Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How much do we really love Jesus?

Matt. 10:37-39  “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine, or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it, but if you give it up for me, you will find it.”

These verses may cause you to do a double take.  Jesus is laying it on the line and putting things in their proper perspective.  He is declaring that our allegiance to Him is far more important than our allegiance to anyone else.  He makes it very clear that if He is not more important to us than anyone or anything else, we are not worthy of being called His children.

When we consider how important our families are to us, this really challenges us to consider our love for the Lord.  Do we love the Lord more than our spouses, children, parents, and siblings?  Is it obvious to them and others that we do?  Do we assume they know it or have we actually told them? 

If we really love Christ more than anyone else, we will daily do whatever we have to do to remain faithful to Him.  We will be willing to do anything for Him.  We will be willing to make whatever sacrifices we need to do in order to obey Him.  What we desire out of life becomes secondary to our devotion to Him.  We will be willing to set aside whatever we deem important in life in order to follow Him.

If we really love Christ, we will surrender all of our life to Him.  We will consider all of it His.  We will abandon ourselves to His will.  It is only when we do these things that we will really find ourselves.  In Him alone we will discover what our lives are really all about.  We will find purpose for our living.  We will find what is worth living and dying for.  In Christ alone we will find eternal life.

Let go of all that your life is to you and give it to the Lord.  He will then make something beautiful out of it and you.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Do you deny the Lord?

Matt. 10:32-33 “If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will openly acknowledge that person before my Father in heaven. But if anyone denies me here on earth,, I will deny that person before my Father in heaven.”

There is not much to say about this truth. The only issue I would raise is whether or not we are doing it. Are we proclaiming Christ or denying Him? You cannot live in a neutral zone. Your life is either reflecting Christ or it’s not. You are transparent. People see who owns you. It shows up in the way you live. Your actions and works are determined by who rules your heart. You can easily determine how healthy your soul is by taking an honest look at your life.

You will deny the Lord if you are embarrassed or ashamed of Him. Whenever you let people hinder your witness, you are more concerned about their opinions than those of Christ. You deny the Lord when it makes you uncomfortable. You deny Him because you lack a passionate love for Him.   You deny Him when you fear man more than you do God.  You deny the Lord when you get too busy to properly take care of your soul.

The Lord is not a badge you can put on and take off when it is convenient for you. You are either all into Him or you are not. Our witness for Christ is being noted and recorded in heaven. Do you acknowledge Him as your Savior and Lord every chance you get, or do you do it only when it’s convenient for you to do so?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hell, should it be in our conversation?

Matt. 9:37-38 He said to his disciple, “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields.”

Can you see the harvest field?  Do you know that most of the people you see around you are going to go to hell unless they come to Christ?  Do you realize that the sheer number of people going to hell is so great?  Does it concern you at all that hell is going to be populated with people you know and rub shoulders with daily?  Do you think much about the seriousness of the matter?

We don’t preach and talk about hell much anymore.  We may not actually come out and deny that it’s real, but by our actions and lack of discussion about it, we are in fact denying its realness.  Hell is not a place anyone will want to be at.  It is eternal torment for those who reject Christ as their Savior.  It is a place of no escape and no relief.  It is a place where there will be an eternal and loud cry of anguish over lost opportunities to accept Jesus.  Scripture reveals it is a place of eternal hellfire and brimstone, unequaled in pain and suffering.

It should concern us that people we know are going there.  There aren’t enough people who are concerned enough about them to warn them.  There aren’t enough people today who are speaking up about hell and the lost soul of man.  Pray and ask the Lord to raise up more voices to tell them.  Ask the Lord to lay it upon the heart of more preachers and teachers of the Word to include the truthfulness about hell and the lostness of man’s soul.

Today is the day of salvation.  Right now is when man has opportunity to be saved.  We don’t know when the Lord is coming back or when he will shut the door on some soul’s chances to be saved.  Ask the Lord today to send more workers into the harvest field. 

Perhaps He is waiting for you to pray so that He may send you.  And, if He does, don’t say no to His call.  The souls of many are at stake.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Lord has a heart for people in need.

