Sunday, May 31, 2015

Facing the Uncertainties of Tomorrow

Luke 1:38,45 Mary responded, "I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left her. "You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said."

Mary was a young teenage girl engaged to be married. She was a very devout young woman and the Lord was very pleased with her. He sent Gabriel to her to inform her that she was going to be carrying Christ in her womb. She was taken aback with this news at first, but then yielded to what the angel had said. She was willing to be the vessel in which God would become man.

I am sure that Mary did not fully understand all that this would mean for her. She wasn't yet married and there surely would be gossipers to deal with. She didn't know how Joseph or her parents would act. She didn't know what she would have to do differently to raise the Christ-child. She didn't know if she would have to make drastic changes in her life as the child grew; after all, He would be God in the flesh.

Yet, Mary knew that whatever was going to happen everything would work out because this was of God and He was in control. She believed the message and trusted God in what He was about to do. As a result, she was blessed by God. I am sure that in spite of all the uncertainties that lied ahead, she had an overwhelming peace in her soul. She put it all in the Lord's hands.

Just like Mary, we need to just put the uncertainties ahead of us in the Lord's hands. We have to believe and trust in what the Lord leads us to do. We will never face the future alone when we rest in Him. God will bless you with peace and joy as you learn to lean on Jesus every moment of every day.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Never stop trusting the Lord and obeying Him.

Luke 1:6-7  Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were very old.
It wasn't easy for a couple to live life in Jesus' day without children.  There was a social stigma associated with a childless couple.  It was thought to be an indication that God was not pleased with them.  Children were looked upon as being a sign of God's favor.  It was therefore a very confusing time for Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They both were able to trace their heritage back to Aaron.  Zechariah was a Jewish priest, serving faithfully in the Temple.  Yet, they were not blessed with children.  Why?
Zechariah and Elizabeth were deemed to be righteous in God's eyes.  They were known to be a couple who carefully obeyed all of the Lord's commandments and regulations.  If you know anything at all about the Law of God, you know that it was very demanding and very difficult to keep.  This couple did not take the easy road and live in disobedience.  They willing did what God told them to do and thus, they were found to be righteous before both God and man.
I wonder how many of us take obedience to God as seriously as what they did.  They did not have the day-to-day help of the Holy Spirit like we do.  They did not know what it was like to live in Christ like we do.  Yet, their hearts were right with God because they knew enough about God to fear Him, love Him, and serve Him.  They did not let their circumstance in life keep them from obeying God. 
As we learn from reading on in our text, the Lord honored their faith and obedience and touched Elizabeth's womb so that they did have a son, even though they were old and past the age when a couple would normally have children.  Their son was John the Baptist, the one who rose up to prepare the way for Christ's public ministry.
Never stop trusting the Lord and obeying Him.  He moves in mysterious ways and blesses His children in ways that no can imagine or expect. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Religion is not enough.

Mark 14:55 Inside the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would testify against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But their efforts were in vain.

Two things really strike me about today's verse. One is that it was the religious leaders who were trying to get rid of Jesus. And the other is that no one could find fault with Jesus without lying about it.

The world is full of very religious people. It is ingrained in us to believe in something and devote our lives to it. God made us this way. There is no such thing as a non-religious person. Everyone believes in something or someone and bases their life on what they believe to be true.

The problem with religion is that it can become so obsessive that it blinds us to Truth. Obsession shuts the door to any truth beyond our own understanding of it. We KNOW we are right and zealously defend what we believe to be truth. It is good to be zealous about truth, but we must be certain that what we are defending is indeed true.

The church leaders of Jesus' day shut Him out and had Him crucified. They refused to open up their minds to a different understanding of what was true. They went so far as to find someone who was willing to publicly lie about Jesus and defame Him so that He could be crucified according to their religious law. We must be students of the Word and not interpret it through the lens of our understanding. We must let it speak to us from what it says and let it change us and our thinking as needed. The Spirit will never lead us to believe wrongly if we are open to His leading.

Don't base your beliefs solely on what others may say is true. Examine the Word for yourself with an open heart before God and ask Him to guide you into all truth. If you approach the Word daily in this way, you will know the truth and it will set you free.

Our understanding is always filtered through the lens of our personalities and upbringings. However, truth never contradicts itself. It is absolutely true for all people at all times. If there is a wide range of difference in our understandings, we had better be on our knees and ask the Spirit of God to guide us and teach us what is truly true. And, we must always allow for the possibility that we may have to change in our understanding of that which is truth.

