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).

 

 

 

 

 

F.I.G.H.T. Anxiety and Worry…

Are you a worrier by nature?  Are you catastrophic?  Could you take a job in risk management, because you can and will plan for every possible eventuality based on the skimpiest of details that suggest that there may be a problem?

Sometimes anxiety causes us to worry about future events, or even to ruminate on past ones.   Revisiting this pattern repeatedly often fuels further anxious thoughts.

So, here are some practical tips to help you F.I.G.H.T. anxiety and worry as you go through your day:-

Fear:

Fear is a universal emotion.  There isn’t one person on this planet who has not experienced fear, from the newborn to the elderly.  Anxiety and worry and many other emotions are fuelled by fear.  Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of facing reality, fear of pain etc.. It is necessary that we acknowledge and accept our fearfulness.  It’s okay and very normal.

Insight:

Try to be insightful about your own emotions.  Ask yourself what is causing you to be fearful?  Identify whether you have felt this fear before, in your past, as a child or adult.  You might find that your feelings are not new and that these feelings and behaviors have been well-rehearsed as part of your response to childhood events that left you feeling afraid and now fuel the need for you to be in control, or to beat yourself up.

Grace:

Give yourself some grace.  Why?  Simply because you offer it to everyone else, except yourself.  You are allowed to make mistakes. In one of my other posts, It’s Okay to be Human, I talk about how we have become a lot less tolerant of our mistakes and those of others.  Perfectionism belongs to God.  We, as human-beings strive for excellence and at the very least, we do our best.  But when we fall short, we have a Savior, whose name is Jesus and He’s already picked up the tab for us.  So, all we have to do, is ask for forgiveness, forgive ourselves, get up and ‘keep it moving’!

Hope

Hope is knowing that there is better to come, or it’s not as bad as it seems. When I am fearful, worrying about the unknown I do one thing. I remember what Jesus has already brought me through. I think over specific events that I had no control over and yet, He either gave me victory or as James Fortune sings God will help you  “Live Through it” and “Grow Through it”.  I am quickly reminded of how insignificant I am, and how BIG God is and I am better able to hand over my worries to God and let him deal with whatever unknown events in the future I cannot control – this gives me much needed HOPE!

Trust

Trusting God is not always easy.  Especially when things have not worked out the way we wanted them to. We are told to pray and meditate, but often I cannot concentrate or focus enough to pray, read or meditate. This adds to my anxiety, because I then berate myself for not being a good Christian. I have failed to ‘focus’ on God as I ‘ought’ to based on the expectations of other Christians.  Furthermore, in the midst of worry and anxiety, I often try to pray and give God the worry, but I am soon taking it back. These behaviors are rehearsed and can be difficult to change.

So… I go back to Grace.  I accept myself where I am and allow myself to give to God whatever I have as a ‘Popcorn Prayer’.  It’s my Prayers on the Go, whether it is  just a few words saying ‘Thank You Jesus’… ‘Help me Lord’… ‘God, I just don’t know what to do, direct my paths’.  The blessing is, I begin to ‘pray without ceasing’ AND while I am weak, God can be strong.

Secondly, I have found my own way to meditate on God’s word and to focus my thoughts. How many times a day do we enter our computer password at work?  Ten, twenty, fifty times?  Well, I found it useful to change my computer password at work to represent a scriptural passage.  With the increased requirements in network security, it is encouraged that we enter more complicated passwords with upper and lowercase letters and number.  So I have begun using the first letter of each word in an abbreviated scriptural passage, along with the Bible location. For example.  ‘For I Know The Plans Jeremiah 29: 11’ may look like this as a computer password  ‘FiKtPJer2911’

Every time I type this in, I am reminded of God’s promise, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’ (Jer 29:11).  I’m not only meditating, but memorizing too, and reminding myself to put my Trust in God.

So by acknowledging our Fear, looking for Insight, giving ourselves Gracefinding Hope in God’s faithfulness and then Trusting in God’s Word, we can begin to F.I.G.H.T. anxiety and worry.  Once we are able to gain some control over these emotions, it creates more to become the healthy and  prosperous individuals that God created us to be.

 

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!

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Judge Yourself Before You Judge Others…

SCRIPTURE

Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”  John 7: 19

“Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7: 22 – 23

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  John 7: 51

OBSERVATION

I could not help but notice that Jesus had to defend Himself against unfair judgments.  He was accused time and time again of breaking the law.  Yet, the same people who judged Him, were the ones who were breaking the law and failed to notice it.  Jesus asks them why are you trying to kill me when you are the ones breaking the law?  He asks them again why are you so mad at me for apparently breaking the Sabbath by healing a man, when you also perform circumcisions on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses?  If I am breaking the Sabbath, then you are too. Jesus challenges their hypocritical legalistic attitudes towards the law.

