buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Good News”

New Year, Old Message

Since the New Year began ten days ago, I have been listening to many speakers talk about the future. Most spoke about how to stay focused on the goals and plans to have a better year. A few have talked about the prophetic times we are in right now. They are not foretelling when Jesus will return, but they are saying He is coming soon. The term “soon” is a relative term. It could mean today. It could mean ten years from now or one hundred.

For the last two thousand years, Jesus’ people have been waiting on His return for the church – His bride. But the signs of the times are showing His return is very soon. Yes, we have always had certain signs – turmoil in the world. Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes in various places. Famines and pestilence. The signs have always been there.

However, this time is different. The intensity is greater on the various attributes of the “labor pains” we are experiencing today. We see more damaging hurricanes than ever before. Earthquakes are in the 7.0 range more frequently than ever before. But the telling sign is Israel. The fig tree – Israel – is blooming. They are prospering in their land. They are relatively peaceful and safe in their land. Yes, they have enemies trying to destroy them. But most citizens of that country live in peace.

The Bible speaks of a time when Jerusalem will be a sore subject to most countries. In Zechariah 12:3, God said He will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all nations. Don’t we see that today? Has there been a time when more strife over Jerusalem than now when nations are moving their embassies to Israel’s capital? I think not. Israel has never had the prosperity as they do today. They have found natural gas and oil in their land in the last ten years. They are leaders in innovation. There has never been a time when other nations want what they have. And nations are foaming at the mouth to get Israel’s resources.

God said He would put a hook in the jaw to bring those northern nations to Israel’s door. Never has there been a time when Russia, Iran and Turkey have been in agreement as they are today. And they are poised on Israel’s northern border. They are just waiting for the time to invade. Russia needs the resources Israel has – gas and oil. Turkey wants the territory for their caliphate. Iran just wants Israel gone. Period. The Palestinians are just a thorn in Israel’s flesh – a distraction from Iran.

God is setting the stage. And there are a few players out-of-place. The US in the Middle East? Maybe we need to be out of the area in order for the play to begin. There might be more things to set in motion in the Middle East before Jesus’ return, but we are closer today than ever before. Everything is coming together just as the prophets from the Old Testament said it would.

Another sign of the times is the church today. False teachers are more common today. The church seeker movement has taken a step away from sound doctrine. Feel good messages are a sign of the times. Itching ears want to hear the good and not the wrath of God. The culture has moved into the church.

“Selfies” are still another example of the times we live in. Delusion is running rampant. Choosing a baby’s gender instead of biology dictating gender? Crazy. Gender is fluid? What? I am sure it has been like this at other points in history. Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. The time before the flood has been mentioned in the Bible as well. “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37 and Luke 17:26). The door closed on all those outside – only eight were saved.

2019 could be the year when we see Jesus’ return. But I’m not writing about that. This is a time when we should be filled with urgency. If 2019 is the time – and I’m not saying it is – then we should be preaching the Gospel message to all who need to hear. John the Baptist was the voice in the desert to clear the way for the Lord. His message was “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” The religious folks in his day missed the signs of the times. I don’t know what type of signs was for the first coming of Jesus; but whatever they did have, they missed it.

One sign given was the star over Bethlehem. The wise men came from afar to worship the newborn king, but they didn’t know which direction to turn. They went to the leader of the area, Herod, to inquire about the location of the birth. The priests were summoned to give the answer. The wise men took off for Bethlehem without a single priest following them. The religious elite missed the sign. Shepherds heard the angels proclaiming the news and they went to see. But the religious ones were not present.

For followers of Jesus, we need to keep watch and be ready. The priests had thirty years to get ready for Jesus’ ministry and they didn’t. I don’t know how much longer we have, but the bridegroom is on His way – do we have enough “oil” in our lamps? The foolish ones didn’t have enough oil and were left outside the party (parable found in Matthew 25).

The message of John the Baptist needs to be preached again. The way needs to be made clear for the Kingdom of God is near. It begins with me repenting of my sins and being made clean. You too. Now is the time to get ready. Those who have ears let them hear.

