Sunday, July 22, 2012

Go the Distance

It was a wonderful privilege to attend Children's Camp this Summer. The title for this entry was also the theme of that wonderful few days together. Consider the following verse from Hebrews 12:1 = "Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us." We were all encouraged and challenged to start the race, run the race, and finish the race. Christian living is more like a marathon than a sprint. We must continue as the next verse states: "Keeping your eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith".

Keeping our eyes on Jesus and running the race of faith with endurance will lead us to more time spent in prayer and in the wonderful Word of God. It will also lead us to connect with other believers who are also keeping their eyes of Jesus and running the race of faith with endurance. Go the distance - that is God's will for every believer.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Jefferson
(2) State of Wisconsin
(3) Nation of Zimbabwe
(4) South Asian Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

His Mission & Our Mission

Jesus was perfectly clear in Matthew 18:11 concerning His mission while on this earth. He said, "For the Son of Man has come to save the lost." Clear and to the point. He looked to the cross knowing that it was His death on that cross that would bring salvation to all who would call upon His name. Thank You Jesus for fulfilling Your mission. Thank You for the salvation that You and You alone offer.

Now it is our turn to share that salvation with those who have never trusted in Jesus for salvation. Sometimes we share with those who have heard before but simply need another opportunity to hear. While at other times we are sharing with those who have never heard. Bottom-line: we share! We share and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction that results in Salvation. Share! Fulfill your mission.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines Community of Big Oaks
(2) State of New Jersey
(3) Nation of San Marino
(4) Central Asian Peoples throughout the World

Monday, July 9, 2012

Words to Hear from the Father

Jesus spent many hours helping His disciples to see the Father. He continued to point to the work of the Father. He continued to live a perfect example of the Father's love, compassion, & mercy. Yet, every once in a while, the Father spoke from heaven to confirm the ministry of Jesus. Today consider one such example from Matthew 17:5; where God states: "This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!"

Listen to Him! He is the only voice that we need to direct our lives. He is God's One and Only Son. And if God takes delight in Him, oh that we should also take delight in Him as well.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Jefferson
(2) State of Massachusetts
(3) Nation of The Republic of Congo
(4) Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Today, Worship the Messiah

Many Christian believers will gather together for Bible Study, Fellowship, and Worship today. Oh that God's Word would impact our life's in knowledge & application. Pray for God's Holy Spirit to bring to light all truth. Walk in that truth.

Pray also for our brothers and sisters around the world who meet, even though their very meeting together places their lives on the line. Remembering always those dear saints of God who are unable to physically meet together with other believers or those who have to work.

Today I am personally thankful for this truth: "So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19&20).

Pray today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) State of New Mexico
(3) Nation of Saudi Arabia
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Message of Faith Proclaimed

We have a message of faith to proclaim to those around us who are without Jesus as their Savior. That message is clear & in need of you and I to continue to proclaim: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation" (Romans 10:9&10). It is that simple. People can come to salvation in Jesus by confessing that "Jesus is Lord". They do not have to have all the answers, they don't need to try to clean-up their lives before coming to Jesus, nor do they need to go through any other ritual in order to experience salvation in Jesus.

Proclaiming the message of faith
in the Romanian Gypsy village of Prajoaia!!!
According to the verses above, it is through a person's belief in Jesus that righteousness takes place. Jesus will change them. Jesus will clean-up their lives as the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification in their lives. When a person confesses "Jesus is Lord," the result is salvation.

Does this simple message of faith work for every person? Oh, how I love the answer given in Romans 10:13. In that simple verse we read: "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Did you see the answer? Everyone. Everyone is anyone. Anyone is that neighbor that has been refusing Jesus for years. Anyone is that new person in the community that seems to be very different. Anyone is . . .

The question before you and I today is: Are we proclaiming this message of faith? 

Praying today for:
(1) LOPBC VBS Worship Rallies
(2) Lake O’ the Pines community of Mims / Avinger Cutt-off
(3) State of Arkansas
(4) Nation of Laos
(5) American Peoples throughout the World

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Turning

Yesterday we noticed the encouragement given to Joshua to be strong and courageous. That encouragement was repeated three times within Joshua 1:6-9. In the midst of this encouragement to remain strong and courageous the following concerning God's word is shared in verses 7 & 8. Joshua is told to "carefully observe the whole instruction . . . Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it."

Following God is a decision
to remain true to Him!
God's promise to Joshua was His divine blessings and presence as Joshua remained true to His commandments. Joshua had a decision to make: be strong and courageous to follow after God or turn aside to follow his own desires or the thoughts and desires of the people around him. The same temptation for turning exists for believers today. We  are surrounded by people who are not committed to God's instruction found in His Word. They continue to turn to the and to the left, departing from God's divine will. Sometimes that departure is guided by tradition rather than dependence upon God's Word. At other times their departure is directly influenced by the people around them rather than relying upon the God they claim to follow.

Have you and I remained true to God's Word? Or, have we turned to the right or the left? Have we devoted ourselves to the careful observation of His instruction or are we simply going by what we have heard others say? 

Today our encouragement is to study God's Word. Let us go forth with a resolve "to recite it day and night" . . . and to "carefully observe everything written in it."

Praying Today for:
(1) VBS Workers
(2) Lake O’ the Pines community of Big Cypress
(3) State of West Virginia
(4) Nation of Mauritius
(5) South Asian Peoples throughout the World

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Taking a Stand

Today during Sunday Morning Bible Study Lake O' the Pines Baptist Church will begin a look at the Old Testament Book of Joshua. This in an wonderful book filled with the history of Israel taking possession of the Promised Land. But this is more than a book of history. It begins by reminding us that Joshua is the man who replaced one of the greatest leaders the nation of Israel had ever seen, Moses. Joshua was God's chosen man to now lead the children of Israel into this land of promise.

One major emphasis leaps off the pages in chapter one: either Joshua is an insecure person or he is surrounded by people who make him feel insecure. Notice the following three verses:

LOPBC Youth Minister Cody Mather
Standing on a rock looking upon the Mediterranean Sea from Greece 
Joshua 1:6 = "Be strong and courageous"
Joshua 1:7 = "Above all, be strong and very courageous"
Joshua 1:9 = "Haven't I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

In all three verses we see the LORD's emphasis on standing strong. Joshua, like many Christians today, needed to dig his heels in and stand for God. No matter what he would face in the days ahead, his focus must be upon the God who is with him wherever he goes. You and I need the same focus on the same God. The words of encouragement to Joshua are the same words of encouragement God gives to each of us throughout His Holy Word. "Be strong . . . be courageous . . . take a stand".

Praying today for:

(1) LOPBC VBS = Children Attending
(2) Lake O’ the Pines community of Indian Hills / Deer Cove
(3) State of Arizona   
(4) Nation of Guadeloupe
(5) East Asian Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Heart's Desire & Prayer

One verse from this past Sunday continues to come up in my mind over and over again. That is verse is found in Romans 10:1 where it is written, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation." The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church in Rome, states clearly that he, the apostle to the Gentiles, still has a desire for the Jewish people to be saved. He has already written in the very first chapters that no man seeks God on his own and in these last chapters he has written about the fact that Jews seeks after God but they do not seek Him through Jesus.

