Pictures of Jesus

John 7:2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.

Scripture is full of types and pictures, mysteries that are hidden or revealed according to God’s timing. Anyone who has read even just a few books of the Bible has surely noticed that certain numbers occur regularly and seem to have significance beyond their numeric value. For instance the number 40 (which occurs no less than 140 times in scripture) is a number of testing and trial. This meaning becomes clear when we consider the places 40 occurs, such as:

  • Jonah in Nineveh proclaimed 40 days before God would overthrow them.
  • Moses on Mt Sinai receiving the Torah for 40 days
  • Moses’ life span was 120 years with three distinct periods that can be broken down to 40 years each … His time growing up in Egypt, His time in exile in Midian, and His time leading Israel.
  • And Jesus was tested in the Wilderness for 40 days.

We also find special meaning behind the feasts that God gave Israel. Sukkot, or Booths, is a great example. Each day of this seven day pilgrimage festival, the High Priest would lead a parade down to the Pool of Siloam and fill a gold pitcher with water. He would take this golden pitcher of water back up to the Temple and to the Altar of Burnt Offerings where on one side of the altar were two silver pitchers. One pitcher contained wine and the other pitcher was filled with the water from the golden pitcher. Then, while the priest poured out these pitchers down the side of the altar, the congregation of Israel would sing from Psalm 118.

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the Great High Priest. The Altar of Burnt Offering was given by instruction of God, originally for the Tabernacle, as a picture of Calvary, where Jesus would die for our sins. When Jesus had died on the cross, the Bible records that a Roman Soldier who had been sent to break the legs of the crucified to hasten their deaths found that Jesus was already dead. To be certain Jesus was dead, he thrust a spear into Jesus’ side and out flowed water and blood. So, you see, this daily water offering of Sukkot was a picture of Jesus.

But there’s more.

On the final, great day of Sukkot, the High Priest would return with an empty pitcher which he would symbolically pour out while reading from Isaiah:

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

It was during this final dry pouring that Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Spiritual satisfaction can only come through Jesus, all other supposed paths to salvation are dry.

Amazing, right? There’s more …

Siloam as in the pool of Siloam, where the water for the daily Sukkot water libation was drawn … Siloam means “He sent.” The pitcher the High Priest took water from the pool with was made of Gold. Gold symbolizes royalty. The water from the gold pitcher was poured into a silver pitcher. Silver symbolizes redemption. Do you see it?

“God sent His royal Son to bring redemption by being poured out as an offering for our sins.”

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New Church Building

Great news! We are growing and to accommodate we have moved to our New Church Building which is conveniently located just off of US 31 between Hwy 119 and Valleydale Road near I-65 in Pelham. Parking is plentiful and the view is amazing :) The address is 1738 Morgan Park Road, Pelham, AL 35124. Service times are the same, Sundays at 10AM and Wednesdays at 7PM. For Google maps, click here: https://goo.gl/maps/yo9dd

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Reverence

Acts 2:43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

This verse reads a little weird, but we have to understand that this is talking about reverent fear. Awe and reverence are important in learning, in service and in worship of the Lord and the Bible says that reverence, obedience and blessing are tied together. Reverence toward God expresses itself in the words, actions and worship of believers and where there is disobedience in a believer’s life, there is a reverence issue.

Proverbs 16:6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.

Psalm 128:1 Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways.

Where there is a reverence issue, there is going to be a lack of blessing. There are so many things that spring out of reverence, like wisdom, compassion, God’s special attention, His goodness, His protection and deliverance and His rewards. The Bible says that those who reverence Him are witnesses to the nations. I often wonder if the turning away from God that we see in this nation is due to a lack of reverence for God in the churches of this nation?

In a church, reverence is the kind of thing that has to be rendered unto God starting with the pastor, for reverence is in part learned by observation. Why did the congregation of the first church have reverential awe for God? Because the Apostles had reverential awe for God. This first church was being taught from God’s Word … I believe they were taught line upon line and precept upon precept just as we do at CC Birmingham. I believe the Apostles taught the congregation what Jesus had taught them, explaining those things as they studied the Hebrew scriptures, and demonstrated obedience and reverence for God in their own lives. So, how was the early church taught? They were taught from the scriptures and by example.

