Thursday, April 27, 2017

Creating God Into Our Image



      In 2009 Israeli President Shimon Peres was addressing an audience at a global faith conference in Israel. He was discussing the issue of religious violence when he asked this question: Did God create us in His own image, or has humanity created a God to fit it's own image? It is a very powerful and note worthy question and one that should be considered deeply. Could it be, that from the very beginning, man has been more focused on creating a God to fit our image and our need instead of trying to understand how we were created in God's image?

      Just like the writers of scripture, we as people are trying to make sense of the experiences we have from a relationship with God. And, like the Israelites, our idea of God comes from our fears and affections. the result, unfortunately, is that we see God in the image that we have made Him into, instead of seeing ourselves in God's image. We see God as a judge, because we judge. We see God as an angry God, because we are angry. We see God as a controlling God, because we need to be in control. We see God as a jealous God, because we are jealous. We see God as a vengeful God, because we seek vengeance. This list can go on and on because it's true, we make God into our own image. In doing so we lose sight of what it means for us to be created in God's image.

      We are living in a time when people of all religions are attributing all kinds of craziness in this world to God. People of so called "faith" fly planes into buildings, killing thousands of people, because that's the image they need God to be. Other people of "faith" start what they call just wars, because they created God the way they needed Him to be. Still, other people of "faith" deny others their worth as children of God, all in the name of a God they created into their own image. We all do this, We take our projections and we layer them on God 1 by 1 until we no longer see God as God is. We put God in a box and make Him so small so we can manage what we can't comprehend or imagine. The truth is God is greater and bigger than anything beyond all understanding, and that scares most of us to death.

      When I see the way some people of "faith" treat women, I think your God is too small. When I see people of "faith" say you can't be faithful and dance, or drink wine, or enjoy physical pleasure for the sake of pleasure, or even love whom you choose, I think your God is too small. How much more would we reflect our likeness to God if we chose forgiveness over anger, instead of persistence, we choose silence, instead of remorse we chose gratitude and acceptance. I wonder how much more our world would reflect God's peace and justice if we stopped creating God into our own image and risked living as people created in the image of God?

      You see? God is love, not hate. God is merciful, not vengeful. God is forgiveness, not anger. God is our freedom, not our fears. The more we believe this about God and ourselves, the less we will create God into our image and live more like people created in God's image....... Amen !!

   

   

   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's Never Too Late

                                                                   Isaiah 40:31
                                                     Those who hope in the lord
                                                     will renew their strength.
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles,
                                                     they will run and not grow weary,
                                                     they will walk and not be faint

       I opened up my bible to a random page and this is the verse that I immediately went to. This verse told me that I need to try and tell you something that I hope you hear and heed. I wish I could give you advice so you could avoid all of life's pitfalls and mistakes. Mistakes that a lot of people have made. Mistakes I have made, and mistakes made by the Apostle Paul. There are a lot of different mistakes that people make, we all make them because we are not perfect. Some mistakes are bigger than others and we are going to make them, but I am here to tell you that no matter how bad you mess things up, it's never too late, and there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      I found myself at the age of 12 or 13 addicted to drugs, I was robbing and stealing to get money for my drugs. I started working for the drug dealers, selling their drugs and hurting those who owed money and couldn't pay. I was stuck in this dark place with no way out that I could see. But, remember what I said. It's never too late, There is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. I know some people who have lost everything because they were addicted to gambling. I hear stories of girls getting pregnant at very early ages. I have known people who got married and cheated on their spouses, or even hit them.  But remember what I said. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      Everything I am telling you is true. We all are going to make mistakes, we all have and we all will. Some of us might make very bad choices that will result into very bad consequences. But I want you to know that what it says in Isaiah was true.....
                                                         ...those who hope in the Lord 
                                                            will renew their strength. 
                                                            They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                            they will run and not grow weary, 
                                                            they will walk and not be faint 

      It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. The sad fact of it is that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to turn to Him. Some may not make any serious mistakes and live a blessed life, but I want the rest of you to know that it's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      The Apostle Paul had endorsed the murder of Christians, and was on his way to arrest or kill more when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was probably about 50 when he saw his mistakes forgiven by Jesus. He ended up writing 13 books in the new testament from the age of 50 up until he died. It's never to late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      You see, I serve a God of 2nd and 3rd chances. I serve a God who forgives. I serve a God who redeems and restores. So when you make mistakes, or if you hit rock bottom, remember these words. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. It's never too late to ask God for forgiveness, and to see Him put your life back on the right track. 
                                                  ...those who hope in the Lord
                                                     will renew their strength
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                      they will run and not grow weary
                                                      they will walk and not be faint...... Amen

Friday, April 21, 2017

Let God use you

     As the sun rises in the morning, the sky turned from black, to purple, to pink, and then blue. The men in their boats were accustomed to seeing the sun rise, they were fishermen. Their job requires them to fish at night when it was cooler so they could get the fish while they were active and eating. After a long night of fishing they were cleaning their fish so they could sell them to those who would take them and sell them in the market. For some of these fishermen it was a very lucrative business, their fish was salted down and sent all the way to Rome. As they were finishing their days work so they could go home and sleep to get up and do it all again that night, a man they all know walks up to the shore and speaks just a few words to them, but those words would change the course of their lives.

     That may have been exactly what it looked like that morning on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked by those boats where Peter, John, Andrew, and James were working. When He called out to these four men it forever changed their lives. The public ministry of Christ was just getting started, and one of His first acts was to choose these men to assist Him in His work. He was calling ordinary men to do God's work. Even today Jesus is busy calling people. He is calling us to come to Him for salvation. He is calling us to come to Him for service. Friends, Jesus is calling. I wonder if He is calling you for something right at this very moment.

     I am not sure about you, but if I were going to start a kingdom, I would probably look for some very specific kind of people to help run it. I would probably get some very skilled politicians, and maybe some great military leaders to help me lead my kingdom. I would probably recruit some great minds so I could have the most forward thinking kingdom. Maybe talk to celebrities and cultural elites to get them to participate in my kingdom, so it would be considered the hip and in place to be. Jesus called fishermen. Not the most likely candidates to call on when starting a kingdom. But, it is not unusual for God to call these kind of people. He called David, a Sheppard. He used Shipharah and Puah, two midwives who defied Pharaoh. He used Shamgar, who was only mentioned once in scripture, to kill 600 philistines and save Israel. These were people who the world might call nobodies, but these people were nobodies of whom the world was not worthy. You see, the truth is God chooses ordinary people far more than not. Maybe that is because He has so many to choose from.

     None of the 12 disciples brought high credentials into their roles. They came from modest backgrounds with little to no distinction what so ever. They were an eclectic group of ordinary, run of the mill people. None of them were educated in Theology, or fit the mold of "Super Christian" or a "Religious Super Star." Yet, they were chosen to carry the timeless message of Jesus Christ. For Jesus to leave His ministry to these 12 men was a huge gamble. What if they couldn't do it? what if they didn't do it? Was there a backup plan?

