WILL THE WORLD GET BETTER?

LUKE 17:30: “Yes, it will be ‘business as usual, right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Will the world get better? Will America be the guiding light that leads the world to peace and prosperity? Will the church usher in the Kingdom of God on earth through its ministry and presence?

The disciples were asking many of these same questions. At this point in their walk with Jesus, they were looking for the Messiah who would restore Israel’s political dominance in the world and usher in a wave of lasting peace. The Pharisees also were looking for this physical kingdom. When they asked Jesus about the kingdom, Jesus replied,

  • “…The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” Luke‬ ‭17:20-21‬ ‭NLT‬

How could the Kingdom of God already be among them when the Romans remained in power and ruled Jerusalem with an iron hand? This did not seem to be a sufficient answer to their question. The disciples themselves were confused. And, many in the church today are struggling with the same misunderstandings.

If we truly understood the Kingdom of God and the promise of Jesus Christ’s return, then we would not be so discouraged when we see the world around us continue to spiral downward in social and moral decay. As a Christian, and as an American, I need to realize that the Kingdom of God will never be established by a government. The Kingdom of God will only be established when Jesus Christ returns.

Many were shocked by a performance at this year’s Grammy Awards. A singer and dancer exhibited a performance that made many rush to turn off their TV or quickly change the channel. How could our culture have fallen so low? How could millions celebrate and applaud such vulgarity on prime-time airwaves?

The reality is that the world will continue on its course of decay and destruction until Jesus returns. Jesus used two examples when He spoke to His disciples about this. He used the example of the days of Noah and the days of Lot.

  • “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all. “And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building— until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” Luke‬ ‭17:26-29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What do both of these examples have in common? Those who had no faith in God went on with their lives. They had no concept that anything was wrong. Life went on as usual. And, there was no social transformation. Things continued to decay until the final day of judgment was revealed.

As believers, this should not shock us. How can this world’s governments and societies improve without Jesus Christ? As God has been taken out of the public forum, the workplace, and the schools, do we expect anything more than a continued slow and steady slide downward? This may sound like words of surrender and defeatism. They are not. They are simply words of reality.

The enemy would love the church to be preoccupied with trying to establish the Kingdom through government and social change. Why is this? It is because when the church is preoccupied with this it is not engaged in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission was never to transform governments. Our call was to make disciples of all nations. Our call is to reach the one who is lost and bring them to Christ.

When the church focuses on its true mission wonderful things happen. The early church turned their world upside down. They impacted culture. However, it was not through electing believers into public office. It was by reaching sinners with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every position of life. Changed lives changed their world. Only changed lives can impact ours.

So, as the world turns, as it continues to spiral downward, let’s not focus on transforming world systems. Let’s recapture the call and mandate that Jesus Christ Himself gave us. Let’s make disciples. Let’s preach the Gospel. Let’s pray for the sick. Let’s be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God that is within us, and the Kingdom of God that is to come!

  • “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come. ”. Luke‬ ‭4:18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End…He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation‬ ‭22:12-13, 20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Come, Lord Jesus!

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT MONEY?

LUKE 16:14-15: “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What does God think about the world? This is really a trick question. It hinges on how we define the world. In the Scriptures, there are two definitions for the world. The first is God’s creation which included mankind and everything else that He created (see John 3:16). The second definition for the world is the current rule and reign of the enemy over the affairs of mankind and the system which he has corrupted.

Jesus was focusing on the second definition when he addressed the Pharisees. Jesus had just finished His parable about the unjust steward who used the world’s riches for his personal benefit. He ended this parable with these words.

  • “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Luke‬ ‭16:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What is important to note is the Pharisees’ response to these words of Jesus. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of their day. They went to synagogue each week. They offered their offerings and sacrifices at the Temple. From all outward appearances, they had it all together. Yet, they scoffed at Jesus’ words. Why? It was because they loved money.

