The World Must Know

Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

          After more than two hundred years of American missions to foreign lands, it may surprise you to hear that there are still places on the earth that have not been reached by the Gospel.  If we define an “unreached people group” as a culture that has no indigenous churches and no self-propagating form of Christianity, then it’s safe to say there are millions of people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

          Most of these people groups are located in what’s called the “10/40 Window,” an area of the eastern hemisphere that covers North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  People groups within that area of the world have received about 1% of the missionaries sent into the world.  These and other factors account for the fact the Gospel has not taken root in these countries.

          The reason the “10/40 Window” has so captivated the attention of American missions is the verse we’re about to examine: Matthew 24:14.  Some people understand Jesus as teaching that if we can just preach the Gospel (the good news of salvation by faith in Christ) to all parts of the world, we can move the Second Coming closer.  It sees Jesus’ teaching as a goal to be met or a condition that can be fulfilled, and then Jesus’ Second Coming will happen sooner rather than later.

          I was surprised to find Matthew 24:14 is one of several Scriptures that address this point of preaching the Gospel to the entire world.  In order to understand this teaching, we need to survey what the whole Bible says about it.  Put them all together, and this is what you see:

World-wide missions are a prophecy, a command, and a promise kept.

1. Jesus predicted a world-wide witness as a sign of the “end times.”

          In Matthew 24:14 Jesus predicted a testimony of the truth to all the nations.  The verses that immediately precede verse fourteen (vs. 9-13) give warning of all kinds of persecution and trials afflicting the Church.  In other Scriptures we are warned that there will be an increase in wickedness as the time for the end draws near, but there will also be a parallel rise in the fervent faith and commitment of those who are truly Christ’s.  With this in mind, we might paraphrase verse fourteen to say, “But don’t you worry – the Gospel will be preached.”

          The object of the Church’s preaching is THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM of God.  This is the truth about the Kingdom coming with Jesus at His First Coming, to be consummated at His Second Coming.

          The scope of God’s offer of salvation is universal, but it must be accepted by each individual in order for them to be saved.  PREACHED IN THE WHOLE WORLD.  Notice WHOLE and ALL; no exceptions.  The offer of salvation is A TESTIMONY TO ALL NATIONS attesting to the power of God to save.

          THEN THE END WILL COME implies the PREACHING and TESTIMONY will either be a sign of the end or an event that brings it to pass.  As Matthew 24 is all about signs and nothing about triggers, I believe Jesus offered a sign of the coming of the end, the Gospel being made known to the entire world.  This sign implies that all people will be unable to claim ignorance as an excuse, proving God’s judgment to be just.

          Mark 13:10 is a briefer version of Matthew 24:14, but it also refers to worldwide preaching as a sign of the end being near: for that reason it must happen FIRST: “THE GOSPEL MUST FIRST BE PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS.”  The word MUST underscores that this prediction is sure; the Gospel being PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS is not optional.  It can be depended on as a sign of nearing the end of this creation.

          Mark puts this teaching in the same setting as Matthew; Jesus’ discussion of the end times as prompted by the disciples admiring the temple in Jerusalem.  Mark used fewer words and Jesus seems to be saying something slightly different here; “Stop worrying about when the kingdom will come and get busy building it by means of preaching.”


          Luke puts this teaching in a setting that is different from Matthew and Mark: this is a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus.  On this occasion Jesus OPENED THEIR MINDS SO THEY COULD UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES.  The Bible teaches that none of us can understand the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus does for His disciples here, He also does for us today.  On that occasion, He first explained the prophecies of His death and Resurrection, why all the things they’d just experienced had to happen.  Second, He explained the need for preaching about the repentance and forgiveness of sins His death and Resurrection made possible.  As it happened historically, this preaching was done first in Jerusalem – to the Jewish nation – and then TO ALL NATIONS.”  The first explanation proves the reliability of biblical prophecy: the things predicted about the Messiah came true in the life of Jesus.  In exactly the same way, the things Jesus predicted about the End Times will come true.

2. Jesus commanded that the whole world must hear the Gospel.

          Matthew 28:19 is called “The Great Commission” and is the banner text for International Mission.  Jesus commanded preaching as part of  discipleship: “THEREFORE GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.”  The Greek word for discipleship is a word picture of introducing the disciple to the master.  As such, it is about forming a new relationship as much as it is about a formal relationship passing on technical content and creating expertise.  In that culture, being a disciple was a 24-7 commitment and a complete submission to one’s master.  An ox taking on a yoke was the frequently used expression.  Jesus invited people to take on His YOKE (see Matthew 11:29) and turned away those whose commitment fell short of this standard (see Matthew 10:17-31).

          Disciple-making covers all parts of the life of faith, from conversion through sanctification, all the way to death.  Jesus mentioned two aspects of disciple-making: teaching and baptism.  Baptism is the ritual of initiating new disciples, teaching the means of maturing the faith of existing disciples.

          Let’s not miss Jesus command to take our disciple-making mission to ALL NATIONS.  As we read in the book of Acts, there was some hesitation in the hearts of some of the believers to take the Gospel to any nation other than the Jewish nation.  God is sovereign and the Gentiles were included in the Church; her expansion to ALL NATIONS is something that is still developing.

          Mark 16:15 correlates to the Great Commission; here too Jesus commanded the Gospel be carried to all the world and to all creation.  HE SAID TO THEM, “GO INTO THE ENTIRE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOOD NEWS TO ALL CREATION.”  Notice the universal nature of the command: ALL THE WORLD and ALL CREATION.

          The GOOD NEWS is to be understood as God’s offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ.  The GOOD NEWS is that we no longer have to be estranged from God or from one another.  Instead, we can love one another and love God more fully.

3. God promised to complete this work.

          As we’ve just seen, the Church has been commissioned to take the Gospel to the entire world.  We’re blessed to not be left to accomplish this mission on our own; God considers this mission of the Gospel to the whole world as being so essential He partners His disciples with the Holy Spirit and with the angels to accomplish it!


          This passage is found in a similar context to Matthew 24, where Jesus’ disciples ask a question related to the “end times.”  It is also similar to Luke 24, as it is also a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.  These verses are also an apt summary of the entire book of Acts.  All that follows will in one way or another explain how Jesus’ words came true.

          The disciple’s question demonstrates they were still thinking of Jesus as a conqueror and king in the usual political sense.  This is significant; in spike of having their minds opened (Luke 24:45-47), they were still thinking of Jesus as leader of an earthly kingdom and they were eager to help bring it into reality.  Here we see Jesus sending them on an entirely different mission: they were to extend the Kingdom of God by means of witness, not establish the kingdom of Judah by means of conquest.

          This is why Jesus rightly told them the TIMES and DATES were none of their concern: those decisions were up to God the Father; He alone had the authority to make those decisions.  Jesus Himself did not know this (Mark 13:32).  The Apostle Paul got this message; he wrote NOW BROTHERS, ABOUT TIMES AND DATES WE DO NOT NEED TO WRITE YOU, FOR YOU KNOW THAT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)

          What they were supposed to be focused on instead of timing was the receipt of the Holy Spirit and their witness empowered by Him.  Historically, we know the advance of the Gospel occurred as Jesus predicted here.  It was offered first to the Jews in Jerusalem and their half-brothers in Samaria before it went out to the WORLD (including the Gentiles).  Our focus is on the role of the Holy Spirit in witnessing; we don’t have a witness apart from the Holy Spirit.

          Revelation 14:6-7 shows an ANGEL proclaiming of the Gospel.


          The word ANGEL means “messenger” so it should be natural for us to think of angels bringing the Gospel.  However, this is the only Scripture of which I’m aware that an ANGEL does the proclaiming.  This does not imply God’s human messengers (the Church) had failed to reach all people groups, because the ANGEL witnesses to EVERY NATION, TRIBE, LANGUAGE, AND PEOPLE.

          The recipients of the angel’s proclamation are THOSE WHO LIVE ON THE EARTH: a phrase which – in Revelation – refers to the unrepentant, wicked people who deliberately revolt against God and persecute His people.  This is a last chance for them to repent and avoid judgment.

          The angel’s message is a good model for our message: “FEAR GOD AND GIVE HIM GLORY…WORSHIP HIM, your Creator.”  In Revelation, this passage is an example of last-minute second chances that God gives to the unrepentant, stubbornly evil people to be saved.  It is intended to illustrate the great mercy of God.  It is a good model for our witnessing as we tend to emphasize salvation without explaining why salvation is necessary.  We want to deal in Good News, but there can be no Good News if there is no bad news.  The aspect of warning must precede a call to repentance.  If our witness is only promises and positivity, we’ve failed to communicate the necessity of repentance by warning people of the consequences of unbelief and misdeeds.  A lopsided or incomplete witness may partially explain why so many new converts fall away from the faith: their knowledge is incomplete and under-motivated.

