Commanding Shout!

“Therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation” ~Rev 3:10 

“Do you know the next great event on God’s prophetic calendar?” Chris asked his friend, Evan. 

“The tribulation?” 

“Actually this event occurs just before the tribulation.” 

“I guess I’m not sure. I often get the end times stuff mixed up.” 

“The next big prophetic event is…The Rapture!” 

“To tell you the truth, I am a little foggy on how that is supposed to work, Chris. Can you fill me in? Oh, and should I worry about being left behind?” 

“I can give you the ultimate test to see if you will be included in the rapture (if it happens before you die). Answer this question for me and we will know for sure: the Bible says, in Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Evan, have you called upon the name of the Lord to save you?” 

“Yes. I have. I most certainly have.” 

“Then you will not be left behind; plain and simple.” 

“Praise God. That is a relief. So, go ahead, tell me about the Rapture.” 

“Let me quote Mark Hitchcock’s book, 101 Answers To The Most Asked Questions About The End Times 

The Rapture is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from heaven and, in a moment of time, resurrect the bodies of departed believers, transform the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence, and then escort them to heaven to live with Him forever. The Rapture is the blessed hope of the church.” 

“When is this supposed to happen?” 

“That is the question for all the ages, Evan. Only God knows the date and time. So we are to look with expectancy…anticipating that at any moment we might hear the mighty shout and trumpet blast calling us home.” 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-3  

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. 

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.” NLT 

“There are many teachings about the End Times, Evan, but our primary source should be the Bible. I know that sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly what the verses are saying but, in the Book of James, chapter one, verses 5 through 8, James writes that we can ask God for wisdom and He will answer that request. But we must have faith in God alone.” 

James 1:5-6 

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He wil give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” 

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 “I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom. These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever. 

But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies! It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too. For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever. 

“How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord! VACBC 

“So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.” 

“Life in these mortal bodies often brings conflict, sadness, sorrow, uncertainty and discouragement, Evan, which is why verse 18 in 1 Thessalonians, above, is so crucial: So comfort and encourage each other with these words! When a friend, a fellow believer, is at rock-bottom, encourage them with these words! We cannot hear them too often and we need the powerful, life-changing assurance God’s word brings to our souls. Therefore, comfort and encourage each other with these words!” 

How Can I Experience God’s Peace?

“ I forget what is behind” ~Philippians 3:13

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.

What about those times we can’t find the bliss of sleep, tossing and turning as we replay the day’s challenges or those just around the corner of tomorrow? As the infomercial salesman says, “But wait, I have a solution for that!” And God really does. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

Are you carrying unnecessary burdens around like a steamer trunk? Going to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to relieve you of these burdens; thanking Him for His grace, forgiveness and mercy and then, after your prayers, you pick up your heavy load and walk away?

Do you find yourself thinking these thoughts, “I know God has forgiven me but—” “His grace and mercy are so wonderful but—” “I know He wants me to stop worrying about life but—” Are you really a believer or are you but-ing yourself into sleepless nights and a stomach ulcer?

What is God’s promised peace? Is it tangible or spiritual and is it impervious to Satan’s attacks and worldly pressures? Finally, is His peace permanent? Answers to this question are found in the Bible.

John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus made these promises to his followers as they were under tyrannical Roman rule. Not only that but they had chosen to walk away from their religious leaders to follow Christ which  brought scorn, arrests, beatings, and death! 

If Jesus could promise his followers in such dire living conditions that he was giving them peace, how can we possibly doubt his promises today? Consequently, if I am not walking in the peace of Christ that passes human understanding, who is to blame?

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

Romans 8:1-2; 9 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Philippians 3:7-9  But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him.” 

Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (knowing Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. Additionally, His sacrifice blotted out our past sins as well. Our arch-enemy, Satan will attempt to rekindle our memories of past failures but the shield of faith prevents those fiery darts from hitting home. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day. . .guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

Distilling It Down!

“Jesus, remember me” ~Luke 23:42

Jake and Scott found a booth, ordered coffee and a danish. It was their regular Monday, Wednesday routine. They shared classes on those days and became friends. They got great stimulation from discussing the lectures together. Sometimes their thoughts lined up but sometimes not, as was the case this day.

“What did you think of today’s lecture, Jake? I was surprised by his bald-faced, simple statement of faith in God. How could a guy so smart fall for that childish stuff?”

