REVELATION IN REVERSE…

MATTHEW 16:24-26: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” NKJV‬‬

OBSERVATION: What does it mean to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus? This is such a familiar verse, yet do we understand what Jesus was saying? How do we lose our life so that we can save it? These words, without the context of the event, can lead us in so many different directions.

One of the most used, and incorrect interpretations of this verse, sees one’s cross as the trials and burdens of this life. How many times have you heard someone say – “We all have our cross to bear!” Yet, this understanding of Jesus’ words ignores the context of this passage of Scripture. Jesus was not talking about the burdens we will have to carry in this life. He was speaking of our attitudes and perspectives in life.

Jesus, alone with His disciples, turned to them and asked – “Who do men say that I am?” The disciples followed with some of the common misconceptions of Jesus’ identity that were held by the Jews. He then turned the question around. He said – “But who do you say that I am?” As usual, Peter was the first to respond. He confessed – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

This was not merely a guess on Peter’s part. This was a revelation that was given to him by the Father. Jesus responded,

  • “Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭16:17‬ ‭NKJV‬

This confession of Jesus’ identity, this truth of His deity, is revealed to be the very foundation on which the church would be built. Jesus would not only be the foundation of the church, but He would also be its victory over the gates of hell, and the key to the church’s power in prayer!

  • “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭16:18-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

From this truth, Jesus begins to unveil God’s plan of redemption. He tells them about His upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection. This is the center of the context of Jesus’ call to pick up our cross. Peter, having received this great revelation from the Father, now stands rebuking Jesus regarding His call to die. Peter cannot fathom Jesus falling into the hands of sinful men and suffering such a fate. in fact, Peter declared that he would be the one who would stand between Jesus and this fateful outcome!

No doubt Peter thought he was being loyal to Jesus and that he was doing the right thing in pledging to protect Him. Yet, Jesus, looking through Peter to the very source of his opposition, rebukes the root of this misconception.

  • “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew‬ ‭16:23‬ ‭NKJV‬

Jesus was not calling Peter, Satan. Jesus was revealing the very source of Peter’s thinking. It did not come from the Father. It was counter to the Father’s will. On the outside, it seemed correct and even galant. Yet, stripped of its veneer, the reality of the source of this statement was laid bare. What a stark revelation. One moment we can receive divine revelation from the Father and the very next be deceived by the enemy! What is the answer?

  • “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Taking up one’s cross and following Jesus has nothing to do with suffering. Granted, all who live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution. However, our personal suffering was not the center point of thought in these words. The center point was our choice of living by the wisdom of this world or the wisdom of God. In every moment of life, at every point of decision, we have the choice to receive revelation from God or rely on our own understanding. The cross is the place of decision.

Note the progression of thought. To be a disciple of Jesus we must, 1) deny ourselves, 2) take up our cross, and 3) follow Jesus. The cross stands between us and Jesus. At the juncture of salvation, it is the crossroads of faith and unbelief. At the juncture of discipleship, it is the choice between self-reliance and surrender that is evidenced in obedience. When Peter confessed – “You are the Christ,” he was walking in revelation and surrender. When he rebuked Jesus he was succumbing to self-reliance and the wisdom of this world.

In every moment of life, in every decision, we have two pathways we can follow. The first is to listen to the conventional wisdom of this world. The second is to deny this wisdom, surrender to the wisdom of God (deny ourselves and pick up our cross), and follow Jesus. Picking up one’s cross is about our direction in life. It is not about the burdens of life. When we resist the cross we find ourselves carrying the heavy burdens of life. When we pick up our cross we are met with the empowering and all-sufficient grace of God! In the words of the old hymn,

The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back!

This is what it means to pick up our cross and follow Jesus! Lord, grant me the grace to pause at every decision in life and choose Your cross!

In Jesus Name!

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HOW TO GET YOUR HEART INTO SHAPE!

MARK 7:18-23: “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I taking care of my heart? With just four days until Christmas, the ads are already arriving in the mail promoting exercise equipment. Soon the diet commercials will start and everyone’s focus will be on losing the weight they have gained over the holidays. With all this attention on our physical health – what about our spiritual health?