World-wide missions are a prophecy, a command, and a promise kept.

          I believe these teachings are given to motivate and encourage us to be full supporters of international missions.  We must be obedient to God’s command, intentional about fulfilling prophecy, and eager to be partners with God in bringing about His final solution to sin.

          To illustrate the necessity of a world-wide witness, allow me to share with you a story I read recently at the “Ministry 127” website.

          “In the 1840s, John Geddie left the pastorate of a church in Canada to take his wife and two small children to the South Sea Islands to begin a mission work there. After a voyage of more than 20,000 miles, they arrived in the New Hebrides Islands at Aneityum. The island chain was filled with cannibals, and more than twenty crew members of a British ship had been killed and eaten just months before the Geddies arrived on the mission field.

          “They faced the difficulty of learning a language that had no written form and the constant threat of being killed. Slowly at first, a few converts came, and then soon many more received the Gospel. Geddie continued his ministry faithfully, including translating the entire Bible into the native language and planting twenty-five churches. In the pulpit of the church Geddie pastored for so many years stands a plaque in his honor which says: ‘When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872 there were no heathen.’”

          Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of thing be said of each of us?


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vols. 8, 9, 12.

Both Taboo Subjects

Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

Please read Jeremiah 22:1-5 in your go-to Bible.

       I recently read “Killing the SS” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.  It’s an account of the extraordinary measures some people took to bring former Nazis out of hiding and to justice.  The parts of the book I disliked the most were the descriptions of the atrocities the Nazis committed in and outside their concentration camps.

          I will spare you the details: believe me just reading about them casts a shadow on your soul.  I’ve wondered how such a situation came to be.  How is it that so many people would willingly participate in such evil?  How could they be so convinced that horrible injustice and violence were the right things to do?

          There is historical evidence that the Nazi movement was founded on pagan German religions that Christianity had nearly erased from the earth.  People cite the Nazis’ fascination with the occult as evidence that Nazi leadership in particular and perhaps the nation in general were possessed by the devil.

          While it is undoubtedly true that Satan had his way in Nazi Germany, demonic possession is not a good answer to account for their war crimes.  The reason some people want to put the blame on spiritual evil is they don’t want to face the evil in human nature.  They don’t want to have to think about this kind of thing ever happening again. 

          Turning a blind eye to evil is never a God-approved action.  The light of Christ is supposed to dispel the darkness.  His love must be apparent in the words and deeds of His people.

          The evil of Nazism is not confined to history books; it is an ever-present danger that will rise again if human nature is again unrestrained by the ethical life God demands.  Take for example, the flirtation with socialism we’ve seen in the last two presidential election cycles.  Remember that the word “Nazi” stood for the National Socialist Party of Germany.  We can’t put our future in the hands of such people.

          Today we’ll look at both politics and religion, both of them considered taboo subjects in “polite” conversation because people fear a difference of opinion will manifest in animosity.  I believe one must not exist without the other.  We’ll take a look at Jeremiah 22 where both subjects are met head-on.

Politics are unavoidable; the question is, does your faith make any difference in your politics?

1. The taboo subjects are politics and religion.

          Definitions matter in every conversation, so let’s start there.  Politics can be defined as the art and science of people getting things done. 

          In worldly politics, the ends justify the means, so morality is an inconvenience easily thrust aside to get results.  Worldly politicians may have high standards for results but low standards for their methods.

          In godly politics, the ends and the means are equally important, equally subject to God’s commandments.  People who act politically following God’s way have the highest possible standards.

          Actions matter more than words in both politics and religion as actions are a window into the soul of the actor.  What we say and do – especially when we think no one is looking – are indicative of our true spiritual state.

2. Politics and religion in Jeremiah 22: the king was supposed to set an example worth following.

          The rulers of Judah at that time are listed in verses one and two.   The KING of JUDAH was Jehoiakim. He reigned briefly, from 609 – 597 B.C., in the middle of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry.  2 Kings 23:37 says HE DID EVIL IN THE EYES OF THE LORD, JUST AS HIS FATHERS HAD DONE.

The OFFICIALS includes the king’s officers, members of the court, and members of the royal family.

          THOSE WHO COME THROUGH [the] GATES of the city of Jerusalem may depict the elders of the city, as they held court at the city gates.  I prefer to take it to take the words to refer to the people: everyone who entered the capitol city.  There is a very real sense that all the people – not just the leaders – have responsibility for the moral condition of a government.

          Leaders and followers alike share the core political responsibility of verse three: DO WHAT IS JUST AND RIGHT (“fair dealing”).  Jeremiah develops this foundational responsibility by giving three specific commands, three examples of what justice and righteousness look like.

          The first example was to RESCUE the robbery victim FROM THE HAND OF HIS OPPRESSOR.  Here’s where the priest and the Levite did wrong by the man injured by robbers in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Law required them to stop and RESCUE that robbery victim.  In disobedience, they walked on by him.

          The second example was to DO NO WRONG TO THE ALIEN, THE FATHERLESS OR THE WIDOW.  These three classes of people, the ones at the bottom rung of society’s ladder, enjoyed specific protection according to the Law (see Exodus 22:21-26; 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 24:17).

          The third example was to NOT SHED INNOCENT BLOOD.  Worship of idols sometimes involved the live sacrifice of one’s own children.  This command forbids all actions that involve the murder of innocent people.

          If these commands were obeyed, the reward would be an eternal dynasty. (4)  Prosperity and peace are implied in this verse: the leaders will come & go in peace.

          If these commands were NOT obeyed, t dynasty of David would come to RUIN. (5)  The prophecy mentions the PALACE several times, but the warning is not about a single building, but the nation it symbolized.  The nation would be ruined by rulers like Jehoiakim who did evil in both their politics and religion.

          God underscored the seriousness of this warning by swearing an oath on Himself.  This is the highest possible oath since there is nothing greater than God upon which He could swear.  They were to take this warning very seriously.  A day would come when there would be no more second chances and RUIN would fall.

Politics are unavoidable; the question is, does your faith make any difference in your politics?

          How about using v. 3 as one’s standard for determining which candidates and which party (if any) are worth supporting?  The main question is based on the overall command: “Do they DO WHAT IS JUST AND RIGHT?”  If a candidate or a party is willing to say anything or do anything to get elected or pass legislation, they are not worthy of your support.  More seriously, they may require the opposition of conscientious Christians.

          Jeremiah offered three examples, three applications of the main question.

          Do they RESCUE the robbery victim FROM THE HAND OF HIS OPPRESSOR? Candidates and parties that are more concerned about the rights of offenders than the rights of victims are not worthy of your support.

          Do they DO NO WRONG TO THE ALIEN, THE FATHERLESS OR THE WIDOW?  An important measure of any civilization is the degree to which the people protect the most vulnerable people among them.  Candidates and parties that want to marginalize or mistreat the unborn, the elderly, the ill, or dying are not worthy of your support.

          Do they NOT SHED INNOCENT BLOOD?  The sacredness of human life is the most fundamental truth on which civilizations are built.  Politics can be simplified, but it is always at the expense of freedom.  Candidates and parties who are willing to condone rioting and overlook murder are not worthy of your support.

          I must make it plain to you that in these comments I am not endorsing any candidate or party.  My intention is to help you make political choices that line up as closely as possible with what Scripture teaches.  People who practice worldly politics aren’t shy about showing their scorn for people who practice their politics and religion together.  That’s exactly backwards.  God has scorn for people who claim they keep them separate.  A candidate or party that claims any kind of faith but does not practice it in the exercise of their politics is not worthy of your support.

          We must be Christians in the voting booth as much as we are Christians in the sanctuary.  To be one and not the other proves the lie of both.  Vote according to the Greatest Commandments and the Golden Rule, and pray hard before you vote and pray harder afterward.


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, Jeremiah, Charles Lee Feinberg

The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Jeremiah, J.A. Thompson

Looking Out for Number Three

Please read Luke 14:1-14 in your favorite Bible.

Image by James Best, (C) 2020, ://

      A man came home from a hard day at work.  He was in a bad mood, grumbling about everything, including the food his wife set before him.

      When all was ready, he paused ask the blessing.  After the prayer, his little girl asked, “Daddy, does God hear us when we pray?”

      “Why, of course,” he replied. “He hears us every time we pray.”

      She paused a moment and asked, “Does he hear everything we say the rest of the time?”

      “Yes, dear, every word,” he replied, encouraged that he had inspired his daughter to become so curious about spiritual matters.

