Category Archives: Gospels

A reason to rejoice (Matthew 28:18-20)

Last Sunday, my pastor gave a message on Acts 16, in which Paul and Silas were worshiping in prison. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to do when you think about it. Most people would be throwing a pity party.  “God, … Continue reading

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How will they remember me? (Matthew 26)

In verses 6-16, we see two people that Christians remember. We remember Mary for the great love she had for Jesus. In fact Jesus said of her, Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, … Continue reading

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Loving our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25)

A lot of times, people use the end of this chapter to talk about how we are to be kind to all the hurting people in the world: the sick, the poor, the hungry, and those in prison. Of course, … Continue reading

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Living by grace (Matthew 19-20)

To understand the parable at the beginning of Matthew 20, you really need to look at the end of chapter 19. Peter had just seen a man walk away from the Lord because that man couldn’t let go of his … Continue reading

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The standard we follow (Matthew 19)

We live in a world now where things that were once common sense are now openly questioned. More, you are condemned if you dare to question what the world now believes. For example, according to the world’s standard, the ideas … Continue reading

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A hindrance to Christ (Matthew 16)

Jesus’ harsh words to Peter really made me think. Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns. (23) Just a few minutes earlier, he had told Peter, I … Continue reading

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A life of rest (Matthew 11)

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your … Continue reading

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Say the word (Matthew 7-8)

“Say the word.” Those words ring in my heart. They are words that recognize the authority of Jesus. An authority that the people marveled at, and even his own disciples marveled at. (7:28-29; 8:27.) It’s an authority that instantly brought … Continue reading

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Where our eyes are focused (Matthew 6)

Here in Japan, we often talk about how 99% of the population don’t know Jesus. And in that environment, Jesus’ instructions on how we should pray becomes all the more urgent. Your kingdom come. (10) But as I looked at … Continue reading

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Living by the Word of God (Matthew 4)

Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (4) Jesus’ words strike me on two levels. We live in a world where the world is trying to impress its values … Continue reading

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The one who saves his people (Matthew 1)

I heard news today of a well-known former pastor who has now renounced his faith and is now going down a different path. And the question that is often asked at this kind of time is, “What happened? How could … Continue reading

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Our hope (Luke 21)

In this passage, Jesus predicts a dark time in Jerusalem’s history when the city would fall to the Romans, many Jews would be killed, and many Christians would be persecuted. Jesus’ words would be fulfilled in 70 A.D. But he … Continue reading

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Is God good? (Luke 18)

God is good. You would think this would be a basic truth. But how often do we doubt it? When we go through trials in life, when we face injustice, we often cry out, “Why God? Why don’t you do … Continue reading

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A small thing (Luke 16)

I saw a couple of new things today as I read this passage, but I’ll focus on one today. Jesus said, Whoever is faithful in very little, is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is … Continue reading

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Losing our flavor (Luke 14-15)

In the last part of Luke 14, Jesus said, Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it … Continue reading

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How a true “5” thinks (Luke 7)

Recently at my church, we’ve been talking about how God sees us as “5”s. (In Japan, a perfect grade in a report card is a “5,” similar to an “A” in western culture.) In other words, God looks at your … Continue reading

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Though we were unclean (Luke 5)

Throughout this passage, we see Jesus cleansing those who were “unclean.” He of course cleansed the leper of his disease, but more importantly he also cleansed Peter, the paralytic, and Matthew of their sins. But it’s Peter that I want … Continue reading

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If you want to live the Christian life (Luke 4)

Living the Christian life is not always easy. If fact, most times it is not. We face all sorts of trials, temptations, and hard choices every day. People sometimes reject us because we are Christians. And sometimes, they place all … Continue reading

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Our foundation (Luke 3)

I’ve talked about Jesus’ baptism before in a previous blog, talking about how when the Father looked upon Jesus, he said,”You are my Son. I love you. I am well pleased with you.” And one of my points was that … Continue reading

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A God who does not doubt our love (John 21)

This is a very famous passage in which three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Why did Jesus ask this? Because he doubted Peter’s love? That would have been a reasonable response by Jesus. After all, Peter had … Continue reading

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Truth (John 17-18)