Money within itself is not evil. It is the love of money that is evil. Yet, how we view and use money says more about our spirituality than almost anything else. I have frequently said that there is an umbilical cord attached between our wallets and our heart. When we come to Christ, just as when a baby is born into this world, we need to cut this umbilical cord if we are to live. The Pharisees were unwilling to do this.

When you analyze the world system around us it all revolves around money. Nations rise against nations for control of territories and resources, which is, in reality, a struggle for money. In our culture, we revere those who have achieved great success and wealth. And, as believers, we are tempted to find a way that we can live in harmony with both desires – our desire for God and money. Yet, this is never possible. We can never serve two masters. One will always prevail!

The Pharisees loved the spotlight and they loved their money. They resisted Jesus because He challenged the very heart of their hypocrisy. When I read Jesus’ words and the Pharisees’ response, I am faced with this question as I look in the mirror. Am I living a life devoted to God or am I living like a Pharisee?

So much of American Christianity is focused on success. We don’t measure our spiritual health by what we are becoming. We measure it by what we have or have accomplished. We elevate celebrity and downplay the humble servant. We praise the church with thousands and forget the small community church that is humbly serving their congregation day in and day out on a first name, person to person basis. No wonder Jesus proclaimed,

  • “What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.”

There is a famous episode of the TV show Seinfeld. George Costanza was Jerry Seinfeld’s best friend and he was a bit of a loser. Everything he did went south. He could not hold a job. He was a failure with relationships. Everything he touched seemed to fall apart. Then, one day he had a revelation – “Do the opposite!” When George began to do the opposite everything began to turn in his favor. It was a revelation!

Jesus is proclaiming the same thing when He says – “What the world (system) honors is detestable in the sight of God.” Why is this? It is because the world system is run and influenced by the prince of this world – Satan. Satan has only one agenda – to steal, to kill, and to destroy. The love of money never leads to peace and fulfillment. It always captures and imprisons the heart of its victim. This is true about the love of money – and everything else this world system honors and worships.

So what is the answer? How do we manage money and live a life that is pleasing to God? The key is how we use our money.

  • “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” Luke‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus is not saying to use our money to buy friendship or influence. Rather, He is exhorting us to use all our worldly resources in a way that honors God and helps others. This is the application of the Great Commandment in light of our money and resources. We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength when we honor Him with our tithes and offerings. And, we love our neighbor as ourselves when we use our worldly resources to help those who are in need.

Money and every resource we have in life is a gift from God. The question is never how much of my resources should I give to God. The real question is how much of His resources, that He has entrusted me with, can I use for myself. How we ask and answer this question will let us know whether there is an umbilical cord still attached to our wallet.

John Wesley understood these words of Jesus. He is quoted as saying,

  • “Make as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can.”

It takes money to live. It takes money to fulfill the Great Commission. Money is necessary for this life and the life of the church. What God’s Kingdom needs are disciples who are free from the love of money and captivated by the love of Christ!

Lord, help me to be such a disciple!

In Jesus Name!

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JESUS, PEACE, AND THE SWORD…

LUKE 12:49-53: “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against. ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ ” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Did Jesus come to bring peace or division? Did He come to unite mankind or divide it? Is tolerance a Biblical principle or is it antithetical to the Gospel? To think that Jesus came to bring peace to the world is a gross misunderstanding of the Scriptures.

When one suggests that Jesus came to bring division they are accused of being unChristian. Was it not Jesus who told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who despitefully use us? Was it not Jesus who gave us the golden rule? How are we to reconcile these teachings of Jesus with the verses in Luke 12:49-53?

Jesus did not say that he came to incite people against each other. Rather, Jesus said He came to set the world on fire. Jesus came to bring light into darkness, righteousness into sin, wholeness into brokenness. It would seem that the world would line up to receive these benefits. However, this is not the case.

  • “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John‬ ‭3:18-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When you turn a light on in a room, the light does not blend with the darkness, it dispels it. Light exposes, reveals, and separates. Someone who has a very dirty room that they do not want to clean does not want you to open the blinds. Jesus proclaimed that when He came into the world as God’s light the majority of people loved the darkness more than the light. Jesus’ very presence was an affront to the status quo and the darkness of the age.