There are a great many Pastors today who appear to have no reverence for God in their teaching, in their manner and in their lives. There are a great many Christians today who have no reverence for God in their lives, because their Pastors do not have a reverence for God and His Word. Reverence, remember, is in part learned by observation. If as Proverbs 16 and Psalm 128 say, “by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil,” and “walks in the ways of God” then is it any wonder that so many Christians are weak in faith, spiritually unproductive, and living as if they had never known Jesus in the first place? The bottom line is that God will do amazing things among those who give Him reverence, but those who may have great spiritual gifts but lack reverence or withhold reverence for God, effectively sabotage themselves from being productive stewards of God’s grace.

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Light and Agreement

Numbers 8:3 And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Numbers 8:5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them ceremonially.

God begins this chapter instructing Moses regarding the light of the Menorah but then instructs Moses on the cleansing of the Levites for service. I believe the reason that God places instructions about the light of the Menorah before the cleansing of the Levites is that Christians are to reflect the light of Christ into the world which means that everything we do must be done in the presence of the light of Christ. This means that we must serve God in agreement with His Word. We cannot live like the world and serve God in the presence of the light of Christ because to do so would be in disagreement with His Word. We cannot participate in many of the things that the world does because to do so would be in disagreement with His Word. The church should not operate or incorporate anything into itself that is not in agreement with God’s Word.

This past Sunday, in our study in the book of Acts, we looked at the first church and looked at those things that they devoted themselves to and all of these things were very much in agreement with scripture. And it’s interesting to me what is not mentioned in that list of things they devoted themselves to.

Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Continuing in chapter 2 of Acts, we find that in addition to doctrine, prayers, fellowship, sharing meals and observing the Lord’s Supper, they met together, were reverent, were of one mind, cared for one another and worshipped together. What is missing is what most churches focus a great deal of their attention and resources on … that is outreach, and yet Acts 2 ends with the statement, “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Outreach is important and yet outreach that makes disciples springs from activity in the church body that is in agreement with God’s Word. I think we can conclude (when we balance the great commission of Matthew 28 and Acts 1 with the activities of the first church as we see in Acts 2), that abiding in those scriptural activities of the first church is itself a means of outreach as the light of Christ is reflected into the world, and the world sees a joy and hope that they don’t have and that can only come out of living in agreement with God’s Word … and they desire it. In other words, a church that teaches the full counsel of God will grow healthy sheep and healthy sheep reproduce.

It comes as a surprise to many people that the Epistles (letters) which follow the book of Acts are not arranged in the order they were written. When they were assembled in about AD 200, with a few exceptions, they were ordered according to author and then by length. So, we find in our Bibles, the Epistles ordered like this:

  • The ones attributed to Paul
  • The one attributed to James
  • The ones attributed to Peter
  • The ones attributed to John
  • The one attributed to Jude
  • The book of Revelation

In other words, Paul, who’s letters are the most numerous in the New Testament comes first, and then his letters are ordered from the longest letter to the shortest letter. The book of Hebrews is a bit of an anomaly, because, while most certainly inspired scripture, the author of the book is not explicitly revealed in the text. I believe it was written by Paul, but there are others who have a different take.

So, the order of the Epistles in the Bible are ordered not chronologically, but according to book binding practices of the past. Without understanding this, it is difficult to correlate what is written in the Epistles with the historical background and actions contained in the book of Acts. So, at Calvary Chapel Birmingham, as we study verse by verse through the Acts of the Apostles, I will point out to you where the Epistles fit into the events recorded there, so that we can better understand both this book and the epistles; we will gain some excellent insight by doing this. I’m not criticizing the order in which the New Testament has been handed down to us, I just want to make sure we understand these things because they will be pertinent to our study in Acts and important to our growth in Christ.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The whole Bible is important to us because it was all given to us by God so that we will be complete and equipped. When we consider the key themes of the books of the New Testament we discover that they each deal with important aspects of Christian life that we each have either encountered or will encounter as we move forward in our walk, and so they are all very important.

