“So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God.”
“So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God.”
Faith is an essential aspect of Christianity. It is the belief in God’s existence, His promises, and His love for us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God or experience His blessings. As Christians, our faith is what sets us apart and allows us to experience a deep, personal relationship with our Creator.
Romans 10:17 states, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This verse emphasizes the significance of hearing the Word of God, as it is through hearing that faith is sparked and nurtured. By understanding the true meaning behind this verse, we can begin our journey towards growing our faith.
Understanding the context of Romans 10:17 is crucial for grasping its depth and significance. The Book of Romans is one of the most influential letters written by Paul, addressing the Roman church’s issues and offering wisdom on faith, salvation, and the righteousness of God.
Romans 10:17 is nestled within a portion of the letter where Paul discusses the importance of faith for salvation. He emphasizes that anyone, Jew or Gentile, can attain righteousness through faith. This faith, according to Paul, is born out of hearing the word of God.
The concept of ‘hearing’ is not merely physical but includes understanding and accepting the message. This verse, therefore, underscores the importance of engaging with God’s word, not just superficially, but with a heart and mind open to understanding and acceptance.
For believers, faith is a deeply ingrained part of their identity. It shapes their worldview, guides their decisions, and provides a sense of purpose and direction. However, it is important to understand that faith is not a static element; it is dynamic, growing, and evolving. Romans 10:17 explains how this evolution occurs.
At the heart of this process is the concept of ‘hearing.’ According to Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This implies that the growth of faith is stimulated by continuous exposure to God’s word. The more we engage with the scriptures, the teachings of Christ, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the more our faith blossoms. This growth is not just an intellectual exercise but a deeply emotional and spiritual experience. It is comparable to a seed planted in fertile soil, nurtured by the word of God, and blossoming into a beautiful plant with robust faith. The transformation is both subtle and profound, opening our hearts and minds to a deeper understanding of God’s nature and His plan for us.
The people of God cannot afford to neglect its role in the spreading of the Gospel. The church’s primary responsibility is to reach the lost. Those who have not heard the Word of God. For non-believers, the journey toward faith often begins with curiosity, skepticism, or a desire for understanding. They may question the existence of God, the relevance of faith, or the truth of the scriptures. However, Romans 10:17 provides a roadmap for these individuals, showing them how faith can come alive even in the hearts of skeptics.
Again, the key lies in ‘hearing.’ The verse suggests that faith emerges from hearing the word of God. This doesn’t necessarily mean reading the bible cover to cover or attending church services. It could mean engaging in spiritual conversations, seeking answers to existential questions, exploring the teachings of Christ, or even observing the faith of others. As non-believers embark on this journey of hearing, they may begin to perceive a new perspective. They may start to see the world through the lens of spirituality and gradually become open to the possibility of a higher power. This process is not a leap into blind belief but a gradual awakening to the presence of God, facilitated by continuous exposure to His word.
Romans 10:17 is an empowering scripture, offering wisdom and guidance to both believers and non-believers. It unveils the transformative power of faith and reveals how it comes alive through the act of hearing.
For believers, it provides a pathway to deepen their faith, encouraging continuous engagement with God’s word. For non-believers, it offers a roadmap toward faith, inviting them to explore and engage with spirituality.
In essence, Romans 10:17 is a testament to the transformative power of faith and the role of hearing in this transformation. By embracing this power, we can experience a profound spiritual awakening, regardless of where we are on our faith journey.
Faith is a cornerstone of Christianity. It is the foundation upon which our relationship with God is built. It is the fuel that drives our spiritual journey and the compass that guides us towards God’s will.
Romans 10:17 illuminates the importance of faith, revealing how it comes alive and grows. It emphasizes that faith is not a passive element but a dynamic force that evolves and deepens with our engagement with God’s word.
In essence, faith is not just a belief; it is a transformative power that shapes our worldview, guides our actions, and infuses our lives with purpose and meaning. By understanding and embracing this power, we can experience a profound spiritual awakening and a deeper connection with God.
It is my hope that Romans 10:17 will seen in a new light and serve as a catalyst for an outreach that is blended with evangelism.
Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8
We live in a world where negative thoughts and negative influences impact our attitudes and emotions. Maintaining a positive mindset for any length of time is challenging, with all the negativity floating through the air. I believe incorporating Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8 into our lives would help us combat the negativity that intrudes our minds and, eventually, our lives through our behavior.
These two scriptures make it very clear that Paul was concerned about what we think. Society can be a positive or a negative influence on someone’s life. People are susceptible to what goes out over the airwaves. In the era of Trump, we see age is not a factor when it comes to embracing and identifying with negativity.
Philippians 4:8 further expands on this concept by providing a blueprint for the thoughts we should focus on. It urges individuals to think about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. By directing our minds towards these positive and uplifting thoughts, we can replace negativity with that which is positive.
We must not underestimate the power our thoughts can have on and over us. When we begin to identify with our thoughts, our behavior can harm ourselves and others. By identity, I mean when we believe our thoughts are true or we cannot separate our thoughts from ourselves. We have become our thoughts. You become the anger, and you become the pain and suffering. When we think, our thoughts are facts. When we believe they are the truth and there is no other alternative or way to view something. We have become the thought; we have internalized the thought.
We must not fail to realize how our emotions profoundly impact our thoughts. They color our perception; they color the way we look at something. Our emotions influence our judgment and shape our decision-making. When we are in a heightened emotional state, our thoughts can become distorted, leading us to make impulsive or irrational choices.
When we are angry, our thoughts are dominated by feelings of revenge or hostility. This emotion can cloud our judgment and lead us to do things we may regret later. Similarly, when we are afraid, our thoughts may be dominated by worst-case scenarios, causing unnecessary worry and anxiety.
Recognizing the influence of emotions on our thoughts is crucial for maintaining a clear and rational mindset. Acknowledging and managing our feelings can prevent them from hijacking our thinking process and distorting our perception of reality.
In Romans 12:2, Paul says to be careful what you listen to on the airwaves. Be careful what you listen to on television. Be careful that you don’t fall for the lie. Be careful what you read on the internet. Be careful. Do not be conformed by this world. Don’t let this world shape your mind. The world we live in wants us to live in fear. To be frightened and afraid of everything. We allow the news to influence our thinking. The news makes us fearful of what could happen to us. We watch movies and become angry because they bring back certain memories.
Renewing our minds is essential for combating thoughts of fear and doubt, and we cannot afford to allow thoughts filled with negativity to shape or control our thoughts.
The combination of Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8 provides a practical framework for applying these powerful verses daily. We can counteract the negativity surrounding us by consciously focusing on what is true, what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy thoughts. One way to apply these verses is by rewiring our minds and replacing negative thoughts with uplifting ones.
Destroying negative thoughts and influences requires consistent effort and intentional action. Here are some practical steps to help you combat negativity and renew your mind:
The combination of Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8 offers a powerful strategy for combating negative thoughts and influences. Renew your minds with Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
When sadness spreads itself like a blanket over our mind, heart, and soul, it’s not easy to just shake it off and carry on. Sometimes, despite the encouragement offered by those who care about us, our inner suffering persists. If you have felt this way, it’s crucial to understand that you are not alone. Countless others have battled, or are currently battling, through similar valleys of despair. Life can often feel like an endless, uphill battle. We all feel tired and hurt and want to stop and hang it up. But remember, you are not in this alone. There are countless others who have traveled this same path and emerged stronger. Illnesses that seem to persist. The doctor’s visits week after week after week. Children need new, but the money is not there. What is a person to do?
There are individuals in the Bible who have experienced depression, emotional anguish, and periods of despair:
All of these individuals wrestled with feelings of despair for various reasons. Yet, they all trusted in God, who loved and helped each one.
The Bible assures us that God is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those crushed in spirit. When Moses was overwhelmed, God appointed Aaron as his help. Job, despite losing everything, was blessed by God in his later years. When Hannah poured out her grief to the Lord, He blessed her with a son. As Hagar wept in the wilderness, God provided for her and her child’s needs.
If you find yourself feeling down, remember that God is with you. He understands your struggles and doesn’t want you to remain crushed in spirit. It is important that God hears the voices of those who seek His face. God hears the voice of those open to His counsel.
Are Christians to be Broken or Triumphant?
The Christian life is characterized by both brokenness and triumph, depending on what we mean by these terms. If by broken we mean repentant, low before the Lord (and only before God), aware of personal weakness, self-divesting of our arrogance and privilege, able to laugh at ourselves, of sober judgment, sensitive to the depths of sin within us, then yes, Christians are to be broken.
On the other hand, if by triumphant we mean confident of God’s unconquerable purposes in the world through fractured and faltering disciples, bold in trusting the promises of God, surrendering ourselves to God in service to Him, and risk-taking fueled by faith in God, then yes, Christians are to be triumphant.
Brokenness without triumph tells us the enemy has won. It is lifting the crucifixion to the neglect of resurrection. Triumph without being aware of our brokenness emphasizes redemption to the neglect of our sin. While only seeing the resurrection, that is a human triumph to the neglect of the crucifixion. The gospel provides us with the only resource to face our brokenness honestly while reminding us of our unspeakable victory, Jesus Christ.
In the gospel, we are liberated to simultaneously experience failure and redemption, crucifixion and resurrection, brokenness and triumph. Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily (Matt. 16:24), while Paul tells us we have been raised and are seated in heaven (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). How can both be true? Because Jesus is the only person who was ever triumphant without brokenness.
But brokenness is never a conclusion, only a method that points us toward Jesus. For those who are unaware, there is no brokenness in the first two chapters of the Bible and none in the final two chapters. To God be the glory.
A sound mind is essential in overcoming fear. It allows us to differentiate between thoughts and facts. Too often, we believe our thoughts without questioning their validity. We allow our minds to turn thoughts into truths, even when they are not based on reality. But a sound mind, guided by the truth of God’s Word, helps us discern between what is true and what is merely a product of our imagination. As Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, we are to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
Fear is a natural human emotion that can manifest itself in various forms. Fear has a way of gripping our minds and holding us hostage. It creeps into our thoughts and convinces us that what we think is fact. But what if those thoughts are not facts? What if the fear that consumes us is based on nothing more than our imagination? What if what we fear is a projection of our thoughts into our future? The apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.” It is this sound mind that can help us break free from the chains of fear and embrace the truth that God has for us.
In order to overcome fear, it is important to understand what the “spirit of fear” entails. The Greek word used in 2 Timothy 1:7 refers to a cowardly or timid spirit, not the reverential fear we have for God. This spirit of fear can manifest in various ways in our lives, causing us to shrink back from our responsibilities and hinder our ability to make wise decisions. Just like the servant in the parable of the talents who buried his gold out of fear, we too can let fear paralyze us and prevent us from fully living out our calling.
Paul did not wish for fear to overcome Timothy. Understanding fear can overwhelm anyone at any time. No one is immune.
Timothy, to whom this letter is being sent, has a timid personality. He is going through some extremely difficult times and has become fearful. In writing this letter, Paul sought to encourage Timothy by reminding him of his heritage of faith, passed down through his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. They instilled in him a sincere faith and taught him the ways of God. Paul wanted to restore Timothy’s courage and exhort him to fan into flame the God-given gift of faith within him.
Paul tells Timothy that God has given us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. These three components work together to help us overcome fear and live boldly for God’s glory.
1. Power: Courage to Face the Difficult
The spirit of power empowers us to face and endure the challenges and hardships that come our way. It gives us the courage to step out in faith, knowing that God is with us. This power is not our power; it is power that comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Just as the Spirit played a role in the creation of the world, it also empowers believers to live bold and courageous lives.
2. Love: Fuel for Sacrificial Service
The spirit of love fuels our hearts with compassion for others. It prompts us to share the gospel and serve those around us selflessly. When we focus on God’s love for us and for others, fear takes a backseat. Love motivates us to put aside our own fears and anxieties and instead reach out to those who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
3. God Gave Us a Sound Mind: Reject False Thoughts and Embrace the Truth
God did not give us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. Our minds are the center of most of our fears. It is the mind that holds on to the fear that holds many of us hostage. It is the iron grip of the mind that has on the thought we are thinking that makes us fear. It is the mind that makes us believe our thoughts are facts. Our mind turns a thought into a truth. The news report is that the economy is in a downturn. Our thoughts tell us because the economy is in a downturn, we are going to lose our jobs. We believe that thought. We give psychic energy to that thought. We never ask ourselves if the thought is true. No, we embrace it as a fact, as something that is true. We believe it. We make ourselves miserable in the process; we become fearful because we believe something that is not true. We project ourselves into a future that has not come to pass, and we believe in that future with all of our hearts. So, we worry, become apprehensive, become filled with anxiety, develop ulcers, stress, and heart disease. Why? Because we believe in a thought that is not true. We took a thought and turned it into a fact. A thought is not a fact. A thought is never a fact. A thought is just a thought. A thought is something passing through your mind until you attach yourself to it.
A sound mind is essential in overcoming fear. It allows us to differentiate between thoughts and facts. Too often, we believe our thoughts without questioning their validity. We allow our minds to turn thoughts into truths, even when they are not based on reality. But a sound mind, guided by the truth of God’s Word, helps us discern between what is true and what is merely a product of our imagination. As Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, we are to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Life is always a difficult journey, filled with challenges and trials that test our faith and resilience. We may have been led to believe that following Jesus would shield us from the storms of life, but the reality is that storms are an inevitable part of our human experience. Even Jesus’ disciples faced a terrifying storm on the Sea of Galilee. This powerful story from the book of Mark serves as a reminder that we are not exempt from the storms of life, but we have a source of strength and deliverance – Jesus.
In Mark 4:35-41, we find Jesus and His disciples embarking on a journey across the sea of Galilee. As they sailed, a great storm arose, causing the waves to crash violently against their boat. The disciples, who were experienced fishermen and were no strangers to the sea, were filled with fear and panic. They cried out to Jesus, who was asleep in the stern of the boat, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Their faith was tested as they faced the very real possibility of being swallowed by the raging sea.
In their moment of desperation, the disciples turned to Jesus, knowing that He alone had the power to save them. Jesus, awakened by their cries, stood up and rebuked the wind and the waves, saying, “Peace, be still!” Instantly, the storm ceased, and there was a great calm. Jesus then turned to His disciples and asked, “Where is your faith?”
This story highlights the incredible power of Jesus to calm the storms in our lives. Just as He calmed the physical storm on the Sea of Galilee, He can bring peace to the storms within our hearts and minds. When we call upon Him in our distress, He is there to provide strength, comfort, and deliverance.
Life’s storms come in many forms – the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, health challenges, relationship struggles, and more. These storms can leave us feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and uncertain. It is in these moments that our faith is tested, and our true beliefs are revealed. Will we cower in fear and doubt, or will we call on Jesus, knowing that He is near and able to calm the raging seas?
The storms we face are not a sign of God’s absence or lack of care. Rather, they are opportunities for us to grow in faith and dependence on Him. Just as a crucible purifies gold, the storms of life expose the strength or weakness of our faith. When we face trials, we have a choice – to focus on the storm or to fix our eyes on Jesus.
When the storms of life threaten to overwhelm us, we must remember to call on Jesus. He may appear to be asleep, seemingly unaware of our struggles, but He is there. Sometimes He just needs to be awakened by our cries for help, our desperate pleas for His intervention. We must not lose sight of His nearness, even when the waves crash around us and threaten to engulf us.
Just as Jesus was present with His disciples in the boat during that treacherous storm, He is with us in the midst of our storms. He is our anchor, our refuge, and our source of strength. When we call upon Him, He calms the storms within us, giving us peace and assurance that He is in control.
It’s important to remember that Jesus does not promise a life free from challenges and trials. He explicitly tells us in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble.” However, He also assures us, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
When we call on Jesus in our distress, we are not guaranteed an immediate end to our storms. But we can trust in His power to save us. Just as He calmed the storm for His disciples, He is more than able to calm the storms in our lives as well. He may choose to calm the external circumstances or to calm the storm within us, giving us the strength and peace to endure.
The storms we face can be overwhelming and disorienting, but we must not lose hope. Even in the midst of the storm, Jesus walks beside us. He is our guiding light, our anchor of hope. When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we find peace that surpasses all understanding.
Jesus’ promise to His disciples in Matthew 28:20 rings true for us today: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” He is present with us in every storm, every trial, every moment of our lives. We are never alone.
As we go through life, let us remember to call on Jesus. Let us trust in His power to calm the storms and bring us peace. Let us fix our eyes on Him, knowing that He is near and able to deliver us. With Jesus by our side, we can navigate the seas of life with courage, faith, and unwavering hope.
Jeremiah raises a question that produces uncertainty in the life of the listener. Jeremiah suggests that if we are unable to handle the little problems in our lives. How will we be able to handle the big ones? We often find ourselves pitted against the footmen of life. Racing, striving to outdo them as we pursue our dreams. We push ourselves to the limits, hoping to outshine our competitors and claim victory for ourselves. But what happens when these footmen become too much for us to handle? What happens when we find ourselves weary and exhausted just trying to make ends meet? It is at this moment that the question posed by the prophet Jeremiah becomes relevant: “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?”
