Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I was wearied by the journey. The lyrics of an old Amy Grant CD filled the car…”He's just a fat little baby, He wants his bottle and he don’t mean maybe. He’s sampled solid food once or twice, but he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice…” The thought of food piqued my appetite just as a roadside café caught my eye. Judging from the many cars parked out front, I supposed it to be a decent place to eat—I decided to pull in. My stomach growled in anticipation as I made my way to the entrance. Every table was full, so I had my name put on the list. Waiting for my turn, I surveyed the décor. “This is most unusual,” I uttered to myself, as I came to realize that every wall in the restaurant was littered with pictures and paintings of cows, dairy cows. I waited patiently for my turn—anticipating the delightful fare that had drawn so many patrons. My name was called and a waitress politely directed me to my seat. She handed me a menu.

Imagine my surprise when I surveyed the offerings. The menu had only two sections: “Drinks” and “Dessert.” There were no sections for appetizers, breakfast, lunch, or dinner! I looked over the drinks section and found nothing but milk: skim milk, 1%, 2%, 3.8%, whole milk, cream, buttermilk, goat’s milk and other kinds of milk that I’d never heard of before. The dessert section had only one option. You guessed it—chocolate milk. “What kind of restaurant is this?” I thought.

The waitress returned for my order. “What gives,” I asked, “the menu lists nothing but milk?” Surprised by my question, she explained that the owner had found that a lot of people have no appetite for solid foods. “But I like them!” I replied, “All kinds-- pizza, hamburgers, chicken, cinnamon rolls…” How is it that you don’t serve any solid foods? “That’s exactly the problem with solid foods,” she responded, “too many choices, people inevitably choose their favorites. We have found that everyone gets along a lot better when we don’t have solid foods to argue about.” “Besides, our patrons cannot digest solid foods,” she added.

Can’t digest solid foods?” I wondered. What kind of restaurant could this be? I turned to one of the other customers. “Do you realize that there are other kinds of food besides milk? Don’t you need to eat other kinds of things to stay healthy? “She acted as if she had heard the question before; she answered with a well worn response: “we don’t want to have to take the time to consider other choices, we’ve found that the “milk alone” diet makes things much simpler. Besides, it was good enough for us as infants, why change things?”

I noted, as I was digesting her response, that all of the other patrons seemed quite satisfied with their meals. Milk mustaches on happy faces testified to their contentedness. I supposed that I had somehow gone crazy. Perhaps it was a dream. I decided to test my theory. I climbed on top of my table and shouted out—“Don’t you know that you cannot survive on a milk only diet!” You need to eat other kinds of things if you want to be strong and healthy!”

The people in the restaurant looked at me as if I was some kind of alien. And then they started to get a little angry. I heard shouts from the crowd. “What are you doing here,” one of them blurted out—his tongue still white from his drink--“we’ve seen your kind before. Coming in here talking about solid foods, causing division and what not. The people here are perfectly content with milk. They don’t want anything else.”

As if on cue, the patrons all stood and began to sing. A man with a guitar began to play. Someone pulled out some drums. The words to the song were simple and strange.

We love milk,
‘Tis milk we love
You ask me why
I say because.

They kept singing the words over and over again. I noticed that they were getting more excited the longer they sang. By the time they had sung it seven times they had worked themselves into quite an emotional frenzy. Their milk-only diet didn’t give them much strength, so after they had finished, they sat down to rest.

Disturbed by what I had seen, I purposed to try again. I climbed back onto the table and surveyed the tired audience. I urged them to consider the benefits of solid food. The many varied flavors that their taste buds could enjoy. The wonderful textures they could experience. The better health that would result from eating solid foods. The longer I spoke the antzier they became. I began to worry as they started getting up out of their seats. Suddenly they were surrounding me. They had glasses and mugs in their hands--filled with milk. Comments I overheard made it clear that they intended to baptize me. A baptism in milk that I might be made into a “milk-onlyer.” “Help me!” I screamed.

And suddenly I was awake. It was a dream. I had fallen asleep at the table. The cat had knocked over a glass of milk, waking me up. Hurriedly, I picked up my Bible, away from the spill, and then remembered—I had been reading. I glanced at my Bible. Where did I leave off? Oh yes, it was Hebrews chapter five, verses 5:13-14, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” I offered a silent prayer of thanks to God, the giver of healthy appetites. I reached over to grab my cinnamon roll, and took a bite.

Pastor Jerry

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Mark 14:55, “Now the chief priests and the whole Counsel kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death; and they were not finding any…”

John 3:20, “For everyone who does evil hates the light…”

Jesus’ trial before the high priest was a sham of a trial in a kangaroo court. They violated their own legal code. Jewish law set forth certain legal requirements for such trials:
• No trials were to be conducted at night.
• The admission of conflicting testimonies was not allowed.
• The use of false witnesses was not permissible.
• Witnesses were to be interviewed separately.
• Charges were to be based on a plurality of corroborating witnesses.
• The judges were to act impartially.

Such requirements were recklessly abandoned in a frenzied passion to rid the planet of its creator. “They kept trying to obtain testimony.” The truth was not important to the case. His crime was that He had committed no crime. His purity had made evident their impurity. The only solution—put the divine Son of God to death.

Jesus submitted Himself to the process. “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly…For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…and while being reviled, He did not reviled in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:19-24). The passage speaks to several relevant and important truths:

• Jesus suffered unjustly, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
• Through His death He bore our sins that we might be saved.
• As His followers we will suffer unjustly too (Cf. Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12).
• We are to follow in His steps (i.e. “patiently endure it,” 1 Peter 2:20).

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death by the Iranian government. His crime? Being a Christian. Nadarkhani was born in the city of Rasht in the Gilan Province of Northern Iran to Muslim parents. According to human rights watchdog Amnesty International, Nadarkhani turned to Christianity at the age of 19, becoming a member of the Only Jesus Church in Rasht. Nadarkhani claims he was never a practicing Muslim.

For the past 10 years, Nadarkhani has pastored for a network of house churches. Before his arrest in 2009, he was the pastor of a 400-person congregation in the Gilan province. Nadarkhani was originally arrested in Dec. 2006 for being a pastor. He was accused of apostasy (leaving Islam for Christianity) and attempting to evangelize Muslims. He was later released.

In Oct. 2009, Nadarkhani learned that his two Christian sons, Daniel and Yoel (currently 9 and 7 years old, respectively) would be taught about Islam in their local schools, as approved by the government. Nadarkhani went to his children's schools to protest, and was arrested.

On Oct. 12, 2009, a political tribunal in Rasht charged him for protesting, and he was imprisoned in a jail in Lakan, a city seven miles south of his hometown of Rasht. Nadarkhani's charges were later changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. Nadarkhani repeatedly refused to recant his Christian faith. He was sentenced to death by the Iranian government.

Under International pressure Iran backtracked, saying that no execution order had been announced, and that he was being held not for apostasy, but for rape and “other crimes,” according to the Islamic Republic’s state-controlled Press TV.

If history is any judge they will keep “trying to obtain testimony” against him (Mark 14:55). His crime is not any crime per se, but the lack of crime (he has aligned himself with the truth). The attacks are directed through him to the ultimate judge Himself. Hatred of Christ spills over to His followers. The truth, the light, is unwelcome in Iran. Those who bear it must be extinguished.

Youcef’s example ought to encourage us. In this age of compromise and luke-warm Christianity, Youcef has refused to deny His Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul faced the same challenges and exhorted Timothy to stand firm. He wrote, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:8-9). The extinguishment of the true light was temporary, His gospel message still shines. Light-bearers can be extinguished, but the truth can never be. Though every judge on earth sentence the truth to death, truth will triumph!

Pray for Youcef. God has His own ways to strengthen and minister to His faithful servants. But He has commanded us: “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). He is a brother in Christ and our hearts are burdened with loving concern for him and his family. Let us be careful to remember them--and all of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world--in our prayers.

Pastor Jerry

Monday, February 27, 2012


“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” Mark 13:31.

Some things are more reliable than others, only a few are absolutely so. The context of this verse has to do with the promise of His second coming, but the truth applies to all He taught. His Word is utterly trustworthy and dependable.

Nine years ago today my mother, Marlene, exchanged her earthly tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1). I am so very thankful that she had learned to “take Jesus at His word” before she died.

