Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Sign of the Tabernacle

Matthew 12:38-42, “Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’ He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.’”

The Pharisees were constantly looking for a sign, even though the signs were right there in front of them: miracles, fulfillment of prophecies, many things that apparently proved Christ’s deity to even those Pharisees who were willing to see it – Nicodemus (John 3).

To know that God has left us many signs of His power and His plan for salvation is astounding. From the life and union of Adam and Eve as a sign of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:30-32), to the Passover lamb as a sign of the Messiah (John 1:29). Seeing these symbols and events helps us realize how “living and active” the word of God really is (Hebrews 4:12).

Paul said in Romans 1:19-20, “What may be known about God is plain to [us], because God has made it plain to [us]. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

When the Messiah, Jesus, finally arrived there were enough signs out there that people knew to some degree what to look for and where to look (Matthew 2:4-6). One of the most prized possessions in the Jewish culture actually served as a model of the plan of salvation—the Tabernacle (later the Temple).

Consider this: Before you could enter the Holy place, you were to offer a sacrifice (the best you had), and you washed in the basin (Laver) outside of the doorway. Before you are part of God’s temple—the body of Christ—you offer yourself (humbly repent), and are baptized. It is only after you do that can you enter the Holy place where the show-bread, the lampstand, and the incense were located.
Then we can see the significance in the “bread of life” (John 6:51), the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16, Revelations 1:20), and the “sweet aroma to God” (Ephesians 5:2, Revelations 8:4). All of these describe the life of a follower of Christ. The only remaining room was the Holy of Holies, which couldn’t be accessed except by the High Priest and only once per year with the right sacrifice. However, Jesus, who is our High Priest, offered the perfect sacrifice which removed the veil that separated us from the most Holy place. Thank God that He cares enough for us that He has left plenty of signs to help us in our faith.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Don't Forget!

Isn’t it easy to use our own “righteousness” as the standard for all people? The sins we get tripped up on are either “not that bad,” or else we praise God for his grace and mercy; however, with other people it can be easy to go on a witch hunt and ready to speak for God the condemnation their actions deserve. But as Paul said about the false teachers in Corinth, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, they needed to consider his words to the Galatians in Galatians 6:4-8, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load… Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

Comparisons can easily become sin, because they lead to the “deeds of the flesh”: “…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…” (Galatians 5:20). However, there are healthy comparisons that we teach and preach regularly–living our life to emulate the life of Christ (aka Christian, which means Christ-like). As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

We can even read Hebrews 11 to see an entire list of people who modeled righteousness and faith. Comparing ourselves to those who made it their life’s ambition to love and obey God, isn’t a bad idea. Theoretically, that’s what eldership is designed to do for a congregation: model and teach Godly living by being an example of Godly living and demonstrating wisdom in exercising it.

In a similar way, through the inspired words of God, we see people in the New Testament being compared to people of the Old Testament (often called parallels). For instance, Jesus compared to Adam–both being the first-at-new-life (Romans 5); or comparing Abraham’s faith to the kind we should have (Galatians 3); or comparing Jesus to the priest, Melchizedek (Hebrews 7), or Elijah to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11-15), and many times the rebellious nature of Israel to our own rebellion.

Consider some of the comparisons between Moses and the apostle Paul. Both began their ministries after seeing a bright light (burning bush–Moses, road to Damascus–Paul), both received the best education (Acts 7:22–Moses, Acts 22:3–Paul), both had “thorns in their flesh”, both had the great burden of trying to get people to follow God, both loved God. We can easily see that both of these men had a burden on their heart to help people remember God’s will. Hopefully, we see that as a trait worth modeling our life after–people who want to do, and promote, the will of God. But just like those two men suffered a lot of heartache–trying to get people to love God rather than selfishness–we too must stay with it; we must keep on encouraging, “bearing one another’s burden–thus fulfilling the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Let’s consider the need to remember the great examples of our own past and learn from the examples in Scriptures. After all, they’re there to serve that purpose–“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Our Hearts

How much of our hearts do we put into becoming a follower of Christ? From the very first step until our very last one, God is wanting our “hearts” to be part of it (Psalms 37:4; Romans 5:5; John 14:27).

When someone hears the Gospel and is pricked to the heart and realizes the need to be saved from sinfulness, there begins a process of tuning our hearts to God’s heart. Therefore, the “why” questions and even the “how” questions become important in our change.

Although we would like to think that the “hows” are explained well enough in Scripture that there isn’t confusion, we know that there are numerous groups that emphasize one aspect of obedience to Christ over another. Our faith that Jesus is the son of God is important, our admitting our own sinful human nature is important, our humbling ourselves and turning completely to God for rescuing is important, and our being baptized for the forgiveness of sins is important. It would be nice if everyone recognized these as important to following Christ.