“I’d say it was a pretty deep faith for him to sort of preach to us today. By the way, he said his faith was in Christ.”

Taking a bite of his danish, Scott was obviously pondering. Then he said, “What’s the difference? And how do you have faith in someone who died like many other criminals thousands of years ago. Seems to me Jesus was just another misguided Jew looking for a following or just fighting against the Pharisees and the Roman government.”

“What do you think of Buddah, Scott? We both know some people who read about and try to follow his teachings and yet you don’t come against their faith as you are with those who profess faith in Christ.”

“Yeah, good point,” said Scott. “Except the Buddah was not executed as a criminal…was he?”

“No, I read once that he died of food poisoning when he was about 80. But back to Jesus. Not only did He bring lots of chaos and problems among the Jewish religious leaders, He claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior and Messiah.”

“Well, I heard that He was a prophet and a pretty good teacher so that’s good.”

Working on their second coffee, the men continued to discuss Jesus and who He really was. Or, as the professor said, “Jesus is still alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father!”

Finally Jake said, “Listen, Scott. I am a Christian and I believe in a living Savior, Jesus who died and was resurrected on the third day. Why don’t you open your phone to this Bible app and let’s read some verses so you can better understand what we’re talking about.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” NLT

“Who was speaking here?” said Scott.

“That was the Apostle Paul who was a member of the Jewish religious leaders until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. We can talk more about that later. Just know that Paul’s transformation was a big deal since he had been arresting and killing followers of Christ.”

“Wow. What a difference.”

“Only God could make that sort of change,” said Jake. But let’s read more.”

Romans 3:21-25   

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past.” NLT

Romans 5:1-8   

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” NLT

“Scott, faith in Christ is simple, but also challenging. Let’s read a couple of verses in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus makes a promise to one of the criminals beside Him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 NLT

Jake said no more. They sipped their coffee. Scott was considering what he’d just learned and how it applied to him. “I have a sense this kind of decision to follow Christ would be a life-changer!”

“Sure would. Without bowing our heads or anything, let me pray with you, Scott. Just a simple prayer. Who knows, Life as you know it may be changing soon.” They prayed.

Our Only Hope

April 10, 2021

“Be glad for all that God is planning for you” ~Romans 12:12

Our only hope refers to the Bible as it pertains to our daily lives. We have no other hope powerful enough to stand against all the challenges and evils of this world. God’s grace and mercy, flowing down from Calvary’s cross washes us whiter than snow and gives us the answers to all the problems we encounter here on earth. 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.”

Leaps off the page doesn’t it? “God chose to save us!” What more can we ask for? The next time you open the Bible, take your time without regard to how many chapters or pages you read. Savor God’s Word. Allow His truth to wash over you. Personalize it. For instance, “Christ died for ME!”

We are reminded in Romans 5:4 that when we run into problems and trials, they develop endurance, strength of character and, ultimately, hope. This hope will not lead to disappointment! 

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (see also James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

When our lives seem dismal and futile, where do we turn? Where can we find answers? Call the pastor? Perhaps. Call a friend or elder? Of course. But…any answer that is capable of changing our lives and giving us the hope we need is found in the Bible.  

God’s word, given to us by Him to encourage, build-up, strengthen, guide, heal, change and provide light at the end of those dark tunnels, is filled with powerful parables, stories, and sentences designed to rescue us from this dark world and its attacks. 

Sentence after sentence, tucked into the pages of our Bible jump out and grab us with answers directly from the mouth of our Creator. For instance, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:24) 

Perhaps you’ve been a Christian for several years and still struggle with things and find yourself giving up, feeling discouraged or confused, wondering why your life seems without power or the touch of God. Do you read the Bible? And after reading it, do you believe it? In spite of all the troubles and problems around you, do you really believe God’s word? Sometimes we allow the problems of life to diffuse the power of His word in our lives. 

Just when we think it is all a mess, we find a verse as in Philippians 2:13 that says: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” This is a fact! God is working in us…”He will never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). Believe it and act on it. 

Almighty God wants to remind us of who we are in Christ; encourage our hearts with His word, show us His will for our lives, reveal the strong foundation on which to build our lives, clarify how to live a Christian life in the midst of our world and fill our hearts with His unshakeable truth.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

The Resurrection!

