FAITH AND HEALING…

MARK 10:52: “And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever wondered what the connection between faith and healing was? Have you ever heard someone say – “Just believe you are healed and you will be healed!” This statement usually is supported by a verse like Mark 10:52. What other conclusion can you come to when you read Jesus’ own words,

“Go, for your faith has healed you.”

The answer to this dilemma is discovered only as we begin to study this verse in its full context. In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew notes that there were two blind men. However, Mark only focuses on Bartimaeus. Why? It was because it was Bartimaeus who began to cry out to Jesus as he was walking down the road.

This is the first key to understanding Jesus’ statement in verse 52. Bartimaeus, blind and unable to see Jesus, is the only one in the crowd who truly “sees” Jesus!

  • “Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark‬ ‭10:46-48‬ ‭NLT‬‬

While those around blind Bartimaeus saw Jesus, they did not acknowledge Him as the Messiah. Even many of those who followed Jesus did not understand who He was. Yet, this blind man saw Jesus through the eyes of faith. He cried out to him in his time of need and acknowledged who Jesus was – the Son of David, the Messiah, the Christ!

The crowd tried to quiet this blind man. Many times there are those in our lives who try to discourage our faith. They try to temper our heart from seeking the Lord. Yet, Bartimaeus would not have any of it. He cried all the louder until Jesus summoned for him. Bartimaeus did want to be burdened down with anything that would keep him from Jesus. He threw off his cloak and was led to Jesus.

As we witness what happened next we see the second key to understanding Jesus’ words in verse 52.

  • “When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi, ” the blind man said, “I want to see!” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:49-51‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The important question was – “What do you want ME to do for you?” Jesus did not ask Bartimaeus – “What can your faith do for you?” Faith is not the agent. Faith is the channel. Faith never heals. Only Jesus is our healer. If our faith is in our confession, our actions, or any other thing other than Christ alone, our faith is misplaced. Bartimaeus knew this. This is why he cried out to Jesus. And, this is why Jesus replied – “What do you want ME to do for you?”

This leads us to the final words of Jesus to Bartimaeus.

  • “And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” Mark‬ ‭10:52‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Was it Bartimaeus’ faith that healed him, or was it Jesus that healed him? Of course, it was Jesus! Yet, it was Bartimaeus’ faith that gave him the spiritual eyes to see and understand who Jesus was. It brought him to Jesus the Messiah, the Savior, and the healer. So, Jesus was correct when he said – “Go, for your faith has healed you.”

Some may think that this distinction is splitting hairs. However, I believe it is both profound and important. I have met so many people who have begun placing their faith in a methodology to receive their healing more than in Jesus Christ. Books have been written on the subject. People begin to look to men and Scriptural formulas for their needs. And, in all of this, they leave their simple and sincere faith in Jesus Christ.

I have prayed with people and have seen them miraculously healed. I have also presided over the memorial services for dear saints of God who were confessing their healing here on earth, yet they were called home to heaven. Did one person have more faith than the other? The answer is a resounding – NO! Our faith is never to be in our faith. Our faith must be anchored in Christ alone. In life and death, we walk in faith. Faith is not to be focused on the answer or the promise.

Faith is to be focused on the Son of David, the Messiah – Jesus Christ our Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King!

Lord, thank you for the record of blind Bartimaeus. I pray that his faith will remind me that You alone are my healer. You alone are the one who answers my prayers. Forgive me for the times when I have placed my faith in my confession or actions. Keep my faith anchored in You alone!

In Jesus Name!

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REBUILDING THE WALLS OF A BROKEN LIFE…

PSALMS 51:5-6: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: How do you rebuild the walls of a broken life? This is a question that we need to ask ourselves as we see the brokenness all around us. And, this question takes on even greater importance if the brokenness is in our own life!

