The Word was God

John Chapter 12

John 12:1-50 NLTse Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus–the man he had raised from the dead. (2) A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. (3) Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. (4) But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, (5) “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” (6) Not that he cared for the poor–he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples‘ money, he often stole some for himself. (7) Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. (8) You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (9) When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. (10) Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, (11) for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. (12) The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors (13) took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” (14) Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: (15) “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.” (16) His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. (17) Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. (18) That was the reason so many went out to meet him–because they had heard about this miraculous sign. (19) Then the Pharisees said to each other, who had come”There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (20) Some Greeks to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration (21) paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” (22) Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus. (23) Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. (24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives. (25) Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. (26) Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. (27) “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (28) Father, bring glory to your name.” Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” (29) When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. (30) Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. (31) The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. (32) And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (33) He said this to indicate how he was going to die. (34) The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” (35) Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. (36) Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them. (37) But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. (38) This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: “LORD, who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm?” (39) But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said, (40) “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts– so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” (41) Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory. (42) Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. (43) For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (44) Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. (45) For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. (46) I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (47) I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. (48) But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. (49) I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. (50) And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

After writing three studies on this story about Mary anointing Jesus, I can finally see how God changed the order in this sequence. We can see Lazarus mentioned a number of times, which brings attention to his death. We see Mary anointed Jesus before His death. But look at the story that follows, the shorted account of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. When we carefully pray before studying scripture, we can see another story out of place. But is it?

If we compare Solomon’s ordination to this story, we see Solomon rode David’s mule out of Jerusalem to Gihon Spring. The word Gihon means to shoot forth water. Jesus rode a young donkey colt from Bethany into Jerusalem. Solomon was anointed after his ride, Jesus was anointed before. We have two examples of a reversed order in one chapter.

This calls attention to many spiritual lessons in the gospels. Some we’ve seen, and others we are about to study. One of the reasons God gave us those examples of a reverse order is to remind us, understanding His Word may not be as easy as some people claim it is. If there is one thing people who really study God’s Word can tell you is, you have to go over it again and again to understand. God has a way or revealing only portions at a time.

Jesus on a DonkeyJesus had a choice. He could have ridden the donkey, the colt’s mother, or the little colt. Jesus chose the little colt. The disciples were so embarrassed, the their their coats over the beast to cover it up. They didn’t want people to think that was the best they could do for their Teacher. We have to approach God’s Word in much the same way. Whatever we bring to a Bible Study is small and embarrassing compared to what God can provide, or what He has to reveal.

As we pray and look deeper into this series of stories, we see another order revered. People expected Jesus to crown Himself King. But that’s not the order in God’s plan. Jesus was first to serve as High Priest before receiving His crown. Jesus’ first ministry in Heaven is to conduct the judgment. Look at the previous chapters to see how often Jesus tried to teach that point. Now you can see the need for those examples of a reverse order. We didn’t understand the messages when they were presented, but when new details are added and we look back, we can clearly see why Jesus used that specific order.

And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world–to every nation, tribe, language, and people. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7 NLTse).

There is a specific order given to announce Jesus’ return. The first is to announce the beginning of His duties as High Priest in Heaven which involves His role as judge. But how many people understand this order? How many people are able to explain? Not many people choose to go to God’s mountain to learn God’s order. When we look at the messages of the remaining two angels we clearly see how that order has been reversed.

Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, “Babylon is fallen–that great city is fallen–because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality.” Then a third angel followed them, shouting, “Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. (Revelation 14:8-10 NLTse).

For the most part, Christians today are all too happy to run around preaching either the second or third message, but have no understanding of the first message. For one thing, people place the judgment Jesus talked about in all kinds of different time frames. How do we know which one is true and which of the many are false? We have to study and let God’s Spirit lead us to the truth. When we allow human understanding to take over for God’s Spirit, the sequence is already tainted, stained, and ruined.

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Look at the second message. There must be more interpretations for Babylon’s fall than there are Christian denominations in this world today. Some churches were created by splitting off based on a new interpretation of Babylon or the sequence it will happen. Years and generations have passed, and people still cling onto those traditions and beliefs. Little do the see, they cannot understand the second message until the understand the first.

The same is true for the third message. I hear people quoting little pieces of the second message claiming it is actually the third. Some people claim this is the last message to the world, but can’t really explain what it means. Most religions claim to have identified the beast in Revelation 14, but I haven’t see any who can prove it using only the Bible. They have not learned the art of looking back in scripture for the answer.

That mark is another major doctrine taught in this world now and for generations. There must have been hundreds of guesses attempting to identify that mark. Many of those guesses have been left on the side of the road, replaced by more modern versions. Once again, which are true and which are false?

In those few verses we have uncovered one major difference between Heaven and earth. There is only one true judgment in Heaven, but many Babylons, beasts, and marks on earth. Satan would never plan or rely on a single deception. Not when he has more demons than we can count to carry out his orders. He is as unstable as a raging sea, moving and causing destruction in all directions.

I often wonder why so many people dedicate themselves to the study of Babylon, the beast, and his mark. I’ve noticed those people know so little about Jesus. Is their obsession a deception? But how many people can explain what Jesus is doing in Heaven this minute? What a mixed up world and religion we find ourselves in. How many of those people can tell you when Jesus entered the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin judgment?

There were two things Israel was told to listen for. The sound of the bells on the high priests robe when he walked into the Most Holy, and the sound those bells made when He left the Most Holy. Aaron will wear this robe whenever he ministers before the LORD, and the bells will tinkle as he goes in and out of the LORD’s presence in the Holy Place. If he wears it, he will not die. (Exodus 28:35 NLTse). If they didn’t hear the sound of those bells when Jesus entered the Heavenly Sanctuary, how will they ever recognize the sound when He leaves? What a sad and dangerous example showing how man has chosen once again to ignore God’s order and sequence.

I’m sitting here writing this and wondering how we are going to hear those bells. We can be certain we will hear them in God’s Word when the time is right. Will God confirm their sound with prophets? Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced. “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants–men and women alike. And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth– blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called. (Joel 2:27-32 NLTse).

When we look at what the prophet Joel recorded, there will be much more. How much of it will be physical and how much spiritual? As I sit and write this, I am looking out on a snow covered year looking like a lifeless wasteland covered in white. I can’t help but see the contrast. I know life remains underground ready to shoot up as soon as the sun warms the land. Every spring is like a resurrection in Wisconsin. But now, a major portion of the United States is covered in snow. Other sections of the country that have not seen rain in years has been experiencing major flooding over the past few weeks. The cold weather is so bad here this February, it has set records in many parts of the country. Some placed that rarely see snow are blanketed today. Most of the time snow will melt later in the day, or the next day. But this winter it lingers as if it is whispering a message. As if God wants us to hear a message. What are the signs of the end – when Jesus’ finishes judging?

If you want to see those signs, look out the window and listen to God. Over the past few years this world has experienced record cold and hot temperatures. Some times at the same time on opposite sides of this planet. God’s creation is crying out while it is being shaken and wrenched apart. Like every creature in God’s new world had to suffer the effects of sin, they suffer under unbearable conditions while this world repeats the first sin – they refuse to listen to God.

Record long droughts are followed by record rain falls and floods. The worst storm every recorded in history hit the Philippians a little more than a year ago. Every part of this world is suffering under stains beyond its control. Governments promise relief, but are really helpless. They point to science as the only answer to this world’s problems, induce additional burdens in the form of taxes to battle the fury this world has unleashed upon us, but can’t see they have fulfilled prophesy.

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Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.” What sorrow awaits those who try to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their evil deeds in the dark! “The LORD can’t see us,” they say. “He doesn’t know what’s going on!” How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”? (Isaiah 29:14-16 NLTse).

What does that clay represent? Who questions God? Who tries to silence His voice? Who claims to be greater than God? There is only one answer, science, the people who claim they can save this world. All it will take is more money, more taxes. Don’t they know Jesus was born in Bethlehem because of a decree to raise taxes? What about that clay? Look at Daniel, who tells us when it will appear in history. The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. (Daniel 2:41 NLTse). According to Daniel, that clay will appear near the end of time. That is when that clay will question the creator. The clay will not all the iron to cling together. Science will work to divide the world’s kingdoms. Those taxes are not used only the fight the unpredictable nature of God’s creation, the majority of taxes are going to the greatest military build up in earth’s history. Some alliances are being formed while others are being fractured. To a large degree, countries are dividing and uniting along religious lines. Something we wouldn’t have imagined fifty years ago.

We have to be very careful with symbols. There are a few rules of contest to follow when we study symbols.

Authors repeat key words to draw attention to their use as symbols.

Symbols always point to something far greater.

Symbols can only be interpreted by God’s Word.

Key words help to point to scripture explaining the meaning of a symbol.

The meaning of a symbol is often explained within the chapter it is recorded.

Symbols must always be interpreted within context.

We cannot take one interpretation of a symbol found in one chapter and apply it to all chapters. We have to consider context, which includes the main theme of the chapter found in the introduction and summation in every chapter, as well as key words used in the chapter.

Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.

It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.

God does not intend in smashing all the clay, nor does all science oppose God and His will. Like everything else, there is good and bad. And God will not stop reaching out. So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction. (Romans 9:16-22 NLTse).

Like Pharaoh constantly opposed God, we see some branches of science opposing and trying to disgrace God. But that does not mean God cannot perform another miracle by reaching them. The jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:4-6 NLTse).

This reminds us, only God can change likes. Working the clay with His hands shows the close personal contact God has with good and bad people, and everyone between. For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Don’t be so angry with us, LORD. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people. (Isaiah 64:4-9 NLTse).

The most important part of this lesson shows how, we have to leave every bit of judgment in God’s hands. God gave Jesus the authority to judge. Jesus is the only one to earn such an important role. When we try to take that role away from Jesus, are we any better than science who openly defiles God? But there is hope. If you have a cold heart that knows only how to judge, Christ can reform you in His hands. If all you love about the Bible is the study of the beast and his mark, God can get you to listen, if you are willing. As for the rest of the world. They are in God’s hands. But He can’t use you until He is done reforming you. Are you ready? Can you hear God’s voice and recognize His work?

Mary Anointed Jesus for Burial

John 12:1-8 NLTse Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus–the man he had raised from the dead. (2) A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. (3) Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. (4) But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, (5) “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” (6) Not that he cared for the poor–he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples‘ money, he often stole some for himself. (7) Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. (8) You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

In chapter 12, John breaks from the pattern established over previous chapters consisting of a great deal of detail, back to a series of stories. Any dedicated student of the Bible will tell you, a break in a pattern is just as important as an established pattern in scripture.

Once a pattern is established, and we see a break in it, this is an indication to pay attention. It often indicates a movement into a new event. Often a break in an established pattern leads into a sever warning or a wonderful promise of fulfillment.

Moving into a new event is the understatement of the universe once we see where John’s book is headed. We can see Jesus is building up to His trial in Jerusalem, death, and resurrection. One thing to pay attention to in this series of stories is the details Jesus shared and how people perceived them.

John makes sure to tell us this first event happened six days before the Passover. The date helps us to piece together Jesus’ last days of His ministry on this world in human from. Jesus began in Bethany. We see Lazarus repeated a number of time. John pointed out, Lazarus was the man Jesus raised from the dead.

The first event was a dinner where Mary anointed Jesus for His burial. Jesus pointed this out. Judas didn’t appreciate the act. He must have harbored a hidden dislike or mistrust of Mary. John pointed out, this was the same Mary who was Lazarus’ sister. This established another link to the previous story where Jesus rose Lazarus from his grave. We see how each story is arranged to build one detail and lesson upon another.

John did not record a lot of details about that dinner, which draws more attention to what he did write. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor–he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples‘ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

We see, Judas was a thief. How does that fit into the spiritual lessons taught here? How do people steal away those lessons while they are still Jesus’ disciple? We have a contrast here between Mary and Judas.

Mary gave a very expensive gift to Jesus. Once the oil was poured over Jesus, it couldn’t be recovered. It was an extravagant gift from the heart. Perfume is normally used in small amounts. Mary anointed Jesus using the entire bottle. She didn’t hold anything back. It was a symbol of her love for Jesus.

Mary didn’t expect anything in return. She also didn’t expect to be criticized for her act. If we look at other gospels, we see how the disciples were arguing who is the greatest. Judas wasn’t listed in those conversations, but this story showed where his heart was. The question still remains, how do Jesus’ disciples steal from Him today?

Twelve ounces is the size of a soda can, or bottle of soda. Some people call it pop or a soft drink. Pouring an entire bottle that size on a person is sure to be noticeable. John made sure to tell us the fragrance filled the room. It had to be more than pure olive oil, which was normally used to anoint a king or priest. This was perfumed oil so everyone would notice.

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about anointing dead bodies for burial. That was a tradition copied from other cultures. God used this as a lesson to show how He uses traditions to meet people where they are. He didn’t condemn the act, He used it to bring glory to His Son. The Christian world can learn a ton lessons from that.

Mary didn’t just pour the oil over Jesus, she wiped it with her hair and kissed Jesus’ feet. She touched Jesus in an intimate manner and in a way beyond normal respect and concern. Do you touch Jesus in the same manner when you offer something to Him?

John 12:9-11 NLTse When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. (10) Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, (11) for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

Opposition grows like a cancer. When people reply on themselves and shut out God’s Spirit, they are left to the devil’s desires and work. Judas had a demon, we will cover more details later. We will also see how the devil controlled those people who thought they had all the answers. Satan guided them along every step so we could see the extent of his control and his real motives. The entire universe witnessed those scenes as they unfolded. The universe wonders why this is the only planet in the universe that doesn’t understand.

Jesus Entered Jerusalem

John 12:12-16 NLTse The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors (13) took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” (14) Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: (15) “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.” (16) His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

John tells us this next event happened five days before the Passover. Jesus rode a little colt into Jerusalem and people hoped He was about to take David’s throne. To them at that moment, their King had come to Jerusalem. They didn’t realize, that was only one aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Other details and prophecies had to be fulfilled before Jesus received His crown. As Jesus explained to Pilate, His Kingdom was not of this world. Jesus wasn’t going to receive glory from this world, or any crown. This story was much larger than any of them could image.

John pointed out how the disciples didn’t understand what was happening. That number included John himself. Admitting we don’t have the answer is the beginning of understanding. When people think they know what those symbols pointed to, chances are, they are wrong. At the very best, all men can do is figure out a small portion of those symbols on their own. When they don’t go to God and stick to His word to find their true and full meaning, they rob God. We want to look at the prophecy Jesus pointed us to so we don’t rob Him.

Another important Bible Study rule is, when you see scripture quoted by an author, always look up the original texts. An inspired writer will only quote a small portion of scripture. Just enough to point you back to the original texts. It’s your job to open up and read the original texts. And remember to check to introduction and summation for the chapter the original scripture is located. This a a major way God uses to communicate with us. An easy way to locate the original texts is to use a chain reference in a Study Bible. Or you can use the TSK (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) you can download and use with E-Sword, and other Bible computer programs.

Go out through the gates! Prepare the highway for my people to return! Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders; raise a flag for all the nations to see. The LORD has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.'” They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the LORD.” And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place” and “The City No Longer Forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:10-12 NLTse).

The prophecy John pointed out shows us much more than what he wrote. John is showing us another important rule of context we have to follow if we plan on understanding scripture. Notice how detailed John had been in the previous stories. Then John goes onto a story about Jesus being anointed, followed with a short story about Jesus riding the colt into Jerusalem. John chose to record only brief accounts of what happened? That doesn’t make any sense – to us. Compare the importance of those previous stories to these. Why would John change his pattern now?

The answer is easy to see when we look at Old Testament scripture quoted. Look at the detail it added. John never recorded any of the details about Jesus going into the temple courtyard, he didn’t have to. We find those details in the Old Testament prophecy. Jesus went into the gates to prepare a highway for His people. That is when He told them a series of parables teaching them details about His ministry as well as their role in it. We see more details in the summation of the chapter we’re pointed to.

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth. The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see– a splendid crown in the hand of God. (Isaiah 62:1-3 NLTse).

The summation gives us a behind the scene look at what Jesus did as well as how He felt during His last moments in Jerusalem. Jesus stayed still when He refused to answer the high priest and Pilate. Because He loved Jerusalem, He forgave them while on the cross. Looking at the Old Testament texts tells us much more than anyone could imagine. Look at those details. They are telling us details that occurred after Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Look at God’s time line and see how God has many lines that cross that spiritual moment in time. Each line recorded in scripture explains details on both sides of that point, past and future. The Bible shows how it explains the past and reveals the future. The sad part of it is, few people take time to look at God’s collection of books they way they were meant to be read.

The People Met Jesus

John 12:17-19 NLTse Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. (18) That was the reason so many went out to meet him–because they had heard about this miraculous sign. (19) Then the Pharisees said to each other, who had come”There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

John showed how people were split in Jerusalem. Some people believed those miracles Jesus performed, others ran off to consult with the religious leaders as we’ve seen in the previous chapter. Once the Pharisees saw the number of people following Jesus, they did more than worry.

Jerusalem was crowded with thousands of people to observe the Passover. There’s not a lot to do walking along the road. Sharing news helps to pass the time. Never was there news like they heard on that trip to Jerusalem. News about Lazarus spread quickly. Jesus had been traveling all over the region healing and teaching people. Many of them were thankful for being healed or seeing friends and relatives healed. Some heard more than Jesus talk, they listened to God’s Spirit. Some people searched scripture. It would be nice to know what they found and how much God explained at the time.

John pointed out how much the story about Lazarus influenced Jesus’ last minute ministry. Another example showing how God’s timing is important. Some people want to serve Jesus, but don’t understand God’s timing. They don’t see how much harm they can cause if they don’t know how to follow orders when they are given. Jesus showed how He had to wait a few days before going to Jerusalem during the Festival of Tabernacles. If waiting was part of Jesus’ ministry, maybe it should be an important part of ours.

Walk in the Light

John 12:20-41 NLTse Some Greeks to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration (21) paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” (22) Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus. (23) Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. (24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives. (25) Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. (26) Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. (27) “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (28) Father, bring glory to your name.” Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” (29) When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. (30) Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. (31) The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. (32) And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (33) He said this to indicate how he was going to die. (34) The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” (35) Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. (36) Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them. (37) But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. (38) This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: “LORD, who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm?” (39) But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said, (40) “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts– so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” (41) Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory.

John returned to his style of adding detail. Something prompted John to added those details. John told a story about some Greeks who came to Jerusalem looking for Jesus. They first met Philip who told Andrew, who took the Greeks to Jesus. This showed how people work together to bring people to Jesus.

Once we learn to see the patterns John and other authors used, we begin to see scripture open up with details a casual reading would not catch. Now we can understand Jesus’ answer. Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. To see the spiritual message, we have to look at this a few lines at a time and see how they relate to previous verses.

When did God choose the right time for Jesus to enter into His glory? The simple answer is that Passover that happened to be during the Sabbath. Looking back a few verses we see God’s Spirit at work arranging a few details. John showed us how Greeks came to look for Jesus. It would have been unusual for Greeks to be in Jerusalem during the Passover, but not out of the question. Greeks most likely would have been shunned by Hebrews. They looked and talked differently then the Hebrews in Jerusalem. Most of the Jews would have shunned them, except for the vendors who welcomed everyone’s money.

Those Greeks also remind us about the hundreds of thousands of Greek Old Testaments spread over the world. I wish we knew if the had access to scripture. It would also be nice to see how scripture influenced their view of Jesus before they met Him. We can see a few details based on what John recorded about the conversation.

Those Greeks would have entered Jerusalem expecting to see an entire city celebrating the coming of the Messiah. They couldn’t imagine the joy and excitement Israel must have felt to see their Savior return. The excitement in those Greeks must have built as they saw long lines of people meeting on the road to Jerusalem. They must have felt it was strange to listen to different accounts and opinions about Jesus from the people they met on the road.

It’s funny how we can talk to people today and still hear different opinions. Not as drastic as what those Greeks would have heard, but strange just the same. And we still have associate with people to different degrees. Some people we love and can’t live without. We have friends we occasionally see. People we know but rarely see. Some people have friends they only call when they need something from them. And there are people we try to avoid. So what’s the difference between what we hear about relationships with Christ today and what those Greeks heard on that road? No matter how hard Jesus tried, people set their own standards when it came to their relationship with the ultimate source of infinite love.

All they could do was hope Jesus would meet them. And of course, Jesus was happy to meet them. Reaching out to Greeks represented how Jesus reached out to the world. The process they followed to meet Jesus showed how Jesus’ disciples have to work together. It is a physical description of one person plowing, another sowing, and another harvesting. It also showed the disciples how working together wiped out the desire to be greatest. Not one person nor step in the process is more important than the other.

Jesus used the illustration of a seed to describe what He was about to do. But now that we understand what was taught in the previous verse, we can see how that parable about the seed also showed the disciples what is meant to die to this world. They had to bury their pride.

Jesus told them the seed that was about to be planted will die and its death will produce more seeds. Jesus wasn’t just teaching about His death, He was telling them about the ministries they would soon be conducting. Think of what the disciples gave up to conduct a full time ministry. They gave up everything to serve Jesus and tell people about the prophecies they witnessed as Jesus fulfilled each one.

Jesus also told them, they had to give up this world. People usually have an easy time understanding that. But what did Jesus mean by being where He is? Where did Jesus go after His resurrection? To Heaven. Jesus showed the only way to Heaven is through Him, now and after death. Jesus didn’t tell people to follow Him after they died. Jesus rose Lazarus to bring glory to God. God gave that glory to His Son. Lazarus served Jesus’ ministry while he lived, not when he was in the grave.

Something strange happened in Jerusalem. People heard God’s voice. Some heard it and others thought it was thunder. This has been repeated throughout history. Some people hear God’s message while some people think it is nothing to worry about. Jesus explained why God spoke at that moment. It was for the benefit of Jesus’ followers as well as Jesus. God knew they all needed encouragement for what was about to happen. This also shows how close God is and how He is always watching.

Jesus didn’t go into much detail about what was about to happen, but He did give them clues. The people thought they understood scripture, but they didn’t understand God’s timing or the process Jesus had to follow in the plan of salvation.

Jesus pointed out the purpose of His sacrifice, to defeat the ruler of this world one last time. Jesus revealed who was behind the coming events. Jesus told them who was responsible for all the pain and suffering, not only His, but the world. Jesus showed the world how far Satan would go. If he would snuff out the life of God’s Son, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill any of us, once he’s done using us. That is if we allow him.

Jesus also told them what He told Nicodemus three years ago. He told them how He was going to be lifted up above the earth to draw people to Himself. That was where the people got confused. They couldn’t see how the Messiah could die. Based on the pattern we’ve seen in previous chapters, we can see a number of people walked away from Jesus. Tradition was once again stronger than truth. How many people say they believe in Jesus, say they are following Him, but are actually following traditions they’ve been taught? Traditions that actually make them turn and walk away from Jesus.

Jesus was instructed by God’s Spirit to repeat the lesson using light as a symbol. We see a pattern when Jesus repeated Himself, but this time it is a new crowd. Once again, that symbol of light was followed by the key word believe. When light comes it takes more than common sense to follow it. It takes something some people don’t have, belief or faith.

Why did Jesus talk about the light as if it would be available for a limited time? We know Jesus’ resurrection shed new light on the plan of salvation. We know even the disciples understood very little before the resurrection, and were taught by Jesus for forty days. After that Jesus sent His Spirit on Pentecost. Why would Jesus say His light would shine for just a little longer? Did Jesus know there were a few listening who needed to see Him in His physical body to believe? Some people find it hard to find enough faith to follow anything else but their eyes. But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.

This time John quoted two scriptures from Isaiah. Of course we already know how important it is to look at texts he pointed us to. This is an unusual occurrence in the Bible. When we pay attention, we can see, Jesus didn’t quote this scripture, John added it. Of course we know John was an inspired author. God told him to add that scripture. This teaches us a lesson we have to be aware of. Sometimes Jesus will refer to scripture without directly quoting it. This is something to watch out for, but not be obsessed with. Don’t worry, God’s Spirit will let you know when He wants to show you something important. Just pray you are paying attention.

