Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preparing for Your End - March 31, 2015

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 judgment. 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 30, 2015

Your Invited! - March 30, 2015

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 rebukes, 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 traditions 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 millennia. It is the Way that God has provided for all people to be reconciled and found acceptable 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 Christianity 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 29, 2015

Hosanna! Save Now! - March 29, 2015

Matthew 21:1-11(New International Reader's Version)

1 As they all approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two disciples. 2 He said to them, "Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey tied up. Her colt will be with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them. The owner will send them right away." 4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would come true. It says,

5 "Say to the city of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey.
He is riding on a donkey's colt.' " —(Zechariah 9:9)

6 The disciples went and did what Jesus told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt. They placed their coats on them. Then Jesus sat on the coats. 8 A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" —(Psalm 118:26)
"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, "Who is this?"

11 The crowds answered, "This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

Hosanna! Save, Now! Hosanna in the highest! These are the words that were shouted as Jesus(meaning Yaweh saves, Yaweh is salvation, God saves, God delivers) was entering Jerusalem on his way to the week that would end with his crucifixion on a wooden Roman cross. We celebrate it today as Palm Sunday, when the Jewish people celebrated the arrival who they believed to be their Messiah, the King who would save them from their oppression.

Our King has come to save us from the oppression of sin in our lives, and it is up to us to worship and rejoice His coming deliverance, or to ignore Him as just another prophet, another man written of in the history books.
We need to ask ourselves who we will look to as this Holy Week progresses. Will we welcome Him in our lives, and rejoice? Will we join countless Christians in saying, Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! God saves!

Image from the Assisi Frescoes: Entry into Jerusalem, by Pietro Lorenzetti, about 1320, Fresco Assisi, Lower Basilica, San Francesco, southern transept,Italy

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Walking on Water - March 28, 2015

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Living Translation)
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We are often faced with the trials and storms of life, and most of us try to make do things ourselves. We struggle against the "heavy waves" of life and our spirits take quite a pounding as we stubbornly go our own way. Usually the harder we try the more difficult the challenges become, until we find ourselves crying out for help.

The story of Jesus walking on water demonstrates a few things to us. First we see where Jesus sends his disciples ahead, while he stays behind to pray. I believe that Jesus sent them out by themselves to test them; He allows a storm to come up to see what they would do. Notice that in the midst of the storm, when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they were slow to recognize him. In fact they looked first for an impossible explanation rather than to think that Jesus was capable of this action.

Next we see that Jesus is quick to alleviate their fear, by telling them not to be afraid. Then in a step of faith, Peter steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. But instead of focusing on Jesus, Peter lets the storm around him get the better of him and he begins to sink. Jesus as the eternal Savior reaches out to help him, but he is disappointed that Peter's faith is not strong enough to believe that he could do the impossible.

We like Peter are often limited in how we overcome the difficulties of life, because we will not totally surrender to Jesus, and in deep faith know that He will help us do the impossible. We would rather try to do it on our own. My call to you is this, you need to grow your faith to the point that you are completely committed to the Savior. You need to be confident that in everything, Jesus will help you through. Most of all, we need to never give up our faith when the "wind and waves" beat down on us. Instead we need to strengthen our faith even more, and be assured that God will help us through to "calm waters".

Are you facing a storm in your life right now? Reach out to Jesus and ask him to save you. He will take you by the hand, help you "walk upon the water", and lift you into the place of peace and safety. Figurative as this might seem, if you truly believe you will overcome any storm life throws against you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Count the Cost - March 27, 2015

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 hands 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, especially those dominated by Sharia law. As you are reading, there are thousands of Christians being slaughtered, brutalized, enslaved, and bitterly persecuted for their faith in Jesus in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic extremists of ISIS  are exterminating the Christian church in every area that they can. 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 persecution?

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?

Photo by Khalil Hamra, AP

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Stand Up For Jesus - March 26, 2015

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?

Unfortunately 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.

In contrast to the "country club Christian", across the world in almost every country, many Christians are undergoing "persecution" for their faith. May be it is just be ridiculed and ostracized for truly following their faith, or maybe it's being shunned by fellow workers or other family members. Worse yet, many around the world are actually being killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. They are truly losing everything they have, just to follow the way, the truth and the life God has given to us.

