Pondering Our Christianity? No More Excuses for our Excuses? One day all of our Excuses must CEASE! Luke 14:16-24

A psychology professor at a Midwestern University recently asked faculty members for the ‘most unusual, bizarre, and amazing student excuses’ they had ever heard. He got dozens of responses from his fellow professors:

* Grandparent death:

an old favorite, but one professor’s class established some sort of record when 14 of 250 students reported their grandmother’s death just before final exams.

In another class a student reported that he could not take a test because of his grandmother’s death.

When the professor expressed condolences a week later, the student replied, ‘Don’t worry, she was almost terminal, but she is feeling much better now.’

* Car Problems: “I had an accident, the police impounded the car, and my paper is in the glove compartment.”

* Animal Trauma: “I can’t be at the exam because my cat is having kittens and I am her coach.”

* More Animal Trauma: “At dinner last night, my dog ate all of my study notes, and he has not pooped yet this morning – can we postpone this until he does?”

We seem to have an excuse for everything, don’t we?

There are even websites on the internet that will help you generate an excuse!

It is true… you type in the type of excuse you need, and it generates one for you (www.zompist.com/excuse.html).

Also, you can even learn about how to

“Deliver a Fake Doctor’s Note and Making It Stick: 6 Must-Use Tips!”

I find that totally amazing!

What exactly is an excuse?

In a court of law, “an excuse is a defense in which a defendant argues that he or she was not liable for his or her actions at the time a law was broken and thus he or she should not be held liable for a crime. Excuses include diminished responsibility, duress, infancy, insanity, involuntary intoxication, mistake, provocation, and unconsciousness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excuse).

I think my favorite excuse from that list is ‘infancy.’

“I was a baby when the crime happened… it wasn’t me!”

Excuse is a reason we give when something happens that does not go our way.

It is the ‘why’ we did something when we get caught.

It is our reasons for not doing something we know we should do.

The Bible is full of people making excuses and making excuses is as old as human beings.

You know the story from Genesis chapter 3. Adam ate the forbidden fruit, then when confronted about it, he came up with an excuse: “The woman you put here with me– she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (verse 12).

Then the blame was shifted to Eve. What did Eve have to say? Genesis 3:13 records her excuse: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

It was the serpent’s turn, and guess what – he didn’t have a leg to stand on!

Exodus 32 shares with us the story of the Golden Calf.

The people of God finally arrived from Egypt and settled at the mountain of God to receive the Ten Commandments.

Moses was gone a long time and the people became restless.

The people wanted Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make idols they could worship.

They gave him gold. Aaron made a calf. They were persistent in their request.

Moses returned with the Ten Commandments in hand and asked Aaron if he had made the idol.

What was Aaron’s response? Aaron is trying to explain himself and says,

“So, I told them, ’Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:24).

Aaron was not to blame… the fire was. Ridiculous and almost comical if the sin were not so grave, have such a bitter taste and have such lethal consequences.

God wants to have a relationship with us, and He wants that relationship to be the most important.

But we default to our sinful unrighteous humanity, and we make our excuses.

It is the great conundrum of mankind – We always have excuses after excuses.

We are going to look at a parable today where the invited guests made excuses.

Let’s read this story from Jesus.

Luke 14:16-24Amplified Bible

Parable of the Dinner

16 But Jesus said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many guests17 and at the dinner hour he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have purchased a piece of land and I have to go out and see it; please consider me excused.’ 19 Another one said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have [recently] married a wife, and for that reason I am unable to come.’ 21 So the servant came back and reported this to his master. Then [his master,] the head of the household, became angry [at the rejections of his invitation] and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and the lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the disabled and the blind and the lame.’ 22 And the servant [after returning] said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled [with guests]. 24 For I tell you, not one of those who were invited [and declined] will taste my dinner.’”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The parable from Luke’s narrative describes for us a great banquet to which the master of the house had extended invitations far and wide.

No time had been noted in the invitation, but the understanding of the day was, once all was ready, notification would go out to all who accepted.

The moment arrived.

The servants were dispatched to gather the guests.

The minimal, if not automatic expectation would be that those invited would drop what they were doing and simply come, because to accept the invitation beforehand and then make an excuse when the day came was a grave insult.

And yet the excuses come.

Everyone knew that the banquet was being prepared and they were supposed to have cleared their schedules.

All who were invited gave excuses.

Other things and other people were subtly, suddenly taking priority over the banquet that was prepared.

Excuse One:

One man said he was too involved in his business.

The man had bought a piece of ground and needed to look after it.

A person can become too involved in any business, not just the business of developing property or farming.

A person’s business, profession, and affairs can often consume all of life.

Other things fall away, and the business is all that matters.

Excuse Two:

Another man said that he was too wrapped up in new purchases.

The oxen had just been purchased.

They were a new possession and the owner wanted to try them out.

So, it is with new purchases such as houses, cars, bikes, records and CDs, books, radios, televisions, and a host of other material things.

The Bible tells us over and over again, over emphasizes material things can take root in our lives and the love of things can become most important in our lives.

Excuse Three:

Still another man said that he was too wrapped up with his family.

This man had just got married.

We know that marriage is ordained by God and that getting married is certainly a good thing.

I think the master of the banquet would have liked it if preparations had been made to attend. Maybe this man could have brought his new wife along, but just says, “I can’t come.” Family can also become an all-consuming issue in our life.

ONE INTERPRETATION

So what does this parable mean?

As in all parables, there is a surface story and then the spiritual meaning underneath.

This is a story about a prepared banquet and all the guests excuse themselves from coming.

The key to interpreting this parable comes in Luke 14:15 right before Jesus gives the parable.

Jesus is eating in a pharisee’s house (Luke 14:1-14) and is discussing spiritual matters with those attending.

One of the people at the table says,

“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Verse 15)

Who is the one preparing the banquet in the parable? God.

What is the banquet?

The Kingdom of God / Christian Faith and Life / Christianity

Who are those invited? Us / People / Believers / Non-Believers

ONE APPLICATION?

How does this parable apply to us?

What is the meaning of Jesus’ story about this banquet and the excuses?

How are we to strive to understand the complexities of this parable in our lives?

One 2022 application for this parable comes I believe, in looking at our own personal application of our daily Christianity in the different excuses given.

You see, God absolutely wants us to make Him a priority.

Except, too any of us absolutely do not want God being their #1 priority!

The parable is all about this prepared banquet that all of these people were supposed to attend and were supposed to make a priority.

God wants to be a priority in our lives.

He wants His Word to be the primary influence in our lives.

He wants our Sabbaths to be dedicated to Him.

He wants our worship to be directed at only Him.

He wants the “first fruits” of our resources to honor Him first.

God absolutely wants to have a relationship with us, and absolutely He fully wants that relationship to be the most important of all of our relationships.

But we default to our sinful and unrighteous humanity – and we make excuses.

* Maybe your business has taken over your life and you have no time for God. What is your excuse?

* Maybe the ‘things’ of life and the pursuit of them is more important than God in this moment, this time and this season. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you haven’t cracked open your Bible in quite a while. Have not had a conversation with Father, Son and Holy Spirit lately. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you are holding onto a grudge and just won’t forgive someone. What is your excuse?

* Maybe you are living like a “Christian” on Sundays, but on Monday through Saturday, you are not so sure you can account for “faith.” What is your excuse?

* Maybe all the effort you expend in your devotion and obedience to God has “tired you out,” “completely exhausted your spirit.” What is your excuse?

* Maybe you have decided not to give of your “first fruits” and your tithing. What is your excuse?

A whole lot of “Maybe’s” are going on all around us – so, our excuses are flying.

We are struggling to generate “just one more excuse” to get through our day.

There is no one alive right now who can deny “wanting just one more excuse!”

You see the Christian life is an exhausting one, all about giving God the priority and living and loving and moving forth in ministry under His Lordship alone.

When you accept Jesus Christ into your life, you accept Him as Savior and Lord.

Most of us have no problem with accepting Jesus as Savior.

We know that we cannot earn our way into Heaven, and we need God, and we need our sins washed away. We need Jesus. Yet, we cannot forget that He is Lord of our life as well. He is our priority, and it’s His will that should be sought after.

I have no idea what your excuse is for God or what the issue is. We all do it. We all give God excuses of why we can’t be faithful. I want to encourage you this day to rid yourself of your excuse and commit yourself to being faithful to God.

As tired and exhausted as we all undoubtedly are in these 2022 times, seasons, there is no excusing our way out of our innate needs for connections with God.

God is absolutely aware of these needs.

There is no time when He is not absolutely aware of these needs.

Isaiah 1:18-20Amplified Bible

“Let Us Reason”

18 
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
[a]Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.
19 
“If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the best of the land;
20 
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The “Invitation to Come and Let Us Reason” is always there.

It has been in the Scriptures for thousands of years.

Ancient Biblical Editors have had uncountable opportunities to remove it.

What if they had removed those words all those thousands of years ago …?

Would that have given us “that one more final excuse” to give to God for why we are such prolific excuse makers – “It was nowhere in your Word, God!”

“Since it was not there in the first place – how can I be held accountable now?”

Do you believe our Lord God has a severe, chronic case of: “exhausted ears?”

His invitation has, in absolute fact, withstood the test of time and mankind.

It is our choice to stop – even for a few brief moments – “why all the excuses?”

There’re definite consequences for not stopping – “but if you refuse, God says.”

There are very definitely, decisively, eternally, consequences to continuing.

One day, Church – All of our excuses will have to absolutely have to stop!

One day, Church – All of our excuses will stop – then God our righteous Judge ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord God, my Way-maker, I know you have a destiny for me to achieve in this life. I want to follow the plan that you have laid out. Help me to understand and follow your call. Show me your will for my life and what I need to do right now to get started. Enable me to know who I am in Christ, and the special gifts and abilities you have given me. Give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation as I seek to know you more intimately. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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My Personal Faith. Social Justice and our God’s Call for Justice. Isaiah 1:10-26.

Probably most of us have heard people speaking about their faith in humanity as a very intimate and private thing, something you feel in your heart, in your soul, with all of your might, all of your strength something you don’t talk about.

Sometimes you hear politicians say that they have a deep personal faith in God, but they assure us that they won’t let their religion, or lack of it, have any sway or influence on the decisions they make in office on behalf of the people served.

Corporate executives are expected to toe the line of maximizing profits above all else and not worrying about the impact that their decisions have on society.

And they might just face severe backlash and stockholder lawsuits if they stray.

Social commentator, Glen Beck has said if you are in a church and the pastor is about to teach or sermonize about social justice, quickly get out of that church.

He felt rather strongly that talk of social justice has no place in church.

I must confess right here and right now, that until rather recently, I would have readily agreed with the Social Commentator, avoided such teaching, sermons.

Right now, my attitude about “social justice” and the Body of Christ, the Church in God’s neighborhood, God in God’s own neighborhood, is being re-written by my intentional and my purposeful engagement with our God’s Holy Scriptures.

My own deeply held personal beliefs wrought through the fires and floods and furnaces and crucibles of my lifetime of experiences, I now find were informed by biases and prejudices I was not wholly aware of nor would ever acknowledge.

My information was faulty and based almost exclusively on my floods, my fires, my crucibles and my furnaces.

My purposeful, intentional engagement with the “deepest truths” of my God’s Word is now being weaved into and throughout my heart, my soul, by my God.

I am learning to ask questions – learning to challenge my biases, my prejudices, and where God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit inform my soul differently through His Scriptures, I repent of the former, to seek out the latter.

Isaiah 1:10-26Amplified Bible

God Has Had Enough

10 
Hear the word of the Lord [rulers of Jerusalem],
You rulers of [another] Sodom,
Listen to the law and instruction of our God,
You people of [another] Gomorrah.
11 
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me [without your repentance]?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of [your] burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of well-fed cattle [without your obedience];
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls or lambs or goats [offered without repentance].
12 
“When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires this of you, this trampling of My [temple] courts [by your sinful feet]?
13 
“Do not bring worthless offerings again,
[Your] incense is repulsive to Me;
[Your] New Moon and Sabbath [observances], the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure wickedness [your sin, your injustice, your wrongdoing] and [the squalor of] the festive assembly.
14 
“I hate [the hypocrisy of] your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts.
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 
“So when you spread out your hands [in prayer, pleading for My help],
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you offer many prayers,
I will not be listening.
Your hands are full of blood!

