The little things do count


When you read the gospels and the accounts of all of the different ways that Jesus interacted with people and healed some and raised some from the dead or freed them from demonic possession it makes you wonder what else He might’ve done in between all of these. When you read about everything that He did in the few years that His disciples walked with Him and then read at the end of John’s gospel that “if everything that Jesus did were written down the world couldn’t hold all of the books“.

Jesus payed attention to all of the little things. The children that were around Him, the women who were supporting His ministry and were disciples too. He looked at the small lunch which fed over five thousand people and knew it was possible. He noticed so many things around Him in His ministry which aren’t recorded in the gospels. So, how do I know that He noticed these small details around Him? Because He was and is the Creator! An artist notices the color of clouds and birds and flowers and trees so how much more would our Creator notice everything and everyone around Him?

Even if the writers of the gospels didn’t notice it and He didn’t bring it to their attention, He would’ve noticed. Every flower and bird and tree and cloud and the stars at night. He was there during creation so why not take in your creation and truly notice all of the beauty in everything around you? I know I would have and you would too.

Jesus is our Savior and He paid that price for our salvation willingly. His humanity was afraid of the pain and suffering but He knew it had to be done. He is the Author of Life and the Creator and He did all of this for us. So when you feel His call in your heart and you know it is Him, please don’t turn away from that call because that call may be the only one you will hear or maybe the last time you may hear from Him. I pray that all of you who read this will give your heart and life to Jesus and follow Him for the rest of your life.

Can you have peace in your life?


You must believe that God is in control of your life and your circumstances, no matter what they may be. Otherwise, you will attempt to gain control of your life and your circumstances and there is no peace in the struggle which comes from each of us trying to gain control of things which we can’t control. Each of us tries to gain control of our lives and our problems even when we know that there is no way that we can fix things. But, that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Does your life or your problems exempt you from asking God to help you to gain control of them? Are your problems too big for God? How can that be when He created the entire universe! He can give you the strength to get through every problem and every circumstance in this life. There is no condemnation in God’s sight toward your unbelief or your problems if you have given your heart to Jesus.

Each of us must believe that His offer of peace for your circumstances is real and be willing to accept His offer in spite of our feelings to the contrary. We should fully surrender our life, mind, will and our emotions to Jesus as our Lord. Because if you don’t fully surrender all of your life to Him then you don’t have Him in your life as your Lord and Savior. If Jesus is not the source of your peace, then what is? Here is the scripture and the promise from Jesus which cements this in His Words:

John 14:27

26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Living your life by the power and the strength of your faith in Jesus Christ is your service and it is the living of it in front of the world around you which is your witness for Him to every person around you. Everything that you do or say is witnessed by those around you, whether you think they are watching or not. If they know that you are a Christian then every little thing that you do or say is part of your witness. If you are a new Christian then your light isn’t very bright yet, but you are still responsible for those who are watching to show that Jesus truly is your Savior. The longer that you are a Christian with years of Bible study then you are more responsible for more of His Light.

Are you perfect? No, none of us are perfectly sinless and we can’t be! Are we going to slip up and mess up your witness to others? Probably. At one point or another, every one of us will make a mistake at some point in our life. It may be a willful sin or one which you decide that you are going to do, even if it misses the mark. Will your salvation be taken away from you? If your salvation was real and genuine with repentance from those sins, then it can’t be taken away. If you just felt a good feeling and said some words that sounded right, but you have gone back to your old way of life then you are likely not saved at all. Do those of us who are saved fail in our living our life for Jesus? Yes, but we feel the failure in our heart and we are convicted of it by His Spirit. We want to ask His forgiveness as soon as we can.

Don’t turn away from His call on your life. When you feel it, answer His call and give your heart to Him because you may not have another chance to do so.

How good are you?


Many people notice who attends church and they think that “if they are going to Heaven then I’m good enough to go too”. The problem with this kind of thinking is that not everyone who attends church, regardless of the denomination, will be going to Heaven. There are also quite a number of people who will be in Heaven who may not attend church at all!

Our beliefs about who is or isn’t saved have changed drastically over the past few hundred years and the church itself has strayed from the teachings of Jesus so much that the believers who were the church during the first century wouldn’t recognize us as the church today! So, how close are you really following Jesus and His teachings? I know it is a hard question to ask but your eternity may rest on your answer or the answer from your friends and your church!