David was called a man after God’s own heart. Yet, his writing in this Psalm comes from the lowest depths of failure in his personal life. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and sent Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to the front lines to be killed. Confronted by Nathan the prophet, David is now left to deal with his grave sin. In this Psalm, we get a glimpse into this moment of agony and repentance in David’s life.

At the time of David’s sin, Israel was strong and united. Jerusalem had been built up, and David was living in a palace. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought to Jerusalem and sacrifice and worship were a daily part of the life of Israel. The army was strong and victorious and they dwelt behind strong walls of protection. Yet, David knew that his sin threatened all of this!

In life, there are spiritual walls and physical walls around us. This was true with Israel. Even though the physical walls stood strong, David realized that his sin had left a breach in the spiritual walls of Jerusalem. We never sin with impunity. Our sin affects our lives and has an impact on the lives of others. In David’s deep repentance he realizes this and cries out,

  • “O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”

So many times when there is brokenness in our life or the life of another, we fail to understand the importance of rebuilding the spiritual walls that have been breached. We focus on the tangible effects of sin but not the spiritual root of sin. We want to apply bricks and mortar to our problem when what we need are sincere repentance and God’s intervention. This is why David prayed,

  • “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.” Psalms‬ ‭51:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Before David could do anything to restore the breach he had created, he knew that he had to restore the breach he had made in his fellowship with God. David in reality did not only sin against God, he sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, the child he conceived, and the entire nation of Israel. However, before any of that could be addressed, David’s heart had to be restored!

So many times we try to deal with our sin and brokenness with physical acts alone. We try to rebuild the walls of our physical and emotional life and neglect the walls of the spirit. This is why David proclaims,

  • “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart,”

David could have run to the priest, asked him to offer sacrifices for his sin, lifted prayers, sang songs of worship, and given an offering. Yet, all of this would have been meaningless if David first and foremost did not address the broken walls of his spirit and His fellowship with God. David came to God with a heart in need of healing. His cry was desperate and sincere. His plea was from a broken and truly repentant heart.

  • “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.” Psalms‬ ‭51:10-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God did restore David. His sin was fully forgiven. His spirit was restored. Yet, David’s restoration did not remove him from the physical consequences of his sin. Once the spiritual walls had been rebuilt by the Lord there were physical walls to deal with. There was the loss of a child and the rebellion of a son. The sword never departed from David’s lineage. We need to realize that our actions have consequences.

Yet, in all of this, God’s mercy was greater than David’s sin. David’s legacy was not the one who committed adultery, but the man after God’s own heart. He left all the resources needed to build the Temple to his son Solomon. He initiated true worship around the tabernacle that would continue when the Temple was built. And, he left us with a legacy of Scripture inspired by the hand of God.

Jesus came to defeat the power of sin and death so that we could rebuild our lives in the image of God. He came to offer us forgiveness of sin and the rebuilding of the broken walls of our spirit. And, He guides us in the task of rebuilding our physical and emotional lives as He restores our hearts. David understood this principle. He understood that the spiritual walls were first and the physical walls were not to be neglected.

  • “O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.”

Lord, search me and know me this morning. Look upon the spiritual walls of my life. Lead me to repentance for anything that is in my life that is breaking down these walls. Forgive me, cleanse me, and restore me so that I can offer my life as a living sacrifice. Empower me by Your Spirit to rebuild my life and to lead others to Your throne of grace in their time of need!

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN THE WICKED PROSPER…

PSALMS 49:16-20: “So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life, they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day. People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Do you remember the old television show – “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?” It was a show that highlighted the rich, successful, and famous people of the day. It celebrated their lifestyle, wealth, and possessions. The show endeavored to pull back the curtain for the common man to experience a moment in the life of the elite.

The world we live in worships success, wealth, and notoriety. It worships these more than personal character. As we look at the world and its preoccupation with wealth, success, and fame, the believer may wonder – “Why do the wicked continue to prosper?” We witness the rich and privileged escape justice through expensive attorneys, deceit, and graft. Sometimes it is almost enough to make a Christ-follower lose heart!