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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Entangled - March 25, 2015

Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)
14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As we try to live the Christian life, it is difficult to throw off those pesky "sins" that seem to haunt us. We find ourselves entangled, ensnared, trapped, by those things we thought we left behind when we gave up our old lives. These things differ for every believer; not everyone is "miraculously" freed from everything we used to be hindered by as a non-believer. Let's face it...at one time we thought the things we did were okay. These things become a burden and hinder us from doing what we should for Christ.

When we become Christians we accept that Jesus has freed us by being the payment for sin that was required by God's law. Now that we have been rescued from them, it doesn't mean that it is easy to get away from the addictions to the sins we used to commit. All we know with our new life in Christ is that they are displeasing to the Father, and in gratitude to Him for what He has saved us from, we must try daily to shake off the bondage that we have become so accustomed to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Living In Jesus Christ - March 24, 2015

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.

Kingdom of the Skies - March 23, 2015

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 would 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, March 22, 2015

In Control - March 22, 2015

John 14:27 New International Version (NIV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33 New International Version (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Are you restless in your spirit these days? Are you scared about what is happening around you? Does it seem that nothing is getting any better in your life? You read the papers, or posts online, or watch television and it seems that there are nothing but troubles in the world.

When it gets close to home, you really start to question what is going on with you and God. What did you do? Is there some hidden sin in your life that you don't know about? Is it something you should have done but didn't? All these questions flood your mind and spirit, and you ask God, "Why is this happening God? Why can't I get any relief? Things only seem to be getting worse and I don't know what to do about it."

For every believer the answers are different, and all you know is that you long for the embrace of Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. You long for God to tell you the answers and let you know that everything is, and will be okay between you. He has promised you that everything will work out for good, but you want to see the "good" come much more quickly.

You wait to hear that voice from Heaven tell you that "I hear you my child, and I am watching out for you!" What can you do? What will break you free from your troubles and distress? Place your trust in the One who made you; Jesus Christ offers you the confidence that He has handled it all under control.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

He Is Holy - March 21, 2015

Revelation 4:6b-11(New International Version)
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

Company Benefits - March 20, 2015

Philippians 1:21(New International Version)
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Much is made these days of the benefits that you receive when you work for an employer. Benefits are very important when making a decision on a new job, or in the retention of employees for a Company. Whether or not there is something that takes care of our medical needs now and our well-being later when we retire is usually pre-eminent in providing for our families. If you are a Company that has great benefits, you are almost assured that you can get and keep the best employees in the work force.

God offers us the best of benefits that we could ever imagine, because if we follow Him and accept His gift of salvation, we are guaranteed of being taken car of in this life and the next. In following Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity of demonstrating His love, mercy and grace to all those we encounter, and once we leave this planet, we are assured of a place with Him in Heaven. Our job is to make the decision to be the best "employee" there is, and to serve Him with our entire being.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Unfailing Love - March 19, 2015

Psalm 36:5-10(New International Version)
5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.

There are times in our lives when nothing makes sense. You think your living your life as you should, doing the things that you should be doing, and next thing you know you are blind-sided by difficulty.

It might be the loss of your job, the death of someone you love, a sudden financial crisis or a child gets into deep trouble; your first thoughts are, "why me?"; "what did I do to deserve this?". No matter what it is that has happened, and no matter what you are faced with, if you have hope in God, you can be sure that His love will help you through your trial.

God's love never fails; He will be with you to comfort you, and you can be sure that He is One in whom you can place your trust. You can take refuge in Him, and lay all of your concerns at His feet. He has already given you His grace and mercy through your salvation in Jesus Christ, so why shouldn't He be there when you need Him?

If you are in this situation right now, call out to Him, appeal to His love; cry out for His help. He will always come through for you!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Least of These - March 18, 2015

Proverbs 31:8-9(New Century Version)
8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
defend the rights of all those who have nothing.

9 Speak up and judge fairly,
and defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Matthew 25:34-40(New Living Translation)
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!’

