What Will You Do With Jesus

When I was a younger, I was always reminded by my parents that the choices that I make will always follow me. As I get older (and I’m not even old right now) I have realized that statement is very true. I have found this out the hard way a number of times, but I get it. In scripture, we see there are many different accounts of people that made good and bad decisions that had long-term effects.

In John 19:1-16 we see that Pilate and Jesus made some choices. But even before this passage we see that Judas had a made a choice as well. So let us briefly look at 3 different people who made 3 different decisions.

First, Judas. He sought out the Pharisees and went to them and asked, what will you give me if I give you Jesus? Judas had walked with Christ and seen him do many great things, yet he chose 30 pieces of silver over Christ. Now it’s easy to rip Judas, but how many of us have been like Judas? We choose something that has little value over Christ. Judas never did enjoy any of that silver that he had acquired from the Pharisees because he would later hang himself. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us that our treasures should not be laid up in the things on earth but in the things of Heaven. Looking at the outcome of the life of Judas and his decision to chose silver over Christ, it’s evident that the things that we invest in, especially sin filled choices, will leave us empty. Hebrews 12:1-2, encourages us to lay aside things that are weighing us down as we run our race that has been set before us. A runner wants to be as light as possible, and for us in the Christian life, there are things that we need to lay aside because they are weighing us down.

Second, Pilate made a choice. Had he made a different one than he had, our whole Bible would have been written very differently. In John 19:1-6, Jesus is brought before Pilate and as verse 12 says, “Pilate sought means to release him…“. But then something happens. Again in verse 12, “…but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” If Pilate were to have released Jesus, the Jews would have accused him of high treason against Caesar. Pilate gave into the crowd and what they were saying. So, let me ask this question: what crowds are we listening to? What voices are we listening to and letting influence the decisions that we make for the cause of Christ? Psalm 1, gives us encouragement that we can be blessed or some translations state happy if we walk NOT in the counsel of the ungodly. I personally have found that the listening to the right voices such as the voice of God first and foremost, my parents, pastors, and accountability partners have greater benefitted me that listening to the wrong people. The advice I have gotten wasn’t always the easiest or what I even what I wanted to hear, but I’d rather get counsel from those that have my best interest at heart, rather than those that could care less about me.

Thirdly, and lastly, we see Jesus. In John 18:10-11, as the soldiers have come to take Jesus away, Peter strikes a soldier with his sword and Christ quickly tells him to stop. He makes known to everyone that the cup that the Father has given to him, is for him to drink and that he must go through with what his purpose is. In verse 36, Jesus tells Pilate that if he truly wanted he could have servants or angels fight for him, yet he never gives that command. 1 Peter 2:21-24 tells us that Christ gave us the perfect example that we should follow, and because of the fact that he was obedient to his Father’s will, that “by his wounds, you have been healed.”

So, to whoever is reading this, and for myself as I feel conviction about this, what are we going to do with Jesus? Will we betray him as Judas did? Choosing something that seems like a great thing, but in the end, leaves us with nothing. Will be like Pilate, and give into the voices of the wrong crowds. Or will we be like Christ? Who not only said to the Father, ‘thy will be done’ but in actions followed through with that statement. It has been said before, “One prayer that will never go unanswered is, Father not my will but thine.”

So Much Time, So Many Different Bible Versions to Choose From

I was recently reflecting back to a time when I was in Africa, (last summer to be exact) and a friend and I were in a discussion about Bible versions. I had explained that in Tanzania, where I particularly was, they had the Good News Bible because that was what could be translated into Swahili because the King James Version could not be translated into their language very well.

Now, that got me thinking, there are many that are so baffled that people wouldn’t use the KJV Bible and only the King James Bible. I for one, prefer the KJV. If I am going to read scripture in a service or teach or preach it’s going to be from the KJV. I wouldn’t, however, say that I am KJV only person, I think a better way to say it is, I am a KJV preferred person.

Now some of you reading are already mad at me for stating what I just did, and that’s okay, I appreciate all opinions and input and this is just my personal conclusion that I have recently come to.

I can’t understand why people would say that other versions of the Bible are simply “not the word of God”. Who are we to say, well that’s not the KJV, therefore, you cannot learn and grow, so here, here’s the ‘right Bible’. I have many versions of the Bible and often times in my personal studies I will use different versions. One, for the different study notes. Secondly, to compare translations, because I do enjoy seeing the differences. Thirdly, because sometimes the different versions of the Bible help me to understand a particular passage better.