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:38-40

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The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

Two Words for Today

This past week, my small group started reading the Gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is believed to have been written by the author John Mark while he was in Rome for the Roman Christians between the years 55 and 65 AD. John Mark received the narrative from Peter, a disciple of Jesus and one of Jesus’ closest friends – part of His inner circle.

Unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Mark’s message begins with the ministry of Jesus. The word that jumps out from the beginning is “immediately.” John Mark used that word throughout his writing. The word I got from the beginning is unhindered. Jesus wanted to begin His ministry unhindered to share the Good News about His Father’s Kingdom. However, the more Jesus did – the miracles – the less He was able to move about freely. The people came far and wide to see Jesus – to see His miracles and to hear His message.

In the beginning, Jesus told the demons not to speak about who Jesus was (is). When the demons saw Jesus, they proclaimed Him as the Son of God. I believe Jesus didn’t want them testifying – He didn’t want people to believe the demons message. Jesus’ message was to believe in Him for who He was (is) not because of what a demon said or the miracles Jesus performed. The miracles were signs and wonders to prove His authority to what Jesus proclaimed.

People were amazed at His authority. They had never heard anything like it. However, the schooled members of society – the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus’ authority. They wanted more proof than the signs and wonders Jesus provided. Jesus said even if He died and rose again, they would not believe – and they didn’t. Their hearts were hardened and had no room for Jesus.

Early in the narrative, John Mark wrote about Jesus’ take on old and new wineskins. I believe this remark was directed to the Pharisees. The message Jesus delivered was a new message – new wine. The new wine would be better served in a new wineskin rather than an old wineskin. The message was brought forth through the disciples rather than the religious elite – the Pharisees. There would be a new vessel for the new message.

The Pharisees thought they were covered because of who they were – sons of Abraham – God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe they needed to be saved from their sins. They believed in the rules of Moses’ Law was going to save them. They had no need for Jesus. They relied on tradition and had no relationship with God. It was all about the Law and nothing more.

Jesus told a group of disciples it was more than just following rules. He expounded on the Law and said it was more than keeping the letter of the Law but even the thoughts could be judged against them. So the Law said murder was wrong, but Jesus said even our thoughts about harming someone was breaking the heart of this commandment. It’s impossible to keep the Law. The Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.

In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry in the synagogues. However, the message was rejected in those places. The message was received outside of those walls where Jesus walked among the crowd. He spoke on hillsides, in small villages, and around the Sea of Galilee. The people from far and wide came to hear the message and see all He was doing. But the Pharisees did not see and did not hear. They missed the message of love, hope, peace and joy. Jesus came for them too, but they rejected His message and didn’t believe Him even with all the things He did in their presence. Jesus broke their rules (not God’s) and did things on the Sabbath that their rules forbid.

Eventually, though many decided to turn away from Jesus because the message was too hard to follow. They didn’t understand what Jesus said about His death and how it would change everything. Only after the resurrection do we see thousands committing their lives to the message. The resurrection made the difference in how the message was received. People believed the witnesses of the resurrection. They understood the message after the greatest of the signs and wonders – Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Pharisees still didn’t believe and their fate was determined by their unbelief.

The message is still true today. It’s not about tradition or following rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus and following Him. It’s more than Jesus saving us from our sins. It’s about turning our lives over to Him as Lord. It’s giving Him everything – all of our hearts. It’s about being outside the building walls and showing others the love of Jesus every day.

Let’s not miss the message Jesus still sends today. It’s still the message that will change everything for someone waiting to hear of a hope that cannot be destroyed by their circumstances. God is bigger. This world is falling apart and time is growing shorter by the day. Let’s be unhindered and immediately share what we know.

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)

The Big Picture

When I worked in the corporate world, one of the things that always came up on my review was the fact I couldn’t always see the big picture. I would get bogged down in details. I am a details kind of person so I couldn’t ever make headway on this weakness. However, I am a great helper. If someone else has the big picture, I am great to help meet those big picture goals. As long as someone else can see, I will be the one to go to in order to get it done. That’s the corporate world, however. In the spiritual world, I can see clearly. Well, most of the time.