These words strike a chord deep within our souls, for they remind us that life is not a simple sprint but a grueling marathon. If we struggle to keep up with the footmen, how can we possibly hope to endure the fierce competition of horses? Horses, with their strength and power, represent the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead of us. They are the trials, and that will test our resolve and push us to our limits. They are the fierce opponents that we must face head-on if we are to achieve greatness.
So how do we prepare ourselves for this monumental task? How do we find the strength and stamina to run with horses? The answer lies in our ability to persevere. We must learn from our experiences with the footmen, allowing their weariness to ignite a fire within us. We must use their challenges as stepping stones, propelling us forward toward even greater feats. We must embrace the pain and exhaustion as signs of growth and transformation. Running with horses requires a shift in mindset. It demands that we rise above the weariness of footmen and embrace the challenges that lie ahead. It calls for a relentless pursuit of excellence and an unwavering commitment to our goals. So let us not be discouraged by the weariness of footmen but rather let it serve as a reminder of the strength that lies within us. For if we can persevere through the challenges of today, we will surely find ourselves racing alongside horses tomorrow.
In the depths of uncertainty, as Christians, we are summoned to rise above the chaos and embrace the challenges that life hurls at us. We are not meant to surrender to the whims of fate but rather to seek the unwavering strength that emanates from God Himself. For it is in His divine power that we find the courage to press on, to navigate through the treacherous storms that threaten to engulf us. When the weight of existence becomes overwhelming, when exhaustion seeps into our bones and threatens to shatter our resolve, it is God alone who sustains us. His love, His grace, and His unwavering presence fortify our spirits, rejuvenating us with a renewed energy to persevere. In this tumultuous journey called life, we encounter obstacles that test the limits of our resolve. But even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, we are called to summon forth a courage that defies reason and logic. It is a courage that stems from a deep-rooted faith in God’s guidance and provision. With each step we take, we must remember that it is not our own strength that propels us forward but rather the strength that is infused within us by our Creator. It is through this divine strength that we can face the difficult, the overwhelming, and, yes, even the seemingly impossible. For it is during these moments of adversity that our faith is truly tested. When the world tells us to surrender, to give up on our dreams and aspirations, we are called to stand firm in our convictions and persevere. We must remember that we are not alone in this journey; God walks beside us, guiding our every step and instilling within us the courage to face whatever challenges lie ahead. Our exhaustion may be real, but His strength is limitless. And with His unwavering support, there is no storm too fierce, no obstacle too daunting for us to overcome. So let us embrace the uncertainties of life with unwavering faith and trust in God’s providence, knowing that He is the source of our courage and the anchor of our perseverance.
“Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ”
I want to briefly go over some thoughts that were lifted up in Sunday’s message. Self-forgiveness is incredibly important. It is something we can all afford to practice and incorporate into our lives.
If there is no condemnation in Christ, then forgiving ourselves is an absolute necessity in the Kingdom of God. For one cannot be in God’s kingdom, one cannot live in God’s kingdom without accepting and living in the righteousness of God. The living part is in the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. The Holy Spirit leads in the living of a righteous life.
Let us first begin with understanding what forgiving yourself means. Forgiving yourself is not about pardoning your actions; it is about acknowledging your faults, taking responsibility, and finding a path toward personal growth and self-improvement. Embrace your humanity and imperfections and allow self-forgiveness to be an act of self-love that sets you free.
As you embark on this journey of self-forgiveness, remember that you are not alone. We are all imperfect beings, learning and growing together. Embrace the power of self-forgiveness and unlock the door to a life filled with joy, freedom, and genuine self-acceptance.
One of the first steps in the journey of self-forgiveness is admitting to ourselves that we have done things that are wrong. It requires us to confront our actions and take responsibility for the pain we may have caused ourselves or others. This admission is not about pardoning ourselves for our actions but rather about acknowledging our faults and saying, “Yes, I did this; I am responsible.”
Forgiving ourselves means embracing as well as appreciating the fact that we have faults. It involves recognizing our imperfections and understanding that, at our core, in our essence, we are still good people. It is about acknowledging that we have done something wrong but knowing that we have the capacity to grow, learn, and become better versions of ourselves.
Self-forgiveness is not about dwelling on past mistakes or wallowing in guilt and shame. It is about finding a way to move forward into a better version of ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether our mistakes were large or small; what matters is that we acknowledge our humanity and our imperfections. We are all
imperfect human beings we often struggle to accept this fact.
Within the Christian faith, the concept of self-forgiveness is deeply rooted in the scripture of “loving your neighbor as yourself.” However, often the emphasis is placed on forgiving others while neglecting ourselves entirely. We tend to prioritize forgiving others and placing their needs above our own, which can lead to neglecting our own healing and growth.
When we neglect to forgive ourselves, we demonstrate a fundamental flaw in our understanding of this scripture. We must remember that forgiving ourselves is a crucial part of the journey of faith. It requires us to recognize our own worth and importance, just as we recognize the worth and importance of others. Learning to forgive ourselves cannot be done if we constantly view others as more important than ourselves.
Self-forgiveness is an act of self-love. It is about extending the same compassion, empathy, and forgiveness to ourselves that we would offer to others. By embracing self-forgiveness, we free ourselves from the burden of guilt and shame, allowing us to experience true healing and growth.
Self-forgiveness has the power to liberate us from the shackles of guilt, shame, and self-blame. It allows us to embrace our imperfections, learn from our mistakes, and grow into the best version of ourselves. By extending compassion and forgiveness to ourselves, we create space for healing, growth, and genuine self-love.
Self-forgiveness is a transformative process that requires self-reflection, self-compassion, and self-acceptance. It is not a one-time event but a journey of self-discovery and growth. Here are some steps to guide you on this journey of self-forgiveness.
The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. In other words, those who are fully committed to God, He will be committed to them. He will be committed to strengthening them.
2 Chronicles 16:9
In other words, those who are fully committed to God, He will be committed to them. He will be committed to strengthening them. There is a heartfelt connection between our commitment to God and spiritual strength. Our commitment to God gives us a foundation in our faith that enables us to stand in the face of trials and other difficulties we encounter. Our commitment to God reinforces the understanding that we are not alone in life’s journey.
Our faith journey is inseparably tied to our commitment to God. Try as you will, without a commitment to God, our faith would be diminished. In times of extreme conflict, we would experience a profound alone in the battle we are waging. With our commitment to God, we feel God’s presence and experience His peace when we let go and surrender it all to Him. The reason why commitment grows our faith is because in our commitment, we grow in our understanding of who God is, and as a result, we deepen our relationship with Him.
Without a commitment to God and God’s constant involvement in our lives, we would be unable to remain on track to do His will. There can be no denying that the decision to follow God, to seek His will, and to live according to God’s teaching is what keeps us moving forward in the kingdom of God. When we are committed to God, our perception of life changes because of the deepened relationship we have with God. This commitment has deepened our relationship because it has deepened our faith and trust in God. Thereby enabling us to see life the way others without faith cannot.
What are some of the things we can do that will reflect our love and gratitude for God? It includes prayer, Bible Study, both devotion and group, worship, and serving God.
Prayer is vital. We must incorporate more prayer time into our lives. We must make time to communicate with God. We must take time to tell God how much we care and how much we love and are grateful for all He has done. We can also seek His guidance as we pray. It is in prayer, in time given to God, that our relationship can deepen in a different kind of way. In prayer, a relationship with God establishes trust within you with God, who has always been there for you. Prayer cultivates and deepens that understanding that you can depend upon God.
Take time to open your Bible and study scripture. Learn about netbible.org/bible and how to use it for your personal Bible study and devotion. It is through Bible study that our faith and commitment to God increases, and the knowledge of God begins to boggle our minds. Because you become aware that His ways are above our ways, His thoughts are above our thoughts.
Service expands our understanding of how God touches the world through you. It opens our hearts and minds to the needs of people. It expands our understanding of our dependency upon God and other people as well. We discover that regardless of what we think, we are not an island unto ourselves.
Committing to God brings peace into our lives. This commitment also gives us a purpose because we now allow God to lead us. This purpose is coupled with the joy that comes from serving others and seeing them in very different ways. Our lives become less judgmental. Commitment to God gives us strength and guidance in situations and circumstances we were void of strength and struggling with how to deal with the situation.
Commitment provides direction, purpose, and strength. It empowers us to live a life of fulfillment. It promotes spiritual growth and makes our relationship with God stronger.
Commitment to God is a daily decision that will be challenged and tested. It requires seeking God daily. We must remember the journey we are on; we do not travel alone. You are part of a community of the faithful. All striving to live for and serve God’s kingdom. Do not forget that God is with us every step of the way.
The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. In other words, those who are fully committed to God, He will be committed to them. He will be committed to strengthening them.
2 Chronicles 16:9
As we closed Vacation Bible Study this past Friday, we left with a charge to commit ourselves to being a more loving and better member. This happens when we commit to the Lord. I want to suggest that this decision is profound in its intent. It is saying to God that I surrender my entire life to God. It is more than an ambiguous notion of faith. It is more than casual church attendance. Committing to God is a life-altering decision. This is a decision to seek the guidance and will of God in all that we attempt to do.
This is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process of decision-making on a daily basis. It is choosing God on a daily basis. It is loving the will of God for your life on a daily basis. It is seeking the wisdom of God and to live according to God’s will. It is a journey with God, full of challenges but filled with profound spiritual growth and transformation.
Committing to God does not mean we must abandon our individuality or personal aspirations. What it does mean is aligning our aspirations with God’s will. It means pursuing our aspirations for God’s glory and not our own. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us in our daily walk.
One begins honoring God by acknowledging God’s dominion in all the world. It is expressing our gratitude for His blessings in our life. Honoring God is not about the appearance of honor. It is about the state of hearts and the authenticity of our faith. When we honor God, we recognize His power, His wisdom, and unfailing love. We honor God when we express our reverence and devotion not out of fear or obligation but out of love and gratitude.
Honoring and loving the Lord is closely connected to the way we honor and love ourselves. This kind of love comes from the Holy Spirit, which empowers us with the ability to love God in a new way. This kind and level of God that is God-given and God-sustained influences the way we interact with others. It is a commitment borne out of love and honor toward God that motivates us to serve others in a way that shows a genuine love for their well-being. When our love for ourselves is bound in the love we have for God, we are able to give others our very best because it comes directly from the strength that God gives us to love and serve others. When we are able to serve others with respect and the love that comes from God, the kind of love that does not permit me to look down upon someone just because they have less, then I become a promoter of peace. I become a promoter of justice. It is then that I truly promote God’s kingdom on earth.
Commitment to God is a source of strength because we know that when we are committed to God, God is committed to us. This commitment provides a solid foundation for our faith can stand on. It is this faith that enables us to withstand the trials and challenges without losing our grip on life. Commitment to God gives us the will to live with a sense of purpose and conviction for God. It is important that we know when we commit to God that we are not alone in our spiritual journey. God’s Spirit dwells within us to guide and comfort us, to strengthen us with the spiritual ability to overcome obstacles. Commitment to God deepens our understanding of who God is. When we commit to God, we grow spiritually because we grow closer to God. When we are committed to God, a sense of peace becomes a part of who God grows us into because we know who is in charge, and we trust the sovereignty of God completely. When we are able to rest in the assurances of God’s unfailing love and care, we are able to trust in God’s guidance and God’s ability to provide for our needs. We can face uncertainty with courage and faith. Again, knowing God is in control, and His plans are for our good. We can face each day with a new confidence that is undergirded by our faith and commitment to God.
Why is it that we feel most vulnerable at night? Because darkness amplifies fear because it symbolizes the unknown and uncertainty. Faith in God can be powerful for overcoming these fears. Nighttime is a time of reflection and introspection. We can’t help but think about our lives, relationships, successes and failures, and all the unknowns of the future. We are vulnerable because we believe we are left with ourselves to confront those fears and doubts. Ignoring the darkness that creeps in when we’re alone with our thoughts is hard. At that moment, we need to reach out and ask for help from God to help us get through the night.
What is it about the night that makes us feel so alone? The night seems to be the time when our strength to fight, to hold on, seem to disappear. The night seems to bring a different level and degree of abandonment. The feeling of being lost and alone is the most challenging of all feelings. Lying in the dark alone, our fears feel like they are closing in on us. It is then that we begin to hopeless and despair. During the day, we are able to fight the good fight, to hold on to a semblance of hope. The night seems to bring into existence a strange manifestation of loneliness that the wisest of us cannot understand. In one of his songs, Bobby Womack sings, “If you think you’re lonely now, wait until tonight, girl.” Why does she have to wait until the night to feel the loneliness he predicts? What is it about the night that precipitates and magnifies loneliness? I know we have all felt alone during the day. I know tears of sorrow and loneliness have been shed in the daytime. But no one can explain the power of darkness that brings loneliness to a new level. Gladys Knight cries for help in the dark of night in her song “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” In this song, she sings of the pitfall of being lonely and vulnerable at night. It is in the night that we feel the weakest. Jesus was at His weakest moment in the night. What is it about the night, the darkness, that causes us to dissolve emotionally? Fears in the night are real and life-absorbing.
It is said that nighttime is when we are most vulnerable because our thoughts are more amplified and intense. We become aware of our fears and doubts as well as the uncertainties of the future. This can cause us to feel overwhelmed and helpless, which should make us seek refuge in God.
The night brings with it a special kind of loneliness that can be hard to put into words but is experienced by many. It is a feeling that seems to intensify when nightfall begins and becomes full-blown when we feel lost, and the light of hope fades with the onset of the dark. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus felt His weakest and experienced His fears of the impending cross, proving that darkness can bring out the weakest moments in humanity. It is in these times that the strength of God’s presence is needed in our lives. It is our trust in God that will get us through those moments of doubt and insecurity. God was present with Jesus on the darkest night of His life. The darkness did not prevail in that moment that Jesus experienced. It will prevail in your moment of faltering. If God was present for Jesus, God will be present for you. If God rescued Jesus from the jaws of despair and the crushing power of fear. God will rescue you. If God sent angels to minister to Jesus. God will send ministering angels to you. God has promised never to leave or forsake us. This includes the darkest of nights. It includes the loneliest of moments. It includes every moment we believe our hope is gone. God will not be there; God is there. We have God’s word to trust in.
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“The Lord is my light (in the midst of the darkness) and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24)
I know that my redeemer[a] lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Job 19:25
This scripture is read at funerals with the understanding that we all shall see God for ourselves. As much as this is true regarding our seeing God, this is not the message of the scripture. Let us first address the purpose of the Book of Job.
The suffering that Job suffered is not understood. How could a man who had done absolutely nothing suffer to the extent and degree Job suffered? Job was a man of great wealth and prosperity. He had a loving family, good health, and everything one could desire. However, his life took a drastic turn when he lost everything. His children died, his livestock perished, and he was afflicted with painful sores all over his body. Job’s suffering was immense and seemed unjust. It is in this context that we witness the depth of his faith.
Despite his overwhelming suffering, Job never wavered in his faith. He questioned the reasons behind his suffering, but he never lost his trust in God. He became angry with God but never lost his faith. He became angry and grew disappointed with his friends, but never lost faith in God. Job’s friends tried to convince him that his suffering was a result of his sins, but he remained steadfast. He refused to curse God and maintained his belief in divine justice. We too, in the midst of the difficulties we face in our lives, must not lose faith in God. Job’s faith is a testament to the human spirit and the power of unwavering trust in God in the face of adversity.
Job’s famous words rang out in the midst of his pain and confusion. Job said regardless of what I am going through: “I Know My Redeemer Lives.” These words capture the essence of Job’s faith. Despite his pain and loss, Job clings to the belief that there is a redeemer who will ultimately vindicate him; his redeemer will clear his tarnished reputation. This declaration, this bold statement, is a profound testament to the power of hope and the assurance that God’s justice will prevail.
To truly understand the significance of Job’s declaration, we must delve into the meaning of redemption. Redemption is the act of being saved or delivered from harm or evil. In Job’s case, he believed that his redeemer would deliver him from his suffering and restore his life. This concept of redemption is deeply rooted in the Christian faith and serves as a reminder that no matter how dire our circumstances may be, there is always hope for redemption. It tells those who suffer that God will take care of them. God will come to your rescue. That God will shine His light in the midst of the darkness you are walking through and guide your every step. Job’s redeemer is our redeemer. The same God that rescued and delivered Job will rescue and deliver you this day.
The Book of Job offers us a message of hope and salvation. It reminds us that even in the darkest moments of our lives, there is always a glimmer of light. Job’s story teaches us that suffering is not a punishment but rather an opportunity for growth and transformation. Through his unwavering faith, Job finds solace in knowing that his redeemer lives and will bring about his ultimate deliverance.