However, his pride was quickly turned to humility when she asked, “Then which does God believe?”

      Every parent has the privilege of being taught lessons by their children!  Lessons on humility may be the hardest to swallow but they are necessary for us to draw near to God.

Humility is the sure path to exaltation.

1. The occasion for the parable. (1-7)

      The Pharisees’ disagreement with Jesus about proper Sabbath observance revealed the pride of the Pharisees. (vs. 1-6)  The Pharisees and other pious Jews had interpreted healing as a kind of work which was forbidden on the Sabbath.  This particular dinner was a set-up designed to trap Jesus on that subject.  The text gives us clues:

 Verse one tells us Jesus was being CAREFULLY WATCHED.

 Verse two tells us the man had DROPSY, an illness of retaining body fluids, seen by many as a sign of God’s punishment of a sinful person.  The fact that man who would’ve normally been shunned by people like the Pharisees “just happened” to be in the home of A PROMINENT PHARISEE at just the right time is purposeful, not coincidental

      Jesus sprung the trap with a question in verse three and a defense of His action in v. 5, where He offered an argument of expediency, as He had done in 13:15.  In 13:10-17, Jesus had already healed a crippled woman on a previous Sabbath and had been confronted by the SYNAGOGUE RULER on that occasion.  This trap is no doubt based on that experience.

      The result: the text tells us twice they were speechless.  They had no grounds for proving Jesus wrong but weren’t going to agree with Him.  This is a sure sign of pride; a resistance to changing one’s mind in spite of the facts.

      Pride is also evident in the way they jostled for position at the table. In verse seven we are told THE GUESTS PICKED THE PLACES OF HONOR.  Their pride was the cause of their unbelief so Jesus struck at their pride with the parable.

2. The particulars of the parable. (8-10).

      The parable centered on a WEDDING FEAST.  This was a common situation.  In this culture, weddings were often celebrated for an entire week.  At such celebrations, the table was “U” shaped, with t guests of honor at the base of the “U.” 

      Honored guests felt so assured of getting a seat of honor they purposely showed up late.  Someone already seated was bumped from their place to make room for the latecomer.  The person displaced not only suffered inconvenience but also embarrassment.  In this culture, honor and shame were important, even life and death issues.

      The strategy of humility is to pick the LEAST IMPORTANT PLACE at the banquet table.  This wisdom is not original with Jesus; Proverbs 25:6-7 makes the same suggestion.  This strategy removes the possibility of embarrassment as you can’t be downgraded in seating and makes it possible for you to receive an honorary upgrade. This strategy is not the point; Jesus‘ point is about God honoring the virtue of humility.

      The reward for humility is a seat & prestige upgrade.  To us, all this business about seating arrangements may feel a bit silly or overdone.  Remember, this was a different culture, one that placed a high value on the concepts of shame and honor.  If it helps, think about how much better it feels to be honored rather than humiliated. And if you need to make it more personal, remember how it felt to walk into the school cafeteria as a new student or freshman and have to look for a seat.  It felt a little embarrassing and lonely, didn’t it?

      Remember, all parables are stories that are driven to be a teaching device.  The story itself is secondary to the point of the parable.

3. The point of the parable. (11)

      The point of the parable is made perfectly plain in verse eleven.  God will thwart egotistical people but will honor people who humble themselves.  The verbs in the original language are all in the passive voice which is another clue that this is something God does to us; that He will take care of it.  This is a principle as certain as sowing and reaping, as reliable as sunrise and sunset.

      Contrary to popular belief, self-inflated folk do not fly higher.  Jesus exposed the folly of the dinner guests trying to climb over one another over the issue of seating as a sure sign of the sins of pride and self-centeredness.

      God will apply this principle with perfect justice.  God works through all levels of human experience.  On a “macro” level, He directs the destinies of nations, appointing people to rule them.  On a “micro” level, He exerts influence over the smallest details of everyday life. AND he attends to the details of everything in between.

      Because God is in charge, you can expect the principle of verse eleven to be fully enforced.  God will see to it personally.

4. An application of the principle. (12-14)

      Jesus’ first example was of a guest at a banquet, now He applies the principle to His host.  This is where the point of the parable interfaces with the setting.  The host of this event – the PROMINENT PHARISEE in verse one – had no doubt organized the occasion with an ulterior motive, to publicly entrap Jesus.

      Taking that action indicates a lack of humility.  In his pride, the Pharisee devised what he thought was a “fool-proof” way of dealing with Jesus, to catch Him violating the Sabbath laws as He had already done once previously and humble Him with scathing theological rebuke.  Their pride makes their silence look all the more foolish.

      The principle of humility also covers our motives.  Humility involves being as unselfish as possible in one’s motives.  Using His own parable as an example, Jesus observed we tend to throw parties for the people we know, like, trust, and can reasonably expect to receive an invite to a party in return. That’s a selfish motive.  A truly humble person can demonstrate their humility by throwing a party for people they don’t know, maybe dislike or distrust, folks who unlikely to return the favor.

      Do good for the right reasons and trust God to reward your good deeds.  But humility doesn’t have to be entirely selfless: a heaven-approved motive is to trade earthly rewards for heavenly ones.  

      Those who follow through on Jesus’ guest list strategy may never get an earthly reward; they may never get repaid for their kindness.  The humble person who acts unselfishly may expect a heavenly reward: “YOU WILL BE REPAID AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.”

Humility is the sure path to exaltation.

      It was a twenty year class reunion that reunited two old high school friends after many years of being out of contact with each other.  Of course, they filled one another in what had been happening in their lives.  One of them had worked a series of odd jobs, had been rather lazy, and had no ambition to speak of.

      The other had become very successful and he attributed his success to the Bible.  He explained,

“One day I opened the Bible at random, and dropped my finger on a word and the word was oil. So, I invested in oil, and boy, did the oil wells gush. Then another day I dropped my finger on another word and it was gold. So, I invested in gold and those mines really produced. Now, I’m as rich as Rockefeller.”

      The lazy friend thought that sounded like easy money, so he rushed home, grabbed his mother’s Bible, flipped it open, and dropped his finger on a page. He opened his eyes to find his finger rested on the words, “Chapter Eleven.”

      You see, putting God’s word to work isn’t so easy.  It requires ambition to do the right thing and along with it, a humble heart willing to serve God and people.

      Here’s what the divine virtue of humility involves: Knowing, accepting, and enjoying the person God wants you to be, in the place He has assigned you, among the people He has placed you.  Pride is ignorance, rejection, or disregarding those three factors, assuming selfish and worldly affections instead.  Envy is a desire to be somebody else, somewhere else, with someone else.


The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, Darrell L. Bock

Walk on the Way of Holiness

Please read Isaiah 35 in your Bible.

Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

Life is a journey; the path you choose determines your destination.

      Though it has been in the public eye for over three years now, I just recently became aware of a suicide device called the Sarco (or Pegasos) device.  It sounded like the kind of “fake news” for which the Internet is infamous, but I’ve done my homework and gone to the website where the thing is publicized.  Just last month they proudly announced the “suicide pod” is in the latest stages of testing and will soon be available to the public.  Separating out the Internet fiction, here are the facts: this so-called “suicide pod” is a euthanasia device that can be 3D-printed by the consumer from free plans downloaded from t Internet.  Access to the 3D printing program will be given only to persons who pass an online test to assess their mental fitness.  

      The top part is a detachable coffin-shaped capsule mounted on a stand that replaces the oxygen in the capsule with liquid nitrogen to cause death by asphyxiation.  The designers claim that with the push of a button the person will not feel panic or a sense of suffocation before unconsciousness and death occur shortly thereafter.  They claim death will occur in minutes.

      The device was invented by euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke in 2017.  It is portable because the inventor feels that “where you die is certainly an important factor”.  Nitschke says the design is intended to resemble that of a spaceship, in order to give users the feel that they are traveling to the “great beyond”.

      This is not God’s way.  Instead, it is an example of a warning given in Scripture: “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end, leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12.) The Bible makes it clear that human life is sacred because we have been created in God’s image.  We have been offered a better way to live and it has been described in an inspiring way in Isaiah 35.

1. God’s way is the hopeful way. (1-7)

      The first of two promises in this splendid chapter is that God’s way leads to a renewal of creation.  The DESERT and WILDERNESS are the barren spots in creation and were used in the Bible as symbols of trials; of the times in our lives when we feel PARCHED or unfruitful or threatened.

