Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disappointment - November 30, 2010

Genesis 3:1-24 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east sideof the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

He must have been terribly disappointed when Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. He had created them to be free and independent, but at the same time dependent on Him. He had given them a will to make their own decisions to love Him, but in doing so it would lead to His greatest disappointment.

I guess He could have vaporized them on the spot, deciding to go on with what was left of Creation, but He really couldn't do that, because He had created them out of His love and care for them. Besides, He had only created the other stuff so that mankind could see Him in all things and enjoy what He had done for them.

This conversation, this relationship would have to take on a whole new purpose. What God had planned would have to take more time, more work, more love, and more sacrifice. He would have to make it all better again. He would be the only one that could redeem His creation. He would have to make the way, the path by which they could be restored to Him; back to the relationship He originally intended to have with them.

We feel exactly the same way, when our own children disappoint us. But they have also been borne out of our love, and we want what is best for them, no matter what they do to us. We want to make it all better as well; but it will take more time, more work, more love and more sacrifice. We utlimately have to make the way, the path by which they can be restored to us when they stray.

How marvelous and wonderful that He has made us just like Him!

3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3 (New King James Version)

Follow me on my Advent journey as I travel the path that God has prepared for us back to Himself. Follow the path of "the coming" of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Monday, November 29, 2010

From the Beginning - November 29, 2010

Genesis 1:26-31 (New International Version, ©2010)
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Why did God decide to start a conversation with us? I mean why did He create us in the first place? Theologians would say that we were created to bring God glory, but when you really think about it, I think we were something more special than that.

Take for instance God's "example" here on earth. He created man and women, male and female, and they began the first earthly family. He commanded them to be fruitful and multiply by bearing children, and to fill the earth that He had created for them; for their enjoyment. Thing is though that without a very important ingredient, none of this could have moved forward. In creating man and woman, God imparted into them that single most important ingredient that has caused the world to "go round" since the beginning. He imparted them with love.

Now I believe God created all this, He created us, because He wanted to demonstrate what was at His core: Love. He wanted something, someone to love, and He wanted that someone to love Him back. All of the rest of creation could not return to Him what He wanted most from the beginning of time. ...And so begins that first conversation, that first interaction, that first demonstration of His love.

3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3(New International Version, ©2010)

Follow me on my Advent journey as I travel the path that God has prepared for us back to Himself. Follow the path of "the coming" of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1st Sunday of Advent - November 28, 2010

Isaiah 9:2-7 (New International Version, ©2010)
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Today in the Christian church marks the beginning of the season of Advent(Latin adventus means "the coming"), which marks the time when God's people prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This marks not only the remembrance of his first coming, at the birth of Christ, but it also reminds us to look forward in anticipation of Christ's second coming. Many traditional churches today mark this Sunday with the lighting of the first Advent candle, signifying Hope.

This tradition has been lost in many evangelical, non-denominational churches, but this reminder given through the practice of reflecting on Christ's coming through Advent, seems even more appropriate today as the world focus on shopping, Santa Claus, reindeer and the like. As we approach Christmas, we need to stop to read God's word and meditate on Jesus Christ and his coming.

In this portion of scripture from the prophet Isaiah, written almost 700 years prior to the event, we read the word of God speaking of Christ's advent, the coming of "a great light" that will shine on those living in a land of great darkness. Who else can Isaiah be prophesying about when we read, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders."

The "Hope of Mankind" is coming into the world; a light is coming to shine into the darkness of man's heart and bring freedom from the bondage of our sin. And we will call him our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and the Prince of our Peace.

Follow me on my Advent journey as I travel the path that God has prepared for us back to Himself. Follow the path of "the coming" of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Praise! - November 27, 2010

Psalm 146 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Thanks Real - November 26, 2010

Hebrews 12:28-29 (New International Reader's Version)
28 We are receiving a kingdom that can't be shaken. So let us be thankful. Then we can worship God in a way that pleases him. We will worship him with deep respect and wonder. 29 Our "God is like a fire that burns everything up."—(Deuteronomy 4:24)

Hebrews 12:28-29 (The Message)
28-29Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won't quit until it's all cleansed. God himself is Fire!

When we were growing up we learned to say please and thank you whenever we wanted or were given something. It was probably one of the very first gestures we learned, and it is something we passed on to our own children. These days, although saying please and thank you may have fallen out of favor for some, it is still a gesture that is very much appreciated and and is seen as being the proper way of treating another. As a parent, we love it when our children learn to always say please and thank you whenever the situation warrants it.

