Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spread some happiness

Today I want to tell you a story about three girls.  One is a mom and the other two are her daughters, ages 8 and 4.  This story is about how they made a goal for themselves, met and surpassed the goal, all the while bringing a blessing to the special lives they touched.

The mom works with a company which sells bags.  They have small cosmetic-type bags and bags large enough to carry a weekend worth of clothes.  One of their smaller bags sells for around $15.00 and the goal was set to sell 48 of those bags.  With the help of the two daughters, word was spread to friends and associates. The next step of the goal could start happening as the mom took her commission from the sale of the bags, to purchase toiletries and supplies, specifically used by cancer patients on chemo.  As the products are purchased and the bags assembled, they will then be distributed free of charge to those people that need them.

Mom was excited when the goal of 48 bags was reached, and the two girls were excited to see everything come together because they are personally delivering them to individuals who can use the bagged products. (A late purchase was made and 50+ people received a blessing. Another late purchase brought "walker bags" to residents of a nursing home.)

How does all of this fit into a blog dedicated to telling others about Jesus?  The timing couldn't have been better. Our church was in the middle of a challenge to each member to touch the lives of 100 people during a 40 day period.  Some looked for an opportunity to do things that go "the 2nd mile." Others brought smiles and happiness to faces that hadn't smiled in a while. 

People are always saying they don't know what to do for others until they ask.  We know that isn't true.  There are some that might not ever ask for a smile or a handshake, a personally written note to bring cheer, or even a squirt of WD-40 to make a door stop squeaking.  The purpose of the teaching at church was to activate everyone to do something nice for someone and bring a ray of happiness into their lives. 

Some participants kept journals and made frequent notes about their encounters.  Some made more than 40 people happy.  Others may still be working to achieve their goals.  It got us all actively involved in doing nice things for people. It made us think about all the seemingly insignificant things we could do or say to others.

My reason for telling this story is to show you how much even the small things can mean to someone. It's not a "brownie point" we earn for doing something good.  God has already taught us we are to be loving, forgiving and accepting toward others.  This is just Christianity in action.  It's the way we can show all people that we love them with the love of the Lord.  It's the way we can accept someone because of Jesus' cross.  It's the way we can let those who hurt us know we forgive them.

Oh yes, the three girls in my story are related to me.  One is my daughter and the two little ones are my granddaughters.  They not only help people through distributing those bags, but they sure make me proud.  They not only bring some happiness to those who receive those helpful bags, the happiness spreads  to the rest of us, too. 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Hearing Jesus Pray

What would it be like to hear Jesus pray?  The days which led up to the end of Jesus' earthly life were filled with events which have become familiar to us.  He is facing ridicule, legal hassles, rejection, suffering, and then, death. How could anyone handle such a troublesome week? Here's how Jesus handled it........he prayed!

John 17 records the lengthy prayer of Jesus. It can be broken down into three distinct categories:

1. Jesus prayed for himself. He knew the difficulty he would face in the coming days. He knew the ultimate sacrifice he would be. He knew the price would be high. And he prayed for himself.
In verses 4 and 5 we catch a glimpse of the seriousness of our Lord's prayer to the Father. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus is a good example to us, when we face difficult times, to talk things over with God. No task is to great, no problem too difficult, no situation impossible to overcome, when God is on our side.

2. Jesus prayed for his disciples. These were the men Jesus had called to follow him. He taught them, he loved them, he was with them. They witnessed his miracles and their associated results. They saw him wrestling with conflict and false accusation. Yet through all of this, they knew the love Jesus had for them and for mankind.  Again, he was an example to them and to us.  Listen to him pray again, this time for his disciples. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

3. Jesus prayed for all believers.   Pay close attention here. He is praying for you and me as well as the believers of his day. He even said he was praying for all those who believed through the message being shared by his disciples. Here is what he prayed; 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

These excerpts from his prayer give only a few of the details.  We would all do well to read the entire 17th chapter of John this week. Yes, Jesus knew the tremendous sacrifice he would pay, but he paid it with love and concern for our eternity. I would say my favorite part of his prayer is in verse 24;  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

The message of the Easter season, and every day for the Christian, Jesus is coming back just as he promised, and taking us home with him.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The last week of Jesus' earthly life

The weekend suggested Bible reading schedules are catching on.  Thanks to all who have sent comments regarding their personal studies.  We've also heard from several families who are reading through the listed verses.  For the next week, please do your reading and study from the following schedule.  These verses detail the last week of Jesus' earthly life.

