Archive for September, 2016

TRUST: How Hard it is for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God!

September 30, 2016

In the post TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life?, the notion of Lordship was presented as a the revolving factor as to whether one would submit or surrender his/her life to Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus was aware of the reference in Matthew 6:21 which tells us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This was the emphasis to the Lordship matter. The rich man’s response illustrates that he was not willing to forsake his wealth for pursuit of Jesus and the wealth that thieves cannot break in and steal nor where moth and rust can destroy. Now, Jesus accentuates or emphasizes TRUST: How Hard it is for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God! 

For those who may not have read further up in Mark 10, I have included it and underlined the focus of today’s writing.

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said.“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again,“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus was not condemning the rich to eternal damnation nor was he saying the rich cannot be saved, so what did He mean when it was stated TRUST: How Hard it is for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God! Jesus was clarifying for his disciples the importance of what one treasures, esteems or values as a matter of forsaking in order to pursue Him, His blessings/benefits and eternal life. We, no I, often see riches as a means to rid myself of a great deal of inhibiting factors. I have said if I was rich I would not have to worry about this or that. While that might be true in terms of purchasing things, it is not true in hearts. Ecclesiastes 5:10 illustrates that as it says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.”

Notice in the passage that Jesus repeats the phrase “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” When Jesus repeats something, it is a key for us to examine the notion further. It is a sign saying don’t miss this. To attest to that, Jesus draws an analogy to define the matter in greater detail – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” One tends to be self-reliant when one is rich. Pride creeps in because there is a greater tendency to think that you accomplished something and really do not need anyone’s help especially God who may often be an afterthought. We should consider the comparison of entering His kingdom that Jesus includes in this passage. We have children, and we have the rich. Children are ultra dependent on their parents for what they need. In fact, they look to their parents for everything while the rich have a great propensity look to the wealth that has been amassed. It is our turning away from our dependence on God to self that led Jesus to highlight TRUST: How Hard it is for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God! Considering the two, who is more likely to inherit the kingdom of God – little children or the rich?

Who are you depending on for salvation? Who are you depending on to inherit eternal life? An inheritance is transferred from a parent to a child. Jesus has said “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Have you become His child? John 1:12 tells us how to do that – “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God:” Galatians 3:26 says “26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,” Ephesians 1:5 says, “he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” and Revelation 21:7 says, “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

TRUST: How Hard it is for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

September 28, 2016

For ages throughout all civilizations, man has sought ways to deal with his mortality. Man has learned that death is inevitable. There are all sorts of philosophies and existential explanations to overcome our mortality. We see Egyptian Pharaohs going through extreme measures to obtain the after life; yet no one really had an assurance of how to answer TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

For me, I believe that Jesus answers that question with authority and provides assurance for all who seek and serve Him. Let’s look at one man who sought to resolve his concern about his mortality from Jesus.

Mark 10

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said.“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Why did the man’s face fall? The Word tells us because he was sad because he had great wealth. What does that mean or convey? It says that each one of us has something that is at the center of our lives. It is that which is most important to how we live our lives. It is that which we may say sits on the Lordship seat of our hearts and minds. It is the thing that we do not want to give up.

TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life? In order to answer this question, we simply need to look at the man who approached Jesus and their responses. The pivotal questioned revolved around the man’s attempt to resolve his mortality. He knew he would die and wanted to deal with it. He went to Jesus calling good. Jesus made issue out of the simple yet truthful word of good. Jesus linked good to only being an attribute of God. We see that in Psalm 14 which says “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” In essence, Jesus was pointing to His deity and reminding the man that he called Jesus good; therefore, what I say to you is right and correct and good for following.

Jesus runs through a litany of qualifying acts that man had bound himself to i.e. the 10 Commandments. Then, Jesus transitions to the matters of the heart, the things that motivate us all to act as we treasure them most. TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life? Jesus goes to that Lordship issue. The man’s money is what he treasured the most. Matthew 6:21 tells us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We learn from Matthew 22 the last and greatest commandment. Jesus said, “36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.” God tells us that He must be that which we love the most – with our heart, soul and mind. 

TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life? The man was asked to give up that which he treasured most in exchange for eternal life. Likewise, we told are told have the same mindset as Christ Jesus in Philippians 2 if we claim to desire to follow Christ i.e. want to have saved from eternal death. Jesus answers the question about overcoming one’s mortality in John 17:3 where He said, “ Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus had previously said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” in John 3:17. There is more, but I will conclude with Paul who said, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowingChrist Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.Philippians 3:7-9.

TRUST: What Must One Do To Inherit Eternal Life? You must believe that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin birth, lived sinless life, where He performed miracles and offered man teachings to live by. You must believe in His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people and His personal, visible return to earth. Lastly, you must give your all – your heart, soul and mind to Jesus to have eternal life. What will you do? Will you surrender your treasure or will you walk away sad like the wealthy man in the text above?

 

 

 

TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing

September 26, 2016

I do not know anyone who does not want a blessing. Blessing is commonly accepted to mean a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness or the invoking of God’s favor upon a person. Whether one believes in God or not, he/she would not turn down a blessing. Typically, it just means that of good coming to you. For those who believe in Jesus as the Son and Savior, we TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing.

It is through Jesus by the Spirit that followers have access to God. It is through our praying that we seek out God to obtain blessings. The people of Judea demonstrate to us how to TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing.

Mark 10

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them

For the little children who were brought to him for commanding and conferring a blessing, Jesus draws a parallel of how man should come to Him. Jesus focuses on the complete TRUST of a child.

Noted commentator Matthew Henry says, “We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe, Oportet discentem credere—A learner must believe. The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rasa—a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be.Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion. 5. He received the children, and gave them what was desired (Mark 10:16); He took them up in his arms, in token of his affectionate concern for them; put his hands upon them, as was desired, and blessed them. She how he out-did the desires of these parents; they begged he would touch them, but he did more. (1.) He took them in his arms. Now the scripture was fulfilled (Isa. 40:11), He shall gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. Time was, when Christ himself was taken up in old Simeon’s arms, Luke 2:28. And now he took up these children, not complaining of the burthen (as Moses did, when he was bid to carry Israel, that peevish child, in his bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, Num. 11:12), but pleased with it. If we in a right manner bring our children to Christ, he will take them up, not only in the arms of his power and providence, but in the arms of his pity and grace (as Ezek. 16:8); underneath them are the everlasting arms.”

Now that is an example of how to TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing. Perhaps the greatest way you, a parent or anyone can TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing is to stand on His Word or His promises. Listen to what God promised the Israelites in Ezekiel 36:27. God says, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. In Isaiah 44:3 , God says, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Jesus was conveying to His disciples and others how any of us should TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing. Jesus wants us all to follow Him and enjoy the benefits of seeking and serving the Savior. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— Psalm 103. There are innumerable benefits to seeking and serving God through Christ Jesus the Lord, but first you must TRUST: Jesus for Commanding and Conferring a Blessing of salvation of your soul.

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TRUST: No Breach of Contract

September 23, 2016

According to the Legal Information Institute, a contract is an agreement creating obligations enforceable by law. Contracts are promises that the law will enforce. The law provides remedies if a promise is breached or recognizes the performance of a promise as a duty. Contracts arise when a duty does or may come into existence, because of a promise made by one of the parties. To be legally binding as a contract, a promise must be exchanged for adequate consideration. Adequate consideration is a benefit or detriment which a party receives which reasonably and fairly induces them to make the promise/contract (LLI). The basic elements of a contract are mutual assent, consideration, capacity, and legality.  In some states, the element of consideration can be satisfied by a valid substitute.  Possible remedies for breach of contract include general damages, consequential damages, reliance damages, and specific performance.

The breach is a mentioned several times be in the preceding paragraph. Break, in its simplest since, is a break, rupture or severance. In terms of a contract, it means that you break the conditions of the contract. We hear about contract disputes in with labor unions, athletic and entertainment industry, and within our government. Breaking promises is nothing new, but it is always offensive and hurtful to those who do not receive the fulfillment of what was promised. The reality of our fallibleness makes me yearn for TRUST: No Breach of Contract.