Back in John 10:26-27, Jesus said to the Jews, But you don’t believe because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. We see Jesus saying something similar to Pilate … Continue reading

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Believing in yourself? Believing in Jesus? (John 13-14)

“You can do it! Believe in yourself!” How often do we say that to people? Peter certainly believed in himself. He said, “Even if I have to die, I will follow you. Even if everyone else runs away, I won’t.” … Continue reading

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Knowing who we are and where we’re going (John 13)

In this passage, we see Jesus doing the lowly job of washing his disciples’ feet. That included Peter, who Jesus knew would deny him. That included Judas, who Jesus knew would betray him. And that included the other ten disciples, … Continue reading

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To be where Jesus is (John 12)

There are a lot of things I could talk about from this passage, but verse 26 struck me, probably because I talked about it this past Sunday. Jesus said, If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, … Continue reading

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Ramping up our faith (John 11)

Martha’s faith was pretty remarkable when you think about it. Even though Jesus had delayed in coming when her brother was sick, and as a result her brother died, her faith in Jesus never wavered. So many people in her … Continue reading

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What are you seeking? (John 7)

I don’t mean for this to be a series or anything, but I keep seeing this question throughout John. (Maybe because I’m preaching on this question on Sunday). In verses 37-38, Jesus cries out, If anyone is thirsty, let him … Continue reading

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What are you seeking (John 6)

I asked the question last week, “What are you seeking?” We see this theme again in today’s passage. At the start of this passage, many people were seeking for Jesus. Why? For healing. (2) Then in verse 24, they went … Continue reading

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The water we’re drinking (John 4)

Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman strike me here. If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. (10) … Continue reading

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Only by the Spirit (John 3)

I live in a country, Japan, where less than one percent of the population is Christian. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. And it can be easy to despair. To wonder if things can ever change. … Continue reading

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What are you seeking? (John 1)

“What are you seeking?” That was the question Jesus asked two men who had just left John the Baptist, and were following Jesus from a distance. At this point, these two men knew almost nothing about Jesus. All they knew … Continue reading

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Valuing Jesus. Valued by Jesus. (Mark 14)

As I read this chapter, I marvel at Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha. (See John 12:1-8.) She valued Jesus so much, she was willing to sacrifice some very costly perfume in order to honor Jesus. It makes me think: … Continue reading

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Be on your guard (Mark 13)

It’s hard to miss the repetition Jesus uses here when he talks about the last days. Three times, he says, “Be on your guard!” All three times, it’s different things we are to be on our guard about. The first … Continue reading

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A+? F? (Mark 12:13-17)

I wrote something very similar to this some time ago, and it probably gives a better explanation of  this passage’s context and what it is about. But today, I wanted to focus on something a bit different. Last Sunday, a … Continue reading

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The teaching we hold to (Mark7)

Jesus’ words strike me in this passage. Quoting from Isaiah, he says, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands. (6-7) And then he … Continue reading

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Making our Lord marvel (Mark 6)

Two verses strike me from this chapter. So they were offended at [Jesus]. (3) And, …he was amazed at their unbelief.” (6) To this day, people are offended at Jesus. At least when he makes claims of authority over our … Continue reading

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Responding to God’s Word (Mark 4)

In a lot of ways, this passage is connected to what I talked about yesterday: our reponse to Jesus’ authority.   Today, the question is, “How do we respond to His word?” You see this in the parable of the soils, … Continue reading

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Jesus’ authority (Mark 1-3)

As I’ve been reading Mark this week, one word has come to mind: Authority. Namely, Jesus’ authority. You see it first in his message. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15) You … Continue reading

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Luke 24:46-53; Acts 1:1-8 — The power to change the world

And so with today’s blog, we exit the gospels and enter the book of Acts. I’m not sure if it ever occurred to me that what Luke referenced in Acts 1:4 was probably the same event that he talked about … Continue reading

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Matthew 28:20 — The one who is always with us

We are rapidly coming to the end of the gospels.  It certainly took a lot longer than I expected.  I thought harmonizing the gospels would make things go a lot faster.  Maybe it has, but it’s still taken nearly 11 … Continue reading

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Matthew 28:16-20 — Making disciples

Somehow in 35 years of reading scripture, it never really occurred to me that the events in Matthew 28 and Acts 1 were two separate events.  One happened in Galilee and the other on the Mount of Olives. It was … Continue reading