     Twenty one centuries later, Jesus is still leaving His work to ordinary people. What are our credentials? Super Heroes? Mega stars? No, just people who find themselves on our knees, Acknowledging that we are inadequate and utterly dependent. Sound a bit overwhelming? Guess what? It's not. That's because Jesus gives us a recipe that blends in with our ordinariness. You take a big bowl, add 1 serving of our weakness, and add His strength, stir and serve. Is it good you may ask? I say not just good, but perfect.....Amen
    

    

    

Monday, April 17, 2017

If You Don't Have Love

      How can we be Christians without the character of love? How can we claim to be Christians and not show love? It is a fruit of the Spirit, it is a sign that we have truly been empowered by the Spirit of God.

      If you listen to Paul you will see that love is so much more than a feeling that makes your heart flutter. Love is so much more an action. if you rely on just the small feeling part then it can be lost. But the love I am talking about is the agapao or agape love, a love that is unconditional, that can't be lost or fallen away from, because it is unconditional, it is an active love. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter if you love me, feed my lambs, tend to my sheep. Paul tells the church, If you have everything, but you don't have love, then what do you have?

      If you have that new car, but you can't forgive someone, then what do you have? If you have that corner office job, but can't show love to your neighbor, it's like a loud gong or clanging cymbal. What do you have if you don't have love? Love should be our character as Christians. Paul even tells us, if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. He even goes a step further to tell us what is and what isn't love.

      Love is patient: Let's think about how patient Jesus was with His disciples and with the throngs of people coming to be healed. We must be patient in the church, we must be patient at home, we must be patient in our communities.

      Love is Kind: Kindness is free, it doesn't cost any money to give or receive. It's just as easy to go around with a smile on your face as it is a frown. Kindness is a big step towards the Christian aim in overcoming evil with good. To give someone a smile, or a cheerful handshake. To say a kind word of comfort, or cheer. How about paying someone a visit? Love does not criticize the work of others, how others worship, even if you don't like it. That isn't the character of love, and it is not the character of a Christian.

      Love is not jealous: Love is the complete opposite of jealousy, it is impossible for it to covet. If God bestows a blessing on someone, we rejoice with them, we do not show sorrow or discontent over the blessings of others.

      Love is not boastful, love is not proud or rude. Love does not demand it's own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. You see where this is going? If you are keeping score, that is not love. Love is gentle, it is not self seeking.

      Love never rejoices over injustices, but celebrates when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever. Do you realize that?

       Love is not beaten or down trodden, Love is never defeated or dejected. Love is in the forgiveness of a brother or sister, not seven times, but seven times seventy times. No one is beyond the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. No one, whom the world sees as worthless, is worthless through the eyes of Christians.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Be There

                                     Luke 15:11-32

      The parable of the prodigal son is one we have all heard throughout the years. The message that comes out of this story most times is that the prodigal son realizes his mistake and is repented of his sin, and therefore was restored in his relationship with his father. But, did you ever wonder what would happen if his father wasn't waiting for him as he made those last steps home? Since I don't think fathers get enough credit sometimes, I thought I would talk about a father that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention in the Bible. We don't know much about this father, but it is the father's joy at the return of his son that I would like to think about.
     
       I read through this parable a number of times, and I got a strong and definite feeling that even though this father loved his son enough to let go, he never stopped praying for his sons return. He could have said, "That spoiled brat took my money and left, now he is on his own."  But that is not what we see. Instead, we see a father waiting and preparing for his son's return as he waits for the Holy Spirit to work in his son's life. I think as fathers, the first lesson we can get from this parable is we need to "be there." This father never gave up, he used patience, he was able and willing to wait on the Lord. This can only happen if this father has a relationship with God. You need to have that relationship with Christ that enables you to trust Him, not only eternally, but daily as well.

      Another thing that I got from this parable was how filled the father was with compassion, his mercy was like the mercy God has shown to us. Can you imagine having your temper and need for payback in such control that all you show is mercy and compassion? There are so many people in the world that have never heard the words I love you or you are forgiven. How will your children remember you the most? It seems to me that as a compassionate and caring father is a good start.

      Finally, this text shows me that not only did the father forgive the son, but he showed that with a response. He put his arms around him and kissed him. Wow !!! Do you think the son knew he was forgiven? I bet he did, and the party that came next made it complete. This father left no question about the love and forgiveness he had for his son. I would like to think that a hug given at the right time is better than a new I-Pad or Kendall every time. I see many fathers today try and buy their children's affection, when all that is needed is a little verbal or even physical affirmation such as a hug. Think about the significance that puts on the fact that one of the last things Jesus did before going to the cross was to wash His disciple's feet. I think this was one of Jesus' ways of showing the disciples that they were forgiven, His hug. His example to us on how we should forgive others. I don't know about you, but as a father, beyond getting a new tie, or just being seen by my child as a provider, I would like to think that I was as Godly a father as the prodigal father. I want my child to love me, and to know that I will always "Be there"........Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What will we do?

                            People shall praise You forever and ever. Psalms 45:17 (NKJV)
One of the most common questions asked by believers about Heaven is, “What are we going to do?” After all, eternity is…eternal. It’s not even what we can consider a long time. It’s infinitely more than any amount of anything we’ve ever experienced or measured. And so it’s only natural to stop and wonder what we’re going to do.
Scripture doesn’t leave this question unanswered. When it comes to our eternal occupation, we will worship the Lord forever and ever.
For many of us, there’s a hitch in our heart when we hear this. “I enjoy singing songs about God, but I can’t imagine doing it forever!” That’s because we often fail to understand what true worship is, the kind of worship we’ll be engaged in.
Think back to a time when you loved someone so much that you spontaneously responded to him or her. Maybe it was when you were a little kid and drew your parents a picture expressing how much you love them. Or perhaps it was when you hugged a grandparent.
Hold that moment in your heart and mind…because that’s a faint foreshadowing of true worship. It’s when we respond to someone with all we have in us. We don’t hold back, and we take great joy in expressing our heart to that person.
When we see God in Heaven, every earthly shroud that separates our heart from Him—our sin and our limited understanding—will be removed. Our adoration of Him will be unlike anything we’ve ever known. We will respond to all that He is with all that we are, and it will last for all eternity.
“What are we going to do in Heaven?” Our eternal occupation will be an expression of love that will never end!
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 NKJV Bible

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Not Good Enough

                                                                  Isaiah 6: 1-8


   I know my last post was about feeling as if we are not good enough, but I felt I left something unsaid. I am not sure exactly what that is, but I am going to blog about it once more. I will attempt to bring it from another angle, maybe a more personal angle. anyway, I hope that it will touch someone that needs it.
 