This is nothing new. In fact, there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon writes in the book of Ecclesiastes,

  • “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God’s faithful have struggled with this issue as long as sin has reigned upon the earth. The Psalmist addresses this in the words of the text. The wicked do prosper in this life – but not in the next. In fact, the wicked, who rely upon their wealth and position rather than God, do not even think about the next life. They live only for today. They live as if they will never die. They believe somehow their position in life is eternal. Yet, the truth will one day be evident.

  • “Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life, they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day. People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals.”

It is important to note that the Psalmist does not say that wealthy people do not understand, but that people who trust in their wealth do not understand. Those who trust in their success, wealth, or fame do not understand eternity. And, for this, they are to be pitied. They strive for everything in this life. They are consumed with anger when the affairs of this life are not working to their liking. And, they pass judgment upon others who are different than they are.

The Christ-follower is free from the fear of death. They know that this life is only a temporary journey on their way to eternity. Their security and hope are not tied to their success, wealth, or possessions. It is anchored in Christ alone and the hope of eternal life! They look beyond the moment into the realm of the eternal. They see with eyes of hope and faith. And, they know,

  • “But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭49:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Just recently, over breakfast, my wife and I were discussing how we were feeling that day. We both were tired, and my wife remarked – “I feel like I am wasting a day!” I responded, “Don’t worry about one day – we have an eternity ahead of us!” Stop and think about that statement. This is the reality of our life in Christ. We have been set free from this world and all of its expectations. Our life does not end when we take our last breath on this earth. We simply take the next step into eternity!

The reality of eternal life should not only give us hope for the future, but it should also give us peace in the present. It helps us understand the fact that everything in this life will one day be accounted for. The wicked do not really prosper. They ultimately lose, not only their possessions and all they have trusted in this life, but also their eternal soul. This understanding should motivate us to put aside any envy and with compassion do everything we can to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

What do we do when the wicked prosper? We remind ourselves of the reality of life and the blessed hope of eternal life. We place our faith and confidence in Christ alone. And, we look forward to the eternal reward that we will receive when we hear these words – “Well done, good and faithful servant!” We hold the things of this life lightly, live with contentment, and share the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with everyone we can.

Lord, deliver me from fear and envy. Give me spiritual eyes to see and understand the true reality of life. And, move my heart with compassion for those who are lost and are placing their trust in the things that perish. Let my life be a light in the darkness to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Name!

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WE ALL NEED A BLOOD TRANSFUSION…

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

We All Need A Blood Transfusion!

Have you seen the movie “The Passion of Jesus Christ?” Many have watched this movie, and in a profound and impacting way, they have learned about the death of Christ. They watched as Jesus shed His blood when he was mercilessly whipped and crucified. This is a very hard movie to watch. It is extremely intense, and many have criticized the Christian religion saying – “It’s just a bloody religion.” In fact, today some churches will not even sing songs that speak of the blood of Christ, like, “There’s Power in the Blood,” “There is a fountain that flows from Emanuel’s veins,” along with many others.

Many today ask, “What is the significance of the blood? Why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to shed His blood for us?”

Romans 5:9-11 says,

  • “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

Jesus came to atone for our sins. Atonement means that He came to secure for us a formal pardon – not parole. We are not on parole! As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not subject to parole officers. He came to give us a full and complete pardon. This means that He came to wipe away the complete record of our sin and shame. When we are pardoned through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we receive forgiveness of sins, we are restored in fellowship with God, and all the guilt and its resulting punishment (death – eternal separation from God) is completely removed.

The price of atonement is blood.

We have seen from the Scriptures that the penalty of sin is death, complete separation from God “both physically and spiritually. Death is the opposite of life. The life of the flesh is in the blood. Therefore, the price of our atonement was a life for our death – the shedding of blood. Leviticus 17:11 says,

  • “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

This is true both spiritually and physically.

