Matthew 4:17; Matthew 3:2; Acts 2:38; and Romans 2:4
A Lesson on Repentance
“From that time Jesus began to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17
When I was a little kid, my family and I lived for a short period of time in Chula Vista, California. My mom worked with my aunt in a jewelry store and my father worked with a friend in sales. I will never forget the day when a little girl about my age who lived a few apartments down the road, came over to my house to play. After a while, I invited her to accompany me across the road to a Safeway Supermarket. After we arrived, we looked around for a moment and then spotted a kid’s dream! Right before us stood one of those revolving racks that housed a plethora of bags of toys. I quickly chose the Native American pack that had a little headdress of feathers, a rubber tomahawk, and a rubber knife and sheath. I asked my little girlfriend if she wanted anything, but she shook her head “No.”
Well, after that, we walked back to my family’s apartment without having paid for the toy now in my possession. I had not removed my toy from its package when my father walked into the room and asked me where I had gotten it. After I told him, he kindly asked the little girl to go home and then he and I walked back to Safeway. Upon arrival, dad immediately took me to a cashier and told me to tell her what I had done. I then proceeded to tell her how I had slipped out of the store without paying for the toy and that I was sorry for having taken it. I remember the lady was kind and afterwards, invited me to place the toy back on the rack and all would be forgiven.
Now, I’m sure my dad had not planned on my receiving a lesson on repentance that day, but a lesson on repentance I did receive! Matthew tells us that Jesus began his public ministry by calling folks to repent of sin and turn to God in faith; accomplished by His grace through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Repentance is woven throughout the tapestry of the entire Bible. It was the message of all the prophets in the Old Testament. John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Peter, on the Day of Pentecost preached, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Repentance comes from a Greek word meaning “to change one’s mind.” It is not simply remorse, regret, resolve, or reform. It is a change of mind that affects a change of will, and, in turn, a change of action.” When my father led me to the Safeway Supermarket that day, I had to change my mind about keeping he toy, then when I told the cashier honestly what I had done, that took an act of my will, and finally, when I placed the toy back on the rack, this indicated a change of action. (The same thing that began to occur when the Prodigal Son in Luke Fifteen “came to his senses” while in the pig pen (verse 17). Repentance and faith! It is by the grace and the goodness of God! Paul said in Romans 2:4, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Won’t you be led by Him today?
Sand Mountain Sermonette 15
The Lost Son
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
There used to be a Theme Park near Atlanta, Georgia in the Seventies called, “Kingdom’s Three” because it was three parks in one. One Summer my family and I accompanied my cousin Paula, her two small children, and my Mamaw Iris to the amusement ride/show section of the attraction. After enjoying a couple of rides, our group walked down a pathway towards another section to check out more rides, but as we walked along, my attention was drawn to a sign indicating a magic show that was to begin in a few minutes so I drifted left and off from the group and rounded a section of tall trees that blocked off a covered stage complete with benches for seating where the show would take place.
After the thirty-minute show was over, I walked out to the pathway from where I originally drifted off from our group earlier and began to wonder where my family had landed. After a little while, Cousin Paula and the rest of my family walked up to me with “relief” spelled on their foreheads. Then, Paula proceeded to share with me a couple of things regarding their search for me. She said after they had noticed I was missing, they began to look for me and couldn’t find me, and after a period of time my dad and mom started to get worried. Then, it wasn’t too long until my dad noticed a “Lost and Found” booth over to one side. He walked up to a man who was standing there, introduced himself, and then said, “I want to report a missing son” to which the man asked my father, “Mr. Mabrey, how old is your son?” Then, my dad said, “He’s twenty-one.” To which the man at the booth replied, “Well, Mr. Mabrey, don’t you think he can find his own way back?” And that ended that! Well, not long after that, Paula and her kids were riding the classic “Octopus” and as their little car went high into the air, she saw me sitting at the magic show and then, they were able to find me.
When Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians in the First Century, he was assuring them of the origin and the outcome of their salvation. He wanted them to know the joy of the Lord to be found in understanding their salvation! And the key? Realizing that God is the initiator of our salvation and that we are now and forever secure in Him! And if God can save us through the atoning work of Christ, He can surely keep us in the now, and the life to come! Paul says, “…that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Wow! God has promised to preserve your life in Christ now, and forever, Christian! Without Jesus, you and I would remain lost in the kingdom of sin and evil, but our heavenly Father was determined to seek, find, began a good work, keep, and have us presented “faultless” before His throne one day by the blood of Jesus! And when the “day of Christ Jesus” comes, when He returns to take His Bride, the church to be with Him, what a glorious day that will be! Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? When you do, the origin of your salvation will be in Him, and you can leave the outcome of the rest of your life in God’s capable hands and within the boundaries of His kingdom!
Sand Mountain Sermonette 14
Jeremiah 33:3; Mark 11:17; Luke 11:1
Sand Mountain Sermonette 14
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
I used to love to watch my Mamaw Mabrey talk on the phone when I was over at her house for a visit. She had a black phone mounted on the wall next to the door that opened onto her carport right off the kitchen. Papaw had replaced the original cord with one that was long and stretchy so Mamaw could walk over to the stove and prepare her meals while she talked on the phone. My favorite conversations involved one of Mamaw’s friends from her women’s group at church. I can’t remember her name, so I will refer to her as “Clara.” When Clara called, my grandmother knew it was going to be a lengthy conversation because Clara loved to talk and talk! However, Mamaw had developed a clever little maneuver for when the conversation had gone on too long in her opinion. She would proceed to walk over to the door, knock several times on the wall, and say, “Clara, someone’s at the door and I’m going to have to hang up” which worked every time!
Once, I asked Mamaw about her little maneuver she made on Clara, and she told me not to worry about it “for there was someone at the door, she just didn’t let Clara know it was her.” You see, Mamaw not only knew Clara’s phone number and Clara knew hers, but most importantly, Mamaw knew how to dial God for she was a woman of prayer and great love for God and others.
One has referred to Jeremiah 33:3 as “God’s phone Number.” His line is never busy. Your call to Him never goes to voice mail or drops the signal, and He always answers and in a way that far exceeds our most optimistic expectations; “great and mighty things which you do not know.” In Mark 11:17, Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” And the one question recorded in Scripture the disciples asked of Jesus was, “Lord, teach us to pray” Luke 11:1.
Speaking through the prophet, the Lord tells us “to call to Him” and He will answer us and talk to us! What is prayer? Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. We dial His number (Jeremiah 3:33) and He promises to answer, and the connection is made via of the Holy Spirit. Won’t you call Him today with Bible and heart open, ready to listen and to receive?
Sand Mountain Sermonette 13
Galatians 5:22-23 & John 15:4
Grandmother’s Grape Vines
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
I still remember the muscadine grape vines my Mamaw Iris had running along posts out in her backyard in North Alabama. For many years they produced the delicious grapes my grandmother and I would enjoy when I would visit her home on a Saturday or stay over for the entire weekend. On occasion, I would also help her carefully prune the vines of dead or dying branches which would ensure more and better fruit the next year.
One has said, “Fruit is the delectable product of that which is created by the inner life of the vine.” On the eve of His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
God has called every Christian to bear all the “Fruit of the Spirit.” Notice fruit is singular here, not plural. One has likened it to one fruit with nine characteristics because the fruit is borne in the inner life of the Christian via the Holy Spirit. You can even cluster the nine characteristics into clusters of three.
Here are three questions for you to meditate on as you go about your week?
1. What about my countenance? Do others see Christ’s love, joy, and peace in me? 2. What about my conduct? Are patience, kindness, and goodness characteristic of who I am?” 3. Do I exhibit faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? And remember, the first fruit Paul lists from which all the others arise is, “Love.” May we Christians bear the bounteous, beautiful, and tasty fruit of the Spirit of the Living God this week as we pray for Christ to be first place over our hearts and minds.
Here’s an example: The word for “patience” Paul uses in cluster number two, means “far from anger” in the original language. How is your patience coming along? Learning God’s way too, day by day.
Sand Mountain Sermonette 12
Sand Mountain Sermonette 12
Ruby Falls or God’s Reservoir
“Don’t be drunk with wine because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18, New Living Translation.
The original Greek verb Paul uses translated, be filled is a plural verb in the present tense indicating continuous action and the passive voice which means the subject doesn’t act; it is acted upon by some outside force. Therefore, the verse literally reads, “All Christians must always be “being filled” with the Holy Spirit.” In other words, all of us are to “keep on being filled with the Spirit”.
In His Book, “The Holy Spirit,” Billy Graham describes his home in the North Carolina mountains this way, “Our home is supplied by a reservoir fed by two mountain springs. These two springs on the mountain above the house, according to the mountain people who lived here before we did, never fluctuate. Rainy season or dry, they remain the same. We draw on the water as we need it, and the springs continually flowing into the reservoir keep it filled to overflowing.
Drawing off another story, after my mom and dad were married in the mid 50’s, their best friends Hollis and Doris Jean Hendricks (the best man and maid of honor), accompanied them to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee to celebrate their wedding. Once there, they stopped off to see the famous “Ruby Falls.” Mother said they purchased their tickets and then proceeded to ride an elevator down to the falls, but once off the elevator, they had to travel way back in a cavern and across a rocky terrain to see the falls and along the way it was all mom and Doris Jean could do to keep from falling in their high-heeled shoes! And get this, once they arrived, mother said Ruby Falls “was the nearest nothing” she had ever seen for it was nothing more than a little trickle-like falls coming out of the rock! Christian, I have great news for you! You were “born again” in Christ to live filled and full Holy Spirit two-mountain-springs-reservoir-fed style, not Ruby-Falls-little-trickle-style! The former strengthens you to stand on the solid rock of Christ daily whereas the latter will keep you stumbling through life. The Person of the Holy Spirit lives in you. Trust Him today to empower you to walk in faith as you choose to place Christ on the throne of your heart.
Sand Mountain Sermonette 11
The Chewing Gum in the Glass Case
The best 21-shrimp fried dinner I have ever eaten was in the “King’s Inn Restaurant” off Highway 431 North as you enter Albertville, Alabama. The restaurant has long been closed, but I can still imagine sitting down at the counter and watching the cook create my all-time favorite!
The other memory I hold dear to that restaurant was the evening my family and I had finished our meal and I found myself peering into the all familiar glass case of goodies that was positioned below the cash register as dad was paying our bill. I had fixed my eyes on the popular national brand of chewing gum that was known for its two flavors that were marked by either white or green wrappers. Being the elementary school boy that I was, I pointed in the general direction of the white-wrapper package but invited Gurley, the tall lanky man who worked the register, to give me a pack of gum stating only the name of the company, not the color of the wrapping I wanted. Old Gurley met my request by giving me something I hadn’t asked for; he proceeded to hand me a package of the chewing gum marked by the green wrapper. I told Gurley I had wanted “the white gum” to which he responded, “Now Louie, what did you say?” After that, I realized I should have specified which color I originally had in mind. Well, Gurley made it right by exchanging packages of gum with me, but I also learned a valuable spiritual lesson: The clarity of praying in God’s will is the key to asking and receiving!
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these words, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened,” (Matthew 7:7-8). Here, as one portrays, Jesus is introducing His followers to three levels of prayer: (1) When we know God’s will in a matter, we ask (The Level of Presenting a Petition). (2) If we do not know God’s will in a matter, we seek (The Level of Pressing a Petition). (3) If we know God’s will, but the answer has not come, we knock until the door opens (The Level of Persisting with a Petition). The original language of Matthew 7:7 means we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking! Do not give up! God wants you to know His will. Pray God’s word and trust Him!
Sand Mountain Sermonette 10
Second Chronicles 7:14
Uncle Jimmy and the “Little J”
My mother had five siblings; three sisters and two brothers. One day the revival came to Hustleville, Alabama, and something rather special and rather humorous would happen involving mother’s brother Jimmy, when he was a little boy. Their mom, my Mamaw Iris, had taken them to the revival one evening and the preacher was preaching strong! After the sermon was over, the preacher gave an altar call and little Jimmy walked down to the front. Now that was a good thing and it was such a good thing that he ended up coming down five times before the service ended! After the service was over, the preacher told my grandmother that he believed Jimmy was ready to be baptized down at the creek that following “Baptism Sunday.” But my grandmother said in reply, “No, preacher, I don’t think he’s ready.”
Now, it’s important to know that the creek the preacher was referring to was just a short distance down the bluff from my mom’s home, a very familiar spot to the family. The locals had divided up the creek by using two names: The deeper section was called the “Big J” and the shallower part where the baptisms were performed was called the “Little J.” So, on Baptism Sunday when mother’s family walked down to join the preacher and the crowd that had gathered, little Jimmy saw the water and jumped in and started to have himself a grand old time splashing around in the swimming hole. The preacher immediately turned to my grandmother and said, “Iris, he’s not ready.” Is it possible they renamed the “Little J” the “Little Jimmy?”
Is there a grand design and delight of God that results in passionate authentic revival in the hearts of people and churches? Yes, there is, and it begins as all true revival begins, among God’s people as they repent of sin and turn to God in prayer. It is found in Second Chronicles 7:14, and it reads/prays: “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Wow! Our sovereign God rules and yet he has given us a condition that when followed, will offer these results according to God’s faithfulness! “If My people…then…” Our part is to simply follow the directions! Come Holy Spirit, send revival to our hearts!
Sand Mountain Sermonette 9
Isaiah 53:6, Romans 5:8
Sand Mountain Sermonette 9
God’s Rx for Man’s Sin
Although I now receive my monthly prescription via of a parcel delivery company, I still remember sitting down at what is now one of those classic tables with grandfather Mabrey and enjoying a delicious hot fudge sundae at the old home-owned and operated “Davis Drug Store” in downtown Albertville, Alabama when I was a kid in the 60’s. I still remember the smell of medicine mixed with sweet treats, the soda fountain, and the medicine dispensary counter.
One of the most enjoyable times I had at Davis Drugs was when the owner, Mr. Davis, (of course) would walk over and chat and laugh with my grandfather. The one thing I am sure of is this: I grew up knowing good things like the wonderful relationship I enjoyed with my grandfather, came out of the drug store.
Our world today is broken and eruptive for there is a great sickness prevalent in the heart of man; a sickness that manifests itself in the prejudice, injustice, racial tension, rioting, violence, lootings, burnings, and wars we are witnessing today. The Bible clearly and lovingly identifies this disease as “sin” and we are all infected and affected by this disease of the heart, mind, and will that occurred when man sinned against God in the Garden of Eden.
But God has not “a” remedy but “the” remedy for man’s disease of the soul and that is the transformation of the heart. One person has said, “Isaiah 53:6, is the most vivid and vibrant picture of our Lord Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament.” This Scripture reads, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus upon the cross) the iniquity of us all.” Also explore Romans 5:8.
Sand Mountain Sermonette 8
Sand Mountain Sermonette 8
Mercer and Merton
Dr. Jerry Mercer and Thomas Merton have both played instrumental parts in my Christian development. Having completed my undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University in Alabama in 1979, I found myself attending Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky six years later. While there, God placed me under the instruction of Dr. Jerry Mercer for one of my preaching classes. I loved Dr. Mercer and I was enjoying seminary, but while there, I was battling an old spiritual battle with doubt that I had been struggling with for a long time; one that affecting my seminary stay resulting in my considering leaving seminary about midway; the time I was in Dr. Mercer’s class.
I had told Dr. Mercer about my struggle with God’s present and eternal love for me as one having been born again by the blood of Christ; a struggle that was even calling me to question if I should continue my seminary degree, so Dr. Mercer invited me to his office. Once I arrived, he shared with me a prayer of a Twentieth Century Christian writer turned Monk of the Trappist Order, who sought out the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude, by the name of Thomas Merton. This is the prayer that kept me in seminary, gave me the assurance I needed and transformed my spiritual life at the time I needed it most: “Lord, I may not be in your will today, but the desire to be in your will pleases you.” Praise God!
Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40.
Sand Mountain Sermonette 7
The Auspicious Odometer
I loved my 1973 Chevrolet Nova SS I had in High School, but it was my 1963 all original four-door silver blue Chevrolet Impala that I owned from 2000 to 2004 that I want to share with you today.
It featured the original half-ring horn, metal dash, carpeting, side molding and hub caps among its other classic features. But it had one problem. The mechanical odometer which records the mileage would stick from time to time. Sometimes it would stick for just a few miles while at other times it may not work for a couple of hundred miles or so. Later, I went to a good friend of mine who worked on old cars and who was also the president of the local antique car club I belonged to and asked him about my problem. He told me that sometimes you could position an old car like mine on a slight incline, then put it in “Neutral” and let the car coast backwards a little bit and it would reset the odometer to working condition once again. So, I took my Chevy to the church parking lot where I pastored at the time, tried this, and the odometer worked fine!
In Matthew Chapter Five, we find the wonderful and popular teachings of Jesus known as the Beatitudes in which Jesus is teaching us how to live the Kingdom life surrendered daily under the influence of the Holy Spirit. For instance, Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed (Happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (satisfied).”
My auspicious (opportune) 63’ odometer taught me that I often miss God’s blessings and live in a spiritually “stuck” mode because I am placing the “doing” before the “being.” I am focusing on conduct more than character. Then, worry, fear, and confusion dominate my thoughts and my life. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6 that His Spirit fills us as we are hungering and thirsting for His righteousness; not in the achieving of happiness for happiness’ sake or the achieving of fame and at the expense of humility. Isn’t that freeing news, Christian? Let us invite the Holy Spirit to apply the “Be-attitudes” to our hearts today and be satisfied in Jesus and in Him, alone.
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 6
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 6
In my opinion, the best biscuits I have ever eaten were those hand crafted by my maternal grandmother, Mamaw Iris, who lived a few miles from my hometown in Northern Alabama. I loved spending the night with her, and then being treated to her delicious biscuits the next morning for breakfast-the kind of biscuits that were just as soft and wonderful at 6:00 pm as they were at 6:00 am. Mamaw would throw some flour out on her old baking counter and then, in the process, add some baking powder along with milk, sugar, and lard and, after baking, I would taste the world’s best biscuits! But allow me to ask you a question. Would you just sit down and eat a bowl of flour or a bowl of lard by itself? Who would attempt such a thing? But when you mix all the above together, then you have something good!
Paul, writing from personal experience, puts it this way: “And we know all things work together for good, for those who love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul is referring to Christians in this verse; believers who know something unbelievers do not know. That God can take “all things” including our mistakes and mess-ups, and by His grace and mercy work behind the scenes to produce something beautiful that not only brings us comfort, hope, and revival of spirit through the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but ultimately brings glory and honor to Him. In other words, things that happen in life have a way of constructively working together for good for those who love God and know that He has a perfect plan for their lives. This verse is not saying that everything that happens to us is “good,” but that God can take all things (financial failings, sickness, unfair things and set-backs), and work them together for good! Trust God with your life today! Love Him and rest in His present and eternal care for you. Look to the tapestry of the Cross!
Sand Mountain Sermonettes No. 5
Sand Mountain Sermonettes No. 5
A Grandfather’s Most Precious Gift
One of the most precious gifts my grandfather gave me as a young boy was a small wall plaque made from a plaster mold and hand-painted in accents of royal blue, red, green, and yellow depicting King David the Shepherd Boy. It shows a youthful David seated on a rock with harp in hand, flowers growing beside him and a sheep resting on the ground at his side. Also written on the plaque are the first five words of Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd.
If you walk in my office today you will see this plaque positioned on a wall next to my desk; as you would have in any office I have called my own during my past thirty-one years of ministry. The wonderful thing about this piece is in its revelation into the heart of my loving Christian grandfather and his love for me. I am sure he meant for its words to follow me throughout my life, wherever God would lead me.
The first five words of the Psalm virtually every educated mind in the English-speaking world has heard form the foundation for the rest of the Psalm. Let’s highlight the first four words centering around the word, “Lord.” “THE Lord is my shepherd.” There is no other Lord. He has no peer! “The Lord IS my shepherd.” David does not use the past or the future tense here, but the present. The Lord is with his children and his church this very moment to meet our present needs according to His divine plan. “The Lord is MY shepherd.” David was writing this psalm as an old man looking back on his youthful days as a shepherd on the hills outside Jerusalem. Throughout his life, the Lord had not been “a” shepherd, but David’s personal Shepherd. “The Lord is my SHEPHERD.” David knew the Lord lead His people as the good, caring, and protective shepherd leads his sheep. God calls you to follow Him.
Is the Lord YOUR shepherd? If not, He wants to be.
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 4
Proverbs 30:5; Deuteronomy 4:2
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 4
Robert Frost and Chevy
In the late 70’s I attended Jacksonville State University in Alabama where I was working my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education. One of my favorite classes was taken one summer under the tutelage of the classic English teacher as far as I was concerned. Those featuring hair worn in a bun and wearing horned rimmed glasses. The class was on the works of American poet, Robert Frost.
My teacher loved Robert Frost and his poetry. So, I wasn’t surprised when she assigned each of us a paper to do on one or more of his poems. Well, that year Chevrolet offered a summer advertising campaign slogan which read, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.” With that in mind, and with the intention of honoring so famous an American poet, I had what I thought was the bright idea of ending my paper with, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Robert Frost!” When I received my paper back after grading, there was a large red “X” marked over that comment.
“The Bible says you cannot add to or take away from what the Master has said. If you do, you will find yourself under the “Red X” of doubt, confusion, and a host of other things which keep you from the beautiful, grace-filled saving knowledge of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5
“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, or take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
Sand Mountain Sermonette 3
God’s Grace and Recess
I remember vividly my P.E. breaks in the Sixth Grade. Our class usually played slow-pitch softball out in a big field adjacent the school I attended. There was a boy named Glen in my class who started to bully me especially out on the softball field. I had known Glen all through elementary school and there was never a problem between us, but that year, for some reason, he would do things like knock a fly ball I was trying to catch from my hands, or seek to intimidate me in other ways.
This went on for a while, so I went to my mom and told her all about Glen. I will never forget what she told me. “Louie, do not say unkind things or do unkind things when Glen does this to you, and one day he will admire you.” You know, not long afterwards, Glen walked up to me one day near the end of recess and put out his hand to shake mine and said, “Louie, I admire you.” He never did that again and we remained best of friends through our High School graduation.
Mother’s advice ran counter-cultural to a Sixth-Grade boy-to-boy encounter at recess. Likewise, salvation by God’s grace and His grace alone, runs counter-cultural to a world which believes salvation and eternal life is achieved by works and works (merit) alone. The Bible says Christ destroyed the great wall of hostility that divided sinful mankind from a loving and holy God.
The result being: one’s sin is forgiven, and that individual is restored to God via the cross. And then a most beautiful transformation takes place when, for example, we can pray for our enemies rather than retaliate against them. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 2
My mother, Jeanine, had the measles when she was small. She called them the “BIG measles.” As she was growing up, she would also cry at night when the covers on her bed would become wrinkled. Later, her mother, my “Mamaw Iris,” took her to the family doctor who told my grandmother that apparently the measles had settled on my mom’s nerves causing her to be more anxious about things.
Do you currently have a good case of the “BIG measles?” What is troubling you so deeply that it is causing you toss and turn on your bed at nights? The COVID-19 pandemic is BIG, but so is a destructive or fatal dose of unforgiveness or fear. Jesus taught us to put the BIG problem that currently stands between ourselves and our sovereign God on the other side of God, so our BIG, BIG, BIG God now stands between us and the BIG Measles, wherever they have settled.
“But seek first His (God’s) kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things (What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?) shall be added to you. Therefore, do be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34
Jesus has overcome the world!
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 1
The One You Can Know in Times Unknown
Today, with joy and remembrance in my heart, I begin a series of little messages centering on the life of my mother, Jeanine Mabrey, representative to my hometown of Albertville, Alabama, also known by many as “Sand Mountain.” My prayer for each one, is that God will use it to encourage you of His unfailing presence during these days of uncertainty in which we find ourselves.
Jeanine Floyd Mabrey lived on Papa Floyd’s farm in the woods with her parents and her five siblings. Her daddy, Grover, died of a heart attack at thirty-six years of age. My mom was thirteen at the time.
Over the years, I have often spoke of my “Papaw Grover,” who died young of a heart defect that is easily treatable today in most cases. But, although not having known my grandfather, I feel I know him richly through the many stories my mom told me of him over the years.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has launched us into a season of great uncertainty reminding us once again of death, loss, and the feelings of great anxiety and hopelessness as the death toll has accounted for not only the elderly, but the young as well. But through it all, the Bible tells us the sovereign God who is in control during these unknown times can be known and embraced at all times with the assurance of His presence. Jesus said, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
There is corn in Egypt
I offer you today this recent devotion from Charles Spurgeon that touched my heart. I believe this will be a great encouragement to you during this time of COVID-19.
There is corn in Egypt. Genesis (42:2)
Famine pinched all the nations, and it seemed inevitable that Jacob and his family should suffer great want; but the God of providence, who never forgets the objects of electing love, had stored a granary for his people by giving the Egyptians warning of the scarcity, and leading them to treasure up the grain of the years of plenty. Little did Jacob expect deliverance from Egypt, but there was the corn in store for him. Believer, though all things are apparently against thee, rest assured that God has made a reservation on thy behalf; in the roll of thy griefs there is a saving clause. Somehow, he will deliver thee, and somewhere he will provide for thee. The quarter from which thy rescue shall arise may be a very unexpected one, but help will assuredly come in thine extremity, and thou shalt magnify the name of the Lord. If men do not feed thee, ravens shall; and if earth yield not wheat, heaven shall drop with manna. Therefore, be of good courage, and rest quietly in the Lord. God can make the sun rise in the west if he pleases and make the source of distress the channel of delight. The corn in Egypt was all in the hands of the beloved Joseph; he opened or closed the granaries at will. And so the riches of providence are all in the absolute power of our Lord Jesus, who will dispense them liberally to his people. Joseph was abundantly ready to succor his own family; and Jesus is unceasing in his faithful care for his brethren. Our business is to go after the help which is provided for us: we must not sit still in despondency but bestir ourselves. Prayer will bear us soon into the presence of our royal Brother: once before his throne we have only to ask and have: his stores are not exhausted; there is corn still: his heart is not hard, he will give the corn to us. Lord, forgive our unbelief, and this evening constrain us to draw largely from thy fullness and receive grace for grace.
Most Precious Possession
Matthew 6: 19-21
Most Precious Possession
Pastor Rittenhouse and his family were on vacation traveling down the highway when they saw a suitcase fly off the top of a car going the opposite direction. They stopped to pick it up, but the driver of the other car never stopped. The only clue to the driver’s identity was a twenty-dollar gold piece inscribed: “Given to Otis Sampson at his retirement by Portland Cement Company.”
After extensive correspondence, Otis Sampson was located and contacted. He wrote a letter telling them to discard the suitcase and all its contents and send only the gold piece. Mr. Sampson used the phrase “my most precious possession” several times to describe the gold piece. Pastor Rittenhouse sent the gold piece and wrote a cover letter telling Otis Sampson about his most prized possession, Jesus Christ.
A year later, the pastor received a package. In it was the twenty-dollar gold piece. Mr. Sampson wrote, “You will be happy to know we have become active members of a church. We want you to have this gold piece. I am seventy-four; my wife is seventy-two. You were the first one to tell us about Jesus. Now He is our most prized possession.”
