Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem-Dec 22nd

Dear Diary,

Today was a perplexing day. It was filled with both happiness and confusion for me. As I spoke of yesterday, we traveled to Jerusalem. Of course, we woke really early to make the trip. It is a 6 mile journey on foot. So we set out before the sun rose to get there in plenty of time for temple worship and the other items planned for the day.

Once we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the busy market area. There were men and women selling all types of items along the market area. I love walking through that area. You can find just about anything you are looking for at the Jerusalem market. Myself, I always look for new beads to use in my stringing. Today I found some beautiful colors, which I just couldn't resist. I used some of the money I had been saving to buy some beautiful sky blue beads.

The market place is the hub of activity. It is not only the area to be if you are looking to buy or sell, but it is the place to gather. Many people come to the market area and spend all day immersed in conversation. I don't think I've ever heard so many conversations going on in one place in my life. There were people talking about just about everything you can imagine. Except one thing. It stuck me odd that in my little town of Bethlehem, the buzz is all about the Messiah prophecies lately but here I didn't hear anything spoke about them.

Seems so strange that in the main city of Jerusalem they are either unaware of the prophecies or simply just don't care. Hearing them spoke about so frequently lately in Bethlehem, I was sure that it would be all anyone was talking about here. I wonder, have they forgotten the scriptures about the Messiah?

After the trip through the market, I took a little time away from the family. They were going to visit relatives so I excused myself and headed over to the temple.

What a beauty to behold. Each time I approach the temple, I loose my breath. It is truly a work of art. Can you imagine what the real temple in heaven looks like? If God could create such a place here on earth, just imagine where he lives.

I spent the majority of the day at the temple. I just feel closer to Him there. His glory seems to be there. I am awed by it.

After the long trip back, I am exhausted. Tonight, I will dream good dreams. Probably ones about the heaven that awaits. At least I hope it awaits me. I know I am not one of the chosen ones, but I love God with all my heart. Doesn't that count for something? Sure wish someone could tell me...

To tired to think about it all right now. Sleep, I need sleep.

Good night. See you tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem - Dec 21st

Dear Diary,

As I went to town today, I encountered the strangest thing. There on the lawn in the main court of the square sitting under the big oak tree was a Rabbi. We usually don't see much of the priesthood here. But there he was with his pupils sitting with him. He seemed to be teaching them scripture.

This census has brought all kinds of people here lately. Well, you know me, always curious. I had to hear what they were talking about. Of course, being a woman is bad enough, but being a gentile makes it impossible for me to just walk right up to them. So I circled around behind them and sat behind a tree not far from where they were. I pretended to be engrossed in some beading but I had my ears perked up to full alert.

What do you think they were talking about? The Messiah! Sure seems the topic of conversation around here lately. The Rabbi was discussing who the Messiah would descend from.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

The Rabbi was telling his students that the Messiah would be a descendant of Judah. How amazing, he will not only be born in Bethlehem as Micah prophesied but the scriptures also tell us he will be from Judah. Of course, Bethlehem is part of Judah so that would make sense.

"Behold, the days are coming" says the Lord. That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

The Rabbi quoted this text and explained that the Messiah was promised to come from the line of David. A King will reign from the descendant of David. The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this.

I am fascinated by the scriptures. If they would allow a woman like myself to study under the Rabbi, I would be so happy. I know you have to leave your home and spend your time following in the Rabbi's footsteps but it would be worth it to hear the scriptures all day long. I would never be allowed to do that though. A girl can dream though.

The best I can get is the women’s court at the temple. It’s all I can have so I cherish every second I am allowed to spend there. As a matter of fact, tomorrow we are taking the trip to Jerusalem. I will spend time at the temple while I am there. I can't wait. It's a long trip so I better go for now so I can get my rest. Like I will get much sleep! Oh well, I am going to try.

Good night, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem- Dec 20th

Dear Diary,

Sorry I didn't get to write yesterday. I know I said I would but yesterday was the Sabbath. If you know anything about the Sabbath, you know that there is no work allowed. It's a day of rest, so even writing was out of the question. I wasn't thinking about it being the Sabbath when I promised to write.

Anyway, as I said, yesterday was the Sabbath, so I spent a very restful day with the family. Today however, was anything but restful. With the amount of people pouring into the city for the census, it makes getting anything done much more difficult.

As usual, I woke early this morning before the sun rose. Just as my mother before me, I work in the house of a prominent Jewish family here in Bethlehem. There is much to do for this large family, so I like to get an early start.

I have loved working for the family. Even though others think of me as an outsider, they have always treated me with love and respect. The woman of the house is the one I see most often because her husband is off in Jerusalem for long stints. He is a man of great prominence among all the other Pharisees. He seems to take great pride in his work, which can keep him away from home for many days at a time. I am sure his work is of great importance.

Today, while shaking out the rugs in the front of the house I saw a man approach the stables. He seemed to be looking for the master of the house. He looked rather official to me. The thought crossed my mind that he might have been sent by King Herod himself.

Now that is a man that sends shivers down my spine. King Herod, I mean. He is the most horrifically wicked man. Cruel beyond measure. I sure hope that wasn't who sent the man who visited today. We don't need any trouble around here.

I know I am not a descendant of Abraham but what affects this family, effects me. Thinking about the cruelty of King Herod makes me think about the words of the prophet Isaiah. I think it was called 59:16.

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.

I think about this prophecy and wonder when it will be that God sends His Messiah, the King of the Jews to intercede for them. From all that I have heard living here with the Jews, they believe God is going to send them a King that will overcome the Roman rule. He will be the one that comes and intercedes for them and saves them.

As far as I am concerned, now would be as good a time as any. With Herod on the throne and all, I join them in saying Come Messiah, Come!

More tomorrow....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman living in Bethlehem

Dear Diary,

It's year one, day seven BC. Me, I'm a gentile woman living in the small town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is nestled on a ridge, between two mountain peaks, just 5 or 6 miles due south of Jerusalem. I have lived here on this ridge for forty seven years, which if you’re counting is all my life. Usually, our small city is a quiet, peaceful place. Except lately, not so quiet around here.

The city is buzzing right now with all the Jews returning to their ancestral cities to register for the census. Seems like every room around here is filling up with travelers. Shopping has become a long chore lately too, with all the people pouring in town. If I didn't already feel like an outsider before, I certainly do now. You see, I am a gentile woman living in a mostly Jewish community.

Although, I have lived here all my life, followed their God and Jewish law, they still don't consider me one of them. I am an outcast, a foreigner, a stranger in my own home. I wish it were different, that I could be accepted but I am not. I am not one of them, no matter what I believe.

Lately, the Jewish Pharisees have been standing out on the corner preaching the law. It's only to show their power and superiority but they do it so convincingly. Problem is they just keep adding more and more to the rules. Who can live up to and follow all of them.

I try, believe me I do. Even though I am a gentile living a Jewish community, I believe their God is the one and only. So I try and live to the letter of the law. But it is overwhelming at times.

Not sure what good it will do for them to count all the Jews in this census. Caesar has already imposed his Roman rule over us, why the census? Anyway, it sure has made the city a busy place to be.

Just today, in the center square I saw two shepherds sitting on the grass under a tree. Usually, they are out on the mountain with their herds. As I got a little closer, I realized they were not from around here. Hence them being in the center square like they were.

I heard just a snippet of their conversation and it caught my interest. So I moved in closer so I could hear them without being obvious. They were talking about the Messiah. One man was quoting scripture about the coming Messiah to the other.

It's not like I haven't heard the prophecies before. I've heard them since birth. Although I've heard them over and over, the funny thing is, they never stop fascinating me. I could hear them a million times but still want to hear them again. So I stayed a while, ease dropping, as these two men went through all the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

As I left, there was one that stuck in my mind and it kept rolling around in my head. It was from the prophet Micah. One of the men said something about the numbers 5 and 2. I'm not sure what the numbers meant. Anyway, I quoted it all the way home.

"But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet you shall come forth the Me, the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose going forth are from of old, from everlasting."

This prophecy always stands out to me because it talks about my little city, Bethlehem. I wonder, will my city really have something to do with the Messiah? Seems unlikely, but who knows... Never say never.

Gotta go for now, I've got chores to do. Have a great day. I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Value of a Personal Relationship

My last post we looked at the purpose for life that Jesus gives us when we decide to follow him. Today let’s look a little further and see just how personal God can be. If there was anything that stood out about our disciple Andrew, it was that he knew the value of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

John 6:8-9 - One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him. "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"

John 12:21-22 - Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

In both of these encounters, Andrew does what? He brings the matter and the person to Jesus. He knew what they needed was Jesus himself. Andrew knew better than anyone the solution to life’s dilemmas, it was in approaching Jesus.