The Four Gospels deal with God’s provision of the Messiah, Jesus and the salvation of the sinner. The Gospels are followed by the Acts of the Apostles, which deals with what the Apostles did with the gospel. In other words, this arrangement of the books reveal the logical order of salvation followed by works, just as pictured in the Gospels coming before the book of Acts. But God doesn’t save us and send us without preparing us and so every book of the New Testament holds something very important for our continued growth in Christ:

  • Romans – Being built up in knowledge and faith.
  • 1 Corinthians – Wrong attitudes and conduct.
  • 2 Corinthians – The need for discipleship.
  • Galatians – Standing fast without compromising freedom.
  • Ephesians – Maturing in Christ.
  • Philippians – Follow Jesus.
  • Colossians – The sufficiency of Christ in all things.
  • 1 Thessalonians – Comfort through the sanctification process.
  • 2 Thessalonians – Looking up rather than out.
  • 1 Timothy – Living as examples.
  • 2 Timothy – Endurance in ministry
  • Titus – Maintaining
  • Philemon – From bondage to brotherhood
  • Hebrews – Christ alone without adding anything.
  • James – The characteristics of true faith.
  • 1 Peter – Dealing with suffering.
  • 2 Peter – Sticking with the truth.
  • 1 John – Keeping in fellowship with God.
  • 2 John – Not straying from the gospel.
  • 3 John – Fellowship with one another.
  • Jude – Stand firm and contend for the faith.
  • Revelation – What is to come.

I think it is obvious that a Christian who desires to grow in Christ will place great importance on studying the whole Bible. They will be all the better for it because the Bible was designed not just to save the sinner but to solidify the saint.

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Wanting More

Numbers 17:8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.

The next day, when Moses went into the Tabernacle to retrieve the rods, he found that the rod of the tribe of Levi with Aaron’s name on it had not only blossomed, but it had yielded fruit. God was leaving no doubt as to His approval of Aaron’s leadership … since no other rod had sprouted. But Aaron’s rod hadn’t only sprouted, it had put forth new buds.  And not only had it put forth new buds, but it had made blossoms. And not only had it made blossoms, but it had produced almonds. And not only had it produced almonds, but it had yielded almonds that were ripe. God could have only caused a little green sprout to come out of the rod and that should have been evidence enough. But God had caused the rod to sprout, bud, blossom, produce and ripen! Whereas a little evidence should have been enough, God gave ample evidence so that there should be no doubt. But God knows us and He knows that despite all the evidence we may have before us, we doubt much more readily than we have faith. So He shows Himself to us abundantly.

We may say to God, “How do I know that You love me and will care for me?” And God could have said only, “Well, look at how I care for the earth.” We may say to God, “I know You care for the earth, You keep it spinning and keep it watered … but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “look at how I care for the animals.” We may say to God, I know You care for the animals, You cloth them in fur and feathers and give them food, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I sent My only Son to live among you.” And we may say to God, “I know Jesus lived among us, and without sin, teaching and healing and doing many miracles, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I sacrificed My only Son so that we can be together.” And we may say to God, “I know Jesus died on the cross for my sins, suffering everything that I should have suffered, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I raised My Son from the dead so that we can be together not just today, but forever.”

And then how many times will we go to God and say, “What else can You do for me? How else can You show me You love me?”

Is it not enough? How insulting it must be to God for us to tell Him that in addition to His giving His only Son for us, we require a cadillac, a flat screen television and a fat bank account! Psalm 37 is often quoted by those who claim that God desires to give us good things, and He does! Only, we need to understand that His good far exceeds our idea of good and has more to do with eternal things than temporal things.

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

How long will Christians act like God has not done enough for us but must do more and more and more! I want this car or that dress or that television … God wouldn’t give me the desire for it if it wasn’t good! Man, don’t blame God for your worldly desires. Israel kept wanting things from Egypt, but God didn’t give them those things. He gave them His presence, protection and provision. Consider what you are asking God to give you before you ask. God may give you some of the earthly things you want, but I doubt He will when you take an attitude of discontentment towards Him. Abiding in Christ is about being satisfied in Christ alone, not needing anything more, yet desiring even more … not more of the world, but more of Him.