It is an easy pitfall to focus on the externals of life. We do this in every area of life. One’s beauty is judged by how one looks. One’s success is judged by what one has. And, one’s health is judged by what they can do. Yet, heart disease is still the silent killer. The heart is something that you do not see and yet it is the center of our entire life. This is true in the physical and it is equally true in the spiritual.

When the Bible speaks about the heart it is referring to the center of man or the spirit of man. Yet, within the spiritual center of man, there are two components. There is the mind, the psyche of man and there is the spirit, the very essence of man. The Scriptures focus on the two invisible aspects of man.

When we are born again we are given a new heart, or our spirits are made alive in Christ. Our minds are the spiritual center that is geared to this life and after salvation, they are to be renewed by the Word of God. We are given insight into these two areas through the teachings in I John and James.

The spirit of man.

  • “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” 1 John‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The mind of man.

  • “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NKJV‬

In Romans 7 Paul gives us insight into the battle that can go on between the two. He states – “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” What does he mean by that? The flesh is our old nature. Our born-again spirits are always willing to do the will of God but there is another force that we have to deal with. Our old sinful nature keeps trying to resurrect itself. The thing that stands between the two is our mind!

Our lives, before we were saved, gave evidence of what was occupying our minds. Jesus said,

  • “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Now, this next point is paramount if we are to walk after the Spirit and experience victory in our lives. After we are saved, our minds can be used to express the new life we have in Christ, or they can lead us back to the old patterns we lived in before we were saved. This is why Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds are like a computer. If we put garbage in, garbage will come out. If we put God’s Word in, the fruit of the Spirit will come out.

We have a choice to make when it comes to our minds!

Today, we live in a world with a myriad of distractions and wrong influences. Facebook is littered with garbage. Television is filled with moral mind-bending. Media, books, and our culture are continually trying to fill our minds with thoughts and concepts that focus on the wrong things and cause us to neglect the things of God. This New Year, as we are bombarded with ads for our physical fitness, let’s think about our spiritual fitness!

If you have never discovered the joy and discipline of reading through God’s Word and journaling your thoughts and journey, I encourage you to do so today! All it takes is a Bible, a notebook, and a pen. Or, if you are like me, an iPad and journaling software. Years ago I discovered the joy of this journey and it has transformed my thinking and my life! Each day I need to eat food to survive. And, more importantly, each day I need to receive the Word of God to renew my mind and feed my spirit!

The Song of Solomon tells us that it is the little foxes that spoil the vine. Most believers are not derailed in their walk of faith by overt acts of rebellion and sin. The enemy is more subtle than that. He tries to slowly bend our thinking, to keep us out of God’s Word, and to redirect our path slowly – until we find ourselves in a ditch! The victory over this is a daily time of meditation, prayer, worship, and journaling in God’s Word!

When I read God’s Word I may quickly forget what I have read. However, when I wrestle with God’s Word with paper and pen (or keyboard and tablet), I am forced to reflect, think, and allow God’s Word to sink deeply into my heart and renew my mind. It transforms me from the inside out. I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars this year to get into shape. All I need is a Bible, a willing heart, an open mind, and paper and pen!

Lord, as I look forward to beginning another journey through Your Word this year, renew my mind. Create in me a clean heart. Wash me with the water of Your Holy Spirit and the truth of Your Word. Let me prepare my heart, mind, and body for the New Year.

In Jesus Name!

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WILL I HAVE ENOUGH?

MARK 6:38, 41-44: “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.” NLT

OBSERVATION: Will I have enough? Have you ever asked that question? As we are in the Christmas season, with family gatherings, gift exchanges, Christmas dinners, and the dawn of a New Year before us – we all are asking this question to some degree or another.

This year, our entire family has decided that we all have enough. We are focusing on blessing our children and the adults are not exchanging gifts. To be honest, there is nothing that we need at this stage in our life. Our focus is on making this Christmas a wonderful celebration around Jesus Christ and a joyful time of remembrance for our children.

