Don’t Be Afraid of the Grape Jelly

“This is my commandbe strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord our God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Uncertainty, and fear of trying the unknown is a very real thing, even . It can be reluctance of trying something new, or fear of major life changes. Recently a preacher spoke of how he loves to eat grape jelly on biscuits and gravy. Let’s just say the overall reaction was not positive, with most reluctant to consider even trying it. The following week, several members of the congregation did try it and said it was good, or at least not as bad as they had feared. One had said no for 39+ years and finally tried it, having to admit that it was not bad at all.
Have you ever felt that God wanted you to do something for Him that was out of your comfort zone? Did you fail to do it because of your fear of trying something new? It is so easy to rationalize not doing something by simply saying, it’s probably not God anyway, it’s just a random thought. We don’t do it and so we will never know what might have been the outcome if we had just trusted God and His promise to be with us wherever we go.
I can assure you that if you endeavor to serve God whole-heartedly, He will at some point challenge you to undertake something that you have never done before. I encourage you to look to Him at that moment and be strong and courageous, accept the challenge and just do it. Your life may never be the same again.

Lord, challenge me with something new. Show me how you want me to be your
disciple in an unexpected way. I will look forward to the ways you will bless others through my obedience, amen.

I Can’t Do That

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)

It is not unusual for Christians to be hesitant about sharing their faith. We seem to have a natural reluctance to talk about God with people whom we feel are not believers. We can talk about Him at church and when we are with Christian friends, but to talk to a non-believer about our faith in an unseen God is a scary thing.

Paul says we must always be ready to explain our hope. Why do we hesitate?

  1. I don’t know enough about the Bible
  2. I am just learning myself, how can I share with someone else?
  3. I don’t put things into words very well
  4. I am naturally shy
  5. I don’t do well with strangers
  6. I am afraid they will make fun of me
  7. They may know the Bible better than I do

I have good news for you! God does not expect you to be a Bible scholar, able to quote a long list of scriptures. He is more than aware of your perceived short-comings in your ability to speak or interact with strangers. He can help with all of that. God only wants you to honestly share what He has done in your life. Just make a simple statement such as, “I believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sinful life and restore my relationship with God. Accepting that, He has changed my life and I am happily following Jesus every day”.

Any follow-up discussion will be led by the Holy Spirit on your behalf. He will give you words and insights which will allow you to be an effective witness as you testify of what He has done in your life.

 Lord, thank you for accepting me as one of you children. Please help me be an effective representative of your love for all. Amen.

Dealing With Death

“……I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21 NLT)

Really? Dying is even better? Once again I am faced with an untimely, unexpected death. Not my biological family, but a member of my spiritual family that I loved and respected. Like my son who was only 41, this brother passed before his time. I never would have thought that he would precede me in death, as he was much younger, still worked an active job in law enforcement and was a vital part of our churches outreach programs. And yet he is gone.

My brother lived his life to honor Christ, this much I know. I do also. When I consider the possibility of death, as an older citizen with a degenerative disease, I know that I would choose to keep on living in this life, doing all I can to bring honor to Jesus Christ. and yet, if I die, I know that I will be gloriously happy to see my Savior and Lord. I take comfort in knowing that that is the reunion that is taking place now between my brother and his God.

I am sad that I will not be shaking his hand this morning and asking him how he feels about the NASCAR championship, I will likely shed some tears with his family, but I know that my brother has passed from earthly happiness to eternal joy.

Lord, in times of extreme sadness, help us to always remember the ultimate goal of our lives, to live eternally at your side . Amen.

To Fear or Not to Fear

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38 NLT)

What are you afraid of? What are the things in life that cause you so much concern that you get fearful? We all have them. Is it the fear that you might get sick and not be able to work? Is it that the economy will suddenly turn bad and you might lose your job? Do you worry about your children’s future? Don’t feel alone, we all have fears. The important thing is what we do about those fears.