Matt. 9:36-38 He felt great pity for the crowds who came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest.; ask him to send out more workers for his fields.”

The Lord has a heart for people in need. He cares about our problems. He cares that we often can’t solve them on our own. He cares that we often wander around grasping for answers and often live without help or hope. The Lord loves us and His heart goes out to us. He has great pity for us.

The Lord calls us to likewise have a heart for one another. We need to see those around us who are in need. We need to likewise pity those who have no hope or help. We need to love others enough to pray on their behalf. We must realize how great the need is all around us. We must ask the Lord to send people to those in need who can help them and when He leads, we need to be willing to be the feet to our prayers.

There is ample amount of people in need all around us. There is far more work to do than there are workers to do it. No matter how much good we are able to do, we will never be able to do enough. Pray for the Lord to raise up more workers. Pray that He will send people to those in need who can help them. Pray that the Lord will help us to not have sinful thoughts towards other workers in the harvest field.

Sadly, we find ourselves often squabbling amongst ourselves and finding fault with one another while those around us wander around in darkness without a Shepherd. We become jealous and judgmental of co-laborers instead of partners with them in the Gospel. We insist that they enter into our comfort zone before we will work alongside of them.

May the Lord forgive us for our sinful ways. May He unite us together at the foot of the cross and send us out together into the harvest field to reach whomever we can for their souls’ sake. May He keep us from being more of a hindrance than a help to reach the world we live for the Gospel.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Do you see yourself as spiritually healthy?

Matt. 9:12-13 When he heard this, Jesus replied, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor--sick people do!”   Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ˜I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.’ For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.”

How do you look upon yourself?  Do you see yourself as spiritually healthy?  Are you doing alright in your walk with the Lord?  Do you think you have all your bases covered? 

Let us pause a moment and reflect about this.  Isn’t it true that none of us are perfect?  We all know our strengths and our weaknesses.  We focus on our strengths and think we are in good shape.  Yet, when we think about our weaknesses, we realize we are not as well as we thought we were.  We hear, read and meditate on the Word and recognize our sinfulness.  We know we are guilty of not being whom we could and should be in Christ.  We do well in some areas but not so well in others.  Be honest with yourself; it’s true isn’t it? 

We tend to skim over those things which convict us.  We don’t pause and let the Spirit apply certain portions of Scripture to our hearts because our pride doesn’t want to admit we are guilty.  We don’t like humbling ourselves before God and confessing sin which is exposed.

Yet, the Lord says that that is precisely why He came.  He came to call us to himself.  He came so that we would see ourselves as sinners and go to Him for repentance and help.  He came so that we would let Him work in us to make us healthier.  He came to forgive us, make us stronger, engage us in the battle for our spiritual health, and make us fit for His kingdom. 

I challenge you today to let the Spirit of Christ reveal your sin to you and convict you of it.  I challenge you to take an honest look at your soul and admit you are not as well off as you try to convince yourself and others that you are.  I challenge you to let the Spirit help you day-by-day to be the person in Christ God wants you to be.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You can be good without being godly.

Matt. 7:21  “Not all people who sound religious are really godly.  They may refer to me as “Lord,” but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven.”

There is a difference between good people and godly people, between religious people and godly people.  It’s fairly easy to be who we really are not.  We can act the part but be far from it.  What separates the godly from the ungodly is the relationship they have with Christ.  Godly people are those who have given Christ their hearts and strive to live holy lives.  They are a people who are changed from the inside out and not just on the outside.

People who consider themselves to be religious and good often call Jesus Lord, but they will not make it to heaven.  We can do a lot of things in Jesus’ name and live to think about it in hell.  When Jesus is Lord, we obey God.  There is a constant effort to do what pleases God.  A godly person knows what God expects them to do and strive to do it.  Faith is real when actions back up one’s words.

We need to take a careful look in the mirror and consider whether or not we are living in obedience to God’s commands.  We cannot pick and choose which ones we want to do.  Partial obedience is really not obedience at all.  A godly soul does not have divided loyalties.  He gives the Lord all of his heart, mind and soul. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You are the kind of life you live.