Yet that doesn't stop Paul from praying for them to be saved, nor does it relinquish his heart from having that desire. What happens when our heart has a desire? Sunday I told how our youngest daughter disappeared one day. We were all in the front yard together one minute and the next she was missing. My heart sank the moment we realized that she had wondered off. Yes I prayed for her to be found. But I did not simply pray for that to happen, I began looking. My heart's desire to find her took me throughout the neighborhood. It was not enough to simply pray and go back to doing whatever it was that I was doing. My heart's desire put action to my prayers. We found her picking flowers in the back yard. She thought it was fun playing hide & seek. The only problem was that no one else knew that she was playing a game.

People all around us think that life is simply a game. They think that as long as they do their best, God will allow them into heaven. After all, He is a loving and merciful God. The only problem with that logic is that it isn't biblical. According to the Bible, the only way a person can have salvation and eternity in heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus. Therefore the question for you and I is: Are we praying for people to be saved? And what is our heart's desire?

As we pray we go. As we go we pray. We go to make disciples of all people. We pray that ears would be open and that people would respond in saving faith. We pray that the Holy Spirit would prepare the way. We go taking the Holy Spirit within us into this darkened world. 

Will you join the Apostle Paul by saying: "my heart's desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation"?

Praying today for:

(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) State of Alabama
(3) Nation of Bolivia
(4) Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian Gypsy village of Racatau

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Can People be Separated from God?

That is a tricky question. The Bible clearly teaches that people are sinners. Sin separates people from God. According to Romans 3:23 we all have sinned and thus fall short of God's glory. Then according to Romans 6:23 the results of that sin is death - eternal separation from God. Jesus, however, died even while we were sinners, stuck in our sin, without any hope; his death brought about the forgiveness of sin for all who come to Him for salvation.

Can people be separated from God. A lot of people would love to quote Romans 8:38&39 to answer that question. Some people misread it to say that no one will be separated from God but note there is clarification in these verses. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

Did you read the statement that clarifies the one who cannot be separated? It was in the last phrase, "in Christ Jesus our Lord!" See, the one who has confessed his sin and found forgiveness in Jesus and has committed his life to following Jesus and is in Jesus is the one who cannot be separated from the love of God. It is the Christian who walks with confidence in this promise of God. Believers in Jesus for salvation have eternal life that is secure.

Can you be separated from God? Not if you personally know Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

Praying today for:

(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Johnson Creek / Campers
(2) State of Montana
(3) Nation of China, Tajikistan
(4) European Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian town of Onesti

Monday, May 28, 2012

Praying Holy Spirit

One of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer in Christ is described in Romans 8:26&27. These wonderful verses tell us: "The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." 

Do you ever feel weak? Do you ever feel the need to pray for someone or about something but never seem to know how to pray? The great news found in the verses above is that when those times come, and they will, the Spirit prays on our behalf. We are weak but He is strong. He intercedes with unspoken groanings. We still don't know the words to pray but thanks be to God that the Spirit does. We still don't know the person's greatest need but the Spirit does.

How? How does the Spirit know how to pray on our behalf? The easy answer is because the Spirit is God. Yet, the verses above tell us that the Spirit always prays "for the saints according to the will of God. He brings our will into conformity to the will of God the Father in our prayers. This is the way God accomplishes His will in our lives for His glory. 

Praying today for:

(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Crestwood
(2) State of Missouri
(3) Nation of Australia
(4) American Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian Gypsy village of Prajoaia

Friday, May 25, 2012

Adopted into God's Family

Amazing truths of God's Word unfold for us in Romans 8:12-17. In this passage we see the following phrases leap off the pages of Scripture at us:
     (1) "According to the flesh, you are going to die"
     (2) "By the Spirit . . . you will live"
     (3) "Those led by God's Spirit are God's sons"
     (4) "You received the Spirit of adoption"
     (5) "We cry out, 'Abba Father!'"
     (6) "The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God's children"
     (7) "If children, also heirs"

Today our challenge is to read through the truths outlined above. We need to realize maybe for the first time that we really are adopted into the family of God. We are not simply here on our own but have received the Holy Spirit, who cries out from within us, "Abba, Father!" Perhaps we would say it this way: "Daddy, Daddy!" It is as if we cry up into His big arms for comfort and protection from all cares. My daughters don't have to question my love for them. They experience it day by day as we spend time together. Therefore, you and I will come to realize the love that God has for us day by day as we spend time together with Him. 

The last truth is that we are heirs. We are entitled to heaven itself. This entitlement is not based on anything other than the work of salvation of Jesus upon the cross. It is because of Him that we no longer die because of sin. It is Jesus who gives us life, sends the Spirit, adopts us into the family, and guarantees eternal life.

Blessings to you today as you consider these wonderful truths.

Praying today for the:
(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Ally Creek
(2) State of Nevada
(3) Nation of Mayotte
(4) Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian gypsy village of Racatau

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Life in the Holy Spirit

It still amazes me. Years ago following a church worship service, a lady approached me saying, "I have something to talk to you about." She always did. But nonetheless, this time she was upset about something that was said during the sermon. She said, and I quote, "I can certainly have salvation without having the Holy Spirit no matter what you say." 

Really? Did a professing Christian really just say that she could have salvation without having the Holy Spirit?

This lady was not really upset about what I said but she was really upset about the truth of God's Word. For that morning Romans 8:9 was read as a sub-point during the sermon. That verse reveals this truth: "You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." The Spirit changes us. When He takes up residence in our lives, He doesn't want just simply a little corner or our lives, the Spirit takes over the whole life. One point made during that sermon was that, as a Christian, when we sin the indwelling Holy Spirit convicts us to the point of confession & repentance. Without that conviction perhaps the question needs to be asked if the Holy Spirit is really living a person or not.

"The Spirit of God lives in you." This is an amazing truth. A truth that I admit I still cannot wrap my mind completely around. The Creator of all things, God Himself, Jesus, my Savior lives in me. That is the truth of God's Word. In fact that verse goes on to say that anyone not having the Spirit of God "does not belong to Him."

Is the Spirit of God living in you? Christian, are you under conviction when there is sin in your life? If you are not, I encourage you  to read all of Romans 8 as well as John 14 & 16. These passages outline the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

Embrace life in the Holy Spirit. You will not regret it.

Praying today for:

(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Pine Harbor
(2) State of Minnesota
(3) Nation of Grenada
(4) North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian town of Comanesti

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Standing in Christ

One of the most liberating verses in Scripture is found in Romans 8:1. There we read these words, "Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus." For me personally, it was many years into my journey with Christ that this verse was even remotely understood. In fact, I am still learning its full impact in my daily life.

For years there was an internal war going on within my mind and heart. Sometimes I thought I was forgiven of sin and at other times I just simply could not believe that I was really forgiven. Confusion was the tactic of the evil one to keep me weak in my faith. That weakness led to life of self-condemnation and allowed me to think that the condemnation of others was acceptable as well. 

