Archives For April 2013

Hello and welcome back!

I am so pleased that you dropped in!  I pray that my time and effort in writing these posts are benefiting you to grasp the great truths of God as Jesus taught through the beatitudes and now — the parables of Jesus!

We will be alternating from the beatitudes and the parables for the next few weeks.  This will provide you with a more three-dimensional connection between the beatitudes and the parables—which will be eye-opening!

Please let me know by commenting on these posts if they are being of benefit to you!  It’s lonely behind this screen and I would love some feedback from you followers of Christ!

If you do not know Jesus, I would appreciate your comments also!

“We can learn what Jesus taught the original disciples about the mysteries of God’s Kingdom…!”

I so enjoy taking the subject matter and allowing the Holy Spirit to present me with insightful ways in which to express it.  I am a storyteller.  I am enamored by a good story.  I’m sure that you are yourself.

Throughout this study, I will attempt to write this study in a conversational tone and to keep it lively and interesting.

This first post will be an introduction into the parables of Jesus.

You know, Jesus was an excellent storyteller!  I’m not sure if you are aware of this but about 2/3’s of everything Jesus spoke in the New Testament was in the form of a parable (story)!

Jesus used parables because they helped those with seeking eyes and ears to comprehend and form more concrete mental pictures and concepts so much better than mere abstract expressions.

So just what is a good definition of a parable?

The actual Koine (common) Greek word is parabole pronounced [pair-a-bowl-ley’].  It simply means a story placed beside of what you wish to compare it to in order to aid the listener to comprehend.

Example: “A newborn baby is like a delicate flower that has just blossomed and lightly covered with the warm dew of a fresh, new summer’s day.”

Notice the word like in the above example?  Most parables start out by saying, “Something is like something else.”  Jesus knew what he was doing!  He compared something that the disciples understood and could visualize with something that they had no comprehension about.

The comparative stories allowed them to hear and see the spiritual through the comparison to the physical!

The disciples came up to Jesus and outright asked Him why he told these stories.

He told them in Matthew 13:10-17 (All Scripture is from the HCSB), and I paraphrase:

 “Hey guys, I handpicked all of you and the secrets of the kingdom of heaven is for you to know, not for them.  The ones who “get it” will get even more but those who “don’t get it” — even the little they do get will be removed from them.”

Then He let them see that this wasn’t His idea but what God gave Him to say from the prophet Isaiah:

You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back— and I would cure them.”

Then Jesus continues:

“Your eyes are blessed (happy and totally contented in Jesus) because your eyes can see and you can hear and understand these stories.  Let me tell you for sure, the prophets of old would have given their eye teeth to hear and see what you see now and understand.”

After reading the above dialog, I pray that you go to your Bible and read Matthew 13:10-17 and not just rely on my paraphrase.  This paraphrase is for presenting the blog in a conversational tone.

The Bible is the inspired word of God and that is where your study needs to concentrate and derive from.

 You can readily see that Jesus had two purposes in using His parables:    

  • Because the people’s hearts were hardened and the parables were used to conceal.  This kept those seeking for truth separated from the fair-weather fan
  • He also wanted to reveal in order for His disciples to be able to understand what the kingdom of heaven was and then they could begin to grow towards Christ-likeness as they followed Him.

This will allow us to see what the Word of God can teach us from the parables of Jesus — through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.   We can learn what Jesus taught the original disciples about the mysteries of God’s Kingdom and utilize it in our own walk with Him!

Next post, we will delve into what the parables consist of.  In other words, we will take the parables, break them down into categories, and discover—perhaps for some it will be the first time—the simplicity and the complexity of God’s holy word.

Until then, I will be praying for your Christian walk and also thanking God for allowing me the opportunity to minister, teach, and be of service to you!

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION: Has this introduction been helpful to you?  Why?

Hello and welcome back!

Before we study the 2nd beatitude — I need your help!

I need you to be my accountability partner.

Yep, that’s right.  If you are on Facebook or Twitter, please remind me of my resolution to have a post up and on time by Tuesday and Friday by 8 am every week!

Just look at the top right of this page for the correct icon and remind me every week.  Can you do that?

Thanks!

We all need accountability and I can think of no one better than my readers to provide it.  If you would please, let me know what you feel is the best number of posts each week for you.  I realize that some blogs work better for the reader at 5 posts a week while some work better at one post a week.  YOU be the judge.

Help me to present the amount of posts that is best for the majority of readers and comment that to me at the end of this post.  Think about it and let me know how many times a week you would like to see a fresh blog post on this blog.