When I see others that have a Bible that maybe isn’t the Bible that I favor, I am not going to tell them their Bible is corrupted and inusable. Rather, it’s a blessing to see someone with a Bible, and by that I mean a paper one, (I don’t have a Bible on my phone, which is an entirely different post for another day). Rather than argue and bicker amongst ourselves, why not use what we have. Why not disciple someone using what they have, whether that be an ESV, NKJV, NLT, or NIV. I have run into many people and when I have asked them why they use the KJV only, they really had no idea. Which I can admit for a while I was the same way. I really didn’t know why I liked the KJV or thought that was the only Bible that there was to use.

There are many countries where the KJV Bible cannot be translated very well, and other Bible versions are used. And guess what, those Bibles are reaching, teaching, and impacting people’s lives. Why would that not be the case here in the USA. I almost feel that if we say that the KJV Bible is the only Bible that we are to use as Christians, then we are putting God in a box. We are almost saying that we cannot walk someone down the Romans with an ESV Bible, or that John 3:16 has no impact to anyone if it is the NIV version.

Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it.”  It is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. The Bible doesn’t say God’s word will go out void if you are using an ESV Bible. God can, and he will use any version of the Bible. There is no limit to what God can use to touch the hearts and lives of the unsaved.

Think we need to be careful and draw a clear line in saying, ‘well son if you are going to teach, preach, read scripture here at this church we prefer the KJV.’ Rather than, “you use a Bible other than the KJV so you cannot preach, teach, or do anything at this church.” There are people in other countries that would die to have a Bible or pamphlet with Scripture on it. We have such wonderful freedom here in America, we can purchase Bibles anywhere and carry them anywhere we please. So why limit it to just one Bible.

I love God’s Word. I love that I get to teach, and preach, and read, and learn, and grow from it. I love when I am given any Bible of any version. They have all been a great blessing to me. So I challenge whoever may be reading, search out why you believe in what you believe. Don’t believe in something or hold hard to an opinion just because that is how you were

So I challenge whoever may be reading, search out why you believe in what you believe. Don’t believe in something or hold hard to an opinion just because that is how you were raised, rather search out and make your own conclusions. Be able to defend your views, whether it is Bible versions, or doctrinal issues or whatever it may be.

Asking for Prayer

I often feel as though, people have enough things to worry and stress about they don’t need what I’ve got going on as an added burden and if you are anything like me, you never want sympathy from anyone.

In Romans 5:30  it says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

Here Paul is beseeching, which is another word for begging, for believers to pray for him, together. I don’t believe it was because he thought that the members of other churches had forgotten about him. I believe that he himself undestood the real power of prayer, of getting a hold of God through prayer, and seeing the results of bringing requests before God.

Paul humbled himself and asked others to pray for him. Sometimes my prides gets in the way and I come up with the wildest excuses of why not to share my struggles with anyone else. Things such  as, “They have enough going on, they don’t have time to add me to their prayer list.” Or, “I’ve got this.” Most famous line, “I don’t need any help.”

The truth is I need help. A lot of it actually, and the reality is, we are all in need of help in one way or another. Whether it’s financial, or physical, or spiritual, we all need help. Even if we think we don’t need  help, we can always use it anyway.

What better way to help someone, by lifting them up in prayer. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in the time of need.”

Now you may think that’s great but I don’t need any prayers because I’m hanging out in the shade drinking pink lemonade, life is all good. Well, if you’re on a mountain top so you say, here’s what the beginning of chapter 15 in Romans has to say.

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let everyone of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”

So those that are doing well, find someone that you can help out and minister to through prayer. Even if someone doesn’t express to you verbally that they have a heavy burden on them, pray for them anyway.

So I challenge to be praying for others. And not just saying, ‘I’ll be praying for you’ because that’s the spiritual cliché thing to say someone, but actually praying. Prayer is powerful. Without prayer, where would any one of us be right now? Prayer together as one body of believers, we can still see miracles happen.