It is never okay to read the Word with closed minds. We must always seek the Spirit's guidance in our understanding. No church body or individual perfectly interprets and understands the whole truth of God's Word. Open your heart and mind to the Lord and He will satisfy your longing to know the Truth

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How alert are you?

Mark 14:37-38 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. "Simon!" he said to Peter. "Are you asleep? Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak."

How alert are you? Are you on guard, watching lest you fall into temptation? Are you standing guard over your soul and protecting it from danger? Are you fighting against the allurements of sin so that your soul will be healthy and fit for our King?

So often, we want to stay strong and healthy. We don't want to fail in our battles with sin. We want to live in victory. But, we find our flesh is weak. As much as we may want to not sin against God, we find ourselves doing it. All it takes is letting down our guard for a moment and Satan will find our weakness and exploit it. He is very patient and will pounce on us at any given moment. He can't do anything to us as long as we are under the protection of Christ, but we are fair game when we are out of His protection.

Keep alert and pray! You must pray if you want to stay alert. You must pray if you want to be able to not sin. You must pray to keep Jesus as your defender and protector. You must pray in order to keep yourself strong in your weaknesses. If you don't pray, don't be surprised at Satan's victories over you.

Oh, and by the way, how alert are you when it comes to others: your loved ones, friends, and even your church family? Are you asleep or are you watching and praying? I suspect that the reason why so many people and churches have fallen asleep or drifted away from God is because those who are on guard duty have fallen asleep. Don't let Satan rock you asleep; stay alert and vigilantly pray.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Prepatory Prayer

Mark 14:35-36 He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that if, it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him be. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet, I want your will, not mine."

Jesus knew exactly what He was about to face. He knew the awful price He had to pay physically, emotionally, mentally, and most importantly, spiritually, in order for Him to obey God. He knew that He was not up to the task alone. As godly as He was, He knew that this was too much. He had to have God's help if He was going to face the task before Him and not waver in doing it. He knew that not only could God help Him, He knew that He would. How did He know that God wouldn't let Him down? Jesus lived close to God all the time.

Over and over again we find Jesus alone with God talking. We aren't told what they often talked about but we do know that often they talked about His disciples. He often prayed for their strength and growing understanding of His ways and words. And, I suspect, as the time drew closer and closer to His death, the Lord would draw upon God for His strength and resolve to face what lied before Him. Jesus knew from personal experience that His prayers would not go unanswered. He knew that God would enable Him to do what He came to do.

I wonder how often we plunge headlong into a task without first praying it through. I wonder if we spend sufficient amount of time talking things over with the Lord so that when it comes crunch time we have the confidence to know that God will not leave us hanging. I wonder what might be different in our lives if we were to spend sufficient amount of time with the Lord. I wonder what we might do differently in our lives. I wonder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In the Need of Prayer Support

Mark 14:32-34 And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." He took Peter, James and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here with me and watch with me."

Jesus was facing the most terrifying hour of decision history has ever known. He knew what He had come to do and what He must now do. He didn't want to face the cruel death He was about to face. More than that, He knew He was about to take on His own heart all the sins of mankind--past, present, and future. He had never sinned and didn't know the guilt and shame of it. And now, He was being called upon by God to do it for everyone. He was in excruciating anguish and needed someone to stand by His side while He wrestled with His will to submit to God's will. The spirit was willing, but He was still in the flesh and the battle had to be won. Just knowing that He had someone close to support Him while He struggled would help.

Our struggles may not be as severe, but we too need each other to come alongside of us to support us in our struggles. We need others to care enough to show an interest in us and help pray us through our tough times. We need to learn how to reach out to others and let them into our troublesome times. Pride often closes the door and prevents others from knowing what we are going through. We learn to love each other best through the struggles of life. We learn how to love and be loved best when we enter into the deep recesses of each other's lives.