My Mom was born in Minnesota but grew up in the greater Portland area (Grandma moved around a lot). Her teenage years were spent on a farm in Mountaindale (not far from North Plains). Grandma was experiencing some personal struggles at that time, so Mom was frequently left to care for her eight siblings. She learned about responsibility at an early age. Those life-lessons served her well when later she ascended, over a period of 30 some years, from an entry level job at Tektronix to manage the printer division.

Mom was a Catholic growing up. Married at age 17 to my father, Chester, in the Catholic Church, Mom had agreed to raise us in the Catholic faith. Somewhere I have a certificate of baptism commemorating my infant baptism at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Hillsboro. Mom would drag us to church on Sundays and to catechism classes on Saturday. I despised those classes as they kept me from doing what I really wanted to do—go fishing with my Dad. Mom even took me to some weekly Catholic home meetings.

I was a reluctant participant in these things. I didn’t understand, at all, what it was all about. Over the years, Mom apparently lost either interest or resolve—our attendance waned. But Mom remained a Catholic at heart—she had a faith in God via the Catholic Church, but it was not trustworthy.

Years later, my brother, Bruce, died. Years of drug abuse had taken a physical and mental toll—he shot himself. My siblings and I sometimes made poor choices. But Mom was always there for us. She loved us and tirelessly worked to put together the broken pieces of our humpty dumpty lives. But there was no helping Bruce. He was gone from us and Mom was devastated.

Mom didn’t know where to turn or what to do. Her Catholicism bore no comfort or help. She had wondered about her brothers, Bob and Frank, and the form of “religion” they were involved with. Likewise, she did not quite understand the nature of the beliefs of non-denominational church that I was pastoring. She called me, desperate for answers. She began to read the Word.

She also began attending Helvetia Community Church. She involved herself there. She began to understand the truth of God’s reliable Word. She came to understand that salvation was not obtained by being religious or doing good works. She heard the gospel message—that salvation is by faith in Christ who had died for our sins. Somewhere along the way she placed her faith in Him. She was born again. Her new relationship with Christ did not take away the pain of her loss, but Jesus brought forgiveness, comfort, and assurance of salvation. That assurance would soon play an essential role in her life.

In the year preceding her death Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She had a tumor that could not be surgically removed. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments were to no avail. As the weeks went by she got progressively weaker. Her pain increased until it grew to unbearable levels. An internal pain pump was installed to help her cope.

2 Corinthians 5:16 reminds us that “Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” That truth became readily apparent in her life. She faced death with an inspiring, God-given courage. She arranged a meeting with Pastor Bryan Austring and me. We sat in the living room—in the house of my upbringing—and planned her funeral service. She offered to us suggestions regarding hymns and Bible verses. She gathered the family together in her room and exhorted us all to love one another. She met with each of the grandchildren individually and passed on to each one a special message. She met all of these challenges with a firm reliance on Jesus and His Word.

It was a day before her passing. The family was all there. Uncle Frank and Bob and her other siblings were there. It was a beautiful sunny day. We wheeled Mom out to the garden in the back yard. The garden she had spent so many hours dutifully maintaining. The sun was shining in her face. It was a glorious setting. And it was Frank, who made the comment—weakened as she was by cancer, Frank said she looked “glorious.” She did!

For years, when I worked at Trojan Nuclear Plant, I had a picture I had hung on my wall. The picture was of the sky and some clouds and the sun shining through. Underneath the sun’s glorious rays were these words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” A lot of things “pass away,” only a few things will last. God’s word is amongst those things. It is absolutely trustworthy and dependable and “able to give…the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). I am so thankful that it did that very thing for Mom!

Nine years have passed since the day of her death. And we miss her so much. Things are not the same without Mom to talk to and reassure us. We miss you Mom! We look forward to seeing you again, together with our other loved ones who have passed on, one day soon (2 Thessalonians 5:1-11)!

Pastor Jerry

Friday, February 24, 2012


Mark 12:18, “And some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Him…”

1 Corinthians 15:12, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

Philippians 3:18-19, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ…who set their minds on earthly things.”

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. That was why they were sad, you see. Sorry, I know, you’ve heard that one before. But it is the truth. It is a sad religion indeed that has no heavenward bent to it.

The Sadducees were made up of aristocrats. They held power in the Sanhedrin. Their wealth and power contributed to their primary concern to keep their nation peaceable and thereby avoid trouble with the Romans. The denied the resurrection. D. A. Hagner commented on this: “It is immediately obvious how this denial intensified an already this-worldly perspective which the Sadducees had by virtue of their position. If a man must be content with the present life alone, he is bound to capitalize on any present advantages he may enjoy. And this appears, in fact, to have been the practical philosophy of the Sadducees. It may be added that the Messianic hope played no role in the Sadducean perspective.”

Much of what is peddled as Christianity today is of the same nature. There is a lot of earth-bound preaching that goes on. Religious liberalism focuses on improving society. The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel is concerned with how to improve one’s lot in this life. Self-help messages speak about “how to be a better you.” The Reconstructionist movement emphasizes the need to restore our country. Much religious effort is expended, in the name of Christianity, which is “this-worldly” in focus. While many in these movements would not deny a future resurrection, they show little concern for it. The visible church is too often “earth-bound” in its preaching and teaching. The gospel is a heaven-sent message that speaks of a heaven-sent Savior who saves sinners from hell to heaven. There is no question that Jesus works to improve the earthly estate of the born-again. They are indeed transformed by Him that they might be both salt and light-- a blessing both to themselves and others. But the ultimate focus of His saving work is heavenward.

It was earthly concerns that contributed to the Sadducean antagonism towards the Lord Jesus. He was a threat. So they asked Him a question. An unlikely scenario was suggested. A wife had seven consecutive husbands. Whose wife then, in the resurrection, would she be? (Mark 12:23). Jesus answer: “You do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God…For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25). The Scriptures declare the resurrection. God’s power is demonstrated in the resurrection. We are raised to a radically transformed environment.

J. C. Ryle commented on Jesus’ response: “It would be foolish to deny that there are many difficulties connected with the doctrine of the life to come. It must needs be so. The world beyond the grave is a world unseen by mortal eye, and therefore unknown. The conditions of existence there, are necessarily hidden from us, and if more were told, we would probably not understand it. Let it suffice us to know that the bodies of the saints shall be raised, and, though glorified, shall be like their bodies on earth--so like, that those who knew them once shall know them again. But though raised with a real body, the risen saint will be completely freed from everything which is now an evidence of weakness and infirmity. There shall be nothing like Mahomet's gross and sensual Paradise in the Christian's future existence. Hunger and thirst being no more--there shall be no need of food. Weariness and fatigue being no more--there shall be no need of sleep. Death being no more--there shall be no need of births to supply the place of those who are removed. Enjoying the full presence of God and His Christ--men and women shall no more need the marriage union, in order to help one another. Able to serve God without weariness, and attend on Him without distraction--doing His will perfectly, and seeing His face continually--clothed in a glorious body--they shall be "as the angels which are in heaven." There is comfort in all this for the true Christian. In the body that he now has he often "groans, being burdened," from a daily sense of weakness and imperfection. (2 Cor. 5:4.) He is now tried by many cares about this world--what to eat, and what to drink, and what to put on--how to manage his affairs, where to live, and what company to choose. In the world to come, all shall be changed. Nothing shall be lacking to make his happiness complete.”

The believer in Christ is to be a heavenly minded person. The church in Corinth was confronted with false teachers who likewise denied the resurrection, but Paul said: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:15-19).

Christ has been raised! We, as believers, shall be too (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). False teachers “set their minds on earthly things,” but “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:2-21).

Colossians 3:2-4, “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Happy indeed is the believer in Christ who has his sights set on “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)! No journey will meet with a finer end, than the heavenward one (2 Timothy 4:18). No home will be better furnished, that the one that God has prepared (2 Corinthians 5:1). No sight will be more glorious (1 John 3:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:10), no reunion more joyous (2 Thessalonians 4:17), no occupation more rewarding (Revelation 5:13-14)—than what we will experience in His presence. Happy, you see, is the believer who has his mind set on such things!

Pastor Jerry

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Mark 11:15-18, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (ESV)

What are we to make of this account? Jesus entered the temple, drove out the buyers and sellers, overturned the tables and chairs, and put an end to all of commerce. In righteous indignation He zealously intervened to cleanse the temple from all such activities. Jesus Himself explained His actions: “My House shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). The temple was for worship, they were using it for their own evil ends. He cleansed the temple at the start of His ministry (John 2:14-17), He cleansed it again in the end.