It was not in Andrews hands to change circumstances, but he knew that if he brought them to Jesus, they would hear the truth and their problems would be solved through their belief in Him. Andrew brought people to the savior so they could meet Him for themselves. He knew the answers all lay in developing a relationship with God. The same applies today for us.

Personal relationship? How is it possible for us to have a personal relationship with Jesus when He is no longer on this earth? The disciples had a personal relationship with Jesus while they were with Him here on earth, but what about now? How does that work now when we can’t see Him with our eyes?

Some people are a bit skeptical when you start talking about Christ living inside you and having a daily relationship with Him. From the point of view of some, Jesus is dead and gone. So how can he live in us and guide us?

Jesus did die on the cross and was buried, but He is far from dead. We see clearly in John 20 that He rose from the grave on the third day. He is now in heaven but he promised to leave us something when He left.

Acts 1:4-5 - And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Acts 1:8 - "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

They, like us were promised the Holy Spirit. It would come upon them and fill them, giving them power to be witnesses. When we choose to follow Jesus we are given the Holy Spirit to live within us. This is the Spirit Jesus is speaking of. It is through the Spirit that we are guided and are able to maintain a personal relationship with God even though we can not see Him with our eyes.

Acts 2:1-4 - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was Pentecost, a holy day of rememberance and a day these believers would never forget. The sound came from heaven. Imagine that... your sitting there and a power so forceful that it sounded like rushing wind comes down from heaven and fills the whole house. Picture that in your mind.

Then divided tongues that look like fire sit on you and you begin to speak in a language you have never spoken before. Not a heavenly language but a foreign language. If you read on in Acts 2:5-12, you see the reaction of everyone around that heard them. The multitude came together and each one heard in his own language. They were all amazed and perplexed. Well, I imagine so! I would be amazed and perplexed if that happened right before my eyes.

What do you think, do you believe the Holy Spirit has power?

When we choose to follow Jesus Christ, accepting Him as our Savior, we are filled with that same Spirit described here. Although, you may not speak in foreign tongues, the power contained in the Holy Spirit lives within you. It empowers us to live a life for Jesus Christ, but only if we are yielded to it. Here in lies the value of personal relationship.

We are required to be in daily relationship through prayer and reading of the word of God. The Word of God is living and breathing. The Holy Spirit uses it to communicate the will of the Father God to us. Prayer is communication, a two way conversation between you and God. These things are the way we keep our personal relationship with God alive and growing.

Let me give you a little wisdom from my own personal experience. After re-committing my life to Christ, I struggled with my thinking. It seemed like everything I thought, was wrong. I began to feel like, if I just did the opposite of what I thought, it would probably be what God wanted.

Soon after, I began to be convicted about my time I spent with Christ. I would read my bible here and there but not consistently. When I did read my bible, it was as if I was checking it off a list when I was done. I found no enjoyment in it. It was a duty not an enjoyment to me.

Prayer also was difficult. I would cursory thank Him for saving me and then move on to my list of wants. When I was finished telling Him what I wanted Him to do, the prayer was over. Task complete, on with the day.

As conviction set in, I knew that I should do more than this. I knew that God required more from me but my heart wasn’t in it. I had no love in my heart for His Word and frankly, I wasn’t sure that I really loved Him. At least not like I was suppose to.

Mark 12:30 - And you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength.

I began to ponder on this verse. Did I love God with all my heart and soul? What about my mind and strength? Did I really love God like that?

The answer was no, not with ALL my heart and soul. If I did, I would love to spend time with Him in his word and prayer. My mind was not filled with loving Him and I certainly didn’t use all my strength to love Him. I instead was filled with ME. My ways filled my heart, soul, mind and strength.

I needed this to change but how do you draw closer in relationship with God? How do you change your heart?

The answer is, you don’t. He does.

I began to ask for Him to build that love in me. Then I did what He asked even when I didn’t feel like it. I set a time to read His word and pray.

Soon after, words, His words would leap off the page as I read. He was showing me who He was and in the process I fell hard. Deeper, deeper still I fell as I read and prayed to Him. A love was building in me for Him. A love that I did not create but that I would die for now. Oh, how I love Him now. With a love that would move mountains to be with Him.

When you take the time to get to know Him, He will show you personally how much you mean to Him. It will rock your world and you will never be the same again.

What better time to end in prayer….

I don't know where your heart is, but if it's like mine was, now is as good as time as any to ask for a change.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Given A New Purpose For Life

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “What’s the purpose of my life?” I remember thinking this type of thing. Throughout my life, I routinely thought, “There has to be a reason I am here on this earth.” I always believed there had to be some purpose for my life or what was the use in being here. Then I met Jesus. I had found my reason, my purpose.

Somehow, when you meet Jesus, I mean really meet him and spend time with Him, you find out why you were created. You find out who you were meant to be by finding out who He is. I know that may sound a bit odd to you but its true. The more I know Him personally, the more I realize I was designed for something bigger then my own petty whims. I was planned out before time began and placed here at this very moment in time for a reason. Maybe that reason has something to do with this blog or maybe not. Maybe it was just a heart felt desire of the living God to have me to love. I don’t know, but what I do know is that my reason for living has changed. Jesus gave me the purpose I had always needed. He filled the hole, the void in my soul.

I wonder if the disciples Andrew and Simon Peter felt the same way when they began to follow Christ. Did they feel full as they gazed at the Savior? Did it fill them with wonder and joy to be in the presence of the living God?

I don’t know the answer to those questions but I do know that their purpose for living changed the day they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. No longer did they spend their days fishing with their father. Instead they became fisher's of men.

Matthew 4:18-20 - And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

That fateful day Andrew and Simon Peter's destiny changed. They would no longer grow old, following in the footsteps of their father. It was not to be that they would continue the family business. Instead, they would take a different path, a path created for them by God above. They would take the path that most would think to be less desirable and less profitable. But was it? Think about it. Was it really the less profitable path?

Considering eternity, it was indeed the most profitable path a man could take. For them the road here on earth would be filled with trials, tribulation, suffering and yes, even death. But that road would pave a path to an eternity with much greater reward and benefit then any of us could ever imagine.

Destiny called for a new purpose for these two men. They answer with a resounding YES LORD, YES!

Andrew and Simon Peter were given individual gifts which they used to contribute to the body of Christ. Just like them we are all given individual gifts to help the body of Christ function properly. But there is only one ultimate purpose for life that we all share the same. Right now, let's explore the main reason we are here on this earth. In order to do that, we must begin at the beginning.

Genesis 1: 27 – So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Whose image did God created man in?

Genesis 2:15 – Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Where did God put Adam and Eve?

Genesis 3:8 – And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Where was God walking that day?

I am blown away when I think about God’s intention here. First He creates man in His own image. He breathes life into him with His own breath. Then He places him in a lush beautiful garden, giving him only one rule. “Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That’s it, only one rule. As long as man didn’t eat of that tree he would walk in the garden in the presence of God. He would enjoy time with God, being with Him, walking in the garden with Him.

It was no surprise to God what man would do. He knew that man would eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before God created man He knew the end. He knew that He would have to overcome sin and send His son to the cross. He created man anyway. Why? Why, knowing that man would screw it all up would He decide to create man anyway?

He did it to love and be loved. To walk together with a creation that would choose to love Him and spend time with Him.

That’s it! The purpose we were created for! We were created to be with God, to love Him and be loved by Him. It’s the reason we were put here on earth. So eventually we could spend an eternity in His presence.

For now though, while we wait for eternity, we are given a commission by Jesus. Before He left this earth He told us this:

Matthew 28:19 - Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He did not tell them to make Christians, He told them to make disciples. There are many today that believe becoming a Christian is a one time event. You walk the isle, pray the sinners prayer, get dunked in water, then back to your old life. They believe they are safe, in the book, heading toward heaven. But has anything really changed in their life.

Jesus didn't say "go make disciples unless it's to much for you to handle or you don't really want to give your old life up, then it's ok, you don't have to do it." Just as the disciples were told to go out and make more disciples, we told to do the same. This was not a suggestion but a command.

We can not merely accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and keep it to ourselves. Jesus said in Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

If we are ashamed of Jesus, we need to ask ourselves, do we really love him at all. Is the gift of His life not the most valuable thing that could ever be offered for our wretched sinful souls? If we are ashamed we must fall to our knees asking that He change our heart so we can love Him the way we were intended to do so.