      On the other hand, the GARDEN is a symbol of renewal, of creation as the Creator intended it to be.  God’s promise in vs. 1-2 is that the DESERT will become a GARDEN.  LEBANON, CARMEL, and SHARON are mentioned; these were places famous for their fertility and lush produce.  Though they had all been destroyed by the invading Babylonians, they would be restored by WATER gushing forth, IN THE DESERT, in STREAMS, POOLS, and BUBBLING SPRINGS.

      In John 4:13+14, Jesus described Himself as the “Living Water.”  He is our means to the renewal of life.

      The second of two promises is that God’s way leads to personal renewal for all humankind. (The first promise is “macro,” the second “micro.”)  Hope renews our weakness.  Note the symbols of weakness in vs. 3-4: FEEBLE HANDS, unsteady KNEES, and FEARFUL HEARTS.

      Enduring trials without God in your life causes weakness.  Good suffering is wasted when we don’t learn from our experiences; if we don’t deepen our faith and walk more closely with our God.

      We saw images of the renewal of creation in vs. 1-2, now we see images of personal renewal in vs. 5-6.  These are all symbolic of the end of suffering.





Let us be encouraged by this promise: all who remain faithful in the DESERT will be renewed in the GARDEN.

      In Luke 7:20-23 we see Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise.  He is our renewal.  Renewal started with Him personally at His Resurrection.  Renewal continues with each of us as we love and obey Him in lifelong service and devotion.  Renewal will be completely fulfilled in the New Creation that comes into being with His Second Coming.

2. God is our direction & destination (8-10).

      The Way of Holiness directs us to God.  Biblically, a WAY is a symbolic way of talking about lifestyle; the path we choose to take through life.

      The Way of Holiness is God’s gift and our use of His gift of LIFE.  HOLINESS is moral purity and exclusively devotion to God.  HOLINESS is not something we achieve; it is God’s gift to us.  We must receive it and maintain it as we walk through life.

      When we sin we have stepped off the WAY.  God has provided for those occasions with His gracious forgiveness of sin.

      Isaiah gave five signposts on the Way of Holiness.  The Way of Holiness is…

…a lifestyle of godliness = THE REDEEMED WILL WALK THERE.

…exclusively for God’s people = WICKED FOOLS WILL NOT GO ABOUT ON IT.



…the way of joy.  Joy is one of the main pts. of this passage:




      The end of the journey is God.  The symbol of our destination is ZION, the city of God.  ZION is another name for Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, the physical symbol of fellowship with God.  To Old Testament saints like Isaiah, ZION was synonymous with heaven. Used as it is in this passage, the prophet is looking beyond the earthly Jerusalem to the place John identified as the New Jerusalem.

      In ZION we will have fullness of life.  This is our hope, the point on the horizon upon which our eyes should be fixed so we navigate our days faithfully.  Though the word HOPE is not actually used in this passage, it is nonetheless the subject of the vision Isaiah set forth.  Hope is what Christians have to offer our unsaved culture.  The world needs hope and if we are to offer it, we must have it first.

Life is a journey; the path you choose determines your destination.

      Years ago, before the days of self service, a pastor waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a Labor Day long weekend.  The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him.  Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a pump.      ‘Reverend,’ said the young man, ‘I’m so sorry about the delay…  It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.’  

      The minister chuckled and said, ‘I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.’ 

      How sad but true.  This life is short; the next life is eternal.  Yet, people live as though it were the other way around.  I feel such sadness for anyone who has nothing more to look forward to at the end of this life than a “suicide party” and a one way “space trip” in a Sarco suicide pod. 

      Friends, we have so much more to offer the world.  To counter all the negativity and animosity in our culture at the present time we need to keep the kind of hope Isaiah has pictured foremost in our minds and in our speech.  We need to let the world know that neither science nor politics can be our hope (after all, they created this mess!) but God has a living hope that we inherit by faith in Jesus Christ.  This week make it your goal to re-read Isaiah 35 every time you watch the news.  Balance Isaiah’s good news against the world’s bad news.


You Have Been Warned

Please read Luke 17:20-37 in your Bible.

You Have Been Warned_v04

Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

I was listening to the song, “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago.  For some reason, I actually heard the lyrics for the first time.  Do you know this song is about TIME?

As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day (people runnin’ everywhere)
Being pushed and shoved by people (don’t know where to go)
Trying to beat the clock, oh, no I just don’t know (don’t know where I am)
I don’t know, I don’t know, oh (don’t have time to think past the last mile)
(Have no time to look around) And I said, yes I said (run around and think why)

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to die

Everybody’s working (I don’t care)
I don’t care (about time)
About time (no, no)
I don’t care

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Robert William Lamm

Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Spirit Music Group, BMG Rights Management

The song is about having a carefree attitude about time.  The singer wonders why people waste so much time hurrying about in senseless activity.  I had never known the name of the song or what was behind the happy, light-hearted music.

This song reminds me a lot of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17:28-37.  He warned that in the days prior to His Second Coming people were going to be going about their everyday lives as if they were going to go on forever.  They would be surprised to find that Jesus’ warning and promises were all true and that it was tragically too late for them to join the team.  The upbeat music of that song contrasts vividly against the tragic realization of missing out eternally.

Verse 20 supplies the context; the Pharisees had been paying attention to what Jesus was teaching in order to find something in which they could entrap Him. They knew He’d taught about the coming Kingdom of God and His role in it.  This was not the kind of kingdom they were expecting, however, so they wanted to check on it.  They asked Jesus WHEN the Kingdom would come.

The Kingdom of God will come suddenly but not unexpectedly.

  1. The Kingdom is here; it is within you. (20-21)

We don’t get to decide WHEN the Kingdom comes, nor even know when it is coming.  It is enough for us to know THAT it is coming and to spend ourselves in preparation for that day. As Jesus said, “THE KINGDOM OF GOD DOES NOT COME WITH YOUR CAREFUL OBSERVATION.”  We don’t predict its coming, we don’t ratify it’s appearance; the Kingdom of God is God’s rule, not ours.

In Genesis 1:27-30, God gave people dominion over the earth.  The people promptly sinned and in a way, turned part of their dominion over to Satan.  When the Kingdom comes in its fullness, God will have full dominion over the New Creation, making us “kings and priests” in that New Creation.

We get to observe it in one another.  Jesus told us not to pay attention to people who claim to see the Kingdom in one place or another because it is WITHIN us.  This is exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees anticipated.  They expected signs in the heavens and a great deal of fanfare and drama as the Romans were overcome violently.  Naturally, they wanted to be the first to see it, to lead the way in pointing it out to others.  Contrary to their hope, Jesus predicted the Kingdom would come to people directly, quietly, individually, the ultimate “grassroots” event.

The Church is the Kingdom of God.  The Church is the people of God redeemed from every nation, tribe, language, and people assembled by their shared faith in Christ (Revelation 5:9).  The word WITHIN in v. 21 can also be translated as AMONG, so there is a sense in which Jesus answered the Pharisees by saying, “With all your careful observations you still won’t see the Kingdom because it’s right in front of you!”  Jesus Himself was the inauguration of the Kingdom!

This is the paradox of the Kingdom of God.  It came in part in the person of Jesus.  It will come in its fullness when Jesus comes a second time.

Transition: The first part of our passage was spoken to the Pharisees.  The second part was spoken to HIS DISCIPLES.

  1. Don’t be surprised by the Kingdom’s coming (22-37).

It will come after Jesus suffers ultimate rejection. (22-25). He understood their desire to SEE ONE OF THE DAYS OF THE SON OF MAN, but warned they would NOT SEE IT.  Historically, we know Jesus did not come again during the lifetime of those men.

Jesus warned His disciples there would be claims made, false sightings of the Son of Man.  He warned them in advance not to believe them.  They would know these sightings were false because they would not have seen Him with their own eyes.  Jesus assured them His Second Coming would be perfectly obvious to such a degree as to remove all doubt: LIKE LIGHTNING WHICH FLASHES AND LIGHTS UP THE SKY FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER.  BUT FIRST – before any of this talk about the Day of the Lord, Jesus would have to SUFFER MANY THINGS AND BE REJECTED BY THE current GENERATION.

Jesus followed with two historical examples of people caught unaware by sudden but expected destruction. (26-29)  The first was Noah.  Though Noah had warned them, the people of Noah’s time carried on with life as normal, until the very day Noah walked onto the completed ark and God shut the door behind him.  As soon as the door was shut, the rains fell down, and the unrepentant people were destroyed

The second example was Abraham’s nephew Lot, who at one time resided in a city called Sodom.  The people living in Sodom were engaged in business as normal, oblivious to danger.  Then God got Lot out of danger as He’d done for Noah and immediately the FIRE AND SULFUR rained down to their destruction.