Clearly the people have little insight into their own actions and can only see what they perceive Jesus is doing wrong.  On that basis, as Nicodemus points out they have judged Him without even asking Him what He is doing.  It is classic speck versus plank eye syndrome. (Matthew 7: 3-5). They do not realize that they have failed to judge Jesus’ actions in the context of His testimony and their own failings and if they had, they may have judged a little less harshly. “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

APPLICATION

It’s easy for me to stand back, judge someone and then feel better about myself because I did not break God’s law.  It’s satisfying that I can go away and exalt myself for not doing what they did.  I cannot count how many times I have judged someone from a distance without getting to know or ask them what they were doing or why and trying to put myself in their shoes. Furthermore, how many times have I criticized someone, only to find myself committing the same act a few days later?  It all happens far too often.

It’s important to challenge ourselves daily about the snap judgments we make.  It is equally important to be careful about the accusatory remarks or thoughts we have, without having enquired directly or tried to understand another person.  We should try to listen to people with an understanding of our own failings as humans.   When Jesus pointed out the people’s hypocrisy He said “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He was referring to the fact that they had failed to look at the full picture, which included their ‘law breaking actions’ too.  Legalistic hypocritical judgments have no place in God’s law. Just as Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2;27), “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law”.

I am realizing that I am continually seeing planks in my own eyes.  The more planks I see and remove from my own eyes, the more spiritual insight I have.  The more spiritual insight I have into my own failings, the more grace and love I can extend towards others.

PRAYER

Almighty God

You are worthy to be praised and we thank You for Your Grace, Love and Mercy.  My prayer today is that we all look deeply into ourselves before we even begin to look at others.  The process of removing planks from our eyes is endless but necessary.   Help us not to judge others by appearance.  We do not know what others are going through and even if we do, help us to be supportive.  Even if we try to step into their shoes, we can never fully experience their pain or understand their decisions, so help us not to judge hypocritically or legalistically.  Help us to judge righteously by seeing others through our own failings and in doing so, to extend love, grace and care towards them.

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.

Have Faith in Jesus…Not the miracles…

SCRIPTURE

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men. John 2: 23 – 24

OBSERVATION

Jesus was able to read the hearts of people and He made a choice not to place any importance on the ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ that people had in Him because of the miracles He did.  It seems that Jesus thought their faith was superficial, I can only assume because it was faith by sight and people were more impressed with the miracle and not the Son of God.  Before the miracles – I wonder how those people viewed and treated Jesus?

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that “there is nothing new under the sun”.  I wonder to what extent our faith in Christ has changed.  Do we treat Jesus poorly until He provides us with a miracle and then our attitudes change?  How much do we need charismatic preachers and entertaining Christian music artists to feel that God exists and is available to us?  How much importance do we place on charming preachers and melodious voices to enjoy church and feel connected to God?

APPLICATION

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a spirit-filled worship and praise session, if we take those things away, what do we have left? Will we still be able to connect with Jesus and be steadfast in our faith?  Or do we need to see or hear something as evidence or a reminder of His existence and power? I’m not saying that we should not use music, or sermons or feel blessed by His gifts of healing. I just want to be careful that my faith is in Jesus and not in His miracles.  As Job 1:21 says – The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  When God takes something away, what will I think of Him. Will I still respect Him?  I certainly hope I will.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for being a Mighty Awesome God. Thank You for this opportunity to read and study and to seek new understanding. Lord, when You look into my heart, I want You to see someone who is desiring a new relationship with You, not based upon what I see or the miracles You perform in my life.  Even if You do no other miracle for me than allow me to breathe each day,  help my faith to be deep and grounded in You.

In Jesus’ Name

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

Save Some Oil…For Yourself!

File:View from connors hill panorama.jpg

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”. Matthew 25: 1-13

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I don’t know where I went,
I disappeared amongst the kids, job, partner and the rent.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I wander through the mist,
Of work and chores, school and trips and a never-ending list.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, most days I just appease,
Despite the work to make it right they were rarely pleased.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, to make a happy house,
I want so much to make it well for my family, friends and spouse.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, my goals I have made known
I really want to chase God’s dream, the seed that He has sown.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I gave away my oil,
I’m all burnt out with nothing left from chasing endless toils.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, a voice that goes unheard
But if I don’t exist why do I feel their every word?
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I exist unseen,
It’s clear that I’m invisible, Dear God, where have I been?

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I gave me away
And though my well was void and dry, they thought I was okay.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m in a lonely place,
I’m all worn out, too tired to care, I’m resting in His Grace

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m drinking at His well.
It’s then my eyes are opened and I see just where I fell.
I’m lost and I have found myself resting in His arms,
Leaning on His lasting love, protected from all harm

I’m lost and I have found myself, replenished and revived,
Remembering the sacrifice, why He was crucified.
I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am, He taught me I’m His child,
There’s nothing else I need to know, His love has me beguiled.