16 
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Get your evil deeds out of My sight.
Stop doing evil,
17 
Learn to do good.
Seek justice,
Rebuke the ruthless,
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the [rights of the] widow [in court].

“Let Us Reason”

18 
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
[a]Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.
19 
“If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the best of the land;
20 
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Zion Corrupted, to Be Redeemed

21 
How the faithful city has become a prostitute [idolatrous, despicable],
She who was full of justice!
Right standing with God once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
22 
Your silver has turned to [b]lead,
Your wine is diluted with water.
23 
Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes
And chases after gifts.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the widow’s cause come before them [instead they delay or turn a deaf ear].

24 
Therefore, the Lord God of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel, declares:
“Ah, I will be freed of My adversaries
And avenge Myself on My enemies.
25 
“And I will turn My hand against you,
And will [thoroughly] purge away your dross as with lye
And remove all your tin (impurity).
26 
“Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
Afterward you will be called the city of righteousness,
The faithful city.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

For our scripture text this morning we are still in Isaiah chapter 1.

Will God ever let us get out of chapter 1?

It takes 66 chapters to save all of Isaiah’s writings; will we ever get out of chapter 1?

Yes, eventually, by God’s grace alone we will be released from chapter 1.

But first, there are still many important lessons we can take with us into 2022.

But please remember, chapter 1 introduces many of the themes developed in the following 65 chapters, so I’m happy to hang out in chapter 1 for a while longer.

Our scripture lesson is Isaiah 1:10-26. After I read it, and then re-read it, I now challenge you to read it and re-read. You tell me whether Isaiah saw religion as an inward thing, related to the realms of personal faith and feelings, or whether he saw religion as something impacting all of life, even including social justice.

Yesterday we talked about God’s complaint against the people of Judah, which was a very personal complaint. They were his beloved children and he wanted them to love him as He loved them, but we read they were rebelling and getting themselves into serious trouble and he really wanted them all to come back.

By reading and re-reading these verses, I hope and pray you heard that for God, being a Christian, even in 2022, can never stop with just a heart relationship with God. It also includes a right-relationship with our fellow human beings.

And this day, which the Lord hath made for you and me and all of His children, I want to try to look quickly at 5 commands in verse 17 that make that concrete.

God told His Children, the people of Israel to “always learn how to do good.”

In the New Testament the apostle Paul repeatedly told the early Christians to do good works, and when he specifies what he’s talking about, often the context is clearly the good work of sharing with others in need.

That’s a Christianity that goes many echelons beyond feeling good and secure inside. It’s a Christianity that purposely, intentionally, reaches out for others.

Then, also in verse 17, Isaiah tells the people of Judah to “always learn how to seek out justice and learn how to always walk humbly with your God.”

Now there are a lot of different ways of defining justice.

There’s a kind of justice which says,

“I’ve got mine, and nobody’s going to take it from me.”

And we believe in protecting personal and property rights.

We are against theft and criminal behavior.

That’s kind of, sort of, a start to defining, writing, an encyclopedia of justice.

But Isaiah tells the people of Judah, and he tells us, too, that we need to go beyond that encyclopedia.

“I’ve got mine” justice can be content to look at a kid whose lost his parents or is born into a one parent situation where one party felt incapable of meeting the demands of parenthood and maybe feel sorry for the kid but feels no obligation to go “the extra mile or two or three or more if necessary” to volunteer, “help.”

And that’s no justice at all. It’s not fair to that kid at all.

The kid has very little chance in life. The kid is really hurting inside. Justice shouts out to us, “When the parents aren’t there, we need to help that kid.”

“I’ve got mine” justice can build a really nice life for itself, but it takes upon itself limited accountability, personal. professional, responsibility for others.

The Word of God revealed through Isaiah in chapter 1 tells us that justice is about more than me. And our responsibilities in life never stop with just me.

These verses from the first chapter of Isaiah calls for God’s kind of justice that intentionally, purposely watches for the oppressed, those who are held down.

And what are we supposed to do when we see them?

Are we supposed to feel sorry for them?

Are we supposed to analyze whose fault it is that they are in that shape?

Are we supposed to argue about whose job it is to help them, the government, the church, business or private charity?

God’s Prophet Isaiah does not let those arguments distract him.

What do we do if we see someone oppressed? Strive to Rescue them?

And who is that talking about?

The idea is someone who is weighed down, held down, doesn’t have a fair chance. How does one, in 2022, define what “have a fair chance” means?

If we’re talking about people who are oppressed, how about the people whose homes and businesses and livelihoods were just wiped out by “Acts of God?”

UMCOR is there.

FEMA will carry the bulk of the assistance, but UMCOR is great about finding the people who fall between the cracks and for sending in teams long after the immediate emergency to help people clean up, rebuild, restore what can be.

UMCOR goes straight to the United Methodist Churches who have been on the spot, who know the needs, who know who is hurting, so it can intentionally do the most good, efficiently, purposely, conscientiously, serve the most people.

Isaiah gives another example of what biblical justice looks like by calling us to defend the orphan.

What theory of justice in this world could say “I’ve got mine, too bad about that orphan”?

For Example ….

Today, it is estimated that Africa has some 17 million children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

How big a number is 17 million orphans?

Take the entire population of metro Chicago, some 8.9 million, and then add to that population the entire population of San Antonio, Texas being 2.413 million plus the population of the Baltimore, Maryland metro area being 2.845 million plus the population of the Portland Oregon Metro area being 2.5 million plus the population of the Buffalo, New York metro area being 1.137 million people.

That’s approximately how many children are AIDS orphans in Africa today.

What chance do they have as orphans in villages where there isn’t much hope of healthy food, clean water, quality healthcare for kids who have both parents?

https://www.unicef.org/eap/press-releases/child-was-infected-hiv-every-two-minutes-2020-unicef#:~:text=In%202020%2C%20sub%2DSaharan%20Africa,were%20in%20sub%2DSaharan%20Africa.

What justice would there be in a world that does “not nearly enough” to defend, place greater value on the sanctity of the lives and wellbeing of those children?

Well, Praise and thank God for volunteers, organizations like World Vision and UMCOR and many others who are there. And let us do all we can to help them.

But there are a lot of vulnerable children and adults in all areas, too.

What about underserved kids whose parents are failing them, in jail or even abusing them so badly that the court needs to take them out of their home?

We have dedicated social workers to help them, but as budgets have been cut their ability to give the kids the support they need is really, really stretched.

What about the Homeless populations? The Homeless Veteran populations?

Right now, our nation is in a major crisis as we have spent a whole lot more money out of the national treasury than we could afford, and we are desperately looking for places to more efficiently, more intentionally, purposely, love our God in His Neighborhood, serve our communities, our neighbors in some way.

Let’s remember that Isaiah calls us, that God calls us through these timeless and most ancient of words from Isaiah chapter 1, to defend the orphans.

And I think it’s exceedingly, abundantly fair to expand that to include children who have both parents, and those single parent households where economically parents can’t provide proper nutrition or proper medical care for their children.

And in all the talk of needing to cut our government deficits, too often it is programs to defend vulnerable children that people want to cut. I think that rigorous and vigorous advocacy is most definitely appropriate ‘social justice.’

And, finally, the words of Isaiah chapter 1 tell us to plead for the widow.

Isaiah lived long before social security, in a time when women may not have even had clear property rights.

And if their husband died, they could be in big trouble. Today our government has stepped in with social security and Medicare and they really, really help.

But any sense of God’s justice calls us to watch out for our widows, to comfort, advocate and support them as they grieve, to support them as they may struggle with maintaining their homes, providing meals, and to visit them when lonely.

While we are engaging God in His neighborhood, what more can be done here?

But still, the lingering questions always remain when we engage our Faith in Humanity with our Faith in an Engaging and Intimate and Loving and God.

1 John 4:7-21Amplified Bible

God Is Love

Beloved, let us [unselfishly] [a]love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath]. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us [in this incredible way], we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. But if we love one another [with unselfish concern], God abides in us, and His love [the love that is His essence abides in us and] is completed and perfected in us. 13 By this we know [with confident assurance] that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given to us His [Holy] Spirit. 14 We [who were with Him in person] have seen and testify [as eyewitnesses] that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses and acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him. 17 In this [union and fellowship with Him], love is completed and perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment [with assurance and boldness to face Him]; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]. 19 We love, because [b]He first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (works against) his [Christian] brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should also [unselfishly] love his brother and seek the best for him.

Before we begin to or continue engaging with God in God’s Neighborhood,

Before making a personal decision about where we engage our neighbors,

Many, Many Examples of Essential Questions to ponder with God about:

Decisions, Actions, and Consequences

  1. What is the relationship between decisions and consequences?
  2. How do we know how to make good decisions?
  3. How can a person’s decisions and actions change his/her life?
  4. How do the decisions and actions of characters reveal their personalities?
  5. How do decisions, actions, and consequences vary depending on the different perspectives of the people involved?

Social Justice

  1. What is social justice?
  2. To what extent does power or the lack of power affect individuals?
  3. What is oppression and what are the root causes?
  4. How are prejudice and bias created? How do we overcome them?
  5. What are the responsibilities of the individual in regard to issues of social justice?
  6. How can literature serve as a vehicle for social change?
  7. When should an individual take a stand against what he/she believes to be an injustice? What are the most effective ways to do this?
  8. What are the factors that create an imbalance of power within a culture?
  9. What does power have to do with fairness and justice?
  10. When is it necessary to question the status quo? Who decides?
  11. What are the benefits and consequences of questioning / challenging social order?
  12. How do stereotypes influence how we look at and understand the world?
  13. What does it mean to be invisible? (context: minorities)
  14. In what ways can a minority keep their issues on the larger culture’s “radar screen?”
  15. What creates prejudice, and what can an individual overcome it?
  16. What are the causes and consequences of prejudice and injustice, and how does an individual’s response to them reveal his/her true character?
  17. What allows some individuals to take a stand against prejudice/oppression while others choose to participate in it?
  18. What are the causes and consequences of prejudice and how does an individual’s response to it reveal his/her morals, ethics, and values?

Culture: Values and Beliefs, Traditions and Rituals

  1. How do individuals develop values and beliefs?
  2. What factors shape our values and beliefs?
  3. How do values and beliefs change over time?
  4. How does family play a role in shaping our values and beliefs?
  5. Why do we need beliefs and values?
  6. What happens when belief systems of societies and individuals come into conflict?
  7. When should an individual take a stand in opposition to an individual or larger group?
  8. When is it appropriate to challenge the beliefs or values of society?
  9. To what extent do belief systems shape and/or reflect culture and society?
  10. How are belief systems represented and reproduced through history, literature, art, and music?
  11. How do beliefs, ethics, or values influence different people’s behavior?
  12. How do individuals reconcile competing belief systems within a given society (e.g., moral beliefs conflicting with legal codes)?
  13. When a person’s individual choices are in direct conflict with his/her society, what are the consequences?
  14. What is morality and what are the factors that have an impact on the development of our morality?
  15. What role or purpose does religion / spirituality serve in a culture?
  16. What purpose or function do ethics / philosophy have in governing technological advances?
  17. How do our values and beliefs shape who we are as individuals and influence our behavior?

There are undoubtedly many more questions to ponder as anyone individually seeks to engage God side by side with His Words of hard truth and harder love.

In such weighty matters, be patient with God and be patient with yourself ….

Matthew 6:25-33Amplified Bible

The Cure for Anxiety

25 “Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by worrying can add one [a]hour to [the length of] his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labor, nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendor dressed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive and green today and tomorrow is [cut and] thrown [as fuel] into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

This morning I want to affirm, with Isaiah, that our faith in God is not just an awkward, inward, personal thing. Our God is very concerned we “do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” AMEN?

1 Corinthians 15:58Amplified Bible

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit ……

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

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Why Should I Walk with God and with His Blessings? Deuteronomy 5:32-33.

“Cause and effect” are a relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other or others. This is a combination of an action and a reaction.

Something happens (a cause) that leads to an effect. 

For Example ……

Cause: As we were waiting for a bus, we received 7 inches of rain in 4 hours. 