We are certainly a spoiled and selfish country. Yes, many of us see images like these that "pull on our heart strings", and it might move a few of us to do something about it, but for the most part we see the poor and needy of the world, we look for a moment, and then move on to something else. It's no wonder that we are the most obese country in the world, and to top it off, we throw away more in a day than some eat in a year. If we are to call ourselves Christians, it is time each of us did something personally about the unfortunate in our world.

We need to be motivated to not only feel something for those who are starving and in need, but to also take action on behalf of those God has called us to serve. In addition, take the next step and speak up for those same people. Become a defender of the poor and needy; it is time to find a way to make a contribution each and every day. Become a voice for the "the least of these"!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible" - March 17, 2015

1 Peter 2:12 (New Century Version)
12 People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.

You never know who is watching you. You never know what you do as a witness for Jesus Christ might make the difference to whether or not someone comes to know the Lord. When we take on the mantle of "Christian", our lives no longer are our own. We need to remember that we now work for the Creator of the universe. We now are the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying world around us, and we need to be His example.

I was reading a book in my "library" today, and I came across a short little poem that really brought the point I have been trying to get across over the last couple of days:

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible"

I am my neighbor's Bible:
He reads me when we meet,
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street;
He may be a relative or a friend,
Or a slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me.
- Author Unknown

Each and everyday someone is searching for something different than the troubled world in which we are living. Someone out there wants to have something that they can believe in that will bring change to their lives. If we are Christians, we have that life changing difference. But others will never know it, unless we live like we do.

It's not easy, but we were never promised it would be. It is important that we understand this point, because it is a matter of life and death for many. It is time we stepped out of our comfort zones and made a difference in the lives of other people. Time for us to be the examples that God has called us to be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Surrender Yourself - March 16, 2015

Psalm 93(New International Version)
1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

2 Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

3 The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

5 Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.

No matter what you believe or what religion you practice, there is but one truth. All faiths cannot be true, because they don't all agree. Each has a different concept of who God is, so how can they all be equal? How can they ALL be true? It doesn't make logical sense. Their can only be one truth of who God is, and only one person claimed that truth.

Only Jesus Christ said that He was God(John 10:30,13:13), and that when we saw Him we saw the Father(John 14:9-10). Only He claimed to be at the beginning of all things(John 1:1,8:58). Only Jesus said that He was the truth and the way to eternal life(John 14:6). He is either a nut, a liar or God in the flesh. There is no doubt about the historical Jesus Christ. There is more documentary proof for Him than there is for the life of Julius Caesar.

If you are reading this and you don't believe in Him, there will be a specific day and time when you will be called to account for your stand(Romans 14:12,2Corinthians 5:10). The Bible tells us that Jesus was the final revelation of God(Hebrews 1:1-3), and as such we will either surrender to Him now or in the next life when it is too late(Philippians 2:9-11).

Know this our God reigns, and Jesus reigns in Him and with Him. Welcome the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, and surrender yourself to Him. Check out the verses above for yourself; seek Him in prayer and He will reveal the truth to you. You need only see, read and hear what is going on in the world around you to know that something significant is happening. Now more than ever, you need to make a decision, and the one you make will determine your eternal destiny.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Doing" the Word - March 15, 2015

James 1:22-25(New International Reader's Version)
22 Don't just listen to the word. You fool yourselves if you do that. You must do what it says.

23 Suppose you listen to the word but don't do what it says. Then you are like a man who looks at his face in a mirror. 24 After looking at himself, he leaves. Right away he forgets what he looks like.

25 But suppose you take a good look at the perfect law that gives freedom. You keep looking at it. You don't forget what you've heard, but you do what the law says. Then you will be blessed in what you do.

These days, there are many that proclaim that they are Christians, yet they have no idea what our faith is all about. Every Sunday in many churches, congregants are exposed to the word of God in the oral reading of verses from Bible, yet many go away and forget what was said. Few spend much time "taking in" by studying it and reflecting on what God is trying to say through His word. Theirs can become a very shallow faith, and they are ill-equipped to serve God or handle what life throws at them

We need make sure that we are doing what it takes to become real doers of the word, by consistently reading and studying God's word. If you do not already have that habit, you will be amazed how much the Bible comes alive when you read it. It is a living text, breathing into you the very wisdom and knowledge of God. Each and every time you read it, something new will be revealed to you through the Holy Spirit who instructs you. The word then helps you to step out and serve those around you, instructing them in the truths of the faith.