When you are in need, let others come alongside you and help you through your time of need. And when others are in need reach out to them and help them through their hour of need. It is how the love of God works amongst men.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Praying With Others

Mark 14:34  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.  Stay here and watch with me.”
Why? Why was Jesus so heavy-hearted that it was as if He was almost dying?  It was because that was exactly what has happening to Him.  He was facing the certainty of His death on the cross.  It was why He came to earth and now it was time.  He knew what He had to do, but as a man, it was something He didn’t want to do.  Most of us can understand the heaviness of His heart.  Death is something we don’t welcome with a light heart most of the time.  He knew the excruciating agony of the cross that awaited Him.  He had predicted it 700 years before through Isaiah the prophet.  He was going to suffer greatly and the pain was going to be nearly unbearable.
What was even more pressing on Jesus was that He knew that in just a few hours He would be facing hell head on.  Jesus knew the horrors of hell.  He knew that it was the home of the worst evil that ever was.  He knew that He had to face Satan in order to overcome him.  It was not going to a very enjoyable experience.  As God, Jesus had never known evil in the way He was about to know it.  Yet, He knew He must.  There was no other way for us to be able to be saved.  Sin had to be conquered. 
Jesus knew that He had to pray this through.  It was not something He could do without all the strength and power He could get from God.  He could not do it by sheer willpower as a man; He had to be totally committed to it as God.
He took with Him the inner circle of the disciples to pray alongside of Him.  He wanted them to support Him as He sought to be totally yielded to God’s will in carrying out the will of  God on the cross and in the pits of hell.  Yet, His most trusted friends let Him down.  Not only did they not pray, they slept through it all!  May it never be said of us that we fell asleep on duty when someone asks us to pray with them and for them during their time of great need.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

God's Most Important Commandment

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus replied, "The most important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. Any you must love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.' The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these."

God commands it, so why don't we do it? I don't believe there are too many of us who can honestly say that we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we love God that much, everything about us would show it. It would show in our actions, attitudes, activities, and aspirations. We would seek the Lord above and before all things. we would not step out on our own without first knowing that it is okay with Him. He would so influence our lives that we could not function without Him.

Loving God in this way is not an easy road. It requires great effort on our part. We cannot slack off in our pursuit of Him. We cannot neglect our time in His Word. We cannot neglect our prayer life. We cannot neglect investing our time and energy in serving Him where we are planted.

Equally important is to love each other as much as we love ourselves. We cannot love God passionately and not love others. We cannot take care of ourselves and not do something about the needs of others around us. We are channels of God's love. God's design is that His love would be poured into us so that it can poured out through us into the world.

We cannot love others unless we also love ourselves. Whatever else it means, it means that we take care of ourselves. We invest time and energy in ourselves, especially spiritually. We cannot love ourselves properly unless we first love Christ. It is only when self love is filtered through God's love that we can please God with the way we love. God's love is a giving love and not a self-centered love.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Caesar's or God's?

Mark 12:17 "Well then," Jesus said, "give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God." This reply completely amazed them.

Do we give to Caesar only what belongs to him, or do we rob God and give him what belongs to God as well? So often, we give God the leftovers. We withhold from Him the best of what we have to give and convince ourselves He understands and that it is good enough. Or, we give to whatever cause we may think is worthy of our support because "God understands." Oh, He understands alright. He knows your heart and just how much you think of Him. Actions do speak louder than words.

We may not put it in the way Jesus did, but whenever we fail to give the Lord the best of us and our resources, we are giving to Caesar what belongs to the Lord. It is our duty to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but not at the expense of robbing God of what belongs to Him.

What about your time and energy? Do other things crowd God out of your daily life? How much of our lives do we really give to the Lord?

If you truly love God more than anything else in life, you will give Him the best of your life and resources. He will never lower himself to being an afterthought or leftovers in our lives.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Place of Prayer for All Nations

Mark 11:17 He taught them, "The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves."

What we think of God is reflected in how we think of His Temple. I believe that we have for the most part gone too far in our comfort with being in church. We ask the Lord to be in His house. We long for the Lord to dwell with us as we gather for worship. We do things that we hope will draw us near to God. And yet, the Lord often seems so far away. Why is that? Could it not be that we have lost the sense of the sacredness of being in the presence of God? Could we be going through the motions of worship without really worshipping?

I suspect that if we gathered for worship with more of a sacred mindset that a lot of changes would be made. When we approach God we need to do so with a higher regard for what it means to be in His presence. How we conduct ourselves in church does reflect the respect we have for Him. How we think about Him matters. If we don’t have an overpowering sense that we are approaching God in His holiness, majesty and glory, can we really say we are worshipping Him? I wonder.

What about our daily worship of God in our living? Does our living reflect our devotion for God or what we think about Him? The Scriptures tell us that it does. We should live always with a sense of God is in us and with us in all we do.