“I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever” ~Jesus

         Without doubt, the most important event on the calendar for followers of Christ, is what is known as Easter or Resurrection Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important moment in the history of the world. Three days prior to His resurrection, He had completed the most agonizing part of his triumphant purpose by willingly giving his life to pain and death, crumpled on Calvary’s cross. However, that was only the beginning, not the end.

         After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose, shed His death clothes and spent 40 days giving final instructions to His disciples. And because of that, we too have the promise of eternal life just as He gave to the thief on the cross beside him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

         The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of our hope as found in the following Scriptures:

         1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty—For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

         Acts 2:24, 32 “God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it—God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this.”

         Matthew 28:1-10 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee) went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

         “Then the angel spoke to the women, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

         Luke 24:46-48 He also said to them: “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

         1 Corinthians 15:1-8  “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

         Acts 4:33  “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—”

         Acts 26:22-23  “I teach nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said—that the Messiah would suffer and be the First to rise from the dead, to bring light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

         Romans 10:9-10  If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

         There are many scriptures which relate the risen Lord being seen as a living testimony of His resurrection. His absolute victory over death and its decay gives all the  believers in Jesus Christ an unwavering hope of everlasting life with Him. Although we shall die, unless Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and angelic shout first, we shall not perish but taste life that never ends, residing in the New Jerusalem with Almighty God and the resurrected Son.

Obey The Government!

Obey the Government

March 27, 2021

“For God is the One who put it there” ~Romans 13:1

Phil, the church’s accountant, was stunned out of a sound sleep by the shrill ringing of his phone. Clearing the fog of sleep he answered and learned, to his consternation, that five of his congregants were in jail and needed him to post bond. The same frustrating five who willingly put themselves in opposition to the government, whether local or federal. As they saw it, the government is corrupt and needs someone to challenge it and they were those someones! But from Phil’s perspective, all these Christians did was stir the proverbial pot, bringing pain and problems, as well as wasting the churches money without any positive change. This morning, he took his time getting dressed.

An hour later, as they left the jail, Phil said, “I’ve got to say my piece here. When are you people going to stop causing all this trouble? You’re giving the church a bad name, not to mention Christians in general. Oh and people’s offerings too. Have you ever thought of that? Do you think the rest of us give tithe and offerings with the expectation of paying your bail?”

“Listen Phil, someone has to stand up for what’s right in our government. We can’t allow these corrupt people to just have their way, overtaxing us, forcing us to follow biased and wrong-spirited laws. We have to force the government to do what’s right!”

“Right according to who? You bunch? If you’re really concerned for the general welfare of your fellow citizens, run for office and really make a difference instead of acting like irresponsible teenagers; not to mention violating the Bible. Have you considered that?”

“What are you talking about, Phil. The last thing we would do is to violate God’s Word. God expects us to defend the downtrodden and those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

“Are you serious? What downtrodden are you helping? As for violating God’s Word, read the 13th chapter of Romans and see how you line up.”

“Well, what about in the Book of Acts when Peter and some others were arrested and they said they had to obey God rather than men.”

“Actually,” Phil replied, “ that happened because the apostles were preaching Jesus as well as performing miracles in His name. They were arrested but an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates, brought them out and told them to “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life.” and then they were re-arrested and that is when Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

By this time they had arrived at the church. “I want you to come inside and we’ll have some coffee and share a little more about God establishing governments and kingdoms,” Phil said.

By now everyone was looking forward to what they might learn from the Lord. “Let’s look at Daniel 2:21, “World events are under [God’s] control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence.” We must remember that God is all powerful and very involved in world events. He is the creator and has a plan for His creations.”

“Now, let’s look at Romans 13:1, “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.” During the Lord’s last three years on earth, did he ever say to his disciples that we must form groups and set about to overthrow this corrupt, evil government? Did Jesus confront any person of authority and demand better civil rights for everyone? Did he confront the Romans who were arresting, torturing, and killing His followers with demands they be released? Just the opposite.

One day Jesus called his disciples together and said, “Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him. But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like My own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

“So,” Phil began, “what should we do about injustice and social wrongs? Since we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we should always begin with the advice dispensed by the Book of James 1:5-8 “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and He will gladly tell you, for He is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask Him; He will not resent it. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to tell you for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way, and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.”

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but My Words remain forever.” Matthew 24:35

Since this is true, shouldn’t our focus be on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Heals a Sick Boy!

