Three Crosses Blog

  • February 28 - Matthew 28

    Matthew 28 - read it here.

    An earthquake and everything changes…for some people. Earthquakes can be unique in this way. The lives of those near the epicenter of a large earthquake experience life altering changes through trauma, loss of property, loss of life, etc.  All of this, while others, which are out in the open or further away from the center can be unaffected.

    I see earthquakes as an analogy to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and how it impacts people’s lives. Interestingly, earthquakes feature prominently in connection with Jesus. At the moment of death, an earthquake tore the curtains in the temple and spilt stones and tombs releasing the dead in Christ, at His resurrection a large earthquake occurs and the stone on the entrance is moved, and in Matthew 24 we see that the increase in earthquakes will proceed His second coming.

    As we read in this Gospel; those who loved and followed Jesus, staying close to Him, had lives that were dramatically altered by Him. They left behind family and relationships, careers and property, and many have lost their earthly lives for sake of Christ and His Kingdom. However, in doing this they also gained a much larger family in becoming children of God, gained new tangible and intangible resources as members and fellowship in the ‘family’, and most importantly, gained Jesus. Others that were near, but kept a safe distance carried on with life as usual though, seemingly unaffected.

    Finishing this book I am reminded that committing to stay close to Jesus is bound to shake to the ground of my life. We are warned about this and to count the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25-34. If we have decided to follow Jesus closely and to become His disciples, He has given a command that will surely be costly and alter our lives: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with always, to the end of the age.” May the earth and the people in it be impacted as we obey this command. - Ben Deibel

  • February 27 - Matthew 27

    Matthew 27 - read it here.

    (The following is a guest post from Pastor Dan Leman).

    The crucifixion of Jesus was, at the same time, the greatest evil and the greatest good that the world has ever known.

    Why it was Evil
    The trial and condemnation of Jesus was a tremendous miscarriage of justice. As we read yesterday, the trial before Caiaphas was a sham, with the Council determined to condemn Jesus even though they were struggling to find two false witnesses whose testimony would agree. In today's chapter Pilate knows that Jesus is not guilty and that the chief priests had delivered Jesus over to him "out of envy." Furthermore, his wife warned him of a dream she had had concerning this righteous man. Pilate tried to game the system, letting the Jews pick a convict to release. When they surprised him by picking the notorious Barabbas, Pilate still could have asserted his authority and insisted that justice be done towards Jesus. Instead, he sacrificed Jesus to prevent a riot and tried to wash his hands of it. But he was still guilty of the blood of a truly innocent man.

    It is bad enough that so many people were complicit in framing and condemning the one truly innocent man who had ever lived. But when I consider that Jesus was also God, the vileness of it all becomes infinitely worse. They falsely accused God. They scourged God. They mocked God. They killed God. The rebellion started by Satan so long ago reached it's apparent climax in the murder of the Creator of the universe.

    Why it was Good
    Satan has always been a dupe on a leash. He has never accomplished any victory that did not ultimately lead to his purposes being thwarted and greater glory for God. All of the pain, all of the suffering, and, yes, all of the sin, was subject to the sovereign purpose of God. It was the will of God that this great evil be perpetrated so that an infinitely greater good could be achieved. God purposed that Jesus would die in order that all of the world would stand in awe of His glorious grace. Instead of being a symbol of the triumph of evil over good, the cross has become the symbol of the triumph of God over sin and death. As strange as it may seem, through this cruel instrument of execution came the clearest exposition of the love and justice and sovereignty and glory of God that the world has ever known. The death of Jesus on the cross was so earth-shattering (literally) that it's all the rest of the New Testament writers could talk about. And it is so rich in meaning that I'm sure we'll be pondering the depths of the love of God as revealed in the cross well into eternity. Thank you Jesus, for the cross.

  • February 26 - Matthew 26

    Matthew 26 - read it here.

    The final chapters of Mathew have such a contrast of sadness and beauty, poverty and riches, pain and joy. In chapter 26, we see the worst of human sin and weakness set against the beauty of humility, service, sacrifice, and love.

    As Jesus finishes his public ministry with teaching and rebuking the religious establishment, the chief priests and elders finally determine to capture and put Him to death. Although Jesus has told his disciples several times that this must occur, we get no indication of concern or compassion from them. Then, a woman (Mary as we learn from John’s Gospel) anoints Jesus in extravagant worship, anointing him in costly ointment while His disciples were indignant being preoccupied with the “waste.”

    To be honest, this is natural to many of us. Perhaps due to how I was raised or my personality, I hate waste. Wasted time, wasted food, wasted money, and wasted gifts. However, the challenge of faith for me is to see that God is able to use and redeem what may seem wasted to us. I am reminded of the passages in Hebrew of Cain and Abel’s sacrifice and how it is impossible to please God without faith.  Much of our worship of Jesus requires sacrifice and it is only by faith that we can know that it is received and used by God.

    How do we know this? In this passage, we see Jesus suffer betrayal of the highest degree and failure in friendship by his closet disciples, Peter, James, and John. Despite this, he is pleased to share his final day as free man in communion and fellowship with them before His execution.  He submits willing to being arrested, questioned and abused knowing that His sacrifice will provide the covering and access needed for salvation and worship.