Effect: My Umbrella did not keep me dry. The roadways were flooded.

Cause: I flipped the light switch. 

Effect: The light came on and I saw the mess I made last night all over again.

Cause: The boss was busy. 

Effect: Their secretary rolled their eyes skyward, took a telephone message.

THE REALITIES OF CAUSE AND EFFECT

From the time you are a child until you die, you understand cause and effect.

“Cause” is the action that produces a result or consequence.

And “effect” is the product, result, or consequence of that action.

As a baby you learn that if you cry, mom or dad will change you, feed you, or hold you. 

As you grow into a toddler you learn that if you drop something from your highchair, somebody will pick it up.

As a kid working your way through school, you learn that if you study hard, you will earn good grades and increase the likelihood you will receive scholarships.

As a college student you learn that if you study hard, you increase the likelihood of receiving great grades and Latin Honors and the likelihood of that great job.

As a young adult you learn that hard work pays great dividends and increases the likelihood you will gain an excellent reputation and promotions on the job.

As an adult, you also learn that if you are not a particularly hard worker and are making excuses, chronically late to work, you get into trouble and lose your job.

Proverbs 24:30-34 The Message

One day I walked by the field of an old lazybones,
    and then passed the vineyard of a slob;
They were overgrown with weeds,
    thick with thistles, all the fences broken down.
I took a long look and pondered what I saw;
    the fields preached me a sermon and I listened:
“A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
    sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
    with poverty as your permanent houseguest!”

This thought comes to King Solomon after he considers the fields of a lazy man:

The field is overgrown and in general disrepair.

He sees the danger in staying in bed too long, although most of us might enjoy more of this practice. Poverty and lack attack if this behavior is not conquered.

There is always a cause and effect.

This same principal is found in the kingdom of Heaven:

The Cause: God loves you with an everlasting love. God gave His Son as a sacrifice so that you could be reconciled to Him. Love has victory over death.

The Effect: You experience the love of our Father, which fulfills you in a way that nothing else can. You share in His victory over death. You desire to share God’s love with others, so they, too, will experience His 100% love for them.

There can be no effect without a cause. God’s love for you should always be the cause for your walking with, for Him. If it’s not, then your work will be in vain.

Without faith in God, it is impossible to please God.

Without hope in God, it is impossible to please God.

Without love for God, it is impossible to please God.

Without faith, hope and love in and for God, it is impossible to walk with Him.

Walking with God does not lead to God’s favor, but God’s favor leads to walking in favor with God. If I walk with the world, can I genuinely say I walk with God?

Deuteronomy 5:32-33Amplified Bible

32 Therefore you shall pay attention and be careful to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left [deviating from My commandments]. 33 You shall walk [that is, live each and every day] in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long in the land which you will possess.

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 The Message

32-33 So be very careful to act exactly as God commands you. Don’t veer off to the right or the left. Walk straight down the road God commands so that you’ll have a good life and live a long time in the land that you’re about to possess.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

After Moses instructed God’s people in the Ten Commandments, he added the Cause: they must walk “obediently in God’s way.” Then added the Effect, he said, God would bless them richly and make them prosper in the promised land.

To interpret this promise wisely, we need to know that prosperity in the Bible has more to do with spiritual blessings than material or physical things.

All over the world there are people who interpret God’s blessing mainly as a promise to make them healthy and wealthy and wise. But that is a mistake.

While some people do experience blessings of “never having spent a day in the hospital” or “never worrying about how to pay the bills.”

There are also those who have experienced the blessing of “having spent time in an ICU Bed, an Oncology ward or other long term care facility, their health in a critical state of flux: of life versus death.” Likewise, there are those who have experienced day to day struggles with how to pay the bills and feed their kids.

Trying to survive on our own strength and our own wit and wisdom is costly.

Frankly, genuinely walking with God can be even more significantly costly.

So many have lost their jobs and their health and their marriages. Have found themselves struggling through circumstances in life for which only the biblical Patriarch Job could Identify with, give the best counsel for surviving day to day.

Yet, amazingly, these same Christians will declare that in the midst of deep sacrifice they were blessed. Even Job declared his blessings. (Job 1:20-22)

When we walk with God, we live in community with our Lord. We feel God’s delight in all things good, and we sense his pain in the face of sin and evil. Such a close walk with God is itself a blessing. The joys and peace that flows from our relationship with God far outweigh the cost of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Living our lives with God in it, makes things easier and gives us hope.

We may not be the most cognizant.

We may take God for granted, not realize it, not consider it for one moment, not pray over it, but walking with God is so much better than walking without him.

and here is why.

1. Walking With God Makes Things Possible

The Lord never said that our lives here on earth would be easy.

We are all absolutely going to go through hard times, and we are absolutely going to have our struggles. But our time here on earth will be worth it.

We are here to spread the Truth of God’s Gospel, the Truth of God’s love and light to others and spread the absolute greatest news ever that he is our Savior.

When we walk with God, it may not make things any easier, but it certainly and surely makes them infinitely more possible.

Walking with him gives us blessed assurance of his presence and power in our lives. Our God is powerful! With him all things are possible. We can endure trials and heartache. Because of Christ’s resurrection power in us, we can overcome.

“I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people” – Leviticus 26:12

2. He Is Our Comfort

The Lord is always walking beside you.

The Lord is always walking beside me.

He is going through every situation with you.

He is going through every situation with me.

He loves and cares for you and will always stand by your side.

He loves and cares for me and will always stand by myside.

Walking with Him will give you and me the absolute comfort of knowing that He is always there for you and me. He is always with you and me when we need someone to lean on and a shoulder to cry on; He is always there with open arms.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23: 4

3. He Will Help You

No matter what you and I are going through, God will help you and God will help me. We can always cry out to him for help. When we are frustrated and angry, cry out to him. When we are upset, feel like we cannot go on any longer, cry out to him. He will always be there to pick us up and move us ever forward.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16

4. Walking Without Him Is an Unnecessary Struggle

When we are not walking with God, we are going to struggle even more because we are completely on our own. We feel we have no other choice but to just figure things out for ourselves, we are the only ones with all the right questions, all the correct, viable answers, and it will be much more difficult than it should be.

God is the only genuine light illuminating our path.

He will show us the way, but without him, we have to find our way through the darkness. Why do we permit the struggle, when we can have God to guide us?

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

Hebrews 11:1-6Amplified Bible

The Triumphs of Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. For by this [kind of] faith the [a]men of old gained [divine] approval.

By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks. By faith [that pleased God] Enoch was caught up and taken to heaven so that he would not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found because God had taken him; for even before he was taken [to heaven], he received the testimony [still on record] that he had walked with God and pleased Him. But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek.

We know very little about Enoch.

His father was Jared, and his son was Methuselah, who lived longer than anyone else.

The most surprising thing about Enoch is that he did not die.

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

Enoch was one of two people in the Bible who never experienced death.

The other was Elijah. (See 2 Kings 2:1-14.)

Enoch’s walk with God made him stand out from the crowd.

Only a few generations later, God would send a flood to wipe away a humanity that no longer understood what it meant to live close with God.

Only Enoch’s great-grandson Noah and his family would be spared so that human beings could make a new beginning.

God’s special gift to Enoch reminds us walking with God is the way to true life.

Of course, unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, we will all face death.

But Jesus, who identifies himself as the way to God (John 14:6), also said,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).

Then Jesus turns that belief around and against us – “Do we Believe this?”

With Faith pleasing to God ….

With Hope pleasing to God ….

With Love pleasing to God ….

Do we believe the cause: walking with God in faith has this effect: puts us on a level road that moves us forward and takes us beyond death to life eternal?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God, my Guide and my Guardian,

Take me to task today,

Search me, and know me …..

Hold me accountable to thy Gospel Truth,

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen

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YAHWEH Sabaoth, “The Lord of Hosts.” Our Battles belong to the Lord Alone!

David’s triumph over Goliath is one of the best-known stories of the Bible.

An inexperienced, yet agile lad with a few smooth stones, steps out in his own weaknesses, defeats a giant, armored warrior decked out with heavy weapons.

It’s an inspiring and empowering story of contrasts and ironies: tall versus short, strength versus weakness, arrogance versus humility, glorious victory versus humiliating defeat.

From deep within, our hearts, souls and spirits are mightily stirred up.

From within our weaknesses, we raise up, savor the triumph of the underdog.

But this very impressive story is not mainly about David and Goliath. The core conflict is really between the false gods of the Philistines and the God of Israel, Yahweh Sabaoth, “the LORD of Hosts” or “the LORD Almighty.”

Yahweh Sabaoth is one of the most widely used names for God in the Old Testament, occurring 270 times.

The name Sabaoth comes from the Hebrew word for “that which goes forth” and for “armies” or “hosts.”

The name Yahweh Sabaoth declares God’s reign over heaven and earth and over all armies, earthly and spiritual.

The shepherd boy David, understanding the real conflict, declares that “the battle is the LORD’s.”

And through him, Yahweh Sabaoth, “the LORD of Hosts,” defeats the mighty Philistine and his gods.

A hymn of the church sings, “Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same”—and today we can utterly rely on his strength in our daily battles.

1 Samuel 17:45-50Authorized (King James) Version

45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” – Psalm 46:7

As Christians, most of us likely know and understand that God is always with us. It is even possible that for many this truth has become so familiar that we have lost the awe and wonder it deserves.

In Psalm 46:7 the psalmist describes the God that is always with him as, “The LORD of hosts.” By referring to God by this name, Jehovah Sabaoth (LORD of hosts in Hebrew), the psalmist is ascribing glory, power and majesty to God.

The prophet Amos wrote,

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD of hosts is His name (Amos 4:13).”

Isaiah also used this name saying,

“Thus says Jehovah, the King of Israel and His Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last and there is no God besides Me’” (Isaiah 44:6).

The name LORD of Hosts appears more than 270 times in the Old Testament, making it the most frequently used compound name for God.

Most of these uses occur in the books of the prophets.

It is clear that God wants to communicate His supernatural and ever-present power to His people, especially during desperate circumstances.

The time of the prophets in the Old Testament was when Israel was crumbling.

The Nation was divided and then conquered by Babylon and Assyria.

The children of Israel were captured and exiled.

And it was during these years of chaos, suffering and heartache that God repeatedly reminded His children of His name.

When all hope was lost and defeat seemed inevitable Israel’s Warrior God, the LORD of hosts, reminded them that the battle was His…and it still is.

AW Tozer said,

“To regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God.”

This name for God will change how we relate to Him.

God is so much more than “the man upstairs.”

I. What Does Jehovah-Sabaoth Rule Over?

“In general, ‘Host’ can describe (1) a multitude of men (army), (2) angels (good and bad) or (3) physical stars.

The important truth is that Jehovah is LORD over ALL HOSTS, whether they are the armies on the earth, the stars or the angels (good or bad).”

We must seek to know God in His majesty. He is God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and the only wise God. If He is for us, who can be against us?

When we are at the end of our ropes, we can call on the LORD of hosts.

He commands an army of angels and rules over all the heavenly hosts.

When we are powerless, He will fight for us.

When there is no other help, there is always God.

As the psalmist wrote,

“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

 Jehovah-Sabaoth rules over the battles we face.

Zechariah 4:1-7 Authorized King James Version

And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

Our focus should never be on “conquering our mountains” with our own might, or our own power, by how big our problem is, it should be on how huge God is.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Authorized King James Version

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

YAHWEH, Sabaoth, The Lord of Hosts, always and forever protects His own

When the odds continually, continuously seem against us, when “Christian” life appears overwhelming, that is when we need to look at Jehovah-Sabaoth.

This is what David did when he faced Goliath. 

1 Samuel 17:45-47 Authorized King James Version

45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord  saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:37-39 Names of God Version

37 The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. 38 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Yeshua our Lord shows us. [a] We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces 39 or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57J.B. Phillips New Testament

The dead and the living will be fitted for immortality

51-53 Listen, and I will tell you a secret. We shall not all die, but suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, every one of us will be changed as the trumpet sounds! The trumpet will sound, and the dead shall be raised beyond the reach of corruption, and we who are still alive shall suddenly be utterly changed. For this perishable nature of ours must be wrapped in imperishability, these bodies which are mortal must be wrapped in immortality.