Jesus is addressing true discipleship. If we are going to follow Jesus, if we are going to pick up our cross, if we are going to stand for the light of truth, this will naturally bring a division. Our Heavenly Father did not set out to divide families when He sent His only begotten Son into the world. Our Heavenly Father set out to save mankind. Yet, He knew that this would ultimately bring both a division and the cross.

For a while, in America, it was hip to be “Born Again.” Movie stars proclaimed their faith in Christ and a prosperity gospel swept the land. To be a Christian was seen as the way to have it all. You could walk with God and enjoy all the comforts of this life. If you were truly a child of the King – then why not live like a king! In the midst of all of this, the church’s testimony began to lose its edge. The truth was sacrificed for comfort and acceptance. Mega-churches were formed around pop-psychology rather than sound Biblical teaching. The sword that divides became a butter knife.

Today, things are changing. If you truly stand up for the truth of the Scriptures you will experience the sword of division. In recent days both my wife and I have been unfriended by many people on Facebook, even by family members. Why? Simply for standing up for righteousness in a fallen world. If you proclaim the words of Jesus you are labeled a fanatic and a hate monger. To say that something is sin today is viewed as the height of intolerance. And, politicians and pundits quote Scripture to justify their condemnation.

Jesus’ words are coming full circle. If we are going to shine as lights in this age of darkness we too will experience the sword of division. It is not because we are looking to offend people. It is simply that light, God’s truth, either leads to eternal life or it offends. There is no middle ground. Jesus, in His letter to the church of Laodecia, makes this very clear.

  • “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also, buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” Revelation‬ ‭3:15-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I love my family and my friends. I love them enough to tell them the truth no matter what the cost. Is it love to see someone race toward destruction and remain quiet simply because you do not want to offend them? Is our acceptance more important than their eternal salvation? If Jesus was crucified for the truth why do we think that we will be invited on the Oprah Winfrey show for proclaiming it? There is a cost to discipleship. There is a cost to being a light in a world that loves darkness. Am I willing to pay this cost?

Lord, my human nature is to settle. I would rather get along than take a stand. I would rather be liked than misunderstood. However, I don’t want to live for myself. I want to live for you. Grant me the grace and the courage to live a life of courageous faith. May I be ready to give an answer to everyone who questions the hope that is within me. And, may I always, like Christ, speak the truth in sincere love, compassion, and respect – no matter what the cost!

In Jesus Name!

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THE DEADLIEST VIRUS…

NUMBERS 13:31-33: “But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the deadliest virus known to man? Is it the current Covid-19 virus? Throughout the history of mankind, there have been viruses that have threatened man’s health and well-being. Yet, all of these viruses combined cannot compare to the deadliest virus of all.

THE DEADLIEST VIRUS OF ALL IS – UNBELIEF!

Just the other day I received my first vaccination shot for the Covid-19 virus. I have known many people who have suffered through this virus, and some who have died. Throughout this ordeal, there has been an ever-changing stream of misinformation. In fact, to this day, I am not sure we know fully how the virus is spread. All we know is that it is extremely contagious and we need to take every precaution we can to avoid it.

The virus of unbelief is not so mysterious. It is spread through a bad report. A bad report is anything that disagrees with God’s promises. A bad report looks at the circumstances and forgets the miraculous power of God. When it stares into the face of sickness it can only see death. When it stares into the face of adversity it can only see defeat. Such was the case with the bad report that the 10 spies spread among the children of Israel.

Daily, the children of Israel witnessed the awesome presence of God over the Tabernacle. They had walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They had witnessed Pharaoh’s army engulfed by the sea and defeated. They gathered manna each day and partook of God’s miraculous supply. They drank water from a rock and received the tablets of the Covenant that were written with the finger of God. And, they had witnessed God defeat their enemies along the way.

Yet, when faced with the land of promise, seeing the evidence that it was a land filled with milk and honey, they chose to believe the bad report of 10 doubting spies who could not see past the obstacles that lay between them and God’s promise.