March 20, 2021

“Jesus took hold of the boy’s hand and helped him stand up” ~Mark 9:27

If you’ve ever been baffled and/or challenged by a section of Scripture regarding what Jesus said and meant, this is probably one of those. His reaction to a father’s request to heal his son and rebuking his disciples gives us pause to consider the meaning. The section follows:

Mark 9:14-29 – 14-15 Then as they rejoined the other disciples, they saw that they were surrounded by a large crowd, and that some of the scribes were arguing with them. As soon as the people saw Jesus, they ran forward excitedly to welcome him.

16 “What is the trouble?” Jesus asked them. 17-18 A man from the crowd answered, “Master, I brought my son to you because he has a dumb spirit. Wherever he is, it gets hold of him, throws him down on the ground and there he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. It’s simply wearing him out. I did speak to your disciples to get them to drive it out, but they hadn’t the power to do it.”

19 Jesus answered them, “Oh, what a faithless people you are! How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”

20 So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it convulsed the boy, who fell to the ground and writhed there, foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the father.

22 “Ever since he was a child,” he replied. “Again and again it has thrown him into the fire or into water to finish him off. But if you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us.”

23 “If you can do anything!” retorted Jesus. “Everything is possible to the man who believes.”

24 “I do believe,” the boy’s father burst out. “Help me to believe more!”

25 When Jesus noticed that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he spoke sharply to the evil spirit, with the words, “I command you, deaf and dumb spirit, come out of this boy, and never go into him again!”

26 The spirit gave a loud scream and after a dreadful convulsion left him. The boy lay there like a corpse, so that most of the bystanders said, “He is dead.”

27-28 But Jesus grasped his hands and lifted him up, and then he stood on his own feet. When he had gone home, Jesus’ disciples asked him privately, “Why were we unable to drive it out?”

29 “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer,” replied Jesus. J.B. Phillips Translation

Imagine the surprise at Jesus’ response to the father’s description of what happened, or rather, didn’t happen. The desperate man, anxious to see his only son healed, is instead rebuked by the Lord. First he is frustrated and disappointed with the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon and then, when Jesus appears He rebukes everyone for a lack of faith. Can anyone cast out this demon? Finally, he thinks, Jesus will restore my son to a normal life. 

Not quite yet! Even though the boy thrashes about when he’s brought to Jesus, He asks the father questions instead of simply casting out the demon. Imagine the scene as Jesus and the father talk about frequency and how long this has been going on while the boy is convulsing nearby. Finally the father begs the Lord to heal his son.

Then Jesus challenges the father with, “If you can do anything? Everything is possible to the man who believes.” And since this is real life instead of a movie script, the father candidly, probably with tears, laments, “I do believe. Help me to believe more.” Jesus grants that request and heals his son. But did he?

Instead of rising up, after a piercing, demonic last ditch scream, the boy lay as dead. All who witnessed this exclaimed, “He is dead!” Not so. Jesus took his hands and raised him up into his father’s grateful arms.

The thoroughly confused disciples then took Jesus away from the crowd and asked, “Why were we unable to drive [the demon] out?” These were men of faith and action, who had seen and done miracles. Why were we so powerless, they wondered. What is the secret? In keeping with our Lord’s mysterious answers, He simply says, “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer!”

If you are like me, you vow to ask God to help you to believe more and pray more.

Only Our Duty

“We’ve only done our duty” Luke 17:10

The weekly Bible study group was involved in an animated conversation about what God expects when we are seemingly taken advantage of or taken for granted. The conversation was going along the normal path of defending positions such as: 

“Well, God doesn’t expect us to be doormats, you know,” said Gloria.

“I’ll have to line up with Gloria on that one,” said Frank. “We are special to the Lord and He wants us to defend our faith at all costs.”

Most of the group chimed in at that point, defending the “we’re not doormats” position. Until Glenn, the class leader said, “Well, actually He does you know.”

The room got very quiet out of disbelief and embarrassment. 

“Do you remember the scene at the last supper when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet? That was a shock to them because it was a servant’s job, beneath them. But our Lord went from man to man, washing and drying everyone’s feet telling them, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” ~John 13:14-15

“In the Book of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a slave who after working all day in his master’s field comes in to make and serve the dinner for his master. Jesus then says, “Does he thank that slave because he did what was commanded? In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘ We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” ~Luke 17:9-10

No one spoke as they processed what was just read. Instantly everyone knew they were far from that attitude. Just the opposite, most resented the idea of being a good-for-nothing slave who has merely done their duty. Surely this was some colossal misunderstanding.