All of us fall short in this. None of us pause like we should and regard God as being holy like we should. None of us capture like we should the awe of being in God’s presence. None of us show the Lord the respect He deserves.

May the Lord help us to be better worshipers. May the Lord help us to take more seriously what it means to be in His presence. May He help us to recapture the sense of what worship is really all about, both in His house and in our daily homes. May our lives be living houses of worship where God dwells and is seen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Believe what Jesus said.

Mark 9:30-31 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus tried to avoid all publicity in order to send more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead." But they didn’t understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

Jesus knew that He was going to go to Calvary very soon. He knew that He had to spend as much alone time with the disciples as He could to help prepare them for His departure and life without Him. He did not want His ministry of helping people to get in the way of His finishing His discipleship training.

Jesus told them very clearly about His death and resurrection. It was important that they understood this core belief of the Gospel. If they did not get this, then there would be no Gospel for them to share after He had left them. Even though they did not yet understand what Jesus meant, the seed was sown and they did get it after it all came to pass.

Two things of interest grab me as I think about this. Unless we understand and own the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have no message to share. And, people don’t often understand what we say right away, but if we plant the seed in them, they will understand later on. It’s not our role to convince people of the truth of the Gospel, only the Holy Spirit can do that. Our role is to just share what we understand and commit the rest to God’s working in the heart and mind of others.

Also, if you don't understand some things the Lord is teaching you, don't sweat it. Those things you need to know you will know in time. Those things you don't need to know just accept them by faith. Know that they are true because God says it and He cannot lie.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seeing Things as God Sees Them

Mark 8:33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples and then said to Peter very sternly, "Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s."

Peter was impulsive and very loyal. His understanding was that Jesus would establish His kingdom on earth. He thought, like everyone else did, that Jesus was going to put an end to the Roman’s oppressive government and that Jesus would rule over the earth in peace. When Jesus told the disciples that He was going to die, Peter quickly tried to remind Jesus that it wasn’t going to happen. Jesus had often talked of eternal life and how could it be eternal if the giver of life were to die?

Jesus, however, knew exactly what was going to happen and why. He sternly told Peter to be quiet, that what he was saying was of Satan and not God. Jesus did not want Peter or anyone else to try to persuade Him that the cross was not necessary. What Jesus was about to do was God’s plan and it had to be done for the salvation of Peter and everyone else.

We need to strive to line up our ideas and plans with God’s. Before we say and do, we need to wait before the Lord to be sure that we are not doing things contrary to what God wants us to do. The reality is that most of us don’t do this very well. We are far more like Peter than we are Christ in this area. We would be much better off in life if we were to discipline ourselves to wait on the Lord to discern His way before we proceed with our way.

Ask the Lord to help you be more aware of God’s plan before you say and do.

Monday, May 11, 2015

True faith is a practicing faith.

Mark 8:15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod."

The disciples got it all wrong. They did not yet have the mind of Christ in them; therefore they did not understand what He was telling them. They thought that Jesus was chiding them for not having enough food with them for their trip across the lake. They thought He was hungry and was disappointed in them for not being more responsible.

However, Jesus knew what they were thinking and had to redirect their thoughts so that they clearly understood what He was saying. We often find ourselves in the disciples’ shoes. We often read the Word and yet miss the point altogether. We assume we know what God is saying, but we often don’t get it at all. Like the disciples, we need to get our thinking straight. We need to listen to what God is saying without an agenda or our assumptions. We need to meditate on God’s words and wait before Him until we clearly hear what He is saying.

Jesus was warning the disciples about the dangerous lives of the religious elite. He wanted them to be different than religious people. The religious elite were good at telling people what to do and how to do it without even trying to do it themselves. Jesus made it clear that people who don’t practice what they preach are to be avoided. True faith is a practicing faith. It’s what we say that makes us right with God; it’s living out what we say that matters to God.

God judges the heart and holds us accountable for our motives and living.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Does God need to prove himself to be God?

Mark 8:11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came to argue with him. Testing him to see if he was from God, they demanded. "Give us a miraculous sign from heaven to prove yourself."

There always has been and always will people in the church who want to argue over one’s beliefs. They tend to want to prove that what they believe is true and that others are wrong. I used to be one of them. I just knew that I had the corner on understanding and that there was no room for anyone else to think differently than I did. I expected everyone to read the Scriptures with the same understanding that I had. I no longer am so foolish. Arguing over details of understanding is a waste of time and energy. Seldom does arguing over particular points of the faith accomplish anything other than drive a deeper wedge between people. We simply have to learn to agree to disagree agreeably and move on for the glory of Christ.