Temples are for worship. The priests were to lead the people in worship. The sacrifices were to be offered in worship. Humble prayer was to characterize such activities. Worship of God was to happen there (Psalm 84:1-4). Simeon and Anna knew that (Luke 2:25-37). Others too, no doubt, but the religious leaders had no heart for worship (Matthew 15:8-9), and they wielded much influence (Matthew 27:20; 23:13). The temple was as worthless to its purpose as a fig tree without figs (Mark 11:12-14).

Jesus’ activity in the temple is not at all inconsistent with all else that He did in His ministry. He is in the temple-cleansing business. A. W. Tozer, “Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to the question is, “In order that He might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”

God created each of us to worship Him. That is the reason for our existence. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Rebel sinners have no heart to worship God. The heart of the rebel sinner merchandizes sin. Much activity goes on, some perhaps under the guise of religion, but it is never true worship. A great cleansing work in one’s heart is necessary.

That God desires such worshippers should encourage us. John 4:23-24, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” A great cleansing by Jesus takes place at the moment of saving faith: “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). A cleansing of the heart from dead works coincides with a renewed desire to serve the living God. Jesus alone can do such things! And He works such a change with the same zeal he revealed in the cleansing of the temple.

Many would prefer a more tolerant Jesus, a Jesus who might wink at sin or excuse and tolerate it. But one lesson we should take from this account is that Jesus is zealous to rid us from sin. The born again believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), a living stone in “a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:12). The temple, His Church, exists for the purpose of worshipping Him. To this purpose we are called (Ephesians 1:6,12,14), to this eternal occupation we are destined (1 Timothy 1:17). We have been cleansed for this purpose and are being cleansed still (Ephesians 5:26). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is zealous in this cause (James 4:5-8).

Jesus is zealously opposed to sin because sin is contrary to His nature and to His purpose in us. The temple-cleansing Jesus still reproves sin (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12-13). He still disciples His people (Hebrews 12:10; 1 Corinthians 11:30-32). We will one day be recompensed for the deeds we have done (2 Corinthians 5:10). “The quality of each man’s work” will be tested. That which fails the test will be “burned up” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

Much of what is done in the name of Christ is mere merchandising. There is no worship to it. It is done neither in spirit or in truth. Jesus threatened to remove the “lampstand” from the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5). They were busy in religious activities, but their heart was not in it. There was much going on at the church, but they had left their first love. Love for Jesus was not the motivating factor. Let us be careful to do what we do for the right reasons. “Simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3) will never meet with the Lord’s disapproval.

A.W. Tozer, “Now, worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.”

The Holy Spirit alone can help us in our pursuit. His mandate? “He shall glory Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is pointing “Jesusward.” He purposefully and patiently works to direct our attention to Him. “Look there,” he says to us, “behold His glory, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “Look again,” He cries, “and consider ‘the breadth and length and height and depth’ of the love He has shown to us” (Ephesians 3:18). The object of our worship is all glorious and fully deserving of our love and admiration. It is as the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to our hearts that we comprehend these truths (Cf. Ephesians 1:17; 3:16f).

The temple cleansing Jesus is still at work. In saving rebel sinners He cleanses their hearts that they might do that for which they were created—worship Him. His cleansing work continues as he works to transform us to His very image. One day soon there will be no further need for cleansing—in that place “where righteousness dwells,” (2 Peter 3:13). The redeemed with gather round the Throne and declare: “To Him who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

Pastor Jerry

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


He seemingly had it all—he was young and rich and ruled over others. But he sensed something lacking in his life. “He ran up to (Jesus), and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17)?” Jesus answered his question with a question: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

“No one is good except God alone.” God is good. He is intrinsically and inherently good. He does not have to try to be good, He is good. He defines good. There would be no good were it not for God. The Psalmist declared “Thou art good and doest good” (Psalm 119:68). His goodness is reflected in His creation. “And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Indeed, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “’He is good.’ This is reason enough for giving Him thanks; goodness is His essence and nature, and therefore He is always to be praised whether we are receiving anything from Him or not. Those who only praise God because He does them good should rise to a higher note and give thanks to Him because He is good. In the truest sense He alone is good. ‘There is none good but one, that is God’; therefore in all gratitude the Lord should have the royal portion. If others seem to be good, He is good. If others are good in measure, He is good beyond measure. When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that ‘He is good.’ We must never tolerate an instant’s doubt as to the goodness of the Lord; whether else may be questionable, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His name is always the same, and always good. It is not only that he was good, and will be good, but He is good; let His providence be what it may. Therefore let us even at this present moment, though the skies be dark with clouds, yet give thanks to His name!”

Separated from God man is not good and cannot even discern that which is (Romans 3:20; Isaiah 5:20). Any apostasy is marked by a depravity that is accompanied by moral confusion (Romans 1:18-32). In such a climate the practice of evil is even celebrated (Romans 1:32). Such is the nature of these difficult days (2 Timothy 3:1f). Good discernment is essential (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

The rich young ruler thought he could be saved by keeping the law. The law is good but there are no good lawkeepers (Romans 7:12; Romans 3:19-20). He failed to recognize that about himself (Romans 3:23). He recognized Jesus as good but not as God. The fullness of God, and His goodness, was manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, who is God (Cf. John 1:14-18). Goodness cannot be attained by those who are not good. It must be imparted to them from an outside source.

We are made good only by being re-made by Him who is (John 3:7). The Good Shepherd came, and laid down His life, to save those who are not good--that they “might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10-11). The born-again believer in Christ is His ‘good’ workmanship, created according to the image of the One who created him (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:10), to do good works. The Spirit of God bears fruit, including His ‘goodness,’ in his life (Galatians 5:22).

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” Titus 3:4-8 (ESV)

Praise God for His goodness!

Pastor Jerry

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Mark 9:31-32, “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.”

Mark 9:33-34, “And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.”

Mark 9:35, “And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.’”

Self-centeredness is the norm to which we all gravitate. Sin is the cause. The lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, the boastful pride of life—demand attention. They tell us to always do that which is best for “self.” “Looking out for number one (self)” is the mantra of lost humanity.

The disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus’ was talking about (Mark 9:32). He was their Master—what were these words of sacrifice and death? They had heard Him speak of the same things before. That was when “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:32). But they did not understand and remained ignorant until after His death. They were not setting their minds on God’s interests (Mark 8:33). They were not thinking of things from God’s perspective. Jesus’ servant-minded manner of life and ultimate act of self-sacrifice are diametrically opposed to the spirit of this world.

Jesus was teaching His disciples about sacrifice, they were arguing amongst themselves about greatness. They had a discussion about it (Mark 9:34). What criteria did they espouse as a basis for measuring such a thing-- Good looks, intellect, strength, cleverness? How are we to measure true greatness? Our society puts forth movie stars, rich folks, athletes, and famous people as the truly “great” people. Children are taught to aspire to greatness in these ways. The world says that greatness is found at the top. What does God say?

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” True greatness is measured in terms of God’s standard. True greatness was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He, the greatest of all, was the servant of all (Mark 10:45). He left His Father’s throne above and came to dwell among lost and needy sinners. The way up was down. He has worked, through His death, to save self-centered sinners that they might be forgiven and transformed. His greatness is made manifest in their lives as they follow in His steps, taking on His self-sacrificing nature. Donald English, “At the source of all Christian service in the world is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service.”

Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

J. C. Ryle, “These words are deeply instructive. They show us that the maxims of the world are directly contrary to the mind of Christ. The world's idea of greatness is to rule, but Christian greatness consists in serving. The world's ambition is to receive honor and attention, but the desire of the Christian should be to give rather than receive, and to attend on others rather than be attended on himself. In short, the man who lays himself out most to serve his fellow men, and to be useful in his day and generation, is the greatest man in the eyes of Christ. Let us strive to make a practical use of this heart-searching maxim. Let us seek to do good to our fellow men, and to mortify that self-pleasing and self-indulgence, to which we are all so prone. Is there any service that we can render to our fellow Christians? Is there any kindness that we can do them, to help them and promote their happiness? If there is, let us do it without delay. Well would it be for Christendom, if empty boasts of churchmanship and orthodoxy were less frequent and practical attention to our Lord's words in this passage more common. The men who are willing to be last of all, and servants of all, for Christ's sake, are always few. Yet these are the men who do good, break down prejudices, convince infidels that Christianity is a reality, and shake the world.”

Pastor Jerry

Monday, February 20, 2012


Paul Lindholm was born, the youngest of 14 children, to a farm couple near Ortonville, Minnesota. He and his wife, Clara, ultimately came to serve as missionaries on the Philippine Island of Negros.

