The Manipulation of God?

The prosperity message is freely preached today in our churches and many times it comes disguised.  Yesterday, I listened to a sermon that mentioned a ‘formula’ that would ‘make prayer work’ such that God would ‘rain blessings down’.  It’s disappointing to hear this message preached, because in my opinion, it truly diminishes the real love that God has for us.

You see, I believe that when God gives us something  – He gives it to us simply because He loves us. That’s it! Pure. Unconditional. Love.

However, this preaching of ‘prosperity prayers’ suggests that when we pray to God using a formula – it’s because we’re expecting to get something back – Blessings. Needs. Wants!

I have been repeatedly told that if I pay my tithe – God will bless me!  If I pay more offering, God will take care of my bills! If I pray like this – my prayer will be answered! If I meditate more, if I serve more, if I do…more… more…MORE… God will do more… MORE…MORE!

But the bottom line is…God’s blessings have absolutely nothing to do with anything I do, how faithful I think I am or how I have prayed my prayers.  He has already told us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. So, to even suggest that God’s blessings have anything to do with my behavior reduces God to a mere puppet, who responds and is manipulated according to my actions.

While I believe that God wanted to teach us how to pray, I think He was teaching us how Me holding the Bible to the back of Christ and demanding He love me.to honor Him. I do not believe He was teaching us how to pray so that we could use it as a formula to receive blessings. The idea of this sounds extremely manipulative – and in reality – it is.  We end up using the Bible and God’s promises to try to get things from God, that He really does not intend for us to have because they may not be in our best interest.  We can end up using the Bible to tell God what to do… to demand his love, a house, a car, more money and potentially things that really may not be good for us.

How many of you would feel honored if your child only ever helped you around the house based upon what they could get out of you?  Or if your spouse only ever put something into your relationship because it meant he or she could get something in return? While admittedly it seems to be the way things are done these days, with incentives, motivations and bribes being they way to get what you want but wouldn’t you rather  receive help or gifts simply out of love? Pure. Unconditional. Love?

It doesn’t mean that we cannot ask God for things, we should.  He tells us to ask, but our love and worship is not tied up in giving to get.  I think God laid His ground rules stating how He wanted to be treated, loved and respected and therefore when you pray … ‘do it like this’. This is God’s Love Language not his ‘formula’ for manipulation.  I wonder how much God wishes that we could just give Him love, worship and prayers simply to honor Him, without the strings. Pure. Unconditional. Love.

Yes – there are certain things I would expect to have ‘right’ before I approach God in prayer.  Love for Him, a ‘right heart’,  contrite spirit, forgiveness for others, a desire to get to know Him and learn His will for me.  But I’m not doing this to get anything  and furthermore, getting my way, needs or desires met really should be last. Nevertheless, if our prayers are based upon a formula to get our needs met – isn’t God going to see through this anyway? Are we not insulting God? We cannot fool God!

I don’t know about you, but if I listen to the concept of any kind of prosperity message, it is burdensome.  It adds another layer of works to my faith, and I know I cannot be saved by my works. Just as we like to feel loved and blessed, I think God wants to be loved and blessed too. So I just want to learn to sit in God’s presence and be in awe of Him. If God’s going to bless me – He going to do it  anyway- simply because He loves me.  Pure. Unconditional. Love.

 

Could I? Would You?

Would I be welcome in your church if I showed you who I really was?

Could I take off this mask of pride and feel your warmth and tender love?

Would I be welcome in your home if I showed you all my pain?

Could I worship next to you in all my naked shame?

Could I cry, confess my sins, kneel down and have you pray?

Or would I hear your judging words as you turn and walk away?

Would I be welcome in your heart as a fallen child of God?

Would you show me His affection, His mercy and His love?

Would you gently wipe my tears and then hold me in your arms?

Or would you hold up your right hand and point me to the Psalms?

Would you love me at my worst with all my guilty stains?

Or would you sacrifice our friendship to protect your ‘holy’ name?

Would you stand by me when EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. has walked away?

Would you help me on my feet, forgive and love me ANY WAY?

WOULD. YOU. BE. LIKE. JESUS?

WOULD YOU?