But look closely at the words of the verse earlier. In simple East Texas language - when we come to Jesus for salvation, He gives us true freedom from the penalty of the sin that we have confessed to God. God does not dangle the sin of the past over our heads. He does not bring it back up, even when it is the same sin we are guilty of again.

There are many additional verses that have helped me to grow in how wonderful Romans 8:1 is in the Christian life. For example, Psalm 103:10-12 which read, "He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He  removed our transgressions from us."

According to God's Word, let each of us journey ahead in the Christian life with freedom with our new standing in Christ.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Mims / Avinger Cutt-off
(2) State of New Hampshire
(3) Nation of Nauru
(4) Central Asian Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian town of Suceava

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Gift is Free

Christmas and birthdays have one thing in common for many children - the receiving of gifts. And although parents will tell their children that their gifts are determined by their behavior, well lets be honest, we still give our children gifts. We love to surprise them with something that they really want to have. 

According to the Bible, we have also received from the Heavenly Father a gift that we did not deserve. Romans 6:23 declares that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Notice that we deserve death. Death is an interesting word in this verse. Sin does bring about physical death. Yet, there is more to death here than just dying physically. This word  points to the reality of spiritual death. Because of sinful living, which I will remind you that we are all guilty in God's eyes of, we deserve eternal separation from God - that is spiritual death. However, notice also that God stepped in and provided the greatest gift ever. 

God's gift of eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ. This gift is salvation to all who will surrender their lives to Him. Like all other gifts, it is only mine when I fully embrace it. I can admire it from a distance. I can think that it is an awesome gift that God has given but until I truly embrace the gift, I will never understand the greatness of it.

Have you fully embraced God's free gift of salvation? You cannot earn it, He has already provided it. It is yours for the taking. This gift has also been provided for those around us that have yet to embrace it as well. Will you help someone today understand that they need to embrace the gift of God  - eternal life / salvation found in Jesus Christ our Lord?

Praying today for:

Lake O’ the Pines: Big Cypress
State: Michigan 
Nation: China, Hong Kong
People Group: Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World
Romanian town of Pascani

Monday, May 21, 2012

In His Time

One of the first little choruses I remember singing growing up is entitled "IN HIS TIME". Perhaps you remember it as well. It basically states that God makes all things beautiful in His time. And that we are to seek His guidance to do what He says, when He says.

Romans 5:6 & 8 also declares that God's timing is the best. "For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!" Think about those words just a moment. God came to our rescue at the "appointed moment". We were helpless, ungodly, sinners. Yet, God proved His love IN HIS TIME. Jesus Christ died in my place and in your place. He bore the wrath of God because of the sin man had committed. 

I am so thankful for God's timing in sending Jesus to provide salvation to all who come to Him in faith. Because 27 years ago that is exactly what happened in my life. In God's timing, I trusted in Jesus as my Savior and began the journey of following Him as my Lord. Has God's timing come in your life? Although we don't know God's timing for anyone else, we do have the responsibility of sharing the gospel with others for God's timing to take place in their lives.

Today we pray for:
(1) Lake O’ the Pines community of Indian Hills / Deer Cove
(2) State of New Jersey
(3) Nation of Pakistan
(4) European Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian town of Bacau

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Faith is the Key

On my key ring there are 10 keys. To some people that may seem like a large number; to others however, that may seem like a low number. The point is that each key has a purpose. I am not a person who collects keys to just look important. In some ways I wish I could rid myself of a few keys but then I wouldn't be able to get into some rooms that I need to get into from time-to-time.

You see, I have a key to the church sanctuary, fellowship hall, my office, church van, coke machine, and so forth. Each key unlocks a particular door. There have been few times when I have tried to use the fellowship hall key to unlock the door for the sanctuary. Do you know what happened? That's right - NOTHING. Trying to use the wrong key only led to frustration until I discovered that it was the wrong key.

Romans 5:1 declares, "Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin. Remember from yesterday that everybody is a sinner. Everybody. No one is righteous - not even one. That is the reason Jesus came to the rescue. He rescued us from a life of sin and provided peace with God. He has done what is necessary for each and every person to have salvation. It is now through faith that we come to God for that peace. Did you notice the key? FAITH. Faith is the key that unlocks the door for salvation.

Praying Today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) State of New York
(3) Nation of Tanzania
(4) Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian town of Suceava

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being Lost Described

Many people I know say that they have been saved so long that they don't even remember what it was like to be lost. Really? Growing up, I was not what you would call a bad child. For the most part I was your average boy. My friends and I did what boys do. However, there is no doubt in my mind that during the summer of my 4th grade year of school, I was made aware that I was lost and needed Jesus as my Savior. That summer I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and trusted in Him to be my Savior.

Since that time there have been many encounters with lost people in my life. The Bible is clear that "there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one" (Romans 3:10-12). Lost people act like lost people. And unfortunately, many self-proclaimed "Christians" act like lost people. Notice that the Scripture says that there is not even one. No one seeks God on there own accord. This is one reason it is so important that we take the gospel to them.

The other point to be made is that whether we want to admit it or not, we once fit that description. We were just like ever lost person today - totally separated from God because of sin - useless, turning away from God, without understanding. Yet, someone shared the gospel with us. Someone made sure we had the opportunity to hear the good news.

Who is the lost person God has given you influence with? Who is waiting on us for the opportunity hearing and responding to the good news? Where does that person live?

Every lost person is equal distance from God's grace. However, some will take more effort on our part to get to with the good news. Are you ready to go? To go wherever God takes you?

(1) Lake O' the Pines Community of Johnson Creek / Campers
(2) State of Maine
(3) Nation of Kenya
(4) North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian Town of Onesti

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Not Ashamed

Yesterday the question was asked if we will simply allow ourselves to go back to normal activity even though we have been challenged with the sharing of God's Word with others. Perhaps you are like me. You desire to be obedient in sharing the good news with others but it seems that your fears take over. There are many fears that flood the heart and mind at this juncture. Sometimes it is the fear of not knowing the answers to a person's questions. At other times it is the fear of simply saying something wrong, offending the other person, or simply the fear of the unknown. Believe me, I know how each of those fears can dominate a person and keep them from sharing the gospel of Jesus with others.

Today consider the encouraging words found in Romans 1:16 where the Scripture says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes." We don't have to have all the answers. We may answer a question wrong but God's Word intervenes. It is not me nor is it you that saves anyone. The gospel is God's power for salvation. God planned for the salvation of man (sent Jesus to die for sinners), purchased the salvation of man (Jesus died on the cross), and preserves the salvation of man (He seals us through the power and work of the Holy Spirit). God does the work of salvation. Our job is simply to share the gospel. 

Will you allow God to overcome your fears? Will you be faithful to share the gospel that is God's power for salvation?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines Community of Crestwood
(2) State of North Carolina
(3) Nation of Lebanon
(4) Central Asian Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian Gypsy Village of Racatau

Monday, May 14, 2012

Back to Normal?

The last few days have been filled with many different emotions. Yes, I am glad to be home with my family, my church family, and to have life back to some sort of normalcy. However, to be honest I already miss Romania. Life there is so much simpler. The preaching responsibilities every day was wonderful to be a part of.