How much more is it important for our God to be asked and thanked in the proper way. I think we often forget that God has personality and feelings in the same way we do. We need to remember the reality that He has created us after His own image. God is all about proper relationship, as can be seen by how the Father relates to the Son, who in turn relates to the Holy Spirit, who relates back to the Father, and they all relate to one another. It is a difficult idea and relationship for us to fathom, but if we closely study the Word that He has given us, we can clearly see the relationship of the Godhead.

Our God loves to hear us ask Him for anything and thank Him for everything. We need to have a relationship with God that is as real as a parent relates to a child; a relationship that understands that He wants to relate to us. Just as an earthly parent, He enjoys our asking for things as much as He enjoys giving us good things. In this season of thanksgiving, let us not forget our source of everything and remember to always thank Him for all that He does for us.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Everything Give Thanks! - November 25, 2010

Colossians 3:15-17 (New International Version, ©2010)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New International Version, ©2010)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In 1863, in the midst of our nations bloodiest conflict, President Abraham Lincoln gave the proclamation to set aside a day of Thanksgiving which has led to the Thanksgiving Day we observe. On this day, as you gather with family and friends, it is only right that we follow his admonition and give thanks to our Almighty God for the many blessings He has in His mercy and grace given to us, our families, our communities and our nation.

Let the words found in His word set us upon a foundation, where our praises and thanksgiving to God for the many benefits given to us become as constant as the beating of our hearts. Let us also be ever thankful for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has paid the price for our redemption, which is most worthy of our thanks. Let us join with Abraham Lincoln and not forget the Source of the many things that have been given us.

Proclamation of Thanksgiving
by the President of the United States of America

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

A. Lincoln

Provided by WallBuilders

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks to the Lord - November 24, 2010

1 Chronicles 16:7-11;23-25;34-36 (New International Version, ©2010)
7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the LORD in this manner:

8 Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
11 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
and glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.

Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”

If anyone ever questions that we were a Christian nation, and one that relied on Almighty God for its existence and preservation, you need only look back on the writings of our nations founders. The United States is one of only nations founded on the principles layed down by God, and our forebearers recognized their responsibility to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world in which they were in. Oh how refreshing it would be if our political and government leaders of today took on the same burden and responsibility to lead the nation in the fear and admonition of God.

Our very first Thanksgiving Proclamation was made by George Washington as President of the United States in 1789. You will note in your reading that our government was truly focused on the things of God and giving Him thanks for the benefits He had blessed upon our nation. Like King David above, our first President found it very important for the nation to give thanks and praise to our God. This Thanksgiving, give thanks for our God is good, and pray that He will have mercy and restore our nation to the purposes of righteousness He intended.

(In your reading you will find places where there is an "f" in the original English. Replace these with an "s" and it will be easier to understand):

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Psalm 100 (New International Version, ©2010)
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

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 we approach Thanksgiving, we need to share with all those around us the true purpose and meaning behind the celebration. The events of the First Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621, when the 53 survivors welcomed a company of over 90 Native Americans to partake of the plenty they had from the recent harvests. They celebrated the harvest for 3 days, with the primary purpose being to give thanks to God for the blessings He had given them.

As you get ready for your own celebrations, let's prepare our hearts to give thanks to God for the blessings He has given us over the past year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bragging About My God - November 22, 2010

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
23This is what the Lord says:

Don’t let wise people brag about their wisdom.
Don’t let strong people brag about their strength.
Don’t let rich people brag about their riches.

24If they want to brag, they should brag that they understand and know me.

They should brag that I, the Lord, act out of love, righteousness, and justice on the earth.

This kind of bragging pleases me, declares the Lord.

It is interesting what we celebrate in society these days. We lift up atheletes, some politicians, and movie stars. We applaud Oprah and the ladies on "The View". We idolize Elton John, John Mayer, and Taylor Swift, and we immortalize players in Cooperstown and Canton. We honor our war heores and those who have reached the pinnacle in business. We brag on our kids and ourselves, and we do all we can for those around us to know that we are important or we have achieved something special. It seems that we lift up every human and personal achievement we can, but we fail to do so with what is most important.

