Thursday, March 29, 2012

Damsels of Distress

Matt 26:69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Judas betrayed but Peter denied. Imagine that! Your best friend for the last 3 plus years, the One who healed your mother-in-law, saved your soul, granted you the keys of the kingdom and invested eternity into you. Now a couple little maids come along and point their fingers at you and you act as if you have no idea who Jesus is!

Peter stands up to the temple guards in the garden and cuts off Malchus' ear. But in front of a couple of girls batting their eyelids, he melts like butter in a microwave. This man walked on water and led the Apostles but cowers under the consternation of a couple of skirts.

I remember, as a young man, when I was at the counter of the 7/11 paying for my gasoline. It was during the time 7/11 was under fire for their displays of pornographic magazines in plain sight of everyone including children. The girl behind the counter and another in front were criticizing all the moralistic fundamentalist Christians who were trying to get the trash removed from the stores. Well, the cat got my tongue. I couldn't make myself speak up for what was right. I was Peter before the damsels! If they were burly bikers donning brass knuckles, I would have offered my 2 cents without hesitation. But in front of these girls I became a lily-livered mush-mouth.

Oh, the devil is a sly old fox who knows our weakness! His devices are so keen. We believers are so fickle.

But Peter got over his cowardice, confessed his fault, went on to pen Scripture and boldly offer himself up for an inverted crucifixion.

He offers us this warning: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 1 Pet 5:8, 9

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It Had to Be

Mat 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Judas was ordained to his condemnation, so was Pilate and Herod and Malchus and the chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. Any one of them could have repented at any time and the Lord would have granted them mercy and forgiveness. We have the penitent thief as an example; asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. We have the super-observant centurion who surmised, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"

But the unjust trial and crucifixion of Christ had to transpire or there would be no hope for mankind. So these sinners, whom God knew would continue in their unbelief, were used as tools to move this unjust event forward.

The sovereignty of God juxtapositioned against the free will of man goes beyond my simple ability to comprehend. But, in the end, it all fits together hand in glove, and God's will is accomplished and I give glory. The result is forgiveness for sinners like me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Will We Do Under Pressure?

Matthew 26:47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Living by principle in a day when many around us operate by situational ethics is definitely upstream swimming. If we do what seems right at the moment, but are not anchored by a firm set of biblical principles, our passions will cause us to misbehave.

Such was the case with the disciples.
Judas, when the pressure was on, sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver.
Peter, when it all began to unravel, took to violence by cutting off Malchus' ear with a sword. Later on, in the same evening, he cursed, denying that he even knew the Lord.
The rest of the disciples fled into the night.
With the exception of John and Peter, they all went into hiding for the next three days.

For 3 and 1/2 years these twelve had companied with the Saviour. They were taught the greatest life principles personally by the Master. However, when push came to shove, they reacted out of the urgency of emotion, not by the principles which they had failed to apply personally.

Perhaps we can relate. If a believer is faithful to Sunday school, church and prayer meeting, they are going to hear a couple of hundred lessons and sermons per year. If they continue year in and year out for a couple of decades, they will have heard 4000 messages, each one containing a few biblical life principles. That totals literally thousands of reminders of how we are to comport ourselves in the good times and bad, including times of duress.

So, what gives? Why would veteran believers default to carnal weaponry when the squeeze is on and when they should know better?

First, Christians would do well to operate in the power of the Spirit, not in flesh power. Paul tells us what the fruits of each operation are produced. The flesh produces carnal fruit. The Spirit causes us to have love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, etc.

Second, we must allow biblical teaching to penetrate our very being. Scriptural teaching is not mere ideology. It is soul food. How we assimilate Bible messages might be akin to taking bites of nutritious food, chewing on it, then spitting it back out. Little good is accomplished. It is only as we swallow and internalize the food will it provide needed nutrition. While reading the Word of God or during a message, at its close and throughout the week, we need to continue to meditate on lessons learned, apply them to our lives and make them part of our core. Little good is accomplished if we read the Word and fail to do it. James said it is like a man looking in the mirror, then walking away and forgetting what he looked like.

Third, put into regular practice what we have learned. We are creatures of habit. Our bodies, souls and spirits need to be trained in spiritual actions and reactions. Live what is learned day in and day out. Only by doing will spiritual principles become part of our being.

