with this very difficult issue, so both Peter and Paul helped them by explaining Jesus’ teaching. Peter said, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution.” Paul summed it up like this:
Believers render to all what is due them
In fact, the whole verse says,
Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”
Romans 13:7 (NIV)
Every believer has a dual citizenship: in the country you live in and in the kingdom of God. Even when our government does not govern the way we feel is wise, or good, or even honest, it still regulates and stems crime, and promotes the public welfare.
You and I are obligated to pay our taxes, to be mindful of the laws and rules we arecalled to uphold, and to be involved in the process of public policy making by voting.
This is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Jesus Himself paid His temple tax even though He was Lord of the temple and Lord of the Sabbath. We also have responsibilities to our families, and to our work. We are to be people of integrity, being honest in our labors, doing what is right, even at personal cost, even when we do not always agree with those who are in authority over us. God requires us to do what is right.
Jesus gave a great answer, really.
That’s not what left the Sanhedrin’s delegation drop-jawed—‘utterly amazed,’ as Mark described them.
What took their breath away is what Jesus said in-between the lines. Give a listen, and find out how . . .
“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24
I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?
We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.
The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.
Is it Okay to Hate?
And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.
We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.
So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.
When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?
The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.
The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.
All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.
Did you ever have a sense of destiny? What about childhood promises you made to yourself—when I grow up, I will always have a clean house, or I will never get hurt again, or I will make all my own decisions. Childhood dreams and childhood vows drive us a lot more than we realize. In this YouTube talk, we’re going to see how the disciples’ theology drove them a lot more than they realized, too.
Recap: So, this chapter began on a high mountain, both figuratively and physically. Peter, James., and John had the transcendent experience of seeing Jesus glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah, and hearing God speak personally to them to listen to Jesus, God the Son. Very soon after, Jesus and these three found themselves in a valley, again, figuratively and physically. From their peak spiritual experience, they found themselves plunged into the chaos of overwhelmed disciples, a demon-possessed boy, an angry crowd, and a desperate father.
Evidently, there was a house nearby. Jesus took His disciples aside, once they’d entered the building, to explain why they’d experienced such failure in casting out the demon. This is where Mark picked up the narrative, again.
Seasoned With Salt Mark 9:30-50
[Jesus in Peter’s house | James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
You saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came into being. Psalm 139: 16
Our environment tells us we are just here. Parental abandonment tells us that we are unwanted. Some societies value sons over daughters. Perhaps we are made to believe that we are unwanted and unloved. Scientists say we live and die without purpose, maybe we are just a mass of cells and chemistry, nothing more. We exist but without love, without purpose and without happiness. In fact, life is miserable. Gloom fills our days and we are walking in the valley of darkness. We believe we are unloved, unwanted and without hope. Death may even be sweeter, so suicidal thoughts creep into our lives.
But what if all the above is a lie to rob you of your joy and hope of a fulfilled purpose in life?
There Wasn’t an Accident
Over the years you heard the whispers when people thought you weren’t listening. Or perhaps you have been told directly that you were an afterthought, or an unwanted child. Perhaps due to a violent twist of events, your mother was raped, and you were born nine months later. Or due to parental abandonment, you feel your life is a failure, you are to blame for your parent’s marriage problems. Or perhaps your parents are so consumed in their lives, you feel emotionally abandoned. You feel unloved and unwanted. Depression digs deep you wish you hadn’t been born.
But may I tell you another story?
Imagine an architect who designs a home. Mathematics and straight lines and curves, exact measurements are penned to paper so when it comes time to build, what has been conceptualised can be brought into existence at the construction site. A beautiful edifice evolves. I had the privilege to tour architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania. It is indeed a wonderous structure above a waterfall. Just to hear the water cascading downward is reason to live there.
But he didn’t do it without thought. There was a plan, a blueprint and then the construction material was brought to the site. Then the rubble of bricks, wood and stone took shape as the blueprint was followed and a work of art stood where once was barren ground. The structure was not an accident. It was constructed due to intent, for a purpose.
You Were Perfectly Made
God is your architect. He visualised you before you were even conceived. He saw your incomplete substance in his eyes and then he fashioned you in his mind. God perhaps didn’t use pen and paper for his blueprint, but he wrote it on his heart. His knowledge of us is intentional. His knowledge of us comes from sight, not hearsay. We are not an accident. We were planned and creatively designed by the Almighty. You were born just the way He wanted you to be born, the exact shape and size and with purpose. And in everything he does, love defines his actions and his finished masterpiece.