God celebrates those who are the lowliest among us. He lifts up the poor in spirit, the meek and the persecuted. He applauds those who help others. He idolizes those who carry their cross everday for Him, and He immortalizes those who have sacrificed themselves for His name's sake. He honors thos who have honored Him and those who serve Jesus with unending devotion. He wants our bragging to be about His business and those who strive for the things of God. We are special when we recognize that we are nothing, but He is everything.

I brag on the fact that He has allowed me to gain just a little understanding of Him, and He allows me to understand more and try to get closer to Him everyday. He has had mercy on me and in His grace, He has acted out of love, righteousness, and justice. I brag on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has given everything for a nothing like me. Can you brag about the same thing as me?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: Are you Ready? - November 21, 2010

Matthew 25:1-13 (New Living Translation)

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

7 “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

9 “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

The Kingdom of Heaven is upon us! God has been working through human history for the last 2000 years to let us know that the kingdom in Jesus Christ is among us, and to tell us that He is gathering us all together for His final kingdom that we will enjoy in heaven. Everthing we hear concerning Jesus has been kept alive these many centuries so that we might know that he is the only way back to God. This is the good news of the kingdom, that Jesus Christ has sacrificed himself for our benefit so that we might be reconciled to God, and Jesus is among us and awaiting our arrival.

You are being offered the time to be ready for His coming. You have been given through the grace and mercy of God the way back to Him. There is no denying the fact of Jesus. It is up to us to get ready. Will you keep watch and be ready to enter into the Kingdom of God? Will you be welcomed in when the bridegroom comes? It is up to you. He is offering you the "keys to the Kingdom of Heaven". Will you accept them? The answer is up to you. Everthing has been told so that you will believe. The rest is up to you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Wedding Celebration - November 20, 2010

Matthew 22:1-14 (New Living Translation)
1Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!

4 “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5 But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6 Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.

7 “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8 And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Long ago God stepped out of heaven and attempted to re-connect with man. He did this through His chosen people, the Jews. His people were often called "the apple of His eye". These were the people that God cherished and tried to prepare to receive His Son. He gave them kings, and they fell into the worship of idols and became like the people of the world around them. He sent them prophets to warn them, and they killed the prophets. He tried in every way to bring them back to Himself, but they rejected Him at every turn. Finally He brought them Jesus.

The parable above illustrates God's experience with the Jewish people, and because of their rejection of His Son, God has made a way for us to come to Him. It is only by the acceptance of His Son Jesus, and his work of our behalf on the cross. It does not matter what we have done, how good or bad we have been, as long as we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are part of God's banquet for His Son's bride the church. But, we need to be sure that we are clothed in the right wedding clothes, the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: Not Playing Favorites - November 19, 2010

Matthew 20:1-16 (New International Reader's Version)
1 "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who owned land. He went out early in the morning to hire people to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to give them the usual pay for a day's work. Then he sent them into his vineyard.

3 "About nine o'clock in the morning he went out again. He saw others standing in the market place doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard. I'll pay you what is right.' 5 So they went.

"He went out again about noon and at three o'clock and did the same thing. 6 About five o'clock he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.

"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard spoke to the person who was in charge of the workers. He said, 'Call the workers and give them their pay. Begin with the last ones I hired. Then go on to the first ones.'

9 "The workers who were hired about five o'clock came. Each received the usual day's pay. 10 So when those who were hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each of them also received the usual day's pay.

11 "When they received it, they began to complain about the owner. 12 'These people who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said. 'You have paid them the same as us. We have done most of the work and have been in the hot sun all day.'

13 "The owner answered one of them. 'Friend,' he said, 'I'm being fair to you. Didn't you agree to work for the usual day's pay? 14 Take your money and go. I want to give the ones I hired last the same pay I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely to the others?'

16 "So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last."

Our world is all about power, position and prestige. We are all brought up with the saying that "It's not what you know, but who you know!" Many of us had the uncomfortable experience of chosing teams, and wondering if we would get picked. Others have had the experience of being passed over for a promotion at work or school because someone was more favored than you. Even in our families, many of us had the experience of a parent favoring one child over another. Because of some of these things, many of us may feel very inadequate at times, and at other times we spend our entire lives competing to stay on top, or working to get ahead.

What a difference there is in the Kingdom of Heaven! In God's economy, there are no favorites; there is no working your way to the top. You can work all of your life for the Lord, or you can be a brand new believer, a new Christian, and when it comes to His gift of salvation, we are all equal. Everyone will receive the same reward of eternal life, and spending eternity with our God in heaven. Jesus wanted to make this very clear to all who read his words. God has the right to make the decision because everyone and everything is His.