Matt. 7:20  “Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.”

What kind of life we live reveals who really controls our lives.  We do not have to do all the things the world does in order to be under Satan’s control.  We can be “good people” in the eyes of the world and go to hell when we die.  In fact, I believe most people fall into that category.  What makes a person good and acceptable to God is not what we do; it is in whom we put our trust.  Without putting our trust in Christ, we may do much good in the world, but we will lose our souls. 

It doesn’t matter what we profess to be; if our living doesn’t match up to our profession, we are not who we claim to be.  We cannot live in fellowship with Christ and fail to produce godly fruit.  A child of God shows the characteristics of God in his life.  God is holy and His children show evidence of holiness in their lives.  The only way to really know what that means in practical terms is to open up God’s Word and take note of what He says about how we are to live.  A closed Bible results in ungodly living.

Good fruit is only produced on properly nourished trees.  There has to be amble amount of necessary ingredients for it to grow and produce.  It is the same with our souls.  We must feed our souls what they need in order for them to grow and produce.  We must be vigilant in what we allow our souls to feast on.  No one can properly take care of your soul for you but you.  A neglected soul will produce bad fruit that is of no eternal value at all.  Only a soul that produces good fruit will see God.

When properly taken care of, our souls will produce much good fruit that brings honor and glory to Christ.  You are what you produce. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Only a few will make it to heaven.

Matt. 7:13-14  “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.  The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way.  But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow and only a few ever find it.”

There is only one way to enter into God’s Kingdom and that is through Christ.  God has made no other provision for our salvation.  He is the doorway and He will not let any enter who does not embrace Him as their Savior and Lord. 

Most people do not embrace this truth.  They try to find another way into heaven.  They believe Satan’s lies that there has to be another way.  They refuse to see themselves in need of Christ.  Most people want nothing to do with God’s way.  They convince themselves that their own way is good enough.  Most people will remain on the outside looking in and will never know what heaven is like on the inside. 

Only a few people will enter into heaven.  Only a few will humble themselves before Christ, confess their sins, and seek His forgiveness.  Only a few will strive to live life God’s way.  God’s way is the pathway of holiness.  It is a path where one is constantly changing, being conformed into the likeness of Christ.  Only a few will persevere to the end and enter into heaven.

Contrary to the teaching of many, the way to heaven is not easy.  It is not easy to stand strong for truth in a world that hates the truth.  It is not easy to stand alone on righteousness when those around you are encouraging you not to.  It is not easy to be looked down on and sometimes harmed because you dare not compromise on godly living.  It is not easy to proclaim the Word of God to a people who do not want to hear it and will make life miserable for you if you do.  It is not easy, but it’s the only way to heaven.

Be different than most.  Put your faith in Christ alone and let Him be your righteousness and holiness before God.  Put your faith in Christ and let Him make you fit for heaven.  Be among the few who will enter through heaven’s door.  You will be eternally grateful you did.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Persistence in Prayer

Matt. 7:7-8  “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”

The key to answered prayer is persistence in prayer.  God doesn’t want us to see prayer as a magic lamp that when we rub it we instantly get our wishes.  Prayer that produces results is a persistent process of waiting before the Lord.  So often, we have not because we give up on what we are asking for.  We lack the commitment to the process.  We are instructed to keep at it. 

When we pray, we are seeking God’s favor, not trying to impose our will on His.  We are to desire God to address our concerns according to His will and not ours.  We don’t know what is best for us much of the time.  We lack the wisdom and information God has.  We must trust in the promise of God that He will do what is best for us as we pray.

Persistence in prayer is sometimes needed for our sake.  We need to not waver in our trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness.  We need to develop greater faith and praying faithfully is one way we do that.  We will be persistent with those things which matter the most to us. 

We also need to know that the timing of the Lord is often different than ours.  Sometimes it takes a long time to bring the events of life together in order to see our prayers answered.  Our praying affects many lives and God works in each life in the proper time and way in order to answer our prayers.  Sometimes we don’t ever get to see the results of our praying.  Some prayers take years to answer.  We submit to God’s timing and ways when we pray.

