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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How Valuable is God's Love?

That may seem like a strange question. But take just a moment and give some thought to its answer. How valuable is God's love?

Perhaps your first response was something like this: "We would have nothing without God's love for us". That sounds like a good answer doesn't it? For indeed, we would have nothing without God. Another first response might have been: "God's love is more valuable than anything else in the world." That answer sounds good as well. His love is to be valued more than anything else.

Join me as we discover how the Scripture answers this question. Psalm 36:7-10 says,
God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your refreshing stream, for with You is life's fountain. In Your light we will see light. Spread Your faithful love over those who know You, and Your righteousness over the upright in heart.

According to these verses, God's love causes His people to seek refuge in Him to be filled with His presence, to drink from His refreshing stream, to see the light, and to be covered with His love. God is our refuge and strength. It is in Him that we come to in times of difficulty. God also feels His people with His very presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is through the power and work of the Holy Spirit that you and I are guided to fulfill His purpose in live, daily are sanctified to become more like Jesus, and through all things bring the Father glory.

Jesus declared that He could give living water to the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus' salvation is given to all who come to Him. Salvation is available to all who will confess all sin, repent from sin, and surrender one's life to follow Jesus. This salvation is refreshing to a life that is dead within the grasp of sin's destructiveness. 

Has God spread His great love over you? Are you daily giving Him praise for His salvation?

How valuable is God's love?

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Johnson Creek / Campers
(2) The State of Louisiana
(3) The Nation of Belarus
(4) The American Peoples throughout the World

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What will Happen to Lost People?

Most Christians believe that the Bible teaches that lost people will go to hell when they die. Many Christian people are committed to praying for lost people to be saved. Some Christians are committed to personally witnessing to lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ. And even fewer Christians are passionately pursuing those who are lost with the gospel that is power of God for salvation.

Why? Why do so many Christians know the destiny of lost people, fewer Christians pray for lost people, even fewer Christians witness to lost people, and even fewer have a passionate pursuit of lost people with the gospel of Christ?

Two answers come to mind: (1) Either Christians simply are being disobedient to God's command of witnessing found in many passages of Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, etc.) or (2) Christians simply don't believe what the Bible teaches about the destination of lost people.

Jesus said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). Do we believe this? Do believe that only those who believe in Jesus are saved? Do really believe that only those who are baptized (by the Holy Spirit) are saved? Do really believe that those who do not believe will be condemned? If we do believe these words, if we do believe these realities; then we must "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." This starts right out side our doors, spreads into our communities, and wherever else the Lord leads us.

Today praying for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Crestwood
(2) The State of North Dakota
(3) The Nation of Ukraine
(4) The South Asian Peoples throughout the World

Friday, March 23, 2012

Access Granted

Can you and I really enter the very presence of God? If so, what/who has granted us that access?

The answer to the first question is "YES". Yes, we can enter into the very presence of God through prayer. However, we must remember that God is Holy and only the redeemed, forgiven, and those who have confessed and repented of all sin are holy to enter into God's presence.

The answer to the second question is "JESUS"! Jesus has granted access into the very presence of God through His death on the cross. Recorded in Mark 15:38 we read, "Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom." That curtain that once separated the outer court (that place for ordinary people / that place for all non-Jews) from the inner holy of holies (that place of God's altar / that place of God's presence). We were separated but notice that the curtain was split from top to bottom. The emphasis here is that this is something that only God could accomplish. It is interesting that the curtain splitting took place at the very moment that Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross.

Therefore, we are encouraged to "approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time" (Hebrews 4:16).

Praying Today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Victory
(2) The State of Kentucky
(3) The Nation of Andorra
(4) The East Asian Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Follow After Jesus or Peer Pressure?

Many reading this can either remember or currently related to all the pressures that come with being in school. There is the pressure of making good grades. The pressure of being in athletics, band, choir, or any number of organizations connected withe the school. Then there are the pressures of friends, relationships with that special someone, and simply the pressure of not being an outcast.

Those types of pressures don't stop with High School or College, in fact; they are present in most of life. The question then is: Do we allow these pressures (influences, factors, circumstances) shape who we are and what we do? Or, Do we turn to Jesus for His guidance and direction?

Mark 15:1-21 records the events that directly led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate had tried on a number of occasions to simply release Jesus. After all, he found no reason for Him to be arrested and certainly no reason for Him to be put to death. Pilate was sure that the people would change their minds. But that didn't happen. The people, being stirred by the Pharisees and other religious leaders of that day, continued to put pressure on Pilate to put Jesus to death.

Pilate gave them a choice between the release of a notorious murderer named Barabbas and the release of Jesus. Notice the chief priests began the chant for the release of Barabbas. And when asked what to do with Jesus the people's response was simply: "Crucify Him!" Pilate asked why but the crowds shouted louder - "Crucify Him!" "Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified" (Mark 15:15). 

Did you see it? Pilate gave into the pressure of those around him. He knew there was no reason for Jesus to be crucified. Jesus was not guilty of any crime. But nonetheless, Pilate allowed that pressure to determine his decision. What or who do you allow to determine your decisions? Does pressure from various places determine who you are or what you do? Or, are you following after Jesus so passionately that only He is your guide in making decisions?