One of the things I keep asking God is for more wisdom. These days, it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. You can’t just go to the internet or the local news channel or read the newspaper unless you know the ones who are behind the scenes writing the information. Everybody has a perspective that may not be coming from the True Source. We all need more discernment in this day and age. I am sorry to say it’s not going to get much better. I hope it will – by God’s grace maybe He will allow another graceful period. I pray for it; however, so far I don’t see it coming. God’s hands may have been taken off of us for good and given over to the “depraved” mind foretold in Scripture.

So what’s the big picture here? One of the most important things I see is the attack made on the family in these last few years. Family is important to me. I love my family as you could probably guess from previous postings. Family is also important to God. God instigated the family concept from the very beginning. The concept of family portrays His family. God created a nation out of one man Abraham; He set forth this concept of His family blessing the earth through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, Jesus. Through Jesus we are adopted into His family when we believe Jesus is God’s Son.

The other day, I heard it said this way by Rice Broocks: “Jesus became a man to live the life we should have lived; who died the death we should have died; three days later He rose from the dead proving He is God’s Son.” If we believe this and have turned back to God (repented) and trust Him daily, we are part of His family. Robert Morris said recently “sinners don’t go to hell. Unbelievers go to hell.” We all sin and fall short of God’s standards. It’s the belief in Jesus that allows us into heaven.

Hell was not made for man; it was made for God’s enemy Satan and his demons. However, Satan has been active in making sure he doesn’t go alone. He distorts the truth and makes us doubt God. He turns our attention to the wrong things and makes us desire the wrong way and lies about the consequences. And we believe him instead of the truth found through Jesus – His way is the best way to an abundant life – everything else leads to death.

Most think it’s an exclusive club – however, God made it inclusive – whosoever will believe – anyone can believe. There is no condemnation for our sins – Jesus came to forgive our sins – Satan condemns us. If we will turn away from our sinful life, through Jesus we can live a life devoted to Him. But Satan makes everything else seem better. Why? Satan’s goal is to become like God; he wants to be worshipped and have his own throne. And right now, he is having a field day. One of Satan’s goals is to go after the heart of the family. If the family falls, everything else is easy pickings.

I watched an interview with Pastor Tony Evans’ children – Priscilla Shirer led the interview with her siblings. It was an interesting conversation. They had their issues with sin, but today they are stronger together because of the battles they faced. My own family had our issues too. And today, we are stronger too. Our family unit is solid because of our deep bound with each other and also of the belief we have in Jesus. He is our rock and our fortress. He holds us together.

When families don’t have this anchor, it’s no wonder they are tossed about like a ship on the wildest ocean. They believe Satan’s lies and families are destroyed because of it. Whatever the person is considering today, if it is not found in Jesus; it’s a lie that will have consequences. Killing the family, having an affair; molesting a child; whatever that lie spoken in the dark will have devastating consequences.

Only Jesus will bring forth life – abundant life. He promised it through His death and resurrection. He paid for sin in full by His blood – His sacrifice so that we could live differently. This is the Good News we need today – as Rice Broocks recently said – it’s Good News because it’s True News. We’re getting so used to fake news when we need to be reminded there really is True News we can count on. Jesus is the Big Picture we need today to bring hope to this worn out and weary world. Know your source of Truth.

Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 (TPT)

For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. Romans 8:13 (TPT)

Headline News

Do you watch the evening news or still read newspapers? The last time I picked up a newspaper, I noticed it was very thin. Yesterday’s news just seems irrelevant for this fast-paced society now. We like instant news feeds. When an event happens, we want to know about it immediately. And we can. We have instant access. News alerts and weather alerts come directly to our phones. But what do we do with all the alerts? Do we shrug it off or get anxious about it? What do we discern from the events that are taking place today?

This next week is significant in many ways. First, Israel turns 70. Many nations have fumed about it and threatened disaster upon that tiny nation, but Israel is still here and celebrating a significant milestone. The second thing that is significant about next week is that the US is moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Life in Israel and Jerusalem may be difficult in the next few weeks or months. Time will tell how these events will shape the Middle East.

