Wednesday, March 31, 2010

His Story: The Betrayal - March 31, 2010

Psalm 41:9 (New Living Translation)
9 Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.

Matthew 26:14-16 (Amplified Bible)
14Then one of the Twelve [apostles], who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

15And said, What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you? And they weighed out for and paid to him thirty pieces of silver [about twenty-one dollars and sixty cents].

16And from that moment he sought a fitting opportunity to betray Him.

Mark 14:10-11 (New International Reader's Version)
10 Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve. He went to the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them. 11 They were delighted to hear that he would do this. They promised to give Judas money. So he watched for the right time to hand Jesus over to them.

Luke 22:3-6 (New International Reader's Version)
3 Then Satan entered Judas, who was called Iscariot. Judas was one of the Twelve. 4 He went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard. He talked with them about how he could hand Jesus over to them. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money.

6 Judas accepted their offer. He watched for the right time to hand Jesus over to them. He wanted to do it when no crowd was around.

How do we feel when we are betrayed by a close friend? How do we react when one we hold dear "sells us out" for personal gain? It is bad enough when a dear friend hurts us, but when they agree to accept personal gain for doing so, that hurts deeply.

Although the betrayal of Jesus by Judas fulfilled prophecy and was orchestrated for God's purposes, I am sure it was etremely hurtful to Jesus. I am also sure that this act probably hurt Jesus more deeply because it was done for money. You really can't get more callous than that.

But before we jump on the bandwagon in condemnation of Judas' act, we need to be sure to look at ourselves as well. How often do we betray our love for Jesus, when we make decisions that involve money and discount what we believe in? How often do we ignore what Jesus would have us do when it comes to our behavior around others? How do you think Jesus feels when we continue to commit sins that we ask forgiveness for long ago, yet we repeat them over and over again?

There are many times when we deny our beliefs when it seems inconvenient to be known as a Christian. Each and every time we sin or behave in a manner that is not worthy of what Jesus has done for us, we are in a sense betraying him and his sacrifice on our behalf. It is important as we approach the final days before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion, that we examine our hearts and ask ourselves if our behavior or character is betraying His love for us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

His Story: The Final Judgement - March 30, 2010

Matthew 25:31-46 (New Living Translation)
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

What should we be doing as we prepare for our ultimate end in this life? Many of us work on leaving a legacy for our children that will provide them a connection with us once we are gone. Others of us build businesses or invest in real estate to leave something for our children and to provide for their needs after we pass on. What ever we do, we do things in preparation so that those we leave behind are taken care of. But what are we doing to provide for our own spiritual investment and to leave a spiritual legacy when we are gone?

As Jesus was doing his final teaching in the temple prior to facing the cross, he wanted to be clear with his disciples of what to look for in the end times, how to be prepare for these times, and what it would be like at the final judgement. The text above was given to describe what it would be like in the kingdom in heaven, and the things that people would be judged for in the end. These words were meant to prepare the hearer for right living, or as I define it, Next Worth.

As we journey with Christ towards the cross, we should be checking our character and measure it against the standard that Jesus sets above. We need to also be sure that the legacy we leave behind is one that will witness to all who see it that God had a place in our lives, and that Jesus Christ had influence in our lives. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus today and always.

Monday, March 29, 2010

His Story: The Wedding Dinner - March 29, 2010

Matthew 22:1-14 (New International Reader's Version)
1 Jesus told them more stories. He said, 2 "Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king (God the Father) prepared a wedding dinner for his son (Jesus Christ). 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited(The Jewish People) to the dinner. The servants told them to come. But they refused.
4 "Then he sent some more servants. He said, 'Tell those who were invited that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my oxen and my fattest cattle. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding dinner.'

5 "But the people paid no attention. One went away to his field. Another went away to his business(Caught up in the cares of this world). 6 The rest grabbed his servants(The Prophets of God). They treated them badly and then killed them.

7 "The king became very angry. He sent his army to destroy them. They killed those murderers and burned their city.

8 "Then the king said to his servants, 'The wedding dinner is ready. But those I invited were not fit to come. 9 Go to the street corners. Invite to the dinner anyone you can find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad. Soon the wedding hall was filled with guests(The Gentiles...You and Me).

11 "The king came in to see the guests. He noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes(Clothed in Righteousness). 12 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man couldn't think of anything to say(He was not a true believer).

13 "Then the king told his servants, 'Tie up his hands and feet. Throw him outside into the darkness. Out there people will sob and grind their teeth.'

14 "Many are invited(Those who hear the Word), but few are chosen(Those that Believe)."

Italics and comments mine)

In the last few days before his crucifixion, Jesus spent time in the Temple in Jerusalem giving final rebuke, teaching and instruction. He relayed much of what he was trying to say in parables. He related things that were common to the people, so that they would understand and take to heart what Jesus was saying. I believe that this final week of teaching in Matthew is some of the most important in Scripture, and it speaks to us today and calls us to make decisions in our lives.

The parable noted above is both comforting and concerning, depending on where you find yourself in the story. Here is how I read it:

God has prepared a place in Heaven. He prepared the way to this place in Heaven from the time that man disobeyed Him in the Garden. He has always wanted His most precious creation to be reconciled to Him, made right, with Him.

The first to have be invited where the Jews, who God selected as His chosen people. He sent prophets and teachers to explain what need to be done to be acceptable to God, but the Jewish people got caught up in their own traditons and ways, and they rejected those sent and even killed some of them. So He extended the invitation to all of humanity; to anyone who would listen, and He provided them the clothing(the Way through Jesus) to be found acceptable in His eyes.

God has given us all a choice to make. The story of Jesus as Lord and Savior of mankind has been taught to humanity for two millenia. It is the Way that God has provided for all people to be reconciled and found accetable to God. Almost daily I emphasize this truth, because I feel that too often it is not taken seriously enough in our world. In our society and todays' world Chritianity has been relegated to being "just another religion", and thinking of our faith in that way has huge implications for how people will spend eternity.

Here in the South, many of us might even take being a Christian for granted, because we attend church and say the right things. But it has to be made very clear that we are not truly chosen by God until we fully believe that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came down from Heaven and gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we will confess those sins and agree in our hearts that He is the only way that we can be forgiven, then and only then will we be forgiven in God's eyes.