SALT & LIGHT

According to Matthew 5:13, Jesus is telling His followers that they are to be the ‘salt of the earth’. Then in verse 14, they are called to be the ‘light of the world’. So according to Christ Himself, His followers are to be “Salt” and “Light”. In this journey with Christ, I ask myself if my “salt” has a savor that would draw people to the Saviour? Does my “light” shine bright? Or does it dim at the first trial or hurdle that comes in my line of sight? Am I truly being a “light” and “salt”? Or am I just playing games and being “light salt”?

“BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, However….”

The ubiquitous phrase, “Black is Beautiful” has been a part of the cultural lexicon since the 1960’s. As the last day of Black History month comes to a close, I reflect on what this phrase truly means to me…this poem is dedicated to all of those out there that have a “Black is Beautiful” state of mind….

Black is beautiful, whether your ancestry is from Africa or the Islands,
Black is beautiful whether you are the outspoken type, or prefer silence.
Black is beautiful, regardless of your religious denomination or political views,
Black is beautiful whether you prefer classical music, Jazz, or Blues.
Black is beautiful whether you are doctors, lawyers, or teachers.
Black is beautiful whether you have subtle or dominant physical features.
From pyramids to projects, from kings to crack fiends, from pimps to U.S. Presidents,
Black is STILL beautiful…say it with pride, and not hesitance.
Now even though Black is beautiful, however, there is an even more beautiful color you see,
And that is the color of the blood that Jesus shed, when He died for you and me.
God has brought us through so many trials and battles, and He has never given us a reason to doubt Him,
However, as much as we celebrate the accomplishments of our ancestors, there would never
be any Black History or ANY history without Him.

The Christ & The Cross Convo-What “Wood” Jesus Do……

The Cross- “Lord God, why was I chosen? I mean what did I do to deserve this torture? I had no choice! I wish that I were not the one they used. You did nothing to deserve me. Those people did not know who you are. I wish I were not the method of murder used to destroy you. I wish there was something I could have done to stop it from happening. Even Simon of Cyrene knew you did not deserve to perish on me as he dragged me towards Calvary. Even when they mercilessly hammered those nails in Your hands and put that crown of thorns on Your head, while being in extreme pain and agony, I felt anguish for you. I feel horrified that I am forever regarded as that “Old Rugged Cross”, despised by the world and the emblem of suffering and shame. Lord why me? Why was I chosen?”

The Christ- “You were chosen for a purpose. Wood is an important symbol I want my people to understand. When I first destroyed the world by flood, their only salvation was through the ark, which was made of wood. In Exodus 37:1, the Ark of the Covenant was made of wood. In the entire Old Testament, no sacrificial offering dedicated to me would be complete without the use of wood. In Exodus 26:15, my tabernacles would not be complete without wood. All of My Holy scriptures are written on paper, which comes from wood. Through Moses, I performed ten miracles and parted the Red Sea using the wooden staff I gave him so my people would be free. You see, all of these uses of wood were used for freedom, salvation, and sacrifice. Now you ask me why you were chosen. The cross is now viewed as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace and love. If I had no respect for wood, why of all professions would I come to earth as a carpenter?”

What is amazing about carpenters is that they take ordinary pieces of wood, make it, and construct it into any form they want. Jesus is the Master Carpenter and He can form us into something that we could never even possibly imagine. If we allow Him to be a carpenter in our lives, we can be used for any purpose that He chooses. Sometimes wood has to burn to give warmth. Sometimes trees have to be cut down to make beautiful temples. God sometimes uses the lowest moments of our lives to bless and enrich others. It wasn’t until Jesus was at the lowest moment of His life, that He fulfilled the plan of redemption and allowed mankind to be saved so can bless and enrich others with a Christ-filled life to light up the world. Since Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, according to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus had to use a tree of another form (the cross) to redeem and save us from sin. Since Adam had to die from eating from that tree, Jesus had to die on a tree to set us free. Let us always remember that Jesus dying on the cross barely scratches the surface of what He’s willing to do to save each and every one of us. So let us all live what He said in Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 9:23 and decide what YOU “wood” do for Jesus?

THE BEGINNING IS IN THE MIDDLE….