When the Kingdom of God comes, there will be no more opportunities to join it. (30-37)  History will repeat itself on THE DAY THE SON OF MAN IS REVEALED.  People will refuse to repent, busy themselves with their usual work and play, and be surprised to find it is too late to avoid destruction.  It will be too late to retrieve their GOODS, which will do them no good anyway. (31)  To turn back will result in their destruction, just like Lot’s wife. (32)

Verse 33 is one of the key verses of all Jesus’ teaching.  The things of this world must be lost (sacrificed) as part of the faith-commitment that preserves our lives.

Verses 34-35 are a warning; another illustration of the sudden effects of Jesus’ second coming.  One person is taken to Jesus, leaving behind their unbelieving partner.  They will suffer surprise and sorrow.  Some manuscripts offer a third example in verse 36.

5) The disciples are still thinking very literally; they want to know where the disappearing person ends up.  Jesus’ reply is difficult to understand.  It’s as if He is telling them where the person left behind ends up (DEAD) instead of where the disappeared person has gone (to be with the Lord).  Upon Jesus’ Second Coming the righteous will be divided from the unrighteous on Judgment Day and each will receive their eternal due.

The Kingdom of God will come suddenly but not unexpectedly.

When you really stop and study this passage, it is a beat-down experience.  It is a strongly-worded, in-your-face, graphic warning to get right or get left behind.  Turn or burn.

Way back in ’95, Diane Franzen of Carson City, Nevada wrote about a personal experience with her son.

“As a harried young mother of a five-year-old and an infant, I kept busy with the mundane tasks of housekeeping and child care. One day, the work had piled up and I was frantically running around scrubbing and dusting, while my son pestered me to play with him. ’Not now.  I’m busy,’ I said throughout the day.

“Finally, my son sauntered into the kitchen, head hung low, and asked me to play one last time in his most forlorn voice. I pulled my sudsy hands out of the dishwater and wrestled him to the kitchen floor, tickling and laughing. When we settled down to catch our breath, he looked up at me and calmly said, ‘Mom, you should play with me more, because when I’m ten, I’m not going to want to play with you.’”

It’s funny how the son saw the future clearly but his mom had to be told.  Opportunity is a very finite resource.  Though we are warned they are limited, we’re still surprised when opportunities run out.

This passage warns about the worst of all missed opportunities: the opportunity to be saved.  The opportunity to follow Jesus, to be obedient to God’s will and to invite as many people as we can to join us in eternal life is a limited opportunity.  Though we know He is coming again, we don’t know when.  We can’t waste our days on trivialities alone, we must be intent on the opportunities to draw nearer to Jesus and help others find Him as their Savior too.

When the VULTURES appear, it’s too late; even too late even for regrets.




The NIV Study Bible, Luke, Darrell L. Bock

Great Price, Great Value

Please read Luke 14:25-35 in your Bible.

“Great Price, Great Value” sounds more like an advertising slogan than a message title.  The difference is that claim is not true at the grocery store.

In a March 28, 2011 in the New York Times entitled “Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags,” Stephanie Clifford and Catherine Rampell blew the lid off packaging that conceals shrinking quantities of food.  Examples cited:

Whole wheat pasta went from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces

Canned vegetables went from 16 ounces to 11.

Baby wipes went from 80 to 72.

Sugar went from 5 lb bags to 4 lbs.

A box of saltine crackers contains

about 15 percent fewer crackers than the old package.

A can of tuna went from 6 ounces to 5 ounces.

Bags of chips now hold 20 percent fewer chips.

Orange juice went from a 64 oz. to 58 ounces.

“’Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity,’ John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, said. ‘And companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice; maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same.’”

CONTEXT: V. 25 = LARGE CROWDS WERE TRAVELING WITH JESUS provides two measures of Jesus’ success in reaching people.  First, that He had attracted a LARGE CROWD.  Second, that the CROWD was dedicated enough to travel with Jesus.

Many of us would look on the LARGE CROWD and be content.  We’d be thrilled they were showing that level of commitment.  But Jesus decided to stop their journey, AND TURNING TO THEM, confronted their true level of commitment.

He did this because He knew two things.  One, He knew the hearts of those around Him, that their commitment was still superficial.  Two, He knew that He was headed to His death.  It was an act of mercy on His part to make it clear that following Him from that point on was going to require a lot more of them.

Jesus taught the cost of discipleship should be counted first because He comes first.

  1. Following Jesus will require reordered priorities (25-27).

Jesus’ statements are radical; we need to be careful to not “dumb them down.”  Whenever you hear a commentator or teacher follow these statements with a “Yeah, but…” or “What He really meant is…” kind of sentence, be very wary about what follows.  We will take Jesus’ two statements of the cost of discipleship at face value.

Statement #1 – self and family (the next extension of self) must cease to be your first priority.  It is radical to hear Jesus say a condition of discipleship is to HATE your family and your life.  This is a comparative statement; compared to your love for God, a disciple’s relationship to family may feel like HATE.

As ever, this is a question of priorities.  We know that our priorities are to be in this order:

God First

“Neighbors” Second (under “Others,” in this order)


People in Need

One’s Own Family

Self Third (but still deserving of love)

Statement #2 – Jesus is first priority.  Our days are to be spent imitating the life of Jesus Christ.  Carrying a CROSS is a radical way of describing discipleship; it is imitating the selfless sacrifice Jesus demonstrated when He carried His cross.

It’s hard for us to assess the emotional impact of these words on the original hearers.  Remember, Jesus had not yet been to the cross when He spoke these words.  To a pious Jew of His time, the cross was an offense, the most tragic, disgusting, embarrassing way to die.  It would be like me asking you to carry your lethal injection with you.

To FOLLOW Jesus is to be directed by His teachings.  To FOLLOW Jesus means to obey His commands.

  1. The cost of discipleship should be calculated because it is better not to start than to start and not finish (28-35).

Jesus’ first example is the unfinished tower (28-30). Jesus used a practical example from everyday life.  In that time, people built towers for protection, frequently to watch over vineyards, pastures and fields.  A tower was security for economic assets.

To start a project like a TOWER and not complete it is an obvious, embarrassing mistake.  It would stand out like a sore thumb in the rural landscape.  The rest of the New Testament similarly emphasizes finishing life in the faith.  A priority is placed on remaining faithful.

Jesus’ second example is the war never started (31-33).  Jesus’ second example was not from everyday life, as royalty would make this decision.  However, the common man who might be drafted into military service would like to think a king put this kind of thought into such a big decision.

To be Jesus’ DISCIPLE requires giving up every claim of ownership of worldly things that come between you and God.  Anything that might become an idol, coming between you and God must be the first to go.

Jesus gave a warning in the example of the outcome of useless salt (34-35).  To say SALT IS GOOD is an understatement.  In Jesus’ day it was so valuable it was used as a form of currency.

In that part of the world, salt could be potent up to fifteen years.  If it had passed that “expiration date,” or if it had been “cut” too often with other material, or was in some other way ruined, salt had absolutely no value; it wasn’t even useful for the garden or manure pile.

This is a warning against a shallow commitment that will not survive the trials a disciple will face.  You can’t compare the type of trials from one disciple to another: God knows us fully as individuals and our experiences may vary greatly, but are perfectly appropriate in each case.

“HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR” (35) is a phrase oft-repeated in Revelation’s letters to the churches.  Here as well as there, the phrase means “Pay attention, this is important to people of faith.”

Jesus taught the cost of discipleship should be counted first because He comes first.

Following Jesus is a life-long journey, so the decision to follow Him is not a decision we make once and for all time.  It is a decision we re-make every time trials and temptations come.  Discipleship is less about how you start, more about how you finish.

“Counting the cost” does not mean itemizing every worldly thing following Jesus may require us to sacrifice.  It is more radical than that.  Discipleship is a decision to sacrifice everything worldly and then follow Jesus.

Here’s the good news, what we get in exchange for all this worldly junk we won’t get to keep anyway: we don’t walk this journey alone.  We have God and we have one another.  At the end, we have an eternity of joyous living.  Keep counting the cost and happily paying it, knowing you are heaven bound and it is worth every earthly thing to attain to it.



The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, Darrell L. Bock

Where Rules Abound, Grace is Prohibited

Please read Luke 13:10-17 in your Bible.

Where Rules Abound Grace is ProhibitedImage by James Best, (C) 2020,

In previous years, “Religious Liberty Sunday” would be a time of affirming the American Church’s historic commitment to freedom of religion.  We would remind one another of the prominent role Baptists have played in the separation of church and state which has previously benefited both institutions.

