Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Follow God’s Example

Ephesians 5: 1 – 4 (NIV) 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

    If we summed up how Paul wants us to respond to God’s great love for us, we could do it with three words: follow God’s example. Just three words, but not so easy to do. The Bible is clear that God wants us to be like him. He wants us to be holy, he wants us to forgive. He wants us to love everyone. Paul says it was God’s plan before we were even born that we should be like Christ. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul says God predestined us to be like Christ. Jesus is our one and only standard.
    And Jesus loves with a sacrificial love. He gave himself for us. That’s what real love is all about. Why does God care if we live holy lives? Because the whole world is watching to see how our faith affects us. And because he wants strong families where we love and trust each other and live securely in that. Some argue that God is taking the fun out of life, but the longer I live, the more I realize he is protecting us and offering us the best, most pleasurable life possible.
    So what we say and how we conduct ourselves really does matter. If we want to live the contented, peaceful, satisfying life that God offers, we will do things God’s way. And our goal will be simple: follow God’s example.
    And, instead of spewing obscenities and hatred, we will live in such a way that shows God we are thankful for his goodness to us. This Holiday season, I encourage each of us to live in such a way that we show God we are thankful. Take a few moments to tell him. Live your life as someone who is thankful, and remember to always follow His example.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why We Must Forgive Each Other

Matthew 18: 27 – 30 (NIV) The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

    Jesus tells this parable about a king who wanted to settle his debts. A servant who owed him ten million dollars simply could not pay him back. He begged the king and the king forgave his debt. That alone is an incredible act of mercy. But the parable doesn’t end there. The servant who was forgiven walked away and ran into a man who owed him one hundred dollars. He demanded to be repaid, but that man didn’t have it either. He begged for mercy, just as the servant had done, but the servant had him thrown into prison until his 100-dollar debt was paid. The king was furious when he heard about it and had the servant thrown into prison for the rest of his life.
    Jesus said this is how God will treat us if we don’t forgive each other. We simply do not have the right to hold grudges. We don’t have the right to withhold forgiveness because God has forgiven us of such a tremendous debt that we could never pay.
    The servant was so full of pride, he had forgotten about his debt that was forgiven. Forgiveness is not to be taken lightly. It may be the most difficult thing we ever face, but I want to help with a few words of encouragement to help us forgive those who have hurt us.
     When you forgive someone, you are not saying that it was okay what he did, you are saying that you do not have room for hatred in your heart because your heart is full of love instead. You may or may not even speak again to the person who hurt you, but you are not going to hold a grudge because you can’t. You don’t have room for it in your heart.
    When we have been forgiven and have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we simply cannot continue to hate someone. It may take a while, but with God’s help we can do it. What is even more like Christ is when we reconcile and become friends again. Don’t live your life with hatred in your heart, fill your heart with love and find the power to forgive each other.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

God’s Idea of Paradise

Genesis 3: 8-10 (NIV): 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

   What is God’s idea of paradise? Have you ever wondered about that? Notice in Genesis 3, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. You can infer from the passage that this was part of God’s routine. That’s what he wanted from them – to fellowship with him. That is why he created them. And that is why he created us.
    Micah 6:8 says, He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God is stating plainly what he wants from us: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. To walk with him means to fellowship with him, to talk to him, to have a relationship with him. It means to pray. I think God’s idea of paradise is walking with us, his children. Walking humbly with him means we acknowledge that he is God and that we need him for our lives and for our salvation. We turn our lives over to his control. It means we put our trust in him.
    Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” In the Living Bible it says, “I don’t want your sacrifices, I want you to know me, I don’t want your offerings, I want your love.” Again, God is telling us what it is that he really wants. Jesus referred to this passage, by the way, twice in Matthew. He told the Pharisees to go learn what it meant. He was telling them that God isn’t interested in us being religious, just following rules and regulations, he wants a relationship with us.
    When we walk with God, fellowship with him, trust in him, pray to him, have a relationship with him, we are fulfilling our purpose. Spend time with God and you will find a peace you never knew existed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jesus’ Second Temptation

