Resolutions…Never Give Up!

With a New Year just having passed, there are many people who were motivated and determined to pull off a New Year’s resolution to make some life changes.  There were probably plans to lose weight, go to the gym, or to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Whatever the commitment, it was likely about self-improvement or maybe even to help other people.new year resolutions3

The problem with making resolutions is that the motivation and commitment to keep these changes usually wanes after some time.  Before we even realize it, we have forgotten the plan, given up and reverted back to our default mode. We have relapsed.

The word “relapse” is a term usually associated with addictions.  However, according to Merriam Webster, relapse simply means “the act or an instance of backsliding”.  Backsliding is a term used in the Old Testament by God, in relation to the children of Israel.  The Israelites were considered “backsliders” because they would make a commitment to reverently worship God, but over time they would revert back to worshipping idols again.  They would lapse morally and spiritually in their practice of honoring the one true God, despite their initial resolve to do better.

But this is where the beauty of the gospel message becomes real.  When we fall down, we can simply get back up again.  With relapse, there is recovery.  Proverbs 24:16 says “For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again“.  When we fall down, with Christ by our sides, we have the privilege of getting back up again and continuing with our walk. Not just once, but over and over again.  It’s not about how many times that we fall, relapse or backslide.  It’s about how many times we get back up and keep walking.  Paul says that this is a race of endurance. Moreover, the race has already been won, we just have to finish!

“Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”. Hebrew 12: 1-2

So, if you’re finding that you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution, whatever it may be, and you have fallen away from the path.  Don’t stay there! Just get back up on the path, start again and keep walking.  You don’t have to wait for another New Year to re-commit.  Every day is a new day of opportunity.  Every morning provides a new day with a new chance to make a new commitment to your resolution.  Don’t give up!  Relapse will happen.  You may fall,  but the promise is that you can recover with Christ and by daily renewal of your spirit.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

Get up, stand up and continue to take steps however small, in the direction towards your goal.  This link “Never Give Up” shows the determination of one Olympic Sprinter, who despite a fall, rose again and with his father and our Heavenly Father close by, he was able to cross the finish line. Be inspired.  With Christ by your side, you can do it too!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3: 13 – 14).

 

 

 

 

 

God Seeks Potential… Not Perfection!

SCRIPTURE

And He said. “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten” Genesis 18: 32

OBSERVATION

Abraham was conversing with God following the departure of the three Holy Men who came to give the good news to Sarah that she would have a child.  The three Men were on their way to Sodom to destroy it.  Abraham knew that his nephew Lot lived in Sodom and he tried to bargain with God against its destruction.  At first God said if there were 50 righteous, He would not destroy Sodom.  Abraham continued this questioning, asking if there were 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 righteous, would He still destroy Sodom?  God said if He found 10 righteous people in Sodom, He would not destroy the entire city. Unfortunately for the city of Sodom, God only found 4 righteous people to save.  If there had been only 6 more, Sodom would not have been destroyed.

APPLICATION

I don’t know how many people lived in Sodom, but I am sure there was way more than 50, maybe 2000 or 3000… or maybe a whole lot more.  But it is amazing that God was willing to spare the entire city for the sake of 10 people. It seems that God was not so much concerned about the presence of ‘evil’ within Sodom, but the absence of ‘good’.

God is aware that we all have evil tendencies, but He is more concerned with our desire Seedlingto do good.  God does not seek to destroy us by looking for errors, He seeks ways to save us by looking for the good in us… no matter how small that is. He really wants to find it, so that He can redeem us.  Just as a tree seedling strives each day to reach the light, in so doing, it becomes a strong magnificent tree with mighty roots.  God is asking us to battle each day to improve ourselves, to be faithful, prayerful and obedient as best as we can so we can be grounded in Him and grow in ‘goodness’ with Him.  Although there will always be a ‘presence of evil’ there will by no means be an ‘absence of good’ and on this basis God is willing to save us, just as He was willing to save Sodom for the sake of 10 righteous people.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father

Thank you for looking within our hearts and trying to find the good in us, even though we know that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  We know that even in a city of Sodom, You were willing to save them, if you could only find 10 people.  It shows us Lord that You are not seeking perfection, but potential.  Help us each to achieve the potential that you desire for us.  I pray that You will place in our hearts a desire to be obedient to You and to be faithful to the best of our ability with the help of the Holy Spirit so we may grow grounded in you.  On that wonderful day when Jesus returns, I pray that you will find us faithful and that our ‘goodness’ will be present, abundant and fitting in Your sight.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Walking with John…

For those of you that have been following me over the past three to four weeks, I was attempting to take a 21 day journey through the Gospel of John. Research says that it takes 21 days to make a habit, and I was trying to instill a good daily devotional habit within myself through some accountability with this blog.