Always remember that God is good, loves us, and desires to do that which is good in our lives always.  We pray in faith and trust that how the Lord answers our prayers is always right, even when He denies us our requests.  Persistent prayer aligns us up with the will of God.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Judge yourself first before judging others.

Matt. 7:3-5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye when you can’t see past the log in your own?’  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye, then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

We don’t think much about our own issues when we criticize or judge others.  It’s not too hard to convince ourselves that we don’t have any issues, or if we do, that they don’t really matter.  We are easily led into the trap of seeing ourselves in a positive light and others in a negative one.

Jesus instructs us to look inward before we look outward.  An honest look at ourselves through the lens of God’s Word quickly reminds us of just how far short we fall from God’s standards.  None of us can honestly say we don’t have issues, that there is no sin in us. 

Jesus instructs us to take our issues to God before we attempt to address the issues others have.  Only the pure in heart have the right to confront others with sin.  Think about this a moment.  I wonder how many professing Christians actually live this out.  It is easy to pull out our Bibles and point out the sins of others.  It’s another thing to pull out our Bibles and let God point out our own sins.  I wonder how we would act differently when confronting others if we were to spend time before the Lord in repentance first.  I suspect we would be a lot more compassionate and gracious.

Jesus reminds us that it’s hypocrisy for us to intervene in someone’s life without first dealing with our sins before God.  Don’t let Satan deceive you in this.  All of us are sinners and need to let Christ purify our hearts before we stand in judgment over others.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stop judging others.

Matt. 7:1-2 “Stop judging others and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.”

If you are like most of us, judging others comes easily.  We tend to be critical of those who don’t measure up to our expectations.  We do it mainly because it makes us look at ourselves in a positive light.  We think of ourselves as better than he who falls short.  As long as we see the faults and failures of others, we don’t see our own.

The Lord tells us not to be that way.  People catch on quickly and will in turn judge us.  No one is perfect and all of us are good targets for judgmental spirits.  We do reap what we sow.  If you don’t like being on the tail end of criticism, then don’t criticize others.  None of us are perfect and are targets for being judged. 

Instead of being judgmental, we are called to be a people of grace, love and forgiveness.  We are to be kind towards others and not look down on them.  Sure people mess up and sometimes royally, but who are we to make a big deal out of it and rake someone over the coals for it?  We can correct someone out of kindness and love instead of judgmental spirits. 

If you find yourself being quick to judge, ask the Lord to help you do what is right in his eyes.  Ask Him to forgive you and give you a spirit of love and grace.  Ask Him to hold you accountable for your spirit and help you to act in a more acceptable way.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Lord knows what you need.

Matt. 6:32b-33 “Your heavenly Father knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

If is a very important word in our vocabulary.  It speaks of conditions.  The result depends on the performance.  It is noteworthy how many times God uses the word in connection with His promises. 

Here the Lord promises to take care of us every day of our lives, IF we live for Him and make His Kingdom our primary concern.  The Lord’s promise is not a blanket statement for all who profess Him as Savior of life.  We must live for Him and make His Kingdom our main focus in life. 

We cannot life for Him and have other agendas in our lives.  The Lord must be our main focus.  He will not share our loyalties.  Living for Him means that we take a back seat to Him.  We live to honor Him.  We desire that He gets the glory and not ourselves.  We commit ourselves to not only being like Him, but to being ambassadors for Him in the world.

Making the Kingdom of God our primary concern means that we are one with the Lord in His agenda.  We are seeking out the lost that they may be saved.  We are determined to do all we can do to make a difference for Christ in the world.  We are so tied to God’s agenda that it is all we live for.  We live for what is before us and not what is around us. 

The Lord’s promise is to supply every need of our lives when our living is right.  There is nothing lacking in His provision.  He lovingly provides what we need and lovingly withholds from us what we want when it conflicts with what is good for us.