   As a young kid, 11,12,13, I remember times when so called Christians, either through their actions, words, or even silence, told me that I was not good enough, that I didn't measure up. I played baseball through the YMCA and the coaches were volunteers from the local church. I used to hang out with the coach's son at school, and one day he came with his dad to practice. It turned out that it was his birthday and he asked his dad if I could come to the party. His dad turned and said loud enough for everyone around to hear, "You can't hang around him, his parents are divorced." I was told that maybe my mother did something wrong, and that we were being punished, that we were not good enough. But, 30 years later when I became a Christian, I found out that wasn't true.

   Humans can be so cruel to each other. Maybe you have been told this in your lifetime, or maybe you still feel this way today. I know I have to keep reminding myself in my daily actions that I am good enough. For some of us, the scars from our younger years still haunt us and affect our individual achievements throughout our lives. We may turn to alcohol, or drugs. We may feel that we are not good enough to ask that girl or boy to the prom. We may feel that we are good enough to finish high school, or go after that job we really want. We don't feel good enough to reach our full potential, and it can even affect our relationship with God.

   In Isaiah 6, we find Isaiah struggling with that problem of not being good enough. Like some of us, Isaiah feels that low self esteem. We might think, "who am I that God might want to use me?" "I am not good enough to share God's message of hope with others." Or, "I am bound to sin and I can't get free." The guilt, the addiction, the shame, or I tried already and failed, whatever it might be separates us from God and prevents that intimate relationship with Him...

   In the first 8 verses of Isaiah chptr. 6, it describes the prophetic vision of Isaiah. He is called to the throne of God, and he is feeling awe and terror. Isaiah is struck with that feeling and realization of unworthiness, and he cries out, "Woe to me, I am ruined, I am a man with unclean lips and live among people with unclean lips. Yet, I have seen the King, the Lord of Heavenly Forces." How many of us would feel terrified to be in the same situation? Would you feel "ruined" if you stood by the throne of God?
 
   A friend of mine came to me to talk about some things he had done, he was afraid of not being good enough and losing his salvation. I reminded him of all the stories of people coming to Jesus, people who had mad mistakes, people who have done things they regretted and wished they had never done. They had sinned and felt guilt. I reminded him that if they were truly sorry and confessed and asked Jesus to forgive them, that He didn't turn anyone away. I said, if you are truly sorry and asked for forgiveness, Jesus says to you as He did to them, "My child your sins are forgiven, go in peace."

   There is no doubt, we all make mistakes. We all do things we wished we hadn't done. We hurt others, sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose. When Jesus walked this earth, time after time, He talked to people and invited them into a relationship with Him. Sometimes in these relationships Jesus disturbed the comfortable, and sometimes He comforted the disturbed. But, He related to each one. Then and now, Jesus is the embodiment of Grace.

   God's grace is a weird concept in our world today, where strings are always attached and nothing is free. We as Christians need to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can share in this world today is our belief in salvation by grace, through faith. At the cost of His life, Jesus died to save and redeem you and me. He did all of this so we could be free, free to live, free to love, and free to serve. You know, everyone of us must be very, very important for Jesus to shed His blood for us, and grabbing a hold of that radically changes the way we look at ourselves, and the way we look at our lives.

   Isaiah's vision was meant for people like you and me. God desires a relationship with us. Yes, we are sinners who live among sinners, and we live in sinful times, but God comes to where we are, makes us clean and calls us to serve. Isaiah realizes that he is a sinner in the presence of the Holy God, and the realization hits with overwhelming force. Yet, it is this realization that opens up Isaiah to forgiveness.

   verse 6 says to us that as soon as Isaiah was aware of his sinfulness and confessed to it that one of the winged creatures flew to him with a glowing coal from the alter, held with tongs. Isaiah writes, "he touched my mouth and said, See this has touched you, and your sin is removed." Then, I heard the Lords voice saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" I said, "I am here, send me."
May we respond as Isaiah did...... Amen

 

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Good Question



      I want to look at a question today that was asked by one of the most pivotal people in the bible. John the Baptist was key to connecting the Old Testament with the New Testament. His message and mission were very clear, to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Christ's baptism was the beginning of His public ministry, so the acknowledgment of Jesus by such a respected prophet like John gave Jesus an excellent launching pad for His introduction as the Son of God.

      The question I want to look at is asked when Jesus comes to be baptized by John, and I think it is good for all of us to witness. John says to Jesus, "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, why are you coming to me?" (Matthew 3:14) Let's put on John's sandals for a minute. How would you have felt? Maybe the same way? Maybe though, our hesitancy might have been a little greater. I mean, Jesus even said that John the Baptist was one of the greatest men ever. "I tell you the truth, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11) So, if John was hesitant to feel worthy enough to baptize Jesus, how much more would we feel unworthy? But, in His answer to John's question Jesus gives us peace and hope.

      Many of us ask, "Are we good enough?" Or "Can we measure up?" Can God really use us, imperfect as we are, with all of our scars and blemishes from sin? How can the imperfect be of service to the Perfect? Let Christ answer that question for us. Let's look at this dialog closely. John says, "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, why are you coming to me? Jesus replied, " It must be done, because we must do what is right." So then John baptized Him. (Matthew 3:14-15)
John's baptism, as is ours, was one of repentance, but Jesus had no reason to repent, He was sinless, but wanted to identify with sinners. And that my friends is where our hope lies. Without him we are not good enough, but with Him we are.

       I think one of the most extreme statements Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 9:12-13.
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But, go and learn what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." You see, Jesus didn't condemn the "Bad People" He showed them love and understood them, even though He had every reason for condemning them. So, as fellow sinners, we must share with them where we found our bread. I believe that one of the biggest reasons the world isn't coming to christianity is because they think it is for the righteous, so they think it isn't for them. I think we have done a poor job informing the world that Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven and accepted. Jesus said in John 12:32, But I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all men to Myself. Jesus let John baptize Him because He wanted us to know that through Him we are good enough.

      Do you feel the Holy Spirit working within? Do you hear His gentile whisper? He is there because he desires you to come to Christ. The Holy Spirit and the church want you to know the purposeful life that Jesus can give us. The Spirit and the bride (the church) say " Come...whoever is thirsty , let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." So the answer to to the question is Yes !!!! Through Jesus Christ we are good enough to be of service to God. So give it all to Christ, today.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reflect your light

     A few years ago, around this time of year, I was in a play. The play was made up of a bunch of little stories, and one of those stories got deep into my soul. It was called reflect the light. It goes something like this.

     At the last session on the last morning of a two week seminar on Greek culture the professor turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?" He was greeted with silence. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence. "No questions?" The professor swept the room with his eyes. Alas from the back row, "Professor, what is the meaning of life?"
The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. The professor held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at the gentleman who asked the question for a long period of time, asking with his eyes if indeed the question was serious or in jest. "I will answer your question." Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into the leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this: "When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place."I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece; This one.  And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine, in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. "I kept the little mirror, and as I went through life, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. "I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know.
Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world, into black places, in the hearts of men and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life." And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and slowly reflected them onto all that were in the room.