As we look to Jesus' work on the cross, and you prepare yourself for this year's Easter celebration, be sure that you have made the right decision and clothed yourself in the righteousness that God, through Jesus Christ, has provided. At the same time, let us not be too casual with that decision, for ourselves or the loved ones around us. Let us not assume, but be sure, that those we love will be with us at the wedding dinner.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

His Story: The Triumphal Entry - March 28, 2010

Isaiah 62:11 (New International Reader's Version)
11 The Lord has announced a message
from one end of the earth to the other.
He has said, "Tell the people of Zion,
'Look! Your Savior is coming!
He is bringing his people back as his reward.
He has won the battle over their enemies.' "

Zechariah 9:9 (New International Reader's Version)
9 "City of Zion, be full of joy!
People of Jerusalem, shout!
See, your king comes to you.
He always does what is right.
He has the power to save.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
He is sitting on a donkey's colt.

Matthew 21:1-9 (New International Version)
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."
4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' "

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"

If you grew up in a traditional church as a kid, you probably celebrated this Sunday, Palm Sunday, reading this story and passing out palm branches as a reminder of the event. But did you really have an idea of what the event truly meant? Did you know that this event marked the fulfillment of several prophecies that were several hundred years old, and in fact it fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26 to the very day.

Many historical texts tell us that in biblical times, the regional custom called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of a donkey. The donkey was a symbol of peace; those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph. In the verses found in Matthew, clearly the people were proclaiming that Jesus was the hoped for Messiah, because they called him the Son of David.

Today we are approaching a very important time in the biblical story of Jesus in his walk to the cross. This week has been highlighted for us, because it is the culmination of Jesus Crist's ministry, the culmination of why he came to earth. For us it is where we need to make a clear choice of what are we going to do with Jesus in our personal lives.

Is he just another great teacher and prophet of God that calls us to be good? Or is he God in the flesh, participant in creation, King of the universe, our Savior, Lord and Redeemer? Is he who he claimed to be? Do we believe that he alone can save us from the ugliness of our sinful lives, who renews us and marks us as his for eternity? Have you called on his name to be your Lord and Savior and surrendered your life in service to him? If you have not done so, it is time to make that decision. Where you spend eternity depends on it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

His Story: The Transfiguration - March 27, 2010

Matthew 17:1-9 (New Living Translation)
1 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. 2 As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
4 Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” 6 The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

7 Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

9 As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

How is it that after almost 2000 years, it is still difficult for people to believe that Jesus is who he is as stated in the Bible. The scriptures have survived these many centuries word for word from the originals Greek sources, and the story we read still is as much alive as it was at the beginning. That is the true testament to the truth of the Bible; people are still coming to faith in Jesus as their Lord and personal Savior. Lives continue to be transformed...transfigured, so to speak.

In the verses above we read where Jesus revealed His true nature as God and Son to Peter, James and John. These three testified with their lives that Jesus is who He says He is. You have heard it before; no one would be willing to die for a lie. Today we have the opportunity to see Jesus through the preserved eye witness accounts of the event. We have the advantage of placing our faith in a truth that has survived this long. Do you believe we would still be seeing life change and the living testimony of the countless followers of Jesus if it were not true?

As you continue the walk with Jesus to the cross, give Him praise for who He is! Praise Him as the Father's own Son in whom He is well pleased! Praise Him as Lord, God and Savior!

Friday, March 26, 2010

His Story: The One - March 26, 2010

Isaiah 61:1-2,8-11(New Living Translation)
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
11 The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

Luke 4:16-21 (New Living Translation)
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

How would you like to know many years in advance what would happen in your life? Would you find it comforting to know how your life would unfold or what you would be doing in your future? God spoke through prophets in the times of the Old Testament to warn His chosen people of His judgement, and to comfort them about His restoration of relationship available once they returned to Him. Many times the people ignored or refused to listen to God's prophets, and many of them gave their lives in service to God.

Almost 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Isaiah made many predictions about the fate of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. We find this prediction in the verses above. When Jesus began his ministry, as was accorded him as a Jewish man, he went to the synagogue where he grew up and read from the sacred Scriptures. After he concluded his reading, he stirred up the people by claiming to be the fulfillment of the prophecies Isaiah made many centuries before. He also warned them that if they rejected him, God would reject the Jewish people in favor of the Gentiles(Non-believers).

For us, this is the beginning of Jesus' ministry to mankind. It is in these passages that he states without question that He is the One spoken of over the centuries. He is the fulfilment of prophecy and the One chosen by God through which He would redeem mankind. If you ever had doubts of who Jesus really was, it is here where Jesus states exactly who He is. Over the course of his ministry, he will state that he is the image of God on earth, he is the Savior and redeemer of mankind, and he is the only way to through which we can be saved from our sins.

Over the next few days we will be alongside, as we will follow Jesus to the cross, we will cower in fear with his disciples, and we will celebrate his resurrection on Easter, proving that what he said was true. Many people criticize the Bible and doubt the truth of what Jesus stated in Scripture. But I would challenge that most of the critics never read and tried to understand what has been written. I pray that you will be a bit more informed as we examine Jesus' walk to the cross.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

His Story: Redeeming the Terrible Twos - March 25, 2010

Genesis 3:14-15 (Amplified Bible)
14And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all [domestic] animals and above every [wild] living thing of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust [and what it contains] all the days of your life.

15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.

Isaiah 9:6 (New King James Version)
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Romans 16:20 (Amplified Bible)
20And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with you.

Galatians 4:4-6 (New Living Translation)
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

Now I am going to tell you something that the mainstream media and our society will say is all wrong: We are all born bad! Yes, babies are cute and cuddley, but that soon wears off. You believe that, if you have ever tried to raise a child through the "terrible twos". When babies reach that wonderful age, their parents often wonder what they have done!

I am of the opinion, that it is at this time you really can see into the heart of mankind. That is when you really see the separation that was caused by the fall, but by the grace of God, a little stern discipline, and the patient teaching of a loving parent, that time soon passes.