It is also a season of change for my wife and me. This past Thursday I retired from the job I held for over 40 years. This is the job that provided for my family and made it possible to plant churches and pastor congregations that were not able to afford the salary of a full-time pastor. Over the years I have tried to be a good steward. I have honored the Lord with my tithe and saved money for this very day. And, now, with the reality before me, I find myself wondering…

Will this be enough?

Imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus looked over the crowd that Bible scholars estimate was over 20,000 people (when you add in women and children) and said – “Give them something to eat.” First, they did not even bring any supplies for themselves. Second, the only things they could rally from a small boy were 5 loaves of bread and two fish. Even the money they had with them would not even put a dent in doing what Jesus had asked. As they held the five loaves and two fish they looked at Jesus and their expressions cried out…

Will this be enough?

While God calls us always to be good stewards, to provide for our families, and to plan for the future, there are times when we will look to the challenges ahead and ask this same question. Whenever we are faced with these insecurities we need to frame the question, “Will this be enough?” in the proper context. Will it be enough to do what we want? Will it be enough to do what others expect of me? Or,

Will it be enough to fulfill God’s call and purpose for my life?

The number 7 and the number 12 have great importance in the Scriptures. The number 7 is the number of completion. It is the number of God. God created the world in 7 days. In the book of Revelation, we see the seven spirits of God around the throne, which is the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And, in this story of the feeding of the 5000, we have 7 pieces of food. Whatever we hold in our hands is always enough to fulfill the call and purposes of God for our life. Why?

It is because whatever we lack as we move forward in obedience – He will multiply!

From five loaves of bread and two small fish, a crowd of over 20,000 people ate as much as they desired. When they gathered up the scraps it filled twelve baskets. Twelve is the number of Israel. It is the number of the covenant of God with His people. There were 12 tribes. In the new Jerusalem, there will be 12 gates, guarded by 12 angels. God’s promise of enough is for His people. The children of Israel gathered just enough manna each morning. Their clothing and shoes did not wear out for 40 years as they wandered in the desert. And, God’s promise of provision is given to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile!

  • “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.” Philippians‬ ‭4:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As you look over your life this Christmas season, and before you open your gifts and begin to dream about this New Year, realize that In Jesus Christ you have already been given all things that pertain unto life and godliness. As we follow Christ, as we continue to seek His will for our lives, we can rest assured that whatever He asks us to do, wherever He calls us to go…

We will always have enough!

Lord, thank You for the countless blessings that You have provided for me over the years I have walked with You. Remind me daily of Your faithfulness. As I look forward to a new reality, as I greet this New Year, help me to walk in the faith and assurance that the seven small things I hold in my hand will always be enough!

In Jesus Name!

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CHOOSE YOUR PATH (YOKE) WISELY!

MATTHEW 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: How do you feel about the path your life is on? As we come to the end of another year, and as we turn the page on two very difficult years for us personally and our nation, what path do you envision for your life in the coming year?

Everyone in life will experience times of weariness as they travel down the path of life. Sometimes the circumstances of life just seem to stack up, one upon another, until we are trudging through life like an animal carrying a heavy load. At times the burden seems too much to handle. We may find ourselves at the point of giving up. It is at these very moments that we hear Jesus say to us,

  • “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

This is such a wonderful promise, such a wonderful invitation. However, how do we lay all of our burdens at the feet of Jesus and find true rest? Is it as easy as saying a simple prayer or is something more involved? How many times have I come to the altar and prayed, only to pick up the same heavy load once again?

The first thing we need to do is choose our yoke. This sounds strange in our culture but it was easily understood in an agrarian culture. Those who heard Jesus were ranchers and farmers. The yoke was a necessary part of their daily lives. Without a yoke, their wagons would not move and their fields would not be plowed. Selecting the right yoke was key to productivity!

  • “Take my yoke upon you.”

We are all yoked to something in life. It may be another person, this world’s values, or our idea of what life should be like. If we are yoked to any one of these we will find ourselves on the pathway to disappointment and we will be picking up life’s burdens along the way. If we are going to experience the rest that Jesus has to offer we must choose His yoke!