54 So when the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’

55-57 It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Sometimes during trials, we focus so intently on our own personal experiences that we will forget to focus on our “God with us and within us” experiences too.

When we are exactly in the middle of uncertain trials, everyone will have their own opinions or suggestions, remedies about how to “get through them alive.”

And if they are from people, you innately, implicitly trust, you should consider them, you should seriously ponder them for a time and a season and move on.

However, after all is said and done, and you have exhausted your resources, your trusted confidants’ resources, there is only one place and person to go.

YAHWEH! Sabaoth – The Lord of Hosts – The Battle Belongs to Him ALONE!

In the name of YAHWEH, the Father, YAHWEH the Son, YAHWEH the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord of Hosts, help us to rely on your strength to wage the battles we face each day against our own trials and temptation’s. We ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

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Moving forward into Ministry: Trust, Faith, a Living Hope, after a Tragedy. Job 13:13-18

I have been asked several times how we can have trust or faith after tragedy.

Considering the scope and the magnitude of our recent events – several mass shootings, I took it as God’s Spirit moving me today to write this devotional.

As with a host of countless others, I have been through a few tragedies in my life and never genuinely thought of myself as a trauma survivor until I was trained as a Professional Registered Nurse in the field of Psychiatry.

I have never in my life experienced the scope of the tragedies from those events.

The closest: My father was a two-tour combat veteran of the Korean Conflict. I lived my life as a first-generation male child born from his combat experiences.

My Father was 100% Service Connected for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I as the only male child, bore the full brunt of his experiences on those battlefields.

His mental health issues and his alcoholism created enormous challenges for our relationship as father and son. I was constantly, desperately trying to cope.

These struggles and challenges shaped and reshaped each of my career choices.

I tried engineering like my father wanted me to except the math was too hard. I flunked out of college trying everything I could do to make him ‘happy’ with his career choice for my life. I learned to fear what might happen if I indeed failed.

Instead, I followed my RN mother into Nursing and became quite successful.

I got a position as a Psychiatry – Mental Health Counselor for a new Homeless program serving a diverse population of long-term Homeless Veterans, from both peace time military service and military service in a combat zone.

Part of the introductory speech was to be sure you identify yourself as a trauma survivor, if in fact, you were. One identified this way out of maximum respect. I myself am a veteran of both the Navy and Army serving sixteen and a half years.

As that Professional Counselor, I was able to see how people handled their grief and the impact of that tragedy and grief impacted their outlook on their faith.

How you trust, have faith and develop a living hope after a tragedy may be in direct correlation to how you faithfully trusted in living hope prior to tragedy.

Indeed, in good times it is easy to trust, have faith and a living hope and our trust, faith, hope may be a bit shallow and naive, immature and uninformed.

When all is well there is very little to trust since there seems to be so much evidence of God being good and good to you.

Seldom do we genuinely trust that God would ever allow any tragedy or sorrow to come our way. Yet, that is not consistent with what the Word of God teaches.

Job 13:13-18 Amplified Bible

Job Is Sure He Will Be Vindicated

13 
“Be silent before me so that I may speak;
And let happen to me what may.
14 
“Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
And put my life in my hands [incurring the wrath of God]?
15 
“Even though He kills me;
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless, I will argue my ways to His face.
16 
“This also will be my salvation,
For a godless man may not come before Him.

17 
“Listen diligently to my speech,
And let my declaration fill your ears.
18 
“Behold now, I have prepared my case;
I know that I will be vindicated.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We may quote that verse from the oldest book of the Bible at times and even think we have that kind of trust, but we do not want it tested.

Indeed, all of us would fail that test.

I suspect very few people have suffered as much tragedy as Job.

He lost his wealth, his ten children and his health in a very short time.

The trauma of it all so devastated his wife that she encouraged him to curse God and die. Sometimes folks are hard on Mrs. Job as if she was being heartless.

Indeed, she may have been seeking relief for his suffering and hoping God would kill her as well to stop her pain.

During the many times of war and plagues since then people have had some Job moments.

Still, Job said God could kill him and still he would trust God. Is it any wonder God pointed to him as a man of God and the devil wanted to destroy him?

We tend to forget that we are in a sin cursed world because of Adam and Eve.

Everything was in perfect peace and balance in Eden.

Once they chose to opt for being like God all of that changed and in essence man was in charge of a world he could not control or fix as it deteriorated.

Mankind also began deteriorating so that here we are in the last spasms of the Earth with men and women of minds and souls so depraved that we are seeing indescribably lethal, and unbelievably violent horrors almost on a daily basis.

Indeed, the song “This Is My Father’s World” is accurate in the title, but not in theology.

While God owns the universe, He gave the Earth to man who gave it to the devil at the Fall.

Now that man is cursed and influenced by satan more so than God it is being destroyed like a bad renter who breaks everything and allows animals to use it as their bathroom while never cleaning allowing the place to be infested by roaches and rats. (Apologies for the brooding anger behind that description).

One day God will come to repossess the world and after a thousand years he will destroy it and build new.

In a sense, since man has chosen the devil over God this world is our father, the devil’s world.

Unfortunately, due to some bad theology many people lose their trust or faith after a tragedy because either they have not read the Word, or someone taught them that God wants His people to always be healthy and wealthy.

If you pull some Scripture out of context you can come up with many errors that will blast your brain, your trust and faith and hope when they do not prove true.

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Many use this passage to teach health and prosperity is a right.

Yet, John only wished that they would prosper and be in health.

It is not a guarantee any more than when we wish someone to have a good day and stay safe.

Note that John wants it to be in direct proportion to their soul maturing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

Many immature Christians cling to this as a promise and when they lose their job or their health or worse, then they lose their faith in God and the Word.

If our health, wellbeing and wealth were truly tied to the prosperity of our soul many of us would be in near total poverty and near death. Grace is wonderful.

2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

Philippians 2:25-27 25 However, I thought it necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, [who has been] my brother and companion and fellow soldier, who was also sent as your messenger to take care of my needs. 26 For he has been longing [a]for all of you and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 He certainly was sick and close to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.

We believe in divine healing and yet God does not always heal as some teach.

Some healers say if you are not healed it is because you did not have faith.

Paul had enormous faith and yet, for some reason he could not instantly heal Trophimus like he did others.

Epaphroditus nearly died and it appears that God did not use instant healing in his case, but still healed him without Paul.

I would easily suggest that all three of men had far more faith or trust than the average “Christian” today, but they suffered, one even to the brink of death.

If you believe that God always heals and must heal every time prayer for healing is made you are going to have a crisis of faith after that loved one died that you had on twenty prayer lists and had them anointed three times.

You are going to be extraordinarily angry with God and throw the Bible on the shelf or in the recycle bin and declare you no longer believe or trust God. Your faith was based and cemented in bad doctrine, your emotions instead of God.

How so many good and bad and horribly bad people can believe the saved are somehow surrounded by an iron dome keeping us free from sickness, poverty, persecution, oppression and death is beyond me when so many in the World did not have a life like that and we are even warned about what we will experience.

Tell that to many believers around the world today who suffer great persecution and yet love the Lord to the max and take great risks to worship and evangelize.

John 16:32-33 (Amplified Version) 32 Take careful notice: an hour is coming, and has arrived, when you will all be scattered, each to his own home, leaving Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

Jesus said we would have tribulation!

The word is literally ‘pressure’, but is also translated as persecution, anguish and affliction.

No promise of exemption from it, just that He has overcome and so will the saved though they will have to bear up through heavy burdens or tragedies.

1 Timothy 3:10-13 10 Now you have diligently followed [my example, that is] my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, 11 persecutions, and sufferings—such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, but the Lord rescued me from them all! 12 Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]. 13 But evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul had listed some of the trials and persecutions he had gone through and is saying this is not just my issue or legacy.

You live godly and the ungodly are going to persecute you.

There is a connotation of fleeing your pursuer in the Greek.

It begs the question that if I am not being persecuted am I living a godly life?

I believe it was Menno Simons who said something like a church that is not being persecuted is not a true church. Ouch! So, if everything is peachy keen maybe we should be in prayer asking why instead of asking why when it is not.

Romans 8:16-21 16 The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. 17 And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.

18 For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us! 19 For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Christ said that the student was not greater than the teacher and if they hated Christ and called him of the devil ultimately crucifying Him what do you think they will do to you if they can?

The “if so be that we suffer “is not saying you might not suffer with Him, but more that it is our lot to look forward to being glorified with Him because we suffer with Him indicating He is near us when we suffer. It comes along with the divine bloodline. If we have to suffer, fine, because we will be glorified.

Romans 8:34-39 34 Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. 35 Who shall ever separate us from the love of [a]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 Just as it is written and forever remains written,

“For Your sake we are put to death all day long;
We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. 38 For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul would not go through this list if there was no possibility of these tragedies happening to saints making them wonder if they were separated from Christ.

Jeremiah 29:10-13 10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. 13 Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Some of you may have been wondering how in the world does all of this square with Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Israel was in captivity because of sin, but then God promised an end to it and great blessing.

Yet, they suffered and when you tie in the next verses the key to 11 is 12 and 13. When they seek Him with all of their hearts and pray in earnest then He will hear and set them free. That goes for us as well.

How do we trust after tragedy?

It boils down to do we really believe what we often glibly ask. “Is God good all the time and all the time God is good or not?”

If He is, then we can believe that in His omniscience and omnipresence He has opted to exercise or withhold His omnipotence for the greater good or to bring us closer to Him because we have strayed away or because it is just part of this sinful world to lose a loved one because we are in a world of death.

If Christians never died or became ill, disabled or unemployed or financially distressed, then everyone would want to be a Christian to escape those things.

Both believers and unbelievers need to see that we do not ever escape the pain, but we have Jesus Christ who 100% gets us through the pain because He is good.

If He were not good, nothing good would ever happen because both He and the devil would be bringing evil to us.

We always question why bad things happen to good people when really the question is why good things happen to bad people since no one is righteous.

We will never know (why should we want to know?) exactly how bad our lives could be or could have been without the faithfulness of God until we get home.

I have had tragedies in my life, but still He has been faithful and so good to me.

God’s thoughts towards us are not evil.

The devil on the other hand has no good thoughts about us.

He wants to steal everything we value.

He wants to kill all of us and if our good God did not thwart his desires, we surely would all be dead and everything we have sought to build in our lives destroyed; marriage, children, testimonies all gone.

Too often we create our own tragedies.

Free will can cause our greatest pain when we do what God said not to do or not do what He told us to do.

The worst tragedy is running from God instead of to Him.

No one or nothing else will heal your pain and offer your life that is abundant either in quantity, quality or both even when you had to pass through the valley of the shadow of death to get to those green pastures.

2 Corinthians 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

It also comes down to it not being all about us.

God will comfort you, if you allow Him.

When you are ready. Be still and ask Him to take the pain, bring comfort and ultimately peace and joy.

He may never explain why the tragedy was not averted.

We may not know until we get to Heaven and then that puzzle piece with the question mark on it will fit perfectly, but we will not care then.

Listen to Him.

Read the Word.

Fervently Pray even when it seems useless to the maximum.

Let Him change your theology, if necessary.

Parents do not always outlive their children.

People are not always healed.

Not everyone will be rich, but through His Holy Spirit working in you it can be a life rich in many more things than money.

Peace with God and a ministry to use your gift is worth all the material wealth in the universe.

You cannot trust a person until they have been proven trustworthy.

God is the only one you can 100% trust and often you will not fully believe that until He has proven to you that He is in the time of trouble.

Open your hands, your heart and your soul to Him.

Tragedy does not have to define the whole or any single place of your existence

You can be healed of your tragedy, your pain and you can and WILL trust again.

Maranatha!!!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord, we pray for those who have been utterly devastated by recent tragedies. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly and without cause. We hold deep within our hearts and souls the families forever changed by grief and loss. By Your mercy, Bring them to their Shalom, their consolation and comfort.

Surround them with our prayers for strength and healing. Bless those who have survived and likewise, in Your own way, in Your own time, heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead.