  • “So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge.” Numbers‬ ‭13:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

They were scared. Their faith was weak. And, since they were afraid to go, they did not want anyone to go! The result of their bad report was devastating. Fear and unbelief swept through the camps. Then the entire nation of Israel, save Joshua and Caleb, were infected with doubt.

  • “Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained…Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” Numbers‬ ‭14:1-2, 4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The result was devastating. The entire nation of Israel, everyone that was 20 years or older, ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until each one of them died and were buried.

Unbelief not only limited their faith – it killed them!

How does this apply to our lives? Have I ever been guilty of spreading a bad report? Have I ever been infected by a bad report? Have I found myself wandering in a wilderness of doubt and unbelief, never entering into the promises and rest of the Lord? I think we all have experienced this infectious virus in our lives.

Unbelief is a virus to be avoided and it is a virus that can be overcome!

The first thing I need to do is recognize the signs of a bad report. A bad report always focuses on the negative aspects of a situation and the limitations to overcome it. When the Covid-19 virus first wielded its ugly head there was a barrage of misinformation and bad reports. People were paralyzed with fear. Even believers lived in a constant state of fear. Yet, so much of what we feared was not true. And, in all of this, we lost sight of one important fact – Jesus is our healer!

A believer is not to live in a fantasyland, ignoring science and burying their head in the sand. Covid-19 was a deadly virus and there were giants in the promised land. The difference between faith and doubt is one’s perspective. The 10 spies could only see the giants and their presumed defeat. Joshua and Caleb saw the giants too. Yet, they also saw the glory and power of God and His covenant promises.

Faith focuses on the power of God. Unbelief focuses on the limitations of man.

A bad report can also keep us from loving our neighbor as ourselves. When someone begins to speak ill of someone, if we are not careful, it will color our perspective of this person. Gossip is the familiar channel for bad reports. We need to avoid this at all costs. When the 10 spies began to spin their bad report, it not only caused fear and unbelief to spread like a wildfire. It also caused the children of Israel to reject the leadership of Moses.

  • “Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained.” Numbers‬ ‭14:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

No mask will protect us from the virus of unbelief. Yet, there is a shield against it. It is the shield of faith. Faith believes that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Scriptures have been given to us as a record of this truth. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is a record of those who both lived and died in faith. They refused to embrace the bad report and clung to the promises of God. Even in death, they were victorious.

Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies, were the only two of their generation that entered the promised land. They entered it because they refused to be infected by the bad report and they clung to the covenant promises of God. Joshua became the leader of Israel and Caleb was a mighty warrior who, in his old age, secured his land of promise, and overcame the giants in the land!

In this day of uncertainty, in an atmosphere of a pandemic and a world that is filled with unrest, we have a choice to make. Will we listen to the bad reports that are streaming the airwaves 24-7, or will we rise up in faith and place our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ to lead us through this time victoriously. Victory is not defined simply by the outcome. Victory is defined by the position and attitude of the heart. Paul said,

  • “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How could Paul say this? He could say this because of his faith. He had anchored his hope in Christ alone. There was nothing or no one who could separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. If Paul were alive today he would be wearing and mask and living by faith. He would not be crippled in fear from the barrage of bad reports on the news. He would be engaged in proclaiming the Gospel, praying for the sick, worshipping with the saints in church, and living as a light in a darkened world.

Paul would do this fearlessly because he knew that whether he lived or died – he was the Lord’s!

Lord, help me to resist the bad reports of this life and walk in faith! Grant me the grace to cling to Your promises in every situation and trial of life.

In Jesus Name!

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AM IN IN A RUT?

LUKE 5:39: “But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I stuck in a rut? A rut is defined as the following…

  • “A long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels on a vehicle; A habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Jesus, when speaking to some of John the Baptist’s disciples, answered their question regarding the reason Jesus’ disciples did not fast the way they fasted. Jesus framed His answer around two examples. The first was a new piece of cloth sewn onto old garments. The second was new wine poured into old wineskins.