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On Timing

Numbers 9:1-5 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying:  “Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.

You will remember that Israel celebrated Passover as they were leaving Egypt, so this Passover marks one year into their journey out of the bondage of Egypt. I’m pretty sure many if not most of the people of Israel felt they would have been in the promised land by now. After all, the journey from Egypt to Canaan should take only a few weeks … even walking … even with kids … at the most a few months. But it’s been a whole year!

I’m probably like the people of Israel on that journey because every day I’m surprised that we are still here. I keep thinking that the rapture must surely be overdue. But God’s timing is spot on and though we may feel that something is overdue, it’s not. It might be overdue according to my timetable or my desires, but God operates on His own timetable and it is to our advantage that we press into His timing instead of wandering off into what we want. Our goals and desires might even match God’s plans for us, but if we are unwilling to abide in His timing but press forward in our own willfulness we settle for something less. Whatever is less than what God desires is sin, just as James said, “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins.”

Putting God and His will first is something that we all begin learning from the moment we are saved to the day we are with Him in heaven. We cannot then say, “I didn’t know that I should wait on God” because if we do, then we have caught ourselves in a lie, for the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us and seals us to God directs us to abide in God’s timing. Yet, there is a learning process in that, and so we can thank God for His long-suffering toward us that we are chastised as His children and not condemned as law breakers, for where the debt of sin has been cancelled and where the body of sin has been put to death there no longer remains condemnation for sin. Instead, as children of God we are chastised rather than condemned so that we learn to abide in the good things of God. And that is a process, and a struggle for many Christians today, just as it has been for Israel, for Christians of the past and, should the Lord tarry, will be for Christians of the future.

In verse 2 where it says appointed time, the Hebrew word is Moedim which is the plural form of Moed, the word for meeting place. The implication, for Israel then is that by keeping God’s appointed times, they stay near to God. The feasts were all prophetic of future events, but they were also reminders of God’s charity toward His people. By keeping the feasts, they were reminding themselves to stay close to God and not wander from Him. But then, maybe we say, “That must have been easy for Israel, after all they had the pillar of cloud and fire and the manna and even a rock that went with them and gave them water, but we don’t have a pillar of cloud or fire and we don’t have manna and we don’t have a rock that is always with us giving us water!” Oh, but we do!

  • Who brings you relief from the heat of this sinful world if not God?
  • Who ignites the fire within you every day to continue the journey if not God?
  • Who provides your food and your needs if not God?
  • And from what Rock do we receive refreshing if not Jesus?

“But, Israel had these things visually! They saw these things and touched these things!” Yes, they did, and what happened? Many of them fell into idolatry, and craved evil things and their sin caused them to perish in the journey; they may have seen those wonderful works, but many were blind to God.

1 Corinthians 10:1–5 (NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

We may feel that it would be easier to abide in God’s timing if we just had the visible and the touchable, yet we have the tangible Spirit of God indwelling us, empowering us and enabling us to live in constant confirmation of Who we are in Christ, walking by faith, which is not our own but which is given to us by God. The author of Hebrews tells us in chapter 11 that faith is the substance of reality that we do not see. So, if faith is substance and it is given to us by God when we hear the Word of God, and it is not something we create in ourselves (faith is not the same thing as belief), then faith must itself be the proof that what God says is true. The logical conclusion, then, is that if God has given us faith as confirmation of promises, then we can live and walk comfortably in His timing.

Looking in the book of Habakkuk, in the same passage where he says, “The just shall live by faith,” Habakkuk writes:

Habakkuk 2:3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. 

God’s plans will always be fulfilled, and so if He has said He will do something, waiting on Him to move is the best policy. Habakkuk comes from a word meaning “to embrace.” Perhaps we may relate that meaning to this by recognizing that we are better off embracing God’s plans according to His timing rather than choosing our own, and while we wait, we may use that time enjoying His goodness in our lives, the confidence of faith that He has given us, the knowledge of His promises for good, and we can take delight in the Lord. Psalm 37 says, when you delight in the Lord, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” Perhaps sometimes when God makes us wait it’s because He wants us to take the time to delight in Him, and learn to trust Him. Why did God tell them to keep the Passover? So they would remember that He saved them out of Egypt, but also so they would trust Him to save them again. When we consider that Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover, we remember that God has a great track record of saving people.