These religious leaders demanded that Jesus prove He was from God. I think that we sometimes do the same thing. We get along fine with the Lord as long as things go well for us, but when things go sour, we begin to waver in our confidence in Him. After all, if He loved us, we wouldn’t have to suffer, right? The worse things get, the more demanding we get. We insist that the Lord prove himself and if He doesn’t, we often doubt Him and some even walk away from Him.

Jesus is the same in all our struggles and sorrows as He is in our good times. He does not change who He is just because our circumstances change. He is God. He is the same source of love, comfort, strength, wisdom, peace, and righteousness as He always has been. Don’t let the changing tides of your life shake your confidence in the Lord. You can trust Him always.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's in your thought life?

Mark 7:20-23 And then he added, "It is the thought life that defiles you. For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness from lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God."

This is one truth that I have found to be very hard to deal with. God knows my every thought. I have to admit that sometimes I am not too proud of what I think about. It makes me uncomfortable to know that God knows what I am thinking. Some things that I think about would I would never act out in my life; nevertheless, they are there and if I allow them to stay there they do affect me. I am thankful that my thought life doesn't control me, but it can.

The more we think about something, the easier it becomes for it to control us and determine our behavior. Who we become in life is directly linked to what we allow ourselves to dwell on. It is our responsibility to take control of our thinking. We can resist the urge to react according to the thoughts that cross our minds. How? By letting Christ be Lord of our lives.

When Jesus is in charge and takes control of our hearts, He takes control of our minds as well. He has the power to keep our thought lives in check. The more He is Lord of our lives, the less we lose control of our minds.

If you are having trouble controlling your thought life, I urge you to let the Lord be your Lord. Let Him take charge of it. Let Him help you to not become defiled by your thoughts.. It does not mean you will never have another unholy thought, but it does mean you will not dwell on it to the point of becoming a slave to it. It will not lead you into sin.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What you say and do really matters.

Mark 7:14-15 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear, "All of you listen," he said, "and try to understand. You are not defiled by what you eat, you are defiled by what you say and do."

Jesus makes it very clear that what we say and do does matter to God. Many have the idea that grace will somehow keep us right with God regardless of how we talk or act. It’s simply not true. What we do and say can, and does, defile the soul. We need to take a deeper look at our lives and quit rationalizing our behavior and talk because we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and are now living in grace.

We dare not gloss over this. Grace never has, and never will, give us a license to sin. Paul makes that very clear in the book of Romans. A careful reading of Romans will dispel any idea that we may have that our sins do not matter since we are saved.

Consider for a few moments how you talk. If you are a gossip, talk people down, pass on raunchy jokes, use the Lord’s name loosely, curse, berate others, lie, etc., your heart is defiled. You are not right with God and need to repent.

Consider what you do. Do you participate in unholy things? If you would be uncomfortable being somewhere or doing something knowing that Jesus would be physically right beside you, you are defiled and need to repent. Never forget, even though Jesus is no longer physically on earth, He is spiritually with us. Jesus said, "I will never leave you, or forsake you." This means that we, as His children, cannot go anywhere without Him being with us. He does not stay behind when we want to go somewhere where we know He would not go.

Examine your life today. Do the things you do and say defile you? If so, you need to repent now while you can and change your ways. Only the pure in heart will see God.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Honor God with more than just your lips.

Mark 7:6-8 Jesus replied, "You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.’ For you ignore God’s specific laws and substitute your own traditions."

The bottom line is, we can’t be right with God and make up our own rules. Sadly, so many of us do just that. Instead of just listening to what God says in His Word and striving to live it, we adjust or change it to suit our tastes. God said what He meant and means what He said. The only way we can ever have a right relationship with God is for us to do things His way.

Some will not mess with the Word, but they don’t put into practice what they preach and teach. They put on a good front before others as to how spiritual they are, but their lives betray what they say. They may wow people with how well they know the Scriptures and be very persuasive in how they present it, but if they are not as real out of the limelight as they are in it, they are hypocrites in God’s eyes.