Job’s faith provides us with valuable lessons that we can apply to our own lives. Firstly, it teaches us the importance of trust and perseverance in the face of adversity. Job’s unwavering faith serves as a reminder that even when everything seems to be falling apart, we must hold on to our belief and trust in God. Secondly, Job teaches us the power of humility and surrender. Despite his righteous life, Job humbles himself before God and acknowledges that he cannot fully comprehend the ways of the divine. Finally, Job’s story emphasizes the need for community and support during times of suffering. His friends may have provided misguided advice, but their presence and willingness to stand by Job were crucial.
Job’s faith is not limited to the pages of Scripture; it is a timeless example that we can apply to our own lives. When we face trials and tribulations, we can draw strength from Job’s unwavering trust in God. We can find solace in the knowledge that our suffering is not in vain and that there is a greater purpose behind it. Job’s story reminds us that our faith can sustain us even in the darkest moments and that our redeemer lives ready to bring about our deliverance.
The declaration “I know my redeemer lives” continues to resonate with believers around the world. It serves as a reminder that our faith is not in vain and that there is hope even in the most challenging circumstances. Job’s words have withstood the test of time because they speak to the universal human experience of suffering and the power of faith to overcome it. No matter where we are in life, we can find comfort and strength in knowing that our redeemer lives.
The story of Job is a timeless tale of faith, suffering, and redemption. It teaches us that even in the darkest moments, we can find solace in our faith. Job’s unwavering trust in God and his declaration that “I know my redeemer lives” inspire us to embrace the power of faith in the face of adversity. Let us hold on to this powerful message and find hope and salvation in the knowledge that our redeemer lives.
In a world searching for peace, two essential concepts emerge as cornerstones necessary to achieve this end: acceptance and surrender. They hold the key to inner harmony and serenity. Acceptance is the first step towards finding peace. It is the act of acknowledging and embracing the reality of our circumstances, both external and internal. When we accept what is, we release resistance and open ourselves to God’s will and the flow of life. When we accept “what is,” our bodies cease to fight. The anxiety that seems to follow us all day begins to dissipate.
Acceptance begins with embracing our imperfections and limitations. Acceptance means we begin to see our vulnerabilities and become comfortable with them. Only then will we be able to do something about some of the vulnerabilities that plague us. When we begin to accept the fact that we are not perfect, nor were we meant to be perfect, when we accept the fact that we are human beings with flaws and other weaknesses, we will become more comfortable with ourselves. By accepting our humanity, we free ourselves from the burden of unrealistic expectations and self-judgment. Williams James said, “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”
One of the most significant challenges in acceptance is relinquishing the need for control. We all have this inexhaustible need to control. As a result, we often try to control every aspect of our lives, fearing uncertainty and change. However, true peace comes when we surrender our desire for control and trust in God, who is at work. Acceptance does not mean resignation or passivity; it is a conscious choice to let go and allow life to unfold as it will. It is an acknowledgment that we cannot control everything but can control our response to life’s challenges. In addition, it is a statement of faith and trust in God. A profound trust that is not swayed by the circumstances that are in front of us. It is the will of God that we trust in. Acceptance embraced by faith, Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Called according to His purpose is the part of the text that escapes us all. It does not fit into our controlling nature. It compromises who we believe we are in our thoughts. However, because of this position, we miss the power and peace that God is trying to activate in our lives. We miss it because we are operating in our power and might and not by God’s Spirit.
When we fully accept ourselves and our circumstances, we experience a profound sense of freedom. Acceptance allows us to let go of resistance and find peace in the present moment. It diminishes the ill feelings that are brought about because of our resistance to the will of God, because of our resistance to the reality that is in front of us. Fighting that which we cannot control is never helpful. It produces suffering on a level we all have experienced. It is in our surrender that we grow and find a deeper relationship with God. Acceptance opens the door to new possibilities and opportunities. It enables us to see beyond our limitations and embrace the fact of life’s uncertainties. By accepting what is, we create space for growth, healing, and transformation.
Surrender is the next step on the path to inner peace. It is the act of releasing our attachment to outcomes and trusting in the wisdom of God. Surrender requires humility, vulnerability, and a willingness to let go of our need to control. Surrender is embracing the unknown. Surrendering is about embracing the unknown and relinquishing our illusions of certainty. We think that when we are in control, we have certainty in our lives. There is no such thing as human control. There is only the illusion of control. But God and life show us that we do not control the outcome. It is acknowledged that we cannot always predict or control the outcomes of our actions that we grow. Surrender invites us to trust in God’s timing and God’s inherent wisdom.
When we surrender, we release resistance and create space for miracles to occur. Resistance is like a dam blocking the flow of God’s Holy Spirit. By surrendering, we dismantle that dam and allow the natural flow of God’s love and joy to enter our lives. Surrender requires us to let go of our attachment to specific outcomes and trust that what God intends for us will come in due time. “If God is for you, who or what can be against you.”
Surrendering to the divine plan and recognizing that God is at work in our lives should cause us to surrender. Surrender implies you care about yourself. It means you are practicing self-compassion. It means letting go of self-judgment, self-criticism, and the need to be perfect. When we surrender to self-compassion, we acknowledge our worthiness and embrace our inherent value as human beings. Surrendering allows us to cultivate a deep sense of self-acceptance and love. It is a powerful act of kindness towards ourselves, reminding us that we are deserving of love and forgiveness.
Acceptance and surrender are intertwined, each relying on the other for true inner harmony. Acceptance paves the way for surrender, and surrender enables more profound levels of acceptance. They work in harmony to create a solid foundation for peace in our lives.
Acceptance and surrender dance together in a beautiful symphony. When we accept what is, we create space for surrender. And when we surrender, we deepen our acceptance of the present moment. This dance allows us to find peace and contentment, even in the face of challenges. Peace cannot be found until these two, acceptance and surrender, come together.
Both acceptance and surrender require vulnerability and trust in God. It takes strength to acknowledge our limitations and surrender control. It takes courage to accept our imperfections and embrace the unknown. But in that vulnerability lies immense power—the power to transcend our limitations and discover our true essence. It is in our surrender that we discover who God has called us to be in truth.
When we fully embrace acceptance and surrender, we unlock the gift of inner peace. This peace is not dependent on external circumstances or the actions of others. It comes from within as a result of aligning with the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives and trusting in God’s wisdom to guide us.
It is this peace that comes from God that allows us to navigate life’s challenges with grace and the God-given ability to rebound and recover. It enables us to respond rather than react, to choose love over fear, and to cultivate deep connections with ourselves and others.
Peace comes with acceptance and surrender. It is through acceptance that we find the courage to surrender, and it is through surrender that we discover true peace. The journey towards peace begins with embracing our imperfections, letting go of control, and accepting the present moment God has allowed to enter our lives. It continues with surrendering to the wisdom of God and trusting in God’s will.
Let us remember that peace is not the absence of challenges but the presence of acceptance and surrender in the face of those challenges. May we find solace in the wisdom of acceptance and surrender, and may they guide us toward a life filled with peace, love, and fulfillment. A life God intends for all who practice the surrendered life.
continued from Sunday, June 25th
Zechariah 4:6 & Luke 18:18-23 & 1 Cor. 2:9-12
6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
If we want to understand what God has done for us, our spirit needs to be developed through the feeding of God’s word. It is spelled out fully in 1Corinthians 2:10, which tells us why and it says it very clearly: “God hath revealed those things (things beyond our imagination) to us by His Spirit (your mind can’t tell you the things of God, the world cannot tell you the things of God.). For the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) searches everything (for those who love God), all things, even the deep things of God.” (Even the deepest things of God. Look at what the Holy Spirit revealed to John on the Island of Patmos).
The average Christian cannot know the deep things of God without developing a spiritual relationship with the Holy Spirit. Plants that flourish are plants that are loved. Plants that are not fed, nourished, or cared for do not do well. People who love their plants talk to them. They make sure they get enough sun, and nutrients so the plants will grow. They take good care of their plants. The plants know they are cared for and respond in turn. This is what happens to your spirit when it is nurtured. The nurtured spirit, the cultivated spirit, the spirit that loves Jesus, continues to grow their relationship with the Holy Spirit. For that person, faith is no longer shaky, or uncertain. You will have moments of uncertainty sometimes, but your spirit, because of your faith, shakes that uncertainty off and enters in, and enables you to stand firm. The Holy Spirit can then grow your spirit because your spirit is being nurtured and developed.
The reason this can happen is found in 1 Corinthians 2:12: “Now we have not received the spirit of the world but the spirit that comes from God.” The second part of this verse 12b tells us why we have received the spirit from God: “So we can understand the things that were freely given to us by God.” Now let’s look at this carefully. We were given the spirit of God so we can understand the things that God gives freely. Grace is free; mercy is free; forgiveness is free to us, paid for by Jesus. Peace is free, joy, wisdom, and faith is free, and necessary to fight the battles we find ourselves in. Our spiritual holiness and sanctification are free. All of this is free. For this, we should be grateful that our worship of God is more complete because of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
When our spirit grows, we will desire more of Jesus. Our spirit will long for the Holy Spirit. This spiritual growth and transformation takes place in total opposition to the systems of the world. This spiritual transformation will cause you to love unconditionally. This will place you in total opposition to the world and the way its systems function. You will love those the world and the system tell you not to love. You will love those who are not like you. You will love the homeless; you will love the racist, not his/her behavior but him or her. You will love unconditionally and will see things in people that the systems in this world refuse to see. You will see potential in the gang member. You will see potential in the poor. You will see potential in the thief. It’s not that you can change them; that’s God’s job. Our job is to see the potential in others as God’s children. Our job is to touch lives; God’s job is to change them. Our job is to help prepare the way. God’s job is to get them to get on the path. The rich ruler did not come to Jesus for conversion. The rich ruler came to Jesus for confirmation. The rich ruler came as a truly impoverished soul. Jesus wanted to make him truly rich. Jesus tells the rich man in Mark 10:21, “One thing you lack.” In Greek, it says, that one thing “is” lacking. You lack this right now. You are not in control of your life. The things you have, and your possessions are in control of you. Riches, things that are in this world, cause addiction, and because the rich ruler was addicted to the world of things, the rich ruler walked away sad.
It’s hard to follow Jesus when you are weighed down by your desires, by the things you are addicted to in this world. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us, let us keep running with endurance the race set before us.” When we make ourselves, when we make what we want to do, what we want to possess, a priority over Jesus, we become the sin that so easily entangles us. The definition of sin is missing the mark, not being on track, and not being centered. The only time we sin is when we make ourselves the priority over Jesus in anything we do. When what we want to do becomes the priority over Jesus, we sin. The things we want, the things we want to do, are at the center of every sin we commit.
The rich ruler could not remove himself from the center. The rich ruler was controlled by the system he was living in. How much are we controlled by this system, this world culture? The world and its systems are selling drugs called power, fame, and status. How much have we purchased? How addicted are you? How hooked are we? Will our addiction cause us to walk away from Jesus? If we are addicted, Jesus has a rehab program. The rich ruler would not sign himself in. However, we can. The center is S.U.R.R.E.N.D.E.R. TO JESUS REHAB CENTER. It is guaranteed to help anyone recover from the addictions of this world. All we need to do is put Jesus first. All we need to do is let go and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Take your hand off your life and allow the Holy Spirit to become your guide.
We don’t have to walk away. God specializes in second chances. God specializes in one more time. God specializes in do-overs. God specializes in people like you and me who can never get it right the first time. “It is written, ye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians. 2:9) When you grow your spirit, you grow your faith. When you grow your faith, you grow your ability to believe and trust in God’s word. I pray you begin to grow your spirit today. Examine who you are in Christ, not what you are in this world. We can only do this when we surrender fully and completely to Jesus.
In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all men. The light that men and women need to live in this world can only be found in Jesus. “Light” is used in this text to mean knowledge, wisdom, understanding, the ability to make the right decisions, and to have the mindset to live in the will of God. The spiritual life that Jesus gives each individual that embraces His life, and the mindset, gives that individual the ability to resist the challenges that confront each of us daily to move in opposition to God’s will.
Jesus and everything Jesus represents is in opposition to what the deceptive and oppressive systems of the world are using to capture the lives and desires of men and women everywhere. We live in a world system that seeks to elevate the privileged and diminish the impoverished. Jesus, throughout the Gospel, is in opposition to this. The poor are used to support and maintain the lifestyles of the rich and the affluent. In this one verse, Jesus is saying to everyone, “If you want to live through the struggles of this world, you need the life and the mindset of Jesus in your life.” This life that Jesus brings into the world is the light the world needs and is looking for. This is the light that the world and all its power, all its money, and all of its influence cannot put out.
In Jesus was life, and this life was the light of all men. This light cannot be put out. Imagine, if you will, there is a source of light. A source of power that we can go to no matter the situation, no matter the circumstances, and this light cannot be put out, cannot be destroyed. You can go to this light. You can go to this fountain of strength and power in your moment(s) of need. The light of men can be put out. The light of men can be suspect. The light of men can grow dim. The light of men can fade. The words of men can be silenced. But the light that comes from God will never fade, and the Word of God can never be silenced. The will and word of God cannot be delayed. God’s light comes on in the life of men and women when that individual surrenders to the authority that light brings into their life.
Before anything of significance takes place in the kingdom of God, a light should shine that allows us to see the path we are taking. Knowledge must be given; a vision must come to mind. Nothing is created without light, without knowledge. Before God formed the world, God first created the light. This light overcame the darkness that attempted to prevent the light from shining. But God said, “Let there be light,” and the light shone in spite of the darkness. Light is a metaphor in John 1:4 for us to use as guidance in every aspect of our lives. Light allows us to see what is in front of us. Light allows us to see what we are doing. Light prevents us from stumbling when we follow the light.
We are always in need of illumination to guide the way. God is subtly telling us in Genesis 1:4 that we need a light to guide our steps, to direct our goings and comings. The Psalmist tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” This one verse in Psalms 119:105 encapsulates all of John 1:1-4: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. Jesus, the Word made flesh is light. The light and life that God sent into the world is the light that guides our every step if we pay attention to it. The word of God is a light that guides my path.
The Gospel of John, especially these first four verses, speaks of a Jesus that we will not experience until after the resurrection. These verses speak of the presence of Jesus as an ongoing reality in the life of the Christian. This light that is being alluded to and talked about is none other than the Holy Spirit is that light. The Holy Spirit is the deliverer of truth we all seek. The Holy Spirit is that power and strength in the world today we all need. The Holy Spirit is the light that will never fade and never be put out. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall never walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” The songwriter’s chorus said it well: “Walk in the light, beautiful light, come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh, shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the light of the world.”
A little is a lot in God’s hands. These are words that seem to fall on deaf ears because we are so accustomed to having large responses made to our requests. We sometimes forget that it is the Holy Spirit’s power in the back of our giving and our participation that grows whatever it is the church is attempting to accomplish.
Paul tells us that God’s grace is sufficient to meet every situation we find ourselves in. 2nd Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Grace is God’s power to strengthen us in the midst of the things that are going on in our lives. Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit acting in and, on our behalf, to get us through whatever the trial and circumstances may, in fact, be. God uses us even when it appears that we do not have a lot. When our strength is low, grace can give us strength. When our faith is low, grace can give us strength. When our courage is low, grace can give us courage. Grace, however, is always coupled with faith.
1 Corinthians 3:6 reminds us when Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” Our job is to plant. Our job is to plant the seed. Our job is to have faith. Our job is to trust in God. It is God’s job to give the increase. We must learn to trust God with little things. Trust God to believe that God will take the little things and grow to honor Him. A little girl did just that, and God blessed her efforts beyond anyone’s imagination.
A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it ‘was too crowded.’
“I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by.
Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class.
The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings, and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found, which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was 57 cents, and a note scribbled in childish handwriting that read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.”
For two years, she had saved for this offering of love.
When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.
But the story does not end there! A newspaper learned of the story and published it.
It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a 57-cent payment. Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide, and within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 – a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century).
Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building that houses hundreds of Sunday schoolers, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, author of the book, “Acres of Diamonds.”~
Let us learn to trust God with our efforts. It does not matter how meager; if it is our best, God will and can use it. We must learn to trust with our lives. It does not matter how we perceive ourselves. God will qualify the unqualified and restore hope to the hopeless. Remember, ours is the effort, and to God belongs the outcome.
Unfinished business does not go away. The thing you run from always comes back. It always does. It returns again and again and again. Ignoring the leaky kitchen faucet doesn’t make the leak go away. The ostrich that sticks its head in the sand doesn’t avoid the lion that is in the brush. Things that should be confronted, things that must be taken care of eventually must be taken care of. If your account is overdrawn, money must be put into that account. It cannot be avoided if you wish to keep the account.
Unfinished business with God is the same. It doesn’t matter who you are or the things you must do; the lessons God would have us learn will be learned, now or later. It is our choice, and it is always our choice when we choose to learn the lesson. What would our lives be like if God were not a God of second chances?
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So, he paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.