During World War II the island was invaded and held by the Japanese. For 2 and ½ years Paul and Clara (and their four children) moved among the hideaways in the mountains and caves of the Island, fully aware that if they were captured, they would be thrown into prison or killed. The family had no communication with loved ones in the United States. They lived on diminishing food reserves and food provided by friendly villagers. Health was always a concern. Paul contracted malaria. His 8 year old son nearly died of dysentery. On one occasion their 2 and ½ year old daughter had a leech attached to her eyeball. They removed it by carefully applying salt to the leech.

During these difficult times Paul Lindholm was nevertheless driven to share the gospel in the villages. He performed weddings and funerals and ministered to the needs of the villagers throughout the area. He did so at great risk to himself.

Eventually a submarine was sent to rescue the Americans from the Island. The family, along with others, made their way by boat to freedom. But when it came time for the family to board, Paul Lindholm turned back. He made sure his family was safe on board, shared a teary-eyed farewell, and returned to his ministry.

In his book, “The Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II,” Steven Trent Smith recounted what happened: ‘Aren’t you going down, Mr. Lindholm?’ Abcede (the opposition forces commander) asked sternly, now knowing full well he would have one more passenger on the banca (boat) back to Basay. The minister replied simply that his job on Negros was unfinished. Wall Mazzone, standing nearby, was deeply moved by the words of the missionary. ‘Here’s a guy,’ he thought, ‘who has freedom in the palm of his hand and he walks away from it to carry on his work.’ It was a very meaningful moment in Mazzone’s life. But Abcede was not pleased that his earlier arguments to persuade the missionary to leave had failed. ‘I have orders from MacArthur to send you to Australia.’ The Reverend Lindholm quietly replied, ‘Sir, I have orders from headquarters higher than MacArthur’s to remain here with your people.’ Abcede shook his head and smiled. Turning to his adjutant he said, ‘Ben, these are the kind of people worth fighting for.’”

Upon the return to the United States, Clara Lindholm and the children spent the rest of the war near relatives in Oregon. For six months, they didn't know if Paul had survived. They were reunited in July 1945 and continued missionary work in the Philippines and China.

In recognition of his wartime work, Paul received an honorary doctorate in 1951 from his alma mater, Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He died in 1997. Singing at his funeral were Filipino friends, including a member of the family that had hidden and protected the Lindholms. Clara later celebrated her 100th birthday at a Palm Springs, California, nursing home. She was likewise serenaded by Filipinos.


He was blind. Every task a greater challenge. Eyes darkened to the beauty of God’s creation. Family and friends helped him--he longed to see their faces. Friends brought him to Jesus. They had heard that He had the power to heal the blind.

Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of the village. “He spit on his eyes and laid hands on him” (Mark 8:23). “He asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see men, but they look like trees, walking’ (Mark 8:24). It was only after Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again that he “saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:25).

What are we to make of this? Time after time Jesus had healed others immediately and completely. Here we have a gradual, two-fold, restoration of this man’s sight. There is no doubt that He could have done for this man what he had done for others. But nothing in Jesus’ ministry happened by accident. The miracle bore some kind of message. What could it be? The context holds the key.

Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” A variety of inadequate responses were offered. People were blind to the truth. Jesus’ then asked His disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). God revealed the truth to Peter. “You are the Christ” he declared (Mark 8:29). God opened Peter’s eyes to the truth and Jesus commended him in his response (Matthew 16:17). Peter’s eyes were opened—but not completely.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.” And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:31-33).

Peter’s eyes had been opened to the truth of Jesus’ identity but they were blind to the truth regarding His work. His mind was set, not on the things of God, but of man. He couldn’t understand how the Christ could suffer. The message of the cross was a stumbling block to him. And Jesus rebuked him in the sternest way possible. Later—at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial—he would deny even knowing his master.

There would come a time in Peter’s life when his eyes would be opened completely to the truth regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. It would come in God’s timing and by God’s revelation to him. He would then no longer see with clouded vision. He would fully embrace the message of the cross. He would declare it before great multitudes (Acts 2:23-24). He would declare it though threatened by the leaders to stop (Acts 4:18). He would ultimately suffer martyrdom for sake of the message he had previously decried.

Christ’s work in our lives is much like what happened to that blind man. The converted has his eyes opened to the truth regarding the identity of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of the God in the face of Christ.” A saving faith leads to some degree of understanding (1 Corinthians 2:12). But no one sees all things clearly—this side of heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12). Jesus made Himself known to us at the moment of saving faith. But our vision is still limited.

John Newton’s eyes were opened as a result of a great storm at sea. He experienced God’s mercy and seeds of faith were planted. “To all appearance I was a changed man,” he said. He quit swearing and started churchgoing. He studied religious books, took communion, and made a solemn spiritual commitment. Unfortunately those changes did not last. After several months he lapsed back into his old ways. He continued in the slave trade. It would be several years before his eyes were opened that he could see more clearly. It was only then that God worked a complete and lasting transformation in his life.

Jesus gives sight to blind sinners. And their eyes are opened to life-changing truths. But their vision remains imperfect still. In a progressive fashion their vision is perfected as their minds are renewed. One day they will see clearly—they will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2). And they will marvel at what they see (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Pastor Jerry

Friday, February 17, 2012


Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.”

Much attention is given in our day to the need to live in a “heart healthy” manner. Others say that it is imperative that we eat “heart healthy” foods and maintain a “heart healthy” exercise regimen. A myriad of drugs are available to improve our heart condition. Doctors have countless procedures that they utilize to deal with a plethora of heart problems.

There is another problem of the heart that is usually left undiagnosed. And even when diagnosed, wrong treatment options are suggested. The misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment of this particular heart problem is at the heart of man’s problem.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were careful to wash their hands. And that was not the only thing they washed. They washed their “cups and pitchers and copper pots” (Mark 7:4). They did so religiously and methodically. Their hand-washing was done according to a carefully prescribed pattern. An exact amount of water was prescribed. These traditions were not about cleanliness (a good thing), they were a part of their religious ritual—they did such things to keep from defiling themselves (Mark 7:15, 18). They supposed that religious rituals could somehow make them righteous before God.

The Great Physician diagnosed their condition (Jeremiah 17:9-10). It was far more serious than they had supposed. The heart of the problem is the heart itself. Adam sinned against God and unleashed a contagion of sin (Romans 5:12). Hereditarily, a “heart condition” has been passed on to every man (Romans 6:19).

The symptoms of the heart problem are alarming and touch on every part of our being—evil thoughts, deeds, and words flow forth from the heart in a myriad of damning and ugly vices. Dishonoring to God and destructive to others—the heart vomits up a deadly and poisonous brew. No amount of religious exercise can restrain it. And man has tried them all. They are all but “fig-leaf” religions. “Self-made religion...(is) of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:23).

A heart transplant is what is needed. A complete rebirth. The Bible uses the term “regeneration.” It means, literally, “new birth.” That is something Jesus alone can do. It is what He prescribed to Nicodemus (John 3:7). He is of sin the “double-cure.” Through His work on the cross He grants, to the believer, both forgiveness and heart-change. Sin’s power is broken. The heart is changed and renewed and made healthy in Him (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10).

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The new birth is a wonderful thing! Christ Himself takes up residence in the heart of the believer. And His glorious presence there shines forth in wonderful ways. Sinful words and deeds are put off, supernatural virtues take their place. By a work of the Spirit these Christlike virtues usher forth from the born-again believer. A host of damning vices are replaced by glorious and compelling virtues (Galatians 5:22-23). The good heart bears good fruit (Luke 8:15).

What is the condition of your heart? The great physician can alone give a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis for every son of Adam is the same—a heart transplant is the only hope. Christ alone can do such a thing. He offers both forgiveness and transformation. Countless remedies have been offered, and are being offered, to rectify man’s condition. Anything less than rebirth through saving faith in Christ alone will not do. He alone can make us “heart-healthy.”

Pastor Jerry

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Mark 5:19, “Go…and report…what great things the Lord has done for you.”

The demon-possessed man was greatly tormented. He had been driven away to live in the tombs (Mark 5:3). He had been bound with shackles and chains, but the demons were powerful enough to enable Him to tear apart the chains and break apart the shackles (Mark 5:3-4). No one was strong enough to subdue him. “Constantly, night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones” (Mark 5:5). Luke’s account adds that the man “had not put on any clothing for a long time (Luke 8:27). So violent was the man, and his demon-possessed companion, that no one could pass by them on the road (Matthew’s account speaks of two men). One can imagine children and travelers being warned to avoid these men and that area. They were injurious to themselves and dangerous to their community.