To be honest, I have had an absolute blast!! I have learned so much. I have read John numerous times and I have never found the insight that I have gained through this journey. I feel truly blessed by this opportunity to meditate on God’s Word and to serve.

While it took me longer than 21 days, and some days I did not post, it wasn’t because I didn’t read.  Some days it was difficult to translate the thought into a devotion and on other days I would be praying that God would bless me with a new nugget of truth. I wanted to focus on the not so obvious elements of the Gospel. We are so easily drawn to the popular Bible stores somewhat to the exclusion of other truths which lay hidden within those pages, and it was my hope to uncover some of these.

I encourage you to also take a journey of 21 days through your favorite book of the Bible. I was hoping to get into the habit of prayerfully studying each day before the New Year came.  Just as Delzino said in his blog “The Beginning is in the Middle”(https://spiritualsandwich.com/2013/12/31/the-beginning-is-in-the-middle/), we do not need to wait until the New Year or any other time to start a new relationship with God, we can do that right now.  So what are you waiting for?  Crack open your Bible now and go for it!

Stop Comparing and Competing!

SCRIPTURE

 “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” John 21: 21 – 22

OBSERVATION

It is noticeable throughout the Gospel of John that there appears to be some jealousy and competition between John and Simon Peter.  I wondered to what extent Peter was jealous of the relationship between John and Jesus.

John 13: 21 – 26 depicts a scene where it is commonly believe that the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ is John and he is leaning on Christ’s breast.  Jesus has just told the disciples that one of them will betray Him.  Peter motions to John to ask Jesus who that person is.  Jesus  answers John in a private conversation to which Peter is excluded from.

John 18: 15 – 18 sets another scene where Jesus has been taken before the High Priest.  Peter follows and it is assumed that the ‘other disciple’ that followed was John.  John went into the courtyard with Jesus but Peter stood outside the door probably because he was afraid.  In his fear, Peter went on to deny Jesus three times compared with John who stood unashamedly with Christ.

In John 19:26 – 27 Jesus gives to John the responsibility to care for His mother in her old age, suggesting that He trusted him enough to do this.  Peter at this point in time was probably somewhere feeling disappointed in the fact that he had denied Christ.

John 20:3  tells us that Peter and John went out to the tomb to find out where Jesus’ body had gone.  They both ran together and John seems to take delight in expressing how he outran Peter. Nevertheless when Peter caught up, Peter went in front of John into the tomb.

In John 21:7  John tells Peter that it is Jesus on the beach,  Peter dresses as quickly as possible and runs ahead of the others to get to Jesus first.

The final liaison is in John 21: 20 – 21 when Peter is walking on the beach with Jesus, Peter turns around and sees John following.  He asks Christ who is going to betray him and suggests that it might be John.  Peter says “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Seemingly and for whatever reason, possibly jealousy, Peter was trying to sabotage Jesus’ relationship with John and make John look bad.  Peter’s poor insight into his own sin is clear, he is so worried about John taking Christ away from him, that he attempts to make John look guilty of the sin he actually committed – betrayal of Christ.

Jesus answers in verse 22 “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” In other words Jesus calls Peter out, He says even if He decides to give John eternal life on earth right now, it has nothing to do with him, Peter’s business is to follow Christ.

APPLICATION

Whether we realize it or not, we have all taken part in ‘one-upmanship’.  There is someone who gets under our skin, or we just feel the need to be better than they are, and if we are not better than they are, we need to bring them down to our level.  This is exactly what Peter was trying to do.

It seems there are several occasions where John, through no particular effort on his part appeared to have a steadfast relationship with Christ (let us not forget that John is writing about himself in this gospel.  The other gospels do not record John in such a favorable light). It seems that Peter was competing with him, even though John was just doing ‘his thing’.

I know I have experienced this in my life, where I’m just getting on with my life and people are competing with me or comparing themselves to me and I have no idea why and to be honest I really don’t care. God has given us all different gifts and He may be calling me to do one thing, and someone else to do another.  We’re not supposed to all be the same.  Jesus’ command is clear to us all.  ‘Don’t worry about what he or she is doing, mind your own business and follow Me’.

