Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 31, 2016

"Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Matthew 19:27

Even though it was Peter who asked this question it could have been anyone of us since each of us who begin following Jesus do so with our own agenda. We come to Jesus wanting to figure how we can leverage Who He is or what He can do for our benefit.

Jesus is the Son of God, God in the flesh, the second member of the Trinity and we follow Him with the intention of making it about us.

Never mind that Jesus had already spoken to this issue early in His teaching ministry:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

In yesterday's post I detailed how Judas Iscariot tried to force God to fit into his agenda and discovered the eternal and universal truth - "God's hand can't be forced and His will can't be thwarted". Judas in disgrace went out and hung himself.

Earlier in this story Peter tried to impose his agenda on Jesus by telling Him He wouldn't have to suffer and die. Jesus rebuked him and called him "Satan". That's not good.

Sarah and Abraham tried it with Hagar and it didn't end well. (Still hasn't ended, right Middle East?)

Others have tried it and everyone ended in miserable humiliating defeat. But yet we still try.

You've tried.

I've tried.

You get even more perspective on how pervasive this instinct is when you see Jesus struggling in prayer over His will and God's will in Gethsemane. So difficult was this struggle that Jesus sweat drops of blood over it.

It's a defining moment in your spiritual journey when you stop trying to sell your plan and begin complying with His will and His plan. 

As you begin this day why not pray sincerely as Jesus prayed and as Judas wished He would have prayed, "Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done"?

July 30, 2016

"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Matthew 26:6-9 

If you follow Jesus long enough He will disappoint you and you will become disillusioned.

Can you relate to that?

Here in this gospel narrative we see at least one of the disciples reach the limit of his patience. His name is Judas Iscariot. You may debate whether he was a true follower or not but clearly Jesus was not on the same page he was! 

Judas was a Zealot and believed that when the Messiah would come He would lead a rebellion that would cast off the iron bands of the Roman Empire and restore Israel to its former glory in the days of King David. But Jesus, instead was kind to Romans and rebuked the Jewish religious leaders. It didn't appear Jesus had any intention of leading a rebellion and now Judas had enough of being disappointed by Jesus.

In John's account of this story he specifically calls out Judas and Jesus rebukes him:

"But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him,objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:4-8

It's obvious Judas' agenda was diametrically opposed to Jesus'. Jesus cared about the poor but Judas cared about the purse. He was a thief and he got exposed as a consumer rather than a follower.

So what did he do?

Did he apologize and repent and get on the same page with Jesus after his true identity was betrayed? No, instead he betrayed Jesus:

"Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over." Matthew 26:14-16

There is a line of thought that believes Judas turned Jesus over to the Romans thinking that when the Romans arrested Him and began abusing Him He would rise up and begin the revolt against Rome.

So Judas was attempting to force his agenda upon Jesus and making a little extra money on the side.

But events didn't unfold as he had imagined and he had to bear the shame of betraying the Son of God unto His death.

So, what's the lesson for you?

If you find yourself disappointed with Jesus, it may be a sign you are not on the same page as Him. Perhaps you should surrender your selfish agenda.

If you persist in your agenda and scheme ways of trying to force in upon Jesus know that it won't end well for you.

All of us begin following Jesus with a selfish agenda. But unless we forsake our own agenda and submit to His will it could be the end of our following.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Righteousness Exalts

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

At the close of the second of two major party political conventions I thought these thoughts might be appropriate.

This short verse tells us a lot about two radically different ways of living.

Righteousness is right standing with God. It is a result of being in a faith relationship with God. That relationship is made possible through the righteousness of Christ Who made righteousness available to us by taking the penalty for our unrighteousness on the Cross. Righteousness is unconditional surrender to God's unconditional love.

Righteousness exalts because it elevates us above the power of sin and enables us to live in the right way. Righteousness exalts because it allows us to live in God's presence. Righteousness exalts because it lifts us above the shame of sin's condemnation and brings God's peace. Righteousness exalts God because it demonstrates His way is right!

The word used for "righteous" conveys the idea of justice. The word used for "sin" has the notion of vice or corruption.

So, righteousness exalts justice and elevates the nation while sin brings corruption that destroys a nation.

Which nation would you rather live in?

Righteousness exalts because in order to become righteous you have to confess sinfulness and repent of sin. That promotes justice and attacks corruption. Righteousness can lift up what sin has torn down.

Can you see the clear difference between righteousness and sin - aka - unrighteousness?

Can you see the clear difference between the results of righteousness and corruption?

Can you see why righteous people make better citizens than corrupt and sinful people?

Can you see that righteous people are not only better people, they're better patriots?!

July 28, 2016

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Mark 1:17

As I noted earlier there are three things necessary to be a follower of Jesus.

You must acknowledge Him as your leader.

You must follow Him exclusively and enthusiastically go where ever He leads you.