Is the Kingdom of God your primary concern in life?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You have nothing to worry about.


Matt. 6:25  “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, or clothes.  Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?”

It seems to be what we do best.  We spend our lives consumed with trying to get enough food, drink, shelter, or clothing.  Everything we do revolves around it.  And for most of us, having enough is not enough.  We always strive to have more than enough so that what we have will be enough in case something unexpected comes our way.

Jesus is saying here to not work for the necessities of life; He is saying don’t worry about whether or not what you have is enough.  He is saying that life is so much more than what we have.  He is saying that if we understand what life is really all about, we will be content with what we have and what we have will be enough.

Life doesn’t consist of our food, clothing, drink, shelter, or anything else we might obtain in this world.  Life consists of how we relate to God.  Life is having a relationship with God.  If we don’t have a relationship with God, we are dead.  In other words, real life is spiritual and not material.  We can have all the riches of earth and not be spiritually alive. 

If you are blessed with much, use what you have to bring God honor and glory with thanksgiving from your heart.  If you don’t have much, be content with what you have with thanksgiving and use what you have for God’s honor and glory.  Trust God and He will supply all your needs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

No one can serve two masters.

Matt. 6:24  “No one can serve two masters.  For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”

We live in a very materialistic world.  We measure life in terms of things we have or want to have.  We spend most of our lives pursuing things that will all turn to dust someday.  We measure our worth in terms of things.  We deem those who have more than we do successes and those who have less failures.  We become slaves to materialism and it often blinds us to the fact that real life is spiritual in nature.

Long after our “stuff” is gone, we continue to exist.  God gives everyone a soul that lives on eternally.  We prepare for the continuation of life after death by how we live life.  When we attach ourselves to that which we can see, we damage our souls.  We cannot be devoted to the things of earth or this life at the expense of our souls and expect to see God someday.  God will not take a second seat in our lives.  If He is not first in our affections, He can have no fellowship with us.

God commands us to love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul.  We cannot do that by treating our souls lightly.  We must understand that taking care of our relationship with God must always be our number one priority in life.  In reality, nothing else matters.  We determine whether we will have a God-filled eternity or a godless eternity by the way we live and what we live for.  You can’t have it both ways.  You cannot attach yourself to the things of earth and God at the same time.  A divided loyalty is no loyalty to God at all. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What you look at matters.

Matt. 6:22-23  “Your eye is a lamp for your body. A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul. But an evil eye shuts out the light, and plunges you into darkness.  If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be!”

What do you look at?  What we see affects our souls.  When we are gazing on unholy things we are letting unholy things enter into our souls.  No matter how righteous a person may be, he is affected by the things he looks at.  Satan is a master at bringing to mind evil things that we have looked at in the past.  He uses those things to harass us and if possible to lead us into sin.  He is relentless in haunting us and robbing us of the peace and joys of salvation.

A pure eye is one that focuses on things that are good for the soul.  The Apostle Paul instructs us to dwell on those things that edify the soul (Phil. 4:8).  We can control much of what we dwell on.  We must take responsibility for this because what we do dwell on will either make us holy or unholy.

We need to be discerning.  Darkness sometimes masquerades itself as light.  What may seem to be alright may not be alright at all.  How many times have you watched a program or movie that was captivating and generally a good story that had some things in it that you knew were not right or wholesome but you chose to watch them anyway?  What we watch often helps form our worldview.  Unless we are on our toes and are able to protect ourselves from that which is not truthful or helpful, we will be soon led astray.

Don’t shut out the Light.  Let into your soul those things which will build your soul up and not corrode it with evil.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do you treasure the most in life?

Matt. 6:21 “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts well also be.”

What do you treasure most in your life? Before you answer that, consider this. We treasure that which consumes our time, thoughts, and energy. We pursue diligently what we treasure. We treasure most what we work the hardest at obtaining. We consider our treasure to be worth whatever sacrifices we have to make in order to get it. What we treasure can change, depending on circumstances or stages of life.