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

Your Holy Book has a word for us in every avenue of our lives.  We are reminded that the disciples were human, just like us and were eligible to succumb to every sin as we are.  I am thankful that the Bible depicts them as real people who fail, just like I do, but who through repentance and forgiveness can be restored like Peter.

Teach us to be concerned about our lives and not to compare ourselves with anyone else.  Teach us to have a secure relationship and identity in you, such that we do not feel the need to ‘put others down’ in an attempt to elevate ourselves.  Lastly, teach us to pursue the gifts you have given to us, without trying to be like anyone else, recognizing that we are all different.  Help us to pray for those who may try to compare or compete with us and that we are not by distracted by it, but that we remain steadfast in our walk with You.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

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

Why Was Jesus Thirsty?

SCRIPTURE

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” John 19:28

OBSERVATION

Jesus was thirsty.  But was He actually physically thirsty or was He again misunderstood.  While I understand that Jesus was dying and quite understandably He would likely want some water, I’m not totally convinced that this was His request.

This is the man who went into the intense desert heat and fasted from food and water for forty days and forty nights.  When Satan tempted Him to turn the stone into bread, He refused.  This is the man who said to the Samaritan Woman  “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,   but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4: 13 – 14).  By God’s power, Jesus is The Living Water.  So why would Jesus thirst?

I think Jesus was spiritually thirsty.  Throughout His life on the earth, outside of His relationship with God, Jesus was alone.  He was spiritually misunderstood.  The only One who understood Him completely was His Father to whom Jesus was divinely connected to. They had a symbiotic relationship through which Jesus was connected to the Fountain Living Water springing up into Everlasting Life.  Jesus knew that in order to save the human race, He had to be separated from His Father through death. As death approached, Jesus felt His connection to the Father, the Fountain of Life, The Living Water begin to fade.  He knew His time was coming and He thirsted to be connected to the Source of Living Water.

APPLICATION

I have had days or periods in my life, when I have not been as connected to God as I should have been.  I miss God.  I miss the connection.  I miss the time spent in His presence and there is a nagging reminder that I need to get back into my devotions to renew that friendship, that parent/child bond that I have with Him.

Jesus was dependent on God and They worked together in all things.  God was His Father and Best Friend.  While I would love to say that my relationship with God is the similar, I cannot.  So if I have a longing to renew my relationship with God, I cannot even begin to imagine how Jesus felt on the cross being separated from His Father, from His Source of Life, The Living Water.  The thirst He felt, must be unlike any other.

God is the only One who truly understands me, after all He created me.  I need to develop a dependent relationship on God, such that I am thirsty to be in His presence and that it is only His water that can quench my thirst.

PRAYER

Abba Father

Your sacrifice demonstrates Your love for us and for this we are truly grateful.  We  are spiritually thirsty Lord, more than we know and yet we sometimes fail to actively seek The Living Water that springs into Everlasting Life.  I pray that You will teach us to seek You and to have an earnest desire to spend time with You while we can.   Christ was thirsty for You and I pray that we can be too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

The Wrong Choice was Right.

SCRIPTURE

“But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18: 39 – 40

OBSERVATION

I decided to do some research on Barabbas and was reminded that Barabbas’ first name was likely Jesus too and his last name ‘Bar-abba-s’ actually means ‘son of the father’.  So in effect we had two Jesus’, both son of the F(f)ather who stood before a crowd and both were candidates for crucifixion.  It is argued that One was the Son of God, and the other was the son of the devil. Nevertheless, One was real, the other counterfeit and the Jews chose to save the counterfeit – Barabbas.

With regards to Jesus, the Son of God, it could be argued that the crowd chose the wrong guy for the right reason – or even that they chose the right guy for the wrong reason.  Was the Jewish crowd filled with evil that they chose to crucify Jesus? But what if the crowd had chosen to crucify Barabbas, the apparently right decision – where would the human race be today?  Would we have a Savior?

APPLICATION

I don’t know the reason behind the crowd’s choice, I may never know.  Despite the fact that Jesus could offer life and healing to these people, many of whom watched Jesus perform these miracles, they chose the counterfeit Jesus Barabbas – it just doesn’t make sense.