However, this year has seen serious threats to religious liberty in America.  The worst has been the coronavirus.  We’ve all observed public officials abusing their authority to shut down houses of worship.  Their hypocrisy has been evident in deeming some businesses “essential” allowing them to remain open under the season of “stay at home” orders.  Be wary when politicians call something a “crisis” and then use it to expand their power.

This year’s Supreme Court is hearing cases that threaten free expression of one’s religious convictions when they contradict the “rights” of homosexuals, the “right” to abortion-on-demand.  In so doing, their agenda is revealed to have little to do with equality; it is about power.

These are a couple of the current political threats to religious liberty, but the most serious threats come from churched people in the form of legalism.  We will take a look at one example in Luke 13:10-17.  Here, in an exercise of His spiritual authority, acting in freedom, Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath, right in the middle of a worship service.  He was condemned on the basis that His actions constituted a violation of God’s law.  This healing is found only in the gospel of Luke.

Jesus demonstrated religious liberty when He healed people on the Sabbath.

CONTEXT: Chapter 12 is Luke’s version of Matthew 24; a long look at the events associated with Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of this age.  In 13:1-9, that teaching culminated with a call to repent before Jesus’ prophecies came to pass and it was too late.  After this, Luke has a couple parables explaining salvation.

  1. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath (10-13).

The setting: Jesus was teaching in a synagogue one Saturday (10).  As the synagogue ruler was present at the time of this incident, we might assume this was their regular Saturday worship time, not some other time on Saturday.

Though there are other passages that have Jesus teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath, this was not His preferred venue.  Perhaps Jesus preferred outdoor and more public places to avoid these kinds of confrontations

Unlike other occasions when afflicted individuals sought him out, Jesus initiated this healing encounter; this implies intentionality on His part.  He saw the woman and knew her need in an instant (11). Her infirmity was obvious: SHE WAS BENT OVER AND COULD NOT STRAIGHTEN UP AT ALL.  But Jesus supernaturally knew something about her that was not obvious: she HAD BEEN CRIPPLED BY A SPIRIT FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS. She had a spiritual and physical problem.  This does not mean the woman was possessed by a demon, simply that there was a spiritual cause to her lengthy illness.  The depth and length of her suffering give measure to the miraculous power of Jesus to heal her.

Jesus CALLED HER FORWARD (12); He intended to make her healing a public demonstration.  Perhaps it fit with what He had been teaching.

He declared her to be FREE FROM HER INFIMITY (12).  This must have meant relief of her spiritual and physical conditions.

Jesus’ miraculous healings were varied; each person was treated individually.  In this case, Jesus did something unusual: He took her arms in His hands and pulled her into an erect posture (13).  Jesus did not have to touch the woman to heal her: in the gospels He healed others “remotely.”

So he chose this “hands-on” method of healing.  Why?  I believe it was to oppose the rules against work on the Sabbath, aggravating the SYNAGOGUE RULER and other hypocrites, to draw them out and force a confrontation.  This event comes AFTER the pivotal moment of Luke’s gospel.  In 9:51, Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem.  From that point on, everything in Luke’s gospel is Jesus managing events, goading the religious and political leadership into crucifying Him.  For example, His Triumphal Entry and cleansing of the temple are events He used to polarize the opposition into demanding His life.

This ordinary moment of worship in a synagogue was forever changed by what happened next.  It became an eternal moment.  The woman’s response was to praise God (13).  It impossible to imagine what she felt: the tremendous joy at being instantly relieved of a physical infirmity and an oppressive spirit.

  1. The synagogue ruler attempted to cite Jesus for a Sabbath violation (14).

A SYNAGOGUE was a local replacement for the temple in Jerusalem, providing a home for worship and teaching for people who couldn’t go to Jerusalem every week.  A SYNAGOGUE RULER was the man who was in charge of the facility and what went on within it. (Another SYNAGOGUE RULER, a man named Jairus, figured prominently in another healing account in Luke 8.)

Luke tells us the SYNAGOGUE RULER was INDIGNANT because Jesus had broken the law that demanded rest on the Sabbath.  How was Jesus guilty of work?  The answer is not obvious.  There has always been considerable debate among students of the law of Moses about healing on the Sabbath.  We won’t get into that dialogue: it’s sufficient for us to say the SYNAGOGUE RULER may not have been concerned about the healing itself, but about the work associated with the healing.

That sounds confusing.  Some acts of healing were forbidden because they required grinding herbs and other items to make medicine.  Grinding was obviously work, so that act was forbidden.

This may be the crux of the issue in Jesus’ case, and it is based on a small detail in Luke’s narrative.  Because Jesus had reached out and touched the woman, He was “guilty” of doing work, which violated God’s command to rest on the Sabbath.  The experts on the Law had interpreted and outstretched arm when giving alms on the Sabbath was “work,” while an arm held closer to the body was not.  Interpretations were that picky and still, people were willing to go to battle over them.

The SYNAGOGUE RULER’s rebuke of Jesus was spoken to the people, a passive-aggressive stunt.  He reminded them healing was work and it was to be done on the six days allotted for work, not on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10, the fourth Commandment).

This is not the first time this issue came up: in Luke 6:1-11, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath.  On that occasion He explained the SON OF MAN IS LORD OF THE SABBATH (6:5).  Jesus had the authority to do He deemed necessary.  Their fussy interpretations of Sabbath law were not binding on Him.

  1. Jesus’ reply exposed the synagogue ruler’s hypocrisy


Jesus rightly exposed the man as a HYPOCRITE (15).  The SYNAGOGUE RULER was himself guilty of violating the prohibition of work on the Sabbath to do his synagogue duties and also everyday chores like caring for an animal (16).  It is hypocrisy to say animal chores were not “work” while healing was.

Jesus compares the worth of the woman to the worth of the man’s OX or DONKEY and proves she was more deserving of care, especially on the Sabbath (16).  She deserved immediate healing because of the severity of her illness.  Jesus also demonstrated His supernatural knowledge here: how else would He know the cause of her illness (Satan’s binding) and the length of her illness (EIGHTEEN LONG YEARS)?

She deserved immediate healing as she was a DAUGHTER OF ABRAHAM (a Jew).  Not only is a human being more deserving of good treatment than an OX or DONKEY, but also a Jew more deserving of better treatment in a SYNAGOGUE than a Gentile.

She deserved immediate healing because of the timing.  Jesus is effectively saying, “There couldn’t be a MORE appropriate day to set this poor suffering woman free from her illness than on a Sabbath day!”

  1. The result? Jesus confounded His critics and delighted his people (17).

ALL HIS OPPONENTS WERE HUMILIATED.  This humiliation did not silence or even deter them.  Just the opposite; it enraged them and made them hunger for His death.  As Jesus moved closer to the cross, this is precisely what He wanted them to do.

THE PEOPLE WERE DELIGHTED.  Luke likes to tell us the people’s reaction to Jesus.  The approval of common folk is one validation of the validity of Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus demonstrated religious liberty when He healed people on the Sabbath.

It’s about grace, people.  Grace is God showing us favor we don’t deserve.  We depend on His grace for our everyday survival and especially for our salvation.

The worst opponent to grace is legalism among God’s people.  Whenever any one of us uses the letter of the law to deny someone a benefit – regardless of whether they are deserving or not – grace has been thwarted and heaven weeps.  The Holy Spirit is grieved by our hypocrisy and lack of love.

Legalists like the SYNAGOGUE RULER complain about grace because it represents an exception to their rules.  They resent exceptions because they mistakenly think the rules give them power.  Pride and jealousy can also incite pettiness that opposes grace.

Friends, grace is grace because it is undeserved.  Because it is exceptional.  Because it flaunts our rules and traditions.  Grace exposes our hypocrisy when we oppose it.

When we are as guilty as the SYNAGOGUE RULER of squelching grace, our church dies a little bit.  Our fellowship is strained.  Our witness is compromised.

On the other hand, every time grace is shown, our church grows a bit.  Our fellowship is deepened.  Our witness is confirmed because the love we claim is the love we demonstrate.

Legalism is also the enemy of liberty.  We have a great deal of freedom in Jesus Christ, redeemed from the tyranny of the Law.  Liberty and grace are two sides of the same coin.


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Luke, Walter L. Liefield.

Zondervan Bible Commentary, Luke, Laurence E. Porter.

Your Most Gracious Invitation

Please read John 4:27-42 in your Bible.

Your Most Gracious Invitation (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

I was surprised to learn this week that Emily Post, who has been the American arbiter of good manners for generations, has become an “institute.”  As today is “Invitation Sunday,” I was curious to see what Emily Post has to say about the matter of making invitations.