Matthew 6: 19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”
May your heart be so full of Jesus that you will want to share Him with someone.
Psychologist William Marston asked 3000 people, “What have you to live for?” He was shocked to discover that 94% were simply enduring the present while they waited for the future…waited for something to happen…waited for “next year”…waited for a “better time”…waited for “someone to die”…waited for tomorrow”
“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Proverbs 29: 18a KJV
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Many people today are searching desperately for hope – a hope for the present day! Their lives are empty, fearful, and dying for lack of an appropriate “object” to satisfy that quest for hope. The problem is, however, that an object in and of itself will never suffice one’s present and eternal longing for hope and peace. Many people in and outside of the church look for an object: alcohol, drugs, success, money, fame, sex outside of the covenant of marriage, etc., but objects will never do!
Paul says in Romans 15: 4-6 “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our hope is not in an object, but in a person! This hope is individual and continual among the church body. The human heart, as well as any local body of believers in Christ can never be “one” with the Father and “one” with one another without the hope of Jesus Christ positioned first place in thought, attitude, and action. Without Christ, there is no hope, and with Christ we have been given, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, all the hope we need, one day at a time to lead the lost to Christ, and to be the light God has called Trinity UMC to be.
Paul said, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
In Christ’s Hope and Glory!
Pastor Louie Mabrey
Consider the Possibilities
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
When Robinson Crusoe was wrecked on his lonely island, he drew up in two columns what he called the evil and the good. He was cast on a desolate island, but he was still alive – not drowned, as his ship’s company was. He was apart from human society, but he was not starving. He had no clothes, but he was in a hot climate where he did not need them. He was without means of defense, but he saw no wild beasts such as he had seen on the coast of Africa. He had no one to whom he could speak, but God had sent the ship so near the shore that he could get out of it all the things necessary for his basic wants. So he concluded that there was not any condition in the world so miserable but that one could find something for which to be grateful.
During this Coronavirus pandemic, let us keep our eyes on the One who knows all about you and what is going on. He is faithful to provide everything you need one day at a time, but behind the giving is the presence of our most beloved Giver of life and hope.
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
God bless you!
Pastor Louie Mabrey
A Saint’s Prayer
A Saint’s Prayer. What is a saint?
Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Tomas Aquinas
I came across Tomas Aquinas’ prayer and it caused me to reflect upon my own prayer life. I began to realize how I personally desire my Christian walk to be characterized by the same requests Thomas Aquinas desired in his petition to God. But, how can one have a “steadfast heart,” and “unconquered heart,” and an “upright heart” on a day-to-day basis amidst the trial and tribulations which intrude the Christian’s life, as well as the life of the non-believer? The answer is PRAYER!
As we continue to deal with the quarantine of COVID-19, I cannot think of a better and more spiritually profitable desire than to grow deeper in love with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, enabled by the Holy Spirit in the arena of prayer.
You may have noticed the heading above Aquinas’ prayer, entitled A Saint’s Prayer. What is a saint? The Bible tells us a saint is a Christian. Christian, are you more desirous of God? I lovingly challenge you (and family) to begin to ask God to deepen your love for Him in prayer. I know in my heart God will honor your prayer and will teach you via growth in His Word also, as you desire Him. He will help you establish your priorities, and He will make a way for a maturing and loving relationship with Him.
Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist from a few years back, issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free in short order. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to unusual about this lock. For thirty minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock. Finally, after laboring for two hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all! But in his mind, it was locked and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell.
Is your bondage real or imagined; physical and/or mental? What does the Bible say? Is there a word or words spiritually and apply spoken regarding our DEPENDENCE upon God through Christ? Check out these Scriptures:
• John 8: 36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
• Romans 6: 15-23 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin id death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
• Galatians 5: 1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In Charles Wesley’s hymn of 1739, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” (Based on Acts 16: 26), verse 4 of the hymn reads:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light, my chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” (United Methodist Hymnal page 363)
In Christ’s Liberating Love,
Pastor Louie Mabrey
You Are the Winner in Christ
Book of Revelation, Chapter 13; Luke, the Physician, Chapter 2, verses 10-11(NKJV)
People were frightened! What great military power will threaten us? How will I cope? How can I raise my kids in a good environment when things are as they are? Taxes!!!! Finances!!! Illness and death. Blasphemy against God in the media as well as the social arena. Questionable administration at the local and national levels. Wars and rumors of wars. Terrorism! Fear of communication breakdown. Is there any hope for my family? Is there any hope for you?
Sound familiar? These same thoughts entered the minds of God’s people living under Roman tyranny in the First Century A.D.
Where WAS the hope? WHO was the person who would come? His name was Jesus – The Messiah – THE Savior of the world who came, born of the Virgin Mary, and lived in the First Century!
He came to provide for our economic, financial, familial, and most of all for spiritual support as only He could and can as the Son of God. Most of all He came to save the people from their sins and to offer them joy, strength, and promise for the present and for the future.
I realize, like many of you, there are yet many unknowns as we continue battling this Coronavirus pandemic, but what a blessing above all – we have Jesus Christ living in us – the hope of glory!
So, the choice is still ours as it was with the Jews of the First Century. There will always be the infamous shouts of COVID-19 social distancing, vaccines, illness, and death. However we STILL live in a marvelous world created by God and we are called to continue to offer hope to our children and grandchildren, spouses and friends, because these still ARE the best of times.
“Why?” you may ask. Because God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
God is still in control. Dr. David Jeremiah says, “God still has Satan on a leash and that cannot change.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear, is feat itself.” That’s true! Do you believe it?
Let me offer you a prescription for this season of our lives:
…”Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke, the Physician, Chapter 2, verses 10-11(NKJV)
This Savior was later crucified on a Roman cross, buried, was resurrected from the dead by the all and only power of God. (Satan will only be able to offer a cheap and imaginary imitation of the resurrection). Check it out in the Book of Revelation, chapter 13. JESUS IS COMING AGAIN!
God is the true God! The devil is a defeated foe! You are the winner in Christ based on what was already accomplished on the Cross for you..
Jesus has risen! He has risen indeed!
Pastor Louie Mabrey
Praying from a Distance
Ephesians 1:16, 21 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Ask God to deepen the faith and understanding that your brothers and sisters have of the gospel—that they would strive for more truth of Christ in their lives through knowledge, discernment, and insight.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you . . . and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe . . . far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Ephesians 1:16, 21).
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the affliction that you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
Pray for believers to rest in the Spirit, who opens the heart and mind to wisdom and knowledge. Ask that in what your brothers and sisters cannot control, they would remember the hope of glory and the exceedingly great power of God. Pray that though the outside world becomes reordered or even disordered, their lives would remain ordered as always—by operating in submission to the kingly rule of Christ. Ask God to remind your brothers’ and sisters’ hearts that He is over all things—every authority, power, dominion, and name. Pray that, in thinking of the might of God who indwells them, they would experience an increase in faith and have endurance in affliction.
Matthew 28 Easter Prayer
• “Do not be afraid," (verse 5) - God, I hand over to You those things that make me so afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith squelched by fear.
• "I know that you are looking for Jesus," (verse 5)- God, when my soul is searching, help me know the answer to every longing can be found in You.
• "He has risen,"(verse 6) - God, the fact that Jesus is risen should lift my head, my heart and my attitude. Help me to live today as if I really believe this with every part of my life.
• "just as he said, (verse 6)" - Jesus, You keep Your promises. Help me live as though I believe that with every part of me. Help me trust You more, obey You more and resemble You more.
• "Come and see,"(verse 6) - Jesus, You had the angels invite the women in to see for themselves that You had risen. You invite me into these personal revelations every day. Forgive me for sometimes rushing about and forgetting to come and see for myself ... You, Your Word, Your insights.
• "Then go quickly and tell his disciples,"(verse 7) - Jesus, I don't want to be a secret keeper with my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious truth proclaimer - For You. With You. Because of You. Me, the unwanted person whom You loved, redeemed and wanted. In Jesus name, Amen
GOOD FRIDAY PRAYER
Good Friday Prayer
Lord God, Jesus cried out to you on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” You seemed so far from his cry and from his distress. Those who stood at the foot of the cross wondered where you were, as they saw Jesus mocked and shamed and killed. Where were you then? Lord God, we, too, ask where you are, when there is trouble and suffering and death, and we cry out to you for help. Be near to us and save us so that we may praise you for your deliverance. Lord God, we wait, on Friday, for the resurrection of Sunday and sometimes our lives seem a succession of Fridays and we cannot see what is “Good.” Teach us to call your name as Jesus did. Make us to trust in you like little children. With deepest gratitude from our hearts, Lord, we remember today Jesus' words "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Praying from a Distance
Pray for the gospel to remain central in your brothers’ and sisters’ thoughts and lives.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:2-5).
Pray they would remember the gospel—that the message of Christ, who gave Himself for us, would remain the focused and clear motivation for daily living. Pray that no legalism or lawlessness would creep into their hearts to distort the gospel. And pray that they would be strong against temptations. Ask that they would remain focused on giving God glory for the good that is in their lives while in their homes and with their families.
Praying from a Distance
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
Ask God for comfort for your brothers and sisters - and for fitting ministry opportunities.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
Praise our Lord who comforts the spirits of His people. Following that, pray specifically that your brothers and sisters would be comforted in their time of hardship. Ask that they might see ways to comfort others as well, out of the abundance they have received in Christ. Ask that neither focus would dominate—that they would not become focused on receiving comfort to the exclusion of giving it, and that they would not become focused on ministering to others such that they do not receive the comfort from God they need.
PRAYING FROM A DISTANCE
(3 John 1:2) (1 Corinthians 1:4-8)
PRAYING FROM A DISTANCE
While being in chains for the gospel or on long missionary journeys, the apostle Paul modeled intentional prayer for other believers while at a distance from them. Though Paul was separated from believers for different reasons than the COVID-19 “shelter in place” orders or self-isolation, he still leaves us an example. When we are apart from our brothers and sisters in Christ, they need not be far from our hearts and minds in prayer.
Having care and concern for the physical health of other believers has biblical precedent: “Believer, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 1:2). We can pray for stamina, strength in immune system, healing, and wellness for each other.
As we do, we can also pray for each other’s souls. Paul’s letters can be surveyed to glean ideas for how to pray for one another from afar.
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8).
Offer thanks for your brothers and sisters in Christ—for the knowledge of God present in their minds and hearts. Pray they would be assured that God would sustain them to the end, and that His sacrifice has made them guiltless before the Father. Thank God for the faith evident in your brothers and sisters.
In Christ's love and care, Pastor Louie
We pray for those who are sick that they will have access to the care and treatment they need. We pray peace and perseverance for them amidst suffering. We pray for those in isolation who are cut off from their normal routines and support systems, that they would seek their strength from you, Lord. We pray encouragement over the thousands in quarantine, waiting to find out if they have the virus or not.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46: 1
1 John 5:14
Heavenly father, we pray for you to intervene to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We pray in Jesus name that the virus would recede and diminish from this day forward, and that the numbers of those infected would decline rapidly. We trust you, Lord, to intervene today with Your loving care.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He will hear us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5: 14
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 and Romans 15:13
“...knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4:14
The Reverend Billy Graham writes, “As the human organism is dependent on a supply of oxygen, so humanity is dependent on its supply of hope. Yet today hopelessness and despair are everywhere…[But]...there is hope that mistakes and sins can be forgiven. There is hope that we can have joy, peace, assurance, and security in the midst of the despair of this age. There is hope that Christ is coming soon—this is what is called in Scripture ‘the blessed hope.’ There is hope that will come some day a new heaven and a new earth, and that the kingdom of God will reign and triumph. Our hope is not in our own ability, or in our goodness, or in our physical strength. Our hope is instilled in us by the resurrection of Christ.”
Without oxygen, we cannot live. Paul tells us that without God and without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we would have no hope! But, because Christ has been raised from the dead by the power of God, the Bible says God’s resurrection power is displayed in the life of the believer today and one day, that same believer will receive a new body in order to live with God forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth!
(See 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 and Romans 15:13).
Praise be to God for His resurrection hope!
BROKEN, OPEN, AND SET TO BLAZE
And it came about that when he had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us? Luke 24:30-32
I invite you to sit down with the Holy Spirit today and read of the time Jesus came alongside two pilgrims as they walked with heavy hearts, the seven mile stretch of road from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35. It is a wonderful and life-changing event, not only for our lives as Christians, but in the way we look at celebrating Holy Communion. After having read Luke’s narrative, consider for your own life, the following three truths when Jesus was invited to their home as evening approached on that Resurrection Sunday.
First, Jesus took the initiative of breaking the bread and serving them in their own home. Secondly, it was not until the bread was broken, that their eyes were opened and they recognized and understood that the Jesus they thought still dead, was alive and speaking to them! Thirdly, after Jesus vanished from their sight, they talked of how their hearts were set ablaze by Jesus who had been sharing the Living Word regarding Himself, as they walked along together on the road.
Hear the Good News! Jesus loves you, yes you! He took the initiative as demonstrated on the Cross. Paul speaks of having the eyes of our hearts opened to God’s marvelous grace and our wonderful inheritance in Him in Ephesians, Chapter One. And, when we come to Christ in our brokenness, surrendered unto Him in faith to the promises of His teachings, His Word, our hearts will burn and we will not be able to do anything less, than to tell others about Him! Luke 24:33-35. The Body and the Blood of the New Covenant, Our Savior!
The Bread that Cometh Down from Heaven, Part 1
“Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you to the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:32-33
Jesus spoke these words to a crowd of people who had assembled on one side of the Sea of Galilee at the city of Capernaum. The day before, they had witnessed Jesus miraculously feed 5,000 men (plus women and children) a good meal taken from only five barley loaves and two small fish given him by a young boy. You might say each received a Hungry Man’s Dinner portion with twelve baskets needed to hold the leftovers (See John 6:12)!
But once they had found Jesus on the other side of the lake (today’s Scripture), Jesus said they were only looking for him because they had been fed the loaves and fish the day before, but He also reminded them that the most important food wasn’t physical, but spiritual and eternal. He also told them that although they were recalling the manna-bread God provided and sustained His people with in the wilderness on their way to the Promise Land (See Exodus 16), that bread didn’t last, but He Himself was the true bread of God that cometh down from heaven and that He Himself would satisfy them now and forever!
Is Jesus the true source of your daily strength, hope, joy, and peace? Take courage! John tells us, Jesus not only came to give life to the world, He came to offer life to you and to me! (See John 3:16-17).
The Once-Was-But-Now-Is Church
“Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And He worshipped Him. John 9:35-38
For the past three blogs we have been following the man born blind from birth who was miraculously healed by Jesus as recorded in John Nine. We have also seen how many of the church folks (the Jewish Pharisees and scribes) resisted the truth that not only Jesus healed this man, but He did so by the power of God for He was and is, God!
There are two types of OWBNI churches (see title of blog). One is the church where Jesus was once followed and worshipped as Lord but no longer is. Perhaps this church has become Pharisaic. The other is the church where Jesus was not first-place in the lives, mission, and service of the congregation, but now is through the movement and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus Himself went to seek out a man who had a heart to become a Christian although the church had kicked him out because of his interest in Jesus!
A growing and passionate OWBNI church seeks the hurting and the lost. They are intentional about going beyond their walls to seek the spiritually blind with the Good news of the gospel! Notice how this man came to the Lord; from first seeing his as “a man” to “a prophet” to the “Son of Man”—Jesus favorite designation of himself which linked His mission to earth: the cross!
Praise be to our Savior, who first sought us out while were yet sinners and patiently loved us along the way!
The Minus-Jesus Church
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:2
“The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.” John 9:30
Do you know Jesus, personally as Lord and Savior? You may have grown up in the church. You may be a Sunday School teacher or sit on a board or committee in your local congregation. You may consider yourself “a Christian” because you are “a Methodist”, “a Pentecostal”, “a Baptist”, or “a Catholic.” But have you responded to the work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness upon your heart of your need to come willingly to the cross and accept by faith the gift of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient payment for your sins against a holy and loving God who loves you-yes you?
The Bible tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that He grew up in the town of Nazareth in Israel, but the most important thing is that He came “…from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
Paul had surrendered his life to Jesus and the only message he bore was “Christ and Him, crucified.” One has said, “To follow Christ means to deny self, to turn from ego and pride, and to surrender completely to your own life for Christ’s.” The formerly blind man of John Nine was astonished that the Pharisees didn’t recognize and understand with their hearts and lives who Jesus was and where He came from. They represented the “Minus-Jesus” life (church).
Won’t you give your heart to Christ today. He loves you so!
The Out-of-Touch Church
“When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). And so, he went away and washed, and came back seeing…They brought to the Pharisees him who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” John 9:6-7, 13-14
Last week, we began to explore the day Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of man, performed the miracle of healing a man born blind on the Jewish Sabbath Day. My focus last week was taken from the first twelve verses of John’s Gospel, Chapter Nine. Today, I am covering verses thirteen through twenty-eight which I encourage you to read on your own for fuller context. In doing so, you will find the formerly blind man being brought before the church folks of the day called the Pharisees. These “Enforcers” of the law were so calculating and spiritually blind via their rigidity to the scribal interpretation of the law and to their being “right in their own eyes,” they had no time for Jesus or this boy! One of the scribal laws of the day read, “As to fasting spittle, it is not lawful to put it so much as upon the eyelids.”
Are there times in our lives as Christians, or in the church, that we behave like the Pharisees? “Look at what they are wearing!” “I wouldn’t be seen associating with that person in church!” “What would others think!” Jesus, who referred to Himself as “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8) shows true mercy. We are called to do likewise. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall recieve mercy.” Matthew 5:7 Pastor Louie
The Out-of-Focus Church
“And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that He should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
In the Jewish tradition of Jesus day, sickness and suffering were commonly held to be the consequences of one’s personal or family sin. Jesus’ disciples therefore, were asking Him, “Whose guilty here, the boy or his parents? But Jesus didn’t try to explain sin and suffering to His disciples. Instead, He corrected the false idea the disciples held, and He refocused their spiritual vision upon His Father’s purpose in the life of the boy, (See John 9:3-5).
God didn’t “zap” the boy with blindness nor use him as a spiritual guinea pig in-order-to bring glory unto Himself! Paul even opposed the idea of our merciful Father being viewed as using man’s sin to glorify Himself (See Romans 3). That’s not God! One Christian has said, “Every pain is a context in which God shows Himself at work.”
A Christian, (or a local church), can find himself losing his spiritual vision ever so gradually when “religion” replaces relationship! When, “Whose guilty Here?” replaces forgiveness, healing, and restoration of lives and relationships according to God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit working through the church Body. Often, we Christians are so ready to point the finger without first examining our own hearts and motives. Like the blind man whose sight was restored, may we be the first to express our need of the Savior’s healing touch by confessing, “I am the one!” (See John 9:9).
Running with Endurance, Part 2
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Last week we addressed how we as Christians have been empowered of the Lord to run the race of life with “patient endurance.” “Why?” You may ask. Because life is filled with afflictions, adversities, and obstacles! And, if we take our eyes off Jesus, like a runner in the Olympic games who takes his eye off the goal of completing the race and crossing the finish line, we will live a life void of God’s best and God’s blessings not only for our lives, but as a witness for Christ in the lives of others. So, what does the writer to the Hebrews record that not only tells us how to run with patient endurance the race set before us, but to also run with joy and confidence knowing we can cross the line and win the prize of the high calling in Christ?
First, we remember the cloud of witnesses who ran the race with patient endurance before us. I often think of my paternal Christian grandfather whose witness for Christ still encourages me. Second, we lay aside those things that weigh us down, like discouragement and fear. We lay them down at the foot of the cross. Thirdly, we lay aside the sin of “unbelief” that so easily encircles our feet. We say for example, “Fear, you have no control over my life, I’m putting my trust in Christ and Christ alone!” Fourthly, we fix our eyes on Jesus and remember He ran the race all the way to the cross out of His love for you and me! And fourthly, we take great comfort in the God’s word which promises the believer that he/she has a heavenly reward awaiting all those who belong to Christ (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, and James 1:12).
So, Run the Race and Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!
Running with Endurance, Part 1
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance (weight) and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
Hebrews 12:1, New American Standard Bible
The Bible tells us that Christians have been born again of God through the work of Christ upon the cross and via of the work of the Holy Spirit in-order-to live the victorious life upon this earth prior to Jesus’ return. That doesn’t mean living the Christian life will be easy. On the contrary, the writer to the Book of Hebrews lived at a time when Christians were being incarcerated or having their property and possessions seized by the authorities because of their stand for Christ.
These Christians needed something in order live their lives daily in the power and in the victory of God. What was it? What did they possess from the Lord that enabled them to run the race of life and cross the finish line as they trusted in Him? They needed endurance! This word translated endurance in the NASB, literally means, “patient endurance.” How is that achieved, spiritually?
First, as Christians we must remember that we have been preceded by a great cloud of witnesses. Real folks just like you and me, who have gone before us. When the writer of Hebrews refers to the great cloud of witnesses, he’s making a reference to the Heroes of Faith listed in Hebrews Eleven. Who patterned enduring faith during a difficult time in their lives whose example still lives on for you; encouraging your walk with the Lord, today? Next, the writer to the Hebrews says that we must daily “put off” those bulky things that weigh us down; that get in our way and keep our eyes off Jesus and crossing the finish line! Does anxiety, fear, a quick-tempered response when things don’t go your way, or discouragement have you constantly looking down at your feet instead of the race that is set before you? Thirdly, “the sin that so easily entangles us as Christians is willful unbelief, (See Hebrews Four). The writer tells us that it was unbelief that kept the original generation of Hebrews from entering the Promised Land with-the-exception of Joshua and Caleb. Invite God in prayer to enable you to run with endurance today! He will! Pastor Louie
A Father’s Most Honest Faith-Confession, Part 1
“…and His (Jesus’) garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” Mark 9:3
“And Jesus said to him, ‘If You can!’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”
In the ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel, you will find Jesus on the mountain and subsequently, in the valley. Mark tells us that on one occasion Jesus took Peter, James, and John high atop a mountain where He was transfigured (transformed) before their very eyes, (See 9:3 above, and verses 2-13 for Mark’s full account.). The wonderful thing about this is that Peter and the sons of Zebedee saw a preview of the coming glory of God made evident through His Son, Jesus Christ inaugurated at His death, resurrection, Ascension, and coming again!
Afterwards, Mark tells us Jesus escorted these disciples down into the valley below where they found a most desperate father in a situation one would label, “As bad as it gets!” They found this man’s son tormented with what could be labeled today as a severe and ongoing case of juvenile epilepsy. The only problem was, his symptoms were induced via an unclean spirit (a demon).
In one of the most beautiful expressions of need regarding faith in the Bible, this father acknowledged Jesus’ ability to heal his son while at the same time spoke openly of the unbelief that struggled with in him as well. Jesus honored the father’s honesty and resurrected not only his son, but I believe, took his mustard seed faith, and fused it with a resurrection power that caused it to begin to grow to new heights within the father’s mind and heart. That day, the crowd and the disciples saw that Jesus was both Lord of the mountain and the valley. Have you been fearful of praying a prayer like this father prayed honestly before the Lord? Don’t be! God had rather you be honest about your struggle with unbelief than not! With God, all things are possible! Pastor Louie
A Father’s Most Honest Faith-Confession, Part 2
“The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24, New Living Translation
One day during his public ministry, Jesus stepped off the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13) with Peter, James, and John into the valley below where he encountered a father whose son had been possessed and tortured by a demonic spirit since childhood. The father had tried everything he could to rid his son of this terrible bondage, but no one could do anything to help the boy, not even Jesus’ nine disciples who had been unable to cast out the demon. Only Jesus was able to heal the boy instantly and completely (See Mark 9:25).
Do you know anyone who is currently in bondage to anything or anyone? Do you feel your faith is failing in-light-of this bondage or desperate situation whatever it might be? If this be the case, don’t wait another minute; turn them over to Jesus in prayer and wait eagerly in great anticipation as to what your mighty God can and will do according to His sovereign wisdom, power, and will. Don’t give up! Even if you don’t see any results at-the-moment, that doesn’t mean that God is not working in your loved one’s life. And if you’re still not sure where to begin, pray openly and honestly like this boy’s daddy did, “[Lord], I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” and through the Holy Spirit’s enabling, He will! (See Mark 9:29) Pastor Louie
Men Who Pray
“The effective (fervent) prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” NASB Translation, James 5:16
I have a dear friend in Arcadia by the name of Charles Dirr who once said to me, “Reverend Mabrey, remember, it is impossible to stumble when you’re on your knees.” Over the years, from my grandfather and father to such men as: Uncle Herman, Pastor Milton, Rick, Dr. Mercer my seminary professor, and the loving men of Trinity UM Church where I currently serve as pastor, God has raised up men to pray for me; men who prayed through for a breakthrough in my life.
Men, whose prayers, kept my feet from stumbling, kept me on the right path with God through the working of the Holy Spirit, and gave me a renewed sense of the marvelous grace of God that not only has forgiven my sin, but daily draws me closer to the love of God has for me in Jesus Christ! When James says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” he is literally saying, “The energized (working) prayer of a righteous man energizes (worketh) much!” Be thankful today for the men of prayer (known and unknown), who have not given up in prayer for you, that God has placed in your life.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8
Genesis 12:1 reads, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” Historically, Abraham originally received the call to leave his hometown and his family and go to the place where God would show him, when he was living in Ur of the Babylonians. From there he would travel with his father, Terah, his nephew Lot, and his wife, Sarah to Haran where God would reiterate that call, and then, down to Canaan, the land of promise where God would establish a land, a seed (in Christ), and a people. There, at Abraham’s point of arrival, he would be the father of the Jewish nation and God’s promise to him would be fulfilled in all the children of God through Christ that were to come!
But the master key that unlocks Abraham’s faith in God’s not only directing him along the way, but also empower his life with joy, peace, and adventure is what the Hebrew writes expresses in Chapter Eleven, verse 8, “…and he(Abraham) went out, not knowing where he was going.” Can you imagine that-to start each new day as a Christian with this kind of trust in God! Letting Him direct you completely! Praise God for Abraham’s example of spontaneous faith! Likewise, may you be refreshed in God like Adventurous Abraham! Pastor Louie
A Plate Set for You!
“So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet. 2 Samuel 9:13
One of the most beautiful stories portraying the covenant kindness of God demonstrated to those who do not feel they have any worth or purpose in this world, is found in the story of David’s receiving Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, at his table at court. Second Samuel 4:4 tells us that upon hearing the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death upon Mt. Gilboa during an Philistine-Israeli conflict, Mephibosheth was injured as his nurse hurriedly sought safety for she and the child.
Afterwards, Mephibosheth was raised by a Machir ben-Ammiel during which he grew up and was married and with a son of his own, at which time David called him to come and live at his estate in Jerusalem and eat “continually” at his table. David even restored all of Mephibosheth’s property to him and invited his servant Ziba and his family to live there also. But notice Mephibosheth’s response to David when he first arrives as found in Second Samuel 9: 8: “What is your servant that you should regard a dead dog like me.”