Jesus’ yoke is His good and perfect will for our life. It will not chafe, it will not add to our burden, it will fit perfectly and allow us to move in the direction of our eternal destiny. Just as you would not fit an ox with a donkey’s yoke, so we are not to go through life with a yoke of our own choosing. Our loving Heavenly Father desires to lead us and guide us into the best expression of His love for our lives. His yoke is easy. His yoke leads to joy. His yoke puts us on the pathway of peace.

Second, we need to lay down our burden and allow Jesus to teach us. As we take up our cross and follow Him, we will find that His burden is truly light. It might not be easy but His grace will always be there to empower us. As we walk in the power of the Lord, we discover that He will never allow us to be tempted above that which we are able to endure and that we will be able to withstand all the attacks of the enemy.

  • “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He never drives His sheep. He leads them to green pastures. He restores their soul. He refreshes them will the water of the Holy Spirit. And, He guides them in the pathway of righteousness for His name’s sake. When we are led by our Good Shepherd we walk in the assurance that,

  • “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is the rest the writer of Hebrews speaks about. Rest is not the cessation of activity. Biblical rest is allowing Jesus to lead us and teach us through every moment of our life. It is walking in the power of His strength. It is putting on the custom-made yoke of His love as He leads us on the pathway of righteousness (right living, our destiny), for His name’s sake!

Lord, as I look forward to a New Year, a year that is filled with unexpected twists and turns, a year for which I hold new hopes and dreams, I surrender to Your yoke of love. Lead me, guide me, teach me, and remind me each and every moment that,

  • “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

In Jesus Name!

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THE GIFT OF RECONCILIATION…

MATTHEW 5:23-24: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: What gift can you give to those difficult people in your life? Have you ever had to buy a gift for someone that you did not like? Or, perhaps it was for someone who had wronged you in the past, or whom you accidentally offended. Finding the right gift in these circumstances is nearly impossible.

When we have broken relationships in our lives, the easiest thing to do is sweep them under the rug and try to put them in the past. We begin to pretend that these things never happened or that they don’t matter because they happened so long ago. Yet, where there is a seed of unforgiveness the weeds of bitterness can begin to grow.

God is so concerned that we walk in the spirit of forgiveness that He calls us to put reconciliation before our worship and forgiveness before our service. In fact, our worship and prayer life become hindered when we walk in unforgiveness toward others. The responsibility for reconciliation is ours and ours alone. It is not predicated on the estranged person’s attitude or response. God looks at our hearts and asks us to walk in obedience to the desires of His heart.

God desires us to be reconciled!

How many believers, how many churches, will go through this Christmas season with broken and estranged relationships in the pews? How many families will meet together, only to rehearse feelings of hurt and anger in their hearts toward another family member? How many lights will grow dim under the winds of anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness?

God desires us to be reconciled!

Throughout my life and ministry, I have tried to live in a spirit of reconciliation toward others. It is a difficult path to follow. First, I am a sinner saved by grace, so even my best efforts are wanting. Second, my attempts to live in a spirit of reconciliation have not always been welcomed or accepted. I have found that God does not hold me responsible for the response of others. He holds me responsible for my response to His grace.

Christmas is a time to reflect on God’s gift of forgiveness through the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to establish the pathway of righteousness. He came to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law. He came to give His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. And, He came to extend to us forgiveness and redemption by grace through faith in His life, death, and resurrection. The Sermon on the Mount was not meant to be a list of works that would lead us to salvation. Rather, they are to become the be-attitudes and natural expressions of the love of Christ from those who have been saved, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The pathway of reconciliation is only possible for those who have met and experienced the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. We love because He first loved us. We give because He has given us so much. And, we forgive because we have been so graciously forgiven.

  • “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as the true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-45‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How do we apply this truth at Christmas? I believe we need to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. As we read God’s Word, as we pray, we need to ask the Lord if there is anyone who is estranged from us because of something we have done or something they perceive we have done. The greatest gift we can give to them is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation does not wait for the other party to ask forgiveness. It begins when we ask for forgiveness. Reconciliation begins when we humble ourselves and put the other person’s benefit before our own.