I appreciate it so much because I value your input.

We finished our study on the1st beatitude last post.  Let’s turn our attention to the 2nd beatitude at Matthew 5:4.  We now understand the 1st beatitude to mean that we must empty ourselves of self; in other words, DIE to self and be filled with HIM.

The 2nd beatitude builds on the 1st beatitude and I will explain how at the end of this study.  Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:4 and read along with me.

Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4, HCSB).

“We should mourn the NEED for having to do a self-examination to discover sin we haven’t confessed.”

We did a brief word study of the Koine Greek for the 1st beatitude and we need to do the same for the 2nd beatitude.  We already know that blessed in the Greek indicates happy in the sense of total contentment in Christ Jesus.

It is a statement of fact that equals a promise and because God doesn’t lie—can be relied on in total confidence of its validity — granting us total, holy contentment.

This blessing or total contentment in Christ — is a divine promise that is granted to obedient children of God following in Jesus’ footsteps.  Each of the beatitudes is a rung on the ladder towards Christ-likeness!

Let’s look at the word mournWhen we studied the word poor last post, we discovered that did not represent monetary value but beggarly or bankrupt spiritually.  The same holds true for the word mourn.

The word for mourn in the Greek sense in this beatitude is a unselfish, spiritual mourning over our sinful condition.

 

  • This mourning is quite different from human mourning of sorrow over loss — such as the death of a loved one.  

 

  • It’s also different from the mourning over our hopelessness because of our sin.

 

  • The Greek word for mourning implies a deep, spiritual mourning over our very sinfulness that represents the Holy Spirit’s conviction over that sin.

 

In other words, without having been saved by God’s grace through our faith, total belief, and trust in Jesus and the power of His name — the Holy Spirit does not live in us.

As we grow in our love and develop our relationship with Jesus, our development of spiritual mourning reveals our growing selflessness.

Our sinful slips into fleshly lusts caused by self-pride and self-righteousness cause us to mourn in the spirit because we grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Without that indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we would be totally numb to his convictions.  We could not take part in grieving for our own sinfulness.

We would only be able to mourn in the selfish, lost manner of self-loss—such as Judas as he mourned his loss (thinking of self) after betraying Jesus.

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY:  We must first be able to see our spiritual beggarly condition.  Rather than to grieve from selfish motivations—we should grieve over our lack of conscious recognition of our sin.  We should mourn the NEED for having to do a self-examination to discover sin we haven’t confessed.  Not because we are trying to earn our way through obedience but from a growing understanding of God’s love and sacrifice for us.

Think Paul“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25, HCSB).

NUTSHELL: Run from self(flesh) into the arms of Almighty God.

We will continue our study next post.  There is so much more to this 2nd beatitude!

Please remember to comment below and let me know how many posts a week you feel you would like to see.  This blog is for you!

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  How many posts a week do you feel will provide continuity without becoming burdensome?

Hello and welcome back!

It’s so good to see you again!  I’m sorry to be late with this post but I am also late with my next post on my book blog, 21st Century Confusion also.  I could blame this past week’s ministry work and sermon prep for my tardiness but that would be only half the truth.

The other half of the story is that I have struggled with my strong desire to write and my even stronger desire to visit and to play with my new granddaughter over posting on my blog sites.

My granddaughter won out!

Those of you fortunate enough to have a new granddaughter, I am sure you will automatically forgive me.  For those of you who are not at the age where you have one, please go check out her photos and videos on my Facebook page. There is a real cute video of Belle riding a wild deer!

That’s right, a real, live, wild deer at 5 months old!

There is another video of her lying on her stomach and sitting up on her own!

Just type in Pastor Zach Malott to find me or go to the top, right-hand corner of this page and click on the Facebook icon which will take you to my page.  I think then you will see why I caved and forgive me then!

Ok, enough of my excuses and bragging rights!  Let’s proceed!

If you have not read the background information, please rest part one and part two of this Bible study series of posts first.  You can find them in the right-hand side bar.

So, who is ready to die?  Die to human selfishness, that is!  Who’s ready to live a new life in Christ!

The last two posts have given some background material for the study of the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.  I am going to give you just a little more background before we jump into the first beatitude in order to provide you with the rest of the foundational platform—allow us to be on the same page as we begin our study together.

We have discovered that the beatitudes reveal the character of Jesus as a model for us to follow in our walk with Him.  We also discussed that the beatitudes do not just describe our actions but provide us with a picture of who we are in Christ!  Visualize it this way:

  1.  Who we ARE in Christ is the noun or SUBJECT!
  2.  What we DO is the VERB — stating our ACTIONS and revealing how we should ACT in Christ Jesus!