Mephibosheth’s life had been one of trial and difficulty, and now he couldn’t imagine compassion of this nature show to anyone, let alone himself. But, praise be to who shows us the same covenant loving kindness that David showed Mephibosheth no matter our place or state in life! Whether a physical or spiritual affliction, in Christ, we are all welcome to God’s table where we will find a plate waiting for us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Prayerfully read 2 Samuel 9:1-13 for the complete encounter between David and Mephibosheth and invite God to use this encounter to change the way you view the partaking of Holy Communion at your church. P.L.
The Battle is Not Yours!
“And (Jahaziel) said, ‘Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” 2 Chronicles 20:15
Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah in ancient days. Historically, three armies: Moab, Ammon, and Edom planned to go to war with him. When these three armies were about fifty miles from Jerusalem, a group of lookouts came and reported to the king of the impending battle to take place. After Jehoshaphat received this disturbing news, he didn’t get rattled; instead, he called on the people of Judah to join him in prayer and fasting.
During Jehoshaphat’s prayer, the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came upon a man named Jahaziel who told the king to stand still, be brave, and wait to see the victory the Lord would provide in His perfect way! Read the full story in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, and make note of not only the miraculous manner in which God defeated these armies who had come against His leader and His people, but also make a list of all the ways in which God confirmed His character and His presence to king and country in their time of crisis!
How important it is for us to admit, like Jehoshaphat that we are powerless in the face of a current or impending crisis while also remembering that our God is all powerful and completely sovereign to handle the situation! When I have truly waited on the Lord in a difficult situation in my ministry and not tried to do it myself, I have been amazed over and over as to the simplicity of God’s taking care of the situation and the peace I have afterwards. Pastor Louie
Women of Faith: Listening Lydia
“And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14
I grew up with the Billy Graham evangelistic team coming into my home via television. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the team were on Paul’s Second Missionary journey when God sent them to evangelize Europe. Luke tells us in Acts Sixteen, that the first crusade was held in the city of Philippi right outside of town at the riverbank with Paul, his team, and some women who had come for a prayer meeting! Luke also tells us of the first convert to Christianity in Europe; a wealthy business woman who was eager to listen to the word of God as Paul proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the Church of the Riverbank! And Paul tells us her name was Lydia, who by trade, was a merchant of purple.
And the Bible tells us that because she was actively listening to (hearing) God’s word, the Lord opened her heart completely in order to hear, receive, and give her life to Christ in response to Paul’s message while she attended a prayer meeting. What a simple and beautiful means of salvation God has given to every man, woman, boy, or girl who, by faith, put their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! A message for the wealthy, the poor, and the middle-class! God loves you and He died for you, so that you could be forgiven, and then use your spiritual gifting and talents to lead others to Jesus at any given time, whether you are worshipping God in a building or down by the river’s edge. The Holy Spirit will use the Lord’s word, to open the hearts of those who listen. Like Lydia, will you open your heart and home to Him, today? (Read Acts 16:11-15 and verse 40). Pastor Louie
“And the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. And it shall be that you shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” I Kings 17:2-4
The great prophet Elijah had been called by God to approach the royal court of wicked King Ahab and his evil queen, Jezebel, in order to announce the judgment of God upon their sins, and the sins of Samaria: the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And the form God’s judgment would take? No dew would form, or no rain would fall upon the land except by Elijah’s word, which the Bible says would not occur until three and one-half years later! (See Luke 4:25 and James 5:17)
Once he left Ahab’s court, God led Elijah to a little stream in the desert where He not only strengthened the prophet’s faith in His all-sufficient power to provide for Elijah’s every need, He did so by miraculously providing bread and meat for his breakfast and supper by whom? Ravens!
Are you in a desert right now? Perhaps you’re experiencing a crisis of faith; wondering where God is, in-the-midst of your drought-like circumstances. Have you approached God in prayer, inviting Him to empower you with an ever-deepening trust in His all-sufficient grace to provide you with daily strength, power, joy, and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit? Yes, my friend, our mighty God can even speak to the birds to provide what you need to accomplish His plan for your life! Trust Him today! (Read I Kings 17:1-24
In Christ, Are All My Needs Met!
Women of Faith: A Canaanite Woman (Mom)
“Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once.” Matthew 15:28
Earlier, Jesus had been having a conversation with Jewish scribes and Pharisees in the city of Capernaum. These men had traveled northward from Jerusalem and were in the area when they noticed Jesus and his disciples had not washed their hands before eating bread. Angry at Jesus, they told him that his men had broken the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands first, before eating. Jesus reminded them of their hypocrisy which flowed from their evil hearts by pointing out to them their lack of care for their own parents for the sake of their “religion which opposed the Word of God!”
(See Matthew 15:1-20).
How refreshing it was for Jesus to leave Jewish territory and, for the first time, enter the land where the Canaanites lived; and, in doing so, to encounter a Greek (Gentile) woman of “great gutsy faith” who believed Jesus for the healing of her daughter’s severe (worst of the worst) demon-possession. (Read the full account in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30). [One thing to note when Jesus uses the word “dogs” in these passages, He’s not referring to the mean/lean scavenger dog of His day that roamed the streets; He’s referring to pet lap dogs that sat under the table waiting for food inside their master’s home]. Yes! Jesus came to His own first, the House of Israel, but He also came for the Gentiles as well! Are you practicing dead “religion” like the Jewish Pharisees, or fresh authentic faith in God like this Canaanite woman? A lot to think about on Mother’s Day!
Earth-Shaking (Resurrection) Prayer!
‘And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs of and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:29-31 (Read Acts 3:1-4:31)
Over the past few blogs, we have taken a Scriptural look at the Christian’s living in the power of the resurrection; that same power by which God raised Jesus from the dead and which now resides within every believer through the presence and the enabling of the Holy Spirit! We have thus explored: Resurrection: “Assurance,” “Activation,” “Abundance,” and “Resurrection Application.” And for today, we look at “Resurrection Prayer.”
Peter and John had spent an evening in a Jerusalem jail for the healing of a forty-year old man who had been lame from birth, and for preaching Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Then, the next day, they were brought before the Jewish Supreme Court where they were severely questioned regarding this. Later, upon their release, but not after many threats thrown at them via the Jewish religious elite, note from our Scripture passage above, they didn’t pitch a pity party, try to get even, or get mad; they did what you and I are supposed to do in the face of crisis-the first thing we are to do-take it to the Lord in prayer! Be honest with God about what happened, but don’t dwell on your problems; just tune your heart in prayer toward your great God and then wait on Him and be amazed at what He will do! It may be earth-shaking! To love to talk with, and listen to, God in prayer!
“…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Nancy and I were living in Wilmore, Kentucky in the 1980’s while I was attending Asbury Theological Seminary, and during that time, I had a part-time job with an office supply store in Nicholasville. One day, the couple I worked for presented Nancy and me with two tickets to Mammoth Cave. The day we arrived, we were amazed at this huge and complex set of caverns, but the highlight was the moment our tour guide switched off the lights in one of the chamber rooms on the tour, and we experienced total cave darkness. We couldn’t even see our own hands when placed directly in front of our faces! It was an eerie feeling, and I was so glad when our guide flipped the switch back to the “on” position thus dispelling immediately all the darkness from the room via the invading light!
Paul was living proof of the wondrous and marvelous transformation that takes place in the spirit of a man or woman who becomes a new creation in Christ (See II Corinthians 5:17)! The same miracle of the new birth in Christ that turned Paul from a persecutor and destroyer of Christians for the sake of his dead and performance-based religion, into a humble and bold preacher and teacher of the gospel, can deliver and transform anyone who puts his/her faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of God! When you do, (or when you did), you can be assured that you have been delivered and transferred from Satan’s kingdom to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom (you) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Have you been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints (Christians-those set apart unto God) in light?”
In Christ’s Resurrection Power!
‘I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.’ John 10:9-10
“…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” Romans 6:6-9
The Great Thief’s Lie: Satan (our flesh and the world-system) would have us believe that we Christians cannot live the abundant (to-the-fullest-measure-and-overflowing) life that Jesus promises His disciples He came to give then (then and now) as recorded in John 10:10! Satan wants you to focus on you sins, failures, and defeats when tempted to sin, rather than to live with the “Resurrection Abundance” Paul speaks of in Romans Six.
The Savior’s Truth: Reflect on the Roman’s passage above. Paul says, as Christians, we still live in our earthly bodies “of sin” and therefore, we are often tempted to sin under the influence of the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, and the boastful pride of life (See I John 2:16). However, Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead have provided the Christian with His Spirit-filled power to overcome sin because the power of sin and death was broken at the cross, and God’s resurrection power resides in the life of the believer!
Isn’t that wonderful! Christian, sin has no mastery over you! You have been freed its power by the blood of Jesus, and you don’t have to live under its influence and control at any time! Look to Jesus! Stay near Him by staying in His word and prayer! Be thankful for His ongoing forgiveness, but walk in the confidence of the truth that your old self is dead with Christ and your new life is raised with Him. As Pastor Charles Stanley says, “It is about self-replacement, never about self-improvement!” Thankful for His Grace, Pastor Louie
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord…” Romans 1:1-4
Activation (to be energized, switched on, set in motion), is a very popular word today. For example, many of us have called a company in-order-to have our credit/debit cards “activated.” And, most of us know what it means to buy a new I-Phone and have it “activated” for use while in the store. But how is the resurrection power of Christ set in motion in the life of the Christian believer thus enabling him or her to live courageously and joyously in this world of today in which he lives? Paul offers us the key.
It all begins with the Christian’s surrendering his/her full rights and will to Jesus daily, and thus, being set apart as “one sent” (an apostle) as a bearer of the gospel of God to those to whom God sends him or her. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by identifying himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus. “Bond-servant” literally means “slave.” Paul saw himself as owned by Jesus; bought and paid for by His precious blood, with no rights of his own! Wow! To be totally surrendered to the life of Christ and to walk in obedience to His word in faith; fully trusting in God’s will and way-now that’s not only living-that’s Resurrection Activation! Will you invite the Holy Spirit to set (you) apart-to mark off your boundaries-for Christ and for Christ alone, this day?
In the Powerful Enabling of the Spirit of the Living Christ!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”
I Peter 1:3-4
Christian, I lovingly challenge you to read this verse over a few times slowly; allowing the Holy Spirit to sink its fabulous truths into your soul! As I read slowly through this verse I see the following: 1. All the blessing and praise go first to the Father and the Son for their great mercy to me (toward we Christians)! 2. Why? Because through the Spirit of the living Christ, the Father has caused us to be “born again” (“born from above”-see John Three) to a living hope through His son’s resurrection from the dead! 3. In-order-for us to, what? In-order-for us to obtain an inheritance! And what kind of inheritance? An inheritance that is: imperishable (immortal), undefiled (unstained by evil-See Revelation 21:27), …will not fade away (unimpaired by time), reserved in heaven for you”
For who, Christian? Yes! For you! May the Word of God bring the hope and security of your eternity, which in turn, will bring you confidence and joy in your relationship with the eternal God, this glorious day! Pastor Louie
Have You Entered the Tomb?
“And so, they (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.” John 19:40-41
Mary Magdalene to Peter and John after having come from the tomb on Sunday morning: “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we (other women who were with Mary) do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:2)
Now, be sure and read the context of the Scriptures for yourself (John 19:38-20:10), but for now, Peter and John (the younger) run to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb in which he and Nicodemus have previously laid Jesus’ body. John tells us in his Gospel that he arrives first and looks inside but doesn’t enter, yet. Peter however, is right behind him and upon arrival, enters the tomb. What do they see? They both see an empty tomb as Mary had described earlier, but John draws us to the linen wrappings that had encased both Jesus’ body and head separately. The amazing thing is, the way in which the Scriptures read tells us how the linen wrappings had kept their original shape and position after Jesus’ resurrection! If Jesus’ body had been stolen, the thieves would not have taken the time to unwrap it, but even if they had, the wrappings would have been strewn all over the tomb, not lying in the perfect order Peter and John witnessed!
Perhaps you’re like Mary who believed that Jesus body had been stolen (be sure and read John 20:11-18 for the rest of Mary’s resurrection story). Maybe you’re timid and fearful of how others may respond to your being a follower of Jesus, like Joseph and Nicodemus, but courage is brewing in your soul (see John 19:38-42). Perhaps you’re like Peter who jumped right in but was still trying to figure things out, or John who saw and believed when he entered the tomb (See John 20:8). But, I do know is this-The Amen to the crucifixion is the resurrection of the Son of God, and sometimes what the Holy Spirit is doing is prompting us to walk inside the tomb in order to witness once again with our spirit, “He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 15:6)
King for a Day or King Forever?
“And they brought the colt to Jesus and put their garments on it; and He sat upon it. And many spread their garments in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before, and those who followed after were crying out, ‘Hosanna!” Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:7-9
Recently, I read a children’s sermon designed for use on Palm Sunday entitled, “King for a Day” which caught my attention. I remember in Elementary school of those times in which a boy or girl would be treated at as “Student of the Day” so-to-speak. That boy or girl would be given special privileges such as being placed first in line to lead the other kids to the lunchroom as well as running special errands for the teacher throughout the day. I still remember my first-grade teacher Mrs. Justice, who gave me the special privilege of dusting her erasers after school one day. Boy O’ boy, did I ever think this was something special!
The truth is, the Bible says that on Palm Sunday people were lining the streets of Jerusalem to see a king riding into town on a small donkey. Amidst the waving of branches cut from trees and cloaks being laid in the path of the donkey He sat upon, Jesus heard the great crowd shouting, ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!’ (Mark 11:10). Yes, the crowd treated Jesus as their king that day; the only problem was—it didn’t last. He was only their “King for a Day.” Later that same week Jesus was arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified. Many who had cheered Him on Sunday turned against Him, and in just a few days, He would wear a crown of thorns!
But Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11). Why wait? Why not confess that Jesus is Lord today? Jesus wants to be the ruler and Lord of your life. He doesn’t want to be your “King for a Day,” He wants to be your “Forever King!” Father we are sometimes quick to say, “Jesus is Lord,” but slow to show it in our lives. Help us to be faithful followers. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
The Pain of Thirst
“They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Psalm 69:21
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I am thirsty.’” John 19:28
Have you ever been extremely thirsty; to the point that your thirst is almost agonizing in its intensity? I have been thirsty many times before, but the agonizing thirst Jesus endured before and upon the cross is unimaginable for me.
Clarence W. Cranford writes, “It was inevitable that Jesus should thirst as he hung on the cross. The cruel treatment through which he had passed would naturally dry out the tissues of his flesh…fatiguing hours he had been forced to stand upon His feet [during His trials]…dragged off to be beaten by soldiers…forced to carry His cross…six agonizing hours He had hung upon the cross. In all that time, no moisture had passed His lips.” But, the Bible also tells us that Jesus refused several attempts to partake of a mild-sedative made up of a bitter substance mixed with a cheap-sour wine in order to deaden the pain, in order that He be fully aware of completing His mission to die for the sins of the world and for you and for me! (See John 19:30). Yes, Jesus said “I thirst!” But at the heart of His physical thirst was His thirsting for the souls of men and women, boys and girls!
Are you thirsty for God? Have you received His Son as Savior and Lord? Have you made peace with God via the cross and Christian, do you have the peace of God ruling your days? The Psalmist says, “…[the Lord] satisfies the thirsty.” (See Psalm 107:9 and prayerfully apply Psalm 63 to your heart and life).
In the Name of Jesus, the Living Water Who Always Satisfies Those Who Drink!
The Pain of Mockery
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort (around 300-600 soldiers) around Him. And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”
Matthew 27:27-29 [Also Read Matthew 27;27-44].
The preliminaries Jesus faced prior to His crucifixion on a Roman cross were excruciating! Not only had Jesus’ face been stricken earlier as He stood before Annas and then Caiaphas and the Jewish Supreme Court called the Sanhedrin, He now stood before a great number of Roman soldiers and others positioned at Pilate’s governor’s mansion near the temple site in Jerusalem. And during this time the mockery He received both spoken and physically applied, is more than you and I could imagine!
Think of the mockery the Jewish religious leaders (Jesus’ own people), and the Gentiles (through particularly the soldiers) inflicted upon Jesus mind, emotions, spirit, and body. Matthew tells us how Jesus was victim to a very cruel game the Roman soldiers used to play with those condemned to die. They would dress them up as a mock King, bow down to them, and then, treat them in a terrible way, after which they would remove their mock-kingly clothing and send them off to die (Note the items of mockery in today’s Scripture: the scarlet robe, crown of thorns, and reed (staff) placed in the right hand, which represented the place of authority for an earthly king).
The Bible tells us that Jesus took the sin-disease of the world upon Himself on the cross. This means that Jesus took the awful atrocity of mockery upon Himself as well. Perhaps you have been the subject of mockery. Perhaps someone has made sport with you, at your expense, as the soldiers did with Jesus. The Good News is that whether victim or perpetrator, you can find forgiveness and healing at the cross of the One who took the blows of mockery for you and for me on the tree called Calvary! With every sneer, Jesus still loved us with the Father’s love! (See Luke 23:34) Pastor Louie
The Pain of Scourging
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging (stripes) we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him.” John 19:1
It would be hard for us to even imagine the pain and torture that accompanied being scourged (whipped, flogged) under the Roman lash! In Jesus’ day it was not uncommon that a traitor or criminal awaiting execution be flogged. The Biblical historian and commentator, William Barclay writes, “We see the physical courage of Jesus. Pilate had him scourged. Few remained conscious throughout the ordeal; some died; and many went raving mad. Jesus stood that.”
Isaiah the prophet foretold of Messiah’s scourging hundreds of years before it occurred. He tells how Jesus’ piercing and crushing via of crucifixion for our sins: the nails driven in His hands and feet and the spear thrust into His side, would provide for our forgiveness of sin and being made right with God. And He adds, the punishment that Jesus took upon Himself, (the punishment you and I rightfully should have received), Jesus willingly received at the hand of God in your place and mine, so we could receive Jesus’ well-being (peace). And what a proclamation Isaiah includes in verse five, “And by His scourging we ARE healed.” Have you come to the cross for the forgiveness of sin and the healing of your soul? Jesus loves you! He bore the marks on His back, too! Go in His peace, and live joyously in Him!
The Pain of Denial
In the Upper Room: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to prison and to death!” And He (Jesus) said, “I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:31-34
In the Courtyard of the High Priest: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Denial at any age cuts deep! Impulsive Peter was, yet again, ready to die with Jesus and yet, just a few hours later, he would disown Christ publicly not once, or twice, but three times! How we like Peter are so easily swayed to take our eyes off Jesus out of fear or for other reasons, when the circumstances of life become intense.
But at the communion table, Peter learned of the greatest expression of Jesus’ love for him next to His dying for Peter on the cross, and that is our Lord’s ministry of prayer! Couple that with Peter’s honest and sincere repentance for his denial of Jesus when in the high priest’s courtyard, and you find a man after God’s heart that was used mightily in the days ahead: “…when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Oh, the mighty grace of God! One pastor has said, “And remember, there are no roosters in God’s museum!”
Praise to the One Who bore my denial upon the Cross!
Gethsemane Before Golgotha
“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.’” Luke 22:41-42
“They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of the Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.” John 19:17-18
Golgotha in Aramaic means “skull.” When Nancy and I visited Israel in 1994, one the most impressive sights for us was a hill located outside the city of Jerusalem adjacent “The Garden Tomb” tourist site that looked like the face of the skull. Now, they don’t know for sure if this is the actual sight of Jesus’ crucifixion, but it could be. Our tour guide told us that at the place where Jesus would have been crucified, it would not have been uncommon to find a collection of skulls of those who had been executed and their remains left there unburied. Also, he said, “If a hill were involved, some criminals would have been pushed off the hill and left to die at the base, therefore giving the sight its name.” The truth is, the Bible says Jesus was crucified between two men at a horrible place called The Place of the Skull. There He would announce “It is finished!” The victory has been won, Jesus conquered death, the grave, and Hell itself!
But the battle, the initial victory, was won in agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane! I believe Satan had returned once again to tempt Jesus to turn away from the betrayal, trials, horrific pain and torture He would undergo before and on the cross! The tremendous weight of bearing the sin of the world was evident in Jesus’ request that the cup of suffering might be taken from Him, but He told His Father that He surrendered to His will, and not that of His (Jesus’) own. Thank you, Jesus, that your stayed and prayed in Gethsemane for us and for me! (Read Luke 22:39-46)
White as Snow
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
I used to love to make snow ice cream in Alabama when I was a little kid. I learned from my grandmother Mabrey that the best snow could often be found on top of the cars, so I would go outside, scrape off the clean new-fallen snow into a big bowl, bring it inside, add sugar, milk, and vanilla flavoring, mix it all together, and then proceed to eat the best ice cream I’ve ever had!
What’s really awesome is how the prophet Isaiah, speaking the word of the Lord to wayward Judah, tells of God’s desire to cleanse His people of their lawless deeds to the degree that they would be as white as snow and as pure as wool! Is this possible? Yes! Isaiah was foretelling of Jesus the Messiah, the innocent and sinless Son of God, who would willingly shed His blood upon the cross so you and I could be forgiven and could be made right with God as if we had never sinned!
If you have surrendered you heart and life to Jesus Christ; if you have met Him at the cross, this is how God sees you now and forever- white as snow! Begin here today, and allow the Holy Spirit to breath new life into your Christianity as to who you are in Jesus, and then, when you do sin, get with God ASAP and restore the relationship which the ongoing effects of the blood provide (See I John 1:6-9).
Made White as Snow by the sacrificial love of Christ. Praise be to God! Pastor Louie
“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Luke 22:19-20
In giving his account of Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before He was crucified, Luke includes Jesus’ having said that both His body (as seen in the giving and sharing of the bread), and the new covenant in His blood (as seen in the giving and sharing of the cup), were both given “…for you…” (for His disciples). We live in a selfish world where so many people are more interested in taking and in getting ahead rather than giving of themselves and putting others first.
Jesus died on a cross for you! He took on your sin and mine so that we could be forgiven our sin and made right with God now and forever! (See 2 Corinthians 5:21). The next time you take Holy Communion at your church or, if you have been avoiding Holy Communion for some reason, I challenge you to go with a joyful and thankful heart the next time it is being served, knowing that He gave His life (His body and His blood) on the cross for you! No greater love has ever been shown than the love Jesus has for His body the church, and that includes, you! Praise Him! Pastor Louie
When Your Heart Is Breaking, Part 3 (The Healing of the Heart)
“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” Psalm 34:15
“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”
What do you do; where do you go, when you are brokenhearted? Some people withdraw and become isolated whereas, others become aggressive and turn to drugs, alcohol, success, etc., in their attempt to resolve the loneliness, rejection, or feelings of fear or failure they feel deep inside.
In Psalm 34 David, from experience, tells us that he has come to know deep within, that when his heart is breaking; he can cry out to God in prayer. As a matter of fact, David (Psalm 34:15), tells us the Lord not only sees his circumstances, but His ears are also attentive to David’s cries.
One of the most tender and effective ways the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us when our hearts are broken, is through our tears as we cry out to Him in prayer for the salvation of our children or when we feel life has pinned us against the wall and we don’t know where to turn.
In Luke 10, we are told of the man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by thieves as he traveled the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. We are also told of the “Good Samaritan” who stopped to help him—the one who bandaged his wounds after he had poured oil and wine into them. When we cry out to God and put our trust in His all-sufficient ability to take care of whatever it is that is breaking our heart, He will begin to pour the oil of the Spirit and the wine of His word into the deepest of wounds we have thus binding up the wound as He brings healing, hope, joy, and restoration to our hearts and minds. (See Psalm 34:6-8 and Matthew 11:28).
Cry Out to Jesus!
When Your Heart Is Breaking, Part 2
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
When David wrote Psalm 34 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was remembering a time in which he ran into enemy territory in a panic in-order-to escape King Saul of Israel who was in hot pursuit and whose number one desire was to capture and kill David. Historically, the Bible says David sought refuge in the land of the Philistines ruled by King Achish. Not long after that however, the king’s men reminded him that David was an enemy, and overhearing them, when brought before the king, David pretended to be mad with hopes the king would let him go, which he did! (See I Samuel 21:10-15). Many folks are living under the load of paralyzing fear: fear of cancer, fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of failure and defeat, fear of the enemy! When David heard the king’s men warn him of his presence at court (as all Israelites were arch enemies of the Philistines), I Samuel 21:12 reads, “ And David took these words to heart, and greatly feared Achish king of Gath.”
What are you afraid of that has been causing you to lose sleep at night? (A fear so great that it is breaking your heart to pieces). Don’t run into enemy territory, but surrender that fear to God in prayer and invite the Spirit of the living Christ to deliver you from all your fears. And, as you read the Scriptures and pray, God will begin to replace your fear(s) with an assurance of His presence and resolution.
When Your Heart Is Breaking, Part 1
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Can you believe it is the year 2018? I don’t know about you, but as I grow older, it seems the years are passing faster! For many folks, the new year offers the opportunity to make a new resolution or the opportunity to mend a broken resolution from last year. But no matter what, the fact is we are bringing ourselves assuredly into 2018, and that may mean a broken heart, as well.
Perhaps you or someone you know has been thrown by a medical report that presents itself to be a great challenge this new year. It may be guilt over past sin, or betrayal by a friend that has stepped over the fence into this new year. You may be continuing to battle loneliness, despair, or depression. The Bible says that David, the author of Psalm 34, was a man after God’s own heart, which means that he had a teachable and open heart. He wasn’t perfect; no one is! David sinned greatly, but through it all, He understood Who God was as he understood God’s nature.
And that is why during an intense time in his life, He praised God for His care for him in this Psalm. Notice in the verse listed above, that David knew from experience, that when he was brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, he also knew that God was near his pain, near his struggle, near his heart that had been broken into many pieces (as the literal interpretation of this verse reads). Go to God today in your brokenness, praising Him because He is near and that He is your stay through it all! Christ is your refuge! He will never abandon you!
The Great Need for 2018
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured waster into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…[and to His disciples Jesus said], ‘If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. ‘For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.’” John 13:3-5, 14-15
Many years ago, I was on a Karios prison ministry team which was scheduled to go into a local prison in North Florida and minister to about thirty-six inmates. During one or our pretraining sessions for this event, I, along with the other team members, engaged in a foot-washing which was very humbling and rewarding to my soul; one that I will never forget.
John records this event, not that we would make foot-washing a law in the local congregation, for that is not what this event is about as I was recently reminded in a devotional by Pastor Charles Stanley. Instead, we are to focus on the attitude behind the action Jesus is commanding his disciples “to do to others as He had done unto them.” In Philippians 2:5-8 Paul tells the Christians living in Philippi that they are to have the same humble and self-giving spirit as Christ had when He intentionally gave up His divine rights to come to earth in flesh and die on a cross!
Washing dirty feet in life may seem below our standards, but what act of humility with a Christ-like spirit may God be calling you to perform? Who do you know that needs some form of assistance in which you are to lay aside your desire for prestige, power, or position?
Read John 13:3-15 and Matthew 20:28.
The Great Need for Humble Servant-Leaders in 2018!