So the commission continues today. We are told to go. While we are here on this earth, our job is to share the good news with those that have not heard. Go tell all nations. That includes here and abroad. Some will go to other lands while some will stay where they are.

Where ever God sends you, the message is the same. Shout it from the roof tops, Jesus of Nazareth is alive! He rose from the grave on the third day! He paid for our sins with His own blood! Go tell someone.

Ending today in prayer seems like the way it should be. Pray. Pray for your purpose to be solidified in your heart. Pray for courage to share the gift you have been given with someone else.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

As I have sat here in the passenger seat of the car most of the day today, I have had many hours to think. So think I have done, and what better thing to do with all those thoughts then impart some wisdom with them. Or at least release the thoughts even if they aren't really wisdom.

We left the house this morning at 7:00am heading from Missouri to Austin Texas. It is now 3:00pm and we are still hours away from landing at the hotel. So I have a little time to just put words on paper.... or blog, if you will.

As my husband drives along and gets almost run over by a passing car in a hurry, I am reminded of how easy it would be for life to end. Here we are in a speeding car, only inches away from other cars speeding along in the other direction, towards me. All it would take is a careless or reckless driver to make a mistake near us for life as we know it to change drastically.

Every day, every hour, no, every second could be our last but do we really get the reality of that? Do we really live as if this could be our last day or our last hour on this earth?

I would have to answer, NO. I do not live as if this was my last moment on earth. If I did, I would do things much differently. I would take advantage of each moment to do those things that mean something. I would put my importance on people not things or circumstance. I would do those things that impact another life first, not secondary.

Maybe thats what Jesus meant when he told the disciples that the most important commandment was love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then the second was love others as yourself. He got the importance of relationship. He got that the most important thing you can do is love like God does. He knew when we focused on loving like Him, the other commandments would be obeyed. He knew we would obey because we loved Him and our hearts were right.

We don't seem to get that all things lead back to relationship. It is in the relationship with Jesus that we are saved. It is in the relationship with Jesus we are made right and can stand before a righteous God. It's in our relationship with Jesus that we can now have a relationship with the Father. It is in our relationship with Jesus that we can love others, care for those hurting and make a real difference in the world.

As I sit here and ponder that any moment could be the end, I think, I'm not ready. I'm not done. I need to love some more. I need to touch more hearts. I need to get my hands dirty and let the fallout come. I need to love with no reservation.

Lord,

When you take me home, let it be when I have done all that I can do to love this broken world. Help me love those around me. Don't let me forget that each moment counts. Let my contribution to this world point clearly to you.

Amen

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Warm and Fuzzies

I have a challenge for you. For the next twenty four hours, think of all the things that you love. All the things that make you warm and fuzzy inside. Then come back tomorrow and tell me how the experience was for you.

I have found when I do this, I have way less time to dwell on things that are negative or unproductive.

Here are some of mine:

* I love the smell of clorine in a swimming pool. It smells fresh and clean. Makes me want to jump in.

* I love the trees look when way icicles form all over them. Something in it takes my breath away.

* I love sound of my children sleeping when they were small babies. I used to just sit in the rocking chair in my sons room and listen to him sometimes.

* I love it when I roll over in bed after my husband leaves for work and I can still smell his scent on the pillow.

* I love the feel of soft sheets on my skin and warm cozy comforters in the winter.

* I love sky when it full of color. It makes me stand in awe of the one who painted it.

* I love the feel of warm carpet on my feet when I step outside on the cold pavement with barefeet in the middle of winter.

* I love the way it feels to drink an ice cold glass of water after you built up a good thirst.

* I love the way my heart still skips a beat when my husband looks at me in that certain way.

* I love hearing the words "I love you" coming out of the mouths of my children and grandchildren.

* I love the smell of fresh brewed coffee even though I don't drink it.

* I love to watch a momma bird care for, feed and protect her babies in the nest.

* I love to watch the animals in nature. I wonder as I watch how anyone could ever believe there is no creator.

* I love to watch clouds roll by as I lay on the trampoline with my youngest son and we guess what shapes they are.

* I love to sing out loud and praise God with all my heart when no one is home to hear and complain.

* I love to sit at the feet of the Father in prayer. Sometimes I can say nothing because I am in such awe of who He is.

* I love it when a passage of scripture is given to me personally by God. When your reading and the words leap off the page and into your heart.

* I love a genuine smile and a warm hug from a friend just when you need it. Amazing how they know that you do.

* I love that I had a grandmother that showed me how to be present with those I love.

* I love that even when I encounter painful circumstances, I can still have the joy of the Lord to comfort me.

* More than anything else, I love that I am given the priviledge to love others as God loves me.


What do you love....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Are You Prepared for the Storm

How many of you feel you are usually prepared for a storm?

What about the weather report? How many are weather watchers? You always check the weather report to see what the weather will be like tomorrow?

So when the weather report is predicting a storm what do you do? Do you grab your umbrella?

Do you feel pretty secure and prepared when you walk out the door with umbrella in hand?

The rain comes you pop up your umbrella and run into the building where ever you are going.

But what if during the storm, the building you need to enter is locked? Then you go back to your car and you have locked yourself out of your car?

You are now standing in the rain for who knows how long with no dry place in sight.

Once you spend a little time standing in the rain with the wind blowing, you find that the umbrella does not block the rain completely. The blowing rain hits your body and begins to soak your clothing. Also, the rising water soon soaks through your shoes making your feet freeze.

You’re not so prepared for the storm after all, are you?

But what if you had really thought it through? What if you had put on the rain suit and rubber boots you keep in the closet? You know, the ones you keep in the closet for just this kind of occasion? The ones you rarely think about or use?

Would you be able to stay out in the storm with these items on?

Yes, I believe you could. You could stay out in the storm as long as was required, couldn’t you?

This is the case with spiritual storms in your life. When you are hit with tragedy or a trial, what ever the cause may be, you must be prepared to weather the storm.

How do you do that?

First, you must take a firm stance in Jesus Christ. You must stand firm in your relationship with Jesus knowing He is your solid foundation. Just like a building doesn’t withstand the storm without a solid foundation you will not stand firm in the storm without being squarely planted in Jesus Christ. So you must be rooted in the saving grace of Jesus if you want to withstand the storm.

Once you are planted, you must prepare yourself daily for bad weather.




Matthew 17:14-22 says this:

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief, for assuredly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

There are three things this says about overcoming great obstacles:

1. You must cloth yourself in your rain suit. Your rain suit is the Word of God. In this scripture the disciple’s unbelief was the first problem. Romans 10:17 says, so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. If you want to overcome you must have faith. And faith comes by hearing Gods Word. In order to have faith you must be in the Word of God to the point it becomes your clothing. You can not have the faith required to stand in the storm without being in the Word of God daily. Cloth yourself in it!

2. You need to have your umbrella of prayer open. Some troubles can not be solved by any other way then by seeking God in prayer. The lines of communication need to be clear. You crying out to God in prayer and then listening for answers. He has an answer. You just need to be listening. So pray, and then pray some more.

3. You need to have your boots on. Jesus said, this kind does not go out expect by prayer AND FASTING. Your fasting boots must be on when the water is getting deep or your feet will freeze.

Some obstacles, some trials, some sins can not be overcome without fasting before God. If you really want to draw close to God, if you really need to seek God, take the food from your mouth and put it on His alter as a sacrifice. It was done all throughout scripture. In the Old Testament and the New Testament it was common practice to deny yourself to draw nearer to God. It was done to seek favor, to seek repentance, to find answers, to show humility and to be closer to God.

Jesus himself found it necessary to fast to overcome the testing of Satan. Why then do we believe that it was necessary for Jesus but not so necessary for us?

I will leave you with these thoughts. If you were prepared, if you really used all the tools you have been given, who do you think you would become? And this last question I ask you. Do you really love God enough to do what is required to become who He has called you to be?

Because it’s the storms that will take you there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Matter of the Heart

Have you examined your heart today? If you did, what did you find?

Proverbs 27:19 says: As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man.

The heart reveals what is going on in us. It's what we act out of. God sees straight into it. That's what He sees when He looks at us, He sees our heart.

Unlike the world around us, we can't fool God. Try as we might, we can't hide our heart from Him. If our heart is not right He knows it.

So, take a few minutes to test your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where your heart is today. Read through the list below, and then look up the scripture associated with any heart that matches yours.