In time, the word will be your constant companion; you will find yourself joyfully doing things that serve the message of Christ, and when you encounter life's troubles, you will recall how the Spirit has taught you to handle them. So if you don't already, get a Bible, read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, then take it to heart and do it. As James says in the verses above, through "just doing it" and serving others, you will be blessed by it.

Be Joyful - March 14, 2015

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New International Reader's Version) 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.

Our attitude needs to reflect that we believe that God takes care of us. It needs to show our faith that He is in control, and nothing happens that is not within His will. As Christians, we should not behave as the "lost", always anxious for the next day, but instead we need to face each new day with knowledge that God's promises will all come true. Thanks to the grace and mercy provided by Jesus Christ's gift to us, we can have confidence that "our joy will be made complete(1John 1:14)".

Thank Him for allowing you to have hope in joy, and for including you in His forever family. Thank Him for the gift of Jesus and the assurance that you will be with Him forever. Always be joyful!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Can't Take it With You- March 13, 2015

Psalm 49:16-17 (New International Version, ©2011)
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases;17 for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.

1 Timothy 6:7 (New International Version, ©2011)
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

You have heard it said that, "You don't see a U-Haul behind a hearse". How true that is. When we die, everything earthly thing we have will be left behind. This points to the foolishness of accumulating houses and cars, and anything else we try so hard to earn in life. The verses from the psalm above makes it clear that we shouldn't even be impressed by the worldly goods of others, because they will all be left behind as well.

Our focus needs to be on what we do of eternal value. First, we need to accept Jesus Christ and make sure of our future address. Next, we need to take advantage of every good work that God directs us to do. Then we need to live lives obedient to what God has required of us in His word. Finally, we need to make sure our life focus is on sharing with everyone around us what we ourselves have learned about eternity.

Serve God, not man and make sure that your investments are in the right place.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pursuing the "Good Life" - March 12, 2015

Proverbs 14:16 (New American Standard Bible)
16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.

Hebrews 9:27-28 (New Century Version)
27 Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, 28 so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (New Century Version)
9 Our only goal is to please God whether we live here or there,10 because we must all stand before Christ to be judged. Each of us will receive what we should get—good or bad—for the things we did in the earthly body.

Are you out there trying to live for yourself and getting all you can in this world? Are you focused on just living for today, and not worrying about tomorrow? Are you just interested in grabbing that "brass ring"?

That is probably the goal of most of us at sometime in our lives, especially when we are young. Being young gives us a very narrow perspective about life, and so what, old age is a long time away. We feel invincible and that we really don't have any worries until we do get older. So for now, let's just live the "good life" and have fun while we can. Why worry? We have plenty of time to worry about God and things like that.

Then as we get older, there are many of us that feel the same way as those who are young and immature. Instead of focusing on more serious things, life continues to be all about grabbing all you can get. Accumulating wealth, partying, and having as much fun as time here will allow. Why not? We work hard to make money, why not spend it? God? Who cares, we deserve the "good life"! Live like there is no tomorrow! That's what they tell us isn't it?

Truth is, life is short, and if we waste it pursuing the "good life", we will find ourselves in serious trouble. Our focus needs to be on the "afterlife"; what legacy we set up here that will count for the future, both on earth and in heaven. Everyone has been placed here on earth by God for a purpose. No matter how many may want to deny it, what we do here is very important to how we will spend eternity.

If we waste our lives on what the Bible calls "riotous (foolish,reckless)living", we will find ourselves lacking when we are before God. Make sure you are focused on the right things before God calls you to account for the life he gave you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking for Paradise - March 11, 2015

Philippians 3:18-21 (New Living Translation)
18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Having lived in California for some time, and now that I live in Texas, I love to read a magazine called Sunset. This magazine is all about California and "Living in the West", and when I read it it reminds me of the times that I enjoyed living and vacationing there. I can get all kinds of tips on places to see, foods to prepare eat, ways to garden, and other things that I really enjoy. I really look forward to getting this little reminder of the West each and every month. One thing struck me a little differently as I was reading an issue I received. What struck me is how the magazine tries to promote "paradise on earth" for its readers, and the thought came into my head that "everyone's looking for paradise".