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John 21:18-23 — Keeping our eyes on Jesus

It must be disconcerting to hear about how you’re going to die.  And so after Jesus told Peter exactly how he was going to die, there probably was an awkward silence.  Peter then suddenly realized that John was walking not … Continue reading

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John 21 — A God who believes in us

This is another of my favorite stories in the Bible.  Here we have Peter.  Brash Peter.  Bold Peter.  But because of his failure in denying Jesus three times, a lot of that has been stripped away, leaving a man not … Continue reading

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John 20:24-31 — Though we have not seen him

Seeing is believing. At least sometimes it is.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law saw all the miracles Jesus performed and they still didn’t believe.  They saw Lazarus alive after he had died and they plotted to kill him because … Continue reading

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Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23 — Filled and sent out

It seems like there was quite a bit of confusion and disbelief among the 11 and the others gathered in the upper room that Sunday.  Here was Mary, the women, the two followers of Jesus, and Peter himself saying that … Continue reading

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Luke 24:13-35 — Slow to believe

This appears to be the third or fourth appearance of Jesus after his resurrection, depending on when Jesus showed himself to Peter. And here we see two followers of Jesus walking down to Emmaus, which was perhaps their hometown.  And as … Continue reading

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Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18 — The One who is always with us

A couple of notes on the resurrection.  I think I will be cutting out Mark 16:9-20 from my commentary since it is considered by most scholars to not be in the original text.  It was apparently added on to Mark … Continue reading

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Matthew 28:11-15 — A people that will not be convinced

The hardness of heart that the priests and Pharisees had is simply unbelievable to me.  Despite all their efforts, the tomb was empty.  That is one thing even they did not dispute. They had the testimony of the guard who … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1-4 — A God who cannot be thwarted

This is perhaps one of the more humorous incidents in the Bible if you really think about it.  The Pharisees and chief priests were concerned that perhaps the disciples might come to steal the body and claim that Jesus had … Continue reading

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John 19:25-27 — Seeing beyond our misery

I suppose one of the biggest tests of how selfish we are is how we respond in times of misery.  When we are suffering, when we are going through trials, where is our focus?  Is it on us?  That would … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:38, 44; Mark 15:27, 32; Luke 23:32-33, 39-43; John 19:18 — Railing at God, humbling ourselves before him

This is one of the most famous stories from the cross.  Along with Jesus, two robbers were crucified by his side.  And at first, both mocked him.  In the ESV, it says One of the criminals who were hanged railed … Continue reading

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Luke 23:34 — Forgive them

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things people struggle with.  The reason is that the hurts we experience go straight to the depths of our hearts.  And as deep as our wounds go, they can be very difficult to heal. … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:33-37; Mark 15:22-26; Luke 23:38; John 19:18-22 — What has been written

The interaction between Pilate and the chief priests is very interesting.  Pilate put up the “charge” against Jesus, calling him the “King of the Jews.” The priests immediately went up to Pilate, asking him to change it to, “He claimed … Continue reading

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Luke 23:27-31 — The heart of Jesus

If there is one thing that always astonishes me, it’s the heart of Jesus.  And it is as he goes to his death, that we see the compassion that caused him go to the cross in the first place. On … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:31-32; Mark 15:20-21; Luke 23:26; John 19:16-17 — If we were forced to bear the cross Christ bore

We know very little of this man of Cyrene, this Simon.  It is conjectured that he is the father of the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13, the only other Rufus mentioned in the Bible. In all probability, he was a … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:22-26 — His blood upon us

As I look at all the gospel accounts, the cries of the crowd shouting “Crucify!  Crucify!” resonate with me. How it must have broken the heart of Jesus to see the ones he loved reject him so. Pilate, in his … Continue reading

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John 19:14-15 — Who is your king?