“That’s hard to believe,” you may say to me. “Look at me, I’m too fat or too skinny. I was born blind, without limbs, look at me, I’m a misfit,” you may yell at me.
You have looked in the mirror. Who can know you better than yourself? You have seen the imperfections. You cringe at what you see, and you believe the world joins the chorus. In fact, they are the ones that started it with their taunts and bullying. Our beauty culture demands perfection and we are not perfect. We try diets, exercise, cosmetics but we see the same body every time we look in the mirror. We become dejected and depressed. “If only I looked like a movie celebrity, I would look beautiful,” we lament.
What the world calls imperfect, God calls beautiful. His design, his blueprint comes with beauty and purpose. How can a man born without limbs have beauty? Yet when you hear Nick Vujucic’s story, it is there.
God looks at the heart of a man or woman, he is most interested in our inner being. Yes, he is concerned about our body too, but he has the whole picture of what we are all about, inside and out. He sees where people can’t see. This should bring comfort that we are whole beings who matter to him. He has no limitations to his love.
You Were Born for a Purpose
We were not born just to exist. While it is true that we live to die, we do not live a purposeless life just drifting through until we are buried never to be resurrected. Science may teach us so, but science doesn’t have all the answers. God does.
All of our days have been ordained. Ordained has two meanings: One is that we are appointed, invested, and/or anointed. All these words imply purpose or position behind the one who does it. For example, if we are appointed to a position, it is expected that we carry out certain functions, have a specific role. Human resources call it a job description. In the second instance, ordained means to decree, to order or command. For example, a nation may decree that certain laws must be followed. People are ordered to follow the laws of the land. Again, we see purpose for no law is given without a positive purpose to it.
And so, all our days have been ordered, or appointed. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Your work was cut out for you even before you were born, while it was only visualised in God’s mind.
“But what must I do,” you cry. “I don’t know my purpose in life. What is wanted of me? I don’t have direction.”
Jesus can answer those questions. When you “abide in Christ”, you will find joy, hope, self-worth, and purpose. God loves you and wants you.
One good thing about this isolation is that more people are attending church services than ever before, albeit online. And today I want to share how about my wife’s service from Sunday, which lead me to think of the coronavirus and Job.
Now, one of the things that I have commonly heard is that this virus is not from God. So many people are saying that, because we know about the background of viruses as well as other life affecting catastrophes, they aren’t from God.
Now, I’m not going to say this is or is not from God, but I will say that God is sovereign. Nothing happens without his knowing about it.
Blessed Be Your Name
We started the service by singing some songs and one of these songs is called “Blessed Be Your (God’s) Name”. Not just the Name of God, but the entire being of God, the characteristics of God.
The chorus, or bridge, of the song goes, “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Blessed be Your name’.” I’ve heard pastors say that this song is about God giving good and taking bad away. But that’s not what it’s about.
First off, ‘Blessed be Your name,’ comes from a reference from the book of Job (pronounced Jobe). In the book of Job, this man of God loses everything aside from his wife. A wife, by the way, can’t even stand the smell of him, according to Job 19:17. To stay on topic, the song comes from Job 1;
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worshipand said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)
As you can see, Job is saying, may the name of the Lord still be praised despite circumstances. Now, in the song, one verse reads;
“Blessed be Your Name On the road marked with suffering Though there is pain in the offering Blessed be Your Name”
Supernatural Catastrophy And Coronavirus
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:6-19)
Cause & Effect
As you just read, Job’s calamity didn’t come from a supernatural travesty. The supernatural God allowed a supernatural angel to cause damage to a natural man through natural means.
1. Sabeans attacked and stole the livestock and killed the servants.
2. Fire from heaven (arguably supernatural) fell and killed the sheep and servants.
3. Chaldeans stole the camels and put servants to death.
4. Wind swept in from a known position and knocked over Job’s children’s house, killing them.
The Lesson To Be Learned
A lot of churches teach on how God will bless them if they come to church and give a offering. Job’s story completely disagrees with that. And so much of scripture will disagree with the common prosperity message.
What we need to learn from this story is that God is God. He is our only Hope and our only source of Righteousness. To live absent of God’s righteousness is to live absent of God.
I can’t absolutely say, “The coronavirus is an absolute judgment from God.” What I can say, as Jesus said, “… When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Half way through Ecclesiastes 3:11, it says, “He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart.” While 2020 isn’t going as planned for so many of us, I want to share an aspect of godliness, and God Himself, that isn’t focused on. That is the eternal nature of God. And since we are made in his image, the eternal destiny of humans.
Things You Need To Know
God is eternal and created all things (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1; John 1:14)
You have an eternal soul. Whether it’s Heaven or Hell, you will be eternally in one of those places (Matt. 25:46).