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Repentance

Acts 13:23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus—after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 

Paul, speaking to the congregation of the synagog in Antioch of Pisidia, reminds them that God promised to raise up a Savior from the line of David and then Paul tells them that Savior was Jesus. Just as Stephen had before done, Paul is sharing the gospel with this Jewish congregation by taking them through the history of Israel. Paul then brings them up to more recent history and to John the Baptist, whom it seems this congregation must had heard about. He tells them that it was Jesus whom John had pointed to as the Savior, John having prepared them for His coming by the preaching of repentance.

Repentance is a word that is used a lot in Christian circles, but as with other things Christians may read about, hear of, or even talk about, there is a chance we may not understand what it is. Repentance quite simply is changing one’s mind about God and changing one’s mind about sin. Where repentance involves turning from sins, it involves sorrow over sin, confession of sin, forsaking of sin, making restitution where needed because of sin, and all this by the work of the Holy Spirit. Where Repentance involves turning to God, it is by faith and obedience, demonstrated by actions, according to the work of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, regarding repentance, we should understand that repentance is not a one time thing, it’s both at salvation and after salvation. Repentance is also not a bargaining chip that we use with God to get what we want (“Lord if You will do this thing, I will stop doing that thing.”) Repentance absolutely never comes out of pride, and true repentance is not something we can take pride in, because we are humbled in it. Repentance is not the Way to salvation. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, yet repentance means changing our mind about God, so without repentance we will not receive Jesus, so repentance is important in salvation. Repentance is also not something that we bring about by ourselves. There is no man alive who will repent apart from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is not a work we do that brings us into fellowship with God, scripture is plain that salvation is by grace through faith, yet because repentance is changing our minds about God, without repentance we will not confess Jesus. This is why John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance came at the introduction to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit to convict a sinner to repentance, no man can receive Jesus as Lord. So, it was important that John’s preaching and his baptism come before Jesus.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:3 (NKJV) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing about us that is altogether desirable and there is no good work that we’ve done that overshadows the bad things we’ve done. But Jesus receives us as we have come to Him and then He gives to us out of the abundance of His own righteousness. Repentance is a function of salvation that is both pre, with the drawing of the Father by the work of the Holy Spirit and post, carrying over after justification, for without Jesus there is no possible way we can turn from our sins. The fact that repentance is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit and is also function of salvation is a good reminder to us that when we come to Jesus, we bring nothing to the table.

So, we come to Jesus in repentance, convicted by the Holy Spirit of un-righteousness, and we continue in repentance as we follow Jesus, convicted by the Holy Spirit to righteousness. It is from that relationship with Jesus that all things then are made new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

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153 Large Fish

John 21:11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

Verse 11 has always intrigued me because it gives the exact number of large fish which were caught in the net. It’s an exact number; an intriguing detail. I have yet to come across a detail in scripture that wasn’t there for a reason. That being said, the reason isn’t always mind blowing or so deep that it’s hard to grasp by all but the most brilliant Bible scholars. In fact, sometimes the more scholarly you are the more ridiculous an explanation you are willing to accept.

I’ve heard it said that these 153 fish were representative of 153 species of fish known to exist in that day. This could then be understood as a picture that the gospel is not only for the Jews but is for all people. But that fact is something that God would later explain to Peter in the book of Acts using a detailed vision rather than this seemingly unassociated number. There are all kinds of holes in that theory, the biggest being that nowhere is there any indication that there were 153 known species of fish. Even if this catch was representative of 153 species found in the Sea of Galilee, there was no common knowledge of that, so the significance would not have been understood. So, while we know that the gospel is for all people, getting that from the number of fish that was caught seems like a stretch.

I’ve also heard that the Tetragrammaton, or the four letter Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey name of God occurs 153 times in the book of Genesis. This seems to bear itself out, but what the connection is between this catch of fish and the name of God in the book of Genesis, I can’t explain.

