Encouragement


Son of encouragement. That is what Barnabas was called in the book of Acts, in fact, that is what the name means. His actual name was Joseph and he was from Cyprus. He was very prominent in the early church. Why do I mention him here? Because each of us needs an Encourager. Yes, the Lord is also an Encourager and gives us the encouragement we need through the reading of His Word. So, why do we need another to give us more?

Because we have all encountered setbacks and problems along the way. Sometimes it is because of depression or other things which are “bringing us down” and we need someone to cheer us up. We are so bombarded by updates and news today in this world of 24/7 connected devices until it is hard to make sense of it all. Decompression and relaxation doesn’t happen when we take a vacation anymore. Because we are never disconnected from our phones or our tablets or laptops!

God did not intend for us to live our lives like this every day! Years ago the prediction was that computers would make our lives easier and our work would be less. That didn’t happen at all! Now that we have smartphones, which amount to pocket-sized computers, we are never away from news and work-related content! Even when we are in places where there is limited service we feel as if we are in danger because we can’t contact someone or be contacted.

So a bit of encouragement is needed especially today and particularly now. It keeps us going when the times get a bit choppy with troubles and all of the stress which we have in this world. Just listen to someone who is hurting or in need of a friend, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. Why do I say this? Because it is very likely that you haven’t been in their shoes before. I know that many of us have had loved ones to die or we have gotten divorced or even lost a job, but some people are going through more than one stressor at a time. So..be gentle.

God is there for all of us and He does comfort us in all of our troubles and situations, but sometimes it just takes a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to lean on or even cry on. Nobody can handle all of life’s troubles without God or someone to support them and just be there when things aren’t going the way they should. Yes, Jesus is nearer than any person could be, but until He is here in the flesh we need a friend at times. Try to be that friend because there will come a time when you need one and if you were never there for someone then who will be there for you?

What will you do?


I think I have written a post by this name before but it does need to be repeated. Why? Because there are too many people who haven’t figured it out yet. So, have you figured out what this means?

Jesus died on the cross for you. He paid the penalty for your sins and mine and everyone else’s sin in the world. While it is true that not everyone will be saved, that doesn’t mean that the way is open for all. So…what will you do with your gift of eternal life in Heaven? Will you throw it away or just decide not to follow Jesus because you think there isn’t any fun in it?

Every person is going to live for an eternity, but it is your decision about your belief in Jesus which determines where you will live it. If you decide to only believe in yourself or in some other “god” besides Jesus, then you will meet Him but He will be your judge instead of your Lord. Some of you may think this is unfair, but God has provided a way for you to live in Heaven but it is dependent upon your belief in Jesus or not which determines your admission to His Kingdom. Why did God make it dependent on your choice? Because salvation is a choice. While it’s true that the Holy Spirit convicts you of your need of salvation, it’s still your decision to accept the offer.

God loves all of humanity but He doesn’t love our lifestyles or our sinful lives. Many in the world deny that Jesus was the Son of God even though God says so in the gospels. Why do we rebel against our Creator in this way? Because we are stubborn and we want to live our lives the way we want to live them, not according to the Bible and His way of living. Can we live the way that Jesus taught His disciples to live and work and spread the gospel? Of course, we can, but we will have to live our lives daily according to His example

Will it be easy to live this way in the world today? No, it won’t be but with Jesus in your heart and with His Spirit, in you, it can be done. But, only if you depend on Him to get you through each day…one day at a time. Which is why you should look in God’s Word for wisdom and support for your life. As Paul wrote about each of us “keeping our eyes on the prize of glory through Jesus the Christ our Lord”, it’s necessary to do exactly that!

When Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water, he did it for a few steps. But, then he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. That’s why we should spiritually keep our eyes on Him every day! Because walking in this life as a Christian is not easy, even though many people think that it is. Walking as a Christian daily can only be done successfully by keeping our heart and our mind focused on Him. Don’t seek out your own wants and stuff, which most of us don’t have enough room for anyway. Seek His way and His Truth in your life and in all of your steps through this life.

I pray that our churches, our country and our representatives in Washington will turn to the Lord because our country and the world needs to see us doing this.

 

Serving as Jesus did


Have you ever thought of serving the Lord for your lifetime? We are all called in one way or another when we hear or feel the call on our lives and in our hearts. We are also given talents and abilities which may not translate into much for this world, but they mean a lot in God’s Kingdom. Each word that you use in your life as a Christian has an effect on someone, particularly if it is your children or grandchildren. You may not see the end result of your influence in this life, but God will use your words in ways that you may not imagine right now.