Yes, glad to be home; but I cannot wait until another opportunity to preach God's Word. Whether that opportunity be here or there, it is always my desire to preach God's Word. I echo the Apostle Paul's words to the Romans when he said, "So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome" (Romans 1:15).

There should be an eagerness in us all to share the good news of God's Word with others. We need to be going into all the world to make disciples of all people. Poss ibilities are right outside our front doors, across town, in a neighboring state, or somewhere around the world. Where is God leading you to have an eagerness to share His Word, the good news?

It is my prayer that I don't simply return to normal but that I always be ready and even eager to preach / share the good news of God's Word. How about you?

Praying Today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines Community of Victory
(2) State of Louisiana
(3) Nation of Italy
(4) Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World
(5) Romanian Gypsy Village of Pajoriai

Friday, April 27, 2012

Information Regarding this Blog

Today will be the last post for this blog until Sunday, May 13. There is one main reason for this disruption - I will be going on a mission trip during that time period. Please be in prayer for me in traveling and ministry. Plus I ask that you pray for my family, my church family, and one another while I am away.

Yesterday we looked at the Roman Road as a way to share the plan of salvation with another person. We also noted that it is our lives that is the greatest testimony for a lost person. Every day we either point people to Jesus or we direct them in the opposite direction. 

It is my prayer that we each be found pointing people to Jesus. Will you do your part? Will you point people to Jesus?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Mims / Avinger Cutt-off
(2) State of Tennessee
(3) Nation of Panama
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salvation Experience

What were the circumstances surrounding your salvation experience? Without a doubt some people had the wonderful privilege of being raised by Christian parents who took them to church and more importantly told them about Jesus themselves. However, others did not have that Christian influence at home or church but was influenced to a salvation in Christ. So again the question is asked, what were the circumstances surrounding your salvation experience?

For me personally, God used a RA Summer Camp to show me my need for Him. I had been to church as a small child but have no memory of that time in my life. As a 10 year old, a friend had invited me to RA's on Wednesday nights; which proved to be one avenue God used to draw me to Himself. It was then that I heard the message of salvation. Although I don't remember the exact sermons preached, I do know that the following truths were brought to my attention:

  1. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
  2. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
  3. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
  4. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
Perhaps as you recall the circumstances surrounding your salvation experience or look at the what many simply call the Roman Road; you feel the Holy Spirit speaking to you about sharing your testimony with someone that doesn't know Jesus. We have a wonderful opportunity to share our salvation experience with others every day. Live out your testimony before others demonstrating what  Jesus has done in your life, what He is currently doing, and what His Word reveals He will do.

Praying Today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Big Cypress
(2) State of Florida
(3) Nation of Chad
(4) American People throughout the World

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Need for Discipleship

Discipleship is a much needed foundation for the Christian life. Unfortunately too many new believers are never guided through the discipleship process by another believer. This is one of the greatest needs in many churches today. Churches are needing people who have grown in their faith to step up and help disciple those who are now coming to faith in Jesus.

Acts 8 tells how a eunuch from Egypt had visited Jerusalem for the purpose of worship. On the journey home, he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip, a deacon from Acts 6 & preacher of the Messiah, was directed by the Holy Spirit to join the chariot on the road. He overheard the eunuch reading and asked the following question: "Do you understand what your're reading?" (Acts 8:30). That is a fair question for Philip to ask. He wanted to make sure that this man understood what he was reading. However, the response of the eunuch is priceless and what you and I need to see from this section of Scripture. "How can I," he said, "unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:31).

There are several truths to gather from these verses:

  • the Holy Spirit desires for us to share Jesus with others & help others understand the truths of the Scripture
  • there is a need for us to ask questions of anyone who shows an interest in religious matters
  • we need to be willing to journey along with others to help them grow in the faith
Praying today for :
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Berea
(2) State of Delaware
(3) Nation of Belize
(4) East Asian Peoples throughout the World

**A Note: My family and I will be attending a funeral of a family member on Wednesday in Louisiana; therefore there will not be a entry tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jesus Standing

More than likely you remember the story of Stephen from the Book of Acts. In fact, he is the main focus of chapters 6 & 7. "Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people" (6:8). Later he stood before the Sanhedrin and addressed them with a great sermon concerning the Old Testament evidence of Jesus as the Messiah. He ended his message with the following words: "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you" (7:51). Wow! Did he really just call his audience "stiff-necked" and people who are "always resisting the Holy Spirit"? 

This led to Stephen being stoned to death. It was during this stoning that Stephen looked into heaven to see Jesus standing. Listen to his words, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (7:56). Normally in Scripture we read about Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven. But here notice that Jesus was standing. Why? I remember hearing a sermon some years ago stating that Jesus was standing because of the faith demonstrated by Stephen. One of His own was being beaten, so Jesus stood to indicate His approval of Stephen and his testimony. 

Will Jesus stand for you?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Big Oaks
(2) State of Utah
(3) Nation of Togo
(4) Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Obey God rather than Man

Following Jesus demands that He be our sole allegiance. We surrender to Him. We are His slaves. He is our Master. We must obey Him; whatever the cost.

In Acts 5, Peter and John were arrested once again. This time they were delivered from the jail by an angel during the night. The next day they were found in the temple complex proclaiming the name of Jesus and arrested again.

When they were questioned by the Sanhedrin (religious governing body), this was their reply: "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted this man to His right hand as ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:29-32). 
  • A direct response - "we must obey God rather than men".
  • A direct message - Jesus is ruler and Savior.
  • A direct result - the granting of repentance to Israel, the forgiveness of sins
  • A direct advantage - the Holy Spirit given by God

Will we be found as men who obey whatever the cost? Will we follow Jesus as our Master? Will we stand strong in the face of any and all difficulties?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Jefferson
(2) State of Connecticut
(3) Nation of Argentina
(4) North African & Middle Eastern peoples throughout the World

Saturday, April 21, 2012

We must Proclaim Jesus!!!

Very early in the history of the Church, there were many attempts to silence the message of Jesus. Believers were threatened, imprisoned, beaten, & murdered. Yet the message of Jesus continued to spread. In fact, the greater the persecution, the more the message of Jesus spread.

One example of this is found in Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested and threatened to no longer proclaim the name of Jesus. Upon their release from prison their words were: "we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (verse 20). They could not keep silent. Knowing that continuing to proclaim Jesus could lead to more imprisonment or even death did not put a stop to these men and their passion to proclaim Jesus.

Later in that same chapter we read: "And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness" (verse 29). Again, these believers knew the cost. They knew what the outcome possibly could be. But none the less, these believers knew that they were slaves of Jesus with a message that their Master desired to be proclaimed. They prayed for "complete boldness." This boldness would ensure that nothing stop them.

Are we unable to stop speaking the name of Jesus? Do we need that "complete boldness" when it comes to proclaiming that wonderful name? It is my prayer today that the Church once again be a family of slaves with one heart proclaiming the name of our Master - Jesus.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) State of Vermont
(3) Nation of North Korea
(4) Central Asian Peoples throughout the World

Friday, April 20, 2012

Have You Been with Jesus?