Now here's the test. As you go about your day today, you will be confronted with occasions where you will have to make snap decisions and judgments. You may be tempted to draw your sword when you should show love. You may feel like cursing when you should be praying. Put into practice the many things you have learned. Slay your fleshly reactions and most of all, ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and produce His fruit in you.

God bless you as you serve Him today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Very Religious but Dysfunctional Home

Mat 26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

Have you ever thought about the mother of Judas, wife of Simon the leper? Here's a wife and mom whose husband was a Pharisee, had become leprous (therefore, an outcast), and then healed by the hand of Jesus. Jesus was a guest in their home. Her son was the treasurer of the First Baptist Church of Capernaum/Jerusalem. Who knows, perhaps one day there might be a big church in Rome named after him, The Basilica of St. Judas?

An event takes place in her posh, upper east side home in Bethany. As Jesus is being honored in her living room, a woman of questionable character slips into her home during the party and starts rubbing perfumed oil on her guest of honor.

Her son steps forward to protest, but is put in his place by the honored guest. Her offspring then stomps out of the house, straight to the meeting place of the chief priests and pulls a Benedict Arnold on Jesus. Her boy is no dummy. He is very politically active and business savvy. He gets a good price for turning on the One Who never seemed to understand her boy's good sense anyway. It seems as if his proposals were always being poo-poohed by the church board.

Alas, a couple of days later, her husband's cronies are all implicated in a murder plot, her son commits suicide and she's left with the clean-up. Instead of a church named after him, all she gets is a cemetery purchased with her prodigy's blood money.

What's a mother to do?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Disillusionment of a Bedeviled Church Officer

Matt 26:7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

Jesus was the perfect pastor to these disciples who made up 10% of the first church. But it wasn't a perfect church.

Did you get that? The church that Jesus started and led and pastored and taught was not perfect! Later they would have division and priority issues. Now, they had a problem with an officer. The treasurer was a backstabber, out to line his pockets and push his agenda. And when he didn't get his way, he sought opportunity to bring the leader down.

Now, I wonder, had the first church opportunity to choose another pastor, would Judas have been the leading candidate? He was assertive, as well as aggressive. He was all about building the bottom line so the church would have plenty of money in the bank. He was careful about not spending money on wasteful projects, like caring for all the riff-raff with their needs. He was very political and nationalistic. He would do anything to overthrow the wicked, oppressive dictatorship that was in place. He associated with men of action who were concealed carry advocates. His dad was a respected Pharisee, so he came from good stock. Why, Jesus had even healed his daddy-o of leprosy. I am sure, to some, Judas was da man!

But he was full of the devil, literally. He thought Jesus, if He was indeed the Messiah, would surely have been all about throwing off the chains of Rome's oppression and setting up the kingdom of God. Jesus was of royal blood, well vetted and qualified to sit on the throne of Israel. Judas would have, no doubt, been appointed to a cabinet position.

But when Jesus made the announcement that He was going to die, imagine the bewilderment of this zealot who had put all of his eggs into the Jesus basket. Since it was now obvious that Jesus wasn't the right one for him to be hitching his wagon to, he looked for an opportunity to get back at Him for all this wasteful spending and failed leadership (in his mind). Besides, he could make a handsome profit off the deal, since his dad's cronies were looking for a way to silence Jesus.

So, the church treasurer works against the Pastor behind the scenes. Little did he know that the power behind his plot was Satan himself. Little did he know that he would pay dearly for his betrayal. Regret and remorse would soon have him hanging from a tree, then toppling from a cliff, bowels gushing out on the rocks below. Then he would burn in hell for eternity, his name a curse word in posterity.

Clue for the clueless: don’t mess with the church, Christ’s bride, His body.

Church trouble makers need to understand the source of their inspiration and the dramatic repercussions of their actions against a godly pastor and the bride of Jesus which he pastors. If they don’t understand why the pastor does what he does and they can no longer abide his leadership, then it is their responsibility to gracefully bow out, find a church where they can serve and be Christian about it.

Hey, no noose is good noose, so get the devil out of there and don't be hanging around, you won't have the guts to do it a second time!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Many are the events which have taken place pointing to the coming of Christ. Only in retrospect do we see how they were pieces of the puzzle which make up the complete picture of modern fulfilled Biblical prophecy. And though an earthquake in Indiana, a famine in Somalia or a civil war in Sudan all bear witness to end time prophecy, there is one sure prophecy that we know of that will herald the coming of the Lord, the prophecy of Matthew 24:14.