If you were to rate the things you treasure most in life by the amount of time and energy you put into obtaining it on a scale of 1-10, where would the Lord rate? Are you more concerned about other things than you are the Lord? We can’t avoid seeking after other things in life, but are they of more value to us than the Lord? Be honest. What are you investing your life into obtaining?

We can profess our allegiance to Christ all we want to, but unless our words are backed up by our lives, they don’t mean a thing. The Lord knows where He fits into your life’s priorities, and so do you. Do you need to get your priorities straight?  

Your heart is where your treasure is.  What means the most to you: your spouse, children, job, hobbies, recreation, career, church, faith?  You value the most what you do the most.  You think about those things that you value the most.  If the Lord is not your most valued treasure, your heart is not right with God.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Forgiveness and You

Matt. 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But, if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

This is a truth that we often do not think about.  All of us have been wronged by someone at sometime in our lives.  Whether it’s a family member, a trusted friend, a mentor, a teacher, a co-worker, or anyone else, we have been hurt by others.  Some people are cruel by nature and have no regard for how they might hurt another.  Some people hurt others and don’t even know that they did it.  Regardless of how we have been hurt, Jesus says we must forgive them in our hearts. 

How do we forgive people when they have hurt us, sometimes very badly?  First of all, we must seek the Lord’s forgiveness for how we have hurt Him.  Every time we sin against God, we hurt Him.  Sin is an affront to God’s character.  It offends Him.  It is saying we don’t care that it bothers God.  It is defiance.  So, we must first deal with how we have hurt God and seek His forgiveness.  We must admit that we are guilty and are helpless to get rid of our sin without God’s help. 

God’s willingness to forgive us is tied into our willingness to forgive others.  It is so because a heart that is not humble and merciful enough to forgive doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  If we aren’t willing to extend love and grace to others we can’t expect God to extend His love and grace to us.  Whether or not forgiveness is asked for, we must forgive those who have wronged us.

Another aspect of forgiving others is forgiving ourselves.  Sometimes this is the hardest part, but if we want to really know the peace of God that comes from forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have done.  We need to let go of whatever pain and harm we have caused and let the Lord lead us forward.  We will never be free in our souls until we ask the Lord to help us forgive ourselves and leave those things under the blood as well.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Praying to be Heard

Matt. 6:7-8 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.”

Words don’t mean much if they don’t come from the heart.  We may pray and pray and pray, but if we aren’t sincerely praying from the heart, we are just making a lot of noise.  We may impress other people by our praying, but our praying falls on deaf ears.

There are some people who repeat the same prayers over and over again.  Some people don’t know how to pray any other words than what they have been taught.  When I was a kid, “Now I lay me down to sleep…..” was a prayer I repeated over and over again.  At meal time many will say a simple prayer of thanks that they say every time.  Some people will repeat a certain chant they have been taught.  It doesn’t matter how many times we may repeat these prayers, if they do not come from a heart connection with God, they are meaningless words that don’t reach the ears of God.

God knows our hearts before we even pray.  He knows our needs and wants us to express them in words.  He wants to hear the expressions of our hearts, not out mouths.  For God, it’s all about relationships.  He doesn’t want to be talked at; He wants to be talked to.  If you find yourself praying the same prayers over and over again, you need to stop it now.  You need to talk to the Lord as you do to your friends.  You need to speak from your heart and not just repeat the same things over and over. 

The Lord hears and answers the prayers spoken from a sincere heart.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pray without words.

Matt. 6:6  “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”

Jesus is speaking out strongly against showing off our religion.  He is making it very clear that a person of genuine faith does not need to promote it or broadcast it.  Genuine faith shows naturally through the way we live and speak. 

We like to be around people who really know how to pray.  There is just something that seems to set them apart from us.  We equate how they pray with the godliness of their hearts.  What we don’t often consider is that how a person prays doesn’t always tell the true story of their heart.  Just like people can imitate faith without being saved, people can imitate prayer without being right with God, or even saved. 

Jesus here emphasizes the importance of private prayer.  When we pray when no one is around, it is noticed by God.  God hears us when we pray from a genuine heart, no matter who may, or may not, hear us when we pray.  In fact, there is great value in prayer without words.  We can be surrounded by a great host of people and pray without anyone knowing it.  The Lord listens to the heart more than He does the words. 

