Thursday, March 24, 2016

Betrayal! - March 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Photo of the Fresco,Kiss of Judas(El beso de Judas),Giotto di Bondone, Scenes from the Life of Christ: 15. The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas). (1304-06)Current location, Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, Italy

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Amazing Prophecy - March 23, 2016

Isaiah 53 (New International Version)
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Matthew 20:17-19 (New International Version)
17Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"

Its amazing that these events were foretold through the prophet Isaiah almost 700 years before they occurred. If you are skeptical about the Bible or have a difficult time understanding the events surrounding Jesus and the crucifixion, take the time to read these verses and compare them to those from the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh linked here. What other ancient texts or religious writings that you know of have prophecies that were written over many centuries, that were all fulfilled? These were in one person, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The End - March 22, 2016

 
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 21, 2016

The Invitation - March 21, 2016

 
Matthew 22:1-14 (New International Reader's Version)
1 Jesus told them more stories. He said, 2 "Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king (God the Father) prepared a wedding dinner for his son (Jesus Christ). 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited(The Jewish People) to the dinner. The servants told them to come. But they refused.


4 "Then he sent some more servants. He said, 'Tell those who were invited that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my oxen and my fattest cattle. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding dinner.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italics and comments mine)

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

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

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

The first to have be invited where the Jews, who God selected as His chosen people. He sent prophets and teachers to explain what need to be done to be acceptable to God, but the Jewish people got caught up in their own 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 20, 2016

Yaweh Saves! Palm Sunday - March 20, 2016

 
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 19, 2016

Fair Warning - March 19, 2016

Isaiah 1:18-20(New Century Version)
18 The Lord says,

"Come, let us talk about these things.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they can be as white as snow.
Though your sins are deep red,
they can be white like wool.
19 If you become willing and obey me,
you will eat good crops from the land.
20 But if you refuse to obey and if you turn against me,
you will be destroyed by your enemies' swords."

The Lord himself said these things.

By God's grace, we are in a time and place where we have very little to worry about. Yes, there may be personal struggles, difficulties, and stresses that we encounter, but the outcomes will in most cases be okay. That is not the case in other parts of the world; there are many that exist day to day with the prospect that it will be their last day, and there are others that each and every day suffer unspeakable troubles.

Few of us think that anything really bad will ever happen to us. Because of this, we as a Nation have become arrogant and foolish. We have forgotten and in some cases forsaken our Creator, in favor of a god of material wealth and quick pleasure. We have lost our deep reverence and "fear" of God who has made it all possible for us, and expected that because of our great blessing, we should be responsible to those less fortunate around us.

The nation of Israel found themselves in this very place during the time of the prophet Isaiah; God could not allow their sin to go unpunished, and Israel would soon be overrun by its enemies and conquered. Even though they had fallen to deep and had run away so far from God, He carried them through their troubles, and would later bring restoration of all mankind through them. All He ever expected from them was their love and obedience, but like many of us, and us as a Nation, a different path of indifference and disobedience led them to their destruction.

We stand at a crossroads, both as people and as a Nation. We have a choice that we need to make, and we have been given fair warning. We need to choose to go God's way, or we need to choose to turn our backs on Him and suffer the consequences. You need only to watch television and surf the internet, and you see the troubles already brewing. He wants to restore us and all He asks is for our obedience. What will be your choice, yield to Him, or choose the way of the world?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Salvation Living - March 18, 2016



2 Peter 1:3-11 (New International Version)

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


When you come to belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, life takes on a whole new meaning. As new believers we are excited and have a hunger for God's word and anything that will continue your knowledge of Christian living. At the same time though, along with the joy of our new relationship with Jesus, we may find that there the more we try to do the right things, the Adversary(the Devil;Satan) will do all he can to trip us up.

You see, if your believe that there is a God, you have to believe that their is Satan. But Satan is no more than a fallen angel, created by God, that is always looking to torment those that are not following him and the ways of the world. It is his mission to lead as many as he can away from the love and grace of God as he can. Because of your new life in Christ, you may soon realize that many things you found desirable and appealing about your old life no longer are, and some of your old friends will no longer recognize you as one of them.