Let's just say that after The Fall, mankind went through their "terrible twos" for along time. God told us we would have days like that. The verse from Genesis highlights the curse that was placed on the serpent, and predicted what would ultimately happen to Satan.

The Fall in Genesis marked the beginning of a long and difficult process, that took mankind through The Flood, through the calling of a man in which to bring about a people, through the calling out of a people through which He revealed His Law, through His revelation of The Law to show the impossibility of keeping it, and through which He would ultimately redeem mankind back to Him, through the provision of His own Son.

At the right time and place, God provided a way back to Him; a way for all of mankind to be made right in His sight. Every one of us have found ourselves in this very same condition that resulted from our own personal Fall. We have been rebellious and self-centered, lost and confused,and oftentimes stuck in our "terrible twos".

But by the grace of God, a little stern discipline, and the patient teaching of our loving Father and God, that time soon passed. As we approach Easter, let us humbly remember how we lost our way, and remember the One who ultimately found us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

His Story: The Law - March 24, 2010

Deuteronomy 5:1-3 (New Century Version)
1 Moses called all the people of Israel together and said: Listen, Israel, to the commands and laws I am giving you today. Learn them and obey them carefully.2 The Lord our God made an Agreement with us at Mount Sinai.3 He did not make this Agreement with our ancestors, but he made it with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

Hebrews 10:3-4 (New International Reader's Version)
3 But those offerings remind people of their sins every year. 4 It isn't possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Romans 10:3-4 (New International Reader's Version)
3 They(Israel) didn't know how God makes people right with himself. They tried to get right with God in their own way. They didn't do it in God's way.

4 Christ has completed the law. So now everyone who believes can be right with God.

How do we know that we have done something wrong and sinned against God? Part of the answer is that God through His Holy Spirit convicts us when we do wrong. But the other part of the answer is that since God chose the Jewish people as His path in which he would bring reconciliation of mankind and Himself, we have had the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments and various other laws and decrees from God found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy of the Bible, that shows us what is expected for us to be obedient to a just and Holy God.

Take the time to read these two books and you will find a the laws that governed every aspect of daily life, and the penalties that were required if one disobeyed them. The Law of Moses also provided the instructions of what must be done to obtain atonement and forgiveness from God, and it pointed to a system so complicated that it was almost impossible to keep. In the generations that followed, the Jewish people often fell away from obeying God and began to worship other gods.

I believe that the real purpose of the law was to show us the impossibility of keeping it. Jesus even took it a step further when he told us that looking upon someone in a lustful manner was the same as commiting adultrey(Matthew 5:27-28 NCV), and being angry with someone was the same as murder(Matthew 5:21-22 NCV).

As I have stated before, no matter what we try to do in our own efforts, we cannot be reconciled or forgiven by a righteous and Holy God. He is the One who draws us to Himself and He is the One who provides the way to reconciliation and salvation. We will continue along that path over the next few days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

His Story: The Call - March 23, 2010

Genesis 12:1-2 (New International Version)
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Genesis 15:6 (New International Version)
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 17:3-7 (New International Reader's Version)
3 Abram fell with his face to the ground. God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations.

5 "You will not be called Abram anymore. Your name will be Abraham, because I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will give you many children. Nations will come from you. And kings will come from you.

7 "I will make my covenant with you. It will last forever. It will be between me and you and your children after you for all time to come. I will be your God. And I will be the God of all of your family after you.

How long were we lost before we were called by God? How long before our guilt and shame brought us to the foot of the cross? When sin was brought into the world through Adam, mankind began a long journey to be restored to their Creator. We read in Genesis how wickedness grew in men leading to the destruction of the world in the flood, but God held out a righteous remnant in Noah and his family. But even through the remnant, sin again grew and permeated in the hearts of men.

In the verses above, we see that generations after Noah God again calls out a remnant from mankind, through which to work His plan. We see the obedience and faith of Abraham counted to him as righteousness, and he would be the path through which would be restoration of mankind to God.

The greatest lesson for us to learn from what is recorded in the Bible is that man's own efforts to be good enough to be accepted by God are futile. No matter how good mankind tries to be, and how hard they try, they continue on a path of sin. Through the many chapters in the Bible we find that God will be One that provides the utimate path of salvation and restoration, and He will call out a remnant through which He will accomplish His work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

His Story: The Fall - March 22, 2010

Genesis 3:4-11 (New International Reader's Version)
4 "You can be sure that you won't die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "God knows that when you eat the fruit of that tree, you will know things you have never known before. You will be able to tell the difference between good and evil. You will be like God."

6 The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good to eat. It was also pleasing to look at. And it would make a person wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate it.

7 Then both of them knew things they had never known before. They realized they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made clothes for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking in the garden. It was the coolest time of the day. They hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

9 But the Lord God called out to the man. "Where are you?" he asked.

10 "I heard you in the garden," the man answered. "I was afraid. I was naked, so I hid."

11 The Lord God said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten the fruit of the tree I commanded you not to eat?"
22 The Lord God said, "The man has become like one of us. He can now tell the difference between good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and pick fruit from the tree of life and eat it. If he does, he will live forever."

23 So the Lord God drove the man out of the Garden of Eden to work the ground he had been made out of.

Romans 5:12 (New Living Translation)
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

Romans 3:23 (New International Reader's Version)
23 Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God's glory.

How did we end up in this messed up world and this situation we find ourselves in? Why do we struggle with doing what is right, when it seems so much easier and pleasant to do what is wrong? Why is the evil in this world so prevalent and difficult to overcome?

God had wanted only the best for the jewel of His creation, and to secure a relationship with mankind and gain his love, He gave him free will; the ability to make decisions for himself. He gave mankind His best, creating him in "our own image", the very image of God. God placed man and woman in the garden, took care of every need, and spent initmate time with them.

In having free will and the ability to decide for himself, Satan tempted mankind with the oldest ploy in the book, the desire for pleasure, wisdom and power. As a result of the choice that Adam and Eve made, to disobey God and give in to their desire, mankind has been in a battle ever since. In that act of disobedience, mankind was seperated from the holiness of God.

