Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Lay Your Burden Down

There are millions of people carrying such heavy burdens all across our world.  They cannot sleep at night and wake up tired.  They have regular appointments with their counselors.  Their attempts at hobbies and exercise are strategies to find relief.  What burden are you carrying?  If you want to find the peace you have been searching for, it is found in a person – Jesus.   

Once He was invited to dinner at a religious leader’s home.  Other religious leaders also came, and together they sat down at the table and began visiting.  Jesus’ fame as a preacher rose quickly, so word continually spread where He was.  A certain prostitute who was impacted by Jesus and His ministry learned of His whereabouts.  She made her way into the house and found herself standing before Jesus and the other guests.  She stood without saying a word, then began weeping.  So much, that her tears fell on Jesus’ feet.  Seeing that, she bent down and began wiping the tears off with her hair. 

During the whole process, the religious leaders were incensed at the woman and Jesus.  Noticing this, Jesus spoke to the dinner host, addressing the host’s attitude toward her, then eventually turned back to the woman and said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).  That incensed the leaders even more.  Then He spoke one final word before she humbly slipped out, “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50). 

This prostitute was looking for something, just like all those preachers in that room, all the people in her city, and like you and me.  Her search took her into prostitution, for others it is different. 

But when she heard of Jesus, something awakened in her that no doubt said, “This is it!”  And she overcame the barriers before her to get to Jesus and when she got there, He did not disappoint her. 

She found forgiveness for all the wrong she had done!  The guilt and shame she had been trying to outrun was finally washed away.  How did that happen?  Faith.  Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.” 

Wow!  It was her faith that provided forgiveness.  It is interesting to note, what Jesus did not say.  He did not say anything about religion, morality, goodness or education.  Just faith.  He did not refer to anything about personal will power, having a positive attitude, perseverance or working hard.  Just faith.  And what is faith?  It was her belief, trust and confidence in Jesus.

We are all naturally wired to be independent and achieve.  We want to earn what we have.  Our culture is set up that way from our parents and high school coaches, to our professors and bosses.  Work hard and succeed.  It is up to you.  Faith in Jesus is opposite.  This woman simply had faith and her life was instantly transformed.  She believed Jesus was the Son of God.  She believed she had done wrong and needed forgiveness.  She trusted that Jesus had the power to forgive.  She was confident Jesus was sufficient for all she needed.     

Then Jesus said, “go in peace.”  No doubt the immoral life she led weighed on her.  She not only needed forgiveness, but peace.  Often the foolish things we do cause great amounts of stress and anxiousness.  In one moment, her simple faith brought forgiveness and peace.  Lay your burden down at the feet of Jesus.  Have faith in Him. 

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will help the readers to end their search.  Bring them to take off their burden and find forgiveness and peace in Christ through simple faith. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Four Marks of a True Man

Esquire magazine published the article, “How to be a Man.” The author wrote a series of proverbs on manliness.  One stated, “A man knows how to lose an afternoon. Drinking, playing Grand Theft Auto, driving aimlessly, shooting pool.”  Please, do not follow their advice!  Unfortunately, too many already do.   

Like most men, I learned what a man was primarily from my father, other men in my community and on TV.  My favorite TV character growing up was the Six Million Dollar Man.  When I was 20 years old though, my life changed when I came to know the supreme model of manhood – Jesus.  He taught me what it was to be a real man.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Truth refers to reality, what is not hidden.  The life of Jesus was lived openly.  He showed the world how to live a perfect life, no matter if someone is a man, woman, or child.  In Jesus, I see what kind of man I am to be. 

1.    A real man has purpose.  Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).  Jesus had a purpose for His life and work.  What about you?  When you follow Christ with all your heart, He will show you your purpose.  Read His Word.  Ask Him, then patiently wait, and He will reveal it to you.    

2.    A real man has love.  Jesus said, “. . . just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).  Jesus loved a small group of men He mentored.  He loved by telling them directly and showing them through acts of service.  Jesus’ greatest demonstration of love was when He died and rose again for the sins of the world.  He modeled love through sacrifice, by putting the needs of others above Himself, even to the point of death.  Men, love your wife, family members, friends and even your enemies, the way Jesus did.      

3.    A real man has a pure heart.  Jesus said, “. . . everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).  Jesus was single, ministered to women and had women among those who followed Him, yet in all this, He never lusted.  He was pure in mind, heart and body.  Men, say no to pornography.  Say no to sex outside of marriage.  Say yes to Jesus, and invite Him to purify your mind and give you power over temptation.    

4.    A real man has right priorities.  Jesus said, “. . . what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36).Jesus was incredibly successful.  Yet, despite His celebrity, He forfeited the riches of this world for something far greater.  Men, be excellent in all you do, but do not look to your career, possessions, income or achievements for your worth or identity.  Live for more than that.  Do not forfeit your eternal soul in the pursuit of temporal things that provide momentary pleasure.  Live fully and wholly for Jesus.  In Him is found everything you need in life.    

Do you want to know what a real man is?  Look to Jesus!  Follow Him and change your family tree for generations to come.

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray that the men who read this will become men like Jesus.  Help them to have purpose in life and work, to love like Jesus did, to have a pure heart and for you to be their number one priority.  Enable them to take the first step today by turning to you and away from their sin.  Bring them to call upon you in belief and for forgiveness, then transform them into new men. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Why God? Why?