  • “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus humbled Himself and became a man to pay the penalty for our sins. All who call upon His name are forgiven and cleansed of their sins. By grace through faith we are reconciled to the Father and we are called to be ministers of reconciliation toward others. Our call to love and forgive others is not dependent upon their response. We are simply called to extend the same gift we received from Jesus Christ – freely to anyone in our life.

I have witnessed families restored, churches renewed, and lives transformed through the power of reconciliation. The gift of forgiveness cost Jesus Christ everything – yet it is free to receive and should be freely given. When we ask for forgiveness, when we seek reconciliation, we break the chains of unforgiveness and bitterness in our life. We begin to walk in the freedom and power of His grace!

Heavenly Father, as I meditate on these truths, please let me know if there is anyone that has something against me. Give me the humility to ask for forgiveness. Give me the grace to extend Your love and forgiveness as I seek reconciliation. Let me walk in the fullness of Your love so that my gift of worship and service will be pleasing to You!

  • “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV

In Jesus Name!

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THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL…

LUKE 5:20-25: “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the greatest miracle of life? Is it when we receive physical healing? Is it when we receive financial provision to meet our needs? Or, is it something else entirely?

I love the story of the healing of the paralytic man. It shows the power of collective faith and it reveals God’s heart. Four men, who had a paralytic friend, were determined to bring him to Jesus so that he could be healed. They could not enter the home where Jesus was, due to the crowds, so they took their friend up on the roof, removed the thatched roofing, and lowered him right in front of Jesus.

This not only took faith – it took some skill! The Bible does not tell us how they lowered the man. However, it must have been with ropes tied to his mat and with great skill and care. Jesus, noting the faith of the four friends, looks upon the paralytic and says – “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”

I think you could hear a pin drop when these words were spoken by Jesus. First, the four friends brought their friend to be healed, not forgiven. I can imagine their bewilderment when they heard these words from Jesus. Second, the Pharisees and teachers began to look at each other in disbelief. Why, who could forgive sins but God alone! What presumption, what pride, what blasphemy they thought!

It does not say Jesus heard the Pharisees and the teachers say anything. He could tell what they were thinking just by the look in their eyes and the looks they were giving one another. Jesus turns and asks them – “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?” They were doubting the internal work of grace that Jesus had just proclaimed. Therefore, to show them His ability to forgive sins he healed the paralytic.

It truly is easier, from our perspective, to say – “Your sins are forgiven,” than to say to a paralytic – “Stand up and walk.” Yet, the reality is that it is easier to change the external situations of life than it is to change the condition of one’s heart. We find ourselves so preoccupied with the externals of life that we miss the true miracles that God performs. To be truly forgiven, to have our sins washed away, to receive the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus is the most powerful miracle that we could ever receive from God!

Paul recognized this when he wrote,

  • “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” Philippians‬ ‭3:7-9‬ ‭NLT‬

To become righteous through faith, to be fully pardoned from our sins, to stand before the Father clothed in Jesus’ righteousness is the greatest miracle each one of us could receive. It is the only gift that gives us eternal life. We can be healed in this life, only to die one day in the future. We can receive provision, only to leave it all behind when we die. Yet, when we receive the forgiveness of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ we receive both the blessings of eternal life and the full riches of heaven!

We too often judge God’s love for us by what He does in the externals of our life. Jesus did heal the paralytic. However, if they had carried him away on the mat – with his sins forgiven – this would have been equally a miracle for this man. The transformation of our soul is something that only God can do. And, He only does it through faith in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ – we are forgiven, cleansed, transformed, and received fully as a son and daughter of God.

Each one of us, who has placed our faith in Jesus Christ, has received the greatest miracle! When we look at what He has done in our hearts, when we reflect upon the power of His forgiveness, everything else pales in comparison. While it is easier to get excited when we see an outward miracle, like when someone who is paralytic rises and walks, we must never forget the greatest miracle of all!