THE BEGINNING IS IN THE MIDDLE
The last day of the year has finally arrived. This is the time of year when people reflect on the biggest news stories of the year and how they have affected society and culture as a whole. There are numerous newsworthy stories of 2013 that will be talked about for ages, however, what happened in 2013 that affected your own life personally? What were the highs and lows, difficulties and defining moments that have shaped you into the person you are now, for better or worse? These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves. As we are getting closer to the return of Christ, are you even closer to Christ than you were on December 31, 2012? Although this is a question that I struggle to answer, I know that each and every day that Christ allows me to wake up, I have the opportunity to draw closer to Him. Each and every day He allows me to wake up, I have the opportunity to serve Him, praise Him, worship Him, and obey Him. I should not have to wait until January 1st to come around to resolve to be a better person, a better spouse, a better parent, or a better servant of God. January 1st is not guaranteed to anyone. January 1st is not promised to anyone. God wants me to resolve to be a better me RIGHT NOW! Why delay to follow His Way? Why wait before I embark on a journey from mediocrity to being great? I need to live each day as if it’s the last day. I need to live each day as if it’s December 31st.
This year is unique because the beginning of the New Year falls on Wednesday, the middle of the week. I am sure most people would prefer the New Year to start on a Sunday so the New Year could be the start of a new week. However, I take comfort in knowing that even in the middle of my struggle, it is the beginning of a new walk with Christ. Even in the middle of my pain, I know that the beginning of healing is on its way. Even in the middle of my sorrow, I know that the beginning of comfort is on its way. Even in the middle of my storm, I know the beginning of the sun’s rays will shine brightly in my life. So as the sun sets on 2013 and the sun rises in 2014, let us pray to God more, let us serve our fellow man more, let us study our Word more so we can fly high and soar in the 2-0-1-4. God wants us to soar higher than the highest heights we could possibly fathom, yet be humble and “grounded” so we can allow Him to use us in every way possible. So as we embark on Flight 2014, let’s not “carry-on” any “baggage” from 2013 that would keep us from soaring to new heights. Be blessed and Happy New Year one and all.

The Gospel is Forgiveness…

SCRIPTURE

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20 : 21 – 22

OBSERVATION

I am immediately struck by the image of Jesus breathing on His disciples engulfing them in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, it is interesting to compare the four gospels and the individual commissions that were recorded.

The Gospel commission of Matthew 28: 19 – 20 it says “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. 

Mark also records a similar commission in Mark 16 : 15, 16 – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”. 

Luke 24:26 – 47 says “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem“.

John 20 : 21 – 22 says “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

APPLICATION

I think in order to understand the Gospel commission and message, we have to look at all four commissions.  These are the commands that Jesus gave pretty much in the order that He said them.

  1. Marks says go into all the world – Luke says to start in Jerusalem and go into all nations.
  2. Marks says preach the gospel – Luke says repentance and remissions of sins should be preached to all nations and John says if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.
  3. Matthew says make disciples – John says He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Matthew also says to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, as demonstrated by John the Baptist did.
  4. Matthew says to teach them the commandments that Jesus taught.

If this is the order in which we are to do make disciples, we should be going out preaching a message of forgiveness.  We should be asking people to repent and to do their best to eliminate or reduce their sins, but knowing that through the blood of Jesus, all of our sins have been erased (remission can be considered in both contexts meaning to eradicate or decrease).  We should then be making disciples of people through baptism, and lastly we should be teaching those disciples in more detail about God’s love. Once those disciples know enough about God’s love, they graduate to become apostles and are given the same commission to go out.

If we look at Jesus’ ministry – that’s exactly what He did. He went to people, forgave them and healed them and told them to sin no more (John 5:14, 8:11). I am sure that many of those that Jesus healed became believers and were baptized.  Therefore, we need to be careful to copy the exact method that Christ gave us in order to reach people.  Going to people with  messages on the wrath of God, fear, everlasting life, how bad they are, what they need to stop doing or even topics on health or a vegetarian lifestyle can never ever be as effective as a message of forgiveness.

Moreover,  it is evident in John that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples before they went out to forgive people. If we are to be as empathetic, forgiving and loving, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit before we go out into the world to make disciples of God’s children, leaving our judgments and prejudices at home.