There will be times in our lives when we have to make a decision.  Sometimes it may seem as though the choice is obvious because it seems spiritually  right, holy and moral.  However, God can use any situation to His or our advantage,  regardless of whether it is right or not. For example, following their adulterous relationship, David and Bathesheba bore the wisest and wealthiest King ever lived, Solomon – who glorified God by building the temple of Jerusalem.

Sometimes, despite our prayers, our decision can be the wrong one, even though we believe we chose the spiritually right option, e.g.  choosing to serve inside the church with other members rather than serving outside with drug addicts and prostitutes.  But who may need the knowledge of God’s love more?  Whatever decision the crowd made that day, whether it was wrong or right, ultimately, God’s will was fulfilled and because of that, today we are saved.

PRAYER

Dear Father

Some times we think things are black and white, right or wrong when they aren’t.  Some times I pray fervently, hoping to make the spiritually right decision and instead I am stuck in analysis paralysis – doing nothing.  I pray that you will help us all to move forward boldly with the decisions that we place before You.  In that way, whether they are right or wrong, we will be investing our talents, trusting that You will bless the outcome and in whatever way You decide, Your will will be fulfilled and Your name will be glorified.

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

Is Church a Safe Place?

SCRIPTURE

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16: 1 – 4

OBSERVATION

They, the Jews believed that they were doing God’s work, eliminating the sinners and blasphemers from the synagogue.   They believed their doctrine and traditions were truth.  They believed that other people were sinful and they were without error.  They believed Jesus had a demon and they had the Holy Spirit. They believed that they were right and Jesus was wrong, because they had upheld these beliefs and traditions for so long as the elders and priests of the church. They refused to listen to anyone because they believed they were righteous,  defending God’s law and doing this all in God’s name.

And…here comes Jesus, a fresh dynamic young man with new ideas.  A preacher with a creative expression proclaiming God’s love, grace and mercy – and they chased Him out of the synagogue!!

Jesus’ own people, the people He went to the synagogue with, the Jewish people He grew up with, the priests who likely taught Him, rejected Him and eventually killed Him.  Jesus warned us – the synagogue is not a safe place – in fact it may be even more dangerous.

APPLICATION

I was a mature adult with children when I entered the realm of church membership and with this sense of belonging came a huge helping of naivety.  I wasn’t raised in the church and so I expected there would be a difference in the way people treated each other within the church as opposed to in the world.  But, this whole scenario in my observation above is all too familiar and it saddens me.  While some church people are shocked at the behavior of people in the secular world, I am sad to say, that I am even more shocked by the behavior of people in the church who profess God.  It is disappointing to say that the church is not a safe place to be.

I see people busily doing ‘God’s work’ believing they are serving Him; while I cannot judge another person’s heart or desire to serve, I am convicted that I need to be careful of what I do and how I relate to my brothers and sisters in the church.  I don’t want to ‘kill’ any of Jesus’ servants, simply because I am so caught up in protecting God’s law or church. God really does not need me to protect His law or doctrines. Neither do I want to chase someone out of the church because they do not meet the ‘image’ I have in my mind of who a Godly person is.  After all, Jesus did not meet the image of a King or God’s Son that people were anticipating.

Jesus has told us plainly, these same people in the church –  will attempt to kill us, physically (in some countries) and spiritually and in so doing, either stop or slow our ministry, believing they are doing this for God.  But Jesus warns us about this so that we may not stumble or be discouraged.

PRAYER

Dear Father

It has consistently been a blessing to meditate upon your Holy Word.  I feel disappointed by the knowledge that our own church family could some day choose to harm or discourage us.  But I feel empowered that Jesus has told us this to help us to stand firm in our ministry and in our faith despite this.  I am thankful that Jesus went before us and that He has been able to warn us of these dangers in our churches.

I pray that You will help us not to be so over-righteous in our beliefs, doctrines and traditions just because we’ve had them for so long we think they’re right.  We need to be still and listen to You when You talk to us.  I pray that You will help us not to discourage others who do not share our ministry or meet our expectations because it is possible we may not be serving You when we do this. In Luke 9:49 when John told Jesus he forbade someone from casting out demons because they did not follow with their disciples, Jesus told John “Do not forbid him for he who is not against us is on our side”.