Mathematicians have even weighed in on this and posed solutions based on gematria, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters, taking the square root of integers, multiplying by the width of a circle and dividing by the current price of milk (not really.) But none of what comes from that seems within any realm of likelihood. None of the mathematical explanations are even worth bringing up because they are quite far fetched.

The fact that there were 153 fish might mean that fish number 154 got away, or it may be that fisherman like to brag and a net containing 153 LARGE fish gives them some bragging rights … Fishermen count their fish.

But the theme of this final chapter in the Gospel of John is redemption and restoration and so I tend to think that if the number has meaning, it is to emphasize the state of the net. You see, in Luke 5 (at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry), a very similar miracle took place, except on that occasion the net was breaking under the strain of the haul of fish. I ask you to consider that perhaps the reason the haul of 153 LARGE fish is mentioned is to emphasize the condition of the net. You see, the net that lost fish in Luke 5 had been mended, just as the relationship between man and God that was once broken had been mended by Jesus’ death and resurrection. In addition, perhaps fishermen of that time would have recognized that a net that could hold 153 large fish without breaking was a very strong net thus reminding us that once Jesus has caught you in His net of redemption, you are not thrown back … Just as Jesus had previously said in John 13, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.”

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Enemy Mine

Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. NKJV

… Your brother has something against you … wait, shouldn’t it be his responsibility to seek reconciliation? If he’s the one with the grudge, shouldn’t he be the one to have to make reparations?

In the fall of 1775 during the Revolutionary War, there was this pastor of a local Virginia church who was well loved by all, except for one particular man who hated him and did all he could to thwart the pastors work in the community. This enemy was one day found to be a traitor to the revolution and was hauled away to be executed for treason.

This pastor walked 20 miles to face then General George Washington and plead for the man’s release. General Washington replied that he could not free the pastor’s friend to which the pastor replied, “why this man is far from my friend … he is my greatest enemy!”  

Impressed that the pastor would walk twenty miles to plead for the release of his enemy, Washington granted the release. After receiving the release papers, the pastor then had to walk another 15 miles to where the execution would take place. He got there just in time as the noose was being applied. The man, seeing the pastor’s arrival, mocked him for traveling all that way just to see him executed, to which the the pastor presented the papers from Washington ordering the release.

I would venture to say that this man’s life and his outlook on life was changed drastically and forever by this Pastor’s act of love over pride. Would you be willing to do the same for your enemy?

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Pickled Eggs?

Matthew 5:2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

At the beginning of chapter 5, about to deliver one of His best known teachings, Jesus does something that few Christians will ever do. He seizes an opportunity to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus saw an opportunity and He took it. It was not like Jesus to miss an opportunity to instruct others. He was not one to turn down the chance to speak into the lives of anyone and everyone.

How many are the opportunities afforded us, and we let them pass or simply abandon the moments. Maybe we aren’t even aware of the moment, yet it’s there. We can reach a point where we don’t recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit anymore because we have so hardened ourselves to His guidance. We neglect the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Why do we do this? Well, the answer is pretty simple and quite obvious. It’s the fear of man. We neglect the power of God in our lives because of the fear of man. It prevents us from allowing Him to use us to our fullest potential.

William Gurnall, an English author of the 1600‘s during the Restoration said, “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear causes another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the conquering of it. What is an act of courage without fear? Such absence of hurdle diminishes courage to the level of eating pickled eggs. Everyone is motivated by either fear, hope, faith or love. Of all, perhaps fear is the greatest motivator. It has motivated many a man to do many a thing … to take action, to stand still or to run away.  Fear takes us to the doctors office. It makes us take medicines with frightening side effects. Fear spends money. It is the motivating factor behind excuse as well as confession.

Many a man has benefitted spiritually from the fear of God.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: A good understanding have all they that do his commandments: His praise endureth for ever. KJV

If the fear of God is wisdom, what is the fear of man?

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. NKJV

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ NKJV

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. NKJV

We are not called to cower in the face of forces we have been declared victors over. There is nothing wrong with fear of things greater than ourselves. That motivates us to abide in good standing with the law of the land. The problem is when our fear is used by Satan to manipulate us into inaction … and eventually complacence while our neighbors, friends and even family continue on their path to destruction.

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