In March of 2003, I underwent aortic heart valve replacement surgery. After the surgery, I was alive, the valve replacement was successful, but I was slipping away during my recovery because my blood count was rapidly dropping. The healthy blood cells were not being reproduced fast enough in my body. Everything else was correct, the artificial valve was sewn in carefully, and my heart was working properly. However, I was still drifting downward.

I needed a blood transfusion!

Before I received this blood transfusion, I was unable to see clearly. My vision was blurry, and I was all alone. I can still remember it vividly. It was 10 o’clock at night when the nurse came in. She connected the bag of plasma (blood) to my IV, and I watched as the blood began traveling down the clear plastic tube toward my arm. Now, without any exaggeration – instantaneously, when that blood hit my body, it was as if all the lights had come on in the room. I could see! My blurry vision was completely gone! I had a new infusion of life!

Such it is with the blood of Christ”

Excerpt From:

“Good News!” The Gospel of Jesus Christ…From Genesis to Revelation
Kirk L. Zehnder


https://books.apple.com/us/book/good-news-gospel-jesus-christ-from-genesis-to-revelation/id1129455563

This material may be protected by copyright.

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PRAYERS, PROMISES, AND PARADIGMS…

MARK 2:22: “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I ready for a change? As I think of the year behind me and the New Year already one month old, am I positioned in my heart for what the Lord wants to do in and through my life?

For most of us, 2020 was a year to forget. Cast into a pandemic, sequestered in our homes, watching church services from a TV, tablet, or smartphone, wearing masks and grabbing takeout – we were all glad to put this year behind us. With hope, we have entered a New Year. Yet, are we ready for things to change?

As I began to dive once again into my yearly reading program through the Scriptures, as I began to pray, and as I pondered the wonderful promises of God, I realized – I can do all of this and stay stuck in a familiar rut. In fact, these important things can become the rut themselves. For, if I pray, if I meditate upon God’s promises, yet my life remains the same, then my devotion has turned into ritual and my ritual will only lead to stagnation.

My life must be positioned for a paradigm shift from the Lord!

New wine must go into new wineskins. Jesus of course was talking about the heart. He was speaking of the New Covenant to those who had grown stagnant under the Old Covenant. The very Messiah they were seeking now stood before them and they could not perceive it. Their hearts had grown cold and hard clinging to their form and ritual.

When I was a young believer I struggled with my religious past. On fire for God, filled with the Spirit, and ready to follow Jesus wherever He would lead, I looked back on my liturgical background with skepticism and disdain. How could God move through such dead form? How could one flow in the Spirit with such archaic liturgy and music? I took pride in my “new wineskins” as I looked with a critical eye on the church I had grown up in.

Then I went with my parents to the church I had grown up in one Sunday. I was prepared for a long and boring Sunday. Yet, something happened. The liturgy I saw as a dead form was the singing and recitation of the Psalms. The songs were filled with great statements of doctrinal truth and proclamations of the cross. Could I be experiencing “new wine” in the church of my youth?

Since that experience, I have found that “new wine” has nothing to do with form and everything to do with my heart. The Scribes and Pharisees could not see Jesus, not because they did not know the Scriptures, but because their hearts had become cold and indifferent to the Spirit of God. Daily they would read God’s promises, pray, and then resist His call to change. The status quo was more important to them than God’s call.

I realize this morning that I am always just one step away from this same mistake. I can go through all the motions and still miss God. My prayers and my meditation of God’s Word must always lead to a paradigm shift in my life. If it doesn’t then my heart has become cold and indifferent – trusting in form rather than the Spirit of the living God.

Lord, this morning I want to position my heart for a paradigm shift! As I meditate on Your promises, as I pray, change my heart. Give me a teachable heart and pour new wine into my life. Open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and give me the grace to obey. I don’t want to miss anything that You have for me in this New Year!

In Jesus Name!

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LET’S KEEP THE CHURCH DOORS OPEN!