There is no way you, or even your church can foment a natural disaster like one prophesied in this chapter. You probably will not have anything to do with the false messiahs or the wars. But you can have a vital part of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth.

This effort is called MISSIONS! It is witnessing to your neighbor, being part of planting and building a church, praying for and supporting missionaries. You may even go to the field yourself, get a greater burden and returning to push missions in your church in an unprecedented fashion.

Think about it, our efforts to spread the gospel will eventually bring about the return of the Lord Jesus! What are you doing for missions?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jesus Christ or Antichrists? Don’t be Deceived

Vissarion - "He who gives new life"

Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

I must confess, I am sickened and disheartened that Bible-preaching, soul-winning,
Spirit-filled churches whose people and pastors love the Lord supremely, invest heavily in missions, serve their communities with gusto, pray, love, preach and encourage, struggle just to keep the doors open and the pews filled. Meanwhile satanically inspired megalomaniacs enjoy enthusiastic followings of devotees willing to forsake their families, invest their fortunes and forfeit their lives for their cultic causes.

We recently had some head to head discussion with a heretical woman. She claims that
she forsook church and family for 7 years, going off on her own to “walk in the Spirit and study the Word.” She went for 4 to 5 days a week without food or sleep so that God would reveal truths to her. She writes the following about herself:

I am a minister, called by the Father, commissioned by Christ Jesus, and ordained by the Spirit. I am called to reveal the great deception...the great whore...that has her clutches into the church world of today. I will not hesitate to show you the deceptions that have prevented the ministry of the Gospel as instructed by Christ. For example: women have been held back, because of false doctrines, the scriptures give many, many scriptures of women apostles, women prophetess, women elders. Also, many doctrines have prevented the full assembly of the body of Christ by denying such parts of the ministry as apostleship and prophecy. Many doctrines have extinguished the operation of the Power of God to actually heal the sick, set the captives free, raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers by implying that all healing is a spiritual experience through salvation, presenting a mental image rather than the real thing. Baptism has been reduced to just a symbolic act, accomplishing nothing, performed only as a meaningless ritual, religious ceremony or an initiation into the membership of some denomination.

Oh, how dangerous these self-appointed prophets who forsake a Bible-believing church, the “pillar and ground of the truth” to form an eclectic, non-orthodox doctrine. The Deceiver then enters, inspires and enhances what may become the cult de jour.

Jesus said they would come in the last days and warned folks not to be deceived. Let’s name a few:

Vissarion - Ex-Traffic Cop Says He’s Jesus. Deep in the heart of Siberia’s birch forests lies one of the largest and most remote religious communes of the planet. The commune in Siberia is one of the world’s largest. More than 5,000 people have left their families and their homes to move here and join the Church of the Last Testament, which has more than 10,000 followers worldwide. The church centers on one man. He is known simply as Vissarion, meaning “he who gives new life,” or simply as the teacher, and he claims that he is Jesus Christ.

Yisrayl “Buffalo Bill” Hawkins – Followers move to the House of Yahweh compound on the edge of Abeline, TX. They change their name to Hawkins. One follower said, “I put him right up there next to Jesus the Messiah.”

Marshall Applewhite – Leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Posted a famous Usenet message declaiming, “I, Jesus Son of God acknowledge on this date of September 25/26, 1995…”

Sun Myung Moon - founder of the Unification Church (“Moonies”). Claims he is the Second Coming of Christ, the “Savior”, “returning Lord”, and “True Parent”. Says that he “appears in the world as the substantial body of God Himself.”

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda – a Puerto Rican preacher who has claimed to be “the Man Jesus Christ”, indwelled with the same spirit that dwelled in Jesus. Founder and leader of Creciendo en Gracia (Growing In Grace International Ministry, Inc.), based in Miami, Florida. He claims to be both Jesus Christ returned and the Antichrist, and exhibits a “666″ tattoo on his forearm. He has referred to himself as “The Man Christ Jesus”.

Baha’u'llah was born Shiite, adopting Babuism later in life. He claimed to be the promised one of all religions, and founded the Baha’i Faith. Baha’u'llah declared that he was the “Promised One” of all religions, fulfilling the messianic prophecies found in world religions. He stated that his claims to being several messiahs converging one person were the symbolic, rather than literal, fulfillment of the messianic and eschatological prophecies found in the literature of the major religions.