Fear will steal the enjoyment from your life. Your focus becomes centered on that fear and life can seem to take a dark turn. We need to recognize fear when it comes up, identify it for what it is and eliminate it. How do we do that?

At the risk of simplifying let me just say that it’s really easy. We have access to the very God who actually created us and who loves us. He wants only the best for us. His plan for us is all about giving us hope and a future, not that we should live in fear. God’s word tells us,  “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  (Philippians 1:6 NLT) As we see in Romans, nothing can ever separate us from that love.

Father, when I start to feel fear come up in my life please help me to remember that I need not be fearful because you created me, you love me and you desire for me to have a life of fulfillment and purpose. Amen.

The Heart of Jesus

‘I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. ‘

1 Timothy 2:1, 3-4

 The heart of Jesus is full of compassion. He went about His time on earth reaching out to the oppressed, the sick, the demon possessed and the homeless ones that were rejected by society. He wept over the death of a friend, He raised the dead and restored joy to families who were in grief.

The heart of Jesus is focused on service. When He was with His disciples He served them supper, He cooked breakfast for them on the beach (after His resurrection) and washed their feet. He taught them that they should do the same.

Of course the heart of Jesus is primarily concerned with restoring as many as will accept Him to fellowship with the Father. This was His primary mission and that mission now falls on us as His disciples.

John 17 is a prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples, and He makes it clear that we are included in that prayer. So let us fully take on the heart of Jesus as we reach out in compassion, service and restoration ministry to our neighbors.

 

Lord,  teach me how to have the heart of Jesus as I go about my day.  May I have compassion, do willing service and reach out to the lost, so that I might be a worthy servant. Amen

Beyond the church

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. (1 John 3:18-19)

 

Jesus tells us in several places in the gospels that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This teaching is reinforced by Paul and other writers throughout the New Testament. In John 15 He also tells us that we are to love each other as He has loved us, and that when we do what he commands we are his friend.

 

Who is your neighbor? It is your fellow worshipers that gather with you every Sunday, even the ones that you rarely talk to or even know their name. It is your fellow Christians that gather in other churches on Sunday that you may never meet. It is your doctor, your teacher, your students, the clerk in the grocery store, your Uber driver, the barista at Starbucks. In short, everyone you meet or see today is your neighbor.

 

How do you love yourself? What actions do you take to show that you care for yourself? Are you willing to love your neighbor in the same way? You have at your disposal time, talent and treasure. Will you use those things to show true friendship to a new neighbor who walks through the doors of your church? Will you make a conscious effort to invite a neighbor to church and thus create the opportunity for new friendships?

 

Lord, show me a neighbor I can love as you loved me. Help me to be a positive influence with my neighbor, and most of all, may I have the courage to invite that neighbor to come to God’s house where He will be welcomed as a friend. Amen.

Why do I pray?

magic

I pray, that is just who I am. Some may wonder why I spend time in conversation with God, God who is unseen and yet omnipresent.

First, God knew at the moment I was born in 1946 exactly who I would be in 2018. He knew in advance all my strengths, my weaknesses – He knew I would sin in various ways throughout the past 72 years. He also knew that I would struggle physically with Parkinson’s Disease and that I would occasionally get depressed about that.

Further, despite that knowledge, He loved me. He loved me. He did not love my sin, but He loved the me that He knew I would be. He took the time to plan for my life, and that His plan would cause me to prosper and not harm me, a plan that would give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He recognized that to see His plan fulfilled in me, I would have to be cleansed of the sin that was in the world and was in me. The only way He could do that was to provide a sacrifice that once and for all would allow me to have fellowship with Him. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to live as a man, take all of the sin in the world – past, present and future – on to Himself and take that sin to a horrible death on a Roman cross. That death assured that I could have access to the God of all creation.

His love didn’t stop there. Even though His son paid the ultimate price to restore my relationship with Him, I continued to rebel and sin. Each time, upon my confession, He forgave me, forgot it ever happened and restored me to full fellowship.