PRAYER

Blessed Father

You are indeed worthy to be praised.  Thank You for taking us through another week.  Thank You for teaching us the Gospel of Forgiveness that we should be spreading to all nations. Teach us to accept and commit to Your ways and to not deviate from them towards our own.  There are many people out there who need to hear this Gospel and through forgiveness many people will come to know You.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we can be forgiving as Christ is and draw crowds to You as He did too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Jesus’ Last Will and Testament

SCRIPTURE

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.   While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.”  John 17: 11-12

OBSERVATION

In John 17, this appears to be the last recorded prayer that Jesus has with His Father and contains all of Jesus’ desires. Jesus recognizes that the hour has come when He must be handed over to die. It’s almost as if this prayer could have appeared in a legal will.  In fact, this prayer was Jesus’ last will and testament, with God being appointed the Executor.

Jesus prays for His disciples. God had given to Jesus the disciples to teach.  Now Jesus was leaving behind the biggest investment He had made on earth, in His disciples.  He had given to them everything He had and knew.  He had spiritually equipped them with all of His wealth of knowledge of His Father, how to heal and love others as per God’s request.  As per the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus had received his share of talents (disciples) and He had invested in them wisely, and He was returning them back to God with added interest (spiritual discernment) and asking God to look after it for Him.

Jesus’ now asks God to provide the disciples with joy, protection and sanctification as they go into the world  to share the gift of eternal life that He also left to us in His will. Jesus also petitions God, asking that the disciples and believers may be one as He is with God and they may love each other as God has loved Him.

APPLICATION

Jesus’ last will and testament is truly beautiful.  It is a selfless expression of concern and love.  Jesus wants protection for the disciples because He knows that His death will fulfill God’s purpose and Satan will be defeated.  He knows that because of this defeat, Satan will seek to stop the disciples spreading the Gospel message and hinder people from accepting Jesus and salvation through Him.

Recognizing this as Jesus’ last will creates in me a desire to honor His requests, especially since He has requested the ultimate protection and love from God while I am doing this.  I want to commit to unity between believers, to love others as He has loved me and to use my talents to share the Gospel message so that others may be saved.

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

Thanking You for Your steadfast love and protection.  Thanking You for taking care of us since the time Jesus left the world.

I pray that you will continue to sanctify us by Your truth and set us apart from the world so that we are different.  May that difference be one that draws people to You, because they sense a love that they have never experienced before radiating through our testimony of You.  For if we truly know You Lord, then we should be able to declare your love to others in the way that You have loved us.

Jesus, we look forward to Your return, so that we can finally meet You and thank You for leaving us this wonderful gift of eternal life in Your last will and testament.  But for now, we will rejoice in serving You and fulfilling Your will.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Love as Jesus Loved…

SCRIPTURE

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13 : 34, 35

OBSERVATION

When Jesus talks to us about something, it’s because He want us to grow and to learn new ways.  When Jesus referred to this commandment to love, was this really a new commandment?  I don’t think it was.  I think the newness Jesus was referring to was the new type of love He desired for us to learn and practice.  He said ‘love one another as I have loved you’.  The way that Jesus loved was extra-ordinary.

We are not talking about Hollywood, ‘fall in love’, but Agape love.

Jesus wants us to have a relationship with God first before we can truly relate to others.  When we have experienced the way in which God loves us, it is only then that we can truly understand how to love and respect ourselves and our bodies.  It is only when we have this relationship with God that we truly understand how to love another person.  We can treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of the way they treat us.  That does not mean that we become door mats, accepting any abusive behavior, for enabling someone is not love. But we should lovingly correct and encourage them to seek Godly insight just as Christ did.

Now… here is the remarkable part!!!  It is through the expression of this love that other people will know that we are His disciples, but only if we have love for one another.

APPLICATION

God’s love is unconditional meaning that His love for us is not performance-based.  God does not expect me to jump over ten hurdles perfectly to earn His love and if I fail, He withholds it. Neither should we expect others to complete tasks in order to earn our love.

God does require respect and so should we.  That same respect that we require, we should offer to others.   This means that our conduct, the way we talk, the tone we use, the things we say and do are tempered by the Holy Spirit.  This includes being able to give and receive loving and gentle correction.  Because of His love for us, God does admonish us from time to time when we need it and it’s only right that, without wrongful judgment, we help keep each other on the right path too.

This love that Jesus shared is not the worldly love that we know all too well.  It is different and because of this love, people were drawn to Christ. Wouldn’t it be awesome if people were drawn to God because of the love we expressed to each other?