Both examples were to illustrate the reality that you cannot embrace something new while you are holding onto something old. Jesus then closed with these words.

  • “But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”

The human tendency is to become satisfied with the status quo. We tend to navigate toward what is familiar. We feel comfortable when the wheels of our life are traveling in a familiar path. There are times when this is fine and there are times when this is destructive. That which is familiar can lead us to a place of rest or a place of destruction. It is when we find ourselves in a rut that keeps us from a positive change that we need to take note of.

Over the years that I have been a pastor, I have witnessed the brokenness in people’s lives leading them time and time again to the same pattern of thought and behavior that they were desperate to leave. I have experienced this struggle in my own life as well. Why is this? It is always easier to travel in a familiar path than it is to carve out a completely new one. When we are comfortable it is easy to settle. And, it is the tendency to settle that can keep us from our breakthrough!

The Jewish nation of Jesus’ day was comfortable in their Temple worship and their traditions. The original intent of God’s instructions had been clouded by countless man-made rules and traditions. These led people away from their faith. Yet, they became a predictable and comfortable way of life. When Jesus came and began to challenge this conventional thinking and behavior He caused an uproar in the status quo. They were so content drinking the old wine of their tradition that they were not even open to considering the new wine of God’s Spirit.

How easy it is for us to live in this rut in every area of our life. We can become content in our brokenness, in our worship, and our service. God always wants to do a new and deeper work in our lives. Yet, if we become so attached to what is familiar, we will miss what the Holy Spirit is saying at the moment.

  • “So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT

This new and deeper work is not some new revelation. This is the trap where many cults have found their beginning. Jesus did not come to bring a new revelation. Jesus came to call people from their ruts in life and restore them to God’s original revelation. It is easy to fall into habits or patterns that dull us to the voice of God’s Spirit. It is the written word of God, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that calls us back to God’s original intent!‬‬

  • “So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This morning Lord, I need you to search my heart and life. I need Your Word to divide between my soul and my spirit, to expose my innermost thoughts and desires. I need You to lift me from the ruts of thoughts, perceptions, and actions that are limiting my growth in You. Give me a hunger for Your Word, Your presence, and Your will. Do a new work in my life. Give me ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying and to walk in the full revelation of Your written Word!

In Jesus Name!

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THE GOOD NEWS…AND REPENTANCE

LUKE 3:18: “John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.” NLT
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CHAPTER 18

“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” II Corinthians‬ ‭7:9-10‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The “Doorknob” is Repentance!

The First Step toward opening this door (God’s invitation to salvation; Revelation 3:20) is to Repent. We must each personally repent of our sins.

What does it mean to repent?

It’s not simply saying, “Oh, God, I’m sorry.” Most of the time, in all honesty, we are only sorry that we got caught, or we regret the consequences that have resulted from our sin.

True repentance is when we are sincerely sorry that we have violated what God has told us. Repentance is acknowledging the fact that God alone is righteous, and that we are sinners in need of a Savior. This inward revelation brings us to the realization that – We need God!

Now that is repentance!

Repentance is turning from our old way of life, acknowledging the fact that –

  • I cannot be my own boss.
  • I cannot be the lord of my life anymore!
  • My life is a mess!
  • God, I need You! I need You in my life!

When I was 17 years old, I moved out on my own into my first apartment in Fullerton, California. I thought I had it all together. I had a good job and a fast car. All of my life was before me. However, I was miserable and confused inside. I fought depression and wondered if life was even worth living. Miserable, defeated, and lonely, one night I knelt down on the floor in my apartment and cried –

“God, I need You! If you don’t come into my life right now, if you don’t change me, I’m done with this life!”

And there, humbly on my knees, something wonderful happened – God came into my life in a powerful way!

Mark 1:14-15 says,

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent and believe in the gospel.”

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS

  • What does godly sorrow lead me to?
  • Is repentance more than merely saying “I’m sorry?”
  • What am I doing when I repent?
  • What am I acknowledging when I repent?
  • Am I ready to repent and believe the Gospel?”

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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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

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