     Are you letting the light of Christ reflect off of the mirror in your heart? Are you letting God shine through you? That is what the beatitudes are about. Reflecting God's light into the World. That has always been the purpose of God, that when He came into our lives that He would fill our lives so much that He would shine through. That people would see Him in our attitudes and actions. That we would let Jesus Christ live through us. The beatitudes are a mirror that reflects God's light. The beatitudes are like a light bulb that can only get the power to shine when plugged into the power of God. The beatitudes were meant to be our attitudes. The Holy Spirit has come to live in us that He might live through us that He might shine through us, to meet the needs of a hurting, struggling world.

     The beatitudes are a self portrait of Christ, and we are called to transform our lives into the image of Him. Although He was God, with all the rights and privileges of a deity, He made himself with no reputation, He took on Himself the form of a servant, and made Himself in the likeness of man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.

      Jesus mourned, He wept for Lazarus, He wept over Jerusalem, He was a man of sorrows and knew grief. He was meek, He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and he was merciful. If you measure Christ's life to these qualities, You would find that He was a model of them all. It is all about Jesus, about opening up our lives so that we may be transformed into the image of Christ. Only by maturing in our faith, only by receiving the Holy Spirit, will we walk in authentic spirituality.

     According to Romans 8:29, God's purpose is for all Christians to take on the character and image of Christ. So, I think it is reasonable to state the following, The beatitudes describe qualities that are available to every Christian. They show the evidence of a yielded life. They are not produced by the Christian, but they are produced in the Christian. They tell us what the world will see reflecting in a life fully given to the Lord. The Beatitudes do not reflect individual qualities, but a complete mirror of life mastered by Jesus.
The evidence that one is surely reflecting their light, is that they show the beatitudes in them. Not on a perfect basis, but on a consistent basis.

     Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given unto you. The happiest people I know are the ones who have yielded themselves to the grace of God......Everyday. Why? Because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven, they are comforted, they inherit the earth, they are filled, they obtain mercy, they see God, and others see God in them, for they are called the children of God.

     I heard a little boy get asked what a saint was, and he said a saint is someone who let's the light shine through. A saint, or a person pure in heart will let the light of God shine through. I want you to do something for me, get up from where you are at and go look into a mirror. Are you allowing God to fill your life so much that you are reflecting His light? If His light is not reflecting through you then take the first step and yield to Jesus, let the Holy Spirit transform you. Let a beatitude life fill you and make you whole. My friends, let God's light reflect through you, yield to His love and let His light shine through you.........Amen

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's God's Party






     I was having a conversation about Psalm 23 with a friend of mine. Mostly about vs. 5, and setting the table in the presence of our enemies. So I started thinking about the meaning of the verse. As I was looking at it, the meaning wasn't immediately clear to me. Is the table set before our enemies so that we can sit together? If so, think about how powerful a suggestion of forgiveness that would be. Or is it done to show our enemies how beloved we are, kind of like rubbing their faces in it. That would be satisfying, but I don't think that Jesus would be that petty.

     We have to remember that the Psalms are by, and large, prayers. And whatever you might think about the people that wrote them, or their meaning, they were prayed by human beings. That doesn't take away from them being powerful and spirit led. We read these each week assuming that they have meaning not only for their time, but for ours as well, and I don't think that could be possible unless God was involved in the reading and the writing. If we are honest with ourselves, we don't always pray for the things we should. Like any obsessed Hawks fan, I know I have asked God for a little "Divine Intervention" every now and then. But, do I really think that the world will end if Richard Sherman doesn't get another interception? Probably not. The point I am trying to make is that the prayers of humans back then were not any better or worse then prayers by humans today. I am sure there were times when they prayed for the elimination of their enemies when they should have been praying for something more eternal, and holy. If we look deeply into this verse, I think that might be what we see here. The table is set for me, not me and my enemies. I think the author is saying that this table is mine and only mine, and no one else is going to get any of it. That might be the case, but I don't think that is the message God is trying to make.

     Let's stop and think for just a second. When we look at scripture in the whole, there are teachings that tell of God giving victory over foes, against seemly insurmountable odds. That is God's victory. There are also teachings of God also being there in defeat, That still is God's victory, no matter where in the moment we are. We also see time and time again, the teachings of amazing stories of forgiveness. Ishmael and Isaac reuniting to bury their parents. Jacob and Esau let brotherly love overcome sibling rivalry. Or, how about Judas being at the table when bread is broken? Jesus prays for forgiveness for those that would cause him to die on the cross. I am not sure what the author intended, but the overwhelming story of salvation is that enemies do sit together at God's table.

     So, as we can learn from scripture, the Kingdom of Heaven operates very different than our own human world. Enemies sit at the same table. Barack Obama and Edward Snowden, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Alex Rodriguez and every baseball fan on the planet. It is something that our human minds can't fully comprehend. If God is the host, then He is the one who gets to do the invites. We might not like some of the people on the guest list, but it is not our party. So, where does that leave us? Imagine you are the Psalmist and put yourself in his place. You are sitting there ready for this amazing feast, looking forward to shoving it into your enemies face, and BAM !!!!! You notice He as set up places for them. Who is it? What do you feel inside? Anger, or joy and forgiveness? Do you start looking for another table, or start asking for the check?  Faith my friends, is not for the weak at heart, and don't misunderstand what I am saying, there is a lot more to forgiveness than just sitting down to a table. If you have heard any stories or experienced reconciliation and forgiveness you see or feel the courage and pain it takes. Forgiveness is a hard, hard thing and sometimes reconciliation can only occur beyond the grave, because it needs God to be involved that badly. If we want to call ourselves Christians, then we at least need to recognize this. There is room for everyone at God's table. No matter the distance between you and your enemies, the distance between you and God has already been closed, because it is always God's victory........Amen

   


     

     

Monday, March 13, 2017

Crazy Love

 

                                             This post is written on Mathew 21: 33-46
     
     It is very crazy to love someone. Love, is crazy. On Dec. 31st 2016 my wife and I have been married 26 years, that is kind of crazy when you think about it. Choosing 1 person out of the many in this world to spend the rest of your life with. But, that is what I did. I said to my wife that I will have and hold you, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part. Whoa !!!! It is both selfless and crazy to say these things, but that is what you do when you love someone. Isn't there a song that says something like I'm crazy for loving you or something like that? Anyway, that's the kind of crazy love we see in this story today. 

     So here we go with another story with a vineyard. The first is the story of the owner who paid his workers the same no matter how long they worked that day, Crazy right? The 2nd is the story of an owner who asked his sons to work, and one said yes and didn't, the other said no and did. Crazy? This one is the craziest of them all.  And, it goes something like this. 