In Bethlehem Inn: Between Verses Six and Eight
“And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
Luke was, among other things, a physician, and with that comes an eye for detail! It’s very interesting that in his gospel, strategically located between the birth of Christ (verse 6), and the announcement of his birth to the shepherds via the angel (verse 8 and following), we find the account of the Bethlehem Inn that had no room for “them” (Joseph, Mary, and the baby she was carrying), to stay for the night.
This past weekend, we presented a dinner play entitled, “In Bethlehem Inn,” written by John W. Carter. It is a delightful and heart-transforming story adapted from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ in which we see the heart and life of an innkeeper by the name of “Eli Merriman,” his wife “Sarah,” along with their daughters and four wild n’ crazy servants who are just as different as they can be, along with a couple of shepherds, all fall in love with a baby named “Jesus” the Son of God, wrapped in cloths “…and lying in a feedbox!”
In a world and in our nation of today, we must agree with the Christian group “Casting Crown’s” probing our hearts with the question: “Are we still sleeping...[and]… have no room…?” for the Messiah, in like fashion the night He was born in Bethlehem, so long ago? The question remains…have you invited Jesus to be born in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit…to grow, and live in you by the power of the Cross and His resurrection? Or, have you missed Him because you have said there is no room in the inn of your heart for Him?
This is the most important question you will ever face: one positioned between verses six and eight! To one day close your eyes in death without Christ is greatest loss of all! There is a real heaven and a real hell! What is your decision this Christmas? Room or No Room? Jesus loves YOU! He was born to die and live again, for you! (Read John 3:16-17 and I Timothy 1:15)
In the Forgiving Love of Jesus Christ,
Joseph and Mary’s Christmas Story
“And the angel (Gabriel) answered and said to her (Mary), ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. ‘And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. ‘For nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
“But when he (Joseph) had considered this (See Matthew 1:18-19), behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. ‘And she will bear a Son; and you shall call his name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
The account of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus is a miracle of both history and heart! Jesus’ birth was miraculous for it was of the Holy Spirit’s power. And the wonderful news of Christmas announces not only God’s coming to earth, born in flesh in an animal’s feed-box, but also that any person who repents of sin and turns to Christ at the cross will be miraculously born from above to eternal life and given abundant life now for all of life’s challenges. The Christian’s heart becomes God’s Bethlehem for Jesus is born and lives there through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ! And the God who came to and cared for Joseph and Mary when life was everything but easy and uncomplicated for them, cares for you, too! Nothing is impossible with God!
God’s Christmas Story
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17
Originally, God created and placed Adam and Eve, our original parents, in the Garden of Eden. But our parents sinned greatly against God by partaking of the fruit of the tree God had told Adam (See Genesis 2:16), ‘…From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” (See Genesis 2:16-17). And, take careful note of Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took (underline, mine), from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
The Bible tells us that from the beginning, God “gave…!” He established the beauty of creation including the rich bounty of the Garden of Eden with which to provide for all of Adam and Eve’s needs! The Bible also tells us however, that into that Garden crept the Sin of all sins through the serpent’s cunning tongue: PRIDE! And the result? We became “takers” by nature, instead of being “givers” in the manner of our Father’s heart! The remedy-the only remedy?
The sacrificial death of God’s only Son on the cross “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life!” God’s gift to the fallenness of man! God’s gift to you! (Read John’s Christmas Story: John 1:12-14). Merry Christmas!
Pardon for Sin and a Peace that Endureth
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; though Him I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:19-20.
“…To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood”
“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with then thousand beside!”
Hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” 1923, Thomas O. Chisholm
I have always loved and been moved of heart and life by Thomas Chisholm’s hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” God’s faithfulness is great, and His word tells us that He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, if we agree with Him (“confess”) our sins before Him, (I John 1:8-9).
If you are lost today, separated from God for all eternity due to your rejection of Christ as God’s Son and Savior of the world as the Bible proclaims, you have been given new hope from God’s word and the Holy Spirit. Upon coming willingly and sincerely to the cross just as you are; trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus to rescue you from the kingdom of Satan to Kingdom of the Light of God’s beloved Son-the Kingdom of Light, the Bible says you will be born-again from the inside out for life abundant and full now and forever! You will have pardon from sin and a peace that never ends! You stand, released, no longer alienated from God, because of the precious blood of Jesus! Hallelujah! What a Savior!
And Christian, look at what you’ve been given of God in Christ!
Summer and Winter and Spring-time and Harvest
“And He (Jesus) was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed (the Word of God) upon the soil…the soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then mature grain in the head.”
Mark 4:26, 28
“Summer and winter and spring-time and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above join with all nature in manifold witness thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”
Hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923.
When I was a little kid, I was visiting with my Mamaw Mabrey one snowy morning in Alabama. That day, God had provided a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground. I believe we had just finished breakfast, when I saw my grandmother slip on an old overcoat, put a scarf over her head, and put on rubber boots. Then she went over to the stove and placed an old left-over piece of good-ol’ fashioned cornbread into her hand and slipped out the kitchen door. Wondering what she was up to, I climbed upon the kitchen counter so I could look out the window over the sink into the back yard, and guess what I saw? My mamaw began to break off pieces of cornbread and throw them onto the ground. After she had done this, she walked back towards the house, but my eyes were fixed on the cornbread. And what do you think I say in just a couple of minutes? Yes! Birds began to descend upon the snow to eat their morning breakfast!
The prophet Isaiah tells that God’s word never returns to Him void, but accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it out just as sure as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout… (See Isaiah 55:10-11). I know deep within my heart that God used this humble and loving act of my grandmothers to care for the birds and to teach her little grandson that God would always take care of him! And He has! She prayed that I would not only come to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, but that I would grow and mature in my faith to the glory of God. Praise God for His harvest! Happy Thanksgiving!
A Hymn for Thanksgiving: Great Is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.” Hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923.
Writing hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Jeremiah called his people, he people of God living in Judah, to turn from their idolatry and embrace once again the great faithfulness of their all-sufficient God. The God whose favor and forgiveness continued to reach out to them even in-light-of God’s impending judgment upon them at the hands of the Babylonians.
And yet, as Jeremiah proclaims in his book, Lamentations, there is always the hope of God’s faithfulness; new, fresh, and in abundant supply, each new morning. In this ever-crazy world in which we live, perhaps God is calling you to be refreshed with the unchanging truth that God himself is unchanging! The Christians of long ago referred to Christ’s “immutability”-the fact the He does not change! Today, you can trust His promises which Paul tells us are all “yes” in Christ! (See 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; James 1:16-18, and Hebrews 13:8).
In God’s Unchanging Hands!
Precious in the Sight of the Lord
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15
Over the years, I have heard the word “precious” used in several different ways. Examples would be: the word as applied to a loving spouse, a little baby, a “precious” stone such as a diamond, or even an endearing act of kindness or favor bestowed upon someone. But God’s word tells us that one of the things that touches the heart of God the most is, “…the death of his godly ones.”
It is true the Bible says the one thing that causes the angels in heaven to rejoice is when someone on this earth gives his or her heart and life to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But God also says in His Word, that a “preciousness” strikes the cords of His heart when one of His beloved comes home to meet Him through death; the way having been made via Jesus’ death and resurrection (See John 14:1-6, Romans 8:11, and 2 Corinthians 5:1).
The Bible says “saints” are Christians; in-other words, those who have been set apart for sacred use in-order-to serve the Living Savior wherever the Spirit plants them at any given time according to the will of God for their lives. And when their life on earth is done, at the time of the believer’s homegoing, whether it be quietly in their sleep or with much time and difficulty, the Bible says their death is precious to God.
In His most recent book entitled, Where I Am, taken from John 14:3, Billy Graham writes, “When I am asked, ‘Where is Heaven?’ I simply answer: Heaven is where Jesus is…What about you? Do you know where you will be when you step into eternity?” (page 159).
Thank you, Lord, for your promise of being with us when we die in the Lord, and for the literal place your precious word calls, “Heaven.”
The Red Sea Before You and Pharaoh Behind You!
“But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. ‘The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’”
In the 1970’s I was visiting my grandfather Mabrey and just happened to ask him for the name of the last motion picture he and my grandmother went to see. Papaw hesitated a minute and then asked me, “What was that movie that had that Charlton Heston fellow in it?” I responded with a chuckle, “Papaw, that was The Ten Commandments!” (Which by the way, was released in 1956)!
I guess most folks, at least through my generation can’t help but think of the movie classic starring Charlton Heston as Moses. But the great truth is there was a real Moses, and there is a real God who kept Pharaoh’s army at bay in-order-to allow Moses and God’s people to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground and to arrive safely on the other side.
What are we as Christians to do when facing a seemingly impossible situation? Read today’s Scripture again and invite the Holy Spirit to apply God’s Word to your heart, mind, and life. (Read how God delivered His people through the sea in Exodus 14).
In the Name of our Deliverer, God the Father and God the Son!
Born Again Under Grace
“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under
grace.” Romans 6:14
A father took his little girl to the park. She was free to slide, swing, and skip
through the playground. But her father wanted her not to go near a certain
bush along the fence. When he turned his back, that’s right where she headed,
and as a result, she found herself covered in poison ivy. Genesis Two tells us
that God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden to
enjoy it (including the food)! And the truth is, the creator originally placed two
clean souls in the garden! Their only restriction to eating freely from any tree in
the garden was God’s command they not eat from the tree of knowledge of
good and evil for in the day they eat of it, they would surely die.
Well, we know what they did. Like the little girl at the playground, they freely
and by choice listened to the tempter, and ate of the forbidden fruit! (Note the
context and you will see how God’s command not to eat of the fruit was given
to Adam, Genesis 2:16). So, all people are born diseased; covered in spiritual
poison ivy-the kind that kills!
God knew we needed a healing that only He could provide, and the cleansing
agent He provided Paul proclaims in Romans 6:14 as the grace of God found
God’s only Son: the Person, the Savior, Jesus Christ! When Jesus died on the
cross, He took our poison ivy onto His spotless skin so that we could be made
clean now and forever in the sight and favor of our loving God! Paul is right!
Sin, death, and the grave no longer have mastery over the Christian because
he/she has been born again (See John 3) by the Spirit of God in Christ! And
therefore, we are no longer under the law of the of the Old Testament days
which proved that we are sinners separated from God, but beloved, we are now
under the grace of God. Hallelujah, we are released, free to need and to love
our God and one another!
(See Romans 7:1-7 and Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8).
Laity Sunday Blessings
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish the course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
We celebrated “Laity Sunday” on October 15th, and I had invited Eric and Doris from our congregation to share their testimonies of God’s work in their lives. I was deeply touched, as was the congregation, as to Eric’s sharing of how the Lord had called him to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through the gift of song that God had given him. Eric challenged our congregation to use their gifts to tell other about Jesus and to give Him all the glory in all they do. Eric also shared how God received him with unconditional love during a time in his life when he had strayed from the Lord reminding us of the attestation of God’s love and forgiveness of the prodigal son found in Luke 15.
Doris, also spoke of the truth of the gospel lived out in her life through the realities of pain, suffering, and loss and how she had witnessed time and time again the mighty hand of God at work bringing her peace throughout her life as He did during difficult days in during her childhood. Doris’ transparency before the Lord and our congregation, stirred our hearts to be real with God who loves and cares for us at all times!
Real people encountering the real God! Like Paul the preacher, whose lived his life for Christ in the real world; a life that made difference.
A very thankful Pastor Louie
Being Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who
delude (deceive) themselves.” James 1:22
In Matthew 21:28-32 were read of Jesus’ Parable of the Two Sons, in
which He tells of a father’s request of his first son to go and work in
the vineyard one day. This son said he would do it, but did not,
whereas the second son, when asked, said he would not go, but later
having regretted his response, chose to go out and work in his father’s
vineyard. Jesus asked the crowd, “Which of the two did the will of his
In this parable, Jesus is telling us that the most important thing is not
so much our saying that we are going to do something, as it is to obey
His Father’s word by doing what He says. In Jesus’ day the church
folks (the scribes, Pharisees, and the Sadducees) believed their own
self-righteousness was enough to make them right with God. But,
they didn’t get it! They were like the first son who was a hearer but
not a doer of his father’s will. However, those who were lost in sin
and needed the father’s love (the prostitutes and tax-gatherers) may
not have responded at first, but later they did act on the word of
Christ by repenting of their sin and believing in the Father’s Son!
Whether you have been putting off a decision to come to Christ
because you have been living your life based upon your own selfrighteousness,
or whether you are a Christian whose been saying you
will take up your cross and follow Jesus daily in words only and not by
your actions, choose today, like the one son who pleased his father,
to be a doer of the word!
The Blessedness of Godly Counsel
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, not stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
A Christian’s understanding of who he or she is in Christ, is vital! For example, in-order-to be forgiving when wronged by someone, we must first understand with our hearts and minds that we were first forgiven by Christ from the Cross and called by Him to likewise, forgive others. But how does this come about?
The psalmist tells us plainly: Whoever we run around with, or whatever we fill our minds with, will not only affect us, but others as well! You see, once we’re saved, what we do with our lives after that, is just as important as the day we were (or are) saved!
Here, the psalmist tells us how “walking,” (living our lives), “standing,” or “sitting” at the table with the wicked will disallow us from maturing in our faith and, at the same time, diminish our integrity, so-as-to equally lessen our impact on others for the Kingdom of God. But, if we delight in sitting down to God’s Word daily and allow Him to speak to our hearts through the workings of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves positioned like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. And tree planted in this fashion does what? It yields its fruit as it should at the proper season, it’s leaves do not wither, and it flourishes and grows!
And so, goes the Christian life. What a blessing to daily bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) rather than rotten fruit (see Galatians 5:19-21). Read God’s Word and invite the Holy Spirit to teach and apply its truths to your heart and life! Oh, the blessedness and the benefits of God’s counsel and the sharing of our faith in Christ!
After the Storm
“…Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.” Matthew 8:26 (b)
Following the events of Hurricanes “Harvey” and “Irma,” I was reminded of how Jesus was very familiar with the hurricanes and tornados his day. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the day in which Jesus and his disciples set sail to cross the Sea of Galilee (which is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide); a day in which a calm sea instantly became a raging sea!
The Sea of Galilee sets 680’ below sea level in a cleft in the Jordan landscape which makes it a prime target for a great storm to seemingly come out of nowhere. When a cold westward wind passes through the hills and gullies on the west bank of the sea, the air becomes compressed and funnel-like. Then with amazing speed and intensity, it swoops over the bank to the surprise of anyone or any boat positioned on its waters.
The gospel writers tell us that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat when the storm hit; a storm so intense that it engulfed the boat within the crest of its waves, quickly filling the boat with water. Matthew then tells us the disciples woke Jesus and were pleading for Him “to save them for they were “perishing!” Matthew tells us how Jesus asked them why they were so afraid and were exercising such little faith. I don’t believe Jesus was angry with them, but was using this as one of the most important lessons ever for teaching his disciples to trust Him and His authority when undergoing the most intense situations of life!
And then our Scripture for today records Jesus speaking to the winds and the sea and their becoming “perfectly” calm. What do we see in Matthew’s account (8:23-27)? That a great Christ’s response to a great crisis is always a great calm!
What storm of life are you, a loved one, a neighbor, or co-worker encountering this time. It may a great stress over the recent storm that engulfed Florida.
“…even the winds and the sea obey Him!” Matthew 8:27
Laboring for the Lord: (Whose job is it anyway)?
“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
First Corinthians 3:5-7
Well, it’s Labor Day Monday! I always enjoy having the day off to rest and get ready for what promises to always be a busy Fall season. But, on this day, I would invite each one of us to reevaluate whose job it really is to make a difference in the lives of others for the Kingdom of God. In the first chapter of the book of Corinthians, Paul was addressing divisions that had occurred within the church over pastoral personalities. Verse three tells us that there was jealousy and strife among the body of Christ regarding this issue.
For example, Apollos, a very Godly man, was known as a great preacher in his day, and many were attracted to his charismatic style of delivery, whereas Paul tells us in Scripture that he wasn’t a polished orator. Anyway, you get the picture. The effect? Paul says those involved in these divisions were stunting the spiritual growth of the Body, so he provides the solution: Whether preacher or planter of churches (as Paul was) or anything else we do in service to the Lord; In and of ourselves we aren’t anything; only vessels to be used of the Lord. It is therefore not about Paul or Apollos, but all glory is to be given to God who causes the growth. Stay true to God, share the gospel, and let the Holy Spirit do the work. In this we find true rest and reward!
The Busiest Day in Jesus Life!
One pastor recently wrote of “the busiest day in Jesus life.”
“And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door.” Mark 1:32-33
Have you ever found yourself too busy to pray? I can assure you I battle with busyness on a day-to-day basis as I am sure, you do, too! Check the fuller context of Jesus’ busy day by reading Chapter One of Mark’s Gospel in its entirety, but in its essence, it was a non-stop, full day of ministry! And, Jesus, like you and like me, was exhausted!
It began that morning and by the time most of us would have called it a day, it was, in many respects, just beginning. Dr. David Jeremiah reminds us how that day was crowded with miracles to perform, lessons to teach, people to heal, and disputes to settle. It was a day totally dedicated to reaching out to people and to ministering to their deepest needs; and Jesus didn’t turn anyone away. And yet, when most folks were in bed asleep, Mark 1:35 tells us, “And in the early morning while it was still dark. He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.”
After the busiest day of Jesus’ life, Jesus chose to rise early and pray. You say, “Yes Pastor Louie, but, He was Jesus!” Yes, He was, but even the Son of God knew that He needed daily conversation with His Father. He needed the strength and direction to perform the works of ministry that only came from the intimacy He shared with His Father through prayer. And, if Jesus needed prayer, how much more do we need prayer! The truth is, things are never going to slow down in our daily affairs, but taking time to pray in-spite-of the “busyness,” will be a transformative experience to our lives as Christians!
Thank you, Jesus, that you are never too busy for me!
Putting on the Armor in Prayer, Part 3
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit…”
We have been exploring the armor worn by a Roman soldier during the days of Paul, and in the process, likened this equipment to the spiritual armor to be worn daily by the Christian. Paul lists six pieces of armor: (the belt) waist encircled with God’s truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which Paul says is the word of God.
Interestingly however, the Roman soldier carried a seventh piece of armor with him-the lance. There were a wide variety of lances used in that day according to length, weight, and different in the manner in which they were tipped. The most common was the six-foot pilum lance which was used when an encampment of Roman soldiers was under attack. The soldier, able to hurl this massive spear from a distance, could inflict a great amount of damage upon the enemy before they could pose any type of threat.
Paul concludes his Holy-Spirit-inspired masterpiece on the armor of God, with the most important weapon of all-prayer! Do you have a loved one who is currently under attack and possibly in bondage to the enemy? Take aim at the heart of Satan’s plans for your loved one and destroy them! Hurl the lance of persistent prayer at Him, coupled with the word.
Here are a few examples from the Scriptures you can pray to overcome the enemy in your life or the life of a loved one through the power of Christ and to the glory of God! Put your name or the name of your loved one in the prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to guide, protect, and empower you as pray these Scriptures. (See Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 25:1-2; Psalm 31:14-17; Psalm 91).
In the Victorious and Saving Name of Christ! The One Who Prays for us!
Putting on the Armor of God in Prayer, Part 2
“With all prayer and petition, pray at-all-times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
In the later part of the First Century, Paul took the various pieces of a Roman soldier’s weaponry, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, likened it to spiritual armor any Christian can put on to stand firm and resist the tricks and trickery (schemes/wiles of the devil), each new day!(See Ephesians 6:10-17).
However, Paul doesn’t conclude his masterpiece on the armor with verse seventeen, he continues with what would often be the most neglected piece of spiritual armor for the Christian—PRAYER.
In our Scripture for today, Paul not only commands the Christian warrior to pray on every occasion (every time you get the opportunity to pray), but to realize and apply to his mind and heart to Whom he is praying when he prays. The idea behind the original word Paul uses translated prayer and pray is: Come face to face with God, and surrender your life in exchange for His, consecrating your life on an ongoing basis. And be sure to give Him thanks in the advance for moving in your life.
The original word translated “petition” (supplication) represents a petition (cry) for God’s help that exposes a person’s insufficiency to meet his or her own needs; one that is drawn from a heart and spirit born of godly humility. Just imagine what our seasons of prayer would be like with Lord if we humbly desired to be with Him more than anything else! Then, we would come together as the Body of Christ, more watchful and persistent in our prayers for all the saints. In this manner, we would truly form a true prayer chain!
Lord, teach us to pray!
Putting on the Armor of God in Prayer
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
There’s an old hymn that goes, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer…!” It’s awesome that Paul concludes his great message on the Armor of God with prayer! The truth is, we cannot properly clothe ourselves in God’s spiritual armor, and step out onto the battlefield as Christians to face our fiercest enemy the devil, apart from prayer. Yes! Christ has defeated the devil on the cross and by the power of His bodily resurrection from the dead, but Paul says we are no match for the trickery of the devil apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading us in warfare prayer.
In today’s Scripture verse, Paul commands the Ephesian Christians to “pray at all times” which literally means on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers as led by the Holy Spirit. How awesome! Along with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17), Paul has given the Christian the offensive piece we often neglect the most in the church-prayer!
So, let us be alert and steadfast in our prayers for “all the saints” and watch with deep gratitude and to the glory of God as He works in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Let us pray!
The Sword of the Spirit
“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
I was born in a little ten-room clinic in Albertville, Alabama, in 1956; but one of the fondest memories I have of that clinic was the fact that later, my maternal grandmother “Mamaw Iris”, worked in the kitchen at the clinic for Dr. Lavendar, the owner-operator, for several years. I remember distinctly talking to my grandmother about it when I was a teenager, and she proceeded to tell me that not only did she prepare and serve meals to the patients while working there, but she also assisted Dr. Lavendar in surgery if he and his nurse needed extra help, (in the days of ether mind you)!
Likened to the deadly razor-sharp, two-edged sword of the Roman solider, Paul commands the Christian to receive daily “the sword of the (Holy) Spirit which is the word of God”. The wonderful truth here is-God’s word (the Greek language means the Spiritually imparted rhema word given clearly and unquestionably to the Christian at the exact time of need drawn from the whole counsel of God’s word which is at work in the life of the believer) not only serves as the premier offensive weapon we take to the enemy in the power of God, the rhema word has also been designed by The Great Physician to do something else. It has the ability to penetrate the thoughts, imaginations, and moral understanding of the Christian way down deep where no human could ever go; to expose what is not of God, and then, by God’s power in Christ, transform! (See Hebrew 4:12 and note the context of the surrounding verses in the chapter).
Praise God for His mighty and tender sword that truly transforms our thinking and our living, from the inside out! Pastor Louie
The Helmet of Salvation
“And take the helmet of salvation…” Ephesians 6:17 (a)
In the late Sixties, I enjoyed playing Jr. High football under Coach “Puny Jolley” in Albertville, Alabama. Coach Jolley was a great coach! He played football for the University of Alabama, and he brought a love for the sport and for his players to the Jr. High football field! I will never forget the fuss he made over our football uniforms; always checking to see if our helmets for example, were fitted tightly and in place as we prepared to step onto the field.
Paul, using the heavy and impenetrable bronze helmet of the Roman soldier of his day, calls us “to encircle our heads (minds)” with God’s helmet of salvation. What does Paul mean by this command?
Any Roman soldier knew he was taking his life (or head) into his own hands as he entered the battlefield. A Roman soldier’s head was at its highest risk to the short-handled battle-axe of his opponent. If he wasn’t wearing his helmet, he would most likely lose his head in battle! Likewise, the devil doesn’t want us to: (1) “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…” (Ephesians 6:10), (2) “Take (literally means “Receive”), the helmet of salvation each day, and (3) Study what God’s word has to say about our “salvation.” Satan wants you to live in fear, failure, and defeat as a Christian rather than the freedom in knowing and living with the understanding of Who Jesus is and what He did for you on the cross, therefore, he seeks to chop-chop away at God’s promises found in his word, when we are not wearing our helmets!
Receive the following Scriptures and use them by the power of the Holy Spirit given you of God, to defeat any stronghold “lie” the enemy has baited you into believing via of your mind or emotions: Acts 4:12, Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, 2 Timothy 1:7 (“sound mind” or “discipline” in this verse means a saved or delivered mind; one that is self-controlled, has been set free, and is thinking correctly), Colossians 1:13-14, and Romans 12:1-2. The original word translated “salvation” in Ephesians 6:17 means, delivered, to be brought to a safe place, and to be well. In Christ’s power! Pastor Louie
Strongholds of the Enemy
“Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11
In the days of old, castles were created and designed with high/thick walls for-the-purpose-of keeping intruders on the outside. Also, dungeons were in place to keep prisoners in. The Bible is clear! It is crucial for the Christian to be aware of his or her enemy at-all-times! Why? When we know how our enemy operates, then we are better equipped to stand firm, resist his attacks, and live in the joy, peace, and victory of the Lord!
The word translated “schemes” in our verse for today, comes from an original word meaning, “with a road.” The devil begins by seeking an open door (road) into the Christian’s mind (his way of thinking and believing). Then, the devil will use mind games to trick us ever closer into believing his lies (See 2 Corinthians 2:11), and then, once a foothold has been established, he will bait us into choosing his lie about ourselves. And once we take the devil’s bait, we become imprisoned by one of his strongholds.
For example, an individual may be sensitive to the comments of others. Then someone speaks a damaging word about that person which becomes Satan’s opportunity to bore into his emotions or way of thinking. Then, Satan will use a device (“mind game”) such as whispering something like this, “You know what they said is true about you, don’t you?” Then, if that individual takes the bait and believes the lie, a stronghold or wrong thinking is established.”
Maybe it was a parent or an early childhood friend who made fun of you or said, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” Remember, Satan is the master of lies and deceit, and he will do anything to keep the Christian from breaking free!
But the Bible says those in dungeons who have erected high walls to keep others from getting in CAN be set free by the power of God in Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit! (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)!
Part 2, next week when we look at “the helmet of salvation”(Ephesians 6:17).
The Shield of Faith
In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith (by) which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.
The other day I was out walking our little dog Sparkey in our back yard when I noticed that he had met someone new when he turned the corner of the house-a little turtle! Well, Sparkey proceeded to sniff the turtle, who went back into his shell, but after the novelty wore off, he trotted away from his armored friend.
Paul likened a Roman soldier’s shield to that of a Christian’s faith for a reason.
The Roman soldier’s shield he carried was as big as a door of a house so that it completely covered him in battle. The shield was constructed of 6 layers of animal hide affixed to a wooden base held in place by a metal clamp that surrounded the edge of the shield. Before battle, the soldier would dip his shield into a tub of water so that when it was stricken by an enemy’s arrow designed to burst into flames upon contact, the water-soaked shield would immediately quench the flames and the arrow would be rendered ineffective.
Also, Roman soldiers’ shields were equipped with little hinges on the side so they could be connected to form a wall of shields: front, back, and on the sides when approaching the enemy. Interestingly, those soldiers on the inside would place their shield overhead and this roof was called (as translated) the tortoise.
We can learn a lot from the little creature called the turtle, the gear of the Roman soldier, and most of all Paul’s treatment of the Armor of God. What fiery missile has the enemy been shooting towards your mind, emotions, and heart! Take heart! Lift your shield of faith in victory this day! (See Romans 10:7)
Trusting God’s Faithfulness and Exercising My Faith in Him!