EXODUS 17:11-13: “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Whatever happened to the importance of community? When we face a difficult struggle in our life, why are we tempted to tough it out alone? One of the great American myths is the lone cowboy riding off into the sunset. The truth is – we need each other!

We see the importance of community in this familiar account of the Israelites engaged in their first battle as they traveled to the promised land. When they had left Egypt and were pursued by the Egyptians, they did not have to fight. God miraculously delivered them with His mighty hand. Now, faced with the angry army of the Amalekites, Israel needed all hands on deck!

Of course, there were the key leaders who needed to take their position in this battle. First, there was Moses. Then, there was Joshua who was called to lead the Israelite troops into battle. However, this battle would not have been successful without every member of the army and Aaron and Hur who came to assist Moses as he held the staff of God over the battle.

We know the story all too well. When Moses held the staff of God up toward heaven and over the army, they prevailed against the Amalekites. However, when Moses’ arm grew tired, and he lowered the staff of God, the Amalekites prevailed. So, as the army continued to fight, Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses. They gave Him a place to sit and they supported both of his arms so he could hold the staff in place until Israel won the battle.

If we only think about Moses, Aaron, and Hur, we miss an important part of the story. Their role in this battle was important, but it was not all-important. Without the army, their efforts would have been useless. This brings us to the important point – in the battles that we face in life, we need the entire community of faith. We cannot face the battles of life alone. And, we cannot rely on just a handful of Christian superstars. We need the entire family of faith!

This is why being a part of a Bible-believing, loving, caring, and Spirit-filled church is so important. We were never called to travel the road to our promised land alone. We were called to traverse this life as a community of faith. God has not called us merely as individuals. More importantly, He has called us as His called-out ones, the ekklesia – the Church of the living God! We need each other as we endeavor to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling!

What does this mean practically? I need to be in realtionship with other believers. I also need to be accountable to other believers. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

  • “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:17-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Some may say – “I don’t need the church, I can worship God wherever I am!” While it is true that I can worship God wherever I am, I cannot submit to one another out of reverence for Christ alone. Worship, prayer, life, love, submission, and service are meant to be experienced in community. And, the community that God has called us to be a part of is not the local gym, bar, or social club. The community we are called to be a part of is the Church!

Our victory in life depends upon our connectivity in life. The irony is that everyone goes to church. Some peoples church is the gym, the golf course, the local pub, the Elks Lodge, and the list could go on and on. Yet, there is only one church that will help you grow in your faith and enter into the victory that God has called us to. This community is the Church!

  • “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

During this pandemic, the enemy of our souls has been trying to attack much more than our physical bodies. He has been attacking the church. Initially, every church stopped meeting because of the unknown threats of the pandemic. We gathered around our phones, tablets, computers, and TV screens each week to worship. Yet, month after month this lack of personal interaction began to take its toll. Now, with the vaccine, with therapeutics, and with a knowledge of this virus, we must resist closing the doors of the church. We must come together as the community of faith now more than ever before!

We must do this safely, with wisdom, and practicing social distancing. Yet, we need each other desperately. We need to gather, encourage each other to love and good works, and lift our voices together in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The world, local governments, and the enemy of our souls would like to keep us sequestered and isolated. It is time for the church to lift up each other’s arms and show the world that we fear only one thing – the Lord God Almighty!

Let’s work together to keep the doors of the church open!

Heavenly Father, I pray for every church, every pastor, and every congregation this morning. Keep them safe. Give them faith and courage. Pour out Your wisdom into their hearts. Help them find the balance of faith and common sense so that they can come together and restore in-person worship and fellowship. Keep the doors of Your house of prayer open during this very difficult time. And, may we, the children of God, be faithful in gathering together to worship You and support one another!

In Jesus Name!

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WILL YOU BE SURPRISED?

MATTHEW 24:36-42: “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” NLT‬‬

OBSERVATION: When Jesus returns – will you be surprised? When you hear someone speak about the end of the world – do you simply write them off as another crackpot? Do you believe in the Bible and yet find it hard to believe Jesus’ words about the end of the age and His return?