“Struggling with this one?” Glenn asked. “I think it’s time we faced this issue head on. What I just read is from our Bible. Our literal life-guide. Jesus became a slave as an example to us who follow to do likewise. Jesus doesn’t want us to be a doormat, we say. The truth is, He does. And then, after people wipe their feet on that mat, He says, “wash their feet, just as I have done for you!”

The Apostle Paul has something to say about this subject too: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.

“Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.

“Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ~Philippians 2:3-11

We spend our waking hours worrying about our positions in life, believing that we have “rights” as citizens; that we can have anything we want if we just believe and work really hard. It’s good Karma, what goes around comes around, and so on. Well, those ideas are ideas that come from the enemy of our soul who wants to kill, steal and destroy us. God’s version of life is the exact opposite. Here’s what Paul says: 

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, and become one with Him.” ~Philippians 3:8

Be like Christ? Be prepared to give it all up and learn to listen to the still, small voice in your heart.

Hope and Assurance

“I am the resurrection and the life” ~John 11:25

Occasionally, the challenges of life weigh heavily and we may lose sight of God’s promises in the Bible. Once you see Jesus calling you and respond in faith, He will never leave or forsake you. His mighty grip is secure, His protection is never-failing. Take your time as you read through this small sampling of God’s eternal Word.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 10:10-11 I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

1 Peter 1:3-5 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

John 10:27-30 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

1 John 4:4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Romans 8:38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

We did nothing to earn forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Almighty God. Salvation is a free gift, a reward of an act of faith. The Holy Spirit draws us to God: “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing…That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives then to me.” John 6:63, 65

Imaginary Roadblocks

“God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness” ~2 Timothy 1:7

I’m 37 and not married. 

I’m married but can’t have children.

I don’t know who my mother/father is.

I am not clever or articulate.

I am short and  chubby.

I didn’t invest my money and now I am living on a minimal income. 

I made bad choices and I am a loser.

These are imaginary roadblocks and those who hold these ideas think they are losers, failures; they think life has passed them by and the Lord is not playing fair with them. They believe if these so-called problems were rectified, life would be so much better. They would be satisfied and content. Not true.

Many years ago I was at a conference led by a Catholic priest. During one of the classes he said, “You cannot listen to your feelings. We all have them but you cannot allow them to lead your life. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!”

At first I rejected his statement as ridiculous. But after a few hours of ruminating, I realized he was correct. Feelings are just that, feelings. Let’s go back to the list above. Each of these statements are tied in to feelings. For example, I’m 37 and not married. Possible feelings: “I am never going to find the right guy and enjoy family life. What is wrong with me?”

I don’t know who my father is. Possible feeling: “I am a loser not knowing who my father is. I have no sense of identity.” Another person may say, “I know who my father is and he was a terrible, mean-spirited, drunk who caused great sadness and fear in our family.”

If we focus on what we don’t have, we allow those pesky feelings to rule our lives. A man was overheard to say on the day of his college graduation, “I am so frustrated. I missed graduating with an A average by just a couple of grade points. I feel like the whole experience was a bust!

Another graduate who held a great celebration party just graduating college, cannot understand the other person’s attitude. They would think it strange to find disappointment in such success. Feelings can take you down.

2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.”

Pause a moment. God. The creator of everything says He has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and a sound mind! That is a promise. Do we believe it? Or do we allow our feelings to trample on this promise?

Fear sneaks in right behind doubt and we fall apart. The what-if’s come roaring in followed by I’m not worthy and we reach for our well-worn loser hat and slink down the road, muttering, “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Guess what we are actually saying? “God is a liar!” Shocking isn’t it. Of course we never utter those words but that is what we secretly believe. 

“I’d never call God a liar,” we shout pounding on the table. “That would be ridiculous and just wrong.” However, when we read 2 Timothy 1:7 and allow fear to tear life from our grasp, we are proclaiming loudly that it is not true. Faith in Christ brings new life, life built on the foundation of God’s love, grace and mercy. The unifying element which ties this all together is forgiveness, God’s and ours. Reading His Word, talking to him openly (known as prayer), brings God-given results in every situation, no matter how we feel!

We must resist our negative feelings and “rely on the power of God, who has saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 1 Timothy 1:8-9