Fruit does not grow on a tree without work. It may look effortless, but underneath the skin of the fruit and bark of the tree there is much work taking place. Fruit is simply the outworking of the effort of the tree. In our lives, are we producing fruit? Are we putting forth as much effort into our fruit as a tree does for its fruit? If we follow the example of Jesus there will be no slack in our work. There will be no laziness in our determination to accomplish the work Jesus has laid out for us. Jesus told us to “strive” to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Few, He said, would be there. There are a lot of trees without fruit on them. Do you have fruit? Or are you simply all bark and no fruit? Luke 21:29 to Luke 22:38 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as they produce leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. This ministry has a few fruit trees around the pond. Let’s see, a few apple, a couple of peach, three apricot, three plumb and some nut trees. (I think I came from one of the nut trees.) After February I look expectantly for flowers on the fruit trees. By march, when I see the buds, I know that the cold, dark days of winter are over. I long for the warmth of summer. Even when it reaches 125*. I’ll take that any day over the 15* dark days of winter. Especially when the winter storms bring in winds of 80 to 100 miles an hour. I thank God for modern conveniences of heat for the winter and cool for the summer. (I thank God for our solar panels.) Thank you donors. In the same way, when you see these things taking place, you will know that the kingdom of God is near. Interesting that Jesus said, “kingdom of God” and not “I will be coming soon”. I think the “coming of Jesus” has nothing to do with our eternal life. If you are not living with the “kingdom of God” in you, the coming of Jesus will do you no good. If you look at the conditions Jesus referred to, you will find that most have been happening for the last two thousand years. If you were living in a Roman village when the Huns came to town, you would think the end of the world had come. We must be very careful in letting our biases get in the way of reality as seen through the lens of God. "I tell you with certainty, this generation will not disappear until all these things take place. Are the disciples still alive? Of course not! But again, as discussed in our last lesson, as applicable to them, that generation did not disappear before all that Jesus said for and about them came true. The generation that will be upon the face of the earth when the remaining prophecies come to pass, yes, that generation will also “not disappear until all these things take place” for them. That is why we must watch and pray. Human wisdom will not discern that time. But those who have the Kingdom of God within them will have the Spirit of God to warn and instruct them. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear." The world is doing everything in its power to make the words of Jesus disappear. Every generation has its naysayers who look for faults in the actions or words of either the men or women God has raised up. But we are never to look to the messenger, only the message. Even Jesus, when on earth, did not direct people to “look” at Himself, but to His Father. He directed people to the Ten Commandments. He only invited people to follow Him in example, not parade Him around like a “movie star”. No, His words will never disappear. "Constantly be on your guard so that your hearts will not be loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, or that day will take you by surprise like a trap, because it will come on everyone who lives on the face of the earth. I see the buildup to that “trap”. When I grew up through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the church was constantly talking about how Christ was coming “soon”, meaning five years from that time. This was done, of course, to keep people coming to church and paying their tithes. But it did nothing to produce the kingdom of God in the heart. In fact, it has turned most church-going people into agnostics, even while sitting in church. It has done more harm than good. On the other hand, being on guard doesn’t mean going around claiming Jesus is coming. It does mean to be on guard that our hearts are not “loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life”. It doesn’t matter if Jesus is coming tomorrow or in a thousand years from now, eternity is a breath away and at any moment we could be sent into eternity: either eternal life or eternal death. By the way, have you notice lately how self-indulgent people are these days? How drunk they are on their own opinions, narratives and victimhood? How about the worries of climate change, economy, health and a thousand other things? Jesus tells us not to worry. Do we really believe Jesus? So be always alert, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to take your stand in the presence of the Son of Man." That is all that counts. Are you ready to “take your stand in the presence of the Son of Man”? When I was growing up, the world was not as “loaded down” as it is today. The churches today look no different than the world. Worldly rock concerts or church concerts: no difference! It is all about feelings and nothing about changing the life to live the perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping life. Self-indulgence and drunkenness are rampant in the “Christian” world. And be assured of