As we look at the interaction between Pilate and the chief priests, we see one of the great ironies of scripture.  On one hand, we have this pagan governor who has little or no concept of who God really is, … Continue reading

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Luke 23:7-12 — Those to whom Jesus has nothing to say

We now see in this passage Herod’s response to Jesus.  Perhaps, though, it would be better to call it Jesus’ response to Herod. This was the same Herod that had beheaded John the Baptist, and had wondered if Jesus was … Continue reading

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Matthew 27:1-10 — A sorrow that leads to death

Here we see the end of Judas Iscariot’s life. Upon seeing that Jesus had been condemned to death, he became remorseful, and went to the priests and elders saying, I have sinned…for I have betrayed innocent blood.  (4) He even … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:63-71 — The ultimate question

The trial of Jesus was an atrocity on many levels.  Among them, the priests and Sanhedrin knew Jesus was innocent.  Yet because of their jealousy and hatred of Jesus, they were desperate to find a reason to kill him. Jewish … Continue reading

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John 18:12-14, 19-24 – Striking those who tell us the truth

We now go to the first hearing Jesus had, this one before Annas.  Annas had been the high priest before Caiaphas but had been deposed from his position by the Roman government.  Nevertheless, he was still held in high regard … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-12 — Power and authority, mercy and grace

In this passage, there are three things I see in Jesus. 1.  His power and authority.  Though surrounded by his enemies, he was in total command of the situation.  Standing to face his enemies, he asked them, “Who are you … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46 — When my will is not God’s will

There are times in our lives when we go through trials and suffering.  It may be an illness.  It may be family troubles because of our Christian faith.  It may be problems in our ministry.  And so we pray for … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1 — Weak

Nobody ever said Satan fights fair.  And he doesn’t.  When he sees us in our weakness, whether it be physically or emotionally, he will attack. You see this in these passages.  When Jesus and his disciples arrived at the Garden … Continue reading

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John 17:20-23 — Jesus’ desire for us

I wonder just how much people in the church really know the deepest desires of Jesus?  We saw one of those desires a few days ago, that he really desired an intimate relationship with us.  That eternal life is all … Continue reading

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John 17:16-19 — Sanctified, being sanctified

Sanctification. It’s one of those words that could best be described as “Christianese.”  A word that has meaning in the church, and very little outside of it.  It’s a word you often see in scripture, and one that you might … Continue reading

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John 17:11-15 — Prayed for in the midst of a hostile world

If there’s one thing I see in this passage, it’s the tender care that Jesus has for us as he prays for us. And he does pray for us. So often we pray for others.  But Jesus, as our high … Continue reading

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John 17 — What eternal life truly is

A lot of times, we think of eternal life as simply living forever in heavenly bliss.  Certainly we will experience that, but to many people, strangely enough, it’s a life devoid of God. Oh, they have some concept that God … Continue reading

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John 16:16-33 — Finding peace and joy

It’s very clear from this passage that all that Jesus was saying was weighing heavily on the disciples, mostly because they were so focused on the idea that Jesus was leaving.  As a result, it overshadowed everything else he was saying. … Continue reading

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John 16:5-15 — The work of the Spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit?  Even today, many Christians are confused as to who he is. And that’s one thing to remember.  The Holy Spirit is a “he”, not that he’s literally of the male gender although God chooses to … Continue reading

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John 15:18-16:4 — An occupational hazard

I remember one time working for a church here in Japan, and the pastor’s daughter was working at a Christian pre-school.  But one day, she complained that one of her students stabbed her hand with a pair of scissors (fortunately, … Continue reading

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John 15:12-17 — The command of love

I wonder if we really understand the implications of Jesus’ command that we love one another. One of the clear implications is that love is not merely a feeling but a choice. No one can command a feeling, not even God … Continue reading

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John 15:7-17 — Asking that we might bear fruit

In this passage, Jesus makes a very powerful promise. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  (7) A lot of people take these kinds of words to … Continue reading

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John 15:1-11 — The need to abide

Yesterday I talked about the Father’s work in our lives.  That our righteousness, our fruit, does not come from our own efforts but through his work in us.  He cleans us through his Word (verse 3), he lifts us up … Continue reading

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John 15:1-2 — Lifted up and pruned

One of the biggest differences between Christianity and every other religion is that our righteousness does not depend on our own efforts.  Rather, it comes from God’s work in us, changing us from the inside out. God first introduces that concept in … Continue reading

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John 15:1-17 — Chosen to be fruitful