So how do you overcome these negative pressures and bad influences on your life? The answer is made very clear in the scripture verses from the Apostle Peter noted above. The step-by-step approach to "insulating" yourself is given starting in verse 5 where is states, "add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." What's even better is that God gives you the divine power and ability to follow through on the steps.

So if your ready to embrace "salvation living" and grow deeper and stronger in your relationship with God, follow the step-by-step instruction from Peter, and you will soon see that you will have a new perspective on what happens to you, and you will experience the joyful life of following Jesus.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Healthy Fear - March 17, 2016



Psalm 119:73-80 (New International Version)
y Yodh
73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.

74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.

75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.

77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.

78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.

79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.

80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.


Healthy fear of God is a good thing for you. Realizing that their is a Supreme Being that could end it all for you in any moment, gives you a healthy appreciation for Him. The best earthly pattern for this is a loving Father. As children you know your Dad loves you and you love and respect your Dad, but you also know, usually from experience, that if you disobey him, you will suffer the consequences. That doesn't mean that the love is no longer there, it just means that you know that not matter what he will love you, but you will get "correction" if you deserve it.

Our priest appeals to those who "fear" God to look to him and his example of how to follow God. He points out that the word of God is the guidance that is needed to have a healthy understanding and respect for God. God loves us, and He has given us His word for us to learn about Hid nature. We are fortunate that God is not a vengeful God, seeking justice for wrongdoing, no matter what. If so, we would all have perished long ago.

Our God has compassion and mercy for those who love, respect, and "fear" Him. He not only wants us to know that we need to be obedient to Him and follow His ways, but He also hopes that we will see examples of His love in those who follow Him and call on Him. We can be assured that our fear of Him will translate into our salvation, because in His love He has provided everything for our good.

Psalm 119 is a devotional poem from a very pious priest. This is the only psalm in The Psalms written by this author. This psalm is an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This Israelite priest sought to pass on godly instruction in his devotional study of the word of God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Safely In God's Care - March 16, 2016



Psalm 16 (New International Reader's Version)

1 God, keep me safe. I go to you for safety.

2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord. Without you, I don't have anything that is good."

3 God's people who live in our land are glorious. I take great delight in them.

4 Those who run after other gods will have nothing but trouble. I will not pour out offerings of blood to those gods. My lips will not speak their names.

5 Lord, everything you have given me is good. You have made my life secure.

6 I am very pleased with what you have given me. I am very happy with what I've received from you.

7 I will praise the Lord. He gives me good advice. Even at night my heart teaches me.

8 I know that the Lord is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure.

9 So my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue. My body also will be secure.

10 You will not leave me in the grave. You will not let your faithful one rot away.

11 You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will give me endless pleasures at your right hand.


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

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

Photo of Zeke Clanton, from Juana Clanton's blog: Sweet Bedtime Prayers, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Keeping It Simple - March 15, 2016

 
Proverbs 30:7-9(New International Version)
7 “Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:

8 Keep falsehood("vanity"KJV) and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.


One of my fondest memories was from my college days. Twice during that time I spent about a month traveling through Europe by myself. I wouldn't say I was "roughing" it, but I had very little in terms of money and things, and yet I had some of the best times of my life. I saw much and learned how the world outside of the U.S. works. I met a number of great people and made relationships that have lasted over the years.

As I read these verses in Proverbs it reminds me of those times. Those times of simple living can be the best times, because you are dependent on God for most of what you have and do. You realize that because of His grace, you have just enough for today. There is much to be said about the simple life; it is a life that keeps you humble and yet can fill you with joy.

This should also be our prayer, that God doesn't give us so much that we become arrogant and turn our backs on Him, and yet too little that we sin against Him in pursuit of meeting our basic needs. We should pray that He grants us the simple and humble life, so that our focus will be on Him and not the things of the world.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - March 14, 2016

 
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 described 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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Redefining Wickedness - March 13, 2016

 
Psalm 10 (New Living Translation)
1 O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

2 The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor.
Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.
3 For they brag about their evil desires;
they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God.
They seem to think that God is dead.
5 Yet they succeed in everything they do.
They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
They sneer at all their enemies.
6 They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
We will be free of trouble forever!”

