Thursday, August 31, 2017

Show Your Faith, Take Up The Cross For Jesus

                                     Matthew 16:21-28


   Jesus knew why He had come, to take up His cross, and follow the will of God. It was absolutely essential for Him to go to Jerusalem, to unjustly suffer and die on the cross at the hands of wicked, hateful men, and on the third day be raised again. By doing so, He took our sins, my and yours, off of our shoulders, and through this awesome forgiveness, restored our relationship with God.

   You see, just as Jesus did for us, He call us to take up our cross and follow Him. Sometimes though, I think we misunderstand what our cross is. Our cross is not something that all people have in common, Christians and non-Christians. Illness, disease, struggles in relationships, or job difficulties are not necessarily crosses because all humans have these in common. I think our crosses are something that Jesus puts in front of us because we are His disciples. Caring for the lonely and forgotten, giving a hug to the untouchable, loving the unlovable, to help above your tithe to help meet an unforeseen ministry challenge, or any other way that God is calling you to take up your cross and follow Christ.

   Finally, in Matthew 16:27 Jesus says, The Son of Man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done. Now we know that He does not promise eternal life because of what we do, but from what is in our hearts. How willingly we take up our cross to follow Him demonstrates the faith in our hearts and our loving response for all that He has done for us. It is faith which He promises to reward with His gift of eternal life.

    Show others the faith you have in Jesus Christ, show them the compassion that He has shown to you, take up your cross and follow Jesus....Amen



   

Friday, August 25, 2017

Matthew

  Today as I was reading my bible, I started thinking about Matthew. Now Matthew, not unlike myself, was probably not the person most of us would recruit for a ministry. Neither I or Matthew would have met the expectations of what a good disciple of Christ would look like in a ministry setting.

  Matthew was not at all liked because he collected taxes for the Romans. I was not a tax collector, but as a drug addict, and dealer, I shared Matthew's moral values. Everybody at that time knew the moral behavior of tax collectors for the Roman Empire was one that most people would not want to imitate because they had their hand in every part of the daily life.

   Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum, a small fishing village. When the fisherman returned with their daily catch, Matthew would be there, ready to tax their catch. He also would tax them for the number of nets they had on the boats. Of course, Matthew would tax them more than what he gave to Rome so he had money in his own pockets. It wasn't hard to see why he was hated, and didn't even come close to the approval of the Pharisee who were watching when Jesus walked up to Matthew and said follow me.

   So when Matthew gave up his life and left with Jesus, and was seen in the presence of other sinners, the Pharisee naturally asked the disciples, why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? This is not how proper followers of the law behave, the Pharisees did not like anything less than the perfection that they thought they personified. You see, even their name set them apart, the name Pharisee literally means "The Separated Ones." Scripture tells us that the Pharisees separated themselves from the common folk, the tax collectors and sinners. They separated themselves from anyone not like them.

   Now we must ask ourselves why did Jesus eat with those sinners, and why did He associate with social outcasts? Jesus Himself provides the answer, Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meanings of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. And, the facts are, that we are all sinners. St. Paul's letter to the Romans says all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Paul did not say just the tax collectors sinned, or the thieves and murderers sinned, or even the adulterers have sinned, He said all have sinned, and that means everyone.

   Unfortunately for the Pharisees, they couldn't understand that nobody, including themselves, could be made right before God through their own doings. They were so caught up in all the things they did for God that they believed God was indebted to them. as a result they were so wrapped up in themselves that they had no time, or place, or purpose for a person such as Matthew. But that is not how Jesus viewed things, because Jesus walked right up to Matthew and said follow me, and Matthew got up and followed Him.

   That my friends is the same call that Jesus gives to you and me. And if anyone should ever ask you how God has called you? You can tell them that God has called me, a poor sinner, to be His disciple in His creation. You see, the good news is not that Jesus came to call the righteous, but the sinner. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but to cure the sick. And the sickness that covers us all is our sin that only Jesus Christ Himself can cure through His mercy and forgiveness.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