This is one of the most famous passages in the Gospels in which Jesus shows us a beautiful illustration of our relationship with God. Here he calls himself the vine.  In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as a vine. … Continue reading

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Luke 22:35-38 — Preparing to face a hostile world

As Jesus led his disciples out of the upper room, he asked them, When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?  (35) This is referring to the two times he sent out the disciples to preach … Continue reading

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John 14:15-31 — Never alone

One thing my five year old daughter used to do quite often, and even does now from time to time is to crawl into my wife’s and my bed and snuggle in between us.  And when we ask why, she’ll … Continue reading

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John 14:15-31 — If we truly love Jesus

This is one of those passages that would probably make many people turn their heads if they really thought about it. Jesus says to start off, If you love me, you will obey what I command.  (15) Think about that a … Continue reading

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John 14:12-14 — Powerful promises

Jesus made some pretty amazing promises here.  The type that make you say, “Really?  Are you serious?” Jesus said, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even … Continue reading

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John 14:7-11 — To see and know God

How can we possibly know God?  How can we know what he is like? Obviously, when we’re talking about an invisible God, there can only be one answer:  if he chooses to reveal himself. God first revealed himself through direct contact, … Continue reading

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John 14:4-6 — The Way

This is the one passage that provides such a stumbling block to so many people in the world today.  Many people simply refuse to believe it because the implications of what Jesus said are so deep, and they are simply … Continue reading

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John 14:1-3 — What’s waiting for us

As I said in my last blog, the disciples were both stunned and troubled by what Jesus had just told them.  First he told them he was leaving and they could not follow, and then he told them that they … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38 — A God who knows our weakness, and accepts us anyway

When Jesus told the disciples that he was leaving for a place they could not follow, it must have really troubled them.  He was their teacher, and they couldn’t imagine life without him. As usual, it was Peter who spoke … Continue reading

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John 13:31-35 — That the world may know

With Judas now gone, Jesus begins his final address to his disciples before the cross.  And to this bickering, prideful group, he said, A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20 — Pictures of the cross

The Old Testament is rich with pictures of Christ.  And in this passage, we see the fulfillment of them in Christ. The disciples were having the Passover meal, and after the first cup of wine, Jesus pulled out a piece … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:18-30 — Betrayal

As I’ve mentioned before, harmonizing these passages is a little tough.  One question is whether Judas participated in the first communion.  Luke seems to imply so, while the other gospel writers seem to say Judas didn’t.  It’s just my opinion, … Continue reading

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John 13:6-11 — Getting our feet cleaned

One more point from this story before I go on. As Jesus went to wash Peter’s feet, Peter exclaimed, No…you shall never wash my feet.  (8) When Jesus replied that Peter would have no part with him if he refused, Peter then went … Continue reading

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John 13:1-17 — The ultimate servant

The Bible is full of pictures concerning Jesus and his work on the cross, starting from God’s promise of someone to come stomp on the serpent’s head even while getting his heel struck in the process, to Abraham’s sacrifice of … Continue reading

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Luke 22:24-30; John 13:1-17 — True leadership

Trying to harmonize the gospel accounts at this point is a little sticky.  I get the impression that things were not always told in chronological order and that there were little asides thrown in.  This passage in Luke, in my … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:1-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13 — Room for the master

Jesus’ final public appearances (of his own volition, anyway) are now over.  And he now knows that the time of his arrest and crucifixion is close at hand.  But before that happens, Jesus prepares to have one last meal with his … Continue reading

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Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; John 12:1-11 — True love, false love

Here we see a stark contrast in love.  One person’s love came from the heart.  The other’s came only for what profited him. Jesus was in Bethany having dinner at the house of a man named Simon.  Lazarus, Mary, and … Continue reading

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Matthew 25:31-46 — How we treat others

Jesus finishes his dialogue on the end times with this last story.  And it talks about the final judgment following the tribulation.  At that time, God will judge the nations, separating the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from … Continue reading

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Matthew 25:14-30 — Being faithful

The second parable in this chapter goes to the point that Jesus brought up earlier.  That we need to be faithful, doing the things that God has called us to do until he returns. In this story, Jesus talks about … Continue reading

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Matthew 25:1-13 — Being ready

In this chapter, we see two parables on what Jesus was just talking about, watching for his return and also doing the things he’s asked us to do until he comes. In this first parable, I think it’s easy to try … Continue reading