However, equally important is the life we choose to live after we make that decision. God wants our hearts to be changed (Matthew 22:37-39; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 23:26; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:7 and many others). To do that, we have to “die to ourselves daily” (Luke 9:23), and be patient during the process. But just because it may be a longer or more difficult process to adhere to Christlikeness for some more than others, it still has to be our “heart’s desire,” just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

In Acts 8:9-25, we read of a convert who had a challenging past – a sorcerer named Simon. He heard the words of Philip and believed the good news of the kingdom of God and was baptized. But when Peter and John came down teach and lay hands on people, Simon’s heart was enticed to his old ways of living. He said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

But Peter’s answer helps us see how God wants us to respond to His generous gift of life. Peter said, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that He may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Compare to Matthew 6:21; 1 Timothy 6:10.)

Simon begged for help at that point. He needed to stop thinking according to his old way of life – no matter how recent those “old days” were for him. This sets the urgency for all of us that to choose to follow Christ requires a change in our thinking, which ultimately changes our hearts.

God can use anyone, but we have to be willing to be molded and shaped into a spiritual person who thinks like God. But our hearts make all the difference; it’s what He’s been after from the beginning. Joel 2:13, “Rend (tear/humble) your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Breath of Eternal Life

It doesn’t take much for us to lose focus on what’s important in life and begin to “major in the minors,” as the old saying goes. To counter that, it takes intentional, purpose-filled thoughts and actions. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” But it’s the things that are “seen” that lure us into behaviors that get us into trouble.

James highlights the fact that there were some folks making bias distinctions between the rich and the poor, and other behaviors that did not (and do not) exemplify Christ. But, as followers of Christ we must be, as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:14-17, “[Like] obedient children, [who] do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.”

Life is filled with things that won’t last: from your favorite pair of shoes, to your ability to run upstairs, to your dog Sparky. But technically life doesn’t last – at least down here. Having that thought in our head can help us stay focused. In Psalms 90, Moses sang a song of praise to the Everlasting God, the One who had seen him through some of the most amazing things witnessed by human eyes. As the much older Moses reflected on God’s presence, he says in 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

To know that physical life has a starting point and an ending point is actually a helpful thing. Not necessarily enjoyable, but a good reminder of how we should live while here. Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And Paul goes on to describe that as “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one…,” which was also one of Jesus’ last prayers (John 17).

Throughout our study of the book of James, this has been a common theme – using wisdom from above to understand the value and importance of unity among brethren – how we should live.

The Holy Spirit, who is “our seal for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), is God’s gift to us to help us think and act with an eternal focus, a God-like focus on the life beyond breath. All that we have ever known is dependent upon physical breath: from our first breath at birth, to those beautiful or horrifying moments that take our breath away, to the struggle to breathe in those final moments down here. However, the more I am reminded of how I can use that breath to glorify God instead of tearing down those created in His image, the more I can find peace within and among others.

As God breathed life into the first man, Adam, and as Paul compares Christ as the first (eternal) man (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15), God breathes a new kind of breath into us via the Holy Spirit at the moment we clothe ourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). That new breath not only changes how we’ll live in heaven, but how we will live down here!

Friday, September 14, 2018

What Word Best Describes You?

What word best describes you? Or perhaps what word would you hope other people would use to describe you? I’ve been to some funerals where the congregation was asked that question to describe the deceased. In that exercise, it's interesting to see how many characteristics are told about someone.

Truth is, we can see the same person from different perspectives. What about God? What word do we attribute to God’s character?

We may have different experiences that have shaped how we view God, but He describes Himself in His word. But how in the world can the creator of the universe, the savior of our souls, the sustainer of life, the eternal judge, be summed up in one word?

In the Hebrew culture (like many ancient cultures) names meant something more than just an identity. In Exodus 33:18-19, Moses had asked God for permission to lay his eyes on Him, which God allowed. But He says, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the Lord, in your presence…”

Once God was ready, He passed by and described His name. He says in Exodus 34:6-7, “THE LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

All of these words help explain what peace is all about. God’s peace is something that He wants us to have (John 14:27, 16:33; Romans 2:10, 5:1, etc.) In a letter, James addresses several things that these congregations needed to strive to achieve. James 4 begins with explaining why they don’t have peace among themselves, and what they need to do in order to obtain it – James 4:7-10, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

There are a lot of words that help to describe what God is looking for in us: faithfulness, perseverance, compassion, repentance, purity, humility… Imagine how much peace comes to anyone who demonstrates these kinds of qualities towards the people we live around.

Psalms 103:8-12, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor his anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Friday, September 7, 2018

What Are We Teaching?

School’s underway, and people are fitting into their busy schedules once again. Since our time is so precious, it seems we place a high value on efficiency. Efficiency is usually a good thing, and it even has a place in worship. However, saving time isn’t the goal when it comes to honoring our Heavenly Father for providing a way to spend eternity with Him in His home that is not bound by time. But we see these steps for easier worship in how we reduce the number of songs or verses, or encouraging shorter sermons, or even the statement often made during the time of offering, “This is separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper, but as a matter of convenience, we’re taking up an offering now.”