7 Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues.
8 They lurk in ambush in the villages,
waiting to murder innocent people.
They are always searching for helpless victims.

9 Like lions crouched in hiding,
they wait to pounce on the helpless.
Like hunters they capture the helpless
and drag them away in nets.

10 Their helpless victims are crushed;
they fall beneath the strength of the wicked.
11 The wicked think, “God isn’t watching us!
He has closed his eyes and won’t even see what we do!”

12 Arise, O Lord!
Punish the wicked, O God!
Do not ignore the helpless!

13 Why do the wicked get away with despising God?
They think, “God will never call us to account.”
14 But you see the trouble and grief they cause.
You take note of it and punish them.
The helpless put their trust in you.
You defend the orphans.

15 Break the arms of these wicked, evil people!
Go after them until the last one is destroyed.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever!
The godless nations will vanish from the land.

17 Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
18 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
so mere people can no longer terrify them.

If you ever need to describe the wicked, the psalm above does a good job of it. The wicked are always in opposition to the good. Even so, wickedness is still attractive to the world. Look out onto the landscape we call the world today.

Do you realize how many things that once were considered wicked are now accepted as normal and good? If you oppose such things that once were seen as wicked, you now become the one who is considered wicked yourself. The world is upside down; it has redefined what is wicked, but that is to be expected in a world ruled by Satan. What seems as a recent event for us is one that has been repeated generation after generation.

God will eventually bring about justice because this ultimately is His world. He is patient in bringing about justice, only because He loves each and everyone of us, and He is waiting for all who are to come to Him to do so. Our responsibility is to make sure that we end up on His side, and that we bring as many people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as we can.

Illustration: Gustave Doré - Dante Alighieri - Inferno - Plate 10 (Canto III - Charon herds the sinners onto his boat); 1857

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Praise! - March 12, 2016



Psalm 91(New Living Translation)
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Christ-like Example - March 11, 2016

 
Philippians 3:17-21 (New Century Version)
17 Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and to copy those who live the way we showed you.

18 Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them, and it makes me cry to tell you about them now.19 In the end, they will be destroyed. They do whatever their bodies want, they are proud of their shameful acts, and they think only about earthly things.

20 But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. 21 By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body.


It is hard to find anyone whose life we can hold up as a good character example these days. Just ask any parent whose child follows sport heroes, or someone that follows golf. There was a time that we could hold up our politicians as that "selfless" individual that stepped up to serve their nation, as was portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Remember how we held up our President as someone that our children could aspire to imitate, like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Forget any television personality; we don't even want to go there. Where are we to go to find someone who is a worthy example for our children or us to imitate?

Paul the apostle wrote extensively on the character of Christ, and he often discussed how he struggled to be a worthy imitation of Jesus. The problem is that often we are trapped in trying to be accepted by the world, in order to be seen as one acceptable by the crowd. This is especially difficult for our young people who have to fight this battle daily in school. It is also tough on college students, who when they are away from Christian home and family often fall into the temptations of the world. For anyone that calls on the name of Jesus Christ, getting caught up in following after the world, can become a burden that is too difficult to carry.

The good news is that the only true character example for us to imitate is Jesus Christ. He is really the only example available that we can follow and please God. In our culture we see examples of believers following Christ, imitating him and reaching out into the world around them. They are oftentimes humble people serving in our communities, churches and schools. They are the devoted servicemen and women who risk it all to follow a higher calling for their Nation. They are the lowly missionaries who step into the world to help the poor in spirit and sustenance. They are the leaders in every aspect of life that boldly profess their faith in Jesus to the culture and imitate him in everything they do.

In every corner of our world, those who imitate the character of Christ are loving and serving their fellowman in order to show a better way to live. They are our heroes and examples of godly character that we and our children can be encouraged to follow.

Photo from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Directed by Frank Capra; Starring Jimmy Stewart

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Living Water - March 10, 2016

 
John 7:37-39(New Living Translation)
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)


When you are truly saved and know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you will certainly know it. That is when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within you and your joy and excitement about following Jesus will flow from you like a river of water. That is what Jesus meant in the verses above. You can't help but talk about the change He has made in your life.