Following Jesus requires spending time with Him. His first disciples had the wonderful opportunity to walk side-by-side with Jesus. They daily spent time walking to various places with Jesus. They witnessed the various miracles and signs. They heard Jesus teach about the kingdom of God and many additional teachings that caused people to stand back in amazement.

People could tell that these disciples had been with Jesus. In Acts 4:13 reveals this reality: "When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus." The time these disciples spent with Jesus filled them with boldness. They proclaimed the name and message of Jesus. It also equipped them. Peter and John were not trained in the cutting-edge theological schools. They did not have their masters nor their doctorate. What they did have was time spent with Jesus.

Spending time with Jesus is still necessary for believers. We walk and talk with Him through the power and work of the Holy Spirit living within us. He is with us everywhere we go. We also spend time with Jesus as we read and study the Scriptures. As truth is revealed and applied to our lives, people will know that we have been with Jesus.

Have you been with Jesus?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Johnson Creek / Campers
(2) State of Colorado
(3) Nation of Ireland
(4) Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Salvation only in Jesus

Salvation from the guilt of sin, the penalty of sin, and one day in heaven the presence of sin for the rest of eternity. Some believe they can earn this salvation. Others believe that when this life is over God will simply extend grace  and salvation to every person. Neither of those beliefs agree with the truth as taught in the Scripture.

Jesus states about Himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." This a foundation to the Christian life. Jesus is our salvation. The first disciples understood this truth. Peter declared: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved" (Romans 4:12).

How does one come to Jesus for this salvation? There is the confession of sin. There is repentance or turning from sin to Jesus. There is a life-long process of following Jesus; where there is sanctification (the process of knocking off the rough edges - sin of our lives).

Is Jesus you way of salvation? Who do you need to share this information with?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Crestwood
(2) State of Virginia
(3) Nation of Liberia
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amazing Growth

Following Jesus today can become real discouraging at times. Church leaders and members alike desire to see the church grow. We desire to see men, women, boys, and girls come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. There is also the desire to see the gatherings of the church for worship and Bible study to be full of people. 

Why do we have such high expectations? Sometimes we expect the same numbers in attendance that the church has experienced at some point in the past. At other times we simply know that there are many lost and unchurched people around us that need to be connected to a local church family. And there is also the example from Scripture of church growth that blows our minds.

Acts 1:14-15 tells us that there were 120 believers in the upper room "continually united in prayer". Then after Peter's message and directions for repentance of sin on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:41-42 states that "about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers." That must have been some altar response to witness. Acts 2:47 simply states that "every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved." We are not even sure how many came to a salvation in Jesus during these days. Then according to Acts 4:4 another 5,000 people had been saved.


Did you see a common theme? There was continual prayer, there was the proclamation of Scripture  there was the devotion to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to observing the Lord's Supper, and to prayer. Notice that prayer was foundational to the church growth experienced. 

As we follow Jesus today, may we become prayer warriors on behalf of the lost, the unengaged unreached people groups, the unchurched in our communities, and each other to truly be the church that God desires.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Victory
(2) State of California
(3) Nation of Gibraltar
(4) American Peoples throughout the World

Monday, April 16, 2012

Giving what you Have

There is no doubt that there are many needy people around us. Sometimes people are needy because of bad decisions. Sometimes people are needy because of addictions that control them. Sometimes people are needy because of the social economics of their family - it is a generation after generation thing. Sometimes people are needy because the circumstances of life (medical emergencies, the health of a loved one, personal health issues) has caused them to be unable to work.

Are calling from the Lord is not to determine the reason that people are needy but to help those who are needy. It is interesting to me that following the formation of the church in Acts 2, one of the first opportunities for the church to be the church is meeting the need(s) of a person. Acts 3:1-10 states that their was a man in need. In fact, this man had been crippled since birth. He begged for alms (handouts) from people that were entering the temple complex. When he approached Peter and John for alms they responded: "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have, I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!" (verse 6).

This man had perhaps had long given up on ever walking and had settled into the routine of simply asking for help (alms). After all, this was his biggest need. Or was it? Was alms his biggest need in life? Surely he needed food which these alms could purchase. But was this his biggest need?

Peter and John waste no time pointing out this man's greatest need. He needed JESUS. He needed Jesus' power to be at work in his life. When Jesus' power is at work in a person's life there is healing both physically and spiritually. This man once healed physically began "walking, leaping, and praising God" (verse 8).

We indeed need to meet the physical needs of those around us. Often meeting the physical needs of a person open the door will open the door for sharing spiritual things with them. However, we cannot simply take care of the physical needs without never sharing spiritual things with them. As we follow Jesus, we must give them what we have - JESUS!

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Ally Creek
(2) State of Arkansas
(3) Nation of French Polynesia
(4) East Asian Peoples throughout the World

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Church being the Church

Praise God for His Church. Through His Church people all over the world are hearing the good news of Jesus Christ for salvation. Through His Church missionaries are supported in their work in many places throughout the world. Through His Church a little boy was ministered to, sent to summer camp, baptized, taught the truths of God's Word, & challenged to walk a Christian life consistent with Scripture. Through His Church I am able to minister today among people I love and enjoy seeing God use us all to bring Him much glory.

Unfortunately some local churches fall short to be the church that God desires. It is important that every local church seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the God's Word for how the church is to be the church in this world. One passage of Scripture that shares a church truly being the church is found in Acts 2:41-47. Notice the following 10 evidences:
(1) Baptized those who were saved - v 41
(2) Devoted to the apostle's teaching - v 42
(3) Fellowship together - v 42
(4) Communion or Lord's Supper - v 42
(5) Prayer together - v 42
(6) Wonders and Signs taking place - v 43
(7) Everything in Common - v 44
(8) Taking care of one another's needs - v 45
(9) Favor with God and all the people - v 47
(10) "And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved" - v 47

How many of those evidences is found in the church you are a member of? It is a great joy to be a part of a church family were many of those evidences are found. Yet, we are not perfect. There is much more for us to do in obedience to God's Word and in following His daily leadership. May we all desire that today's Church be the Church - the Church that God desires.

Praying Today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines community of Big Cypress
(2) State of Wisconsin
(3) Nation of Paraguay
(4) Central Asian Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Preaching Jesus for a Response

Why do we preach / share / proclaim the gospel of Jesus? Some might answer that question with the word "salvation". We want people to know the salvation that Jesus offers to them. Yes!!! We do desire people to be saved. Others might say that preach Jesus because that is what we are commanded to do in Matthew 28:19-20 and other passages of the Bible as well. Yes!!! We are directly commanded to preach the message of Jesus in the Bible.

Do you ever wonder why sometimes Jesus is preached and no one is saved? Have you ever discussed salvation with someone who didn't want that salvation offered? Perhaps the answer is that they were unwilling to respond in the way that is necessary for salvation.