this, drunkenness doesn’t have to be on alcohol. You can be drunk on sex, women, men, drugs, money, work, gadgets, video games and church. All of it, and more, are truly taking our eyes off the kingdom of God. Now during the day Jesus would teach in the Temple, but when evening came he would go out and spend the night on what is called the Mount of Olives. We are not spending enough time on the “Mount of Olives”. I find myself caught up in the work here at the ministry, and I know I am not spending enough time with Jesus. I truly have to work at it. Please pray for me! And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the Temple. Are we getting up early to listen to Him? I try. I awaken early, while it is still dark, take the dogs and walk the fence line talking to the Lord. Then, when I return, I reach for my Tablet and spend time in the presence of Jesus reading His Word, then thinking, listening and meditating on what He wants for me that day. Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. So the high priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put him to death, because they were afraid of the crowd. How true. Church leaders are afraid of those who point people to Jesus and away from their churches, denominations and religions. And of course, even while they are busy with their church activities, ceremonies, rituals and rites, they are plotting against the truths of Jesus and His messengers. But Satan went into Judas called Iscariot, who belonged to the circle of the Twelve. Just because a person belongs to a church or is a church leader, doesn't mean he is not possessed by Satan. Satan loves being in church leaders and church members. Remember, even Judas healed the sick, raised the dead and taught the people. That is why we must be very careful and realize that belonging to a church doesn’t make us righteous or “saved”. Our salvation is in our obedience to the Ten Commandments, not going to church. Not even Jesus can save you if you are disobedient to the Ten Commandments. So he went off and discussed with the high priests and the Temple police how he could betray Jesus to them. Many who claim to be Christian are betraying Jesus. Most churches, ministers, denominations and religions are betraying Jesus. They look good and say the right things to impress the members, but in their hearts, they are coveting. They were delighted, and agreed to give him money. How many church members and church leaders have agreed to give or take money to betray Jesus and His truth? Many teach for money, telling members what they want to hear instead of what Jesus commands to be taught. Lives are going into eternity: lost. Judas accepted their offer and began to look for a good opportunity to betray Jesus to them when no crowd was present. Of course, today they are betraying Jesus in front of the crowd and the congregation by refusing to teach what Jesus commands to be taught. There is no shame. Proud and boastful are those who are betraying Jesus. Then the day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover meal." Type was about to meet antitype. The old methods of looking to the work of the Messiah were about to be demolished by the work of the Messiah: the “new” Lamb of God. They asked him, "Where do you want us to prepare it?" I’m learning, ever so slowly, how important it is to ask. Jesus knows what is best. In every situation in my life I’m learning to ask and wait for Jesus to tell me what He wants done. A very hard lesson to learn. He told them, "Just after you go into the city, a man carrying a jug of water will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks you, "Where is the room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upstairs room that is furnished. Get things ready for us there." This was a parable for us. Jesus is the “man carrying a jug of water”. Jesus has the water of life. We are to meet Him and then to follow Him. Where? Into His home with many rooms where we will eat the “Passover” meal. That meal will represent our passing over from this life of sin to the next of sinless perfection. We are to prepare our minds and bodies in order to get things ready for that “passing over”. So they went and found everything just as Jesus had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal. We must listen to Jesus! Not our churches. Not our pastors. Not our leaders. We must listen to Jesus. We must start preparing our lives to pass over. We must do everything “just as Jesus had told them”. He has told us how to prepare for the passing over. We must fulfill His words by drinking of the water of life. If you follow Jesus and do what He commands, you will find “everything just as Jesus had told them”. We will find the peace, joy and love Jesus has told us we will find in Him when we live in obedience to Him. Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, along with his apostles. Are we allowing Jesus to take His place at our table? Do we enjoy sitting with Him, listening to His words of admonition? He wants only what is best for us. Why do we let the world come between us and Jesus? He told them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer, . . . Jesus does eagerly desire to eat with us. He truly wants to be our dearest and closest Friend. However, the world is setting up many alternatives which will soon make it difficult to sit with Jesus. Are you preparing yourself to let go of everything you have to sit with Jesus? because I tell you, I will never eat it again until it finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God." To find that fulfillment in our lives, we must sit with Jesus and eat His words. His words must go deep into our lives so we become representatives of that beautiful, perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping life. An inmate was preparing to leave prison after 40 years. He had been involved with this ministry for many years. But the information only went to his head. When it came time for him to do “work release”, he was so intent on “getting out” he took a job in which he had to work Friday nights: the Sabbath. He didn’t even think about it because the truth never went from his mind to his heart. We must let the truth into our hearts and actually live in obedience to it, no matter what the cost to us. Breaking God’s law always has consequences. Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves, because I tell you, from now on I will never drink the product of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." The wine represented the blood of Christ. That blood, the “life” of Christ, must circulate in our very veins and thoroughly change us. We must share that life with others. Then he took a loaf of bread, gave thanks, broke it in pieces, and handed it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Keep on doing this in memory of me." As He took the bread and broke it for the disciples, He took His own body and broke it for us. We must do the same for those around us. Are we humbling ourselves and breaking our bodies for the good of those around us? We are to “keep on doing this in memory” of Jesus. Our lives are to be emblems of His broken body for all to see. For four thousand years the lamb was slaughtered in representation of Jesus. And yet, for four thousand years Jesus was willing to look upon that representation with joy, knowing it represented Him. Could we do that? Not without a change of heart and mind! Our selfishness would not allow that. He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood, which is being poured out for you. As the blood of the lamb was poured out, so the blood of Jesus would pour out of His veins. As the blood of the lamb was splashed against the side of the altar, so the blood of Jesus was splashed upon the walls and floor while being scourged and flogged with the whip. I think we are way too absorbed in our own selfish lives to appreciate what Jesus went through for us. Yet look! The hand of the man who is betraying me is with me on the table! That is what happens when our lives are bound up in selfishness, we betray Jesus. We may not recognize it, but we are still betraying Jesus. We need to take the time to look closely at the life of Jesus and make sure we are not betraying Jesus; even while sitting in church or reading the Bible. Judas spent at least two years walking with Jesus. He was given power to heal and drive out demons. But through it all, his selfish mind was on himself. He never took his eyes off of himself and put them on Jesus. Are we doing the same? The Son of Man is going away, just as it has been determined, but how terrible it will be for that man by whom he is betrayed!" Yes He is. If we remain in our selfish state of mind, Jesus will be “going away” from us and how “terrible it will be” if we betray Him in our lives. The name of Judas has become a curse. Yet, have we looked closely at our own lives to see if we are a curse to the cause of God? Then they began to discuss among themselves which one of them was going to do this. I find a lot of that going on in our churches. People discussing, gossiping and looking around to see who the betrayer among them is. That is not our business. In the end, all except John betrayed Jesus by running away or denying Jesus when asked about Him. Our business is to make sure we are following Jesus. If Peter had spent more time listening to Jesus and following Him, He would not have betrayed Jesus. We must stop looking around at others and simply live the perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping life. Now an argument sprang up among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And there you have it! The same is going on in our churches today. Everyone is jostling to be the greatest. In so doing, their eyes have been taken off Jesus and placed on themselves, their selfishness or church positions. Folks, let us keep our eyes on Jesus and forget the world. The world will soon pass away. But he told them, "The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. I am going to use our present-day situation as an example. The Democratic party have styled themselves as America’s benefactors. They claim to know what is best for America, blacks and Hispanics. But what they really are after is power, control and money. They only benefit themselves. They have brought death and destruction to America. As slave owners up to the 1880’s, they styled themselves as benefactors of the black race. In the early 1900’s they claimed to be the benefactors of blacks while they turned thriving black communities into wastelands of drug addiction and destruction. Then, when they had full control of the country, they claimed to be our benefactors while letting criminals run loose to kill and destroy. They kept our children out of school keeping them dumb while indoctrinating their heads with race, sex and shame. I am simply pointing out that throughout history, power brings corruption and destruction. Therefore, . . . But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves. That