Yes, there are times of difficulty and stress in our walk with Him, but there are far more times when our life in Him will flow to all that surround us. If you haven't yet, why not taste the living water today?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Wedding Invitation - March 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italics and comments mine)

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

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

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

The first to have be invited where the Jews, who God selected as His chosen people. He sent prophets and teachers to explain what need to be done to be acceptable to God, but the Jewish people got caught up in their own 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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Continuing Education - March 8, 2016

 
Psalm 119:33-40 (New International Version)
h He
33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.

36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.

37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.

39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.

40 How I long for your precepts!
Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psalm 119:33-40 (The Message)

33-40 God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!


If you are a licensed practitioner in the State of Texas, whether it is for real estate, accounting, financial planning,law, nursing or other, you have to do continuing education to be able to keep up your license to practice your vocation. It assures the public that the person that is serving them is up to date on all things new and the latest trends, technology and knowledge of their craft.

What does this have to do with the Bible passage above you may ask? The faithful priest who penned this psalm shares with us his heart for seeking more learning and guidance from God. He asks God for teaching, insight, guidance, and desire for the wisdom and counsel of God, and he asks God to keep him from focusing on the wrong things, whether it be material things or criticism. He wants to have a divine education on all things of God.

As we get older we should be getting wiser. This is true of worldly things, and it needs to true of Godly things as well. It doesn't matter if you are a new believer or have followed Jesus Christ for many many years. We need to always be passionately seeking a divine education from God. He loves us and enjoys directing us and giving us wisdom. This is easily proven. How many times have you read a Bible verse that means something to you, only to read it again much later and it has a totally new and deeper meaning?

Until our dying day, if we stay close to God and His teaching, we will constantly be learning new and different things that will prepare us for our eternal lives with Him. Belief in Jesus Christ is only the first step; our divinely inspired education is meant to complete the process of getting us ready for the afterlife. Focus on Him by meditating on the verses from this section of the psalm. Ask God to teach you, give you, direct you and turn you in the same way the priest asks for above, and He will give you the continuing education you need to properly follow Him.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bunker Mentality - March 7, 2016

 
2 Timothy 2:3-7;15 (New Living Translation)
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
...
15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

There are many that call themselves Christians that have developed an attitude that the Christian life is one that requires you to simply follow the rules and to be an upstanding member of a church. You might go to Sunday School and church on Sundays, maybe on Wednesdays too. You give your offering, as long as it is not too much. You may attend an occasional Bible Study, or picnic or other event.

Unfortunately many of us fall into what I call the "Bunker Mentality". We think as long as we are okay with God and are members in good standing, that is all that is required to be a good Christian. As long as we are safe and protected in the bunker nothing will happen to us, and those who are on the outside, well they need to fend for themselves.

Unlike in other parts of the world, we in the West are sold a false impression of what the Christian life is like, and many have the wrong expectations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As I have said before, the life of a true Christian is hard. It takes work on our part. It is a calling that holds us accountable to obedience, rules and sacrifice that few find easy to follow. The fact of the matter is that if we are to call ourselves Christians, we are responsible to everyone that is not a follower of Jesus.

When the letter to Timothy was written, the Emperor Nero had come to power in Rome and the persecution of Christians was about to become the law of the land. Paul was being held in a cold prison dungeon and was nearing the end of his life. He wrote to Timothy to not only encourage a young leader of the church in Ephesus, but to make it clear what needed to be done to be a follower approved by God.

Don't get me wrong, if you confess your sins, ask God for His forgiveness, accept the gift of the sacrificial death of Jesus for your sins, and surrender your life to the lordship of Christ, you are saved and you have eternal life. What I am saying is that as we are told to be a good worker for the Gospel. We are to become workers for furthering the good news of what God has given us, sharing with everyone we can the life-saving message we have been blessed with.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

On Guard! - March 6, 2016

Ephesians 6:16(Common English Bible)
16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16(Amplified Bible)
16Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

It has really been tough for many people over the last few years, and even if it has been okay, life for others just doesn't seem like it is getting them anywhere. Obstacles seem to always come up that either sidetrack our plans, or turn things completely around. After awhile, even the strongest Christian gets weary from the battle. Even those who feel closest to God wonder, "Why is God allowing so much difficulty in my lives?". After awhile, disappointment with God sets in and we call into question if He will ever make things better.