In other words, to follow Jesus — we must act like Jesus in our daily lives.  This is the snapshot given to us in the beatitudes.  While the world follows the truths of their own making (self-righteousness), the Christian puts on the real truth of God (God-righteousness) in the person of Jesus.

“We put on Christ like a new coat and throw the old, filthy coat away.  In other words, we rely on Jesus, and not ourselves in all things!”

Peter reveals the truth of the above statement in 1 Peter 2:11-12 by writing,

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.  Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation” (HCSB).

What is Peter telling us above?

Well, what is it that the world is concerned about?

  • Money.
  • Power.
  • Sinful pleasures.

Jesus tells us to,

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33).

Look what Peter calls the Christian in 1 Peter 2:9-10:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (HCSB).

Jesus also said in Matthew 16:24:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me’” (HCSB).

With that being said, turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:3 with me.

The first beatitude is, “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

The first thing we need to do is to do a quick word study.  The Greek word for poor literally means beggarly.  To be beggarly in spirit would mean empty of self.  Eureka!

Blessed in the Greek means happy.  It means happy in the sense of total contentment.  This is total contentment in God and not self.  Man was not made to be content in self.  He was created by God and for God to be in relationship with Him.

Man cannot be totally happy or completely content outside of God.  He will continue to fill himself with anything and everything to try to fill that need for God.  Being fallen in nature, man cannot be in relationship with God without turning to and believing in Christ and His righteousness, not man’s own righteousness which Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 64:6:

“All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind” (HCSB).

This tells us that we can’t live in relationship with God without becoming poor (empty, beggarly) in our selves so that we can be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and His righteousness.  We must be empty of self, we must deny self, and we must be filled with God.

We must be saved by our belief in Jesus, repent of our sins, ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, be baptized, and be filled with His Holy Spirit.  This is what allows us to be able to enter God’s Kingdom.

What is God’s Kingdom?  God’s kingdom = God’s people!

A king needs a kingdom!  The kingdom of God is the church!  The church is the people of God!  Without a people there is no kingdom.  You, Christian, are the kingdom of God and He is who fills your emptiness.  He fills your willing, beggarly emptiness with Himself.  He grants you His righteousness to replace your filthy rags of self-righteousness.

If you become beggarly in spirit, God can use you.  He can use you just as He used Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and many, many more.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 9:17:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (HCSB).

This simply means that we must be empty of our self-righteous attitudes and filled with the Holy Spirit which is God’s attitudes.  We put on Christ like a new coat and throw the old, filthy coat away.  In other words, we rely on Jesus, and not ourselves in all things!

Let’s take another look at the first beatitude.  “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

TAKEAWAY

Let’s rewrite it in simple terms:  Those who empty themselves of their old, smelly, rotten sinful self-righteousness and becomes beggarly and totally empty of their own spirit and put on the righteousness of God Himself who wants to fill them with His Spirit so we can be back in relationship with Him are truly happy indeed with true, complete contentment because they have put on Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior and have become His body, the church (the Kingdom of God).

When we are totally empty of all self-righteousness and self-confidence and then become filled with God’s righteousness and power — that is when we are weak in self and strong in Christ Jesus.  As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:10:

“So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (HCSB).

In the next post, we will look at the next beatitude, “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, HCSB).

Until next time!

Zach

QUESTION:  Are you willing to become an empty beggar in your own spirit, empty yourself of self-righteousness in all areas of your life, and become strong in and for Jesus by living as a true child of God?

Hello and welcome back!

This post will provide some background information before we start our first beatitude study, “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matt. 5:3, HCSB).  If you have not read the earlier post: Part One

Reflections on Life

Wow!  The weather in New Mexico is crazy!  Yesterday, it was beautiful (sunny and warm) and today it is beautiful (cloudy and cold).  What I mean to say here is that I love all kinds of weather because I relish variety!  Looking out my study window, I am enjoying seeing the occasional flurries of snowflakes falling.

Birds are sitting on the branches of the tree and the wind is gently blowing through the newly blossoming buds of green.  Winter and spring meet in contest but it is spring that is gaining momentum and winter will soon fade into the past.

Come to think about it, what I just described above is like our lives, isn’t it?  We have seasons.  We are born and grow up in the spring of our lives.  Everything seems to go on forever, one day leading into another in an endless procession of springtime breezes.

Then summer is upon us.  We mature, get married, raise a family and the days just seem to become a blur as fall approaches while we aren’t looking.  When the first leaves of our lives begin to change from green to various tones of browns and yellow, we notice that our children are raising families of their own.  As we are raking the leaves of our lives, our children’s leaves are just beginning to bud.