Then we have our own issues going on. Hawaii’s volcano is changing the landscape of the Big Island once again. There may be a significant explosion this week that could send boulders flying through the skies. Or ash clouds that disrupt air travel, not to mention covering the landscape and cause breathing problems for those who live nearby. It’s like a physical expression of an angry world that is just about to erupt and cause chaos in the world. I think we may have reached a boiling point – the spiritual battle has blown up in the heavenly realms and it’s going to get real very soon.

Our instant news feed may not mention these events in the coming days unless it’s a significant event – something spectacular happens. But I know with all that goes on, God is still in control no matter what. God has been setting the stage for many years and it all comes together just as He plans. We don’t know the time of all events, but God does. Do we get anxious about these things? I hope not.

We may not understand all the events taking place and their significance. However, we can know God is at work through these events. God has an agenda. Maybe we don’t like to think like that, but it’s true. God’s agenda is for the lost to be saved and for His glory to be revealed. We can be a part of this agenda. Actually, we are a major part of His agenda. We didn’t get saved just for ourselves. We get saved so that others will be saved through us when we go tell them our stories.

It seems really difficult to tell them our stories in this day and age. Many think we’re foolish. They are not ready to hear it. However, there will come a day when they are ready. When their world is in chaos and they have nowhere else to turn, they will look to us and the peace that we have. Then they will be ready.

In our age of instant access, we have about three minutes to share our story. When I was in my health coaching school, the instructor told us we needed an “elevator speech” to tell others what we do in three minutes or less. It’s the only way we can communicate these days. Sound bite news – sound bite stories. Just hit the highlights and if they are interested in our stories, they will ask us for more. If we just give them a sip of living water, they may want the whole fountain. The woman at the well did.

The story is found in John 4 tells of a woman who needed to hear the Good News. Jesus just happened to stop for a drink of water at a well while the disciples went into town for food. Jesus asked the woman who came to the well to give Him a drink of water. The woman was surprised that a man – a Jewish man – would ask her for a drink. But Jesus persisted with this woman to show her that she needed more than this physical water that doesn’t satisfy the soul. He gave her just enough information to want more. He engaged her in a way that no one ever had before and she was intrigued.

The trouble with our day and time is that we don’t stop long enough to engage others in conversation. The people around us are so thirsty and they don’t even realize it until we engage with them. The headline news may keep us from having those engaging conversations if we are anxious about our own lives. It’s when we find ourselves in a peaceful place that we notice our access to others who need our own “sound bite” good news that is worth sharing. Let’s not be anxious about anything that takes place on the world’s stage because the world is looking for peace that we have to offer through our Good News of Jesus. Let’s share it soon before the world implodes before our very eyes. The news is too good not to share!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:34-35

Family Secrets

Have you ever had a family secret you wanted to share? There is a verse in scripture that begins with “and we know.” It’s like that family secret – we know it, but others outside the family don’t know it. We know that we know somehow some way everything will come out all right because we know the family secret. All things will work together for good. But it is conditional. It’s not for everybody. The scripture (Romans 8:28) says for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. That’s us – the family of God.

Sounds a bit like and “us and them” kind of distinction, right? There is a dividing line between us and them. Right now that’s the way it is. However, it isn’t meant to stay that way. God isn’t exclusive. He is a “whosoever” kind of God. Anyone who is breathing has an opportunity to know Him and love Him. It’s the ones who are no longer breathing that have a problem that can’t be resolved if they didn’t know Him before they died. That dividing line is forever etched and can never be erased.

I know it seems rather harsh that God would allow that dividing line for eternity. God did not design eternity apart from Him. He wanted all His creation to be perfect, but sin interrupted the plan. God had a counter move that He put in place to resolve the sin issue. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not die apart from Him (John 3:16 my paraphrase). God’s character is centered on love. But He also has a character based on justice and righteousness. These characteristics cannot be separated. It is who He is. Scripture tells the story and gives us insight to God’s character through the story.

Jesus told everyone that He is the representative of God – if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father (John 14:9-10) – I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because of His words, not His actions. They saw the miracles, but they didn’t believe His words even though He backed His words with miracles.