When our living does not support our teachings, our worship is a farce. God is not impressed or swayed in any way by performance. Worship that is acceptable to God is godliness lived out every day of our lives. It is a natural response to God from a grateful heart. It is a yearning to be near to God and to hear from Him as He speaks. Worship is humbly approaching God with a desire to be holy before Him. It is a soul in need of grace that knows that God alone is its source.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Calm in the Storms of Life

Mark 4:38  Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.  Frantically they woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?”
Maybe you know what it’s like to believe you are drowning.  Maybe you too know the desperation of the moment and you are in a state of panic.  Maybe you are there today.  Perhaps you are drowning in the overwhelming stresses of living, maybe the bills are piling up, maybe you have health issues, or maybe the kids are really messing up their lives.  Perhaps people are judging you unfairly and really making your life difficult.  Whatever the reason may be, maybe you too feel like there is no hope or help for you. 
In all likelihood, people are of little help.  Some may mean well and try to offer you advice, but it doesn’t help much.  Some may pray for you, but the situation remains the same.  Some may help as much as they can, but it’s never enough.  Some may try to convince you that they understand, but unless they have experienced it themselves, they don’t.  Yet, in spite of all the hopelessness, we find comfort in today’s verse.  There is Jesus.
The disciples were really concerned and desperate and they even questioned whether or not Jesus cared they were about to drown in their storm.  Perhaps you have wondered the same thing.  Does Jesus really care?  Yes, He does!
We find Him in the very next verse getting up and rebuking the storm and immediately the storm was no more.  He wasn’t fazed by the storm’s presence or size.  He cared about His disciples and came to their rescue.  Now, He doesn’t immediately cause all our storms to go away, but He does promise to be with us and hold us steady in the storms.  Sometimes we need the storms in order to get stronger in faith so they don’t go away as quickly as we would like.  But, when we turn our storms over to Him and put our trust in Him, He helps us through the storms.  Jesus alone is our only sure hope and help in the storms of life.  Let Him help you and everything will be alright. 
Just remember, on the other side of every storm, the Son shines.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pay attention to what you hear.

Mark 4:22-25 "Everything that is now hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! And be sure to pay attention to what you hear. The more you do this, the more you will understand---and even more, besides. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them."

Everything that God has made known will be known and understood in due time. There are things right now that remain a mystery to us because we don’t have the spiritual minds to comprehend them. Some people have greater understanding on some things than others do, but no one understands all things God has made known to us.

The things that we do need to know we can understand if we would but listen to what God is saying. Listening involves the engagement of our minds as well as hearts. We must discipline ourselves to set aside what we think we know and be open to new understanding as the Holy Spirit leads us through the Word. Sometimes our understanding just needs a little tweaking and sometimes it needs a great overhaul. If we are submissive and want to learn, we will gain understanding.

Of course, understanding can only come through engagement in the Word of God. We must take the time to read it and meditate on it. We must be willing to sacrifice other things in order to spend adequate time in it for the Spirit to speak to us. Devotionals serve a good purpose, but they should never be the only time spent in the Word. They supplement our personal reading time, not supplant it. Far too many of us rely solely on devotionals for our spiritual food. If you do that, it will stunt your spiritual growth.

Understanding results in change of not only thought, but often action. The more we understand what God is saying, the more He will entrust us with greater understanding. If we do not seek greater understanding, we will lose what understanding we do have. This happens because without a growing knowledge base of the Lord we drift away from Him. Often our understanding is swallowed up by false teachings we buy into. And the downward spiral of our souls begins.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Who but God can forgive sins?

Mark 2:17 But some of the teachers of religious laws who were sitting there said to themselves, "What? This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins?"

It has always baffled me how people who are so religious and knowledgeable about the Word can get so far away from what the Word says. These people who criticized what Jesus was doing were people who were teachers of the religious laws; they were like college and seminary teachers in our day. There life work was to teach others the ways of the Word. The were highly educated men who should not have missed the point of all of Scripture, and that is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Being religious is the death trap of the soul. Having the right answers and missing the point is one of life’s greatest tragedies. The church is full of people who are religious, but lost. Faith is having a vital relationship with the living Christ, not knowing a great deal about Him. Faith is not the dispensing of information; it’s living in Christ. It makes no difference how good of a person you may be or what you know about the Word of God. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and Lord you will go to hell when you die.