I was recently visiting with some high school seniors and asked them what their classmates thought about God. "They’re sometimes confused", they said. I asked them to explain. "They see bad things happen in the world and wonder why. If God is God, then why didn’t He prevent it?" Immediately, I thought how so many adults wonder the same thing. No matter if we are a teenager or senior citizen, this is a common response to tragic situations.

We see stories of this in the Bible. This is one of many things I like about God’s Word. It shows what real life is like.

When Jesus, God’s only Son, hung on the cross and was near death, He looked toward heaven and cried out in anguish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

When King David led the nation of Israel and was facing enemies who threatened the future of his nation he wrote, "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1)

When Moses was struggling to lead the Hebrew people, tragedy struck and the people rebelled. Moses lamented before God, "O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?" (Exodus 5:22)

It is natural for us to question or even become angry at God when bad things happen. But when they do, how are we going to respond? It is one thing to analyze and talk about situations from a distance, but what about when your right in the middle of it? Here are four ways Jesus responded to the evil and injustice of His own circumstances.

1) Accept the reality of evil and believe it can be defeated. When Jesus faced His death, He understood the evil that exists in the human heart and the evil systems in our world. He accepted its reality, but determined to walk through it, knowing evil would not overcome Him, but He would overcome it. Do not live in denial of your painful situation. Accept it. But know that Jesus is bigger, greater and more powerful. And when you place the full weight of your trust in Him, you can overcome.

2) Turn toward God, not away from Him. As Jesus hung on the cross feeling the weight of the world on His shoulders, He cried out, "Why God?" Notice, He did not complain to the thieves crucified next to Him or to others nearby. Rather, He turned His words of sorrow toward God, pouring out His heart and remaining faithful to Him, enduring to the end. Our emotions in the moment can lead us away from God, where we complain to others, mumble to ourselves or even lift our first toward the heavens. No matter how dark things get, keep turning to God. Do not believe your circumstances have the final say. Trust in God. Trust in Jesus.

3) Face evil with a spirit of forgiveness and graciousness. Jesus faced His unjust circumstances and accusers with forgiveness and graciousness. This does not come naturally. Our tendency is to lash out at others and become bitter and isolated. Only with the Spirit of Jesus in us can we live as He lived.

4) Overcome evil with faith in God. The Scripture teaches that Jesus faced His death with joy. How did He do that? He knew that He would rise again and conquer all the evil and injustice around Him. When devastating news comes, grab hold of Jesus. Endure. Persevere. If you have trusted in Christ, your suffering will be for a season. We do not know how long it will last, but our victory is certain. This is the believer’s certain hope, as Jesus rose again and overcame, so will we.

A prayer for you to pray - "Lord God, I take my questions, frustrations and anger, and lay them at your feet. I turn from my sin of unforgiveness toward others and anger toward you. Lord, be my Savior from my sin and my Savior in this dark valley. Rescue me oh God! Change my heart today. Give me hope. Give me You. In Jesus’ name.  Amen."

Monday, April 1, 2019

Easter and the Danger of Religion

“Come on. Let’s go!” Every Sunday morning, including every Easter, since I was three years old all six of our family were rushing out the door to church. In the early years, dad was driving with us, later on he was already there because he was the pastor.

From those toddler years until I was 20, I had been to-and-through everything related to church; Sunday services, vacation Bible schools, youth group meetings, church membership, baptism, communion, and the list goes on. However, no one except my mother ever talked with me about where I stood with God, and that was one conversation. Everyone else, including me, must have assumed I was in good standing with the Lord. Boy was I wrong. If I would have died as a youth, I am not sure what I would have said if God would have asked me, “Clint. Good to see you! Tell me, why do you think I should let you into this heaven I have built? Beautiful isn’t it?” My mind would either have gone totally blank or I would have quietly mumbled my list of church achievements.

Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Notice how these people thought because they were involved in church activities and doing good, that it was okay between themselves and Jesus. However, to their surprise on Judgment Day, they learned they had it all wrong.

What was the problem? Look at Jesus’ response to them, “I never knew you.” As the people approached Jesus, He looked at them carefully and did not recognize any personal relationship with them. They were complete strangers. There was no love between them. No friendship. Nothing.

This was a picture of me. Every Sunday I was in the presence of Jesus. I read His Word. I was baptized in His name. I joined His church. I even prayed in His name. Yet, I never loved Him. I never considered Him my King, my Lord, my Savior . . . my friend. I had nothing but empty religion.

But praise God! Rather than letting me wait until Judgment Day to learn this, He opened my spiritual eyes, called me to Himself and transformed me into a new man. Today I can confidently say, “Jesus is mine and I am His.”

For over 400 years, the United States has had the name of Jesus preached across it. We have heard how He suffered, died on a cross, and three days later rose again from the dead. This Easter message is not new to us, nor does it cost us anything to be religious and go to church in America . . . but it costs you EVERYTHING to know and follow Jesus. Do not be surprised on Judgment Day. Do you love Him?

A prayer for you to pray– “Lord God, examine my heart. Point out if I do church and religious things out of obligation, to seek favor with you or to receive praise from others? Search me. Do I really love you Lord Jesus? Are you really my Savior and my friend? Today, I turn from religion and to You. Forgive me of my sins and help me to know you personally for the first time. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”