You want to know another family secret? We are to become like Jesus. We are Jesus’ representatives while He is away. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us – the family – so that we could become more like Him. The secret is this – we are more like Jesus when we love others – the ones like us and the ones outside the family. This love changes us and changes the world. The more love we express, the more love we feel from God. God’s love for us never changes. However, we can feel more loved when we love others. It’s the way we grow more like Jesus and fulfill our purpose – to love God and to love others – the two greatest commandments.

You see, it’s what we are designed to do. There is a hole in our soul that only God can fill. When that hole is filled with His love, we express it to others. Love overflows from that place that God fills. It’s like love bursts forth from us. We can’t stop loving others when that hole is properly filled. It has to be constantly filled though. Our salvation is a one shot deal – once saved always saved (if truly saved by confessing sin and believing in God’s one and only Son who saved us from that sin) – but the hole in our soul has to be looked after. If the hole is ever filled with something that is inferior to God’s love, it shows in our actions (or lack thereof).

A couple of years ago, I heard a message from Andy Stanley that speaks to this thing called love. His message was about this statement “what does love require of me?” What’s the loving thing to do? When we are faced with a situation where we don’t know what to do, Andy said this would be a defining question to bring resolution. We should always opt for the loving thing to do.

Living this out is a lifetime project. We will never get it right all the time. But if we do it consistently, we will continue to grow in our love for God and for others. And we know that God will work it out for our good and His glory. It’s part of the plan. I have shared family secrets so that we will all share this gift we’ve been given – not because of who we are, but whose we are. We know that we know. Let’s let them in on the secret.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6

Buy the Field

On Sunday, the Pastor brought a great message. I even told him so after one of the gatherings. Since I was serving on Sunday, I heard the message three times. But I confess today, I don’t really remember the whole message. I remember a couple of things though that leaves me feeling a bit convicted.

One thing he said, and I have heard it before, the statistics of us sharing our faith or leading others to Jesus is shameful. Less than ten percent share their faith with others outside of our faith and less than one percent has led others to Jesus Christ. I do share my faith – much more on the web than I do in person, but I have in person as well. But I have failed to lead anyone to Christ. Planted seeds, yes. Harvested, no.

The other thing I recall from Sunday is a story he shared about his brother-in-law. It was a story about transformation. His brother-in-law had a casual relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until he lost everything and hit rock bottom before he looked up and truly found Jesus. He had risen in his company and was making great money, but then the stress caused him to turn to drugs and drugs never lead anywhere good. He lost his job, lost his wealth and almost cost him his life. But in rehab, everything changed. He came out a different man.

I think one of the reasons we don’t share our faith or lead others to Jesus is that we aren’t convinced that Jesus is everything we need. My story isn’t like the Pastor’s brother-in-law. I grew up in church. I have known about Jesus all my life. Yes, there was a time when I walked into a dark valley of my own free will. But I recall that time as being very painful and lonely. I discovered a few years later, that I would rather have Jesus as my Lord than me as my lord. My story is one of slowly turning everything over to His control. One part of my heart at a time. As I was led throughout the years, every part was revealed to me and I submitted it to His Lordship. It has taken years to get to where I am today.

When I hear of others say they don’t need Jesus, I get it. I mean, my life has been easy. I had a good home life growing up. I have had good jobs over the years. I had everything I needed. A little bit of Jesus maybe good enough for that kind of life. But I know there can be so much more. I read stories in the Bible that tell me there is so much more to this surrendered life. However, I want that kind of story without the hardship!

I listened to an interview yesterday between Jonathan Otto and Dani Johnson. Dani shared her story of deliverance and healing. But there was a statement that was said by one of them, not sure which one, that has hung in the air ever since. “The poor know Him more.”

It reminds me of the story that Jesus shared about a rich young man (Matthew 19) who asked Him what he should do to enter heaven. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor, then come follow him. The young man left very sad because he had great wealth. Jesus said that it was difficult for the rich to enter heaven and that floored the disciples. They assumed richness was a sign of God’s favor on a person’s life. But if the possessions possess us, what good is to have the richness of the world and have nothing of Jesus? Emptiness. Loneliness. Spiritually bankrupt. Maybe that’s okay for some if they don’t know anything different. They just don’t know all that they could have.

