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Follow Jesus’ Thankfulness

Jesus lived a life of thankfulness and, as followers, so should we.  There are four recorded events in which he gave thanks to the Father.  They are found in Mt. 16:11, 23, 15:36 where he fed the five thousand and the four thousand in Jn. 11:41 before raising Lazarus from the dead, in Lk 10:21 for revealing truths to “babes’ and in Lk. 22:17-19 at the last supper.  The first was a provision, the second for answered prayer and miracles, the third for revelation and wisdom, and the fourth was for his death that would provide salvation, healing and deliverance.  How about spending some time today recounting and thanking God specifically in those four areas He has touched your life in this year.  


Missing The Point

John chapter 6 includes the feeding of the 5000, Jesus walking on the water and the ‘Eat My Flesh’ message.  After the disciples were saved from the storm, Mk. 6:51 says “They were completely amazed for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”  The disciples missed the real point of the miraculous feeding.  Jesus told the crowds following Him that they were only after ‘daily earthly bread’ yet they were rejecting the eternal bread that would make them live forever.  Notice the many times ‘believing’ is mentioned in this chapter yet the majority refused and no longer followed him.  These disciples missed the point just like the twelve disciples had earlier.  When Jesus asked “You don’t want to leave me too , do you?” Peter responded “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  If you are in a hard, confusing and daunting place are you able to declare the same?  


The Greatest Weapon God Has Given Us

During the Civil War weapons improved but tactics remained the same.  This resulted in high casualties.  One weapon was the Spencer repeating rifle which radically improved the ability to fight.  So too, God has given us a weapon superior in every way: The Holy Spirit.
 
The Holy Spirit is mentioned extensively in the Old Testament: it was by the Holy Spirit that the prophets were able to perform their miracles.  Looking at the New Testament, Jesus came as a man.  Being a man, how was Jesus able to do  all that He did?
 
The answer is that same Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us that He was filled with the Holy Spirit and that as a result He was able to accomplish miracles, healings, deliverances.  
 
Reflecting on that, it’s obvious that we as believers must also use the Holy Spirit if we are to see God move in mighty ways. 


What We Are Called to Do as a Church

As Christians we are in a war. We can relate our battles to those of the Civil War. The focus of that war was to put down the rebellion, unite the states, and put an end to slavery.  So too, our battle is for the same things: put down the rebellion begun by Satan, work in unity, and set the captive free.
 
During the Civil War, Lincoln struggled to keep his generals focused on the real mission: destroy the army of Robert E. Lee.  Instead, they would get fixated on things like capturing Richmond.  We, too, often get sidetracked by good things.  However, if our focus on doing those good things is not to reach the unsaved, then we should not be doing  it.  We must keep our efforts focused on the only task that matters: reaching the lost for Christ.
 
Reaching them works best when we use existing relationships upon which to build.  Write down the names of three people you have a relationship with and whom you want to see come to Christ.  Agree to pray daily for them. Let’s see what God can do!


Angry Jesus!

John includes the cleansing of the temple by Jesus early in his ministry unlike the synoptic gospels.  Believers often use Jesus’ anger to justify the level of anger and behavior they exhibit over an issue.  God cares about what upsets us but he may not be remotely angry over the issue we face.  This story is not about what upsets us but what upsets God.  We sing songs about God breaking our hearts with what breaks his but do we really mean it and are we close enough to him to know of his concerns.  Due to his zeal for his Father’s house, Jesus exhibited how God felt about the raw deal the average Jew and Gentile was getting through the sale of animals and the unfair money exchange at the profit of those who knew better.  Genuinely ask the Lord to make your heart sensitive to his heart and be ready to move on his behalf and to bring a bit of heaven down to earth for the sake of others.


Christian or Disciple?

 

It seems like a fairly simple question.  But is it?  Christian can mean just about anything: I attend church. I give to worthy causes. I try to live by the Golden Rule.  I don’t break any laws.  I live a “good” life.  
 
Disciple is a harder road to follow.  It means learner. It means follower.  It actually puts demands on us.  To be a disciple calls us to “take up your cross and follow Me.”  It means to constantly ask about everyday decisions we face, “What would Jesus do?”  It means to be a “light on a hill” and “salt of the earth”.  It calls us to make a difference in the lives around us.  It demands that we put Christ first in everything: our own lives, our family, our work.
 
In the world’s viewpoint today, Christian usually means judgmental, unforgiving, harsh, homophobic, intolerant, and the latest iteration of racist.
 
Which has the most impact on society: being a Christian….or being a disciple?
 
Which are you?


Grace or Truth?

John writes “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,  the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  Jesus dealt with people exhibiting both grace and truth.  With the woman at the well He told her she was living in adultery (truth) but also offered her living water (grace).  To the woman caught in adultery He said “neither do I condemn thee (grace), go and sin no more (truth) “
 
As His followers, we are called to exhibit that same balance of truth and grace with each other, and with those who have yet to become a part of the family of God.  It’s not always easy. Usually we fall on one side of the fence or the other.  
 
Randy Alcorn in his book, The Grace and Truth Paradox, writes: 
“Truth without grace breeds self-righteousness and crushing legalism.  Grace without truth  breeds deception and moral compromise.  Is it possible to embrace both in balance?
Jesus did.”
If we are to truly live a Christ-like life, Randy concludes: “In the end, we don’t need grace or truth. We need grace and truth. And for people to see Jesus in us, they must see both.”
 
 


Pilate’s Trial

Someone has said “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Certainly Pilate fulfilled that saying. He knew the Sanhedrin has misjudged him.  He knew Jesus was innocent. He knew Herod found nothing wrong. He was warned by his wife that Jesus was innocent from a troubling dream she had. The evidence was plain to see yet he released Barabbas, a known anti-Roman criminal, and condemned Jesus to death.  The Jewish leaders would later protest the ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’ sign affixed to the cross but Pilate would respond “What I have written, I have written.”  Not only would Jesus prove to be King of the Jews, he is indeed King of the Gentiles and desires to be King over you.  Once you choose to make him Savior and lord of your life he will anchor you to make all other tough decisions.  He is the only antidote to vacillating like Pilate!


Putting Jesus on trial?

Jesus’ life created many questions while he was alive and even more since his death and resurrection.  Imagine the Son of God being put on trial before a religious and political human court.  Whenever Truth is put on trial, it will end up shedding light on any falsehood in the courtroom.  Judas would commit suicide, Peter would deny Christ three times, Pilate knew that he himself was more on the stand than Jesus was and the Jewish leaders who claimed they were protecting their temple would lose it within forty years when Jerusalem was besieged.  A religious spirit avoids detection, is not teachable, cares more about outer conforming than inner transformation, does not act mercifully or graciously and would rather be right than loving.  If you suffer from any of these, your Judge is waiting to hear your humbling confession and transfer his righteousness on to you.  We must admit whatever is false within!


Does your life create questions?

In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told to be prepared to give an answer to the question of why we have such hope.  Colossians 4:6 tells us to  act and speak graciously so that we may “know how to answer everyone”.  Are you living in such a way that people question what you are all about?  Hopefully, the questions they ask would lead them to Christ and not away from him. Most importantly, are you able to give a clear Biblical presentation of the gospel if the opportunity arise>.  If you are not prepared, what is one thing you can do to be better equipped?