When I consider the consistency of keeping one’s word, I am dismayed at the specter fidelity of contracts, but there is hope. God is the shining and ultimate example of TRUST: No Breach of Contract. Right before Jesus finished the contract or should I say in spiritual terms, the covenant, He had with God, Jesus talked about His fidelity of fulfilling the contract/covenant. In this covenant, God the Father and the Son made an agreement regarding the elect.  This covenant was made before the universe was created, and it consisted of the Father promising to bring to the Son all whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39; 17:9, 24).  The Son would become man (Colossians. 2:9; 1 Timothy. 2:5), become for a while lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7), and be found under the Law (Galatians 4:4-5).  The Son would die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 2:24), and the Father would raise the Son from the Dead (Psalm 2).

In John 17, right before Jesus finished the contract or should I say in spiritual terms, the covenant, He had with God, Jesus talked about His fidelity of fulfilling the contract/covenant. This is what He said TRUST: No Breach of Contract.

“4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.”

TRUST: No Breach of Contract. Is it possible for man not to breach a contract? Yes.  God, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, empowers man to live for God instead of himself. The next greatest example of this in marriage. Marriage is symbolic of the covenant God made with man. Our text today in Mark 10 tells us to TRUST: No Breach of Contract. 

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Like God, man is supposed to give himself wholly and fully for his wife’s betterment at his expense – always. Man would not experience the grace of God without Christ’s sacrifice. First, we recall from Philippians 2 that Jesus, though God, made Himself nothing by taking on the nature of a servant. He, God, became man to serve man. In conjunction with that, we hear Jesus say that divorce is wrong and should not be considered. In regards to divorce, Jesus says TRUST: No Breach of Contract. If our marriages are to survive and thrive, we must take on the role that Jesus took on – servant. Jesus became less than what He was for us. This is the sacrifice that men are called to emulate. Being a servant requires a man to deny himself which fulfills the call of duty as a disciple of Christ. Next, a man is not to walk away from his wife and children because he does not fill his needs are being met. As a disciple/servant, we must rely on God to meet our needs.

When begin to contend for our own needs and wants, the real trouble begins. James asks us “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” The breach begins when self becomes greater than your wife. God says TRUST: No Breach of Contract.

We can come up with all kinds of reasons, excuses and rationales for pursuing our own interest over God’s, but it does not make it righteous. Our greatest concern should be to honor the covenant God made with us and the promise we made to God in following Him and loving our spouses. In God’s eyes, His position of remaining faithful despite being betrayed by one disciple and denied three times by another did not deter Him from honoring His commitment to the Father. Similarly, we who call ourselves Christians should do likewise. Anything less than that is adultery to God and to our spouses. TRUST: No Breach of Contract.

TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory

September 20, 2016

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, i.e. Christians, our sole aim in life is to live as Jesus did. One thing for sure about Jesus is that He trusted the Father. From our earliest accounts in Genesis where God said, “26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NKJV), we see Jesus acting in concert with the Father. We see Jesus trusting in the Father in the incarnation. We see Jesus trusting in the Father in cross and the resurrection. Why? We see Jesus convey TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory.

Today, I am breaking away from Mark, but I am running to John. As I prayed with my wife earlier this morning, this is the passage God laid on my heart. TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory is the result of reading and hearing from God. I am not sure about you, but I know in my life and in my daughter’s life, we tend to struggle with TRUST. Right now, my daughter is dealing with a matter about school that requires TRUST, but it is a struggle. Consequently, I am dealing with a matter about school that requires TRUST. It is in those Moments of Faith (MOF) that require us to TRUST God and not ourselves. It is in those MOF that require us to not accuse God of not being with us or for us. We must stand on the Word. We must remember He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We must remember to demonstrate TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory .

In John 11, Jesus models this for us while Martha and Mary serve as our examples of how we respond to circumstances that cause us to question Jesus rather than trust in Jesus.