Jesus cast the demons out—into the swine (two thousand of them; PETA would not have been pleased). Instantly the man was made well. The torment ended. The people from the city and the country came to see what happened: “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion.’” (Mark 5:15). The man was no doubt rejoicing in his new found freedom. He begged Jesus that he might accompany Him. But Jesus did not permit Him and instead told him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). It would have been wonderful to hear that man tell the story of how Jesus delivered him! He no doubt did as he was instructed. We too have a story to tell.

“Go…and report…what great things the Lord has done for you.” You may have heard of Jeremy Lin. His sudden emergence as an NBA star has brought to him a lot of attention. The New York Knicks have been undefeated since his recent insertion into the starting lineup. So what is Jeremy Lin thinking about his sudden rise to stardom in the NBA? “I’m thinking about how I can trust God more? How can I surrender more? How can I bring Him more glory?” Lin is an outspoken Christian and has made it no secret that he thanks God for everything in his life. Interviewed after hitting a game winning shot at the end of yesterday’s game with Toronto, Jeremy Lin said this: “I just thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” To be sure it is only basketball, but his readiness to speak of Christ is both refreshing and encouraging. He is fulfilling what is commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

“Go…and report…what great things the Lord has done for you.” J. C. Ryle, “If we have anything to tell others about Christ, let us resolve to tell it. Let us not be silent, if we have found peace and rest in the Gospel. Let us speak to our relations, and friends, and families, and neighbors, according as we have opportunity, and tell them what the Lord has done for our souls. All are not called to be ministers. All are not intended to preach. But all can walk in the steps of the man of whom we have been reading, and in the steps of Andrew, and Philip, and the Samaritan woman (John 1:41, 45; 4:29). Happy is he who is not ashamed to say to others, “Come and hear what the Lord has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16).

Share His love by telling what the Lord has done for you,
Share His love by sharing of your faith,
And show the world that Jesus Christ is real to you
Ev’ry moment, ev’ry day.

Pastor Jerry

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Mark 4:35-41

In 1986 two brothers, both fishermen/amateur archeologists, found remains of a buried boat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. A drought had receded the shoreline and exposed the long-hidden remains. The boat was determined to be of the New Testament era—the same kind of boat that would have been used by Jesus’ fishermen-disciples. Once uncovered, it was examined and determined to be 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, and 4.3 feet high. It was of shallow draft and flat bottom that it might be able to get close to shore while fishing. Great for fishing—not so great for surviving a great storm at sea.

Jesus was in such a boat with His disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. “A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mark 4:37). Those disciples were experienced sea-men. They knew how that sea was prone to such sudden changes. And they knew what to do on such occasions. But this storm was too great. And their boat was about to sink. They feared for their lives.

It was at this point that they cried out to Jesus: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? (Mark 4:38). They were anxious. He was sleeping. “How can He sleep in the midst of this gale?” they thought. Doesn’t He care that we are about to capsize and sink to the depths?

“Do you not care?” They may not verbalize it, but Christ’s followers are oftentimes prone to think it. “Sin and despair like the sea-waves cold threaten the soul with infinite loss.” Too often our response is to curse the storm and try by any means to escape. The disciples were fortunate to have Jesus in their boat. The believer in Christ has Him too. He merely spoke a word to the wind and the sea and there was “a great calm” (Mark 4:39). Their fear of the storm was exchanged for “a great fear” that caused them to ask amongst themselves: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).

Does He care? He has proven that He does (Romans 8:32; 1 John 3:16). Does He care? He pleads for us to bring our cares to Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Does He care? Yes indeed. He may not suspend the adverse winds and waves, but He can impart to our hearts and minds a peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

John Newton was a wicked and blasphemous unbeliever. His life was characterized by sinful rebellion and tortured and ruined relationships. As a slave ship captain he was responsible for the suffering, torture, and deaths of hundreds of slaves. On March 10th, 1748 he was on board a much bigger boat (ship) in the middle of the sea. That ship too was confronted by a terrible storm. When the ship went plunging down into a trough of the sea there were few on board who expected her to come up again. The hold was filling up rapidly with water. As Newton hurried to his place at the pumps he said to the captain, “If this will not do, the Lord have mercy upon us!” His own words startled him. “Mercy!” he said to himself in astonishment. “Mercy! Mercy! What mercy can there be for me? This was the first desire I had breathed for many years!” About six in the evening the hold was free of water, and then came a gleam of hope. “I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favor. I began to pray. I could not utter the prayer of faith. I could not draw near to a reconciled God and call Him Father. My prayer for mercy was like the cry of the ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear.” Later Newton would say, “That 10th of March is a day much to be remembered by me; and I have never allowed it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748. For on that day the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of the deep waters.” It would be many years hence until Newton would sincerely begin a walk with the Savior, and years after that when he would pen his famous hymn, Amazing Grace. But seeds of faith were planted on that day when he first realized—in a boat--that indeed God does care. At the end of his life he would utter those wonderful words: “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” In other words: “He cares—even for such a one as I!”

Those storms were no accidents. Storms happen. They touch on every part of the planet. And the troubles and trials of life touch every soul. God has a purpose in them—to illicit faith in Him. The disciples had no need to fear—having Jesus, “the master of the seas,” in their boat. But they remained anxious ‘til they asked Jesus for help. The believer in Christ is indwelt with the “great Savior.” God’s purpose in our troubles is that we might turn to Him for help. If you have Jesus in your life you have no need to fear. He knows about your troubles. He can bring peace to your heart if you but trust Him. He is trustworthy. And He cares!

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I.

Pastor Jerry

Monday, February 13, 2012


Mark 3:20-21, “Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, “He is out of His mind.”

He was out of His mind. At least that was the assessment of Jesus’ family. His brothers had not yet believed in Him (John 7:5). They couldn’t understand what He was doing. It made no sense to them. Traveling from place to place. Appointing disciples. Gathering huge crowds. Upsetting the religious leaders. No concern for Himself. No time to eat. No place to sleep. Constantly and relentlessly seeing to the needs of others.

They were worried about Him so they organized a family intervention. Long before the days of psychologists and DSM manuals, they had made their own diagnosis. He was crazy! There was something mentally wrong with Jesus. They went out to seize Him in order to take Him home. Perhaps a little rest and family advice might set His mind aright.

How are we to discern who is of a right mind? What is normal? Jesus’ behavior was not normal, as far as the world defines “normal.” If He lived in our day people would think Him crazy too. But what’s the truth concerning Jesus?

Of all the minds that have ever thought, no mind was more “sane” that His. As a child, His teaching amazed the teachers (Luke 2:47). He taught “as one who had authority”—“the crowds were astonished at His teaching” (Matthew 6:28-29). He confounded His opponents with His answers (Matthew 22:46). In Him “are hidden all the treasures or wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). His thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than the thoughts and ways of mere men (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).

In His humanity, unmarred by sin’s influence, He had the mind of a perfect man. His mind never entertained an errant or impure thought. It thought only that which was consistent and true, holy and pure. He was infinitely smarter and saner than any man who had ever lived or ever will.

He was perfectly consistent in His thinking and His living. He purposed to do all that He did—in perfect submission to the Father’s will (John 4:34). He was not out of His mind—He was acting in perfect conformity to it. His life and His thinking were not abnormal, but the true normal. He was not out of His mind—everyone else was and is. We are all crazy in sin.

His mother and brothers would one day reverse their assessment. In His ultimate “crazy” act He died on the cross to save us—and to save us from our sin insanity. Through His work every saved soul experiences a new birth (2 Corinthians 5:17) and enters into a “mind-renewal” process (Romans 12:2). They are made to be “crazy” too. The narrow way that leads to life is filled with people who are “out of their minds;” at least as far as the world is concerned. Their allegiance to Christ and self-sacrificing manner of life makes no sense to broad way travelers. His followers are frequently maligned and even persecuted for their peculiar way of thinking and living (1 Peter 2:9-10; Ephesians 4:17-18).

But it matters not what others think. What matters is God’s assessment. They thought Him crazy—But God said “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:7). That’s what “sane” people do—they listen to Him and follow His example (Mark 3:34). Don’t be alarmed, believer, if others think you to be “out of your mind.” They thought the same thing about Jesus (1 John 3:1).