Yesterday we took a quick look at the message that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. We noticed that the central theme of that message was Jesus. The next verses reveal that once the people heard the message "they were pierced to the heart" and then asked the question: "Brothers, what must we do?" (Acts 2:37). They heard the message loud and clear. They also knew that something had to happen. A person cannot encounter the message of Jesus without responding. Some will respond in a negative way; while others will respond like these people did.

What answer were they given? This is a perfect place for a song of invitation. "I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender." Right? That would be the perfect timing for that. Oh, but notice Peter's response was a simple word: "REPENT" (Acts 2:38). Again, a person cannot hear the message of Jesus without a response and the correct response is to "repent". This means to turn. Turn from one's sin to the love and forgiveness found only in Jesus. Turn from one's previous way of life to a life focused on following Jesus.

Repent. We also realize that repentance is a one time action for salvation, but a life-time need in the life of a Christian. As the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we need to "repent" of that sin and cling to Jesus.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake of the Pines community of Indian Hills / Deer Cove
(2) State of Alaska
(3) Nation of the Central African Republic
(4) Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Preaching Jesus

Proclaiming the truth concerning Jesus was the focus of Peter's first message in the Book of Acts. He stood with the other disciples and boldly proclaimed the prophecy pointing to Jesus and the miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among all people. Then he proclaimed that it was not up to the Jewish leaders or Roman leaders that Jesus was crucified; instead "He was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him" (Acts 2:23). 

But Peter didn't stop with the death of Jesus. The very next words proclaimed "God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it . . . God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:24, 32-34, & 36).

That is the gospel message, the good news of salvation in Jesus. This was not Plan B. God didn't simply one day choose to send Jesus because there was no other plan. This was the plan - determined, planned, and through foreknowledge. God knew what was going to take place.

Now Jesus is with the Father in heaven exalted to the Father's right hand and declared as "both Lord and Messiah." Anytime we share the gospel, these truths need to be proclaimed. These truths are essential. Now let us go and Preach Jesus!!!

Praying Today For:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Berea
(2) The State of Wyoming
(3) The Nation of Sudan
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Now Awaiting Jesus' Return

Last week we followed Jesus to the Cross where He was crucified. After His death, Jesus was placed in the tomb. Only Jesus didn't stay in that tomb, as we celebrated this past Sunday, Jesus was raised from the dead. He was seen by many witnesses that verified His resurrection.

40 days following His resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven. According to Acts 1:9-11, Jesus was taken up into heaven as His disciples stood watching. They were approached by "two men in white clothes," who questioned them. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven?" 

Christians have anticipated His return every since that day. There have been predictions. But according to Jesus Himself, no man knows the hour or the day. The only One who knows when Jesus will return is the Father in heaven. Therefore, the biggest question for us is not when He will return but are we doing everything we can to follow Him in faithful obedience between now and then. Are we faithful in our daily walk? Are we faithful in sharing Him with those around us? Are we faithful in making disciples of all nations? Are we faithful in daily sanctification?

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Big Oaks
(2) The State of Alabama
(3) The Nation of Belgium
(4) The American Peoples throughout the World 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Jesus' Focus following His Resurrection

Yesterday there were awesome celebrations of Jesus' resurrection. Christian people joined together to declare that our Jesus is Alive. We sang about His victory over death and the grave. From God's Word it was declared that there is victory in our lives over sin and death because of His resurrection. So what do we do now? Do we simply go back to our lives as usual? 

During His earthly ministry Jesus had an over-arching purpose that was visible from the beginning to the very end. Jesus declared to His disciples and the crowds gathered around Him, "I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43). Then right before His ascension into heaven the following is recorded: "After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). 

Did you see it?

Jesus' focus was on declaring the good news about the kingdom of God. All His messages, all His teachings, every miracle, and even the intimate conversations with His disciples focused on the kingdom of God. Shouldn't that also be our focus? As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, shouldn't we have the same focus He had?

Today let us go forth to declare the good news concerning the kingdom of God. Let us declare that Jesus provides access to God's kingdom through saving faith. Let us declare that Jesus is alive - alive for evermore. 

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Jefferson
(2) The State of Montana
(3) The Nation of Tonga
(4) The South Asian Peoples throughout the World

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus Lives Today!!!

Today is Resurrection Day. A day to celebrate the reality that Jesus is Alive!!! 

The women, who had followed Jesus and loved Him, went to the tomb early that morning. As they traveled they discussed among themselves about the fact that they would be unable to roll the stone away from the entrance because of its size. Can you imagine their delight and surprise when they arrived at the entrance of the tomb to find the stone rolled away? Their delight and surprise turned to shock when they realized that not only was the stone rolled away but the body of Jesus was no where to be found.

An angel appeared to Mary and the other women declaring, "Don't be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected" (Matthew 28:5-6). Fear does not need to grip us. We too are looking for Jesus. He had been crucified, He had died, He had been buried, but praise the LORD He is now resurrected from the dead. He is alive. He is not in that tomb. Death did not have victory . . . Instead there is VICTORY in that JESUS LIVES.

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) The State of Missouri
(3) The Nation of Angola
(4) The East Asian Peoples throughout the World

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 7

The last events that took place prior to today is written for us in John 19:40, "Then they took Jesus' body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the aromatic spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews." This verse proves one critical truth concerning Jesus' time on earth. He died. He was not simply knocked-out or under some type of deep sleep. Jesus was dead. His body was taken to the place of burial having been prepared for burial.

Today we reflect on the reality of Jesus' body in the tomb. There is nothing recorded in Scripture about this day. However, we know that the disciples had scattered. Peter had gone back to fishing. Their hearts were grieving. The One that they had trusted in and followed for 3 years was now in the tomb. Their hopes of Jesus truly being the Messiah were crushed. How could a dead man be the Messiah? How could Jesus establish His kingdom now?

They had heard Jesus' teachings about the resurrection. Jesus was very forthcoming in what would take place but the disciples did not understand the things Jesus had taught them. Now, the disciples were unsure and completely taken by the surprise because of what just happened.

Oh, but wait . . . Sunday is Coming. The events of early the next day would change everything.This Jesus that was in the tomb on Saturday because He was dead; will be ALIVE tomorrow. More then.

Praying for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Johnson Creek / Campers
(2) The State of Nebraska
(3) The Nation of Uganda
(4) The Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World

Friday, April 6, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 6

Today is now called "Good Friday." On that Friday when Jesus went to the Cross it was anything but good for Him. It was for our good that Jesus went to the Cross but not His good.

It started on Friday with interrogation. Jesus appeared before Pilate, then Herod, and back to Pilate. He was falsely accused and because of the pressure of the religious leaders, Jesus was handed over the the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Listen to the words being shouted by the crowd outside Pilate's headquarters: "Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him! (John 19:15). The same people who one day stood in amazement of His teaching and the miracles that they witnessed at His hand; where now shouting for Jesus to be crucified.

It went from bad to worse. Jesus was taken by the Roman soldiers to be crucified but before the actual crucifixion these soldiers mocked, beat, and totally humiliated Him. Finally they nailed Jesus to the Cross. But instead of Jesus speaking words against the soldiers or against those who had shouted for Him to be crucified; Jesus spoke the following from the cross: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), "Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit" (Luke 23:46), and "It is finished" (John 19:30).