You see, all of us are constantly being bombarded by the world's attractions that really leads us to distraction. There simply is no way that anything here on earth will ever match the ultimate destination of true Paradise, Heaven itself. The things of earth are constantly breaking down and being corrupted. Yes, God did create these places and things for us to enjoy while we are here, but we should never let it take the place of the "real thing" in the heart of a believer.

What Jesus Christ did for us is serious stuff; our acceptance of His work on the cross allows us to know that someday we will be in a new heaven and a new earth that will be as God initially intended for His creation before the fall. Our focus should not be on what is here on the earth, but on what we will ultimately attain through Jesus in eternity. He provides all of the blessings both here and in eternity, but don't get too caught up on what we will eventually leave behind.

So enjoy the life that God has given you, and the opportunity He allows you to partake and enjoy the beauty of His creation, but be certain that each and every day you remember to yield you heart to the Giver and make your main focus to serve Him while we are here. In doing so we can be assured of the fact that "we ain't seen nothin' yet"!

Colossians 3:2 (New King James Version)
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Frog - March 10, 2015

James 1:14-15 (New Living Translation)
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

There is a anecdote about boiling a frog that has been used to illustrate everything from business to the human situation. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.[1]

In our own lives we tend to tolerate those little sins. It might be as benign as telling you kids to tell someone on the phone that your not home, or it could be as simple as speeding and breaking other traffic laws. Have you ever gossiped about someone at work or have you told someone that you were something you weren't? Did you "borrow" your neighbor's newspaper and failed to give it back, or did you keep the extra change a clerk mistakenly gave you? The list could go one and one, covering every aspect of life.

Yes, we tolerate those little sins, white lies, casual fibs, exaggerations, inerrant glances, and others. For some you might do these things so often that you forget that what you really are doing is wrong. You become so desensitized to that "little sin" that it seems to be okay. Sooner or later those little things catch up with you and soon becomes a very big thing. It's almost like your that frog in the cold water, waiting to be boiled to death.

Why do we allow this in our lives? In God's eyes, a sin is a sin. They are all equal; they all cost Jesus the same. If this seems to be touching you and these words seem to be an illustration of your behavior, it's time to stop. You can't continue to do this without consequence. You may wonder why your spiritual life feels like its of track, or that you are venturing far from God.

If this describes you, our merciful and loving God has an answer:
1Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. 2We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. 3Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

[1]"Boiling Frog" from Wikepedia
Photo "Frog 2" by Emma-frost, 8-16-2007, from stock.xchng

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Us? - March 9, 2015

Psalm 144 (New Century Version)

1 Praise the Lord, my Rock,
who trains me for war,
who trains me for battle.
2 He protects me like a strong, walled city, and he loves me.
He is my defender and my Savior,
my shield and my protection.
He helps me keep my people under control.

3 Lord, why are people important to you?
Why do you even think about human beings?
4 People are like a breath;
their lives are like passing shadows.

5 Lord, tear open the sky and come down.
Touch the mountains so they will smoke.
6 Send the lightning and scatter my enemies.
Shoot your arrows and force them away.
7 Reach down from above.
Save me and rescue me out of this sea of enemies,
from these foreigners.
8 They are liars;
they are dishonest.

9 God, I will sing a new song to you;
I will play to you on the ten-stringed harp.
10 You give victory to kings.
You save your servant David from cruel swords.
11 Save me, rescue me from these foreigners.
They are liars; they are dishonest.

12 Let our sons in their youth
grow like plants.
Let our daughters be
like the decorated stones in the Temple.
13 Let our barns be filled
with crops of all kinds.
Let our sheep in the fields have
thousands and tens of thousands of lambs.
14 Let our cattle be strong.
Let no one break in.
Let there be no war,
no screams in our streets.

15 Happy are those who are like this;
happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

King David wrote many of the psalms that are given to us in the Bible. From early on in his life, he was connected to God. The psalm above was a prayer that he wrote for victory over his enemies. It could also be said that it was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for what God had done in his life.