Pastor Jerry

Friday, February 10, 2012


Mark 2:1-12

It is the nature of faith to overcome difficulties and obstacles. With firm confidence in its object, faith is not deterred by such things. A man athirst in an arid desert believes an oasis can assuage his thirst—that faith propels him forth across the sandy reaches. Faith finds a way when there isn’t any way.

We are not told how long the man had been paralyzed nor what caused his condition. It might have been for many years. And it is hard for us to imagine the severity of his need. Legs were made to walk, arms to do many things—but his were immovable and worthless to him. He was dependent on others for all things and that was, no doubt, the hardest thing. He had likely long ago lost any hope of every being cured.

But they had heard about Jesus--he and his friends. They had heard about the healings that He had done. And he thought—they thought—maybe Jesus could heal him too. But everyone had heard about Jesus—“people were coming to Him from every quarter” (Mark 1:45). And though he had come to town, there was no way “to get near Him” (Mark 2:4). The multitudes were there. “Pharisees and teachers…from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem” were there (Luke 5:17). The home was filled, and so was the doorway. It would be hard enough for a man by himself to make his way through such a crowd, let alone friends carrying a paralyzed man.

But true faith finds a way when there isn’t any way. It deems its object trustworthy. It looks past the difficulties and obstacles. Someone came up with the plan--it could have been one of the friends or the man himself—but they all concurred. “What if we let him down through the roof” they thought. But there were still difficulties. To carry their friend on his bed—a hard thing. To carry their friend on a bed to the roof—harder still. To let him down through the roof to Jesus—most difficult. It would not be easy. But faith finds a way when there isn’t any way. Its confidence in its object overcomes such obstacles.

His friends cautiously made their way to the roof, then “let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center, in front of Jesus” (Luke 5:19). “Seeing their faith, (Jesus) said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20). A debate then ensued between the religious leaders and Jesus regarding that matter, but the end result for the man was the same. “He said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, and take up your stretcher and go home” (Luke 5:24). “And at once he rose up before them, and took up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God” (Luke 5:25).

They had believed that if they could make their way to Jesus, their friend would be made well. Their faith devised an elaborate plan and propelled their laborious efforts. “Their faith” (Luke 5:20) was rewarded (Hebrews 11:6) and their friend was healed and forgiven! Immobile hands and feet were given new life and steps were taken and all was changed!

To problems great and small Jesus is the answer. Sometimes Goliath sized fears and difficulties immobilize us. “Sin and despair, like the seawaves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss.” Faith says: “Jesus is Able!” He cares, He knows and He is able to forgive, restore and set things aright. Sometimes we are like the paralyzed man. We are dependent on our believing friends to carry us to the throne of grace that we “may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16; Galatians 6:2). Sometimes we are carried, sometimes we carry. But in all cases we concur that Jesus is the answer (Cf. Romans 1:12). And no matter the how great the disappointments, difficulties, or doubts—we must make our way to Him. He is the answer! True faith finds a way!

J. C. Ryle, “We are told that one paralyzed was brought to our Lord, at Capernaum, in order to be healed. Helpless and impotent, he was carried in his bed by four kind friends, and let down into the midst of the place where Jesus was preaching. At once the object of the man's desire was gained. The great Physician of soul and body saw him, and gave him speedy relief. He restored him to health and strength. He granted him the far greater blessing of forgiveness of sins. In short, the man who had been carried from his house that morning weak, dependent, and bowed down both in body and soul, returned to his own house rejoicing.”

Pastor Jerry

Thursday, February 9, 2012


It has been noted that Mark’s gospel uniquely sets forth Jesus as the perfect servant. It contains no genealogy of his heritage and no mention of His birth. His works are emphasized, not His words. Mark 10:45 is a key verse: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

But Mark began his gospel by asserting an essential and glorious truth, the perfect servant is none other than the divine Son of God: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). These two truths—the divinity and servanthood of Christ—are wonderfully coalesced in His person and gloriously revealed in His work. Both majesty and meekness serve as fitting descriptions of our Lord Jesus.

The many works of the servant Jesus recorded in this gospel account are indeed the works of a servant, but no ordinary servant. He is the Divine Son of God, the creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:1-4). That He would come in human flesh to dwell among men testifies to the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16). That He would die for our sins exalts the great measure of His love, grace and mercy (Cf. Ephesians 2:4; 3:18-19).

J. C. Ryle, “There is a beautiful fitness in placing this truth in the very beginning of a Gospel. The divinity of Christ is the citadel and keep of Christianity. Here lies the infinite value of the atoning sacrifice He made on the cross. Here lies the peculiar merit of His atoning death for sinners. The death was not the death of a mere man, like ourselves, but of one who is “over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:5). We need not wonder that the sufferings of one person were a sufficient propitiation for the sin of a world, when we remember that He who suffered was the “Son of God.” Let believers cling to this doctrine with jealous watchfulness. With it, they stand upon a rock. Without it, they have nothing solid beneath their feet. Our hearts are weak. Our sins are many. We need a Redeemer who is able to save to the uttermost, and deliver from the wrath to come. We have such a Redeemer in Jesus Christ. He is “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).

Emptied of His glory;
God became a man,
To walk on earth in ridicule and shame.
A Ruler, yet a Servant;
A Shepherd, yet a Lamb;
A Man of Sorrows, agony and pain.

Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

Pastor Jerry

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


It was a huge stone. According to Mark’s gospel, “it was extremely large” (Mark 16:4). Frank Morison called the stone at Jesus’ tomb “the one silent and infallible witness in the whole episode—and there are certain facts about this stone which call for very careful study and investigation.” He went on to say: “Let us consider first its size and probable character…no doubt the stone was large and consequently very heavy. This fact is asserted and implied by all the writers who refer to it. Mark says it was “exceeding great.” Matthew speaks of it as a “great stone.” Peter says “for the stone was great.” Additional testimony on this point is furnished by the reported anxiety of the women as to how they should move it (Mark 16:3). If the stone had not been of considerable weight the combined strength of three women should have been capable of moving it. We receive, therefore, a very definite impression that is was at least too weighty for the women to move unaided.”

It has been suggested that the stone weighed somewhere between 3000 and 4000 lbs and was of sufficient size and weight which “twenty men could not roll away.” The stone was just one of the security measures Pilate had put in place. He sent a guard (16 soldiers) to secure the tomb, instructing them to “make it as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65). Those Roman soldiers were proud and capable—they failed in a given task under penalty of death. The guard set a “seal on the stone.” A. T. Robertson commented that the method of sealing was “probably by a cord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end as in Daniel 6:17…The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guards who were left in charge to protect the stamp of Roman authority and power.”

The soldiers, the seal, and the stone were set in place. They had done everything they could to make the grave secure—but how can you lock up the creator in a cave? “It was impossible for Him to be held in (death’s) power” (Acts 2:24). Every soldier from the entirety of the Roman Empire would not have been able to keep Him in that tomb. The Devil himself could have sealed the tomb with titanium bands and it would have done no good. Mountain atop mountain would have not have kept entombed He “who is the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out (the creator is not bound by such things), but to let the witnesses in. They came to the tomb and found “an angel of the Lord (who had) descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it” (Matthew 28:2). They entered the tomb and saw for themselves, “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). The Roman soldiers witnessed the security breach. They went to the leaders, who then bribed them to lie (Matthew 28:11-15).

He rose from the dead. He presented Himself alive to the apostles (and others) “by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3; Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-80). They, having been commissioned by the Risen Lord, went forth boldly proclaiming His death and resurrection (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 4:10; 4:33; 5:30; 10:39-40; 13:39-40). Most of them suffered martyrdom for the gospel message that they preached.

Years ago, still unsure what to believe, I attended a church in Kailua, Oahu. The pastor was not there so one of the elders gave the sermon. It had something to do with the resurrection of Christ—I cannot recall exactly. But afterwards I went up to the man and asked him how he could know for sure that Jesus had risen from the dead. He did not speak of all of the Biblical evidence of the resurrection—though God has used such evidence to lead others to Christ (i.e. Frank Morison)—he spoke of how Christ lived inside of Him. That was how he knew.