This is the time where we as believer's in Jesus Christ need to be especially on our guard. These are the times that we are easily susceptible to leaving ourselves vulnerable to the attacks from Satan. Nothing gives the "evil one" a bigger thrill than to get us side-tracked and focused on our circumstances and disappointment. He relishes in the fact that we feel letdown by God. Unfortunately at these times we might find ourselves falling away from God, or at least not trusting Him for help in our daily struggles.

This verse is taken from the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where he warned us to put on the full armor of God. One of the elements of in our armory has to be the "shield of faith". I believe that when we feel letdown and away from God, that is the time when we need to pick up that shield. That is when our faith that has been built on God's past goodness, mercy and grace to us, needs to guard us against this attack from Satan.

We need to remember that God is good; He is good all of the time. Because of Jesus Christ, and because of His love for us, He identifies with our difficulty and He wants to help us. We need to be patient and wait on the solution that He will provide.

If this sounds like the situation you are in, go to your Father in prayer. Lay your hurt, pain, difficulty and disappointment at His feet. He will give you His peace, and sooner than later you will see Him work on your behalf.

Illustration from Wisdom Life Ministries blogpost, "Taking the Sheild of Faith", 5-24-2010

Saturday, March 5, 2016

By Faith - March 5, 2016

 
Hebrews 11:1-3;6(New International Reader's Version)
1 Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see. 2 That is what the people of long ago were praised for.

3 We have faith. So we understand that everything was made when God commanded it. That's why we believe that what we see was not made out of what could be seen.
...
6 Without faith it isn't possible to please God. Those who come to God must believe that he exists. And they must believe that he rewards those who look to him.


What do you place your faith in? What is that one thing that motivates your life and gets you up in the morning? What moves you to do what you do and be what you should be? What is it that you believe so strongly in, that you would be willing to give up your life for it?

Thinking of faith in these terms and answering these questions about your personal faith is probably the most important thing that you need to do for yourself. If you do not answer the faith questions for yourself now, you will probably face a time in your life when these questions will have to be answered.

In the 11th Chapter of Hebrews, we read about what godly believers did by faith. We read how their faith so strongly motivated them, that they were willing to move, to give up every possession, to sacrifice those closest them, to give their very lives, for the sake of what they believed in, the promises that God had given them. If you haven't done so, take out a Bible and read this chapter of Hebrews, about those who acted by faith and were commended by God for doing so.

There is a time coming when you will be faced with the faith questions. There will be a time when you will have to stand by faith for what you believe in. You will have to reach deep into your very soul and find what or Who you have faith in. When that time comes, will you be ready to do so?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Believing That Jesus Is Lord - March 4, 2016


Psalm 110 (New International Version)
1 The LORD says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.

3 Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

7 He will drink from a brook beside the way ;
therefore he will lift up his head.


Over 1000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, David, inspired through the Holy Spirit, wrote this prophetic psalm about Jesus. Here you can see the relationship between the God the Father (YHWH) and God the Son (Adonai). Even before the time of Jesus, this was thought of as a Messianic psalm by the Jews. It is generally thought that in this psalm David speaks prophetically about the coming Son. It is a coronation psalm for the coming King-Priest, and the later judgement to come as you can read in this passage from the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 19:11-18 (New International Version)

The Rider on the White Horse
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15bOut of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Although difficult to imagine, someday Jesus will be revealed to everyone, those who believed in Him and those who did not. Whose side do you want to be on when he does?

Coppo di Marcovaldo. Majestas Domini (Christ in Majesty). Battistero di San Giovanni. Firenze ITALY. second half of the 13th century

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Plea For Help -March 3, 2016

 
Psalm 77(New International Version)
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.