This Weekend
The Triumphal Entry; Jerusalem
Mt 21:1-17; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:28-44; Jn 12:12-50

Jesus curses the fig tree
Mt 21:18-21; Mk 11:20-26

The authority of Jesus questioned
Mt 21:23-27; Mk 11:27-33; Lk 20:1-8

Jesus teaches in the temple
Matt 21:28-25:46; Mk 12:1-13:37; Lk 20:9-21:38

Jesus anointed
Mt 26:1-13; Mk 14:1-9

The plot against Jesus
Mt 26:14-16; Mk 14:10-11; Lk 22:1-6

The Last Supper
Mt 26:17-35; Mk 14:12-38; Lk 22:7-38; Jn 13:1-38

Jesus comforts the disciples
Jn 14:1-17:26

Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:39-42; Lk 22:39-46

Jesus' arrest and trial
Mt 26:47-75; Mk 14:43-15:15; Lk 22:47-23:25; Jn 18:1-19:16


Thursday, March 26, 2015

More splendor than Solomon

Andrew Wommack, pastor from Colorado, recently posted on Twitter the following statement, "God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo. The Lord will take care of us better than we take care of ourselves. "  As a child of God, I really want to believe that, but my actions and even my mind get in the way and sometimes I think I know what is better for me.  That type of living and thinking is very often what gets us into trouble. 

Wommack also added a scriptural reference, Matthew 6:33 with is post, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Jesus had been teaching in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, about the subject of worry. In fact, he had told his hearers, "do not worry about your life, what you shall eat or drink: or about your body, what you will wear."  Jesus then asks them, " Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

The Lord's teaching continues by giving examples and asking more questions. " Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

What about those birds?  They don't do a thing to produce their own food, and they don't stockpile the things they need for the future, yet God feeds them.  Aren't YOU more valuable than the birds?  And what about your clothing?  Look at the lilies growing in the field. They don't have to work for their survival, and yet even someone as great and Solomon was not dressed better than these lilies.  If God clothes the grass growing in the field which is here for a while and then eaten or destroyed, don't you think God will take care of YOU?  Scripture is quick to point out our faith is lacking if we doubt God in these areas. That's why God says, "Do not worry about these things.  These are the things that pagans chase after, and God already knows you need them."

Immediately following in the scripture is the verse we started with, ""But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I must admit I don't know how to bring in all the ramifications of homelessness, hunger, sickness, disease, and tragedy.  There are some sad things happening in our world today. But I must, in all things, cling to the One which promises to "take better care of me, than I can take care of myself."


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fruit Bearing and Love

No human can duplicate the joyous experience of the Christian realizing that Jesus lives inside us.  The Bible lets us know it is only through this relationship that we can produce the fruit of the Spirit.  My question is one we need to ask ourselves personally, and I hope you will pause for a moment and consider an answer that not only pleases God, but also satisfies your newness of life and the production of the fruit of the Spirit.  Here's the question:

What is the more fruitful life of the spirit supposed to look like? 

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Try all you can and all you wish, and you, in and of yourself cannot produce spiritual fruit.  It takes the work of the Spirit living in us to make fruit production happen. Keep in mind this is the only way bearing fruit which glorifies God can be experienced and evidenced.

This week I read one Bible scholar that challenged my thinking when he wrote on this topic.  He says the fruit of the Spirit is love, and all the rest of the list speaks of different ways in which that love is manifest in our lives.  I'm not sure about supporting or denying that way of accepting the list, but I do agree every word used in the verses above, is based on love.  It stands to reason since God is love, then we who belong to him, should manifest love as a primary fruit which we produce.

Let's think for a moment about our worship, our prayers, our work, our learning........everything, should demonstrate the love of God in what we say and do.  If we are without the love which comes from God, and is to be a produced fruit of the Spirit living in us, then our worship and prayers and everything else is not real.  That shows the importance of love in the life of every Christian.

So my suggestion is for all of us to start at the beginning and examine our production of love.  Love toward God, toward each other in the church, toward everyone we meet, toward our families, toward ourselves.......all are important. 

When you are producing the fruit of the Spirit by having love for everyone, then move through the list and see how those things speak to your life. 

Now this verse from 1 John 4:7-8, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love."


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Here is real freedom

I read a story about some of the details surrounding the release of prisoners of war as World War II was ending.  The year was 1945 and plans for the release of Japanese prisoners were being outlined.  The U. S. Army had devised a route the prisoners were to take in order for them to safely return to their homeland.

The Bilibid Prison Concentration Camp in Manila was going to be empty for the first time in years. Men would be arriving home to rejoin their families. The good news for Americans and Japanese alike was simple. The war was over. 

One thing the average person might not think of, is the importance of following the details of release to the letter. In this case, the prisoners were given an exact route to take.  Any deviation from the given route would be taken as an act of aggression.  Not only was the safety of the prisoners at stake, but also the safety of their  captors. 