* Proud heart - overweening opinion of oneself or ones position (Psalm 101:5)
* Stony heart - hardened, unmovable, cold, rigid (Ezekiel 11:19)
* Selfish heart - concerned only for your own interest (Proverbs 23:7)
* Self seeking heart - promoting to further ones own concerns (Proverbs 28:26)
* Perverse heart - deviating from what is considered right or good (Psalm 101:4)
* Lying heart - filled with untruths, giving false impressions (Acts 5:3)
* Haughty heart - disdain, contempt or scorn for others (Psalm 131:1)
* Wicked heart - morally bad or evil intent (Proverbs 26:23)
* Fainting heart - failing, falling back, weak, without strength (Isaiah 1:5)
* Shut up heart - closed off, unfeeling for the needs of others (I John 3:17)

If you have seen yourself in any of these descriptions now is the time to go to God and ask for a change of heart. Ask Him for a heart like the ones below.

* Merry heart - pleasant, lively, cheerful (Proverbs 15:13)
* Praising heart - showing acclaim for God with your whole heart (Psalm 111:1)
* Willing heart - giving readily and cheerfully (Exodus 35:22)
* Believing heart - to take as true the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 7:36)
* Circumcised heart - from worldly life to Kingdom life (Deut 10:16, 30:6)
* Pure heart - free from anything that taints it (Matthew 5:8)
* Humble heart - consciousness of one's own place before God (James 4:6)
* Steadfast heart - firm, fixed, settled (Psalm 57:7)
* Contrite heart - remorseful for having done wrong (Isaiah 57:15)
* Purified heart - free from sin (Acts 15:9)
* Repentant heart - feel remorse for sin and turn from it (Ezekiel 18:31)
* Wise heart - having and showing good judgment (Psalm 90:12)

When we seek the change in our heart God is faithful to give it to us.

Jeremiah 24:7 says: Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

God will give us the heart we need to change and we then will return to Him with our whole heart.

THATS MY KING!!!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living The Crucified Life

The life of a follower is a sacrificial one. We don’t get to lead. We don’t get to make up the rules. We don’t even get to decide where we go or what we do.

This might sound extremely scary if you’re a control freak like me. I like to make sure everything goes as planned. I’m a planner by nature. It came with the birthing process. My Mother has always been a woman with a plan. “Make a list!” was her favorite phrase. So I learned it in utero, planning equals success.

To let go and let Jesus lead has been the hardest thing for me. I like making the rules. I like being in charge. I like to see how a plan is going to turn out before I strike out on an adventure. Not know the outcome? Are you kidding?

Not kidding! With Jesus, he may not always think we need to know all the details of His plan. He may not give us the final outcome. We are to trust, have faith. Not in the outcome but in Him.

We are to live a life that is crucified. We must die to self in order to really live. We have to lay aside our own need to control, our selfish desires and our fleshly lusts. In return we get peace. We get joy, even in the midst of trial.

John 12:24-25: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

What happens to a grain of wheat if it does not go in the ground and die? If the wheat dies in the ground what does it produce?

Jesus tells the Greeks what has to happen to a grain of wheat for it to produce much grain. We are to learn an important lesson from this explanation. If a grain of wheat does not die, it remains alone, dead. But if it goes into the ground and dies, it will produce more grain.

We are the grain of wheat. We must die to our old self, to our own fleshly desires and live a life abiding in Christ. If we choose to follow and abide in Christ, we will produce more grain for eternal glory. If we remain in our old selves instead, we will die alone, with no fruit for eternity. The gain we receive is eternity in heaven with God.

“He who loves his live will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” What does this mean? If we love our life we will lose it? But if we hate our life in this world we will keep it for eternal life? Confusing?

What Jesus trying to get across here is that when we decide to go our own way and live life not following him, we will get only this life here on earth. This is our reward. The eternal reward is not given to us. Instead we reap the eternal justice we deserve. We are condemned to life without God in hell. But when we choose to die to self and follow Jesus, we gain the eternal reward of life with God in heaven. Is life here, doing our own thing more important or is eternity?

Galatians 2:20 -"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Galatians 5:24 - And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.


I have been crucified with Christ, I don’t live any longer. It is Christ who lives in me. First of all, can you honestly say that Jesus Christ lives in you? If not, that comes first. Asking him to come live in you is the first order of business for you. Once that is done, your life here on this earth is as a follower. It is now a life of faith, one that is to be dead to our own passions and desires. We are to be about our Fathers business like Jesus was.

We are to crucify, or in other words, to kill our own worldly desires and instead be filled with the desires that Jesus was filled with. We are to be about the things that Jesus would have us be about. It is no longer about our own thoughts and desires. It is about His desires for our life.

To be crucified we are no longer:
Arguing with God about His plan for our life
Making excuses for our sin
Trying to get our own way
Telling God what He should do
Rationalizing our behavior
Taking our own path or direction
Running ahead of God

We die to our own will, dreams, goals, wants, plans, rights and desires. When we follow Jesus we walk in His Spirit. Verse twenty five in Galatians five says “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” When we decided to ask Jesus Christ to enter our life he gave us a gift. That gift was the Holy Spirit.

We as disciples of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living within us. The holy presence of God lives inside of us. So if we live in the Spirit and it lives in us we should walk in that Spirit. But we will leave that topic for another day.

Today, let’s finish as we should always do. Let us pray.

Father,

Let our life be a crucified one. Let us be pleasing in your sight. Let our desires be your desires. We want a life that glorifies you. A life that is set apart and shines a light in darkness. Change us to the image of Christ and help us to walk in the Spirit you have given us.

In Jesus name I pray,
Amen

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Living Water

Watching, waiting
Clouds overhead
Darkness all around
I wait for the heavens
To pour out it's tears

Mouth open, tongue waiting
Parched and dry I wait
I wait for just one drop
A single drop to wet my throat
And quench my thirst

Just one drop
A living drop of water
To begin the down pour
And wash over me
Bringing soul relief

Alone, afraid
Aware of my need
Dryness all around me
I wait for the rain
Living rain from heaven

Lord, send the rain
I cry out loud
Let it cover my soul
Before I shrivel
And blow away

Walk, No, Run
The distance gleams
A pool glistening
Tears from heaven
Gathered in one place

I climb the stairs
I reach the top
Bounce, jump, up, then down
I arch my back and point my toes
Splash I'm in

Covered by it
Refreshed by its goodness
I stay awhile
Enjoying its cooling touch
Alive by its truth

The Word
The Word of my God
It is the rain
It is the water
It is all I really need

Monday, October 26, 2009

God Saves Bad People

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last week I posted about marriage being difficult. Thank you everyone for your comments and advice.

I do want to clarify. My marriage is not in jeopardy. Although we have our struggles, my marriage is solidly in the hands of Jesus. We made a covenant five years ago that we both intend to keep.

We do experience times that are tough in a married couple’s life. Finding the way to put ourselves aside and give instead of get is not always easy. This is especially difficult in a second marriage. The failings that happened the first time around have a way of creeping in the second one.

Seems that the second time around you have even more strikes against you from the start. You each bring extra things to overcome. Failures from the past, children, etc. In our case there were four children on his side and two on mine. When the children came before the marriage, it can be very easy to feel more loyalty to them. What you really have to work at is putting each other before the children.

My husband and I are strongly rooted in Jesus Christ. In each of our lives Jesus is first. Then we come together with Jesus at the head of our relationship. The problem comes in when we forget to put one another’s needs before our own. When we become selfish we both lose. I don't get my needs met and neither does he.

I believe this is a common failing in all of us. Not just in our marriage relationships but in all our relationships. It's called self. "I want my way." It's a prideful heart that says this. It's at the center of all of us. We are concerned with ourselves before anyone or anything.

So this week, I’m asking God to help me put my selfish "self" aside and meet my husband’s needs before my own. Change me Lord. Take the pride from my heart and help me to love others with Your love.

Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why does marriage have to be so hard?

It's late and as I sit here tonight my mind is full of whirling thoughts. Mostly about marriage and what the world sets you up for. As a small girl, we each spend odles of time playing wedding, house and dress up. We put on the veil and pretend to walk the isle. Dreaming of that day when our prince will sweep us off our feet and we will live happily ever after.

I don't know about anyone else, but I carried that dream around with me into adulthood until the wedding day finally materialized. What everyone forgot to tell me was how hard it would be at times.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. But marriage is much harder than I ever anticipated. We are at year five and all pretence is gone and the blinders are off. We see each others faults very clearly. Probably way more clearly than we should.

Sometimes, I am just exhausted by trying so hard. Anyone been where I'm at?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Through the Passenger Window

Clear and brilliant. Blue as the sky. Full of kindness. They seemed to pull me in, say hello and smile at me all at the same time. They twinkled like two stars that had dropped from the sky. Those blue eyes that met me on the passenger side door were something I’d never seen before. I rolled down my window to get a better look.