  • “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” Luke‬ ‭10:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬

Lord, thank you for the gift of forgiveness! Grant me the grace to walk in the power of this eternal gift. This morning, I count everything else but loss to the wonder of receiving Your righteousness through faith!

In Jesus Name!

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ALWAYS THE BEST

JOHN 2:8-10: “And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What do you want in life – good, better, or best? I think all of us would honestly admit that we want the best life can offer. We want this for ourselves, our families, and those that we love. Yet, many times the best seems out of reach.

With God – the best is always at hand!

The first miracle that Jesus performed reminds me of this wonderful truth. Jesus, his mother, and His family were at a wedding celebration. There must have been some connection between the wedding party and Jesus’ mother because when they ran out of wine she felt compelled to find a solution. She had held the truth and promise of Jesus’ call and the prophetic words that had been spoken by the angel for years. With nowhere else to turn – she turns to Jesus.

Jesus reminds His mother that He simply cannot perform a miracle on demand. He must always follow the Father’s direction. The text does not specify this, but knowing Jesus’ love for His mother, and His obedience to the Father, I think Jesus asked the Father if He could help. The result is a wonderful miracle the speaks volumes about our life.

Jesus does not give the wedding attendants some money to go and buy wine. He takes ordinary clay pots that were empty. The pots themselves did not have anything to offer except being a willing vessel. Next, He asks the attendants to fill them up to the brim with water. Now, I am no scientist, but I know that you cannot age water and turn it into wine. The most ordinary pot, the most ordinary ingredient, the most spectacular outcome.

When Jesus told the attendants to draw some from the pot and take it to the chief steward, the chief steward was amazed! This was no ordinary wine. It was not made from a second-hand crop. It was not watered down. It was probably the best wine he had ever tasted (or anyone for that matter will ever taste again!). Jesus had taken the ordinary and transformed it into the best!

I think this is why we miss the best in life so many times. We are looking for it based on the standards of the world. In the world, the best is always bigger and brighter. All we have to do is watch television and listen to the commercials to realize we do not have the best this world has to offer. Yet, the best does not come from the hands or creativity of man. The best comes when we see God take that which is ordinary in our lives and transform it right before us!

There have been times in my life when I have stubbornly gone in the wrong direction because I thought I knew what was best. At times I achieved it, only to find emptiness and disappointment. When I learned to surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life I began to experience the miracle of the wedding of Cana. God took what the world would think as second best, filled it with His Holy Spirit, and turned it into the best for my life!

God created us. He knows us. He wants to give us from His fullness all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Jesus came so that we might have joy and that our joy would remain. When we surrender the clay pot of our life to Him – He fills it with His Holy Spirit and transforms both our life and our trajectory. We no longer desire the things of this life. Our focus begins to move to that which is eternal. And, the most surprising thing happens…

We finally can live in joy and contentment with who we are and what He has provided!

God’s will is the best possible expression of His love for us. It is the “best wine” that we could ever receive. Proverbs 10:22 says – “The blessings of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” There is sorrow in this life, for sure. Yet, amid all the trials and sorrow – there is always joy. The Father delights in giving us the Kingdom. Jesus stands ready to bring the refreshing flow of the Holy Spirit into the dry empty clay pots of our lives.

Lord, this morning, help me to settle for nothing but – YOUR BEST!

In Jesus Name!

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WHO IS GOD?

JOHN 1:18: “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Who is God? Does He even exist? What is He like? Is He angry and waiting to judge the world? Is He filled with love and willing to look past all sin? Will the real God please stand up?

I remember when I was young everyone was in a buzz about a new camera. Today we are used to having cameras on our phones that we take wherever we go. When I was young we had to take our pictures and then take them to be developed. This process would take several days. Then it happened – the Polaroid camera!

Suddenly, you simply snapped a picture, and the picture-sized slide came out of the camera. You would hold it in your hand with great amazement as you watched a shadowing appearance begin to develop. From a shadow, you could make out an outline of the item photographed. And, then, details began to appear until the entire picture was fully developed before you!