Today, we continue in that disobedience. We choose our own way over the way of God, and because we are also easily tempted and seduced by pleasure, wisdom and power, we find ourselves seperated from the holiness and goodness of God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

His Story: The Beginning - March 21, 2010

Genesis 1:1,26-28 (Amplified Bible)
1IN THE beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth.
26God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth.

27So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth.

Psalm 8:4-6 (New Century Version)
4 But why are people even important to you?
Why do you take care of human beings?
5 You made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You put them in charge of everything you made.
You put all things under their control:

And so, that is how I believe it all began. No one can tell me that God didn't create everything, because as a scientist by education and degree, I see the wonder of the order of life. It is interesting that those who promote evolution have to constantly add millions of years to their calculations to account for the unique forms and adaptations that surround us in nature. No one can tell me that this is all here by chance. I am not a gambling person that relies on chance, nor a mathematician, but I do know that nothing comes from nothing; "0 X 0 = 0".

Let's then agree that God created it all. Why? For his pleasure...because He wanted to. This is how His Story begins and how man's story became intertwined with everthing associated with the earth and with our Creator. God created us for His glory, and He gave us authority over His creation. In creating us like Himself, He gave us a free will. We weren't created to be robots, to respond only mechanically or like the animals, to live and multiply and die, without thoughts toward who created them or how they were created.

As account in Genesis goes, God creates mankind and places them in the most beautiful place in all the earth, called Eden, or as ancient peoples called it, Yahweh's Dwelling Place. Bottom line is that God chose a place on the earth where He could spend time with us. If you read the account, you will learn that God(many believe the pre-incarnate Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity) walked with them. He wanted a close relationship with the "jewel" of His creation. He cared for their every need and gave them the work of tending for the rest of His creation. But, He gave them free will so that we could express our love in return to Him.

That is how it was in the beginning. That was God's original intent. He created mankind and He cared for their every need and gave them the work of tending for the rest of His creation. But, He gave them free will so that mankind could express their love in return to Him. The rest of the Bible is God's desire to return us to that relationship.

As we approach Easter, I would like to explore how we got ourselves into the mess that we find ourselves in, and how God ultimately provided us the way to return home. Please spend time studying the verses I present as you prepare for the coming Easter celebration.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Freedom - March 20, 2010

Romans 6:1-2,12-13,23 (New Living Translation)
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
12 Do not let sin control the way you live do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a wonderful thing living in Jesus Christ can be. No longer do we have to dwell in our past, in our old selves. Everything we were and did in the past has been wiped clean in the eyes of God because of Jesus's work. Then why do some of us seem to do the same old habits over and over again, even though God has forgiven them? How come we don't feel free from them?

That is because in our minds, we are still a "slave" to them. Even though we understand and believe in our hearts that Jesus has died for our sins and freed us from them, it is hard for many of us to believe that the payment is truly enough. It is hard to believe that God has truly forgiven us. It is hard to understand that we can be made right with God without doing something ourselves.

The wonderful fact of the Gospel, the good news that we find in the Bible, is that Jesus was God in the flesh and he gave his life a penalty for our sins. He then stepped out of the grave and went back to his rightful place in heaven. He has given us this wonderful free gift.

To claim it and to truly be freed from the bondage of your sin, you have to truly surrender your life to Jesus. Give your entire self, mind, soul and body to his service. How do you do this? Take the time to sit down, by yourself, seek God in prayer, and just let Him lead your thoughts. Ask Him for help. He will give it to you, but it takes giving it all to Him. Do this until the Holy Spirit confirms in your heart that you are God's.

It takes time, but if you will seek Him in this way every chance you get, it will happen. When you get up, think about how God would want you to spend your day. At work, think about what Jesus would do in each and every circumstance and encounter. And, at the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit to give you His assurance and comfort that you belong to God. Give up trying to do it alone. Take the time to let God help you and you will truly be set free.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Claim Your Free Gift! - March 19, 2010

Romans 3:22-24 (New Century Version)
22 God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: 23 Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard, 24 and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.

How much simpler can this be, but yet it is very hard for many of us to admit. Admit what? Admit that we are not perfect human beings. In fact we are far from being perfect. Minute by minute, day by day, we do things that keep us far from God. Oh, we might think that we are "good" people, but God's standard is much higher than that, and no matter how hard we may try, we really can't make it on our own.

You see, no one is really "good". We might have our moments, but we are self-centered, greedy human beings that want everything. From our earliest utterances, what came out of our mouths was the word "mine", and as we have grown up we all continue to "reach for that brass ring", stepping on whoever gets in our way to make it to the top. The world has supported our indulgences, and if we had our way, we would find ourselves knee deep in trouble. What's to be done with us?

We really can't be reminded of that enough, because each and every day, we continue to mess things up. Paul, in his letter to the Roman believers, makes it very clear, that God has freely given us the solution; He has given us a way out. A free ticket to clean ourselves up and spend eternity with Him. That ticket, that solution is trust and belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Though many of you reading this may consider yourselves Christians, have you really surrendered yourself and claimed God's free gift of salvation through Jesus's work on the cross?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Leadership Tips from David - March 18, 2010

Psalm 101 (New Living Translation)
1 I will sing of your love and justice, Lord. I will praise you with songs.
2 I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.
3 I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them.
4 I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.
5 I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.
6 I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.
7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence.
8 My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

A psalm of David serves as a great example of characteristics of a godly leader. It calls those in leadership to lead a life that is above reproach, and encourages them to seek like minded people that will help them walk a righteous path. It also takes on the task of rooting out evil in the area where the leader is reponsible.

If you will meditate on each verse, it will also give you a daily plan to follow, starting with praise for God, and ending with an admonition to keep evil people from places of influence in your life. Take a minute, put yourself in David's shoes, applying each directive as you live out your role as a leader, whether it is at work or at home. Build yourself up with God's word.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Following St. Patrick - March 17, 2010

Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

St. Patrick is an excellent example of someone that was moved by the command of Jesus, as noted in the above verses, to make a difference with people in his time.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote: "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." "I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message(Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and it has been associated with him and the Irish since that time).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.

