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"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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LUKE

The Gospel According to YOU!
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you..." (Luke 1:3)

The word "gospel" simply means "good news." Christians should take it one step further and say it is "the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ" to distinguish it from any other "good news." There are four (4) gospels in the Bible telling the Christian message through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are synoptic gospels because they share a "common view" of the deeds of Jesus. The Gospel of John depicts the person of Jesus more than His deeds. Each one of the gospel writers spent time with Jesus except Luke, the only Gentile writer of the entire Bible. Luke compiled his data by what others had recorded (Luke 1:1-4).

Did you know you are writing a gospel? You write a chapter each day by the words you say and by the deeds you do. So let what you do be pleasing to God. It will never appear in the Bible, but others will see and know that there is a gospel according to YOU!
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God's Plan for a Greater Purpose

Both of them [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1:6-7)

Elizabeth probably wondered why she couldn't conceive. She probably prayed and prayed and prayed, but she did not conceive until her conception was for a greater purpose. If she had conceived earlier, her baby would not have leaped in her womb to acknowledge the Messiah when Mary visited her. Her son would not have been born at the right time to be the forerunner of Jesus.

Zechariah and Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, was born at the appropriate time to be the ideal forerunner of Jesus. He was the forerunner of Jesus in five (5) distinct areas. 1) His birth: He was born a few months before Jesus. 2) His baptizing: He baptized with water before Jesus. In fact, John the Baptist baptized Jesus. 3) His disciples: John the Baptist had disciples before Jesus did. Some of John's disciples left him to go with Jesus. 4) His preaching: Not only did Jesus preach after John the Baptist, but also Jesus preached the same message that John preached..."Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." 5) His death: After John was beheaded, Jesus knew His own death was approaching.

Elizabeth's prayers were not answered until it was time for her desires to match up with God's plan for a greater purpose. Notice, both Zechariah and Elizabeth were old. This did not stop God's timing. He went against the natural biological clock to bring about His greater purpose. John the Baptist was born at the appropriate time to be a significant part in God's plan of redemption.

Perhaps you have prayed the same prayer year after year without desired results. Perhaps you have prayed for God to answer your prayers right away. The answer to your prayer might be delayed for a reason. Learn the lesson Zechariah and Elizabeth learned. God is waiting to answer your special prayer when His plan for a greater purpose will be realized.
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Not By Chance
Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:8-9, 11)

One can't help but see that the story of Zechariah contains incidents one might think happened by chance. Why was Zechariah in the temple at that particular time?

A Jewish priest worked in the temple managing its upkeep, teaching the people and directing the worship service. At the time of Zechariah, there were about 24,000 priests. This was too many priests to be on duty at one time. Therefore, they were divided into 24 groups of 1,000 priests. It was not by chance that Zechariah's group was on duty this particular week. Each morning a priest from the group was to enter the Holy Place and burn incense. This was a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the priest. How and why was Zechariah chosen to perform this sacred task?

In the natural, lots were cast to decide who would enter the temple and burn incense. The lot fell on Zechariah. In the supernatural, God was guiding the events of history to prepare the way for Jesus to come to earth. Zechariah was in the right place at the right time for the angel of the Lord to tell him he would have a son. That son would prepare the way for Jesus.

Out of 24 groups, what are the chances that Zechariah's group would have been chosen at that particular time? Out of 1,000 priests in the group, what are the chances that the lot would fall on Zechariah?

You might be waiting for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When you look around and see so many others getting opportunities, you think there is no hope for you. Notice, Zechariah was where he should have been and doing what he should have been doing when he was chosen. If you want to be chosen, you have to be serving God. No matter how many others are waiting for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you might be the one whom God chooses.
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Too Good To Be True
Do not be afraid, Zechariah: your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. . . . And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the proper time.  (Luke 1:13; 20)

Have you ever received an unexpected blessing . . . one that was too good to be true?  The above scriptures indicate that when Zechariah received word from the angel Gabriel that he would have a son, he thought it was too good to be true.  Zechariah expressed doubts about his own ability to father the child the angel promised him since Elizabeth was barren, and they were both old. Their circumstances spoke more loudly than God's promise. As a result, God prevented Zechariah from speaking until the promise became a reality.

There is no good thing that God will withhold from us. While we might think  what is happening to us is too good to be true, God wants us to know that with Him nothing is impossible.  His 8,000 promises in the Bible are all true.  What He has promised in His word will happen at the right time.
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"Fear Not, _______"
And the angel said unto her, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God." (Luke 1:30 KJV)

When an angel of the Lord spoke to people in the Bible, the first thing said was "Fear not." Before the angel spoke to Mary about her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, he assured her with these words: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God."

Choosing Mary was part of God's ultimate plan for the world. However, it was not God's only plan for the world. These words spoken to Mary so long ago can apply to us because we are also part of God's plan for the world.

Since we have been called to do our part, is not blasphemy to insert our own name in the blank. If you truly believe God has called you for a specific work and you have been faithful to God and to that work, go on and claim what the angel spoke to Mary. He is speaking those same words to you today. "Fear not, __________: for thou hast found favor with God."