PRAYER

Dear Father

Thank You for Your expression of True Love.  Thank You that we have been commanded to love each other as You have loved us.

Cast Your Holy Spirit amongst our families, friends, relationships, churches, spreading Your love and peace.  Help us to talk respectfully to each other, treating others with dignity and love, regardless of the way they treat us.  Help us to be committed to setting the example that Christ gave to us.   Admittedly, we do not always get this right but in our humble efforts, help us to glorify You and to draw others closer to You.

Thank You for hearing and answering our prayers.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Confessing Jesus is more than saying His Name…

SCRIPTURE

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12: 42 – 43

OBSERVATION

It’s hard to stand up for Jesus.  He said it wouldn’t be easy. He said that people sought the praise of men rather than the praise of God, and it’s true, they still do today.  Back in the day, people could not confess Jesus in the synagogue, but they could confess Him outside.  Today, it’s the opposite, Jesus is freely confessed in the church, but you cannot mention His name outside.  But confessing Jesus doesn’t always mean calling on His name or saying He is the Son of God.  Sometimes confessing Jesus calls you to act in a way that makes you different and unpopular, especially with people in the church.

There are many people who confess the name of Jesus in the church, but at the same time are back-biting and divisive. In my humble opinion, those that stand by and watch such actions without standing firmly against it because they are ‘afraid’ of that brother or sister, are just as responsible as the ones perpetrating the behavior.

For example, if I am aware that someone appears to be gossiping or acting in a way which appears discriminatory, should I not question them in a non-accusatory way and ask them about the purpose of their conversation or actions?  Based on their response, should I not challenge them as to whether that is the behavior Jesus requires of us?

APPLICATION

I want to be brave enough to stand up for Jesus and for what is right.  There are times when it is difficult for us to accurately judge a situation, but there are other instances where we can protect the integrity of the church and what Jesus stood for.  I want to have the courage to challenge people on these issues in a way that is loving, but also letting them know that – “we just don’t do ‘that’ at this church”.  I will confess the name of Jesus in word and action, even if it means I lose the praise and approval of people within the church or outside.

PRAYER

Dear Father

We Bless Your Holy Name and thank You for another day of life.  I pray and ask you to help each and every one of us to stand up for You and for what is right, even though it may make us unpopular. Help us to seek Your approval, and not the approval of men.  It’s not easy, and it is often uncomfortable, but unless we experience difficulties, we will not grow in character and wisdom.  Teach us Your ways and help us to remember that we are not alone, because You promised You would be with us until the very end of the age.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Jesus Cries With You…

SCRIPTURE

“Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:33 – 36)

OBSERVATION

When Jesus received the message that Lazarus was sick, Jesus did not respond immediately, He waited two days knowing that Lazarus would die.  In order to reveal God to us, Jesus had to wait for Lazarus to die, so that He could honor God’s power of raising the dead to life.  Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to live.

It was when Jesus saw Mary and the Jews weeping that Jesus “groaned in spirit and was troubled” and it was then that “Jesus wept”.  Although the Jews suggest that Jesus was crying because he loved Lazarus so, I think the Jews interpretation of what Jesus did and said has been consistently distorted and so I feel inclined to disagree with this view.

Just as a mother or father cries over the pain they see their child in perhaps after an accident or surgery, I think Jesus was feeling that same pain for us.  Jesus was showing empathy with the mourners, feeling their sorrow. He was expressing how deeply He felt about the high price of sin.  But He knew we would have to go through the pain because it was the consequence of our choices.  Just as a parent would want to take away the pain  or more so, take their child’s place, I think Jesus was reminded how much He wanted to take the sting of death away from us and take our place and ultimately that is what He did on the cross.

APPLICATION

It’s hard to accept death as being a part of life.  Death is unnatural, that’s why it hurts so much, and ultimately, that’s why Jesus cried.

I am comforted knowing that when I am in pain, my Savior understands my pain and He cries with me too, for He also has experienced it.  It would be easy for Jesus to take all the pain away, but if I have never experienced pain, how can I ever truly appreciate the absence of pain?  While I hear some of you saying, “sure, I don’t need pain to appreciate having no pain”.  Well, maybe that’s why Adam and Eve became too comfortable.  They had never experienced pain and so were unaware of how it felt and how serious the consequences were.  Once they felt it, they realized that partaking of the fruit to ‘become like God’ really wasn’t worth it.

