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