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected– a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! (Isaiah 53:1-4 NLTse).

John introduced Isaiah 53 near the end of Jesus’ ministry while He was preaching in Jerusalem. We see how John quoted the very beginning of Isaiah 53 to lead everyone who read his book back to Isaiah. Can you imagine the emotions John felt as he wrote this story in his book? Put yourself in John’s place as he wrote this book at a slow, steady pace by hand. He paused before he added this little part pointing us to Isaiah. John was very careful not to add any of his personal views but follow the direction of God’s Spirit. As John opened Isaiah’s book and turned to the portion he wanted to quote from, he read the entire prophecy about Jesus. John wept as he followed through the words Isaiah recorded so long ago. John wanted to reach people with his book. That was his intention when he sat down to write it. That had been his prayer for months before he started his book and prayer everyday as he wrote out his account of Jesus’ ministry. Once John finished reading the prophecy, he knew it was what God wanted. But John\’s emotional state would only allow him to copy the first few lines. I only included the introduction and summation to Isaiah 53. I hope you take the time to read the entire chapter on your own and feel the emotions John felt when he read it.

Look at the first few words. What did Isaiah feel when he penned those words? Who has believed our message? I know I ask that question almost everyday. Some people just don’t want to listen. Or they’ll listen but feel little need to move forward in their walk to catch up to Jesus and walk hand in hand with Him. I wonder why people choose this world over what they could have with Jesus today.

He has a way of comforting us like nothing else in this world. With a little faith, worries of this world will disappear. Everything the world can throw at you seem like a futile attempt from the enemy to draw you back into his camp. When you walk with Jesus, the enemie’s attempts to draw you back are like a mosquito trying to push and elephant.

Look back a chapter to see how Isaiah led into this prophecy and see how Isaiah 53 makes chapter 52 perfectly understandable. The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the LORD returning to Jerusalem. Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the LORD has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God. (Isaiah 52:8-10 NLTse).

You can see how watchmen are defined when we read Isaiah 52, 53, and John’s Gospel together. The watchmen were the people watching Jesus ride into Jerusalem. But those watchmen didn’t have the proper vision of Jesus. At that point they misunderstood His ministry.

When we progress to the next line we can see, Isaiah was not referring to the moment in time Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but when He returned after His resurrection, when His victory over the enemy was sure. When His resurrected body proved the religious leaders wrong and exposed the bondage they put those people under. It was time to shout for joy because Jesus freed them. It wasn’t only His death and resurrection that freed them. It was His words, the miracles He performed, and the prophecies He fulfilled before their eyes. Isaiah 53 in only a small part of them.

Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean. Get out of there and purify yourselves, you who carry home the sacred objects of the LORD. You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the LORD will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind. (Isaiah 52:11-12 NLTse). Isaiah told them about their departure from Jerusalem when the religious leaders hunted them, trying to silence them. God knew when truth reveals itself persecution is sure to follow. If they didn’t hesitate to kill His Son. Those religious leader would think little about the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The great light Jesus shed upon the earth was in conflict with the darkness trying to cover this world. Isaiah revealed what Jesus was telling them about the light being available for a short time. He told them that in Jerusalem. The disciples only enjoyed freedom to preach the word for a short time before the powers of darkness regrouped to launch a new attack.

That sequence of events showed how little the devil knows about scripture. He doesn’t have the ability to interpret scripture. He can’t interpret scripture without God’s Spirit. That would be impossible. Even if he can figure out the patterns, there is a portion locked away from his view and understanding. Satan is not guided in scripture. He has no way of seeing how prophecies are going to be fulfilled until after the events pass. That doesn’t stop him from reacting as quickly as he can and in most cases, he follows the same course he did with Jesus.

See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about.(Isaiah 52:13-15 NLTse). Jesus was intentionally disfigured by the priests. Satan filled their heads with the possibility He may be the Messiah, but not the Messiah they wanted. To make sure they got the right Messiah, they disfigured Jesus thinking God could never accept a less than perfect physical sacrifice. They showed once again how they and their leader, the devil misinterpreted scripture.

After it was over Pilate and Herod saw what they did or didn’t’ do. They had to live with the thought, they killed God’s Son. Do you think Satan’s demons left those two alone after they killed Jesus? No! Demons tormented them with guilt. Their consciences would not give them a moment of rest. Both those kings received more reports about Jesus than anyone beside Jesus’ disciples. They had their witnesses, but ignored them.

Looking back, and looking back again reveals so much. There are times you almost have to read the Bible in reverse. How do you know when? That’s a job for God’s Spirit. He will show you when to refer to other books in the Bible, when to look up specific words, when to look at the previous chapter, God’s Spirit is your guide in God’s Word. Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (Psalms 43:3, John 16:13 NLTse). You have one advantage over the enemy. Use it.

He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (Isaiah 53:9-12 NLTse).

Isaiah filled everyone in on Jesus’ perfect life, and so much more. God knew about the plan to crush Jesus long before it entered Satan’s mind as a thought. Then again, God saw how those thoughts were beginning to formulate in Lucifer’s mind while he still held a high position in Heaven. It wasn’t hard to figure out where Lucifer’s rebellion was leading. But God had to sit and watch while Satan worked his plans to their fulfillment. The difficult part was getting Satan to do everything on time. When you see how God was able to get Satan to put his plan into action at the exact moment God said the prophecies would be fulfilled is not only amazing, but adds additional proof Satan doesn’t understand scripture.

Too bad people focus on one little part of this prophecy and forget to look at the rest. People look at and preach, “he will bear all their sins,” while passing over the major portion of this prophecy. If they don’t see the part of God knowing all the plans, do you think they can understand all of Jesus’ many descendants? Can they see all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters in all the churches, countries, areas of this world no one can reach, and those areas no one cares about?

We’ve seen how people Jesus talked to face to face didn’t understand what He was talking about. How much less do people understand when they only read His Word? Do they see the patterns in Jesus’ ministry, in His miracles, or in His sacrifice?

Do people see and understand the glory God gave Him? Can anyone describe that unimaginable glory beyond anything in this world, beyond the stars, and human understanding? What do people do when they try to explain the glory Jesus received from His Father in a way to make it appear they have all the answers? They rob people of meeting Jesus to find out about that glory from His Spirit.

Isaiah told us about one of those honors, a victorious soldier. Actually this translation seems to take a little artistic freedom. But we may have missed the point if we used the KJV. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12 KJV). Translators for the KJV used the word great. The actual Greek work covered a broad range of positions including captain, elder, officer, and prince. The main focus of the Greek word focused on abundance.

Why was the NLT translated as soldier? The translators for the NLT used the rules of context to translate words that had a number of meanings. When they found a situation like this, they looked back at the introduction for a clue for which way to go. When we look at the introduction, we see a strong arm mentioned. That led translators to use the word soldier in the summation.

They Loved Human Praises

John 12:20-41 NLTse Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. (43) For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (44) Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. (45) For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. (46) I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (47) I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. (48) But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. (49) I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. (50) And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

John began his summation to this series of stories, or this chapter by pointing out many people didn’t understand. Of course John pointed out many people did believe, including some of the Jewish leaders. We see the results later in Acts. God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

(Acts 6:7 NLTse). This is an important point to concentrate on, otherwise we’ll miss the major point in the verses that follow.

John wasn’t pointing out people who failed to understand. John pointed out how hard Jesus, God, and His Spirit worked to reach those people. Jesus didn’t care some of those people were planning to kill Him, He wanted to reach them all. But Jesus didn’t want them to look at Him, or honor Him. Jesus wanted to introduce them to His Father. Jesus explained His relationship with God and the process He followed. God sends Jesus orders and He followed them.

Jesus also brought up that subject of judgment. This time He made it clear, He didn’t want to judge anyone. He showed how far He was willing to go. They could have read about the details in Isaiah. But they saw it in real life. They saw the trial in front of Pilate. They heard about the other trials in front of Herod and the priests. They saw what those leaders did to Jesus. They saw Him on the cross. Then they heard about His resurrection. Not many saw Jesus after He rose from that tomb, but they could go back and read about it in scripture. We weren’t able to see what those people saw, but we can still go back to scripture and read about it.

10 Ways to Grow a Church

1. Get people involved

2. Train members to serve.

3. Build strong homes.

4. Involve every member in the church service.

5. Build strong community service.

6. Bible study.

7. Establish effective giving.

8. Guaranty effective spending.

9. Give members a voice.

10. Build effective leadership.

This is not another collection of clichés aimed at getting you excited for a day or two, until you realize that, there is not one suggestion contained in this article that can help me. This is a collection of ideas and suggestions I have witnessed through personal experiences.

1. Get people involved

What is a church member if they are not involved? Are they really a member? Is there Biblical proof of a non active church member?

Remember when you were about eight years old and all the kids in the neighborhood got together to form a club? One of the first steps in forming the club was to assign all of the titles and duties Was there ever a member that did not have a title and an assignment? Why do we see the importance of involvement and activities to form a strong bond when we were children, but as adults we think it is okay to be the last one in, sit in the back pew and be the first one out?

Why do we need to get involved? So we can feel we are a part of the church. The church is an active, living, breathing entity. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:30, 1 Corinthians 12:12

How does a church grow without getting members involved? If the church is on fertile ground the church should grow. “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” KJV Matthew 13:8 This parable never teaches that seed fell on good ground and some brought in zero or one or two.

How do you get church members involved? How many seeds do you plant to grow a crop a few or a lot? You ask members and ask them and ask them. I can tell you beyond any shadow of a doubt, if you ask one hundred people to get involved in the church ninety nine will tell you, “I’ll pray about it.” I sometimes wonder if their attitude stems from the parable of the lost sheep. Perhaps they think they are part of the ninety nine and their job is to sit there and wait.

The most effective way of getting people involved is to personally ask them. It stands to reason, there is not one single person on this planet that can sell a nonpaying job to the whole world. But God will place one person in the church that is able to reach another. I am sure when God created this world He set up these matches. We don’t know who will have the personality or the correct approach that will reach the person God wants to fill a position within the church. The best thing to do is spread out the responsibility and use the concept of try, try again until you succeed. How do you accomplish this task? The pastor should appoint a number of leaders or board members to talk to every individual within the church. It may take three people and it may take six people to ask a person to serve before they say yes. No one says yes the first time they are asked. They need to be asked at least twice. This is human nature you need to formulate a plan to overcome. If there is no follow up nothing will be accomplished. Existing church leaders need to assist the pastor and they need to be held accountable. When a number of board members are assigned to contact a person, they should report back to the board the following information:

Date of contact

Type of contact: Phone call, personal visit, in church

What they said

The reaction received

This needs to be only a two or three minute report. This not only holds the board members accountable it will also create a situation where the board members will have the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other’s short comings and successes. This allows the board to work as a whole and unite in a common effort, all moving together as a single unit to accomplish the same task.

How many times does a member need to be asked to serve? Until they serve. Or until they can produce Biblical proof that says certain church members are excused from service. At the very least you will get members to study their Bibles.

What are the best jobs to offer to the most reluctant members? This will depend upon the member. The best area to begin getting most members involved is the sanctuary service. On the surface this appears to be a simple one time, two minute task that often turns out be a foundation to build upon. It gives the members a sense of contributing. It gives them the experience of being involved. It makes them feel needed and best of all it gets them used to saying, “yes.”

Who determines how members should serve? The Bible is very clear on this subject. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Corinthians 12:28, Romans 12:6, 1 Peter 4:10-11

According to the Bible there are many spiritual gifts and, “every man hath received the gift, as of the ability which God giveth”. The Bible never mentions some the most common methods used to determine a member’s spiritual gift. The most common seems to involve letting the member choose. This seems to be the method most churches rely upon and this is why most members never get involved. This method does nothing more than create a stand off within the church. The board is waiting for the members to decide which spiritual gifts they posses. The members are waiting to be asked to serve. Both groups are convinced they are doing the work of God by politely waiting for the other side to make the first move. In the long run nothing is accomplished.

Another popular method used to determine a member’s spiritual gift is to take a test. But the Bible never mentions the use of a test, nor does the Bible specify a test. If God wanted people to take a test to determine what their spiritual gifts are I think God would have remembered to include a test in the Bible.

We read the text that gives us a list of the most common spiritual gifts over and over and it always seems the introduction is ignored. The text clearly tells us that God has set people in the church to lead. If God has set these people within the church isn’t it reasonable to assume that God equipped these people with the ability to do the job? To erase any shadow of doubt the Bible also tells us that these gifts are given to us, “according to the grace that is given to us.” Peter adds, “if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” God gives us our abilities. We miss this point because we always put the emphasis on receiving the gifts before we choose to serve.

Without a doubt whenever we look at this parable given in Matthew 25 we always put the emphasis on the talents. Everyone talks about the talents. We even call it the parable of the talents. We are told over and over again we need to multiply these talents ourselves. But the parable never tells us how we are supposed to multiply these talents. Most people think the talents are singing or playing the piano . Wrong type of talent, wrong teaching. If God expected us to increase our talents God would have written explicit instructions.

The lesson of that parable is not in the talent.

KJV Matthew 25:15

15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Once again the point to pay attention to is at the introduction of the parable. In this parable the man gave his servants money according to that person’s ability. In this text the word ability means miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself): We do not have the ability to perform miracles on our own, only through the power of God. Making money was not the point God was trying to make. Working and increasing our abilities is the business God is in. Our abilities mean much more to God than all the money we could ever offer Him. We can only increase our abilities, our spiritual gifts by the grace and gifts of God. God determines our spiritual gifts based on our abilities and our needs. God supplies the miraculous power and miracles, just as the parable says.

We can take a look at one of the first examples given in the Bible concerning appointments. Moses was given the advise of his father-in-law, Jethro. When Jethro saw Moses working himself to death he told him, “Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Exodus 18:19, 28

Moses took action and chose the people. The Bible doesn’t tell us Moses waited for a group of members to feel the call of the Spirit to step up and serve. Moses chose people based on their ability and taught them the ordinances and laws. There will always be specific instructions required with any appointment. This is one of the biggest problems I see in churches. People are not being trained for the positions they occupy. This is another problem that stems from the misconception that people should posses the gifts before they serve. The board or pastor assumes the members already have the answers. In the business world you would never see a person promoted or hired for a position without a certain amount of on the job training involved. The pastor must have a training program in place before appointing the first person to a board position or any position of service.

Satan has convinced the churches that it is Christlike to live and let live. Many Christians think practicing patience is a virtue or a spiritual gift. Some are convinced the world is so far gone that developing patients is the only spiritual gift the church needs to survive. They sit and wait for the world to go down the drain. This is not the way Christ expects His churches to operate. Observing sin has never been a spiritual gift. Watching the world perish is a policy of live and let die. This is the attitude held by Christians that feel there is no need to get involved. There is a better way to organize a church. Make a list of the ministries you feel your church should be involved in and fill the positions with as many people as you can.

Examples of individual ministries:

Distribution of books or tracts in your neighborhood

Lend books to neighbors

Neighborhood Christian book clubs

Start or contribute to online Christian blogs

Develop a Christian web site

Add scripture to e-mail signatures

Vacation Bible school

Christian radio or television bumper stickers

Holiday church programs

Evangelistic seminars

Health or marriage seminars

Visit a growing church and learn from them

Invite people to lunch or dinner

Bible study

Small groups

Writing letters or e-mails to encourage people

Missionary work or support

Visit retirement homes

Food pantry

Clothing for those who need it

You may consider working in any of these ministries, supporting them and inviting people to the functions. Getting involved should be natural for a Christian. The most humble people will tell you they have no spiritual gifts. They will never take credit themselves. “See thou tell no man; but go thy way.” Matthew 8:4 We recognize the gifts these people give but they do not see what they do as anything special, rather they see their involvement as a way of life. Helping others and spreading the word of God is just something they do.

Churches are built most effectively by the young and able. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” KJV 1 Peter 5:5-7 Young members have the energy, understand their generation and have the monetary means to propel a church forward. It would seem to reason that young adults would be involved in the growth and governing of a church, however this is seldom seen. Many of the churches I have visited have only the elderly, the disabled and yes, the blind working and leading the church while the young adults sit back allowing the members that the Bible teaches should be served, to serve them.

Too much emphasis is put on small groups. Churches may feel as if they have failed if they have not been able to introduce effective small groups. This may be because they limit the idea of small groups to weekly home meetings. Limiting small groups to a single definition is what causes this ministry to fail in churches today.

The common perception of small groups will work in many churches. But when the preferred concept does not work why give up the idea entirely? Modifying the idea can bring results that have never been considered.

Use the concept of small groups in other ministries of the church. An elder’s meeting can be a small group. They are coming together to exchange ideas and support one another. This same concept can be used for a group volunteering for an evangelistic series or a holiday program. If the members show up a few minutes early they can meet for support, encouragement and training. Meetings can be held after the event to discuss methods of improving the function. This form of small groups can be used to grow relationships in many areas of the church.

2. Train members to serve

Productive businesses will have a new employee program in place to welcome them, show them around, introduce them to fellow workers and show them their first assignment.

If a person shows up for work on the first day and is left alone, sitting by themselves with no introductions, no assignment and no attention they will soon feel the company really doesn’t need them. They may feel that the company does not appreciate their abilities. Studies have shown that a person neglected on their first day of work may never recover from that first impression and may never perform up to their potential. Some churches ignore members during their entire term of service. Without proper training members become frustrated, feel neglected and often give up. In some situations they may leave the church.

Board members should always be given a written job description and the pastor should have a private meeting with each board member to discuss expectations on both sides.

Members serving in any capacity should receive instructions. Imagine if you were participating in the service for the first time. People are nervous enough as it is. They need members to calm and encourage them and make sure they know exactly what to do.

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them. Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.” KJV Proverbs 9:9, Luke 1:4, Psalms 32:8, Proverbs 1:2-7, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Nehemiah 9:20, Job 4:3

God is telling us that instruction is an important factor. Then why do some pastors think that members come pre qualified?

Many churches use the concept of sending people out by twos. They take this one step further by matching up an experienced member with a new member. Depending on the position the amount of training required will vary. The majority of the training should be left to the board members. A pastor needs to master the art of delegation as shown by Moses’ example.

Members should be given the opportunity to share their experiences in small groups and learn from one another. This should never be done during the church service. If members share a success during the church service it may be viewed as bragging. This could cause more harm to a church than good. Imagine if you were a new member attending church service for the first time and you hear a member telling a story of the sad situation they found you in and how they stepped forward to save your soul. This takes the credit and focus off God and gives the impression that members are glorifying themselves.

If these traits come to the surface within a small group they can be dealt with quickly. In a small group there is little need for damage control. Success and failures can be discussed and members can offer on site advise and prayer. I have never seen anyone discuss their failures during a church service. Did you ever hear anyone tell you a story during a service about the person they offered a tract to and the stranger told them to get lost in words they never heard before? A small group setting allows members to encourage and lift each other’s spirits. Small groups can be set up to train, encourage and support members. One of the most effective small groups is the family setting.

3. Build strong homes.

Where does training begin? The best place to begin is in the home. I believe there are steps members need to follow to graduate from one stage to the next. The first step is to become an effective witness within the home. Once you feel comfortable studying and witnessing within the home you are then ready to graduate to the next step. Working effectively within the home allows you to hone the skills that will help you become successful working within the church. Once you are successful working within the church you are ready to work within the community.

Have you ever seen a Christian act with one personality at home and a completely different personality in church? Have you ever seen a productive worker within the church that was not an effective leader in the home?

I strongly believe that God wants us first to become leaders in the home. The Bible is rich in counsels centered around the teaching of children within the home. The home is to be a model for the community and the church. The Bible shows clear evidence the responsibility of teaching children begins and ends with the parents.

“Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” KJV Proverbs 8:32-33, Proverbs 4:1-5

“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” KJV Deuteronomy 11:18-19

The Bible also confirms that the family is known by the actions of the children. God knew this was a fact that would never change. God believed in this so strongly He wrote it in stone.

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him. Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” Exodus 20:12, Proverbs 20:7 The respect of mothers and the influence they have upon the family is just as important as the husband. “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Proverbs 17:6

Is it important for a church leader to have a stable family? The Bible is clear on the counsels to the churches concerning the appointment of leaders and their responsibility as parents.

“Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” 1 Timothy 3:12, Titus 1:5-6, 3 John 1:4, 1 John 5:2

Learning begins at conception. “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.” KJV Isaiah 46:3, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalms 22:10

Too many parents neglect this responsibility. They reason that since they pay taxes, instructing the children is the responsibility of the city and state. The lack of leadership in the home leads to every imaginable crime, especially those of passion. Children who do not experience love in the home will look to fill this void in ways not imagined.

Children who have never been taught respect are all but lost by the time they enter the school system. Many of these parents are still children and have never been taught how to care for a child. If not corrected this problem will increase, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”

This is an area where churches can help. This is not only an inner city problem, this is a growing problem even in the suburbs. Churches can hold parenting classes and seminars. Members can volunteer to help young families on an individual basis. Churches can establish day care centers. Members can volunteer to watch neighborhood kids when they come home from school until the parents arrive. They can also tutor individually or churches can open a neighborhood tutoring center.

This world needs churches that will step up and correct the mistakes of the past. Ignoring the problem of weak and misguided families will not correct the situation. Putting the blame on the parents will accomplish nothing. Unruly children have become as much a part of today’s churches as pews in the church. Parents are only one cause and one solution to the problem. Some of the parents are not even aware of the examples they are setting for their children. Showing up late for church, failing to teach manners and respect in the home, not supporting teachers in the church or failing to prepare the children for the lesson of the week are only a few areas parents may fail. Watching parents fail is not a solution to the problem. Dealing with the parents in a Christlike manner will not only help to improve the church environment but the community as a whole. Government has known about these problems in the public school systems for yours and has failed to confront it. If the churches fails to help, there is no hope of ever solving this problem.

Much of the responsibility is upon the leaders of the churches. Few if any sermons deal with behavior within the sanctuary. Too many pastors have convinced themselves they are serving God by allowing children to act in any manner the child feels is appropriate. They feel it is more Christlike to ignore the situation than deal with it.

The focus needs to be placed back on the family and the lessons contained within the Bible. Too much is taught with the emphasis being applied to the individual. I am saved. Forgive me. Jesus died for me. Change me. I can only change myself. How am I saved?. The list goes on and on. Today everything is focused on the individual. The church has done as much to advance the religion of, “looking out for number one” than all the books and authors that have made a better than average living promoting a life style based on being self-sufficient and succeeding by becoming self-centered.

America has lost it’s moral compass because they have forgotten to teach the values that make a family the center of society.

4. Involve every member in the church service.

The easiest way to get members involved for the first time is to involve in the service. Among other areas this could include participation in announcements, prayer, scripture reading, special music, children’s story and even an occasional sermon.

I have seen many a proud mother leave a church because no one bothered to ask her child to participate in special music. Add to that the number of members that come to church week after week with a feeling that they are not important, or not welcome because no one has ever asked them to participate in the service.

How do you get members involved in the service? First of all you have to assume everyone wants to be involved in the service. If they enter into a church they are Christians and they are filled with a desire to serve. For many members this will be the beginning of a life of service. After they take the first step it will be difficult to slow them down. They will be volunteering left and right, on their way to becoming effective church members and leaders.

Steps to get members involved has already been covered in 1. Get people involved. The point to remember is, never give up. The very act of asking people to get involved will give them the feeling they belong and are needed. This is also great training for church board members. If they are efficient in the area of approaching people within the church they will be much better prepared to correspond with people outside of the church.

The sanctuary service should be a training ground for all church members and the leadership of the church. With proper planning and training this could be the platform that church growth can be launched from.