Because of his closeness to God, he was picked to become king of God's people, and he went on with God's help to take Israel to it's greatest days. It was said of him that he was "a man after God's own heart", meaning that he was so close to God in his daily life, that he sought God at all times, and his aim was to live a life fully dedicated to His service.

No he wasn't perfect, and yes, even David was tempted to sin, and he suffered from the consequences that his sin brought to his family. The important thing was that he recognized his sinfulness, confessed his wrongdoing, and sought God's forgiveness. God redeemed him, and from the lineage of David our Savior Jesus would be born.

When you think about it, you may wonder why God cares about us? Why does He give us a second thought? We are a stubborn and selfish creature that is self-centered and ungrateful, yet our God cares for us. He loves us so much, that He stepped out of His position in Heaven, to walk among us and take upon Himself the worst that we could ever be. In doing so, He broke the bondage that sin had on mankind, and rescued for all time every man and woman that would ever live.

All we need to do is reach up, accept what He has done on our behalf, and as David did, give ourselves to His service.

Photo from "Colorado Road Trip Album" by me, 2009.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Where Comfort Abounds - March 8, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (New International Version, ©2010)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Times are still tough for many, whether it is economic stress, shattered relationships, divorce, sickness, or death. Right now we may be going through something, where the hurt and pain seems to tear at our very soul. I was recently touched by an e-mail I received, where the writer was overcome with despair. "I feel like I'm falling off a cliff and I don't know where to grab," was the statement that really affected me. How do you respond when faced with such desperation? How do you provide comfort during times when someone is extremely troubled?

I thank God that He has allowed me to have a relationship with His Son Jesus. He has allowed me to connect with the extreme hurt and pain that Christ went through, and to be able to bring about the salvation from my sins. I have been made aware that because Jesus went through it all for me, that I no longer have to despair. Each time that I go through troubles, He brings me comfort and peace amidst my distress, and let's me know that everything will be okay.

My response to the e-mail was this: I learned long ago that contrary to what many think in this world, it is not about following a religion but it is about having a relationship. Jesus has promised that He "will never leave me or forsake me", and that I "should not be anxious about anything, but through prayer, accompanied by a thankful attitude, I can ask God for what I need. He will give me His peace and the answers to all of my concerns". And in addition, "He will supply all of my needs". Those promises from God, from Jesus Christ, sustain me and my family, no matter what our circumstances.

I have learned as Paul learned that our God comforts us through Jesus Christ, so that in turn we can bring comfort to others, and it is our responsibility to pass on the blessing that He has given us.

Photo of "Looking at the Sea" (Sad young man gazing at the sea) by SSPIVAK, 5-17-2010 from stock.xchng

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Our Righteous Judge - March 7, 2015

Isaiah 11:1-5 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (New International Version, ©2010)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

What does it mean to be "fair"? The dictionary would define it as "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice". Unfortunately that is impossible with man. Unless every judge subjects themselves to the exact same moral authority and law, there will never be judgments that adhere to the definition.

To complicate it even further, now we are faced with several types of law; there is "natural law" given by the God of the Bible, there is "legal positivism" that is defined by the culture, then there is "Sharia law" supposedly given by Allah through the Muslim holy books, and others. With so many different types of law justice varies from one to another, and in many cases, these laws are not "fair".

In fact in many Muslim nations that are under Sharia law, it is punishable by death to practice any other religion other than Islam (so much for being a religion of peace). We are seeing the Converts to Christianity usually practice their faith in secret, for fear of being caught and executed. Now according to Sharia, that is a "just and fair" punishment, but in any other rational society and under any other law that punishment is ridiculous and irrational.

The prophet Isaiah points us to "the coming" of the righteous judge, who will give out justice fairly and without bias. He will treat all with fairness and honesty. Only God can do that. Fallen mankind is incapable for doing so, because their hearts are corrupt and immoral. They judge based on their own needs, interests and attitudes. That is what had been so wonderful about the laws in our United States. They had been drawn together with the God of the Bible in mind, and I believe by men empowered by the Holy Spirit, to create an exceptional nation.