I wonder what it was like to live in Noah’s day. Can you imagine walking to town each day and passing by this crazy old man who was building a boat in the middle of a dry piece of land? I imagine groups met to drink at the end of the day and tell the latest Noah jokes. If Facebook would have been available the Noah memes would be filling everyone’s page!

When Jesus spoke to His disciples about His return and the coming of the Kingdom, He chose to use the days of Noah as an example. It is interesting to note these words.

  • “People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away.”

Why didn’t the people know what was going to happen? Is it possible that Noah never spoke to them? Can you imagine that no one ever asked Noah why he was building the Ark? Rest assured, over the years it took Noah to build the Ark, they heard of the coming judgment. Yet, just like today, they ignored it and wrote it off as a story of a crazy fanatic – until that dreadful day.

This account of Jesus’ return is not an account of the rapture of the Church. The rapture of the Church is outlined in I Thessalonians chapter 4. It is when Jesus calls His Church to heaven and the beginning of the Great Tribulation unfolds. Jesus was speaking to His disciples about this period and His triumphant return, at the end of the Great Tribulation, when He comes again to set up His Millenial Kingdom.

How many politicians do you think believe these words of Jesus? How many business owners do you think understand the consequences of these words. How many individuals are living a life awaiting His Kingdom? The answer is – not many!

  • “In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.”

The world will explain away the rapture of the Church. They will continue to dismiss the claims of Jesus Christ. Only the elect will be kept to enter into His Millenial Kingdom, just as only the faithful entered into the Ark to escape the judgment that came upon the earth. In light of this, Jesus told His disciples…

  • “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Matthew‬ ‭24:42-44‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As believers, we keep watching for our call to heaven. We await the glorious day when we will meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air and will forever be with the Lord. Yet, we also need to watch the signs of the time. We need to be aware that a storm is coming for those who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. This awareness needs to motivate us to get out of our seats and into the streets with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to reach as many for Jesus Christ as we can in these last days.

A child of God is never to live in fear. We are to live in anticipation and purpose. We are to look up knowing our redemption is drawing nigh. And, we are to warn all that the day is coming when Jesus Christ will return to judge the world. He will separate the elect from those left behind during the Great Tribulation and will judge and remove those who failed to watch. He will bring justice to this earth and usher in His everlasting Kingdom.

  • “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew‬ ‭24:40-42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, as I watch for Your return, let me shine the light of Your love so that as many as possible may escape the coming day of judgment and hear Your trumpet call when You return to call Your Church into Your glorious presence.

In Jesus Name!

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WILL YOU HEAR THE TRUMPET CALL?

PSALMS 33:8-12: “Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I the only one who thinks this world is out of control? Everything seems upside down. The norms that we grew up with as children have been thrown away. And the last bastion of light in the free world seems to be growing dim. As the torch on Lady Liberty flickers and its embers grow dim, I need to remember one important thing.

God is still in control!

God has never lost control. The one who spoke the world into existence, the one who did not allow man to die in his sins, but sent His only Son to die in our place, the one who defeated sin and death as the stone rolled away and Jesus walked out of the tomb – IS STILL IN CONTROL! The nations may roar, politicians may plan their schemes, yet it is the Lord who sits upon the throne of human history!

  • “The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.”

God’s plans are not for one nation or one political party. God’s plans are for the redemption of mankind and the world. He is moving all of history toward its determined end. We can only see what lies behind us and the moment that lies ahead. God can see everything – from His first word that set the world in motion, to His last word of victory when everything is accomplished!

  • “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” Revelation‬ ‭21:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When did I start thinking that God’s plans on this earth had anything to do with one nation? When did God exchange his plan for the plan of man? God has always had one plan. It was to be our God and for us to be His people. When we sinned in the garden we forfeited that plan. We turned this world over to the enemy of our souls. From that moment in time, the Lord has been working His eternal plan to redeem mankind and this fallen world.