Just as in the parable, there will be those who feel they deserve more, but we are fortunate that despite our sins, God accepts us no matter what. We don't want it any other way. The world would tell us that you have to be better than someone else, or work harder, or accumulate more good deeds over your bad, but not so with God. Jesus is available and free to all. He has made the payment on our behalf.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Folly of Being Rich - November 18, 2010

Matthew 19:16-24 (New International Reader's Version)
16 A man came up to Jesus. He asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?"

17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter the kingdom, obey the commandments."

18 "Which ones?" the man asked.

Jesus said, " 'Do not commit murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness. 19 Honor your father and mother.'—(Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20) And 'love your neighbor as you love yourself.' "—(Leviticus 19:18)

20 "I have obeyed all those commandments," the young man said. "What else do I need to do?"

21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me."

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad. He was very rich.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "What I'm about to tell you is true. It is hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But it is even harder for the rich to enter God's kingdom."

We in the West are both very blessed and at the same time very unfortunate, when it comes to following Jesus Christ. It is great that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values, and that we can practice our faith with very little grief or opposition. But it is also true, that because of the very freedom and wealth that we have, and the fact that we are blessed materially, that it is difficult for people as a whole to understand their need for the life-saving message of Jesus.

Doing right and wrong is fairly easy, because our foundation has for the most part dictated a certain moral code that has been embraced by society, and as long as relativists are held at bay, our country operates fairly and with civility. Because of all this, most people live in harmony and have little need for a God, much less a Savior. Although we are rich, we are extremely poor; we are rich in freedom and possessions, but we are poor spiritually.

That is what Jesus was talking about in these verses. It is difficult for those who have the wealth that we do to give it all up for the sake of God. It is not until we realize our extreme spiritual poverty that we realize our need for the Father and the salvation found in His Son. Once again this is a heart issue, more that it is a money issue. In our very rich country, even those without much money can have the same spiritual poverty that those who have much.

We need to pray for Americans to wake up and realize how poor they really are. We need to make everyone aware that they need to make the things of God a priority before it is too late. What do I mean? Well, in countries where the people are either extremely poor materially, or they are heavily persecuted when it comes to their faith, especially Christian faith, the things of God and HIs church is thriving. People cling to the hope that the Gospel message gives them, and they have a hunger to "feed on His Word" and learn of Him more.

We need to pray the we will realize our need for Jesus, before we are driven to our knees and have to realize our need the hard way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: Through a Child's Eyes - November 17, 2010

Matthew 18:1-5 (New International Version)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Well it's the holiday season again, and right on schedule the anti-Christian hordes are coming out in full force. These days children that attend public school don't really have any idea what Thanksgiving is all about, and Christmas...well if a baby in a manger is even mentioned, you'll have the ACLU all over you. Sure, there might be alot about snow, decorated trees, gift giving and Santa, but if you mention anything about Jesus you could be accused of a hate crime.

I can hardly wait to see which magazine cover will have something questioning some aspect about the validity of Christmas or something that will question the very existance of Jesus Christ. You'll have the educators and theologians pontificating, and the lawyers and politicians debating. But the thing that most people fail to realize is that without Jesus, there would be no reason for the season, or the controversy at all.

I believe Jesus was speaking to this very controversy in the verse about the Kingdom of Heaven above. I feel that he was making the point that when it comes to the things of God you need to have a childlike faith as a child has at Christmas. It is during this marvelous time of year that beneath the loud rantings and noise of the adults, the children still approach the story of a tiny baby in a manager, in the little town of Bethlehem, with the shepherds and the wise men, with awe and wonder.

A child does not question the validity of this or that, they do not debate or argue, they just accept in faith and heartfelt desire to get to know the baby Jesus. They long for a place of joy and love, where the warm embrace of the Father brings all the comfort that is needed. This is the season for all of us to have the mind and heart of a child, and to see our Savior and Lord through the eyes of a child.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Mustard Seed - November 16, 2010

Matthew 13:31-32 (New International Version)
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Jesus spoke in many parables, instructing people in terms of what they could understand. He often used familiar circumstances and objects from their daily lives, so that those who were meant to understand his teaching could do so. On the surface these parables seem to be just simple stories, but when if you meditate on them and seek God's wisdom in them, they take on a much bigger meaning.