[Excerpts and historical information on St. Patrick from and]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Giving Up Everything - March 16, 2010

Mark 10:28-30 (New Living Translation)
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

Luke 14:33 (The Message)

33"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

What are you willing to do to be a Christian? To what lengths are you willing to go to follow Jesus? We all have read the stories of countless believers that gave up everything, even their very lives for the cause of Christ. All but 1 of the disciples were martyred, Paul was beheaded, thousands upon thousands of Christians were hunted down and killed in the first several hundred years of the church.

In the last century, the Ottoman Turks exterminated 1.5 million Armenian Christians, and countless millions of professing Christians died at the hand of the Japanese and Germans in World War II. The Communist purges in Russia, China and North Korea, crushed many Christians that stood against them. We don't need to look to far today to see the persecution of Chritians in many countries around the world. Their have been more followers of Jesus killed in the last 100 years than have died in the last 2000 years. Would we be able to stand up to the same persecition?

Jesus has called us, and he has set a very high standard for us to achieve as believers. His words above are very clear, that we need to be prepared to give up everything to follow him. At the same time he promises great reward, eternal life with God. Are we willing to stand up to this challenge from our Savior? A time may come in our future when we may be confronted with giving up everything. Will you be ready?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time to Make a Difference - March 15, 2010

John 15:18-20 (New Living Translation)
18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.

How are we living out our faith? If we are professing ourselves as Christians, claiming that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, do the people around us know it? Does our daily behavior in our homes, at work and as we interact socially, reflect Jesus to those around us? Do our neighbors and those at school know?

Unforunately for us in the South, the Bible Belt as they call it, being a "Christian" is almost like being a member of a country club or social organization. Or many of us spend all of our time in the "Holy Huddle" and rarely step out of our comfort zone to make any significant impact on the world around us. Does the world hate you, or does it love you and call you one of their own?

Jesus was sharing the Passover celebration with his disciples, just before he would go through the agony of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. He was preparing them for the time ahead, when he would no longer be with them. In the words noted above, we see the guideline for whether or not we are truly his followers.

I heard and read a few days ago that over 500 Christian villagers in Nigeria were hacked to death by roving bands of Muslim herders(so much for a religion of peace). Their "crime" was that they believed in Jesus and called themselves Christians. Of course the Nigerian government called for calm, and our own State Department did not say a word. On a side note, in the past we were a nation that truly stood up for the oppressed, but the sad thing is that our current administration is doing very little to speak up for persecuted Christians and Jews.

Why are true Christians hated? First, we point out that we all are sinners in need of a Savior. Next, we believe that Jesus Christ and his work on the cross on our behalf is the only way that we can truly be reconciled to God and forgiven for that sin. And last, as true Christians we try to point everyone we can to Jesus as Savior. We should see a hurting and dying world, that is doomed to eternal separation from God if they do not accept the truth of Jesus. We should be about the business of spreading the good news of the hope found only in Christianity.

So I ask again, how are we living out our faith? Do those that are in the world hate us? Are we impacting the lives of those in need of hope and salvation? Do we share Jesus every opportunity we get? I don't know if you have been paying attention to the state of world lately, but now is the time for us to truly make an impact for eternity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Praise! - March 14, 2010

Psalm 145 (New International Version)
A psalm of praise. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.

7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.

11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

14 The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.

We really neglect God sometimes. Although we may attend church, study the Bible, and spend a few minutes in prayer, we often find ourselves spending very little time in thanksgiving and praise. God has created us to love, and in turn He enjoys our praises. As a parent enjoys a thank you and demonstration of love from their children, our God desires the unexpected adoration of those created in His image.

As we prepare for a new week, let us begin it with praise for our God who supplies all we need. During the week, try to begin each one worshiping and praising Him. The entire week might just turn out a bit better. God bless you and yours in the upcoming days.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Remaining Faithful - March 13, 2010

Hebrews 10:21-25 (New International Reader's Version)
21 We also have a great priest over the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with an honest and true heart. Let us come near with a faith that is sure and strong. Our hearts have been sprinkled. Our minds have been cleansed from a sense of guilt. Our bodies have been washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold firmly to the hope we claim to have. The One who promised is faithful.

24 Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. 25 Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.

I really believe Chritianity has been given a "bum rap". Too much has been made of the do's and don'ts associated with our faith, and the media and critics have too long dwelled on what has occured in the history of the church. Most of the bad press has been because of people who called themselves Christians, but never really understood or did what Jesus commanded, behaving in a manner that was far from true Christianity.

If non-believers were truly aware of what our faith is all about, I believe many more would be running to get to know Jesus. What really happens when we take the step of faith, and what should we really be doing once we become professing Christians?

The wonderful things is that Jesus becomes our High Priest, standing before God on our behalf (vs.21). There is no need for rituals or traditions or sacrifices to be made right before God. Jesus, by being our sacrifice for our sins, has done all that is needed. Now we can approach God with boldness and without hesitation, because in God's eyes, we are "Not Guilty"(vs.22). So now we have something we can really hold on to, because God keeps His promises(vs.23).

So what are we to do? We are to love one another, and encourage each other to help others. We are to meet together to study and worship, and share our faith. It is difficult to deepen our faith by ourselves. That's why it is important to find and become active in a church, where you can have a sense of belonging and fellowship(vs.24-25).

And now, as the world is seemingly falling apart around us, we are to be even more active in our faith. You see, true Christianity seeks to only do good for others, giving those without hope and without a future, something they can be sure about. Jesus has done all the work, and all we need to do is accept it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Take a Break! - March 12, 2010

Philippians 4:8 (New International Reader's Version)
8 Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.

Aren't you worn out and tired of what you may be listening to on the radio, or watching on television or reading and watching on the internet? I mean aren't you tired of all the bickering and anxiety and hate and foolishness you have been hearing about in terms of the state of our nation and the world? Aren't you tired of the Democrats doing this and the Republicans saying that, and no one is listening to each other or us or anyone else? And aren't you tired of turning on the TV and having to hide the screen from your kids, or distracting them from a billboard or poster or bumpersticker? Aren't you tired of being offended every time you turn around? By the end of the week aren't you just ...tired?