     There once was this wealthy farmer who owned a vineyard. He grew organic grapes, and had a big reputation of making upper scale wine at a very fair price. The farmer invested all he had into his vineyard. The security was the best and he had a top of line wine press. After many years of working the vineyard and making wine, the farmer decided he would retire and move away, and he hired some farmhands to work the vineyard for him. When harvest time came around, he sent some servants to collect his share of the harvest. When the servants got there the farm hands grabbed the first one and beat him. The next one was murdered, and third ran for his life dodging stones being hurled at him. He ran all the way back and told the farmer what had happened, so the farmer sent even more servants down to his vineyard and the same thing happened. Now the farmer was at the end of his rope, he is so desperate to reach out to his farmhands. He thinks they will surely respect my son, so he sends his son down to the vineyard. When the farmhands saw the son coming they said to each other,"Let's kill the son so the vineyard will be ours." So, the farmer had sent his son and he was killed. Now, at the end, we are left wondering what the farmer will do.

      So, to be honest the characters in this story are supposed to represent people other than themselves. The farmer in this story represents God, the farmhands are us, God's chosen people. The servants sent by the farmer represent the prophets sent by God, and the Son must be Jesus.

      Now, let's start with the farm hands. How can they think that they are going to inherit the vineyard by killing the farmers servants and then his son? It's crazy I tell you, CRAZY. But, not as crazy as the farmer. Think about it, He sends servants and they are beaten or killed, then he sends more servants. Not an army, but servants and the same thing happens. So, where does he come up with the idea to send his son, his heir, by himself to deal with these thugs? It's absolutely crazy I tell ya. Who would be so crazy as to do this? Well maybe, just maybe it's this crazy farmer who is so desperate to be in a relationship with his farmhands that he would do anything, risk anything, to reach out to them. He acts more like a desperate parent who will do or say anything to reach out to a lost child. It's truly crazy. the kind of crazy you get from being in love. Now we have this crazy farmer, but we also still have the question Jesus asks. What will the farmer do when he comes back? All the the pharisees that were there listening could think of was violence. " He will put those wretches to a wretched end." With those words, the pharisees condemn themselves. That my friends, is part of Mathew's narrative, to have his opponents condemn themselves.

      How do we condemn ourselves? By trying to make things our possession. We think of the church as ours, not as the Body of Christ. We seek to take on the world challenges for self serving reasons, instead of Christ driven reasons. We start to see stewardship as a burden instead of a joyful response to everything that God has done for us. It also happens in our relationships with our families. We take for granted the love that others have for us. Love is never a matter of meeting half way, but a matter of going that extra mile. And, when love is truly the motivation, that extra mile is never a burden. If we truly look at this story, it invites us to look at and consider a different question. Not what will that farmer do, but what has God the farmer done for us? He sent His Son to us, who have taken God's blessings for our own and not given back to God. And when we killed Him, He raised Him from the dead and sent Him back to us with the same message of His crazy, desperate love. This story shows us the crazy, desperate love that God has for us. Love that is offered over and over again to anyone who will receive it. In our lives, God reaches out to us. It is kind of crazy if you think about it.



     

   



     

      

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why as the body of Christ don't we act more like Him?




      I was sitting in the Gathering space at church drinking coffee and talking with friends when I see one of the frequent attendees of our community supper walk into the church. This person (I will call A) is very nice and loves to talk to people. A sat down next to a couple of members from our church. (I will call B and C) at one of the tables and said hi. B and C just got up and moved to another table without saying a word. This isn't the first time I have seen things like this happen from these 2, as well as from a few others in the church. So I have to ask the question, Why as the body of Christ, don't we act more like Him?

      You don't have to look very far to find out why I feel this question should be asked. Can you imagine Jesus walking through streets carrying a sign pointing out who God hates, or disrupting the funeral of service men? Show me in His ministry where there was rejection, discrimination, or hatred. It is disturbing to me how each different denomination installs in Christ their own biases and prejudices. George Bernard Shaw once said, " God created us in His image, and we decided to return the favor." "It's not we are called to be like Jesus, but rather Let's make Jesus look like us."

      I believe there is only one word that will answer this question, and this word is "sin." And, if you look at the letter in the middle of this word you will find the letter i. So, the center of sin is "I," and when any person or persons elevates themselves at the cost of another, that is an act of sin. I have heard some say that Jesus spoke harshly and criticized people, but these people were the religious who were so sure they were right that they condemned and abandoned those who didn't fit into their system.

      It's absolutely stunning to me how every religion, including Christianity, has been used for hatred and violence. Proud, arrogant, self righteous "I" centered sin. And, right in the middle of all this comes something so different, in the life, teaching, and ministry of Christ Jesus. Jesus says we must be born again, born of a new Spirit. That Spirit is the Spirit of God and that replaces the "I" centered sin in our lives.

      Even early Christians were twisting things to lift themselves up and to put others down, so the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Philippi. (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)
 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


      Paul says, "Be like Jesus," have the attitude of Christ. He poured Himself out, He connected with us, identified with us. We are not supposed lift ourselves up, God will lift us up one day. Right now we are supposed to live our lives as Christ led His, so that our inner attitude will reflect in our outer actions.

       Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24. He tells them to be renewed in the spirits of their mind and then tells them to clothe yourselves in that new self which is Christ. You ask what does that mean? It means that when people look at you, they see Jesus in the way you act, how you treat others, and what you say. Remember here Paul is talking to those who have already been saved. 

      Now Paul also writes in Romans 10:9 If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Salvation is God's great gift for us to receive, we are saved for eternity by the Grace of God. But, what about our lives now? Paul is telling these saved and baptized Christians to start acting like it, have that mind of Christ and clothe yourself in Him, so that people may see what a great God we serve. Put away that self-centered attitude and put on Jesus........ Amen

    

Monday, March 6, 2017

Because of God's Grace We Will Win

       Isaiah 54:17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against you in judgement you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me says the Lord.

       For the past couple of weeks everywhere I go I hear the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North. In the car, walking through the store, or just in my head. I started thinking maybe God is trying to tell me something, so I prayed to Him and asked Him to help me understand what He was telling me. He had me reflect on the struggles that are going on around the world. Unjust wars started under false allegations because of religion or race, genocide in a poor nation killing hundreds of thousands and nothing is being said. Too many nations including our own where racial separation still exists, or a church where people struggle with their daily problems that seem larger than life, they seem hopeless,
or you feel helpless. Is there any wonder why we need Jesus to lean on, to help us know that the struggle ends?

      In Isaiah 54:17, we find Isaiah praising and rejoicing that he knows who is in charge, and also knowing why our struggles are not our struggles. Because of God's grace we will win. It is the song that is sung throughout the scriptures, it is the promise from God Himself. Our struggles are not in vain, we will receive salvation from our Father.

      Isaiah 26:3 says You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind has stayed on You, because he trusts in You. By keeping your mind steadfast and unmovable, your mountain will only be a mole hill. And, since God has told us that our struggles come to make us stronger, We have peace knowing that our struggles are only spiritual workouts that make us stronger to do the things that God is calling us to do. So don't see our struggles as our struggles, see them as God enabling us to teach someone what He can do. So if you are finding your situation dismal,  or hopeless, remind yourself that this is a stepping stone. Let God use you and the struggle will end.