KJV Acts 18:24-28

24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. 27. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28. For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

The story of Apollos and Aquila shows an example of what can be accomplished when members become involved. In the beginning of Acts chapter 18 Paul meets Aquila and teaches him and his wife about Christ and the scriptures. At the end of the chapter we see Aquila meet Apollos, “and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” The chapter comes to a close giving us evidence that the key to this growth was teaching, “by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” We believe by knowing. We know Christ by teaching about Him and His ways.

5. Build strong community service.

Community service has always been the backbone of church growth. Caring for the elderly, the sick, the poor and the disabled are statues within the Bible. No wonder this has always been a staple in the Christian church.

There are a number of advantages for the church actively involved in the area of community services, not only is the church serving the commands of Christ, they are also filling a need in society. They are touching lives and making a difference in a world that at times seems to have gone mad. The church also experiences a degree of publicity. Neighbors will be more likely to attend a seminar if they are familiar with the community services conducted within the area. You cannot neglect the fact there are people who will not join a church unless they are involved in the community.

Members involved in community service are very dedicated to the church they serve. They invest time, energy and money in a cause they are passionate about. Members build life long relationships and fill the need to serve. Can a church survive without community service programs?

“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” KJV 1 Timothy 4:13-16

6. Bible study

Can a church grow without Bible study? Can you call any assembly a church if the body as a whole does not study the Bible? Bible study should be the center of every Christian church.

“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

KJV Psalms 12:6-7, Isaiah 28:9-10, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Proverbs 1:2-7, 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, Mark 4:11-13

What types of Bible studies should the church teach? Too many churches are leaning heavily upon teaching theology which is limited to teaching only the accepted doctrines of the church and accomplish little in teaching Bible study.

Have you heard the term, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family and others.” This applies to Bible study. Does your church teach people how to conduct Bible studies on their own or does it teach a preassemblied list of studies teaching church doctrine? How long have these studies been in existence? Do these studies teach a man to fish or are they feeding members for one day?

I have searched the Internet extensively viewing hundreds of sites. Less than one percent of these sites will teach people how to conduct a Bible study. The others teach doctrine. What is it that these sites are afraid of? The Christian church is commissioned to, ” Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” KJV Matthew 28:19-20 Sad to say too many churches have chosen to teach only what feels comfortable to them and have neglected or forgotten how to study the Bible.

Are these churches really, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”? Are you certain about this? Is there any church that can claim they have all the facts 100% correct? If churches claim they are teaching everything the Lord has commanded, they are taking on an awesome responsibility they will never be able to bear. Are you willing to take that responsibility upon your shoulders? One would think churches would take the steps necessary to teach members to study on their own so individuals will be responsible for increasing their own knowledge.

What is the difference between the dark ages, when reading the Bible was banned, Bibles were burned and people faced the penalty of death for owning a Bible and the churches of today that continue to ignore their duty of teaching Bible study? There is no difference, they are only a different shade of dark.

Bible study should be taught so every member is able to search the dark sayings of God and understand all parables. If members cannot answer simple questions on their own the church has failed to instruct them. “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26 Do not simply answer a question but show the members how to find the answers on their own. Group Bible studies should have every member contributing or be arranged to teach new members how to study using the Concordance, chain references and other study aids. Studies should be set up as examples to teach study methods, not doctrine.

There are many types of Bible studies. Reading through the Bible. Read chapters in a group and hold commentary type discussions. Members should be encouraged and shown how to locate parallel text. Personal reading at one’s convenience. Prepared studies that are discussed at church before or after the service. This is where Bible study can be taught. Members can be shown how to identify text and methods of finding text that can help explain the text. Members should be encouraged to find and share supporting text explaining the subject studied. There are subject studies and word studies, topic studies and studies that deal with the culture and history of the Bible. There are also doctrine studies. To increase loyalty members should be encouraged to study doctrine and find supporting text on their own. Members can write out a list of doctrine subjects and note supporting scripture as they read through the Bible. Members can be taught to use a Concordance or computer Bible program with search capabilities to locate text. Members can join a group that specializes in memorizing scripture.

Churches need to stop calling a collection of text supporting doctrine a study. This is information important to members but has very little to do with teaching people how to study.

Many of the studies found on the Internet are not Bible studies at all. They are commentaries on text. A Bible study is a study that uses the Bible to prove itself. There is nothing else required other than a Concordance used as an aid to locate text. When a verse is studied the only way to find the proper interpretation is to use the Bible to explain the meaning. If we use other sources and rely upon our own knowledge the interpretation is subject to the influence of personal beliefs and doctrine. This can never guarantee a proper interpretation.

Challenge God in Bible Study and He will reveal Himself through His scriptures.

7. Establish effective giving

There are only a hand full of text that deal with monetary giving. There are far more text that deal with giving of another type.

“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:” KJV Mark 10:21, Psalms 50:14

The only problem with church giving is too many people have a limited view of what the Bible says. The above text has a tendency to scare people. It has a tendency of shutting ears to anything having to do with the subject of giving. When this happens people may never know what they are missing. Giving is a manifold subject.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

KJV 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Matthew 5:42, Matthew 7:11, Luke 6:38

It is clear to see these text are about much more than money. There are other areas of giving we need to study.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”

KJV 2 Timothy 1:7-9, Luke 4:18, Psalms 29:1-2, Luke 8:10, Matthew 10:6-8

The key point is, “freely ye have received, freely give.” Can it be any clearer? Make a list of the gifts you have received throughout the years. Have you shared them with others? Or do you find yourself being caught up in the four step correction. That occurs when you find yourself in a situation, turn to walk away and after four steps an idea comes into your mind showing you a better way you could have handled the situation. I refer to that as evidence the Spirit is working in your life. There are other examples of giving shown in the Bible that teach us how to give.

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.) And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

KJV 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, Luke 21:1-4

“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God. But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.”

KJV Leviticus 23:22, Exodus 23:11, Deuteronomy 15:7-8

It takes a bit of imagination to apply some of these text to the living styles of today but I am sure the Spirit will increase your understanding at the proper time. Even though many of us do not have fields and vineyards to offer the poor we do have other assets to share. We have money, we can share groceries; either the traditional nonperishable items from a food pantry or we can pay a personal visit with fresh fruits and vegetables. We can share our cars or offer a ride. We can car pool and use this as an opportunity to witness. There are also clothing drives, back to school and the season of sharing during Christmas. All of these are witnessing tools allowing us to share the gifts we have received.

One of the most touching scenes and successful gift drives I have seen was a collection of clothing and gifts for inner city public school children. Yes, this was a church program shared inside of a public school. Having the opportunity to share Christ within a public school system is only one of the reasons that program was such a success.

The program was run by one of the physically smallest adults within the church. Lesson one, size does not matter. She made an appeal to the church. All she asked for was underwear and personal hygiene items such as toothpaste, brushes, soap and towels. What she received was dozens of tables of toys, clothes and of course an overflowing supply of the personal items she had asked for. She also received a healthy supply of volunteers to help sort, wrap and tag all the gifts.

The outpouring was so successful they had to move the gift giving ceremony from the library to the gymnasium. Teachers were so touched by the scene they told the organizer that if anyone complained about celebrating Christmas inside a public school they would have to go through them.

Many of the students did not know what to do. Most of them had never received a gift before. They had to be convinced that it was okay for them to take the gifts home. Imagine, a group of young students that needed to have the concept of giving explained to them.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalms 41:1

Listing examples in the Bible is only one of the things we expect to see from God. We also expect God to lead by example. The Bible is filled with verses where God challenges us to challenge Him, and other verses that remind us of the gifts God has already given us.

“Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. , the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. KJV Psalms 37:4, Psalms 85:12, Matthew 11:28-30, Ephesians 5:2

Giving is a part of God. We are created in the image of God. Therefore giving must be a part of the Christian walk.

8. Guaranty effective spending

Most people do not realize how effective spending can grow a church. We will first take a short look at one possible outcome of ineffective spending. If a church experiences wasteful spending they face the possibility of loosing members. One poor financial decision may cause the loss of a member or a few familles. Churches must be very careful with the money they are entrusted with.

Members have good reason to put an added factor on church spending. People view the money they drop into the basket as God’s money. Church leaders are not only responsible for member’s money, but God’s money. Jesus did not look kindly on upon those taking advantage of His followers.

KJV Matthew 21:12-13

12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

The most common term used to describe financial responsibility within the church is the word stewardship. As we will see, the word steward does not begin to describe the responsibility of church spending.

“And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.” KJV Luke 16:1-3

“And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;” KJV Luke 12:42-44, 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Titus 1:7

The word steward gives us basic information concerning the responsibilities God has trusted His church with. God will deal with poor stewards and faithful stewards will be rewarded. Being a good steward goes beyond the money. The leaders of the church are also stewards of the grace and mysteries of God.

It is one thing to understand what a steward is. It is quite a different matter to understand the duties of a steward.

The greatest amount of funds is usually spent on the church building. This seems to be consistent throughout the Christian church. Why is that? We have the example of the tabernacle built by Moses. This was after a pattern shown to Moses by God. There are pages of instructions written in the Bible describing every item in detail. Most items are described three times.

Has anyone questioned why we do not see this amount of detail associated with the stone temple built by Solomon?

How important is the temple? How important is the church building? We know Jesus taught in the temple. “And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.” KJV John 8:2 Is this why churches today are built with such splendor? Does the glitter of the church enhance the word of God? Is the church designed so that the building attracts the people? Or is it the words that should attract them?

“And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

KJV Mark 13:2, Luke 21:1-6

The disciples thought the splendor of the temple contained some type of enchanting power. They looked at it as a symbol of national pride. The temple meant more to them than anything else on the earth. Jesus saw this trait in them. That is why He told them the temple needed to be destroyed.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” KJV John 2:19-21

The world is filled with elaborate churches. Has anyone ever compiled a study to show a relationship between church growth and the amount of money spent on the church? Does blue carpet attract more people than red? Do $3000 light fixtures help people to understand the word any better than $100 fixtures? Jesus has also been represented wearing simple dress in paintings by artists throughout history. Jesus taught in the temple, at the seaside and in fields, gardens, on islands, along road sides and in the homes of followers. The Holy Spirit made it’s famous appearance in a home referred to as, “one place”. Chapter two of Acts does not tell us but from the context we can assume the early church began in the streets of Jerusalem.

Where is the Biblical proof that teaches churches need to be built to a higher ornate standard than the homes and work places of the members? Think of all the money that could have been spent on missionary work of all types. There are foreign missions in all lands, filling the needs of medical care and hunger; both physical and spiritual. There are also local missions such as feeding and clothing the needy, housing the homeless, providing family counseling and marriage enrichments seminars and many of the other outreach programs that are being neglected. The time has come for church boards to ask, “what would Jesus do?”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them:”

KJV Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 15:30

9. Give members a voice

Let’s go back to the childhood club for a moment. Everyone had a voice. There wasn’t a member that didn’t provide some type of input. As people grow older they gain experience and wisdom which increases their input on a variety of subjects. If the member’s opinions are not sought out, appreciated and utilized, members will feel slighted. If this happens often enough they will do what comes natural. They will leave to find a club that appreciates them and utilize their skills.

There are other advantages to seeking the input of members. Projects can be enhanced and operated more efficiently after all the ideas and details are gathered and considered. Inviting members to meetings and asking their advise on a ministry provides a sense of involvement. Once a member feels they are appreciated they will be more likely to become involved in a ministry.

KJV Exodus 20:18-22

19. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

KJV Exodus 34:28-35

28. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 29. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. 31. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. 32. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. 34. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The book of Exodus gives us two examples of members that did not want a voice. The Bible contains a number of stories detailing the complaints of the Israelites. But these two stories show evidence that they turned down the opportunity to speak to God on their own. At first they demanded that Moses speak to God and he would tell them what He said. They chose not to speak to God because they feared Him. This fear grew. Later we see that they could not bear to see the light on the face of Moses. So he had to wear a vail when he spoke to the Israelites. There is a lesson within these stories. This is the main reason Israel was never able to accomplish their commission on earth.

When Christ died He removed the vail between God and man. He also sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and answer our prayers. Each member of God’s church can now speak with God, face to face as a man speaks to a friend. Each member has a voice with God, Jesus and the Spirit, “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” KJV Matthew 5:45-48, John 4:37-38

10. Build effective leadership

What is effective leadership? This is the question of the century. To answer this question we first need to determine a number of aspects. How do you choose effective leaders? How do you measure effective leaders? How do you train effective leaders? As with everything else, we should seek our answers from the Bible.

One theme that we consistently see throughout the Bible assures us that human leaders are not perfect. Moses killed a man. In addition to other mistakes, David sent Uriah to his death after getting his wife pregnant. His son Solomon, being blessed with wisdom decided to maintain peace throughout the land by marrying a number of women from all the surrounding kingdoms. Jesus’ own disciples could not understand what He was trying to teach. Each one of these acted parables teaches us a lesson. Some of these lessons are easy to understand. Others are multifaceted.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

KJV Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 23:10-11,

Most Bible scholars agree that the disciples disputed among themselves three times on the subject of who was the greatest among them. Often times this is a problem seen in church leadership which leads to other problems such as unappreciated and unhappy members, neglected ministries and in the worst case, diminishing membership.

When we take a closer look at the text above we see many points that are brought up in an attempt to reach leaders of the church. First, we see the fact that Jesus did not hesitate to ask them about their dispute. This is a problem I have seen in churches. Sure we are all Christians but does that mean that we are supposed to experience poor leadership without questioning it? Now make sure you are careful on the subject of pointing out flaws. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. The correct way will help you achieve a Christ centered goal. The wrong way will make matters worse.

Jesus used a child as an example to show the disciples they needed to prepare themselves to serve others. The disciples had a problem. They were convinced they were following Jesus for personal gain. To be more specific, the disciples were following Jesus because they thought that Jesus would claim His kingdom and they would receive positions of power and glory. But the glory was never meant to be in this life. Churches can have the same problem. Church leaders can develop their own perception of glory while occupying church board positions, desiring to occupy these positions only as a display of power. They rate church board positions with a type of point system. They look at a church board position as a stepping stone to their ultimate goal. Get real! What kind of glory and honor is there in leading a church? As a church leader you are trying to hold together a group of individual volunteers who are not getting paid for the jobs they do. They can quit at any time and what are they loosing other than their time invested. Chances are most members spend more time in front of the television within any given week than they do in church activities. So the time invested may not seem very important to them in the first place. True leaders have a way of bringing out the best in people. True leaders guide individuals, they do not micomanage. True leaders train others to fill their position. Members who have a desire for power should not be appointed to leadership positions. They will not be serving the will of the Lord but rather their own will. Christ used the example of a child to illustrate the point that leaders need to be willing to learn. Leaders have to possess the patience to sit and listen to the ideas of others. They also need to possess the skills to teach. We are all the body of Christ. This illustration shows that we rely upon one another for life and growth. No member is more important than another. The spirit may give one the gift of leadership but leaders must rely upon the members for suggestions. Hence leaders rely upon members for direction. There is no leader that will have all the answers. More on this subject later.

One final point on the illustration of Jesus and the child. Notice the Bible points out that Jesus took this child in His arms. What message do you think Jesus was trying to send the disciples when He did this? Pictures speak louder than words.

And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash each others feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

KJV Luke 22:23-24, John 13:13-17

Jesus also tried setting an example by washing the feet of the disciples. Imagine the impact this must have had on their lives. Did it change them? After this Peter still denied Christ three times. How is that for choosing effective leaders? There is also a lesson in that.

Imagine your leader washing your feet. What would you do if your boss came in one day and started washing the feet of your fellow employees? How would you feel when it was your turn? Would you feel like you deserved it and they were finally doing their job? Would you feel like this was only the beginning of pay back for all the problems your boss caused? Or would you feel a bit embarrassed? Like there was nothing in your life you could have done to receive this type of treatment? If that did happen would you begin to remember every cross word you ever thought or spoke about your boss and would you begin to regret them?

If a mere human can evoke those types of emotions, can you imagine what the disciples must have felt. Christ CHOSE to use this illustration just before His trial and crucifixion. Churches have a habit of imposing this illustration upon the members of the church when they should be examining this story in the light of church leadership. Jesus did not wash the feet of the masses that followed Him. Just before His death Jesus washed the feet of the leaders He chose. This illustration teaches members how to treat one another, how to treat their families, friends and strangers. More importantly, and we cannot deny the fact, this illustration was directed and acted upon those that were chosen to lead the church.

Jesus told His chosen leaders, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” Jesus expects church leaders to become servants, just as Jesus has done. Jesus said, “I am among you as he that serveth.” KJV Luke 22:27 Church leaders should be chosen for their ability and willingness to serve.

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let everyone of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Let all things be done decently and in order. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:10, Romans 15:1-7, 1 Corinthians 14:40, Ephesians 4:31-32, Philippians 4:7-9, 2 Peter 3:18

With Jesus everything was planned. There was nothing left to chance. As a matter of fact everything was recorded in writing. We refer to Jesus’ plan as prophecy. This is God’s way of doing things. God puts details in writing, afterwards they are fulfilled. This is another example for us to follow. If there are no written plans, how would anything be accomplished? The board will bring accountability into play when they put plans in writing. This will also ensure that working models are handed down from one leader to the next. It will also ensure that procedures are followed and details are not overlooked or forgotten.

The book of Acts gives us examples of what leaders should be taught. One of the most important is seen at the beginning of Acts. “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:” KJV Acts 1:3 In His final act on earth Jesus taught his disciples from the scriptures. This is a very important example. Out of all the qualities a leader can posses, knowledge of the scriptures should be the most important. Think of this fact, a leader should be grounded in the word. “With God all things are possible.” KJV Matthew 19:26

How long should leaders serve? We need to look only as far as the example Jesus set for us. How long did Jesus serve? Three and a half years. During that time Jesus dedicated Himself to the task of preparing His replacements. Churches should not expect leaders to occupy the same position year after year. Leaders should never think the church cannot survive without them. Jesus set this example for His churches to follow, it is not open to personal interpretation. What kind of a leader entertains thoughts that they are indispensable when the Head of the church has given us the example that He was destined to pass His leadership along to others?

How does a church get beyond the points system established in many churches? There is one way. Whatever point system is used for positions, all church board members need to realize that every position has two criteria. Number one, is every position is temporary. Every position must be a training platform for members. If positions are filled by the same person year after year the church looses an opportunity to train other members. The leadership should make this clear to all the members. The leaders should also have a written system in place that assures each member understands the responsibility for each position and has clear guidelines explaining the process of training the next individual to fill the position. The best laid plans are always in the written form. New ideas and concepts can be added. Effective, proven concepts will not be forgotten.

Secondly board members must understand each position is a learning process. Not one position is more important than another. The most important part of any position is the opportunity to serve others. Using the misguided points system as an example, let’s assume a church body views an elder’s position as the highest position within the church. In a poorly organized church you will see the same people as elders year after year. When there is no change in the leadership of the church there is no growth. The pastor must convince the elders that to properly serve Christ and to give the church an example of service, the elder’s position is only a training ground for other positions. An elder can be an effective example to the church when the members see them training others to take their position elders can continue to serve in other capacities. They can begin personal ministries reaching out to the community on a personal basis. They can join other established ministries within the church. Imagine the impact felt by a new member when they see a head elder later serving on a soup line or helping out in a children’s class. Imagine the growth a church can receive when leaders begin to serve as in the examples Christ left for the church.

When it comes to choosing our political leaders we rely upon a system that has proved only one thing. The system does not work. When we look for political leaders we look for people that are experts in every area. Candidates spend weeks or months trying to convince us that they are the only person that has all the answers. They spend millions of dollars telling us they are experts on every conceivable subject that one could imagine. Some election campaigns go past the point of being ridiculous. We fall for this type of advertising year after year. I often wonder to myself, “does anyone believe half of the things these people claim?” The media has us so convinced this is the way to choose leaders within the church we have adopted this same method. The fact of the matter is, this system does not work in politics and it will not work in the church.

There is not one person that is an expert on every subject. There is not a single person half the people in any given area will agree with on every subject. A politician is a jack of all trades and a master of none. The government would be better served if leaders were chosen because they were proficient in one or two areas. Government would run much smoother if people were elected who could do one job and do it well. Some could be experts in government organization. Others in transportation. Some in social issues and others in energy, communication, business, finance, family matters, education and the many other issues our elected officials need to face. Can anyone, beside Christ be passionate in all of these subjects?

When choosing leaders, church members should not allow the political method of choosing leaders. As a matter of fact, according to the Bible, the method of choosing church leaders is quite the opposite as the one used to choose government officials. Here are some examples of the type of leaders God has chosen.

KJV Exodus 4:10

10. And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

Moses did not want anything to do with the opportunity God was offering him. Did God accept the first excuse from Moses? No He didn’t. God encouraged Moses. Leaders should not accept the first answer they receive from members, they should learn to encourage them. Let them know that others will be supportive of them.

Did Moses have all the qualities to be a leader? No he didn’t. All the training Moses received in Egypt accounted for nothing. God gave Moses the ability to lead after he was chosen and God continued to bless Moses with the spiritual gifts he needed to solve the problems he faced.

KJV Matthew 3:3-4

3. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

John does not fit the model of the ideal church leader. But John was a trail blazer. He paved the way for Christ by setting the minds and hearts of the people upon heavenly things. John was able to prepare the humble for Christ’s ministry. He was also able to excite the thoughts and passions of the leaders. Was John able to reach everyone? Of course not. John was prepared from his birth “In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life,” KJV Luke 1:75 to be an expert in one field. “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” KJV Luke 1:76-77 If John could not reach everyone we shouldn’t put this burden upon ourselves or others.

“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.” KJV Luke 1:17, Luke 1:72, Luke 1:16

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. KJV Matthew 4:18-23

Can you imagine a pastor going to Fisherman’s Wharf to form the church board? What do you think your local pastor would come back with? A group of self made men, cussing and swearing. Weathered by both the environment and the business aspects of the job. How many of them do you think would be dedicated church members? God looks for leaders in the most unusual places. God does not look for the perfect image to fill the most important positions.

Remember that these were the people who were going to lead the early church once Jesus returned to Heaven. Jesus knew that He was going to give His life. Jesus knew He had only three and a half years to convert and train this group. Jesus knew exactly how important these positions were. The future of the world was at stake. What would have been the outcome if these individual failed? Imagine the God of the universe coming down to the save this world and leaving the future of the church in the hands of less than perfect leaders. This is exactly what God did. God used these less than perfect people to illustrate a lesson He expects the church to learn and follow.

KJV Acts 26:24

24. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

Much has been written about the life of Paul. Once an enemy of the church he became a leader that wrote the majority of the New Testament. It took time for Paul to gain the trust of the disciples. If we looked at this decision in human terms most of us would have considered this decision too risky to contemplate. But God saw something in Paul others could not. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” KJV 1 Samuel 16:7

KJV John 4:17-18

17. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

KJV John 4:28-30

28. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29. Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30. Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

The woman at the well may not have been a leader in the church but she was an effective evangelist. She was not the type of person the church of today would have chosen but one that Jesus chose. She had her problems. She probably didn’t have the greatest reputation but when the light went off inside her it was easily recognized by others. Her story is a transformation that took place within minutes. There was no long training process, no pre-qualifications that needed to be proven. There was only a desire on the part of the woman and the encouraging words of Jesus that brought this gift to the surface.

“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.” KJV Mark 5:2-5, Luke 8:26-28

This has to be one of the most unlikely members of a church, much less an effective leader. Imagine a naked man possessed by devils being an effective worker for Christ.

“Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.” KJV Luke 8:38-40

God has a way of using some of the most unlikely people to be effective workers. What are some of the qualifications and guidelines given in the Bible that help us to become effective leaders?