While these may be important, another issue is what to expect out of a Bible class teacher. James addresses the fact that “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Knowing that what we teach, or even how we teach may impact how someone else receives (or rejects) the gospel of Christ, should help us to put a heavy emphasis on examining our efforts and motives as teachers.

This was something that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their reckless attitude towards teaching God’s will. He said in Matthew 23:13-15, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to… You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are” (Luke 11:46). “Woe to you lawyers as well, for you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

To fulfill the Great Commission, we must be people that “teach others to observe all that God commands” (Matthew 28:20). Which reveals the importance of teachers in the process of bringing people to Christ. In James’ situation, showing partiality and demonstrating jealousy was teaching a different lesson to people that was not part of God’s will. Instead, James reminds them of the lessons taught by Abraham and Rahab, where they taught others about their faith in God by modeling sacrifice and kindness.

What motivates our teaching? What message do we send to the world who is watching us? Do we model wisdom or selfish ambition? He says in James 3:13-18, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Friday, August 31, 2018

Faith or Works

Five hundred years ago, an event happened that challenged the biggest religious institution in the world… an event known as the Reformation Movement. Although it had been brewing for a couple centuries, Martin Luther is labeled as the father of the movement. What that movement did was expose many false teachings – one of which was the use of indulgences. It had been taught for a long time that your sins could be forgiven if you paid a certain amount of money to the church in restitution for your sins.

Obviously, anyone who has read the Bible would agree that monetary restitution wasn’t what God had in mind for the forgiveness of sins. So, that movement inspired many teachers to teach that you didn’t have to pay God (or a priest) for your sins – Jesus did that on the cross.

Colossians 2:8-12, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So, you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were 'circumcised,' but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”

While that must have been a refreshing bit of news to find out God was after your heart instead of your money, the big question arose, “Do I have to DO anything then?” From that, people began to engage in frequent debates between faith and works: what does God require? When we read the book of James, we discover that the debate between faith and works wasn’t new at all. People have constantly tried to find out what God actually wants from us.

James addresses something that Jesus had shown us throughout His entire ministry. James 2:18, “Someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” This was said in the middle of his point: “Faith without works is dead!”

Perhaps the real issue to be investigated should be, “What’s my motive behind my actions?” It seems that many of Jesus’ teachings hinge upon the motive of the participant. So, what’s your motive in helping people or not helping people? What’s your motive in attending worship or not attending worship? As James says in James 4:3,  we don’t obtain what we’re looking for because of our selfish motives. Therefore, God wants us to be humble and merciful, compassionate and generous.

Faith isn’t faith if there are no actions associated with faith. In part because having faith in God means I’m following him, doing what he says (James 1:22; John 14:15). That’s true for all of us, even the people mentioned all throughout Scripture that had to trust in God to help them through the next step (Hebrews 11). How about us? Has our life helped the world to see that we have faith in God by “our good deeds” (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12)?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Our Great Expectations!

Every Sunday we meet together to worship God, and part of that worship contains a ceremony designed to connect us emotionally and symbolically to what makes having a genuine relationship with God possible – we call it The Lord’s Supper. Instituted by Christ on the night He was arrested (Matthew 26:26-28), during the Feast of Passover, Jesus took time to make a connection for them about something that had been planned since the beginning of time. He said to them, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me… this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

But just like the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t instantly make the connection between what Jesus was doing and what they believed the Messiah would do, we too must try to understand how God wants us to ‘remember him’ as He was, not as how we want Him to be.

In the 5th century, there was an Egyptian desert-monk named Nilus of Sinai who was known for his wisdom and insight. He said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer.”

Ultimately, it takes spending some time with God in prayer and in study to really get a clearer picture of His will and how He tends to work with us. The people of Jesus' day had to come to grips with the fact that the Messiah wasn’t coming as a royal king to overthrow the Romans, that salvation would be made possible to people other than Jews – even Samaritans, and that the gifts of the Spirit weren’t given to divide and give cause for arrogance but given for edification and blessings to the church as a whole.

Our challenge as followers of Christ is to be careful about how we approach those that haven’t understood who God is and what His will really is. In our effort to defend the truth of the Gospel, we can actually do more harm to the way people respond to it. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts revere
Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

There are disturbing beliefs and practices becoming increasingly mainstream in our culture that we, as Christians, have to know how to approach. Most folks recognize these issues as difficult to address, especially when they end up in the church. Things like: homosexuality, transgender, and even more common issues like sacrificial acts of obedience or issues of forgiveness. There have been a lot of twisted justifications and bad instructions given to many that negatively influence people’s perception of the Gospel.