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Because Mary Said "YES"
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38)

Over two thousand years ago a baby was born to a young virgin. Today people still celebrate His birth and remember the story of this mother and child. The Bible tells us Jesus was no ordinary baby and the circumstances surrounding His birth were unusual but all part of God's plan.
 
God has a plan for each life just like He had a plan for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Because Mary said, "Yes" we have a chance to say, "Yes." We can say, "Yes" to those things we don't understand. We can say, "Yes" to those things that might cause people to whisper about us behind our backs. We can say, "Yes" to those things we ourselves ponder in our own hearts.
 
Because Mary said, "Yes" to the plan of God, we have hope that God has a plan and purpose for our lives as well. Mary did not know all the details of the plan of God. And we won't know either until after we have said "Yes." Mary did not know what she would be required to endure. And we won't know either. Yet Mary said, "Yes" and remained steadfast as her son went from the cradle to the cross.
 
We will not be asked to do what Mary did because the Messiah has already come; however, God will ask us to trust Him in other areas that require us to say, "Yes." When that time comes, there is only one thing to say . . . "YES!"
 
A Christmas Geography Lesson
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in GALILEE called NAZARETH to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph of the house of David. (Luke 1:26) While they were there [BETHLEHEM, the city of David], the time came for her to deliver her child. (Luke 2:6)

Geography might not have been one of your favorite subjects in school. Knowing a little about geography while studying the Bible does help one to get a better perspective of the scriptures. Today's geography lesson is a simple, yet profound one. We know Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem 70-80 miles away? Why would Mary travel in her advanced stage of pregnancy? Surely it would have been against doctors' orders in our modern world.

The prophet Micah prophesied that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2), a prophecy also quoted in Matthew 2:6. Both Joseph and Mary were from the house of David, therefore everyone had to go back to their hometowns to be registered and pay taxes. Bethlehem means "house of bread." Jesus Christ, our "Bread of Life" was born in a town representative of His name.

Other than a lesson in geography, several other lessons are learned. (1) No matter where you are in life, God can move your from that place even if you are in advanced stages of a special situation. (2) God controls history. If God says it will happen, it will happen. His promises are "Yea" and "Amen." God used Emperor Augustus to make a decree for all to be taxed for His plan to be fulfilled. (3) Even when things seem illogical to us, God's plan always make sense. Therefore, if God has clearly shown you that you should move from where you are, let His guidance be your pillar of cloud by day and your pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22).

Hopefully this geography lesson has helped you not only to know why Mary traveled in her advanced stage of pregnancy, but also to help you understand that everything that happens is in accordance with God's divine plan.
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Spiritual Cousins
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:40-41)

Holy news should be shared with holy people. As soon as the angel Gabriel told Mary she would bear a son and he would be the savior of the world, Mary hurried to tell her cousin Elizabeth. Holy news just should be shared quickly. Elizabeth was much older and had been barren for a long time, but now Elizabeth herself was pregnant with a long awaited son. As soon as Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth's baby (John the Baptist) leaped in her womb bearing witness to Mary's baby (Jesus). The forerunner of Jesus was acknowledging the Messiah even then.

The next time God gives you holy news, be selective in sharing it. Make sure you go to a "holy person" who has similar news to share. Nothing is worse than sharing holy news with unholy people. When they have no good news themselves, they make light of yours. They ridicule you. They burst your bubble.
 
A "spiritual cousin" with similar experiences will rejoice with you about the news.That person will encourage you and bear witness to your holy news.

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Highly Favored
Then the angel said to her. "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  (Luke 1:30)

God chose Mary to be the mother of our Lord, that His birth would be recognized as a marvelous act of God.  Mary was worthy because of her willingness to be used as God saw fit.  In that sense God needs each of us to be submissive to His will, that Christ may be born anew in us. 

Let us this day submit ourselves to God, that Christ may be born in our hearts.
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Hannah's Prayer and Mary's Praise
Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in my God." (1 Samuel 2:1)  And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." (Luke 1:46-47)

There are generations between the time of Hannah and the time of Mary; yet they both had something in common.  Hannah was old and barren, but after praying for a male child, God opened her womb and she bore Samuel followed by seven other children. On the other hand, Mary was young and not married. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she gave birth to Jesus. She and Joseph had other sons and daughters after the birth of Jesus.

Notice how each woman rejoiced over the birth of their sons.  Hannah said, "My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in my God." (1 Samuel 2:1)  And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." Luke 1:46-47.  Hannah said her heart and strength were exalted in the God that she served. Mary rejoiced in her soul and spirit because of God her Savior.

Your heart, strength, soul and spirit can also rejoice for the great things God has done for you.
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While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

Luke is the only gospel writer who recorded the story of the shepherds hearing about the birth of Jesus. Luke favored the outcasts, downtrodden and the low class of people. Shepherds fit into that category. Notice it was not the royal and the upper class who were initially told about the birth of Jesus. The news was not taken to the palace or to the board rooms, but to the shepherds who were out in the field doing what shepherds do best.