Someday soon, each and everyone, those before us and after us, will stand before the righteous judge. He will judge all of the nations, and give out justice that is deserved. If we are judged by what we deserve, we all would perish, but because our judge has come first as our Lord and Savior, and has offered himself as payment for our wrongdoing. Accept God's gift to you before you have to stand before Him in judgment.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bad Habits - March 6, 2015

Romans 7:21-25 (New International Reader's Version)
21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 Deep inside me I find joy in God's law. 23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.

24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? 25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So in my mind I am a slave to God's law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 7:21-25 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
21So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. 22I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. 23However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. 24What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body?

25I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me! So I am obedient to God’s standards with my mind, but I am obedient to sin’s standards with my corrupt nature.

We are truly creatures of habit. There are things we have picked up as we live our lives that are with us everyday. We have all heard the term that "old habits are hard to break", and we all can count those silly things we do day in and day out, that no matter what we do, we continue to do.

This can be especially true with sin. Many of us did particular things we got into the habit of doing before we knew God, before we knew about Jesus Christ. Now as we try to live a life worthy of Jesus has done for us, those habitual sins still hang on to us. It seems that no matter what we do, we can't seem to shake them.

What is that particular sin for you? What is that habit that you can't break? Is it something that you keep secret and are ashamed and embarrassed to reveal to anyone? Don't feel alone! Paul spoke about this very thing in his letter to the Roman believers in the 1st Century. He wanted to show them that all of us are in bondage, slaves, to the very same things. We are all slaves to our sinful selves.

But we shouldn't lose hope. In Jesus Christ, because He has given Himself as a payment for ALL of our sins, we can have hope. We can defeat the shackles of sin, and live in freedom because of Jesus. All we need to do is surrender ourselves to Him. In making ourselves slaves to God, we truly become free to live a life free from those petty sins, those old habits. It takes vigilance, but the more we focus on the things of God, the less our sins hold us captive.

Do yourself a huge favor. Whatever it is that has you enslaved, turn it over to Jesus Christ; raise your shackles to Him. He will break the chains and truly make you free, and soon you will break those "old habits".

Shackles used to capture people to be sold into slavery in Africa in the 18th century. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Exalting God - March 5, 2015

Psalm 57:7-11(New International Version)
7 My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.

8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

True freedom comes from being able to cast all of your cares upon God and releasing all of your anxiety on Him. He has stepped out of Heaven to carry each and every burden, and because He has also carried each an every sin, He is worthy of all praise and exaltation. You can be sure that the One that receives your worship and praise is faithful. May He be lifted up above the Heavens, and may His glory radiate throughout the earth!

Photo from "Heart of the Matter Online", posted by Lysa Terkeurst, 1-17-09

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Falling Short - March 4, 2015

Psalm 51:1-4,10-12,17 (New International Version)

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

None of us are perfect, and yes, many times we do not measure up to what God expects of us. But sometimes, we hold on to something we have done in the past that seems so bad, that the guilt and weight of it keeps us from having a close relationship with God.

The verse above came from a Psalm written by Israel's King David, when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Here was a "man after God's own heart" who was a saint, an adulterer and a murderer. Here was God's chosen king of God's chosen people at a time when he was not worthy of God's favor and mercy. In his desire to make things right with God, David pleaded to God for forgiveness and mercy.

In his plea to God, we can find steps to help us make things right. First, David asked God for mercy. He asked for God's help in cleansing him from his great sin. God provides this to us if we will accept Jesus's sacrifice on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sin. Next he asked God to restore his relationship with him. God again provides this to us by providing his Holy Spirit to comfort us and lead us to righteous living.

David finally sums things up by telling us what is acceptable to God for whatever wrong we may do, that is a humble heart that looks to Him when we fall short. Let go of what might be holding you back from a right relationship with God. Let go and give it to God.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Taking a Stand for Jesus - March 3, 2015

Luke 22:54-62(The Message)
54-56Arresting Jesus, they marched him off and took him into the house of the Chief Priest. Peter followed, but at a safe distance. In the middle of the courtyard some people had started a fire and were sitting around it, trying to keep warm. One of the serving maids sitting at the fire noticed him, then took a second look and said, "This man was with him!"
57He denied it, "Woman, I don't even know him."