One thing we don’t want to be guilty of is failing to address issues out of fear or failing to demonstrate godliness whenever we do address them. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 is God’s primary way of helping a lost and wicked world understand what He is willing to do to redeem mankind. Sin is a serious problem, and all of us have fallen victim to it (Romans 3:23). Therefore, our aim should be to search out ways to draw people to Christ, and to model total surrender to his will so “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

This week, several of us are going on a hike to Colorado, and we’ll be studying Titus while we’re up there. Titus was called to address a challenging group of people – the Cretans. Time after time Paul reminds him that “doing good” will be a powerful tool in influencing unbelievers and people that twist scripture to their own will. (Titus 1:8; 2:3, 7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).

Let’s follow the same model Titus did – Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Are You Fighting The Good Fight?

Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

As a guy who has trouble finishing projects that I start, I completely connect with this statement. Finishing a project, and finishing it well, is a wonderful feeling and can be a huge relief. So, when I think about the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” I can’t help but think about how satisfying life can be at the end of it all – IF you’ve ran well.

But what goes into your life in order to be able to echo those words? It’s hard to compare my life to his life, when he made such an impact on the progression of the church throughout Asia Minor. But it wasn’t in his initial “high points” that we understand where his confidence comes from. Because he started his journey off with the facts of his life as his best qualities.

Philippians 3:5-6, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless…” These were all very impressive qualities to carry as a good Jew, but he continues, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…”

Over time his perspective of what made his life great changed a little. He said in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, “[I have been] imprisoned frequently, been severely flogged, and been exposed to death repeatedly. Five times I received 39 lashes from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Although the first list sounds more prestigious than the second, his trials help define the idea of faithfulness. That is the act of continuing to do the will of God in spite of what we face. What a legacy to leave behind, something truly inspiring to live by. Consider your contribution towards the work of Christianity displayed in your life. Maybe you’re the only person that speaks kindly towards co-workers or neighbors. Maybe you’re more generous than your peers around you. Maybe you pray with people often, offering a living perspective of prayer to God. There could be any number of things that you do to help promote the will of God to the people around you.

So, be sure to focus on what Paul says in Colossians 4:2-3, 5-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful… Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone…” A person who tries to live that can confidently make the same claim that Paul made as their life draws to a close – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Are you ready for worship?

How do you prepare for worship? Peter gives us some important insight into this question.

1 Peter 1:13, "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming."
1 Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."

When arrival times and dress codes can naturally be among the first responses, it's important to look deeper. Before God delivered the law to Moses on mount Sinai, God called for a "day of preparation." Exodus 19 describes it this way, "And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate (set them apart as holy) them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai..."

This was more than taking a bath and putting on their Sunday best; this was taking the right kind of attitude for worship.

Knowing what Jesus said about the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39), and what He prayed for (John 17), and the central theme to nearly every epistle (love one another); it seems clear our heart is what really must be consecrated as holy to God. David said in Psalms 57:7, "My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." And Psalms 139:23, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Coming before God takes reflecting on God's will for us. Knowing and doing His will should get us excited about being in His presence.

Rehoboam, on the other hand, was labeled "evil" because he didn't "set his heart on seeking the Lord." (2 Chronicles 12:14). Having the right heart changes everything!

Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Our excitement, passion, and confidence comes when our hearts are truly prepared to be in God's presence. Are you ready for worship?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Moses, Jesus, and Freedom

In the Declaration of Independence there is a statement that goes like this, “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off [the oppressive type of] Government and provide new Guards for their future security.”

How far does your love for freedom go? These were the thoughts and sentiments that went through many of the colonials during the Revolutionary time period. They wanted to have the freedom of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so much they were willing to make personal, and even serious sacrifices.

Independence Day marks a celebration of our brave ancestors who believed in a nation that could be built around Godliness and morality.

Consider the connection between Moses and Jesus, and their desire for a nation (or kingdom) built around the same sorts of things. They both fought for freedom, they both were called to do something challenging, they both were willing to give up so much to accomplish the task God gave them to do.

Hebrews 3:5-6 helps us see the connection more clearly, “Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.”

Moses and Jesus help us realize the level of commitment God requires of us. Taking time to celebrate our freedom by remembering our heritage of bravery is a great reminder for us to be vigilant and determined to listen to God.

Hebrews 3:7-8 continues by saying, “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…’”

I hope the reminders of Mose's commitment to following God has helped to strengthen your resolve to follow Him more confidently.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Father's Discipline

How do you define God? The dictionary defines Him as the Creator and ruler of the universe and source of all power and moral authority; the supreme being. But most folks won’t be compelled to follow God based on a definition in the dictionary. One concept that Jesus often promoted in His teaching about God was Father. He is our heavenly Father.

There are a lot of roles a father plays: teacher, provider, and disciplinarian, just to name a few. It’s the discipline part that can be one of the hardest aspects of God to accept. However, when we consider the words in Hebrews 12:5-7, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son. So, endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? … (9) How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! … “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.”