Today, this product of my childhood is once again become a trending and sought out product among today’s youth. When my daughter was in college it was hip to get an antique Polaroid camera and use it instead of the new knockoffs. The wonder of taking a picture that developed right before you never dimmed as the years passed by.

Deep down, in every human heart, I believe people want to know if there is a God, and if there is, what is He truly like. The religions of the world are filled with different viewpoints of who God is and how we are to approach Him. The Jewish nation was the chosen nation to whom God revealed Himself. They were eyewitnesses of His presence and power. They received the Law of God. And, still, they did not know who God was.

If we were left to ourselves we would never find God. We would never discover His true nature. We would never understand His true heart. The Jews created a legalistic approach to God that built a wall around them that kept God out. Their view of God became blurred as they focused more on the outward acts of piety than the inner transformation of the heart. They could only see God through their bitterness and brokenness.

Today is December 1. In my opinion (and not the retail world’s opinion), the Christmas season begins today! Christmas is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time when we reflect on the love of God who sent His only begotten Son to this world to be our Savior. Yet, we need to remember – Christmas is the first time we had the opportunity of understanding who God really is!

  • “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”

Jesus is the express image of the Godhead. He came to not only reveal the Father’s plan. Jesus came to reveal the Father to a lost and dying world. A world that was incapable of knowing who God really is. When we look at Jesus, the unique One, who is himself, God – we finally see the developed picture of the Father’s heart. Jesus came to reveal God to us!

However, just like a Polaroid camera, the picture does not develop unless it is taken and received. You can load the camera with film, hold it in your hand, acknowledge it is a camera, and never see the picture. You have to push the button in faith that the camera will take the picture and reveal the image. Such it is with knowing God. It is not an academic acknowledgment of the events of Christmas that reveal who God is. It is a personal surrender and faith in Jesus Christ that opens the door!

  • “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John‬ ‭1:10-13‬ ‭NLT‬

This Christmas, if you have never received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, I pray that you will open your heart and place your faith in Him. If you are a believer, I pray that you will grow in your knowledge of God as you grow in your life in Christ. Jesus did not simply come to reveal the Father to us through salvation. Jesus stands ready to lead us into an ever-deeper understanding of God as we walk daily with Him!

Today, receive God’s personal picture – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

In Jesus Name!

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DEAR GRETA – THERE IS A NEW WORLD COMING!

REVELATION 21:1-4: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Will climate change be the doom of the planet? Is the future of mankind bleak and without hope? Will the oceans flood our cities and cause death and destruction on a wide scale?

Dear Greta – Don’t fear! There is a new world coming!

As a believer who holds God’s Word as the source of absolute truth, I view our future differently than many do. I have empathy for those who look at the future of this world without a firm faith and foundation in God. The planet has become their god and they worship it as if it held the only hope for mankind.

There are two observations that I would like to note in these verses. First, the world will not perish because of a massive flood caused by climate change. And, second, there is a new world coming for all those who believe!

The world that everyone hopes for is truly coming. It will be a world that is filled with peace and harmony. Listen to the words of the Apostle John as he records the wonder of this new world.

  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

There will be an end to this existing world. However, it will not be caused by climate change. It will end with God’s judgment, the return of Jesus Christ, and the re-creation of a new heaven and earth. The re-creation of heaven and earth will make this current world pale in comparison.

This is the world we all hope for! This is the world we all dream of! It is a world filled with life, hope, peace, and security. There will be no more riots in the street, no more nations engaged in war, and most importantly – God will live among us in all of His glory and power! It is God’s presence that will change the world!

  • “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

There is nothing that man can do to change the outcome of God’s transformation of our world. Man cannot derail God’s plan by carbon emissions. Man cannot change God’s plan through military might and domination. The end of this world is certain and the beginning of His new creation is imminent. So, if man cannot do anything about it – what can he do?

HE CAN GET READY FOR THIS BLESSED DAY!