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. That ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. KJV 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Corinthians 14:20, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Ephesians 4:25, Ephesians 4:29, Hebrews 5:12, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, 1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 14:26

“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” KJV Ezekiel 3:17-19, Isaiah 6:8

The main lesson here is not to overlook members when choosing leaders. God established His church with people that most churches would turn away. These individuals all succeeded beyond all expectations. Do not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Churches will experience set backs no matter what method is used to choose leaders. Mistakes and setbacks are part of God’s plan. They are a part of the learning and growing process. We need to expect and embrace disappointments. They were present in the early church. One could say they were required for our learning. Doing nothing will results in setbacks. Not attempting to improve will result in setbacks. We will always experience disappointments setbacks in this life. But God will never let His church fail.

Hebrew Messiah

Luke Chapter 4

This study takes in in depth look at the battle between Christ and Satan. Most Christians today call that Jesus’ trail or refer to that battle as Satan’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness. If you are Christian, I’m sure you heard that story told many times and you still have a lot of unanswered questions about what that meeting really represents. Let’s take a look at that story in Luke’s Gospel and see how the Bible explains what that meeting represented. After reviewing the story as a whole, you will never look at the Bible the same. You may even question the people you have been learning from. In fact you should question them. The Bible shows us how Christ viewed scripture, and how Satan tried to twist scripture. Once you learn how Christ and Satan use God’s written word, you will see what Satan has been trying to cover up for generations. You will also see why some of the most respected religious teachers of our time try to cover up simple facts in scripture. Then you can judge for yourself. Are they following Jesus’ way of respecting scripture, or Satan’s methods to cover up and conceal vital information?

Luke 4:1-44 NLTse Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, (2) where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. (3) Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” (4) But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'” (5) Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. (6) “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. (7) I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” (8) Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.'” (9) Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! (10) For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. (11) And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'” (12) Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.'” (13) When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. (14) Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. (15) He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (16) When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. (17) The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: (18) “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, (19) and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” (20) He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. (21) Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (22) Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (23) Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’–meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ (24) But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. (25) “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. (26) Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner–a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. (27) And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (28) When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. (29) Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, (30) but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way. (31) Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. (32) There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority. (33) Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon–an evil spirit–began shouting at Jesus, (34) “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One sent from God!” (35) Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. (36) Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” (37) The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region. (38) After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. (39) Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them. (40) As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. (41) Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak. (42) Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. (43) But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” (44) So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.

This may be one of the most important chapters in the Bible. I would say, it is the most over looked chapter in the Bible because it is one chapter that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt God wrote the Bible.

While writing another book, Prophecies Fulfilled: Genesis to Deuteronomy, I followed the basic rules of context and found Jesus answered all of Satan’s questions by quoting scripture to answer Satan’s first temptation. This showed how Jesus spent His time preparing for that confrontation in the wilderness.

Prophecies Fulfilled: Genesis to Deuteronomy,available as an eBook download at:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/dennis-herman/prophecies-fulfilled-genesis-to-deuteronomy/ebook/product-21290067.html

That study is also available on my web site at: https://adventbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/deuteronomy-83-not-by-bread-alone/

You can review that study in its entirety to see how God arranged His word to address all of Satan’s accusations and overcome those temptation before Satan had a chance to introduce them. The answers Jesus responded with are scattered over the Old Testament, but the main answer is found in Deuteronomy 8.

One of the first details, not mentioned in this story, but widely accepted in the Christian world, is Satan’s ability to interpret God’s Word. People claim, and some even go as far as preaching that Satan has a total understanding of God’s Word, particularly prophecies. I’d like to point out how much the Bible, in particular, the gospels, point out that understanding comes only through a close personal relationship with God’s Spirit. An advantage Satan lacks. As we see in Revelation, Satan was cast down to this world and removed from any contact with Heaven.

Lucifer was one of the covering cherubim in Heaven. That was until God and His Son went off alone to discuss the plan of salvation. Lucifer had already been questioning God’s law and ultimate rule of Heaven and the universe. Satan didn’t take the secrecy well. He fancied himself equal to God, Why would God want to make any decision without his input? To Lucifer, that was the ultimate sign of disrespect.

Satan never knew anything about God’s plan of salvation, because he was the cause of those plans. What little Satan could understand about the God’s Word, the Tabernacle, and everything those symbols pointed to, he distorted. He turned everything back to a personal view of himself. That’s where the list of endless sacrifices and the universal belief among Jewish factions that the Messiah was a destroying angel came from.

Another fallacy about Satan centers on his ability to tell the future. Where is the evidence for that? Some people point to Saul’s encounter with the witch that told him, “the LORD will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The LORD will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.” (1 Samuel 28:19 NLTse). But when we stick to basic rules of Bible study to find out how the author led to that event, we see Saul was possessed by a demon. Satan had direct access to Saul and knew everything about him. It wasn’t much to look at the situation and see, once Saul decided to attack, it was all over for him. Satan couldn’t loose. His goal was to keep Saul separated from God. If Saul attacked, only a miracle would save him. Satan couldn’t do a thing about that. If God wanted him that bad, let Him have Saul. If Saul backed down and fled the battlefield, Satan would either take credit himself, or place it on the woman who claimed to be a medium. There was a very good chance Saul would go into battle and die. Satan saw how Saul’s army was leaving him. After all, Satan was the one behind their fear. Satan had a 2 out of 3 chance of gaining an advantage. And he liked the odds.

There is one strange detail about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we should all see. Luke told us, “Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. (Luke 3:23 NLTse). You’ll notice Luke recorded this in the preceding chapter. He did that for a reason. Luke also recorded Jesus’ family line to give us an idea of what was at stake. Then of course Luke pointed out how Jesus began His ministry alone. How can one of the nicest, if not, the most trusted man in the world set out on such an important mission alone? Where were Jesus’ friends and family? Where was His support?

Hebrew Messiah
Understanding the Hebrew Messiah. Now you can download the eBook direct from the author.

Since Luke established the pattern of looking back, let’s look back at some details about John’s training in another book. John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4 NLTse). John was trained in the wilderness and baptized in the wilderness. God always made sure John had enough to eat.

A lot of people like to place Jesus in a dry, barren wilderness full of sand, dust, and of course rocks and stones. We see it in all the movies and children’s cartoons. This makes it look like Jesus had no choice but to wander endlessly around looking for food. They present Jesus as a man trapped and controlled by his surroundings. But is that true?

Jesus was led by God’s Spirit into the wilderness. Would God’s Spirit lead His Son into a barren, hot, desolate wilderness to add heat stroke and thirst to His fast? I don’t think so. Jesus went off alone to defeat temptation and fear, which is what drove Saul to seek advice from a medium. Fear eventually killed Saul,his sons, and army.

Jesus over came the earthly fear of being alone. Isn’t that a fear most people have? Their afraid of being alone, so they marry the wrong person. They follow the wrong crowd to socialize and be accepted. That fear of being alone forces more people into more mistakes than we can imagine. But Jesus wasn’t alone. As soon as Satan left, God’s angels prepared a meal for Him.

Jesus also showed His ultimate dedication to God by deciding not to eat. Food was available. Remember another story about honey? But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey. After he had eaten it, he felt refreshed. (1 Samuel 14:27 NLTse). Jesus could have eaten a bit of honey any time He chose. But He decided to wait until His Father said it was time. Everything in Jesus’ ministry was based on timing.

The fact John ate honey, tells us there were of course two elements in and around God’s classroom in the wilderness, bees and flowers. If there were flowers, there was a host of other vegetation, and animals. If there was vegetation, there was water, a basic element of life. That was all Jesus needed. God’s Spirit and the basic element of life.


 

Jesus Led By God’s Spirit

Luke 4:1-2 NLTse Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, (2) where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

The first thing I noticed about this introduction is how it related to Luke’s previous introductions. In chapter 4, Luke introduced the key word devil. In chapters 2 and 3, Luke used key words like emperor, governor, and ruler. Is there a connection? We shall see as we progress through this chapter.

Once again, I compared the introduction to the summation. Once again Luke recorded a contrast, introducing the devil at the beginning, and at the end he summed up the main theme of Jesus’ ministry. “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” So we can expect to see lessons taught with contrasts in this chapter.

Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit and is led by the Spirit in the wilderness. The first question we have to ask is, how did Jesus know He was being led by God’s Spirit? Oh, we can assume a few minor details we learned from stories and fables, but do those reach deep enough into scripture to pull out the important lessons taught by a few lines in scripture?

Looking ahead a few verses, we see Jesus quoted scripture. Did those just come to mind at the right time? Was Jesus relying on His memory to combat the devil? Certainly not! Luke introduced the fact, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit. If we want to stay within context, we have to look at each and every verse in that context, which will lead us to other important information leading us up to this event.

The first point to consider is Jesus’ use of scripture. Where did we see Jesus using scripture before? Didn’t Luke tell us, “Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46-47 NLTse). Would those teachers be impressed with opinions from a child, or His mastery of scripture?

Now we have to ask the question, where did Jesus learn about scripture? Did Joseph and Mary enroll Jesus in a seminary or school? Did He learn it at an evangelist seminar? The choices are slim. When we look at other accounts of Jesus’ birth, we find a group of wise men giving Jesus’ parents gifts. “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11 NLTse). Later Joseph received a dream. Following instructions, Joseph took his family to Egypt.

Where did they go in Egypt? If they settled near Alexandria, Egypt, they would have found copies of scripture readily available. The city was build by Alexander the Great, the leader of the third world empire. Greeks philosophers flocked to the city and established some of the worlds most respected schools of philosophy. Study of Hebrew scripture was one of their main interests. Over the years, Greek philosophers dove into scripture, tore it apart, and explained how it supported some of their beliefs in the planets and elements. They knew it carried symbols with hidden meanings and wanted to be the first to interpret them. Of course the Greeks in Helena wanted to beat them to the punch. And of course the two schools of learning didn’t agree on a lot points. Hebrew scholars couldn’t let those Greeks have all the fun. So they established their own institutions and scholars to pump out interpretations as fast as they could. To make a long story short, this explosion of interest in scripture was the result of Greek copies of scripture widely circulated throughout the civilized world. This was especially true near institutions of higher learning. Among those Greek copies of scripture were a few, valuable copies in Hebrew. Which of course were much more accurate and were circulated by Rabbis interpreting scripture and writing manuscripts to straighten out those Greeks. For a detailed account of the events, you can read The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. The advent and circulation of early copies of scripture is located in the first book of the series.

It should not surprise people, and we cannot discount the fact, copies of both Greek and Hebrew scripture were available at local markets in and around Alexandria, Egypt. Joseph had the funds to purchase a much more expensive Hebrew copy. Based on the fact, Jesus impressed those teachers in the temple at a very young age shows His education started early.

Luke intentionally jumped from Jesus as a small boy at the temple to Jesus battling with the devil for a reason. On the surface it may appear Luke left that time, the better part of thirty years, up to interpretation. But the question is, how are you going to interpret that time span? Luke gave a couple of book marks so to say. Each is a mirror of the other. Jesus knew scripture. How Jesus acquired a copy of scripture may not be clear, but how Jesus learned scripture is plain. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit. This explained more than volumes.

Jesus may not have eaten anything for over a month, but based on previous chapters and other accounts of John, we can see, there was food available in the wilderness. Jesus made the choice to enter this battle of temptation by over coming the fear of being alone, and making the decision to exhibit self control by not eating.

This also taught important aspects of Bible Study. It requires discipline and sacrifice. Bible study can and should be done in groups, but you’ll find the best results come when you spend time alone with your Bible and God’s Spirit.

As we can see, the study of scripture was an important part of Jesus’ life. So what do you think He did over those forty days? He went over the finer points of scripture, preparing for His next step in His ministry. There is another point from a previous story we have to consider. Simeon gave Mary a glimpse into the future. Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35 NLTse).

Mary didn’t know what it meant. Either did Simeon. He couldn’t explain it to her. Fast froward to Jesus on the cross and Mary at His feet. No one seemed to understand why Jesus was on that cross. Can you imagine Jesus and Mary going over those scriptures about Him? Did Jesus understand them before He began His ministry? We can’t be sure when Jesus began to understand all those prophecies and put the story together. We know Jesus tried explaining them to His disciples before He was arrested. They found one excuse after another not to listen. We can see, Jesus didn’t explain those prophecies to Mary. Not one word is mentioned about Mary trying to tell those disciples and her family how her son would fulfill over three hundred prophecies. The fact Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand those prophecies and couldn’t come up with their interpretations on their own showed, it takes more than group study to learn from scripture. It takes one on one time with God’s Spirit.

Make That Stone Into Bread

Luke 4:3-4 NLTse Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” (4) But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'”

I think we need to look at those temptations one at a time. Especially those where verses are quoted. As we’ve already seen, it is important to look up the chapter of each Old Testament text quoted in the New Testament.

Here we have a simple temptation. The devil made a simple request. But look how Satan introduced the temptation. “If you are the Son of God.” That, “if,” is a huge word in this context. Before his name was changed to Satan, Lucifer knew Christ in Heaven for who knows how long. Satan knew who Jesus was. What is with that, “if?”

That little two letter word was meant to get to Jesus. It was meant to think Satan forgot about the time they spent together in Heaven. It was also meant to lure Jesus into a conversation. It worked with Eve. Why wouldn’t it work with Jesus?

Of course Jesus knew what Satan was up to. He just spent 40 days alone with God’s Spirit who prepared Jesus. So Jesus stuck to what He know best, scripture. When we look up that scripture, we find some interesting facts.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 NLTse (1) “Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors. (2) Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. (3) Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

We need to take a look at the entire introduction to check the context. It doesn’t seem to fit into Satan’s plans. If we looked ahead, we’d see Satan claims he owns everything and promised to give it to Jesus, with a few strings attached. This is a strange offer considering Satan’s main complaint was that God had a few conditions. People had to obey all the commands. That may not seem so much when you think of it. This world is filled with conditions.

Did you ever read your mortgage contract? It is filled with conditions. The bank just doesn’t call them commandments. If you rent, you’ll also have pages of details you agree to follow. The same is true with God. Keep His commandments and He is willing to give you land. Landlords are willing to allow you to live in a property as long as you pay rent to support them. Banks will charge you what really amounts to unbelievable interest rates. They break it down to an annual interest rate so it appears small, but actually costs you 150% to 200% interest or more.

Verse 2 contains some interesting words. Remember is one. Is this reaching out to Jesus when He needed encouragement? It also contains the words forty years. Kind of a close relationship to the forty days Jesus went without food. Then the promise. God fed them with manna. It doesn’t really matter if Jesus was in a dry barren desert or spent time in an orchard in the woods someplace. All Jesus had to do is ask for food, and God could have supplied everything He wanted. What we want to do now is look at the summation.

Deuteronomy 8:18-20 NLTse (18) Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. (19) “But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. (20) Just as the LORD has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the LORD your God.

Here we have it. If Satan would have known scripture like Jesus did, he never would have tried the temptations he used. He never would have offered the things he offered Jesus. This time the word remember is pointed, or shot, straight at Satan. “Remember the LORD your God.” This wiped out Satan’s little, “if.” Satan had no authority to give anyone anything. Jesus knew all of this scripture. God’s Spirit guided Him to it at the right time. These two chapters prove beyond any shadow of doubt, God is God, He wrote the Bible, and Jesus is the Messiah. It also proved, Satan didn’t stand a chance. As long as Jesus continued to rely on God, and yes, follow those commandments, Satan was going to be destroyed.

Satan Tries to Buy Jesus

Luke 4:5-8 NLTse Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. (6) “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. (7) I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” (8) Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.'”

Now we see how well Satan knows scripture and how much he understands. If Satan would have gone back to the scripture Jesus pointed him to, he would have never asked that question. Why tempt someone with something he already provided an answer to? That’s Satan’s way of doing business. After all those of years of existence, that is all he knew.

Of course we owe it to ourselves to look at the original texts Jesus quoted. Otherwise we’re doing nothing but making the same mistake Satan did. And not too many of us want to go in that direction.

Deuteronomy 6:13-16 NLTse (13) You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. (14) “You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, (15) for the LORD your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. (16) You must not test the LORD your God as you did when you complained at Massah.

Once again, Jesus pointed Satan to texts about worshiping God and also warned about worshiping other god’s. Satan insisted he wasn’t sure Jesus was God’s Son. This texts tells us, God lives among us. Then we see something just as amazing as the first scripture Jesus quoted. “ You must not test the LORD your God.” Jesus answered another temptation Satan hadn’t tried yet.

Deuteronomy 6:1-6 NLTse (1) “These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, (2) and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. (3) Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (4) “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. (5) And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (6) And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.

Looking at the introduction to Deuteronomy 6, we see another emphasis on God’s laws and commandments. This time Moses tells Israel not only to know them, but to be ready to teach them. Reading them isn’t enough. Knowing them isn’t enough. Following God’s commandments isn’t enough. You have to know them well enough to teach them.

Satan knew God’s commandments and followed them for who knows how long. Satan my have even taught some of the laws. But something went wrong. Something changed. Lucifer no longer loved God. Fact of the matter is, Satan still knows God’s laws, but now his teaching and temptations are contrary to God’s laws and commandments.

Deuteronomy 6:21-25 NLTse (21) “Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand. (22) The LORD did miraculous signs and wonders before our eyes, dealing terrifying blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people. (23) He brought us out of Egypt so he could give us this land he had sworn to give our ancestors. (24) And the LORD our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day. (25) For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the LORD our God has given us.’

Deuteronomy 6 closed with a reminder of Egypt and the slavery they imposed on not only Jews, but every nation they conquered. Remember, Joseph was brought in Egypt as a slave a few generations before those Jews were enslaved. We’re also reminded of the miracles God preformed to free them. This is another reminder of God’s power. How He could have fed Jesus at anytime. Given Him anything He wanted. And of course, dwelt with Satan anytime He chose.

The Devil Took Jesus to the Temple

Luke 4:9-13 NLTse Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! (10) For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. (11) And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'” (12) Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.'” (13) When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

We can’t help but see, Luke repeated the word scriptures. When we see such an important word repeated, we may want to ask why. The last time the devil tempted Jesus, he tried his hand at bribing Him. Money didn’t work, so Satan turned to scripture. This gives us one of the few recorded instances where the devil quoted scripture. It’s not by chance it is found in a set of verses where Jesus also quoted scripture. There’s no doubt this is a war of words. This is a chance to see who has the most effective weapons and how they use them. We’ll look at these in order after we first look at how Satan used scripture.

Psalms 91:11-12 NLTse For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. (12) They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

This is the small section of texts Satan quoted. Now it wouldn’t be fair to accept the few verses Satan quoted without checking the context. After all we put Jesus on trial. Well it really wasn’t a trial. We were looking for more information on the subject. And of course, we found it. What do you think we’ll find when we look at the chapter Satan quoted from?

Psalms 91:8-16 NLTse Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. (9) If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, (10) no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. (11) For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. (12) They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. (13) You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! (14) The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. (15) When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. (16) I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Amazing how a few verses before the one Satan quoted, it says, “Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.” What is even more amazing is how that punishment is described immediately after the verses Satan quoted. “You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!”

We can see, without a doubt, Satan has no understanding of scripture. What we really see is one of the few examples in the Bible showing the use of proof texts. That is where a person will search for particular texts to use to support the idea they want to prove. The problem is, the study rules for proof texts ignore the basic rules of context.

Unfortunately, proof texts is the most popular method of Bible Study in the world today. The sad part is, most people study so little, they have no idea where this method came from, or that their following Satan’s instructions when they use it. Of course, you can look at how people use Bible texts to see if they are using it to prove their own ideas. And of course, if we want to obey the general rules of context, we have to check the introduction.

Psalms 91:1-7 NLTse Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (2) This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. (3) For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. (4) He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. (5) Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. (6) Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. (7) Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.

The context of this chapter centers on God’s protection. It just happens to be the same context Satan used the texts he quoted. He wanted Jesus to prove He had God’s protection. So we can see, even when scripture is used within context according to the introduction, the summation must always be checked. God has a way with his word beyond our imagination. Here we have nothing less than an example showing how God goes much further than protecting us, and His Son, Jesus. God also provided a way to protect His Word way before Satan tried to abuse it.

Jesus proved He is way ahead of Satan’s understanding of scripture by quoting another portion of the same texts He quoted before. This may pass the attention of most people, but when you learn to allow God’s Spirit to guide your studies, you’ll be amazed at how many of these details He is waiting to show you.

Deuteronomy 6:13-16 NLTse (13) You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. (14) “You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, (15) for the LORD your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. (16) You must not test the LORD your God as you did when you complained at Massah.

We just compared how Jesus used scripture and how Satan abused it. When we read a few extra

verses, we see Jesus’ answer to Satan’s next temptation. When we read a few extra verses from the texts Satan quoted, we see what He didn’t want us to see. We see exactly what will happen to Satan. We see his destruction.

To understand Bible Study we have to review the introduction to this chapter where we see Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. This is the key to understanding. Jesus answered all of Satan’s temptations with a single chapter. It was a short term prophecy so to speak.

Satan was able to make it appear as if Jesus was somehow transported to the top of the temple Herod built. Satan tried to create a scene of an empty courtyard. But when Jesus looked down, He saw people wondering around. In Jesus’ view, that courtyard was packed with people beyond capacity. And so were the pens of sheep and goats destined for certain death. Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.”

After Jesus was baptized, He immediately proceeded on the journey He was destined to travel. He walked for days over the roads of western Jerusalem. Along those roads, Jesus looked at farmers preparing their fields. After a while, those fields turned to carpets of wild flowers. Jesus gazed upon the colors of hope and promise God provided.

Jesus sat down as evening drew near. Before the sun began to set, He stared at a bud waiting to open. As Jesus looked at the small, unassuming green bud supported by a single stem, He realized how the rounded shape at the bottom and point at the top resembled the bottom half of an hour glass. Jesus thought to Himself, how strange it appeared to have such a tiny opening at the top to capture those sands of time. Jesus looked at other flowers around the bud that were already open. They had large yellow cups in the center surrounded by larger platter shaped pedals below. Now this is how a person should be shaped to catch the sands of eternity. Shaped so nothing escapes.

Jesus knew there were two cups offered in this world. The cup of indignation, sin, greed, the search for power, and control, and that cup He came to offer them. When fully opened, the cup of indignation lets little escape. But the cup Jesus was about to open offered a much sweeter nectar.

Jesus traveled a few more days. Houses and people were far and few between. Finally Jesus climbed a small mountain not far from the Jordan River. Jesus sat by Himself thinking about what happened so far, and what He knew would happen, based on the scripture He knew. Jesus looked down at the river looking like a red ribbon as the setting sun turned the sky red, giving everything a warm, brilliant hue.

Jesus did what He loved to do best. Jesus thought about scripture and reviewed details with God’s Spirit. The more Jesus prayed about scripture and His role in the plan of salvation, the more He could see and understand. Jesus may have physically been in this world, but spiritually He was in Heaven at His Father’s throne going over details. Jesus not only had to prove it is possible to live without sin, but it was also possible to learn details about scripture through God’s Spirit. Jesus showed how the two worked together.

Suddenly, Jesus knew He wasn’t alone. Like a cold winter breeze covering His entire body, Jesus felt the presence of someone He had not seen in a while. Satan himself came to tempt Jesus. Satan’s agents knew something was up when Jesus left Galilee and traveled to the Jordan River alone. They tried their best to discourage and stop Jesus. But their attempts were about as effective as a gnat trying to stop a ox plowing a field.

Demons also witnessed Jesus’ baptism and saw God’s presence. Years of restriction on earth didn’t dull their perception of God. They knew something was up and reported what they saw. Satan knew something was about to happen and decided he needed to take full control of the situation before it got out of hand. But Satan couldn’t get close to Jesus as long as He was in direct contact with God.

Finally, after their meeting was over, Satan immediately stepped in. Jesus recognized the devil, but he pretended he didn’t know Jesus. Satan wanted to give Jesus the impression he’d forgotten their life in Heaven. Satan had been personally watching Jesus from a distance. He knew Jesus had not eaten in days. Satan looked around for an opening. “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” Satan wanted to test Jesus to see if He was 100% human, or if He came to this world in the form of a spirit. Satan was smart. He knew he had to probe his enemy to find Jesus’ strengths and weaknesses. Still, Satan didn’t know much about God’s plan of salvation and understood less.