Words sometimes simply fail us.  There are times when we don’t know what to say or how to say it.  But, the Lord knows.  When we lift our hearts to Him without words, He hears us and answers our prayers.  Reach out to the Lord and He will reach out to you.  Don’t pray to be heard by man; pray to be heard by God.  If others hear you when you pray and join you as you pray, it is good.  It is also good if only you and God hear you when you pray.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The pitfalls of wanting to be admired.

Matt. 6:1 “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

It seems like much of the church has gotten pretty careless in this area.  With the ready accessibility of mass media, there are so many who want to broadcast for the world to see their good deeds.  There is so much self-promotion going on in the church that one has to wonder what is really going on. 

We like to be noticed and we want others to be attracted to us.  We want others to want to support our endeavors.  We want to be the popular church in town.  We want others to know what we are doing. 

In light of our verse today, I wonder what the Lord thinks about the way we do things.  I wonder how many of us do things that go unnoticed.  I wonder if the Lord is pleased with our doings or if He has a problem with what we do because of why we do them. 

We like to be admired, but if that is what motivates us in what we do, we are in deep trouble with the Lord.  The praise of man will be the only reward we get for our labors.  And, if we are not careful, feasting on the praise of others may cause us to drift away from the Lord and make it difficult to find our way back.

Whatever you do in the name of Christ, be sure you do it for the Lord’s glory and honor and not your own. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Being Reconciled with Others

Matt. 5:21-24  “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

The thought that really jumps out at me is that of being reconciled with others before we approach God in worship and prayer. There is no way that we can live at peace with everyone. There are simply some people who will refuse to let things go and live in peace. The Lord is not saying that we must first resolve all human conflict before we can approach Him. What He is saying is that we must not harbor anger or sinful thoughts towards others in our hearts. We must be willing to let go of the hurts others have caused us and forgive them without reservation. We can’t control the emotions or thoughts of others, but we can control our own. God will not let us draw near to Him if we bring sinful thoughts or emotions with us. We must first approach Him by way of the cross and seek the forgiveness of Christ. Also, if the problem is us, we must not only ask the Lord to forgive us, we must go to the person we have hurt and seek their forgiveness.

One of the reasons why so many prayers go unanswered and peace eludes us is that we don’t obey the Lord in this. The Lord expects his children to get along. If they have personality clashes, they must learn how to live with each other in a civil and God-honoring way. We may not be the best of friends with everyone, but in Christ we are kinfolk. We must learn the language of love. We must not let our differences alienate us and keep us from sharing the love of Christ together.

Like any good parent, God will not tolerate uncivil behavior amongst His children. They must learn how to iron out their differences and live in peace with one another.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jesus came to fulfill the law, not do away with it.

Matt. 5:17-18  “Don’t misunderstand why I have come.  I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.  No, I came to fulfill them.  I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until its purpose is achieved.”

Keeping the law of God has created all kinds of confusion in the church.  There are some who insist on living by the letter of the law.  There are some who want to discard the law altogether.  And there are those who are somewhere in-between.  How do we resolve this issue that so often divides the church?

Much of our confusion stems from the fact that we don’t properly understand the relationship that the law has with grace.  The law was given to show us our need for grace.  In the law we discover that we are all sinners and that we cannot be good enough to save our souls.  It is impossible for anyone to live totally obediently to the law.  We all fall short and the sooner that we admit it, the better off we will be.

Grace is God doing something to help us meet the demands of the law.  We are saved by grace, not by keeping the law.  There is saving merit only in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, not in the law.  The law shows us what holy living is like and Christ makes living holy lives possible. 

The law is very useful for showing us how God expects us to live.  The standards of God are high and unattainable without Christ living in us.  Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit after He went back to heaven to guide us, instruct us, and enable us to live holy lives.  He helps us to be able to apply the law to daily living.  Christ met the demands of the law and now He is with us to live by it without the bondage and condemnation  it brings to those who fail to live by it.

