Archive for October, 2017

Picking a Side


            Jesus shared his crucifixion with two other men; both of them were criminals.  Below is the account of their interaction with him.  ‘Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come in to your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 39-44.)


           The religious leaders who were standing at the foot of the cross were taunting Jesus and teasing him; telling him to come down from the cross as a show of his power.  The first criminal joined in on this taunting.  Mocking him, he added in the request that Jesus save he and the other criminal from death as well.  The second criminal made the decision to chastise the first for teasing Jesus.  He recognized his own guilt, and the guilt of the other man; openly professing the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He understood that he was paying for a life of sin, and that Jesus did not deserve to die. The second criminal asked for salvation, but a different kind of salvation.  He knew he was going to die on that cross, but he believed that Jesus was able to save his soul.  He was focused on the eternal; unlike the first criminal who was thinking only of his bodily life.  Jesus granted him eternal life, not because of any work that he did, or because he had lived a good life, but because he believed in the one and only son of God.  He acknowledged his sin and recognized the purity of Jesus, and in humility, asked to receive eternal life.  The purpose for the crucifixion, and for the life of Jesus Christ is revealed in this scripture, and it applies today.  He divides people into one of two immutable categories; believers and unbelievers.  Some choose to deny him and make him a myth.  While others choose to recognize him as the ‘Son of God;’ fully capable of granting them eternal life in a kingdom that will have no end.

            There once was man named Polycarp who lived from approximately 65 A.D. to 155 A.D.  He was an early Christian leader presiding over the church in Smyrna.  At some point, the Romans required everyone living in that city to burn incense to their pagan Gods.  Polycarp adamantly refused to engage in that sort of sacrilegious activity.  In turn, the Romans gave him an ultimatum; if he did not burn the incense, he himself would be burned at the stake.  Polycarp’s reply was, “Eighty and six years I have served him.  How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?  Bring forth what thou wilt.”  And the Romans did just that.  Apparently, he requested that they not tie his hands down to the stake; an indication that he would not attempt to flee from the flames.  Legend has it that he did not burn, and that the flames simply swirled around him.  A Roman soldier was then commanded to run him through with the sword.  The flames were put out by the blood that poured from his body.  Where is Polycarp now?  He is in paradise with his king, enjoying the pleasures of an eternal kingdom.  He chose to stand for Christ rather than to lay down with the world.

          Today, everyone is still offered the choice to call Jesus Christ their king.  We can stand for him, or we can stand against him.  We can trust him, call him our king, and receive eternal life, or we can join the world as they deny him and tease him; as they call him a myth and a legend.  Those who are lost perceive him to be nothing more than a man.  They don’t believe he has the power to grant eternal life, because they believe he is dead.  But those who love him, know differently.  Do you believe that he is able to grant you eternal life?  Is it possible that just on the other side of death lays a paradise of overflowing goodness?  Are you willing to stand with him now?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that You would grant us eternal life.  Help us to stand for You and to be courageous in professing our faith in You and Your Son.  Also Lord, give us more faith and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might do Your will in this place, and continue our work in your coming kingdom.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Let Jesus Lead You


          Jesus had just finished confronting and rebuking the religious leaders, when his disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”  But he answered and said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone.  They are blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall in to a pit” (Mathew 15: 13-14.)


           Human beings, are blind concerning spiritual things.  No one born of flesh and blood can perceive the immaterial.  Mankind is unaware of the battle that rages around them for the possession of their souls.   We are encircled by Angels who seek to save, and demons who desire our destruction.  There are unseen predators searching tirelessly for unsuspecting victims.  The world is filled with dark pits and deep caverns; many seemingly harmless indulgences are in fact, deadly.  There are countless paths that appear harmless, but actually lead to the grave.  Although the dangers are innumerable, there is one solitary solution; follow someone who can see.  Many religious leaders who fought with Jesus claimed to know the way.  But they were as blind as those who followed them.  Only Jesus can see the true dangers that exist; only he can steer the blind clear of deadly obstacles; and only he can be trusted to direct his followers down the path that leads to life.

           Some years ago I became friends with a blind couple.  Surprisingly, they enjoyed seeing movies (they liked listening to the dialogue and the music.)  For some time I had the privilege of taking them to the theatre nearly every Saturday.  Being blind, they needed a great deal of assistance.  For them, even the seemingly simple could become deadly.  A crumpled carpet edge; the threshold of a doorway; even an unanticipated sidewalk could result in serious injury.  Although they both had canes and did a wonderful job of living and moving about on their own, they never refused any help from me.  We had worked out a system for our weekend adventures.  I walked in front and Evelyn, who took hold of my arm; Alec in turn, took her arm.  As we traveled, I guided them past obstacles; I navigated them around people; I warned them of impending staircases and sidewalks, inclines and declines, and doorways and aisles.  Although blind, they had learned to use my eyes to see.  They grew to trust me; knowing that I would never lead them into danger.

           Today, there are nearly 20 major religions in the world; and thousands of different sects within each religion.  They are all in opposition to one another, yet they all claim that they are correct; that means one of two things; everyone is lying; or everyone is lying, and at least one person is telling the truth.  Jesus Christ claimed, not only to be speaking the truth, but to be the truth.  He has stretched out his hand to lead you.  Will you take his hand?  Will you trust him?  Will you follow him?  Those who put their faith in Jesus will never go astray.  He is the Son of the living God; he can direct you away from evil and toward what is good; he can guide you out of darkness and keep you in the light; and only he can lead you around death and in to everlasting life.  Give him that chance today.