Most people have heard of Jesus and have some knowledge about Him, but they will carry their knowledge with them into hell when they die. Be careful that you aren’t basing your readiness for death on how good of a person you may perceive yourself as being or on what you know about the faith. A relationship with Christ can only be had through the embracing of what He did for us at Calvary, confession of our sins, asking Him for forgiveness, and committing ourselves to letting Him be Lord of our lives and changing us in any way He sees fit to make us holy before God. It also means that we forsake our sins and strive to do them no more.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fishing for People

Mark 1:17-18 Jesus called 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.

Simon and Andrew were brothers and Jesus saw them one day doing what they did every day. They were fishermen by trade and were going about their daily business. As it often happens, Jesus came to them where they were at. Isn't that wonderful? Jesus found them. He initiates contact with us. He seeks us out before we seek Him out. It tells me just how much the Lord loves us and wants to have fellowship with us. I notice also some other interesting things about the disciples' encounter with Jesus.

They left what they were doing and followed Jesus. They did not hesitate. They did not debate the issue. They just followed Jesus and left behind what they knew. They didn't know what it would mean for them; all they knew was that they had to follow Him. Even though they didn't know much about Jesus at the time, they knew enough to know they wanted to follow Him. Sometimes we have to do the same. We may not know all that we want to know, but when He bids us to follow Him, we just need to do it. He will teach us what we need to know when and as we need it.

They were ready to give up all they knew to follow Jesus. It is only when we give up our all to Him that we find life.

They were willing to let the Lord use who they were when they followed Him. They didn't become who they weren't. They were fishermen and often returned to their trade later in their lives. Sometimes the Lord changes the total direction of our lives, but often He uses us just as we are. The Lord makes us who we are and will use who we are for His glory if we will let Him. There are ways to serve Him no matter what we do for a living.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Is God well-pleased with you?

Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven saying, "You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you."

I have often wondered that if the Lord were to speak from heaven in an audible voice for others to hear, what would He say about me? Would He be able to say that He was well-pleased with me? Would He claim me as His own? Would I be pleased with what He had to say about me?

God was fully pleased with the life Jesus was living. He saw nothing in Jesus to cause Him to hestitate in affirming Him as His beloved Son. What does God think of us? I wonder. We identify ourselves with Him. We proclaim allegiance to Him. We live to serve Him. Yet, is there anything in us that would keep Him from being well-pleased with us? I wonder. Jesus didn't need anyone to represent Him before the Fatther because His righteousness was perfect. He knew no sin. But, we do.

Our righteousnes is tainted by sin. We are not able to stand before God on our own two feet. We would not be allowed to get anywhere near God on our own. We must have someone to approach God on our behalf. We need Jesus who alone is able to be in the presence of God because of His righteousness.

The closer we live to Jesus, the more pleased God is with us.



Friday, May 1, 2015

Keep alert and pray.

Matt. 26:41  “Keep alert and pray.  Otherwise temptation will overpower you.  For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”

Most professing Christians are not paying much attention to their souls.  They take salvation and eternal life for granted.  They make assumptions about not needing to be too careful about how they live since they made a profession of faith in Christ.  They assume that grace takes care of any sin issues that they may have and that God will accept them regardless of how careless they may be about how they live.  They trust in past experiences and do not worry about any future consequences.  They embrace the love of God and dismiss for the most part the holiness of God.

Most will admit that what Jesus says here is true.  Experience teaches us that when we let our guard down, temptation overpowers us and we fall into sin.  Very few people would ever disagree with this truth.  But, there is the thought that it doesn’t really matter all that much.  We are covered by Christ’s righteousness so a sin here or there won’t matter to God.  He knows what we are like and will overlook it.  What we fail to consider is what the Word of God teaches us about holy living.

God is holy and no sin will ever be in His presence.  God declares that we must become like Him in holiness.  We cannot tolerate sin in our lives and still be holy before God.  Holiness is a separation from sin.  It is living with the intent to not sin.  It is taking care of the soul so that when temptation comes we will be able to resist it.  It is striving to please God and not taint our souls with sin.  And when we do sin, it is confessing our sin and seeking Christ’s forgiveness.  It is diligently seeking to live above sin instead of bucking underneath it.

We are alert best when we pray the most.  Prayer keeps Christ close to us.  It keeps us wanting to not sin.  It keeps us wanting to live consistent with the righteousness and holiness of Christ.  Staying in close touch with God is our defense against falling into sin when we face temptations.  Failing to pray opens the door to certain failure.  The spirit may be willing, but without much prayer, the flesh will prevail and we will fall into sin.