And so it is today. There are plenty who, in their efforts to “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18), would love to shove Jesus back in that tomb. The problem is—He is the risen Lord! And He’s coming again! And no manipulation of man—no matter how clever or strong—can erase that truth. He lives inside the heart of the believer (2 Corinthians 13:5). The “surpassing greatness of His power” is at work in their lives (Ephesians 1:19). No grave will hold them either—when Christ comes for His own (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Pastor Jerry


Given the choice between freeing Barabbas, a notorious prisoner (Matthew 26:16), or Jesus—the multitudes chose Barabbas. Having been thus persuaded by the chief priests and elders, they called for His death. “Let Him be crucified!” they all said (Matthew 26:22). Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “LET HIM BE CRUCIFIED!” (Matthew 27:23). In a cataclysmic act of injustice the rebellious jury demanded the death of their creator and King.

A growing chorus of voices joined in the malignant and abusive song. The soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium where He was surrounded by an entire Roman battalion (six hundred soldiers when at full strength). They stripped Him, put a scarlet robe and crown of thorns on Him, and placed a reed in His right hand. “They kneeled down before Him and MOCKED Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Matthew 27:29). “And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. And after they MOCKED Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to be crucified” (Matthew 27:31).

As He hung there on that cross, “those passing by were HURLING ABUSE at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:39-40).

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were MOCKING Him, and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him” (Matthew 27:41).

“And the robbers also who had been crucified with Him were casting the SAME INSULT at Him” (Matthew 27:44).

In a great perversion of infinite proportion tongues made to praise offered nothing but scorn. Isaiah had a vision of the Lord on a throne, lofty and exalted, surrounded by angels calling out to one another “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3). Isaiah was humbled and realized his shortcoming: “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). What Isaiah realized regarding his lips, the cross scene reiterated and revealed regarding us all. The rebellious heart of man was made clearly evident at the cross, when He, the creator of all things, was mocked by His created.

In response to blasphemy and insults, He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering He uttered no threats” (1 Peter 2:23). “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). And through His death He provided a way for forgiveness. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Amongst the various aspects of Jesus’ healing are the heart and the tongue of a man. Rebel sinners sing the same mocking tune today. It is His name they curse (1 Corinthians 12:3), His cross they count as foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23), His coming they mock (2 Peter 3:3). But a marvelous transformation takes place when a person is born-again—the heinous rebellious tune is exchanged for a beautiful melody (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3).

There will come a day when all the multitudes will acknowledge that which they previously mocked: When “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). In Heaven, no mocking voices will be heard, only praise. A great and ever-broadening choir of voices will sing and ultimately declare: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:8-14).

By His wounds mocking tongues are healed in order that they should fulfill their God-given purpose—to praise and worship Him (Cf. Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:9). Both thieves were casting insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:44). But one had a God-given change of heart. Through eyes of faith he recognized the truth about Jesus (Luke 23:43). In trusting in Christ he changed his tune and was delivered from the mire to the choir. Praise the Lord!

Pastor Jerry

Monday, February 6, 2012


Zechariah had said so. Hundreds of years beforehand he had prophesied of the disciple’s response--“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). Jesus warned them that they would all fall away. Peter disagreed, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33)…“Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).

Peter was frequently bold in his assertions. He was the one with the right answer when the question was raised, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). He boldly proclaimed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). And then there was that occasion, after the feeding of the 5000, when many of Jesus’ followers deserted Him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:66). It was Peter who said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68). Peter had made it clear that he was with Jesus no matter what.

But Satan had demanded permission to tempt Peter (Luke 22:31). And Jesus foretold his betrayal (Matthew 26:34). “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times,” He said (Matthew 26:34). And so it came to pass. Peter had bravely cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (John 18:10), but before a servant girl he was not so brave. “You also were with Jesus the Galilean” she said (Matthew 26:70). But he denied it. Another servant girl saw him and said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 26:71). “And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” And then one of the bystanders came up to him and said: “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you” (Matthew 26:73). “Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:74). And the rooster crowed. And Peter went out and wept bitterly.

“The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), Jesus had told His disciples. That was before Peter’s denial. While Jesus labored in prayer, the disciples fell asleep. The flesh is weak. And it was weak when the temptation came and the servant girls and bystanders loomed larger than Goliath. One can only imagine the sorrow Peter felt. His love for Jesus was undeniable. To betray His Master that way—unforgiveable. Or so he must have thought. And what child of God has not experienced failure? Good intentions, for whatever reason, have led to bad results. And sorrow and despair and troubled conscience have brought torment, discouragement, and even depression. The devil delights in such things. But the ability of Christ to forgive and restore is greater. Take courage, believer for “He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:5). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Jesus had foretold both Peter’s failure and restoration. “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers,” He said (Luke 22:31). And so we have that wonderful account of Peter’s restoration, following Christ’s resurrection, in John chapter 21. And Jesus asked Peter, three times (corresponding to Peter’s three denials), if he loved Him (John 21:15-17). And Jesus spoke of a future day when Peter would indeed lay down his life for His master (John 21:18-19; Luke 22:33).

It was not many days later when Peter and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). A multitude of people, “from every nation under heaven,” was gathered together (Acts 2:5). In that multitude were those who played a part in Christ’s death (Acts 2:23). Those servant girls and bystanders might very well have been there too. It was a crowd exceeding 3000 souls (Acts 2:41). And there was Peter—he who had denied Jesus—boldly proclaiming the truth about Him before a great multitude. And He explained the truth about Jesus. And about 3000 souls were saved (Acts 2:41).

Peter had good intentions, but they were not enough. But his failure was not the end of the story. Jesus found him and restored him and strengthened him. And then, by the Spirit, Peter was emboldened to do things he could never do in his own strength (Acts 1:8; 4:31).

Let the cross be our glory
And the Lord be our song
By mercy made holy
By the Spirit made strong

Pastor Jerry

Friday, February 3, 2012


Matthew 25:31-46

The passage before us, like others in these two chapters (Matthew 24-25), has led to a myriad of interpretations. It has been often misused by some to proclaim a “social gospel” and by others to teach a salvation by works. Much of the confusion occurs because the passage is stolen from its context.

We agree with John Walvoord, who addressed this matter: “A further distinction must be observed in that the Scriptures clearly indicate that God has a separate judgment for the nation Israel (Ezek 20:34-38) and in this case the judgment would include Gentiles rather than the Jewish nation. As will be seen in the exposition this gives a reasonable interpretation of the term “brethren” as in contrast both to the sheep and the goats. Accordingly, on a strict exegesis of this passage, the judgment deals with those on earth among the Gentiles who have survived the tribulation and now await judgment in relation to entrance into the millennial kingdom. It is accordingly not a general judgment, not a judgment of the church which has been raptured earlier, nor is it a judgment of the dead as in Revelation 20:11-15.

So this passage represents neither the judgment seat of Christ (for believers subsequent to the rapture) or the Great White Throne judgment (the judgment of the dead referred to in Revelation 20). It is a judgment of the nations with regards to the treatment of “His brethren” (Matthew 25:40). A judgment that will take place at the end of the tribulation.

Another important and oft-neglected aspect of this judgment has to do with the significance of the deeds that were commended. The things spoken of are indeed things that every child of God should do—in any age. But understanding the context of the deeds helps to better appreciate their importance. The great tribulation will be a time of persecution for the Jesus—referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” The persecution will be so great that two-thirds of the Jews in the land will die (Cf. Zechariah 13:8). That time will be marked by a satanic hatred of the Jewish people (much as exists in this age but to a higher degree). Satan will once again attempt to exterminate them as he has done before in previous occasions. Those faithful Jews who refuse to worship the world ruler will face a death sentence. It is in that context that these deeds take place. Walvoord notes, “Accordingly, these works of kindness take on tremendous significance as they would involve extreme danger on the part of the person performing them...for a person under these circumstances to befriend “my brethren,” it would indicate true faith in God.” The works spoken of thus giving evidence of that “true faith.”

In Hitler’s Germany there was likewise a great persecution of the Jews. Jews were despised, thrown out of their businesses, ostracized, and ultimately led off to slaughter. And there were some believers in Christ who stood against the tide of that growing hatred and persecution. They spoke out, they intervened, they hid, fed, clothed, visited, and showed love towards the Jews in that day—knowing full well that their benevolent intervention would threaten their own lives and/or livelihood. Some were sent to the prison camps where they suffered the same fate as the Jews they had cared for. History has a way of repeating itself.

At the end of the tribulation “all the nations will be gathered before Him” (Matthew 25:32). The long standing promise—“I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3)—will be once again fulfilled. We should indeed do the things spoken of in this passage—care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the unclothed, the imprisoned—true faith in God is revealed in so doing (Cf. 1 John 3:16-17; James 2:14-17). But to show love to God’s people in His name when great risk is involved—that’s a glorious thing indeed. That kind of sacrificial love is even now being demonstrated by believers towards their persecuted brethren in various parts of the world.