David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) - the leader of the Branch Davidian religious sect, believing himself to be the final prophet.

Jim Jones - Claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, Akhenaten, Buddha, Lenin, and Father Divine.

George Baker, also known as Father Divine - an African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death. His full self-given name was Reverend Major Jealous Divine, and he was also known as “the Messenger” and George Baker early in his life.

L. Ron Hubbard - founder of the Church of Scientology. Declared himself to be “Metteya” (Maitreya) the forthcoming world spiritual teacher and leader.

Ram Bahadur Bomjon (also known as Palden Dorje, his official Buddhist name, nicknamed the Buddha Boy).

Menachem Mendel Schneerson (The Rabbi) – revered by many in the Lubavitch-Hassidic movement of ultra-orthodox Judaism at the Messiah. The Rabbi was an extremely popular rabbi in NYC who lived into his 90’s. Followers have replicated his New York home in Israel, so that when he resurrects, he can feel at home in the Holy Land.

We know of two “messiahs” on the horizon, the Antichrist, mentioned extensively in the Bible, specifically in Rev. 13, and the Imam Mahdi, the 12 Imam, future leader of the world-wide Muslim Caliphate.

We have Jesus’ word that the instances of self-appointed messiahs would increase as the end of the age draws near. Be not deceived.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Deception and Apostasy

Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Implied facts:
These lies have been hatched in the pits of hell and in wicked hearts, but there are more to come.
These lies are part of an insidious, aggressive plan aiming at apostasy.
There are men foreordained to spreading these wicked lies.
There is a purpose for the lies: to detract from Christ and His coming.
There is a possibility that believers can be drawn away from the truth by deception.

What must we take away from this? We need to take heed! (pay attention, be mindful, regardful, be on notice).

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Prophets? I Sent Them!

Mat 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

The Lord is reiterating His recent parables:
*The Householder's vineyard, Matt 21:33-41
*The King's invitation to the marriage of his son, Matt 22:1-14

The servants in both stories represent the true prophets of the Lord, sent to carry His message. Each time, the messengers were mistreated.

Leonard Ravenhill said, "If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified."

In other words, few prophets today are worthy of the persecution that abused the prophets of old. They are not faithful with the message entrusted to them of the Sender.

May those whom God has called to ministry grow a backbone, stand and faithfully deliver the words God has given them!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Mat 22:23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, 24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. 27 And last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. 31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

John Lennon, in his song, Imagine, challenges his listeners to "Imagine there's no heaven." Obviously, he didn't want for there to be a heaven, for he knew if there was such a place, he wouldn't be going there. And if there was a heaven, there must also be a hell, and he sure didn't want to recognize that. So instead, he trusted his imagination, no matter how false.

Here, the Sadducees, who also didn't believe in heaven, are trying to imagine what heaven would or should be like if there was one. It would have been a heaven of their own making. In this heaven, marriages from earth would continue on for eternity.

Imagine a few other things:
1. This sect didn't believe in miracles
2. They didn't believe in angels
3. They did not believe in an afterlife of any kind.
4. They refused to believe in a resurrection.

Strange, that someone would profess belief in God, but none of the above, the supernatural side-effects of the existence of God. Of not believing in a resurrection, Paul declared, "We are of all men, most miserable." How unhappy these Sadducees must have been.

Could you imagine, these "learned" men were under the impression that others had always believed in the institution of marriage carrying over into heaven? Didn't they have a comparative religions class in their Yeshiva? Or did the Pharisees actually hold to the tenet that people remained married in heaven.

Well, now they all knew. They had it on good authority from the One Who came from heaven.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ministry or Merchandizing?

Mat 21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Jews of Bible times worshiped corporately in two different places, the Temple and their local synagogues. The synagogue was more than a local worship center. On the Sabbath, that was the application, but it also served as a meeting, reception and social hall. They weren't availed with a high school gymnasium or other venues of assembly. The synagogue was the place to meet and greet and discuss. When a person was put out of the synagogue, they were excluded from Jewish social life.

On those special occasions, the Jewish holy days, they traveled to Jerusalem to their pure house of worship, the Temple.

The Temple was reserved for worship, sacrifice, praise and prayer. But it had been corrupted to the point where it was hard to recognize it as such.

Pilgrims from out of town were forced to exchange their money for Temple money, for a price, of course. They then used that Temple money to buy approved animals for sacrifice at inflated prices.