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Matthew 24:36-51; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-36 — Being ready whenever

There are a lot of people concerned about when Jesus will return.  And over the years, many people have predicted when he will come back.  I remember back in my high school days, a book came out called, “88 reasons … Continue reading

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Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-38 — Until our Lord returns

The Lord talks a lot about the events that will occur before he returns.  And the thing that you get from all he says is that things will get worse before he returns.  A lot worse.  There will be wars, … Continue reading

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Matthew 24:1-35; Mark 13:1-31; Luke 21:5-33 — A sign of things to come

I mentioned in my last blog that this is one of the more difficult passages in scripture, and part of the difficulty comes in the harmonizing of it.  Jesus had just told the disciples that the temple was going to … Continue reading

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Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6 — When our temple becomes corrupt

We now come to one of the more difficult passages in scripture.  I want to say straight off that if you’re hoping to get all the answers for what all this means, I don’t have them.  There are other people … Continue reading

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Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4 — What God is looking for

After the blistering criticism Jesus gave the Pharisees, he settled back, and quietly started to watch the people walking past the place where offerings were put. A number of rich people walked past, and with great ceremony dumped in large … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:29-38 — When we reject those sent to us

Nobody likes to be rebuked.  To be told you’re wrong.  But how do you respond when you are? The Pharisees followed the long line of their ancestors throughout Israel’s history.  Instead of listening and repenting when rebuked, they turned on … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:25-28 — Cleaning out the inside

Jesus continues his scathing of the Pharisees and teachers of the law by saying, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:23-24 — Remembering what’s important

It’s really sad the reputation that a lot of Christians have in the world, particularly in the States. Some of it is the natural response of the world to people who love the Lord.  Jesus did say that there would … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:16-22 — Loopholes

I’ve mentioned before the different problems of legalism.  Here we see another problem.  People who are legalistic tend to try to find loopholes.  They may keep the letter of the law (as they see it), but try to find ways … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:13-15 — When those who teach are bad

For some reason, one of the English teachers in the Japanese high school I teach at was showing Karate Kid 2 to his students yesterday.  I can’t say much for the film, but the one character I really like is Mr. … Continue reading

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Matthew 23:1-12; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47 — A wrong view of leadership

What is leadership?  What is leadership not? In a scathing criticism of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Jesus gives us insight into what true leadership is about. He first warned the disciples and the crowds, The teachers of … Continue reading

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Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44 — Son of David, Son of God

Perhaps tiring of the hypocrisy of those questioning him, Jesus posed his own question to them that ultimately shut them up.  He said, What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?  (Matthew 22:42a) This was an easy … Continue reading

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Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34 — What we need to understand to enter the kingdom

Of all the people that had come to question Jesus, there was one that seemed to be impressed with what Jesus had to say.  And so he asked Jesus, Of all the commandments, which is the most important?  (Mark 12:28) … Continue reading

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Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40 — When we fail to understand the scriptures and the power of God

There’s a children’s song that humorously describes the Sadducees.  It says, “I don’t wanna be a Sadducee, ’cause a Sadducee is ‘sad, you see?’” Yes, I know, a very bad joke.  🙂 Nevertheless, they were a sad bunch of people … Continue reading

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Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26 — Giving to God what is his

I hate paying taxes.  When March rolls around (tax time in Japan), it’s not so bad in that I actually get money back (after the pain of filling out all the tax forms).  But when June rolls around, that’s when … Continue reading

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Matthew 22:1-14 — Entering God’s kingdom on his terms

In this story, we see continued warnings from Jesus about rejecting him and the consequences of doing so. He told the story of a king who invited people to his wedding banquet.  But when all was ready, the would-be guests … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19 — When we reject the one on whom all things rest

After nailing the leaders for their unbelief, he then told a parable warning them of what would happen if they didn’t repent. And the start of it is very similar to Isaiah 5 in which God describes a vineyard that … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:23-32; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8 — When you’re too proud to admit you’re wrong

It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong.  I know I struggle with it at times.  The reason?  Pride.  It takes a great deal of humility to simply say, “I was wrong.” But if we want relationships that last, relationships with others … Continue reading