Jesus Christ died for your sins so that we may partake in the blessings of the eternal God and the eternal life we were made for (John 17:3)
God is Holy and calls on us to be holy as He is (Lev. 19:2; Deut. 26:19; 1 Peter 1:15)
Why I’m Scared
You know that scene in Aladdin when the Genie tells Aladdin that he has, “Phenomenal cosmic power.” Then he goes back into the lamp and in a squeaky voice says, “Itty, bitty living space.” That’s why I used to be so scared of eternity. I remember praying, “Lord, I don’t want to go to Hell, but I also don’t want to go to Heaven. Please, just destroy my soul.” A little morbid, I know.
In Revelation 21, an angel shows John the new heavens and new earth. Followed by verse 2, John sees the new Jerusalem, the Holy City coming down from Heaven. In verses 15-17, John shares the dimensions of the gates around the new Jerusalem. The walls were 12,000 stadia on each side and 144 cubits thick.
It scared me because in my head, I thought all of eternity would be spent within this measured city. Eternity seemed quite claustrophobic with boundaries. No?
Locked In (Part one)
I felt locked in to this four walled city, each wall measuring 12,000 stadia. That is equal to just shy of twice the size of New York City.
There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west… On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. (Rev. 21:13+25)
This is quite interesting. There are gates, but the gates are open, not closed. Revelation 21:26 says, “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.”
New Heavens & New Earth
In Revelation 21:1, John begins by saying that he saw “a new heaven and a new earth”. Then John sees the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth. There is obviously more than the small size measured out above.
Look at what Solomon prays when he is dedicating the temple within Jerusalem:
“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you…” (1 Kings 8:27)
If the infinite God is too grand for the highest heavens now, why would he minimize Himself in the new creation?
Revelation 21:1 says that “there was no longer any sea.”
I don’t like that there is no sea. “Where do the fish live?” I thought, “Jesus was a fisherman. Why would he create a new heaven and earth with no fish?”
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life… On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. (Rev. 22:1a+2b)
I realized that not all bodies of water are sea. I remember spending several summers in my teen years at a cottage at a lake in Ontario, Canada. Spending times fishing, cooking fish over a fire and on and on.
(We can also discuss salt water seas/ocean, verses fresh water lakes. If you drink excessive salt water it will kill you, but fresh water won’t.)
Although there is no sea, in John’s revelation, there is a river and thus a body of water. I can only assume that there are many bodies of water.
The River & Locked In (Part 2)
In the section above, I mentioned my fear of being locked in to a closed location, even if it’s the new Jerusalem. I mentioned the entrance and exit through the gates that never close.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:2)
Not only do these gates never close, but Revelation 22 says that there will be other nations. And where this new Garden of Eden is, nations will come into it for healing.
I remember watching a movie when I was young called All Dogs Go To Heaven. I don’t remember liking that movie, but it is a great segue into the next topic of animals.
Do I believe that your pet gold fish will be in heaven? No, I don’t. But I strongly believe that animals will be in the new creation.
In Isaiah 65:17-25, God is telling Isaiah about the New Heaven and the New Earth. Note that there is some mention of the mortality rate of the young and the old. I personally believe this is to point out the blessings of the new creation, not the mortality itself. But on the topic of animals,
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:25)
I believe that this points out two things of the new creation. One is that rival enemies, like a wolf and a lamb, will live in peace. In the same way, rival people will live in peace. And, two, there will be animals.
Will we all become vegetarians? I don’t know. But, with the technology with these fake burgers, being a vegetarian doesn’t seem that bad.
Have worked hard on a project, but knew that if you had only a bit more time, it would be better? If this universe is bound by time and space, what do you think God will do when we are no longer bound by time and space?
Two satellites were sent from NASA in 1977 called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. While they were meant for the study of planets in our solar system, the have gone beyond it. Scientists, I believe, were quite surprised at how far these satellites had gone. As of February 9, 2011, Voyager 2 is 8.6 billion miles from the sun.
What if God says, “If only you gave me more time, I would have shown you what I have created.” In the new creation, I believe that we will see so much more of what God can do. It definitely won’t be boring.
God Loves You
God loves you. He created you as an eternal being. God wants to show you what he has done. That is what waits for us beyond this chaotic world.
God is also infinitely just. God is so just that we could never pay off the debt of our sins. But because of his love, He showed how just he is by having his Son, Jesus Christ, die on the cross.
Please, if God has called you and has set eternity in your heart, call on him. He is infinite in his justice, but also infinite in mercy.