Worshipers both loved and resented going to the Temple for worship. They knew they were being ripped off by the money changers and dove sellers. Doves, by the way, were the sacrifices offered by the poorest people. They could not afford to offer bulls, goats and sheep. So it was the poor who were being most exploited by the temple thieves.

I sometimes wonder what people must think when they observe many of today's churches. I know that I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I drive down one particular street in our city. On that one street, we drive by more than a dozen multimillion dollar church buildings. I always wonder what they are doing for the poor and how much of their money is going toward missions. I have to assume that salaries and mortgages must chew up the lion's share of the congregant's offerings. What's left seems to go toward pastoral travel and retreats.

If Jesus were to step inside of many of today's churches, I wonder if He would recognize them as houses of prayer, or dens of thieves? Many ministry types are living jet-set, country club lifestyles. Plush auditoriums with all the latest high-tech media devices serve to enhance the entertainment value, while the pastors tickle the ears and tip toe through the tithers. And all for what? To make a name for the church and the pastor in the community and in the denomination.

It is high time we overthrow the tables of the money changers involved in their church merchandizing and quit exploiting God's people to make money. The church NEEDS to be about ministry, not money!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The IRS Agent and the Hooker

Mat 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Did you hear the one about the prostitute, the priest and the tax collector at a bar?

This is no joke, it's a part of a story Jesus related.

Which would you rather be on judgment day when we all stand before the bar of God? Would you rather be the religious leader full of his own goodness, a prostitute who knows she's a wicked sinner or a G-man found guilty of extorting funds from working stiffs?

The one who realizes their inability to save themselves and casts their poor soul at the Saviour's feet will fare well on that day.

But the moralistic, self-righteous, religious hypocrites will be in for a big surprise. They will try to justify themselves, "But I was a good man, I gave to charity, I kept the commandments, I went to church!" But they will hear these woeful words from the Just Judge, "Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you!"

I hope you realize you were born in sin. There is nothing in you deserving of God's heaven, His forgiveness or His mercy. I hope you will confess what a wicked sinner you are and cast your poor soul at the Saviour's nail pierced feet. There, you can be covered by the blood shed for your sins.

To be honest with you, I'd rather spend eternity with a blood-washed hooker than with a religious hypocrite.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stretching our Faith

Mat 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

I have always been intrigued by the promises of God which offer such great promise, yet may not be realized as often as we would like.

Some of the other verses of promise:

*John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

*Matt 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

*James 4:2 ...yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

*Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

*Matt 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

So, why are we given these promises, yet await the answers?

Be assured, God will keep His promises. The promises of God are backed by the character of God. But God's agenda is not our agenda. The closer we can get ours matched up with His, the quicker and more completely our faith can be rewarded.

Here are five factors which must be considered in the matter of the rewarding of our faith.

1. Piety - we must place ourselves in a place of blessing. God is not obligated to us whatsoever. But we are His beloved children. He wants to show His goodness and lavish His kindness upon His kids. But, He cannot bless disobedience. That would merely enable our sinfulness. Therefore, He demands holiness from His own. The family rules must be obeyed if He is to grant the keys to the family car to the kids.

2. Patience - God is omniscient and sovereign. The universe is a beautifully designed puzzle which, when completed, is going to be an awesome masterpiece. But all the pieces are going to have to fit together perfectly. That includes billions of lives, events, issues, etc. all meshing together in harmony. If we knew what He knows, we would be thoroughly impressed with His timing. We must realize that, though we are children of the King, the universe does not revolve around our schedules. Our requests, asked according to His will and waiting upon His timing, we be met, not for our desires or on our schedules, but for the furtherance of God's kingdom. Be patient!

3. Persistence - The Lord wants to hear from His kids. The more we get to fellowship with Him, the better. Relationships are built through quality communication. If God were to answer us speedily in every matter, especially matters that are non-pressing, we wouldn't be apt to come back into His presence concerning those matters. Asking and receiving from God is a process of building our dependence on Him, trusting Him, and drawing nearer to Him in the meantime.

When we are told to ask, seek and knock, the language of the Scripture indicates that we are to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking.

4. Priority - Mt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

God is going to bless and reward His loved ones based on their true needs, not on their perceived needs and wants.

All the things that we are trusting Him for will be met in the order of priority. We must keep the main thing, the main thing. Stuff of lesser importance can wait or be dismissed as non-essential.