58A short time later, someone else noticed him and said, "You're one of them."

But Peter denied it: "Man, I am not."

59About an hour later, someone else spoke up, really adamant: "He's got to have been with him! He's got 'Galilean' written all over him."

60-62Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about." At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried.

In all of the Gospels in the New Testament we read about this incident, where Peter denied that he knew Jesus and was one of his followers. In the humanity of Jesus, this must have been the low point of His life, to have his friends deny and desert him. Peter was especially close to Him, and his denial must have hurt Jesus the most, even more than the betrayal of Judas. We can imagine that hurt, when a friend that you love really lets you down, but Peter not taking a stand for Him would have surely added to the humiliation that Jesus Christ had to go through for our sakes.

Living in a time almost 2000 years after this incident, it is probably something that is difficult for us to comprehend. It is hard enough for us to imagine the life and death of Jesus, much less fully understand what He felt going through this situation with His friends. One thing we can understand though is when we deny Him, when we are called to take a stand for Him. All of us can recall situations where our own pride and position took priority over taking a stand for Jesus. Each of us has more than likely failed to stand up for Jesus many more times, than just the three times Peter denied Him.

How do we do this? By failing to let those around us know how much Jesus means to us; by failing to taking a stand for Christianity in the work place; by failing to take a political stand for His morality when we consider who to vote for, if we vote at all; by participating in activities that He would be hurt by watching us do them; by failing to support those who are bold enough to take a stand instead of us; by failing to demonstrate His love and compassion to everyone we meet; by not wearing our faith in Jesus Christ on our sleeve, and making sure that everyone else knows about what He can do for them. In many ways, we have denied Him and failed to stand up for Jesus.

We find ourselves in a rare place in the events of history, and we are in this time and place for reasons only truly known by God. If you call on the name of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have an obligation and a responsibility to Him. Don't let another situation pass you by; when you are called to take a stand, and I am sure you will, make sure that you do.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Truly Equal - March 2, 2015

Galatians 3:28(New Century Version)
28 In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

I really believe that the word "Equality" has been hi-jacked in our country by political agendas. The term has been used to support everything from abortion to gay marriage; at the same time the words "racism", "bigotry", and "chauvinism" have been thrown around to minimize anyone who has a different stand on these moral issues of our day. Nothing minimizes a human being more than by calling them an inflammatory name that describes them in these terms.

In addition, many have used these terms to describe anyone who would embrace the God of the Bible, who call these behaviors as being wrong. Fact is the Bible does say that doing these things is wrong; does that necessarily mean that the Bible and these people are the ones who are wrong? It seems that whenever the Bible states that a certain behavior is wrong, just because that behavior becomes acceptable in society does not mean it is right. If we are to use the Bible to dictate some behaviors such as stealing and murder, why can't we use it as a guide for other behaviors?

Then what is being truly equal? God made it very clear what it was in this passage in the Book of Galatians in the New Testament. He made it clear that is Christ Jesus, we are all the same: red and yellow, black and white, men and women, able and disabled. All have true worth and value in Jesus. He died for everyone and redeemed everyone unto Himself by His work of salvation, and there is nothing that makes us more equal than that. Those who call themselves Christian and do not treat others as equals are not Christians.

It is time that the world understood what true Christianity is all about. Only through Jesus Christ can you truly be free and equal.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Living at Peace - March 1, 2015

Romans 12:17-18 (New International Version, ©2011)
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:17-18 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
17Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you. Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble. 18As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.

As followers of Jesus we need to seek the good in every situation, even when it seems bad. This is especially true when it comes to relationships with others. Very often in life we are thrown into difficult situations where we are hurt by others. Our normal reaction would be to strike back, but it is best to "turn the other cheek" as we have learned from Jesus.

Jesus endured the weight of the anger, ridicule, rejection, and abuse of the world without Him striking back. We need to do the same by never repaying what evil that has been done to us. We also need to always live in harmony with those around us, seeking the best, and living in peace. Only then can we truly be mirror images of our Savior.

Photo "Hands" by Andy205, 7-7-2005 from stock.xchng