God’s goal is that we would emulate His character; but how could we ever match up? Consider this scene in Genesis 22:1-14, Abraham’s call to be like God. Abraham was called to offer up his one and only son as a sin-sacrifice. The amazing thing is that Abraham was willing to do whatever it took to be faithful to God; He trusted the promises of God. How does our faith match up? He was willing to go through the discipline (the action of conforming to God’s character). Or as Hebrews 12:11 continues, “[discipline] produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Abraham’s heavenly father, and ours, wants us to enjoy the peace that makes up His nature, that He is earnestly helping us embrace. As our children grow older, it doesn’t take much effort to see if our “discipline” worked in their life or not. Our children’s actions can become a great source of pride, or a painful regret.

Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don't, you will ruin their lives.” (NLT) At first glance this seems like an odd proverb, but this actually speaks of a father’s love. He wants to make you a better person, but to do that may require discipline. Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” And in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t value the act of discipline very much. Whether it’s personal self-control or disciplining a child so they can learn from someone who loves them, rather than learning the hard way; we must learn to see how God has disciplined us so that we can be like Him.

Consider the great lengths that God has gone through to show loving discipline to His followers. Jesus came to offer us a better life. An abundant life (John 10:10), a life with a peace-filled purpose (Ephesians 2:10), an eternal life (John 17:3, John 3:16)!

Think about the sacrifices your father made. He wasn’t a perfect man, but did he do what was best for you? Not everyone can say yes to that, but we have a Heavenly Father who is willing and able to offer a wonderful life to those who will accept His discipline to shape us into a people with a character like His.

"What Are You Reading?"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Unexpected"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Overcoming Rejection in Christ

We don’t look forward to facing rejection, but it’s part of life. Our culture is built around achieving success, receiving rewards and appreciation for our accomplishments; but how do we prepare for times of rejection? Whether it’s a broken relationship, a lost friendship, or public embarrassment, how we handle those situations will not only impact how others view us, but also could alter how we view God. As believers in Christ, we have the privilege to turning to God’s inspired word to give us the proper guidance and encouragement we need to see us through the tough days. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Just consider what David reflects on in the most popular Psalm in the Bible, Psalms 23: “The Lord is my shepherd (my guide and protector), I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

First, it’s important to understand that when you face rejection that it doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. However, if the reason you’re being rejected is because of some negative or ungodly choices you’ve made, then allow that pain of rejection to be a light to your path. Humble yourself and repent (1 Peter 5:6-7), seek help to overcome whatever it is, and do the best you can to remove yourself from whatever it is fueling what’s causing your rejection (James 4:7-8).

Otherwise, recognize how He refreshes your soul, how He is with you, how He comforts you, and how He anoints your head with oil (recognizes your value). Although we find these truths all throughout the Scriptures, it’s best illustrated in what Jesus did on the cross. Not just the torture and death of Jesus, but the deeper understanding of His willingness to face all of it so that you and I could be valued as God’s children, perfect in His sight.

Being reminded of the promises of God and seeing how far God was willing to go in order to keep those promises, can be excellent motivators for our daily struggles. We can allow rejection to determine how we feel and allow that feeling to color our idea of who we are, or we can choose to put that behind us and move forward on the basis of something that is far more lasting.

Colossians 1:3-6, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel (the good news of Jesus's sacrifice for us) that has come to you. In the same way, that good news is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…”

"Melting Away"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Friday, June 1, 2018

New Anthology Released!

OKLAHOMA—The writing group Prosateurs announces the publication of the judged anthology Prosateurs: Tales & Truth. The anthology features short stories, recipes, humor, memoirs, poetry, devotionals, articles, and other works from the group’s members. It’s now available from Prosateurs members and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.

Author Kathy Akins won Best of the Book with a memoir of her mother’s battle with dementia. “It was honest, sincere, and well-written,” said Submissions Judge Gail Henderson. “A reader both sympathizes and learns from it.”

Henderson co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. She collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry under the name Gail Wood. Her work has appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, Creations 2012-2014 and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for Lake Superior Writers, Duluth, Minnesota.

For more information, visit Prosateurs.blogspot.com.
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The anthology authors include:

Kathy Akins has won several awards with her poetry, devotionals, and short fiction. Her works were published in Blackbirds Third Flight and the Creations anthologies 2014-2015. A love for history, family, and animals inspires her stories. She lives in Oklahoma and shares her home with miniature long-haired dachshunds and a rescued Catahoula. Her dachshunds assist her when she presents educational programs for children in her capacity as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Ambassador. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit kathyakins.blogspot.com.

Debbie Anderson wrote the novel Friend or Foe in 2018. A longtime storyteller, she has written stories since she was a child. The oldest of eight children she used these stories to entertain her siblings. She spent eighteen years in the travel industry. As a result she has been to nearly every state and six countries. She left the travel business after 9/11. Since then she has written business documents such as manuals and procedures for the electronic and oil industries. She writes short stories, memoirs, novels, children’s stories, and how-to books. She has been published in Creations 2017.