Help us as compassionate human beings, to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of our abilities. Keep our hearts focused on the totality of needs of all the community. We ask this in Jesus’ living name. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Did The Holy Spirit Only Empower 12 Disciples on The Day of Pentecost? Acts 1:4-8

There is a teaching in the church that on the Day of Pentecost, only the 12 Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, and not all of the 120 who were in the Upper Room, including Mary, the surrogate mother of Jesus.

There are those people use the term “ghost” from the King James Version of the Bible to refer to the third person of the Trinity.

However, the word is an improper translation of the Greek word ‘pneuma’ which refers to the Holy Spirit, wind, or the breath of God.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4151/nasb95/mgnt/0-1/

The English word “ghost” refers to the spirit of the dead or a phantasm.

The Greek word translated as ‘ghost’ is ‘phantasma’ and is never used in reference to God.

Creator God chose to send the Holy Spirit during the Jewish national holiday, known as Pentecost, the Feast of Harvest, which was 50 days following after the crucifixion of Jesus.

It was the celebration of the wheat harvest and was intended to remind all of the people of their harshest time spent in Egypt and it marked the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

They were to bring offerings to God to celebrate with great rejoicing in music and dance because they had been delivered from their bondage. Everyone was invited to this harvest feast, including Levites, servants, sons and daughters, the fatherless, the widow, and even strangers (Deuteronomy 16:9-12).

Pentecost was so incredible that it affected the entire human race and their relationship to God.

The Holy Spirit was given as a gift from the Father on that day as the truest confirmation that the New Covenant of grace – paid for by the shed blood of Jesus, and now written on the heart of every Christian – is more effectual than the Law given at Mount Sinai that was written on stone (2 Corinthians 3:3-18).

It also confirms that those who place their trust in Jesus find true deliverance and healing from the penalty of sin. There is no better reason to all peoples to gather together, celebrate with great rejoicing in music and dance on that day!

Acts 1:4-8New American Standard Bible

[a]Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for [b]what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized [c]with water, but you will be baptized [d]with the Holy Spirit [e]not many days from now.”

So, when they had come together, they began asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” But He said to them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

The Word of God for the People of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

It was during the Last Supper that Jesus gave farewell instructions to the Apostles.

He declared to them

(John 14:12 NASB): 12 Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father.

The promise was the sending of the Holy Spirit, “the Counselor… from the Father” who would “testify” or prove, affirm, and demonstrate that Jesus is Lord so that all those who would put their trust in Him would “receive power” to be His “witnesses…both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (John 15:26; Acts 1:8 NIV).

This was not a new promise.

The gift of the Holy Spirit had been promised in the Old Testament:

…for with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing…” (Isaiah 28:11-12 KJV)

The difference between the Old and New Testament ministries of the Holy Spirit is that, prior to the Day of Pentecost, His power came upon spiritual leaders at particular times but did not take up residence within them.

Before a person becomes Born-Again and transformed at the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit is WITH them to draw them to Jesus, but this is not the same as being IN them.

Jesus promised the Disciples before He was crucified and resurrected that He would “ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor” who would not just live with them but would take up permanent residence within them when they become a Christian (John 14:16-17).

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at the moment a person becomes Born-Again.

It is this baptism which makes the Christian complete in Christ.

All that the Father is, Jesus is.

All the “fullness of the Godhead bodily” dwells in Jesus (Colossians 2:9 NIV).

This means that Jesus is the physical presentation of all that the Father is.

A person can’t be a Christian and belong to God if the Holy Spirit is not 100% fully living inside them because “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9-11 NIV).

From within the text from His High Priestly Prayer, we read Jesus prayed,

“… 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.” (John 17:21-22 NIV)

The Gospel is essentially the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

It is obtained by faith and faith alone, plus absolutely nothing. Through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is placed in Jesus because they “have been crucified with Christ… and…Christ lives in” them” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

When Jesus died, the Christian died in their position with Him.

In the same way, when Jesus was buried, they were “buried with Him by baptism,” and just as Jesus was raised from the dead, they are “risen with Him” (Colossians 2:9-12 NIV).

After a person is converted and becomes Born-Again by repenting of their sins and receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they each receive all of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There is no partial filling.

They are now “baptized into one body (the Church), whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been made to drink into one Spirit” and placed “in” Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV).

The Christian is made “complete in Him” and immediately they enter into the “the kingdom of God” because they received “Christ,” “the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27; 2:10; Luke 17:21 NIV)

They are now a child “of God” and are given the power to overcome the enemy “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:4 NIV)

The Bible says every Christian has “been baptized into Christ” and has been “clothed…with Him” (Galatians 3:27 NIV).

When a person comes to faith in Jesus, they receive all the blessings that are in Christ.

These blessings are not received one day in the future once they reach some self-assumed place of ‘real’ holiness.

God’s blessings are entirely the possession of the Christian because they have already received them through Jesus.

The blessings are received when they first called upon Jesus to forgive them of their sins and become the Lord of their life.

There is absolutely nothing that can be found outside of Christ that has any eternal value to it!

Like a Mighty Wind

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)

“All,” not just a few, of the people there were “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

In the Bible, the wind is often a picture of the “breath of the Almighty” that releases creative power and “gives me life” (Job 33:4 KJV).

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/job/33/4/t_conc_469004

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h7307/kjv/wlc/0-1/

In the Hebrew text, “wind,” “spirit,” and sometimes “breath” are the same word (ruwach).

The Bible declares that at the beginning of Creation, God first breathed His breath upon the waters of the Earth “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 NIV).

God formed human beings “from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7 TLB).

It took His breath to create the Universe; “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6 NIV).

At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He read from the Book of Isaiah to declare that the “ruwach” of the Lord God was upon Him (See Luke 4:17-21).

God promised He would “pour out” His “Spirit on ALL people” (Joel 2:28 NIV – emphasis mine).

After His resurrection, and before the Day of Pentecost, Jesus re-generated ten of the Apostles when He “breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:22-23 NIV).

At that moment, they were Born-Again because they received the Holy Spirit.

A person cannot receive salvation by becoming Born-Again unless they are 100% filled with Him (John 3:3-4).

However, those 10 Apostles were not yet endued with power until the Day of Pentecost. For them, that was an entirely separate and distinct experience.

The other 110 Disciples who were with them in the Upper Room were still not yet regenerated/born from above through salvation.

They believed in Jesus, but they had yet to receive Him and become Born-Again.

Believing that Jesus is God is not the same as receiving Him. Even “the demons believe that and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV).

This is also the case with the people of Samaria, Ephesus, and those at Cornelius’s house who were not yet Born-Again because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14; 10:44; 18:24).

Tongues of Fire

The tongues of fire were a sign to the Jewish people God was exceedingly pleased with those who had received Jesus, the promised Messiah, as their personal Lord and Savior.

God showed the people their sins were forgiven through the death of Jesus, and He was stopping the plague of sin’s eternal consequence, showing those who become Born-Again are now His dwelling place – His temple, the new Holy of Holies.

On at least three previous occasions, I found that God sent fire from above to consume a sacrifice because He was pleased (1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:36-39).

Each time this happened, He was making an important point.

In David’s case, God forgave his sin, halting a plague in Israel and choosing where the future temple would be built.

In Solomon’s case, God consecrated that location as the place where His name would dwell forever (2 Chronicles 7:16).

The people’s reaction was to worship the Lord and say, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:3 NIV).

God was telling the crowd of people at Pentecost that those who become Born-Again by receiving Jesus as the promised Messiah become consecrated for His glory. He would dwell within them forever.

In Elijah’s case, God shamed the prophets of Baal, whose god sent no fire, and claimed His rightful title as Lord God of Israel.

The people on Mount Carmel “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39 NIV)

God showed the people on the day of Pentecost that He alone is almighty and deserves to be worshiped, honored, and praised forevermore.

The Power of Pentecost

Acts 2:14-21New American Standard Bible

Peter’s Sermon

14 But Peter, taking his stand with the other eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, [a]know this, and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you assume, since it is only the [b]third hour of the day; 16 but this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour out My Spirit on all [c]mankind;
And your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
And your young men will see visions,
And your old men will [d]have dreams;
18 And even on My male and female [e]servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days,
And they will prophesy.
19 And I will [f]display wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, fire, and [g]vapor of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

After the Holy Spirit was poured out, the crowd was amazed at what was happening.

Peter stood up before them, along with the 11 Disciples, and spoke to the “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem,” including women and children.

The word “men” was a common term used in addressing a company of people, and could include women and children, not just men alone.

Peter then quoted the prophet Joel and told the crowd that the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was for ALL people, both male and female, and not just the 12 Disciples.

Both men and women are baptized in the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation to receive the power to spread the Gospel (Acts 2:17-18; also 1 Corinthians 11:4-6; 14:3,31).

Pentecost was the birthday of the Church universal.

It began the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is now the agent and executive of God on earth to carry on the work of Jesus (Acts 1:2-8; 5:9; 8:29,39; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2-4; 15:28; 16:6; 20:28; 21:4-11; 1 Corinthians 2:1-14; 12:1-30; 2 Corinthians 3:8; Ephesians 2:22; 3:5).

The Sacred Secret of God Revealed

On the day of Pentecost, something else happened that was incredible and had never happened before – the Holy Spirit came to reveal the sacred secret held hidden for all of eternity past, the new covenant of grace.

He came as a love gift from the Father to dwell within those who receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.” (Ephesians 3:2-3 NIV)

There are two Greek words used in Scripture for the word “mystery” They are ‘kruptos’ and ‘musterion.’

The Greek word ‘kruptos’ is where the word “crypt” comes from.

It was used when something was secret or hidden away (Matthew 6:3-4, Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 14:25).

The English word “mystery” means something incomprehensible, unknowable, and beyond understanding.

The Greek word “musterion” was only used for secrets in the religious realm, including mystery religions.

In the Bible, they are sacred secrets.

A secret is something that can be known, but every person does not know it.

The things of God are not mysterious or impossible to understand. They are secret only to those who don’t take the time to study God’s Word, the Bible.

When Jesus taught a Parable, He spoke with a facet, or portion, of the sacred secret of the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:10-11). However, now it is no longer a mystery (Romans 16:25,26, Colossians 1:26, also Ephesians 1:9).

The enemy and the hordes of Hell didn’t know this secret.

If they had, they would have never allowed Jesus to be crucified.

No human eye had ever seen, no ear had ever heard – no mind had conceived what God had prepared for those who love Him because they were hidden until the Cross (1 Corinthians 2:6-10).

When the Holy Spirit came upon a person in the Old Testament, they often gave a word of prophecy.

In the New Testament – the Church Age of the sacred secret – when a person gives their life to Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit and the right and privilege to receive the manifold sacred secret of Heaven.

The Holy Spirit indwells and seals the Christian at the moment of salvation and gives them the daily anointing with power for the work of ministry.

Before Pentecost (excluding the 10 Disciples in John 20:22), a person could not be Born-Again and receive eternal life.

The Facets of the Father

God intended that through the church:

“… the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-12 NIV).

The word “manifold” means ‘many-faceted,’ and the wisdom of God’s sacred secret was revealed after the Cross.

Starting from the creation of Adam and Eve until the Day of Pentecost that was spoken of in the book of Acts, God had dealt with humanity as a master would to an indentured servant.

However, that changed because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

The Church is one Body with Jesus as the Head because of the Cross.

The Father chose to lavish His great love on those who would receive Jesus and willfully choose to become a Christian (1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 1:23).

Every Christian is a child of God and a member of His body.

They are spiritually identified with Jesus.

Christians are partakers of the divine nature and are now a new creation (2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus has anointed and set His seal of ownership on them and placed the Holy Spirit in their hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Nothing can separate them from God’s love! (Romans 8:38-39, 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10:17, 12:12-27, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22,5:22, Ephesians 1:14, 2:16, 4:4; Col 3:15)

When Jesus was crucified, the Christian was crucified.

When He died, they died.

When He was buried, they were buried.

When He was raised, they were raised.

When He ascended, they ascended.

When Jesus sat down at the Father’s right hand, they sat down as well! (Romans 6:4,6,8; Ephesians 2:6)

The sacred secret revealed that God is now working through His Church – each member of His Body – to do those things that He did directly before the Cross.

Every Christian has been given power and glory, unlike anything that has existed on the face of the Earth before.