Jonah, like us, thought he could get out of doing what God instructed him to do. He wanted to avoid the instructions of God, the calling of God. Like Jonah, sometimes we think if we just ignore something serious in our lives, it will go away. Jonah thought if he went to sleep, he could avoid God. “I’m sleeping, Lord, I don’t know what’s going on” The same thing that was going on before you laid down. The lights that were off when you laid down are still off. Jonah is playing dumb. You can’t run away from problems. You can’t avoid conflicts, and you can’t avoid them forever. They fester. They poison the body, the family, and the organization; they poison you. What Jonah was doing was affecting the entire ship, the entire crew. Sometimes those who are infected have to find out what the problem is or where it is coming from. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So, they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
So, they interrogated him: “Tell us, why has this trouble come upon us? What’s your occupation? Where’d you come from? What’s your home country? What’s your nationality?” 9 “I’m a Hebrew,” he replied, “and I’m afraid of the LORD God of heaven, who made the sea—along with the dry land! 10 In mounting terror, the men asked him, “What have you done?” The men were aware that he was fleeing from the LORD because he had admitted this to them.” Sometimes people must act on their own behalf and do what is in their best interest. When people are running from something, when people are trying to avoid something, the only person they are thinking about is themselves. Jonah was no exception. Jonah did not accept responsibility until he was called out and singled out. Jonah immediately knew the problem was him. Jonah was now backed into a corner. Jonah was being forced to realize you cannot run from God. You can ignore God, but sooner or later, you must, and you will deal with God.
Those who know the story of Jonah know that they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea became calm. The sailors on the ship were spared. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and rescued by God.
Jonah is a story about unfinished business that gets finished because God gives second chances upon our repentance. In the final analysis, repentance is all about second chances. Repentance is all about a change of mind and a change of heart. It is about God watching a wayward soul go astray, and the lessons of life and living bring them back again. It is a man or woman, boy or girl accepting the second chance and finishing the unfinished business.
The God we serve is the God of second chances. The God who welcomes the discarded and the lost. The God who says yes when everything in our life has said no. The God who saves and restores to the uttermost.
John 5:26 says, “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father – He will testify about Me.” John 5:26 tells us quite emphatically that the Holy Spirit is a person. When Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us not only who the Holy Spirit is but what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father. It is important in our prayer life, or rather it can be important if you are able to see the Holy Spirit as a person. The Holy Spirit is an ever-present reality that is always available to those who will acknowledge Him in their prayer life. The Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus Christ in the world today. If we are to experience Jesus in the world today, it is first and foremost through the presence of the Holy Spirit who testifies to the present reality of Jesus Christ’s presence.
It is helpful to see the Holy Spirit as God. Not the Spirit of God, but God. Not the power of God, but God. The Holy Spirit is God, and because the Holy Spirit is God, the Holy Spirit can act and perform like God. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit only does what He sees the Father doing. The Holy Spirit only does what Jesus did. John 16:13-15 says, “(13) When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. (14) He will glorify Me because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. (15) Everything the father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.” In verse 13, Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will do what it hears from God. This tells us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are working, operating in concert, together. The Holy Spirit will not do anything that Jesus has not done and will not do anything that God, the Father, has not ordained or planned. The Holy Spirit is given a masculine pronoun not out of a patriarchal or ancient male tradition. It is done to demonstrate and affirm the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. The Trinity does not attempt in any way to hide its deep and personal concern for the Child of God in every aspect of our existence. The mission, and assignment of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus. This is done by meeting the needs and concerns of the Children of God. John 7:18 says, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him, there is no falsehood.” The only purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory and to glorify Jesus. So, the Holy Spirit receives what Jesus communicates to Him and performs it.
Let us be very clear the theology of the Gospel of John is Theocentric, God-centered, not Christ-centered. Meaning God, the Father, is the director of this entire plan of salvation, and the Son, in the person of Jesus Christ, is the instrument of that salvation. The Holy Spirit is sent to have and maintain the presence of God in the world. The Holy Spirit is God acting in the world through the Child of God. Again, it is the Holy Spirit’s mission, and task to communicate what comes from Jesus to the disciples. The Holy Spirit serves the mission of Jesus, just as Jesus served the will of the Father. The Godhead, Trinity, is united in purpose and mission.
As disciples, we are called to follow in communicating the saving mission of Jesus to the hostile world that killed Jesus. We will not escape the hostility of the world. We will not escape the persecution that comes with our testimony that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. However, through it all, we will have (1) another Paraclete, (2) one who will teach us, (3) one who will witness with us, (4) one who will serve as our attorney and judge in the world, and (5) one who will guide us authentically in truth.
I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your life will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! And now He is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age but in the age that is coming! And he alone is the leader and source of everything needed in the church. God has put everything beneath the authority of Jesus Christ and has given him the highest rank above all others. And now we, his church, are his body on the earth and that which fills him who is being filled by it. ~Ephesians 1:19-23
The day of Pentecost ushered the Holy Spirit into the world. The Holy Spirit’s presence was promised by Jesus before He ascended. We marvel at the Holy Spirit’s coming and presence and, as significant as it was, the exaltation of Jesus. The ascension of Jesus was the catalyst that made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus had ascended. The glorification of Jesus brought the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is given to the Child of God only. The Holy Spirit was given for a specific purpose.
The Holy Spirit was given as a guarantee of our redemption and salvation. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. The seal was the personal sign of the owner of the sender of that, which was important in that it was authentic and not suspicious. What is equally important is that it was a guarantee that the thing seal was carried intact. So, the Christian has the seal of the Holy Spirit, which serves as a guarantee of his or her salvation. There is more.
The Holy Spirit was sent so that Christians would be able to do the work of Jesus Christ in the world. The text in Ephesians lays out clearly that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to empower the church to minister to the world. The Passion Bible version of Ephesians 1:22 says this “22 And he alone is the leader and source of everything needed in the church. God has put everything beneath the authority of Jesus Christ and has given him the highest rank above all others. Verse 19 “19 I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith.” This verse addresses the power that is available to us to do ministry in the name of Jesus and thereby become an advertisement of Jesus working through us. All of this became possible upon the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Before I close, I want to be clear: It is the Holy Spirit that is the seal. The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal. The Holy Spirit is not doing the sealing. The Holy Spirit is the indwelling presence of God’s redemption purpose in the individual. The seal indicates security, safety, ownership, and authority. The seal says this is a finished transaction. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is for the world to have every opportunity to receive the salvation that Jesus offers. We all can be thankful we have such a loving Father.
Matthew 5:3; Matthew 16:24-26
When the world consumes and controls us, we truly lose sight of Jesus Christ. I have often reflected upon the idea that the acquisition of stuff is one of the greatest obstacles to our serving and being committed to Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke these words that haunt every person who truly wants to serve Jesus Christ with a greater commitment. In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
There lies within each of us two enemies that we contend with on a daily basis. They are called “Life” and “Self,” and both desires to be fed. Both are fed on a consistent basis. Both seem to control our relationship with Jesus Christ. We don’t intend it to happen; it just does. In order for this not to happen, we must become more vigilant in our walk with Jesus and His word. These two enemies push us into the arena of possessiveness. We want to possess things; we want to control things. We live in a society that promotes gain and profit. Paul tells us, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It pushes us to embrace a value system that is perverted in the eyes of God. Money is not evil; it is the love of it that compels the world to become savage and vicious toward each other. It is when money and its by-products of a life of selfish desire. As well as the pursuit of a life that impresses others but leaves them empty and unaware on the inside. It controls our lives and our desires. The by-products of money are power, position, and riches. These seem to guide the choices of many who desire to serve Jesus. However, these imposters of peace and happiness seem to rule the day. I want to share a story of two men who discovered that most people around us are pursuing things that have no lasting value. That pursuit is ably treated by Anton Chekhov in his classic short story The Bet. This story gives us great insight into the value system of most people:
The plot involves a wager between two educated men regarding solitary confinement. A wealthy, middle-aged banker believed the death penalty was a more humane penalty than solitary confinement because “an executioner kills at once, solitary confinement kills gradually.” One of his guests at a party, a young lawyer of twenty-five, disagreed, saying, “To live under any conditions is better than not to live at all.”
Angered, the banker impulsively responded with a bet of two million rubles that the younger man could not last five years in solitary confinement. The lawyer was so convinced of his endurance that he announced he would stay fifteen years alone instead of only five.
The arrangements were made, and the young man moved into a separate building on the grounds of the banker’s large estate. He was allowed no visitors or newspapers. He could write letters but receive none. There were guards watching to make sure he never violated the agreement, but they were placed so that he could never see another human being from his windows. He received his food in silence through a small opening where he could not see those who served him. Everything else he wanted—books, certain foods, musical instruments, etc.—was granted by special written request.
During the first year, the piano could be heard at almost any hour, and he asked for many books, mostly novels and other light reading. The next year the music ceased, and the works of various classical authors were requested. In the sixth year of his isolation, he began to study languages and soon had mastered six. After the tenth year of his confinement, the prisoner sat motionless at the table and read the New Testament. After more than a year’s saturation of the Bible, he began to study the history of religion and works on theology.
The second half of the story focuses on the night before the noon deadline when the lawyer would win the bet. The banker was now at the end of his career. His risky speculations and impetuosity had gradually undermined his business. The once self-confident millionaire was now a second-rate banker, and it would destroy him to pay off the wager. Angry at his foolishness and jealous of the soon-to-be-wealthy lawyer who was now only forty, the old banker determined to kill his opponent and frame the guard with the murder. Slipping into the man’s room, he found him asleep at the table and noticed a letter the lawyer had written to him. He picked it up and read the following:
Tomorrow at twelve o’clock, I shall be free … but before leaving this room … I find it necessary to say a few words to you. With a clear conscience, and before God, who sees me, I declare to you that I despise freedom and life and health and all that your books call the joys of this world … I know I am wiser than you all … And I despise all your books. I despise all earthly blessings and wisdom. All are worthless and false, hollow and deceiving like the mirage. You may be proud, wise, and beautiful, but death will wipe you away from the face of the earth, as it does the mice that live beneath your floor; and your heirs, your history, your immortal geniuses will freeze or burn with the destruction of the earth. You have gone mad and are not following the right path. You take falsehood for truth and deformity for beauty. To prove to you how I despise all that you value, I renounce the two million on which I looked, at one time, as the opening of paradise for me, and which I now scorn. To deprive myself of the right to receive them, I will leave my prison five hours before the appointed time, and by so doing, break the terms of our compact.
The banker read the lines, replaced the paper on the table, kissed the strange, sleeping man, and with tears in his eyes, quietly left the house. Chekhov writes, “Never before, not even after sustaining serious losses on change, had he despised himself as he did at that moment.” His tears kept him awake for the rest of the night. And at seven the next morning, he was informed by the watchmen that they had seen the man crawl through a window, go to the gate, and then disappear.
Some people must learn the hard way what is of value, and there are some who never learn. What are the material things that get in the way of knowing Jesus Christ?
“Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast, love is not conceited.”
1 Corinthians 13:4
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13
Have we seriously given thought to the kind of impact the practice of love would have upon our lives? What kind of change loving people would have on society? What would our history look like if we had practiced love instead of all the other emotions, we did, in fact, exhibit? Love is more than an emotion. Love is an action. It is an action that is to be delivered intentionally. Love is supposed to be purposeful, without recourse.
The scripture speaks to the potential of love if lived out in a variety of situations. Its audience is the church in Corinth. The congregation seems to be full of itself because it has gifts that other congregations do not have. I find it interesting that Paul must address the church on how to treat each other with the Holy Spirit in its midst. But therein lies the issue. The Holy Spirit is present, but no one is paying attention to God’s Spirit. Love is present, but no one is paying attention to love. Love is present; the people just need to be detained, restrained and held captive. Made to stand still long enough so the power of God’s love can be experienced. This is the point of this message.
What does love look like when practiced? What does it look like anywhere it is practiced? Love can hurt. Because true love means you allow yourself to become vulnerable. True love means you have opened yourself up to the potential of disappointment. The disappointment that comes when we place our expectations upon those we love. When we expect behavior from them, we know they are unable to perform or exhibit in the hope they will change. Love accepts the person; it accepts the situation that is in front of us. Love sacrifices itself for the benefit of the other. We sacrifice our expectations by swallowing our disappointment; by practicing love in that painful moment when what we wanted or expected is not realized. It is not that people disappoint us as much as it is we do not realize the expectations we place upon people are our expectations and not theirs.
Verse 5 says Love, “It does not insist upon its own way.” Love is a disturber. Love moves us out of those comfort zones we have bathed our emotions in for years. Love will make us examine and reflect upon those things we thought were important but when all is said and done are not. When we begin to examine that which is important in our lives, I mean those things that really matter, we discover that forgiveness matters. It matters because it restores relationships. It matters because it heals the mind and the heart. Forgiveness matters because it heals the one doing the forgiving. However, before forgiveness can happen, we must become disturbed, unsettled, and uncomfortable in our stubborn emotional position. It is then that your life enters a place that was at one time believed unreachable.
Verse 7 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love compels us to choose. Choose what we are going to practice moving forward. When people love, they see things differently. They try to respond to things with compassion and understanding. When people love, they give people the benefit of the doubt. Understand, love is not gullible. Love is not blind. Nevertheless, love tries to see the best if that is all possible. Because love does not give up on hope, love is the single ingredient that can implement change in us without destroying the one that is changing. Love covers what is unpleasant in the other person. So, we can see them, the ones we love. Love does not drag blemishes on and on into eternity. Love will endure what others who do not love, cannot and will not endure.
Love is the ultimate solution to the problems we all face. Love can solve any problem there is. Love does not reject. Love accepts. Love accepts those we do not choose to be around. Love finds a way to care for them. Love looks beyond the theft or the broken heart or the indiscretion suffered by another. Love does these things because love moves us all beyond our limits of acceptance. It does not mean I like it, but it does mean that I am aware that whatever happened, happened and there is nothing I can do about it now. Love gets to the place where we can accept the things we cannot change and change the things we can. Love gives us the wisdom to know the difference. Love looks beyond our faults and sees and understands what we need.
Paul is not suggesting we choose between faith, hope, and love. But in the Corinthian church, Paul is saying tongues don’t matter. All the other gifts they were trying to lift up, they don’t matter if you do not coat them with the love of God.
Whatever God has blessed us with; whatever gifts we may possess; whatever the riches; if any possess wisdom beyond that of mere mortals; if we fail to utilize love in the practice of those gifts, we will corrupt them.
What would our lives be like if we had practiced love? What would this country be like if we had practiced love? What would human history have been like if love had been practiced? I can only believe it would have been much different. However, we cannot change the past. Let us all practice love moving forward. Let us see what kind of future that will bring.
“24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
If any man will come after Me let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.”
These words of Jesus take on a meaning for the Child of God that reaches to the very foundation of willingness to commit to God. It zeros in on our priorities as nothing else does. This speaks to the heart and soul of the modern-day Christian’s difficulty committing to Jesus Christ. So much of what we consider living gets in the way of our choosing Jesus that living has complicated our relationship with Jesus.
When we were first created, it was very clear who was the focal point of Adam and Eve’s existence. God was at the very center of their lives. Before God created Adam and Eve, God prepared for them a world they could use. A world filled with the necessities as well as the desires of their hearts. What God created for Adam and Eve could be called “things.” In fact, that is what we call them today. We use other words to describe them, like “stuff.” We assign stuff certain value designations and they gain a level of importance and “things” that were not important suddenly are. Things that did not have priority now have priority. Let us be clear these things that were created were meant to be used by man. However, they were always meant to be external to man. They were not meant to control men and women and reshape the heart or soul of their relationship with God. The heart of man, the heart of Adam and Eve is to belong to God. God was to be the center of man’s life. God was to be enshrined in the heart of men and women.
This scripture raises the singular requirement needed to follow Jesus. This scripture sets before us the most daunting of obstacles we as Christians have when it comes to following Jesus. “If any man or woman will come after Me let him deny himself.” Jesus is saying if anyone has a desire to follow Me; if anyone makes up in their minds that they want to follow me, “They must deny themselves and take up their cross.” In this one text Jesus unfolds for those who choose to follow Him what following Him means.
Following Jesus does not simply mean walking with Him, learning from Him. It involves a relationship, a spiritual relationship that reshaped and transformed your life. Taking up the cross was entering your own Garden of Gethsemane where the heart and the mind is tested by God’s Holy Spirit to determine if you are really willing to offer yourself up to God as a living sacrifice. A walking sacrifice that surrenders to the will of God. The Garden of Gethsemane was a symbol of the cross for Jesus in that it cleared His heart and mind of any doubt that may have attempted to enter in. Likewise, today if we would commit to Jesus, if we would serve Jesus we must make the cause of Jesus first.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see “things” get in the way of Jesus for a moment. We see the pain of the cross, the suffering of the cross get in the way of Jesus. Today the “things” of the world give us as much pain and suffering as the cross gave to Jesus. Our cross is not the Roman government. Our cross are the “things” in our lives that get in the way of serving Jesus Christ and would cause us much pain and suffering if we were deny ourselves access to them. Everyone has their individual cross that must be born if we would truly commit to Jesus. There is a war that we fight and the Holy Spirit fights with and for us every day against what is in opposition to God being on the throne of our lives. How often have we – you and me – allowed our appetites and desires to take over our lives? How often have we entered into commitments that bind us to “things” that eventually destroyed our lives or severely disrupted them. How many people have we seen buy homes and work their hands to the bone just to have a bigger house. This “thing” became the center of our lives. It is this “thing” we are forced to make a commitment with that wreaks havoc in and over our lives.