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Lassater
(2) The State of Ohio
(3) The Nation of Kosovo
(4) The Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Will Followers Deny Jesus?

As followers of Jesus, we would love to answer that question with an absolute "YES"! That is our desire. We never want to deny Him. But do we?

One of the most specific examples found in Scripture is actually recorded for us in all four gospel accounts. An author I was reading lately said if something is found in all four gospels it must be really important. This is one of those very important lessons for followers of Jesus. Peter was perhaps one of the most determined disciples of Jesus to follow Him. This was his declaration earlier, "Even if everyone runs away, I will certainly not!" (Mark 14:29). However, once Jesus was arrested things changed in a hurry. 

Peter was true to his words about not running away immediately like his fellow disciples. After all, Peter was discovered in the courtyard of the very place where Jesus was being questioned. It was in this courtyard that Peter was put to the test. Three different times someone questions him about knowing Jesus, about following Jesus. All three times Peter "denies" it. In fact, in response to the third questioning Peter stated, "I don't know this man you're talking about!" (Mark 14:71).

Oh, we sometimes are very quick to say that we would have been different. We must be honest to say that we never know what will happen until we are in that situation. But denying Jesus doesn't have to be in such extreme situations. Denying Jesus happens anytime we change our behavior depending on "who" we happen to be with. Denying Jesus happens anytime we listen to that joke that is distasteful. Denying Jesus happens anytime He is the first love of our lives.

Will Followers Deny Jesus? Unfortunately, yes. It is through Jesus' forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that Jesus restores His followers to continue in following Him. More about that restoration another day.

Today we Pray for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Ally Creek
(2) The State of Kansas
(3) The Nation of Iran
(4) The North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pay Attention

Jesus' disciples followed Him throughout the region listening to His teachings, watching Him interact with the people, and from time-to-time do things that were simply amazing. There were a few times when Jesus took only three disciples to specific places. Those three disciples, sometimes called the "inner three", were Peter, James, and John.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus took this inner three further into the Garden with Him; where He encouraged them to spend time in prayer with Him. After spending time praying, Jesus came back to the place where the three disciples where only to be disappointed. Instead of praying with Him they were sleeping. This happened not once, not twice, but three times. It was on the third time of finding the disciples sleeping that Jesus said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come" (Mark 14:32-42).

Jesus knew that He was about to be betrayed, arrested, mocked, beaten, wrongly accused, and crucified. The time had certainly come. But how do Jesus' question and statements found here apply to our lives in following Jesus? Consider: We can only follow Jesus if we pay attention to the leadership of His Holy Spirit within us. We cannot be sleeping on the job! Enough time has been wasted by many of seeking and pleasing their own agenda; while the call of Jesus to follow Him has been neglected.

Pay Attention! Wake Up! Follow Jesus!!!

Praying today for:
(1) The Lake O' the Pines Community of Pine Harbor
(2) The State of Oklahoma
(3) The Nation of Liechtenstein
(4) The Central Asian Peoples Throughout the World

Monday, March 19, 2012

Follow Jesus Where?

A hymn often used during times of invitation, following the proclaimed message, is entitled "Wherever He Leads". The song declares that wherever He leads, I'll go.

That is where we must follow Jesus. Wherever He leads us. That could be to our neighbor across the street or our neighbor in another country. Jesus makes it clear that our first priority is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." Jesus then declares that the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39). These go hand-in-hand.

As we grow in relationship with Jesus, we will be more and more in love with the Father. We express our love for Him through obedience in following Him. Following Him - Wherever He Leads.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

name change for the blog

In an effort to simplify the blog address and also to better specify what the blog is all about, the Holy Spirit has led me to change the name of the blog to "follow923" based on Luke 9:23 which encounters Jesus sharing with the people, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

That is who we are as Christians. We are people who follow Jesus. Jesus says that in order to truly follow Him we must "deny" ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Each part of this verse is necessary. One part without the other does not equal a true follower of Jesus. Salvation is the free gift of God's grace. The evidence of that salvation is that we desire a deeper and intimate relationship with Jesus. We can only grow in our relationship with Jesus as we deny ourselves and anything else that compromises our relationship with Him. 

Will you follow Him?

Get ready for a wonderful journey of knowing Jesus more intimately and following Him obediently. 

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines Community of Big Cypress
(2) State of Oregon
(3) Nation of Montenegro
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Man Like Many of Us

There were many days Jesus surprised His disciples. Whether He was healing someone, teaching from Scripture, or simply bringing the Father glory; Jesus was always leading His followers to have deeper faith in Him. In Mark 9:2-29 there are two main events that take place. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain where Jesus was transformed before them. They saw Moses and Elijah. They also heard the voice of the Father call out from heaven: "This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!" (verse 7).

The other main event in this passage of Scripture involved a demon possessed boy being set free. Apparently the boy's father brought him to Jesus' disciples but they were not able to deliver the boy. They tried but failed. Have you ever been there? Have you ever tried to do something that you have witnessed Jesus do before or other Christians do before, only to have a different outcome when you tried? What was the difference? Jesus told His disciples that "This kind can out by nothing but prayer and fasting" (verse 29).