We are told in Matthew 13 that heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When we find the treasure, we will sell everything in order to buy the field. How many of us would sell everything for that kind of possession of heaven? Maybe that’s why most Christians only have a little bit of Jesus. Maybe we’re so afraid Jesus is going to ask us to sell it all and give it all to the poor that we fail to have the best treasure of all. If we bought that field, we would rejoice and share the news with everyone. It’s a matter of conviction that we would know we have just bought the greatest thing ever.

People were (and are) willing to die for that richness of heaven. Every disciple laid his life down to share the Good News of Jesus. They were convinced because they knew Jesus in the flesh; watched Him die a painful death. But what changed for them was when they saw Him resurrected. They touched the wounds. They ate with Him. They were empowered by His Spirit. The same Spirit we have in us when we believe in this Jesus. We can have a deeper conviction too. Maybe we need a different encounter that would change everything for us.

Are you willing to risk everything to follow Him? Or will you walk away sad because of your great wealth? Don’t let possessions possess you. It’s not worth it. Go, buy the field. It’s worth every penny!

Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” Matthew 19:28-30 (MSG)

Good Enough Standard

Sometime in my life, I adopted the “good enough” standard. I am not a perfectionist, although I do have a tendency to lean in that direction. When I get to that point of wanting that thing to be perfect, I have to remind myself it can be just good enough to get it done. I want the job to be done correctly, but all the “i’s” don’t have to be dotted as long as the “t’s” are crossed. There’s a point when the standard has to be “good enough.” That might go against someone else’s OCD, but it might be time to just let it go!

However, the standard of “good enough” doesn’t relate to the Kingdom of God. There isn’t a standard of good enough but of perfection. Scripture tells us no one is good. We could compare ourselves to each other, but we would still fall short of God’s perfection. There’s only one who met His perfect standards – Jesus Christ. He is the standard God set before us.

There are many who believe in the standard of good enough. “I am better than my neighbor or the murderer on death row.” Many believe they can “earn” their way into heaven by doing good works. Many believe this life is it. You only live once, so live it up. Still others say that since they are good, then they will end up in a good place. Many believe the Bible is outdated and not worth the paper it’s written on. Some say that it’s just a crutch for those poor, unstable folks.

Heaven and hell are hard topics to wrap our heads around. I mean, what loving God would throw good people in hell? If there is no hell, then we wouldn’t have to worry about what happens next. We could all live happily ever after. We could have our cake and eat it too! We wouldn’t have to worry about laws. We could kill whoever we wanted to; we could steal anything our heart desires. We could live a life that throws all caution to the wind. It wouldn’t matter. There are no consequences to our actions. But there are rules of the land, and we have to abide by them. God has rules as well whether we believe it or not, and we have to live by them or face His consequences.

Jesus set the standard that we cannot meet, unless we have His salvation that clothes us in His righteousness. I like the illustration that Joyce Meyer uses about our sinful lives. She had an old dirty coat that she wore on stage. The dirty coat represented her sins. There was nothing she could do to make that coat clean. However, her husband came out on stage in a white coat. He played the part of Jesus. Jesus took off His white coat and gave it to Joyce in exchange for her dirty coat. That is the exchange that was made on the cross. Jesus took on our sins and in exchange gave us His righteousness; not because of our goodness but because of His.

I heard that there are no good people in heaven, only forgiven ones. If there was a different way to get to heaven, He died in vain. Jesus even asked if God would take the cross from Him, but in the end said “Your will be done” – and it was. Jesus was nailed to a cross as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was made. If there had been another way to heaven, God would have opted His Son to take a different route to get there.

It’s interesting about the symbolism that the Old Testament uses throughout to prophecy the coming of Jesus Christ as a Lamb to be sacrificed. One of the best symbols is Abraham and his son, Isaac. Abraham was told to sacrifice his son just as God would sacrifice His own Son. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice like Jesus carried His cross. Isaac was bound to the wood like Jesus was bound to the cross. Isaac was ready to be sacrificed, but God stopped Abraham’s hand and gave him another to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. But God did not stop Jesus from the sacrifice.

There was nothing else God could put in Jesus’ place. Jesus came for that mission. His eyes were set for the cross. If there was another way, it would have been taken. But the good enough standard was not met. It had to be a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus was perfect. The Bible tells us so. Not only that; but the ones who walked with Jesus for three years, told us the story. They witnessed and proclaimed all that happened.

Not only that; but the story has lasted for two thousand years, and it still changes people’s lives. I am one of them. Jesus changed my life. I know myself pretty well, and I can tell you I will never be good enough for heaven. But I am forgiven; I know that because of Jesus and what He did on the cross for my sins, I have been given a place in heaven. He told me so in His Word, and I believe it. I stand on that promise: wherever He is we will be there also (John 14:3).

Where do you stand on the topic of heaven or hell? What’s your measuring stick? Are you good enough? Don’t believe the lie, you will never be good enough, but God said that Jesus is. Trust Him and have faith in His dying on the cross for your sins – He was raised to a new life and you can be too. Believe it and confess it; and I’ll see you in heaven!

“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:42-43 (NLT)

Promise Keeper

Last Thursday had a special end to it. The family was still at the beach. We had experienced cool, overcast, rainy weather for the better part of the week; not so good for suntan and children who want to play at the beach. But on Thursday evening about sunset, I looked out our sliding glass door and saw a small portion of a rainbow at the edge of the ocean. I wasn’t sure if I really saw it. So I went outside and called the others to see as well. As we stood there gazing out over the ocean, more of the rainbow was revealed.

Minute by minute the rainbow arched over the beach until the end landed on one of the houses just down the road from us. It was a full rainbow, and it was amazing to see. Phones came out up and down the coast to get some great pictures. The rain had finally ended, and we were in for a gorgeous day on Friday – our last day at the beach. And it was fabulous – a perfect day at the beach; we didn’t want it to end. But it did. However, on Friday night, there was another spectacular view from our beach front house. There was a full moon that rose upon the waters. It was a great ending to our vacation.

I love rainbows, don’t you? Rainbows help me to remember the convenient that God made after the flood. He told Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by flood. I know there is scientific knowledge of how rainbows form. I get that. Sun, rain particles, ta da; a rainbow appears. God made a promise. He is the promise keeper. We can trust His Word.

When I see a rainbow, I think of the story of Noah and his big boat. Rain had never fallen before that time. Noah looked foolish building that huge boat when there was not a raindrop in sight – for years. The times were also very evil. There were none who were righteous except Noah. The subtitle for Genesis chapter six is “A world gone wrong.” We find in Genesis 6: 5-6: The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. But Noah found favor in God’s eyes.

God is always searching for those whose hearts are turned toward Him. He looks for the righteous to do His work. However, evil was not destroyed by the flood; it is still present today as we have witnessed in the last days. Evil hasn’t gone anywhere. I believe current events still break God’s heart. He desires all of humankind to look toward Him instead of doing what’s right in their own eyes.

There are still promises that God has stated in His Word that have yet to be fulfilled. We are told to watch the signs of the times to determine the events to come. I do believe the end is near. I don’t know when it will come; but because God said it, I believe it will happen. The times are evil. Men believe what they are doing is right. But just as the rainbow tells us as a written statement in the sky – God keeps His promise, and He will again bring judgment on this earth. He is also looking for the righteous to step up and do exactly what they are commanded to do; even if it’s to build a boat on dry land for this day and age.

I don’t know what the plan is for today’s building project. God is searching for those who are willing to look foolish to do things that are crazy according to today’s standard. Maybe our job isn’t to build but to tell the story of the building project that has already been accomplished through Jesus’ bridge for humanity. The bridge from us to God has been laid through the cross of Jesus. The cornerstone was His death and resurrection. The foundation is secure because of His promise that if we believe, we will have eternal life. The Body of Christ is being built through the story of Jesus. God made a way where there was no way. He made a promise in the very beginning and all humankind would be blessed through that promise.