There remains within human nature the fallen crest of Adam and Eve that still desires to eat and possess the apple. The things we consume with our eyes, ears, touch, smell and taste are still believed to be good. They continue to seduce us and order the level of our commitment to God. Commitment cannot take place without surrender. Surrender cannot take place without accepting the fact that we cannot overcome the appetites of life that consume and drive us away from God without the help of God’s Holy Spirit.
If we would serve God, if we desire to commit to God, the cost is the appetite of the self. The desires of the human heart. The life that is lived outside of the light of God’s truth.
There is so much more to this scripture. Let us deny our appetites and allow God’s will to become priority in your life.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Let us begin by saying that Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John is about giving comfort to those who are suffering. The beginning of this chapter is used often during funerals to give assurance to those who are suffering that God is with them. Chapter 14 is necessary because in Chapter 13:33 Jesus is telling His disciples that He is going to leave them. This created a great deal of disturbance and confusion in the life of the disciples. Who would lead them? Who would guide and teach them when He is gone?
This is a very important question in every life. When the foundation that holds us together is gone, who will lead us? Who will take care of us? Who will be the glue that holds us together? They could not conceive of Jesus leaving. Their understanding of who Jesus was supposed to be was quite different from His. They thought, they hoped, that He would become the Warrior King that would turn back the oppression of the Roman government. Jesus would restore the kingdom of God on earth in their lifetime.
This is why Chapter 14 begins with the assurance that the disciples needed to sustain them during the rest of their training. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Let us stop there. Jesus is saying to the disciples then and to those who for whatever reason cannot feel the presence of Jesus in their midst right now: “Don’t fret, do not allow yourself to be troubled. If you believe in God, believe in Me.” Verse 2 is very important because it gives the foundation for trusting in Jesus. Verse 2 “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you that, I am going there to prepare a place for you.” Jesus says, My leaving has a purpose. It is not to abandon you. It is to go and prepare a place so you can be with Me. If there were any other way, I would have told you. I have no secrets from you regarding the kingdom of God and your comfort. Jesus hopes to ease their minds and calm their fears in Verse 3. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus is teaching them in Verse 4. “You know the way to the place where I am going.” They really didn’t know, and Thomas made it clear they did not know. Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.” Thomas thought Jesus was talking about a journey and Jesus was talking about a destination. A destination that would require a spiritual map. Jesus is talking about a relationship with God the Father. This relationship begins with a path to be followed and concludes in a destination where the only currency that can open the gates of heaven is faith.
Jesus says to Thomas and the rest of the disciples. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” When we read this the text is saying there is only way one way to gain entrance. Jesus is saying “I am the way.” Jesus is saying I am the path. My life reflects the road that must be traveled. My life is the life that must be emulated, duplicated, and imitated. I am who you should imitate, pattern your life, pattern your ways after Me. This is what the way means. Jesus goes on to say, “I am the way the truth, and the life.” Jesus uses the word life. Jesus is saying look at My life and pattern yourself after My life. The second part of that scripture “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This has two meanings, both are applicable. One, no one can see God without having the same kind of faith in God that Jesus has. Jesus is telling us the starting point of any relationship with God the Father. Believing in Me, Jesus jumps starts our relationship with God. Any faith, peace, strength, empowerment, and wisdom, begins with our relationship with Jesus. If you want to have peace in the midst of your trouble it begins with believing in and trusting in Me. Believing the way I believe. Trusting the way I trust. Loving the Father the way I love God the Father. Jesus is saying to His disciples and to us: I will not abandon you in your time of need. Even when I left, I sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, empower you, and give you peace in the midst of all your conflicts.
Nighttime is a symbol of danger. It is a symbol of withered strength, and it is a symbol of bad decisions and life regrets. This is the time when we all feel most exposed. Nighttime is when we feel most vulnerable. Nighttime is when we feel most alone. It is in the night that strength seems to evaporate. Nighttime is the time when we feel most abandoned. During the day, we can fight the good fight. But the night is a strange phenomenon. Bobby Womack sings a song, “If you think you’re lonely now, wait until tonight, girl.” What is it about the night that makes her feel so lonely? Why does the consequence have to come at night? In darkness. What is it about the night that magnifies our loneliness? It seems like the darkness is the place where the mysteries of life hang in the air and dares us to face them. The night is when the uncertainties we face come crashing in all around us all at once. It seems the night is the time when our vision is blurred both spiritually and physically. I know we have felt alone during the day. We have all felt those moments when we had no answers during the day. However, they seem to be magnified at night.
Darkness brings a kind of loneliness and dread that paralyzes us, and it stifles our ability to fight the good fight when we need to fight it the most. Loneliness is an emotion even Job found daunting. In chapter 2 of Job, Job is alone. He sits on a rubbish heap, and his wife has come and gone after an argument. His only companion is a piece of a broken shard of pottery he uses to scratch scabs off his body. He is a broken man.
But no one can explain the power of darkness that accompanies his loneliness. No one can explain how these two imposters grip our lives and move us into realms of action we later regret and must repent of. Not even the wisest of us can comprehend the power of these moments.
The night seems to breed a loneliness that suffocates. It is a loneliness we can’t seem to detach ourselves from. I know tears of sorrow have been shed in the daytime. But tears in the night, tears in the wee hours of the morning seem to overwhelm sometimes, even destroy. This nighttime thing seems to find the kinks in our armor and push and turn the knives of pain and loneliness deeper into the already painful crevices of our memories and regrets.
One of our renowned artists sings of the desperation of getting through the night. She sings of the pain and emptiness that is felt during those moments when the strength we need from God seems to be missing. Gladys Knight sings about the war we wage with loneliness in the night. She tells the story of how nighttime seems to highlight humanity’s weakest and most horrendous moments. She paints a picture that appears initially to be warm and comforting. However, as she moves through her lyrical portrait, it changes, and darkness seems to engulf her. She becomes overwhelmed by the dark and finds herself just another individual struggling and failing to overcome the ugly side of life and living. She says, “Take the ribbon from my hair. Shake it loose and let it fall. Lay it soft against my skin, like the shadow on the wall. Come and lay down by my side till the early morning light. All I’m taking is your time. Help me make it through the night. I don’t care what’s right or wrong. I won’t try to understand. Let the devil take tomorrow. But tonight, I need a friend. Yesterday is dead and gone. And tomorrow’s out of sight. And it’s sad to be alone. Help me make it through the night. And it’s sad to be alone. Help me make it through the night. I don’t want to be alone. Help me make it through the night.”
But her struggle is not the only nighttime struggle. The Son of God was at His weakest moment in the night. It was in the nighttime that Jesus wanted to give up. It was nighttime when the weight of the world seemed to come crashing down on Him. It is in the night when our Lord felt the emptiness of human loneliness. It is in the nighttime that Jesus felt all alone and abandoned by God. It is in the night that Jesus wanted to forsake His mission. It is in the night that Jesus says yes to God. Yes, to the His assignment. Yes, to the pain of the cross. Yes, to the emptiness and fear that seem to control Him momentarily.
Yes, nighttime can produce moments of great fear, but it does not have to become a moment of defeat. Nighttime can become a time when loneliness can eat away at you and cause you to stumble, but you do not have to fall. Nighttime can be a time when our strength is vanquished by the obstacles of the moment. It does not have to be our undoing. The same God who came to the aid of Jesus is available to each of us. The same God who stilled the waters of confusion on the Galilean Sea can calm your moments of trial. The same God who helped Job overcome can be your overcomer as well.
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage.” ~Joshua 1:5-6
Today I would like to merely emphasize Sunday’s message regarding the resurrected life. It is a life that lives within every Christian. A life for so many lies dormant for too long. The power of God’s Holy Spirit lives in us and we should do all we can to access that power every day of our lives.
We have heard as well as read the scripture in Genesis that tells us we are made in the image of God. Let us be clear: God is Spirit. One of the places this is told to us is in John’s Gospel when Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well. Jesus tells us those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. This is the only way God can be worshiped. This is the only way we can communicate with God is with our spirits.
God has given each of us the capacity to seek Him spiritually. There is no other way God can be found. God cannot be reached via anything with a material format. You cannot discover God or accept Jesus Christ by acquiring degrees. You must seek God by giving yourself to Jesus Christ spiritually. This means you must subordinate your spirit to His Spirit. You must decrease so God’s Holy Spirit can increase. This is the beginning of the resurrected life. The rest of the resurrected life is developed by daily surrendering more and more of ourselves to Jesus Christ.
A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.
The Child of God who does not take the time to open the box of faith that God has given each of us is missing out on the blessings of God. I’m not talking about riches. I’m talking about a life of peace and contentment. A peace and contentment that is beyond a mere mortal’s understanding. A life that gives strength in the moments when we need it most. A life that understands and trusts that God will be present when we need God most and God’s presence will unfold everything we need at that particular moment. A resurrected life is a life that does not want for any more than God wants us to have. Because we know that God knows what is best for each of us.
The 23rd Psalm tells us that “the Lord is our Shepherd and we shall not want.” This is true for the resurrected life because the things we want are in the will of God for us. We don’t want anything God has not ordained us to have. It is difficult for us who live in this materialistic world to see our lives bound up in the will of God to this degree. Because so much of who we are is locked up in the things we have or the things we have done, rather than with the Holy Spirit of God that is on the inside of us. However, this will change when we begin to acknowledge and believe that who we are, and what we have, truly come from God. When we begin to trust that God has our best interest at heart and that God knows what is good for us; when we finally believe what Paul says to us in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” That we have a treasure inside of us that is greater than anything we can ever imagine on this earth. A treasure we have been sitting on. A treasure that has been buried for far too long. Our lives can be made differently. We can be made whole because this is possible. I encourage each of you to allow the Holy Spirit to become a friend. No longer treat the Holy Spirit of God as though the Holy Spirit is a stranger. Open your mind and your heart and allow the treasure (Holy Spirit) that is inside of you to bless you. Open up the doors of faith and allow the Holy Spirit to not only live inside you but guide your every step.
In his book, the “Cross and the Lynching Tree,” James Cone compares the cross of Jesus Christ with the instrument of intimidation the South had become notorious for, the lynching tree. I have always seen some similarities between both the cross and the lynching tree. Both are used for the purpose of punishment and intimidation. However, it was not until I began reflecting on the Palm Sunday entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem that I really saw the parallels between the two. On the surface, the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem looked like a coronation of a king. It looked like a ceremony that any person would appreciate from people who supposedly loved Him. But underneath the garments of celebration lingered a festering odor of deceit and treachery. A deceit that had been festering from the time Jesus began His ministry.
It began in a synagogue in Capernaum when He healed the man with the demonic spirit. Yes, everyone appreciated His teaching but when He healed the man with the demonic spirit this man Jesus possessed too much power. It reminded me of the scene in “Malcolm X” when Malcolm had the men of Nation Islam line up in front of the police station demanding the release of one of their brother members. One of the officers at the front desk that night who had witnessed the scene made a statement that has haunted men given the power that is used for the good of their people have had to deal with from time immemorial: “That is too much power in the hands of one man.” This not only began the latent insecurities of those above Malcolm and the lingering downfall of Malcolm X, but this speaks volumes about the circumstances Jesus found Himself. It did not help Jesus when we find Him in the Gospel of Luke 17:18 chapter speaking the words of Isaiah in a synagogue in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me because he has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This did not sit well with those who were in power; they remembered Capernaum and the power He displayed there and they continued their plot to kill Jesus.
To say the words they continued their plot to “kill Jesus” sounds so wicked. It sounds worse than “they plotted against Him” because the former describes the singular intent of their plan. It addresses the desires of their heart. It speaks to the evil of their intentions. It uncovers a secret plot that no one is aware of save those who are involved and God. “The murder of Jesus” what a statement. Even worse, what a thought! We think in our minds. How can anyone plot to kill Jesus? What kind of mind would do such a thing? What resides in a person that would allow them to house such a thought? We should not be so hard on these people. As horrid as their actions seem. They were only acting out of their individual best interests. We do the same thing. It is not so much that we kill Jesus but we break His heart. I remember the words of the song Lou Rawls sang “Love Is a Hurting Thing.” Lou Rawls sings, “Yes, love is a hurting thing, Oh love is a hurting thing. When love brings so much joy, why must it bring so much pain? Guess it’s a mystery that nobody can explain. Maybe I’m a fool to keep on loving you Cause’ there may come a time you’ll break my heart in two But I want you so, I want you, though I know that, Love is a hurting thing.” I juxtapose, lay beside these lyrics with the scripture John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever, believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” Yes, we break His heart when we fail to love Him like He God/Jesus loves us. Love is a hurting thing. We all know this. We have been disappointed by loved ones. We have been betrayed, tricked, and abused. And we continue to love.
It’s Wednesday and Good Friday is in front of Jesus. The day when the world of Jesus came crashing down. It was the day when the divine plan of God would move forward toward its final stages. Palm Sunday was no ordinary day. Even though it began as one. I’m sure most people got up that morning with nothing on their minds except the errands they had to run and get done. Yet there were those who had specific tasks to do. There were those who had a murderous plan in place and now they were about to unfold it. They had been talking about this man Jesus. He was that uppity preacher who was stirring up the crowds. This man Jesus was giving hope to people who previously had none. He was telling the marginalized people of Jerusalem things that would give them hope. Things that were creating unrest in the minds of the power brokers of that city.
Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus presents Himself to the world as the “Sacrificial Lamb of God. The masses did not know, however, Jesus did. This was the time when Jesus began preparing for His Last Supper. This is the time frame Judas used to betray Him. This is the time when Peter and the disciples pledge their loyalty and would run when trouble half-baked became an entire loaf. Yes, Palm Sunday is a significant day in the life of the church and in the life of every Christian. It begins our journey toward resurrection. It testifies to the fickleness of us all. It speaks to the truth that we can love the Savior one moment and crucify Him the next. It speaks to the fact that no matter what we do the love of God in Christ is undying. Even though it is undeserved it remains intact in spite of the most horrendous deeds of humanity. Palm Sunday is not only a testament to how ruthless humanity can be. It is a greater testament to the fact that even though the son of God knew He would be killed, even though He knew He would be betrayed. Jesus continued moving forward to the cross.
We can only imagine the heartache Jesus must have felt as He rode toward His death. I want you to lay beside the heartache of Jesus; the love Jesus must have had to continue forward. Consider the love Jesus must have had for us to advance while in the midst of His Gethsemane moment. Imagine if you can what the words mean, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (to be murdered in order to save us,) and whosoever, believeth in Him shall not die, but have everlasting life.”
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
God is always present in our lives. This is a statement we hear so often in our times of difficulty. We want that presence so desperately at times and yet it is in those very times of need that we feel the most alone. I want to confirm what the Bible says about the presence of God. God is always with us. God is always present in our times of difficulty as the Psalmist says in Psalm 46:1: “God is a very present help in times of trouble.” How often do we miss the message that is being conveyed in this text? God is a very present help. (God is a very Present help). It is impossible to meet during our time of conflict if we are not aware of God in that moment. By aware I mean believing in and trusting in God in that moment of trial.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “Now without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to God must believe that God exists and he rewards those who diligently search for Him.” What does this mean in relation to being aware of God? “If God is a very present help in the time of trouble,” and we all want to believe that God is truly there in our time of testing, it has to become clear to everyone where our minds and hearts must be. It is difficult if not impossible to meet God in the present conflict if we are not there in that moment with God.
I remember growing up in Detroit. I was about six years old and I woke up in the middle of the night. I saw what looked like a shadow of a man in my room. I shouted for my mother and father. My mother ran into the room and rescued me from that fearful moment. In that moment of trial, I had to believe in my parent’s ability to protect me. I had to believe in their ability to overcome anything I was involved in to call upon with the level of certainty in which I did. I had faith in them. I trusted them. There was no doubt in my mind that they would come to my rescue. My parents would never be asleep on the job when it came to taking care of their children. This is the point that the two scriptures are addressing. It is impossible to please God without faith and trust in God. However, the second part of the scripture is overlooked because we take for granted what it implies. Because we take for granted our faith in God. We must believe that God exists. What does this really mean? We must believe that God is bigger than anything we may encounter in our lives. Whatever the situation, God is bigger than the situation. Whatever the tragedy, God is bigger than the tragedy. Believing that God is, is believing in God’s omnipotence. It is believing and trusting in God’s ability to rescue us in His abiding will.