It is their covenanted responsibility to make God’s wisdom known by living naturally in that glory and power, teaching the truth, and turning people from darkness to light through the love and goodness of God.

The Age of Grace

“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you” (Ephesians 3:1-2 NIV).

The Church has now entered into the age of grace.

The Law that dominated the Old Testament was a “ministry that brought death” (2 Corinthians 3:7 ESV).

The all-encompassing sacred secret is that the Church has entered into a new age which is much more glorious than the Law because it brings righteousness (2 Corinthians 3:3-10).

This truth was hidden, but now it has been made known.

The administration of the grace of God is the administration of the multi-faceted sacred secret.

It is now the covenanted responsibility of every Christian to live in the power and glory of what God’s wisdom has revealed.

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)

CONCLUSION – Empowered to Serve

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV)

Salvation makes the Christian “complete” in Christ. ALL that the Father is, Jesus is. “All the fullness of the Godhead bodily” dwells in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian (Colossians 2:9-10 NKJV).

Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, all of His promises and spiritual gifts have never changed, nor will they ever change.

Every Christian was “given the one Spirit to drink” and is positioned “in” Jesus, and He is “in” every Christian (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV).

Over 100 verses in the Bible describe the Christian as “in” Jesus.

Because the Christian has Jesus living in them, they possess and have access to all of His promises and the spiritual things of God because He is the giver of the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps them to do “greater works” than Jesus.

The “greater works” are far more than just evangelism.

The Father anointed Jesus with the power to do good works and to bring healing (Acts 10:38).

It goes hand in hand with His first public declaration to:

“…bring Good News to the poor.”… “…to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

The Apostle Paul declared:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV)

The word “power” is the Greek word ‘endunamoo’ which means to empower.

It is a compound word from the Greek word ‘en,’ meaning within, and ‘dunamis,’ meaning power.

Words such as dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic come from ‘dunamis.’

The understanding of this word in Greek is to receive power within.

Christians are to depend upon God’s power because they are weak without Him.

God desires that His children move naturally in power He has given to all Christians beginning on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus offered the rebirth by the Holy Spirit on the day of His resurrection (John 20:21-22).

The apostle Paul prayed that the Church would come to know:

“… the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:19 NIV)

Paul also declared that this power was the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11 KJV)

The Holy Spirit has not stopped operating in the life of the Christian because the canon of Scripture is now complete – and neither have the spiritual gifts.

The active use of the supernatural gifts does not undermine the finality and sufficiency of God’s Word – instead, they serve to validate and complement the Scriptures.

The Church has been living in the end times since the day of Pentecost.

God has yet to pour out His Spirit on all flesh thoroughly.

There is no absence of miraculous gifts in church history since the first century.

Walking naturally in the supernatural should be the normal spiritual state of the Christian.

Sadly, far too many never experience it, and many never maintain it, primarily due to immaturity and pride, but mainly to a lack of knowledge.

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV)

The gift of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out on the 120 Disciples on the Day of Pentecost, was promised to each and every one, without exception, who truly repents of their sin and receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

There is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:28 ESV).

When we SEEK the Holy Spirit we will find the Holy Spirit, when we KNOCK on the doors of heaven with our prayers for the Holy Spirit that God will open up to us the wonders of knowing Him.

And when the Spirit comes, He’s coming with POWER! Yes!

  • Power to walk uprightly in a world given to sin.
  • Power to avoid the temptations of the flesh.
  • Power to resist the devil.
  • Power over drugs and alcohol.
  • Power over anger and sexual sin.
  • Power to understand the word of God.
  • Power to teach and preach God’s Word.

But not only that, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit they were given

  • power to speak the word of God with boldness even when their lives were on the line.
  • They were given POWER to speak in languages they had not spoken in before and to interpret those languages.
  • God confirmed their testimony with miracles, signs and wonders (Heb. 2:4).
  • The sick were healed.
  • The dead were raised to life.
  • The blind received their sight.
  • They prophesied.
  • They casted out demons.
  • They served one another with a love and concern they had never expressed before.
  • And those who sat in darkness saw the light of the glory of God and the veil which Satan had placed on the hearts and minds of unbelievers was ripped away as they trusted in Jesus for their salvation (2 Corinthians. 4:3-4).

I invite every single reader to join me at the altar – let’s get on our knees and ask God to give us that power to accomplish his purpose.

Ask for the Holy Spirit to be evident in our life…

Seek him in the area that He’s placed on your heart.

Knock on the doors of heaven for God to open up to you the gift of His Spirit.

In order for the Promise of the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled in our lives we have to believe the promise of salvation.

Because sin entered our world God the Father sent God the Son to save us from His wrath against sin.

Jesus lived a perfect life unlike anyone else and He died in your place.

He was crucified on a cross for YOU.

He was buried in a borrowed tomb for YOU.

And on the third day He rose from the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit of God for YOU.

Because He loves you, He is offering you forgiveness for your sins an eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Our heavenly Father says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

The Promise of the Father begins with Jesus.

He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You that You have not hidden the truth from us but have revealed it in the perfect truth of Your Living, Life Transforming Word.

Thank You that I am part of that great cloud of Church-age witnesses to the truth of the glorious gospel of grace – which was started at Pentecost, and which has spread to every nation and tribe, every people and language.

Thank You that I have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit and baptized into the body of Christ, which had its beginning in that special room, on that first day of Pentecost, when Holy Spirit was sent to be the permanently, indwelling Helper for all Christians – Thank You in Jesus name AMEN.

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“When upon this earth, when my life is all said and done, God, let me have the only true desire of my heart……” My God Honoring Words and my God Honoring Thoughts. – Psalms 19:14

In the beginning of all things, God spoke into the darkness. Underneath those first spoken words which remain beyond our knowledge and comprehension I can imagine is God’s not so subtle prayer the darkness would relent of its efforts to prevent the light of life from shining, from distracting the light away from revealing the absolute glory of God in creation to all created generations.

I can imagine too, God knowing fully what God is going to do in the life of the humanity He Himself formed (Psalm 139:1-18), likewise subtly prayed that humanity would one day come to the same knowledge of God and also believe.

I can imagine David, at any given time and season in his life and turning his yes and his soul deep into the heavens, trying to count all of the stars and praising God for the complete failure in his efforts to do so. The utter majesty of God!

David raised his soul, offered up a psalm of praise to God, then concluded with these words about his words and thoughts. And they are my prayer as well.

Psalm 19:14 Amplified Bible

14 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable and pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my [firm, immovable] rock and my Redeemer.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

So many of the psalms of David rejoice our hearts, as he pours forth a harmony of poetic praise to God for His merciful forgiveness and extraordinary favour.

It does not take very long for one to conclude, perhaps more than any other worship song from Israel’s great psalmist, Psalm 19 reminds us of the never-ending wonders of God’s mighty works and ways, the glories of His creative wisdom, and His most gracious acts towards the rebellious children of Israel.

The heavens above do indeed declare the beauty and splendour of our Heavenly Lord, and His magnificent handiwork is most certainly reflected in the glorious works He has performed by the might of His power.

The diverse language of nature and the spoken and unspoken poetry of the heavens above and the earth beneath, pour forth a never-ending message of unyielding worship and praise, as it proclaims the wonderful works of God.

So many of the sacred words that have been penned by Israel’s shepherd-king are prayers that have been rehearsed on the lips of many saints over centuries of time, who have found comfort, grace in his pleadings to the Lord.

From the very first utterances of those very first Words, God’s truth is revealed and forwarded into eternity for all to come to belief. For the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; and all of the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

David was a man after God’s own heart, for he realized it is not only the outside of a cup that needs to be clean and unsullied, but God desires an inner purity, which stems from a heart of flesh which is cleansed, humbled before the Lord and from whom will stream rivers of living water.

Words of worship flowing from a proud, rebellious, or unrepentant heart, are undoubtedly like an open and festering sewer to the Lord, but worshipful words flowing forth from a heart, soul and life which is pure in thought and in motive, word and deed, ascend unto the Father’s nostrils as a fragrant, sweet perfume.

And so, as David’s exuberant praise for the Lord climbs into an ever-increasing crescendo of worship and exaltation, his heart and his soul are suddenly moved into hushed prayer of submissive surrender and deep devotion, as he recognizes his own human limitations in contrast to the magnificent glory of God and cries out unto the Lord, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.”

Imagine a heart (how about your heart) that meditates on the glory of the Lord and lifts up the person of the Lord Jesus, is the one that exhibits an inner grace and beauty, for such a one is willingly being transformed into the likeness of the Christ, for out of the mouth come thoughts that are conceived in the heart.

David not only understood the need for an inner cleansing and purity on a day-by-day basis, where God Himself governs and sanctifies the thoughts of the heart and the words of the mouth, but he had come to an understanding that his future promised royal Son- the coming King, the Promised Messiah – the divine days-man of Job – and the coming Seed of the virgin woman, would be the true, everlasting strength of his life, the only true Kinsman-Redeemer for his soul. 

May we, like David, in true humility of heart, sanctify the words of our mouth, the meditation of our heart, the thoughts of our minds, and the motives of our inner most being so that all we say and all we do, will be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our precious Lord and Savior, our Rock, our Redeemer and friend.

My prayer is that the words that come out of my mouth would be pleasing to God. Not just the words I speak when I am gathered with the church. But also when I am socializing with friends. When I am talking about politics or other social issues. And when I am in debate, or dispute, with another person. May my words be filled with grace and honoring to God.

And may my thoughts also be pleasing to God. Not just when I am meditating on the words of the Bible. But also, when I am fighting traffic. When I am also stewing over some wrong done to me, or someone close to me. I pray that my thoughts always be respectful of mankind’s diversity, God honoring and pure.

The earlier part of the Psalm gives us instruction in how to accomplish this.

Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Let it fill you and root out the sin and error in your life.

The Bible has great value for those who will dwell in it.

Allow it to fill your heart and your soul. And then you will surely and certainly find that your words and thoughts will more and more be pleasing to the Lord.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Loving Father, the heart that meditates on the Lord and lifts up the person of the Lord Jesus, is the one that exhibits an inner grace and beauty, for such a one is willingly being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

I know that out of the mouth come thoughts that are conceived in the heart, and so I pray that, like David, in humility of heart I would sanctify the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, the thoughts of my mind, and the motives of my inner being so that I too am pleasing and acceptable in the sight of my precious Lord and Savior, my Rock and Redeemer. In His name I pray, AMEN.

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Countdown to Calvary: Humility, We See Jesus – Dying to Bear Much Fruit. Lessons in our Living John 12:20 – 26

Today, I want to try to tell you a short story about two men and their wheat.

One man had a grain of wheat and he loved it very much. He spent the majority of his time and energies on securing the best possible container for his wheat.  

When it came to moving his wheat from one place to another, he spared no expense. He loved his wheat, so he bought the best. He made sure his grain of wheat stayed out of harm’s way; if wheat gets wet you know it will quickly spoil.

So, he was very careful to be sure to always do what the wheat experts told him to do in order to see his grain of wheat stay strong even into old age. This man was sold out for his wheat, and it showed. Then the man died.

The other man also had a grain of wheat but what he did was very different. 

He went out into the backyard, dug a hole, threw his wheat in to it, covered it with dirt, and poured water all over it thus completely ruining the wheat. 

Then the man died.

Sometime after both men were dead and buried a news reporter got wind of these two unusual men and their wheat. The reporter decided to do a follow up. 

Where the first man had lived the grain of wheat was easily spotted surrounded by the best. But when the lid was removed, and the cameras pulled in close the sight was saddening; that grain of wheat though greatly prized and protected had been ruined. Stuck away in the dark of selfishness that wheat had spoiled

The reporter got back in her car and assumed she was about to go from bad to worse. If the first man had done everything to protect his wheat and it had all been for nothing, then what would there be to show for the other man who just threw his in the ground and wasted it?

As she drove closer, she noticed these tall and vibrant green plants along the side of the road; very strange. As she pulled into the driveway the entire yard of the second man was covered in three-foot-tall green grass. Now filled with curiosity the reporter asked the neighbor, “What are all these plants.” And he responded, “It’s this man’s wheat”

One man protected his wheat and lost it all. 

The other man threw his wheat into the ground, and it produced much fruit. 