Never had I seen such love or kindness in a pair of eyes. I wondered “what might he know that I don’t know?” It was such a thing that they affected me deeply. They embraced me. They surrounded me. They filled me and touched me at the same. It was as if the soul of this man was on display for all to see, right there on his face. But his soul didn’t just sit there, it reached for me. It pulled me in and caressed me with gentleness. It was if his soul could reach deep inside and hug me. His eyes seemed to say everything I needed to hear without uttering a word.

My heart seemed full as he looked at me. It was as if he knew me. I was filled with wonder by the thought. How could looking into someone’s eyes tell you so much? Yet, I knew he loved me. But how could he? He had only just met me.

I had never met a man like James until that day. I had never met a man that loved God so much that it showed in his eyes. A man that did what God called him to do, love God and love others. But he did just that and it showed in his blue eyes. Without a word I knew this about him. I was changed by his presence from the moment I looked into those big blue pools. He was a man true and loving that stood tall in the face of trail. Although his face was weathered from time and adversity, his eyes told me everything. He was a man full of love. He was a man full of God’s love. So full of God’s love that it spilled out all over me.

James was my father-in-law. He taught me a lot from that very first meeting. Not with words but with his heart. He has gone to smile for Jesus now, his time here on earth is done. But I will never be the same because of knowing him. If I had only been blessed with that one encounter, I would still be forever changed. He said everything I needed to hear that very first day as I looked in his eyes. He said, I love you and he meant it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So What About Us?

For several weeks now we have looked at many aspects of being called to follow Jesus. We have looked at the way Jesus spoke the words "Follow Me" and immediately the disciples followed. We have explored the lives of each of the twelve disciples and what they experienced on their journey with Jesus. We have looked at the transformations that took place in the lives of the disciples. We have even looked at counting the cost to follow and what we gain in return.

Today we must conclude with a question. What about us? Where does that lead us?

I believe it leads each of us to answer our own question. Jesus stands before us today and he is saying "Follow Me." We must answer Him. Will we do as the disciples did and get up immediately to follow Him? Or will our delay answer for us?

Take a moment and imagine Jesus Christ standing before you where ever you are. He is requesting the same thing of you that every true disciple must hear. "Follow Me" He says. How will you respond? Will you lay down all you have and follow?

You can not lead. This is a request to follow. That means you must put EVERYTHING in His hands and do with it what He requests.

What if that means all your material wealth must be forfeited and given to the poor like the rich man? You lack one thing Jesus told the rich man. Sell everything you own and give all the money to the poor. The rich man went away sad. Will you?

What if it means you must give up your career or your hope of a family? What if you must forfeit your dreams of children? What if you have to walk away from everything you know, everyone you know and not know where you are going?

This basically, is what’s expected of us. We are to be willing to give up everything we know and everyone we know if necessary. We do not own anything in this world. It is not ours to hang on to. We have been given the privilege to spend a short while on this earth enjoying the things that belong to God. But we are expected to follow after Jesus not lead.

If we only had a realistic view of what it meant for the disciples to follow Jesus. Close your eyes and try to get a mental picture of what it was like for them. They would walk all day. No money of their own. Family and all comforts of home long left behind. They had no home which they would return to each night. They would travel by day and hope to have someone keep them in their home at night. What if no one asked them to stay, then what? Sleep outside with a rock as your pillow? Was it cold? So cold that their feet and hands got numb with frost bite? Were they dirty for long periods of time? Itching and sore from lack of hygiene? What about hunger? Did they always have enough to eat? Did their stomachs rumble at times or their throats get dry from thirst? Waiting long periods before a place was present to drink?

They had nothing to call their own. On top of that, they didn't even have a clue where they were going each day. Get up every morning look for Jesus and follow after Him. Go to the next place and watch the Savior preach and teach. That was the life the twelve disciples chose.

So often, we enter into salvation with the intention of it improving our lives. We want happiness, good weather, nice people and lots of material wealth. What we fail to understand is that we were not created for our own benefit; we were created for God’s benefit. We were created for His pleasure not the other way around.

It's not about us. It's about Him. It's about following where He leads not taking Him along where we decide to go. It's about His agenda for our lives. It's about doing His will not our own. It's about His glorious message, not ours. We have no message. We have nothing that wasn’t given to us by Him.

So our job? What is our job? Get up in the morning. Look for Jesus. Follow after Him. That's it. That’s our job. Follow where he goes.

The next question is how. How do we do that today? First, we must know Him personally. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can not follow someone you do not know.

John 10:27 - "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

Jesus is the shepherd and we are His sheep. We are to know Him personally. When we do, we will begin to hear His voice. Then we will follow where His voice directs us.

I know that some may read this and say "how do I hear the voice of God?"

It is not an audible voice but an inner voice that speaks to us. It is the voice of the Holy Spirit that lives within. It could be the small still voice within that sends a thought to your mind. A thought that is so odd that you would have never thought that way. It takes time to discern these thoughts as the voice of the Spirit. So there is no harm in asking for more confirmation through other things like the bible and Godly council.

Besides, prayer, preaching and Godly individuals, Jesus speaks to us through the word in the bible. If we are to discern what the will of God is, we must be grounded in the bible. We must have daily time in Gods word and prayer. We must soak ourselves in the word so that we are filled to the brim with the goodness of it. The word of God is living and if we feed ourselves with it at every opportunity, our Spirit will grow. We will soon have little trouble knowing the way Jesus went.

Now, we want to follow, and we are trying to discern his will, but what if we fail? What if we go the wrong way? What if, next thing you know Jesus is nowhere in sight?

The good shepherd that He is, He will come find us. His sheep do not stray without His notice. When we turn around and begin to seek Him again, He will come to redirect us. There is no condemnation, just merciful correction and redirection. Once we are refocused, He can assume the lead again.

So what do you say to the request Jesus poses today? Will you follow? The cost is high but the return is eternal. Will you lay everything at His feet? Are there things you need to address today? Or will you go away sad?

The choice is yours.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Called to Follow - The Final Three

Today we look at the final three disciples, James (son of Alpheus), Judas (not Iscariot), and Simon Zelotes. I put them together as one days work because unlike the others, these three had almost nothing written about them in scripture. They each show their name on the list as one of the twelve but otherwise we see very little about their journey with Christ.

James, son of Alpheus is believed by many scholars to be the brother of Matthew. They believe this to be true because of Mark 2:14 which tells us that Matthew's father was also named Alpheus.

Others believe that this James is the one called "James the Less" in Mark 15:40. Although, there really is no real proof to this claim. If it were to be true, he could have been a cousin of Jesus.

If James wrote anything, it has been lost to history. He never really rose to any kind of fame or received any real notoriety.

Judas (not Iscariot) was also referred to as Lebbeus "whose surname was Thaddeus" and Judas the son of James.
We see one account in scripture where he is in conversation with Jesus on the night before Jesus’ arrest. The disciples, having eaten their meal, were being taught by Jesus. Judas (not Iscariot) questions Jesus, trying to understand his teaching.

Jesus teaches “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

John 14:22 - Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?"

He didn't get it. He didn't understand what Jesus was trying to say to them. But he had enough of a closeness to know he could let Jesus know his uncertainty. However little written about him in scripture, we see that he was certain of Jesus' love. He also knew he could approach Jesus with his lack of understanding. He was teachable yes, but he was also humble enough to ask Jesus to explain when he did not understand what was being taught.

Then there is Simon Zelotes who was also known as Simon the Canaanite. Simon the “zealous one.” Zelotes in Greek meant "zealous one." Canaanite is an English transliteration of the Aramaic word Kanna'ah which also means "zealous one."

We are not told when he was called to follow Jesus but it stands to reason it could have been at the same time as Andrew, Peter, James and John.

Simon Zelotes had a fiery temperament and belonged to the Jewish sect Zelotes. Zelotes were considered political outlaws, extremist. They stubbornly resisted Roman rule and stirred up rebellion among the Jews. Simon's spirit was a stubborn and rebellious one. At least it was until Jesus got a hold of him.

All three of these men were not stand outs in our text of scripture. They did nothing of great notoriety that was written about. But it does not mean they did nothing important for the cause of Christ.

They were all founding members of the early church. They preached the gospel and were consider enough of a threat that they were killed for their faith. They may have been in the background with little fame shown to them, but that by no means says they were less important.

For most of us who serve Jesus Christ, this will be the type of disciple we will be. In the background, little notoriety, doing the small stuff that must be done. Does that make us less important to the kingdom? I would say absolutely not!