Sometimes, we have to lose what we have and experience the pain, in order to truly appreciate it. Mary showed her appreciation for the absence of pain and regaining her lost brother.  After all it was Mary, who following the resurrection anointed Jesus with the fragrant oil from her alabaster box.

I pray that through my pain, like Mary I can draw closer to Christ knowing that He understands and He is willing to take that pain away from me.  Because of the sacrifice that Jesus made I know He has put in place a plan to remove that pain eternally.

PRAYER

Dear Father

Thank You for blessing and taking us through another week.  We are also thankful for the break from work and the opportunity to spend some quality time with our families and with You.

We know that You did not intend for death to become a part of our lives, but we understand that because of sin, it is a consequence.  I pray that we will not become complacent about sin and its’ consequences because we know Jesus paid the price.  Jesus loved us enough to sacrifice His Heavenly throne for us, let’s not take that for granted.  None of us want to feel this agony, but I pray that somehow through it we can appreciate the sacrifice that You made for us.  I pray it will help us to think twice about the choices we make, to sin… or not to sin.

I pray that through this pain, we can grow closer to You and more like You. Thank You for showing us You care for us deeply and that You weep with us when we mourn.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

FOLLOW JESUS!!! Not your church…or pastor, or friend…

SCRIPTURE

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10: 9)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10: 11 – 14)

OBSERVATION

The man who was blind had just been healed by Jesus and he had testified to the Pharisees of what Jesus had done for him.  The Pharisees in their stubbornness refused to hear this man’s testimony and decided to throw him out of the synagogue.  Jesus went to look for him because He knew this man had been persecuted because of what He had done and so He went to comfort him.

In so many words Jesus said to the formerly blind man, if you believe in me then although they have thrown you out of the church, you have nothing to fear.   He said I am the True Shepherd and those who follow Me will be protected as I will lay down My life to save those who believe in Me. Jesus said “you will go in and out and find pasture”, so whether you are in this synagogue or outside you will live in peace.  Even if they reject you, you can find acceptance in Me.  As long as you believe in Me, I am the one who will care for all your needs and your salvation.  Follow Me and I will always have food (spiritual) for you to eat, for I am the Bread of Life.

APPLICATION

I cannot and should not place my trust in the church or pastor to care, save or protect me in times of trouble.  Despite the pastor’s role as a ‘shepherd’, there are some who may even sacrifice me for their own benefit as the Pharisees did by throwing this man out of the church.  Just as Jesus said, the ‘hireling’ or hired Pharisee does not own the sheep (as Jesus does) and may leave the sheep to be attacked by the wolves, so that they can save themselves.    For example, sometimes, people’s spiritual needs suffer because pastors fail to act to protect members of the congregation because to do so may affect tithes – this is a very real scenario.

People may leave or be cast out of the church, but it does not mean they no longer believe in Jesus, indeed they may have a very strong faith, just as the formerly blind man did. Jesus does not want us to place our spiritual needs or salvation in the hands of a synagogue, church, pastor or anyone else, for they can neither offer us heaven nor hell.  Jesus is the only door through which our spiritual needs can be met, or through which we can enter into salvation.  If I am truly following Jesus, what else can anyone offer me that Jesus cannot provide?

Quite simply, my faith and trust should be in Jesus.  It was Jesus who laid down His life and paid for my sins. I do not belong to a church, I belong to Jesus and I will follow Him.

PRAYER

Father God

You are a Mighty God and Worthy to be Praised and Adored.  Thank You for reminding us that You love us enough to sacrifice Your only Son that we could be saved.  Thank You Jesus that You were willing to die for us and pay the penalty of our sins.

Thank You for being the True Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. Please remind us daily that our faith and trust should be in You to lead us through life.  Please help us to rely on you to meet our spiritual needs and not on our church or pastor.  One day those people may be there for us, but on another day, they may not be.  But You Lord are the Good Shepherd, ever-present and willing to lead and protect. You promised that wherever we are, in or outside of a church, as long as we  believe in and follow You, we will find peace and sustenance in Your green pastures… forever.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Show God’s Love to Your Children

SCRIPTURE

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”  John 9: 1 – 3

OBSERVATION

For a long time, dare I say up until very recently, I used to think that God rewarded me for obedience and punished me for my disobedience.  After all, it’s a common model perpetuated by my parents to which I became conditioned.  It was the same model that the Jews believed in too, that if something bad had happened to someone, whether it be an illness or accident, it was because they or their parents had sinned – God had punished them.