God cares for His Creation, all of it! Each person who has been born and those who are yet to be born into this world, God loves them with a love that only He knows the depth of! We experience only a small taste of it when we have a family. Our children experience a taste of His love through us as we raise and love them and teach them about life, to the best of our ability. Can we learn to be His servants, His disciples while we carry on our lives here? Yes, but we must determine to do it and not just “try” to be better or “try” to learn how it is done!

So, how do we learn to know Jesus and how to be His disciple in this life? Actually, it is simple—by reading the Bible and learning from Him directly! Paul’s letter to the Philippians exhorts us to be like Jesus in all that we say and do in our life with Him. Read here:

Philippians 2:1-11

Being One in Christ

1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

The Attitude of Christ
(Isaiah 52:13-15)

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God approved of and ordains each of us to be His representative while we are in this life, this tabernacle as Peter put it. Yet, we are not supposed to sit in our home and read the Bible and pray and attend church! We are supposed to do something with our life in Jesus Christ! Tell others about His work in your life. Tell them about His love which called to your heart and caused you to realize that our life is not all that there is. Your life in Christ Jesus is just the beginning! Living the rest of your life to be the best reflection of Jesus that you can be with His Spirit inside giving you the strength to resist your old temptations and walk in a newness of His Life and His calling on your life until He comes to take the church to Heaven one day!

Our life without Him or the regeneration of our hearts is a cold and lonely place even if you have family and loving people around you. Because, without His love flowing in your heart and then giving it away to the people around you, the “love” that you have before Jesus is a poor imitation of the love that you have as His child. Our hearts don’t know how to truly love until we accept His Love for us because He is love personified!

What is our vocation?


As believers in our Lord Jesus, we have a vocation which is not actually recognized by most who attend church. Our vocation, our job is to tell others about salvation through Jesus. This is not such a hard job actually unless you are trying to tell some of those in your own family about Him. People who have been in church most of their lives already think that they are Christians even if they haven’t given their lives and their hearts to Jesus.

This is a problem of course because just sitting and hopefully listening to the sermons really doesn’t make you a Christian. Neither does being born into a Christian family. You don’t inherit Christianity and you can’t absorb it by being in church more than other people. If it were that easy we would all have an easy time in school, just sit there and soak in the words of the teacher and when the test comes up…just pass it. No problem.

But, learning about Jesus or God’s laws or anything that you hear in church is not the only way to come to know about Jesus. The problem is that knowing about Jesus or the Ten Commandments doesn’t make you a Christian either. You can have “head-knowledge” or “book learnin” about Him and all things in the Bible, but just knowing about Him or learning some verses in Psalms or Proverbs doesn’t make you a Christian.

Truly, reading the Bible gives you a foundation in the Scriptures but unless you have asked God to show you His wisdom in your reading. Reading the Bible once per year is a good practice to get into as well, but if you haven’t given your heart to Jesus and asked Him into your life to change you from the sinner that you were then all of the reading in the world will not bring salvation.

So, how can we be or become Christians? The first thing which happens is that you will feel a conviction from the Holy Spirit. This is the calling of God to your Spirit to bring you into His family. Can you ignore this? Yes, you can although some say that you can’t. The problem with ignoring the call of God’s Spirit is that you may not get another chance. Remember, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

After the conviction of the Spirit, you need to ask Jesus to come into your life and change you so that you will go into the world a changed person. You are not the sinner that you were, but you need to read the Bible so that you can learn God’s voice and allow it to wash your mind in His Word. Why is this needed? Because, washing your mind and your life in the Water of Life, God’s Word, is the only way to become a Christian who is grounded in Him and His wisdom.

I know that all that I have said in the paragraph above sounds like I have been giving you requirements of becoming a Christian but all of them aren’t requirements but they are suggestions. Suggestions which will make your Christian life even better and more productive.

What kind of Christian are you?


Do you practice your beliefs on a daily basis or do you just do so on Sunday at church? There are some people who actually practice “sometimes Christianity”, meaning that they are Christians sometimes such as when they attend church or functions at the church. But, they don’t practice being a Christian at work or away from the church. Are you a real believing Christian if you do this?

Was your life and your heart changed when you accepted Jesus as your Savior? If you believe that it was changed, did you change along with it? If your life didn’t change, then are you certain that your heart was changed?

I am not asking these questions to be accusing of anyone because I wondered these things myself after I accepted Jesus. The change in your life is not like getting a smack on your head with a bat, it is gradual but if you don’t follow the leading of the Holy Spirit you can upset the apple cart in a manner of speaking. How do I know this? Because I did exactly that at first. I upset the apple cart and after a while, I was back doing the same things as before.