Christ’s life is that single grain of wheat. He is glorious and he has done many glorious things. But if he doesn’t die there is no salvation for you or for me. If Jesus is not the suffering Servant/Savior of Isaiah 53, then he is no savior at all. 

But if he did come to die and if he did die and rise again, then he will produce much fruit. There will be lives changed. There will be a great harvest of joy-filled Christ-followers. Jesus came to die, and he died so to bear much fruit.

John 12:20-26 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Jesus Predicts His Crucifixion

20 Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24 “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. [a] 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I. Eternal life requires more than fearing God and being interested in Jesus (20-23)

As we look into these verses from John, we need to realize that we are at a turning point in salvation history. God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself through the seed of the woman is about to advance at a rapid pace.  

Here’s the point

A.  The glorification of Jesus Christ is required for the salvation of the nations.

The Pharisees in verse 19 make the observation that, “the world has gone after [Jesus].” In the triumphal entry and in the people’s loud praises the Pharisees see the popularity of Jesus. That confession in verse 19 leads us to the account of “some Greeks” in verses 20-22.

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Literally the people and nations are coming to Jesus. They want to see him. Now this phrase means more than look at him. These Greeks want to talk with Jesus.

They are hesitant. Possibly because they have just witnessed Jesus clean out the court of the Gentiles when he cleansed the temple; that’s a bit intimidating. So, they instead go to Philip who probably spoke Greek and asked for an audience with Jesus. The people and the nations are mightily curious coming to Christ.

And Jesus responds with a surprising and an unexpected word, verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Up to this point in the life of Christ when Jesus has spoken of “his hour” it has always been in the future tense.

In John 2:4 he told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”

In John 7:30 we read, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”

In John 8:20 we read, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” 

From here on, from the coming of the Greeks on, Jesus will emphasize the fact that his hour is here.

In John 12:27, “Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose, I am come to this hour.”

Using the language of the time to glorify the Son Jesus says in John 13:31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”

It is possible that Jesus is only 4 days from the cross. Jesus is fully aware that his death his required for the salvation of the people and the nations.

And Jesus is fully aware that now is the appointed time of his glorification. He must be glorified in order for these Greeks to be saved. He must be glorified in order for you, me to be saved. No one from Adam to the last of God’s children will see eternal life if Jesus does not fulfill the Father’s plan of redemption.

Let’s drive this point home

B.  Your salvation depends upon Jesus’ glorification

Let’s bring in some of the terminology from verse 23. Unless Jesus is glorified, unless the grain of wheat is put into the ground, he will not bear fruit.  Unless Jesus be glorified no one will be saved.

That’s how crucial the cross is. That’s how important this hour is; salvation depends on it.

We should expect the theme of glory to be central from here on in John and it is. We’ll unpack this more, Lord willing, I just want you to see what glorification is.

Look down to verses 28-33.

‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again… verse 31…’Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

The glorification of God is displayed through the judgment of sin when God’s wrath for poured out on Jesus. The glorification of God is displayed through the defeat of Satan when his power is broken through the resurrection of Jesus.

The glory of God is about to be displayed through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, resurrection from the grave, ascension back to God’s glorious right hand, and the salvation of the people and the nations who come to Him.

Our salvation and the salvation of the nations, depends on the Son of man being glorified.  The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus do not just show us something they secure something.  The glorious work of Jesus Christ on your behalf secures your salvation. 

If this hour doesn’t ever come, then we are lost and hopeless but if Jesus has been glorified then we are saved and we are all born again into a living hope.

These Greeks in John 12 were God-fearers who were willing to submit to God’s laws. They were interested in meeting and learning from Jesus.

But that’s not what is required for salvation. We must be connected by faith, by hope and by love, to the glorified Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended.

Where are you today? Does our religion consist only of some rule keeping and occasional interest in Jesus?

If so, you and I would do well to fear that we are missing salvation all together (Hebrews 4:1).  Salvation depends on you being connected to the glorified Jesus.

By faith you and I are joined to him. And with him we are as righteous as God and have power over the grave. Jesus has been glorified. There is salvation and eternal life for you. But you and I must absolutely be connected to him by faith.

Salvation is a promise because salvation depends on the completed work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death is a necessity. – The Single Seed must Be Planted!

II. Nature proves that a harvest requires death (24)

A.  Jesus illustrates the necessity of his death by pointing to the planting and harvesting of wheat. Verse 24

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

We grow vast fields of wheat to make bread.

Here is what a grain of wheat looks like. 

If you do nothing with this single wheat, then as a whole, it is 100% worthless.

But if you plant that wheat there comes a miracle. By continual harvesting and sowing, one grain of wheat can produce millions of grains of wheat. But what is required to make that harvest happen? You absolutely have to plant the wheat.

You must make it for the moment ruined. Once that grain of wheat is put in the ground and watered you cannot dig it up, grind it up, and make bread out of it. 

But when it dies it bears much fruit.

Jesus obviously isn’t giving us instructions for our gardens.

He’s giving us hope for our souls.

If Jesus skips the cross, if he does not die, then there is no salvation.

But since Jesus endured the cross dying in our place then there is salvation.

Just as millions of grains of wheat come from the death of one grain so the salvation of the people, the nations, comes from the death of the only Son of God.  Eternal life depends on the death of Jesus Christ.

All of the Realm of Nature illustrates this clearly.

Here’s our third point that comes out of Jesus’ death on our behalf.

III. You are the fruit (24-25)

A.  God, The Father is the Lord of the harvest, Jesus the Son is the single grain which starts the harvest, and all that we are and do is a part of the harvest

You and I must fight to keep the call of verses 25 and26 grounded in the work of Christ explained in verse 23 and 24. You and I will live life rightly, enjoy eternal life, serve Jesus, follow Jesus, be with Jesus, and be honored by God as we cling to the glorified Jesus.

All that we are as a Christian is a direct product of all that Jesus has done. God doesn’t demand our death for your salvation. God saves only those who have the glorification of Jesus credited to their souls.

B.  I was quite surprised! Verse 25 is not what I expect

I thought verse 25 should read, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world bears much fruit.

But the teaching here is not that you and I should die to bear fruit.

That is true and Jesus is going to teach us all about that in John 15.

But before we get to chapter 15, we need to get this point. 

Our redeemed life, our experience of eternal life this very moment, is the produce of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

If we get our place wrong when you think about God’s will for all of creation, then we’ll get our life wrong, and we’ll be frustrated by a lack of fruit bearing.

Let’s lay a foundation and hold fast to it.  Our salvation and the salvation of others realized through our good works is ultimately the result of Jesus’ work. 

Since Jesus is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and since Jesus bears much fruit, we are saved and so are others.  Eternal life today is the result of the glorification of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

C.  Your Christian Life is “found” not by protecting yourself but in your gaining the Life of Jesus Christ

Look at John 12:25, Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

When we read the bible there is a repetition of someone loving a person and hating another person.

Romans 9:13 reiterates the facts that God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

Now let us read and study and pray over Genesis 29:30 – 32

30 So Jacob…loved Rachel more than Leah and served Laban for another seven years. 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

Hate is not necessarily the emotional disgust that we feel when we say we hate something. Love and hate in this context have more to do with priorities.

Think about it this way, “Whoever focuses on his life loses it, and whoever forgets his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Have you and I ever been so focused on one thing that we completely forget everything else? That’s the idea. If you focus on your life, your wants, your plans, and yourself then you will also forget, lose your focus on Christ. 

But as we focus on Christ, his wants, his plans, and his self then we will forget our life.

Look at God’s promised product: if we love our life, we will destroy our life.

We are like Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Our thinking is off and so we end up destroying the thing we love the most. 

By protecting ourselves and looking out for ourselves and taking care of numeral uno we ultimately end up destroying ourselves. That is warning.

But here is the promise of John chapter 12: whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

I believe it’s important that the verbs loving, loses, hating, and keeping are present active indicatives. That means they keep right on happening.

These are not one-time events but characteristics, a way of living.

A life primarily focused on Christ will necessarily be a life which neglects self.

You can’t love yourself and Christ. You will love the one and hate the other.

Please do not be fooled into thinking there is a healthy balance between loving self and loving Jesus. There is no such place as a “middle ground.” To attempt to be there is to be disgusting. Jesus promises to vomit you out of his mouth.

We love Jesus.

So, here’s how to pursue this self-hating Christ loving life: follow Christ. 

We must never set out to hate or neglect our lives.

What we must set out to do is focus on, prioritize, and follow Christ. 

This is the connection between verses 25 and 26. It leads to our final point.

IV. Following Christ entails serving now, and gaining heaven and honor then (26)

A.  Following Christ is forgetting self

You can’t protect yourself and follow Christ because going after Christ means following the One who came to die.

Look at verse 26, “If anyone serves me; he must follow me.” 

This is Christianity: finding life not in yourself but in the glorified Jesus.

Adopt his plans as your plans.

Do the things he did. Care about the things he cared about.

Christianity is not keeping the rules and being somewhat interested in Jesus. 

Please notice something.

Twice the word ‘serve’ is repeated in these two verses.

Christians are those people who see the glorified Jesus and serve him.

We are those who are changed by the work of Christ so that we give ourselves to the work of Christ.

Christians work the works God sent Jesus to do.

Christians serve Christ and follow Christ by joining in the grain harvest. Serving and following Jesus demand our everything.

This is why in a similar passage Jesus tells us to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

Notice, eternal life is not something we get after we die because of a decision we made as a kid with little consequence for the time in between. 

Eternal life is the time span in which we will enjoy the life Christ has given us.

When we forget ourselves and follow Christ, we will gain a life that is worth living and enjoying for all of eternity. Our self-centered lives would make for a miserable eternity. God’s Christ-centered life makes for an amazing eternity.

Here’s the promise of heaven, verse 26, “and where I am, there will my servant be also.” 

Jesus said in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

The promise of heaven, everlasting life and joy in the presence of God, is held out to both you and to me today. 

Follow Christ. 

Serve Christ. 

Ground yourself in the glorification of the only Son. 

Heaven is for you.

Plant your hopes in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

You will not be disappointed.

There’s more.

Verse 26, Jesus promises, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” 

Jesus knows nothing of bait-and-switch. Hating your life is not going to turn out to be a bad idea. If you trust Christ and let him shape your desires and your direction, then look what you’ll get.

Do you see it in verse 26? God himself will honor you. 

Every honor bestowed on man by man goes no farther than this earth and our graves and that appointed day we are all laid therein – never to be seen again.

But every honor bestowed on the servants of Christ is eternal and unceasing.

The honor given by God to you because of Christ cannot be taken away, revoked, or destroyed. There is a meaningful substantial life for you and for me,

and it all depends on Jesus.

V. Imagine with me that your lunch plans have changed and instead of what you had planned you’re going to sit down with Jesus on a public park bench and review your life

Would it become evident that the reason you do what you do and have a family and come to worship and live where you live is so that you can get something for yourself?

Or would it become evident that the reason for everything you do is because you are caught up in the great harvest that depends on the glorified Jesus?

Do you do what you do because of you?

Or do you do what you do because Jesus has been glorified?

Jesus has been glorified. Your salvation, your life, and your future can be secure but only if you give your life over to him. Turn from your sin and insufficiency and utterly trust in the Jesus who makes you pure and is himself Sufficiency.

There is an amazing harvest going on all over this globe and in our community. 

We are a people who have faith in the work of Jesus and will get engaged in his works.  Because Jesus is glorified giving us eternal life we serve him, follow him, and look forward to the honor of eternal life. 

Look around your neighborhood and your work and the grocery store. the fields are indescribably vast and white for harvest. Let’s plant the seed of Jesus! Let’s praise the Lord of the harvest and go from this place to be a part of the harvest.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption and that the Lord Jesus was ready and willing to forgo all human glory and praise and be led as a lamb to the Cross, so that His death could pay the price for my sin and the sin of the whole world.

Thank You that Jesus lived a perfect life, foregoing any honor, in order to be made sin on my account and died a cruel death on Calvary’s Cross so that by faith in Him I might be forgiven of my sin and receive life everlasting. Praise Your Holy Name, and thank You, Lord Jesus, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.

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Luke 19:33-34 ||Devotion in Action|| “My God! The Lord has need of ME!?”