Jesus saw the blind man as He walked by.  His disciples wanted to know why this man was blind, was it because of his sin or his parents.  Jesus’ answer was that it was neither, but that this was an opportunity for God to be glorified. Moreover, it was an opportunity for God’s love for man to be truly exposed.

You see, this man was a sinner,  he was not even a believer in God.  He didn’t even ask Jesus to heal Him and in many ways we could define him as undeserving of God’s help.  But Jesus was willing to heal Him not because this man was obedient, but because He wanted to show people what His love is really about.

APPLICATION

God had to send Jesus in order for us to really get to know God.  We had already perpetuated untruths about God in relation to punishing people with sicknesses because of their sins. By Jesus’ example, we were able to really know who God is and dispel some of those myths.

So, how are my children going to know God if I perpetuate the same myths by punishing my child when they make mistakes.  After all, am I not God’s representative on Earth for my child?  Surely they will relate to God in the same way that they relate to me.  If I’m an angry tyrant, who shouts and punishes them for the slightest mistake, surely they will view God the same way.  They will also be afraid to try, fearing that they will fail and may be punished for it.

Even when our children make mistakes, sometimes we just need to give them another chance, even if they are undeserving, after all this is what God does for us, every day.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for showing us Your unconditional love.  Please help us to teach our children about Your love through our own example.  Help us to teach our children that there are consequences that happen to us because this is a sinful world but God does not wait around for us to make mistakes in order to punish us. Please help us to how grace, mercy to our children when they make mistakes.  Help us to clearly explain the guidelines we have set for them so that when they make mistakes we can lovingly steer them back onto the right path and to give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes.  We really want our children to know You and to be able to turn to You when they make mistakes.

Thank You Lord for being a safe place for us to succeed and to fail, please help us to be that safe place for our children too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Taking a Cheap Shot at Jesus…

SCRIPTURE

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” (the devil)

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” (John 8: 37 – 41)

OBSERVATION

Once again Jesus was defending Himself, and again it was His birthright as the Son of God.  The Jews told Jesus that they were the descendants of Abraham to which Jesus agreed.  But Jesus said, if you are seeking to kill me then your father is not Abraham, because Abraham would not seek to kill Him.  Jesus told them that He does the works of His Father (God), and they do the works of their father (Satan), though they did not fully understand Jesus’ reference.  Nevertheless, they wanted to totally discredit Jesus and His claim to Heavenly Paternity.  The Jews decided to take a cheap shot at Jesus by saying to Him “we were not born of fornication” or in other words “at least I am not a child of illicit sex” referencing the spiritual conception of Jesus by His mother Mary.  Thankfully, Jesus ignored them and continued to testify of His Father.

APPLICATION

Some things never change. Jesus was trying to educate the Jews about their actions, after all they were the ones asking Him questions.  The Jews did not like Jesus’ answer, and in their bid to discredit and hurt Him, they decided to drag us His apparent ‘unsavory’ past.  How could you be a child of God and the Son of God at that – you are a child of immorality?

It reminds me of some of the churches I have read about that refuse to baptize or bless innocent babies/children, because their parents were not married.  I remember on one occasion, a group of brothers and sisters leading the youth in my church, refused to choose a particular young man to preach, because neither of His parents attended church. I was absolutely horrified that we could even begin to exclude or punish innocent youth on the basis of their parents actions, but if the Jews did it to Jesus, it can happen to anyone.

We need to be mindful that we seek to love people because they are God’s children, regardless of who their parents are or what they have done.  Our respect for people should not include creating a hierarchy of sin such that my parents sins are more respectable than yours, “for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

We are thankful that You sent Jesus to teach us about who You are.  We are thankful for Your sacrifice and moreover for the humiliation and suffering that Jesus went through because of Your immense love for us.  I cannot imagine how much Jesus had to fight daily to stay strong and to stay connected to You. Although I know that there are a lot of beautiful people here on this earth, it just seems that as a human race, sometimes we must be incredibly difficult to love, especially when we can be so insensitive and cruel.  Knowing this, it makes me realize that what Jesus went through to save us, He could only have done it because of Love, a love that in my immaturity, I cannot even begin to comprehend.