Stephen B. Bagley co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. He wrote Murder by Dewey Decimal, Murder by the Acre, Tales from Bethlehem, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. He wrote the plays Murder at the Witch’s Cottage and Two Writers in the Hands of an Angry God and co-wrote Turnabout, Hogwild, and There’s A Body in the Closet. His writings have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, ByLine Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, Tulsa World OKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit StephenBBagley.blogspot.com.

Kelley Benson is a pastor who has a passion for using everyday opportunities to help people recognize how God works in their lives. He and his wife Jade are raising their  children to see how God should be part of everything people do. Since 1997, he has participated in a wide range of ministries and been involved with the investment industry, the insurance industry, teaching, and carpentry. He published On Target, a book of devotionals, and writes a weekly newsletter. His articles were published in Creations 2013-2015. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit kelleybenson.blogspot.com.

Nita Beshear began writing as a young child. If her family wasn't moving from one state to another, they were moving across town. Stories gave her continuity. Her friends in her stories went with her to every new home. Beshear writes nonfiction, historical novels, and short stories. Her books include Devoted to Quilting and Beyond the Grief: A Widow's Survival Guide. Her fiction appeared in Romance-The Spice of Life. She is a member of the Material Girls (the Allen Oklahoma Quilters), McAlester McSherry Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., and Duncan and Okmulgee Toastmasters. Visit nitabeshear.wordpress.com.

Wendy Blanton published the novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy. Her short stories appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, and Blackbirds Third Flight. She writes novels and short stories in several genres. She graduated from the University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, and served in the United States Air Force. An apprentice bard, she tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues. She and her husband are members of the Clan Campbell Society. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit wendyblanton.wordpress.com.

D. E. Chandler wrote the thriller Bone Sliver. In 2013, her poem, “Oppenheimer” and her short story “One Way Window” won honorable mention and publication in Outside the Lines. In 2015, her poem “Carroll After Dark” won first place and publication in the Tulsa Review’s 2015 Spring contest issue. Her works were also published in Blackbirds Third Flight, The Green Country Guardian, The Sapulpa Herald, and Sapulpa News and Views. She graduated from Rogers State University. She lives with her husband Tom in Oklahoma. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Oklahoma Women Bloggers. Visit dechandlerwrites.com.

Barbara Shepherd has received more than 300 writing awards. She is the Oklahoma 2017 Voice of the Fair Poet, a Lone Stars Poet, a Woody Guthrie Poet, and a former Nominee for Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma. Shepherd served as a field editor for Taste of Home and contributed to other magazines, including: Outlook, Oklahoma D.O., Oklahoma Woman, Edmond Life and Leisure, Bella, and ArtBeat. Her books include: The Potbelly Pig Promise, River Bend, Vittles and Vignettes, and Patchwork Skin. Her writing appeared in: Women’s War Memoirs, Heavenly Patchwork, Voices In Time, and numerous other publications. Visit barbarashepherd.com.

Joanne Verbridge was born in Oakland, California, spending her early life experiences in Northern California. Family brought her to Oklahoma where she enjoys writing memoirs and crafting. She works to inspire her young nieces to take an interest in story telling and writing. Her memoirs, short stories, and articles have been published in Oklahoma newspapers and in the Creations anthologies 2012-2015.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Going First

Sometimes going first is a privilege, and other times going first is a curse. Ice cream or getting to ride the Sea-Doo® – that’s a privilege. The first to get fired or go to jail – not so much. However, for some things, it’s important that someone does go first, otherwise the job might not get done.

What about forgiving someone you’re in a dispute with? Who forgives who first? Some would say the one who has wronged should apologize first; others might say the more mature moves first. Either way, someone has to go first.

When it comes to forgiving us of our sins, God demonstrated His maturity by seeking us out “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). But we can see where He’s taken the leadership role in redemption, long before the cross. Consider what happened in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Adam and Eve chose sin. Knowing the consequence of doing that, they did it anyways. It’s here where we see God take the initiative to redeem by offering the first blood sacrifice. Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The animal skin didn’t fall off!

But we also see where He led the way out of Egyptian slavery by being the guide for the Israelites in the form of a fiery pillar by night, and a cloudy pillar by day. Later, He led the judges to help lead the Israelites towards solving the problems they faced. Then, King David often called on God to lead them into battle. In 1 Chronicles 14:15, David inquired of God about fighting the Philistines and God said, “…As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”

But we can even see that God moved first in actions of mercy, like in the case with the people of Nineveh when Jonah delivered a message of repentance. Or with the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and especially towards us when He gave His own life on the cross. Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”

Every action of God taking the lead was, in part, to help us know how to do what we need to do. Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul shares the hope of resurrection that believers share because of what Jesus did in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” Jesus did it first! But to be where He is, to enjoy His promises, we have to “follow Him.” Who’s comin’ with me?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

His Authority Helps Our Belief!

If you take the time to stop and think about what makes the Good News so good, I think most of us would admit that it’s because God has the ability to offer eternal life. God has the authority to give life, and He has the authority to take life.