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John 12:44-50 — When we see and hear Jesus

So many people say, “I believe in God,” but refuse to put their faith in Jesus. But if you truly believe in God, that is exactly what you cannot do.  Jesus says here, Whoever believes in me does not believe … Continue reading

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John 12:42-43 — From whom we seek praise

One of the saddest comments you’ll ever read in the Bible comes from these two verses. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.  But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith … Continue reading

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John 12:27-41 — Before it’s too late

Sometime people put off following Christ thinking they can always do it later.  But in this passage, we see the danger of that. Jesus in thinking about the cross and his determination to follow the Father’s plan cried out, Father, … Continue reading

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John 12:20-26 — In order to serve

With all the buzz surrounding Jesus, both with his spectacular entry into Jerusalem, and his just as spectacular cleansing of the temple, it’s little wonder that first time visitors would wish to see him.  In this case, it was some … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-25 — How much faith do I have?

Faith.  It’s something I must admit I struggle with, particularly in prayer.  When I pray, do I pray in faith?  And what does it mean? When the tree Jesus cursed withered, the disciples were amazed and asked how it could … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:12-22; Mark 11:11-25; Luke 19:45-48 — Fruitless

This is a story where it is a little hard to understand the actions of Jesus.  Why would he curse a tree that wasn’t bearing fruit though it was not even the season for it? There does tend to be … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19 — What would bring us peace

Lots going on in these passages, and as you look at all four gospels, you really get an idea of the frenzy going on due to Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem.  People are shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is … Continue reading

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Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16 — The Lord needs it

We have now reached the home stretch of the life of Jesus, his final week. As I read this passage, one phrase struck me.  Jesus was instructing his disciples to do something very unusual, to go into the village, and … Continue reading

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Luke 19:28; John 11:55-57 — A cleansing that goes beyond the surface

Right after Jesus’ parable about those who were determined to reject him as king, we see the actual people whom Jesus was speaking of. Jesus was fast approaching Jerusalem, and a lot of people were already there to celebrate the Passover. … Continue reading

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Luke 19:11-28 — If we are determined to reject Christ

There is another point to this story that Jesus told that we didn’t get to touch on yesterday. It says in verses 12-15, A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then … Continue reading

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Luke 19:11-27 — While we are waiting

It says that Jesus told this next parable because, He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.  (11) In other words, there was an idea that he wanted to dispel … Continue reading

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Luke 19:1-10 — Because of us

This is a very famous story in the Bible, and it’s one I’ve heard (and sang) since I was a kid.  But as I looked at it today, verse 3 struck me. [Zacchaeus] wanted to see who Jesus was, but … Continue reading

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Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43 — Looking beyond ourselves

As I read the story of Bartimaeus and his friend, what strikes me is the incredible compassion and love Jesus had for people. Here Jesus is, headed for the cross, and his closest friends, despite all he’s told him, still … Continue reading

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Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45 — A totally different attitude

As I mentioned in my last blog, though Jesus had been as crystal clear with the disciples as he possibly could, they still didn’t get it.  They still didn’t get why he was there, and what was facing them.  Because … Continue reading

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Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34 — Failing to see what is clear

As I look at this particular story, it is the last phrase in Luke’s account that strikes me. The disciples did not understand any of this.  Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was … Continue reading

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Matthew 20:1-16 — But it’s not fair!

I believe this parable Jesus told was in direct response to Peter’s question of, We have left everything to follow you!  What then will there be for us?  (Matthew 19:27) And in telling this story, I think Jesus meant both to … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:27-30; Mark 10:28-31; Luke 18:28-30 — Is it worth it?

Is it really worth it to follow Christ?  That was the question the rich young ruler had to face.  Unfortunately, he decided that it wasn’t. Peter too asked himself the same question.  “I’ve given up everything to follow after Jesus. … Continue reading

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Mark 10:21-22 — Loving people enough to tell the truth

It would be easy to think that Jesus was being mean by throwing out such an impossible challenge to the young ruler who wanted so desperately to enter the kingdom of God.  Who at least to some degree was quite zealous … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27, Luke 18:18-27 — The impossibility of salvation

My religion professor in university brought up this story when talking about Christianity.  His point?  “If you want eternal life, you have to sell everything you have.” Which shows the fallacy of not looking at a scripture in its context, … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17 — Like a child

When Jesus rebuked his disciples for trying to chase the children away, he said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17 — The God of the “insignificant”

As a father, I really love my daughter, but I have to admit there are times when she can be annoying.  Particularly when I’m trying to do something, sometimes important, sometimes not, and she desperately wants my attention. It’s so … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:1-12 — Better to be single?