John 11

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

God has said it all. Jesus told the disciples the situation with Lazarus happened “so that you may believe” Jesus told Martha that her brother, Lazarus, would rise again. Then He made it personal to her. He said, ““I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”” Lastly, Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

That is God’s goal – to glorify Himself in the lives of those who follow Him. It was true for Martha. It is true for us. God wants us to TRUST Him. Why? It will result in TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God. All believers are expected to demonstrate faith in our circumstances regardless of how grave they may be. Like with Martha and Mary, both said if you had been here my brother would have died. We tend to blame God when our desired results do not unfold as we envisioned. We fail to remember that God is God. We fail to remember that He is the potter and we are the clay. God gave us this story to help us see and demonstrate TRUST: That Ends in God’s Glory.

I pray that we all realize that it is not good for us to blame God. Martha and Mary both told Jesus that if you had come when we called you my brother would not have died. Essentially, they were saying I called on you and you did not come. You let us down. You let our brother die. They blamed God for their circumstance. We, like Martha and Mary, tend to blame God when our circumstance does not end in the manner we desire. God desires that we TRUST Him. He told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Do you believe this?

Will you TRUST Him today no matter our circumstance even the death of a loved one. “Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” Walk in the Light, Jesus. and do not stumble. Hallelujah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRUST: We Choose Life or Death

September 15, 2016

From the first man to the last one born, man has been given the choice to choose life or death. In Genesis 2, we learn that “And out of the ground theLord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”and “16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”There it is! There is the choice between life and death. Even this morning when my wife and I were trying to talk about an issue, I had to choose between life and death. Life being following the path which God outlines. Death being the path that God forbids and commands not.  Just as in Genesis 3, I was presented with the truth. I had to make a choice, so do you. TRUST: We Choose Life or Death.

Ezekiel 18:4 says, ““Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.” Fast forward to the New Testament where Jesus is reiterating TRUST: We Choose Life or Death. Jesus conveys this again in Luke 9:24. For now, let us stay in Mark 9.

Mark 9

42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44]  45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46]  47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
    and the fire is not quenched.’

49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

That part of the passage is about us choosing God over sin. Remember, for the soul that sins shall surely die. Jesus was conveying that TRUST: We Choose Life or Death. We can believe or not believe what Jesus says, but it does not alter the reality and truth of what He says. He is a prophet whose prophecy has come true. John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Since life is choosing Jehovah and Jesus, death is rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.

It is in that choice and that choice alone where we experience TRUST: We Choose Life or Death. Will you trust the creator (Colossians 1:16) or will you trust the created (Romans 1)? The choice you makes dictates and demonstrates TRUST: We Choose Life or Death. 

TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily

September 14, 2016

The Greek word for stumble or offend is skandalizō (skän-dä-lē’-zō) which means to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey. In other words, sin. Sin has been characterized as missing the mark that God sets.

How should we respond to that which leads us to sin? In Mark 9, Jesus answers that question in a manner that creates great pause. I know it did for me as a new convert. I was struggling with fornication which is a sophisticated way of saying having premarital sex. Now that I had surrendered my life to Christ, I learned that it was not God’s will for me to indulge myself in that manner, but it was a struggle. I knew what I shouldn’t do, but I failed almost every opportunity that I was alone with my girl friend at that time. Then, I read Mark 9:43-48.

Mark 9

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

It is clear that Jesus was serious about sin. For me, it was sexual immorality/premarital sex. I thought and asked God, surely you are not telling me to sever, cut off my penis. The thought of it horrified me. I was at a loss. I was so new at following Him that I did not know what to do. I had never gone to church, so I did not have a spiritual confidant at the time. I just could not imagine God telling me to cut off my penis. What a quandary? TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily.

TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily was the conclusion I arrived. There are some passage of scripture that we need to take literally. This was not one of them. Jesus was talking about addressing that which is at the heart of the sin. It was not my penis. It was my lustful mind. It was my desire to gratify my flesh at the young lady’s expense and God’s offense. I was sinning against God. God wanted it to stop so much that this graphic picture was provided. TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily was the goal.