The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
“Stand firm therefore…having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:15 (Also see Isaiah 52:7, Romans 10:15, and John 14:27)
Currently, we are putting on the Armor of God as found in Ephesians 6:10-20, piece-by-piece. As a matter of fact, the value of the armor is manifested in its ability to enable the Christian believer to “stand firm” and “resist” the trickery and cunning deceit of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10-13), as we put it on in this fashion each new day. Has the enemy whispered anything in your ear lately such as, “With all the bad things you are witnessing on TV, can you truly believe that God is in control and that He really cares about those who are suffering, yet alone whatever it is that you may be facing personally?” As viewed from another angle, sometimes the Christian may wonder how someone has made it through a very difficult situation in life without losing his or her mind.
Paul answers situations or scenarios such as these amidst the devil’s attacks, via a Christian’s fitting his or her feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. “Peace” is the operative word found in this verse. And “shod” or “fit” in the original language conveys the idea of “binding something very tightly on the bottom of one’s feet.” What is Paul getting at?
Paul was likening the spiritual armor God has made available to the Christian to the suit of armor worn by a First Century Roman soldier. And no committed soldier would be caught dead without having his shoes fitted tightly and ready for battle. What’s interesting, is the most often overlooked fact that the soldier’s boot (or sandal) was equipped with a large spike in the heel which enabled him to plant his feet firmly and evenly so-as-to station himself mightily on the ground as the enemy approached as well as when he attacked.
How about you Christian? Are you standing firmly on God’s Word which, as Paul says, affords the Christian having made peace with God at the cross, to enter life’s battles daily with the peace of God strapped tightly to his feet. And the result? So, you can be ready to share the gospel of peace of Jesus Christ with an often confused, desperate, and terrified world! Suit up!
The Breastplate Which Is Righteousness
“Stand firm therefore…having put on the breastplate which is righteousness.” Ephesians 6:14
The Roman soldier in Paul’s day wore a breastplate into battle that would hang from the shoulders to the knees via of two sections covering both the soldier’s front and back. And what’s most interesting, is that the breastplate was usually constructed of brass metal sections which looked like fish scales which in turn, when rubbed together over time, became more dazzling in appearance. Paul says in Second Corinthians 5:21, “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Christian, when the enemy shoots a fiery arrow of accusation toward your mind which is only about 18 inches from your heart, make sure you have put on the breastplate which is righteousness (the wording in the original language), in-order-to protect your heart! God’s breastplate is permanent and will protect you from the enemy’s lies such as: a distorted view of God and false feelings of guilt, condemnation, and unworthiness.
Stand firm my beloved! Put on 2 Corinthians 5:21 for example, and blind the enemy with the truth of God’s Word! “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are.” I John 3:1
When you’re putting on God’s armor, you are putting on Jesus!
The Belt of Truth
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth…” Ephesians 6:13-14 (a).
Ever since the serpent deceived Eve and Adam into disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, the enemy of our souls, the devil, has been seeking to lead the unsaved and the saved farther away from the truth of God’s word. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul likens a Roman soldier’s gear to the Christian’s daily choosing to clothe himself of herself with God’s armor. The Reason? In-order-to stand his ground with the truth of God’s word encircled around his waist. Why? Paul says our warfare is not against human ingenuity and powers, but against the forces of wickedness who dwell in the heavenly spheres. John also tells us we war against “the father of lies, the devil, a murderer from the beginning whose nature it is to lie, and in whom there is no truth in him whatsoever!” (See John 8:44)
But how do we encircle ourselves with the truth? We stand upon the truths of God’s word found in the holy Scriptures. Pastor Charles Stanley says, “This means more than just reading the Word; we must understand exactly what it says and who is says we are. We must understand our position in Christ and His position in us.” (See John 8:31-31 and Ephesians 1:13-14).
Joni Tada said that when she was four years old, she would ride horseback with her father on his big horse; her tiny hands holding tightly to the back of his belt. She said that as she bumped up and down and slid side-to-side in the saddle, she always felt safe because she was holding tightly to her Father’s belt. God is strong and loving! He cares for you! When you pray to Him you can be assured that it is perfectly safe to tell Him all about your fears and frustrations! And, when temptations and trials come, you can trust His Truth to see you through!
Praise God for the Belt of Truth (Reality)! (See John 14:6-7)
Our Present Struggle, Our Present Source
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13
When we think of combat and of tactical war strategies, we think of battle zones in the physical sense: what we see with our own eyes occurring wherever wars are being fought at any given time. But Paul is not taking about physical warfare in this passage, but of spiritual warfare: the struggle all Christians face regarding the forces of evil with the devil as the Five-Star General in charge; those currently being fought in the heavenly spheres.
The truth is, we are no match for Satan’s fallen and yet powerful ingenuity. We need an inner strength that comes from God in-order-to daily resist the devil’s many cunning devices at store in his deadly arsenal and ready for use at any given time. Paul not only answers “Against Whom?” the Christian is at war in this preface to the Armor of God listed in Ephesians, Chapter Six, he also calls us to first and foremost, stand firm in our faith by trusting God’s promise to spiritually protect the Christian from Satan’s evil tricks with the truth of God’s Word applied via God’s spiritual armor.
God has won! He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Paul literally commands us in Ephesians 1:19-20, to stand firm in the strength of the Lord’s might (See again Ephesians 6:10), supported, sustained, and strengthened by the same power that God deployed to raise Jesus from the dead! Now that’s standing firm with a Godly confidence and with a courage to hold your ground no matter what the enemy may attempt to send your way! Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to find out more about our adversary and our Awesome God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might!
On Eagle’s Wings
“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:31
To ask someone if he or she ever becomes tired and weary would be a rather silly question to ask. The reason of course, is that we all become tired and weary from the daily affairs of life. And oftentimes that weariness is the result of mental exhaustion which can be as draining as physical exhaustion. But what about spiritual strength?
Today’s verse historically centers around the prophet Isaiah offering God’s people living in Judah centuries before our day and time, both a warning and a consolation. Because of their gross rebellion against God, the prophet foretells of the coming day when Judah would be held captive to the Babylonians who were coming to take God’s back to Babylonia as God’s judgment in response to their sin. But Isaiah is also telling the people that God would preserve and restore His people back to himself in the future. The problem is that God’s people were telling Him that He didn’t care about them anymore! How we forget! God, in turn is consoling His people through the prophet who uses the metaphor of an eagle to proclaim that God is never too big or mighty to care for His people!
An eagle soars whereas a robin flies. An eagle can capture the thermal updrafts and ride above the storm! When we invite the Holy Spirit to enable us to get God’s perspective on our problems, we will see with new eyes and with a new heart. Then, we will mount up with eagle’s wings and run and walk in life with God’s strength empowering our flight as we wait on Him! Read more about God’s eagle in Isaiah 40:27-31. In His Strength! Pastor Louie
Mothers Who Pray
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened…If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-8, 11
I read of a true story recently in which a persistent goose kept pecking at a Cincinnati patrol officer’s car until he followed this concerned mother about 100 yards away to a grassy area near a lake. And guess what he found? One of her baby’s feet entangled in a balloon string. The policeman called for his female assistant who carefully freed the gosling from its entanglement as its mother patiently watched nearby, and as both officers watched with great joy in their hearts as mommy and baby waddled into the nearby lake for a swim.
You know what’s wonderful? If a goose knows to call out for help, how much more, does our heavenly Father who birthed this instinct acted upon by this goose, desire that you and I call on him in our time of need! And not only in our time of need, but just to get to know Him deeper and deeper in daily conversation! God loves you, mess and all! He wants you to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep on tap-tap-tapping on the door of His heart! Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Thankful for mothers (women of God) who A-S-K!
The Breakfast of Champions!
“This book of the [covenant] law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8
Many folks often rush out into the day without having had any breakfast! I realize some folks may not eat breakfast nor feel that it’s necessary, but spiritually speaking, to miss out on breakfast with God spiritually, is like missing out on what many consider to be the most important meal of the day: breakfast! As a matter of fact, if I were to ask you what your favorite breakfast cereal was growing up, what would you say? For many, they would say, “Wheaties” which has always billed itself as the “Breakfast of Champions.”
Recently, I ran across this very old quote by Thomas Watson, while looking through some materials at home: “By holy meditation the soul doth, as it were, breakfast with God every morning.” WOW! What if we were to spend some time every morning having breakfast with God seated with Him at the table of His Word! God told Joshua prior to Joshua’s leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, that he and the people would experience success (mastery of the world and insight into its challenges; acting with Godly wisdom) and prosperity if they would read aloud, and chew over-and-over again, the word of God which for them, was the word given to Moses as we have recorded in the first five books of the Bible.
So, here are some helps to personalize and apply the Scriptures through daily Biblically-based meditation: (1) Pray for God to show you what He wants you to see as you read your Bible and then pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you as you navigate through your daily set of circumstances based upon what God has shown you. Then, ask the Spirit of the Living Christ to cause you to overflow with the truths learned, into the lives of others. (2) When you read the pronoun you in the Bible, insert your name. (3) Journaling down what God shows you in His word is always very helpful!
“The Living Dead” or “The Living-Living!”
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” Romans 8:9-11
Speaking a generation ago, Evangelist Vance Havner said, “We are suffering today from a species of Christianity as dry as dust, as cold as ice, as pale as a corpse, and as dead as King Tut. We are suffering not from a lack of correct heads but of consumed hearts.” And the Reverend Billy Graham said in a sermon from 1976 entitled, You Can Have Resurrection Life, ‘Most of you will admit that something is missing in your life, but you probably will not admit that you are already a living dead person.’
The Bible tells us, that the consequence of our rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden is that people are born ‘”living-dead.” But, Paul tells us in today’s Scripture “…though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” First Thessalonians 5:23 says that God has a created a human with a body, a soul, and a spirit. An animal has a body and an animal has a soul in the sense that it has a personality, but only humans have a spirit that lasts forever, encased in a human body.
Isn’t it marvelous! Paul tells us that Christ’s death and His subsequent resurrection from the dead, transforms anyone and everyone who has repented of his or her sin by the power and grace of God and has turned to Him by putting their faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, from “the Living Dead” to “the Living Living!” (See John 10:10 and John 5:24). Praise God, for this: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” The Bible says that Christians will not face the second death (See Revelation 20:11-15), but will rejoice forever with God, Jesus, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in heaven. Praise God! Praise God! Pastor Louie
“…knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4:14
The Reverend Billy Graham writes, “As the human organism is dependent on a supply of oxygen, so humanity is dependent on its supply of hope. Yet today hopelessness and despair are everywhere…[But]…there is hope that mistakes and sins can be forgiven. There is hope that we can have joy, peace, assurance, and security in the midst of the despair of this age. There is hope that Christ is coming soon—this is what is called in Scripture ‘the blessed hope.’ There is hope that will come some day a new heaven and a new earth, and that the kingdom of God will reign and triumph. Our hope is not in our own ability, or in our goodness, or in our physical strength. Our hope is instilled in us by the resurrection of Christ.”
Without oxygen, we cannot live. Without God, and without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Paul tells us we would have no hope. But because Christ has been raised from the dead by the power of God, the Bible says God’s resurrection power lives in the life of the believer today, and one day, that same believer will receive a new body to live with God forever and ever on the new heavens and the new earth! (See I Corinthians 15:12-20 and Romans 15:13).
Praise be to God for His resurrection hope!
The Love of the Cross; the Power of the Resurrection!
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Paul, First Corinthians 15:16-20 , (See also First Thessalonians 4:16-18)
One has said, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the capstone in the archway of Christianity.” Last Friday evening, Nancy and I attended “The Story of Moses” currently being held at the “Agri-Convention Center” in Wauchula. At one point in the play, following the death of Pharaoh’s son under the judgment of the Tenth Plague, Pharaoh’s Queen, said to Pharaoh as he prayed over his son he had laid at the foot of an Egyptian idol, “Pharaoh, Your God is dead!”
The truth is, all religions of the world in one way or another deny the living resurrected God of the Bible. For even if God is said to be followed and worshipped, if Christ as both the Divine Son of God born in the flesh, come into the world as the true Savior; risen from the dead, is rejected, then that religion is a lifeless and unscriptural religion.
In addressing the historical and spiritual reality of the resurrection of Christ Jesus to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims both the love of the cross and the power of the resurrection. “…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…[and you will perish].”
Brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul adds, “…But now Christ has been raised from the dead…” Hallelujah! Christ is risen! By way of the cross, your sins have been forgiven and you have been given eternal life! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16).
He is Risen Indeed!
The Path He Chose, the Donkey He Rode
“And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the Highest!” Matthew 21:9
I have always loved a parade and I have always loved Palm Sunday! Even as a kid I was attentive to the hymns we sang in my hometown church, in addition to waving the palm branches and hearing the preacher preach of Jesus’ “Triumphal Ride” into Jerusalem seated on a donkey.
You know, it’s easy to get caught up with the crowd in cheering at a parade or a sporting event! But we are a most fickle people, we who are members of the human race. The Bible says we are created of God, but we have turned against Him because of the sin that dwells in our hearts. I have known of a professional football team for example who, after losing a title match, were shunned, even if for a temporary time, and ridiculed by many of their supporters because of their defeat.
The truth is, the same crowd who shouted ‘…Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the Highest!’ on Palm Sunday, were the same group of folks who shouted angrily and waved their fists before Pilate, saying, “Crucify Him (Jesus)!” on Good Friday. And yet, Good Friday, is “good” because Jesus stayed true to the cross and three days later He did TRIUMPH over Hell, death, and the grave. Jesus loves you. Have you put your trust in Him: His life, death, and resurrection? (See John 1:12-13). What path in life are you taking? Is Jesus the King of your heart!
Thank you, King Jesus for the path you chose, and the donkey you rode!
The Love of Christ
“For the love of Christ controls us…” 2 Corinthians 5:14
What controls you? What drives you to do the things you do?
Money? Lust (wanting it now, whatever “it” is)? The need to be in control whether it be of people, places, or the circumstances at hand? The need to be recognized? The need to be accepted? The need to be loved?
Paul said the driving force in His life was the love of Jesus Christ! And the effect Jesus’ love had on Paul? The original word Paul uses translated controls (compels; constraineth) means to hold together; to secure. Paul says the reason he lived the way he lived since personally encountering the crucified and risen Jesus, was the love of Jesus! The same sacrificial love that sent Jesus to the cross was the same powerful love from the heart of God with which He raised His Son from the dead, now resided in Paul and ruled his life as it is meant to do for any Christian believer. A deep-rooted love knowing no boundaries Paul desired every Christian to know! (See Ephesians 3:14-21).
During this season of Lent, my prayer for you is that you will be captured by the love of Christ. A love that forgives, encourages, discerns, restores, heals, and puts the other person first!
“We know love by this, that He (Christ) laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3:16
In the love of Christ our Savior,
Why Jesus Came into the World
“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ John 18:37-38
Yes! Jesus came into the world to open the one true way for fallen humanity to be in right and restored relationship with God the Father (See John 3:16, Matthew 1:20-21, Acts 4:12 and I Timothy 1:15). But notice what Jesus said to Pilate in the back room of the Roman headquarters called the Praetorium located in Jerusalem when He was on trial prior to His crucifixion. Jesus told Pilate that He had come into the world “to bear witness to the truth.” That’s staggering!
In a world, and perhaps in your life, there are those who are struggling with what is true—what is real! Perhaps someone you know has been deceived by the enemy and is currently living a life of frustration and confusion. Jesus Christ was not just a good man who did a lot of good things and then, that was it! The Bible says that God has revealed to us His Son, our Redeemer, Savior, and living Lord. In a world of imposters, the historical and raised Son of God is to be the object of your faith and mine! That’s reality! Place Jesus on the throne of your heart today! Listen to Him! He will never mislead or forsake you! His promises are true and never-changing! (Read more about Jesus and Pilate’s conversation in John 18:28-40).
The Structure of the Cross
“For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life, and not only this, be we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:18
No matter if you wear a cross as costume jewelry or as a symbol of your Christianity; or you see a cross constructed of wood, steel, or plastic positioned in or outside a church building. The fact is, the cross was first God’s idea. Being God, He knew before the creation of the world, that mankind would sin against Him so He prepared a way before Jesus even came to earth, God born in flesh in a manger. And yes, even before He created the stars and the planets, God made a way to crush the authority of the enemy (see Genesis 3:15) and bring us back to Himself, namely the cross!
The design of the cross is both vertical and horizontal. It was, and is the way that sinful man and woman are reconciled (changed from being enemies of God through sin, to the friends of God and family through new spiritual birth in Christ)! AND-Paul says that because of God’s reconciling us to Himself, therefore, we are to be messengers of reconciliation. In other words, we are to lift-up Jesus to our unsaved family and friends as the way as Max Lucado says, “That which has been unraveled can now become re-stitched = reconciled!”
By God’s Design-Psalm 103:10-12!
The Foolishness of the Cross Collides with the Wisdom of the World
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” I Corinthians 1:21
God never does things the way the world does things! As a matter of fact, God tells us that to be in love with the world is to be against Him; to be opponents of the cross of Christ (See I John 2:15-17 and Ephesians 2:11-16). And Paul tells us in today’s verse that no one (Jew or Gentile), can ever come to know God through a personal relationship with His Son via the world’s wisdom. As a matter of truth, and quite surprising to the world system, Paul tells us that God is pleased by the preaching of the message of the cross, which is both foolishness to the world system while at the same time enriched with His power to save those who are lost!
Wow! That means, that God uses those who would commonly be viewed as foolish, weak, and of no consequence to bring His message of salvation. Paul himself told the Corinthian Christians that he was not an eloquent speaker or a good debater, but what He did know is that God had called Him to preach the Good News of the message of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world!
How about you? Who has God sent your way to speak His message of love, forgiveness, and healing to your heart and life? “…but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called (Christians), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” I Corinthians 1:23-24. Are you seeking to follow and obey Him even when the world considers you foolish to do so, or are you seeking man’s wisdom rather than that of God?
The Power of the Testimony of the Cross
The Power of the Testimony of the Cross
“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:1-2
What if, as a Christian, your greatest desire for your unsaved family, friends, and neighbors was “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified!” WOW! Paul’s mission in life was the salvation of the lost! That was his life’s message. To the point, Paul says in Romans 9, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren (Jewish nation), my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and temple service and the promises…” Romans 9:3-4.
Corinth was a wealthy and yet wicked city. The name “Corinthian” had come to mean, “to practice fornication.” Paul knew that only the transforming power of the message of the Cross presented in its purest form, without human cleverness or compromise attached, had the power to transform a heart for the Kingdom of God! And so, it is today! Paul to Timothy, “…preach the word; be ready in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” 2 Timothy :2
In the power of the love of Christ made evident at the cross!
Lean on Jesus!
Lean on Jesus!
“There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23
When I was a little kid, my first cousin Gary, and his family made their annual trip to my hometown all the way from Chula Vista California. One day while they were visiting, my parents took me, along with Gary’s family, to my great grandfather’s home way out in the country for a visit. Now Gary had brought plastic pirate swords and hats for us to play with, so we walked across the road with the intention of being swashbucklers in my great grandfather’s big pond. The problem was, I couldn’t swim, and somehow, playing pirates, I managed to get myself into deep water. But God provided for my dad, who had been watching us play from the other side of the pond, to walk over and check on my cousin and me at just the right time, for immediately, he jumped in and rescued me from drowning. The rest of the afternoon, I sat with my head leaning on my father’s chest during which time I was revived and restored to new life!
That Thursday evening, in an Upper Room in Jerusalem, Jesus reclined at a table with John the beloved to his right, leaning on His chest. That same night Judas would leave the room to betray Jesus, and Jesus would inform Peter that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny Him three times.
Are you drowning? Are betrayal or denial reclining at your table? Remember, like John, to lean on Jesus! Judas Iscariot’s heart remained dark, but Peter went out and wept bitterly in repentance after his denial. He would remember Jesus’ words spoken to Him in Luke 22:31-32.
Rest! Renew! Remember the Promises of God! And be ready to be restored to active service as you Lean of Jesus who rescued you at the cross because He loves you so! Pastor Louie
(Final) Adorenament No. 12: The Cross Name of Jesus: Savior
(Final) Adorenament No. 12: The Cross
Name of Jesus: Savior
The Father has sent the Son [to be] the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. I John 4:14-15
If you’re like me, you were excited about Christmas and opening presents. However, Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, when we remember God’s great love in sending His Son. With all the gifts, do you forget that Jesus is the greatest gift anyone could get at Christmas? Remember the reason Jesus was born? It’s what He said He would do hundreds of years before. We need a Savior! One of Jesus most wonderful names is Savior.
Why do we need a Savior? What do we need to be saved from? Our sins. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is disobeying God. Because God is holy, God can’t let out sins go unpunished. Someone must be punished in our place.
Good news! God the Father sent Jesus to be punished in the place of sinners! He loved His Son just like He loves us, but there was no other way, so Jesus, the spotless Son of God went to the cross for you and for me, so that we could have a relationship with God!
But here’s where it can get confusing for some people. Our ability to have a relationship with God is not based on what we do or don’t do, but on the FREE GIFT of God—the FREE GIFT to save sinners! Like a gift under a Christmas tree you can’t earn; you just receive. However, we need to confess our sins and repent. Romans 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus (as) Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” “Confess” means to be honest with God about our sin and ask forgiveness. “Repent” means to turn away from that sin and instead turn to God to live a life that is pleasing to Him. But remember this cannot be done apart from Jesus. And when you trust in Christ by faith as Savior and Lord, Jesus promises our sins are washed away, to never leave us, to send the Holy Spirit or Helper to enable us to live the Christian life with fullness and joy, and oh yes, Jesus promises us eternal life! Have you invited Jesus into your heart to be your Savior? In the Saving Name of Jesus! Pastor Louie
Adorenament No. 12 (f 12): The Crown Name of Jesus: The King of kings and Lord of lords
Adorenament No. 12 (f 12): The Crown
Name of Jesus: The King of kings and Lord of lords
“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” I Timothy 6:15
Of all the names given Jesus, none describes His power and majesty better than King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus has the highest rank of all, ruling over all kings and rulers of the earth! Psalm 2:6-8, 10-12 says, “I have installed My King upon Zion…Thou art My son…Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession…O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling…How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
Did you hear? It’s God the Father who put Jesus, His Son, as King over all! He placed all nations and kingdoms under Him! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and sovereign God! Let us take notice that God calls the nations to obey His Word! “Sovereign” means all-powerful and controller of everything. (See also Colossians 1:16).
Because we often hear about Jesus’ love, we forget about His holiness and His commands to obey Him. For those of us who are faithful to obey Him, we will one day be rewarded for what we’ve done for Him—King of kings and Lord of lords! Paul near the end of his earthly life told Timothy, “…in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8.
In the Name of Jesus, the King All!
Adorenament No. 10: A loaf of bread Name of Jesus: The Bread of Life
Adorenament No. 10: A loaf of bread
Name of Jesus: The Bread of Life
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me shall not hunger; and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ John 6:35
One of the newer ministries of Trinity Methodist is a booth we set up in our parking lot across the street in which we serve fresh-baked pastries, cookies, and other goodies to antique vendors and shoppers who attend “The Market Place” held the last Saturday of the month in Arcadia. But the most striking feature along with the fresh breads which also accompany the variety of goods that are sold, is the six-foot banner stretching across the back of the tent that reads, “Not By Bread Alone” and “Jesus is the Bread of Life.”
Did you know that although we are physically alive, the Bible tells us that we are dead spiritually—without a life giver? This causes a spiritual hunger that can never be satisfied without this spiritual life-giver. And the Good News is--Jesus is our Bread of Life!
But is this the kind of bread we eat? No. When God provided manna-bread from heaven to feed Moses and the people of Israel (Exodus 16), it was the physical food they needed to live. But Jesus says there’s another bread from heaven that we need to live spiritually. He says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Jesus was talking about Himself. He is the spiritual bread we all need—the Bread of life! Regular food is only good until we become hungry again. With Jesus, we will never hunger or thirst spiritually! (See Matthew 5:6 and Psalm 119:9).
Stay in God’s Word and Celebrate Holy Communion with great joy!
Adorenament No. 9: A Shepherd’s Staff
Adorenament No. 9: A Shepherd’s Staff
Name of Jesus: The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11
With His name, Good Shepherd, Jesus gives another picture of who He is, that He is God and to those who believe, they are His people—the sheep of His hand. Because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He cares for the sheep. In Matthew 9:36, it says that Christ “…seeing the multitudes, He felt (the words means from the inward parts), compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
Sheep need a shepherd to care for them and make sure they don’t get hurt or lost. If you were a lamb, wouldn’t you want a shepherd? At one point in the Bible, Jesus talks about a shepherd who had 100 sheep and left 99 of them to go and find one that was lost. A good shepherd is willing to leave those that are safe in His care to save one that is lost without Him.
And that’s what we are—lost without Jesus! Isaiah the prophet says that we are sheep that have gone our own way. We are lost and have no hope, and like a sheep that is stuck in a thicket and can’t get out, we are hopelessly lost in our sins. That is why the Good Shepherd was willing to lay down His life for us sinners. By doing so, Jesus provides the way for us to come to Him and become children of God. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…”
Do you want Jesus to be your shepherd? Then invite the Good Shepherd into your life and ask Him to forgive your sin, change you, and make you more like Him. Finish by thanking Him for dying for you in your place so that you wouldn’t have to. As a result of this, you become one of His children—sheep who were lost but now have been found by the Good Shepherd.
One of God’s lost sheep who has been found! Praise Him!
Adorenament No. 8: A Lamb The Name of Jesus: The Lamb of God
Adorenament No. 8: A Lamb
The Name of Jesus: The Lamb of God
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
In the Bible, sheep are mentioned more than any other animal—750 times. So, it’s not surprising that Jesus be given the name, The Lamb of God. But, instead of coming like a lamb, why didn’t Jesus come as a strong man or a conqueror? After all, at the time, the Jews were ruled by the evil Roman Empire and they hoped God would send them a king to conquer and overthrow these Romans.
But did you know the Jew’s greatest problem was not being ruled by the Romans, it was the problem of sin? Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the [sin] of us all to fall on Him.” Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” Because God’s punishment for sin is death, someone had to die to pay the price for sin.
In Jesus’ time, the Jews would sacrifice or kill a lamb as temporary offering to God for their sins. However, only a perfect and complete sacrifice, without spot or blemish, could forever take away the sin of the world. Only a Lamb of God.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the Lamb of God—that perfect and complete sacrifice sent by our Father in heaven. As the Lamb of God, Jesus willingly obeyed His Father, going to the cross and dying for sinners. Have you been to the cross, inviting the Lamb of God, Jesus, to wash your sins away and give you a new heart and life now and forever? Invite Him into your heart today? Pastor Louie
Adorenament No. 7: A Lion
Adorenament No. 7: A Lion
Name for Jesus: The Lion from the tribe of Judah
“…behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah…” Revelation 5:5
When we think of Jesus at Christmastime, we remember Him as a gentle, sweet, and weak baby. We don’t think about Him being strong, do we? And yet the Bible teaches that a name for Jesus is the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Why a Lion?