It isn’t shameful but when you become a Christian you do need some coaching or mentoring for a while. Going it alone is not the recommended way of walking with Jesus daily.

You need to begin to study God’s Word, not just reading it. Prayerfully study it, get into the scripture with Jesus and actually ask Him to explain things that you don’t understand. If possible, get with your pastor or someone that you know is a Christian to help you understand God’s Word and His meaning. Why do I say this? Because it is too easy for Satan to whisper in your mind when you are new to faith in Jesus and he will make you believe things about what you read which aren’t the truth.

God does want you to learn from His Word but you need to be listening to Him talk and not your own thoughts and ideas. Pray about what you are reading, read His Word out loud if need be. Get a set of CD’s or mp3’s which have the entire Bible on them so you can listen to it being read to you, then pray about what you are hearing. God will reveal exactly what He wants you to know from His Word at the time that you need to hear it and understand it.

God will not lead you to a place where He doesn’t want you to be. Your life with Jesus is important because He wouldn’t have called you into His family unless He had something for you to do. God knows that you are the only person who can do what He has called you to do, and nobody else can accomplish it.

All of us who are Christians have a calling from God. It may be to teach a Sunday school class or be an usher at church, it might be for us to be a preacher or a missionary telling people in far-away places about Jesus. It might also be that you can help out at a shelter for the homeless or for Veterans. Whatever you do, even if you do it at your regular job, do it for the glory of God and let people know that you belong to Him!

Don’t be a “pew Christian”, one that is only a Christian in church and not very different from the rest of the world when you aren’t in church. That is being a false Christian or a Christian on the surface alone. Make sure of your beliefs and your position in Jesus because when your life ends here, anything that is just superficial won’t help you when you stand for your judgment.

What happened on Easter?


The story which is celebrated in much of the world has to do with pagan ritual. Eggs and rabbits and things like that. These have nothing to do with our risen Savior.

Jesus told His disciples that He would rise again on the third day. Many people disbelieve that story today, even in the church. I mean, how can you manage to get three days between Friday and Sunday? Going by Jewish calendars and tradition it is simple. A day begins at sunrise and ends at sunset, at least to us. But, to Jewish people who lived in Jesus’ day, the next day begins at sundown on the day before. So, when the soldiers arrested Jesus in the garden on early Friday morning, part of that day had already passed by.

The sunrise brought the priests and the High Priest before Pilate to accuse Jesus and He was flogged, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted a crucifixion and the Sabbath began at sundown. From about the third hour until the ninth hour Jesus was on the cross, that would be 9 am until 3 pm for us. Counting from sunrise to sunset is the timing that they used because the preparation for the Sabbath had to begin at sundown, counting as the next day.

empty_tomb11He laid in the tomb from just before sundown on Friday, all day on the Sabbath, and most of the day on the first day of the week on Sunday. So Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are three days!

So…what happened on Sunday morning at around sunrise? A miracle to those who witnessed it for sure! A bright light which was brighter than the Sun in its strength, which pierced even the cracks around the rock which covered the entrance to the tomb. The stone which had been rolled over the opening of the tomb and sealed with the Roman seal was rolled away.

We don’t know what the soldiers saw at that moment. They could’ve seen the risen Jesus in His glory or maybe an angel, possibly two angels who told the disciples and Mary that He has risen just as He had told them that He would. I want to believe that those soldiers who were guarding the tomb saw Him in His glory and likely believed that He was the Savior, the King of the Jews and their Messiah. But, until we get to Heaven we will not know for sure what they saw or what they believed.

Our Savior is alive and is at the right hand of Power on High! There is no other name by which we must be saved to be in His Presence! The only requirement is that we believe in Him and in what was written about Him in the Bible, ask Him for your forgiveness and repent of your old way of life and follow Him daily. That is our job, our responsibility as believers and as Christians! To tell others about our Savior Who died to give them the ability to become Christians and partake in His Kingdom too. No amount of money or work to do to be eligible for salvation, just believe in Him.

Cliche’


Life is not supposed to be lived while spouting cliche’s almost all of the time. When someone asks you how you feel, don’t tell them “I’m fine” because you know it isn’t true. At least not the way you mean it. I have been in doctor’s offices and heard friends meeting in the waiting room. They ask each other how they are doing and those words are the first that I hear from either of them, “I’m fine”.