For the matter, I found relief and direction in Romans 12. Listen to this.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

God was telling me the way to cut off my offensive desires was to rewire or renew my mind. I could not think about myself first as a follower of Christ, as a Christian. I had chosen to stop worshiping myself as the head of my life. I had chosen to place Christ as the Master or Lord of my life in exchange for saving me from the wrath of God. Scripture further led me with “18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  1 Corinthians 6:18-20  God deserved my allegiance. He did not deserve or desire me to continue seeking to please myself. 

TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily. Whew!!! I was relieved, but also I knew I had to cut off that which made me sin. I had to a feed my mind the Word of God and after continuous but failed efforts, I had to sever that relationship. Not only was I offending /sinning against God, I was sinning against the young lady and myself. Cutting off my access to the physical offense was a small part of the problem. The larger problem was dealing with my mind which is where the raging and sinful desires loomed. I was certainly not delivered, but I was better and found that I need to TRUST: Mental Mutilation Not Bodily. 

 

 

TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble

September 12, 2016

I have often said that Jesus uses comparison and contrast to teach. We see Him drawing similarities and differences all the time in scripture. Our text in Mark 9 is no different. Jesus had just taught that there are rewards for those who make the smallest of efforts, like giving a cup of water to His disciples. He said, “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” The support of the disciple is reward. Now, we learn how the one who causes a disciple to stumble is punished. Reward and punishment is a common and consistent theme in the Word of God. Jesus is saying TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble.

TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble. In life, we can either help people or hurt people. In regards to the followers of Jesus, in particular the young and new believer, Jesus conveys how the one who causes the young follower of Christ will be treated. Let’s follow the conversation.

Mark 9

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (ESV)

If a small act of kindness towards others done in Jesus’ name will be eternally remembered, so will any cause for stumbling. And the punishment is severe: it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were throne into the sea. Jesus is saying that there are grave consequences for leading or misleading young followers of Christ. This should give us pause as to how we should engage and involve followers of Jesus, especially the young ones, in any actions that are contrary to the Word of God. We cannot afford to mislead anyone as we seek to settle a dispute, gain the momentum for following our will or making a point at any expense. TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble.

David Brown wrote “There will be stumblings and falls and loss of souls enough from the world’s treatment of disciples, without any addition from you: dreadful will be its doom in consequence; see that ye share not in it.”

The Greek word for stumble or offend is skandalizō (skän-dä-lē’-zō) which means to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey. Make no mistake about it, Jesus is saying the one who causes another to doubt Him, fall away from Him through their deliberate acts will be punished. The severity of the punishment is made clear. Historians state that there were two types of millstones used in that day. One a woman used to grind grain. It was a smaller st0ne that she could handle; however, there were a larger stone pulled by animal, perhaps a donkey or oxen, that ground larger amounts of grain. Jesus references the larger stone to leave no doubt as to whether one would be able to avoid death as he was thrown into water with that weight around his neck. TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble.

Before we start to align people for us in disputes, we need to make sure that our motivation is holy and righteous. There is a great cost for misleading people especially those who are following or looking to follow Jesus. We, as followers of Christ, are obliged to encourage people to follow Jesus not doubt or fall away from Him because of our actions. TRUST: Woe to the One Who Causes a Follower to Stumble. As such, we better make sure we check our motives when we contend a matter.

 

TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong?

September 8, 2016

Whether one subscribes to Abraham Maslow’s theory or not, we all have been impacted by what he proposed. Maslow presented an original hierarchy of needs that are the following: Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem and Self-Actualization. In comparison with the world, there is a relatively small percentage of people who fail to have their Physiological and Safety needs met. While I am not diminishing the struggles in those areas I see everyday at school, the largest category, in comparison to all Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is Belongingness and Love. The title of today’s post prompted me to think of Maslow as belongingness is huge in terms of social dynamics in our lives. To me, it is the gateway to a fulfilled and rewarding life. It is essential for us to determine TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong? 