I pray that we will not be a stumbling block for anyone, but particularly for those who are fresh, young and dynamic with different ideas who are seeking to develop a ministry in Your name.  Remind us daily Lord that there is only one safe place to be and that is resting in Your arms.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

A Perfect Reflection…

SCRIPTURE

“As the Father love Me, I also have loved you, abide in My love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15: 9 – 10

OBSERVATION

As I continue to read through John, I notice that whenever Jesus speaks, He makes references to His Father – it’s a major theme of an inter-relational connection.  Whatever Jesus is doing, His Father is doing also. Whatever is God’s will, is also Jesus’ will.  Equally, whatever Jesus experiences, for example ‘hate’ then God also is ‘hated’.  It’s almost as if Jesus is looking into the mirror and seeing God looking back and all of their desires, thoughts and actions are the same – it is a perfect reflection.

If we abide in Christ, then we will be mirroring this relationship also, between Christ and ourselves, with our thoughts, desires and actions mirroring His.  In so doing, we also have an inter-relational connection with God.

APPLICATION

Looking into the mirror of our lives and who we really are is not an easy process. When we look at Jesus, we become more acutely aware of our sin and the brokenness that is within us, because in all honesty we really do not reflect His true nature.  There are some days when I do not want to come before Jesus because I am painfully aware of how far removed I am from that reflection of His character.  I am broken, and if it wasn’t for Jesus, my mirror would be broken too, and there would be no way of communing with God.  But Jesus continues to look at me, and as long as I continue to look at Him, He teaches me what I need to do to become more like Him.

The beauty of this relationship is when God looks at me, He knows who I really am. But because I have accepted Jesus and I am trying to abide in Him, the blood of Jesus covers me.  Though I am broken, because of Jesus, my mirror reflects His sacrificial love, His Grace and Mercy. Jesus is our Mediator and He stands between myself and God.  God sees Jesus first – a perfect reflection of His love.

PRAYER

Dear God

I am thankful that You are Perfect in All Your Ways.  I am thankful that you sent Jesus to show us how to abide in You, as He does.  I am also thankful again for the sacrifice Jesus made to cover me with His blood.  Without this blood, I would be broken and my relationship with You would be broken too.

Thank You that Jesus is our Mediator, who stands before us now, and at judgment, talking to You on our behalf and I pray that we can continue to learn Your ways through  the mirror of His reflection.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

I’m Trusting God will do it…for His Glory…

SCRIPTURE

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14: 13 – 14

OBSERVATION

Jesus made a promise to us that He would do anything for us, if only we ask.  Jesus has also told us to ask, seek and knock, because He will give it, find it and open the doors for us (Matthew 7:7). There are many things I have prayed about and asked God for, believing they were good things, things that God would definitely want for me.  Despite knowing that God answer prayers by either saying ‘Yes”, “No” or “Wait”, sometimes it is hard to believe and understand that God would withhold or postpone something good, for example – physical healing, a healthy marriage, a new job, a new home and other blessings.

The key to this promise, is that God answering this prayer has nothing to do with us.  It’s all about Him.  You see, Jesus said “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” – Jesus will answer our prayer, but so that we will know the Mighty Power of the Our Father.

APPLICATION

Personally, I am waiting right now for a prayer to be answered.  I believe it is something that God would want for me and I have been pretty close to receiving it, in fact, I know the blessing is around the corner.  But for some reason it has been delayed and I have been disappointed today.

Nevertheless, as I started reading this chapter, I found this passage comforting.  I realized that God was telling me that though I am disappointed right now, He will answer this prayer.  But it’s not even about me, it’s so that God’s name may be glorified, not mine.

I have to take myself out of this and trust Him – whatever He has in store – it will be best for me and for His glory.

Note:  For a variety of  reasons, I was behind in writing a blog for the last two days.  Maybe that delay was for my benefit so that I could read this passage today and be comforted by its relevance to my situation.  Maybe God knew I would be right here, in a place of frustration and impatience but as I write this, I feel this slipping away as I rest on God’s promise to answer my prayers according to His will and for His glory.

PRAYER

Dear Father

I am thankful that you are an All Powerful and  All-Knowing God.  I am thankful for your timing and for the message of comfort you have given to me today to calm my fears.  Please help us all to turn to you when we need answers to our prayers.  Please teach us to trust in You and Your timing, knowing that whatever you choose is for our benefit.  Sometimes it is hard, especially when things do not go our way at the time when we want it to, but this is all for Your Glory.

Thank you for your gifts of loving us enough to shape our characters by through learning to trust in you.

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.

Do Not Change Your Identity!!!

