Scripture for the week (Matthew 15)

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

What a lesson on cleanliness! Do you see how simple and direct Jesus’ truths are? This scripture passage should make all of us introspective.

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The Desert Nomad

“This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” John 3:19-21

Have you heard the old story of the desert nomad who awakened hungry in the middle of the night. He lit a candle and began eating dates from a bowl beside his bed. He took a bite from one end and saw a worm in it, so he threw it out of the tent. He bit into the second date, found another worm, and threw it away also. Reasoning that he wouldn’t have any dates left to eat if he continued, he blew out the candle and quickly ate all the dates. Sinful man in a fallen state is just like the nomad; he prefers darkness and denial to the light of reality. Because the reality of being under the judgment of God is too difficult to face, fallen man represses the reality of God. That is why the only way a person can come to God is when the Holy Spirit regenerates the mind. In reformed theology the saying goes: “regeneration precedes faith.” The mind is prepared (altered) by God to a certain degree and then the person can turn to God. But before then a member of fallen humanity cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer; he’s not looking for one.
Our task is to spread the Gospel seed and pray that people may accept it. I have checked the Bible out thoroughly and cannot find any other way for man to come to know and grasp the Gospel, than for us to carry it to them.

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Are you sanctified?

Simeon was a fifth-century monk who subjected himself to severe practices of asceticism (self denial & self restraint) in his quest for what he thought was holiness. He became somewhat of a celebrity in his day, widely known for his extreme practices of depriving himself of the basic necessities of life. Crowds began to seek him out for advice and prayer.

Unable to escape the world horizontally, he attempted to do it vertically. He climbed up a pillar among some Syrian ruins with a narrow platform at the top, determined that there he would live out his earthly days. With meager food and drink brought to him by boys from the village, he lived atop the pillar for 39 years, refusing to come down even for his own mother’s funeral. There, consistent with his wish, he died.

“Saint Simeon the Stylite” inspired many isolationist imitators, and pillar-sitting became quite popular for a time. Others apparently bought into his philosophy – that the best way to avoid contamination from the world is to avoid contact with the world.

The problem is, Jesus had a larger agenda for his followers than just not being contaminated by the world. In His prayer recorded for us in John 17 (including eighteen mentions of “the world”), He made it clear that He desired us to remain pure and obedient, yet fully engaged in a redemptive mission to the hurting people in the world.

“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15-18)

We don’t achieve “sanctification” by climbing atop a pillar and isolating ourselves from unbelievers. Rather, we live in the world, but we march to the beat of a different drummer. Our ethics, our values, our purpose in life – all of these are distinct from the unbelieving world around us and derived from our daily study of God’s unchanging Word. This is the sanctification Jesus asked the Father to grant us: obedient to the Word, yet still connected in redemptive mission to those who need to hear the gospel. Are you sanctified . . . or just sitting on a pole? (Sam Harbin, president Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary)

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Do you feel Hopeless?

Psalm 34: 17-20 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Have you ever felt hopeless; surrounded by troubles and brokenhearted? I have. There have been times when I was staring at four walls and wondering why I existed. What about when your spouse is not cooperating with you – even if you are trying your best to cooperate with them? It seems so unfair doesn’t it? And what about those things we can’t talk about with anyone; such as a feeling of inadequacy or feelings of failure.
Recently, through a strange set of circumstances, a thought entered my mind. I was involved in some transactions with other people around me in which I saw that I was completly deficient. I thought that I was really nothing compared to these other people. I was “crushed in spirit.” These scenes played out in my mind time and time again and I thought: “you know, I must appear foolish to these other people.” I felt that my skills in life were nothing. But here’s the catch. My mind had been mislead to believe that because I was not very good at some things, that I was deficient and useless. But the holy spirit came back to my mind and reminded me of more important matters. What God was trying to show me was how powerless I was in secular matters. He wanted to show me that without him I could be tossed around like a rag doll in this dark world. I have hardly any powers apart from God to speak of. Now that is a hard statement to make, but I can assure you that it is correct. But God, in his infinite mercy lifted me back up! Like a train set back on the tracks to run properly, the Holy Spirit gave me back a correct perspective. Now I can roll-on down the tracks and live with the former feelings of goodness that I once had. That is what God does for believers. He is there when you are in your hour of darkness or despair. He knows what we need, but we must seek and rely upon him. Surely you can relate in some way to this story.

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