I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am I won’t be lost again
As long as He lights up my path and tightly holds the rein.
I’m found and I have realized the things I didn’t see,
I’m found and I have realized the need to care for me.

I’m found and He has promised me I’ll never be alone,
I’m found and He has set me on a path to take me home.
I’m found and I will not let go, in Him I will reside
My Lord, My Savior Jesus Christ!!! Forever by my side!

This poem reflects a perspective of how family life, though desired and prized, can also be stressful and draining.  It’s easy to get caught up in giving constantly to the demands of our, families, marriages, friends, jobs and church life while neglecting yourself.  As long as you are always self-sacrificing and always putting others first, neglecting your own needs – people – no matter who they are –  will take and take and eventually you will become exhausted. At those times when you ask for or need help – you may find some, but you may also find none.

You must not lose yourself, give away your character and eternal salvation because the demands of life or people – even the ones that you love – becomes so overwhelming that you fail to take time for yourself – and then when Christ returns – you are unprepared – you have no oil. Remember – Jesus took time away from the crowds to rest and renew His relationship with His Father – without this self-care, Jesus may have been of little help to anyone else.

Set clear boundaries with people who perpetually burn your oil without replenishing it.   Learn to say “No!” just as the wise virgins did. Take some time to know yourself and who God created you to be and pursue that course no matter what!  Make time to relax and renew your mind through an activity you enjoy,  whether exercising or socializing with friends. Last and most importantly, take consistent time to develop and cement your relationship with and your character in Christ through prayer and reading the Bible. Do yourself a favor while you still have time, save some oil for yourself – you cannot afford to be lost – your salvation depends on it!

I Confess…

…I’m an Israelite…through and through.  Despite seeing miracles over and over and experiencing the blessings of God repeatedly – like the Israelites in the desert, I still doubt God’s protection and His ability to do the impossible.  I don’t understand how God can bless me one week, and the following week my faith crumbles when things are not going my way.  I’m putting it out there… bad as it sounds… it seems that I need God to prove Himself over and over again.

In our last blog by Delzino, it was mentioned that people watched Jesus Himself perform miracles, yet it did not cause them to believe… and it’s at times like these when ‘I get it’ and I feel the need to repent and ask God to cure this resistance in me that does not quite fully accept Him or His power at face value.  It must have been really frustrating for Jesus to ‘prove’ Himself, to people that were not open to believe in the first place.  And while I am open to believe, I still doubt. “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I am sure that I have fallen victim to the art of projection.  It is likely the case that I do not believe in myself and my ability, and have thus projected my doubt in myself onto God – consequently diminishing Him to the stature of a human.  The reality is, that I should not bring God down to my level, but I should allow Him to raise me up to be the excellent creation that He created me to be – to glorify Him in all that I do.Woman with Arms in the Air

So today, I want to testify of God’s goodness toward me in answering the spoken and unspoken prayers of my heart despite my lack of faith and trust.  I have to praise and thank Him and confess that God has done great things in my life. YES! “…He has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1)

My prayer is that as we continue our walk with God that our trust and faith in Him will grow and we will allow Him to transform and renew our minds, such that we can live a life of peace, knowing that ‘He is the blessed and only Sovereign (controller) of all things, the King of Kings, Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1Timothy 6:15 -16).

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……

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Baking a cake requires a combination of specific ingredients in a particular way to ensure success. If the cake fails, I usually assume I did something wrong and I will need to make a change next time. When seeking an answer to my prayers, there is also a formula or recipe for success, such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, and faith. If the prayers go unanswered, once again I assume that I did something wrong and will need to do something different next time.

I confess that I have manipulated areas of my life to create a desired outcome, such as baking a simple cake – who hasn’t? Change your actions means you change the outcome – right? But is it possible that I unknowingly did the same with God? Was I trying to manipulate God to provide me with what I wanted, based on what I was doing?

As a Christian it is a message I have heard many times. If you want a breakthrough with the challenges in your life, whether it is good health, a restored marriage, job security, financial blessings, then you should seek to pray, recite scriptures, serve in church,  submit, forgive, sacrifice, wear the right clothes, send our children to Christian school, the list goes on.  The reverse of this message is, if your prayers go unanswered, it is because of something you failed to do, and if you are like me, you will try harder and do more to break through these walls.

Despite trying to complete my endless ‘to do’ list there was no breakthrough, until one day, I broke down. I was burned out. My heart ached, and in tears, I looked to God and said “What now?”God said:-

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Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

So I sat in God’s presence and rested.  Things fell apart around me. I rested.  My world and everything in it came crashing down. Still, I rested. During this time, I learned more about myself and the people around me. Relationships cracked, some people stayed, others left, some I chose to break, others were restored. Most importantly, God revealed to me that the area of my life I had been working so earnestly to fix, was not mine to fix – it was His. I had been trying to do God’s job.