NO, they are NOT fine! If they were they wouldn’t be in the waiting room to see the doctor! You know as well as I do that people do this all of the time. We are lying to our friends and we are lying to God as well! Why do I put it that way? Because, if your life is fine then you don’t have any problems, none. Your family is doing great, all of your bills are paid and your credit score is 800!

NOBODY is that perfect!!

Life doesn’t work that way! You know it and I do as well.

God loves you and the only place where life will truly be perfect is when you and I get to Heaven. There won’t be any cell phones or clocks, no disease, and no lottery or sweepstakes to try to win money from. But…until that time and place is a reality, we are all a good deal less than “doing fine”. Do you believe this? I do.

Perfect peace and harmony aren’t possible on this side of Heaven. Even though some fictional shows declare that we can achieve this through technology and by realizing that God is not real. I hate to break it to you but He is real! The Bible and all of those prophecies couldn’t be some fictional book made up by some old men because mankind cannot know the future, especially what will happen hundreds of years in the future.

Cliche’ or twisted words are what the serpent used to get Eve to try the fruit from the tree which God had commanded them NOT to eat of. Truly, cliche’s are words or phrases which are used so much that their meaning is lost. When you twist someone else’s words then you are creating a cliche and that is exactly what the Serpent did in the garden.

There are people who do this all the time, they are called lawyers and politicians. If you don’t believe me, listen to a recording of their arguments in court or the way that their laws are worded in the legislature.

God loves us but telling people that you are doing well or fine is usually a lie in the first place and that is a sin in God’s court. Anything which is beyond the truth is a lie and it doesn’t matter what you call it. A “fib” is a lie, a little white lie is still a lie, any untruth is a lie but Satan tries to tell you and me that they don’t mean anything unless they are really BIG lies! WRONG!! Make sure that your relationship is with God and His Son, Jesus because Satan can disguise himself as an angel since he was one a long time ago. He is very skilled at making people believe things which aren’t true as if they are.

So, make sure of the spirit that you are hearing is actually from God. As the scripture says, “Test the spirits with God’s Word”, then you will be safe when you hear it and listen to it. If it isn’t from God and it doesn’t line up with Scripture, then don’t listen to it and get away from it.

Are you comfortable?


Does God call us to do things outside our comfort zone? Of course, He does! How would the gospel have gone to the four corners of the world during the first century if the followers of Jesus had stayed in their comfort zones? We wouldn’t have much of the New Testament if Paul had not written the letters to the churches that he did from prison. He was very much outside his comfort zone don’t you think?

LifeisGoodBeing comfortable in life is nice but most things that are worth having don’t come to us in a comfortable, easy manner. We have to work for them, bit by bit, saving a little at a time if necessary and stashing it away so that we can have those things. But, in our instant world today, everyone wants their satisfaction and their stuff right now! Nobody wants to wait patiently which is why following God’s plans for us is very hard to do. Why do I say that? It’s because God’s timetable doesn’t fit our plans.

His timing works according to His vision and purpose in our life. You see, He can see months, even years down the road so when you ask Him for something that He doesn’t allow you to have right now it isn’t because He doesn’t want you to have it. It could be that He has something better than what you think you want but it will come to you in His time, not yours. Could God give you what you ask for when you ask Him for it? Of course, He could, but it might now be the best that He had waiting for you…if you would wait.

We squash our own rewards when we try to get ahead of God’s plans and His purpose for your life. We move ahead like a child running ahead of their parent trying to cross the street, but when the parent catches their hand and stops them they look hurt because they couldn’t go the way they wanted. A child doesn’t see or notice the traffic or the truck that would’ve hit them but the parent does. That is what God is trying to tell us but many times we just run away from Him, as if we know better than God. Many people don’t realize that God loves us enough to let us fail, He lets us fall down and realize on our own that we should’ve waited like God wanted us to.

When we do learn that lesson, sometimes many years have passed. Why? Because we are all stubborn and hard-headed and it doesn’t matter what background you have or the culture that you come from! God has watched over your mistakes and allowed you to fail but not to the point of letting you get killed. Particularly if He has something in your future that He knows will bring much more glory to His Kingdom and maybe more of what you have asked for too.

Do you know anyone who has squashed an opportunity to do something great for God because they were scared or didn’t think they could do whatever it was? I do because it is me. I felt God’s call on my life over thirty years ago but like Jonah, I didn’t want to do that right then. I was too stiff-necked to realize that God didn’t give up that easily. When He has something planned for you to do and you feel His call in your life, don’t turn away from Him. He will make sure that the opportunity comes around again.