When it seems that you have no place else to turn, cry out to God for help. Remember what He has done for you in the past. Remember His gift of Jesus Christ for you. His greatness can be seen in His caring for you, and every person is important to Him. Remember that He knows you, He loves you, and He wants to help you. Make your plea to the One who made you, and He will show you His mighty deeds.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

True Knowledge - March 2, 2016

 
Philippians 1:9-10(GOD’S WORD Translation)
9I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. 10That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

When you become a Christian, because of the Holy Spirit that resides within you, nothing is quite the same. You really look at the world differently, and as you spend time with God and read through His word in the Bible, you gain a very different insight. What once was dear to you in the world is no longer so, and what once seemed foolish is now very important. The world's knowledge is shallow and superficial, but the knowledge of God will bring you true wisdom that will last eternally.

Moses had the privilege of meeting with God on Mount Sinai where he gained the knowledge of how man should live. We too can have a mountaintop experience with God if we will just surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ. In Him is all the knowledge of what God has prepared for us, and once we accept Him as Lord and Savior, it is ours to gain. If you have not given it all to Jesus, let today be the day that you gain true knowledge; the true knowledge of God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Vinedresser - March 1, 2016

John 15:1-4 (New Living Translation)1“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Have you often wondered why life goes the way it does? You do all that you can to do good and live a humble and productive life, but things always seem to be difficult. Life is hard! You ask yourself, "Even though I try to do what is right for God, what do I need to do to get a break?"

Once again Jesus tries to comfort us and explain how God works in our lives. In ancient Israel cultivating grapes for wine was not only big business to provide a livelihood, but a necessity to provide a staple for living. The rugged hills and arid climate, were ideal for growing grapes, and vineyards and people working among the rows of grapevines was a common sight. Jesus often chose the example of the vineyard to instruct his followers.

In these verses Jesus tries to teach us a lesson through symbolism. In saying he is the true grapevine, he tells us he is the root of who we are, taking us back to the creation. This is what we are told in John 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 In the beginning, the Word(Jesus Christ) was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him.

God we are told is the gardener, the vinedresser in the New King James Version; He goes through the vineyard, which I believe is the world around us, and he cuts off, removes, judges, every branch of the vine, person, that does not produce fruit. Here the fruit is the spiritual product of our lives, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are known as the "fruit of the Spirit".

Through pruning, defined as cutting back of what is unwanted for more fruitful growth, God helps us to be more fruitful. Meaning that through the difficult times and struggles that we go through, God desires a result that we will exhibit the characteristics of a godly life. Jesus goes on to explain that by hearing his word, we already are undergoing life change and we are "cleaning up our act", because of what we have already learned from God's word.

He once again gives us the comforting message that if we will remain in him, stay close to him, seek to include Jesus in our daily lives, and follow his example and instruction as we live our lives, we will be productive for God and for those around us. Our lives will fulfill God's original intent for mankind, to bear the fruit of making this a better place to live.

This post is a re-post of one of my past blog posts. I believe it is very appropriate for today as it was when I first posted it.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Worldly Fools - February 29, 2016

Proverbs 1:7(New American Standard Bible)
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10(Amplified Bible)
10The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.

Job 28:28(New International Version)
28 And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Revelation 14:7(New International Version)
7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

There are many out there in the world that refuse to "bow the knee" to Jesus Christ. They pursue the lusts of the world and arrogantly snub anything having to do with Christianity. They have disdain for anyone that has a relationship with Jesus, and they would rather ridicule others than to admit their own sinfulness.

This is especially true for young adults that have gone through the brainwashing of today's colleges and are now establishing themselves in their careers and lives. They may have even had introductions to church and "religion", thinking that is what Christianity was all about. These days they would rather have nothing to do with it. They are having too much fun partying and living the "good life", and they have no need for God.

There will come a time in everyone's life when they will have to face up to their sinfulness, because in a 100 years from now, everyone reading this will probably be dead. Believe it or not, we don't end up as nothing but dirt once we die, as the world would hope we would believe. We are eternal creatures and one day everyone will stand before God to be judged for what they have done in this life.