This does not take place in a vacuum, for God is a very present help in the time of trouble. However, if we are not conscious of God in the present moment, if the God we believe in, and trust in, is not greater than the circumstances we find ourselves in, then the God of our faith is inadequate for the challenge. “God is a very present help in times of trouble.” In order for that to be true, we must be aware of God in that present moment. We must be conscious of God’s existence while we are in the trouble. We can never allow the moment we are in be absent of our awareness of God. It is our awareness, our being conscious of God’s presence, and God’s existence that gets us through the difficulty.
We are living in times when the awareness of God is something we must consistently practice. In the midst of all we do, we must be mindful that God is there. In the good times, God is there. In challenging times God is there. God is a very present help in times of trouble. God is very present in those of joy and laughter.
When we practice being conscious of God in our daily lives, we participate in the worship of God. We participate in developing intimacy with God. We develop a level of communicating with God that will enable us to know His presence in our times of trouble.
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
As I read this Psalm, I find myself looking at a people who find themselves captive in the land of Babylon. They are in an overwhelming and oppressive situation. These circumstances are beyond their control and this is a moment in their history when everything in their lives has been turned upside down. Their future hopes have been extinguished because of a social-political reality they cannot undo. Babylon is not Jerusalem, and the memories of a former home linger in the hearts and minds of these exiles. Babylon is a warring nation bent on world conquest; Israel has become its casualty of world conquest.
This Psalm speaks to the question “how does one deal with a sadness that permeates the lives of a people?” Psalm 137:1 says, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Psalmist remembers their place of worship. They remember going to the Temple to worship. A place where they called on God to intervene, to come to their rescue. The Temple no longer exists. They no longer have a “Rock” to hold to, a “Rock to trust in.” Their faith is shaken, if not broken. The Temple, the place where God lived, the foundation they once believed to be impregnable, because God lived there has been destroyed. How do they handle the emotional and spiritual chaos they find themselves in this moment of struggle? In the midst of this chaos, some sort of spiritual order, some sort of spiritual comfort, or strength is sought. This kind of suffering is too overwhelming to withstand alone. When we find ourselves in moments such as these. We need to know that there is an order beyond our present reality that we can turn to.
Today, this year and seven years prior we too have been overwhelmed by confusion and chaos. A confusion that hangs in the air. We can’t see it but we feel it. We know it’s there. We await each day waiting for the conclusion, for an end to this madness. The structures we once trusted in appear to be on the verge of collapsing. Truth is no longer a valued commodity. The “lie” has become a tool that is used without limitations to step on the truth, and extinguish its virtues in order to achieve criminal ends. We see the injustice of the rich and powerful run rampant without any serious redress. While our courts – the last hope of our democracy – is being held hostage by a political and ideological mentality that seems determined to destroy this country by returning Black people back to the days of “Jim Crow.”
Israel’s captors demanded of them a song. They demanded that they be content in that strange land. They demanded that they embrace their captors and enjoy their political slavery. A slavery that proved real in the living of their lives. Psalm 137 4-6 “(4) How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? (5)If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. (6)If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” This gives the answers we so desperately need in times like these when everything we hold dear hangs in the balance. What do we do? When the foundations that once held us secure begin to collapse. What do we do? To whom can we turn? The Psalmist makes it very clear in the midst of uncertainty – even uncertainty of national proportions. We can still trust in God. Yes, the Temple is destroyed; I cannot see that symbol of God in my life, but I will continue to trust Him. I will remember what God has already done for me and trust God will do it again. I will remember whom I have called upon in my time of trouble and I will call upon God again.
After expressing deep suffering, hope is finally offered. However, this hope relies not on human achievement or triumphalism but instead on God’s grace. They remind themselves of the faithfulness of God. They remind themselves that God is still on the throne. These verses do not emphasize the human ability to change or turn around their circumstances but instead focus on the character of God to bring about change. The God of history is still in charge. Though the day appears dark and hopeless. There is a God of hope whose words still ring true in the darkest of moments. God’s word tells us “Weeping, chaos and confusion, heartbreak, disappointment, despair may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Our hope is dependent on who God is rather than who we are.
Hebrews 11:1-2; 11:6
Hebrews 11: 6 tells us that “Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone that comes to God must believe that God exists and God is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:1-2 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” however, it is important that we understand it is the God kind of faith that determines our hope. It is the God kind of faith that seeks what God hopes for us. What we want, and what we desire gets in the way of our understanding of what God does and how God acts in our lives. What we want limits our ability to understand how God is acting in our midst. What we want to happen in our lives limits what we are willing to understand as God is acting in our lives. What we want controls our ability to see how God is acting, and how God is performing. “Lord, I don’t want it to happen that way” and it did. We just don’t understand how God could let that happen.
It is our faith that produces the hopes we have. Faith is in fact the substance of things hoped for – in the natural and in the spiritual. Our faith produces every hope. Faith gives reality to our hopes. If you did not believe that all things are possible, you could not hope for the things we sometimes hope for. Most of our hope is in the natural. There is a natural hope and there is a spiritual hope. Both use the same formula. Both use “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” “Hope” in the Bible, and the “Spirit” is different than the hope we have in the natural. In the natural “hope” is a word that is used all over the world. It represents the possibility of a positive outcome. Hope in the natural is a small light shining in the darkness.
The word “Hope” that is spoken of in the Bible is very different from the word “hope” we use in our everyday language. In the natural, hope is expecting something to happen, but not being entirely sure that it will happen. In the natural hope is more like a wish. It is like, “I hope it doesn’t rain,” or hoping to get that promotion. Hope in the natural is connected to doubt and uncertainty. Hope in the natural is based upon human ability, human understandings. Biblical hope, “Spiritual” hope is knowing for a fact that the outcome that God has ordained for us will happen. This kind of hope is not wishful thinking. It is placing complete trust in God. It is complete confidence in the power and will of God.
A couple of weeks ago I stated that prayer is always about the will of God. Prayer is never about our will. It is never about our desires. Prayer is a surrendered heart and mind that has given itself over to the will of God; whatever that will might be. Our hope is made visible by our faith in God doing what is best for the entire universe at all times.
In the Spirit, with the God kind of faith, our hopes come into being in our spiritual minds before believing and trusting in God’s will. Our hopes are always connected to the will of God by our faith in God. It is when we trust God to do what God knows to be best for us, that we begin to rest in God’s peace; confident that God has everything under control.
In the natural, our hope is centered on human desire. It is centered on what we want. In the spirit, it is centered on God’s will in what God wants. “Not my will but Thine be done.” That is an extremely difficult thing to understand and it is even more difficult to do. For us to understand, we must strive to do what God expects of us. This an example of how human desire impacts surrendering our hopes to the will of God.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” When we read this text, from that moment forward, ask yourself what you are hoping for. Is your hope located in the natural, in your desires, or is your hope located in the will of God? To give God our hopes is a level of trust I encourage everyone to strive toward. It is then that you know you are in the will of God.
The 23rd Psalm leaves no room for doubt that God is the director of our lives. That we are called to follow Him. In every verse there are two words that lets us know that God is either in charge or will manage our lives in a way that will bring blessings to us. In Psalm 23, we will focus on two words out of each verse: “Make Me.” Verse 2a, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” We need to say to God, “Lord, make me.” The prodigal son said to the father, “Give me my ‘inheritance.’” But after he spent all that he had in riotous living and living promiscuously, he woke up in a pig’s pin and came to himself and said, “My father can at least “make me” a hired servant!” Somebody say, “Make me!”
Verse 2b says: He “Leads Me.” He leads me. God is getting ready to lead you. Have you ever been lost and the directions you had were not clear, and so you had to ask someone to lead you back to the highway. And they say, “Yes, I will lead you, but it will require you to follow me.” God is saying ‘I’m leading out of a place you don’t know how to get out of. I’m leading you to your place of purpose. I’m leading you to your place of destiny!’
Verse 3b should be translated to “He guides me down the right paths.” Now you want to know what the difference between God leading me and God guiding me? This is the difference: If I lead you to the highway, you can follow me. But if you’re blind, you need a guide. You would need to hold on to who you’re following. You need someone to hold your hand. The person is not only leading you, but he has also connected himself to you. God is saying in this phase, ‘I’m keeping my hand on you. I’m not letting you go out here by yourself. The last time I left you by yourself, you made some wrong turns. But now I’m keeping my hands on you.’
Verse 4 says: “Comfort Me.” Make me feel better about the situation I’m in. I don’t want to come to church, and you beat me up with all the stuff I’m doing wrong. I know I’m living foul. Show me how to get out of it. God says, ‘I’m comforting you, even in the middle of the night when you can’t rest, and you can’t sleep, I’m the one who wraps My arms of care around you. Even if no one else is there, know I am here, and I will never leave you or forsake you.’
Verse 5c says: “Anoint me.” Lay your hands on your head. The sheep were standing by the cool water, and the flies would get up in their nostrils. And because the flies were in their nostrils they would hit their head against the tree, trying to get the flies to come out. Causing them severe headaches. But this is what the good shepherd did. He would put oil on their heads and when he poured the oil on their heads nothing was able to distract them. The flies could no longer fly into their nostrils. Lay your hands on your head today. God is anointing you so that nothing will distract you from your journey. Bills won’t distract you. People won’t distract you. Your job and its insanity won’t distract you. God is anointing your head with oil, so you don’t have to beat your head against the wall trying to figure out how you are going to make it. The Psalmist says in the very beginning, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” This is not a question. It is a promise. A promise to those who trust in God completely. A promise to those who have surrendered their lives to our Lord and Savior. A promise to those who understand that sheep always follow the Shepherd.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
If you will be joining us virtually tomorrow morning at 10:30 please bring your bread or cracker and water or juice for communion.
Pastor Gool will lead us in Holy Communion. He will bless the bread and juice or water that you have brought. Together we will give thanks for that which we are offering. We will do it together, in faith, not in physical space, but in virtual space.
You will follow Pastor Gool’s instructions to eat your bread and drink your juice or water at the designated time.
And we will then give thanks!
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into Hell;
The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen
Mark 11: 22-24
Prayer is one of our most engaged-in behaviors in the time of trouble than any other activity. Many do not understand the source of prayers’ power. By that I mean, what is the main ingredient we bring to the altar of prayer? We bring faith, but what is the object or purpose of faith when we pray? Our goal is to have our prayers answered and if we are at all honest with ourselves that is why we engage in prayer. Is that the real goal of prayer?
The question that is seldom asked is: Is prayer really an extension of our hearts desires? Many believe that it is and they have scripture to support this position. There are so many scriptures that seem to push us in that direction. When we read Mark 11:22, which says, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
This scripture speaks to the faith required to have our prayers answered. It seems to say without hesitation or equivocation that with enough faith our prayers will be answered. Many embrace this text as the mandate for answered prayer.
However, as I re-read this text, the first four words jumped out at me for the very first time. These words not only carry the weight of who this faith is directed toward, but also who is in charge of the outcome of our prayer. It says from the very beginning who is in control. Our faith is not in charge, but who our faith focused on. These words speak to the object of our faith who is God and where our faith should be totally deposited. It speaks to the role we play as we engage in prayer. It reduces our role from the very start. It places less emphasis on our faith in the answered prayer and more in our trusting in God. It says “Have faith in God.” Trust in what God is going to do in this situation. Place your faith in trusting God. Mark 11:22 is not suggesting or saying that our every prayer is going to be answered. Although many take this text to mean exactly that. What is being said is much more profound than that. It means that we must trust God for the outcome. Have faith that God is going to do what is needed in each and every situation. God does not exist to answer our wish or whim but for us to request the will of God to be lived out in our lives. Whether we are in a grave circumstance or not. Prayer is always to be engaged in, entered into in total and complete submission to God’s will. Mark 14:35-36 says, “(35) And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. (36) And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. He said, “Abba, Father all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but Your will be done. This is further amplified by 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
The goal of prayer is always the will of God. It always has been. The scriptures have always been very clear about this. However, it is our desire to control the outcome outside of the will of God that has caused so many to suffer because of our unwillingness to accept the will of God. How do we get to this place where the will of God is acceptable to us? To ourselves? It requires a trust that gives up all that we have in total submission to God. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
This kind of faith requires more of us than we often want to give. The power and force of this scripture has slipped the grasp of many. For the entire Christian relationship with God is located in this single text. This text leaves nothing in its meaning to be muddied. It says without equivocation give yourself, your thoughts, your being, your dreams, your plans, your health, your life to God and trust nothing else, no one else but God. It is upon this foundation that all prayer stands. It is on this rock of trust and complete compliance and acceptance that Jesus trusted God in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was not what Jesus wanted that mattered. Remember it is Jesus who spoke the words of Mark 11:22. Yet, in Jesus’ greatest moment of distress Jesus asks for something to be done that would save Him. Finally, the heart and soul of prayer was revealed. It is always the will of God that is at the center of prayer. Not what we want, but what God wants.
Finally, prayer, sincere prayer, cannot be engaged without a profound love for God and an acceptance of His will. We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. This is attitude the disposition that we are called to engage prayer with. Without this attitude prayer becomes a frustrating activity that we feebly try to control. We engage a divine enterprise, a supernatural power with earthly tools and believe we can control the outcome with a faith that God gives us to serve Him and promote His will. The mere audacity is something I encourage us to consider the next time we pray with the idea of asking for anything beyond the ability to accept His will in our lives.
This is the most humbling of places and the only place where the peace that passes all understanding is found. Knowing we are in the hands of God is the most secure place anyone can find themselves. Yet it is still the most frightening of places for most of us to seek in our faith position.
Prayer is not only our sanctuary, it can become our home. Where the solace of a Protective Father and a Loving God is always present. Seek God daily for all your strength and comfort.
But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
We seldom have the opportunity to read about the real-life exploits of Black people who made a difference, so today, I want us to remember a man who made a difference in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was a young man. US Army veteran Maceo Snipes was the man who inspired a teenage Dr. King. His story is one that speaks to his refusal to be intimidated. It speaks of a courage that was not absent of fear but pushed forward in spite of the fear.
Maceo Snipes was a World War II veteran who in 1945, returned home to Taylor County, Georgia where he became the first African American to cast a vote in his county’s primary election in July 1946. Snipes knew what he was doing when he walked into that election office, but he didn’t let intimidation turn him from exercising his right. The next day, Snipes was murdered by a white mob. Four white men drove up on the family farm and shot him. Maceo’s mother went down and reported this lynching, but no one was ever arrested. Right after Snipes was shot, there was a note on a church door and it said, ‘The first “N” to vote won’t vote again. And anyone who preaches about Maceo Snipes better dig a grave for themselves.’ So, our family never discussed what happened to him.
The news of Snipes’ lynching – and the killing of four other African Americans – reached a teenage Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then studying at Morehouse College. These murders inspired King to write a letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper. In the article the young King wrote about what Black Americans wanted in America. He stated Black Americans did not want to marry white women but are eager to marry Black women and wish that our women would be respected and left alone. He stated that Black Americans wanted the same things that all Americans wanted. We wanted an opportunity to make a living and have a job that was commensurate with our skill and trainings. We wanted the right to vote and some of the same courtesies afforded to all Americans except the Black man. He expressed how he felt about the injustice of our Black citizens not being allowed to vote, and nothing’s being done about it.
US Army veteran Maceo Snipes was a warrior and a true American because he took the weight and said, ‘Your vote matters; the Black vote matters and ‘I’m going to do what everyone should do.’
Here in Illinois, we have the opportunity to exercise a right that many Black Americans died for. It is important that we treat this opportunity with the respect and the priority it deserves. It is my hope that on February 28, 2023, that everyone who is registered to vote, casts a vote.
The prophet Amos said, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a mighty stream! (Amos 5:24)
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
In order to embark upon the journey to become a better person, a better people, a certain amount of pride is necessary for our self-esteem. Self-esteem is the way we see ourselves. Pride is the pleasure we get in our achievements or in our possessions, even our associations. However, the most basic question I believe we should all ask is where does our pride come from? What is the basis of our pride and is it attained through our achievements and possessions or does it come from something transcendent. For many, our pride comes from the world of men and women. If we are not careful, we will base our worth on the standards set by society. We care about what people think, which is why we buy the kind of cars we buy, and why we buy the houses we buy. We care about what people think and that is why we do what we do.
Pride is necessary. So, where does our pride come from? Who or what gives us pride? Who do we value, who do we align ourselves with spiritually and emotionally? When we answer these questions, we may discover where our pride comes from and how impacts our lives. We were created with self-worth. It is instilled in us by or Creator. It is the value that God gives us that He desires we embrace. When we live out of the pride that God gives us, we are living out of the achievements done for God. Things that are done in a godly manner.