It really doesn’t have anything to do with how “good” we are in our own eyes. It has everything to do with how we treat others according to the teachings of Jesus and how we live our faith in everything that we say and do each day! If you aren’t walking through your day like you are walking next to Jesus and doing the same things that He would be doing or saying then you likely aren’t living a sacrificed life in submission to Him.

I am not writing this to do anything other than make you think about your life in Christ. I don’t mean for this to sound like I am judging you or your walk with Him. This is just a few words to let you think about your walk with Him. Is it a walk which you would be proud of? Would Jesus approve of the things which you say or do in your life each day or would He correct you about some things?

I know that my walk with Him isn’t perfect. I make a mess of things with my thoughts and words sometimes and on some days I probably don’t look like a Christian or sound like one either. Each one of us stumbles and makes mistakes because we are trying to live a life that is pleasing to God and without faith in Jesus this is not possible. Some days it seems that my “faith bulb” goes out or gets pretty dim, so it doesn’t surprise me that on those days my walk with Him looks more like a drunk man trying to walk but is stumbling and falling more than walking.

Our goodness or rather our holiness is only there because we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and His holiness is imputed to us. Our “goodness” is nothing more than rags and filthy rags at that so there is no possible way that we can go to Heaven if we are only standing on “our righteousness” because it isn’t good enough. The part of living with Jesus which saves you and allows you to enter into Heaven is simple but for many people, it is also not enough. They want to help or add their own spin to the way or the works which will get them into God’s Home, and that is not the way this works.

Remember the thief on the cross?

Luke 23:39-43

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost, not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

It doesn’t take much, in fact, it takes faith like a mustard seed to believe that Jesus is your Savior. So don’t turn away from Him especially when you feel His Presence in your heart telling you that He is waiting for you. Ask Him to save you and repent of your old life then follow Him into a new life which will follow you into eternity.

Prosperity or pampered


Why don’t we call Christians out for subscribing to a pampering gospel, one that makes them feel safe, and keeps them within the confines of their comfort zones? There are also teachers who are preaching a gospel which promotes the idea that anything that you feel a need for can be asked for in Jesus’ name and it is yours. God is not a genie and the name of Jesus is not a magic word to get anything and everything that you feel that you need.

During His ministry, Jesus didn’t even heal every person who was in the crowd or near Him. Could He have done that? Yes, He could but that wouldn’t have given the glory to God if He had. He could’ve just thought or spoken the words over those who were seeking a healing in the crowd but how would God have gotten the glory for that? He healed people specifically and He raised some people from the dead, again specifically.

At the tomb of Lazarus, if Jesus had not said his name, every person in the graves around his would’ve come forth! The miracles which He performed were very specific to those who were seeking them. As for prosperity, Jesus said that it was as hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven as it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Whether that was an actual gate into Jerusalem, as I have heard before, or not I am not sure. The point is that it is very difficult for a wealthy person to give their life and their heart to believe in Jesus for salvation.

Just as the rich, young ruler, which prompted Jesus to say those things, came to Him asking how he could get into Heaven. Jesus asked him about his religious life and he told Jesus that he had kept all of the Law during his life, so Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor so he would have riches in Heaven, but since he was wealthy he went away saddened.

Jesus did not teach that we were all to live as paupers but He also taught that unless your heart was focused on the Kingdom of God rather than riches, then having wealth did you no good either. Regarding wealth Jesus said,  25 “For how would a man benefit to gain the whole world but destroy his soul or lose it?” Luke 9:25

By this Jesus meant that your soul individually is worth more than all of the wealth of the world! God loves you and cared enough for your salvation to send His Son to take your place on the cross in order to pay the price for your soul and mine and every person on the Earth. This is the gift of God to each of us which we can’t pay for and yet it is offered to us freely through belief in Jesus for our salvation.

Jesus also said that we are to take up our cross each day and follow Him. What does He mean by that? He means that for each of us there is something in our life, like the rich young ruler, that we need to nail to the cross and give it to Him each day then follow Him each day throughout our lives. Salvation is not a one day or one decision commitment, it is a daily commitment which we are to do in our lives. Does that mean that we have to work for our salvation?