I am now at the end of my personal, fall season.  The winter of my life is fast approaching.  I have raked the leaves, put away my rake and leaf blower, and I sit here looking out at the tree that is blossoming with new life — even during winter’s last efforts to hold on.  As I look at the birds sitting in its branches, I reflect upon the winter season of my life that is fast approaching and I rejoice!

  • I rejoice because I am still running the race!
  • I rejoice because I know where it is that I am going!
  • I rejoice because this season is in God’s timing and His timing is perfect!
  • I rejoice because I am His and He is mine!

What season of life are you now in?

What season is coming?

Where are you at in this season of your life as you walk with Jesus?

It all depends upon your understanding of the Christian character and how you are developing it!  Let’s take a look at some background information needed before we begin our study of the Christian character model that Jesus provided us in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Christian Character

Did you know that Jesus has provided us the perfect Christian character development course that has ever been written?  He has!  The entire world seeks after happiness!  Unfortunately, the method in which they seek happiness has a way of turning into unhappiness.  Why is that?  Why is it that happiness, the goal of every person, seems to occur fleetingly — only to dissolve into misery and dejection?

“The beatitudes describe the character traits that separate us from the character traits of the world.”

Could it be that the world is looking for happiness on the sinful road that leads to misery and rejection?  Yes, Christians, we need to be following Christ in order to obtain true happiness.  So many Christians are missing the meaning Jesus provided in the Sermon on the Mount.

There are so many of us are caught up in the religion of our walk that we sometimes forget that Jesus is looking at our hearts.  It’s not about what we—DO—it’s all about who we ARE!  It is not so much our DOING but our BEING!  Jesus died because we cannot DO the law!

He died so that we can BECOME like Him!  The Sermon on the Mount is not about our OUTSIDE but all about our INSIDE!  It had nothing to do with empty, external religious traditions but all about who we are in Jesus!

What is the Christian character that Jesus provides the blueprint for in the Sermon on the Mount?  What is it that will bring us that elusive happiness that we all so crave?  Jesus looks at our character before he looks at how we act.  It is our character that determines our actions.

What to Expect

In the beatitudes, Jesus shows us how Christians are to become like Him.  The beatitudes describe the character traits that separate us from the character traits of the world.  These character traits in the beatitudes are portraits of Christ and not a portrait of the world.  The beatitudes describe the divine difference between those IN Christ and those who are not.

[IMPORTANT]: Please remember and tuck this away in your heart:  The Bible tells us to be LIKE Jesus and not the world.  The beatitudes provide the vehicle in which to do so.  Please join with me next post for the first study of the beatitude, “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matt. 5:3, HCSB).

 

Until next time…

Zach

QUESTION:  WHAT DOES “POOR IN SPIRIT” MEAN?

Hello and welcome back!

I’m so happy to see you here once again.  I’m beginning a series on the beatitudes for those interested.

 It’s amazing just how fast time passes, isn’t it?  It just seems like yesterday that I posted my Easter piece on the 1st of April and here it is — already the 6th!  Life is so very, very short, isn’t it?  It is so short that we need to consider the importance of our Christian walk.  Each and every day that passes brings us closer to that day when we shall leave this earth behind and look Jesus in the eyes.

What shall we say then?

This post series is about the Sermon on the Mount that begins in Matthew 5. You can look upon this sermon of Jesus as a key that unlocks the Bible while providing you with the secrets of the Christian walk.   We will take each of the beatitudes and delve into the spiritual meaning of each one to discover the essence of what it is to walk behind Jesus from the cross to the grave.

Jesus presented the beatitudes in order to present you with a blueprint or treasure map to guide your steps in following Him.  When you glean the meaning of the beatitudes, you will understand how each one builds upon the other — leading you closer to Christ as you follow in his footsteps.  The beatitudes paint an accurate objective truth about holiness.

When looking spiritually at the beatitudes, we can compare the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus’ day with His teachings of the Law of God the way He wants us to follow them.  In other words — unlike Jesus — the Pharisees were claiming the law must be perfected in us before we are worthy of God. Jesus taught that if we follow Him we are already children of God.   Then we follow the law in love, not to obtain salvation from the law.  Salvation comes because of how Jesus lived the law.

We obey the law of God out of love for Jesus who died for us because we could not be perfect in God’s law. Only Jesus could and did keep the whole law.

“The sum of all of this is you are to mature as you grow — a process, not an event.”