Not everyone will enter into this new heaven and earth. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter into God’s eternal kingdom. John writes,

  • “All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation‬ ‭21:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬

The victorious are the ones who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Those who will face eternity separated from God’s eternal kingdom are listed. I find it interesting that this does not start with a list of heinous sins. It starts with two classifications – the cowardly (or fearful) and the unbelieving. You don’t have to be a hardened criminal to miss God’s kingdom. All you have to do is live in fear and unbelief!

When this world is your only hope, you will live in fear. When God is your eternal hope, you will live in faith and expectation. The cries of an angry and frightened world will not dissuade you. Your eyes will be set on the blessed hope of Christ’s return and the ushering in of the new heavens and the new earth! You will look for the day when death will be no more.

I believe that those who are walking in this hope have the greatest ability to make our current world a better place as we wait for Christ’s return. We cannot usher in utopia, only Jesus can. However, we can impact our world one person at a time and spread the hope of salvation and the blessed assurance of Christ’s return. We will be able to engage in making our world a better place because we will not be cowering in fear. We will boldly live each day to the fullest as we look up and wait for our redemption!

Lord, this morning I find myself looking up! As I abide in Your presence, grant me the strength to live my life to the fullest as I wait for Your return. Help me to share Your love with others, help those who are in need, and do everything I can to make this world a better place. Give me the grace to point others to this hope that is an anchor through all the storms of life!

In Jesus Name!

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ARE YOU INVITED?

REVELATION 19:9: “And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Have you been invited to the greatest celebration of all time? Are you prepared for the banquet to end all banquets? Are you dressed and ready for this event?

It was the day of our wedding. The bride and the bridesmaids were busy with their activities and preparations. I was hanging out with my best man and groomsmen counting down the time to the biggest event in my life. It seemed surreal and the clock moved slowly as I waited for the big moment. Then, suddenly, we are in a race against time! One of the groomsmen did not have any black socks!

We got into our car and raced around trying to find a store to get a pair of socks. Suddenly, the clock began to race towards the big event. After all, whoever heard of a groomsman in a tuxedo with a pair of white athletic socks?! We finally found a pair of socks and drove back to the hotel. We did one final check to make sure that everyone had the right apparel and was ready for the wedding celebration. I will never forget that wonderful day and the race against the clock for a pair of black socks!

I wonder if we are ready for the greatest wedding celebration of the ages. It is the wedding of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. This is not limited to a denomination. The Church is the Body of Christ which is composed of all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. You cannot see the true Church in its entirety. Yet, Jesus knows those who are His and He is preparing His bride for this great day!

The angel proclaimed to John,

  • “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”

Today, at this moment, the invitation to this great wedding feast of the Lamb is still an open invitation. Anyone can accept this invitation by giving their life to Jesus Christ. Yet, when the celebration begins it will be too late to change your mind. Jesus warned about this in many of His parables. In one parable Jesus spoke of the 10 women who were invited to the wedding feast. Five were prepared and had extra oil for their lamps. Five were foolish and did not have enough oil. Here is what Jesus said.

  • “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” Matthew‬ ‭25:10-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today is Thanksgiving. Most families will gather together around a table filled with a bountiful feast. They will eat, give thanks, and celebrated God’s faithfulness in their lives. Yet, there will be others who will be isolated and alone. They do not have a loving family to be with. They may not even have a home. Their experience will not be one of celebration but of sadness and loneliness.

The wonderful thing about God’s banquet is that it is open to everyone who will accept the call! God’s banqueting table is not for the rich and successful. God’s banqueting table is for those who acknowledge their deep spiritual need and how poor in spirit they really are. When we come to Jesus Christ we are fully pardoned from our sin. We are given a new heart and life. And, we are clothed in His righteousness so that we will be ready for the wedding feast of the Lamb!

  • “Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.” Revelation‬ ‭19:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬

This Thanksgiving, if you can be with your family and loved ones, rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for His many blessings. If you are alone and feel left out, know that the Lord is always with you and there is a day coming when you too will be seated around the great banqueting table! If you are unsure whether you have been invited, you can find assurance in your heart right now! Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. Open the door by repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord!

  • “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

In Jesus Name!

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