There is a day coming when all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ will hear the trumpet call. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus will remove His church from this world and the final pages of history will play out. He is so gracious and loving that He gave us a complete book to prepare our hearts for this day – the book of Revelation. It is time that God’s people begin to read and meditate the truths of this book, for the day is now closer than it has ever been!

  • “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” Revelation‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know about you, but I am excited to be living in these last days. As we see history unfold before us, as we see the final pages of Scripture being fulfilled right before our very eyes, it is exciting to think that we may be that generation that hears the trumpet call! My eyes are turning heavenward. My heart is filled with faith and expectation. Jesus Christ is coming back as King of kings and Lord of lords! There is nothing that will take Him by surprise!

  • “But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.”
  • “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, give me the grace to turn my eyes and my ears toward heaven. May I position my heart of faith to hear Your trumpet call and always remember…

YOU ARE IN CONTROL!

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN MOURNING BECOMES DANCING…

PSALMS 30:11-12: “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” NLT
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OBSERVATION: How does a believer navigate through a great time of loss? It may be the loss of a loved one, loss of a friend, or even the loss of one’s dream or expectation. In either case, there is a time of mourning.

Mourning is defined as – “the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes.” (Oxford Dictionary).

Mourning is the expression of the deep grief one experiences with such a great loss. Everyone processes grief through mourning in a different way. Some withdraw quietly and process their mourning internally. Others work through a time of grief and mourning by emoting their feelings publicly, both verbally and through their actions. Regardless of the expression, everyone will walk through the valley of mourning in their life.

I have lost both of my parents and two of my closest friends. The loss I struggled with the hardest was my friend who I knew and worked with for over 35 years. We were colleagues and friends. We traveled together and shared our family’s stories. I was welcomed into his family. Every Monday morning would start with a call to talk about our weekend, our families, and the week ahead.

Then on one Monday, I received a call from one of the owners of our company. My friend had recently retired. He had been home with his family for less than a year after retiring. I had spoken to him just the night before. I could not believe the news. My dear friend had died that morning of a heart attack. Suddenly, without notice, my friend was gone. There would be no more Monday morning calls. No more visits when I traveled to his hometown to call on one of our largest customers. There was a hole in my heart.

I was asked to do his funeral. For over 25 years we had traveled to Tulsa so that we could drive to Bentonville, Arkansas to call on Walmart headquarters. On each trip, there would be some downtime. We began a tradition of seeing who could find the cheapest shirt on sale. On one of those trips, we both bought a Hawaiian shirt. Since that time I have worn Hawaiian shirts and now have over 50 of them. When I conducted the memorial service, I laid the very first shirt we had bought during this trip, on his coffin. My heart was broken and filled with grief.

I was one of those who processed my mourning quietly. Yet, I did mourn. Each Monday I wanted to call him. And, to be honest, as every Monday rolls around, I still want to dial his number and hear his voice. Yet, as I processed my grief, I remembered all the times we spoke about the Lord. I shared the joy of walking with Jesus and I knew that he had faith in Jesus Christ. As I thought about this, and as the weeks and months passed, something began to happen in my heart.

My mourning began to turn to joy!

My joy turned into dancing!

Now, when I think about my dear friend I celebrate his life. I have a wonderful picture that was given to me by his daughter after the memorial service. It is a picture of me, my friend, and his two wonderful parents who are now in heaven with him. It was taken on one of our trips to Tulsa where they lived. Every day I see this picture and it reminds me of all the wonderful times we had together. Times of work, travel, business, and talking about our families and our daughters.

As a pastor, I have walked with many through difficult times of grief and mourning. Yet, without exception, I have witnessed the wonderful transformation in their hearts of faith. When all seemed to be lost, God’s mercy abounded in their life. Some rebounded quickly. Some took months and even years. Yet, in every heart that was filled with the love of Christ, I have witnessed their mourning turn into dancing.