You will never get to heaven on the shirttail of the law.  Jesus is the only one who can get us into heaven.  There is no alternative to repentance.  Live in Christ and you will meet all the demands of the law for holiness and you will make it to heaven when you die.

Monday, March 9, 2015

You are the light of the world.

Matt. 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world---like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

No matter how strong of a light you may have, if you don’t turn it on it won’t shed any light. A light source is dark until it is turned on. No one benefits from a light that is not lit. A dimmed light may be useful, but it has very little real impact on the world around it. The stronger the light, the more useful and valuable the light will be. If the light does not shine, no one will be able to see where they are going. A light that shines is easily seen by those in the darkness.

We are the light of the world. If we are not good sources of light,, the world will continue to stumble around in darkness. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can ruin our effectiveness as light sources. The world depends on us to show them the way out of their darkness. Are you a good source of light? Are you letting your light shine in the world? One of the ways we can do it is through the good that we do in life. Our actions often speak louder than our words. We show the world what difference Christ makes in human life by the things we do. We live out love and godliness in all things. There is no separation between what we say and what we do at work, home, play, or church.

Let your light shine for the glory of Christ our Lord.  In order to do that, we must keep close to Christ, who is the source of our light.  We must stay in constant touch with Him through the Word of God, in our prayer closet, and in the church fellowship.  We must never neglect our salvation or take it for granted.  If we wander away from Christ, our light will dim or even go out.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Matt. 5:13 You are the salt of the earth.

Matt. 5:13  “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

Salt is useful for a lot of things. It adds flavor to otherwise bland food. It preserves food from spoilage. It creates a thirst in us for water that we need to sustain life. It can also aide in healing when the body is injured (However, when salt is put on an open sore, it burns. The pain is real, but in the end the pain goes away and the wound is healed.). In some cultures salt is deemed to be so valuable that it is used as a form of currency. It also is used to get rid of unwanted and dangerous snow and ice.

The body of Christ is the salt of the earth. When we are functioning properly, we have a huge impact on the world. When we quit acting like Christians and blend in with the world, we lose our saltiness. We no longer are of any eternal value to the world. Once we lose our ability to be salt, we become of no good at all to the cause of Christ. We need to be careful so that we don’t lose our saltiness.

By the way, salt left in the salt shaker is no good either. We may be the best salt in the whole world, but if we don’t get out of the shaker and get into the world, we are no good at all. The Lord sends us out into the world, not into our holy huddles. Food does not enter into the salt shaker to be salted.

Salt can be ruined if it is not properly cared for. If you water it down, you can no longer use it. If you let it get contaminated by foreign objects, it loses its natural qualities. We must be careful that we protect ourselves from those things which might destroy us or render us useless.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Jesus knows our potential.

Matt. 4:18-20  One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen.  Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And they left their nets at once and went with him.

What strikes me in these verses is that Jesus knew the potential in Peter and Andrew.  They were fishermen by trade, but they were far more than that in the Lord’s sight.  Fishing was the only thing that they had ever known.  They undoubtedly came from a long line of fishermen.  There was nothing wrong with being fishermen, but it no longer was to be what they were to do.  The Lord had other plans for their lives.

We are not told, but it seems only reasonable to assume that they weren’t the only fishermen out in that part of the sea that day.  But, they were the ones the Lord chose to call.  He knew things about them that no one else knew; He knew their hearts.  He knew that they were humble men, open to doing what God wanted them to do.  We are not told how they knew that Jesus was worthy of being trusted and followed, but they knew He was.  They recognized Him as being God, even though at the time they did not fully understand what that meant.

Jesus did not see them as fishermen; He saw them as servants who would one day be pillars of the early church.  He did not see their limitations; He saw their potential.  We can be assured that when the Lord compels us to change the course of our lives and follow Him that He knows what He is doing.  The Lord knows what we are capable of, even if no one else thinks we can do it.  He never makes a mistake when He gives us an assignment in life.  If we are willing to give Him our all, He will do amazing things in us and through us.