SCRIPTURE

‘From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” John 6: 66- 67

OBSERVATION

Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand, and the people were so impressed that they wanted to come and take Him by force and make Him king. But Jesus knew this was not the job God had destined Him for, so He quickly departed to be alone.  When the people found Him again, they wanted Him to perform more miracles to prove who He was, but Jesus did not because He knew He was not a performer.

Instead He talked to them in deeper spiritual terms about who He really was and what He was really here to do, but no one understood.  The Jews quarreled and complained, and now even His disciples began to doubt and turn away from Him.  But Jesus stood firm, He turned and asked His other twelve disciples if they wanted to go also.

APPLICATION

Jesus was not afraid of people abandoning Him physically or spiritually because of His testimony of who He was.  He gave them free will to come and go as they pleased and did not fight for them to return. More importantly, Jesus did not change His identity to make Himself more acceptable to others.  He refused to be king.  He refused to perform.  He refused to change to make other people happy.

Why? Because Jesus had His identity wrapped up in God His Father and His spiritual foundation was based on God.  Jesus was not dependent upon the disciples or the approval of others to help Him feel better about Himself.  He depended upon God and who God had told Him He was.  Even though the people did not accept Jesus as the Bread of Life, Manna from Heaven, the Son of God, it did not phase Him or lead Him to question Who He was.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father

I am thankful for the example that Jesus continues to show us of steadfast faith and a secure identity in You. It is very easy to be a people pleaser and to change to make others happy, especially when they decide to leave. Though it is hard to watch people leave, we know that Jesus had to let people go who did not accept the identity that You gave Him.

I pray that you will help us all to hold onto the characters that you have given to us and to seek approval only from You, and not from man.  Our job, is to make You happy by fulfilling Your will and to testify of it, just as Jesus did.  We need to daily claim our identity in You, knowing that we are indeed Children of the Heavenly King!

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.

“What Do You Seek?”

SCRIPTURE

Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” John 1:38

OBSERVATION

John the Baptist had two of his disciples with him.  As Jesus walked by, John the Baptist declared Jesus as “the Lamb of God!” .  It was at this time that the two disciples left John the Baptist and proceeded to follow Jesus.  Jesus then turned to them and asked “What do you seek?”.

This is a valid question for many of us today.  What are we truly seeking from God? What are our motives for following Him?  Jesus knew that people would come to Him for many different reasons.  Some people would seek healing, forgiveness, peace, eternal life, riches, perhaps even superiority amongst many other things.

Nevertheless, the disciples tell us exactly what they were seeking.

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:38

The disciples were simply seeking to be with Jesus and spend time with Him.

APPLICATION

I need to evaluate my motives for seeking Jesus.  What am I truly seeking?  Am I seeking selfish gain?  Has following Jesus become another routine activity because it’s what our family does and has done for years?

I need to spend time with Jesus simply because He is Jesus. I need to get to know who He is.  Personally, I think one of the highest forms of compliment you can bestow on anyone is an active desire to spend time with them without seeking any additional profit other than the blessings you receive from their character, wisdom and spiritual understanding. Following that would be a desire to model their behavior in thoughts and actions. To me it means that you simply love them for WHO they are, not for what they can do for you.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank you for being an Almighty God.  Thank you for sending Jesus so that we can know You.  My prayer is that you will help each and every one of us to desire to spend time with You simply on the basis of who You are and not for what You can do for us.  The blessing of eternal life is not about living for ever in paradise, but living for ever with You.  Please help us to prioritize our lives so that we can put You first in all the things we do.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

It’s Okay to be Human…

Today I’ve been thinking about how unforgiving the world can be when we make mistakes. Some days it is hard to be ‘human’, to be imperfect in a world that expects you to be perfect and get things right… All. The. Time.

I remember my child coming home, feeling they had been unjustly dealt with at school. It was the first time they had forgotten their homework, and they had been ‘disciplined’ as if they were a repeat offender. I felt their pain. Everyone forgets something from time to time – it’s human. I had to remind them that it was okay to forget, it was okay to be imperfect, it is okay to be human.

This world does not always offer you a second chance. One seemingly small mistake or error in judgment can be disastrous to your life or the lives of others, and in some cases you can be judged by that mistake for rest of your life – the label sticks. Sometimes we judge others harshly, until we find ourselves in a similar situation. It is my prayer that I can grow with God in offering forgiveness to my brothers and sisters who make mistakes, as I know I need that same forgiveness.