I say this weekend take a break from all of it. Turn of the television, unplug the computer, find a place in God's creation to relax or just have fun with the family and get away from it all. Go to church on Sunday, and afterwards go to lunch, and spend a little extra time just getting to spend time with each other again. Find out who everyone is again. Call your mom or your dad, or long lost friend, or brother, or sister, or daughter, or son; maybe your cousin. Who doesn't matter, just spend time recalling the good and lovely things of your world and theirs.

Paul is exhorting us in this verse to really get away from the garbage this world spews at us, and think and reflect on the wonderful and lovely and marvelous of our world. He is trying to get us to focus our attention on what is at the center of God's heart and being,...truth, nobility, righteousness, purity, beauty, respect and absolutely worthy of praise.
Take a break, turn of the bombardment of the negative and hideous and tune in to God for awhile. Your Monday will be much better for it, not to mention that you might just foster a better relationship with those around you. Be blessed by God this weekend, ,,,reflect the face of Jesus to everyone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Religion - March 11, 2010

John 10:9-11 (New International Version)
9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Don't you get confused about "religion" these days? In today's thoroughly modern world we have been told so many things concerning "religion". "In a relative sense, they are all the same." "All religions lead to the same place; they all lead to God." "Religion is okay, as longs as you keep it to yourself." "You really don't want to be one of those fundamentalists, because we know how bad they are." "Religion has led to more conflict and death than anything else in the history of mankind!"

Truth is, all religions are not the same. They all don't lead to the same place, and they all don't lead to God. Yes, some have even led to more conflict and death in the history of mankind, and they continue to do so. The confusion is what is meant by religion, which can be defined as " a belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe,and the expression of such a belief in conduct and ritual".

And that is where the problem lies. Many of us get stuck on following the definition, without bothering to get to the heart of it. Too often we believe that if we will just act right and go through the rituals, we will be religious, and because of that, God will like us. In that sense of the word, all religions would be equal, if all that mattered was whether or not we believed in a higher power, and acted a certain way, or followed a particular ritual.

Here is the TRUTH of the matter: Christianity is not just another religion. In what other religion does the leader of it claim to be God, and that by coming to earth as a human being and dying for you, you will be made right with God? And because of that, you can know for sure you will be accepted by God and spend forever in His eternal presence? In what other religion can you say with utmost conviction that 100 years from now you will not be just another pile of bones? In what other religion does your work (what you do)count for nothing, because your "salvation" doesn't depend on you?

Jesus is saying that He is the only way to God. By believing in Him, we can come and go through this life and not have to be concerned. Although Satan might try to trip us up, God will give us a fulfilled life. He is our caretaker and He has given up his life for us, but because he is God, we can enjoy eternity with Him. Now that is a religion we all need to believe in!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

True RICHes - March 10, 2010

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (New Living Translation)
17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Oh how we long to be RICH!!! That word holds so much allure with us as a society. We all have our own perspective on how RICH you need to be to be RICH. Most Americans believe that if you earn over $122,000 you could be considered RICH, and if you hear politicians speak, RICH might be anyone's income over $250,000.

Just a couple of years ago the SEC considered "anyone with a net worth of at least $1 million, including the value of primary residences, or an annual income of $200,000 for the previous two years for individuals or $300,000 for couples" as RICH, it now says "investors need to have investible assets of at least $2.5 million, excluding equity in any homes or business, to be RICH enough to invest in hedge funds"(The Wall Street Journal).

Who is the RICHest person in the world? Bill Gates? Warren Buffett? According to, Mexican tycoon Carlo Slim Helu is now the RICHest person in the world with $53.5 billion. In terms of a country's GDP, the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, the residents of Leichtenstein are RICH with a GDP $118,000, while the residents of Zimbabwe produced $200 in the same year.

One little considered fact is that in the third world, if you have three square meals, access to a doctor and a roof over your head, you are considered RICH. And so, this is how the world sees it, dollars and cents, whether billions or pennies, RICH is a measure that confronts everybody.

We touched on Paul's perspective on how to be content yesterday. Here he continues, giving us instruction on how to deal with being RICH. I would say that being RICH should not be a material and monetary thing, because as long as we strive for the material and monetary, we lose focus on where true RICHes lie. True Next Worth living needs to be focused on the spiritual, investing our lives for the sake of others. God wants us to place whatever we have, whether material and monetary, or spiritual, in service to those hurting people around us.

I would say that we can be just as RICH if not RICHer than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Carlo Slim Helu. Whether we live in Leichtenstein, the United States or Zimbabwe, once we discover investing what we have in God's way, we will be truly RICH.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Contentment - March 9, 2010

Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 (New International Version)
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
"For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?"
This too is meaningless—a miserable business!

1 Timothy 6:6-9 (New International Version)
6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

What are we spending our lives doing? ...From our earliest days we have been focused on the pursuit of money and success in our lives. I am sure that we all can still hear the drone of teachers and counselors saying that we needed to stay in school to get a good education, without which we would not be able to get a good job and make alot of money.

Then as we got older and ventured out into the working world, we found that our very success in life was measured by the amount of money we were making. Anything good in life took money and for us to have anything, we would have to depend on ourselves and work hard for it. Every day we headed into work to provide a living for ourselves and chased that elusive dream of someday having it all.

If we got married and had a few children, the focus didn't change, only now we had multiple mouths to feed, college educations to fund, and weddings to plan for. These were just speedbumps in a life that was headed in a direction seeking ultimate contentment. Someday we were going to make it! Someday we would have it all!

For some of us, we may just be starting out our lives, wanting to break free from the restraints of home, and reaching for all that we can get out of life. Our teachers and parents may be telling us, "Stay in school and get a good education, because you want to get a good job and make alot of money!" I am not saying that this is wrong, but we may be falling into that very same trap that has burdened people for generations.