It is said the “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Is this saying pointing to the inside or the outside? Is it talking about the how clean our cars are? How well kept your home is. Certainly these are important things that was the focus of the saying, right? Not at all. It was the person. The thoughts of that person. The desires of that person. The intentions of that person. That was and remains the focus. So pride is not constructive or of benefit to you as an individual or a people or a nation if it is not housed in the proper spiritual container. It is our pride that can prevent us from seeing what is good and in front of us. Pride prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are.
As a race of people, it is vital that we have the proper self-esteem to see ourselves properly. That we understand we are made in the image of God and by that very act of God we are somebody. However, let us be mindful that what we have, what we have become is an act of God’s grace. It is an act of God’s love. There is nothing that we have done that is beyond what God has allowed and permitted.
Who God uses is dependent upon what is inside the person. There is no way we can ignore this truth. I think the story of the Cherokee chief is appropriate. An old Cherokee chief sat down to teach his grandson about life. “There’s a fight going on inside me,” he tells the young boy, “A fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. It’s full of malice, anger, greed, self-pity, and false pride. The other is good. It’s full of peace, love, joy, kindness, and humility. This same fight is going on inside you and everyone else on the face of the earth.” The grandson was quiet, pondering this revelation for a moment before asking, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?” The old man smiled and replied, “The one you feed.”
The potential for good or evil exists within each of us. It is our responsibility to own that fact and do what we can to nurture the good. It does us no good as a race of people to nurture that which does not lift people up. The Nazi’s have a history, they have a legacy. It is not one that anyone of God and character would choose to own as their own.
Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Let us feed upon these to build our character, self-esteem and discover pride in what truly matters in life.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
What we make room for in our life speaks volumes about what is important to each of us. What do we spend the most time focused upon? What is it that we dream about or worry about? Do we spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about money. Certainly, money is important, but we have all learned money is not nearly as important as our health. Many search the world over for peace only to discover it is as close as bended knee and a worship service.
As we come to terms with our faith it is essential that we understand that faith does not grow without an investment in it. Our knowledge of the Word of God will not increase without an investment in the Word of God. It is a challenge to find time for God. However, the rewards are great and benefits that enter our lives is enormous.
I encourage each of you to make room for God in your life. I know many feel as though their lives are already congested and there is no more room for anything else. I want you to revisit that thought after you have read and reflected on the story in today’s lesson.
There once was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture. In front of him, he had a big glass jar, a pile of rocks, a bag of small pebbles, a tub of sand and a bottle of water. He started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar, he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full. “Is it full?” he asked.
He then picked up the bag of small pebbles and poured these in jar. He shook the jar so that the pebbles filled the space around the big rocks. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full. “Is it really full?” he asked.
The professor then picked up the tub of sand. He poured the sand in between the pebbles and the rocks and once again he held up the jar to his class and asked if it was full. Once again, the students agreed that the jar was full. “Are you sure it’s full?” he asked.
He finally picked up a bottle of water and tipped the water into the jar until it soaked up all the remaining space in the sand. The students laughed. The professor went on to explain that the jar of rocks, pebbles, sand and water represents everything that is in one’s life. The rocks represent the most important things in your life.
God is our source and our salvation. Everything we have belongs to Him and is a gift from Him. Besides God there is your health and your family. If everything in your life was lost, your life would still have meaning. However, it is important for us to understand that the source of all our meaning comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ who gives value to all we have .
The jar represents your life.
The rocks represent the most important things that have real value – God, your health, your family. Those things that if everything else (the pebbles and the sand) was lost and only they remained, your life would still have meaning.
The pebbles represent the things in your life that matter, but you could live without. The pebbles are certainly things that give your life meaning (such as your job, house, hobbies and friendships), but they are not critical for you to have a meaningful life. These things often come and go and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.
The sand (and water) represent everything else – the small stuff. Material possessions, chores and filler things such as watching television or browsing social media sites. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole and are likely only done to get small tasks accomplished or even to fill time.
The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.
What is truly important in your life? Our answer can be whatever we choose. The answer will always be the thing you spend the most time doing. Whether it is your hobbies, your work, whatever it might be. Is it the most important thing in your life?
Only what is done for Christ will last. Only what we give to Christ – our time, talent and resources – will transform your life and world. Make sure you put first in your life the things that really matter.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
I have learned that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. It is impossible.
Often, we seek the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit and there is no room for God’s wisdom to enter our lives. The reason being, we have our own ideas about how we want a particular situation to turn out. We only want God to co-sign what we desire.
Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We have often read this text and applied it to the material things in our lives. Certainly, it can be applied to that as well. However, if we expand our understanding a bit, we can see how it can also touch the way we respond to God’s Holy Spirit. God wants to guide our lives. There is nothing greater in the heart of God than to have His Child listen and respond to advice. In order for that to happen we must approach God empty. We must approach God with a willingness to be filled by Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He (God) shall direct your path.”
Once there was a university professor who was known as an extremely knowledgeable person. There was much research named to him in the field of philosophy. The professor had keen interest in Zen Buddhism practices and wanted to learn more about it. He visited a famous Japanese Zen master to learn the pearls of Zen wisdom. When he reached the Zen master’s place, his disciples took him to the room of Zen master. Zen master’s physical appearance was affable, and his spirit was lofty. His face was shimmering and lot of positive energy could be felt around him. After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked the professor the reason of his visit. The professor told him the motive of visit, “I have come to ask you to teach me about Zen.” The Zen master asked the professor, “You are known for your knowledge everywhere, please share something with me.” The Professor started telling about his research in different fields one by one. After some time, he started sharing his knowledge about Zen. The Zen master listened to him silently for an hour. The Zen master interrupted and asked the professor if he would like to enjoy some tea.
Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.
One of the Zen master’s disciples disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea. The master started pouring the tea into the cup and smiled towards the professor. The professor kept continuing sharing his knowledge on Zen to the master. The Zen master was pouring the tea slowly – slowly and the cup got filled fully. But he did not stop and kept pouring the tea in the cup. The tea started overflowing on the table. The professor noticed it and continued to watch as it overflowed. Soon the tea started falling on the robes of professor and he could no longer restrain himself. The professor put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop! Can’t you see? The cup is full already. It’s overflowing. No more will go in!” The Zen master did not stop and still he kept pouring tea. The professor got angry and rushed towards the gate. The Zen master called him, “Professor, please listen.” The professor did not stop. The master ran behind him and stopped him. The Zen master calmly explained to him the reason behind kept pouring the tea in the cup, even after it overflowed. Zen master said, “You are here to ask questions. Yet you come full. You have your own ideas and have no space. Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information. You are like that cup of tea. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
I have asked myself why is it so difficult for me to hear from God’s Holy Spirit? I discovered it was because I was already filled, preoccupied with my own thoughts, my own solutions, my own answers as to how a problem should be solved or a situation handled. I have learned that God speaks to the surrendered and the empty vessel. The vessel whose only desire is to be filled by Him.
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If only I could have heeded these words earlier in my life. I wonder how many days have we messed up because we tried to play God in someone else’s life. Things would have turned out a lot better had I just let go and let God. How many lives and relationships have come to ruined simply because someone refused to let go. When we become obsessed with the actions of others. When we want someone to change or even wanting someone to let us decide what they should do for themselves. How many times have we been upset? If only we had the capacity to let go. The greatest struggle we have in our own lives is learning how to let go. Learning when it is time to allow God to do what only God can do in this situation.
Learning to let go can be a scary thing when we see our loved ones go down a path we fear will harm them. However, if we stop for a moment is there anything you can do about it? It doesn’t matter how much you love someone. It doesn’t matter how much we want to see someone succeed. It is there choice there is nothing we can do. It is so difficult but it is a lesson we all must learn. We must learn to let go. If not, we may find ourselves trapped in something we cannot get out of because we will not let go.
“Do you know how hunters of old used to trap monkeys?” A man asked his child. “Rather than chasing them up a tree or shooting arrows from below, they would put a heavy glass jar with a narrow neck on the floor, which had the monkeys’ favorite food inside. They’d then step back and hide, waiting for the unsuspecting animal to approach. When it did, the monkey would reach inside, clench a fist around the food, and try to pull it out. However, the narrow neck of the jar would stop the poor monkey from getting its hand out! It would pull and pull, but to no avail. There was simply no way to get its hand out of the jar without releasing the food. Rather than letting go, though, the monkey would persevere, refusing to drop its dinner. The hunters would then approach and catch it to enjoy a meal of their own.” “Don’t be like that monkey,” warned the man, “In life, to fight another day and grow as person, you must know when to quit, when to move on, and when to let go of whatever’s holding you back.”
Sometimes you have to let go and give up what you have now in order to receive something better in the future. Do not let stubbornness be your downfall!
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Someone said, “Sometimes God closes doors because it’s time to move forward. He knows you won’t move unless your circumstances force you.”
Whether it’s moving on from a past relationship or past disappointments, remember God has a plan for you. His plan for you is not in the past, it’s in the future. Christians are a new creation through Christ. Your old life is gone and now it’s time to move forward. Imagine if Peter, Paul, and David, never moved on from their past. They would not have gone on to do great things for the Lord. Set aside that extra baggage; it will only slow you down on your walk of faith.
The baggage of yesterday will always present the limitations that held you back then. When you reflect upon yesterday and the things you did not accomplish, the things you believed could not be done by you, that is what you will bring into your present, but God has created something new in you. God has placed the power of God in each of us through our faith in Jesus Christ. Are you going to believe what the world says you are or are you going to believe your creator?
A gentleman was walking through an elephant camp, and he spotted that the elephants weren’t being kept in cages or held by the use of chains. All that was “holding them back” from escaping the camp, was a small piece of rope tied to one of their legs. As the man gazed upon the elephants, he was completely confused as to why the elephants didn’t just use their strength to break the rope and escape the camp. They could easily have done so, but instead, they didn’t try at all.
Curious and wanting to know the answer, he asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape. The trainer replied, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The only reason that the elephants weren’t breaking free and escaping from the camp was that over time they adopted the belief that it just wasn’t possible.
Church, no matter how much the world tries to hold you back, always continue with the belief that what you want to achieve is possible. Believing you can get through your trials is the most important step in actually achieving it. We cannot continue to live in the past, to live with those teachings that made us believe we cannot instead of what God says, which is “With God nothing is impossible.” Do you believe that? Can you embrace that as something from God that can and will propel you into a new understanding of what your life can become? The scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Do not trust in any word more than you trust in the Word of God. It is God’s word that will lead you forward into His will.
God Bless Each of You,
 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
Sometime during this year, you will be faced with a situation that will cause you to question your value, question your worth. I don’t know why it is easier to believe the worst about us than it is to believe the best about ourselves. We just seem to give that more energy than we should. At some point in our lives we must begin to believe what God says. That we are made in His image. That we are somebody. That we belong to somebody.
We sometimes believe because life beats us up, or wears us down, that we lose our importance. We believe because we get older we lose significance. We have no impact upon life and living. This is not so at all. The text tells us regardless of age or condition we have a treasure within us. The text tells us that we have purpose and even though the treasure is in an earthen vessel, it is a treasure, nonetheless. But what is most significant is the treasure that was given to us by God.
There will be times when the circumstances of life will press us hard, but we will never be crushed. Life will perplex us and make us wonder what in the world is going on, but we do not have to despair. We shall be persecuted and misunderstood but God will not abandon us. We will get struck down, but the striking down will not destroy us because of what God has placed inside of us. God created us to be resilient, regardless of the storm. God created us to endure. Regardless of the journey. God created us to be examples to the world because He knew the world would need examples to live by. We must never forget in the worst of times God created us to shine.
“A popular speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20 bill. A crowd of 200 had gathered to hear him speak. He asked, ‘Who would like this $20 bill?’ 200 hands went up. He said, ‘I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.’ He crumpled the bill up. He then asked, ‘Who still wants it?’ All 200 hands were still raised. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘What if I do this?’ Then he dropped the bill on the ground and stomped on it with his shoes. He picked it up, and showed it to the crowd. The bill was all crumpled and dirty. ‘Now who still wants it?’ All the hands still went up.
‘My friends, I have just showed you a very important lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, life crumples us and grinds us into the dirt. We make bad decisions or deal with poor circumstances. We feel worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special – Don’t ever forget it!’
Therefore, no matter what happens to us in life, God’s Child will always be of value to the world. A Child of God will always be important. Because when others, fall we stand. When the world goes dark, because of the treasure inside of us we shine. When circumstances in life knocks us down, God’s Child gets back up. When others see hopelessness, God’s Child sees hope. We see hope and we have hope because of the Spirit of God that is inside each of u1s. This new year, continue in that hope, continue in this strength, continue to let your light shine.
Who is Jesus to you? How important is Jesus to you? Do you really depend upon, or seek Jesus in a time of need? Or do we go to Jesus with a wish and a hope that I am connected to Jesus?
“Who do men say that I am?” Jesus asked this question of Peter. It was a very important question. However, it is important that we look at Chapter 16 in Matthew to gain context on why Jesus asked Peter this question.
In Chapter 16, Jesus is confronted by a Canaanite Woman who wants her daughter healed of demon possession. She approaches Jesus in faith that Jesus will heal her daughter. Jesus insults to a degree by not answering her. His reason for ignoring her is that she is not an Israelite. She is not from the lost sheep of Israel, yet she approaches Jesus anyway. She approaches Jesus with boldness and gets into a debate with Jesus. Jesus lets her win. She says, “Even puppies get to eat crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Jesus says to her “your faith is great! Your request is granted.” Jesus then heals this woman.
Next Jesus feeds the multitude; the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. The disciples picked up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left. Jesus shows them that He always provides more than enough. Jesus and the disciples go to Magadan/Magdala where He encounters the Sadducees and the Pharisees who ask Him for a sign. The meaning of verses 2-4 is this: You learned people can read the signs of the weather. You know when a storm is coming. You know when the weather is going to be good, yet, you are unable to read the signs of the times. You are unable to recognize the Messiah has come.
What disappointed Jesus the most is that His disciples did not understand what He was talking about when He was talking about the yeast in the bread. They witnessed the miracles of the healing and the feeding of the four thousand, but they did not understand who Jesus was. This is why Jesus is asking Peter “who do men say that I am?” Jesus’ response to Peter is the key to our understanding of who Jesus is. It is the vehicle through which Jesus is known and perceived. Peter answers Jesus. He says, “Thou art the Christ Son of the Living God,” and Jesus responded, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you. It was super-naturally revealed to you.”
I want to mention a scripture that I lift up often because of its importance. John 3:3, “Unless you are born again, you are unable, (you do not possess the ability the power, the intelligence to see the things of God) to see the kingdom of heaven.” Our perception, the way we see Jesus, colors our faith, our prayer life and every aspect of our spiritual life. It is crucial that we view Jesus as the Son of the Living God. That Jesus is our answer to the problems of life. Those who do not grasp the fullness of who Jesus is cannot participate in the power of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our faith comes to us as a result of Jesus Christ sending the Holy Spirit to convict us of our song. Jesus is the Balm of Gilead, Jesus calms and brings peace to the suffering soul. Jesus is the Word of God whose word gives us the guidance needed to navigate our lives. This is the Jesus that I encourage you to pursue into the new year. This is the Jesus that can and will make a difference in your life.
The songwriter said it best for me: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Won’t you examine your perception of Jesus? Do you think it’s time to make Jesus not only your savior but your Lord?
No sin encompasses you that God does not provide a path to escape. For those who desire to live a life that honors and glorifies God, I have good news for you – we really can. It is not without struggle, but God has given us a way to overcome even that we believe is impossible to overcome. We have all heard this before. However, we were not ready to receive it. The reason we were not ready to receive it is because like me, you were focused on self. We were focused upon what we wanted to do in that particular moment, whatever it was we wanted to do, that became priority number one.
The good news is sin no longer has any control over you. The reason why sin controls us is because of our focus. I am not trying to simplify the spiritual process that enables the Child of God to overcome sin. However, if we are truly honest with ourselves the un-surrendered self cannot overcome sin because we are stuck on and in ourselves. A woman promised to give a stain glass window in a new church on one condition, it was to be a picture of herself. Someone looking at the saints in stained-glass windows defined a saint as “one who lets the light through,” but when the light came through this particular stained-glass window, it did not reveal a saint, it revealed the woman instead. Sin is our seeking the choices of the almighty self; the self that has risen up and does not want to lay down no matter the cost.
Sin is and always been about what we the individual desires most. This means the things we desire most are the things we do. When we want what we want when we want it, in that moment we are priority number one. In our relationships we call people out of their names. On the job we lie, we cheat, and we steal. Why do we do this? To achieve what we want. Right and wrong does not enter into the equation at all. What I want consumes ME. Our minds are fixed, planted in cement. There is nothing that even comes close to a second place when the Self wants what it wants. When have we ever sinned and did not allow our self-centered desires to dominate and control us?
In the Garden of Eden story when Adam and Eve hid from God, Adam continued telling God the woman you gave ME made me do it. She gave ME the fruit to eat and Adam became the victim, the person wronged because the Self could not tolerate, could not absorb the idea of being wrong or being accused of being wrong. Have you ever witnessed a person who was wrong being called out? Do you recall how vicious and hostile they became because someone announced or exposed their wrong? What you witnessed was the self. The all-important, self-inflated ME is the root of sin.