The Body of Christ is God’s current rainbow – the Body should reflect the Son. His glory should be revealed for all to see through this current rainbow of color from every nation and every tribe. We are the product of what Jesus has done, but we are not complete. We still have time to do His work. He is showing us through signs and wonders across the globe that time is growing shorter, and we need to finish what has been started. He is watching and waiting. Let’s get out there and shine as we reflect the Son; His rainbow for His glory.

“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.

“The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away.” Matthew 24:36-39 (MSG)

Increasing Potential

In 2009, I went to an integrative nutrition school where the instructor said writing was a good way to influence my “tribe.” I had no idea that this is what I would be doing nine years later, but here I am writing to my “tribe” – that’s you if you are reading this! The writing thing was completely new to me at that time. If for nothing else from my time at that school, I believe this was God’s way to get me to do this thing that I had no clue I could do. Every time I have a blog posting or a newsletter, I ask God if this is still something He wants me to do. And here I am typing out another post. So I assume He still has something to say through me. And if I have heard correctly, the words will reach someone who needs to read it for their benefit and for God’s glory.

On Tuesday, I listened to James MacDonald teaching on the parable of the talents. He said we will be accountable to Jesus on what we have done for Him. Pastor James mentioned that the talents in this passage refer to the capacity to serve God. As Jesus taught in this passage from Matthew 25:15-30, talent will be increased for those who use what they have been given. The one who received five talents immediately went to work to gain five more. They maximized the potential they had been given.

Pastor James said this: “Not everyone is a multiplier, but everyone should show an increase.” If we are in the Body of Christ, we should be increasing our potential for the Kingdom. We are to increase in our fruit bearing potential. We are told in this passage too that we will have a face-to-face meeting with our Master. He has given us resources to manage for Him while He has been away. There will be an accounting for our management skills. We have opportunities to use what we have for a greater Kingdom impact. Jesus expects an increase on His investment. He invested in us when He redeemed us by the way of the cross.

Jesus invested in His disciples. He taught them well. We are the product of their fruitfulness. But we have been given their burden as well. Through Scripture, we are taught just as the disciples were taught. We have Jesus’ words and His Spirit to instruct us. We have the same instructions as the disciples – go and make disciples – spread the Good News about God and His Kingdom. We are to tell others the power of the cross. Jesus died for us so that we could live with God for eternity. He paid the penalty for our sin. He took on our rags of filthiness and gave us His cloak of righteousness. That was a pretty sweet deal for us and a really bad deal for Him; but He took it on anyway. He thought we were worth it.

Since we have His Spirit, we have the capability to be like Him. The Spirit gives us the capacity to be fruitful like Jesus. We are given His Spirit to be His hands and feet while He is away. When He returns, He expects us to have been good managers and that His Kingdom has increased while He was away. For those who are gifted in certain gifts, it’s easier to share the Gospel; but we are all commissioned to do it. This was not His suggestion, but His commandment. Go and make disciples. There was never a “but clause” at the end. “I don’t have the gifting to evangelize, so I can’t speak to others about Jesus.” We all have that circle of influence that God places around us to communicate His Good News. We all have different gifts to get it done.

On Tuesday night at small group, we took a spiritual gift assessment. One of the ladies mentioned her gift of hospitality didn’t seem like a big deal. She also had the gift of mercy. The group responded about how big a deal that really was. Me, those were my two lowest gifts. I have the gifting of helps and faith. But we are all capable of meeting the needs of others in any way that the Holy Spirit leads us. We have a capacity that can be increased as we use our gifts. And when we do, we are rewarded either here or in heaven. But it’s not about the rewards but the Master. We are to always look to the giver and not the gifts.

My writing may not be much, but it is something I can use for God’s glory. God has something special for each of us to do, and He has enabled us with the gifts He has chosen for us to accomplish the goal. The Master will return one day, and we will have to give an account of what we’ve done with what He’s given us. Our lives are a reflection of Him. He invested a lot of blood in us. With that investment, He expects a greater return. We can do even greater things because of the Holy Spirit in us. And our capacity has exponential growth opportunities. We just have to be willing to use them for His glory. Let’s do our part before His return. He is coming soon!

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Matthew 25:1-21 (NLT)

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