                                          Matthew 14: 22-23

                     Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

   Are you drowning in doubt? Or are you walking on water in faith?
   So, we pick up this week with Jesus sending the disciples out in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, after He had just fed the 5000, promising to meet them on the other side. That’s when things go bad, when they are a considerable distance from land a storm blows in bashing waves against the boat, the disciples see what they think is a ghost walking on water and they cry out in fear, but Jesus says to them Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid. So Peter says, Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water and Jesus said come. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water, but once he notices the waves and the wind, he takes his focus off of Jesus, and begins to sink into the sea of doubt, a doubt of his own making.
   Friends, what are the things in life that bash us with the storms of doubt while it feels like God is miles away on the shore? Just like Peter, we hear what God has to say, but then Satan puts that little spark of doubt into our minds. It tells us that God’s word is not good enough, that His track record with His people isn’t good enough and we start to drown in our own sea of doubt. Whether you are the disciples in a boat or a person in a pew, the cold waves of doubt are always threatening to pull you down.
   You know, we hear God’s promise that the righteous are not forsaken; neither will their children beg bread. But the economy remains uncertain at best, and that doubt creeps in. We look at our big beautiful church, and the newness has worn off, but that mortgage remains, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God tell us that His word will never return empty, but will always accomplish His purpose, but we wonder whether or not the empty pews or chairs will fill up. We hear God’s promise that nothing can ever separate us from the Love of Christ, but then we look at our rocky marriages, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God’s promise that we can do all things through him, but then our sins or addictions hold us down even though we know in our heads that Jesus forgives the sins of the world, but in our hearts we feel the icy wind of a guilty conscious, and then that doubt creeps in. 
   Are we sinking or swimming in life? Is our faith barely treading water? There is only one thing we can say, the same words that Peter cried out. Lord Save Me!!!! Lord, save me from drowning in the Sea of Doubt. Lord save me from focusing on my own issues, Lord save me from my sinful self. Save us He does !! In vs. 31-33 it says, Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. You of little faith He said, why do you doubt? And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying truly you are the Son of God.
    You see, at first Peter’s faith was strong at the site of Jesus; maybe some would call it reckless faith. Peter pushed aside what he knew of wind and waves, and he asked Jesus for permission to walk to Him on the water. Jesus says come and Peter walks on water, but then that doubt creeped in. But, in that instant of faith, Peter walked on water. That is how faith works, regardless of what the mind, heart, or the body experiences, faith holds God to His promise. When everything seems impossible, faith hears God’s promise and says absolutely possible. 
   God doesn’t promise us that we will walk on water on demand, but think of the things He does promise us, through a little water and a few words, God put the devil to flight and creates faith in children that aren’t old enough to say mommy. He makes you a promise with the bread and wine, you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for forgiveness. Our God tells us that while we were sinners, Christ died for our sins. Jesus tells us that He will go before us and prepare a place for us so that He can come back and get us. Hold on to these promise and not only will you be walking on water, but you will walk through the gates of heaven. 
   You say, OK Mike all good and well, but that wind and those waves look scary. So, tell God something he doesn't already know. It’s because of that scary wind and waves that God made His promises in the first place. And those promises are always powerful, they sent Moses to save the Israelites, and the Israelites to the Promised Land. His promises brought Peter out of a boat and onto the water. His promises brought faith to your heart and hope to your future. God’s promises have built a church, and those same promises will fill it as God sees fit. All of this my friends, you can count on….

Jesus' Prophecies Have A Purpose

Advent 1.5

How Many Heads Do You Have?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Live Like Jesus

  I was getting ready to go to worship last Sunday, and I was looking in the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth, and the song I can only imagine by Mercy Me came on. I tried to imagine what Jesus might look like, does he look like me? Do I look like Him? Then, it was like I got hit with a 2 X 4. Once again I have to be reminded that we as Christians are supposed to live lives that resemble and reflect the life of Jesus Christ.
   So, there is the question, do I resemble Jesus? Does the life I lead reflect Jesus? I guess the point I am trying to make is that we the church are actually the living and breathing body of Jesus. We the church have to reflect Christ to this world. If someone wants to know what Jesus would do, they should be able to look at Christians and know what He would do. If someone wonders what Jesus looks like, they should be able to look at Christians and see Jesus.
  I guess that might be a question for everyone, not just me. Do we as young people, or adults, or husbands and wives, or grandparents live a life that reflects Jesus Christ? Act like a Christian in any circumstance. Follow Jesus' greatest commandment: Love God completely and everybody even if they treat you wrongly whether you know them or not. Jesus said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" Jesus says in John 13:15, "I have given you an example, that as I have done, so should you do." In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." Ephesians 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God as dear children. Set aside time for meaningful prayer. Make intercession for people who do not pray enough for their own development, i.e.: children, cousins, friends, enemies and family, etc. In Ephesians 1:16 Paul prays for a "Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation." I recommend that you say the prayer in Ephesians 1:16-23 for yourself everyday for one year and God will open up your spirit and develop your understanding. You will have so much spiritual insight that you make a big impact on others.
   Be patient with people who anger you; work on trying to forgive those who may have hurt you. You must learn to love your enemies. God loves everyone, and we need to, also. Say farewell to selective loving. If you have a hard time loving your enemies, pray to God for help. Treat others kindly as you would like to be treated. Even simple acts of kindness like holding a door open for someone are good deeds that can help.
  Volunteer to help people. For example, you could take a shift at a soup kitchen near you,visit a person staying in a nursing home. Remain conservative in your ethics, moderate and modest being sure to remember that pride can be dangerous. Pride may imply that you are judging others falsely, and is said to be the mother of all sins, because pride resides in each one of us. The source of all sin is oneself and not considering others. These are just a few examples of how to live like Jesus. I am not claiming to an expert on Jesus, but through my studies this is what I have learned. We all need to live more like Jesus, if we do the world will become a much better place.

Compassion