No! Salvation is the gift of God through grace by belief in Jesus. We must move through life becoming more like Him and to do that we have to learn more about Him through the study of His Word in the Bible. Putting away the temptations of our old life by study and prayer. Being His is easy when we realize that we need Him, becoming more like Him is the so-called “work” which we do each day through prayer and study of the Bible.

Jesus only taught His disciples for three years while He was here, but they kept meditating on His teachings throughout their lives while they were teaching and preaching to the churches in the first century. They lived in prayer and meditation on His teachings every day and that is what we should be doing too.

 

Life…


Your life and mine is a path which we follow all the days of it. Walking in Jesus’ footsteps is the only sure way to Heaven, any other path may be easier but it will lead you astray.

Seeking to find your own way to Heaven will only lead you to an eternity of pain and suffering if you have not followed Jesus in your lifetime. Even if your life here was comfortable and filled with many good things, like the rich man you will burn in hell if you don’t have Jesus as your Savior.

Our good deeds in this life are useless compared to being saved and sanctified by Jesus. Because the works which we do, like giving money and time to charity and helping those who are in need, are useless unless we are doing them in the name of Jesus and with His Spirit loving those that we are helping. Without His love working through us in this world, there is no amount of money or anything else which can make a difference into eternity.

Make sure that you seek Him in all things while you are here because when this life is over and your work for Him is done, eternity awaits you. Make sure of your salvation in Jesus.

AmenVineandBranches

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?

How are we blessed by God?


Anything that falls into the category of an expression of God’s goodness and love toward us. In many ways we may not feel blessed by God, sometimes I don’t feel blessed by God. The apostle Paul likely didn’t feel blessed when he was flogged or put in jail because of his obedience to God, but he was.

How was he blessed?

Look at it the way that Paul did. He said that he was always pressing toward the goal. Paul was looking toward the goal of being in the presence of God. Well, don’t you have to die to see God? Yes, but death is just a stepping stone from this life to our eternal life. Your address changes, just as Billy Graham said about his death, his address changed but he is more alive now than he ever was!

I know, we look at the idea of blessings as being blessed in this life. Why should God give us the best in this life? Do you obey God in all things, every day, all day in every decision that you go through? No, you don’t and I don’t either. I try to obey God daily, but we all fail in some way, even if it is a small way. But, even a small detour or a small wiggle away from God’s will in your life is disobedience.

Can we obey Him in all things in our life? We can try. We can ask Him to give us the wisdom and the strength to obey His will and purpose for us and then listen to Him through the reading of His Word. The blessings which we are given are not the ones which we would choose or even ones which we expect, but they will be something which God has deemed you worthy of receiving right now.

Do you realize that God’s blessings are irrefutable and permanent, even into eternity? They are the only things which we will be able to take into Heaven with us when this life is over. We only take our eternal body and the blessings which God has blessed us with. Nothing which comes from this Earth like shoes or clothes or rings or watches will go with you into Heaven, but those blessings which God has given you in this life will. 

I am not speaking of money or fame or cars or anything which this world sees as part of your success. I am speaking of the joy which you feel in worshiping God, the love that you feel when you read His Word, the knowledge that God has given you a purpose in this life to do that which He has given you to do and accomplish for His Kingdom. Those are the blessings which the world outside of His Kingdom don’t understand and don’t even recognize as blessings.

Psalm 24: 1-5

The Earth is the Lord’s

1 The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

There is so much pain…


Not just in Florida or in any of the other towns and cities where a terrorist has used a gun to kill people, but all over the world where people are persecuted for the faith no matter what it might be. Pain in hospitals where children who aren’t old enough to walk are trying to fight cancer of one type or another. There is much pain in any one of the war zones around the world because of the death and destruction caused for reasons which few can even recall today.

Why?

This is the question which so many parents and grandparents ask when their child is suffering from a disease that ultimately will end their life. Many of them are suffering from diseases which have had millions of dollars spent on research and yet there is still no effective treatment let alone a cure. Why? It seems that educators and scientists and doctors all believe that if we throw more money at the problem it will work out better in the end…but it hasn’t. In any of those areas, more money has not fixed the dropout rate or the disease survival rate significantly. I know that more children survive some childhood cancers now than they did thirty or more years ago, but what about the new cancers or those which have evolved as they speak about?

Did they change so much that even the treatments from years past don’t even work or are the drug companies just too greedy and they just raise the price of a drug and change its name? Exactly! Greed has driven this industry for far too long. Greed has driven our medical industry for too long as well.