5. Peace - Isa 26:12 LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

The Lord is not interested in complicating our lives with things that will distract us from His will and hinder our improvement. He will only grant that which edifies us, not that which is destructive.

So, keep on asking and expressing your faith. When you don't receive a positive answer, trust your loving Father's will for your life.

Sometimes He has to say no but that is because He only wants the best for you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Failed Fig Tree

Mat 21:18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

The Giver of the Seasons and the Creator of the fig tree knew well that figs would not be present at this season. The leaves were in evidence, but the figs were not. Why, then, would the all-knowing Lord of the Harvest curse a barren fig tree? Doesn't this episode seem to go against the patient nature of the Lord? Indeed, some would ignorantly mock the Lord, charging Him with displaying a bit of a tantrum. But this is not at all the case.

Mark's gospel notes: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 11:13

Was Jesus expecting figs before their time? If so, why would this episode even be included in the narrative?

The answer is simple, especially if one understands fig trees.

My first date with a fig (pun intended) was in Baja, Mexico. The bush stood in between our sponsoring church’s building and the parsonage. I suppose it was my first taste of a fig apart from a Fig Newton cookie. The dense, fleshy, grainy and sweet fruit was both tasty and satisfying to this fig initiate. Since that day, the fig has held a special place in my heart and memory.

Jesus was beginning His week of "passion" (literally, with suffering). His energy would be tapped as at no other time, with the possible exception of His wilderness temptation. The nutrients offered by this plant were much needed, but unavailable.

The explanation: Fig trees first put forth their leaves, then a small knob appears. These little green figs are called taqsh and are full of flavor and sustenance. Peasants and others who are hungry make use of these little knobs to satisfy their need. The taqsh act as indicators of the fruit for that season. Eventually, they fall off the tree and are replaced by the young figs. If, in a season, there are no taqsh, there will be no figs and the tree will serve as useless that year.

Jesus merely disposed of a tree that was cumbering the ground for no purpose. But He did it as a sign for a people who craved signs.

Consider, if you will, that the fig tree represents Israel in type. The One Who came to save His people from their sins is about to be rejected by the fig tree. Therefore, no fruit will be indicated, rather, a curse will be pronounced upon it. "His blood be upon us and on our children." Mt 27:25

In cursing the barren fig tree, Jesus was indicating the barrenness of a nation meant to bear much enriching fruit, but would instead be scattered and persecuted for the next 2000 years. They would be blinded to Christ's gospel and, as a nation, would reject His Messiahship.

Christians are also expected to bring forth fruit. Let's make sure that when He comes seeking fruit, we will have produced better than Israel did. Don't quash your taqsh!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When you are in a dark place:

We don't mean to over simplify difficult situations. But when a person hurts deeply, sometimes it is the simple things which will help them find clarity. Often it is the old "can't see the forest for the trees things" syndrome. Just know that Satan hates you with all his might and is seeking to destroy you, BUT God loves you supremely and wants the very best for you. He is there right now in your lonely, dark hour.
Remember that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. I Jn 4:4.

Here are some easy steps you can take on your journey out of that dark spot back to the light of day.

1. Go to the living Word where God will show you something you need for today. Hebrews 4:12
2. Pray! He is your loving Heavenly Father Who cares more about you than you could ever imagine. I Pet 5:7
3. Do right! If the stars fall from heaven, still, do right! Go do the things you know you need to be doing. Work, church, witnessing to others, be a good father, etc. Eccl 12:;13
4. Enlist prayer warriors on your behalf. Get those people you know who know how to bombard heaven and get answers.
5. Start thanking God for all the good things you know you are blessed with: family, life, breath, job, house, car, health, friends, church, salvation, freedom, etc.
6. Take a walk. Start seeing how much better you have it than others, even in your neighborhood. Breathe in some fresh, free air.
7. Find a way you can go be a blessing to someone else. Buy someone something! A cup of coffee, a bag of groceries, a tank of gas (get a bank loan first), do some yard work for someone, clean your church. The more you do for someone else, the less you dwell on the stuff going on in your life! Gal 6:10
8. Get around encouraging believers. Keep company with some positive people. Heb. 10:25

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Matthew 20:1-16

20:7b Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

Our Lord is just and fair. Beyond that, He is gracious! In this kingdom parable, the householder is representative of God, the goodman of the house, Jesus, and the laborers, those who are pressed into the service of the Lord.