Her advice is remarkably simple.  When you receive an invitation, you have just five rules to follow:

  1. Reply promptly, within a day or two of receiving an invitation.
  2. Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation. Even if not asked for a reply, it is always polite to let someone know your decision.
  3. Make that your final answer.
  4. Don’t even ask if you can bring someone else along.
  5. Always say “Thank You.”

That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?  I guess we need Emily Post to spell things out when common sense is uncommon!

This morning we’re concerned with a kind of invitation more important than an invitation to a party.  We will look at how to invite people to meet Jesus Christ; how to start or continue a conversation about our faith.  What we will see is that our job is to make an invitation, offer information, and then leave the outcome in the Spirit’s hands.  The Samaritan woman of John 4 sets an example for us to follow in this matter.

One of the main things to keep in mind about sharing your faith with others is to keep it simple.  There are three steps:

Initiation – starting a conversation about Jesus.

Information – sharing what you know and have experienced.  Be personal and be brief.

Invitation – offer to help them make a commitment to Jesus if they are ready to make it.

The Samaritan woman’s invitation resulted in many believing in Jesus as their Savior.

CONTEXT: I believe Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman is our textbook on witnessing.  Here Jesus sets an example for us to follow in how we spread the Good News.  That said, the woman herself also sets an example for us on how to make an invitation, how to begin a time of witness that will, ideally, end with the person being saved.

  1. The Samaritan woman’s invitation: “Come see a man who could be the Christ.” (vs. 28-30)

She was an eager witness. (v. 28)  LEAVING HER WATER JAR is a detail that may imply she was in a hurry to get BACK TO TOWN.  Remember, she’d come to the well to fetch water and that was the start of her conversation with Jesus (vs. 7-8).  This would be like some of you leaving behind your cell phone while it was on the charger!

Or it’s possible she purposely left it behind so Jesus could finally have the drink of water He’d asked for back in verse seven, the beginning of this whole conversation.  This is a reasonable explanation, given the hospitality they will show Jesus in verse 40.  Either way – by neglect or intention – the woman was clearly coming back to the well.

She was a reasonable witness. (29)  She offered Jesus’ supernatural knowledge as evidence He might be the CHRIST.  She said, “COME, SEE A MAN WHO TOLD ME EVERYTHING I EVER DID.”

It’s possible that a woman like this was infamous in a small town like Sychar (v. 5), everyone there knew everything she ever did!  No big deal there.  But Jesus being a Jew and from out of town, this might possibly have indicated His  supernatural knowledge.

The clincher was when she added, “COULD THIS BE THE CHRIST?”  This was a question that would provoke considerable interest and is a partial explanation of their willingness to believe her testimony in verse 30.

She was an effective witness. (30)  The villagers accepted her invitation and CAME OUT to meet Jesus.  Her invitation was extremely simple and entirely personal: “Come with me.”  These are two factors in making an appeal to unsaved folks: simple and personal.

The text gives no clue as to who THEY are. However, we know that the elders of a city congregated at the gates to hear disputes and resolve them.  Perhaps in this village there were people of a similar position.  It makes sense that she would take a religious question to these elders.

If this is the case, the woman had a personal motive for inviting them: she hoped they would use their wisdom to help her make up her own mind about Jesus.  This interpretation explains why she asked a question instead of making a statement.

  1. The response to her invitation: MANY Samaritans believed on Jesus as Savior. (vs. 39-42)

She was a convincing witness.  V. 39 plainly says MANY of the townspeople believed on the basis of THE WOMAN’S TESTIMONY.

Their believing response is extraordinary when you consider two factors.  One: the woman’s gender.  Women were not allowed to testify in court.  While this is not a courtroom, this fact testifies to a gender bias that would normally have made the woman a less reliable witness.

Two: the woman’s likely reputation.  Jesus told her she’d had five husbands and the guy she was not married to the guy with whom she was currently living.  That sounds like a situation rife with gossip and a scent of scandal.

Our emphasis here is on the words MANY and BELIEVED.  The text carefully points out that at first blush they BELIEVED on the basis of THE WOMAN’S TESTIMONY, but in v. 42, their belief is base on Jesus’ teaching.

They showed hospitality to Jesus. (40)  Which is more incredible – that they asked Jesus (a Jew) to STAY WITH them (Samaritans) or that He did?

A more typical interaction between Jews and Samaritans is recorded in Luke 9:51-56.  This passage tells us that Jesus had RESOLUTELY SET HIS FACE FOR JERUSALEM.  His eyes were upon the cross and He was intent on obeying the Father’s will.  In fact, Jesus was so intent on getting to Jerusalem they traveled through Samaria, when Jews would normally go out of their way to avoid Samaria.  And the Samaritans felt likewise, as we see in verse 53, where Jesus sent some MESSENGERS ahead to arrange food and lodging, BUT THE PEOPLE THERE DID NOT WELCOME HIM BECAUSE HE WAS HEADING FOR JERUSALEM.

For their part, His disciples showed the typical Jewish attitude in a request to CALL DOWN FIRE FROM HEAVEN AND DESTROY THEM.  The Jews and the Samaritans had centuries of antagonism as they were the two halves of the divided kingdom of Israel.

Knowing the history and the prevailing prejudice of the time, this makes the Samaritans’ hospitality to Jesus (40) more profound.  The text says they URGED Jesus to stay and that He stayed TWO DAYS.  Their offer and Jesus’ acceptance would have been at least unusual in that situation.

After TWO DAYS with Jesus, the Samaritans believed on Jesus’ words (41-42).  They came to a saving faith when they believed on the basis of Jesus’ words, not just the woman’s words.

I believe John is careful to make a distinction between Jesus’ words and the woman’s words in vs. 41+42 to make an important point: as important, even essential as our witnessing is, people are saved by hearing and believing Jesus’ words, not ours.  Our job is to invite people to meet Jesus.  After that, the word of God speaks for itself and faith comes from hearing Jesus’ words.

It is a statement of fact that only God knows for certain when someone is saved.  This text gives us the certainty of the basis for salvation which is believing on the basis of the words of Jesus.

Notice the word MANY appears again in v. 41.  Because this woman was willing to make the invitation to come to Christ, the result was the MANY believed on Him and received salvation.  If we would only do our job and make the invitation, who knows how deeply God blesses our obedience with success!

The Samaritan woman’s invitation resulted in many believing in Jesus as their Savior.

Scot McKnight is Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, an American Baptist-related institution in IL.  In his blog Dr. McKnight offered advice about how to invite someone to Jesus Christ.

  1. “[Inviting] is not about pleading, persuading, pleasing, or getting folks to decide. [It] is to announce something about Jesus.
  2. “Our calling is to witness and declare; God’s Advocate, the Spirit, awakens and draws people to God. 3. “The appropriate message about Jesus is a message that generates this question: Who is Jesus? The proper response then is to repent, to believe, and to be baptized.
  3. “What we are to do is point people to Jesus. God’s Spirit is at work; when we get ahead of the Spirit, we run the risk of aborting new birth.
  4. “What do I say? ‘Give yourself to Jesus!’

There you have it.  Four simple words from a learned man who is capable of giving complicated and long answers to questions.  This makes me think we need to look at people and ask ourselves, “How can I make a simple and personal invitation to that person to give themselves to Jesus?  The Enemy wants to complicate this matter in order to distract and discourage us.  We must keep it simple and speak the words.  God will take over and make it happen.



Invitation Etiquette

Zondervan Bible Commentary, “John”, David J. Ellis

Instead of the Sinner’s Prayer

Museum or Zoo?

Please read 1 Peter 2:1-12 in your Bible.

Museum or ZooImage by James Best, (C) 2020,

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where the White Witch had turned several inhabitants of the fictional world of Narnia into statues.  Aslan, the lion, defeated the White Witch and then went to the courtyard were all the statues had been placed.  He breathed life into them, restoring them to living beings.  To quote from the book,

“The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo.  Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd.”

Take note of that first line.  It is the basis for this message’s title.

The thing about museums is that if they don’t keep changing their exhibits and holding special events, who’s going to visit a second time?  Museums are quiet, consistent places dedicated to the past.  They hold artifacts of bygone days, some of which are so arcane, young people can’t guess at their use!

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at zoos.  Do people repeatedly visit a zoo?  Possibly; at a zoo one rarely gets to see all the animals in a single visit.  Life at the zoo can be a little unscripted; you may see some sides of animal life you didn’t really care to see.  But at least at the zoo, the exhibits are alive.

So – is our church a museum or a zoo?  Is our emphasis on the trophies of the past, or do we exhibit a living faith?  Which approach is going to be more attractive to unchurched folks?