The majority of the prisoners followed their instructions exactly. They were so happy to receive their freedom, nothing could have persuaded them from following the prescribed route. They had been released,  and arriving home to families was their goal. 

The tragedy of the story involves a small group of prisoners who decided they knew a better route.  They knew a different way, which in their minds, was quicker and easier to achieve their freedom. Their decision to deviate from the route given proved fatal.  American troops given the task of overseeing the release followed orders, seeing the disobedience as an act of aggression.  This group of prisoners died because they did not place their trust in the instructions given, and instead chose to follow their own wisdom. 

I tell you this story to illustrate how typical it is in today's world. I may have a tough time convincing you of this, but most people today are imprisoned by something.  In our land which prides itself being based on freedom and liberty, we have allowed many things to keep us in bondage.  The obvious things we think of are alcoholism, drug addiction, or any habit which has us under its control. There are also things like gluttony, gossip, hatred, racial discrimination, dishonesty, and the list goes on.  The basis of all of these constitute what God calls.......sin. 

God has clearly given us the route we need to take in order for us to realize liberty and freedom from the imprisonment which sin brings.  We have His directions to lead us in our escape. In the gospel of Christ, we have his promise to be "the way, the truth and the life," for each one of us.  Not only that, we as Christians are to go into the world with his message which frees us from the guilt, the misery, and the penalty of our sins. We are his ambassadors in leading others to his love and forgiveness. 


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Folded Napkin

This has been passed through several channels of the internet and especially on Facebook.  Although I do not know the original author, I am posting it here so you can be blessed with the message.  --RonB

Why did Jesus fold the napkin?

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, 'They have taken the Lord's body out of the tomb, and I don't know where they have put him!'

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying to the side.

Is that important? Absolutely!

Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I'm done'.

But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because..........    The folded napkin meant, 'I'm coming back!'

Jesus is Coming Back!



Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Weeks before Easter

We are two weeks away from Easter Weekend.  It's a perfect time for us to consider those Scriptures dealing with Jesus' death, burial and resurrection with emphasis on his sacrifice for us.  Read and meditate on these words, bring them to the top of your list in prayer and meditation.

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  

John 14:6 ESV  

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 1:14 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 6:50-71 ESV /

This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ...

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. ...

May God bless your study.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

"You are the Messiah"

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,  and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.    Matthew 16:13-20

The craftsman works with his hands and special tools and fashions from wood, a beautiful piece of furniture.  When the hours of work are complete and the smooth table top is finished to be durable and lasting,  He can make the claim, "I made that."

Our President once made the statement, concerning the infrastructure of our cities, "You didn't build that!"  True, not every citizen had a hand in laying the concrete or pavement, not even the curbing or the painting of the stripes, but all of it became possible when citizens paid taxes.

When Jesus asked his disciples, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" .....How would you answer a question like that?  We have read Peter's response, which obviously demanded an abundance of faith.  "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

On Peter's response professing Jesus as God's Son, Jesus promised to build His church, and he did!  Years have come and gone, countless church buildings have been built by contractors, building committees, volunteer labor, or just a small group of friends and neighbors getting together to build a building.  Even with all of the success of the professional builders, and the volunteer workers, buildings have been built, but Jesus is still the master builder of the church.

He is still in the church building business today as more and more accept his invitation to a "newness of life"  that only he can give.  Until he returns to gather his own, the gates of Hades will not overcome the church HE built.  Sometimes we need a reminder that all of our church work, to the glory of God, all of our new buildings, all of our good deeds, it's still the church of Jesus Christ.  Proclaim his gospel throughout the world, "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God."


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

He made his dwelling among us....

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Fourteen verses from the opening chapter of the Gospel of John, and in such few words are found the most astounding revelations of who Jesus is.  Other gospel narratives mention the ancestry of Jesus, or the events surrounding his birth, but John starts by letting us know of Jesus who was in the beginning with God, and Jesus, the Word, was God.  

Then note it was through Jesus the act of creation happened. Nothing was made except through him.  It staggers the imagination for us to learn and believe the events of Jesus' cross and his sacrificial death for each of us.  Even more staggering is in realizing the very one who died for us is also the one whose power made us.

Jesus is then referred to as the light and we are told the true light gives light to everyone.  Some people received him and some did not.  John says to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become God's children.

When Jesus came to earth, he lived in a body of flesh, subject to the same things as we humans.   He hurt, he cried, he experienced ridicule, he got tired, he knew sorrow......just like us.  He became flesh and lived among mankind.  John says, We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

That's the Jesus we all need to know.