The woman that makes a meal to help another. The man that mows a neighbor’s lawn. The child that is taught by the Sunday school teacher. The mother who molds her child. Are these jobs less in the kingdom? No, they are vital. They are humbling yes. But Jesus was also a humble servant who washed the feet of others.

Matthew 11:29 - Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus tells us to "learn" from him. We are to learn who to be from who He is. What does he say about who He is? He says, "I am gentle and lowly in heart."

He is gentle and humble in heart. He says "I need no approval from man! I need not to be thought of as the Pharisee think of themselves. I am here to be a servant. To do My Fathers work."

Jesus says to be like Him, gentle and humble, a servant to others. Not needing the accolades and notoriety. Doing the work of the Father no matter how lowly it may be feel.

What does he say we will get when we do? Rest for our souls! We get rest for our souls! Don't you want rest for your soul? I know I so need that. I need to stop striving and learn from Jesus. I need that rest for my soul.

His yoke is easy and his burden is light because it is no longer our burden. If we just follow and take his yoke He will carry us through what ever our circumstances are.

Let's learn from him and find the rest that we need. Let’s go to Him now.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Called to Follow - Judas Iscariot

Traitor! Betrayer! How could he? How could he betray the living God, the coming Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ?

When you hear his name does it cause a strong reaction in you? Do you have a physical response to it? Are your thoughts and questions like the ones above?
How could he have betrayed Jesus?

Let's put aside our anger and what ever physical reaction we might be experiencing from hearing his name and give a little grace. At least long enough to begin to understand this man and gain some insight from his life. I believe we will find that we can learn quite a lot from him.

Believe it or not, Judas Iscariot was called to follow by Jesus just like the other disciples. He was part of the inner circle and one of the twelve. But did he ever really accept the call? Did he ever really love Jesus and commit his life to his service?

We don't know for sure but I would wager to say the answer is no. He was not fully committed to Christ. Maybe his background will shed some light on why.

Judas last name Iscariot was an Aramaic name. Iscariot meant "Man of Kerioth." Kerioth was a town near Hebron in Judea. This would make Judas Iscariot the only Judean out of all the disciples. A little history lesson on the people of Judea tells us that they despised the people of Galilee. They thought of them as crude frontier settlers. With this type of attitude, Judas may have been alienated from the others and left out in the cold.

As we all know, not being accepted hurts. Seeking inclusion by a group that wants nothing to do with you can bring great pain. It hurts when you’re left out and looked at as the odd ball. It can stir up all kinds of emotions, the main ones being anger and bitterness. Bitterness breeds and grows if left to continue and fester. Maybe our dear Judas had a bit of bitterness brewing inside him.

Bitterness can spoil a person. It eats away at you and causes you to do things that you never thought yourself capable of. Have you ever sat in your own vile bitterness until you did something you just weren't proud of?

Job 21:25 says - Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure.

It is very easy to fall into bitterness when we have been wronged. We have every right to be angry at times. But if we stay in our anger to long and don't forgive, we fall into a bitterness that consumes our soul. That kind of bitterness can take us over and rob us of experiencing pleasure in life. Some people act out of it and do unspeakable things because of it. Others take their hatred and bitterness to the grave with them. What a tortured life they leave this world with. Lets not be that person. Let's instead give our anger over to God and forgive.

On top of what might have been bitterness in Judas, we also see that he had a selfish and greedy attitude. Acting as treasurer for the twelve, Judas was in charge of all the funds accumulated and used. When Mary broke her jar of precious ointment to pour on Jesus' feet, Judas was fit to be tied. Let look at it the story and see.

Mary, who loved Jesus even before his miracles, was overcome with love after. She had seen her brother Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus. Her love for the Savior was worth anything to her. So she takes her jar of very expensive oil and uses it to anoint Jesus' feet. Then she lets down her hair and wipes his feet with it.

Unheard of in those days. Women did not let down their hair in the company of men. They certainly did not use what might have been their dowry to make someone’s feet smell better. Nor would they expose themselves to shame and ridicule with such behavior in public.

But Mary did. Because of her great love, she would have done anything for Jesus. Judas responded immediately to Mary's action with criticism.

John 12:4-5 -But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

We are told in verse 6 the reason for his comment. It wasn't because he cared greatly for the poor. No, it was because he was a thief. He had control of the disciple’s money box and was used to dipping his hand into it for himself. His motivation was shear greed.

Judas Iscariot’s heart had been established, it was unaffected by his time with the Savior. His heart was hardened, unpliable. His hard heart would be the one turned over to be used by Satan.

Sitting in the upper room, we see Jesus lounging with the twelve after their last meal together. Satan has already put into Judas' heart to betray Him. Knowing this, what does Jesus do? In his kindness and mercy he still gives Judas one last chance. Laying aside his own garments, in humility Jesus takes a towel and kneels at Judas' feet to wash them.

How can a heart remain hard while Jesus is kneeling at your feet? With the Son of God gently cleansing the filth and removing the grim you've accumulated? You’re sitting there, dirty and unworthy while the Savior washes the sin from you. I don't know how it’s possible to have your heart remain hard but Judas' heart did. Jesus was troubled by it also. Troubled enough to testify to it.

John 13:21,26 - When Jesus said these things, He was troubled in Spirit, and testified and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." and having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

The moment Jesus handed the bread to Judas; Satan entered him to fulfill his work. To fulfill the work of betraying Jesus and sending Him to the cross. A work that would end up backfiring on Satan. Jesus would die on the cross alright, but the grave wouldn’t hold him. He would rise from the grave on the third day and defeat death for eternity.

In the end, Judas was remorseful for what he had allowed himself to be used for. He tried to return the money he had taken for his betrayal. Yes, he was remorseful enough. We see him throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple and leaving. He was devastated. He even took his own life by hanging.
But I ask this..... Was he repentant? We can be remorseful for the consequences of our actions but not be repentant. Without repentance, nothing changes. It takes repentance to truly turn from our wickedness and sin. If all we feel is remorse, it’s not enough. Our heart must face God with humble repentance if we want God to pour out His gracious mercy on us.

How’s your heart today? Are you harboring bitterness? Do you need a little repentance? If you do, don't let it wait. God is waiting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Called to Follow - Thomas

Today we explore the walk of Thomas; nicknamed "Doubting Thomas" Who was this man hand picked by Christ to walk with him? Why exactly would Jesus pick a man always questioning to walk along the road he was traveling?

Thomas, also called Didymus was one of a set of two. The word Didymus is Greek for "twin". Thomas had a twin somewhere that we are never told anything about. We don't know if his twin was a boy or girl. Whether they were identical or not. But from what we know about twins, they either want to be totally different or you can't separate the two. So what does that tell us about Thomas? Maybe it could have been that he wanted his own identity, to be different than his sibling. That would explain some of his willingness to do the different thing. To leave it all behind and follow Jesus like he did.

Often when we speak of Thomas, we speak only about his doubt and weakness. Thomas had other character traits that we rarely acknowledge. Like his courage and his quest for truth and understanding.

When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days before deciding to return to him. When his disciples were told they would return to Judea, they were fearful for their master’s life.

John 11:8 - The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?"

The Jews in Judea were threatened by Jesus and wanted to rid themselves of Him. They sought to stone Him to death. But as always, Jesus is not afraid. He is in control of the situation. His power is much larger than they could ever imagine. Jesus had His father’s agenda to fulfill and he would not be deterred from it. He instead, teaches a lesson on walking in light and not darkness. Then informs them that Lazarus dead. He is glad that he was not there to save Lazarus from death. Now maybe these twelve men would finally understand his glory and believe. Our courageous Thomas speaks up.

John 11:16 - Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him."

Thomas was ready to go to his death with Jesus. He understood that the Jews wanted to kill Him. He understood that if they stoned Jesus, he too would likely be put to death. Still, he was ready to endure that for the one he had chosen to follow. We may think of Thomas as weak but he was courageous enough to follow Jesus even if it meant death.

That would not happen though. Thomas would not go to his death in Judea. Instead he would see the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead. We often read the account of Lazarus and brush right over it. But this event was unheard of then and still is now. Right before their eyes, a man dead for four days comes out of the grave. What if it happened before your eyes?

Imagine with me. Close your eyes and think of someone you lost to death. Remember back to when you attended the funeral. Picture yourself sitting in the chair as the service is performed. Jesus walks in, walks to the casket, and says " _______ Come forth" Your loved one sits up in the casket and has to be helped out of it because they are alive!

Would seeing something like that change you? It would me. It had to of change Thomas. It had to secure his belief that Jesus was who He said He was.