“My God! My God! The Lord hath need of ME!?!”

Who is saying this?

The Twelve Disciples standing behind Jesus as he rides the donkey?

The crowd which is before Jesus as he is about to enter the city gates?

The small man in the tree – remember the newly repentant Zacchaeus?

The small man in front of the donkey holding the palm in his hand?

The donkey itself as it carries Jesus on its back with a small smile on its face?

The owner of the donkey who gave his ascent to his animal being taken away by men he never met before who told him simply: “The Lord Hath Need of It?”

The City of Jerusalem itself now in the midst of celebrating the Passover?

The citizens of Jerusalem aware and/or unaware of Jesus’ arrival?

The Priests and Workers of the Temple – the Center of Religious Life for the Jewish people. Where people come to worship and sacrifice as God requires?

How about the mountain – “The Mount of Olives?”

How about the rocks on the ground which the people and donkey walk on?

How about the man, Itinerant Master Rabbi Jesus Himself?

A whole lot of revelation is going on here – each one singularly unique!

Each one saying to themselves ….

Each one shouting unto and into the heavens ….

“MY GOD! MY GOD! THE LORD HATH NEED OF ME!”

“MY GOD! MY GOD! THE LORD HATH NEED OF ME?”

And so, Jesus comes unto the city …. on the back of a donkey ……

This is the moment they were living in, as the events unfolded.

It is now the 21st Century, the year of our Lord and Savior 2022.

Today is Palm Sunday – we will gather for worship this morning.

We will have our families with us.

Those who only come once or twice a year – will miraculously appear.

We have those who cannot or will not come to church – but have some connection to a social media site – Facebook, or You Tube, or ZOOM.

God will (hopefully, prayerfully) have their undivided attention again.

We still have the ancient stories of the Gospel narratives.

We have the benefit of history.

We have the benefit of their struggles and the fruits of their labors.

We have the benefit of the full Biblical Canon, God’s Holy Scriptures.

We have the benefit of commentaries and sermons and devotions.

We read, re-read these Gospel Narratives year after year after year.

As we consider one angle after another trying to be original, trying to reach the older generations and communicate to current and coming generations of both believers and non-believers alike – unto into those “great clouds of witnesses,” “MY GOD! MY GOD! THE LORD HATH NEED OF ME!?!

What are we to anticipate in the coming minutes and hours ahead?

As we consider the words – “THE LORD HATH NEED OF ME ….”

Relevant or Irrelevant?

Absolutely Meaningful or Utterly Useless?

Are we exclaiming it or are we questioning it?

Are we accepting the possibility or are we brushing it away and denying it?

Is anybody even seriously reading or studying, listening or praying, teaching or preaching the critically true meaning and absolute importance to the words?

“MY GOD! MY GOD! THE LORD HATH NEED OF ME!?!

Luke 19:28-40 Amplified Bible

The Triumphal Entry

28 After saying these things, Jesus went on ahead [of them], going up to Jerusalem.

29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a [donkey’s] [a]colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anybody asks you, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ you will say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent left and found the colt just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, and [b]they threw their robes over the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He rode along, people were spreading their coats on the road [as an act of homage before a king]. 37 As soon as He was approaching [Jerusalem], near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the entire multitude of the disciples [all those who were or claimed to be His followers] began praising God [adoring Him enthusiastically and] joyfully with loud voices for all the miracles and works of power that they had seen, 38 shouting,

“Blessed (celebrated, praised) is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory (majesty, splendor) in the highest [heaven]!”

39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples [for shouting these Messianic praises].” 40 Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The Lord Needs It – Luke 19:34

I wonder how much our faith, hope and love would affect our daily lives if we lived to exclusively serve Christ’s needs instead of our own?

Is that even possible? Would our churches be filled with people on Sundays because the Lord needed them to be there? Would missions throughout the world be fully funded because the Lord needs affluent Christians in the West to ‘pony up’ and provide from their ample resources all that is needed by Christ to medicate, educate, feed and clothe people living in poverty across the globe?

If we are 100% comfortable doing religious things without being challenged by the radical nature of the surprise and scandal of the Gospel, then we are going to go through life as spiritually shallow people.

However, if we take time to really think about what Christ needs us to do with our lives and resources, then everything will change about how we ‘do’ church and how we share our faith.

The owners of the colt in today’s Gospel passage (Luke 19:28-36) could have told the disciples to “get lost or I will call the cops”, or that it was inconvenient, or that it would be okay the next day. They didn’t do that; when they heard the words “The Lord Needs It,” they gave over the colt freely and perhaps gladly.

In these 21st century times, would we be so accommodating or dismissive?

The Lord hath need of many things from each and every one of us ……

YEA OR NAY ……

21 So get rid of all uncleanness and [a]all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. 23 For if anyone only listens to the word [b]without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets [c]what he looked like. (James 1:21-24 Amplified)

Questions for personal reflection

What does the Lord need of me?

Am I willing to give my time, talents, and resources to Him for His work?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus, Your Gospel brings goodness and forgiveness, strength and love into our lives. It also presents us with unique challenges and causes us to reflect upon our daily choices. Help us so to live according to Your needs and liberate us from our insecurities, as well as our desires. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully pray. Amen.

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Fellow Christians, “As Iron Sharpens Iron,” So You too Can Truly Influence Others for the Better! |Proverbs 27:17

The mightily influential, Late Evangelist Reverend Dr. Billy Graham wrote,

The human soul is a lonely thing. It must have the assurance of companionship. Left entirely to itself, it cannot enjoy anything. God said in the beginning, “It is not good that man should dwell alone” (Genesis 2:18). The creation of Eve was the beginning of human companionship. God’s people are a body, not intended to function separately, not intended to be unconcerned for one another.

The only true body in the world is the Church. The world may talk grandly of brotherhood, but in reality, its philosophy is “each man for himself.” All of God’s children are guaranteed the richest and truest friendship, both here and hereafter. Only in a true friendship and a true love do we find a genuine basis for peace. Only God can break down the national and racial barriers that divide men today. Only God can supply that love that we must have for our fellowman.

We will never build brotherhood of man upon earth until we are believers in Christ Jesus. The only true cohesive power in the world is Christ the Lord. He alone can bind all generations of human hearts together in one genuine love.

Proverbs 27:17 Amplified Bible

17 
As iron sharpens iron,
So, one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Within the Hebrew (Old) Testament, there are many nuggets of wisdom to take in, with whole books dedicated to the subject. The wisest man to ever walk the earth, King Solomon, wrote several books, including Proverbs. Many of these proverbs come in a poetic form; some of them are long, symbolic narratives, while others are but the briefest of couplets full of truth. One such statement is, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Sometimes these metaphoric statements can be complex and rather difficult to understand, especially when they are taken out of context. Most Christians thinkers believe this statement regarding iron sharpening iron only relates to having a good friend, honesty that improves one’s character and calls out sin in a loving way; though there are some who believe it refers to also someone who brings down another, and argue it is a negative statement.

Either way, the phrase “iron sharpens iron” from Proverbs 27:17 highlights the important truth that people affect and influence one another, words and actions define relationships for better or worse, and they change people, so people need to act accordingly.

What Is the Context Around Proverbs 27:17?

Proverbs 27 falls towards the end of the book, as there are 31 chapters. It is grouped with several other chapters which are labelled as having been written by King Solomon, the son of David and the builder of the temple, copied later by men who worked for King Hezekiah of Judah. Solomon’s reign was around 970-931 BC, while Hezekiah’s was from 715-686 BC, two centuries later.

The verses in Proverbs are chocked full of advice, many of which are about positive and negative interactions and behaviors. Some examples include:

“Let another praise you and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:5).

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19).

“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Proverbs 27:20).

In the middle of these verses is, “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” However, the back half is sometimes given as, ‘…sharpens the face of another.’ Like many of the Proverbs, it uses metaphor to make its point.

What Does “Iron Sharpens Iron” Mean?

When creating and shaping a metal blade, it is often sharpened, and then it is maintained through its life, by dragging it against a harder metal. Without this periodic maintenance, a blade will eventually become quite dull and less useful.

During the life of Solomon, many weapons, pieces of armor, and tools were made of iron. It would not have been a highly refined version of metal, like steel. It was also not necessarily consistent in how hard or soft it was.

A tool would have been sharpened, ground against something harder, to make it smoother, remove deformities, and to maintain its ability to cut. When iron is scraped against another material in this way, it too becomes more refined. The metaphor in the first half of the verse refers to a common practice with which many of that day would have been extraordinarily acquainted, familiar with.

The second half of the verse explains the metaphor. Like a piece of hard iron will sharpen another piece of iron, the interactions between two people will shape and change one another. Most scholars and theologians interpret this changing as a refinement of character. Being in the presence of a truly strong believer, within their sphere of influence, can help refine another person too.

Earlier verses in chapter 27 reflect this idea, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6). An honest acquaintance will lovingly address when someone they care about is doing something wrong or struggling with a decision. 

It is also in alignment with philosophies of behavior encouraged in the New Testament; “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Calling out sin, encouraging each other, and lifting one another up in prayer are all ways of sharpening one another.

Like both metals are altered by the sharpening process, both believers who interact with one another have an impact on each other. If a believer disciples another, they grow as well. Their understanding of the Bible can grow, they can deepen their relationship with God, and each other and have new experiences.

Where Else in the Bible Do We See Believers Strengthening One Another?

God wants Christians to challenge one another and strengthen the community in love as a family and in fellowship (Acts 2:43-47), because they are all the sons and daughters of God. In the New Testament, particularly in the epistles, the writers decidedly, deliberately, put a particularly strong emphasis on it.

Some of these verses include:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).

“But exhort one another everyday, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

How Can We Sharpen One Another Today? 

These many ways of lifting one another up mentioned in the Bible still apply today. Singing songs to God together, reading the Word, and praying for one another is a great start. Learning more about one another so as to help each other in their specific weaknesses is a way to be supportive and grow stronger in character. Devoting yourselves to innovatively teaching generations about being a success, about mentoring, modeling for each other Christian character.

Availability is so important. Many serve one another by providing meals, time, and energy in each other’s daily lives. This builds trust, meaning believers can challenge each other in more personal ways, people do not live in a vacuum, and the way they are all positively influenced and treated will leave a lasting impact.

True and lasting friendship seems to be a rare gift these days. Many people have made themselves too busy to truly invest the time and energy it takes to develop significant relationships. Often, we will hear people say to each other, “We’ll have to get together soon”–but it seldom happens, and opportunities are lost.

Individuals and communities want to be taught they can come together and be strong in the Lord, believe in themselves – believe in their diverse strengths, to share hopes and dreams for something better than where they find themselves. As the Lord has promised, there is always going to be a time of a greater future.

It is a tough lesson to learn. It is an even far tougher lesson to devote oneself to communicating and teaching, modeling and mentoring, living and sacrificing for. And this is the lesson of the life and ministry, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, who for the joy, which was before Him, endured the Cross!

Good friends are one of God’s greatest gifts. Not one of us is ever meant to go through life alone and without help. God longs to use you as his hands and feet to those he has placed in your midst. He longs to make you a friend as God is a great friend to us, in order to bless others and extend the reach of his kingdom.

God is calling you and me to love our friends “at all times.” He is calling you and me to a lifestyle of service and grace. What friend of yours needs your help right now? Who can we choose to serve over ourselves? What friend is God calling you to influence and love with the love and influence He has shown all of us today?

1. Pray and Meditate upon God’s desire for us to pursue godly friendship. Allow Holy Scriptures to stir up our desire to influence and love friends well today.

2. How can you be a better friend today? In what ways can you and I love those whom God has given us as friends? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to your ways you can better love and influence those around you today.

3. Ask God to empower you to be a friend who loves unconditionally. Ask him to make you more like himself every day. Spend quality time just resting in his presence and allowing his love to fill you and influence you and empower you.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly, Father, there are times in my life when I need true and genuine friends, a comforting arm, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or even just sensible good advice. But there are no true friends to turn to. No one who I can relate to, who truly understands exactly how I feel. It leaves me feeling broken, empty, and lost. Fill me, Lord with Your divine holy presence. Allow me to feel Your tender, warm embrace wrapped around me, as I sit here and cry out to You. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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