    The take away for me from this chapter is that there is no price too high, sacrifice too large, no act of worship too extravagant in honor and service to God that will ever be wasted. In fact, we are told by Jesus himself in Mathew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

    - Dan Leman

  • February 25 - Matthew 25

    Matthew 25 - read it here.

    As I reflected on this passage, I thought of how we, as Americans, have become so focused on the stock market, foreign markets like oil and gas, our banking systems, the Federal Reserve, etc.  Many of us have come to see how these not only effect our investments, but our larger economy. We have increasingly made our political, military, and judicial decisions based on the impact we hope they will make on our economy.

    Jesus changes the tables on how we should look at preparedness and investment when we read these parables. These carry at least two important warnings; we need to be ready at all times for an eventual meeting with the “Bridegroom” and part of our preparedness is having invested what we have been given faithfully.

    As we consider our careers and families, it is natural to think about and plan for how our needs will be met. Will we have retirement income and if so, how much? Will we have family to support us and if not, who will? Jesus reminds of here of a much more important question, will we have “oil in our lamps” when it comes time to meet Jesus? Throughout scripture, oil has been a metaphor for the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

    The only way to be prepared for what matters in life and death, is first, to repent from trying to save ourselves and to receive the free gift of salvation purchased by Jesus himself. The second is similar.

    In my previous readings of this chapter, I have failed to see the connection of the first two parables and the last passage on separating “sheep and goats”. As matter of habit or culture, I tend to assume that the work/investment God has given me is religious activity: evangelism, Bible study, church, and similar duties. However, one of the defining metrics Jesus will use in revealing who are and who are not His sheep, will be whether we fed, clothed, and visited the “least of these”, His brothers. How am I and how are we at investing our time and money in this?   - Ben Deibel

  • February 24 - Matthew 24

    Matthew 24 - read it here.

    (The following is a guest post by Dave's friend Dan Leman)

    Today's and tomorrow's chapters form a single unit of prophecy about the "end of the age." To be honest, when it comes to prophesy, I become a lot less sure of my abilities to correctly interpret the text. So, today's post will be short.

    Some
    preterists, like N.T. Wright, are convinced that most, if not all, the events described in this passage have already been fulfilled, particularly by the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by Rome. Many of the evangelicals of the "Left Behind" stripe believe that all of these events are yet to happen in a time period affectionately known as the "Great Tribulation." Right now I'm kind of a hybrid of the two.

    Clearly, the initial prophesy of the destruction of the temple was fulfilled in 70 A.D. But the rest of the discussion about the return of Jesus and final judgment sure makes it sound like these events haven't happened yet. If they have, I don't know how we missed them.

    One final note - I love that one of the preconditions of Jesus's return is that the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world to all nations (v.13-14). As a Gentile who formerly had no share in the promises, I am eternally grateful that Christianity has always been a missionary religion.

  • February 23 - Matthew 23

    Matthew 23  - read it here.

    Yesterday, I read the FBI's indictments of two businessmen who worked with President Trump’s campaign, Rick Gates and Paul Manafort.  Apparently, these two men used their positions of influence as consultants for powerful politicians around the world to amass millions of dollars, laundered through foreign corporations and banks, evading taxes, and obtaining fraudulent bank loans.

    “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    In chapter 23, we see Jesus indict the Pharisees and Sadducees for very similar actions. Although they have the authority and truth passed down from Moses, they misuse their position of authority for selfish gain, hindering and undermining the will of God.

    Jesus is revealing his insight, authority, and ultimately compassion by seeing through the facade and saying what nobody else will. 1 Samuel 16:7 “…For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

    Although the indictments and language of Jesus is harsh, cutting to the heart of their offenses, this does not bring him pleasure. The definition of “woe” means to have great sorrow and distress. Jesus feels the true weight and judgment of the “woes” he pronounces against the Pharisees and Sadducees and longs that they and all of His chosen people would see and repent: “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

    What a reminder today:  Jesus sees behind our motives to the heart. Knowing that He longs to grant repentance and to draw us close to Himself, may we be more concerned with the inside of our vessels than we are with the outside. - Ben Deibel

  • February 22 - Matthew 22

    Matthew 22 - read it here.

    Who is Jesus and how do we respond to him? This question is one of the most significant underlying themes in all the Gospels, the Bible really. In this chapter, we see an important illustration of who Jesus is and how we relate to him.

    Matthew 22:2: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…” We have been invited to a wedding feast with Jesus, the Son of God. I was pondering this while reading Psalm 45 the other day; what a joy-filled event!

    However, as we read in verses 3-5 of this chapter “(He)…sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come…they paid no attention…” Why would anybody ignore a call to such an awesome invitation? The answer is in the parable itself: money, power, and ultimately the pursuit of whatever drug of choice that we seek to satisfy our fleshly cravings.  

    So, the call goes out to WHOEVER else will come.  Matt 22:9-10: “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” However, only those wearing the wedding garment (verses 11-14) could attend.