Well, we know the Lion is one of the most royal or kingly animals in the world. His gold coat and long, thick mane make him look like he is the king of the animals. He is also the largest of cats. One swat of his paw can kill, and yet, he can show the most tender love for his little lion cubs.
But why does this verse say Jesus is from the tribe of Judah? The tribe of Judah is a royal tribe of God’s people, the Jews. (See Genesis 49:8-10). In the Bible we know it was foretold years before Jesus was ever born that He would come from this royal tribe. Matthew and Luke’s
Genealogies proclaim his lineage as rightful heir through the family of King David and the royal tribe of Judah.
Yes! Jesus is King over all things and He is the most powerful being of all, either human or spiritual! But his tender love for us, His children as shown on the cross, is the most wonderful thing to have because we don’t deserve it. And the good news is no power in heaven, on earth, or under the earth can ever separate God’s children from King Jesus! You can choose to receive God’s wonderful love for you by believing in Jesus—the Lion from the Tribe of Judah! Praise Him!
Christmas Adorenament No. 5: A Candle Name of Jesus: The Light of the World
Christmas Adorenament No. 5: A Candle
Name of Jesus: The Light of the World
“Again, therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” John 8:12
Studies indicate that people living at the extreme Northern and Southern Hemispheres suffer from depression when there is an increase in darkness due to shorter days. Have you ever tried to find your way through a dark room? That room may have been a physical room or perhaps a room of darkness, such as the room of fear, the room of hopelessness, or the room of despair. You can even hurt yourself in the darkness if you’re not careful. But when you turn on the lights, you can see your way.
Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there has been a deep darkness in the world that comes from being separated from God, His truth, and His love. We are lost apart from God and we need to be made right with Him so we don’t have to walk in darkness anymore. We need light!
John 1:4-5 tells us, ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness…’ Praise God! Jesus said Himself, that He is the light of the world and he who follows Him does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life living inside him! Just like the sun that lights up the earth, Jesus lights up our lives spiritually. And just like the Christmas lights that make a tree or a house look pretty at Christmastime, Jesus makes us look beautiful to others by lighting up our lives with His truth and Spirit.
Praise God that Jesus is the Light of the World! He came to earth to light up our hearts with His love so that we can display what Christmas is really all about and that is, to love others the way in which Christ loved us from the Cross and loves us still!
Merry Christmas God’s Children of the Light! Pastor Louie
The Giver of Living Water: Adorenament No. 4
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10
The Adorenament I used for this past Sunday’s children’s time is named, “The Giver of Living Water.” It features today’s Scripture printed on a water pot with some of the water spilling out its mouth.
Have you ever been thirsty? Of course! We all get thirsty because we have a physical need—the need for water of something to drink. But did you know you have a spiritual thirst also? This spiritual thirst comes from our need to know God and His gift to us—Jesus! We all need spiritual or living water to take care of our spiritual thirst.
When Jesus saw the woman at Jacob’s well, He asked her for a drink because He was thirsty. But He knew she was lost in sin, so He wanted to help her understand her spiritual thirst that could only be satisfied by ‘living water.’ He was trying to help her see He would give her living water if she would receive Hi as her Savior.
What is this living water? Unlike the water at the bottom of a well, living water never ends. In John 7:38, Jesus says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He gives us this living water, the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and helps us obey God. Have you invited Jesus to be the Giver of Living Water to your inmost being? With Him you’ll never be thirsty again! Read more about Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:1-42.
The True Vine: Adorenament No. 3
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Have you ever cut off a branch for a Christmas tree? What happened? It died, right? When a branch is cut off from a tree, it stops growing because it’s not receiving the water and nutrients it needs. The same is true with the grape vine. Unless a branch abides or stays connected and gets the food it needs, it won’t produce grapes. The branch is good for nothing.
In today’s verse, Jesus is announcing to His disciples as well as the religious elite and other onlookers in the crowd, that He is the vine and His disciples are the branches. He says, if they choose to abide (stay connected) to Him they will flourish and bear not only fruit, but much fruit for the Kingdom of God, but if they choose not to stay connected to him they, will be fruitless to the Kingdom.
How does a Christian maintain the healthy relationship the Father (the Vinedresser) desires for all His children in Christ? One way in which Christians abide is by obeying God’s Word, the Bible. As we study, memorize, and hear the Word, we learn how to live as Christians. When we ask the Holy Spirit (likened to the sap in a grapevine/branch relationship), He’ll help us understand and obey God’s Word.
Another way we stay connected is to spend time with other Christian believers in fellowship during worship, ministry, and other activities, as well as sharing the truth of the Gospel: that Jesus saves, with others. This Christmas, let’s live the True Vine life! (See Galatians 5:22-23). Pastor Louie
Adorenament No.2: The Door
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
I recently discovered that NASA is in possession of the world’s largest door; four doors to be exact! These doors open into the (VAB), The Vehicle Assembly Building in which the Space Shuttle was assembled.
But what about the world’s most important door? This door was born in Bethlehem and was about 19-21” long, weighing 6-7 lbs. This baby would grow into adult hood standing about 5’7-10.”
Who is this door? Jesus Christ, the Son of God! John Ten records Jesus using pastoral (shepherding language) to explain to His disciples and the crowd that He is the Door for the sheep. He would have been referring to the hillside shepherds of Israel who would lay down to serve as the door to their respective flocks of sheep at night during the warmer months. Those the angel addressed in Luke Two!
John 14:6 records Jesus astounding the religious elite and the world when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, He opened the one and only way for all people to have access to the Father now, and forever! Therefore, when one surrenders his/her life to Jesus at the cross and is washed clean of his/her sin disease by Jesus’ blood, Jesus Himself says that person shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture. In other words, he shall find rest, joy, the forgiveness of sins, and the filling of the Spirit when one confesses his sins (See I John 1:9). So, if we stumble or sin or just want to talk, Jesus is waiting to hear (His sheep), and talk to us. Adoration to the Great Shepherd of the Sheep!
Adorenament No. 1: Immanuel
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23
Many years ago, I ordered an “Adornament” kit in the mail produced by FamilyLife containing twelve Christmas ornaments entitled, Adorenaments. So, for twelve Mondays in the 2016-2017 Advent/Christmas Season, I am going to share with you a clip of what I will be hanging on our Adorenament tree which has been placed in our sanctuary for both children and adults to contemplate this holiday season. The first Adorenament features the baby Jesus in His manger with today’s Scripture written across the design.
The truth is, hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born, it was foretold (See Isaiah 7:14), that a virgin mother would bring a very special baby into the world—the Son of God. This baby would not be a normal baby. He is perfect—without sin—because He is God, but He was like us in that He was human. He’s both God and man! Therefore, one of His names is Immanuel, or ‘God with us.’
The name Immanuel (or Emmanuel) shows how much Almighty God loves us by coming to earth as a man to save us. Jesus made it possible for us to have a relationship with the Father, for He took our sin upon Himself so we, in turn, could be forgiven and made right with God now and forever! Only the sinless Son of God, the God-man could accomplish this!
Jesus also came that we might understand God the Father and the life He wants us to live. Jesus lived, ate, slept, drank water, and breathed air as we do. He was happy, sad, angry, and tempted as we are—yet He did not sin. He was the perfect example for us on how we are to live our lives to please God.
Also by coming to earth, God could understand us! How awesome is that! As Max Lucado says, “God gets us!” We don’t fully understand this mystery—that Jesus can be both God above us and God with us, but we know from the Bible that it’s true! Immanuel: God with us, now and forever!
“…and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And He was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine-where are they? Was not one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner?’”
What an amazing scene! Jesus and his band of disciples have just entered a town where 10 leprous men are shouting from a distance as they greet Jesus. These men were considered “untouchables” in their day and yet they are shouting all-the-more, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” “No one else cares!” We need You!
The truth is, Jesus did show compassion to them. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests which would have been the right thing to do via the priestly law under the Old Covenant law of Moses. Then, the Bible says as all ten lepers left to go to the priest, all ten were healed, but the only one who returned to humbly offer thanks and give all the glory to God for his gift of healing, (who returned immediately by the way), was the Samaritan. Upon which Jesus said, “Rise and go your way, you faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19).
It is wonderful and amazing what a thankful heart will do! But first and foremost, a heart accustomed to Godly gratitude will increasingly give God the glory!
Think about it! Dr. Luke, a physician, offers us the key to a healthy and vibrant Christian life not matter what the circumstances! As sure as faith and salvation go hand-in-hand, the body and the Body of Christ will only thrive to the proportion that it is truly thankful to God!
Thank You, Lord!
The Thankful Heart
O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1-3
Thankfulness leaves no room for discouragement. There is a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan kept his seeds ready to be sown in the human heart, and on finding the seeds of discouragement more numerous than others, he learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere. When Satan was questioned, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could never get them to thrive. ‘And where is that?’ asked the man? Satan replied sadly, ‘In the heart of a grateful man.’ (V. Norskov Olsen, President, Loma Linda University).
Have you been discouraged regarding someone or something? Discouragement can lead to despair and to depression. Take courage my friend! Christ defeated and disarmed the powers of Hell from the Cross, and one of the mightiest weapons the Holy Spirit dispenses from God’s arsenal for His children each and day is, Thanksgiving!
All Praise and Glory to our Mighty Triumphant King!
“Behold, how good and how pleasant if is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Jesus’ Prayer, John 17:20-21
Friday night, November 4th, our congregation was blessed to participate in a “Unified Evening” under the evangelistic ministry of my dear friend from Columbia County, Pastor Willie Brown. God spoke to Willie’s heart long ago these Scriptures and others found in the Bible, that address a simple, fundamental, and life-changing truth regarding the church, the Body of Christ. That truth proclaimed throughout the Scriptures is that of unity.
Willie not only boldly warned us of the dangers and pitfalls that occur when Christians are not unified, but he also encouraged us as to the rewards of loving one another unconditionally in Christ as we allow the truth of the word of God to change our hearts and behaviors. He also reminded us of the Bible’s proclamation that a house divided against itself will fall whereas unity among the body of believers produces one of the most powerful witnesses to a world that has become so violent and fractured.
For me, one of the highlights of Willie’s message was his quoting Jesus prayer as listed above. Think of it, Jesus prayed before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion that as He and His Father are one, so is His body, of which He is the head, to be one. As Willie said, and I paraphrase, “Church, get out there and do something!” Go out in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ and make a difference for your community as you serve the Kingdom of God!
Lord, Make us One in Christ!
Call the Doctor!
And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with tax-gatherers and sinners?’ But when He heard this, He said, ‘It is not those who are healthy that need a physician, but those who are sick.’ Matthew 9:10-12
My mother was never one who loved to bake, especially cakes. But one day one of her friends said to her, ‘Jeanine, I have something for you called “The Never Fail Cake Icing Recipe” which is sure to be a success.’ Well, one Saturday afternoon in 1976, mom poured the recipe onto a chocolate cake which she had placed on one of those vintage cake pedestals, but most of the icing proceeded to immediately run off the top of the cake and onto the kitchen table below, to the point that mother had to chisel it off! Immediately she put a cake cover over the poor little cake and placed it on the kitchen stove. Then she walked into the den to watch the Yankees play ball!
Well, as one would have it, in the meantime, a dear nervous neighbor one street over, thought she saw smoke coming out of our front windows and called the fire chief who was a friend of my parents. I was in the back of the house studying for a test I was to take at the Jr. College I was attending, when all-of-the sudden I heard two fire trucks pulling in the front yard. Mom and I came to the door and let the fire chief and a couple of firemen into the house to only discover there was no fire! As they were leaving, mom felt so bad they had come for nothing that she said to Guy Campbell the Fire Chief, “Guy, would you and your men like a piece of cake?” And he said, “We sure would!” But when she slid the cover off, Guy said, “Jeanine, Skeeter (my dad) doesn’t need a fire department, he needs a doctor!”
Do you need the Great Physician? Jesus came to seek the sick and the lost? If you haven’t already, would you trust Him today to cure you of your Sin disease by His precious blood, and make you right with the Father now and forever? Jesus loves you! (See I John 4:14-15). Pastor Louie
A Wood Pile Conversion!
They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, 1:23-24
My mother’s brother, my Uncle Jerry, tells of man he knew of personally when he was a little boy, who used to stand upon a woodpile outside a Northeastern Alabama town and publicly make fun or preachers. The interesting thing is that Uncle Jerry said that same man fell off the wood pile one day in the midst of his mockery, and when he arose, he began preaching, and ever since that day, he preached the gospel of Christ to anyone and everyone who would listen to him!
WOW! Hard to believe isn’t it? But think of Saul to whom the Holy Spirit inspired to pen three-quarters of the New Testament! The one who God had to get his attention by knocking him off his horse via the resplendency of the risen Christ as he traveled the road to Damascus in order to capture and bind Christians so as to bring them to Jerusalem and put them to death! Read the Galatian Scripture listed above once again!
Whether a wood pile conversion or something on the softer side; the good news is that God loves you and has a plan for your life, and He will do whatever it takes to get your attention if you are only willing to have a heart open to His love waiting for you at the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ! And note that Paul the Christian’s desire was that God would be glorified through his conversion!
If you feel there is no hope for you or you’ve sinned a sin so terrible God could never possibly forgive you, check out the life of Saul who became known as Paul in the Scriptures, and invite the Holy Spirit to transform your life by The Great Transformer, Jesus Christ! (See Acts 9:1-22; Galatians 1:11-24).
A Very Thankful Pastor Louie
Prayer in the Face of a Crisis
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its window opened toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Daniel 6:10
When given the Book of Daniel, most likely the episode with the Lion’s Den (Chapter Six), or Daniel’s three friend’s deliverance from the fiery furnace (Chapter Three), will surface as a point of conversation. In either case you have: (1) a certain crisis at hand, (2) a defining moment in which a decision must be made, and (3) a call to pray!
Historically, Darius the Mede had been tricked by a group of administrators who were jealous of Daniel’s rise to power in the king’s court, into signing a law condemning anyone who prayed to any god or any person other than Darius to the lion’s den! But notice what Daniel did. He didn’t panic although I’m sure he was frightened by in the face of impending danger. He did what he had been doing the many, many years ago when he had first been exiled to Babylon (now controlled by the Medes) under King Nebuchadnezzar, He turned his face toward Jerusalem, and He prayed.
And you know the rest of the story! He was delivered from the mouths of the lions (who by the way weren’t old and wearing dentures, but real and ravenous), by the hand of the Lord!
Are you standing before a lion’s den? Will you complain, compromise, or will you trust God all the way?
Handle with Prayer
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. Acts 3:1
Over the years, I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of times I have seen packages marked, “Handle with Care” positioned at various locations whether it be at the post office at Christmas time or a UPS package delivered to my front door. Interestingly, I have a prized possession hanging in my office at the church which reminds me of God’s care for his fragile creation.
It is a little banner-like strip of tapestry about three feet long embroidered with flowers set against a light greet background featuring these words: “Life is Fragile, Handle with Prayer.” And positioned strategically at the bottom of the tapestry is a little bird’s nest housing 3 white eggs in perfect condition.
In Peter and John’s day, “the ninth hour of prayer” was 3 p.m. in the afternoon and associated with the evening sacrifice held at the temple. My friend, life is fragile. We all watched closely as Hurricane Matthew hugged the eastern coast of the United States this past weekend. Do you have a time and place to pray? God eagerly waits to hear from you.
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! that calls me from a world of care, and bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes known. In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief, and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer! (William Walford, 1845).
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Paul, Colossians 4:2
Does God Know I Exist?
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:17
Have you or someone you know ever asked the question, “Does God know I exist?” In other words, “Does He know what I’m going through right now?” or “With all the things God has to keep up with, how important am I in the scheme of things?”
The Bible says first of all that God created you, breathed His life into you, and you are of sacred worth to Him. (See Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139:13-14). The Bible also says that because of SIN, you and I were born separated from God and in need of spiritual regeneration that only God can provide through His Son Jesus Christ. (See John 3:16 and Romans 3:23, 6:23).
Today’s verse was written to the Jews of Judah around 625 B.C. in which the prophet Zephaniah is speaking of God’s promise of a future blessing for the Jews after the Second Coming of Christ back to the earth. We haven’t even scratched the surface in this blog, but if today as someone unsaved or saved by the blood of the cross. Ask God to speak these verses to your heart, so that you can see how important YOU are to Him! And if you have never invited Jesus into your heart as Savior and Lord, you can do that today. “Dear Jesus, I believe that you died on a cross and rose from the dead for me. I receive you right now, as Savior. Come into my heart and make my life what you want it to be. Thank you Lord for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” And be sure and let someone know the decision you made for Jesus.
Does God care about me? “…He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17. Yes, He cares for you! He has done everything out of love in order to have a personal relationship with you!
The Lifter of My Head
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. Psalm 3:3
Have you ever faced a giant in life? One who is so much bigger and stronger than you; whose motive is to keep your eyes off of God and on the set of circumstances appear to be insurmountable at the time?
I played left offensive tackle on for the Albertville Aggies Junior High football team in my home town of Albertville, Alabama, in the early 70’s. I remember one particular Saturday practice when coach “Puny” Jolley had the lineman practice their blocking on defensive members of the team. My opposition was bigger, older, and stronger than me, and he kept using his forearm to knock me into the dirt every time I tried to block him. Now it just so happened that I was privileged to be playing on the same team with David and “Charley” Hannah whose older brother, “Big” John Hannah, was playing for Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide at that time, and who had come to watch his brothers practice. Well, it didn’t take long until “Big” John let me practice a few blocks on him (and he wasn’t even wearing pads)! He told me this, “Louie, you’re looking down when you block your opponent!” “Look up when you block and it will make a difference!” And you know what? It did make all the difference! And from that time on, that other kid wasn’t able to knock me to the ground!
In this Psalm, King David’s son, Absalom was after him! Even in the midst of family trouble, keep your eyes on Jesus! And remember, no matter how big the opposition may appear, your God is the lifter of your head and He is greater than any opposition you may face!
God’s Highly Exalted Son
Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Bible says that one day, every person and every principality, in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth will bow down to the majesty, and the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. That means whether one is a Christian believer or has rejected God’s only son in this life, each will bow down to the authority of God’s rule: His righteousness, His Kingdom, His power, His forgiveness of the sinner who has repented of his sin and come under the saving blood of the Son, as well as God’s righteous judgment upon the unrepentant sinner who has freely chosen hell instead of eternal life with God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
But what is so amazing is the amazing love of God demonstrated in the verses preceding these verses of Scripture which speaks of the supreme example of Jesus Christ who came to earth, born in human flesh, who although he gave up no rights to His deity, took on our limitations as a man. Why? So he could die a real death on a cross and impart to each Christian the attitude of humility that puts the other person first, and which draws others to the love of God. Bottom line: God’s understands your life because Jesus came as both God and man. Praise Him today for His Son’s coming to earth to be clothed in the robe of humanity!
Impatient with Your Impatience?
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… Colossians 3:12
Have you ever been impatient with your impatience? When I was a little boy, my mom used to take me to the carnival that would take its form and shape next to the High School each year. Mother told me on more than one occasion that I could never be satisfied on any one of the various kiddie rides typical to a carnival of those days, because I was pointing to the next one I was going to ride while riding the one I was seated on! And honestly, throughout my life I have had to keep a close watch on this bent towards impatience!
It is said that patience is a virtue, and it is. But Christ-like patience makes all the difference in the world and in the day- to-day relationships we share with others. And that’s why Paul lists it as one of the pursuits of the child of God. Today, why not invite the Holy Spirit to rule your life with patience from which will flow the waters of contentment as well. You can be sure others will notice the difference in you as they are drawn closer to Christ! (Read Colossians 3:13 and Galatians 5:22-23).
To the Chosen of God, Holy and Beloved,
Laborers into the Harvest
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ Luke 10:1-2
I always enjoy having the Labor Day weekend at my disposal so I can spend a little extra time resting and relaxing before a very busy Fall season comes to life in my calendar book! Today’s Scripture finds the Lord Jesus commissioning 70 workers to go ahead of Him, out into the fields as harvesters for the Kingdom of God! But in order to prepare them for this mission, Jesus gave them the most important instruction of all, the call to pray! “…therefore beseech (ask-beg in prayer) the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers (workers) into His harvest.” Who’s harvest? The Lord’s harvest. And why pray? “The harvest in plentiful but the laborers are few.”
How about a celebration of God’s Labor Day? The day we begin to pray for workers to go out into the fields which are ripe for the spreading of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, right here in Arcadia-even next door. Wow! Prayer takes work, but the benefits bring all the glory to God and renew the workers at the same time!
Read of the experiences of the 70 and the remaining context as this event continues through the 24th verse.
Praying for Laborers,
It’s All Greek to Me; And That’s a Good Thing!
That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:22-24
When I attended Asbury Seminary in the mid 80’s I was required to take classes on the Greek New Testament. I will never forget the day I spoke with my teacher after class expressing my concern as to how I would be able to handle Greek when I struggled with English syntax from time to time. He smiled and said, “Louie, don’t worry, keep coming to class for I assure you that as you learn the Greek, your English will improve.” And you know what? He was right!
Paul uses two different original Greek verbs in the passage above translated “lay aside” and “put on.” The wonderful and amazing thing is that God is a mighty God right down to the details! And although they are different words, these two verbs are both of the aorist tense of the Greek verb and in the middle voice of the verb. Now don’t worry if that’s Greek to you, for the meaning can be transformational to you daily Christian walk!
The aorist tense of the verb as used here denotes an action that has occurred in the past, but continues on, without limit. The middle voice means the subject (the Ephesians Christians) initiate the action as they participate intimately in the results of the action. Wow! Paul tells us by experience, that when one becomes a Christian, his or her filthy robe of sin is exchanged for Christ’s robe of righteousness at the cross and by His blood we are cleansed forever! Then, in the day to day, we don’t have to walk “in the former manner” in which we lived before we were saved, but as Paul says in effect, we are to “lay aside, lay aside, lay aside…” the old self and “put on, put on, put on…” the new self.
Invite God to help you live New Testament Greek style each day! And He will.
Praise God for Jesus (the Subject) who became flesh and dwelt among us!
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Jesus’ words spoken in John 14:27
Nancy and I recently returned from one of the most wonderful vacations we have ever had; our first cruise ever, taken aboard Disney’s cruise ship named, “The Disney Dream.” What was also extra special about this trip was our son Christopher and daughter Christy, along with her husband Kyle, being able to take this adventure with us. We left out of Port Canaveral on a Friday afternoon and arrived at our first port of call at Nassau in the Bahamas on Saturday morning. Sunday morning found us at Disney’s own island, “Castaway Cay” where we enjoyed a day of rest and relaxation amidst Christopher and Kyle’s snorkeling for an hour or so before our return to Port Canaveral on Monday morning.
At “Castaway Cay we really enjoyed one section of the island called “Serenity Beach,” which was open to those eighteen years of age or older. It was so quiet and peaceful. The water was cool and clear as we sat in our beach chairs near water’s edge, enjoying the beautiful sky and tropical scenes. Later our family walked out to a sandbar located nearby where we saw a perfect starfish.
The wonderful truth is that although days like this come and go as we return to the realities of day to day living, Jesus said that He is the constant answer to our heart’s peace when we are troubled and afraid-when the sky is black and the waters are turbulent and we wished we were on that tropical island without a worry in the world. Isn’t it wonderful however, that in those times Jesus has promised to give us His peace for: mind, body, soul, and spirit! Pastor Louie
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:12-14
My brother and I were blessed to have our grandparents purchase new school clothes for us each year as we were growing up, and I remember this act of love and generosity with deep gratitude in my heart to this very day. But I am thinking of one time in particular, when my grandfather Mabrey took me downtown Albertville, Alabama, to Dendy’s Men’s Clothing store to purchase a brand new suit for me when I was about sixteen years old. This was so exciting because Dendy’s was the nicest place in town to purchase men’s clothing! My ensemble consisted of a new coat, pants, shirt, tie, accompanied by a pair of new shiny black shoes. Boy O’ boy was I proud of my new clothes when I walked out of the store that day.
Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians to walk confidently and tenderly in the new suit of clothes they had put on when they became Christians. Paul says in Second Corinthians 5:21 that at the cross, we exchanged our robe of unrighteousness for Christ’s robe of righteousness. Carefully read the above passage slowly, several times. What if we were to exhibit this clothing as the Body of Christ in the community and the world in which we live today? What a difference it would make! My grandfather lived these verses!
Praise God for our new clothes!
The Great Exchange
Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. And Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. I Samuel 18:1-4
This is one of the great events of Scripture! That day, Jonathan, King Saul’s son, cut a covenant agreement with David exemplified by the custom of exchanging robes and armor, and the significance of this for you and me as Christians living the age of Christ’s grace is astonishing!
When David received Jonathan’s robe that day, he was symbolically putting on Jonathan as Jonathan in return, was symbolically putting on David. (The covenant was unilateral in effect). As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us their soul’s (in Hebrew meaning “the whole person”) were “knitted” or linked together, permanently! And the motive behind it all was God’s amazing love! And to think that God loves us so!
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ was born fully God and fully man! The day He died on the cross, He had taken the nails in human flesh so that the power of the devil would be made useless. At the cross we exchange our robe of unrighteousness for His robe of righteousness, permanently! Hallelujah!
Thriving in the Desert
And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:12
Ezekiel’s ministry was to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. This verse encompasses Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial Temple in which he saw a river emerging from the Temple flowing eastward. What’s neat is this river influences the desert around it and made even the desert come alive-thrive!
For the past four blogs, I have taken you on a little journey via the Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp’s Summer theme entitled, CACTUS: Thriving in the Desert! We have observed that as Christians, we will have real spiritual desert times in our lives. This is going to happen! But, we have also learned that especially during these times, we can be thankful for God’s purpose for bringing new life to us through the power of the Holy Spirit so the leaves of our lives will not wither nor will the fruit of our Christian lives fail!
Praise God today for the living waters of Christ which not only renew your desert places with His hope, love, and call to service in the Father’s Kingdom, but bring healing as well! For even a cactus holds water! (See Revelation 22:1-5 and its description of the New Jerusalem to come).
Finding Purpose in the Desert
Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’ John 4:13-14
As many of you know, my hobby is presenting Gospel Illusions in churches and various other places. One of my favorite “puzzles for the eye” is the illusion of the endless jar of water. In a recent show at Trinity given to support our upcoming AWANA program to begin this fall, I featured a large silver vase in which I frequently emptied of water, only to find it refilled each time within a few minutes. I will never forget the little boy who sat at the end of the stage and would run up to the water pot to look inside each time I would pour out a fresh batch of water from the vase.
John tells us that Jesus purposely sat down at Jacob’s well in the Holy Land during the hottest part of the day to offer Himself, the living water, to a Samaritan woman desperately in need of the Savior. So many folks are thirsty for something in life to satisfy the longing of their soul, something that only God can provide. Notice in the Scripture that Jesus said physical water can only temporarily satisfy physical thirst, but the water he offers will spring endlessly from within! Whatever your desert, you will find your true purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in life at no other place and in no other person than the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb!
Be filled and let your life overflow with Jesus to others!