 

“Is there any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” – James 5:13

 

Helping Hands

In Luke 10, in verses 10-37 there is the famous account of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is speaking to a lawyer and he begins with the question, what can he do to inherit eternal life. I’ve been told that a good lawyer will ask questions that he already knows the answers too. Jesus replies with a question, asking him what has he read in the law. Very clever of Christ because he would have realized that this lawyer would be very knowledgeable of the law and what it says. The lawyer answers and says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”  (v.27)  A correct answer and Jesus acknowledges that but the lawyer wants to really to get the win here, and seemingly prove his case and asks the question, and who is my neighbor? As I was reading the account it got me thinking and wondering the same question that the lawyer had asked. Who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor the folks that live on either side of me, or perhaps could I consider everyone in my neighborhood my neighbor? Really not that bad of a question if you ask me.

Today we can turn on the news and within a matter of minutes, we see stories about all kinds of death, hurt, destruction, illness and really just madness. With recent terrorist attacks in other regions of the world, I think it can become easy for us to come to the conclusion, that I’d rather not have any neighbors. If I can take care of me, myself and I then all other needs just become secondary or even non-existent.

This account in the Bible has never become more relevant. We see a Jewish man that is “stripped of his raiment, and wounded, and departed, and leaving him half dead.” (v.30) He’s obviously not in a good spot and yet what is to come is rather disturbing in one sense. A priest, which represents a religious man, comes by this wounded man and, “when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” (v.31)  A priest is the first one to see the helpless man, and he we could say represents a religious man. As a Christian I feel like we are always being criticized, and it may even be fair to say that all those are considered people of religion share constant criticism, but God help us if we get to a point, where we see something and decide to not only let someone else handle it but rather take ourselves way out of the picture, and ‘pass by on the other side’ so to speak. We live in a society where everyone has to have their needs met right away and we are inconvenienced when we are asked to assist someone else.

Next, a Levite comes along, and his reaction is actually worse. “…when he was the place, came and looked on  him, and passed by the other side.” (v.32) It’s not that he glanced over, or tripped over the man, but he saw, he took the time to gaze upon, and then made the decision, to not even walk by but to take himself to the other side of the road and then pass by.  Today I think we can all relate in a sense. I remember in school seeing a fight break out and I never really wanted to get involved, and it seemed that the crowd that gathered around to watch didn’t either. Even if one person was getting annihilated everyone just waited for someone else to handle the situation. It’s sad that so many times in churches this same thing happens from time to time. We hear of a need, but we are too busy, or we have the ‘someone else can do that’ mentality. I have been guilty of that. But the fact of the matter is if I am able then I should help my neighbor and as a Christian I believe that is part of the following of Christ, to help those in need when I can.

Lastly, a Samaritan comes and takes care of the wounded man, cleaning up his wounds, and he even goes so far as to bring him to an inn and further take care of the man. (v. 33-35) Now we read that and honestly, we don’t really think that the Samaritan did anything that amazing. But what he did do was use his resources his animal, clothing, money, and energy. Something that we can do all do to help the needs of others.

But at the time of the story Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They had no dealings with one another. But yet the Samaritan helps this Jewish man to the ultimate degree and then some. When Jesus asks the lawyer who he thinks proved to be a good neighbor, the lawyer can’t even bring himself to say Samaritan, he just says, “he that showed mercy.” (v.37) 

So can I challenge everyone with this, as I have been challenged – it doesn’t matter what color, race, creed, gender, social status is can we be a Good Samaritan, because it doesn’t matter if someone is a homosexual, or a drunk, or a drug addict, or rich, or homeless, or black or white, or purple or fat or skinny or a pastor or a satanist. We all are neighbors of each other even though it may mot be a geographical sense. We all have neighbors that are in need. We probably don’t have to drive far and we’ll see a neighbor in need. Let’s put aside these barriers of why we can’t help someone else and instead come together like chain links and help those that needy. People may have less than us but that doesn’t mean they are less of a human than us.

 

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44

Sow and Let God Grow

Matthew 9:37 – “…The harvest is truly plenteous, but the laborers are few.” 

This verse to me has always been convicting and humbling. We live in a world where there are billions of people (the harvest) and yet finding people to be committed to the ministry of reaching them with the Gospel is as stated, being few laborers.

I think that sometimes, and I myself am guilty of this, we find ourselves doubting or even tired of the work (ministry). We have doubtful questions: well, these people never come to church anyway so, why bother to knock on the door. No one comes to evening services anymore so, why have them? I want to sleep in instead of getting up on Saturday morning and going out and visiting. I have often thought, well what if I say something stupid or dumb to someone while trying to share the Gospel and get rejected or look like an idiot.