           “Lord Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, we are blind and ignorant.  We ask You to take control of our lives and to guide us in to the paths of righteousness.  We trust You completely; be our eyes and help us to avoid the evils that would seek to destroy us.  Instruct us concerning wisdom and purity; and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Lead us Lord, and do not forsake us.  We are ready, and willing to follow You now.  We love You father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

Making God Your Priority


            Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.”  And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 38 – 42.)


            After eagerly welcoming Jesus in to her home for the evening, Martha began feverishly serving her new guests.  In Jewish culture, the women were traditionally responsible for meal preparation.  Martha therefore became angry when she saw Mary sitting at Christ’s feet, intently listening to His every word.  She attempted to correct her sister, and was in turn corrected by the Lord.  Martha (unlike Mary) had failed to place God first, ahead of all of her other duties.

            In the 1500’s a German Monk named Martin Luther sparked the protestant reformation (a movement that sought to restore the church to biblical truths, as opposed to church traditions.)  As the leader of this movement, he was a very busy man.  Despite his many responsibilities, Marin Luther woke up early every morning to spend time in prayer.  It has been said that on his busiest days, he would wake up even earlier, conceding that on those days he needed God even more.  

            Like Martin Luther, we must make God the number one priority.  The distractions in life are innumerable; the busier we are, the less time we have to complete our daily tasks.  On our busiest days we can act like Martha and make less time for God and more time for our chores.  Or, we can choose to behave like Mary and make God our top priority.  When we read scripture, pray, and seek God’s will first thing in the morning we make the right choice.  When we make God the priority, everything else falls in to its proper place; and the peace of the Lord will remain in us, as He accomplishes His works through us.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to make You the most important thing in our lives.  May life’s busiest moments never distract us from focusing on Your goodness.  Teach us; love us; pour out Your Spirit in us, that we might be used to effectively accomplish Your will in this place.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Second Mile


                “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Mathew 5: verse 38 – 42.)


            In the first century A.D. the Roman army occupied the Holy Land.  As conquerors they were afforded certain privileges.  One legal provision gave every Roman soldier the right to compel any Jewish citizen to carry their equipment for up too, but not in excess of, one mile.  Jesus used this commonly understood law to impress upon His followers the importance of serving others in abundance.  When a soldier asked them to carry a load one mile, they were instructed to carry it two miles.  Simply put, accomplishing the bare minimum proves nothing; instead, the true love of God is made manifest when we exceed the demands, requests, and expectations of others.

            Several years ago, a very influential Pastor named Chuck Smith went to be with the Lord.  He was 86 years old, and had been battling cancer for some time.  When initially diagnosed, he began a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.  These treatments coupled with his age, made him unsteady on his feet.  I was asked to accompany him to and from his daily radio program to prevent him from falling. Once the program had ended, we would get in to his golf cart and head back to the church office.  On the way he would drive around the campus picking up garbage; he would also stop to talk to anyone in need.  One day a woman approached him in tears.  She explained that her marriage was suffering and that she had left messages with another pastor concerning counseling; however he had never returned her calls.  Pastor Chuck lovingly encouraged and comforted the woman; he then told her to speak to his secretary about setting up a counseling appointment with him later that week.  I was amazed that a man in his 80’s with lung cancer, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy was still out-serving many youthful, strong, and seemingly healthy on staff pastors.

            Like Pastor Chuck, Jesus has called all of his children to go the second mile; we must love others in abundance; we must give to one another more than is needed or required; we must serve our fellows with great intensity, sincerity, and passion.  Through our actions, others can and will come to know the mercy and love of God.  If we are obedient and continue to give glory and honor to the Lord, we will come to know the blessings of unending joy and everlasting peace.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we go the second mile.  May we serve and love others in abundance.  Use us to reveal Your love to the world.  Increase our faith and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might accomplish Your will in this place, and bring honor to Your sacred name.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Stay Focused on Jesus


          [As Christ walked with Peter along the beach, he said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This he spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God […] Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on his breast at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”  Peter, seeing him, asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?  You follow me?” (John 21: 18 – 22.)


          Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He ate with them; fellow-shipped with them; and encouraged them.  He also privately took Peter on a walk along the beach (the apostle John followed at a close distance.)  The Lord told Peter that one day he would be crucified for his faith.  Peter, then inquired about the Apostle John’s fate.  Jesus gently rebuked him (such matters were not his concern.)  Jesus reminded him to remain completely focused upon his Lord and Savior.  Peter had made a very common error; a mistake that is still prevalent within the church today.  Many wrongly focus their attentions on other believers; or on their circumstances; or even on themselves.  However, Jesus Christ demands the complete and undivided attention of every faithful follower.

          How important is it to remain focused on Jesus Christ?  On another occasion the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.  Peter filled with faith, yelled “Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat, and began to walk on water; but as he approached Christ, he began to focus on the large waves that encircled him.  Because he had taken his eyes off of the Lord, he began to sink; he cried out to Jesus saying “Lord save me.”  Jesus grabbed him, and pulled him from the raging sea.  Peter’s faith wavered because he turned his attentions away from the messiah.  We can all learn from Peter’s mistake; those who are wise will continually remain focused upon Jesus Christ.

          This world is full of diversions.  We, like Peter, are all guilty of looking to the left and to the right; we have all misplaced our attentions; we have all succumbed to the numerous distractions in life.  Though we have failed in many ways, with God’s help, we can all once again refocus upon our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  May our trust, faith, and hope in him never waiver; for in him we find our strength, our salvation, and our greatest victory.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we look to Your Son, and we place our faith fully in Him.  Remove any distractions or diversions that exist in our lives and in our hearts.  May our attentions always be focused upon You.  Continue to sanctify us, that we might be fruitful.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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