So don’t get too comfortable in the place where you are because God might have somewhere else He needs you to be!

Does God care about me?


Good shepherdThis is the type of question is the kind that you hear or see posted on social media when a disaster happens or when a child is hurt or killed. Does God care? YES! He cares and He loves each of us more deeply than we can know, especially children. Jesus said:

Matthew 19:14 King James Version (KJV)
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Consider this question which has been put to pastors and to God Himself: Is anything too hard for God?

While it is true that there is nothing that is too hard for God, there are many things in life that are too hard for us. We have trouble lifting more than our own weight for example. We have a hard time admitting our faults and our shortcomings. We also have trouble, at times, admitting that we were wrong in some decision which was made in haste or in anger or maybe when we were hurt emotionally by someone close to us.

No, there is nothing too hard for God but many things are very difficult for us to admit that we have trouble accomplishing them. Even if God calls you to do something like being the pastor of a church, it doesn’t matter the size of the church or congregation He will equip you to do that which He calls you to do. At times we don’t feel that we are capable of fulfilling His call on our lives but with faith and following the decision to take the first step in following His call we can do it.

There may be some rough places at first and a few scraped knees and falls, but if you determine to continue to follow His lead in your life and keep on the path that He is leading you on then the outcome that He knows is there will be fulfilled. This is the type of commitment which the church today needs to follow and make sure that it is following Jesus in all that it does for Him. As long as your faith is placed in God and His Son, Jesus and they are the Leaders that the church and its pastor are following, then the call and the outcome will be assured because it is from God!

As long as you continue to follow Jesus in your daily life, walking with Him and listening to His counsel and not your own, then your outcome will be assured. Because when you live your life the way Jesus’ disciples did with Jesus as your Teacher and your Savior, your walk through this life will be in His will and it will be directed by His Spirit and not your own.

We are all children in God’s sight, so we should be sure to come to Him with any problem or need in our life. No matter how big or small or if you think it is a calling from God or not! Bring it to Him, ask Him about it, study the Bible to find His wisdom about whatever it may be, then pray about it. Don’t jump up and run ahead of Him, make sure that what you feel is right and it is approved by God before committing yourself to it.

Is your church part of the problem?


In many churches today, especially within a fifty-mile radius of my home, many visitors feel unwanted and unwelcome. Why is this? Mostly because our churches have become social meeting places rather than places to meet and worship God and Jesus. My church and yours should be places to fall in love with our Savior, but more often than not we talk more about politics and government issues and who should be added to our prayer list this week. Granted, many who are truly in need of prayer for healing and comfort NEED our prayers each and every day.

But the political issues in our government and how it is being run should be part of our prayer ministry, not a part of the commentary and debate in church or Bible study time.

Is the church part of the problem in America today? In some cases…yes it is. We are more concerned about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary and how it looks than we are about drawing more people into the church to hear about salvation through Jesus! So, what can we do about our relationship with Him? I mean, it is our relationship with Jesus which we are supposed to be giving away or at least showing people a Savior that they need to get to know!

Why are churches turning away from their “first love” and trying to be everything to everyone these days? It seems that some churches are trying to attract more people to church just for the numbers in attendance. Having a large number of people attending church is good, but if the message is more fluff than it is substance pertaining to salvation through Jesus, then the message is wrong!

Having 300 or more people attending church every Sunday is great but if you aren’t preaching the love of Jesus and the salvation which He died to provide for those who will believe, then you just have a full church. IF you aren’t following up with those who have attended your services to find out where their beliefs are or if they need prayer for specific problems in life, then you aren’t doing your job as a church. When I say this, I don’t mean that the preacher has to be the one following up with the people. It is the responsibility of those who are Christians in the church who should be doing this as well as the preacher!

Even a full-time preacher can’t reach out and touch every person who has visited your church or has asked for prayer. The only way that we, as a church, can take care of those in the congregation and those who have visited but haven’t decided to be a part of your church is for the deacons and the elders in the church to go to them and invite them back. If they are searching for Jesus, they will feel His presence in those who are inviting them back IF you are doing it in the power of Christ and with His love shining through.

Numbers and the amount which is given during the offering are not the way which measures a church and its commitment to following Jesus. Telling others about Him, mentoring those who are new to the faith, Bible study and helping others to grow in their walk with Jesus are the ways which the church continues to be the true church in the world today! Praying for each other’s burdens, listening to their concerns about being a Christian and living your walk with Him every day is the way to walk the walk so others might want to know Him too.

Many of these things are what our churches need to be doing but few actually are doing them and doing them effectively.