I say the world has this whole thing all wrong. I say that what we pursue in life has been corrupted by a world seeking after the wrong things. Whether it is the lament of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes or the admonitions from Paul in his letters to Timothy, God's word tries to point us in the right direction. If we will take the time to study it's advice about what is important in life, we will live much better in this life. The Bible seeks to make us aware of this fact:

We are created by God to seek His will in our lives and to express our love for Him in all we do. His desire is that we are to be content, because he promises to give us everything we really need. He wants for us to always strive to be our best. If we will just surrender our worldly will to Him, and seek after His will for our lives and how we might serve Him, He will give us the contentment we are striving for. We really can have it all!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Security - March 8, 2010

Psalm 16 (New International Reader's Version)
A miktam of David.
1 God, keep me safe. I go to you for safety.
2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord. Without you, I don't have anything that is good."
3 God's people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them.
4 Those who run after other gods will have nothing but trouble. I will not pour out offerings of blood to those gods. My lips will not speak their names.
5 Lord, everything you have given me is good. You have made my life secure.
6 I am very pleased with what you have given me. I am very happy with what I've received from you.
7 I will praise the Lord. He gives me good advice. Even at night my heart teaches me.
8 I know that the Lord is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure.
9 So my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue. My body also will be secure.
10 You will not leave me in the grave. You will not let your faithful one rot away.
11 You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will give me endless pleasures at your right hand.

In these verses, David meditates on his relationship with God. He rests in the knowledge that God cares and will always care for him. The picture is one of a close and intimate friend that brings safety, good things, joy, and guidance. You may have enjoyed this same type of closeness with a dear friend or parent.

Take a few minutes to think and meditate on these words; reflect on the picture it gives you in your mind. Seek comfort and rest in the Lord. As you settle down to another night of sleep, you can feel safe and secure in the loving arms of your Savior Jesus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Why Sunday? - March 7, 2010

Romans 5:6-8 (New International Reader's Version)
6 At just the right time Christ died for ungodly people. He died for us when we had no power of our own. 7 It is unusual for anyone to die for a godly person. Maybe someone would be willing to die for a good person.

8 But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Job 33:27-29 (New International Reader's Version)
27 Then the person comes to others and says,'I sinned. I made what was wrong appear to be right. But I wasn't punished as I should have been.

28 God set me free. He kept me from going down into the grave("pit" in the NKJV). So I'll live to enjoy the light that leads to life.' 29 "God does all of those things to people. In fact, he does them again and again.

What are Sunday's all about? Hey its the weekend! This is our time to relax and enjoy the fruit of our weekly labor. Why all this fuss about getting up, getting dressed up and driving to a building, just to sing songs and listen to people reading from the world's best selling book? Why take the time to hear some guy standing above us all, trying to lecture us on what we should and shouldn't do? Does it actually do anything for us? Does it just make us feel good?

I am sure that everyone of us have either felt or thought this way sometime in our lives. For me, it was when I was an intellectual super star; you know, when I was in college. Unfortunaely I listened to this message in my head much too long. It took some serious life changing moments to get me to listen to a much different message.

This is what Paul is hinting at in this chapter of Romans. Jesus, at the right time in our dismal lives, reveals himself to us. For each person, this occurs at different times. For some, it may be when we are children and we lead a life of meaning and purpose, giving glory to God in the process. For others, it may have be in church camp, when we hear a convicting message and take that step of faith. Unfortunately for many, it has to be when we are at our lowest, in our deepest "pit" as we read in these verses of Job.

This is the real meaning of our "rituals" on Sunday: Jesus offers us a way out. A way to climb out of the muddy, sticky pit that we have gotten ourselves into with our sin and disobedience. He gives us the opportunity to make ourselves clean again, and to make our lives new and whole again. He restores a right relationship between us and God, and because he died, taking on our deserved punishment onto himself, we can be forgiven for all the bad that we have done.

No wonder we gather on this very special day! No wonder we sing hymns and praises of joy for being redeemed! No wonder we listen for every hopeful and joyful word from a God and Father who extremely loves us! No wonder we want to learn how we can live godly and righteous lives in thanks for what Jesus has done!

Why not this Sunday? Go to a church near you and give Him glory today!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Extreme Friendship - March 6, 2010

John 15:12-16 (New Living Translation)
12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

Friends are important. For as long as we remember, it has been important to have friends. Since we first went to school or played with a neighbor, having someone with whom we could connect has always been important to us. As adults, many of us can count people that we spent our childhood, grade school or college years with as friends. Some may even have one friend that is closer to us than our own family, and this friend we would do anything for; even give our life for them.

This is how close and personal Jesus was with his disciples. He called them his friends, and they shared a love for one another that was closer than if they were brothers. He also told them that a true friend loves so much that he would lay their life down for those he cares for. This was in anticipation of Jesus's work on the cross for them and all of us. A true friend is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the other person, seeking nothing in return.

In these verses, Jesus tells us about true friendship, and how we can be a true friend of God. It also tells us how we should be friends with one another. When we understand how to truly sacrifice for those we love (and those we don't), then we will truly understand the heart of Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 5, 2010

True Worship - March 5, 2010

John 4:23-24 (Amplified Bible)
23A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.

24God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).

Romans 12:1-2 (New Living Translation)
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The term worship can often be very confusing at times. Worship to many of us means taking time out to go to church, singing praises to God in hymns and songs of thanksgiving, praying, and listening to the word of God.

Worship can also mean bringing our tithes and offerings to God and making them available for the church to use in His service. Yes, these are ways to worship and express our love for God in recognition for what He has done for us, but as stated in the verses above, to worship means so much more.

Once we become believers, and place our faith in Jesus Christ as the only way for us to be saved(reconciled to God), God's Holy Spirit comes to reside in our hearts(our very being). That is what Paul means when he writes to us in Romans. As Christians, our act of worship requires the daily offering of ourselves in a manner that God would consider holy and pleasing. We are to try to live our lives free from sin, and in reasonable service to God.

Worship must include living every part of our lives as an excercise of our faith (in Spirit), considering God's will and surrendering to the truth of His word in all we do. When we do that, our outer witness will reveal to others what God has done for us.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Count the Cost - March 4, 2010

Matthew 16:24-26 (New International Reader's Version)
24 Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. He said, "If anyone wants to follow me, he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me. 25 If he wants to save his life, he will lose it. But if he loses his life for me, he will find it.

26 "What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his soul? Or what can anyone trade for his soul?

When we begin a new job, or sport, or activity, the boss, or coach, or leader, often lay out the cost of working or participating in the endeavor we have chosen. Often the roles and assignments, tasks and responsibilities, are explained in clear and concise fashion, so that we have a clear understanding of what we have agreed to do.