If you believe that your judged by your good outweighing your bad, just exactly when have you done enough to tip the scale in your favor? If you believe that your better than rapists and murderers and that God will take that into account, how do you know He will? Some believe that being an ostrich and sticking their heads in the sand will make it all go away are in for a real surprise. And others that may feel that by being "religious and spiritual" will gain God's favor have to know when they have done enough.

All of these things may seem right, but in the end they lead to destruction. We can never do enough to gain God's favor and forgiveness, because just a single act of disobedience condemns us forever. Only by accepting His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ can we ever be redeemed. Doesn't sound politically correct, but it is the truth. The sooner the foolish in this world figure that out, the better off they will be.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lighting Up the Darkness - February 28, 2016

 
Isaiah 26:9-13(New Century Version)
9 My soul wants to be with you at night, and my spirit wants to be with you at the dawn of every day. When your way of justice comes to the land, people of the world will learn the right way of living.

10 Evil people will not learn to do good even if you show them kindness. They will continue doing evil, even if they live in a good world; they never see the Lord's greatness.

11 Lord, you are ready to punish those people, but they do not see that. Show them your strong love for your people. Then those who are evil will be ashamed. Burn them in the fire you have prepared for your enemies.

12 Lord, all our success is because of what you have done, so give us peace.

13 Lord, our God, other masters besides you have ruled us, but we honor only you.

John 3:19(GOD’S WORD Translation)
19This is why people are condemned: The Light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil.

Have you ever been up very early in the morning, just before the sun comes up? Especially on a moonless night, it can be pitch black, and just before dawn a faint sliver of light begins to illuminate the darkness. You realize how little light is needed to begin to light up the darkness. It starts out very faintly, but as the minutes pass, the sliver soon begins to fill the sky. The sun hasn't risen yet, but the sky begins to warm up in beautiful hues of purple and red, then orange, and soon yellows. It is a beautiful and amazing, and each day is different from the last.

So it was when Christ came into the dark world, and so too it is in many parts of the world today. The love of Christ begins ever so faintly, in the life of a believer or two, but soon it is illuminating many hearts as the light of Jesus begins to light up the dark souls of many it encounters. Even so, there will be those who choose to stay in the darkness, those who are blinded by the light, and would rather hide where it's dark. If only they allowed a little light to shine in, they would soon feel the warmth of Christ's love.

Many of us may have been in that same situation at one time in our lives, and some reading this might still be there. Although they know of the light of Jesus Christ, they choose to run away from it, and go hide where it's dark. They are so deep in the darkness of their sinful lives, that when Christ's light begins to shine, they would rather not face it. They are happier in the darkness than they are in the light. Darkness hides their true selves, and they fear what the light of day will show.

The Light of God, Jesus Christ, has come into the world. We need to embrace it and allow it to warm our souls. Otherwise we may be trapped in the darkness forever, and find out that we don't want to end up there.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Satisfaction - February 27, 2016

 
Psalm 49(New Living Translation)
1 Listen to this, all you people!
Pay attention, everyone in the world!
2 High and low,
rich and poor—listen!
3 For my words are wise,
and my thoughts are filled with insight.
4 I listen carefully to many proverbs
and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.
5 Why should I fear when trouble comes,
when enemies surround me?
6 They trust in their wealth
and boast of great riches.
7 Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death
by paying a ransom to God.
8 Redemption does not come so easily,
for no one can ever pay enough
9 to live forever
and never see the grave.

10 Those who are wise must finally die,
just like the foolish and senseless,
leaving all their wealth behind.
11 The grave is their eternal home,
where they will stay forever.
They may name their estates after themselves,
12 but their fame will not last.
They will die, just like animals.
13 This is the fate of fools,
though they are remembered as being wise.

Interlude

14 Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
where death will be their shepherd.
In the morning the godly will rule over them.
Their bodies will rot in the grave,
far from their grand estates.
15 But as for me, God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.

Interlude

16 So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich
and their homes become ever more splendid.
17 For when they die, they take nothing with them.
Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.
18 In this life they consider themselves fortunate
and are applauded for their success.
19 But they will die like all before them
and never again see the light of day.
20 People who boast of their wealth don’t understand;
they will die, just like animals.