When we look at others, help us not to see them based on their sins or the apparent sins of their fathers,  help us to see Your face Jesus and love them as You have loved us.

Thank you for your Love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Reject or Rejected…?

SCRIPTURE

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.   But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”  John 5:43

OBSERVATION

During 5th chapter from verse 24 – 47, Jesus talks about how life and judgment are through the Son.  Jesus appears to be expressing His human side and is very frustrated with the Jewish people, the people who were supposed to receive Him, His very own people.  He has been as honest, open and loving as He could be.  He has testified to God’s amazing powers by healing numerous sick people and doing miracles.   Yet, the Jews refuse to humble themselves and treat him with scorn and contempt. The attitude of the Jews appears to be over-righteous, argumentative, accusatory and unforgiving with little personal insight into their own misdeeds and ignorance. The very scripture that the Jews claimed to know and were so haughty about, is the very scripture they could not comprehend, even when the scripture was personified before them in the form of Jesus.

I also thought about how Jesus felt when He came in His Father’s name and was rejected, and yet the Jews were willing to accept others when they came in their own name.

APPLICATION

There are times when the very people that we expect to accept us, instead reject us and it hurts even more when it’s people that we thought would care, like family or friends.  For some people there isn’t anything that we can do that can ever be good enough. Though we may show them the love of Jesus, by expressing care, understanding and forgiveness, just like the Jews,  they  may never see it even though they read about it in the Scriptures every day.

Furthermore, I have heard some spouses complain that their husband or wife does not listen to them, and yet when they hear the same information from someone else who in reality should have less influence, their spouse is quick to respond. It’s the same way Jesus felt when people were more willing to listen to less credible folk.

We need to be aware that despite our honorable intentions, rejection will come and it will not be easy.  Moreover, we also need to be aware when we may dismiss someone’s advice or help, because we take them for granted such that we diminish their contribution.  We need to be especially careful that at these times we do not send away the very help that God brought to us, in answer to our own prayers or His promises to us.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for another day of studying and learning about the life of Jesus. Sometimes people challenge our patience, character and faith and this can be frustrating and hurtful, especially when it is friends/family. It is comforting to know that Jesus felt the same pain that we do when we are rejected and our opinions diminished, so that He understands how we feel.  But help us to know that we can also inflict the same pain on others and not to reject them.  While it is easy to point out the fault in others, it is more important that we have insight into our own behavior, so that we can humble ourselves and seek Jesus, the One who came in Your name and in whose Name we pray.

Amen.

The Faster Runner Does Not Win This Race

This race is not for the swift nor the strong, but for he that endures to the end.
I am trying my hardest to stay in this race, but my legs are cramped spiritually by sin.
I am trying to concentrate; I am trying to stay focused; but the enemy’s weapons attack me like a swarm of locusts. First, he tries to get me to doubt, when I have every reason to keep the faith, and God gives me every reason to scream and shout praises to His name. Therefore, I tell the enemy to fall back, because I am not falling for his game. I live by the bread of life and I rely on it for nourishment, but that sneaky foe tries to get me to eat a bowl of discouragement. It tastes sweet at first, but turns bitter going down. I notice the smile and joy on my face evaporates into a frown. I really need my Jesus; there has never been any doubt how much I’ve missed Him. I need to purge all of this despair and discouragement right out of my system. I remember He said be of good courage and be of good cheer,
God has not given me the spirit of fear. I am holding on to His promises, and trying to live right.
I keep running this race because the finish line is in sight. However, distractions and diversions veer me off course; I try with all my might to fight off this evil force. I realize that I cannot run this race on my own, so I send my prayers up in hopes that it reaches God’s throne. Jesus came down to carry me at the moment Satan thought he had me defeated, but when he saw Jesus lift me up and cross the finish line as a winner, he was the one that retreated. I asked Jesus how I won the race even though I have constantly sinned. He said I already forgave you; I was more concerned that you endured to the end…..I was more concerned that you endured to the end……..

Reflect on the lyrics to this song……

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve