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Archive for the tag “Jesus”

The Sacrifice

Throughout centuries, words were written down for eternal purpose. These words were complete when it was put together and called God’s Word – the Bible. It’s interesting to see how each author had a message to share. Scholars point out stories which depict Jesus Christ from one book to the next. The books are intertwined to relay God’s message – we all need a savior to save us from our sins. In the first book of the Bible, we see our need for a Savior.

Genesis 3:13-15 tells the story of sin entering the world for the first time. The woman ate the fruit that was forbidden because of the serpent – God’s enemy (and ours) Satan. God said because of this act of defiance, there will be “enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From this account, we know the why of the story. But the Bible continues as it answers the how, where, and when this will come about.

Scholars point to passages throughout the Bible giving foreshadow of Jesus. Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah was one of the passages foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice. Genesis 22: 2 begins the story of God’s call to Abraham concerning his promised son. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” On the third day of traveling, God showed Abraham the place where the sacrifice needed to be made.

The story continues in Genesis 22:6-8. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

God did provide the sacrifice for Abraham’s offering after God saw Abraham’s willingness to obey. But the real sacrifice still needed to be displayed in other ways. We jump a few centuries later to a captive people in the land of Egypt. At the right time, God made a way for His people to be delivered from their bondage. It took four hundred years to come to the point of sacrificed lamb’s blood to be poured out for the sake of the people.

This event was called Passover because of the sacrificed lamb’s blood was put on their door posts so that the angel of death would pass over that house. Everyone in the house would be saved if the blood of the lamb was poured out for them. After the Jews were delivered, they celebrated this event year after year. It was the first of the seven major festivals they celebrated each and every year.

It seems pretty cruel to sacrifice animals, but God said it must be done in order to cover sins. Leviticus 17:11 stated: For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

It seems harsh to sacrifice animals, but sin was the reason. Sins of the people had to be resolved. Year after year, a lamb had to be sacrificed until Jesus. The perfect Lamb needed to be sacrificed for all sins – past, present and future. A one-time act of sacrifice will wipe away every sin. It was God’s plan from the beginning.

John the Baptist was the first one to recognize Jesus as the perfect Lamb. In John 1:29, John said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” When Jesus was baptized, God spoke this word about Him in Matthew 3:16-17. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Only a perfect Lamb was able to take away the sins of the people.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). God’s plan was coming together perfectly.

At the right time, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy Abraham spoke about to Isaac when God would provide the Lamb for sacrifice on the very mountain God showed Abraham thousands of years before. At just the right time, Jesus’ fulfillment was made on the celebration of Passover – the time of recognition of Israel’s deliverance from death.

God’s plan is still at work. The world is still being redeemed by the blood of His perfect Lamb, Jesus. He fulfills everything as He states in His Word at the right time. He did everything for us; all we have to do is believe. Something I heard not long ago – sin doesn’t keep you out of heaven, unbelief does.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-38

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

Do you believe Jesus is who He said He is? Do you believe Jesus did what He said He would do? Believe in the one who was sent to take away your sins. This is the season to recognize Jesus’ sacrifice. Remember what He did for you today.

Just a Hair Cut

The other day, I had a haircut. Nothing unusual about having my hair cut; I do it every five weeks. However, I usually tell my stylist to continue doing the same thing every time. It’s been styled this way for a long time. But when I went in the other day, I wanted something different. I wanted some layers. She asked how many layers? “No idea, so do what you think is best” was my reply. She proceeded to cut. As we normally do, we chatted all the while she chopped away. I glanced at the mirror when she was done, thanked her, paid her and left for the gym.

After I got home and showered, I finally took a look at my new haircut. This may sound strange, but I finally looked like myself. I felt like myself. My new haircut was really the old me coming back to life. Strange, I know. A haircut is just a haircut. Right?

There are many things we use to cover ourselves besides clothes. I don’t think I was using my previous haircut to cover anything, but it’s just strange how different I felt with the new do. However, I do realize now that I had let others tell me how they thought I should wear my hair. Have it this length, no bangs, let it fall around my face, etc. I realized now, that’s not me. I need to be authentic to who I am – who God created me to be.

I know, it’s just hair. But it says a lot about my personality. I want to please others more than I want to please myself (or God). I let others tell me how to act, what to wear, how to walk. But that’s not me. It may have been for the best of intentions, but I have to be who God created me to be.

I have not given myself over to doing anything outside of God’s will. That’s really not who God created me to be. But I do want to be authentic to my true self. What’s that look like for me? I don’t know. I need to discover who I am without input from others – only God gets to be the voice defining me. God says quite a bit in His Word about our characters. But He gives us leeway on how that looks for us based on our gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, etc. What really matters is that we love God more than anything else and love others as much as we love ourselves – everything else is gray matter.

Danielle Strickland said recently “love brings us back to ourselves.” It’s a sobering, reclaiming, waking moment when God plants His love on us, like a kiss from heaven. He demonstrated His love for us by His Son Jesus. These are the weeks when we focus on Jesus’ birth. This is the time we can demonstrate more love for others to tell them this mysterious love that changes things.

Danielle mentioned in her talk about how the brain responds when we are in love. There are three areas that “light up” when we’re in love – pleasure (joy), risk and attachment. In Hebrews 12:12 it says it was for Jesus’ joy, He endured the cross for us. He loved us so much that He put everything on the line for us. God risked His Son for us. Jesus endured the shame for us. Our response to Him? We are to love Him like that.

For our greatest pleasure, we are to risk everything for Him. We are to abide in Him as Jesus abides in His Father. We are to be in love with Jesus. This type of love brings us back to ourselves – this love makes us who we are supposed to be. It’s an enveloping, mind-bending, arm-wrapping love that transcends understanding that brings us back to ourselves. It’s who we are meant to be and can change everything. It’s more than a haircut that can make us see ourselves differently. Love is the missing link to who we are to become. It’s the joy of our heart to risk it all for Jesus – is it true for you? How’s your love life?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

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)

Stand Firm

This morning’s Bible passage was from Daniel 3 concerning the three men and their fiery trial. The King had set up a golden image for everyone to worship, but the three Jewish men refused to do so. They knew that worshipping an idol was forbidden by God.

In Deuteronomy, Moses referred to God as a jealous God. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

So when the men were given the opportunity to worship the idol, they still refused even though it meant they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. They were convinced that God would rescue them, but even if God didn’t they would still stand firm in their conviction. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Conviction. Do you have that type of conviction? Even if? If everything you know to be true, do you still stand firm? Many people throughout the world have that type of conviction. They stand firm even if their lives are threatened. We are at a big disadvantage in this western world. Hard to believe, right? However, we have many things that distract us from worshiping God. Our conviction may not stand up if we are threatened.

This week, I read the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He was an investigative reporter who decided to investigate the evidence for Jesus. He was an atheist whose wife became a Christian. He wanted to disprove this Christian cult (as he considered Christianity). So for two years or so, he followed the evidence. In the end, the evidence led him to the truth. The evidence was overwhelming that this Jesus did live; He did die; and He did rise again. The evidence was enough to convince Lee that it took “more faith to maintain atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.”

Many lives have been changed throughout the centuries through this Gospel message. As an investigative journalist, Lee knew how to trace the evidence – he had seen too many trials with evidence stacked up against the defendant that conviction was just a matter of when not if. Evidence can change the whole trial. Testimony too is an important key to conviction. But evidence in the case seals the deal.

After reading Lee’s book, it just gave me a deeper feeling of gratitude for what Jesus had done for me. Jesus did suffer and die for me – and you. It was a gruesome death. It was all the wickedness poured out on Him by every lash He received – tearing skin and muscle and every fiber from his head to his knees. He took that pain and suffering on for every human heart that beats even if those hearts don’t beat for Him. His pain and suffering was enough to cover every sin committed – past, present and future. His sacrifice was enough to cleanse every heart and make every heart whole.

There was a period in my life where I doubted this Christianity thing. I saw the hypocrites in church and wondered how this Christianity was supposed to be true. A man once said to me that he didn’t want to go to heaven if the “Christians” were going to be there. I understood what he said because I had thought those same thoughts somewhere down the line of my faith journey. However, we don’t follow Christians, we follow Jesus. Christians are just a work in progress.

My faith journey didn’t stop with the doubts; it just made me want to know more. My parents and my grandparents were convinced that Jesus was who He said He was. But I couldn’t rely on their faith to help me when times got rough. I had to have my own conviction that this Jesus was the real deal.

We can’t stop at the questions and doubts. God doesn’t want us to quit searching and seeking. Actually, we are told when we search and seek, we will find when we search with our whole heart. God is after our whole heart because He is a jealous God who doesn’t want to share our hearts with any competition. Does that seem too harsh? God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us. He earned every heart by the strips on His back. It was a pretty harsh way to die. But He did it for our sakes because there is no other way to God but by the blood of Jesus.

Are you convinced about this Jesus? Do you still have doubts? Seek out the evidence. It’s never too late to find Him. And you’re never too broken to be fixed. Jesus is the real deal. I am convinced of it. I hope you are too. When the fiery trials come, let us stand firm on the foundation of Jesus.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud
and mire;
he set my feet
on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song
in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the
Lord
and put their trust
in him. Psalm 40:1-3

Golden Opportunity

Jesus stopped and called them, “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. This question is found in Matthew 20:32 and Mark 10:51. Jesus was walking out of the city of Jericho when he passed by two blind men who were begging by the side of the road. Mark names one of the men as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). The blind men called out to Jesus asking for His mercy. Everyone around the two men rebuked them, but they called out even louder. Then Jesus stopped. He wanted to know what these men really wanted from Him. Was it a few coins? Did they have a pressing need greater than the obvious? They had to verbalize their need to Him. They wanted to see.

Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them. He recognized their faith and touched their eyes. Matthew records the healing as immediately they received their sight. Immediately. Isn’t that one of the best words you could read? Wouldn’t it be great to have an immediate answer? I’m sure the blind men had been begging for years. But the minute that Jesus crossed their path, they saw their opportunity to act on His mercy. And they asked Him for their greatest need to be met. They knew what they wanted from Him. Immediately.

They must have heard stories about Jesus before this day because when He was coming their way, they shouted out “Son of David.” They recognized Jesus for who He was. This wasn’t just any one. This was the Promised One. They may have been physically blind, but they were more able to see than the Pharisees who never recognized Jesus for who He was. Immediately, they were healed because of their faith in the Promised One.

Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem when He came upon these blind beggars. It would be the final time He would travel that way. There would be no more opportunities for these men if they hadn’t acted when they did. Jesus was on the way to the cross. By the end of the week, everything would be different. No more opportunities for Jesus to touch these men or any other. This was it. Did the men know this was their golden opportunity? No. None of the people in the crowd that day knew what waited just a few days away. This was the last week in the life of Jesus – in the flesh.

We just never know when we have that last opportunity or our own golden opportunity; when we should have acted but didn’t. Maybe we don’t know what we really want and failed to see the opportunity when it came along. If Jesus asked us the same question, how would we answer? Do we really understand the implications of not knowing our greatest need? Probably not. It could be the greatest need that could have the greatest impact on this generation for the glory of God.

God often does more than we request – greater than we can imagine – when our hearts are aligned with His. Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Alignment comes first. If God hasn’t answered our prayers yet, maybe it’s a heart problem that is being corrected before the answer comes. Maybe we have the wrong motivation or the wrong request, or maybe things just haven’t lined up on God’s timetable.

The blind men might have been on that roadside for years, but one day they were at the right place at the right time for a Jesus encounter that changed their lives. They were ready when Jesus came to that place. We need to be ready too. We too will have divine encounters. We need to know what we really want. We need to know it within our souls that this is an encounter we cannot afford to miss. Grab it and let God do something amazing in it. Don’t miss the opportunity. It could be a one shot deal. We may never pass this way again.

Have you heard about this Jesus? Do you know Him for who He really is? The blind men knew Him and received their healing. Once healed, they praised Him; but they also joined Him on the journey. Whatever God is leading you to, don’t waste the opportunity – it could have an immediate effect on you and your world. This is our time to meet Jesus on the road to where He is going. Join Him on the journey. Delight in Him and you will be amazed by what you finally see.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:8-10a

Tick Tock

The prophetic clock is ticking. Have you ever wondered why such a little city causes so much fuss? Jerusalem. The city on a hill. This little city has always caused such unrest throughout history. Ever wonder why? Or do you not think about it? After all, who really cares about such a little place? Why fight over it? Is there really any value to it?

Trump’s words yesterday about Jerusalem will be a stumbling block for most nations. As of last night, the news stated eight nations so far had come out against Trump’s moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Many are saying that this will disrupt the two-state solution for the peace of Palestine and Israel.

Watch and see.

When Trump was elected, I thought it was because of Israel and God’s prophetic clock. I don’t like to comment on political stuff. I don’t care who voted for who. I don’t really care that Trump is causing havoc in the world. All I know is God placed Trump on this “throne” for such a time as this. After all, how do you explain how Trump became president? Russia? No. People are trying to blame other factors, but I say it was all God. The twists and turns were too much to comprehend, but God. God is doing something prophetic.

Watch and see.

The trouble with prophecy is that we don’t recognize it in the day-to-day events. It’s always a hindsight thing. Take the book of Esther for example. I love the story. All the events in that book seem so minor, but what came to be was extremely important to saving the nation of Israel. God has always been faithful to His nation. Yes, they have been destroyed before – actually many times – but He has always saved a remnant, so that the nation would rise again in time.

Why should we really care about all this? It’s just one nation in a world full of other nations? It’s just a little spit of land, about the size of New Jersey. We should care because God cares. He told Abraham, the forefather of Israel, that anyone who blesses your people will be blessed; anyone who curses your people will be cursed. However, when we see this play out in history, we don’t see these dots connect. Nations have risen and fallen throughout history. But can dots be connected to how they treated Israel and the fall of their nations? It would be an interesting study.

There are some connections in recent years – the British rule and its vast empire fell soon after they sent the Jews from their lands. Spain threw the Jews out as well, and they too have not been significant in the world since that time. Look at Germany and their fall from strength after World War II, yes, they were destroyed in the war… but is it just coincidence that it was because of the war on Jews that these things have taken place? What will happen to these countries that come out against the Jews today? It’s all speculation, I know.

Watch and see.

We don’t really know what God is up to in this day and time. We are told to be watchful in these days. We are to keep looking up because the time is near. This is not a dooms day time. This is an exciting time. God is still on His throne, and He is still watching over His people. We will see His glory.

Watch and see.

We celebrate this time of the year with Jesus’ birth. The manager of the department where I work wanted to stay neutral on the whole holiday theme. Seems to me there is no neutrality when it comes to Christmas. It’s pretty much all about Him. Oh, through the years, it’s become more about Santa and the little children. But if we really step back and get back to the heart of Christmas, we need to focus on Jesus. Maybe this would be a significant time to talk about Jesus and tell others what He has done for us. If we truly are in a prophetic time, then it’s time to be about the Lord’s business.

I know. My message seems always seems to be about one thing – tell others what we know. The Body of Christ needs a spark to fan into flame a passion worth sharing. It’s a struggle to share something we do not believe in. But when it takes hold of us in such a way, nothing can stop us when we have a passion motivating us to share. Football fans can testify to this. Anytime there is a passion, there is a willingness to share – it’s the way we are made. I can talk about food and healthy lifestyles all day long with the right audience. The message of Jesus should also be that kind of passion in us.

It’s time to let the people nearest you in on the secret. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The nation of Israel is the living testimony to the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because of their ancestral line, we have the gift of Christmas. The remnant was saved for Jesus. The Jewish nation now is a testimony of what is to come.

Watch and see.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Luke 21:34-36 (ESV)

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)

In the Valley

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the
Lord
forever.
Psalm 23

When King David walked through the valley, he said it all. He knew tragedy. He knew loss. He also knew the strength from His God. We can know the strength that comes from the Lord. It’s available to all.

I have avoided writing about the devastation over the last six weeks (is that as long it has been?). We have seen three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, fires on the west coast, Mexico has had two large earthquakes, and now the tragedy of the terrorist attack on the music festival (did I miss anything?). What in the world is going on?

Jesus said that the labor pains would get more frequent as time grows closer to His coming back. Evil will continue to have rule of the day until He returns. We are to press through it with our eyes focused on Jesus. His love pursues us. He comforts us when tragedy strikes. But we have to turn to Him. He can pursue us all day long, but until we turn to Him we will never find Him as long as we keep going as we have been going.

The slogan “Make America Great Again” is not possible. It never has been great – I’m not dissin’ America. I love it. This is my home. My family has been here since the 1700/1800’s. I’ve checked. Our greatness came from God for His purpose. However, we have chosen to remove God from about everything that is public. Prayer is a thing of the past when it comes to certain venues. The Ten Commandments are gone from the courtrooms. If people would have it, Scripture would be erased from the governmental buildings throughout this land. The engravings would be removed.

If America wants to remove God, He will let us. And I am not saying all these tragedies are God’s judgment; but we have removed Him from our public lives, so He will remove His hand of protection from us. He will allow tragedies to happen so that we will once again come back to Him. We saw it with 9/11 and the turning back to God that happened for the next couple of weeks (maybe month), but it didn’t last. Things will continue to happen.

Isaiah (55:6) said it best:  Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. One day, He will no longer be found. One day, all hell is literally going to be released, and He will not stop it. Matter of fact, Scripture says in that time, people will curse God. It’s going to happen like we have never experienced it before.

We might not like to hear this, because we believe God is good and loving; and He would never allow it to happen. But we fail to realize that God is a righteous judge, and He will not let sin continue as it does. Read the Scripture. There was always a point when God would send judgment on Israel for her sins. Over and over again. They would sin, time would pass and then judgment would come. Again, I am not saying God is judging us – He could be – but I am not saying this is judgment. But it is His pattern of warnings then judgment to get people to turn to Him. He always warns before the judgment – and He will tell us when its judgment – there will be “writing on the wall” to let us know this is it. It will be obvious.

I know, this isn’t a “feel good” blog posting. I believe we need to examine our hearts. I think the church should examine the Body. We need some movement to get this Body going again. We are in desperate times and the people of the times need a strong Body. The Holy Spirit needs to breathe life into us again. There are things that need to be cleaned up and cleaned out so that the Body will thrive again. The Body of Christ needs fire in the belly. The Holy Spirit has been absent too long. The breath of God has to be in the Body to bring fire back into the church.

Dr. Tony Evans spoke a couple of weeks ago on giving the Holy Spirit free reign to worship. We need the Holy Spirit to be unleashed. We need the “awe” back in our worship, to focus solely on God. When the people in the Book of Acts came together, Jesus was their focus. When the disciples of Jesus focused on Him, it drew the crowds. There was something different about these people. They were committed to following Jesus in such a way that it could not be mistaken. We need that again. This is my prayer for us in this time.

We need the Holy Spirit back in our lives in such a way that it would draw others to Jesus. We have to point others to Jesus. He is our only hope. Pray with me for His Spirit to make a difference in the church; pray for the people who have been affected by these tragedies. Pray for their hope and salvation to be found in Him, and they will be comforted by His loving embrace. Pray that God would return to our public lives before it’s too late and hearts will be turned to Him again like never before. Let His Spirit be poured out!

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20

Payment Needed

Last night, I listened to a preacher who spoke about North Korea. It was a random video I ran across, but it stayed with me. He spoke of the people of North Korea. He spoke specifically about the brothers and sisters in Christ there who wonder if anyone sees their plight. They look up and wonder if God hears their cries.

I can’t imagine what my brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing today. I can’t imagine their hardships; the persecution they face. Theirs will be a greater reward for what they have endured while here on this earth. I am sure they would love to see God’s glory in the land of the living though. I am sure they would love to see Jesus high and lifted up in this time and in that place. Ultimately, suffering is a temporary thing; but it could take forever to be relieved.

The time is coming when all evil will be vanquished to hell, but we still have to live with it for a while longer. Many are saying the end is near. Many think Jesus will return in the next few years, if not sooner. The evilness that is exhibited in North Korea will be destroyed as well as every area where evil rules. The brothers and sisters in Christ will be avenged. Jesus is coming back as a lion, not a lamb. The Lion of Judah will roar. This is not good news for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Matter of fact, the majority on this earth will perish when Jesus returns.

There are consequences of sin that will have to be paid in full. Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 the wages for sin is death. No one can be good enough to get to heaven. I was told that good people don’t go to heaven – forgiven people do. The people who recognize their sin and recognize the holiness of Jesus and realize they can’t meet Jesus’ standards; these people humble themselves before Jesus and ask Him to forgive them, ask Him to take away their sins and seek His righteousness and holiness. These people will be in heaven. Thanks to Jesus, He paid the price of our sin. He received our death. Jesus said at His last breath – it is finished or it could be translated as paid in full.

When Jesus comes back, He is looking for payment. When He comes back, He will look for those who are His. He will gather them together and give them entry into heaven. There will be some who come to Him, but He will tell them He does not know them. They thought they had done everything right – they had been good enough. However, they never gave their hearts to Jesus; they never sought His forgiveness; they never humbled themselves before Him. I can’t imagine the pain they will experience in that moment when they realize they have missed their chance of eternal life and will receive an eternal death. The rest of Romans 6:23 states the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can’t earn it – it’s a gift.