It is unfortunate that negativity arose among workers who should have been grateful, but instead were resentful. They had agreed upon a day's wages for a day's work. No problem there. But when others who were hired late in the day received a day's wages for a mere hour's work, they immediately went to their union steward and filed a grievance. The union steward made a report to the Palestinian Labor Relations Board which made an official complaint to the foreman.

"You can't pay the apprentices the same thing you pay the experienced master grape craftsmen, it just ain't right."

But the foreman went into the office, pulled all the files, and showed the union bosses the signed contracts which agreed to a day's pay for a day's work. They didn't have a leg to stand on and reported back to the members of IGWU (International Grape Worker's Union) that they had indeed been treated fair and legal. They wouldn't be allowed to even go on strike.

Here is the perspective the workers should have struck:
1) In this economy, be thankful you have a good job.
2) Be grateful for a boss with a heart. That is rare.
3) Because of the outfit you work for, unemployment is way down.
4) Rejoice that you received enough help later in the day to get the job done.
5) The boss keeps his word. Learn to appreciate that in a day when most employers only care about the bottom line.
6) Tomorrow is another day. You get the privilege of working again and collecting a paycheck!

Now, the spiritual application, just so we don't miss the point. Some people are saved early on in life and serve the Lord throughout. Some become believers in midlife. But there are those who come to faith in Christ on their death beds, or in the case of one man, on his death cross. These last brothers and sisters barely had a chance to lift a finger for the Master because they had served self and the enemy their whole lives. But, the fact is, the Boss sough them out and enlisted their services. The payday for each and all of these believers? Sins completely forgiven, eternal life with God in heaven and a mansion just over the hilltop.

What a gracious God, Who is not willing that any should perish, but receives sons and daughters even in the very last hour. He then makes them every bit as precious and welcome as the children who served through the heat of the day!

Break’s over, get back to work!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Payday is Coming

Mat 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

When I think of the trade I made with the Lord when I got saved committed myself to follow Him, I am convinced, I really got the best of the trade. He took my sins, my sorrows, my burdens, my disappointment, my grief, my punishment. I received eternal life, joy, peace, happiness, love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, justification, hope, strength, promise, purpose and hundreds of other precious and lasting things.

I have known those who experienced deprivation in serving the Lord. I have witnessed as Missionaries said their tearful goodbyes to family and friends, and have left the comforts of home for foreign shores where nothing but the grace of God and His supply is for sure.

Jesus gave us some very precious promises in this passage. He assured us that He would more than recompense us, both here in this life and in the life to come, if we would bid farewell to the safety of our comfort zones and step out by faith to follow Him. He promises that there is a special place in heaven reserved for us and that the number of our dear relationships will increase by one hundred fold, here and in heaven. Additionally, we receive the blessedness of eternal life.

The old evangelist, Ira Stanphill, said it well in his song, Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me...

I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care,
The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair,
I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him so so tenderly,

"My feet were also weary upon the Calv'ry road,
The cross became so heavy I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me."

"I work so hard for Jesus" I often boast and say,
"I've sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way,
I gave up fame and fortune; I'm worth a lot to thee,"
And then I heard Him gently say to me,

"I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss,
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross,
But now we'll make the journey with your hand safe in mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to me."

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday
'Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay,
"No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die,"
These are the words he gently spoke to me,

"If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand,"
But if by death to living they can thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to thee.

Don’t lay the old cross down until you have reached the finish line. It has tremendous trade in value!

Monday, March 5, 2012

True Riches

Mat 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. However, idolatry and/or independence from God rank high on God's list of no-no's.

In all my years of sharing the gospel, the rich people I have led to Christ are very few and far between. Those who are well-to-do generally feel they are doing okay without all that born-again stuff.

One day, I decided to go from door to door soul-winning in Peoria Heights, IL. This is an upper crust neighborhood, mostly built on the alcohol industry, along with Caterpillar execs. (BTW, upper crust: a bunch of crumbs held together by their own dough).

I was actually able to lead one man to the Lord at the front door of one of these mansions. He was a Vietnamese man, not far removed from his native land and lately come into riches. Other than that, he is the only individual living in a posh neighborhood I have ever been able to convince that he had need of a Savior.

Perhaps you are aware that Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world no longer believes in God. He was raised in the Omaha Bible Tabernacle with a mother who taught Sunday school. I do admire the man. He lives simply, is down to earth and comes across as humble to boot. Too bad though that, rather than possessing riches, too often, riches possess people.