The parable of the mustard seed is one such parable. Jesus used the tiniest of seeds in his time to illustrate many concepts in his teaching. In my opinion, Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate what was to happen to the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus brought with him. We understand that the kingdom he is talking about is the reign of Christ in the hearts of mankind, and the belief and obedience we have in faith in him.

The Kingdom of Heaven started in the smallest of towns in a remote corner of the world, as a baby in the manager. God planted his Son in the world to live among us and proclaim the message of the Kingdom of Heaven. His message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf took root, grew and spread throughout the world, and those who took hold and believed the message were able to find rest and comfort in the shelter of his love, mercy and grace.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The True Disciple - November 15, 2010

Matthew 7:21-23 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants.

22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ 23Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’

This portion of Matthew is one of those that can strike fear into every believer. Who hasn't read this passage and asked,"Lord do you mean me?"If you look back starting with verse 15, you will notice that Jesus was warning about false prophets, those who claim to speak about and for Jesus, but they are far from him. There are many different cults and faiths that claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, but they believe in a very different Jesus than a true Christian does.

Here though, Jesus is talking about those within the church. They act and talk like they follow Jesus, but in their hearts they are far from him. They have a far different agenda than sharing the life-saving good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They do not call on Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord of their life. They haven't called on the name of Jesus to redeem them from their sin. In gratitude they have not made it their purpose in life to please Him, and tell all they know about Jesus as best as they can, or work for his purposes.

If you even are asking this question, you have already passed God's test. All of us who love and call on our Savior Jesus know that we fall short and that we are undeserving of God's mercy and grace, and knowing so is what is most important in determining whether or not you are a true disciple. It is because we know of our inadequacy and need for Him that we can know that we are chosen by Him. Jesus reaches out to all of us, who will realize our very dependence, to call us his children.

We feel his presence when we are moved in worship and praise, or we are touched by the injustice, hurt and pain around us. We know we are his, when we long for his return and we hope and wait for his loving embrace. Are you a true disciple? Do you long for the Kingdom of Heaven? If you do, then in your heart you already know the answer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Praise! - November 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 commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They 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 your works praise you, LORD;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people 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 trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The LORD upholds all 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 faithful in all he does.
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.

On this beautiful Sunday evening, let us join David and give praise to our Lord and maker. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise, and we should remember His goodness in thanksgiving and worship. As we begin a new week let our praises of Him be on our lips in everything we do. May we give Him the glory for the marevelous things He will help us accomplish this week.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: "Your Kingdom Come" - November 13, 2010

Matthew 6:9-13 (New International Version)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
for yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

One of the things I look forward to the most, and I trust what most Christians look forward to is the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom. If you do any study of the Bible, you will find that not only is God's Kingdom within the hearts of His people, but there will be a literal Kingdom of God called the "Millenial Kingdom" here on earth prior to eternity in heaven. There will be an earthly kingdom over which Christ will reign with believers for a thousand years(Revelation 20:1-6).

When Jesus was with his disciples and the crowd that had gathered for what would be called the "Sermon on the Mount", he not only taught them about what the kingdom of God was like, but he also gave them an example of how they should pray. It is interesting that second to giving God praise declaring His holiness, Jesus instructs them to pray for the establishment of God's kingdom here on earth. He wanted them to realize that the kingdom would only come through prayer and acceptance of his message.

For us too, we need to be about the work of "praying in the kingdom". Not only is it important to tell others about the good news, and help them gain the reign of Christ in their lives, but we need to be sure that we are constantly seeking God an looking forward to HIs ultimate reign here on earth. I don't know about you, but from the news I read on a daily, if not minute-by-minute basis, our world is in need of the reign of righteousness and justice only God can bring about.

I am constantly moved by the cruelty and babarity that mankind inflicts on one another, and the horrific crimes that are commited against women and the weak among us. I am especially saddened by the acts that are perpetrated upon innocent children here in the U.S. and around the world. I say "Come quickly Lord Jesus", and I long for the coming Kingdom of God to this earth. So I would encourage you to daily pray for the coming of Christ, and join me in sharing the good news in the meantime.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: Fullfilling God's Law - November 12, 2010

Matthew 5:17-20 (New International Version)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

As human beings, when we are faced with having to follow a set of rules or regulations, we have the tendency to follow that set of rules and regulations as close to the letter of them as possible. For example, when we are given a speed limit, most of us will stay as close to that limit even though we might cheat a few miles over. Sad things is that even one mile over is stil disobeying the law. Rarely would someone go a few miles slower, just to make sure they do not break the law. The problem is a "heart" issue, we see the law as something we have to do, but we follow it out of compulsion, rather than out of obedience and willingness to please the lawgiver. The same is true with every aspect of our lives.