Jesus acknowledged that what He spoke, and ultimately what He came to do on earth, was directed by God in John 12:49-50, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me to say all that I have spoken. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”

However, many people didn’t accept His statement that He had authority to “forgive sins” or offer eternal life. In fact, today many people have the same issues with His statements of authority. But this is where we have the privilege of reading of more than just Jesus’ words, we also read of His actions while He was here on earth.

When John the Baptist had messengers come to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus responded in Luke 7:22-23, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.”

His actions would prove that He had authority in life and even over death. When we read about Jesus walking on water (Mark 6:49), or rebuking the wind (Mark 4:39), or feeding 5,000 people (Mark 6:41), or even causing the fig tree to dry up (Mark 11:14), we have to consider the significance those events had on those considering acceptance of His message.

It was the actions of Jesus that compelled many to truly believe in Him. Even Thomas was faced with the reality that Jesus had demonstrated His authority over death after His resurrection, and he too was able to see the evidence and made the choice to trust in God’s power.

As we study God’s word, we should discover how often God asked His followers to trust Him in some kind of action, and the end result was amazement that God truly has all authority – not just in the pages of the Bible but in our own life as well.

Matt 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Prayer of a Mother

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.…” These are the opening lines of God’s word to us; a history of how He created an infrastructure, the perfect environment for His most beloved creation–mankind. Once everything was in place and man had been made, God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So, God performed surgery on Adam while he was sleeping; taking a rib from Adam's side, He created a helper for Adam. Eve would bless Adam by giving him descendants to carry on his name, to watch them grow into adulthood, and make a difference in the world.

Although she didn’t do everything right during their stay in Paradise, perhaps we could speculate on her motives in seeking a way to know what God knows. There is within most mothers a desire to know the right way to raise a child, to steer a child, and to love a child through all their victories and failures.

However, it’s when she can see her child grow up to become a person of dignity and respect, someone honored for their integrity and upright character that brings a mother great joy. Proverbs 23:24-25, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”

Here’s a poem that addresses some of the desires a mother has for her child,

The Prayer Of A Mother

I pray for you every day
for many different things:
I pray for strength, both yours and mine,
that you mount up on eagle’s wings.

I pray for your safety,
and your strength, and character that is true;
so that your faith in God may always be
what carries you through.

I ask that your longing for home
would help you do what’s right,
that by knowing of our constant love
will help you through tough fights.

I pray for your peace of mind
through the trials you may face,
knowing you  can always
trust in God’s amazing grace.

I pray you’ll have some kindred spirits
to be there in my stead,
to be my voice of reason
to stay within your head.

I ask our heavenly father
to protect you when you’re alone,
to always follow his loving path
just as you were shown.

Life is not easy,
nor is it fair;
but Jesus made a promise
I hope you’ll always share–

to stand above temptations,
and even love through strife,
so that you’ll hear these words,
“Receive your crown of life!”

God bless all our mothers for being a wonderful voice of truth!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Take Time to be Lonely

Do you know the feeling of being isolated from others? It can feel scary and challenging. At times like this, we can often feel sorry for ourselves, thinking that everyone else has it better than we do. However, when it comes to dealing with the problems in our lives, the fact that everyone struggles with some kind of sin, and that everyone experiences their own “challenging” event in life, should help us realize we’re not really alone.

What’s the difference between being alone and being lonely? Lonely is generally not considered a good thing, but there is something positive we can learn from being alone that we would probably miss while around other people. Just consider how Luke 5:16 describes Jesus’ normal behavior, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” From 40 days in the wilderness to a couple hours in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus made alone time an important time.

That quiet time in prayer can help you get a better sense of your purpose; it offers you a chance to reflect on your thoughts and actions undisturbed or distracted by life. But many of us fear time alone; we fear that moment of meditation and reflection on ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid of what we’ll realize about ourselves. David said in Psalms 26:2, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”

Jesus wants us to experience the closeness that He had with His Heavenly Father while He was on earth. The difficulty is that many people don’t value aloneness and reflection. In Mark 9 Jesus brought Peter, James, and John “up a high mountain, where they were all alone” (9:2). It’s interesting to see what Jesus wanted them to see up there. Jesus changed during His time on that mountain. While spending time with Moses, the symbol of the Law, and Elijah, the symbol of the prophets, the three men showed their support of Jesus. God voiced His approval and pride in His son as well. What an amazing and powerful experience for them to be part of. How many people would have longed to hear God speak, to see Moses and Elijah.

But they would have missed it had they stayed down in the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. Perhaps that’s the lesson we learn from this amazing event during Jesus' ministry – take time to be alone, and you may be surprised what God will reveal to you.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Do You Believe the Story?

Storytelling is an art that is truly captivating when it’s done well. It’s also one of the best ways to share facts about an event. People constantly tell stories to share feelings, in part instructions, even to warn of dangers. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that our Heavenly Father, the one in whom we are created in His image, chose to share the story of salvation primarily through a narrative story.