The Sermon on the Mount presents and stresses the elements of this truth.  If you understand and live out the Sermon on the Mount, you will understand the kingdom of God, you will walk a new life that attracts others to Christ, and you will grow in Christ and be able to carry out God’s plan for your life.

Knowing the full meaning of the beatitudes will provide the foundation to the Christian walk.  This full, Christian walk will allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in and from you for the kingdom work.  Not only will we talk about Christ to others, but present His walk to them.  Which of the two do you think will best allow them to see Christ?

As we look the Sermon on the Mount, keep in mind that the beatitudes build upon the others.  Once the entire picture is understood we will then understand what it is Christ is telling us.  Each part or beatitude is just part of the whole.

Please understand that a person must be a follower of Jesus to understand the truth of the beatitudes and how to live them.  No one can ever live the beatitudes without the Holy Spirit living inside of him/her.  If we truly belong to Jesus Christ, we will not only understand God’s requirement for us to live holy but we will understand the power within us that can help us to live it daily.

 We read what the Christian’s hope is concerning temptations:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

We will discover in this study that you as a Christian have to keep God’s law.  Now, this does not mean that you are under the law but that you must keep the law.  The Sermon on the Mount was given to you by Jesus for the express purpose for knowing how to follow Him and what will give you the power to do so.

 It does not mean that we never sin.  It means that you must repent all sin, not live in it.  It means that we follow Jesus by learning the Sermon on the Mount and living by it.  The sum of all of this — you are to mature as you grow — a process, not an event.

I hope that this overview of the new post series on the Sermon on the Mount has excited you.  I pray that you will comment on the question always provided at the end of a post.  This will help to initiate dialog on each post which will help us all to grow in Christ!

Next post we will discover the full meaning of the first beatitude at Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Until next time…

Zach

QUESTION:  WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN WE SAY, “I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS — NO TURNING BACK, NO TURNING BACK.”

What Made Easter Sad

April 1, 2013

Hello and welcome back!

Here’s hoping that you had a wonderful Easter Sunday weekend!

I pray that you found a gem to take home with you from the Easter sermon your pastor delivered.

After Easter services, Rhonda and I drove to another town close by to visit one of my congregation members in the hospital.  As we were driving by small parks in that town, we noticed all of the people who were celebrating Easter Sunday in the park.  We could smell the scent of burgers and hotdogs sizzling on the grill, hear the children running, shouting, and playing games, hunting Easter eggs, and watch happy faces having fun.

“Throughout those conversations, I never once heard the name Jesus mentioned during the whole meal.”

I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these families had been to church for Easter and then went to these parks to celebrate family and how many bypassed an Easter service entirely.  There was no way of knowing but many of the most favored spots can indicate early arrivals.  People usually need to arrive early in the morning to obtain places like those.

The person we went to see had already left the hospital earlier that morning so we stopped at a Golden Corral restaurant and had our Easter meal.  The place was so full and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.  It was packed.  It was elbow to elbow in there.  The smells of so many different and wondrous edible delights combined with the laughter all around us as we slowly made our way around to all of the food stations.

We made our way back through the happy throng to the table we had been assigned and began to say blessing over our food.   As we began to enjoy our meal, I also began to listen to the happy chatter around us.  Many conversations were happening at once.  I could make out the voices of elderly couples having lunch with their families, middle age parents with their children’s laughter, young adults trying to get their young ones to eat, etc.

 It was a normal holiday lunch meal taking place in that Golden Corral.  It was probably similar to many other holiday meals in thousands of restaurants around the world that day.  It was probably similar to the 100,000’s of meals being enjoyed by families in homes around the globe.

I suddenly felt very sad.

You are probably wondering how I could feel sad sitting in such a jovial and expressive environment with my loving wife as we enjoyed such a lovely meal.  Yes, the atmosphere was jovial.  And yes, the food was delicious.  What struck me as so sad is this:

1. Throughout those conversations, I never once heard the name Jesus mentioned during the whole meal.

2. What I heard was me, myself, and I conversations of accomplishments taking place, conversations about things that were owned, one-upmanship revolving around careers, etc.

3. In almost every conversation, I heard words that would have had television shows banned in a past generation. 

I may sound intolerant to many.

Perhaps I sound old-fashioned to others.

For some, perhaps I just sound old and prejudiced.

To me, it just made me feel…sad.

I left Golden Corral feeling a deep concern, not for myself, but for everyone involved in those conversations and everyone listening with joviality to them.  Is it just me?

Until next time…

Zach

QUESTION:  HOW DO I SOUND TO YOU?