When Jesus came speaking about the Kingdom of God, which would be his reign in the lives of the people and their obedience to his reign in our hearts, he wanted to make it clear that he was not trying to displace Judaism and replace it with a new religion. If you read the passage above, you might think that Jesus set a bar that is too high to meet when he says, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven". What did he mean by this? The Pharisees and teachers of the law were supposed to be the most righteous people of the day.

If you read further, Jesus would go on to speak about many issues that surrounded the Law(which were the Ten Commandments and other laws found in the Old Testament). What he was syaing was that the intent of the heart determines whether or not you broke the law that God had given man. For example, later in Matthew 5 he likens anger(or hate) of your brother or sister to murder or looking on someone with lust to committing adultery.
The Pharisees and teachers were using the law against the people for their own interests, but yet in their hearts they were disobedient to it, through their treatment of others. God judges intentions of the heart just as much as He judges the actual commitment of the act itself.

The kingdom Jesus brings is one of the heart, and our intentions are what will be judged by God in all matters of behavior and obedience to His laws. First of all Jesus Christ points us to a law that we will never be able to fully obey, but at the same time he frees us from God's judgement when we place our faith and trust in him, as the one who has already paid for our disobedience to God and His law. We can only be righteous enough, have "surpassing righteousness", by allowing Jesus to reign in our hearts as our Savior and King.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: First Things First - November 11, 2010

Matthew 6:31-34 (New King James Version)
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

As Jesus set about teaching the people about the Kingdom of Heaven, he knew that many that followed him would be troubled by the everyday problems of life. He made it very clear what the concerns and the priorities should be. We should first focus of the things of God, the Kingdom of God.

You see, God's kingdom is the rule and reign of Christ in our lives, and we who have been saved by him, need to live like it. We can no longer be focused on the world and its priorities, but we need to be doing the workd that God would have us do. If we do so, we are given a promise. God will take care of the rest.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: Heaven Bound Character - November 10, 2010

Psalm 15 (New International Version)
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;

3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;

4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;

5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Long before Jesus walked the earth teaching all who would listen about the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven, David in communion with God wrote about the character of those who seek to be heaven bound; those who would choose to dwell with God. It has always been clear how those who trust in God should behave, but with the help of the Holy Spirit of God, we can live in such away that pleases God in thanksgiving for our salvation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: How to Be Attitudes - November 9, 2010

Matthew 5:1-12 (New Living Translation)
1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.

6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.

7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.

9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

When we make the decision to be part of God's Kingdom, there are certain behaviors, characteristics, and attitudes that He blesses. His hope is for all of us to approach the world with our hearts and hands wide open. He is looking for people to be in His Kingdom that have the "right stuff". We are to realize our utter need before Him and as life's struggles and problems weigh in on us, He will be the rewarder of those who seek Him.

Jesus set out to help those around him understand who God really was. He was not an unapproachable Creator, that looked upon mankind to purely administer His justice, but He was also intricately involved in all that people would go through. Ultimately He would make the supreme gesture of love, mercy and blessing, by allowing the Son, Jesus, to be crucified on a wooden cross as payment for our sins.

In thanksgiving, we need to take on the right attitude, and be examples of God's goodness and mercy. We need to truly be His subjects and be ambassadors for the King.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Proclamation- November 8, 2010

Mark 1:14-15 (New International Version)
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Matthew 4:17 (Young's Literal Translation)
17From that time began Jesus to proclaim and to say, `Reform ye, for come nigh hath the reign of the heavens.'

What people do to have heaven on earth? What amount of money would they pay? What length would they go to have a taste of heaven? Mankind has tried for ages to have utopia in this world, an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system, an attempt to create an ideal society where everyone lives in harmony.

The Jews of Jesus time felt that if the Messiah came and conquered all of their oppressors, they would have their utopian Kingdom of God. The Romans of the day felt that as long as they subjugated all of the inhabitants of the known world and created the perfect Republic, wherein the "beauties of society" reigned as Plato had written about, they would have the perfect world.