Jesus knew exactly what Satan was up to. God knew what he was up to and told Jesus how to combat it. Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'” Jesus pointed out the answer came from scripture. But Satan had no idea the power scripture held, or how to use it. Satan knew scripture existed. He used it to create a few twists in his own religions. He copied sections of it and taught people to follow some parts to see what their reaction would be. But Satan had no idea scripture had the power to lead people to God and protect them.

Satan also had no idea Jesus answered his first claim of not knowing who Jesus was, when suggesting to make bread, and his next temptation before he had a chance to conjure it up. Somehow Satan was able to give Jesus an image of some of the world’s kingdoms and armies. Jesus almost laughed at Satan’s vision, as He knew most of those armies were from the past. Satan showed visions of armies who were successful at one time, but eventually defeated. Jesus knew, Satan showed visions of Babylon’s armies and kingdom during its glory days. Also visions of Cyrus’ and Alexander’s armies and kingdoms. Then of course Egypt’s armies and finally the Roman empire. Not only didn’t Satan have power to give those things to anyone, most of them didn’t exist anymore.

“I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus didn’t have to think much over. Jesus recognized the armies and leaders. Knowing most were in the grave for a long time, and Satan never had any power to raise them, Jesus’ answer was simple. “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.'”

This upset Satan. He had no idea what to do next. All Satan knew was Jesus spent a lot of time in scripture. Satan thought he should test Jesus on this subject. Satan didn’t look at scripture as a battle field, or a weapon, because he had no way of knowing how to use it, or how Jesus would use it. But Satan being the devil, convinced himself it was easy and there was no reason why he couldn’t use scripture against Jesus and win.

But Satan was at a disadvantage. Satan enjoyed taking little bits and pieces of scripture from here and there, and distorting them. For years Satan saw how easy it was to trick and mislead people. His years of success with those Greeks gave him immense pleasure. They were easy compared to some of the other religions in the world. Some were so steeped in the first impressions Satan gave them, it was nearly impossible for them to change. But eventually he worked his people into the right place and made the changes he thought were necessary. But the Rabbis were a different story. Some details were easy,others more different. Satan couldn’t get them where he wanted them, but he got them far enough away to serve his purpose. It seemed the Jews, more than anyone else, had a mind of their own.

Then Satan put the two together to come up with the best plan he could at the moment. Satan put religion and scripture together to offer something more important to Jesus then those kingdoms and power. The devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'”

Satan knew the Hebrews were God’s chosen people. Satan remembered that much. So there had to be a way of using it against Jesus. After all, Satan had been using friends against friends and family against family. He was certain he found one of Jesus’ weaknesses. But he didn’t. Satan played right into Jesus’ strongest arena. Satan proved, he had little regard or use for God’s Word. Satan used two lines from scripture that he thought would trick Jesus. The devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'”

Satan couldn’t figure out why Jesus was smiling. Then His face turned sad. Satan tried getting Jesus caught up in a vision of a glorious temple with an empty court. A courtyard Satan could help him to fill. But Jesus knew what God’s Word said next. “You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!” Jesus knew it was placed there to encourage Him. But more than anything, Jesus wanted Satan to turn away from his plans and pride. Jesus wanted the angel He spent all that time with in Heaven to turn back to God. So Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.'”

That was it for Satan for a while. There weren’t anymore ideas for the time being. So Satan left. But he was far from giving up. The only lesson he learned was, not to put himself in jeopardy when pride was at stake.

Jesus Returned To His Hometown

Luke 14-30 NLTse Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. (15) He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (16) When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. (17) The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: (18) “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, (19) and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” (20) He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. (21) Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (22) Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (23) Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’–meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ (24) But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. (25) “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. (26) Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner–a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. (27) And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (28) When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. (29) Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, (30) but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

When a king achieves a major victory, they usually expect to return to a triumphant victory parade. Not so with Jesus. No one knew about His victory over Satan. To Jesus, the battle here on earth still had a long way to go. This wasn’t the beginning and it certainly wasn’t the end.

Jesus received His praise in synagogues, not the streets and royal palaces of kings. A synagogue is different than the temple. In the temple, the priests loosely followed the ordinances written by Moses. In synagogues, priests, Levites, and other people, known as common Jews, followed a series of man made customs. To get a better idea of those customs, you can read, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,” by Alfred Edersheim, Book III. Jordan to the Mount of Transfiguration, Chapter 10 The Synagogue at Nazareth, and Chapter 11 The First Galilean Ministry. This will give you a basic idea of some of those traditions and insight to some of the traditions practiced today in many Christian churches.

Few, if any of those customs are actually based on the Bible. Those traditions are of course designed to provide a resemblance of worship, but are they true worship in a form and manner described in the Bible?

There is something still hidden in scripture. Of course information concerning worship is scattered throughout the Bible. And much of it does have a physical and spiritual meaning. Take for instance Exodus 29. Some of those key words include priest and son. The original priests were Aaron’s sons. And of course, Aaron was the first high priest of the Tabernacle. There are two major factors concerning the relationship of the priesthood of Aaron and his sons which evolved to become the priesthood in Jesus time. The first is, high priests and other priests were responsible for arresting, putting Jesus on trial, and His execution. The second lies in the fact, God choose the Levites as His firstborn sons. “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:12-13 NLTse).

Later the Bible tells us, we are all heirs through Christ, and all sons and daughters of God. For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:16-18 NLTse). There is much more behind those spiritual meanings that we have room to cover here. On the surface we can see God’s chosen firstborn killed His Son. Hence the parable of the landlord and unfaithful tenants and other parables related to servants who either didn’t understand or accept their roles is made clear.

You’ll notice, before Jesus faced Satan, He was full of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus faced Satan He was filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. There must be a difference, otherwise Luke would not have recorded it this way. When we check out the original Greek we see verse 1 refereed to being covered. Verse 14 referred to a force, a miraculous force pertaining to miracles.

Jesus didn’t gain His fame like other kings. People heard about Him based on what He taught in their synagogues. Luke didn’t record anything about what Jesus taught in those other synagogues. But he recorded a detailed summary of what Jesus taught in the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home.

Once again we’re faced with the task of locating the original scripture, and of course examining the chapter. Once we do, we’ll be able to see what Jesus led them to and wanted them to understand.

Isaiah 61:1-2 NLTse The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. (2) He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

Looking at what Jesus pointed them to, we can easily see, the original scripture contained more information than what Jesus provided. Why did Jesus stop short of reading more? One of the most important things Jesus came to do is, show us how to have a direct relationship with God’s Spirit. That ain’t gonna happen if someone takes His place by telling people the whole story. Look at the original texts and think of how it has a personal bearing only you can understand. First we’ll look at the introduction.

Isaiah 61:3-6 NLTse To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. (4) They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. (5) Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards. (6) You will be called priests of the LORD, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.

First of all, this prophecy is pointed to all who mourn. People who aren’t mourning have no idea what’s going on. We have to be like Jesus and feel the pain of the world before we can hope to understand it. If we think everything is going well and we are in control of our own destiny, we are never going to see the spiritual side any of this prophecy, or any other. But when we do mourn, God will provide, beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. The most import part of this whole prophecy is, God will make us His priests. What does that say to you? Is part of being a priest running off to someone every time you have a question? Where does a priest go for answers? Directly to God. We are not going to cover the entire chapter here. That would defeat the purpose of having you review a section of it on your own. But to follow the rules of context we know we have to look at the summation.

Isaiah 61:10-11 NLTse I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. (11) The Sovereign LORD will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

Of course God is going to list advantages of following Him. These are some of those details Jesus didn’t mention because He wanted people to look for themselves and spend a little one on one time with God’s Spirit.

How do you envision an overwhelming joy in the LORD my God? Come on now. If that isn’t personal, I don’t know what is. I am in the middle of a major crisis on a project I’ve been working on for months and I am not worried about it. As a matter of fact, I am rejoicing in the lessons I’ve learned over the past 24 hours.

Yesterday we went over to look at a house a buyer was scheduled to close on a few hours ago today. Instead of closing, I’ve spent 3-4 hours emailing people about problems and another 3-4 hours on the phone. We went to the house to find, this government owned home had a contractor stop by to add a clear coat to the hardwood floors. What should have been a light sanding, clean up, and new clear coat for the buyer has now turned into a major nightmare. The contractor came over and sprayed on a clear coat over parts of the floor. They didn’t sand, sweep, or clean the floors, which were filthy. They put a permanent clear coat over all that dirt and grime. The coating was nothing close to level or smooth. There were giant globs of clear coat, air bubbles, they missed larger sections, and it even had foot prints in the clear coat.

That was only half the problem. According to the lender, they needed a copy of the appraisal by the government agency selling the property. One government agency imposed new fines on lenders who did not keep a copy of that appraisal in their records. The government agency selling the property adopted new rules saying they will not share an appraisal with anyone. We are at a stand still. A face off between one government agency and another which also involves the lender for the buyer, and the buyer himself.

As far as I’m concerned, all of that is in God’s hands. All I can do is put the parties in contact with one another to let them solve the problem. And of course pray. But that does not mean God doesn’t have other plans. That doesn’t mean God didn’t try to warn me, but I wasn’t listening.

I know what it’s like not to listen to God. I learned my lesson well and it was an expensive lesson to learn. I married a woman. I thought she was a good Christian woman. She went to church and was active in church. Before we married, we prayed together and of course studied the Bible together. That all changed after marriage. But I didn’t let that bother me. I was in love.

I thought I married the most beautiful, most understanding woman in the world. Even though she gave a lot of money to her sons, and it cost a lot of money to drive them to school and work, and all over the place, I was in love and nothing seemed like a sacrifice.

Well eventually funds ran out. The ex-wife finished her masters degree and got a job out of state. All that time I was planning on selling the house and moving to be with her. That’s when it all happened. She moved in with a new sugar daddy and filed for divorce.

I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do, or what I did wrong. I prayed about it for weeks before I was in the right state to listen. Then God spoke. The first thing He did was reminded me about all the warnings He sent me. God reminded me of the fact, when we studied the Bible together, the ex-wife never had an idea or opinion to share. She never could say what a single verse meant to her.

The main warning came in the form of the marriage license. I went to see her a month before the marriage. We got the marriage license and everything set for the wedding. We got married, took the license completed by the pastor down to city hall where we were told it was not valid. It expired the day before the wedding. When we applied for the license we told the clerk the marriage date and she said everything was in order. Well it seems in that state, the marriage license is good the day it is issued and that is the day the clock begins ticking. So we paid for a new license, got it signed by the pastor, and turned it in the next day. No ceremony, nothing. So in fact, we were not legally married. But I never worried about that. I was in love.

While we were waiting for the license I saw something strange in the waiting room. An odd looking couple sat next to us. They were dressed all in black with pitch black hair dye, strange hair styles, body piercings all over the place, and other Gothic features. The woman was obviously a few months pregnant. They must have been all of 18 years old. A clerk came out and told them an judge was available to marry them on the spot.

Not to judge anyone. I had no idea who they were. But it seemed, they thought getting married would somehow make that pregnancy okay. I’m not sure how that worked out, but maybe I had the same motive. Now I see how other people treat marriage like it’s some kind of social band aide

Did I try to use marriage as a band aide? Was I like so many other couples who think they can change the other person’s religious outlook after marriage? I didn’t think so. But looking back, I did try to get her interested in reading the Bible more.

I have to admit. When God reviewed all those warnings, all of them made perfect sense after events unfolded. Then the unexpected happened. The ex told me, she never intended to remain married. She claimed the culture she came from believes it is perfectly acceptable for her to take advantage of American men. It was sort of like following tradition. I had to admit, that had already been confirmed by some of her family members.

Then came the realization. I asked myself how I could have been so blind. I had to admit, I married to make myself happy. And I was for the entire marriage, until the day she dropped that bomb. All those years I thought I was the happiest man in the world. I had a beautiful wife, a home, we ate good, we had enough money for a time. We were able to spend time together. More than most couples. We never had a fight or disagreement. I thought, “this is what the perfect marriage should be.” The most difficult thing to accept was the fact, it was all nothing more than a masquerade Nothing was ever real. Love was a one way street and all that time, she was planning to break away and crush me in every way she could think of. She contrived the most gruesome way of letting me know, she found someone else, and together they planned to crush the life out of me. It would have worked if I had not gone to Jesus for help.

That was the penalty I had to pay for not listening to God. John had to pay with his life. Jesus, well He saw what happened to John’s momentary loose of communication with God. The rest of us – if your honest and look back, you’ll see a few things. If you really want to see the truth and you ask Jesus to show it to you, be prepared for a brutally honest conversation.

Jesus delivered His message in front of His hometown synagogue. It didn’t matter if He was standing up, sitting down, or laying down when He delivered that message. I’ve heard so many preachers talking about that sermon Jesus delivered. Sure we have a whole bunch of preachers trying to impress people with their knowledge about Jewish tradition. The fact of the matter is, most of those preachers never read a book about Jewish tradition. They are doing nothing more than repeating what they’ve been told to say. They are like puppets on a string with no feelings, emotions, or insight into what was happening on the spiritual side of the event.

I’ve seen a lot of preachers, teachers, and elders giving sermons and talks about other churches and religions like they were the right hand man to people in charge for half their lives. They give the impression they were privileged to information at the highest levels. They spin their own webs of deceit as if every other religion in the world has a planned conspiracy to deceive the world.

Baptists can’t stand Lutherans, who don’t trust Catholics, who want to take over the world. The list goes on and on. Adventists spread their own fabricated lies about any religion they claim to be charismatic. Almost every religion seems to claim they are some kind of chosen church with special powers and the only way to be saved is to join their club.

They are all nothing but puppets on strings being controlled by forces they know nothing about. They all missed the lessons Jesus tried to teach. To see just a small part of those indescribable forces, we need to look back and review Jesus’ ministry up to that point.

Jesus begins a new chapter, or shall we say Testament in His life. Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by His cousin John. Sounds simple enough. Sounds as if things are going to plan. But wait. Opposing forces were working hard in the back ground already. Even before Jesus was baptized. Thinking he is doing the best he can, John tried telling Jesus, He didn’t think he should baptize Jesus. John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. (Matthew 3:14-15 NLTse). Why did John try rewriting the plan of salvation? Why did John suggest such a change?

Obviously John was not fully in touch with God’s Spirit. It may have been a momentary lapse of concentration. John thought he was trying to do something good, but what John did was introduce Jesus to a temptation before He was baptized.

After Jesus was baptized, God’s Spirit led Him away from people to be alone for a while. God had some details to go over with His Son. There were devils around trying to interfere with that line of communication. They couldn’t succeed, so Satan himself stepped in. That’s when Satan tried to introduce the thought, he didn’t remember anything about Heaven, or the time he spent with Jesus. Satan tried to make Jesus think, no matter how hard He tried, no one was going to remember anything for too long. Satan was trying to discourage Jesus on different levels at the same time.

Then Satan tested Jesus determination. If Jesus was fasting, Satan was going to suggest a better way, a different plan. That didn’t work. So Satan made a bunch of promises he couldn’t possibly keep. Let’s stop for a moment and see what Jesus promised during that sermon in His hometown synagogue. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Let’s examine Jesus’ claims that day. He is going to deliver Good News. Did He promise anything? Quoting scripture, Jesus said, “He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” The scriptures said, “that captives WILL be released.” Did Jesus say He already released them? No! Did Jesus promise anything He didn’t later deliver? No! Jesus fulfilled what He told them. As we look back at other parts of Isaiah 61, we see Jesus didn’t promise half of what was in that prophecy. Why? Part of the answer is in the Good News. Jesus came to lead them back to scripture, back to God’s promises.

At that point, there was only so much Jesus could deliver. Jesus had not yet earned the right or authority to fulfill all of the promises in God’s plan of salvation. But first, Jesus had no choice but to follow orders and do His best to stay in direct contact with God through His Spirit. Jesus had to follow the plan and follow it step by step.

Jesus followed God’s plan, but the people He was talking to couldn’t understand it. Or didn’t want to understand it. Luke recorded two completely different views of the subject in a single verse. Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” It seems people were split on the decision. Should we believe Jesus or not? How many of them looked at what we know as Isaiah 61 to make a decision?

Jesus came up with somewhat of a solution. “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’–meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner–a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

Jesus gave them all something to think about. In each case, those stories Jesus quoted from scripture are rather long. There is no reason to copy and paste them here. The question is, are you going to rely on your own selective memory on the subject, or are you going to review the circumstances and how they relate to, “ Physician, heal yourself.” Jesus gave them a choice.

Could they heal themselves? Of course a widow in trouble looks for help from anywhere she can find it. Elijah showed up and at the moment was her only way out of a desperate situation. So she fed God’s prophet and what happened. That widow was blessed beyond imagination. She didn’t live in the lap of luxury, but she survived. That was her prayer, and God answered.

One of the points Jesus was making in His hometown was, God helps people most of us don’t expect to see God to help. We have to look beyond our impression of God. The same was true with Naaman, the Syrian. The questions Jesus posed to those people in His hometown was, how many of you plan on being blessed by a prophet, and how many of you could heal yourself or a leper? “Physician, heal yourself.” Jesus told them, that was what was on their mind. He knew they wanted to see Jesus perform a whole bunch of miracles to prove that prophecy was being fulfilled. But why would they ask that? Wasn’t Jesus’ life enough of a testimony? They knew who His mother and father were, but did they really know Jesus?

After Jesus faced Satan and turned down all those promises he couldn’t fulfill, He was faced with a mob of people asking Him to prove He could fulfill a few of those promises in that prophecy. How many of them looked at the promises Jesus didn’t mention? At any rate, those people who should have supported Jesus, tried throwing Him off a cliff. How is that for gratitude? This didn’t seem to be the best way to begin a ministry to save the world.

I don’t know about you, but I have to ask, why did Jesus continue? What pushed Him on? Obviously, He knew enough about the plan of salvation to ignore the world’s view and take the next step. Jesus followed orders. Some times that’s all we have – orders to follow. And the choice to follow or ignore them. What are we going to be like? Are we going to ask for a few miracles before we take a step?

Then we have the other side of the coin. Do we make our own decisions based on our feelings and what we think is best for us? Like my marriage. There were dozens of warnings. But I wanted to assure God, I was doing what I thought would make me happy. It did for a time. I’m sure if Jesus accepted Satan’s offer of power, riches, and authority, He would have been happy for a while. I hope that young couple in the waiting room who married that day made the right decision. But we never know. We don’t know the future and no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves it looks like the right decision – only time will tell.

A quick update on the closing. The buyer accepted the property as-is after some correspondence with the government agency. I ran some comps to find out market values increased in the area higher than expected over the past two months. The lender ordered a new appraisal to cover themselves but charged the buyer. Overall, it cost the buyer $650 more than expected and now he has to throw more money and time into the property than expected. As for me – after the closing I came home praising the Lord. As soon as I got home I heard that distinctive voice ask, “do you think all that worrying was worth it?”

Jesus Went to Capernaum

Luke 31-37 NLTse Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. (32) There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority. (33) Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon–an evil spirit–began shouting at Jesus, (34) “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One sent from God!” (35) Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. (36) Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” (37) The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region.

It may seem as if Jesus abandoned His hometown. Did He really? Lets review a few simple details. Satan asked Jesus to perform a miracle. After Jesus triumphed over the devil, He went home and preached in the local synagogue. Those people there also asked for a miracle. Why did Jesus refuse? They already witnessed one of the world’s greatest miracles. They saw Jesus grow up sinless.

What happens to people who are very good? I mean good enough to get noticed and develop a reputation for being good? A lot people people pick on them. Some people look at them as an easy target and take advantage of them. Did that ever happen to you? If it did, you have the ability to look at a part of Jesus’ life not explained in detail in the Bible. This is part of the personal side of the Bible. Which is nothing more than finding something in common with Jesus. Something you can share. It is an intricate part of being a Christian, receiving, and understanding the message.

Let’s look at that story of Jesus leaving His hometown from an different aspect. Luke also pointed out another important fact. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. That was on His way to His Nazareth. News precluded His arrival. Not only did those people see Jesus grow up, they also heard about what He preached before He got there.

After Jesus left Nazareth, He began healing people. News about Him didn’t stop at Nazareth. Once Jesus’ fame began spreading, what do you think happened? What happens when a person becomes famous today? People normally drift to their home town. Wouldn’t it make sense the same thing happened with Jesus, the greatest religious movement in the world, was still alive? Nazareth must still be one of the top ten tourist attractions today.

Jesus didn’t abandon them. He knew people would soon be flocking to Nazareth to see where He grew up. Jesus knew they would all be asking questions. When Jesus walked through the crowd that tried to throw Him off the cliff, He looked into their faces and knew which people would soon be bragging they personally knew the prophet from Nazareth.

People are fickle. Why would anyone try to throw someone off a cliff one day then turn around and claim they are best friends the next? Who can figure out the human mind? But it’s easy. It all centers around self.

People in Nazareth are not any different than many other people. In church, people’s first reaction is to defend tradition. They will resist change at any cost. But after someone, or an idea becomes popular, they look for a connection. If they have any type of connection with a popular aspect of religion, people want to use that relationship to make themselves look important. They want to appear as important as the person introducing the new aspect, or as important as the concept itself.

That wasn’t the type of movement Jesus wanted to start. That wasn’t part of God’s plan. Jesus wanted to reach them. That may be something you have in common with Jesus. Sometimes we have to walk away from the people we love to help them. Sometimes they have to find their own way into God’s arms. Sometimes our presence inhibits the ability of God’s Spirit to reach them. Let’s face it. Sometimes people grasp onto someone who leads a good life. Someone who is a good Christian, because the think they can coast into Heaven on their coattails as the old saying goes. Maybe you know what Jesus felt when He walked through that crowd, away from that cliff, and away from home.

Jesus didn’t give up. The beginning of His ministry was bumpy to say the least. But He kept pushing on, taking directions, and fulfilling His ministry. When Jesus went to Capernaum, He stayed with the same routine. He went to the Synagogue to teach. Things were beginning to seem like an unbroken pattern and beginning to look promising, until the day a man possessed by a demon–an evil spirit–began shouting at Jesus.

This was something new to contend with. Something no one was expecting or knew how to deal with. The demon shouted, “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One sent from God!”

Why would a demon announce Jesus’ position as God’s Son? Obviously the demon had a reason to put Jesus on the spot. The demon knew how Jesus defeated his boss. Was there a sense of revenge pushing the demon into making a poor decision? Was that demon trying to make a name for himself?

What about the man the demon controlled? What did the man do to let that demon in? Many people claim Mary, who had seven demons, was a prostitute. People normally associate demons with sin. I’m not sure the Bible specifically tells us, we need to sin to allow demons to control us. But let’s look at a few examples.

Eve was the first example of demon possession. Not the way people often teach, but Eve was controlled and manipulated by the devil. How come? For one thing, she entered into a conversation with the demon and allowed him to offer suggestions. Let’s compare that to Jesus’ encounter with Satan in this chapter.

Eve met the devil at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She was there trying to figure out how a tree could possess those types of powers. On that tree was a serpent. The devil disguised himself. Look at the devil when he met Jesus. What disguise did he use then? There was no way Jesus was going to be fooled, so the devil used a different disguise. This time he tried to appear as a stranger. Remember, the main role of a disguise is to enter into a conversation. With Jesus, the devil disguised himself as a stranger. He wanted to take Jesus off His game plan onto the devil’s own playing field. Jesus didn’t stray away by relying on His own knowledge about Satan. Jesus didn’t try to remind Satan of all the time they spent together. Jesus stuck to scripture. And we’ve already seen how scripture was designed to answer that question. Granted, Eve didn’t have any written word to refer to, but she had the choice to consult directly with God on the situation, or at least her husband before making a life changing decision.