      So when God uses you in situations around the world or in our own community, and they seem insurmountable, remember that God says I got you, and your struggle is not yours. God does not want His children to withdraw from our world. He does not want us to become a secluded community for people who only look like us and act like us. This is not His idea of struggle free. He wants us to embrace the fact that our struggles are His. If we learn to lean on Him and not our own understanding, He will direct our path. Because we will understand He is the one who is able to keep us from falling, and present us before the throne of Grace. To Him belongs all power and dominion, so if He knows all things, and is in control of all things, then every struggle we have belongs to Him, and He has a plan for it in our lives. So, wherever you are, whatever you have been going through, God said your struggle will end. This promise is made to His children, your struggles will end.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Spending time with God

 We can relate to God just like we can a close friend. While this thought may be a hard one to grasp at first, in time you will experience what it means to have God as your friend. Jesus made his time with God a priority, (Mark 1:25, Luke 22:39, and Luke 5:16) and set the example for how we are to relate to Him.

 When we spend time with God many things happen when we are close to him, It makes it easier to find out what God wants in our lives, It helps us to refocus and take our minds off the worries and troubles of this world, we naturally become more like him, and the most important in my view is the more time I spend with God the more I love Him.

 Some of the ways I spend time with God is through reading the bible, prayer, worship, or even through my favorite Christian songs. But, my favorite way to spend time with God is through meditation. I find the quietest place I can find at the time and close my eyes and open my heart. I ask God to fill me with his love and to lead me in the way he wants me to go.

 It is not easy sometimes with all the noise and everything going on around us, but if you truly listen you will hear Him, but you must listen with your heart. If you are struggling to find time for God start with just a couple of minutes, something easy to maintain at first. Pretty soon without even realizing it the time will get longer and it will be easier to find the time as you grow in your faith.

 God loves you and he wants this time with you, and soon you will find that your daily time with God is something you wouldn't even dream about missing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Church is not an exclusive country club

      Clubs are for the rich and powerful, members are accepted by where they live, how much money they have, and "who" they are. Membership in these clubs is about being exclusive. Swimming in a fancy pool, or playing rounds of golf, are special benefits to members.

      The church is supposed to be better than a country club, because the church is supposed to be inclusive. It is for those who are mixed up, messed up, and for those who have tried and failed. I know I have failed many times, but God forgives me and lifts me up. Jesus Christ does not tell us to create a cushy comfortable environment where members are pampered, we are supposed to be creating a place where people want to come and change their lives.

      The church is not here to create exclusive clubs or cliques, it is here to show people Jesus Christ, and help them find their way. We are not supposed to separate ourselves, we are to run toward the messed up, mixed up people who are separated from God, because that is what He did for you and me. The church is here to bring in more outsiders, not separate the insiders from the outsiders.

      We need to welcome people who feel unwanted and down and out, because Jesus welcomed them around Him. He changes the life of people no matter what they have done, or who they are. The church is not a country club to entertain the rich and elite, but should be filled with people who are on a mission for Jesus. Our mission is to reach out to the poor and the people who are far from God and show them the way to God. We need to be compassionate about doing whatever it takes to reach people in our own communities and beyond.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future

      I have heard it said that the past is the past and it can't be changed. This may be true, but your past sins can be forgiven and erased if you accept God's free offer of forgiveness and grace. What we can change is the future, a lot of people get stuck in life's rut and don't attempt to, or don't know how to change it. They just continue down that same old road they are on.

      However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers a life changing new start, a new beginning that can overcome what caused all of our problems from the past. The good news in the bible is that God gives to those, who will receive it.....A new life, new goals, a new purpose, new attitudes, A new eternal relationship with God. It can happen, it does happen, everyday a person's heartaches, or past mistakes can be taken away and never put on again.

      Many people dream of being able to start again, and to put off the past with it's mistakes, pains , and failures. The past can have a lot of bad memories that can haunt us in the present as a lot of mine try to do. It is very hard to put the past behind us and not let it affect us today. For some of us the guilt from of the past is like a huge weight that you have to carry, pulling you down and never letting you have peace in the present. That is one of the gifts that God can give to us with His salvation. When someone turns their heart to Jesus Christ, when a person realizes the truth that they are a sinner, and unworthy, realizes their true state before God and accepts the freely given grace, then God forgives them of all their sins. It is the offer of hope where otherwise there would be no hope.

      Many people become curious about all the claims about Jesus, and who He is. Maybe they are introduced to Him by the witness of a friend, or in my case by their spouse. Maybe it was a special Christmas or Easter service. In Luke 19:10 it says, For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus always stops when someone seeks to know who He is. He is always seeking and revealing Himself to that person, knocking at the door.(Rev. 3:20)

      Is Jesus knocking at the door to your heart? Yes, Christians have a past, but that past is covered in the Blood of Jesus Christ. Yes, every sinner has a future. Open up the door to your heart and experience the peace and joy of receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, and the future of spending eternity with Him in Heaven. The choice is clearly ours to make, and we make that choice by our actions, or our lack of action...... Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future...... Amen !!

   

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#1

                                              This post is written on Luke 14:1, 7-14.

      I like to watch those real life cop shows and game warden shows, and not too long ago I saw one where a father was arrested on drug charges for pumping his 13 year old son full of steroids, because his son wanted to compete in the Olympics. He wanted his son to be #1. Not too long ago Alex Rodriguez retired, in his desire to be remembered as one of the best baseball players of all time, he used steroids, and now all he will be remembered for is his cheating.  As a nation, even as a world, we have a problem. We have a problem because we will do whatever it takes to be #1. And, as Christians, we have a problem when it comes to living in this world, because in God's way of things, the last shall be 1st, and the humble will be exalted.

      Dale Earnhardt once said, "2nd place is just the 1st loser." Vince Lombardi said, "Winning isn't everything, It's the only thing." We believe this even though our mothers have told us that "it's not if you win or lose, It's how you play the game." Our self esteem, our identity are all tied up in that struggle to be #1, when we win, we feel good about ourselves. When we lose, we don't. The people that Jesus watched fighting for those places of honor didn't do so because those seats were more cushy and comfortable, they did so because they would receive a higher level of respect and honor from those sitting around them.

      Jesus never calls us to be #1, but at the same time, He does not call us to be losers. Jesus calls us to faithful, and humble service. With the world yelling at us to be #1, and Jesus whispering in our ear to be faithful, humble servants, we're finding ourselves struggling to obey that call. But, Humble, faithful service comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ. Through the cross, we know that we are loved. Through the cross, we know that we have been forgiven. Through the cross, we know that we have a relationship with God, and that we will never be separated from Him. Jesus took away our need to be #1 through the cross. We don't have to be great to please God, We don't have to be #1 to be saved.

      The scene at the end of this story reminds us that the cross of Jesus Christ is good news for all of us. Most of us would never make #1, we would be stuck in mediocrity, or even failure, accounting for nothing. But, because of Christ dyeing on the cross, we will all be given a place of honor, all of us will get gold medals, no matter what abilities, achievements, or limitations we may have. We are winners, because we are loved, and forgiven by God.