CONTEXT: In v. 1, Peter offers a sample of the sin that must not be on display in churches.  Before getting into the eight virtues we’re about to describe, he commanded us to get rid of ALL MALICE, DECEIT, HYPOCRISY, ENVY, AND SLANDER.  These vices are contrary to the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in our midst and therefore must be put away.  These are examples of the SINFUL DESIRES from which we are to ABSTAIN, according to v. 11.

Peter described seven human exhibits that can be found in churches.

NEWBORN INFANTS (2).  In Ephesians 4, Paul used infants as a symbol of spiritual immaturity.  But Peter’s symbolism is different.  NEWBORN INFANTS are morally innocent.  Peter urges them to a diet of PURE SPIRITUAL MILK, with the emphasis on PURE.  The truth of the Bible encourages us to moral purity and sustains our growth INTO SALVATION.  (This is an example of how biblical symbols are not always used in the same way.  We need to be careful to study the passages in context, so we can get it right.)

LIVING STONES, BUILT UP AS A SPIRITUAL HOUSE (5).  Followers of Jesus follow His example; as He is a LIVING STONE (4), we are LIVING STONES (5) too.  Together, we make up a SPIRITUAL HOUSE, a temple, a place in the world where God dwells.

This SPIRITUAL HOUSE is also a people among whom God may be found.  Note that individual stones aren’t useful until they are brought together.

A CHOSEN PEOPLE (9).  The word “chosen” speaks to divine initiative; God chose us first, provided salvation without our help.  As He chose Israel before her, God chose the Church for salvation, obedience, and service.  This is never a point of arrogance.

A HOLY NATION and a HOLY/ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (5+9) I have put these exhibits together as this is something of mixed metaphor.  One would expect the words HOLY and PRIESTHOOD to go together as they are both religious terms.  Similarly, you’d expect ROYAL and NATION to be put together as they are both secular/political terms.  We can guess why Peter mixed the metaphors; my guess is Peter is showing the distinction between “sacred” and “secular” is not important as the believer is to exhibit godliness in both arenas.

The first of two modifiers of the word PRIESTHOOD is HOLY (5).  “HOLY” means to be set apart from worldly uses to God’s specific use AND to be morally pure.

The second modifier is ROYAL (9).  We are promised that we will be able to rule as kings and priests (Revelation 5:10 + 20:6). Our royalty comes from being adopted into the family of the King of Heaven.

The Latin word for “priest” (pontifex) means “one who builds bridges.”  Peter’s symbolism changes from building SPIRITUAL HOUSES to building spiritual bridges between God and people, and between people, to join us all together in Christ.

The term “HOLY NATION” brings to mind what God wanted Israel to be; a nation wholly devoted to Him, a light to all the nations of the world (Isaiah 42:6).  This term is very similar to the next exhibit.

A PEOPLE FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION (9+10).  All of us were once spiritual loners.  In Christ, we are adopted into a faith-family.  The phrase HIS OWN POSSESSION can be taken two ways I can see.

Firstly, in our world, sometimes the value of an object is not determined by the value of the object itself, but by the person who owned it.  For example, a pink Cadillac has value depending on the age and condition of the car.  A pink Cadillac owned by Elvis Presley has a value regardless of its age or condition.

As God’s people, our value is not based on any worldly standards such as accomplishments or wealth.  We have priceless value because we are God’s POSSESSIONS.

Secondly, God the Father has welcomed us into His family.  Our identity is based on that most important family relationship.  We are His PEOPLE because God is the Father of our family.

The terms SOJOURNERS (11) and EXILES (11) are so similar I have put them together as one exhibit.  We do not conform to the world’s standards or make up our own as it is not our home.  An illustration of the Church is the Kingdom of God.  Regardless of what earthly nation we call home, our true citizenship is heaven.  This means in relation to this world, we are SOJOURNERS and EXILES.

Have you ever sung, “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through…?”  That’s what a “sojourner” is: a traveler who’s passing through.  The journey is important and so is the destination.  This word is also translated as “strangers;” the word used for Abraham in Canaan (see Genesis 23:4).

Worldly-minded people do not understand or like heavenly things or God’s people.  It is their rejection of things of God (including us) that makes us EXILES.  For an example, think “green card;” God’s people are in this world on a temporary visa and work permit.

EXILES can also be translated as “pilgrim;” a traveler for religious reasons.  Whether SOJOURNER or EXILE, it is clear that God’s people are “Just visiting” this world.  It’s like playing Monopoly when your token lands on the outside border of the “Jail” square on the “Monopoly” board.  Remember what it says there?  “Just Visiting.”  Landing on that space makes it permissible for you to mock and tease other players whose tokens are, at that time, in jail.

The last of these seven exhibits is the Blameless Saints (12).  This exhibit is the key to this study.  These words do not literally appear in the text, but summarize Peter’s teaching in v. 12.

Peter did not hold up moral purity as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.  We are to pursue holiness as a means of witness to those outside the faith.  It can be said that modern American Christianity is too inwardly-focused.  We present ourselves as just one more kind of self-help group, sometimes promising prosperity in return for our sacrifices of faith.

People outside the faith must see the truth of Jesus in what we say and do.  We are to witness with both words and deeds and they had better match!

We are to think of all this as preparations for the DAY GOD VISITS US.  That would be Judgment Day, folks.  We want as many people as possible to join us in heaven.  The thing is, the DAY of God’s visitation is not known to us, so we cannot procrastinate.  We must be active in our witness right now or risk missing the opportunities God is giving us.

Peter described seven human exhibits that can be found in churches.

Whenever someone asks you – on any subject – to choose either…or?  Ask, “Why not both?”  Why can’t we be both a museum AND a zoo?  Why can’t we continue to celebrate our history and traditions and at the same time tell the story of Jesus in a way that is compelling to modern audiences?

In Sioux Falls, SD, we have an attraction called the Great Plains Zoo, which is a combination of zoo and museum.  The museum portion exhibits a collection of stuffed animals and other natural artifacts that describe the science of our world.  The zoo exhibits live animals that are displayed in various buildings and outdoor enclosures.  I’m not sure what African animals think about South Dakota winters, but they do a good job of surviving.  The Great Plains Zoo is a place people want to visit again and again.

Perhaps it should be our ambition to be both a museum and a zoo!  We should aim to be people whose purpose is rooted in the past but spreading branches into the present, with buds prepared for the future.


The Zondervan Bible Commentary, “1 Peter,” G. J. Polkinghorne


Leave “Race” at the Track

The way the word “race” is used in secular culture is unbiblical.  The word RACE is used just TWICE in our NIV Bible to refer to people.  (In the newest version of the NIV it is used eight times.  No doubt this is one of the many accommodations to culture made by the translators of the 2011 version of the NIV.)  It is used to refer to God’s people in Ezra 9:2 and Romans 9:3.  This is a spiritual/

religious distinction; the Jews as a distinct group within the whole human race.

The Bible never refers to race as a way of dividing human beings by their skin color.  We in the Church need to be critical of the use of the word “race” to divide people and set them against one another, especially for mere political advantage.

Historically, the word RACE was used in the English language as a synonym for nationality or ethnicity; people would talk about “the English race” or “the Irish race.”  It was Darwin’s theory of evolution that popularized the notion that people of different skin colors were different races.  This position was almost always to the detriment of dark-skinned persons.

Between the two world wars, the false science of eugenics promoted a similarly discriminatory view of dark-skinned people.  People like Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) and Adolf Hitler popularized views like this and both of them took steps to eliminate “inferior races.”

In spite of this dastardly pedigree, the notion of “races” persists to this day.  It is a fundamental contributor to the problem of racism in our nation.  For America to make lasting progress in these valid concerns about equality, we need to begin by correcting our grammar.  Both science and Scripture agree on this point: human beings are ONE RACE.  If we could drop the use of the word race, I believe we would immediately advance the conversation about equality of opportunity in America.  Let’s have a deep, extended, and effective conversation about equality and HUMAN relations.  This at least will start us all in the same place and emphasize the humanity we share, taking the emphasis off the things that threaten to divide us.

I would suggest the Church lead the way in this regard, fostering communications about  HUMANITY.  Here we follow the example of the Apostle Paul, a Jew, who said to an audience of Greeks, FROM ONE MAN HE MADE EVERY NATION OF MEN, THAT THEY SHOULD INHABIT THE WHOLE EARTH; AND HE DETERMINED THE TIMES SET FOR THEM AND THE EXACT PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD LIVE.  And he added, ‘FOR IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING.’  AS SOME OF YOUR OWN POETS HAVE SAID, ‘WE ARE HIS CHILDREN.’ (Acts 17:26-27, 29)

Dr. Charles Ware has founded an organization called “Grace Relations,” dedicated to the unity of human beings of all skin color.  I like that name and that goal, don’t you?