The last night before Jesus was arrested and went to the cross, the group shares a meal together for Passover. This famous meal is observed by many today as taking communion. That night Jesus spent much time with His loved disciples. They broke bread together. Jesus shared the truth about being a servant and washed their feet. Then He shared many lessons with them before they would be left on their own. As Jesus tried to explain His departure from this world, He told them this.

John 14:2-4 - "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know."

Thomas, wanting to understand questions the Lord.

John 14:5 - Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"

"I don't understand Lord, I want to understand. I want to know so I make sure I go the right way. ”This basically what Thomas was saying.

Have you ever spoken these words yourself? "I don't get it Lord. I want to but I don't" I have spoken these words many times myself. I want to do Gods will, but what is that? Thankfully, instead of a condemning voice we hear a merciful God answer us and tell us the way. The same was done for Thomas. Jesus told Thomas, "I am the way." He would get to where Jesus was going through no effort of his own but by the effort of Jesus.

We can not leave this exploration of Thomas without looking at the whole reason he was nicknamed "Doubting Thomas" in the first place. It comes from the encounter we see in John chapter 20. Jesus has risen from the dead. The tomb is empty. He appears to the disciples where they are assembled. Thomas is missing from this encounter. He missed the meeting and in turn was not there to encounter the risen Christ like the rest did.

John 20:24-26 - Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them "Unless I see in His hands the prints of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

Thomas had seen his Lord crucified and buried. He knew what his eyes had seen. He would not believe just anything people said. Even if it was his friends and fellow disciples. But Jesus would not leave him in his unbelief. He would not be left to continue his doubt.

Instead, eight days later, Thomas now at the meeting. Jesus comes into the room again and says "Peace to you!" Immediately, he addresses Thomas.

John 20:27-28 - Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus came that day just for Thomas. To show His unbelieving child that He was real. To show him that the resurrection was true and He was alive again.

Just like Thomas, we are not left to stew in our unbelief. God gives us plenty of proof all around us that He exists. He left us four accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection so we can believe in who He is. We also get to see it in the lives of others. The resurrected life of believers around us shows us the reality that Jesus is alive today.

Jesus was not finished speaking to Thomas that night. He had one last thing to say to him about his doubt.

John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Friends, this is us Jesus was referring to. We are those that must believe without seeing. We can not see Jesus in the flesh face to face. We must rely on the truth we see in scripture to believe. But we are still called to follow the same way as the disciples were. And we are asked to believe the same way.

We must take our doubt to Jesus and let Him take it from us.

What fills your heart with doubt today? Use this time now to take it to Jesus and believe.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

So What is Normal Anyway?

Have you ever felt like you were different than other people? Like maybe you weren't normal? That you just don't fit in?

I struggled with this feeling for most of my life. I always felt different. I felt like I wasn't as good as everyone else. I wasn't normal like everyone else around me.

As I've grown stronger in my faith and gotten to know God a little better, I have come to realize a few things about this whole thought about being "normal." Let me share what I have found out. First and foremost, this thought is wrong. We all need to hear the truth on this subject loud and clear.

I have realized recently that I have not been alone in my dilemma. Most people feel the same way. We all have the same need to be accepted. We think the other guy is normal and we need to be like that person to be considered acceptable. Satan would love for us to continue in this thinking and chase our own tail until we drop. Why? Because it is futile and leads us to nowhere but misery. If we are consumed with trying to fit in we will never stand out like Christ would rather we focused on.

What is normal anyway?
Normal - conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model, or pattern. Corresponding to the median or average of a large group in type, appearance, achievement, function, development.

Conforming to an acceptable standard. Being the average of a group. So what exactly is the acceptable standard when it comes to a normal person? What do we gauge average with? Unbeknownst to us, the standard is something we create in our own mind. So guess what? Everybody’s standard of what a normal person looks like is different. With that kind of standard, I will never find normal, nor will you.

I have to share some truth with you here. I did not grow up in the church. When I became part of a local church body, I looked around and thought everyone was perfect. These people had it all together. I needed to be just like them if I wanted to be normal. So I pasted a smile on my face when I walked through the church doors and tried to be just like them. But inside, I knew I wasn't. I was a mixed up mess that needed work and in my eyes they were not.

So often we use the term normal and think it refers to those who are doing things right. The normal people serve God right. Normal people don't have all the struggles in there life. Normal people are happy. Normal people don't struggle with sinful behavior. Normal people don't have problems like me.

Here's the truth. There are no normal people. We are all flawed. We are all dysfunctional. We are all full of sin. Whether our sin is visible to the naked eye, closed up in our thought closet or hidden in our hearts, we are all just fallen creatures that don't deserve the mercy God offers. Thankfully, He gives it to us anyway. Those that think they deserve the mercy of God should check their heart. They will probably find pride hiding there.

When Adam and Eve bit into the apple, all humanity became fallen creatures. Since then we have struggled to be normal again. We have struggled to be considered the good person, to be the one called acceptable.

Nothing we do makes us acceptable or good enough. It is only by the covering of the blood of Jesus that we are finally considered acceptable.

I have decided that since it is impossible to be normal, I will instead be what Christ intended me to be. I will be extraordinary. I will be the one that stands out in the crowd. The different one that people stop and try to understand. Why is she so different? That is what I want people to say. What does she have that I don't have? I want that! They will say after they meet me.

Mother Theresa, was she normal? No, she was not. She had an extraordinary heart that loved. Billy Graham, was he normal? No, he was not. He had an extraordinary love for God and for the lost. Beth Moore, is she normal? No, she is not. She has an extraordinary heart that loves Jesus.

I don't know about you, but instead of worrying about being normal, fitting in or being accepted, I want to stand out. I want an heart that loves Jesus and loves others so much that people think I am not just average but extraordinary.

My standard is Jesus Christ and He was nowhere close to normal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Called to Follow - Matthew

Have you ever known anyone who was thought of as a traitor? What about a person who goes against what most believe? You know the person. They are considered an outcast. They do things there own way. They push against the norm of what is expected.

That was the man Jesus met as He passed on from Capernaum. Levi the son of Alphaeus was considered a traitor by the Jewish community, he was a tax collector. This is the man we know more accurately by his name given to him after following Jesus. We know him as Matthew, meaning "gift of God."

During the time Jesus walked on this earth, Rome ruled over Palestine. Rome collected several taxes from the people. Tolls for transporting goods where collected by private tax collectors, who in turn paid a fee to the Roman government for the right to assess the levies. The tax collectors charged extra for their own profits. They would hire what were called, publicans who did the actual work of collecting. The publican charged extra for their own wages. Those in this position were often corrupt and tacked on larger amounts than were acceptable.

Matthew was a publican who collected tolls on the road between Damascus and Accho, just outside the city of Capernaum. He was a tax collector, considered corrupt and a traitor by his own people. The Jews would have considered his money to be unclean and would not even ask for change back from him. He was not allowed to testify in court or bring a tithe to the temple. His position rendered him an outcast in his community. He was a Jewish man with no Jewish rights.

But Jesus evidently saw something that others didn't see.

Matthew 9:9 - As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him.

Jesus, the Son of God, the one doing miracles with many, walks to the tax table and speaks. "Follow Me" He says to Matthew. I am sure all that had taken place on the other side of the river had reached the ears of Matthew. His response amazes me. It says, he got up and followed Jesus.

This would have been no small feat. He was in a prosperous position. He was a home owner which was not common for those without wealth. But he got up and left his position as a tax collector behind. He didn't try to work out a deal with Jesus so he could keep his lucrative position and still be a follower. Instead, he turned from his corruption and went with Jesus.

Next thing you know, Matthew is throwing a party to welcome and celebrate Jesus. He wants those he knows to see the real Messiah and meet Him face to face.

Matthew 9:10 - Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house , that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.

This was the real face of Jesus. God coming to save the sinner and heal the sick. Jesus was not upset to see the tax collectors and sinners at His table. I'm sure, instead, He was thrilled. These were the ones He had come to save. But the Pharisees saw it, and said to the disciples "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" They did not get the chance to answer the Pharisee's though. Jesus answers them Himself. He didn’t owe them an explanation but decides to make a strong point to everyone listening.

Matthew 9:12-13 - When Jesus heard that, He said to them "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But you go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisee's, to those who thought they had everything right. They were righteous, the ones doing all the right the things, obeying the law. They were even teaching the law. But they were also the ones whose hearts were full of evil intent and desire. They believed they were righteous but they had no mercy within them. Instead, there was pride in their hearts.