      By knowing who we are, we can strive for excellence, and forget about being perfect. Knowing that we are loved, and forgiven, we can now concentrate on humble, faithful service that will touch lives and transform the world we live in. We must be the change in the world we want to see..... Amen

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Compassion....Just Do It....



    Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

      Jesus saw the people, He saw what was going on around Him. He didn't turn His back on the people who were hurting. He didn't pretend that they weren't there. He didn't ignore the realities of our world. He gave them His attention, and made Himself aware of their needs. Time after time I see people, including myself sometimes, Judge the people who are begging on the streets. We make up excuses in our heads, like they are probably going to buy booze or drugs. I see people cross the street or go in a different direction just to avoid them. We can't look them in the eye and tell them we don't have any change, when our pockets are full of it.. We make up justifications like we don't want to enable their drug or alcohol habit. They are better off without my money, it's just too easy to ignore the problem. But, Jesus doesn't call us to take the easy path. He calls us to step out of the comfort zone and see directly, the brokenness of our world. He wants us to look and see the helpless, the broken, and the oppressed. Jesus spent most of His ministry with these people, and so should we.

     Jesus had compassion on them, He didn't isolate Himself from their pain and suffering, He let down His guard, and let Himself get emotionally vulnerable. He did not push away those emotions that were brought out. Feeling compassion isn't some kind  love dovey pity party. Compassion goes straight to the heart and creates that gut wrenching feeling in which we empathetically identify with the brokenness of another person. Those who choose to do nothing are choosing to be emotionally absent. Those who choose empathy choose to become emotionally involved.

     We are constantly bombarded with things today that pull us away from the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and slowly pushes us towards apathy. Thoughts of who cares, or whatever start to dominate us. That apathetic attitude blocks us from seeing the  helpless, the broken, and the oppressed. It insulates us from feeling their pain and suffering. Jesus gives us a simple model to fight against apathy. He opened His eyes to see the need of others. He doesn't cross the street when He sees someone in need. He didn't pretend to not notice to avoid a difficult conversation. He confronted head on the harsh realities of this life. He shared their pain with gut wrenching sympathy, He gave himself permission to be emotionally involved. Their pain became His pain. He took action, He didn't say that is not my problem. He wasn't a benchwarmer, He wasn't watching from the stands. He was out their in full uniform, playing hard, getting bruised, and ultimately defeats the opposing team. Jesus could have worn NIKE sandals, because His actions clearly lead us to 3 words, just do it. The love and compassion of Jesus Christ can turn this world upside down. Now is the time to act on God's example. No more coasting, no more excuses. It is time for action. Compassion, just do it......Amen
      

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Heaven is watching

There is a hope in us that our loved ones passed on are watching over us. Looking over a beautiful balcony rail from Heaven. I have found in my limited studies that there are some who say no, but I have also found there are some who say yes.

 In discussions I have be told to look at the parable used in Luke 16:26. It says,  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ I believe though that that chasm is between Heaven and Hell, not Heaven and Earth.

 I have been told that Heaven is a completing of the race and the struggles of this life, that the end of this life is seen as crossing the finish line and putting the race behind you, we should rejoice that they’ve been released from the problems of this life.

 In my limited studies of the Bible and discussions I have had, I have found verses that suggest that there is someone other than God and His Angels watching over us.  First Luke 15:7, it says I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:10 says In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Notice it says "In the presence of the angels of God, who is celebrating in the presence of the angels? I believe it is the saints who have gone before us populating Heaven. And if the saints can rejoice over  seeing a sinner repent, how could they know it unless they were watching over us?

 Hebrews 12:1 says Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. The term " cloud of witnesses" suggests that there are many watching over us.

 If those in heaven are watching over sinners who need repentance and also "just persons who need no repentance," then who is left? We're all either saints or sinners, either we have already repented and been saved or we need to repent to be saved. So therefore, if heaven is watching over both categories, we are all being watched.






Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let the Children Come

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16.

 Here Jesus is making a remarkable statement, He says that unless people receive the Kingdom of God as a little child would they won't go to Heaven. Jesus isn't saying that an adult can't be saved, He is simply saying that if we don't humble ourselves as little children do we will die with the pride that blinds us.

 In Mathew 18:3-4 Jesus clarifies this when he says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This is where we can really see what Jesus meant when he talked about being as a little child. Jesus meant that we need to humble ourselves before God. The sinful world is saturated with worldly pride, and stubbornness. Children don't know a lot about receiving the Kingdom of God, they aren't very concerned about death, resurrection, and eternal life. Children don't really worry themselves with these kinds of things.

 This is what Jesus is trying to tell us, we do not need to fear. We have His promise that we will not be alone, that He is waiting for us when this life ends, that our new life in God's Kingdom will be wonderful and joyful. To receive God's Kingdom as we would as little children we need to remember how to play, how to find joy in everything we do, how to be goofy and silly, just remember how to have fun.

 Jesus tells us to trust, to relax in His arms, knowing that He will take care of us and all of our needs. Jesus tells us to play and have fun, to find delight and joy in ourselves and all of His creation. When we find these, we receive the Kingdom of God. So today, go to the park and feed the ducks, sit on your front porch and blow bubbles into the wind, join your children on the play ground,or help them to gather a bouquet of dandelions. Whatever it is you do, be a little child and receive God's Kingdom......Amen

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

In Mathew 5:10 -12, Jesus tells us 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

      I have taken a little time to write this post. It is very uncomfortable to think about persecution as part of God's plan for Christians. I would like to believe that by becoming a Christian, and with enough faith, I could live a comfortable life without any problems. However, This message of prosperity and comfort is for the T.V. preachers, but it is not the message of Jesus. He doesn't promise us a cushy, comfortable life, He promises us that one day we will live with God in Heaven.

      If you read these verses closely, you will notice that Jesus has put some qualifiers in His statement. Christians are called to live model lives, the accusations of evil against us must be false. I have seen in my life time a lot of church leaders, and teachers fall back into sin and have been disgraced, and ridiculed publicly. That persecution my friends is not worthy of being blessed. The persecution that is blessed comes from mirroring our lives after Jesus. Jesus tells us to let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mathew 5:16) In the church's history, those who have been unjustly persecuted in the name of Christ have demonstrated the good deeds of which Jesus speaks.

      Because we are living in a sinful world, everyone, Christian and atheist alike, must face trials and hardships. How we deal with those trials and hardships is a sign of where our faith and hope is placed. When we as Christians are falsely accused as a result of our faith, God can use our response as testimony of His power to change lives. While we may wish that we could live cushy, comfortable lives. We should not be suprised if we find ourselves being persecuted because of our relationship with God. In John 16:33 (NIV) Jesus tells us, "In this world you will have trouble , but take heart I have overcome this world....... Amen


     

     

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God

       In Mathew 5:9 Jesus says "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." We are sent into an ugly, sinful world filled with violence and hate, to be peacemakers. He doesn't give us a choice of whether or not we want to do this, nor are we given the choice of the kind of world we live in. So, as bad as things may get, this is the only world we have right now, and if we are to be true to our Lord, we must be peacemakers.