Being Grateful in the Desert
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God. So it came about in the evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. Exodus 16:11-14
During Wednesday night’s chapel service at camp, the children, adults, and I explored the time the Israelites began to grumble against Moses and Aaron for leading them to such a desolate place where they found themselves hungry. The sad truth is that when you read Chapter Sixteen in context, you will see that in essence they were grumbling against God who had not ceased to provide for them since they left Egypt. As a matter of fact, they say they wished they were back in Egypt where they had pots of meat and bread to eat.
Grumbling individually and among the Body of Christ is a deadly thing! It never leads to anything good and productive in the Kingdom of God. And yet God was and is merciful! He knew Moses’ heart and He fed the people a healthy breakfast and supper every day! Oh! To be thankful for God’s provision! Did you notice in today’s Scripture that “on the surface of the wilderness” the manna appeared?
Heavenly Father, forgive our grumbling, and may our mouths turn instead to praise and thanksgiving! Yes, may we praise You, even in the midst of the desert!
In Jesus, the Bread of Heaven’s Name! (See John 6)
Discovering Life in the Desert
Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.’ Ezekiel 37:4-5
Last week I announced I was on my way to our children’s and youth camp in Leesburg, Florida, to serve as a children’s chaplain for the week. I had a great time! The theme for the week was “Thriving in the Desert.” During Monday evening’s chapel service, the kids and I explored our “Naming our Desert” as we likened a physical desert to a spiritual desert. For example, a real desert can be a lonely place as can our lives.
Tuesday night’s theme was “Discovering Life in the Desert,” and our Scripture selection was taken from Ezekiel’s vision of the Spirit of God restoring and breathing new life into a valley filled with what was once the very dry and scattered bones of an army of dead soldiers in the desert. The message was for the nation of Israel, but its spiritual implications are for us as well.
As with a real desert that is alive with cacti, camels, birds, flowers, and coyotes, the Spirit of God can breathe new life into the most scattered and desolate places of your life. He can raise you up to stand strong in places that seem hopeless and like a lost cause!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!
Thriving in the Desert
And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Exodus 16:2
This morning I begin an annual week long adventure that began over twenty years ago, and that being to serve as one of the Elementary camp chaplains for a week during summer camp at the Warren Willis Methodist Children’s and Youth Camp in Leesburg, Florida. Each year the camp centers around an object and a theme used for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people. This year’s theme is Thriving in the Desert and the object of attention is the cactus.
Each night I will develop a particular theme applied to children of course, and yet pertinent to all children of God. The verse above is set in the context of the children of Israel’s arriving at the wilderness of Sin one month after having left Egypt. And already we see how the Israelites were grumbling against their God-appointed leaders, Moses and his brother Aaron reflective of their lack of trust in God!
Tonight at chapel, the children and I will consider naming our deserts; those dry places in our lives. Perhaps some of these children have lost a loved one or their parents are separated by divorce. Whatever it may be, we often grumble when we are in a dry place in life, and yet Jesus calls us to allow Him to begin to replenish and restore our walk with Him. Yes, Jesus can even use the driest of deserts to turn our grumbling into thanksgiving and praise for His presence and for His provision. Are you ready to name your desert before the Lord and allow Him to work in your life this very day? I will share Tuesday through Friday night’s themes in the weeks to come.
In Christ’s Name and Power!
A Father Who Cares
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7
And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
My father went to be with the Lord several years ago, but I will never forget what a friend of the family told me as he was paying his respects to my family the night of dad’s viewing at the funeral home. I played first base on my hometown church’s men’s softball team as a teenager and into my early twenties. Late one evening we were in the finals of a local tournament and the rain had been pouring down for quite some time. Unfortunately, our team was better in the field than we were at bat that evening which resulted in our losing the game, but God touched my heart by what my friend said to me. He said, Louie I was there that night and your dad stood out in the pouring rain to watch you play and after the game was over, he told me, You know ol’ Louie was the only one on his team who got a hit tonight.
Like this story we often forget, or we are not even aware, of how our God cares for us. Read and ponder the Scriptures above. God is pulling for you! He cares about you. Don’t be afraid. Take courage!
The Joy of Being a Christian
Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous spirit.
I recently read a devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah on not losing you joy, that really caused me to reflect upon my own life! Here are the highlights intermingled with my own thoughts.
Joy is one of the greatest gifts accompanying our salvation. Professor Lewis Smedes wrote, You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss the reason for our existence! My paternal grandfather always expressed a joyful attitude in the Lord which has been a witness to me to this very day! It doesn’t mean that Christians won’t experience hard times and great difficulties in life, my grandfather did. What it does mean is that we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit who has equipped and gifted every believer with the fruit of joy of Christ! (See Galatians 5:22). The joy of the Lord is the Christian’s birthright!
Unfortunately, David waited a year after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, before he confessed his sin before the Lord, but via of his open heart and repentance before God, both his joy and his spirit were restored! If there is sin in your life that has been robbing your joy, don’t wait, confess that sin today, and invite the Holy to renew your joy supernaturally and practically for the day to day! God’s joy will assure you that He is in control of your life and that everything is going to be alright! (David Jeremiah’s Turning Points)
The joy of the Lord is my strength!
Heeding God’s Instruction
Proverbs 4:10-14 Hear, my son, accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have d
Both my dad and my grandad offered me invaluable instruction over the years designed to keep me safe and on the right path in a world filled with many deadly detours. One being, Louie, be careful who you run around with when you are out and about in this world! And in doing so, they were attempting to establish a boundary zone of protection over and around me via their experience and counsel.
In today’s Scripture, and in the context of acquiring Godly wisdom, Solomon is warning his readers to avoid bad company which is always a chief threat to Godly abundant living. You may say, I can understand how this would apply to the conversation held between a father and his teenage son, but believe me, the temptation to run with the wrong crowd is alluring at any age. Has anyone or anything been tempting you to question any given truth, or the whole truth, contained in the counsel of God lately? Stay in the Word! Listen to God, not man! Your loving heavenly Father will never lead you astray and He will meet every need you have in His perfect way and plan for your life as your daily put your trust in Him!
Jesus Christ, the Way, Truth, and Life!
The Stairway to Heaven
Genesis 28:12 And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to
Jacob was on his way from Beersheba to Haran when God caused him to stop off at Bethel. There, the Bible says he had a dream in which he envisioned a ladder (more like a stairway), extending from earth to heaven with the Lord seen standing above it (verse 13).
In speaking to one of his disciples named Nathanael in the New Testament, Jesus made a direct reference to Jacob’s ladder when he said, Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:51). The Son of Man links Jesus to his earthly mission which was to go to a cross to die for our sin disease which has separated us from God. Then the Bible says Jesus was buried, but rose on the third day, and then after appearing for forty days to over 500 witnesses, he ascended into heaven and one day he will come back for his bride, the church!
Oh to think of the fulfillment of the covenant promise of Jacob’s Ladder in the presence of Jesus Christ. Do you know him as your Lord and Savior? When you put your trust in him, the Bible says your connection to the cross on earth reaches eternally into the heavens! (See John 10:7-11 and John 14:6)!
The hymn writer says we are climbing Jacob’s Ladder, as soldiers of the cross!
An Old Country Well
Genesis 26:25 So he (Isaac) built an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched
I loved my grandmother Iris! She was my maternal grandmother, and I could not wait to go to her house in the country for a visit when I was a little kid. Her back yard was filled with adventure and mystery. Especially the old well. I loved to slide the old metal lid over to one side and yell down the hole, and then draw up some of that good old cold well water to drink, especially on a hot summer day in Alabama!
In our passage for today, Abraham’s son Isaac and his family are living near the southern coast of the Mediterranean in the land of Abimelech, King of the Philistines. Isaac has become wealthy and Abimelech’s servants have grown jealous of this foreigner living in their land so they proceeded to fill up wells that had been dug by his father, 97 years earlier. And at a place named Beersheba, we read of Isaac digging a brand new well.
Sometimes God calls us to dig a new well even in the midst of an old problem. A new attitude, a new relationship. How can we do that? Note today’s Scripture. Build, call, pitch, and dig. Think of taking your problem to God in His Word. Build an altar (worship Him). Call on Him in prayer and claim promises in God’s Word that address your problem. Pitch your tent like Isaac did (abide in the Lord’s presence). And, dig (take action, keep drawing fresh water every day from the Bible)!
May Living Waters Overflow!
The Key to the Kingdom
Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and
Harry Houdini the most famous magician of all time, is not so much remembered for performing magic tricks on stage as he is for escaping from locked handcuffs, prison cells, and trunks submerged underwater. The fact is, Houdini was a master of locks and keys which enabled him to pass from captivity to freedom. He was known as The Great Liberator during the early Twentieth Century, at a time when immigrants were coming to America seeking their freedom.
Jesus said the majority of people will choose deception over truth! They will choose to take to broad road which leads to destruction and they will choose the way of the world over the way of God and therefore, will one day find themselves eternally lost. However, Jesus proclaims that those who enter by the narrow gate, through His death on the cross via His blood, possess the key Christ holds that opens the door to eternal life. Jesus said, in John 14:6, I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me. And Paul reminds the Colossian Christians that Jesus has delivered them from the domain of darkness, and transferred them to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom they have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Have you entered by the narrow gate? Do you know someone currently walking the broad road to destruction? Offer them the key!
Unable to Repay?
Luke 7:41-42 A certain money lender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other f
Jesus asked this question of Simon the Pharisee. Simon had invited Jesus to his home to share a meal with him and his other guests. During the meal, a lady from the city the Bible identifies as a sinner, entered in, and to the dismay of Simon and his guests, began to wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. She also kept kissing his feet as she anointed them with a sweet fragrant perfume she poured over them from an alabaster vial in her possession.
By the Eastern custom of hospitality, Simon would have normally given Jesus the kiss of peace, poured water over his dusty feet, and bestowed a drop of perfume on his head or burned a pinch of incense upon his arrival, but he did not do any of these things.
Where do you find yourself in this event? Read the entire story in Luke 7:36-50 noting in particular verse 47. Jesus went on to ask Simon which of the two debtors will love his lender more? Simon answered, I suppose the one whom he forgave more, and Jesus said he had answered correctly.
Often we spend our days seeking to repay God by good works rather than accepting His unconditional love, His grace freely offered through the work of His Son, who paid our sin debt in full upon the Cross. For she loved much!
OH! What a God We Serve!
Job 26:7, 14. He stretches out the north over empty space, and hangs the earth on nothing. His mig
In his third reply to his friend Bildad, the New American Standard Study Bible commentary informs us that Job offers a remarkable description of what we now know to be a scientifically accurate description of the earth! And on top of that, the mighty thunder of the Almighty, who can understand, indeed!
As I write these words, I am looking out at the bird feeder in my back yard, and I am marveling at all these things! From the little bird as he perches to eat, the earth upon which I live as it hangs in space, and the mighty thunder of which I personally heard last night! What a God I serve!
Oh the marvelous intricacies from the smallest of creatures to the most magnificent displays of His power and His glory. This God, the one true God, if fully capable of taking care of my family and me.
And you! Praise His Name! Enjoy His majesty!
The Lord Looks at the Heart
I Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his st
I remember most vividly a particular sermon one of my pastors preached in my hometown church when I was in Junior High School. His sermon was entitled, The Body Beautiful, and he was contrasting how the media, the entertainment world, and the world of sports in particular all placed their emphasis on the way in which we look rather than character and morals. Pastor Larry went on to say, it was not what was on the outside that matters most to God, but what is on the inside of man.
In this passage, God has instructed the prophet Samuel to go among the sons of Jesse to find the next king of Israel following Saul. Upon arrival, God rejected the first seven sons of Jesse so Samuel would be led to anoint his youngest eighth son, David, who was out in the field attending sheep. And even in spite of David’s sins including adultery and murder, God saw that David had a repentant heart and was, as Scripture proclaims, a man after the heart of God.
Are you more concerned about outward appearances and trying to please God by the things you do or accomplish, or with honestly asking God what will honor Him when it comes to character, choices, and the way you live your daily life? Do you judge others by appearance? May we be Christians who invite the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out?
Jesus Loves Me This I Know
Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are Thy
Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus love me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.
I have a bookmark in my personal study Bible that I love to look at every day. It pictures a cute little gray and black puppy with ears tipped in black. The caption reads, God loves me because I’m me.
Christian, do you know that for you, at the deepest level of your heart and soul? God loves you because you are you!
God created you, you! Therefore, you are not to try to be anyone else, other than you. God gave you your personality, interests, and Spiritual gifting that comes to fruition when you are born again of the Holy Spirit from on High, (See John Three). Then, as your faith grows through spending time with God daily in prayer and in His word, you become more and more like Christ in your attitudes and actions. But it all founded upon a healthy view of the love God has for you in Jesus Christ.
David proclaimed, I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 Thank God today, that this same promise applies to you.
One day a scribe asked Jesus what commandment is the foremost of all , to which Jesus replied, The number one commandment is that the Lord God is One Lord and you are to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, there is no other commandment greater than these. Pastor Louie
Lord I Believe in You
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe
As I listen to my wife Nancy practice a song entitled, Lord, I believe in You, this verse came instantly to my mind. God rewards those who seek Him because they believe that He is. Throughout the Bible we are given the great I AM statements of God and Christ, truly meaning I AM, I AM, and there is no other! When Moses asked God by what name should he tell the sons of Israel who were in bondage in Egypt had sent him to them, God said to Moses, Tell them I AM has sent you to them.
And in the New Testament, Jesus said, I AM the Bread of Life that has come down from heaven. I Am the Great Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. I AM the Light of the World. I Am the Resurrection and the Life!
Yes, as Beth Moore has given us this five part shield of faith which will strengthen you daily Christian, not to believe about Jesus but to believe Him. God is Who He says He is, God can do what He says He can do, I am who God says I am, I can do all things through Christ, and the word of God is alive and active in me!
God forth believing that He is!
Romans 8:10-11 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is al
I can honestly tell you that on most occasions in my 26 years of ministry, there has been quite a drop in worship attendance the Sunday following Easter Sunday. Now, there is no doubt as to the wonderful blessing to be received when attending church to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday, but nevertheless, it can be rather sad to witness such a drop in attendance the following week. And yet, may we allow Paul to challenge each one of us to the deeper spiritual truth that lies at the bottom of this illustration. A challenge that encourages each one of us to the reality of the resurrection and the daily life of the believer.
Paul is writing to the Roman Christians of his day, on the radical transformation that takes place in the life of the believer enabling him or her to walk daily as a new Spirit man or Spirit woman in Christ! Therefore, the believer is no longer controlled by the flesh nor guilt and condemnation, because the Spirit of the living Christ lives inside that Christian, empowering that believer with the same power form on High that raised Jesus from the dead! Now that is something to cause us to fill our churches to overflow every Sunday, but God tells us to go outside our church and tell others of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Read Romans 8:16 and notice the spirt and Spirit relationship Paul addresses in this verse, and be encouraged these days after Easter!
Looking forward to Easter each day!
Has Been in a Has Not World
I Corinthians 15:16-20 Paul writes, For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised,
There are folks all around you and me, every day, who view the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in a has not fashion. If the dead are not raised. If Christ has not been raised. Many are Christians who say, there is no hope for me concerning this set of circumstances. I cannot work my way through this dilemma, this illness. Paul writes to the Corinthian church that if the Son of God our faith would be worthless and we would still be hopelessly lost in our sins.
But notice the Easter Sunday crescendo on earth and in heaven Paul proclaims when he writes, But now Christ has been raised from the dead! Dear Christian believer, you are indwelt by the Spirit of the living God! The Bible says you can do all things through Christ who has empowered you with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The historical fact is, the resurrection of Jesus was the Amen approval of God to the cross event! Invite God today to transform your has not into has been!
Hallelujah! He is Risen, as He said He would!
Let Down Your Hands
Psalm 46:1-2, 10 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we wil
It is very hard not to be afraid of something these days. Fear of terrorist attack. Fear of losing a job. Fear for the safety of your children or great grandchildren as they attend school. Fear of what a medical test result may reveal. Fear of change!
Historically, Psalm 46 was written at time in which the cities of Judah, including Jerusalem, were undergoing a second invasion by the evil warmonger, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, in 699 BC. The first invasion had only been one year earlier in 700 BC. This psalm addresses the deliverance of God in the midst of a military crisis. It is a psalm of trust and thanksgiving, focusing on the God of Israel, their shelter, the city of God, their security, and the deliverance of God, their peace.
In verse ten, the psalmist writes, Cease striving, or Be still, and know that I am God. Literally, in the Hebrew language, this means to let down the hands. Whatever Sennacherib type fear you may be facing today, the place to start, is by letting down your hands in an act of surrender to the God that is bigger than the fear of whatever it is you are afraid of. Allow Christ to be your refuge, security, and peace this Lenten and Easter Season. Try raising your hands, and then, literally laying them down as you pray these Scriptures!
In the strong Name of Christ,
Lord Teach Us to Pray
Luke 11:1 And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one
Before I became a preacher, I received my undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. One of my professors, Dr. Parnell, instilled in me the importance of teaching my future Junior High and Senior High students the matters of the heart as well as the head. In this text, Luke tells us that one of the disciples of Jesus asked Him, to teach them to pray.
As Christians, we have no better example for mind and heart than Jesus to teach us how to pray. As a matter of fact, this is one of the most important questions Jesus could have ever received from His disciples. And the wonderful thing is, whether you are a brand new Christian or have been a Christian for many years, you can always ask Jesus to teach you how to pray, or pray afresh! Do not let your fear of not knowing what words to stay or the frequency of your past prayers hinder you. Just step up to the plate and swing for the fence. You have been given the Holy Spirit who lives in you and will lead you Himself as you pray to the Father in the power of Christ! And the most wonderful way to get started is to use what Jesus used, the Word of God. Read Luke 11:1-4 to see what Jesus taught them, and let that prayer replace you fears and insecurities about prayer with a boldness and an excitement towards your future time with God.
In the Name of Christ Who is Praying for Us Right Now, Hebrews 7:25
A New Prayer
Psalm 96:1 Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.
In the Sixties my mom decided one morning to bleach her dark hair blonde because she had always heard that blondes have more fun. My dad gave his approval so mom went to her beautician and all was well until the drive home. When she arrived my dad asked her how it went and she told him that the only man who paid any attention to her was old and toothless and ran his car into the ditch as he looked at her. Dad then asked mom what she was going to do and she emphatically told him that she was going to dye her hair back to its original color! She did!
Well, I have to hand it to my mom for trying something new! The truth is, we often get into a rut when it comes to practicing the spiritual disciplines like prayer and worship which God has given to help us mature in our walk with Christ. One study has shown that most folks forget the meaning of the lyrics of a song after we have sung the song thirty times.
Psalm 36 calls the earth, its inhabitants, and nature itself sing a new song. In Matthew Six Jesus told the church folks who were just in it for the ritual rather than the relationship with God, that He is not impressed with empty words. Jesus said, And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way, Our Father who art in heaven. Here are some ideas. Instead of kneeling, take a prayer walk, or sing a hymn or praise song back to God as a prayer in your private worship, or stand still outside and listen to the birds sing and be thankful to God that as He knows about that very bird, He cares for you, and so much more!
Oh by the way, are you a worrier? Then you are ideal material for praying without ceasing. Invite the Holy Spirit to turn your worries into prayers and watch them evaporate into thin air!
A New Day, A New Prayer!
The Day the Wall Came Tumbling Down
Joshua 6:5 And it shall be that when they make a long blast with the rams horn, and when you hear th
When I was in High School I made some spending money one summer by helping to put insulation in a private home that someone from my hometown church was building. And in doing so, I was privilege to see the process of wall construction from frame to finished product.
Ancient Jericho was a highly fortified city, which was determined to keep the people of the Lord out upon their entrance into the Promised Land. But God had a plan, and that plan was very specific. Joshua, his warriors, and seven priests were to follow a specific plan and a specific lineup which included marching around the circumference of the city once a day for six days, and then, seven times on the seventh day with the Ark of the Covenant in view. And then, the Bible says, the last time around on the seventh day, the seven priests were to blow from the rams horns and all the people were to shout with a great shout and the walls of Jericho did historically came tumbling down!
Do you know someone who has been constructing what would seem an impenetrable wall around himself or herself for many years? The wall of fear, or depression, insecurity or an addiction that has kept them in bondage? The Bible says you can circle that person in prayer for the wall to come down.
And don’t be surprised if God calls you to pray and obey something the world would consider crazy, like circling a building seven times, for when God is in it, God is in it! Read Joshua 5:13 through the Sixth Chapter and invite the Holy Spirit to help you start circling. Pastor Mark Batterson has said that prayer is difference between the best we can do and the best God can do.
In Christ is the Victory!
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.
Recently I learned of the name and the function of the cluster of nerve cells located at the base of the human brain stem. This cluster of cells is called the reticular system or RAS, for short. Its function is to monitor our environment. In other words, you and I are bombarded daily with countless stimuli vying for our attention, and it is the job of the RAS to determine what gets noticed and what goes unnoticed. For example, Nancy and I purchased a Subaru automobile last year. Before we purchased it, we had really never noticed a Subaru on the road, but since our purchase, we see them all the time! What happened is this. Our RAS, categorized the Subaru as important and relevant to our lives, and now we are more aware of them.
Likewise, when we attend constantly to prayer and keep alert in it, like the reference Paul is using of the watchmen who stood post on the city walls in Old Testament days, we will begin to see things first from God’s perspective. The watchmen of old had a vantage point. They could see things before others see them such as an approaching enemy army, or those coming to trade items which would benefit the occupants of the city. When we pray we notice things that God is doing, when we do not pray, we are less likely to see what God is doing all around us, every day. RAS praying moves us beyond the five senses to because to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Deduction and logic can only go so far, for the Holy Spirit enables us to see the invisible and hear the inaudible. May we be First Class Noticers!
Cornelius on Prayer
He prayed to God regularly Acts 10:2
In his book, Draw the Circle, Pastor Mark Batterson, reminds us of a Gentile by the name of Cornelius and of his prayer life as recorded in Acts, Chapter Ten, in the New Testament. You may be wondering who Cornelius is, but I can assure you how a read through of his account will both fascinate you and encourage your prayer life at the same time. And in doing so, you will discover how God brought Cornelius together with the apostle Peter as they were praying simultaneously from their respective locations in Caesarea and Joppa.
But here is the thing. If you want to know of the life and the faith of this man through whom God opened the door to all Gentiles to receive faith in Jesus Christ, including you and me, you need only know of five words, He prayed to God regularly! It is true! God can change the course of history through one man or woman who has a heart after His through prayer!
Before Peter traveled to Cornelius and his home through Divine intervention, the only followers of Christ were of the Jewish sect.
Thank God today, for a man who prayed regularly named Cornelius.
May we offer God no less from the burning within our hearts to know His heart. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16
Thankful for the willingness of Cornelius and the boldness of Peter to cross the threshold to where Jew and Gentile meet!
Broken, Open, and Set to Blaze
Luke 24:30-32 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread
I invite you to sit down with the Holy Spirit today and read of the time Jesus came alongside two pilgrims as they walked with heavy hearts, the seven mile stretch of road from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35. It is a wonderful and life-changing event, not only for our lives as Christians, but in the way we look at celebrating Holy Communion. After having read Luke’s narrative, consider for your own life, the following three truths when Jesus was invited to their home as evening approached on that Resurrection Sunday.
First, Jesus took the initiative of breaking the bread and serving them
in their own home. Secondly, it was not until the bread was broken, that their eyes were opened and they recognized and understood that the Jesus they thought still dead, was alive and speaking to them! Thirdly, After Jesus vanished from their sight, they talked of how their hearts were set ablaze by Jesus who had been sharing the Living Word regarding Himself, as they walked along together on the road.
Hear the Good News! Jesus loves you, yes you! He took the initiative as demonstrated on the Cross. Paul speaks of having the eyes of our hearts opened to God’s marvelous grace and our wonderful inheritance in Him in Ephesians, Chapter One. And, when we come to Christ in our brokenness, surrendered unto Him in faith to the promises of His teachings, His Word, our hearts will burn and we will not be able to do anything less, than to tell others about Him! Luke 24:33-35. The Body and the Blood of the New Covenant, Our Savior!
The Holy But
Matthew 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, My Father,
In their book, The Rest of the Gospel, Dan Stone and David Gregory have a chapter entitled, The Holy but. Now this may seem a strange title for this chapter, but I can tell you personally that it has changed my perspective on God’s truth and my daily circumstances in a mighty way over the last few years. You see, we all live after the but. For example, we may say, Well, I know God loves me, but it does not seem like it. Everything is falling apart. I know God is my sufficiency, but I do not really have what I need. This kind of mindset produces a way of thinking and living that will keep a Christian in bondage, dread, and fear.
Jesus was overwhelmed by what He was about to undergo on the cross as He prayed in the Garden. Slowly read the Scripture again and notice what he prays before and after the but. When we place God’s truth and promises after the but rather than before the but, we experience peace and victory as the Holy Spirit moves us from fear unto faith in the midst of our circumstances. For example, you begin to say, I feel awfully weak in this, but God is my strength. I am in pain, but God is my sufficiency. Satan does not mind if you use God talk as long as it is before the but. But, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:23-24, we have been given the mind of Christ. May you begin to invite the Holy Spirit to increasingly enable you to walk the Holy but bridge to new life and victory in Jesus.
The Glory of God in the Face of Christ
Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising Go
For God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
I have a good friend in Arcadia by the name of Charles Dir, who loves humorous signs and sayings, who recently told me that wearing a frown will diminish your face value! How true! When the angel broke into the darkness and proclaimed the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, to the shepherds, Luke tells us the glory of the Lord shone resplendently in the nighttime sky, as it pierced through the darkness. And I’m sure these shepherds witnessed the same glory upon the face of Jesus when they visited him in manger next door in Bethlehem.
Paul, speaking to the Corinthian Christians, many having been misled by false teachers who had infiltrated the church and led members to believe that only by following strictly the Old Mosaic Law would one be certified as a true Christian, spoke of the face of Christ. He said the same God who spoke light into the darkness, was born in a manger for the purpose of living in the heart and life of anyone who would receive His Son into his or her life by faith. Have you ever considered the transformation a heart transformed by Christ can make on a lonely soul trapped in darkness and in need of Jesus? How your face, Christian, can be a witness to someone longing desperately for the grace and the glory of God. Let us invite the Holy Spirit to increase our face value for the Kingdom of God right where we live. A smile and a word of encouragement can change a life.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has co
If I may propose my version of the Biblical Big BANG! Before Anything New, God! Throughout the Bible, we are told that God is always doing new things. The first two verses of the Bible in Genesis tells us that God created ex nihilo, which means, God created out of nothing. Then, verse three tells us that God said Let there be light, and there was light! In Genesis Three we learn of sin and the fall of humankind, and yet God provided the first blood sacrifice when he provided animal skins to mercifully cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame after they had sinned.
Yes, before anything new, God! The Ark God told Noah to build to save he and his family from the great flood, the rainbow God set in the sky to promise the world would never again be destroyed by water, the covenant God initiated with Abram in that all nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed, his grandson Jacob. The blood smeared over the doorposts of the Hebrews homes in Egypt that protected them from the Angel of Death God used to judge the Egyptians, Christ entering the world fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, to reconcile Jew and Gentile back to God and to offer us the ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness with one another as the Body of Christ! All brand new events graciously given by a loving God who does not want His children living mundane and uneventful lives, but vibrantly and joyously in love with Him as an attestation to His glory and faithfulness to His promises.