He tells them, if you think you have it all figured out and need nothing then I didn't come for you. I came for those who are sick. Sadly, they were among the ones which were the most sick of all. Sick full of pride and a hardened heart.

We can learn so much from this piece of scripture as he says to the prideful, "go learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice."

Jesus doesn't need our sacrifices of time or energy. He instead asks our heart to be right. When we are willing to show mercy to those that we see as full of sin, we have a tender, humble heart. That is the heart God can reach. That is the heart that God can use.

So what do we learn from our new friend Matthew. Well, we can see why God would name him a gift. He penned the gospel of Matthew for us which gave us quite a gift. His writing, the gospel according to Matthew has probably been the most influential of all the gospels.

Mostly, I personally have learned from Matthew that there is no one to far gone to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. If Jesus could consider this man as worthy to be one of the twelve, He can make us into anything He desires.

Matthew paid a big price to follow Jesus. He gave up everything, including a position that paid big financially. I am grateful to Him for his decision. It makes mine easier to make. I, a great big sinner, need to see redemption like his.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Called to Follow - Bartholomew also called Nathanael

Today we meet Bartholomew or in Hebrew, "Son of Tolmai" meaning "God has given."

Don't you just love that meaning of a name? I do! As a mother, I relate. If I wasn't already done having children I would name my next one Bartholomew. God has given. Maybe I can convince a grandchild to be named this. It's at least worth a try. Most likely though, I’ll just hear "Mom!" as they roll their eyes at me and ignore my suggestion.

Back to our disciple....

Bartholomew was also known by another name, Nathanael. More often in scripture, we see him as Nathanael than Bartholomew. To make it easier on all of us, I will hereby refer to him as Nathanael.

Our disciple Nathanael was a student of scripture. He was always in search of true knowledge of God. We discern this by the way Philip tells him about Jesus.

John 1:45 - Philip found Nathanael and said to him "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

Nathanael was well aware of the promises in scripture pointing to the Messiah's coming. So Philip knew that if he was to have his friends’ attention he had better reference the promises made by Moses and the prophets. Philip also knew Nathanael would see the fulfillment when he met Jesus himself. So he said to his friend "Come and see." In spite of the prejudice Nathanael had for Nazareth as an unrefined and undereducated area, he goes with Philip to meet Jesus.

John 1:47 - Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said to him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"

Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward Him and greets him from afar. He calls him an Israelite with no deceit. What a comment for someone to make as you approach them. This person could see who Nathanael was and not only that, he saw his character.

He knew that Nathanael had no deceit in him. Nathanael was not the type to be sly or use trickery to get his way. Instead he was straight forward and honest. Maybe even honest to a fault, some might think. But he when you dealt with him you knew what you were getting into. There was no reading between the lines or trying to figure out what he really meant. I believe Nathanael was transparent and open.

Fit me right in there with this guy! I know the downfall and the up side of this trait. I have been told by some that they love it and others, well, they just stay away. I am transparent about my life and my faults. So much so that it has made people uncomfortable at times.

Believe me; I am not trying to make anyone uncomfortable. I just realize that God already knows and sees where I've been and what I've done. He sees my downfalls and short comings. I no longer need to feel ashamed for these things. It’s called grace and I plan to live in it daily and to the fullest.

I still must repent when I sin and try to live in righteousness. But I refuse to feel shame for what I have lived through in my past. I lived through abuse as a child, and talking about these things can make some people uncomfortable. I know and understand there discomfort. I just don't allow myself to take on anyone else’s shame or go back to mine that’s gone and forgiven.

Jesus knows our transgressions and everything about us. He took one look at Nathanael and knew who he was and what he was all about. He sees this about us also. Jesus sees inside us. He knows who we are, what we are thinking. He knows our next move before we even do.

How often do we believe we can hide things from God? We seem to think if we don't talk to Him about it that He doesn't know. What are we thinking? He can see it all. How much better off would we be if we were just honest and approached God instead of running away?

John 1:48-49 - Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered and said to Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!"

Jesus knew Nathanael before he had ever met Jesus. He had seen Nathanael under the fig tree and knew everything there was to know about him. Philip was right; Nathanael did recognize the Messiah when he met him. He called Jesus, Rabbi and exclaimed You are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!

This pure hearted man with all sincerity knew who he was committing his life of service too. He would not waver later when he would be called to stand up for the truth. He would instead finish well, just as we are called to do.

He knew what was at stake. He knew that he might well have to die for his Savior. But his sincere heart called him to the one he had heard about probably from his early years.

Nathan shows us that having a pure heart after the true Messiah is worth the cost we might have to pay. He also shows one of the qualities we will need to finish the job we are called to. We will need to be without deceit. A heart with no guile, that’s pure and sincerely in love with Jesus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Counting the Cost to Follow

Have you ever been swept up in the moment? Excitement surrounds you at every angle. You seem to be on a high that will never end.

I have experienced times where the spirit of God is so strong in the room that I have felt if He pours anymore of Himself on me I would burst. Those emotionally, spirit filled times are amazing but we all have to come down eventually.

It must have been exciting to be called by Jesus Christ personally and become his follower. What an emotionally charged feeling it must have been to know that the Messiah was calling you to be his disciple. Just like us though, they had to come down to reality eventually. They too were given the truth of what it would cost them to follow.

Let's explore that today. What did it cost them to follow and what will it cost us also?

Matthew 8:19-22 - Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then another of His disciples said to Him "Lord let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Here we see Jesus with a multitude coming after Him; he had taught them and is ready to climb into the boat to go across to the other side. A young man, a scribe amongst the throngs of people has heard the call to follow. He has wrestled with his decision and in the last instance before Jesus is gone; he says "Teacher, I will follow you where ever you go."

What does Jesus tell this young man to do? Does he tell him come along, the more the merrier? No. He tells him to count the cost. He tells him that even the foxes have holes to sleep in and the birds have nest but the Son of Man lives in poverty and has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus is showing this young man the cost he will pay to follow. Jesus is asking him if he is willing to pay that price. Is he willing to give up everything and live in poverty just like Jesus does?

Then another following says to Jesus "Let me first go and bury my father" and He says "Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead."

Seems a little harsh doesn't it? You would think this person had just lost his father to death and needed to go do his duty and bury him. Not the case.

Back in those days, it would have been part of the son’s responsibility to care for the father until his death. What this young man meant was he could not leave and follow Jesus until his father had died. Jesus tells him to let someone else care for his father. In other words, Jesus was posing a decision to this man, "Who will you put first, Me or your father?"

Just like these two men, we are asked the same things. Will we pay the price to follow? Will we put Jesus first before all things?

In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus spells out the cost for us:

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower does not sit down first and count the cost , whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him. Saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."

We too must count the cost. Spelled out in black and white, Jesus calls for all. Everything must be given. Forsaking all things. There is no compromising. There is no holding on to old things or people. There is only Jesus and the path he has planned out for you.

He also asks, will we finish? Will we get down the road when the going gets tough and fall short, leaving ourselves open to be mocked? Or will we stay strong and cross the finish line?

For Jesus, there is no dragging along baggage with us. We are called to make the sacrifices needed to remain on the road with Him. We must shed the things of the past, maybe even the things that we love. Are we willing?

Now, I know that the cost looks high and a huge price to pay. But we are not asked to pay such a high price for no reason. We are also not called to pay the price alone. There are benefits that make it well worth the sacrifice here on earth.

In Mark 10:28-31 we see Peter remind Jesus "We have left all and followed You." Which in reply Jesus acknowledges there sacrifices and tells them they will reap a hundredfold in eternity those things they sacrificed. He tells them that many who are first will be last and the last will be first.

We may not reap all we would love to have here on this earth, but we are assured of great rewards lasting eternally. Our reward awaits with lasting benefits. We are assured of an eternity with Jesus in heaven. What better reward could there be?

There are however also some rewards that we are given now. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. That in itself is a great reward. The more we rely on the Spirit and leave behind our human nature we are given the blessing of fruit in our life. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) We are filled with these things in the midst of strife, struggle and trials.

Imagine having a peacefulness and joy filling you even in the midst of horrible circumstances. It is those qualities that gave Paul the ability to sing and praise God while chained in prison. It was also how the disciples were converted and sustained during much persecution.

I myself consider such abilities to be a great benefit and reward right now. We will never escape the bad in this world, whether we follow Jesus or not. Tragedy, murder and evil are here to stay. But we can have the Holy Spirit to give us what we need to navigate through difficult times.

John 8:12 - Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

We are not left alone to navigate through this world. If we choose to follow, we are given the light of the world to shine the way. We are not left in darkness but instead we are given a light to guide us through this life and into the next.