King Saul is another example. Samuel anointed Saul Israel’s first king at God’s command. Saul immediately received the gift of prophecy. Saul had a direct line open to God. Saul was made Samuel’s equal in power, but not experience. Saul messed up by allowing pride and envy to run his life. Not that much different than Eve and much the same trick the devil tried on Jesus.

There are connections between Saul’s temptations and those Satan tried with Jesus. They are more or less contrasts. God gave Saul a kingdom. Satan offered Jesus a lot of kingdoms. God never showed Saul a vision of power and glory. Satan showed Jesus visions of armies with countless solders in orderly columns wearing brightly colored, dress uniforms. The scene was designed to impress, but only showed a small portion of what an army is used for. Satan hid more than he showed.

You’ll have to go over Saul’s story on your own, but let me give you a hint. Look at how little Samuel prepared Saul for his role as king. Samuel told Saul, he will become a prophet. Samuel stepped back to let God deal directly with Saul. After a while you’ll see how Samuel introduced one lesson at a time and how Saul perceived them. That story shows an example of one man who was given direct access to God’s throne, but refused to accept the responsibility.

Jesus on the other hand relied on direct access to God’s throne all the time. Jesus didn’t enter into a conversation with that demon in the synagogue. When that demon shouted, Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. Jesus had no reason to brag about His victory over Satan, or talk to that demon. What was Jesus going to learn from a demon anyway? Eve was tricked into thinking she could learn something from a serpent. Jesus was not about to repeat the same mistake. Jesus told that demon to shut up. The demon had no choice but to obey.

Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region. And we can be sure some of that news made its way to Nazareth. What do you think went through their minds in Nazareth? Do you think any of them took the lesson to heart, and looked at those demons in their lives?

Jesus Healed Simon’s Mother-In-Law

Luke 38-41 NLTse After leaving the synagogue that day, Jesus went to Simon’s home, where he found Simon’s mother-in-law very sick with a high fever. “Please heal her,” everyone begged. (39) Standing at her bedside, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. And she got up at once and prepared a meal for them. (40) As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. (41) Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak.

What happened to the story about Jesus meeting Simon and his brother Andrew. And what happened with John and James? Luke left out a lot of details. Why? Luke is teaching us sequence, which is one of the most important rules of Bible Study. We need to learn to look back at scripture, which is as important as looking back at our own lives. How could we have done things differently?

We see the need to compare other gospels to get the full story. We also see, each gospel follows a different sequence. Why? Each inspired writer is drawing attention to different aspects in Jesus’ ministry.

Luke showed us, Jesus faced Satan. Then He went home where He was rejected. Then Jesus traveled to other towns preaching and teaching. In this section of chapter 4, we see a sequence of key words strategically placed.

After Jesus left Nazareth, He cast a demon out of a man in Galilee. What is the spiritual implication of a demon in a synagogue? It shows, demons have been in synagogues and are in churches today. No one in that synagogue knew a demon walked among them and worshiped next to them.

Then Jesus traveled to Simon’s house. The scene transitions from a demon in a synagogue to a sick mother-in-law in her home. Jesus healed her. She got up and served Jesus and the other disciples. Luke kept the emphasis on Jesus up to this point. From that, we can see, Jesus healed her, then she got up to serve Jesus.

Key words sick, fever, diseases, and demons draw attention to some of the problems people faced and Jesus solved. This showed a sequence in Jesus’ ministry. You’ll notice the unbelief came before Jesus was led into the healing phase of His ministry. That unbelief occurred in Jesus’ home town where people saw Him grow up. A place where people should have known Him. Now we can understand why Jesus began His ministry alone.

After Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law at her home, the whole town showed up with their sick, injured, and possessed friends and family members. No one inside the house told those people. They may have heard about Jesus casting the demon out at the synagogue, but something told those people, Jesus also had the power to heal.

There are two aspects necessary for that event to happen. Because those people had no way of knowing Jesus could also heal, they must have had what people refer to as faith. Which is a subject, or detail in the Bible few people are able to explain. Ask someone to explain faith. They will most likely tell you something along the lines of, “faith is believing in something you can’t see.” Is that what faith is? Does God want and expect us to believe in something we can’t see nor understand? I doubt it.

Let’s look at this from the aspect of what led into the event. Jesus didn’t do any miracles in Nazareth because they had little or no faith. But in Simon’s home, people came in droves and Jesus healed them. What’s the difference? Those people saw or heard about Jesus casting out a demon. Something gave them the idea Jesus could also heal people. What was that something? How was that message delivered?

Time to go back a few chapters. How did Zechariah learn the message destined for him to hear? From Gabriel, who also visited Mary. And there was Elizabeth, who wasn’t visited by an angel, but knew more about what was going on then anyone else involved in those stories. Elizabeth knew God’s Spirit, who also told those people to bring their sick to Jesus. Luke is leaving it up to us to look back and figure out details it only appears he omitted. With the aid of God’s Spirit we clearly see those details – which is the main lesson in Luke’s style of writing up to this point.

Compare the introduction and summation for proof. The first sentences are: Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. The last sentence reads: So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.

How does that apply to ministry today? Aren’t we all tempted by the devil? The forty days Jesus spend in the wilderness reflect upon those forty years Israel wandered through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. How many people made it?

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit in the introduction and preached in synagogues in the summation. The two have to go together. This is the theme Luke is teaching. Guided by God’s Spirit when it was written. And of course, we need God’s Spirit to understand the message.

Preach the Good News

Luke 42-44 NLTse Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. (43) But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” (44) So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.

Preaching is the main key word in the summation for chapter 4. Everything written in this chapter showed how Jesus was prepared to preach. He had to defeat Satan. With the help of God’s Spirit of course. Jesus had to face disappointment. Jesus had to turn His back on the people He grew up with. They were of course still in God’s hands. Jesus had to show faith in God’s Spirit. Jesus had to show a close relationship with God’s Spirit and faith in His ability to cast out demons. Cast them out without joining into a controversy with them. No dialog was allowed with evil spirits. Jesus had to show His love and concern for individuals. He first healed in a home, away from the crowds, fame and glory. That’s when the people came. All of those details are an explanation showing how God’s Spirit prepared Jesus step by step. The most important detail is to learn God’s plan and follow it by waiting for orders. Then acting as commanded.

Revelation of Jesus Revelation 1

This chapter takes a look at Revelation chapter 1. What makes this book unique is the fact it will show you how Revelation actually teaches you how to understand the book and every prophecy and vision in the Bible. The Book of Revelation begins as a training manual. Nothing more and nothing less. The question is, why have those instructions been hidden from this generation?

Revelation 1:1-9 NLTse This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, (2) who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. (4) This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; (5) and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. (6) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (7) Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him– even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! (8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.” (9) I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.

Well here we are, 224 chapters into this series of books, and I haven’t covered one third of what was written about the temple. I thought it was a good idea to skip over other portions of the temple to jump into the Heavenly Sanctuary. I was surprised to find so little written about the Heavenly Sanctuary. Most of the Old Testament looked at the Sanctuary as a place of safety, a place to meet God, a place they were able to enter in their time, and a place we should be able to gather for true worship. The Sanctuary is a place we need to go to get information, the next message, warnings about false messages, false Christs, and what this world is doing to drive a wedge between us and God’s throne.

The book of Hebrews tells us how Jesus already fought and won the battle. Now its just a matter of clinging onto the new promises, and walking through that vail that used to separate symbols from reality. The disciples didn’t understand prophecy as it was unfolding in front of their eyes. They had to wait until a good portion of it was fulfilled before Jesus could sit them down and explain exactly what happened. What are we supposed to learn from that experience?

Today we live in what is referred to as an advanced society. We have larger, fancier homes with electricity, lights, computers, we drive faster cars, we can fly around the world, we have computers, smart phones, all sorts of ways to communicate, find, copy and paste information, make videos, and all kinds of other stuff to make us smarter then those disciples who relied on fish and sheep to eat, make a living, and had to walk from one place to another to get anything done. The question I have, what does all the garbage today have to do with understanding prophecy? To some people, technology is the key to understanding prophecy, like God gave us the news media to replace the Holy Spirit, and a vague understanding of a few choice bits of scripture to replace long hours reviewing what has been recorded over generations.

For some reason Jesus quoted scripture. Some times He quoted scripture a lot. At times, Jesus sent priests, Pharisees, and others back to the prophecy He was fulfilling in front of their eyes. Did they look at those prophecies? Some of them did. Not relying on your memory was such a strange thing back in those days, it made people look like idiots, as if they didn’t put in enough time to memorize the important points, or didn’t understand every detail when they read it the first six times. Going back to scripture and reading it in the light Jesus provided that day was looked upon as a sign of weakness. Reviewing scripture was looked at as such a curse. Those who did review it were afraid to discuss what they learned with the other priests and Pharisees. They stood silent as more prophecies were fulfilled, not knowing what to do, or how to react.

The world today is not much different. People claim to posses some superior knowledge of scripture. A whole bunch of people want to be just like the Pharisees. They want to be rock stars of prophecy. They want to come up with quick one line answers, standing above the wisdom of the world like a shining star leading the way. The way to what? The biggest house, fanciest car, a larger screen to project some Power Point project used as a teaching tool. What has the world ever gained from quick, one line prophetic guesses? It should have gained the knowledge, people using that formless method of study have all been wrong. They’ve been wrong thousands of times, and if they continue on their chosen course, are going to make thousands of more mistakes. Why does the world still follow them?

The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Revelation
The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Revelation. Now you can download the eBook direct from the author.

It will take about a minute to look at the Internet and find dozens of people claiming this prophecy, or that prophecy is being fulfilled today. Most cannot point to a specific prophecy, its just that the news has something about a war some place in this world, and people know there is a prophecy about wars somewhere in the Bible, so the world must be reaching an end. Using the same study methods the priests and Pharisees used to kill Jesus, people think the technology they have at their fingertips is somehow going to make their guesses come true. In all that mayhem, where is God’s Spirit? No one knows. No one cares. Our technology will provide answers we need, when we need them. Somehow the tax dollars we pay and wisdom of our elected officials will save the day.

That’s another one of those prophecies floating around the Internet today. People claim leaders of all kinds of different levels are in the Bible in some symbolic form, and this leader, or that leader has a master plan to take over the world. Their plans are so secret, but somehow, mister average Joe working in his underwear on his laptop was shown details of those top secret plans. He can’t explain any details from those plans, how he obtained the information, but part of the world believes him. He posts something on an Internet site, works with a broker to place ads on the side, and somehow makes $10,000 a week from Internet advertising. That is what prophecy has turned into today, a money making machine. Think about is, sheep used to be dollars on the hoof. Today sheep are behind laptops and smart phones looking for easier ways to understand prophecy, and the wolves are waiting for the sheep to come to them.

Ask those people what study method they used to put their study together. You won’t get an answer. They look at a symbol in scripture, then just know that symbol points to this person, or that person. They got those symbols wrong a hundred times in the past, but that doesn’t slow down the next guess, nor the income their next guess will produce. If you can’t see the parallel between those Internet vultures and the priests who killed Jesus, allow me to spell it out for you. MONEY.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a guy with a few PhD’s in Bible Study. He was smart enough to show me a few ways to study scripture. Only a few. He was smart enough to know, if I studied with the Spirit, the Spirit would show me other ways to study scripture, other methods, other patterns used in the Bible from the front cover to the back cover. And that’s exactly what happened. Spend some time in the Bible with the Spirit, and He will show you details no one can argue with. The Spirit will show you how the Bible is designed to protect you from all those false teachers. The Bible is designed to show you how to tell false prophets from real prophets.

There is one thing about the Bible that makes it the Bible. When God has a prophecy recorded, He also has the fulfillment recorded. When I ran across that study method, I found out what parallel chapters are. It was all so simple, I wondered why no one ever showed it to me before. Parallel chapters are rather easy to figure out when you know a few basic rules of context. The rule of repetition tells us to pay attention to words the author repeated. We call them key words, that can be the same, similar, and related. Contrasting words can also be related. The other important rule to know is the rule of introductions and summations. The first few verses of every chapter in the Bible tell us the main theme in that chapter. The last few verse summarize the main theme.


 

Common sense tells us, the prophecy and its recorded fulfillment have to cover the same subject, therefore, they must contain the same key words, which can be the same, similar, or related. In some instances, but not many, they can be contrasts. Key words help us search for the prophecy and its recorded fulfillment. We may come up with a variety of choices. How do you find the right one? That’s where introductions and summations come in. When the prophecy and its fulfillment cover the same subject, the introductions and summations in the two chapters will agree, making them parallel chapters. It is that simple.

When people interpret prophecies using news media, their own knowledge, something they heard or read on the Internet, in a seminar, or using history books, anything outside of the Bible, it is impossible for them to establish the link between the prophecy and the fulfillment God recorded. They can guess a thousand times and never come up with the right answer because they are not studying with the Spirit. They cannot, or do not want to explain the process they used to formulate their opinion, and know, few people will ask them to explain the methods they used.

When we look at the introduction to the Book of Revelation, we see how John immediately identified the source of his information. John received his information directly from Jesus Christ. John eliminated all doubt by following the laws of the prophets, which is, explain how you received the message.

John also followed another law of the prophets by explaining why the message was given, “to show his servants the events that must soon take place.” John then identified an angel as the form of communication God chose to use to deliver this message. Daniel’s book is a guide telling us the major forms of communication God uses. Among them are, dreams, visions, angels, prayer, daily events, and of course, scripture.

John also identified who the message is for, and important detail when we begin a study. When we study the physical aspects, we are better able to see the spiritual implications, then understand how they apply to us, which is another study process we can follow.

John tells us, we’re supposed to be a kingdom of priests, a reminder the Levitical priesthood is dead, and Jesus is now the head of a new priesthood. We can’t go mixing old ways with new ways. We can’t take the old Levitical priesthood, take out a few interesting points, and fabricate a new religion out of it. Our instructions, orders, messages, and training all come from Christ. If John knew of another plan, he would have recorded it in Revelation, or in another one of his books.

John also did something unusual, John gave us a description of Jesus, then later broke it down into sections, adding one part of that description to letters written to the seven churches. In essence, John was told to record one Bible Study method. Take all the information on a subject, put it all together, and study it as a whole. When one piece is missing, you’ll find it difficult to understand. When it all comes together, the understanding will flow.

We can take the descriptions of Jesus placed in the seven messages to the churches, put them together and see a much better view of Jesus than any single one can provide. A casual reading of Revelation may miss many details like that. If people know a few basic study techniques, those details should stand out, or at least ring a bell. We should ask why God used a writing style like that. The obvious answer is, so we can show people, basic study techniques are actually in scripture, and we don’t need other sources to teach. God included everything we need in the Bible.

God must have seen the study techniques people made up and like to use. Take out one line, and make up a story about it. Isn’t that what most of the world does? So Jesus had John record a number of details about Himself in one place, then broke them up into sections at the beginning of the book so we knew how the rest of the book was written, and how to understand it.

None of the prophecies in Revelation contain a complete description of what is going to happen. Some details for an event are scattered here and there. The more details we gather, the better picture we get. The more we are able to explain to people. Some people follow that general rule of Bible Study, but way too many people want to show off like those priests and Pharisees. Show them one piece of a puzzle, and they want to show off by explaining every detail. Challenge their wisdom and watch out. The only other parts of the Bible they have memorized is a few choice lines about false prophets they shoot out at anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

I for one feel much more secure when someone can show me a study method used in the Bible. There are dozens of them found in the Bible. Jesus taught using a series of parables. The parables He used in one day were all related. Some times Jesus used simple symbols like grass, seeds, or crops to show all those parables were linked together. Each parable had a few pieces of information. When we put them all together, we get a much better understanding of the lesson Jesus taught that day. Separate them, and we are generally left with the impression one person received from one parable. It may sound good. It may make sense, and have something to do with the other stories a teacher decided to mix in, but more often than not, teach a lesson about this world when Jesus was teaching a spiritual lesson about Heaven, life in Heaven, His ministry, or another subject not really related to what a modern day teacher wants to imply.

Jesus used that method of teaching, using parables with related symbols to teach another lesson about Bible Study. Stories in the Bible are related to one another. You cannot understand the physical aspects of one story without reviewing the previous story, which lead into whatever story you are studying. Back ground is very important. It is also important to know what actions and decisions led to the situation at hand. That may sound like common sense, but how many people follow that general rule of Bible Study?

In the Bible, that general rule of looking back also applies to all the books in the Bible. Look at Revelation chapter 1 for example. See how the end of the previous book sets your mind in order to begin a proper study on Revelation.

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 1:20-25 NLTse).

Jude is like a brief description of Revelation. The end of Jude tells us, this is about more than ourselves. This is a matter of life and death. Jude also reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s part in this warfare here on earth. Jude also sets our mind on the concern Jesus has for this planet, thereby explaining why Jesus sent an angel to John with enough information to fill a book.

The first chapter of Revelation also introduced the concept of prophetic timing, a subject few people want to try to explain. Not because they don’t understand it, but because proper prophetic timing will not allow people to do what they do best, take prophecies out of sequence. Whenever people are allowed to take prophecies out of sequence, they can apply a line here, and another line there, whenever the need arises. Let’s get serious. There are a handful of people making a very good living out of taking one or two lines out of scripture, playing a few seconds of a news event, and telling people it is prophecy being fulfilled. We want to learn to avoid people like that and not get caught up in the confusion they create. That is the main reason God decided to include solid Bible Study methods in books like Revelation. Timing is another one of those rules.

Lord’s Day

Revelation 1:10-20 NLTse (10) It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. (11) It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” (12) When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. (13) And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. (14) His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. (15) His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. (16) He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (19) “Write down what you have seen–both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. (20) This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The beginning of Revelation tells us exactly where the information in this book came from, directly from Jesus in Heaven. That is one of the most important details at the beginning of every chapter in Revelation, as well as the beginning of every prophecy in the Bible. Every prophet identified where and how they received the message. That is one of the many safety features God installed in the Bible. At times authors tell us messages are from false prophets, kings made decisions without praying, asked counselors, or received advice from other sources. As we proceed through those stories, we are given the opportunity to see how each event turned out. This created a series of contracts to learn from. We can put together a series of events when people followed God’s orders, and see how it turned out. Then we can compare those results to see how decisions without praying turned out. We can also see how reliable those counselors and false prophets were.

When we get to timing in Revelation chapter one, John kept the lesson rather simple. Jesus is the First and Last. He has been around a lot longer than any of us, has seen a lot more, has generations of experience, and will be around a lot longer than many of us. In other words, Jesus should be our only reliable source of information.

John also tells us, this book contains information on events from the past and the future. Some events were happening, or some prophecies were being fulfilled in John’s time. How do we tell which prophecies have been fulfilled, which were being fulfilled in John’s day, which were fulfilled after John, and which prophecies are we waiting to be fulfilled? This can get very confusing if we didn’t have a timeline. A timeline needs a base point, or point to begin. A type of foundation to build on. From there we have to look at key words in the Bible God placed there to indicate a series of events following a particular order. This happens, then that happens, this follows, and finally we see this event. That sequence is achieved using simple words. The KJV generally used the word, “and,” to show a sequence of events.

Rev 5:1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

Rev 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

Rev 5:3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

Rev 5:4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

Rev 5:5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

Rev 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Rev 5:7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

Each verse begins with the word, “And,” showing a simple sequence of events. John saw a book. John had to notice that book before the next event could take place. After John noticed the book, an angel asked who could open it. The question had to be asked before moving onto the next event. No one in Heaven or earth was able to open that book. That fact had to be established before moving onto the next event. One of the elders told John about a Lion from the Root of David. Jesus was first introduced as a Lion, before appearing as a Lamb. Each event had to follow that particular order. Each event is identified by the word, “And,” which is commonly known as a linking word, tying all those events together.

People tend to disagree with the timing in Revelation. They want to ignore those linking words that tie events together in the order Jesus said they have to occur. That is one of the most important details in the Bible, and one of the most ignored details in scripture. Why? I’m not sure. I look at those linking words and find it easy to follow prophetic timing. There is no excuse to be confused. Each event is recorded in perfect order, just the way Jesus said they will occur, key words link them all together, and anyone can follow the simple order. But people insist Revelation is a book of mystery, and they have to put prophecies in the right order. What order? People tend to look at the world for guidance on the sequence of events recorded in Revelation. People prefer to have earth’s history dictate prophetic timing. That is the way of the world. Where does that come from? The world – not from Heaven. Which source are you going to trust?

Modern Bible translators saw how Revelation told about one event, the next event, so on, and so forth. Many of them took the word, “and,” used in the KJV, and changed it to the word, “then.” The original Greek word can be translated either way.

John tells us, he was praying when the message began. This is an important point to consider. Will God approach us with a message, do we have to first approach God, or does it work both ways? Communicating with God is another subject we have to be aware of in scripture, and we should be studying.

John was told to write a book. Not just deliver a message, but write a book. Notice how Jesus told John how to deliver the message. That is another feature we need to pay attention to. Whenever we receive messages from Heaven, we are told who to share it with, and how to share it. This is another safety feature God uses. Often people create their own message, determine who to deliver it to, how, and when to deliver it. Where is the Spirit in their message? Taking a few words out of scripture does not make it a message from Heaven. Priests and Pharisees took a few lines out of scripture. Did that make every one of their messages a message from Heaven? The devil took out a few sentences from scripture and used them to try and trick Jesus. Did the devil’s message come from Heaven, or his own imagination? Just because someone takes a few sentences out of scripture does not make it an inspired message.

People often want to focus on symbols, especially in books like Revelation. The Bible has a general rule about symbols. Typically symbols are identified and explained in the story they are found in, more often than not in the same chapter like here. The seven candlesticks represent the seven churches, and the seven stars are seven angels. This rule of interpretation was recorded in the first chapter to teach us how symbols are defined, and this rule applies not only to the entire book of Revelation, but the entire Bible.

Jesus is seen standing among those candlesticks, which shows His relationship with those churches. Jesus has to travel from one church to the next, hence the need for an angel to go to each church, which shows Jesus’ concern and the protection He offers. When Jesus was arrested, He reminded everyone, all He had to do is say one word and legions of angels would be sent to protect Him.

Jesus is wearing a long robe. Is this His robe of righteous or another rode. The only clue we are given is, the robe is covered by a golden sash across His chest. Is the gold significant or the chest it covered? We could look at what gold represents, but would gold represent the same thing here as it does in other stories? The fact is, John is seeing a vision of Jesus in Heaven. If we take an interpretation for what gold represented in a story taking place on earth, would it be the same?

Jesus’ head is white like wool. What does white hair normally represent? Old age here on earth. White hair may also represent age, experience, and wisdom. Let’s put ourselves in John’s shoes for a moment. John saw Jesus a few years ago. Could Jesus have aged that quickly in Heaven, or did Jesus take on a form He exhibited before He came to this world to be born, live, grow, and die?

What did John think when He saw the one he lived with white hair? Did John think, things happening here on earth gave Jesus white hair? Did that white hair instill a spot of concern in John? We have to admit, John wrote words he was inspired to write, and left out his personal ideas about the views he witnessed.

Jesus’ eyes were like flames of fire. What did John think? Eyes normally are a key to identify people. When their eye color changes, that is something people are sure to notice. It was one of the details John noticed and recorded.

Eyes of fire may make people think, Jesus has something to get excited about. Something wasn’t right. But at that time, Jesus had a number of people doing the best they could with what they had, and what they understood. Or were they? How was the world accepting the message, and how was the enemy trying to rewrite the message? Was anyone getting the message right?

Jesus feet were like polished bronze. Bronze usually represents bondage, like when Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiakim in bronze chains and led him away to Babylon. But is that story about an event on earth the same as an event in Heaven? This is why we have to allow the story to interpret symbols. Are all details within a scene a symbol? When you dress, are your cloths a symbol? Are they always a symbol? Sometimes they may be, and at times they may not be. We have to follow the story, looking for more information, and at times changes in the details.