But my friends do not doubt, do not be fearful, don’t get frustrated and don’t quit the work. Ask God for divine appointments. In Matthew 13:1-8 we have the parable of the sower. We see different outcomes of what happens to the seeds that are attempted to be sown. The first, “the fowls came and devoured them up.” (v.4). The second, fall onto stony soil and they become scorched because they had no root. (v.6). The third, are fallen onto thorns and then the thorns choke the seeds. (v.7).  But lastly, we see that some made it on good soil and brought forward much fruit. (v.8). 

I think that sometimes in ministry all we see, and if we aren’t careful, all we focus on is the seeds that we try and plant and become choked out, devoured, or even scorched. But friends we can’t get caught up on the seeds that did not grow the way we wanted. All that we are, is simply sowers. We may think that there is no point, we have not seen any fruit from the seeds that we have planted. But evangelism is more than what we can see. Isaiah:8 – “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” What a great comfort!

Farmers don’t just plant seeds and expect growth overnight. In fact, sometimes they plant a crop, some time has passed, they begin to think that that there won’t be any substance. Later, unexpectedly something appears. But if the farmer never plants any seeds then they will never know what can possibly be grown. If we don’t plant seeds- pass out tracts, share our testimonies, invite people to church, visit different people then it’s no wonder that we don’t see any fruit. James Merrit in his devotional book called 52 Weeks With Jesus, stated “Jesus won’t do our job- we are to sow. We can’t do his job- he is to grow. We can do our part but only Christ can reach the heart.”

You see it’s not so much was my delivery of the Gospel flawless, or that someone has to get saved every time that I share the Gospel and if not then the opportunity was a bust. No friends, we have no control over when and how the seeds that we planted are grown. That is up to the work of God. Personally, there were many sowers that planted seeds in my life. There is the possibility that those that shared testimonies and the Gospel with me thought, “you know I don’t think he is ever going to get it” or perhaps “this really has just become useless”. Only to their pleasant surprise one day I accepted Christ as my Savior.

Had seeds never been planted then who knows how I may have come to faith or if I would have come to a belief in Jesus Christ. The fruit came many years later. But don’t give up planting seeds. You never know what growth can come about. But just remember that is all in God’s time, and we can’t do the growing. John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

There is a world of people that you reading this can reach that I may never. As II Timothy 1:6 says, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” Let’s get stirred up, be bold, and be confident not in ourselves but in the amazing work of the Holt Spirit and because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

“Our tendency is to write off people in our minds: friends we think would never be interested in Christianity; colleagues who seem to sinful, ‘too far gone’; or family members who say conversations about ‘your religion’ are off limits. When I start thinking this way, I need friends to remind me that no heart is too hard for the Holy Spirit.” – J. Mack Stilles.

Recovery

For the past few years I have become a part of a great family, known as Reformers Unanimous – it is a faith based Recovery Meeting that meets every Friday night. We like to say that we are a Friday Night Family, and truly that’s how I feel whenever I walk into the room. Now, I didn’t always feel that way, but after I got saved and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I realized that those ‘Jesus people’ and those ‘Holy Rollers’ aren’t as judgemental and crazy as everyone makes them out to be, and well, now I am 0ne of them.

Whenever I meet someone that has had or currently is struggling with addictions, the word recovery is frequently used. But what is recovery? How does it work?

Well first, I believe that when people hear the word recovery or addictions our minds immediately assume we are talking about those that are struggling with drugs and alcohol. But when we really stop and think about it, we all are on our own roads of recovery in one sense or another. We all have something that we are more than likely addicted to, whether that be video games, or shopping, or a substance or eating and the list goes on. Likewise we all have had situations that have hurt us and left deep wounds. We all have skeletons in our closet and things in our past that we are trying to work through.

First, let me say that I believe that people were created by God and God created them in his image (Genesis 1:27). There is the trinity which is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and just as there are three there, I believe that God created three parts of humans. The first being the body. In addictions recovery there is a physical element. This could be anything from the body physical dependency and a substance; cravings, withdrawal symptoms, etc. Second, there is the soul of the human being. As humans we all have a soul and I believe that this is the mind, or our thoughts. When it comes to addiction the thoughts in the brain play a big role. I am in recovery and I still have thoughts such as drinking or using drugs would be a good idea right about now. I have met people that have had many years of sobriety and say that they still have thoughts about using drugs or alcohol even after ten plus years of clean time. Personally, I don’t know that I will ever stop having thoughts every once in awhile about drugs and alcohol. As II Corinthians 2:7 says, “…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…”. I believe that the thoughts that still re-occur for me is my thorn in the flesh and that this is God’s way of keeping me humble and reminding that I can do nothing in my own power, but that “I can all things through Christ which strentheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13. Now the third part of the human body I believe is the spirit – that is our heart. I personally believe that if our hearts are not right then the other two things, the thoughts and the body will be off as well. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” 