Matthew 4:5 – 7 (NIV) 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  
This is Jesus’ second temptation in the desert. It occurs early in his ministry, just after his baptism. Often we are tempted the most severely when we are vulnerable. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and would undoubtedly have been starving and exhausted. This is one reason why it is important for us to take care of ourselves and get plenty of rest. It also happened after a spiritual high – his baptism. The devil is known to come after us after a spiritual high, so just be warned. 
    This second temptation has always been the most intriguing to me. The first and third temptations are pretty straight forward – to use his supernatural powers to turn stones into bread – or for anything else he ever wanted; and to rule over the world in power and luxury as a political ruler. But the second temptation is a bit more tricky. Why would he be tempted to jump off of the temple? 
    Malachi 3:1 says that the Messiah would “suddenly” appear in the temple. If Jesus had dropped down “from heaven” into the temple courts, safely landing on the cobblestones, he probably would have been declared the Messiah on the spot. He could have avoided the grueling three-year ministry he was about to endure. He would cut short his mission and God’s plan and gotten it all over with. Satan was probably hoping he would jump off and hit the pavement and he would have been done with him. This may have simply been a trap. (Jesus did appear in the temple when the time was right – but he just walked in.) 
     Jesus explained to the devil that we are not to put God to the test. We are not to act recklessly or foolishly and expect God to bail us out. That’s just not fair. If I choose to jump off of a building, he would probably let me hit the ground. Psalm 91, that Satan quoted, means God protects us as we live our lives, not as we act foolishly.
    Jesus defeated Satan’s temptations with Scripture. This is how we defeat temptation too. We know the Word. The Word gives us the power to be victorious.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The King’s Wedding Banquet

Matthew 22: 8 – 14: 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    This is a remarkable parable. Jesus told it during his last week of ministry in Jerusalem. His hearers were mostly Jewish, and had mostly rejected his invitation to God’s Kingdom. Earlier in the parable, those who were invited to the banquet rejected the King’s invitation. Some were just too busy and some were even hostile, mistreating and killing the messengers.
    It would have been inconceivable to be too busy to attend a king’s banquet. It would have been the best meal anyone would get to eat in their whole lives. To simply be too busy would have been more than foolish. But the truth is, we are often simply too busy for God. And the idea of mistreating the messengers would have been shocking, but that is exactly what we have seen throughout history.
    So the king sends his servants out to invite everyone, the good and the bad. Jesus was explaining that God’s invitation is open to everyone, even the Gentiles. God loves the whole world. His offer for salvation is open to all. All we have to do is accept his generous invitation.
    But, then the parable takes this sharp, and perhaps unexpected, turn. The king is walking among his guests and sees a man who is not wearing “wedding clothes.” So he has his attendants tie him, hand and foot, and throw him out into the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
    What gives? In Jesus’ culture, the king would have provided the wedding clothes. Remember, these are people off the street. Jesus is warning us that we must be clothed in righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) if we are going to be allowed into God’s holy presence. He will clothe us if we will simply trust him. Most people will refuse to do this. Most will try to enter heaven thinking they are good enough on their own. Jesus says no, many are invited, but few are chosen.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Esther – For Such a Time as This

Esther 4:10 – 16 (NIV): 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

    Esther is a great story in the history section of the Old Testament. It took place about 473 BC in Persia. I don’t have room to tell the whole story, but it is a wonderful example of God orchestrating his will in what seemed like a terrible and hopeless circumstance.
    Esther was a Jewish orphan girl living in a foreign land. Her people were conquered and she lived with her uncle, Mordecai. But God had given her a special gift: unusual beauty. The king, Xerxes, had banished his queen, Vashti, and searched the kingdom for her replacement. When he laid eyes on Esther, he was smitten. She became his queen.
    In the meantime, a man named Haman rose to power under Xerxes. He hated Mordecai because Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him. He not only wanted to kill Mordecai, but all the Jewish people. He talked Xerxes into allowing the Persian people to murder them all and plunder their belongings.
    I want you to read the book for yourself to see what happens, but in Esther 4:14 we find, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Mordecai told this to Esther to convince her to approach the king and ask for mercy on the Jewish people. He realized that God had placed Esther where she was so that she was in position to help.
    God places us where we are for a reason. He has a purpose for each of us. Our jobs, our families, our friends, our schools, our health situations. He has placed us where we are so we can minister to others and glorify God. Be brave, like Esther, and trust in God to keep his word and be faithful to us. God has placed you right where you are for such a time as this.