Live the New Year and the New Covenant!
Praying for the Evangelization of the World
John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
Yesterday morning, I was so blessed to have my dear friend, pastor, missionary, and professor, The Reverend Steve Eccles, share with the Trinity congregation during worship. Steve and I have been best friends for 31 years now, having first met as students at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Steve is now called to be a Mobilization Representative for Wycliffe Bible Translation where he will recruit and train new translators for the mission field.
In addition to serving as a pastor in both the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Churches, Steve, his wife, and children have served as missionaries in Papau New Guinea and Zambia. Steve has always had a heart and longing for any people who have never had the Bible presented to them in their language, to have than language of the saving grace of Jesus Christ made available to them. I learned so many things from Steve on Sunday, but one which stuck out so clearly in my heart and mind was the fact of how Wycliffe Bible Translation ministries believed in 1995 that it would take 150 years translate the Bible into the last language on earth yet to receive their needed translation. Now, the goal has changed to the year 2025! How awesome is that!
For God so loved the world, the cosmos! His message was for all and is for all who would personally receive the sacrificial and substitutionary death of His Son upon the cross, in faith. Pray for Steve, his family, and other mobilizers and missionaries for the evangelization of the world. A soul to inherit eternal life!
That whosoever believeth in Him!
Pastor Louie and Steve Eccles
Through the Eyes of Jesus
Matthew 2:11 And they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother; and they fell down
Mr. Bob King, the Lay Leader of our church, recently hand painted a picture he placed on the lawn of our church for Christmas. The picture allows you to look through the eyes of the baby Jesus so as to see what He saw from the manger. On one side, Jesus sees a shepherd holding a Jamb and His parents, Mary and Joseph. On the other side, Jesus sees the three wise men offering Him their gifts. Above Jesus sees the star and a white dove. But directly in front of Jesus you see the Cross with its shadow pointing to the manger.
Jesus was born both fully God and fully man! He was the Lamb of God who was born to take away the sin of the world. The wise men followed the star and offered Him the gifts representing His Deity and His Priesthood found in the gold and frankincense. But the myrrh pointed to the Cross for it was used to embalm the dead in ancient times. Jesus was born for the Cross! When He rose up from the baptismal waters, the dove descended and God said, This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.
From the One who sees you and loves you with an undying love. The One who looked down from the cross and said, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. Can you see the compassion in His eyes, for you?
Jesus and the New Year
Philippians 3:13-14 Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things wh
I recently read a devotional by Pastor David Jeremiah, the highlights to which I eagerly desire to share with you this day. The new year is right around the corner, and although it is most often the time we make resolutions, how about inviting the Holy Spirit to enable you to make a revolution in your mind and in your living for 2016 utilizing this truth taken from the Scriptures and the devotional I have referenced.
As we pack up or haul off our Christmas trees, and box up the decorations, may we know afresh, how the incarnation of Christ, the truth of His entering the world for us, is a reality we never leave behind. His abiding presence is a constant reality. We never say goodbye to Him and we are never separated from Him, not today, nor ever! I encourage you to read Romans 8:31-39.
So, take a parting glance at Christmas and then press onward into a new year with Jesus Christ!
Looking forward to the blessings of Jesus and the New Year,
Restoring the Joy of Christmas
Luke 2:15-18, The Message - As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over
My mom once told me that when I was a little kid, she would take toys she had purchased for me that I had grown tired of, and no longer played with, and put them out of sight for a period of time in her bedroom closet. Later, she would bring the toys out and offer them to me as brand new gifts, taking great delight in my excitement over my new gift that I immediately began to play with, once again!
Perhaps you have lost the joy and the meaning of Christmas this year for some reason. Perhaps the birth of Christ has gotten lost in all the hustle and bustle of the season, tucked away in the closet. Take heart, God has Good News for you! Christian, the Christ who loved you still loves you! Jesus who saved you, continues to save you by His blood and the power of His Resurrection! May you rediscover the joy of the birth of Christ with the same eagerness and intensity as the original shepherds who, having heard the message of the angel, could not wait to find Jesus and then, tell others where they could find Him! The answer to restoring the joy of Christmas is, Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born! Open your present!
Light and Shadow
Isaiah 9:2, 6 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land
Art historian Seymour Slive described the great Dutch artist Rembrandt as the master of light and shadow, a compelling story teller on canvas. Rembrandts painting The Adoration of the Shepherds portrays the darkened stable in Bethlehem where two shepherds kneel beside the manger while other people stand farther away. One man holds a lantern, but the brightest light shines not from the lantern but from the Christ child, illuminating those who have gathered close to Him.
Seven centuries before Jesus birth, Isaiah used an image of light and shadow to foretell the coming of the Savior for Israel. Each person may see a different story in Rembrants painting, but perhaps each of us is represented somewhere in that stable. Are we kneeling in worship, standing back in hesitation, or hiding from the light that has penetrated our darkness?
Christmas invites us to step out of the shadows of darkness and to allow the light of Christ to shine into our hearts. Faith in Christ is not a leap into the dark, it is step into the Light. Read Isaiah 9:1-7. (Copied)
In the Name of the Light of the World and of Heaven,
Immanuel, God with Us
Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might b
Of all the names given to Jesus, this name, foretold through Isaiah the prophet hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, captures the essence of the incarnation, Gods coming to earth as a human, in the flesh, through the birth of His Son. So, what is the significance of Immanuel for you and for me this Christmas?
Simply and profoundly that the transcendent God who created the universe can be known and experienced personally, right now, and forever! Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippine Christians, that Jesus chose to leave His place in heaven and, and although remaining fully God, be born in the flesh as a little baby, one who cooed and cried, and walked as a toddler, and ate real food, and drank real water and breathed real air just like we do, and who died on a Cross for the forgiveness of Sin.
This Christmas you may feel that you are all alone, misunderstood, unforgiven, or rejected by someone you never thought would betray you. The Good News is that Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, identifies not only with your disappointment and pain, but the feelings that accompany the hurt! Hebrews 4:14-16, encourages the Christian to boldly and confidently enter God’s presence through Jesus who, as our Great High Priest, understands you and cares for you! Immanuel, God with Us, felt the pain and rejection from His own people, and yet He willingly and joyfully went to the Cross so we could be forgiven our Sin and made right with God now and forever! Jesus is Christmas come to earth!
Have you unwrapped and received the Jesus gift of love, full pardon, and forgiveness this Christmas Season? He was born for you!
The Savior of Israel and My Savior, Too!
Holy Day Leftovers
Ruth 2:15-18 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, Even if she gathers among the shea
I love holiday leftovers! Dont you? Especially turkey sandwiches! The Book of Ruth is filled with so many wonderful promises of God all built upon Jesus Christ our Kinsman Redeemer, as Boaz, was Ruths relative Kinsman redeemer. But lest we miss it, there is a beautiful truth regarding the leftovers. As a result of the kindness of Boaz, Ruth was allowed to glean behind the reapers who were still working among the sheaves, when normally and legally she would not have been allowed to do so. However by commanding that the loose grain be intentionally left for Ruth to glean, Boaz out of his love for Ruth, provided for her every need which included about two and one half bushels, enough for Ruth to have plenty, and in turn, provide abundantly for her mother in law, Naomi.
Paul, writing from prison, said that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. He said he knew how to get along with humble means and how to live in prosperity, and that he had learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. He said, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13.
Jesus, our Kinsman redeemer paid for our sin disease on the Cross and rose from the dead on the third day take away our sin and shame! His love and kindness knows no end, and His promise is to meet your needs through His perfect will for your life in the lean as well as the abundant times. And like the manna in the wilderness of Exodus Sixteen, He will always provide exactly what you need each day, no more and no less. He is the God of the leftovers!
The Reason for Cultivating a Thankful Heart
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is
I remember several years ago I was doing research for a Thanksgiving Sermon when I ran across a devotional by The Reverend Charles Swindoll that reminded me as to how we skip over Thanksgiving as a culture. We seem to go from Halloween to Christmas with little thought of Thanksgiving. You can see evidence of this when you visit the department stores. But just as inhaling and exhaling will not do the human body any good without the presence of air, a heart and life lived without gratitude to Christ will not bring spiritual pulse and vitality to the individual Christian nor the Body of Christ.
In our Scripture for today, Paul is giving us the reason for cultivating a thankful heart as believers. For this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus. Notice the always, without ceasing, in everything, language Paul uses in these three short but powerful verses!
We are not only to offer God our thanksgiving one day a year or before we eat our meals, but a thankful heart is to be ever growing and maturing within us as is our prayers and our praise offered to God in the name of Christ as originated and directed daily by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Praising God, praying to God, and thanking Him in and through His Word, is transformative!
Lord, I am thankful for the death of your Son upon the Cross as payment for my sin is a wonderful place to begin to thank Him today!
Praying for you for a Happy and Spirit filled Thanksgiving,
Psalm 100:2, 4 Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Enter His gates w
How do you come before the Lord God? Afraid? Put out because you have to be at church following a long Saturday night? With reservation? Not really caring one way or the other? Eager? Psalm 100, although only five verses in length, is a most powerful psalm in which the writer is calling on all men to praise and worship the Lord. As a matter of fact, verse one calls on all the earth to shout joyfully to the Lord.
Reread the Scripture listed above and notice how we are to serve and approach Yahweh. In addition, pay close attention to how the true worshipper was to enter the Temple of God in Jerusalem, first through the gate, and then, into the courtyard. Praise and thanksgiving go hand in hand!
In verses three and five you will discover what is at the heart of authentic praise rising up to God from the humblest believer. Invite the Spirit of the living Christ to apply Psalm 100 to your prayer life, your study and application of the word, and to your worship, and be blessed! Even the most difficult of times, do not excuse the Christian from cultivating a life of praise for the God who has promised to never leave of forsake us.
I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!
All Praise to Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The Blessing of Going and Doing Likewise
For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. John 13:15 If you know these thin
When Jesus spoke these words, he had just sat back down at the table of in an upper room in Jerusalem having just washed the feet of his disciples on the evening before the day he was to be crucified on a cross for the forgiveness of sin. Let me ask you a question and be totally honest with yourself. If someone invited you to draw a picture of the last meal Jesus had with his twelve apostles that night, would you have thought to have included a pitcher and a basin of water in which to wash dirty and smelly feet?
Perhaps you would have thought of this, but Iâ€™m not sure if I would have. I would have definitely included the bread and the cup and stick figure people seated around a box table, being that is the best I could do as a primitive artist. But Jesus speaking of the blessed life of knowing and doing his word, of following his example of service in the kingdom of his Father, offers each one of us a beautiful picture of sacrifice, purpose, and fulfillment!
Its easy to become deceived into believing that bigger is better when in Gods eyes, bowing down with loving hands, positioned to wash dirty feet, brings glory and honor to His Son. May we Christians authentically go and do likewise!
Glory to the One Who Washed My feet!
Liberality Is an Attribute of God
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, ac
There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24-25
Christian, the Bible teaches that we were created and serve a most generous God! How rich we are in Christ who has brought us back to God through His death on the Cross and has empowered us via the Holy Spirit Who He sent to indwell the life of the believer after His Ascension into Heaven. The Bible says that TNT dynamite power resides within the Christian. See 2 Timothy 1:7.
Biblical generosity requires sacrificial giving, as Christ gave Himself for us. Pastor Charles Stanley, who grew up in a single room home reverently speaks of his mom who made just enough for food, clothing, and rent, but who taught him to go to their refrigerator and freely give a little neighborhood boy who would drop by every Saturday asking Charles if he could have something to eat, some fruit or a few eggs and a little piece of bacon. Pastor Stanley reminds us that generosity is an attitude of sharing gladly whatever we might have, regardless of wealth. The choice to nurture generosity is based on trust. Only in giving do we learn that we can never out give God.
God is Good and God is Great! Deuteronomy 28:12
The Gift and the Spirit of Generosity
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he who sows
When I was about four or five years old, my mother taught me one of the most important lessons I could ever learn when it comes to giving. We were at someones house for a Christmas party and I received a little toy race car as a gift. There was another little boy who was with his mother at the party and, for whatever reason, he had not received a gift. Most likely the adults were exchanging gifts and were supposed to have brought a gift for their own children in attendance, but for whatever reason, this little boy hadnt received a gift. So, I will never forget what my mother said to me. She said, Louie, why dont you give your car to him. Well, I remember that I didnt want to. As a matter of fact, I think I cried, but my mom told me how proud she was of me while the little boy played with his new car on the carpet next to me, and in time, I was feeling much better.
Now, I am 59 years old, and I still remember the bold and loving action my mother took in planting the seed for effective stewardship Gods way in my mind and heart so long ago. That giving in faith and leaving the results to our heavenly Father, is so much more powerful than the selfishness that it truly behind, the act of taking.
Luke recording the words of Paul, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35.
Thank you Lord for a mothers lesson. Pastor Louie
The Light of Christ
John 1:4-5 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness
This past weekend Nancy and I went to see the new movie based on a true story entitled, Woodlawn. The movie is set in the turbulent years of 1972-1974 when the Jesus Revolution, birthed at an event called Explo 72 held at the Cotton Bowl in June of that year, had a transforming effect on a sports chaplain who in turn, courageously shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Woodlawn High School football team of Birmingham, Alabama. From there, God began to transform its team, coach, community and even its rival team, the Jets of Banks High School, as well as the segregation-torn city of Birmingham.
I walked away from the movie sensing a new call to the High calling and honor of being a member of the Body of Christ! God never meant for any Christian to go at it alone when being a bearer of the light of Christ in the midst of this present darkness in which we find ourselves today. Pastor Jim Cymbala reminds us how the predator is always looking for the one who has strayed from the pack. Therefore, pray for your church and for your pastor and its leaders that they will be in the word and in prayer. And ask God to give you the courage to share the gospel of Christ even when it isnt easy.
Church, it is time we stand together for the cause of Christ like never before! You were Gods idea and so is the church! Dont abandon her as some in the First Century and this century are doing! See Hebrews 10:19-25. May God empower us for this new day!
I encourage you to see the movie Woodlawn if at all possible.
In the Name of the Revolutionary Love of Jesus Christ that Conquers All,
Offering Your Gifts
Exodus 25:1-2 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution
We love, because He first loved us. I John 4:19
The Bible tells us that God, first.
God first created, God first loved, God first, forgave, God first...
Our hearts cannot truly and authentically be moved unless God first moves them through the Spirit of the living Christ. But OH, what a glorious promise and present and future reality! I have recently begun a new series of Sunday morning messages entitled, Giving Your Best to the Lord as a focus for our emphasis as a congregation on the subject of giving and stewardship.
When God told Moses to raise a contribution both monetary and material among the Israelites for the construction of the portable tabernacle that would accompany them through the desert, He said the true collection, the one that would make the difference, would be taken from those whose hearts moved them. When the Holy Spirit moves a heart captivated first by the love of God and sensitive to put God first in all things, including ones finances, then the blessings of God follow in His will and perfect way.
And the most important reason of all is, because He first loved me!
Seeking through the Holy Spirit to give my best to the One Who has given me His best in Christ,
Touched By an Angel
Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those
As I write this blog, I am looking out my window beholding the beautiful sunshine sifting through the big oak tree located in the back yard or our parsonage home. I also see the effects of the wind gently move its leaves overhead. In addition, I had stepped outside earlier this morning and felt the cool and refreshing effects of 69 degree weather that was blessing the little town of Arcadia, Florida, as well as my face.
But in reading one of my morning devotions, I was reminded of one of the wondrous unseen gifts given to me from God, His ministering spirits, the angels! As Charles Spurgeon reminds us they bear us up in their hands lest we dash our foot against a stone, they rejoice over the return of the prodigal to his Father’s house, and they welcome the advent of the believer to the King’s palace above.
If our eyes could be opened, we should see horses of fire and chariots of fire about the servants of the Lord. And yet the Hebrew writer tells us that Jesus is superior to the angels. Praise and thanksgiving be offered to Him who sends out the angels to render service to the saints, those who have inherited salvation in Christ! I can feel the brush of angel’s wings, I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place!
Since therefore brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he inaugurated for us through the veil, this is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds Hebrews 10:19-24
This morning, the Lord brought the blind gospel hymn writer, Fanny Crosby’s 1873 hymn to my mind, heart, and voice, Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
Take some quiet time with God and with a sincere heart in full assurance of your faith in Christ, feed upon this Scripture and hymn in praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to God for His blessed assurance. Put your name in both Scripture and Hymn. Have you been washed in the blood? Oh how blessed the thought, the life, and the forever!
Let this be your story, let this be your song!
The Power of Prayer
James 5: 16b The effective (fervent) prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
The Bible is clear. Oftentimes, not much is accomplished because we pray so little.
Prayer is never to be sought out as a magic formula, a Christmas wish list, or treated as a cold and dull religious exercise. Prayer is conversation with God and, as effective conversation goes, requires both speaking and listening with the anticipation of seeing what God is up to as you enjoy your relationship with Him even when He is pinpointing something in your life that isnt right. What a difference our Christian walk, witness, and service would be if we were to spend more time in prayer because we want to spend more time in prayer.
As a matter of fact the best way to deepen your prayer life is to pray and to circle others in prayer. Read what Jesus is doing now in Hebrews 7:25.
I have a dear friend by the name of Charles Dirr who recently said to me, Reverend Mabrey, remember, it is impossible to stumble when you are on your knees.
James 5:17 tells us that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain. See I Kings 17. Literally James 5:17 says Elijah prayed praying that it would not rain!
Thank you Jesus for your ever-present prayers and the joy of prayer!
The God of All Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies an
Here, Paul offers both a receiving and a giving.
Recently my wifes father, LeRoy Ringsmith, passed away peacefully at the age of 87 in Melbourne, Florida. The great comfort that Nancy and I have received, along with her sister and her brother and their families, is not only the reality signifying their dads entrance into what the Bible calls Paradise at the time of his death, but also the tremendous outpouring of love, prayers, cards, delicious food, and tender comments from our Christian community and friends. LeRoy was a Christian, and the Bible says that although his body had given out, his soul had been healed the moment he received Jesus as His Lord and Savior, the One the Bible says is the true Resurrection and the Life!
In this passage of Scripture, Paul also addresses the ministry of comfort. This past year, Nancy and I have been touched by the tender and gentle way in which her dads caregivers at Salus House where he lived in Melbourne, attended to his every need. One caregiver told me the day of LeRoy’s memorial service that he was the grandfather she had never had. Blessings received, blessings, given!
Pastor Charles Stanley, in commenting on this Scripture says Whatever the level of affliction, God’s comfort is available and adequate to meet the need. There will be trial, sorrow, and grief in the Christian life, but Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort!
Praise to the Comforter and the Call to Comfort Others,
Judgment or Grace?
Jesus, Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged
In High School I wore long hair. This may be hard for some of you to believe especially now with my Arcadia flat top, but all the same, it was 1972, and I was not alone. I will also never forget the day I decided to have my long hair parted down the middle at Dots beauty shop. I was afraid of my dads response (which wasnt that bad by the way), so I decided to drive my 73 Nova SS over to my see my Papa Mabrey and I will never forget what my grandfather said to me in all sincerity and truth when he stepped out onto the carport and I stepped out of my car, he said Louie, Thats lovely!
The same grandfather who would often teach me the Scriptures by word taught me a great truth about judgment and grace that day as reflected with his tone and actions. Take the person where they are and love them first and foremost with the love of Christ, no matter what they look like and no matter what they have done. And the words of my grandfather calmed and soothed my soul that day because I respected both the authority and the love from the one who spoke these words of grace to me-the one who had often taught me right from wrong.
READ and feed in context, Matthew 7:1-5
A very blessed and thankful Pastor Louie
Jesus said I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much frui
When I was a young boy, I used to love to watch my grandmother Mabrey tend her beautiful flower garden which was located in the front yard right next to my grandparents home in Albertville, Alabama. The neat thing was how I could sit in the front living room and look out the large picture window and right onto her lovely garden. But, better yet, was my grandmothers standing invitation to be right there with her, in the garden, as she tenderly cared for her wide variety of flowers with the greatest of love and care and even removing the weeds from time to time.
Jesus desires that we stay connected to Him and that He be our magnificent obsession. And the most beautiful place to be with Him is in the beautiful garden of prayer. What beauty awaits us each new day as we walk with Him and we talk with Him and He tells us that we are belong to Him.
In the place where the deep roots and the rich soil connect in preparation to receive the gentle rains, sunshine, and even the pruners shears, in order to become the most beautiful garden.
Sweet Hour of Prayer,
Follow the feet through Scriptures that help us remember the promises in the Word of God that help us grow closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
You delivered my feet from stumbling. Psalm 56:13
He will guide our feet in the way of peace. Luke 1:79
Your Word is a lamp to my feet. Psalm 119:105
How lovely are the feet of him who brings good news. Isaiah 52: 7
He set my feet upon a rock. Psalm 40:2
See My hands and My feet. Luke 24:39
I enjoyed remembering these promises of God with the children in our worship service yesterday. Now, let us enjoy the wonders of our mighty God was we stand on theses promises each new day!
God Will Answer You
And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will,
A few weeks ago I began my blogs at Trinity Church as a reflection of this years Vacation Bible School entitled, Adventures on Promise Island: Where kids discover Gods lifesaving love. Well, guess what? The neat thing is that if you are a Christian you are one of Gods kids! Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:5 that God has determined ahead of time that those who believe in Christ will be adopted into His family as sons (and daughters) and conformed to His Son, Jesus Christ! And as members of Gods family, John writes we can go confidently before the Lord and talk to Him anytime and no matter what the situation!
Perhaps your father or father-figure didn't offer you his full presence when you wanted to talk to him about the things that were important to you when you were a child or teenager. Perhaps he wasn't around much of the time, or any time you needed him. The Good News of the Bible is that God is always ready to hear you and me, but what pleases His heart most of all is our asking Him to see after our lives in accordance to His will. Therefore, John includes this all-important gracious limitation to our conversations with God and our listening to Him through prayer and praise. When we seek Gods will first, no matter the circumstances, we will find out that He is taking care of us!
Read Acts 16:22-34 to discover what happened when Paul and Silas cried out to God when they had been beaten and thrown into prison! Its an awesome and encouraging account of Gods answering His children when they call out to him! Pastor Louie
God Will Save You
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should
The Reverend Billy Graham once said,- Everything you need to know about the Gospel is contained in the twenty-five words found in this little verse! - John 3:16 is the gospel in a nutshell! How awesome is that!
Put your name in the verse: For God so loved ________, that He gave ________ His only begotten Son, that when ________ believes in Him, ________ should not perish but ______ should have eternal life! Do you believe this? That God loved YOU so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for YOU on the Cross and be raised by His power from the dead for YOU on the third day! The Bible says the day Jesus walked bruised and bleeding beyond recognition toward the Cross, He had YOU in mind! Paul tells us in Romans that at the right time Jesus came to die for YOU, and that His public death was proof of God's love for all people of all nations for all time, and that means YOU!
I pray that if you have never invited the Son of God, Jesus Christ, into your heart as Lord and Savior that you will invite Him in today! The Bible says those who receive Him will spend eternity with Him but those who do not will perish meaning, they will be eternally separated from God and will be fully aware of their eternal separation from Him. If you are a Christian, I invite you to spend time in prayer and praise for what Christ has done for YOU! Jesus still saves!
READ MORE ABOUT IT: John 1:12-13, Romans 10:8-13, Revelation 3:20. And tell someone about your salvation that they may rejoice with you and help you grow in your journey with Jesus.
Eternally Grateful for Gods Gift,
God Gives You What You Need
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippi
It's easy to get discouraged or frustrated when you want something you don't have, no matter what your age. You may be longing for a better job, living conditions, the right person to marry, improved health, financial stability, or relief from a most pressing and stressful set of circumstances. When I was a kid at the carnival, I couldn't enjoy the kiddie planes because I told my mom I couldn't wait to be on the kiddie roller coaster!
If you're like me, sometimes what I think I need is not really the best thing for me. The neat thing about this verse is that God has promised to always supply what we need, which is always the best because God knows best even when it is something different than what we want to have in our possession at the time. And, if God provides it in His perfect time, it doesn't matter what the external picture displays, our hearts will be satisfied because we will know a deep contentment within our minds and hearts that only Christ can provide through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I would encourage you to slowly read and think about the context in which Paul writes this verse by reading Chapter Four of Philippians. When you do, you will see how God provided for everything that Paul needed. And He will do no less for you today, as you trust Him. 'Whater' be the tide, God will take care of you" Also, check out Matthew Six.
Ever-learning to be Content with Christ,
God Cares for You
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper tim
Last time I mentioned that we were underway with our five-day Vacation Bible School at Trinity Church entitled, "Adventures on Promise Island: Where Kids Discover God's Live-Saving love." Monday's promise was: "I (God) am with you." Tuesday's theme, and my entry for today is, "God cares about you."
Have you ever wondered how God, the creator of the Universe, could possibly have time to care about you? Well,the Good News of the Bible is that God does care about you, yes you! As a matter of Biblical fact, God cares so much about you, that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die a cruel death on a rugged Roman cross, so that you could be made right with him and be given eternal life. And the marvelous truth is, that Jesus would have been born, lived, and died for you, had you been the only person on the planet. Wow! That's God's amazing love in action!
But Christian, let's take it a step further. We all have times,when the anxieties of this world attempt to overtake us - to crush us beneath a heavy load! Therefore God inspired the apostle Peter to encourage us to cast off our pride and surrender daily "under the mighty hand of God so that He could raise us up at His proper time and set us free from the ever-increasing weight of anxiety so that we can have a deeper relationship with God and serve Him effectively in His kingdom as children of God.
And how does this happen? Peter adds, by daily throwing off ALL of your anxiety onto Him. God is God of the fresh new start! Imagine a day of not having to carry the load yourself. Of truly rejoicing each day as God intends it to be even when, like little Alexander of the famous children's book, you're having a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day! Yes, even days like that you can pray, "God thank you that you care about me so much that you want to take this great anxiety upon yourself, so that I can walk free in joy and praise confidently as your servant." (See John 3: 16-17 and Matthew 11: 28-30) In Christ's tender love, Pastor Louie
Trusting in God
"...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20
This morning we have begun our Vacation Bible School week at Trinity Church. The program is entitled, "Seaside Celebration" focusing on five promises of God. Monday's theme is, "God's Promise: I am with you." WOW! What a promise! As a matter of fact, Matthew records this as the last thing Jesus said to the crowd of people who watched Him visibly ascend into heaven following his crucifixion and bodily resurrection from the dead on earth.
It's difficult to trust folks sometimes, isn't it? People, even family members, may have the best of intentions, but not follow through on their promises. The neat thing is that God always keeps his promises, and one of the greatest and most satisfying promises of all is His promise in Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to be with his children always at all times and through all circumstances.
The VBS kids are going to study the faith of the three Hebrew boys of old who were thrown into King Nebuchadnazzer's fire as recorded in Daniel, Chapter Three. Check it out. God's presence is awesome! Remember, He loves you, He created you, and He understands you current struggles and needs. Put your faith today in the One who has promised to always be with you.