A lot of people think that when it comes to addiction that it’s all physical and sadly in today’s society doctors and clinics will just easily prescribe a drug that will ‘help’ you get off the substance that you are currently on. Now that is not to say that all medicines are bad, and that you should taking your meds. Maybe some meds are good and make the detox stage a little easier, but I think being able to be completely substance free is the right road to travel down. The thought life is one that as I mentioned before will always be a constant battle, I believe that a great way to defend the mind is meditating on good things. Meditate is defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines this as – to dwell on anything in thought, to study, or to contemplate. I believe that meditating on God’s Word (the Bible), prayer, and fellowship with other Christians is the best way to guard our thoughts. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalm 1:2 

Here is the point that I am trying to drive home. Recovery, from anything, but especially with addictions, comes the inside out, not the outside in. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10 

After I got saved and my heart was made new, the other two aspects started to heal. The physical side of my addiction got easier, and my thought life had become better. This is not to say that all my problems just went and disappeared, but I don’t think that things would be the way they are now if I had never gotten my heart right. I’m also not saying that 1,23 get saved and suddenly all life’s woes and miseries will go away. But they will get easily. 12 Steps may work for some, but for me the one step that I took and coming to know the Lord and getting my heart right was the biggest, hardest, most difficult, but the best step that I have ever taken. I am still on the road to recovery, it’s a daily, hourly, minutely, everyday battle. But do not be discouraged, one foot in front of the other. One step one minute at a time.

 

“…be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee wherever thou goest.” – Joshua 1:9

“These things that I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” – Romans 8:37

Feeling The Heat

You ever gone to the ocean and think to yourself, you know the waves don’t look to bad, I’ll go in for a minute or two. So, you walk out about waist deep or so, when out of nowhere a wave comes and knocks you. And just as soon as you stand back up, guess what, here comes another one, right on top of you. Now you aren’t sure when you are going to be able to stand up. You’re struggling for air and you’re being sucked right under, and the one thing that seems to cross your mind is, when is this going to end?

You know life can make you feel this very way as well. You’ve had health issue after health issue and you think I’m finally start to be okay, then you go to the doctors for what seems like a routine checkup, and they tell you some not so routine news. Now they must do some not so routine testing.

There was a time in my life where I thought the same thing, it was just one thing after the other. Trial after trial with no end in sight. One glorious day I asked Jesus Christ into my life, and to be my Lord and Savior. What a truly tremendous decision that I made and one that I have never regretted and I am not ashamed to proclaim to others.

But I had a problem.  You see I misjudged the waves. I thought that now I’m a Christian, life would be easier, life would be smooth sailing. I realizing it wasn’t and it hasn’t been. Although there have been some wonderful moments of victory that the Lord has allowed me to have. I have lost friends and loved ones, there have pain and suffering. Granted some of that has been self-inflicted due to my rather poor decision making. I have often asked myself, “God, when are you going to give me a chance to breathe? Is there an end in sight?”

It is in Isaiah 48:10 I find my comfort and encouragement. “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” You see there is a point in the trial that you are facing. There is a purpose that you are going through what you are going through right now.

A furnace is a place is prepared for gold. A furnace makes gold purer than it was before. The trials, or furnace we can say, is divinely appointed by God and are meant to make us purer and more holy.   Job 23:10 – “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” The furnace is not meant to hurt us, but provides grace. God knows just how much heat we can take in the furnace. Isaiah 43:2 – “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And lastly, when we come out of the furnace there is a benefit. Romans 5:3 -4,  “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.”

I don’t know how long it seems that you have been walking through a valley or a fire so to say, but what I can tell you is that there is an end. That you will make it the other side to that shore. And there can come peace unlike any other in the midst of your storm. And yes it is difficult to be joyful and thankful during those times that we are in a furnace and in a trial or a storm. But it’s not in vain friends! That is the time to snuggle close to the Lord and let him walk you through and know that you are not alone, you will make it, and you will be better for it.

 

II Corinthians 12:9-10,  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”