       Peacemaking is different than peacekeeping in that you don't need guns or weapons to be a peacemaker. Being a peacemaker isn't necessarily about actions you may do, but about an attitude you may have towards others. It's not about coming into a situation and forcing cooperation, assuming that will bring peace. Jesus is not talking about inner peace, like feeling good about situations. He is talking about the reconciliation at all levels of human engagement, at all levels of our relationships. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom (שלום), meaning one who has, or has been provided, what is needed to be whole or complete. http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_peace.html. This is the kind of peace Jesus is talking about.

      We live in a very divided world, but Jesus did not delight in division, bitterness,
or a divide and conquer world. He delighted in making peace whenever and wherever possible. To truly make peace takes a very special person, one who recognizes they are poor in spirit, one who mourns along with God about the sinful broken world, one that hungers for righteousness, and one who has, through God, been made pure of heart. It takes a very special breed to be peacemakers.

       The God we serve is the God of peace. Through His Son, He has brought peace. It is our job to repeat what He has done. The world sees peacemakers as the ones who go to war and fight for the rights of their own people, they take sides and through violence try to come out on top. but, Jesus says wait a minute, I am not that kind of King. I am a peacemaker, I am not here to take sides, I am here for all people, I am the Prince of Peace. So, if we really want to be called children of God, then we need to truly be peacemakers.

       The whole idea of making peace comes from actively seeking to do it. Not just looking for conflict and trying to fix it, but always staying aware and always being the hand and feet of Christ, to actively bring peace and perspective to all situations for ALL people. Picking sides is for those who refuse to see themselves in need of God. Peacemakers are those that make peace through their own humility and need for the other.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

                        Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

      The promises of the first five beatitudes talk about being filled and comforted, meek and merciful, inheriting the earth, or being part of the Kingdom of Heaven. But, I think the promise of this beatitude is the greatest, because it is the promise of seeing God. To see the God, the same God who in exodus said "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." But, through Jesus Christ, our longing for purity will lead us to the face of our Heavenly Father.
      
       Seeing God, isn't that the goal of every Christian, isn't that what we are living for? That we may live our life in such a way that we see God. If we see God, that opens up all of His blessings, not only for the afterlife, but also for life here and now. The key to receive these blessings is living your life with a pure heart. Without a pure heart you cannot be poor in spirit. You cannot mourn for your sins without having a pure heart. You cannot be meek, or hunger and thirst for the righteousness of  God. You can't be merciful, you can't be a peacemaker, or you can't withstand persecution for the name of Christ without a pure heart. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

       The first thing we can learn from this beatitude is that Jesus is concerned with our heart. Your heart is what you are in the private parts of your thoughts and feelings, when no one knows them but God. What you are in private matters to God as much as what you are in public. Jesus was not born into this world because we have some bad habits that need to be broken, He came into this world because we have hearts that need to be purified. 

        The second thing we can learn is that having a pure heart means living for the sole purpose of God, to have a heart that is fully devoted to God. If we live a life with a pure heart, a life that is pleasing and fully devoted to God, we will enjoy God's presence in our life right here in this world. As we walk in His ways, as we get to know Him through His word, as we trust Him through our prayers, our knowledge and experience of God will let us see Him present in our lives today. If we have this goal for our life, the outcome will be a daily walk with God that is pleasing to Him, and blesses us. This, fills our lives with joy until we can be called home and live with Him forever. Amen........    

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy



       The Beatitudes are a progression of spiritual awakening and transformation that show us the way to the fruits of a new creation and the blessings of a transformed character.

        Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Mercy is not seen in our world a lot these days. Our senses are overwhelmed with violence, bigotry, scams, injustice, and intolerance. In fact, acts of mercy are so rare that when they happen they are headline or breaking news all over media outlets. This isn't to say that mercy is not admired, that is why it is headline news. although people admire other people who show mercy, they seldom take the opportunity to show mercy themselves. Jesus tells the Pharisees in Mathew 23 : 23  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the other undone." This makes it apparent how far apart man and God are on the value we should place on mercy. From time to time we need to remind ourselves that the beatitudes are the signs that one is truly a disciple of Christ.

       Mercy is a very prominent spiritual trait, it is indispensable in the holy and divine character that becomes ours as a result of a warm and close relationship with God. It is a quality given to us through the Holy Spirit as we yield in obedience and cultivate it. As a result of our personal experience with God, mercy grows in us. Mercy requires you to treat people better than they deserve. Mercy drives you to show compassion to people you have good reason to ignore. Mercy leads you to care about people's pain even when these very people have caused you pain. Mercy requires forgiving those who have wronged you. Mercy insists that you seek reconciliation with those who have offended you.

       If we do not have the desire or will to show compassion on a dying, poor world, if we do not have it in our hearts to show mercy on our brothers and sisters in Christ, to forgive them as Jesus forgave us, then we are in deep trouble. So the next time you pull off the freeway or stop at a red light and you see someone standing there holding a sign, remember you are looking at a Child of God, and He loves that person as much as He loves you. Amen .........

Friday, January 27, 2017

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Mathew 5:6

       I saw a version of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and I thought it was a very descriptive parable of our world today.
      
       Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
       Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
       All the world’s horses and all the world’s men
       Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

       But Humpty’s Creator looked down from above
       And sent His own Son as the gift of His love
       He took all our brokenness as He suffered in pain
       And where He is welcomed, Humpty’s made whole again.

     In our earthly ways all we can do is put patches on the brokenness of this world. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, we try to use band-aides for the endemic, the deadly wounds of our world today. We refuse to face the reason that we are broken, the rejection of God and his ways.

     When we reject the light, we suffer the consequence of living in the dark. When we reject the air, we suffer the consequences of death. When we reject God's righteousness, it is not that hard to see why we are not Blessed or filled.

     The blessedness of abundant satisfaction will never be found by those who are just looking for the experience, and people try to find satisfaction and happiness all the time in many different ways, desperately trying to fill the aching void in their souls.

     Sadly, many people look for happiness or satisfaction in earthly ways and have failed to look for it spiritually. They have failed to see that in our world, whether they are saved or not, that if they continually feed on violence, drugs, money, or any other thing the world has to offer, eventually those things that they feed on are going to become their lives and they will become those things.

     What is Righteousness? I think righteousness refers to the nature of God, to the virtues of God, truth, justice, love, and mercy. There are many things the Bible tells us about God, but truth, justice, love, and mercy are in every story from Jesus. And, all those traits are summed up in one word, Righteousness.

     To me it is very significant that this verse doesn't say,"blessed are the righteous," I think that it implies an understanding that we are being challenged to commit ourselves to a process, a journey, an ongoing reaching out for God's righteousness.

      Jesus blesses those of us who do this, and those blessings come with a promise that we will be filled and satisfied. We will be transformed by His Holy Spirit.