Jesus does the same thing with the his disciples in the Matthew 16, at the mid-point of his ministry, as he was revealing his true purpose on earth. He sought not only to have them understand who he was, but because of who he was, he wanted them to also understand what it would mean to them. He wanted it to be clear to them that it would cost them dearly to follow him and his teachings.

For us, the message clearly is the same. There is very little in our worldly lives that has a personal cost to it, but due to the condition of our society today, following and serving Jesus Christ may cost us something. Often it is just the teasing of friends and loved ones, but for many in this world, it could cost them their families or fortunes, and possibly their lives. Many Christians have been murdered for their faith, and we will most likely see an increase in this.

Yesterday I discussed what has become of the display of the Ten Commandments in our country, and I stated that we needed to restore them into our hearts and homes before we could make any impact on our society (take a few moments to read yesterday's post if you haven't had the chance). The same thing needs to happen with our faith. We will need to "count the cost" to follow Jesus Christ. We need to be sure what that means.

Jesus's comments were made to those who would ultimately face persecution and die for their faith in him, as many are doing everyday around the world. There may be a time in our future when we will be faced with the same situation. Will we be willing to follow Jesus at all cost, even if it means giving up our lives? Are you ready to face that situation? Is your family ready? Your very soul might depend on your answer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WARNING! Reading this may be harmful! - March 3, 2010

Deuteronomy 5:6-8,11-12,16-21 (New Century Version-with edits mine)
6 "I am the Lord your God; I brought you out of the land of Egypt where you were slaves." (I am God who made you!)

7 "You must not have any other gods except me." (Since I made you, don't worship things, money, power, etc.; please love only me!)

8 "You must not make for yourselves any idols or anything to worship that looks like something in the sky above or on the earth below or in the water below the land." (Really, I am enough.)
11 "You must not use the name of the Lord your God thoughtlessly, because the Lord will punish anyone who uses his name in this way. (Please don't use my name as a curse word, or even as OMG when you text!)

12 "Keep the Sabbath as a holy day, as the Lord your God has commanded you. (Please, come visit me and spend time with me, especially on Saturday nights or Sundays. That's my day!)
16 "Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you. Then you will live a long time, and things will go well for you in the land that the Lord your God is going to give you. (I promise,... if you always love, respect and obey your parents, you will LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!)

17 "You must not murder anyone. (Now this one should be easy. I love EVERYBODY! Please don't even think about killing them! Babies too!)

18 "You must not be guilty of adultery. (Don't "sleep" around. It really messes up everybody involved, especially the kids!)

19 "You must not steal. (Hands OFF other people's stuff!)

20 "You must not tell lies about your neighbor. (Did I here the word POLITICIAN? Well, only some of them.)

21 "You must not want to take your neighbor's wife. You must not want to take your neighbor's house or land, ... or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Don't try to "keep up with the Joneses". It only gets you in trouble. I am God, and I will supply all you need!)

"High Court Passes on Ten Commandments Case
March 1, 2010 - 10:27 AM | by: Lee Ross
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear a case over the ordered removal of a Ten Commandments monument on a county courthouse lawn."

Now tell me, what is wrong with this news headline? What is wrong with our country? It seems in just a generation, those who would love everything that is evil have succeeded in removing from the public's view and public discourse, which includes our schools, any reference to the natural God given laws that have been around for almost 3500 years of history. These moral laws have been the foundation of Judeo-Christian society, and of the United States for countless generations.

Maybe its because a visible display of these laws will let everyone know how bad they really are, or maybe its because someone wants to be sure that if everybody "does it", people will forget its bad anymore. Whatever the reason, the lack of knowledge about God's moral law has led to the moral destruction of our children and our Nation. No wonder schools are as bad as they are, crime is at an all time high, murder rates are skyrocketing, prisons are over-crowded, teen pregnancy is on the rise, divorce rates are over 50%, etc. What was once considered evil and bad, is now considered good, and what was good and virtuos is now cosidered bad!

My advice would be to restore these Ten Commandments, to the place of prominence in our society, where they should be. Before that can happen though, they have to be restored in our hearts and given prominence in our homes. If more Americans did this, and passed them on to their children and grandchildren, our country would once again enjoy the blessings of the Author.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Give Thanks - March 2, 2010

Psalm 100 (New International Version)

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

As those who are redeemed, we must always stop to give praise to God. We need to continually have his praises on our lips, because everything we have is from Him. Who we are and whatever we may become are because of Him. Look around you. Look at the blessings that have been showered on you and your family. These are all because God loves you.

But are you faced with an obstacle that seems too much to overcome? Give thanks. Is what you are going through so overwhelming and that it seems as if it will overtake you? Give thanks. At times when things are at their most difficult, and you are at your wits end, give thanks. In each and every thing and in each and every situation, give thanks.

When you give thanks to God, who has given you life and breath, you will see and experience His goodness, mercy, and peace.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chosen? (Cont.) - March 1, 2010

2 Peter 1:3,5-9 (New International Version)
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Okay, God chooses you and you can be certain that you will enjoy living in God's favor and grace, because you have taken action and placed your faith in Jesus. He alone saves you from the evil world around you, as the one who has reconciled you to God. What happens next?

Many times people listen to an inspirational and evangelistic message in church, on TV, or during a crusade. Countless numbers then take that step of faith and "give their lives" to Christ. In this simple act of placing their faith in Jesus, they are "born again" into the family of God. But research into church trends will tell you, that this type of "faith" experience will not have lasting effect on most people. In our society in this day and age, it does not translate into any significant change in lifestyle, or increase in church attendance. Why is that?

I would say that these same people have no idea of what needs to happen next. Thankfully the Bible always offers great guidance. The verses from 2 Peter above tells us what must be done after the step of faith has been taken. If we are truly changed, God the Holy Spirit comes to reside in you, and He enables you to have the strength and the power to add to your faith. The same text from The Message says what we are to do best:

5-9 So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

If you have undergone this significant and lifechanging experience, get connected with other Christians or a good bible teaching church, and be sure that you grow in your new spiritual life. Jesus offers life change. It is up to us to accept it, take personal resposibility and build on it.