I listen to several speakers concerning many things, especially on health topics. The other day, I listened to a secular speaker who normally speaks about health, but this time he spoke on a topic concerning end time events. Someone had given him a movie or documentary to watch on events occurring right now and how it aligns with Bible prophecy. He marveled that what we are experiencing today was prophesied (my word, not his) in the Bible. He spoke of Israel becoming a nation and how it was foretold in ancient times.

It was sad to hear him say that his great-grandfather was a minister. His grandfather actually instructed him to read the Bible, but his grandfather died early in this man’s life and the influence was broken. He said that as a child he had been baptized as a Christian. It just makes me sad to think that there are many like him. They may believe they are Christian because their parents sprinkled them when they were infants or may have been baptized as a child. As my pastor said many times, all this did was make them wet.

It’s a conscious decision to follow Jesus that makes a person a Christian. It’s a heart change. It is recognizing sin as sin, turning away from it and turning toward Jesus. That’s what makes us Christian. That’s what makes us followers of Jesus. We’ll never be good enough, but just turning to Jesus, putting faith in what He did for us on the cross, believing that Jesus died and rose again for the sins of mankind – my sin and your sin, that’s the payment that will get us into heaven.

Thank you, Jesus for your sacrifice as the Lamb of God for dying for us in our place and paying the price for our sin. May all come to know you as Lord and Savior before you return. Amen.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” John 3:19-21 (MSG)

Pursuing the best life

I got a notice a couple of weeks ago that AT&T will be coming through my neighborhood to install a fiber optic line. A couple of days later, there were multiple colored lines spray painted in my yard and on the street. Then the real work began yesterday. Men were digging and drilling holes across the front of my yard. As I was watching them (for at least a few minutes at a time), I noticed there was a particular hard place for them to dig and drill. The place was near another hard place that I found a year or two after I moved into my house. The hard place was really a very large rock that extends from the front of my house to the back of the house; I assume the same rock. I didn’t know though that the rock extended to where they were digging. And apparently under my driveway. They were having a tough time making a trench under the driveway. They had to stop and readjust multiple times. They eventually got around the obstacle, but it took a couple of hours in the hot sun to get the job done.

All this was happening while I was preparing to write this blog. Before the men showed up, I had all the best intentions to write all day. I had several things to get done, but I got very distracted. I get easily distracted when it comes to my writing times. Over the last few months, it’s been a real struggle to sit down and write. It’s been very discouraging. Usually the words would flow before I sat down to write, but it’s not like that right now. However, when I sit down to write and focus on what God puts before me, the words come. The trouble isn’t writing, it’s sitting down to write.

My pastor spoke about focus this past Sunday. We are bombarded with distractions all around us. Everything can get us off track. The enemy uses the world to get our attention. The worldly things draw us away from God. Dr. Tony Evans said in a message last month that God doesn’t want us to love the world because it’s run by Satan. The world leaves God out. God will not compete with Satan. When we focus on worldly things, we worry. We place too much emphasis on things that do not matter; they are temporary and unimportant in the long run. We should look at things through an eternal lens. Will this thing matter to us in 100 years? We are after all eternal beings and will be somewhere in 100 years.

It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. Martha was upset that Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen. Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus, but Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was needed in the kitchen. But Jesus said, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT) Mary was focused on the most important thing in that moment – Jesus. Martha was distracted by her work, and she failed to see the things that truly mattered.

Jesus is the solution for our worry. When we focus on Him, He gives us a different perspective on our circumstances. Only Jesus is bigger than our worries. We should focus on the One who can fix our circumstances; who controls all things.

Jesus told us through Scripture that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (Deut 6:5). In other words, seek Him first and everything else falls into place. The Israelites were instructed to repeat this commandment over and over; to tell their children, to tie this commandment to their wrists and foreheads, and to write the commandment on their doorposts. This commandment was essential to keep God’s people focused on what mattered. When Israel forgot, they were lost and exiled. There were removed from their Promised Land because they chose idols instead of God. They lost their focus on what really mattered.

When our lives are centered on Jesus, He will lead us to the Promised Land; the best place. He doesn’t remove our circumstances, but He gives us peace in it. Jesus is our Shepherd who protects us against the enemy. He leads us to the green pastures and the cool living water to refresh our souls. Jesus said there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Like Mary, have you found it? Sit with Jesus for a while before you do anything else and let Him be your guiding light. Find eternal value that will matter in the long run.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

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