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Kingdom of Heaven (ACAD: Matthew 23)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Matthew 23:1-13,15-39 –,15-39&version=NRSV

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SERMON: Don’t Draw Back by Carter Conlon

Galatians 6:12-18

Some people are trying to force you to be circumcised so the Jews will accept them. They are afraid they will be attacked if they follow only the cross of Christ.[a] Those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so they can brag about what they forced you to do. I hope I will never brag about things like that. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is my only reason for bragging. Through the cross of Jesus my world was crucified, and I died to the world. It is not important if a man is circumcised or uncircumcised. The important thing is being the new people God has made. Peace and mercy to those who follow this rule — and to all of God’s people.

So do not give me any more trouble. I have scars on my body that show[b] I belong to Christ Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Hebrews 11: 6  Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.

Hebrews 10:38-39 Those who are right with me will live by faith. But if they turn back with fear, I will not be pleased with them.” Habakkuk 2:3–4

But we are not those who turn back and are lost. We are people who have faith and are saved.

Genesis 15:5-6  Then God led Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky. There are so many stars you cannot count them. Your descendants also will be too many to count.”

Abram believed the Lord. And the Lord accepted Abram’s faith, and that faith made him right with God.

2 Timothy 4 3-4  …because the time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching but will find many more teachers who please them by saying the things they want to hear. They will stop listening to the truth and will begin to follow false stories.
Galatians 1:9-10 I said this before, and now I say it again: You have already accepted the Good News. If anyone is preaching something different to you, let that person be judged guilty!

Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 5:25-26 We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other.

2 Corinthians 5:17  If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!

Additional verse references:

Philippians 4:13

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Isaiah 38 

Notes & Quotes

“Get up! God sent you here to do a job, get up and get it done.” ~ Brother Troops

Don’t succumb to the unbelief of the moment. Don’t draw back. God called you for this moment.

People will offer you an alternate way – full of religion, but not full of faith. They offer things that require a lot of human effort. Don’t trust it.

You have life in the Spirit, you do not need exterior signs of God’s presence in your life.

If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Without faith it is impossible to please God. To please God you must first believe that God is.

Don’t believe speech that has no power or no life – man-centered, man-focused. Theses speakers draw to themselves, not to Jesus.

The biggest assault on the Church of Christ is always from within.

I am not going to draw back. I am going to move forward by faith.

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Can I Love You?

This year, I realized I’ve been on a love-quest; searching hungrily for people to love. The search has been more difficult and labor-intensive than anything else in my life. Why? Because I’ve tried to love everyone and not everyone knows how to be loved.

Meditation Verse: Mark 12:28-31

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”         

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

~ Mark 12:28-31

The following passage, from Beauty for Ashes by Joyce Meyer, resonated with me because it illustrated behavioral traits I’ve observed in people who have rejected me and my habits of love. When I first read it, it struck me that I seem to search out and embrace people who reject others for fear of being rejected themselves.

Fear of Being Rejected Causes Rejection of Others

If you cannot believe that you are basically a lovable, valuable person, you will be unable to trust others who claim they love you. If you believe that you must be perfect to be worthy of love and acceptance, then you are a candidate for a miserable life, because you will never be perfect as long as you are in an earthly body.

             You may have a perfect heart, in that your desire is to please God in all things, but your performance will not match your heart’s desire until you get to heaven. You can improve all the time and keep pressing toward the mark of perfection, but you will always need Jesus as long as you are here on this earth. There will never come a time when you will not need His forgiveness and His cleansing blood.

             Unless you accept your value and worth by faith through Christ, you will always be insecure and unable to trust those who want to love you. People who have no capacity to trust suspect the motives of others. I know this is true because I had a real problem in this area. Even when other people told me they loved me, I was always waiting for them to hurt me, disappoint me, fail me, or abuse me. I figured that they must be after something; otherwise, they would not be nice to me. I just could not believe that anyone would want me just for myself. There had to be some other reason!

             I felt so bad about myself, was so full of shame, condemnation, self-hatred, and self-rejection, that whenever anyone tried to show me love and acceptance, I thought to myself, “Well, if this person likes me now, he won’t when he gets to know the real me.” Therefore I would not receive love from other people, or from God. I deflected it by my behavior, which became more and more obnoxious as I set out to prove to everyone that I was as unlovable as I believed myself to be.

             Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside is what you will manifest on the outside. If you feel unlovely and unlovable, that is how you will behave. In my case, I believed that I was not lovable, so that is how I acted. I was very difficult to get along with. I believed that other people would eventually reject me, and so they usually did. Because my attitude was manifested in my actions, I could not sustain healthy, loving, lasting relationships.
Reading that passage brought one question to mind, a question I imagined God asking me – asking us all: Can I love you?

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Reading that passage brought one question to mind, a question I imagined God asking me – asking us all: Can I love you?

I am a beggar. Are you?

Some people beg for love. Others beg for the opportunity to love in hope of reaping such devotion. I used to beg for love by offering love. Have you ever found yourself begging someone to let you love them? “Can I love you” seems to be the common unspoken question in all my relationships. My way of loving is giving. Giving of myself, my time, my resources. I open my heart, my home, my life to people. I focus on their needs, their comfort, their situation. Can I love you is the hidden question when I ask What can I do for you? What will make your day better? What do you need in your life? Can I love you is what I’m asking when I open my ears and my heart to your troubles. When I embrace you in greeting and farewell. When I offer to fill a need you haven’t even recognized yet.

Can I love you sounds so pathetic, I think, when heard with ears not filtered by the love of God. Some of my beggar years were painful because I didn’t want to appear pathetic, I didn’t want to appear needy. I didn’t want to appear ridiculous begging someone to allow me to love them. Those shameful days of hiding my need to love are over. I’m open and unapologetic with my loving now. I’m okay if you don’t want to receive it. I won’t break down if you don’t know how to reciprocate it. I no longer expect an answer to my question. Like any other beggar, I’ve learned that many will cross my path, a few will stop and make a deposit into my life, some will pause to share a kind word. Others will glance my way while continuing on theirs, but throngs will never notice me at all. The life of a beggar is hard; it’s thankless. But we still give thanks for each person we touch and double thanks for each person who reach out to touch us back.

Can I love you? I want to love you. I want to share the light and grace God has blessed my life with. His love is so wonderfully magnificent I can’t contain it. Neither can you. You can’t hoard it. You can’t wrap your mind or your heart around it. But you can channel it. You can pass it on. You can share it. You can give it. There are no requirements, no rules, no standards. You can bestow your gift of love on family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers – anybody and everybody. That’s the beauty of it – it multiplies with use. You loose nothing by living in love but you gain so much with each interaction.

Don’t be too proud to beg, it’ll do your spirit good!