    We must be clothed properly to be a part of this wedding.

    Isaiah 61:10: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

    Revelations 19:6-8: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself, with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

    Are we clothed and ready for this party?

    - Ben Deibel

  • February 21 - Matthew 21

    The attitude of the Jewish religious leadership is exposed in this chapter.  It may just as clearly show our attitudes.  Let's take a look.  Jesus comes into Jerusalem in a manner that shows he is claiming his right as King.  We tend to call it “the triumphal entry”. A large commotion is made and stirs up the city.  But while Jesus is in the temple teaching and performing great miracles of healing the religious leaders come and question his right to accept the crowds praise.  In essence they are rejecting him.  And again the next day the scribes and elders come and question his authority to teach and to do these things.  They don’t get a straight answer because they themselves are not willing to answer Jesus’ question.  Why? Because they are afraid of the crowd’s reaction if they speak openly.  Jesus continues to teach and we read in verses 45- 46, When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,they perceived that he was speaking about them.  And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.”
          The chief priests and the Pharisees reject Jesus as the son of God, the Son of David.  They have that right and must make such a decision for themselves.  Where we might reflect their attitude is in the public opinion polls.  What I am referring to is this, they did not openly act on what they believed because of what others think.  “They feared the crowds”, do we?  Do I fear the crowds?  Do I hold back on expressing my faith and acting on my faith because of what others may think?  If I do then I share in the attitude of the Jewish religious leadership.  That’s not the attitude I want to have have.  Lets model our attitudes after Paul and Barnabas who in the face of opposition and persecution “remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord” (acts 14:3).
     
    Pastor Tom
  • February 20 - Matthew 20

    As you read Matthew through chapter by chapter, you notice certain recurring themes.  At the very end of chapter 19 Jesus says, “But many who are first will be last and the last first.”  Then, just a few verses later, Jesus says, “So the last will be first and the first last” 20:16.  Taken on the surface, these statements are essentially repetitions of one another – just reversed in their order.  But when you look at this in context, Jesus is applying this reversal motif to very different situations.

    The first statement, Matthew 19:30, comes on the heels of Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler.  Jesus’ words to that man cause Peter to wonder, “Is following You really worth it?  What’s in it for me?”  Jesus wants Peter to know (and all of us) that no matter what you sacrifice in this world, God will superabundantly reward you – both in this world and especially in the world to come.  Thus, when Jesus says “many who are first will be last and the last first” he making a point about how the Gospel will result in a massive reversal of fortunes: devoted followers like Peter will gain immensely (the last will be first), while the rich who reject Jesus’ call will lose everything (the first will be last).

    The second statement comes in the context of Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  All the groups work for a different amount of time but all are paid the same – and most are paid with surprising generosity.  When it comes time to pay those who worked the longest, they are offended because they do not receive more than those who worked the shortest.  It seems to me that Jesus is telling this parable to combat the pride and entitlement mentality of Christian disciples who serve the ‘longest’. Longest could mean having a Jewish family heritage rather than a Gentile heritage, or possibly following Christ from a young age, rather than turning to Christ at an older age.  My study Bible suggests the following: “It is probably correct … to see here a warning that Jesus’ early followers (such as the Twelve) should not despise those who would come later.”  If they do despise others and approach heaven with this entitlement mentality, even these ‘first’ ones will be disappointed – they will be ‘last’.  But for those who enter into the joy of heaven depending entirely on God’s generous grace, even at the eleventh hour, these will be first in joy and gratitude.

    The Gospel is the story of the first (the Son of God) who chose to become last (on the cross). But by his resurrection from the dead, the last became first (at his resurrection), a foretaste of the good world to come.  The Gospel turns our world’s thinking and expectations on its heads! 

  • February 19 - Matthew 19

    (The following is a guest post by Pastor Dan Leman, a friend of Dave's from seminary).

    If I had to pick two things that are the closest thing to gods in America, I would choose Sex and Money. In this chapter, Jesus says outrageous things about both of them.

    "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

    “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me"

    Granting, of course, that Jesus isn't calling for literal castration and poverty, these statements are still incredibly radical. First, being a eunuch means so much more than not being able to ... ahem... copulate. It also means that you can't procreate. And no kids means no influence, no heritage, no legacy. Children are a treasure from the Lord, and blessed in the man who has a quiver full of these arrows to shoot out to impact future generations. But a eunuch has no family; no wife, no children, no lasting impact.

    I don't think I need to spend many words on the difficulty of giving up money. Money isn't just money. It's significance, power, security, purpose, popularity, love, comfort, etc. Giving up money means giving up these things.

    But Jesus also says, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." He doesn't demand without promising rewards that far exceed the sacrifice. Those who give up having a family for the sake of Jesus will have a far greater legacy through the impact they are able to make as unfettered servants of the gospel. Those who give up money and comfort in the States to take the gospel to unreached people groups will be rewarded with joy that far surpasses any temporary pleasures of our consumeristic society. As Isaiah 56 says,

    "Let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
    For thus says the Lord:
    “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
    I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
    I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.