You must do what your leader does and what He wants you to do.

If you say you are following but are not fulfilling those three requirements you are not actually following.

When you understand those three facts about following it becomes clear to you why Jesus requires you to deny yourself and take up your cross. 

It is your nature to want to lead rather than follow. So, if you are going to follow Jesus you must deny that part of your nature. Those ambitions must be nailed to a cross.

And, it is your nature to go where you want to go not where you are told to go. In fact, you resent it when someone tries to make you go somewhere. So, if you are going to follow Jesus where He wants to lead you, you must deny your desires and submit to His direction. Followers go where their leader leads!

Finally, attitudes that are not worthy of Jesus must be denied and actions that dishonor Him must be put to death. 

Following Christ is a matter of dying and denying your selfish sinful nature on a daily basis. Jesus' earthly walk led Him to a cross and following Him will lead you to some crosses.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vacation Bible School

"Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Barbara and I have enjoyed the first two nights of Vacatie on Bible School at FredWes Monday and Tuesday.

VBS is FredWes at it's best! We have our precious children we love so much being taught by gifted teachers who love Jesus and love to tell children about Him. We have volunteers who love being around our kids and who love being together because they all love Jesus! We have volunteers who love serving together and it shows!

VBS is a time-intensive, volunteer-intensive and high-energy event. Very few things we do at FredWes get as great of an investment of time, talent and resources as Vacation Bible School does. But in my opinion it is worth it.

Here are several reasons I believe this to be true. 

First, I believe in the powerful impact VBS because I have been impacted by it as a kid. I still remember well some of the VBS's I attended as a kid.

I remember feeling loved and valued when I was at VBS. It made me feel hopeful and safe when I was with the teachers and staff at VBS.

Honestly, I don't remember all the lessons that were taught to me but I recall how well prepared they always were when they told the Bible story I could tell they loved the stories of Jesus and I could tell they loves me!

A few of the kids I met during VBS are friends of mine still today! I have been enriched by those friendships.

So, as I move through the church observing the kids singing, dancing, learning about Jesus, making friends, enjoying games, wolfing down snacks and enjoying each other, my mind is flooded with good memories and positive emotions from my days at VBS over 50 years ago!

So, thank you, Emily and your team! Thank you volunteers! What ever your assignment at VBS you are loving kids to life!

Take it from a VBS kid who had his life changed by VBS over 50 years ago!

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 26, 2016

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Mark 1:17

Follow me!

That sounds easy doesn't it?

It is such a simple concept we may dismiss it without much thought.

Think again!

What is involved in following Jesus?

First, it means He must be the leader. 

To be a leader there must be followers and there cannot be followers without someone taking the lead.

When Jesus invites Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him he is asserting that He will be the leader and if they are willing to acknowledge His leadership they are welcome to follow.

Second, a follower must go where the leader takes them.

When these fishermen accepted the call to follow they were not sure where it would take them but they committed to go His way and give up on their way.

Thirdly, a follower must do what the leader does.

Jesus called these fishermen to fish for men. 


Because that is what Jesus did! 

Because that is what Jesus wanted to teach them to do.

Their agreement to follow was a promise to learn to do what Jesus did! They would become like Him in their attitudes, in their actions and in their ambitions!

These three statements seem almost too obvious to even mention, don't they?

If you are following Jesus for these three reasons and in these three ways you can disregard this article and accept my apologies for wasting your time.

But if you call yourself a follower of Jesus and you are not acknowledging Him as your Lord then He is not your leader. If He is not your leader then you are not a follower.

If you claim to be a follower of Jesus but you find yourself often drifting in another direction you may not be a follower! Followers follow! So, if you are not going where He goes you are not following and He is not your Lord.

Remember playing the childhood game of "follow the leader"? It was a simple game with straight forward rules. The players choose a leader and then do exactly what their leader does.

If you call yourself a follower of Christ but your attitudes, actions and ambitions do not reflect His, you are not actually following.

The point of Jesus call is this: If you are going to follow - follow where I lead and as I lead or honestly admit you are not a follower.

Add To Your Faith...

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness" II Peter 1:5-6

Recently I was honored when I read what one of my people had written about me. She referred to me as a "godly man".

That caused me to pause and asked myself, "Am I really a godly man? What does that mean? What does she see in me that brought her to that conclusion?"

Peter may have the answer in II Peter 1:6 - "For this very reason add to your faith.......godliness".

The word used for "godliness" conveys the idea of devoted worship of God. A godly person worships well.

But, it is more than that. As important as it is to worship well there is more to godliness. Godliness involves a disciplined witness or worshiping God so well that others notice.

Worship has a vertical relationship to it - from man to God. But it also has a horizontal relationship - from man to man. If you do not worship God well it will have a negative effect on how you relate to others. When your vertical relationship is strong it improves how you care about others. Likewise, if you are not treating other people well it will hinder your devotion to God.