As believers in Christ we will not be at this particular judgment, but we will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” We will then “be recompensed for (our) deeds in the body, according to what (we) have done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those deeds done with His love, by His grace, through the Spirit, in obedience—these alone will pass the test. The gold, silver, precious stone-like deeds built on the good foundation of a genuine relationship with Christ will remain. All else will be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Let us be careful then to show love to others and especially to those being persecuted for their faith (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 10:34, 13:3). God is pleased with such sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Pastor Jerry

Thursday, February 2, 2012


By all accounts Herod’s temple was a glorious thing. It had taken a year and a half to build the temple proper and eight years to finish the courts. Other additions continued on such that the entire undertaking was not finished until decades later (Cf. John 2:20). The temple transversed an area of some 750 feet and was easily visible from any part of the city. Some of the stones used in its construction were of massive proportion (over 60 feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet deep).

The disciples and Jesus were there at the temple. “Some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts.” He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:5-6; Cf. Matthew 24:1-2).

Jewish life revolved around the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices. The temple was a beautiful edifice and of highest importance to the Jews—the centerpiece of their Jewish identity. No doubt thousands had walked by, day-after-day, admiring those beautiful stones. But Jesus saw things differently. He spoke of a day when it would all be torn down. That day would not be long in coming.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, was an eyewitness of the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), Titus gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it (Jerusalem) had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”

As with all other warnings—given by God to man—Jesus’ prediction was fulfilled to the letter. The glorious temple came crashing down. Jesus’ prophecy gave rise to the disciple’s questions: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3). Matthew chapters 24-25 (aka, “the Olivet Discourse) records Jesus’ response. As with much of prophecy, this passage is a hermeneutical minefield. Much care must be exercised in its interpretation. Those, like myself, who are of a dispensational, pre-tribulational, and pre-millennial persuasion, understand the passage to be speaking primarily of future events: 1) Verses 4-8--the present church age; 2) Verses 9-26--the future tribulation; 3) Verses 27-51—the future Second Advent and exhortation to watchfulness; and 4) 25:1-46—future judgment on Israel and the nations. The rapture, later revealed to (and through) the Apostle Paul, is not referenced in these chapters.

But, regardless of one’s particular interpretation, there can be no doubt—judgment is coming (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 2 Peter 3:3-13; Jude 14-16). These prophecies will likewise be fulfilled to the letter. The temple was indeed torn down, but refuge is to be had in another temple. Jesus had spoken on a previous occasion of the destruction of that temple: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). That statement was later used to falsely accuse Him (Matthew 26:61). But He had been speaking of His body: “When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:22).

Judgment is indeed coming. More than a temple will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). How shall anyone escape? The “glorious gospel of the blessed God” is the power of God to save (1 Timothy 1:11; Romans 1:16). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…He was buried…and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). It is the destruction of His temple (His body)—and His subsequent resurrection—that serves as the basis for one’s salvation. He “died for sins once for all, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Salvation is by grace through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).

There is another lesson here that I cannot avoid to remind myself of. Don’t be overly impressed or dependent on earthly things. They might be big and impressive and even appear to be immovable—like that temple. We saw this past year how a mighty wave suddenly worked to destroy entire towns (in the tsunami in Japan). Peter wrote, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…But according to promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13). God has a special place prepared for us, as believers, in heaven—“Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above; not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Sin and despair, like the seawaves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater—yes, grace untold—
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Pastor Jerry

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Remember that scene in the “The Wizard of Oz?” Dorothy and friends overcome many obstacles in making their way to the Wizard—assuming that he could somehow help them. They enter his chamber and are confronted by an awesome and frightening display. His voice loudly bellows out from a supersized face high on the wall. Flashes of flame usher forth around them. They shrink back in fear. But then Toto (the dog) starts barking at something behind a curtain. So they pull the curtain back and see something startling, a man at a control panel of levers and such. The Wizard is not who he appeared to be at all—he is not a great and awesome wizard—he is but a little man putting on a show.

The Lord Jesus Christ pulled back the curtain and unveiled the truth regarding the scribes and Pharisees. No stronger words of condemnation would pass from His lips (Matthew chapter 23). Eight “woes” were declared unto them. The word was a warning of pending doom. The omniscient and righteous Lord saw through their religious veneer—they had been “weighed on the scales and found deficient” (Daniel 5:27). Their doom was assured (Matthew 23:33).

They were hypocrites. Seven times that word appears. The word was used in that day to describe an “actor, stage player, or pretender.” They were making a good show of religion, but it was just that—all for show. They did not do as they taught (Matthew 23:3-4). They were false shepherds who didn’t care about the sheep (Matthew 23:4). Their deeds were done, not for God, but to be noticed by men (Matthew 23:5). They loved places of honor and to be called by prestigious titles (Matthew 23:23:6-10). They had no capacity or desire to serve and reveled in pride (Matthew 23:11-12). They were caretakers of the broad path that leads to destruction (Matthew 23:13). They took advantage of widows, while pretending to care (Matthew 23:14). They would travel far to make converts to their false religion (Matthew 23:15). They were dishonest (Matthew 23:16-22). They carefully observed countless traditions, but neglected “the weightier provisions of the law” (Matthew 23:23-24). They observed various external “washings,” but their hearts were full of “robbery and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25-26). They were “whitewashed tombs…full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27-28). They feigned honor for the prophets of old, but as with their forefathers, they would one day demonstrate the same kind of hatred towards future prophets (Matthew 23:29-36).

They thought highly of themselves. They epitomized a “righteousness which is in the Law” (Philippians 3:6). Others no doubt highly esteemed them. And measured by a different standard, they might have gotten away with it. But the standard of measure is not man (2 Corinthians 10:12)--our hearts are laid bare before God (Hebrews 4:13).

The contrast between the scribes and Pharisees and Jesus could not be more distinct. He did as He taught. He did not do to please men, but the Father (John 4:34). He came not to lay burdens, but to give rest (Matthew 11:28). They were false shepherds; He is the Good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:1-11). They loved places of honor, He laid aside His divine privileges and became poor that we might be made rich (Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 8:9). They had no capacity or desire to serve, He came to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). They were caretakers of the broad way, He is the narrow Way (Matthew 7:13-14). They took advantage of the unfortunate, He cared for sick, the blind, the demon-possessed, the widows, the children (Matthew 19:13-14; 21:14). They elevated their traditions, He perfectly fulfilled God’s law (Matthew 5:17-19). They were whitewashed tombs, “in Him was life” (John 1:4).

We do this text a disservice if we merely apply it to people long ago in a place far away. The heart and mind of Jesus is revealed to us in His strong rebuke. What did Jesus think of the Pharisaic cult? We know from His words. What does Jesus think of religious hypocrisy? Can any “self-made religion” (Colossians 2:23) substitute for that which God requires. The righteousness that is bound up in Christ alone is alone acceptable before God. No amount of religious activity can substitute for that. We are all full of dead men’s bones (Ephesians 2:1), apart from God’s intervention. We are all whitewashed tombs, lest we be called forth like Lazarus from the grave (John 11:43; Ephesians 2:5). The sins of the scribes and Pharisees are all too common amongst men. Pride, hypocrisy, self-indulgence, taking advantage of others—these sins are not reserved for the cultists alone. Any religion that invests heavily in self-effort is inevitably hypocritical because heart-change is Christ’s doing, not ours. In Christ alone we receive forgiveness and transformation. Am I fully invested in Christ and His finished work on the cross? That’s the question. Having begun by faith in Him is my walk now characterized by “purity and simplicity of devotion” (2 Corinthians 11:3) to Him.

One Pharisee ultimately found this out. His religious resume was the same as the scribes and Pharisees Jesus condemned. He was amongst those who Jesus warned of (Matthew 23:34). By his own testimony he was “found blameless” “as to the righteousness which is in the Law” (Philippians 3:6). But on the road to Damascus Christ pulled back the curtain—his religious veneer was stripped away. Humbled before Christ, He was saved and transformed (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:12-17). He wrote of his changed perspective: “More than that I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). A divine reappraisal led to a reordering of priorities. Religious self-effort = rubbish. Knowing Christ = of “surpassing value.” Self-righteousness, no matter how impressive, will be proved to be deficient. “The righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” is alone acceptable before God (Philippians 3:9). Christ alone can save us from our sins (and from the sin of hypocrisy). Anything less or anything else is bad religion.

Pastor Jerry