If you look at different translations, you will notice that the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God, can be translated as the "reign of the heavens" or "kingdom of the skies". Jesus entered the world in human form to tell the inhabitants that they could live under the authority, grace and mercy of God. He was there to point them back to God and His divine love.

He was there to show them how to be reconciled to God and to proclaim God's kingdom here on earth as well as eternally in heaven. He was there to truly establish the perfected kingdom and restore God's perfect creation.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Praise the Lord! - November 7, 2010

Psalm 104:1,13-15,31-35(New Living Translation)
1 Let all that I am praise the Lord.

O Lord my God, how great you are!
You are robed with honor and majesty.
13 You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
15 wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.
31 May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
32 The earth trembles at his glance;
the mountains smoke at his touch.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will praise my God to my last breath!
34 May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth;
let the wicked disappear forever.

Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

After a beautiful weekend, I thought it would be most fitting to take this posting to offer up a word of praise to our God and Maker. He is good and He has given us all things. It saddens me that many do not know or accept His love and goodness. I pray that He would reveal Himself in the hearts of many. Let all that we are praise the Lord. Let us dedicate this week and its work to Him.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Praise! - November 6, 2010

Psalm 136 (New International Version)

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

As you prepare for Sunday worship, give thanks to the Lord for His goodness. Give thanks for His love and His blessings, and thank Him for what He has done for you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Incarnation - November 5, 2010

Matthew 4:12-17 (New International Version)
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—

16 The people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.” -Isaiah 9:1-2

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

There was a time in the beginning that the Kingdom of God was present on the earth. Before the fall of man, the kingdom existed and there was communion between God and His creation. We read about God walking in the garden and for a time man enjoyed living with the King. But sin banished man to and existance away from God. Their disobedience separated the King from the subjects He loved. God became so frustrated with the state of man, that He started over with the kingdom, sparing only Noah and his family and a remnant of the creation.

From this new beginning He was determined to reconcile His creation to the King, and restore His kingdom. After the passing of time and after generations of the descedants of Noah, God again reached out to His subjects through Abraham and His chosen, the Jewish people. He again worked to restore the kingdom, but mankind became impatient with following after God's heavenly rule, and sought to establish earthly, tangible kings to lead them. Problem was that sin ensnared the subjects and eventually they again found themselves in earthly and spiritual bondage, seperating themselves from the King who loved them.

God realized that there would be only one way to restore His kingdom; only one way to reconcile His subjects to Himself. There would be only one way for man to once again return to the "garden", the kingdom once intended for the gem of God's creation that He loved. God would have to clothe Himself in flesh and walk in the steps of mankind; that would be the only way for the subjects to hear the voice of their king and learn about the way back into the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven would be once again established on the earth, not in an earthly but a spiritual sense. Through love and the sacrifice, the hearts of men would once again return to the King. Jesus would once again establish the Kingdom of Heaven among men:

16 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” -Isaiah 9:1-2

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kingdom of Heaven: The Preparation - November 4, 2010

Matthew 3:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)
1 In those days John the Baptist came and preached in the Desert of Judea. 2 He said, "Turn away from your sins! The kingdom of heaven is near."

3 John is the one the prophet Isaiah had spoken about. He had said," A messenger is calling out in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.' " —(Isaiah 40:3)

Whenever a king is about to coronated into his kingdom, preparations are made for his arrival. In the way of the world, the arrival of a king is met with much anticipation, "pomp and circumstance". The finest in all the kingdom is layed out for the coming king. Nothing is spared because it all belongs to the king. The subjects and vassals of the kingdom are expected to pay homage and pledge loyalty to the new king.

The arrival of our heavenly king Jesus into his kingdom was not met in the same way. Probably because Jesus was not arriving on the scene to be an earthly king, as the Jews were expecting. For centuries the Jewish people were waiting for the expected Messiah, the king who would help them overcome the nations that had been oppressing them. They had misinterpreted the meaning behind the prophecies their Scriptures.

But this was not to be the case with Jesus. He was arriving onto the earthly scene to show the people here on earth the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom that far different than any earthly kingdom. This was to be a spiritual kingdom and he was the arriving king. This was a new kingdom that only those that had paid homage and pledged loyalty to the king, through repentance and belief in the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ could hope to become a subject.