On this Good Friday, may we follow the example of Jesus by laying down our lives for those around us. We do this by not retaliating against those who have spoke evil of us but instead by speaking kindness toward them. We share Jesus' love with them. We go to the Father on their behalf through prayer. We trust all things to the Father. Salvation was purchased by Jesus on the cross not just for us but for all. All includes those who don't look like us, those who don't act like us, those who live in different places, and those who are in our neighborhoods.

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Crestwood
(2) The State of Mississippi
(3) The Nation of South Korea
(4) The North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 5

The journey to the Cross was filled with many highs and lows for Jesus. He taught His disciples many truths, performed many miracles, and spent much time in prayer. On this day of passion week, Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples and then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to spend time in prayer. Jesus took all His disciples with Him to the garden, minus Judas; who would eventually come to the garden with the servants of the high priest to arrest Jesus.

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus took that inner three of Peter, James, and John further with Him for prayer. However, He left them by themselves with these instructions: "Sit here while I pray . . . Remain here and stay awake" (Mark 14:32-34). Simple instructions. Sit, remain, & stay awake. Jesus knew His disciples needed to be alert. They needed to understand the significance of what was taking place.

Jesus went a little further and began pouring out His heart to the Father: "Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36). Notice that Jesus declared His total surrender to the Father's will. He was willing to go to the Cross because that was the will of the Father. Jesus knew the cost that would be paid. Jesus knew the suffering that would be required. Jesus knew that it was by His stripes, His wounds, and His blood that brings salvation to a lost world filled with sin.

It was also on this night that Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and denied. The torture of the cross was a day away but the emotional torture had already begun. Betrayed by His own disciple, Judas, and treated like a common criminal, when arrested, and denied three times by one of His closest disciples, Peter.

Jesus had been through so much already . . . but His eyes were still fixed upon the Cross. The journey continues tomorrow. But today we see the importance of being alert in our Christian walk. We also see the importance of prayer in the life of our Savior. 

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Victory
(2) The State of Nevada
(3) The Nation of Libya
(4) The Central Asian Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 4

On the fourth day of journeying to the Cross, we find Jesus teaching those following Him once again. As He often did throughout the gospels, Jesus was right in the face of the religious leaders of that day. In Matthew 22:13 we read: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don't go in, and you don't allow those entering to go in." Wow!!! That is strong words for the religious leaders of that day and for us to consider this day.

Do we "lock up the kingdom of heaven from people"? The first thing we need to know before answering that question is what is meant by locking up the kingdom of heaven. We know from reading the gospels that the Pharisees were famous for keeping the law to the fullest. They obeyed the law handed down from God to Moses. They also obeyed all the additional man-made laws added over the years. These Pharisees were holy - at least in their own eyes and the eyes of other Pharisees.  How were they locking up the kingdom of heaven from the people? They were making it impossible for people to live up to the laws. The expectations were extremely high. Only the best of the best could qualify. God's love was reserved for only those who fit into this way of living.

We fall into the same trap when we expect people to clean-up their acts before coming to Christ. Lost people will act like lost people. They cannot and will not clean-up their own acts because it is impossible. They need a Savior that is for all people, not a Savior that is for the best-of-the-best. People need to seek through our lives the love that God has for all people, including the messed up and sinful.

Today, may our lives show people the love and forgiveness that is found only in Jesus. It is my prayer that we not be guilty of locking up the kingdom of heaven and keeping people out of it because we have gotten in the way. We simply need to continue to point them to the Cross - where Jesus died for the sins of all people & to the empty tomb - where Jesus overcome both death and hell. Because He lives, salvation is available to "whosoever will" surrender to and follow Him.

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Lassater
(2) The State of Minnesota
(3) The Nation of Iraq
(4) The Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 3

On the third day of journeying to the Cross, Jesus shared a familiar parable with His disciples. He spoke about a man who planted a vineyard and leased it out to some farmers. When it was time for the harvest, this man sent a slave to gather some fruit from the vineyard. However, the farmers that were working the vineyard beat the slave and sent him back to his master empty handed. This same thing happened a second and a third time. These farmers were not giving in to the master's desire. They wanted to keep all the fruit to themselves.

In Luke 20:13 it is revealed that the owner comes to the following conclusion: "I will send my beloved son. Perhaps they will respect him." They should have respected the son. The son represented the his father. In that day-and-time, the son held the same authority as the father when sent as his representative. "But when the tenant farmers saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, 'This is the heir. Let's kill him, so the inheritance will be ours! So they threw Him out of the vineyard and killed him" (Luke 20:14-15).

Please do not miss the parallels in this parable to all that God has done with man throughout history. God has provided a wonderful place for man to live and enjoy. We call it earth. This world is marred by sin; which by the way was not God's plan but brought into the world because man listened to the evil one rather than trusting God. In various points in history, God has sent forth judges, kings, prophets, and other leaders to get man's attention. These slaves of God proclaimed the word of God to repent from sin and return to the God who loves them and desires the very best for them. But man rejected these messengers from God. In fact, many of them were beaten and mocked and treated harshly. Finally, in God's timing, God sends forth His One and Only Son - Jesus. Jesus, God's Son, was threw outside the gates of Jerusalem and killed on a Cross.

Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that He was just like the son in this parable that He shared with His followers. Jesus continued to keep His eyes on the Cross. Where are your eyes this week?

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Ally Creek
(2) The State of New Hampshire
(3) The Nation of Mongolia
(4) The European Peoples throughout the World

Monday, April 2, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 2

Yesterday, we looked at the very beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry; which began immediately with His baptism. Jesus' eyes were from that moment forth focused on bringing glory to the Father through daily obedience. That obedience was ultimately lived out in laying down His life on the Cross for the sins of all people.

Today, we will be looking at an event that took place in Jesus' life on the Monday of Passion Week. According to the Scripture some Greeks came to Jerusalem to worship at the festival. However, when the encounter Philip they quickly stated, "Sir, we want to see Jesus" (John 12:20-21). 

We don't know much about these men. It seems that they had a belief in God or at least an interest in Judaism. This curiosity brought them to Jerusalem. Nor are we told why they wanted to see Jesus. It is possible that in their journey or when they arrived in Jerusalem, they heard about all the things this new rabbi was teaching and doing. Perhaps they heard about Jesus healing people and the other miracles that took place through Him. That would be enough to draw people toward Jesus.

As we journey to the Cross with Jesus this week, may we be like these men. It should be our desire to  see Jesus. To see Jesus at work in our personal lives, in the lives of our family members, in the lives of our Church family, in the lives of our neighbors, and in the lives of people throughout the world. Jesus should be so real in the lives of believers that others come to us knowing that we know where to find Jesus. We can be on the front-lines this week being the hands and feet of Jesus in this world that needs desperately to know the true reason from Easter - the resurrection of Jesus. 

Do you want to see Jesus? Are you showing others Jesus?