I am thankful that God knew me well enough to know I would make mistakes despite my efforts. He lovingly set up a plan to forgive and redeem me. With Jesus – there are no worldly labels regardless of what we have done. Jesus gives us new chances every day. We may sin one day, and be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, through the confession and repentance of our sins, the following day.

With Jesus, I have a Friend, a Brother, and an Advocate. With the Holy Spirit, I have the comfort and strength to walk with God in this unforgiving world with my head held high. With God, I have the unconditional love of my Creator, my Father. Amen.

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

…Happily Ever After!

I love a happy ending! Who doesn’t? Hollywood movies, fairy tales, computer games and other fictional stories usually thrive on the concept of evil working against good.  But, no matter how sinister the plot or determined the bad guy, the good guy conquers evil in the end, and the final scene usually closes with the good guy getting the girl, world order restored and a unanimous victory cheer! What could be better than that?

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Image courtesy of superitch.com

Sometimes it’s impossible not to get caught up in the ‘Hollywood Gospel’.  We are deceived by the instant gratification of a happy ending guiding subconscious beliefs that evil can be terminated by the good guy in about a couple of hours that it takes to watch the movie – and then we wonder why God is taking so long. On top of that, the ‘Prosperity Message’ suggests that if we ‘do the right things’, we can overcome sickness, wayward children, marriage troubles, financial  and world crises and whatever else is thrown our way. Our Bibles contain beautiful inspiring stories of faithful men and women like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Abigail, the poor widow, and Leah who overcame a few snags and fulfilled incredible achievements. Right? Well… not entirely so…

These faithful few, despite victories in some areas of their lives all experienced difficult, tragic and traumatic moments which are hardly beautiful.  Abraham sent away Hagar, his concubine along with his first-born son Ishmael – the Bible does not tell us if he ever saw them again. Though there is a great story about Moses’ survival in the bulrushes, let’s not forget the thousands of babies who were murdered by Pharaoh. Ironically, Pharaoh’s family rescued and adopted Moses, but later issued a death warrant against him. Moses ran away and eventually journeyed through the desert for 40 years leading a complaining and miserable people, and at the end of it God tells him he can’t enter the Promised Land.  Then we have Elijah, though translated to heaven to be with God, at one point in time he became so depressed he wanted to die.   Prior to Abigail’s marriage to David, her former husband Nabal was a cruel and abusive man whose dealings were described as ‘harsh and evil’. As for the poor widow, she gave everything she had but there is no evidence to suggest that she ever became rich as a result of her sacrificial offering. And despite Leah’s best efforts to produce a tent-full of offspring, Jacob did not love her. These are only a few stories, but if we look around the Biblical miracles, there is murder, rape, incest, suicide, war and unwarranted death – all issues we deal with today.

Being a Christian does not guarantee protection from misfortune or unhappy endings no matter what we do. There are incredibly horrific events occurring across the world on a daily basis to people from all types of backgrounds regardless of their belief in God. While on the other hand, there are some wonderful blessings that happen to people who we might define as undeserving. Why does this happen? God has already explained why. Sin is in the world and ‘His sun rise(s) on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45).

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Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Satan is the god of this world and in Job we read that it was Satan who caused the afflictions to Job, not God. God allowed it, because He wanted Job to have free will to choose between Him and Satan (Job 1:9-22). To do otherwise would not be free will or a true expression of love by God or Job, because love does not control or manipulate.  If God was to control  and move everything in this world to take away all the pain and suffering right now, then we would be no more than lifeless pieces in a game of chess with little opportunity to exercise our own thoughts.

Why doesn’t God do something? Well he has. The true Good News is that God created a plan to counter sin and to end suffering. Through Jesus, God guarantees us the opportunity to start all over again and have access to eternal life. The promises that God gives to us, are to provide comfort in this life through trials and tribulations with hope of eternal life in God’s heaven on earth.  It’s not a short-term feel-good fix delivered through a two-hour movie, it’s a long-term plan which like most complicated people issues, is painful and slow to resolve. As depicted in M. Scott Peck’s ‘Road Less Traveled‘, many of us want to forfeit the agonizing journey to get to the ‘happily ever after’ part, but God knew that true human spiritual development and salvation required pain and sacrifice and Christ felt the full effect of that pain and sacrifice on the cross.