Arguably, the greatest determinant of life is found in TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong? I will not make this a long post. I will not complicate the matter. According to Maslow, Belongingness and Love include friendship, intimacy, affection and love, from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships. As my wife entered the room where I am writing this morning, I was prompted to ask her what her biggest need is. She first gave me a want, but I reiterated NEED. She then conveyed to not succumb to fear. What is your greatest need? As I was reading in Mark 9, I found this nugget, this one liner that just grabbed my attention. Bells went off in my head. To reiterate, satiating one’s Belongingness and Love need it is the gateway to a fulfilled and rewarding life. I liken it to the fuel for a vehicle. Without fuel, the vehicle cannot fulfill its highest purpose – to transport people. Our highest purpose is to glorify God (Psalm 86, Isaiah 60:21, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31, Revelation 4:11), and to enjoy him for ever (Ps. 16:5-11, 73:25-26, 144:15, Isaiah 12:2, Luke 2:10, Philippians 4:4, Revelation 21:3-4). TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong?

God addressed the matter of belonging and the benefit of in Mark 9. Again, it was a short verse that just leaped off the page at me.

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

John asked a question of Jesus. Jesus was answering the question, but in a parenthetical sense, Jesus highlighted the value of the disciples. People can give water to one another, but there is a distinction when someone does something for another in the name of Jesus because the person belongs to Jesus Christ or the Messiah. TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong?

Do you belong to Jesus? There is eternal reward for anyone who does something for another in the name of Jesus for those who belong to Jesus. Many of my woes were resolved when I began to belong to Jesus. How does one belong to God? John 1:12-13 says, “12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.Romans 8:14 says, “ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Have you received Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? Are you led by the Holy Spirit? If not, you do not belong to Christ/God. Since you do not belong, you are seeking your belonging in all the wrong places. Your quests has led you to people or things that seemingly would have fulfilled you, but ultimately, you were left on another quest to be fulfilled. TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong?

Surrender your life, your will to Jesus and belong. TRUST: To Whom Do You Belong?

TRUST: Selfishness Rewarded

September 7, 2016

In the post TRUST: God Knows One’s Motives, the notion of who was working for God in the name of Jesus was accepted by Christ. He said, “40 for whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus gives us a litmus test to gauge one’s motives or at least serve as a guide for how we should respond. Furthermore, Jesus expanded on the matter that whoever did something for another, especially those who could not do for themselves or those who are less fortunate, in His name would be rewarded. Don’t we all like rewards? It could be internally or externally done, but who does not want to be reward?

TRUST: Selfishness Rewarded is probably going to be controversial and viewed skeptically. Ultimately, it is best to serve out of a love for God, but honestly, how many of us would do that on a consistent basis. Since God knows the heart of man, my personal opinion is that God uses our make up as a means to motivate us to do what is right even though the impetus may not be ideal or right. God knows the answer to who does not want to be reward. He knows we all do.

In Mark 9, He capitalizes on it when finishing His response to the disciples who had told a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus.

41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (NIV)

41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (NKJV)

I honestly believe that Jesus is saying to the disciples and us that whatever is done in His name will be accepted as viable work and will be reward.TRUST: Selfishness Rewarded. Jesus says no matter how minuscule, a person will be rewarded for doing something for another in the name of Jesus. If a follower of Christ gives someone a cup of water in the name of Jesus, that follower is sure not to lose his/her reward. There are other verses that support this matter. They are below.

Proverbs 14:31
31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 19:17
17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lordand he will reward them for what they have done.

Matthew 10:42
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Matthew 25:40
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Acts 10:4
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

Hebrews 10:6
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

The essence of the matter is captured in 2 Corinthians 8:12 which says, “12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”

Most of us, especially in this day and time, would agree that giving someone a cup of water out of kindness and out of knowing we are doing good for Jesus’ sake is a relatively small investment; however, there is no greater investment than doing for the Lord God, because a small act of kindness towards others done in Jesus’ name will be eternally remembered and rewarded. TRUST: Selfishness Rewarded