There is good news. Romans 6:12-13 (the Passion Bible Version) says,
“Sin is a dethroned monarch; so you must no longer give it an opportunity to rule over your life, controlling how you live and compelling you to obey its desires and cravings. So then, refuse to answer its call to surrender your body as a tool for wickedness. Instead, passionately answer God’s call to keep yielding your body to him as one who has now experienced a resurrected life!”
I want to make it very clear; the surrendered life is both the most fruitful life, and it is the most challenging to reach. The surrendered life is not the denouncing of Self. It is a willingly to choose, to submit all of your Self to the will, service, purpose of God. It is the loss of independent omnipotence that we are terrified of. It is the relinquishing the way society and the world has encouraged us to look at ourselves. This feeling of authority we get when we feel superior to someone is anything but a surrendered spirit. However, we all know this is contrary to how God wants us to feel. Those who are sensitive to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit want in that moment to avoid the consequences of that moment. We soon discover that we cannot. We believe there is spiritual a disconnect from God in those moments, when in fact the Child of God is never disconnected from God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
We have a choice to surrender to sin or surrender to God’s call, the Holy Spirit. It is our choice to make. However, one’s choice leads to resurrection. The other leads to destruction and both involve and embrace surrender as a condition that allows God or sin to become the controlling force in our lives.
Choose surrendering to God and choose life. Embrace the victory that is ours in Christ. There is only one power in the world and that power is the Omnipotent power of God. All other power is fake – pretenders to the throne. Sin or self-centeredness cannot drive the car of your life unless you give the keys. Take control. Let go and Let God.
Being in the presence of God is like being in the master’s hands. I sometimes need to reinforce my faith with certain scriptures that afford me that knowledge. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need my faith strengthened. It’s not that I don’t believe; it’s that sometimes I need the doubt that manages to leave the airwaves of the radio, TV or social media to intrude into the recesses of my mind and wreak havoc there. Sometimes I need to have my resolve deepened to continue believing and trusting in the Master regardless of what people or reports say to me. Then, there are times when I am just uncertain and need to know the presence of God is real and is still watching over my life. These and other reasons are why I/we need to place ourselves in the Master’s hands.
In the Master’s hands doubts that would cause us to falter evaporates. In the Master’s hands, fears that would make us run and hide are vanquished. In the Master’s hands the confusion that can easily turn a good moment into a bad one is removed, and calm is given at the perfect time. Being in the Master’s hands is not an option for those who understand how fragile life is. Being in the Master’s hands gives comfort in the most uncomfortable of moments.
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Thelonious Monk concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”
Then leaning over, Monk reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.
That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best and sometimes we come up short. However, in the Master’s hands it does not matter what kind of effort we put forth. The Master will always bring it His conclusion. It does not matter what the circumstance is, in the Master’s hands the peace that eludes us will always be granted to those who seek it.
When great accomplishments are needed listen to the voice of the Master whisper in your ear: “Don’t quit, keep believing, don’t quit, keep trusting. For I am a very present help in time of trouble.”
The game of tennis has taught me many lessons. It has taught me how to look at victory. It has taught me how to accept and understand loss. That when we lose, we are never alone; as hurtful as that moment may feel individually, we are not alone. There have been others who have traveled this very road before us. There have been others who looked victory in the face only to have defeat snatch it from their grasp. Not only have there been others who have been before us, there will be others who will follow behind us. They too will have to learn how to accept winning and losing, victory and defeat with a level of acceptance that leads to peace.
However, it is the ones who have gone before me who have taught me the most. It is to them that I am most indebted. They are the voices that I hear when defeat wants to pull me under. When defeat wants to label me a loser, they are the sages of yesterday that guide me through the emotional drama that loss introduces to anyone who has experienced it. When those torrential rains come pouring down and do their very best to cut through the very fabric of our being, are we ever alone? When the rains of life attempt to cut through my very being, am I ever alone? As the storm rages and the challenges continues to visit us from places we did not know existed, it is that very storm that forces me to seek the voice of God. It is that storm and similar storms that causes me to remember the lessons of yesterday. Those teachers God sent to light my way. It is the voice of yesterday’s teachers that we sometimes hear. Those are the voices that remind us that we are not alone. Those are the voices of our mothers, our fathers, and our grandparents that we remember telling us, “we are not alone.” The Holy Spirit guides us and brings to our minds their words, the light they had to give as the Holy Spirit floods our minds with divine revelation they received from God. It is in that moment that we hear the voice of God resound above the storm with “peace be still.” It is this voice that speaks to me and me alone that touches my spirit and guides my footsteps. It is this voice of God and the voice of those I remember that reminds me and confirms for me that I am not alone.
I have taken this lesson with me in other areas of life. When trouble rudely interrupts my peaceful existence, it is then to my surprise that the lessons of God’s word find their way into my spirit. God tries to tell me that I am not alone. In the midst of the trial, God tries to convince me that He present with me. I have discovered and am constantly reminded in these times of extreme trouble, there are others who have walked this road. Yes, this is my road, yes, this is my trial, but there are saints who been through their own anguish that is very similar to my own. They have been through their own hell, and they have something to tell me and you about how to get through it. They have something to teach you and me. They have something to share with us. You may feel alone. You may feel abandoned, but God does not abandon His own. Circumstances may cause your knees to buckle, cause your heart to ache, but the God who keeps Israel, will keep you too, even in the midst of this particular trial.
The Word of God has lesson after lesson about how God has kept His saints. There are people in your circle who can testify how God has been a very present help in their time of trouble. Not only was God helping, not only was God rescuing, but God was present while doing it. They will tell you that they experienced God’s presence. There are those in our circle who have experienced God’s rescue and can tell you first hand, that God’s presence is real. Listen to the sick and shut-in report. God has been moving, God has been touching lives. Sometimes God acts by giving us the strength to just hang on. Sometimes God acts by giving us the strength to hold on. Understand this, however, when the situation unfolds, God is there with us.
It is normal and natural to feel abandoned in times of trial and conflict. When there are no answers, it is almost impossible for us to understand. None of what is going on makes sense to us. It is not a sin to feel forsaken or lost. It reveals our humanity and our need to have God’s active strength and power in our lives. The God we serve is not offended by our frailties. It is because of our weakness, it is because of our shortcomings that God extends His grace and mercy.
We sing the song, “Your grace and mercy has brought me through. I’m living each moment because of you, I want to thank you and praise you to, Your grace and mercy has brought me through.” This song speaks to the ever “present God” in our lives. When we sing “I’m living each moment because of you,” we are saying that God is our constant companion. That every moment I live because of God’s personal involvement in my life. God is there all the time. God does not move. Our awareness of God may diminish at times, but God’s presence does not. We have come to know this over time. Even though we sometimes become fearful and doubt, God does not ever abandon us because of it.
But it is the lessons taught to us by those who have gone before us. The lessons that tell us and teaches us that God is always faithful. The lessons that teach us we are never alone. Sometimes, it is through the testimony of others; sometimes, it is through the prayers of others. Sometimes, it’s a kind word, a gentle touch. It is all a demonstration of God’s presence in our lives. It is a statement that says no matter how you feel, no matter how dark the moment, you are not alone.
I have discovered God displays His companionship in a variety of ways. Through people, words, and touch. People are the instruments of God. God gives us each a melody to play when others are in need of God’s help. It is a melody that is unique for our particular situation and our particular trouble. Only you can play this melody. Only you can reach out and love someone enough to show them the love of God that prevails in this world. As long as there is a Child of God in the world, no one needs to ever be alone.
We all believe that life is the most valuable commodity of all. Certainly no one can dispute that. However, the next greatest or most important part of living life are the decisions we make in our service to God and each other. That is another way of asking “what are we doing, what have done with our lives?”
Some will reflect upon this question and wonder what they have or have not done. I assure you; you have done something with your life. Be it at play or in your home or in the workplace, we all have done something with our lives. The question that we must answer is, “have we done it in a way that glorified God or people?” There is a song that asks the question, “What If God?” “What if God were unhappy with our praise? What if God is not pleased with the words we say? What if God were unhappy with the way we live? What if God were unhappy with the way we live? Would God take away His love and His Spirit from above? What if God were unhappy with our praise?
Much of our living is in the pursuit of happiness. We have fully understood that happiness always comes from the outside. Happiness is always like pleasure connected to the external dimension of life and living. I wonder have we given any thought to the idea that as brief as life is we get bored with it. Life becomes monotonous, repetitive in its living. Why? Another significant thought to consider is this: There has never been anything in our lives that we have not grown tired of. There is not a thing in our lives that we have done that we possess or have done that ceases to please us after a while. There is nothing that completely satisfies a human being. There is no outcome, no result that utterly and completely satisfies us completely and for all times.
We live our lives pursuing dream after dream. We spend countless years in school or in training to accomplish a particular goal or career. In the end where do we find our joy. What gives us happiness? Can it be found in what we have been doing, in what we have been pursuing?
There will be some who became president and held leadership positions who did more harm than good. Sowed more hate and created more unrest in very short time than many in history. They will have lived but what did they contribute to the good of God or society. There will be others who became president and the country and world revered and added to society, yet in the end they to fade into the dustbin of history. Others who became dishwashers. Considered by some to be a job beneath them. When they cleaned, they made sure every dish, every spoon, knife and fork, every pot and pan was pristine. They entered the room with a smile. They lifted the spirits of those around them. People looked forward to seeing them. They brought the “A” game God gave them. They came giving not looking to receive. They were the empty vessels waiting on God to fill them.
The Psalmist asks the question what is (life) man that thou are mindful of (him) it?
Jesus asks the question “what does it profit a man to gain his whole life and lose his soul?” In both scriptures the value of life is not measured by how much you have but by your relationship with God. Understanding your relationship with God is and always has been paramount.
The Psalmist and the writer of Hebrews are asking us do we understand that we were made a little lower than the angels. Do we understand that in the world that God created humanity is the most important part of all creation? That in the created world God is most concerned about us human beings. God is so concerned about us and the planet that God watches over us day and night. God gave us dominion over the planet and our lives. We get to choose how our lives and move on a day-to-day basis for the most part. At least attitudinally if not in fact. Yet much of what we do eventually becomes empty. Why? Is it because our focus is not in the right place. Where should our focus be? Is there a perspective we could embrace that would change every life around the world. The answer is a resounding yes.
Only what we do for Christ will last. Only what we do Christ brings satisfactory joy. Only what we do for Christ stands. Only our decisions for Christ matter. Only the love we demonstrate in service to Christ in marriage, friendships, relationships, in life will last.
Life, any life that finds its basis for existence in self and the world soon becomes empty and void of meaning. That kind of life lands on the island where the superficial and hollow live. It is a hologram of substance and meaning. Searching for that peace and joy that has eluded them all their lives. It is only when we find peace in Christ that we find peace in life. It is only when we find joy in Christ that we find joy in life. Until they find that peace in Christ. They wander in the darkness confused because they believed the darkness is the light and in their confusion never saw the path that leads to salvation and rescue. They did not embrace or believe that:
“Only What is Done For Christ Will Last.”
You may build great cathedrals large or small,
you can build skyscrapers grand and tall,
you may conquer all the failures of the past,
but only what you do for Christ will last.
Remember only what You do for Christ will last.
Remember only what you do for Christ will last,
only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;
only what you do for Christ will last.
You may seek earthly power and fame,
the world might be impressed by your great name,
soon the glories of this life will all be past,
but only what you do for Christ will last.
Remember only what You do for Christ will last.
Remember only what you do for Christ will last,
only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;
only what you do for Christ will last.
Though your armies may control each hemisphere,
and your orbits out in space cause men to cheer,
your scientific knowledge may be vast,
but only what you do for Christ will last.
Remember only what You do for Christ will last.
Remember only what you do for Christ will last,
only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;
only what you do for Christ will last.
Though your song and prayers are heard and praised by man,
they have no meaning unless you’ve been born again,
sinner, heed these words, don’t let this harvest pass,
for only what you do for Christ will last.
Remember only what you do for Christ will last,
only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;
only what you do for Christ will last.
As we grow older the thoughts of death linger in the back of our minds. We wonder how much life we have left to live. The Bible is filled with words that encourage us not to worry about tomorrow. For if God takes care of the sparrows God will certainly care for us. This truth is at the heart of our faith in God, yet the idea still lingers in our minds, and we are the only one of God’s creatures who can truly contemplate the future and remember the past.
I believe that part of the death that God was speaking of when He admonished Adam and Eve of the penalty for eating of the tree of good and evil would be death. I believe we die many times thinking about that reality. I offer this thought that I was given, and hope it moves you towards a new outlook on the end of life.
You know… time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.
It seems just yesterday that I was young and embarking on my new life. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.
But here it is… the last quarter of my life and it catches me by surprise… How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?
I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first quarter and the fourth quarter was so far off that I could not visualize it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But here it is… my friends are retired and getting gray… they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me… but, I see the great change. Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant… but, like me, their age is beginning to show, and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become.
Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore… it’s mandatory! Because if I don’t on my own free will… I fall asleep where I sit!
And so… now I enter this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!! But at least I know, though I’m on the last quarter and I’m not sure how long it will last… this I know, that when it’s over on this earth… it’s over. A new adventure will begin!
Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done… things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.
So, if you’re not on the last quarter yet… let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long!! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you’re on the last quarter or not!
You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life…. so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember… and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!
“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.
Remember, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
~ Going out is good…
Coming home is better!
~ You forget names….
But it’s OK because some people forgot they even knew you!!!
~ The things you used to care to do, you aren’t as interested in anymore, but you really don’t care that you aren’t as interested.
~ You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV ‘ON’ than in bed. It’s called “pre-sleep”.
~ You miss the days when everything worked with just an “ON” and “OFF” switch.
~ You tend to use more 4 letter words … “what?”…”when?”… ???
~ You have lots of clothes in your wardrobe, more than half of which you will never wear.
Old Songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!!
~ But Old is good in some things:
The movement of life is constant and never ending. If we are truly Children of God, then we know that death does not have the last word. The grave is not our final destination. Heaven is our home. In meantime, enjoy life as it is given day by day. Friend by friend. Those we love will appreciate us for doing just that. For in doing that we will be teaching how to live a blessed and gracious life.
Joshua 24:15; 1Corinthians 10:13
There are those who believe that God controls our every decision in life. They believe that God in His omnipotence compels us to live out His will in all that we do. God has given each of us free will. It is our choice to accept Jesus Christ. God does not wish to compel anyone to serve Him.
The will that God gives each of us is the human capacity to choose. It enables the person to respond to the love they feel in their hearts. The will that is shaped by the Holy Spirit responds very differently than the will that is shaped by society and the world.
The Christian is built upon the free will of people to choose God. We are both responsible for the transgressions we commit, as well as accountable for committing them. It is because we have free will, that we are the author of our actions. When we read the story of the fall, Adam and Eve made a choice. They were not coerced in any way, shape, form or fashion.
Genesis 3: 1-7, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought many schemes.” In other words, man can choose to act under his own power, volition, and will. Therefore, we cannot blame God for the things that happen to each of us. However, those Christians who disagree on the question of free will and God’s sovereign omnipotence, agree that people are without excuse for the transgressions we commit. We are responsible.
It is service and sacrifice that is given out of love that God seeks from each of us. Some make that sacrifice; some give that service on a much larger scale than others. However, God counts it all as good and uses that service and that sacrifice to His glory.
The wisdom of God is beyond our understanding. God’s wisdom is light years beyond our feeble minds. For us to believe that we know or understand the things of God to the degree that we can answer any one scripture to the satisfaction of our spiritual needs and inquiries is erroneous thinking. Yet within the context of our living God does give the capacity to know His truth to the degree that we can serve Him, we can glorify Him, honor Him in all we say and do.
It is not only the knowledge of God’s word that compels and guides us in our actions. It is our love for the Father that compels us to act in His service in ways that we know nothing about. The things that the Holy Spirit encourages us to do is seldom understood by no one but God. Yet it is that single act of obedience, that single moment of surrender that propels the will of God forward into this world.
This story illustrates how a single act propels the will of God into the future. It is an unbelievable story. It is only the love of God and the strength provided by the Holy Spirit that could have enabled this man’s choice:
After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.
With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast-approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.” The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in the story. The aged minister continued with his story. “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the lifeline. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’, he threw out the lifeline to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.
By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that He could do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take hold of the lifeline”.
With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely said one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”
“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. Sorrow began to overtake the old man’s smiling face as he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m here today to tell you that I understand more than most the pain God must have felt to give up His only Son. For you see, I’m the man who lost his son to the ocean that day, and my son’s friend that I chose to save is your pastor.”
God gives us the freedom to love Him, to serve Him and ultimately choose Him. I can only imagine the joy the Father feels when His child chooses Him and chooses Him freely.