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Pine Harbor
(2) The State of Michigan
(3) The Nation of Ghana
(4) The American Peoples throughout the World

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Following Jesus to the Cross - Day 1

Today is Palm Sunday. Next Sunday morning we will celebrate the one event that separates Christianity apart from all other "religions" - Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He is alive!!! No other religious leader was raised from the dead before Him, nor has there been another since Him. Jesus stands alone as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Today we begin a journey to look at what it means to follow Jesus from Palm Sunday to the Cross. It may seem odd to you to begin in Luke 3 but hopefully you will agree that from this passage of Scripture moving forward through the rest of this gospel, Jesus' eyes were on the cross. What caused His eyes to focus on that reality?

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. That is not news to many of you. You also probably remember that there was a voice from heaven that spoke at this event. God the Father spoke from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son. I take delight in You!" (Luke 3:22). Honestly, don't we all desire to hear those words from our Heavenly Father? Why did Jesus hear them? Perhaps the answer is partially found in the very next words: "As He began His ministry" (Luke 3:23). Is it possible that the delight that the Heavenly Father took in Jesus was the fact that Jesus was beginning an earthly ministry that would take Him to the Cross? Certainly the Father knew the events that were about to unfold for the Son. He knew that Jesus would die that cruel and unjust death on the Cross. Yet, when Jesus began His earthly ministry God the Father said, "I take delight in You!"

Do you desire to hear those words from God the Father? Certainly! What must we do? We come to Jesus for salvation, the forgiveness of sin. We follow Jesus in daily surrender of ourselves to become more and more like Him. We minister to others like we witness Jesus doing throughout His earthly ministry. We can't do this alone. This life is only possible through faith and depending upon Jesus for everything.

Praying Today For:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Mims & Avinger Cutt-off
(2) The State of New Jersey
(3) The Nation of New Zealand
(4) The South Asian Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Following Jesus & Forsaking Sin

The more we become like Jesus (sanctification, the daily work of the Holy Spirit in our lives), the less sin that will be found in our lives. More Jesus = Less Sin. It is that simple. Right?

To look around us you would probably answer that question with a "no". Many "Christians" are no different than the lost people around them. Their lives look identical. The only difference seems to be that the "Christian" attends church occasionally. Is that really what Jesus wants from His followers?

Today, we will consider two verses from the Old Testament that reveal what should be the Christian's response to sinfulness. There we find these words: "Turn away from evil and do good, and dwell there forever. For the LORD loves justice and will not abandon His faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed" (Psalm 37:27-28)."

It seems that the idea of "Turn away" means to no longer look at, no longer long after, and no longer allow that sin to be our desire. We must turn away from evil and run to Jesus. Run to Jesus, who has provided the way of salvation. It is only through saving faith in Him that a person will, in His presence, "dwell there forever." Jesus doesn't save us to leave us trapped in our sinfulness. He saves us to live in victory over sin. He is our victory. Therefore, we run to Jesus.

How do we run to Jesus? (1) Turn away from sin. (2) Seek Jesus through prayer and study of His Word. (3) Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of daily sanctification. 

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Berea
(2) The State of Maryland
(3) The Nation of Eritrea
(4) The North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Following Jesus requires Immediate Response

Jesus' birth is undoubtedly the greatest event of all history. The events surrounding Jesus' birth are interesting to say the least. His parents traveled from Nazareth to a little town outside of Jerusalem called Bethlehem; where Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. The King of Kings was born in the lowly conditions of a manger stall. Jesus' birth was announced by angels. But this announcement was not made to the religious elite or upper class of society. Instead, angels announced the birth of the Savior of the World to shepherds. These shepherds were given instruction concerning the place where the Messiah would be found.

In Luke 2:8-20 records the announcement being made to those shepherds and their response. First, we read about their fear and how the angels shared with them the good news. Second, we read about the shepherd's response to one another. "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us" (verse 15). Then we read "They hurried off " (verse 16).

Did you see their immediate response? "Let's go straight . . . They hurried off." It is important to see their determination to immediately go to the place where Jesus was. They were interested in seeing their Messiah. Are we immediately going to Jesus? Do we want to see Him? Do we want to see Him?

"After seeing . . . they reported the message" (verse 17). We have the same responsibility and need the same immediate response.

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Big Oaks
(2) The State of New York
(3) The Nation of Suriname
(4) The Central Asian Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Following Jesus requires Humility

After an angel revealed to her that she was to give birth to the Son of God, Mary poured out her heart in a beautiful declaration of humility. As recorded in Luke 1:46-55, we read how Mary declared the greatness of God and her humble state as His slave.

Mary calls God her Savior. Why? Because He looked upon her with favor. His favor was not simply based on her Jewish heritage. His favor was not simply based on the fact that she was a virgin. His favor was not simply based on where she lived. Instead, verse 48 gives a clue as one reason for God's favor to be poured out on Mary: "the humble condition of His slave."

Mary declares that this favor is not just for that specific time period but "from now on all generations" (verse 48). God is the Mighty One and His name is holy.

Notice that Mary continues pointing to God. She doesn't take credit. She doesn't take this wonderful blessing as a reason to become selfish. Instead she demonstrates her humility by continually pointing to God, lifting His name on high.

God has indeed poured out His favor on us through salvation in Jesus Christ. It is now important for us to follow Jesus in humility by continuing to point to God in all things.

Today praying for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Jefferson
(2) The State of Maine
(3) The Nation of the Cayman Islands
(4) The Southeast Asian Peoples throughout the World

Monday, March 26, 2012

Following Jesus to Disciple Others

Discipleship is one of the most important areas of a Christian's life. I am personally thankful to the LORD for men and women who taught me God's Word, instructed me in the living for the LORD, and shared their lives with me as means to disciple me. Sadly, discipleship is missing in the lives of many Christians. Thus they never truly develop into a mature follower of Christ. This doesn't mean that they are lost but they have never grown in the faith.

Today, Luke 1:1-4 speaks to the need of discipleship. Yes, this is the introduction for the book. It gives information about the audience, the author, and additional information. The original audience is specifically a man named Theophilus. We don't know much about him expect that both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are both addressed to him.

Most likely the Gospel of Luke was written by a man named Luke. There are many things about Luke that we find in Scripture: he was a physician and apparently a historian.

It is within the additional information that we find some important details that specifically speak to us about making disciples. There is that fact that Luke is aware of the other efforts to record the events surrounding Jesus' life and ministry. He also aware of the "original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed" (verse 2) down to each of them. It is this word that has been handed down that Luke desires to share with his friend Theophilus. Luke's purpose is stated in verse 4: "So that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed." All of this is after he has "carefully investigated everything from the first, to write" (verse 3). Luke has done his homework. He knows what he believes and why he believes it. 

But don't miss this. He doesn't keep his knowledge about Jesus to himself. He doesn't keep all that he has learned to himself. He instead is eager to share this information with his friend. 

Do we have the same motivation to share with our friends. As Jesus teaches us, let us teach those around us. As we learn knew truths from God's Word, let us share these truths with those around us. By doing this we will be "Following Jesus to disciple others."

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines community of Eagle Landing
(2) The State of North Carolina
(3) The Nation of Tunisia
(4) The European Peoples throughout the World