I had to stop trying to influence Him, albeit subconsciously, and let Him do whatever He had to do in my life, even if it meant failing and losing the very things I valued. As He puts my broken life back together, I now see the breakthrough that I had been praying for. I literally had to ‘break’ – for these walls in my life to come tumbling down. I’m still walking ‘through’ to the other side – but to a different life that God has in store for me.  God had to ‘break me to make me’.

Though I am perplexed by His way, and the unexpected dynamics, I am trusting Him and feeling truly blessed.  I begin this journey with a renewed heart and desire to really know God and accept His Grace and Mercy. I finally believe that He does not bless me or answer my prayers because of what I do, but quite simply because He loves me – unconditionally. This is my testimony of Jesus Christ.

How did God bring you through a difficult time in your life?  Share your experiences or comments below…

Open the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” Revelation 3:20

A recent article described the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. It stated the benefits for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health to create boundaries that allow healthy, positive, and encouraging people into our lives, while limiting or denying the access that negative, critical people have.

It is wonderful news that God’s amazing unconditional love of sinners means that He does not create boundaries to keep any of us out.  Despite our sinful nature, God created a way through His Son, Jesus Christ to enable us to have fellowship with Him such that nothing can separate us from His Love. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15 : 1-7) tells us about how God looks for us. God is gracious and does not turn his back on us, but He actively seeks out the fallen.

It is even more incredible that Almighty God wishes to respect our human boundaries, such that He knocks at our doors and waits for us to answer! God wants us to remove our barriers, open the door and invite Him in. No  boundaries, no limits!

Even if we place boundaries on others or they do the same to us, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s love is always available to us. He is a healthy wholesome God who is willing and able to heal/comfort those who are emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically unwell – especially when we let Him into our lives.  God invites us all to limitless fellowship with Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. God’s promise in Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) is:-

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

God’s door is always open to us and yet He patiently stands and waits at our doors. Is He knocking at your door? Will you let Him in?

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.

HEALTH WARNING! – FRUIT IS BAD FOR YOU!

On this special occasion of Spiritual Sandwich’s first creation, there is no better place to start than ‘In the beginning…’ with Genesis.

We remember how God created the heavens and the earth and on the third day He ‘brought forth grass and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind’ (Gen 1: 11). ‘God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good’ (Gen 1:31). Life in God’s Garden was incredible and Adam and Eve’s happiness was immeasurable – however that was not to last. Eve was tempted by a serpent (alias Satan) to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for which God had commanded them both not to touch and since then, humans have been pre-destined to experience the consequences of this sin – pain, immorality of all kind and death – a piece of FRUIT brought down the entire human race!!! FRUIT – Guilty as charged!!!!

FRUIT IS EVERYWHERE…EARTH IS DOOMED!! FRUIT IS A DANGEROUS TEMPTATION AND THE EATING OF FRUIT IS EVIL!!! REFRAIN FROM EATING FRUIT AT ALL COSTS!!! YOUR SOUL SALVATION IS AT RISK!!!

Most of us, if not all, know that fruit was indeed the innocent party – and it was Eve who was tempted by Satan to commit this most heinous crime against God and humanity. So where am I going with this?

Well – there are many potentially ‘innocent’ and ‘guilty’ parties in and outside of our churches that church-goers accuse of causing them to sin, or out of fear they choose to shun entirely. Other Christians, non-Christians, musical instruments, media equipment, make-up and jewelry (to name a few) are criticized/avoided by some church goers because they may have had unsavory associations and/or a questionable history within the secular world.  Well – surely we should add fruit to this list, after all, it did bring down the human race.

This argument seems nonsensical on the basis of a modest piece of fruit with no thought processes of its’ own putting together a plan to cause this notorious fall of mankind. In my humble opinion, it is not and has never been the object or person (whether we think it’s good or not) that causes us to sin. It is our own heart and sinful thoughts and motives that lead us there.

Let’s call a spade a spade and stop trying to pass the blame onto someone else… or some inanimate object. When we blame something or someone else – we lose power – God’s transforming power! Consequently, we give control to the person or thing, and deny ourselves the opportunity to acknowledge and take full responsibility for our sin, ask for complete forgiveness and make the complete transformation that will give us the power through Christ, to have victory over that particular sin.

Let’s not forget that Adam blamed Eve and God, and Eve blamed the snake, it is clear… some things are difficult to change…as humans inheriting a sinful condition, we love to place blame elsewhere! But do you want to be transformed? I do!!! Then let us then seek to claim the full power that God has given to each of us, by accepting full responsibility for the things we think and do, asking for forgiveness – and in doing so, we can claim the complete spiritual renewal that God has in store us.