For the arrival of the most important King to all mankind there would be no pomp and circumstance; no homage and loyalty would be pledged. Just the simple shouts of a messenger calling out into the desert for mankind to "turn away from their sins" and prepare their hearts to hear the message from the King. King Jesus would arrive on the scene in a simple stable, in a backward little town, and after 30 years, his cousin John would greet him and step aside for the "lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven - November 3, 2010

Matthew 13:33 (New Living Translation)
33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

In 2005, there was a very well acted movie directed by Ridley Scott that was widely released titled,The Kingdom of Heaven. The story is set during the Crusades of the 12th century. A French village blacksmith goes to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defense against the Muslim leader Saladin, who is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. The film script is a heavily fictionalised portrayal of Balian of Ibelin.

What I found most interesting was that the movie sought to portray the city of Jerusalem at that time of uneasy peace as the kingdom of God. It meant to show that all of God's children, Christian, Muslim, and Jew could live together in peace and harmony together. As is the case in the movie, and real life as well, the lusts and corruption of the men within and outside the kingdom lead up to the fall of this "utopian" ideal and after a siege by Saladin, the city was given up to the Muslims.

In the Bible there are many references to the "Kingdom of Heaven" or the "Kingdom of God". It is a concept that can be hard to understand. We are used to a kingdom being a territory of land whose inhabitants are ruled by a single soveriegn ruler and those he has placed into authority. There have been many of these over the centuries of man's existence, both good and bad. But what is Jesus Christ talking about throughout the New Testament when he is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven?

In my next few postings we will look into what Jesus was trying to teach us by describing what the Kingdom of Heaven as he ministered to the people of his day. Jesus made a point many times to describe things in parable, stories depicting things familiar to his audience, so that the people who were meant to hear and understand the message, could easily do so. Tomorrow we will look at this parable, and we will take a look at other things he said about this very important topic.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In God's Courtyard - November 2, 2010

Psalm 84 (New International Version © 2010)
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

12 LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

There is a longing in the heart for every believer. If you are a Christian, you long for the day you will be with Jesus in the courtyard, the dwelling place of God. This is a psalm written by a Levitical priest who spoke about his delight serving in the temple of God. It was his prayer to God of thanksgiving and devotion. He so cherished being in God's presence that he compared one day with Him better than a thousand days being somewhere else.

We too need these verses to be our prayer, We need to have a longing as intense as that of this priest. If we expose our hearts to cherishing the presence of God such as this, we will be much more devoted to serving Him and being the servants of Jesus Christ. We too need to see this as a description of being truly blessed in our lives. As the verse says in another translation: "My whole being cries out for the living God."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Looking in the "Mirror" - November 1, 2010

Colossians 1:21-23 (New International Reader's Version)
21 At one time you were separated from God. You were enemies in your minds because of your evil ways. 22 But because Christ died, God has brought you back to himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. So now you don't have any flaw. You are free from blame.

23 But you must keep your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you. It is the good news that you heard. It has been preached to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, now serve the good news.

There was a time in my life when I didn't feel very good looking into the mirror. No, it's not because I am getting older. Before I surrendered to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was lost and adrift in the world. It led me into many valleys and places I really didn't like being in. During this time in my life, God never gave up on me.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He convicted me of what was wrong in my life, and set my heart on wanting to come back to Him. He made me aware of the "mirror" of His law, what's right and wrong, what's pleasing to God and not, that I would someday be held accountable to.

I love these verses from Paul's book to the church in the Colossians. I can see myself decribed so clearly in them, that it is like looking into that mirror. I really can see myself, through the bad and the good. Today, I continue to measure myself against God's word. As it says,through Christ's death I have been made holy in God's sight, and in His eyes I don't have any flaws, and I am free from blame. It has been a struggle everyday to keep my faith steady and firm, but through His Spirit I have been able to not "move away".

How about you? Can you see your reflection in the "mirror" of these words? If you can't, take hold of this fact, Jesus Christ died for you, God has forgiven you and brought you back to Himself. Christ's death has made you holy in God's sight. You can free yourself from the chains of your sin and shame, because God has freely provided the way for you. When you surrender yourself and accept His gift to you, you can be sure that Jesus has provided a place with God for you.

If you see yourself in this "mirror" as I do, "hold your faith steady and firm. Don't move away from the hope that the good news holds out to you". This is the mirror that the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been given to you. So in turn, follow the way that Paul did long a go. Serve the good news, reaching out to all those that need to see their reflection too.