Why am I bringing this up on my site? Because I have had to buy some medication and it was expensive. I have also talked with some friends who have medication which cost nearly $500 for one inhaler!

God did not intend for us to have to take these things in the first place and the companies are making so much money off of them! If we could go back to growing our own food and eat those vegetables exclusively then our need for medication would diminish. God loves us and did not create our world with GMO things to feed us or to plant in our gardens. When He made it, He said it was good and that means perfection!

Find a diet which follows the Bible’s recommendations. I am not talking about eating insects like John the Baptist, but eating wholesome REAL food, not man-made, modified food. This is the type of diet which will KEEP you healthy or possibly cure some of the problems that may be caused by those man-made “foods”. Seek God’s wisdom in your diet as well as in your life so that your eternity will be declared good in God’s eyes.

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.

Lean not on your own understanding..


Proverbs 3:5,6

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; What can we learn from these six words? Consider the writer of Proverbs, King Solomon. The wisest man who ever lived and the wealthiest as well, but his wisdom made plain to him that your trust should be in the Lord. Not in money, not in yourself, not in your job. Don’t trust your own wisdom, or your faith or your Bible, but in God alone! Don’t even lean on your own profession of faith in a church but make sure that you are leaning on God alone, on your faith in Him alone!

Living your life every day by trusting in the Lord alone is the very best way to live. If you are a believer in Jesus and His grace for salvation, make sure that you don’t despise His grace and live according to your own ways. God’s wisdom and His grace should lead you in every decision, especially major decisions, but also those that you don’t think might matter to Him. Why? Because every decision in your life should be filtered through God’s wisdom and grace!

Trust in Him in every small thing as well as big decisions. Trust in Him when you are tempted and tried in school or in daily living. No matter what you may be doing, ask Him to guide you in your decision, whether it is a big decision or a small decision. Listen to Him intently and don’t move in a direction which God doesn’t lead you in. God is always near to us and He has the power and the ability to give you the wisdom to accomplish whatever you have determined to follow His lead to do.

Your trust in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God the Holy Spirit should be with “all your heart”, sincerely and fully trusting in Him to do His work in you and your life fully and completely! He is in charge and on the throne and if you have given Him your heart, then He is in control of your heart too. The phrase “with all thine heart” denotes a deep sincerity of faith, which is complete and total and humble. Not a faith which is jovial and off the cuff, treating God as a friend or your buddy, but a faith which knows its place in the presence of its Creator.

And lean not unto thine own understanding; What does this part of the verse mean exactly? Can we learn from these seven words? YES, we can! The Bible is the inspired Word of the Living God, our Creator, and our Redeemer! Every word is useful to each of us, whether we understand them all or not. Men should not depend upon their own wisdom and understanding, in the conduct of civil life, but should seek the direction and blessing of God, or otherwise will be severely disappointed; and, when they succeed, should ascribe it not to their own ideas and wisdom, but to the goodness and grace of God; for “bread” is not always “to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding” Eccl. 9:11
Men and mankind, should not listen to their own counsel, especially in any spiritual endeavor. Because unless your heart is guided by the Holy Spirit and your mind is set on the things of God rather than the things of mankind, you cannot truly trust your own “understanding”. The natural man, one who has not trusted in Jesus for his salvation, cannot understand the things of God, which is why, to many people, the Bible, and its wisdom don’t make sense at all. The understanding of men is darkened by sin and without the Light given to them by the Spirit of God through salvation, their own wisdom is dark and foreboding like the Earth before God’s light shone upon it.

“In all our ways, acknowledge Him”; What does this mean to us today? Simply put, know the Lord and follow Him in everything that you do. Consider that God is all around us, not like the pagans think of Him being in the rocks and the trees, but He is as close to you as your skin because He is your Creator! You are never far from Him because He is everywhere if you feel far away from Him it is because you moved…God did not.

Remember that He is near you at all times and acknowledge that He is where you are, regardless of the place or time. Develop a listening heart and a mind to listen to His prompting in your life. Go only where He directs you to and be sensitive to His leading in your life’s decisions. Remember “and he shall direct thy paths”; IF you will listen to His wisdom and follow His lead and leading in all that you do.

This is my sermon for tomorrow morning. I pray that you will glean some of God’s wisdom from it and take it with you.VineandBranches