is why Heaven is Heaven. God, the creator of everything, serves. He loves to give. He loves to serve. He gives life, blessings, joy and happiness. All of that comes only through service. We find true life, blessings, joy and happiness when we devote our lives to the service of others. Because who is greater, the one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? It is the one at the table, isn't it? But I am among you as one who serves. Truly! Jesus came and lived among us as one who serves. Jesus, the creator, the one who gives us our every breath, came and served. "You are the ones who have always stood by me in my trials. Are you standing by Jesus? Do you have any trials because of your love for Jesus? Or are your trials because of your selfish sins? And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred a kingdom on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit down on thrones to govern the twelve tribes of Israel." The only way for Jesus to confer a kingdom on you is for you to stand by Jesus no matter what the trial, problem or sacrifice. We are to get our minds off ourselves and our problems and our wants and wishes and put them squarely upon our duties and responsibilities as given us by Jesus. "Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has asked permission to sift all of you like wheat, . . . The same for all of us. Satan wants to sift us all and destroy us by shaking us out of the hands of Jesus. Notice, Satan has to ask permission. God will only allow what we are able to endure. However, God knows we can endure more than we think we can, therefore, He allows even what we think we can’t handle. That is for our growth. Just trust God and live in obedience and all will be fine. . . but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail. When you have come back, you must strengthen your brothers." However, Jesus can’t make you stay in His hands. He warned Peter, but He couldn’t prevent Peter from jumping ship. However, Jesus, in advance, promised to throw a life preserver out to Peter when he turned around to come back. Then, he was to strengthen others to stay on board. Peter told him, "Lord, I am ready even to go to prison and to die with you!" Yes he was. But it was through his pride and ego. He wanted to show how good he was. That is not how we “go to prison and to die with you”. Not for show or ego or anything. We just follow Jesus and when it is time for us to go to prison and to die, we will humbly submit since we have been submitting our whole lives. It is simply the working out of the natural order of things. But Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you deny three times that you know me." I am amazed at how much we are able to learn from Jesus if we just slow down and listen. Jesus didn't get into an argument with Peter. He simply stated a fact. Then He left it at that. He didn’t try to persuade Peter not to deny Him. How many of us would be weeping and yelling and trying to make the other person understand? But I see more clearly that that behavior is really selfish behavior. It is what we want from the other person for our own benefit. Jesus just shared the fact and left it alone. Peter had to work it out for himself. We all do. Then Jesus asked his disciples, "When I sent you out without a wallet, traveling bag, or sandals, you didn't lack anything, did you?" They replied, "Nothing at all." In less than twenty-four hours Jesus would be dead. Jesus, never thinking about His own agony or pain, thought only of the disciples. He had to find a way to encourage them. Therefore, He brought up their past good experiences so they would remember that as long as they were obedient to Jesus and did what He commanded, they would lack nothing. I think we need to look back upon our past good experiences and remember that same principle. I marvel at the providences of God in my life. I lack nothing, even though I have nothing. Then he told them, "But now whoever has a wallet must take it along, and his traveling bag, too. And the one who has no sword must sell his coat and buy one. After the death of Jesus, everything would change. The mission they had been on was ending and a new mission was about to begin. They now were allowed to provide for themselves; still keeping in mind their trust in Jesus, they were now going to be traveling around the world. That would require a “wallet” and “traveling bag”. The sword was a symbol. They would never use it, but just the sight, with the angels of God around them, would keep them from being molested by highway robbers. I understand. I have a fence around God’s property. Because I tell you, what has been written about me must be fulfilled: 'He was counted among the criminals.' Indeed, what is written about me must be fulfilled." Jesus fulfilled everything that was written in the Old Testament and in the book in Heaven about Him, even before there was sin. I believe that we also have a plan for our lives written in the books in Heaven. We can either walk in that plan, or away from that plan. In it is the way to eternal life. So they said, "Lord, look! Here are two swords." He answered them, "Enough of that!" They did not understand yet, but they would eventually. Right now they were eager for a fight to gain honor for their Lord and themselves. Bring it on! “Enough of that!” No, we fight with our love and obedience, not swords. Have you noticed, in side the word “sword” is the “word”. Let us fight with the Word of God.