Do you long after the riches of this world? Are your pursuits after those things that money buys? Is your first aim in life to do all you can to obtain wealth? Do you believe that in doing those things you will have satisfaction? Has God been relegated to a small corner of your life as you pursue after these things? Do we hunger more for power, wealth and riches than for the love and satisfaction found only in God?

Many times in God's word we are warned against worldly pursuits. We are told that by doing so we can never find satisfaction and happiness. Any of us who have spent a little time on this planet knows that this is true. No matter how much we seek after the world and its riches, there is never enough and we can never be satisfied. In God's economy, worldly wealth is fleeting and soon fades away, but He gives us supernatural wealth in Jesus that can sustain and satisfy us for eternity.

Only by seeking God first and foremost in our lives can we ever be truly satisfied, and He tells us as long as we put Him first, He will take care of everything else we need. Only in Him can we be rescued from the world and given satisfaction that lasts.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Praise - February 26, 2016

Psalm 138(New International Version)
1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.

4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.

6 Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The LORD will vindicate me;
your love, LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Misplaced Trust - February 25, 2016

Jeremiah 17:5-6 (New Living Translation)

5 This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.

6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land."

There is a new "religion" of sorts that has been steadily gaining ground around us in our nation. You see it with the constant barrage against Christianity and other religions, and the attempt to wipe out every vestige of established religion. Practitioners of this "religion" use our own laws against us to assist in their efforts, and they have been winning, because those who do practice a mainstream religion seem to be apathetic to the problem.

What I am talking about is the religion of Secular Humanism. Wikipedia defines that it, "alternatively known as Humanism, is a secular philosophy that espouses human reason, ethics, and justice, and the search for human fulfillment. It specifically rejects religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making."

In other words, it is a "religion" that trusts or has faith in the ability of human beings to determine how they should lead their lives apart from the belief in any supernatural, transcendent, being. It believes it can answer all of life's questions from the natural world and science, free of anything spiritual or sacred. And yes, if you are a believer in this, you are practicing a "religion"; the belief, faith or trust in humanity alone.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God likened those who believe this way as "stunted shrubs in the desert with no hope of a future". If you have ever been in a desert, you know what this means. In the desert, many plants flourish for but a few short days when the Winter rains bring much needed water. Although they may green up and flower, they will soon succumb to the heat and lack of moisture, shrivel up and die. When you drive through the desert in the Summer, you will definitely come across many plants such as tumbleweeds, blowing across the barren land.

If we place our hope and trust in our own efforts, we may find ourselves in these same circumstances. In the beginning, it may seem like everything is great; we might be successful and having fun, doing whatever we like with our lives. Sooner or later though, when we are in an empty and troubled place, a dry and barren place, we will have nothing to turn to or depend on to help us make it through this difficult place.

We will wander about aimlessly, coming to the end of our lives without any hope of a future. Very few people that believe this way find true joy and contentment, when they come to the end of their lives. Most end up very much alone, depressed, and fearful of the unknown. Imagine only being able to count on the fact that when you die, you just decay and turn into dust? Can you believe in something, where that is all their is to life?

Photo "Wastelands" by Justino307, 4-4-2007, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Empathy - February 24, 2016


Romans 12:15 (New International Version, ©2011)
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.


It's difficult to see the results of the past earthquakes in Japan, the annual tornadoes in Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states, or the current slaughter of innocents in the Middle East without "feeling" for those who are involved. Many in the world can be cold and calloused about such events and pay little attention to them, but as a Christian, we are to be "empathetic" to the plight of the people.

According to Wikepedia, "empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another person. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion". In other words, you have to have heart felt joy or sadness for what someone else is going through.

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you take connect with God and His love for His people. Every human being takes on new significance, and you see them ian a different way. This is what compassion is all about, seeing people as more than ordinary, seeing them as those that God loves and wants to save, as well as care for.

It's time we become more like God, and show empathy for His people, and as we feel such, we need to be motivated to take action to help.

Photo #27 from the devastation of the Japan Earthquake from BuzzFeed