Yet there is another teaching that takes place in this passage. When the boy's father speaks to Jesus about his son, he says "If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us" (verse 22). This lack of faith seems to upset Jesus, who responded: "'If You can?' Everything is possible to the one who believes" (verse 23). Oh, how that sounds like many of us. We know with our heads that Jesus can do anything and everything that He wants to. But sometimes our faith doesn't match our knowledge. That is when we need to speak the words that the father spoke to Jesus: "I do believe! Help my unbelief" (verse 24).

Perhaps that needs to be your prayer today: Lord, "I do believe! Help my unbelief." 

Also praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines = Pine Harbor
(2) State = Florida
(3) Nation = America Samoa
(4) East Asian Peoples throughout the World

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Following Jesus

Jesus was clear the cost and determination; the result and reward of being His disciples. This truth is taught in Mark 8:34-38. For the total impact of these verses, I have decided to simply quote those verses for you today:

Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone wants to be My followers, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

Did you see the cost? Deny self. Take up my cross. Follow Him. Lose personal wants and desires. Live a life that is unashamed of Jesus. 

For those who are willing Jesus promises: a saved life, He will not be ashamed of Me in the presence of the Father. Jesus gives salvation, eternal life, real, and fulfilled life to those who are willing to follow Him.

Are you Following Jesus? Are you willing to pay cost? Are you experiencing salvation? Will you follow Jesus?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines = Mims / Avinger Cutt-off
(2) State = Texas
(3) Nation = United Kingdom (Great Britain)
(4) Sub-Saharan African Peoples throughout the World

Monday, March 5, 2012

Who is Jesus?

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was known as a healer, a teacher, a miracle worker, a prophet, and many other descriptions. However, when Jesus asked His own disciples who He was, it was Peter who responded with the declaration: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29). 

This followed a serious of descriptions given concerning Jesus' identity by the other disciples. The other disciples said that others were calling Jesus, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets" (Mark 8:28). John the Baptist was a great man. He was the forerunner for the Messiah. John the Baptist was that voice crying in the wilderness. Yet, John the Baptist was a mere human. He was not the Messiah. Elijah was a great prophet of God. But, he was not he Messiah. Any of the other prophets were good  men used by God in wonderful ways. But they were not the Messiah. 

Any of those descriptions for Jesus would have been awesome but they were not accurate. Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus was the Son of the Living God. Jesus was greater.

Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus in your life?

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines = Big Cypress
(2) State = Delaware
(3) Nation = Jordan
(4) North African & Middle Eastern Peoples throughout the World

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Common Thread, Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the common thread of LOVE found in the compassion of Jesus when He saw the multitudes around Him that were like sheep without a shepherd. Today we see how that LOVE impacted His first disciples.

When the disciples noticed it getting late, they approached Jesus about sending the crowds away for the purpose of securing food. What was wrong with their idea? As you read this section of Scripture you might be inclined to say, "nothing was wrong with their idea." After all, the disciples were concerned that the people gathered there were without food. It seemed reasonable to them that the people be given an opportunity to eat. But Jesus had other plans. Notice that He tells His disciples, "You give them something to eat" (Mark 6:35-37).

Jesus, then as well as today, expects His people to help others in their time of need. This is one way that the thread of LOVE flows from the heart of Jesus, to the hearts of His people; then through the hearts of His people to those who need His LOVE expressed in various ways. After all, we are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

How will you continue this thread of LOVE in your life today? Let us all go and be the hands and feet of Jesus to all people.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines = Big Oaks
(2) State = Vermont
(3) Nation = Lithuania
(4) European Peoples throughout the World

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Common Thread

If you were to be asked to give the common thread of Jesus' life and ministry, what would be your answer? There are many. Yet one seems to simply jump off the pages of Scripture at us with a strong determination not to be ignored. What thread? The thread of LOVE.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was sent into the world at the right moment because of the LOVE that God the Father has for people. We also know that this great love was still poured out for us even though we were still in our sin. A Holy God sent His Holy Son to die for an unholy and undeserving people. That is LOVE. 

Today I am captured by this thread of Jesus' life and ministry. In Mark6:34 we find an example of that LOVE: "He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He began to teach them many things." Did you see it? Did you see the LOVE of Jesus? He saw the people for who and what they really are. He saw their hurts. He saw the pain in their eyes and in their hearts. He saw each one of them and as the Scripture states He was filled with "compassion." Why? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd are in danger. They are vulnerable. However, Jesus desired to be their Shepherd. He desired to keep them save. He desired to deliver them from their hurts and pain. He desires to do the same for each of us today. Why? Because the common thread of LOVE found in Jesus' life and ministry here on this earth is also found in the Jesus who now sits at the right hand of the Father.

Praying today for:
(1) Lake O' the Pines Baptist Church = Jefferson
(2) State = Colorado
(3) Nation = Hungary
(4) American Peoples throughout the World