There are those believers who have held great wealth whose greatest riches were reserved in heaven, people such as Henry Ford, J.C. Penny, R.G. LaTourneau, J.L. Kraft, etc.

True riches do not exclude Christ, but are found in Him.

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in his hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, he has riches untold.

I'm the child of a King, the child of a King,
With Jesus, my Saviour, I'm the child of a King.

My Father's own Son, the Saviour of men,
Once wandered o'er earth as the poorest of them;
But now he is reigning for ever on high,
And will give me a home in heav'n by and by.

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth!
But I've been adopted, my name's written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown.

A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They're building a palace for me over there!
Though exiled from home, yet still I may sing:
All glory to God, I'm the child of a King.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why are You Calling Me Good?

Mat 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Mat 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Here is a blessed verse adding even more evidence that Jesus is Who He said He was, very God!

The young man simply reverenced the Lord as he prefaced his question with the title "Good Master." Jesus preceded His answer with an eye-opening lesson for the man. "Why are you calling me good? There is only one who is good and that is God." And then He went on to address the point at hand, which, really hinged on this point of Him being the good Master.

No doubt the man was a very religious Jew. He claimed to have kept all the commandments from the earliest age. He was counting on his religiosity to buy him eternal life. As with most Jews, he was having a hard time accepting this Rabbi as, not only Messiah, but very God in human flesh.

Jesus was about to show him that human goodness had limits. The young man, though pretty good and being good, was not willing to forsake his riches and follow Jesus.

But first, the Lord had to let the young man know Who He was, the Good One, God! "If you are calling me good, you should know that I am God. And, if I am God, then you should be willing to trust Me, not your works."

You see, it is not our heritage, not our riches, not our accomplishments, not our goodness, not even our belief system which gains us eternal life. The young man had all those bases covered. But he still sensed eternal life was not in the bag for him. The thing he lacked was the willingness to denounce all of that and follow Jesus, to follow God, with all of his being.

Many people I know are falling short of the goal, because they merely add Jesus to their religious resume’. They feel they must maintain all the aforementioned rather than denounce them and put their complete trust in Jesus. What folks must realize is that goodness is not innate, it is imparted. It must be bestowed from the only One Who is good, that is God.

You may be a good person, but without the complete trust solely in our Good God, you will not find eternal life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Satisfied in the Huddle?

Mat 19:1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

When the Lord moved across the border closer to the home base of the enemy, He was highly successful in ministry. Great multitudes came to Him and He had liberty in dealing with them.

But the Pharisees would not let Jesus have unfettered access to those whom they controlled. It was in here Judea that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, cleanse the temple, teach in its courts, and confront their leadership. In other words, He was now on their turf and finding success.

While He was out in the country, preaching to the bumpkins, that was one thing. But now He was effectively working in their back yard. So they attacked.

You know, as long as we are tucked away in our churches preaching and praising, we aren't much of a threat to the devil's dark kingdom. But once we take the message to the street or the school or the factory, we invade his domain and you can bet he will put up a fight.

Satan loses little ground while we are huddled away in the confines of our churches. If a person responds to an altar call to make a decision for Christ, Slew-foot may get a little concerned. Once that same penitent gets serious about his commitment on the job or at the gym, that's where diablo gets a black eye. So, he puts up a fight.

Question: Are we up to the task of taking it to the streets, knowing that, there, we will meet great opposition? Or are we content to have our little experiences in church as long as we can keep them confined to that safe haven of believers?

Consider this; relate the ministry to a football game. Church is just the huddle; the streets are where the game is played. Go Team!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Are You Being Tormented?

Mat 18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

This enthralling lesson of forgiveness by the Lord carries with it a
stern warning. It is imperative that we forgive. If not, we stand in
peril of being delivered to the tormenters.

Can it be, that in the age of grace, we could receive such retribution
for simply harboring unforgiveness? Unequivocally, yes!

The tormentors employed in extracting our forgiveness:
1. Guilt
2. Bitterness
3. Emotional distress
4. Sorrow
5. Misery
6. Lack of success

Once they have tormented us to the point of exasperation and
complete failure, once they have brought us to the end of our
supposed need of harboring unforgiveness of another, perhaps then
we will let go and grant complete pardon to the one who has offended

Aren't you getting tired of debtor's prison? Give up the resentment and make things right with God and whoever is the target of your venom.