 

Why do I pray? I pray because I can. I can pray because I have full access to the ear of God through the intercession of Jesus Christ His son and the power of the Holy Spirit. I talk to God because He wants to talk to me. I talk to God because I want to be separated from a life of sin and be totally sanctified as His disciple. I don’t understand it at all, why He would be so interested in my life, but I will pray.

 

 

Compassion

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Mark 6:34 NLT

 

The compassion of Jesus towards the crowds he dealt with while on earth is well documented in Scripture. He felt their hunger, he felt their pain, he even cried over their death. He demonstrated this compassion by forgiving their sin, healing their sickness, restoring their sight and even raising them from the dead. This trait of the compassionate Savior is understood by and accepted by those who profess to be his disciples.

We need to also know, however, that Jesus may not be physically walking the earth today, but the compassion of the shepherd towards his people hasn’t changed. He continues to have compassion towards us and feels our pain and our failures.

One of the things Jesus taught us throughout his ministry and continued to drive home through the ministry of Paul, Peter and the other apostles is that as his disciples today we are to demonstrate that same compassion towards our neighbors.

Look around you as you go about your day. When you see a situation where you tend to feel sorry for someone, go the extra mile and see if there isn’t something God will lead you to do about it. This action is the essence of true compassion.

 

Lord, allow me this day to become sensitive to the needs around me and not to merely feel sorry and move on, but empower me through your Holy Spirit to reach out and touch someone’s life in a tangible way that will serve to draw them to you. Amen

 

 

 

Believe God’s Love

1 John 4:16

“And we have known and believed the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him”

Growing up, I never thought about whether I was loved or not. I didn’t have a traditional family structure, but I was well taken care of by my Dad, grandparents, aunts, foster parents and, through my high school years, the I.O.O.F. Children’s Home. I certainly did not spend a lot of time thinking about whether God loved me.

As an adult I can look back and recognize that I certainly was loved. I understand the sacrifices that were made to assure my well-being. Most importantly, I am aware of the great love that the Creator God and His son Jesus have for me. God the Father told His son to come to earth as a flesh and blood human being and sacrifice His life to make sure that I would have the opportunity to accept the offer of eternal life with Him. There is no greater love than that.

I believe that God loves me, I would be a wreck if I didn’t. As many times as I have failed him by yielding to my own desires, as many times as I have disappointed Him by failing to pray, the long periods of time without even thinking of Him, yet all that time he continued to love me. I believe God loves me.

Father, thank you for your boundless love. May I forever remember how much you love me and may I show that love to the world by showing love to those around me. Amen

What is your red stew?

Genesis 25:29-33
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (that is why he was also called Edom) Jacob replied, “first sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” but Jacob said, “swear to me first.” So, he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

A birthright was an honor given to the firstborn, bestowing “head of household” status and the right to inherit his father’s estate. The son with the birthright would receive a double portion of whatever was passed down. So if there were two sons:

120 cattle, first born gets 80, the other son gets 40
$1,000,000, first born gets $660,000, the second son gets $330,000
1200 acres of prime farmland, firstborn gets 800 acres, number two son gets 400
Esau was willing to give all this up for some bread and some “red stew”.

So let’s talk about this, as a Christian, what is your birthright, or your inheritance?
• Your testimony
• The Word in your mind and heart
• Salvation
• The faithfulness of God
• Understanding of truth
• God’s presence always
And this is just the beginning. How about eternal life in heaven with Creator God and His son Jesus?

Ask yourself, what is the “red stew” that you will choose and risk losing your inheritance
• Drinking
• Drugs
• Illicit sex
• Dating or marrying an unbeliever (someone without an inheritance)
• Money
• The desire for fame
• The desire for power
• Focus on having a good time

What do you want your legacy to be? Do you want to leave a legacy of trading your inheritance which is eternal for a “red stew” which is temporary?