Godliness then, is being devoted in both directions - upward toward God and outward toward others. If that is what she meant by being godly, then I am deeply humbled and greatly encouraged.

I want to worship God well and I want to be a good witness for Him. That is the godliness I seek.

"Add to your faith........GODLINESS"!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 24, 2016

"Blessed is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly , nor stands in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down where the scornful gather."   Psalm 1:1

Here's a pop quiz: "Would you rather be blessed or cursed?"

I think I know your answer.

Though the answer is obvious, the significance of that answer is not. You are either one or the other. If you are not blessed you are cursed. I say that because I fear there is a tendency to think that there are shades of blessedness. But the fact is if you are not living under God's blessing you are cursed. There are not "kind of blessed" or "sort of blessed" people. His blessing begins with the removal of the curse. Unless you understand that you will not appreciate the importance of being blessed.

The writer of the Psalms spells out clearly what it means to be blessed.

I like the Amplified Version of the Bible to give clarity to the undesrstanding of Biblical texts. Here is how it explains what it means to be blessed: BLESSED =  (HAPPY, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable).

You can plug in those synonyms without it altering the meaning of the verse. HAPPY is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly......."

To be blessed means to be happy! Happy about what? He is happy because of Who he loves - God! He is happy because of how he lives - godly! And He is happy because of what he learns - the Word of God!

Also, you can substitute the word "fortunate" as well! A blessed man is a fortunate man because of what Jesus did for him on the cross! Notice it didn't say "lucky" it said fortunate. Blessing comes as the result of right choices and decisions not from a random confluence of events.

Thirdly, you could replace "blessed" with "prosperous". Usually, a blessed man becomes prosperous because he makes good choices and wise decisions that result in profitable outcomes for a "blessed" man.

You have it within your power to live a  "blessed" Life! The question is, "Will you?" Will you choose to live a bless life? Now that you know three things God blesses and you refuse to do any of those things - you will live under the curse of sin and pride.

Do you love God with ALL your heart?

Do you live according to His Word?

Do you have a desire and a discipline to learn His Word?

Loving, living and learning lead to blessedness! 

Reject the curse - receive the blessing!

July 23, 2016

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:29

You don't have to be a believer to begin following Christ. His early disciples were slow to "get it" when it came to faith in Christ.

You don't have to be a saint to begin following Jesus. Everyone of His disciples were sinners when the first began to follow Him.

But there will be defining moments as you follow Christ that will confront you with His claims and what you choose will change you forever.

We find Peter and the disciples at just such a moment in this verse from Mark's Gospel. They had experienced a great miracle when Jesus feed 4,000 with a few spare morsels of food. Then they saw Him restore sight of a blind man. Witnessing those supernatural events should have provided clear evidence of Who Jesus was. Yet, when Jesus asked them point blank, "Who am I?" there was only one who answered and for once Peter got it right!

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!"

Even though you may begin following Jesus without knowing Who He is once you are confronted with the truth of His true identity you can never be the same. This is a defining moment that will identify you as a disciple or as a doubter.

In this instance, Peter stepped up and declared Jesus as the "Messiah". "Messiah" is the Hebrew word for "Anointed One". The Greek equivalent of Messiah is "Christ".

Life changes the moment you finally understand Who Jesus REALLY is. Life changes when you fully grasp Who He is! Life changes because you change once you meet Jesus face to face you are confronted by His glory and His love and His righteousness and your own lack of the same. It is a defining moment! You cannot remain the same! 

It matters that Jesus is the Messiah!

It matters that you know it!

But what really matters is who you do about it!

He may be THE Messiah but until you surrender to Him and make Him YOUR Messiah you will not benefit from all He has to offer.

Have you declared Him your Messiah?

Have you confessed your need of Him?

Have you received Him for the forgiveness of your sins?

Have you anointed Him as your Savior and Lord?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 22, 2016

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

So, now you know what a follower of Christ is supposed to wear! 

You need to know how to clothe yourself in those virtues of Christian love. Before you can put on the new you must take off the old:

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander,and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Colossians 3:5-10

How can you put on compassion if you don't take off these things?

You can't!

How can you put on kindness if you don't take off these things?

You can't!

How can you clothe yourself in humility unless you take off these things?

You can't!

How can you put on gentleness if you don't take off these filthy things?

You can't!

How can you put on patience it you are wearing these dirty rags?

You can't!

I remember playing tackle football in the lot next to the E.U.B. Church on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid. We would play in the rain or in the snow but even on a fair weather day I would come home so filthy dirty I wasn't allowed in the house. I was sent to the back porch where I was told to take off the soiled clothes and handed some suitable to entering the house. So, I couldn't get in the house until I had clean clothing and I couldn't put on clean clothing until I took off the dirty ones.

That's how it is in God's house. You must take off the old and put on the new so you can enter in.