The disciples’ response to Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce is very interesting.  They said, If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.  (10) Put another way, “Man, if marriage is really … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12 — When our spouse is hardened against us

I’ve mentioned before our need as a husband or wife to search our hearts.  To see if there is any way in which we have hardened our hearts to God, or to our spouse.  This is important for any marriage, … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12 — When we harden our hearts toward God and our spouse

It’s kind of interesting looking at the gospels and trying to harmonize them sometimes.  I don’t know if I’m harmonizing Matthew and Mark well here, but it’s amusing to look at these passages this way. Pharisees:  “Is it lawful to … Continue reading

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Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12 — Why divorce hurts so much

Divorce is one of those touchy topics that is difficult to deal with, if only because of the emotions and hurt that is often involved.  But considering the social climate we’re in, in which marriages fall apart at such a … Continue reading

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Luke 18:9-14 — Remembering our need for grace

It’s amazing how though times change, some things never do.  And in this passage, we see an example of this.  Luke writes, To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this … Continue reading

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Luke 18:1-8 — Keeping the faith through times of trial

It would be easy from looking at just the first verse to think that Jesus’ point is simply that we should keep praying and not give up when God seems slow to answer. This is most certainly true, but the … Continue reading

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Luke 17:20-37 — A sudden but certain judgment

After addressing the Pharisees on God’s kingdom, Jesus turns to his disciples with a word of warning. He told them that there would be times of trouble when they would long for his coming, and because of that, it would … Continue reading

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Luke 17:20-21 — Seeing God’s kingdom

Well, I’m back from vacation.  And straight into one of the more difficult passages to interpret. The Pharisees came to Jesus asking when God’s kingdom would come.  I’m not sure what they meant by that, but perhaps they were saying, … Continue reading

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Luke 17:11-19 — Grateful

Just a blogging note:  this will probably be my last blog for the next few days as I will probably be computerless over the last few days of my vacation. In this passage, we see ten lepers hanging out together … Continue reading

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John 11:45-57; 12:9-11 — Recognizing truth when we see it

I’ve mentioned the problem the Pharisees and the priests had where they saw all that Jesus said and did, and still did not believe.  It all comes to a head here.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and there was absolutely … Continue reading

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John 11:23-44 — The one who calls forth the dead

Yes, we will eventually finish this chapter.  But not today.  It’s a passage that is so totally rich in truth. When Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again, she said, I know he will rise again in the … Continue reading

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John 11:17-44 — Uncovering our pain before Jesus

So often in our lives, we go through pain and hurt, but instead of dealing with it, we bury it.  We try to ignore the pain.  Or we cover it over with other things, busyness, food, pleasure, or whatever else we can … Continue reading

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John 11:7-10 — Walking by the light

When Jesus made the decision to go back to Judea to see Lazarus, his disciples objected, saying, But Rabbi…a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?  (8) Jesus’ answer is very striking. … Continue reading

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John 11:1-45 — That we might believe

This is one of the most famous miracles Jesus performed, and I’ve spoken on it at church more than once.  But as I read it through this time, these words strike me: So that you may believe.   (15) We … Continue reading

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Luke 17:7-10 — Our attitude in service

We all like a pat on the back.  A “Well done” after we do something.  But is that why we serve?  For the praise of others?  For the praise of God even? Do we feel underappreciated when it doesn’t come? … Continue reading

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Luke 17:3-6 — Forgiveness

As I was reading this passage, something new struck me as I was reading the ESV. Jesus is, of course, talking about forgiveness here.  He said, If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  (3 — … Continue reading

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Luke 17:1-3 — Causing others to fall

Just a quick note:  I’m currently on vacation back home in Hawaii.  So, I may or may not be blogging every day as usual.  We’ll see how things fall out. Speaking of falling, Jesus says here, Things that cause people … Continue reading

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