Jesus’ voice was another detail that stood out. It wasn’t like the voice John knew, but a distinct voice that could carry all the way from the halls of Heaven to earth.

Stars in His right hand is a place people like to linger, but the stars are identified as symbols within the story. Jesus told John what those stars and candlesticks represented. Having angels in His right hand was a scene Jesus wanted John to see. The angels protect the church, and were seen in Jesus’ right hand. We don’t need scholars to explain the details. Jesus established the scene, controlled the scene, told John what items were used as symbols and what they meant. What more do we need?

Can you imagine John’s reaction to the scene? There John was, standing in Heaven’s court. A second ago John was on a desolate Island with some of Rome’s most notorious prisoners. John was lucky to be alive. John had to rely on prayer everyday so he wouldn’t become one of the island’s many victims. Food was scarce. People killed for a meal. Nothing grew on the Island. Fresh water was also limited. Each day seemed like a challenge. Then one day, the Heavens open up. John saw the light, then thought for a moment, this is it. This is the day I get to leave this world. But it was only a vision.

John saw the one he loved, Jesus. But it wasn’t the same Jesus John knew on earth. Jesus was different in some ways, and the same in others. His hair was different, much longer and now it was white. It wasn’t that long ago he saw Jesus. His clothing was different. That was to be expected. But Jesus didn’t choose to dress like the kings of this world. Jesus didn’t need jewels and gold to show His title. A gold sash was all He needed.

John looked down at Jesus’ feet. They were a little darker than before. John remembered the last thing Jesus did before he was arrested. No one cleaned Jesus’ feet, but look at them now. Heaven is so different than this world.

Hearing from Jesus was something else. His voice seemed to carry on forever. The tone in His voice told John, the message was important, one that would carry to the ends of the world. It began with seven letters to a collection of seven groups of followers in seven locations.

The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Samuel, Saul, and the Story of David

Israel Demanded a King 1 Samuel 8

1 Samuel 8:1-3 NLTse As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. (2) Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. (3) But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

This part of the story always made me wonder why Samuel’s sons turned out to be like Eli’s sons. I always wondered why, and what the spiritual lesson behind it is. Since this is the introduction to a new chapter, the rule of introductions tells us, the chapter will help explain the answer, and we should look back at how the previous chapter ended.

Chapter seven ended by telling us how Samuel traveled all around the country setting up court to judge matters between people in Israel. That tells us a few details. Samuel didn’t spend enough time at home to properly raise his children. It also tells us, no matter what kind of relationship people have with God, if father don’t spend time with their kids, anything can happen. We should be aware, the devil will not take a vacation just because you aren’t home. Those few verses showed, Samuel was more dedicated to Israel than to his family. It also shows how little support Samuel received in return.

We can see how a number of factors effected that particular situation. There were both inside and outside influences Samuel should have dwelt with. But how could a man of God make such a major mistake with his sons? It happens more often than we think.

When we do what Moses taught Israel to do, look back, we see some interesting details in Egypt. Why didn’t God have any trouble getting millions of animals and insects to listen, but people who should have been thankful, people who should have given their lives to God, decided to ignore Him. Which brings up the question, how do we worship God?

In the previous chapter, we’ve seen how God used thunder to give Israel a victory over the Philistines. When most people look at God using elements, like the sun, rain, lightening, thunder, and other natural powers, we tend to think, that’s what God does, and give it little more thought. We are used to people calling it, natural disasters, or something along those terms. The enemy has a plan to hide the fact, God is still alive and in control of every element, every molecule, and atom in this world.

The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Samuel, Saul, and the Story of David
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Yesterday I saw huge clouds all over the sky stop. They weren’t moving at all. I didn’t even see shifts in their shapes you normally see on the edge of clouds as they move with the upper winds. I looked at one cloud, more than a square mile, and several hundred feet high just standing still. It had to get there somehow. Something had to move it. And something had to stop it. I’ve seen the calculations to design brakes. Like brakes used in a car. The short story is, the calculations deal with energy and heat. Any type of energy can be converted into a value relating to heat, sometimes known as a calorie, but more often using the value of Btu’s. Not to get too in depth, but think of the energy God had to exert to stop one cloud. Then look at the horizon. Now think of the energy involved to make those clouds travel at thirty miles per hour.

One time I saw a plane flying at a very high altitude. The plane must have been going at least 300 miles per hour. Clouds at the same altitude kept up with that plane. It took about five minutes to see the plane putting any kind of distance between itself and that cloud.

We have no idea how much energy God puts into this planet everyday. But look around. You can see God’s energy at work all around you, all the time. It becomes so natural, we rarely notice. I just looked outside to see rapidly moving clouds at three different layers, traveling at three different speeds. Who divides the atmosphere and winds into different layers, and how does He do it? Have you ever seen clouds at different levels traveling in different directions? I know weathermen try to explain it. But how do we know they are right? All I know is, they are drawing attention away from God.

I wish I could explain it. But what kind of Bible Study would that be? We would be straying very far away from the rules of context we’ve learned in this series of books. And we don’t want to do that. We would also be straying away from God. That would be another example of men relying on themselves, instead of their Father and Creator.

We also have to ask, how much control does the devil have over nature? I’ve seen people trying to explain that topic. They want to appear to have all the answers. But do they? When we look at Samuel’s sons, how much control did Samuel have? How much control did God have? How much control did the devil have? And how much control, or influence did the people in Israel have over Samuel’s sons?


 

Israel Asked for a King

1 Samuel 8:4-9 NLTse Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. (5) “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” (6) Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. (7) “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. (8) Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. (9) Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

On the surface, this seems like a normal request. Samuel was a great leader. People knew how dedicated and reliable he was. They couldn’t have thought of a better man to lead and judge Israel. But Samuel’s sons were a different matter. Samuel’s sons were corrupt judges, taking bribes, and distorting judgment for monetary gains. The last people Israel wanted to lead them after Samuel was gone, were his sons. So the elders got together behind Samuel’s back, and made a decision. They wanted a king, someone new to lead them.

At first this looks like an open and shut case. But who made the decision, Samuel’s sons would lead Israel after Samuel died? Did anyone bother to consult God on the issue? It seems the elders had their own process to follow. They got together, discussed the situation, came up with a plan, then asked Samuel to initiate their plans. Sounds exactly the way the world operates today. But is that the right way to do things? Who was the corrupt party, or parties in this story? It seems those elders dropped the ball when it came to Samuel’s sons. Samuel didn’t record a word about any of those elders lending him a hand, or helping to raise his sons. All of a sudden, the elders showed up with a request.

Israel wanted to be like other nations. What did that mean? Most other countries followed different gods. Those other gods didn’t seem to tinker in business matters like God did. Those other nations had man made laws and regulations which were easily amended to allow for exceptions to the rules. More often than not, those exceptions were designed explicitly for rich and powerful people. And who was asking Samuel for a king? The elders who controlled the religion and for the most part, Israel’s economy. God originally designed the promised land so religion, or keeping God’s Commandments, was directly linked to the economy. If they kept God’s Commandments, Israel would be blessed, and protected. It seemed like a simple plan, but required a degree of effort many in Israel refused to comply with. It seemed to them, a corrupt economy would fetch higher profits. Isn’t that the way big business still thinks today?

This is a sort of paradox. On one hand, the elders were trying to avoid corruption, while on the other hand, they are inviting, or opening doors for a higher level of corruption. Like most religious leaders, they think if they can get a king appointed, that king would be thankful. In return, the king would grant them special favors and privileges. In other words, those elders were smart enough to know, they couldn’t control God, but they stood a pretty good chance of controlling a king. And when it came to the blame game, the elders, and everyone in Israel had a king to blame if things didn’t work out as planned. A quick review of Israel’s history in Kings and Chronicles shows, the country went the way of the king. When the king was bad, sin ran rampantly throughout the country. When the king was good, a certain amount of reform swept through the country.

We’ve seen how Samuel was rejected by Israel long before this idea cropped into their heads. No one bothered to ask Samuel if they should, or shouldn’t attack the Philistines when the Ark was captured. Israel thought, all they needed was the Ark, and God was in their control. That plan didn’t work.

Then they heard silence for twenty years. I think most Christians think God is silent today. Of course those people insist, we are in the last days. They are quick to point out world events, and tell people exactly where those events were predicted in books like Daniel and Revelation. They claim, this or that prophecy is being fulfilled in front of our eyes. And they tell us exactly where we are on God’s timeline. Mix in a little scripture with a lot of publicity from this world, and that’s all you seem to need to be a prophet these days. Ask them to show you exactly how they study scripture and what kind of answer will they give you? None at all. Not a single reply.

I’ve been discussing Bible Study methods with some people claiming to be world authorities on prophecy today. They claim to know all the truth, but are incapable of explaining a single step in the process they use to study scripture. If I were to open a window, or unlock a door, I would be able to explain the step by step process to anyone. I could tell you how to turn the latch on a window and lift it up. Or unlock the window and turn the crank to open it. If there were two locks to open, I’d be able to relate that information. The same with opening a door. If all you had to do was turn the knob to open it, I could tell you. If you needed a key, I could provide one. If the door required two keys, there would be no problem explaining that. Opening windows and doors are easy to explain. Having a simple process to open them should not make it impossible to explain. But that is what all those prophets claim. Their study process is so simple, they cannot explain how to do it. I find that hard to believe. I will say, if no process exists, there is nothing to explain.

I also find this strange to write about Israel’s request for a king in an election year. Especially this election year. I cannot remember two worst choices for president. Trump and Clinton are, well less than perfect choices. What I can’t stand is people pushing me to make a decision. I would never vote for either one of them, unless God directed me. Is that to hard to understand?

I don’t want to begin ranting about what is wrong with either candidate, but the fact is, democracy takes God out of the picture every time we choose new leaders from local, up to federal positions. Does anyone pray before they vote? Does anyone receive and answer when they tell God to choose between this person, and that person? Then people wonder why they don’t hear God. Do they expect to hear an answer while trying to back God into a corner?

That’s what Israel tried to do since arriving in the promised land, paint God into a corner. Israel wanted to do things their way, and they wanted to be blessed. They thought, God had no other choice but to protect His chosen people. Then they thought, God had no other choice than to protect His Ark. God defended His Ark, but not in a way anyone expected to see.

God has a funny way of letting people have their way. God let Israel have a king. God told Samuel, “Do everything they say to you.” God knew when He wasn’t appreciated, or wanted. God knew, after a few years, people would finally cry out to Him for help again.

Warning About a King

1 Samuel 8:10-22 NLTse So Samuel passed on the LORD’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. (11) “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. (12) Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. (13) The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. (14) He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. (15) He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. (16) He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. (17) He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. (18) When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD will not help you.” (19) But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. (20) “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” (21) So Samuel repeated to the LORD what the people had said, (22) and the LORD replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.

When we look at how governments treat people today, it seems God didn’t tell Israel one tenth of the problems. If government only took one tenth of our income, most of us would be dancing in the streets. Some people pay close to one tenth on sales tax, or state income tax. On top of that pile on a long list of other taxes. Federal income tax is often twice, or three times what God warned about. So why do people still insist on keeping God out of politics? I have no idea why.

We still see countries drafting people into armies. Here in the US, we have a volunteer army. But that could change at any moment. We don’t have forced labor in fields, but after taxes, many people feel like slaves to the government. Especially with payments to the national health care system that seem more like car, or house mortgage payments.

The government does control all the land. Between the government and banks, few people actually own their own land. After the mortgage is paid, there are still properly taxes. Many homes, businesses, and farms fall to the tax collector, and are sold of as tax foreclosures. Seems government missed a few chapters Moses wrote about the Jubilee years.

I think we are, or should be way past the point to beg God for relief from the king. But people want to cling onto that last hope, the next president will fix everything. Isn’t that what they promise during election campaigns? Don’t all of them break the promises they made? But people still want to believe, democracy is better than serving God. Having freedom to make our own choices is better than being tied down by Ten Commandments.

Romans 3:1-4

Romans 3:1-4 NLTse Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? (2) Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God. (3) True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? (4) Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him, “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.”

Of course it would do us no good to look at Romans chapter 3 without a review of Romans chapter 2. One of the best reviews is to look at how Paul closed the previous chapter. “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” (Romans 2:29 NLTse).

Let me show you a little study habit you will want to use whenever you see a verse or story someone explained to you, that just doesn’t seem to fit in with your view when reading a chapter or two. Look at the introduction and summation of the chapter. In this case, we will go back and look at the end of Romans chapter 2 before moving onto chapter 3.

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. (Romans 2:1 NLTse).

Some people may ask, what does the judgment and condemnation at the beginning of chapter 2 have to do with circumcision at the end of the chapter? Everything. You have to realize, Paul wrote one long letter, not the short list of do’s and don’t’s we are normally spoon fed by theologians. I have no idea where or how they learned their study habits, but cutting the Bible apart to make a point is not found in scripture. Putting verses, letters, books, and stories together is part of Bible Study. Here we are putting Paul’s letter together the way it was written.

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Paul wrote about the wrongful practice of condemning people. Paul was focusing on the Jews and their attitude. Paul told them to look at themselves before condemning the world around them. Chapter 2 simply pointed out the fact, circumcision, an outward show, does not make them a real Jew. In the eyes of a Jew, God only recognized one race, one group of people Paul was trying to break that tradition. Paul had to show two sides to the story, the negative and the positive. Jews were fed the legalistic view of the scriptures, which placed the spotlight on themselves, and a rather dim view of God, and shut the lights off on the plan of salvation. To get to the Good News, Paul had to add a positive look at what the Jews had and build off of that. In this case, a positive relationship with God was the key. God was not the exacting, demanding, legalistic god the Jewish culture made Him out to be. They learned that from surrounding Pagan religions. Bits and pieces of Pagan gods fell into practice every time the temple switched sides between God, and all those Pagan religions some of the kings introduced. All of those stores were included in the Bible, and in fact, repeated for a reason. So we could see how the enemy introduces one small change at a time. One king brought a Pagan god and religion into the temple. A generation or two later, another king cleaned out the temple. To the untrained eye, all seemed to be set right with God. But when we look at the details, kings would only go so far with their reforms. Only a portion of God’s original system was brought back into the temple, and dozens of Pagan articles and ideas remained. It all became a mixture. The devil didn’t have to completely eliminate God, all he had to do was draw people far enough away to make worship a thing that could be compromised, altered, changed, and directed by men. That’s all it took, the introduction of man over God in the worship service. That’s what Paul was trying to tell the Jews. They worshiped themselves more than God. The Jews thought their form of worship was better than what God was asking for. They lost the roots of worship, which was to prepare this world for the one sacrifice that would redeem, or buy back this world from the master of sin.

We can’t really understand the end of chapter 2 without turning the page to chapter 3. Paul told the Jews to stop judging people, because they had the wrong view on the scriptures and the true worship of God. Much of the law, and the entire sacrificial system looked forward to Jesus and His sacrifice. The sacrificial system and some of the laws were symbols. There were also hundreds of prophecies the Jews misinterpreted. The problem was, the Jews cut apart the scriptures. They divided the laws from the prophecies, then used personal views on the world they lived in to interpret all the prophecies. That’s one of the major problems we see today. If the Jews would have combined the sacrificial system and sections of the law with the prophecies, they would have received a different, more accurate view of the Messiah.

Most of the prophecies about Jesus were reveled by real life experiences some of the Jews witnessed. The priests and experts on religious law followed Jesus closer than anyone, observing His every move. But they couldn’t put what they saw together with the prophecies, even though Jesus sent them back to dozens of prophecies He fulfilled, or was about to fulfill. Jesus showed those Jews one of the ways the Spirit communicates with us. But something blinded them. They didn’t have the Spirit to guide them. The Spirit was alive and active. Jesus talked with the Spirit everyday. The same Spirit was available to the Jews, but they rejected the offer. They decided to stick with their old ways. The Jews were enslaved by tradition.

When Jesus sent the priests back to scripture, He was showing how the Spirit communicated with them, through scripture, and real life events. The combination of the two should have been enough to jump start the Spirit inside the priests, but they didn’t want to put the two together, any more than they wanted to restudy the prophecies, the sacrificial system, and the law together. To the Jews, they needed to be separate, and that was their final decision.

I see people making the same mistake today. People get stuck on a single subject. They cut through the scripture concentrating on that single subject. Like the Jews, they isolate that one subject from the rest of scripture, By doing so, they cut the Holy Spirit from their study, They not only miss out on the Spirit, but all the little treasures He was about to show them.

Although Paul was trained in that prison of tradition for most of his life, he was shown the way out. There was nothing wrong with the laws or sacrificial system, except for how they were viewed and practiced. It proved difficult to convince some of the Jews, the sacrificial system was gone. The only way to do that was to show what those symbols pointed to. There were advantages to being a Jew, and Paul had a real life experience to show them one piece of living evidence, there had to be major changes in the Jewish culture and religion.

The Jews knew the sacrificial system. Not the same system God introduced to Moses, but an altered system changed over generations designed to control the population. Sacrifices were added from time to time. David sacrificed thousands of animals to transport the Ark. Solomon created his own sacrificial system to dedicate his temple. Seeming small changes took the eyes of the Jews off the symbolism of the sacrificial system and set their views upon an exacting and demanding God. If a few sacrifices are required, more is better. They turned God into one of those Pagan gods who always demanded more. There became no rhyme or reasoning behind the death of those animals except for, God said so. Or to be more accurate, God may have left out a few sacrifices. The Jews looked on the sacrificial system as a set of suggestions open to human refinement. By tinkering with the original sacrificial system, the original view and lesson was lost.

The Jews should have seen the connection between the sacrificial lamb and Christ. But they missed it. They should have understood other symbols in the Tabernacle like the bread, table, the alter of incense, those angels embroidered on the curtains, the wash basin, and others. The problem was, all those items were left at the Tabernacle and forgotten. Each item was replaced by a larger, grander substitute that blurred the meaning of each of those symbols.

When the Jews placed the sacrificial system in one group to study, the laws in another group, and prophecies in a third group, they placed their own name made curtain over the everything. No one could understand the prophecies that pointed to the Messiah without putting all three together. But the Jews insisted, if you chose to study the laws, stick to the laws. If you excelled in sacrifices, keep your nose in the sacrifices. And if you excelled in prophecies, you joined a group specializing in prophecies. Experts in the law did not question views on the sacrificial system, and those concentrating on the sacrificial system didn’t question interpretations of prophecies. That mind set spread into the general public, and misled the entire nation.

The Jews should have seen that circumcision alone wouldn’t do them any good. If they went back to the original story, they would have seen that Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised on the same day. God promised to make Ishmael the father of many nations. Those nations became a thorn in Israel’s side, and continued to be among their greatest threat. Circumcision didn’t change Ishmael. That was one of the lessons they were supposed to learn, as well as see in themselves.

To follow up on his explanation, Paul did what he did best. He quoted scripture. As the Scriptures say about him, “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.” This time Paul made it plain to see he was quoting scripture. He didn’t want anyone to miss this one. But the way Paul quoted it, the actual scripture may be a little difficult for people to find.

Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight; That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. (Psalms 51:1-14 NKJV).

We have to keep in mind, Paul was referring to God’s judgment, and courtroom in Heaven. That was where Paul was trying to direct the Jews. Since Paul created the scene, we should take a look at it. Who doesn’t want to be cleansed and purged of sin before entering God’s court to face judgment? Isn’t that the ultimate goal when people accept Jesus for the first time? The entire Christian faith is based on Jesus’ ability to forgive sins, cleanse us, and make us clean on judgment day. But is that what Christians teach? Paul made it rather clear, or shall I say, Paul sent us back to David, who made it rather clear, we have to rely on God’s ability to cleanse us from our sins. Which is of course the plan of salvation. When we realize there is a cleansing process, we are supposed to go out and teach other people, so they are prepared for judgment.

I feel many churches like to take the edge off the judgment process and soften it up. Who talks about judgment day anyway? Churches feel it is much kinder to say, “Jesus died for your sins.” Then they leave the rest up to the people to figure out. Well why did Jesus have to die? To forgive our sins, is about the only answer you’ll likely to find in the fluffy world of Christianity. They are not going to teach you much about the judgment process. Everyone will stand in front of God’s throne to be judged. At least in the spiritual sense, your name will be called, and no one really knows exactly how the judgment process will proceed. Is your life reviewed in Heaven? Do they go by a set of notes in your book of life? Does Jesus say He died for this person, and that person, and it is a quick trial? The Bible doesn’t seem to cover those details. And no one seems to want to talk about them. David did to one extent. David had to admit he was a sinner. From that point, there was a process to cleanse that sin, throw it away, do away with it, to make sure none of that sin was around when that moment of judgment came around. Paul wanted the Jews to remember that moment. Would it be a fearful time, or can you really claim Christ as a your Savior?

We have to consider what Paul was going through. In his time, the idea of a man dying for the sins of the world was rather new. Up to that time, the Jews believed an animal had to die to cleanse people from their sins. Now Paul was introducing the concept of God’s Son coming to this world to teach and heal parts of this world. Then God’s Son was killed by, of all people, the religious leaders who were supposed to ensure every animal sacrifice was conducted in the proper manner, so people were actually forgiven for their sins, and didn’t have a thing to worry about if they happened to suddenly die. They would be sinless, and able to stand before God. That was the basic process the Jews believed in. To change that would have been a monumental task for anyone. Much less a Pharisee who decided to change sides. In a sense, that would have been a mark against Paul when he talked to any dedicated Jew.

How difficult would it be to change any religious belief that has been around for generations? Take a look at the world today. Many beliefs and customs have been around for 1-2 generations. For the most part, people have their heels dug into the ground and will defend their traditions to thier last dying breath. Paul was facing traditions that went back to Abraham, although many of them did not begin until Moses introduced them. That didn’t matter, the fact is, they were very old traditions, and no matter what the sacrificial system was in Paul’s day, people insisted it began with either Moses, or Abraham.

When we look at what Paul had to face, on one hand we see a religion steeped in traditions. On the other hand, we see Paul reaching out to groups with little to no knowledge about God, and less about Jesus. What do you think Pagans heard about God? Look at the legalistic view of God the Jews placed within their own religion. Now look at how some churches blow details about other churches out of proportion. Can you imagine the rumors flying around about God in Paul’s time? Talk about fighting a battle on two fronts, and needing a double edged sword.

The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Revelation

Revelation of Jesus Revelation 1

Revelation 1:1-9 NLTse This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, (2) who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. (4) This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; (5) and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. (6) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (7) Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him– even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! (8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.” (9) I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.

Well here we are, 224 chapters into this series of books, and I haven’t covered one third of what was written about the temple. I thought it was a good idea to skip over other portions of the temple to jump into the Heavenly Sanctuary. I was surprised to find so little written about the Heavenly Sanctuary. Most of the Old Testament looked at the Sanctuary as a place of safety, a place to meet God, a place they were able to enter in their time, and a place we should be able to gather for true worship. The Sanctuary is a place we need to go to get information, the next message, warnings about false messages, false Christs, and what this world is doing to drive a wedge between us and God’s throne.

The book of Hebrews tells us how Jesus already fought and won the battle. Now its just a matter of clinging onto the new promises, and walking through that vail that used to separate symbols from reality. The disciples didn’t understand prophecy as it was unfolding in front of their eyes. They had to wait until a good portion of it was fulfilled before Jesus could sit them down and explain exactly what happened. What are we supposed to learn from that experience?

Today we live in what is referred to as an advanced society. We have larger, fancier homes with electricity, lights, computers, we drive faster cars, we can fly around the world, we have computers, smart phones, all sorts of ways to communicate, find, copy and paste information, make videos, and all kinds of other stuff to make us smarter then those disciples who relied on fish and sheep to eat, make a living, and had to walk from one place to another to get anything done. The question I have, what does all the garbage today have to do with understanding prophecy? To some people, technology is the key to understanding prophecy, like God gave us the news media to replace the Holy Spirit, and a vague understanding of a few choice bits of scripture to replace long hours reviewing what has been recorded over generations.