Image courtesy of menapolis.com

Truth is, we all need a superhero to restore law and order in our lives and to this world. But if there is ever going to be a knight in shining armor for me, it has to be Christ  even though his entry into this world was hardly dashing. The crucial matter is Christ died for me and because of his sacrificial love,  there is only one ‘happily ever after’ that I’m looking forward to. I’m willing to wait for Christ’s triumphant return to take His faithful followers home to live with Him in God’s Kingdom on Earth, where finally there will be eternal life, love, peace and unity for all. Now – doesn’t THAT deserve a victory cheer!!!!

Lifter vs Grifter

You oh Lord are my Lifter, the Lifter of my head/Satan is a grifter that just wants me dead.
He’s a counterfeit, like a magician waving a wand/He sees your people as “marks” waiting to be conned.

You Oh Lord are my Lifter, you lift me up when I’m down/You’re my constant friend and companion when no one else is around.
When the grifter constantly overwhelms me with deception, I look to connect with You to have a clear spiritual reception. Lord, Can you hear me now?

Image courtesy of geww at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of geww at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just want to make sure I’m understood/I live for Your approval and You letting me know everything will work for good.
I have the confidence that the Great Controversy is one-sided/You have all power in Your hands, the ultimate victory has me excited.

He tried to con the world into thinking that Jesus was just a mere man/He’s still bitter because He wasn’t part of the redemption plan. He conned Eve into thinking that she wasn’t perfect/as she rejected the truth of God, and embraced the lie of a serpent.

Yet we still have to make that same choice/whether to heed that smooth talking con man or (whisper) that still small voice.The Lifter will always be victorious as He seeks to save every soul/the grifter will always be notorious hustling people to his hell-bound fold.

But lo and behold, open up your spiritual eyes/John 8:44 says the grifter is the father of deceipt & lies.
Don’t trust him when he tries to deceive/James 4:7 says resist the devil and he will flee from you and the Lifter will save you…only if you believe.

If you can’t recognize the devil unless he’s showing you his horns, you’re in trouble.The choice today is Christ vs. Conman, Lord vs. Lucifer, Alpha & Omega vs Antichrist, Deliverer vs Deceiver, Savior vs. Satan, Lifter of your head vs grifter of your soul. Choose you this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house……

I am a Child of God.

Whether a Methodist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Mormon etc., becoming a part of a church family can become a large part of one’s identity and lifestyle.  Church membership is a place where you can belong and there was a time when I wore my church denomination and local membership with some level of pride. However, there also came a time when I had to truly figure out ‘Who I am’  and to ‘Whom I belong’.

Quite simply, I broke it down and figured out that this is who I am.

I am a Child of God – a Christian.

Nothing more… nothing less.

I belong to God. He is my Father. God created me, formed me in my mother’s womb and claimed me as His own. He loved me first, before anyone or any other church or denomination ever existed. My identity is in Him. My choice to serve God as a Christian is based on my belief that God is my Creator, my Father, and that he has given me the free will to claim salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The denomination that I attend – it’s not as important to me as it once was. The churches in the New Testament were of no denomination, they were just referred to by their location – Corinth(Corinthians), Philippi (Philippians) and so on. People attended these churches regularly depending on where they lived, not according to the doctrines that each church held. People were simply ‘Christians’ or the ‘Saints in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:1, Eph 1:1).

Whilst each denomination may claim to hold ‘the truth’ – claims of exclusivity in areas of doctrine, prophecy etc., often yield an unfortunate consequence of dividing the body of Christ based on our limited ability to accurately interpret the Bible.

Therefore church denomination and membership, programs and prophecy interpretations, being theologically ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are no longer a priority to me. I want to focus on following the example of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy that Jesus gave to us.  My priority is to serve God outside of the church, just as Jesus served and nurtured people outside of the synagogue.

Church denominations and conflicting doctrines are not going away. However, it is important that we do not forsake fellowship with other Christians.  Choosing a church requires individuality, humility, prayer, questioning, direction from the Holy Spirit and Bible study regardless of whether our family has a generational history in a particular denomination. We need to be open minded and aware that every church is fallible and there is no church or doctrine that can save us – therefore it is vital that our relationship with God is well-established as we search.

As I write, I am reminded of the promise that God has given to me:-

‘In my Father’s house are many mansions; If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ (John 14: 2 -3; NKJV)

I firmly believe that the True Church that I am seeking, the ‘True Church Membership’ that I need – safely rests in Heaven – with My Father.