A narrative or story is a report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in some kind of sequence in written or spoken words, or even in pictures. In the Bible, the connected events all point to the Messiah, the promise of God for salvation. Therefore, Genesis 3 – “the fall of man” becomes the narrative hook, that event that reveals the point of the story. Every other story up to the resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the rising action. All of this points to the “Why” in the story being told. Once the Messiah showed up, the Bible was nearing the climax. His life helped tell the story of God’s power, His compassion, basically, His heart. But good storytelling often utilizes the plot twist, which is a literary technique introducing a radical change in the expected outcome of the plot.

In the case of the Bible, the Messiah wasn’t going to become an earthly king in Jerusalem the way the Apostles and His other followers thought he would. Throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus wants them to see and hear what the Messiah would do to redeem God’s children. Repeatedly, He tells them that He was going to have to die to deliver salvation. But every group didn’t get it. The followers were perhaps too close emotionally to see it, the Pharisees and religious leaders were too focused politically to see it, but it was those who were desperate, sick, blind, and weak who seemed to see and hear it more clearly.

From Mark 6 to Mark 10, we see a pattern being formed that helps us to see who recognized Jesus as God’s promised one. Consider how Jesus’ hometown friends and family rejected Him (Mark 6), or how King Herod didn’t want to hear God’s message from John (Mark 6). Or how the Pharisees were unwilling to see Jesus’ miracles as proof of His deity (Mark 8). Instead, the ones who could see, understand, and believe were people like the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7), the deaf man in Decapolis (Mark 7), and the blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8). It was people like blind Bartimaeus that had faith enough to proclaim, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). They could see and hear the good news message that was woven into the actions of Jesus and believe.

Each of these miracles: feeding 5,000 and 4,000, walking on water, calming the storm, healings, and the Transfiguration, were all to help them, and us, to have faith in God’s ability to redeem us. It took them longer to see and to hear God’s purpose, but they too eventually believed. Peter exclaimed what each of us must also exclaim, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Promised One of God!” (Mark 8:29). Do you believe He came to live, die, and rise again, so that we could be redeemed when we trust in Him? That is the question you must answer.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rejection

One of the greatest tests of our character is dealing with rejection and suffering. No one likes it! But rejection is inevitable. Sooner or later, all of us will experience it. And when it happens, we can’t help but ask ourselves some questions: Why me? What did I do wrong? Then come the thoughts we rehearse over and over, replaying that moment of rejection…wishing we’d seen it coming so we could avoid it.

But the Scriptures reveal to us that when it comes to living like Jesus Christ, there will be rejection. 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 10:24-25, “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”

And in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

How did Jesus handle it? He spent a lot of time with God in prayer. A lot of time meditating on God’s will and promises to us. It’s through that reflection, and the support and comfort from brethren, that we start to see that rejection is a normal reaction of those still opposed to the truth.

Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12-19, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Time after time, we’re told and reminded of God’s comfort during even the toughest obstacles in life. Persecution for doing right comes in many different forms – even from within the church. But take comfort in these verses as you experience it in your life:
Luke 6:22-23, Acts 5:41, Phil 1:29-30, James 5:10-11

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Proving Who You Are!

How would you prove who you really are? We have to do it all the time at stores, or on applications, even amongst our friends at times. Whether it’s proving our name and address, or our ability to do what we claim, it’s a regular part of life.

What if you claimed to be the son of God? How would you prove that? Obviously, that might get us checked into some kind of hospital if we went around claiming that, but think about what Jesus had to go through to get people to believe that He really was the son of God who came to earth to redeem all of mankind from their sins that separates them from the creator of the universe. It may sound like a daunting task—unless it's true.

John came as a “forerunner” for Christ to testify that what He said and did was from God (John 1:34, John 3:31-36). Jesus said of Himself in John 5:31-47, “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in My favor, and I know that His testimony about Me is true. You have sent to John and He has testified to the truth.… I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent Me. (47) If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Nearly every prophecy given in the Old Testament pointed to the Promised One—Jesus. Ultimately, that’s how the Apostles could prove that what Jesus spoke was from God, because God had already given us enough evidence even from the Old Testament to trust in His son.

The Apostle John says of Jesus’ miracles in John 20:30-31, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Every word and every action pointed to His authority. But the pinnacle of the evidence was revealed on what He did on the cross. It was not just His death, but more powerfully, His resurrection that set Him apart from any person before or after Him. Paul spent 58 verses in 1 Corinthians 15 illustrating how much our entire faith would be pointless if Jesus hadn’t been able to conquer the grave. His dominance over death gave us the hope that everything else He said and did was indeed from God.

As you study the bible, Bake time to be amazed at how Jesus took advantage of difficulties, fears, and obstacles to prove God’s supreme power—then praise God for caring enough about us to prove His love for us. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”