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For some reason Jesus quoted scripture. Some times He quoted scripture a lot. At times, Jesus sent priests, Pharisees, and others back to the prophecy He was fulfilling in front of their eyes. Did they look at those prophecies? Some of them did. Not relying on your memory was such a strange thing back in those days, it made people look like idiots, as if they didn’t put in enough time to memorize the important points, or didn’t understand every detail when they read it the first six times. Going back to scripture and reading it in the light Jesus provided that day was looked upon as a sign of weakness. Reviewing scripture was looked at as such a curse. Those who did review it were afraid to discuss what they learned with the other priests and Pharisees. They stood silent as more prophecies were fulfilled, not knowing what to do, or how to react.

The world today is not much different. People claim to posses some superior knowledge of scripture. A whole bunch of people want to be just like the Pharisees. They want to be rock stars of prophecy. They want to come up with quick one line answers, standing above the wisdom of the world like a shining star leading the way. The way to what? The biggest house, fanciest car, a larger screen to project some Power Point project used as a teaching tool. What has the world ever gained from quick, one line prophetic guesses? It should have gained the knowledge, people using that formless method of study have all been wrong. They’ve been wrong thousands of times, and if they continue on their chosen course, are going to make thousands of more mistakes. Why does the world still follow them?

It will take about a minute to look at the Internet and find dozens of people claiming this prophecy, or that prophecy is being fulfilled today. Most cannot point to a specific prophecy, its just that the news has something about a war some place in this world, and people know there is a prophecy about wars somewhere in the Bible, so the world must be reaching an end. Using the same study methods the priests and Pharisees used to kill Jesus, people think the technology they have at their fingertips is somehow going to make their guesses come true. In all that mayhem, where is God’s Spirit? No one knows. No one cares. Our technology will provide answers we need, when we need them. Somehow the tax dollars we pay and wisdom of our elected officials will save the day.

That’s another one of those prophecies floating around the Internet today. People claim leaders of all kinds of different levels are in the Bible in some symbolic form, and this leader, or that leader has a master plan to take over the world. Their plans are so secret, but somehow, mister average Joe working in his underwear on his laptop was shown details of those top secret plans. He can’t explain any details from those plans, how he obtained the information, but part of the world believes him. He posts something on an Internet site, works with a broker to place ads on the side, and somehow makes $10,000 a week from Internet advertising. That is what prophecy has turned into today, a money making machine. Think about is, sheep used to be dollars on the hoof. Today sheep are behind laptops and smart phones looking for easier ways to understand prophecy, and the wolves are waiting for the sheep to come to them.

 

Ask those people what study method they used to put their study together. You won’t get an answer. They look at a symbol in scripture, then just know that symbol points to this person, or that person. They got those symbols wrong a hundred times in the past, but that doesn’t slow down the next guess, nor the income their next guess will produce. If you can’t see the parallel between those Internet vultures and the priests who killed Jesus, allow me to spell it out for you. MONEY.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a guy with a few PhD’s in Bible Study. He was smart enough to show me a few ways to study scripture. Only a few. He was smart enough to know, if I studied with the Spirit, the Spirit would show me other ways to study scripture, other methods, other patterns used in the Bible from the front cover to the back cover. And that’s exactly what happened. Spend some time in the Bible with the Spirit, and He will show you details no one can argue with. The Spirit will show you how the Bible is designed to protect you from all those false teachers. The Bible is designed to show you how to tell false prophets from real prophets.

There is one thing about the Bible that makes it the Bible. When God has a prophecy recorded, He also has the fulfillment recorded. When I ran across that study method, I found out what parallel chapters are. It was all so simple, I wondered why no one ever showed it to me before. Parallel chapters are rather easy to figure out when you know a few basic rules of context. The rule of repetition tells us to pay attention to words the author repeated. We call them key words, that can be the same, similar, and related. Contrasting words can also be related. The other important rule to know is the rule of introductions and summations. The first few verses of every chapter in the Bible tell us the main theme in that chapter. The last few verse summarize the main theme.

Common sense tells us, the prophecy and its recorded fulfillment have to cover the same subject, therefore, they must contain the same key words, which can be the same, similar, or related. In some instances, but not many, they can be contrasts. Key words help us search for the prophecy and its recorded fulfillment. We may come up with a variety of choices. How do you find the right one? That’s where introductions and summations come in. When the prophecy and its fulfillment cover the same subject, the introductions and summations in the two chapters will agree, making them parallel chapters. It is that simple.

When people interpret prophecies using news media, their own knowledge, something they heard or read on the Internet, in a seminar, or using history books, anything outside of the Bible, it is impossible for them to establish the link between the prophecy and the fulfillment God recorded. They can guess a thousand times and never come up with the right answer because they are not studying with the Spirit. They cannot, or do not want to explain the process they used to formulate their opinion, and know, few people will ask them to explain the methods they used.

When we look at the introduction to the Book of Revelation, we see how John immediately identified the source of his information. John received his information directly from Jesus Christ. John eliminated all doubt by following the laws of the prophets, which is, explain how you received the message.

John also followed another law of the prophets by explaining why the message was given, “to show his servants the events that must soon take place.” John then identified an angel as the form of communication God chose to use to deliver this message. Daniel’s book is a guide telling us the major forms of communication God uses. Among them are, dreams, visions, angels, prayer, daily events, and of course, scripture.

John also identified who the message is for, and important detail when we begin a study. When we study the physical aspects, we are better able to see the spiritual implications, then understand how they apply to us, which is another study process we can follow.

John tells us, we’re supposed to be a kingdom of priests, a reminder the Levitical priesthood is dead, and Jesus is now the head of a new priesthood. We can’t go mixing old ways with new ways. We can’t take the old Levitical priesthood, take out a few interesting points, and fabricate a new religion out of it. Our instructions, orders, messages, and training all come from Christ. If John knew of another plan, he would have recorded it in Revelation, or in another one of his books.

John also did something unusual, John gave us a description of Jesus, then later broke it down into sections, adding one part of that description to letters written to the seven churches. In essence, John was told to record one Bible Study method. Take all the information on a subject, put it all together, and study it as a whole. When one piece is missing, you’ll find it difficult to understand. When it all comes together, the understanding will flow.

We can take the descriptions of Jesus placed in the seven messages to the churches, put them together and see a much better view of Jesus than any single one can provide. A casual reading of Revelation may miss many details like that. If people know a few basic study techniques, those details should stand out, or at least ring a bell. We should ask why God used a writing style like that. The obvious answer is, so we can show people, basic study techniques are actually in scripture, and we don’t need other sources to teach. God included everything we need in the Bible.

God must have seen the study techniques people made up and like to use. Take out one line, and make up a story about it. Isn’t that what most of the world does? So Jesus had John record a number of details about Himself in one place, then broke them up into sections at the beginning of the book so we knew how the rest of the book was written, and how to understand it.

None of the prophecies in Revelation contain a complete description of what is going to happen. Some details for an event are scattered here and there. The more details we gather, the better picture we get. The more we are able to explain to people. Some people follow that general rule of Bible Study, but way too many people want to show off like those priests and Pharisees. Show them one piece of a puzzle, and they want to show off by explaining every detail. Challenge their wisdom and watch out. The only other parts of the Bible they have memorized is a few choice lines about false prophets they shoot out at anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

I for one feel much more secure when someone can show me a study method used in the Bible. There are dozens of them found in the Bible. Jesus taught using a series of parables. The parables He used in one day were all related. Some times Jesus used simple symbols like grass, seeds, or crops to show all those parables were linked together. Each parable had a few pieces of information. When we put them all together, we get a much better understanding of the lesson Jesus taught that day. Separate them, and we are generally left with the impression one person received from one parable. It may sound good. It may make sense, and have something to do with the other stories a teacher decided to mix in, but more often than not, teach a lesson about this world when Jesus was teaching a spiritual lesson about Heaven, life in Heaven, His ministry, or another subject not really related to what a modern day teacher wants to imply.

Jesus used that method of teaching, using parables with related symbols to teach another lesson about Bible Study. Stories in the Bible are related to one another. You cannot understand the physical aspects of one story without reviewing the previous story, which lead into whatever story you are studying. Back ground is very important. It is also important to know what actions and decisions led to the situation at hand. That may sound like common sense, but how many people follow that general rule of Bible Study?

In the Bible, that general rule of looking back also applies to all the books in the Bible. Look at Revelation chapter 1 for example. See how the end of the previous book sets your mind in order to begin a proper study on Revelation.

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 1:20-25 NLTse).

Jude is like a brief description of Revelation. The end of Jude tells us, this is about more than ourselves. This is a matter of life and death. Jude also reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s part in this warfare here on earth. Jude also sets our mind on the concern Jesus has for this planet, thereby explaining why Jesus sent an angel to John with enough information to fill a book.

The first chapter of Revelation also introduced the concept of prophetic timing, a subject few people want to try to explain. Not because they don’t understand it, but because proper prophetic timing will not allow people to do what they do best, take prophecies out of sequence. Whenever people are allowed to take prophecies out of sequence, they can apply a line here, and another line there, whenever the need arises. Let’s get serious. There are a handful of people making a very good living out of taking one or two lines out of scripture, playing a few seconds of a news event, and telling people it is prophecy being fulfilled. We want to learn to avoid people like that and not get caught up in the confusion they create. That is the main reason God decided to include solid Bible Study methods in books like Revelation. Timing is another one of those rules.

Those who are engaged in proclaiming the third angel’s message are searching the Scriptures upon the same plan that Father Miller adopted. In the little book entitled “Views of the Prophecies and Prophetic Chronology,” Father Miller gives the following simple but intelligent and important rules for Bible study and interpretation:–  {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 23}
“1. Every word must have its proper bearing on the subject presented in the Bible; 2. All Scripture is necessary, and may be understood by diligent application and study; 3. Nothing revealed in Scripture can or will be hid from those who ask in faith, not wavering; 4. To understand doctrine, bring all the scriptures together on the subject you wish to know, then let every word have its proper influence; and if you can form your theory without a contradiction, you cannot be in error; 5. Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed, or wisdom is my rule, and not the Bible.”  {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 24}
The above is a portion of these rules; and in our study of the Bible we shall all do well to heed the principles set forth.  {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 25}

Ellen White on Bible Study

Genuine faith is founded on the Scriptures; but Satan uses so many devices to wrest the Scriptures and bring in error, that great care is needed if one would know what they really do teach. It is one of the great delusions of this time to dwell much upon feeling, and to claim honesty while ignoring the plain utterances of the word of God because that word does not coincide with feeling. Many have no foundation for their faith but emotion. Their religion consists in excitement; when that ceases, their faith is gone. Feeling may be chaff, but the word of God is the wheat. And “what,” says the prophet, “is the chaff to the wheat?”  {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 26}
None will be condemned for not heeding light and knowledge that they never had, and they could not obtain. But many refuse to obey the truth that is presented to them by Christ’s ambassadors, because they wish to conform to the world’s standard; and the truth that has reached their understanding, the light that has shone in the soul, will condemn them in the Judgment. In these last days we have the accumulated light that has been shining through all the ages, and we shall be held correspondingly responsible. The path of holiness is not on a level with the world; it is a way cast up. If we walk in this way, if we run in the way of the Lord’s commandments, we shall find that the “path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”  {RH, November 25, 1884 par. 27}

The words of truth will grow in importance, and assume a breadth and fullness of meaning of which we have never dreamed. The beauty and riches of the word have a transforming influence on mind and character. The light of heavenly love will fall upon the heart as an inspiration.
The appreciation of the Bible grows with its study. Whichever way the student may turn, he will find displayed the infinite wisdom and love of God.  {COL 132.5}

Jesus said of the Old Testament Scriptures,–and how much more is it true of the New,–“They are they which testify of me,” [JOHN 5:39.] the Redeemer, him in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Yes, the whole Bible tells of Christ. From the first record of creation,–“for without him was not anything made that was made,” [JOHN 1:3]–to the closing promise, “Behold I come quickly,” we are reading of his works and listening to his voice. If you would become acquainted with the Saviour, study the Holy Scriptures.

Fill the whole heart with the words of God. They are the living water, quenching your burning thirst. They are the living bread from heaven. Jesus declares, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” [JOHN 6:53.] And he explains himself by saying, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” [JOHN 6:63.] Our bodies are built up from what we eat and drink; and as in the natural economy, so in the spiritual economy, it is what we meditate upon that will give tone and strength to our spiritual nature.  {CE 56.3}
The theme of redemption is one that the angels desire to look into; it will be the science and the song of the redeemed throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Is it not worthy of careful thought and study now? The infinite love and mercy of Jesus, the sacrifice made in our behalf, calls for the most serious and solemn reflection. We should dwell upon the character of our dear Redeemer and Intercessor. We should meditate upon the mission of him who came to save his people from their sins. As we thus contemplate heavenly themes, our faith and love will grow stronger, and our prayers will be more and more acceptable to God, because they will be more and more mixed with faith and love. They will be intelligent and fervent. There will be more constant confidence in Jesus, and a daily, living experience in his power to save to the utmost all that come unto God by him.  {CE 57.2}
As we meditate upon the perfections of the Saviour, we shall desire to be wholly transformed, and renewed in the image of his purity. There will be a hungering and thirsting of soul to become like him whom we adore. The more our thoughts are upon Christ, the more we shall speak of him to others, and represent him to the world.  {CE 57.3}
The Bible was not written for the scholar alone; on the contrary, it was designed for the common people. The great truths necessary for salvation are made as clear as noonday; and none will mistake and lose their way except those who follow their own judgment instead of the plainly revealed will of God.  {CE 57.4}

Ellen White on Bible Study

We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the word of God ourselves. If we allow others to do our thinking, we shall have crippled energies and contracted abilities. The noble powers of the mind may be so dwarfed by lack of exercise on themes worthy of their concentration as to lose their ability to grasp the deep meaning of the word of God. The mind will enlarge if it is employed in tracing out the subjects of the Bible, comparing scripture with scripture, and spiritual things with spiritual. There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Scriptures. No other book is so potent to elevate the thoughts, to give vigor to the faculties, as the broad, ennobling truths of the Bible. If God’s word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose that is rarely seen in these times. {CE 58.1}
But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through, and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets, you may read a passage, and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in the mind. {CE 58.2}
We cannot obtain wisdom without earnest attention and prayerful study. Some portions of Scripture are indeed too plain to be misunderstood; but there are others whose meaning does not lie on the surface, to be seen at a glance. Scripture must be compared with scripture. There must be careful research and prayerful reflection. And such study will be richly repaid. As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure, find truths of the greatest value, which are concealed from the view of the careless seeker. The words of inspiration, pondered in the heart, will be as streams flowing from the fountain of life. {CE 58.3}
Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages, we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given. When Nathanael came to Jesus, the Saviour exclaimed, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” [JOHN 1:47.] Nathanael said, “Whence knowest thou me?” Jesus answered, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” And Jesus will see us also in the secret places of prayer, if we will seek him for light, that we may know what is truth. Angels from the world of light will be with those who in humility of heart seek for divine guidance. {CE 59.1}
The Holy Spirit exalts and glorifies the Saviour. It is his office to present Christ, the purity of his righteousness, and the great salvation that we have through him. Jesus says, “He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” [JOHN 16:14.] The Spirit of truth is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. How must God esteem the human race, since he gave his Son to die for them, and appoints his Spirit to be man’s teacher and continual guide. {CE 59.2}

The study of the Bible will give strength to the intellect. Says the psalmist, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” [PS. 119:130.] The question has often been asked me, “Should the Bible become the important book in our schools?” It is a precious book, a wonderful book. It is a treasury containing jewels of precious value. It is a history that opens to us the past centuries. Without the Bible we should have been left to conjectures and fables in regard to the occurrences of past ages. Of all the books that have flooded the world, be they ever so valuable, the Bible is the Book of books, and is most deserving of the closest study and attention. It gives not only the history of the creation of this world, but a description of the world to come. It contains instruction concerning the wonders of the universe, and it reveals to our understanding the Author of the heavens and the earth. It unfolds a simple and complete system of theology and philosophy. Those who are close students of the word of God, and who obey its instructions, and love its plain truths, will improve in mind and manners. It is an endowment of God that should awaken in every heart the most sincere gratitude; for it is the revelation of God to man. {CE 105.2}
If the truths of the Bible are woven into practical life, they will bring the mind up from its earthliness and debasement. Those who are conversant with the Scriptures, will be found to be men and women who exert an elevating influence. In searching for the heaven-revealed truths, the Spirit of God is brought into close connection with the sincere searcher of the Scriptures. An understanding of the revealed will of God, enlarges the mind, expands, elevates, and endows it with new vigor, by bringing its faculties in contact with stupendous truths. If the study of the Scriptures is made a secondary consideration, great loss is sustained. The Bible was for a time excluded from our schools, and Satan found a rich field, in which he worked with marvelous rapidity, and gathered a harvest to his liking. {CE 106.1}
The understanding takes the level of the things with which it becomes familiar. If all would make the Bible their study, we should see a people further developed, capable of thinking more deeply, and showing a greater degree of intelligence, than the most earnest efforts in studying merely the sciences and histories of the world could make them. The Bible gives the true seeker an advanced mental discipline, and he comes from contemplation of divine things with his faculties enriched; self is humbled, while God and his revealed truth are exalted. It is because men are unacquainted with the precious Bible histories, that there is so much lifting up of man, and so little honor given to God. The Bible contains just that quality of food that the Christian needs in order that he may grow strong in spirit and intellect. The searching of all books of philosophy and science cannot do for the mind and morals what the Bible can do, if it is studied and practiced. Through the study of the Bible, converse is held with patriarchs and prophets. The truth is clothed in elevated language, which exerts a fascinating power over the mind; the thought is lifted up from the things of earth, and brought to contemplate the glory of the future immortal life. What wisdom of man can compare with the grandeur of the revelation of God? Finite man, who knows not God, may seek to lessen the value of the Scriptures, and may bury the truth beneath the supposed knowledge of science. {CE 106.2}

“OUR WATCHWORD IS TO BE, ‘TO THE LAW AND TO THE TESTIMONY: IF THEY SPEAK NOT ACCORDING TO THIS WORD, IT IS BECAUSE THERE IS NO LIGHT IN THEM.’ WE HAVE A BIBLE FULL OF THE MOST PRECIOUS TRUTH. IT CONTAINS THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA OF KNOWLEDGE. THE SCRIPTURES, GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD, ARE ‘PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS: THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE PERFECT, THROUGHLY FURNISHED UNTO ALL GOOD WORKS.’ TAKE THE BIBLE AS YOUR STUDY BOOK.”  {CET 249.2}

“Search the Scriptures,” was the injunction of the Master. Many have lost much because they have neglected this duty. When we search the word of God, angels are by our side, reflecting bright beams of light upon its sacred pages. The Scriptures appeal to man as having power to choose between right and wrong; they speak to him in warning, in reproof, in entreaty, in encouragement. The mind must be exercised on the solemn truths of God’s word, or it will grow weak. We have the truth brought out in publications, but it is not enough to rely upon other men’s thoughts. We must examine for ourselves, and learn the reasons of our faith by comparing scripture with scripture. Take the Bible, and on your knees plead with God to enlighten your mind. If we would study the Bible diligently and prayerfully every day, we should every day see some beautiful truth in a new, clear, and forcible light.  Review and Herald, March 4, 1884.  {CSW 22.2}

When asked to hear the reasons of a doctrine that you do not understand, do not condemn the message until you have given it a thorough investigation, and know from the word of God that it is not tenable. If I had an opportunity, I would speak to the students of every Sabbath school in the land, lifting up my voice in earnest appeal that they go to the word of God, seeking for truth and light. God has precious light to come to His people at this very time, and you should strive earnestly in your investigations to aim at nothing less than a thorough knowledge of every point of truth, that you may not be found in the day of God among those who have not lived by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  {CSW 31.2}
The momentous issues at stake through neglect of the word of God should be carefully considered. The study of he Bible is worthy of the best mental effort, the most sanctified ability. When new light is presented to the church, it is perilous to shut yourselves away from it. Refusing to hear because you are prejudiced against the message to the messenger will not make your case excusable before God. To condemn that which you have not heard and do not understand will not exalt your wisdom in the eyes of those who are candid in their investigations of truth. And to speak with contempt of those whom God has sent with a message of truth, is folly and madness. If our youth are seeking to educate themselves to be workers in His cause, they should learn the way of the Lord, and live by every word that proceedeth out of His mouth. They are not to make up their minds that the whole truth has been unfolded, and that the Infinite One has no more light for His people. If they entrench themselves in the belief that the whole truth has been revealed, they will be in danger of discarding precious jewels of truth that shall be discovered as men turn their attention to the searching of the rich mine of God’s word.   {CSW 32.1}

Many a portion of Scripture which learned men pronounce a mystery, or pass over as unimportant, is full of comfort and instruction to him who has been taught in the school of Christ. One reason why many theologians have no clearer understanding of God’s word is, they close their eyes to truths which they do not wish to practice. An understanding of Bible truth depends not so much on the power of intellect brought to the search as on the singleness of purpose, the earnest longing after righteousness. {CSW 38.1}
The Bible should never be studied without prayer. The Holy Spirit alone can cause us to feel the importance of those things easy to be understood, or prevent us from wresting truths difficult of comprehension. It is the office of heavenly angels to prepare the heart so to comprehend God’s word that we shall be charmed with its beauty, admonished by its warnings, or animated and strengthened by its promises. We should make the psalmist’s petition our own, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” Temptations often appear irresistible because, through neglect of prayer and the study of the Bible, the tempted one cannot readily remember God’s promises and meet Satan with the Scripture weapons. But angels are round about those who are willing to be taught in divine things; and in the time of great necessity, they will bring to their remembrance the very truths which are needed.  TSS 121, 122.  {CSW 38.2}

The Bible should be a book for study. The precious pearls of truth do not lie upon the surface, to be found by a careless, uninterested reader. Christ knew what was best for us, of whatever age, when He commanded us, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”  {RH, November 9, 1886 par. 11}

No man is safe for a day or an hour without prayer. Especially should we entreat the Lord for wisdom to understand His Word. Here are revealed the wiles of the tempter, and the means by which he may be successfully resisted. Satan is an expert in quoting Scripture, placing his own interpretation upon passages, by which he hopes to cause us to stumble. We should study the Bible with humility of heart, never losing sight of our dependence upon God. While we must constantly guard against the devices of Satan, we should pray in faith continually, “Lead us not into temptation.”  {FLB 331.2}

The Holy Spirit has been given to us as an aid in the study of the word. Jesus promises, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Those who are under the training of the Holy Spirit will be able to teach the word intelligently. And when it is made the study book, with earnest supplication for the Spirit’s guidance, and a full surrender of the heart to be sanctified through the truth, it will accomplish all that Christ has promised.  {FE 433.3}

The Lord calls upon all who believe His word to awake out of sleep. Precious light has come, appropriate for this time. It is Bible truth, showing the perils that are right upon us. This light should lead us to a diligent study of the Scriptures and a most critical examination of the positions which we hold. . . . Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God so that when the testing time shall come and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. . . .  {CW 40.1}

The Firm Foundation of Our Faith

Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [OLDER BRETHREN AMONG THE PIONEERS ARE HERE THUS REMINISCENTLY REFERRED TO. “FATHER PIERCE” WAS STEPHEN PIERCE, WHO SERVED IN MINISTERIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE WORK IN THE EARLY DAYS. “FATHER ANDREWS” WAS EDWARD ANDREWS, THE FATHER OF J. N. ANDREWS.–COMPILERS.] Elder {Hiram} Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “We can do nothing more,” the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.  {1SM 206.4}
During this whole time I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given.  {1SM 207.1}