There is always an empty spot that remains for each loved one we have lost on this side of eternity. This never goes away. Yet, that empty spot turns from grief into a longing. It is a longing to be reunited at God’s appointed time. And, that longing turns into dancing as we cherish their memories, rejoice over God’s love and mercy in our lives, and hold onto the blessed hope and comfort of the promise of eternal life.

Lord, as this week passes, and as Monday comes around the corner, turn my mourning into dancing. Let me walk in the power of Your grace and the hope of eternal life.

In Jesus Name!

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THE ROAD TO GLORY…

MATTHEW 19:29-30: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I on the road to glory? Do I even understand what true glory is? If I took an honest evaluation of my life, where would I find my treasures – stored safely in heaven or only here on earth?

Everyone longs for glory. Adam and Eve were clothed in God’s glory when they were created. They forfeited it when they sinned. Since that time men and women have desired glory, yet many have been deceived by the enemy. They have looked for glory in all the wrong places.

Some look for glory in their 15 minutes of fame. Every child growing up dreams of being famous. When I was a young boy we had a swimming pool. As I swam each day I would pretend that I was an Olympic swimmer. When I finished my final lap, I would envision myself receiving the gold medal. Standing on the center podium, with the USA National Anthem playing, I stood there in my imaginary glory as everyone around me cheered.

Today, with the internet, Facebook, podcasts and blogs, everyone has a venue to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. Yet fame is fleeting and the glory of this world loses its brilliance, tarnishes, and eventually dies. All you have to do is ask yourself this question – “Whatever happened to the rock stars who were “One Hit Wonders”?

The setting for these verses from Matthew is Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. This young man was successful, rich, and pious. Yet, he had one flaw, he loved his riches more than he loved God. He hungered for the glory of this world more than the glory of God’s Kingdom. When faced with the choice of giving everything to the poor and following Jesus, he turned away sorrowfully, because he loved his riches more.

The disciples were shocked. If this man could not be saved, then who could. Jesus answered with these words.

  • “…Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Then, Peter began thinking over his life and choices. Peter had chosen to follow Jesus. Peter had left his boat, vocation, and earthly possessions. Would he ever see God’s glory? Was it worth it to forsake everything to follow Jesus? Jesus answered,

  • “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”

Glory, God’s favor, goodness, and blessings, are always promised to the child of God. However, many times they are deferred. This does not mean that we do not receive blessings in this life. God is rich in mercy and blesses His children. In fact, we are blessed beyond measure. Yet, many times we are called to take a path that looks foolish to the world. In their eyes, it seems as if we are giving up the best opportunity and settling for a pathway that is mediocre at best. Jesus reassures His disciples that this is not the case.

  • “But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

All my life I have chosen the path that has looked foolish to many. I always worked two jobs to fulfill the call of ministry in my life. I turned away from a career in broadcasting to broadcast a different message – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I gave up a home to complete my seminary training. And, I have endeavored to put the Kingdom of God first.

I am not sharing this to give myself an “Atta-boy” pat on the back. The point is that as I look over all these sacrifices I find that I am richer for them than poorer. I will not die with the most toys. I have not amassed a fortune in this life. My name is not a household word. And, my picture was never on the cover or People magazine. Yet, I know that I have a treasure waiting for me in heaven. The glory that will be revealed and that is stored up in heaven for me is greater than anything I have been called to give up in this life.

The pathway of glory is for the humble in heart. The pathway of glory is for the one who seeks first the Kingdom of God, not his or her own personal kingdom. The pathway of glory is a life surrendered to Jesus Christ.

  • “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew‬ ‭5:3-10‬ ‭NLT

Lord, help me to choose Your pathway to glory. Help me to count the cost of discipleship. Grant me the grace to walk in Your light and love each day. Help me to seek first Your Kingdom in every step and decision of my life. Help me to seek the glory that is stored up for me in heaven!

In Jesus Name!‬‬

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