In case you missed it, go back and re-read the scripture. The shepherds were LIVING in the field. They didn't work from 9-5 and punch a clock and go home. They stayed in the field, day and night watching over their flock. I wonder if our earthly pastors stay up nights thinking about us. Even if they don't, the Great Shepherd does. He never slumbers; and He never sleeps. It is interesting to know that shepherds watch their own sheep, but it was not unusually for a group of shepherds to meet around the watering hole to let their sheep drink while the shepherds communicated with one another. Even though all the sheep mixed together, the shepherd would leave and each sheep would go with its own shepherd. How could that be. Each sheep knew its shepherd's voice. How did the shepherd knew he had all of his sheep. Shepherds were constantly counting his sheep to see if any were missing. If he had only 99, he would leave them and go to find the one that was missing. I wonder how many pastors leave their big congregations to search out one person who hasn't been to church in a while. I wonder if they, like these shepherds, keep watch our their flock.
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From Darkness to Light . . . From Light to Darkness

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . . (Luke 2:8-9)  It was about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  For the sun stopped shining. (Luke 23:44-45).

Luke, the gospel writer who reported an orderly account of Jesus, describes His birth and his death.  It is interesting to note that Jesus was born at night, and it became light.  He was crucified during the day and it became dark for three hours.

Jesus was the "light" of the world who pierced the darkness.  When we have Jesus, our lives are filled with light.  Then we can sing with meaning the song, "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going To Let It Shine."  Our countenances should glow with the love of Jesus who lights up our lives.

The day Jesus died darkness covered the entire land for three hours in the middle of the day.  All nature seemed to mourn over the death of God's Son. However, good news followed when three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead.  Now we can sing with meaning the song, "He Lives!" Because He was resurrected and He lives, we too have eternal life!
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No Christmas Without Christ
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

Your Christmas cards have all been sent. Your Christmas tree has been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving. The gifts you bought are all wrapped and ready to be exchanged with family, friends and loved ones. Your favorite holiday food has been cooked and is ready to be served to your invited guests. So, you think you have finished all you need to do. Unless you have included Jesus Christ, you have no reason to celebrate Christmas.

If you plan to celebrate Christmas without Christ, then your celebration will be hollow without any real substance. Unless you have invited Christ to be the center of your celebration, it will lack the most important thing...the honored guest. There can be no Christmas without Christ. How would you feel if you were not invited to your own birthday party? Do you think Jesus is pleased that you receive gifts from others; yet you reject the one He is offering...His gift of salvation?

Those who don't believe in Christ but use the occasion to take time off from work and to get involved in all the other Christmas traditions and festivities are actually perpetrating a fraud. They benefit from something they don't believe in.

If you are following all the Christmas traditions and customs but do not believe in CHRIST, why not make your celebration legitimate? Believe in the one whose birthday you are celebrating. There can be no legal Christmas without Christ. Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then go on and enjoy Christmas with Christ.
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It Wasn't Unusual
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

It wasn't and still it's not unusual for a baby to be wrapped in strips of cloth immediately after birth. Even today nurses in hospitals wrap babies tightly after they are first born so they can maintain the body heat they have been so accustomed to for nine months. Wrapping them tightly also keeps their delicate limbs from dangling. We mustn't think Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths because of any poverty on the part of His parents. His being wrapped in swaddling cloths is similar to modern babies being tightly wrapped in blankets today.

What we must see from the above scripture is that it was a sign for the shepherds and wise men to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The sign was that He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger according to the prophecy of the prophets.
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Silent Night! Holy Night!
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God. (Luke 2:13)

So that the scriptures might be fulfilled as prophesied by Micah, Jesus was born in Bethlehem which was only 6 miles from Jerusalem. Because of Mary's advanced pregnancy stage, the trip probably seemed longer than it really was. Even though they were part of a caravan, Mary and Joseph probably didn't talk much. Instead they were thinking about the birth that was to take place soon. Even when they were surrounded by the animals in the stable, they could feel the blessed quietness of the night.

Before Jesus was born, that night was SILENT! That night was HOLY! And after the birth of Jesus, the animals and the heavenly host rejoiced and sang praises to God. It was a night to be remembered. The entire sky was lighted as if it were day. In contrast when Jesus died during the day, the sky became dark from noon until three as if it were night. (Luke 23:44)

Because Jesus still lives, we can reflect on and share the joys of what happened on that silent night, that holy night!
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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14 NIV)

Hark is a word that is not in everyone's vocabulary. Hark simply means "to listen carefully" or "to listen attentively."  Charles Wesley, the writer of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," is telling us to listen to the message that the angels sang. What did the angels sing? They told the gospel in a nutshell by singing, "Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled."  Jesus was born to reconcile sinful men back to God. We could not do it on our own. Jesus came to do it for us. And He did!

Then Wesley extended an invitation to all to join in the proclamation: "Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With the angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem."

Let's do what the hymn invites us to do. Let's listen attentively to the angels. Then let's join the angels with the same proclamation: "Christ is born in Bethlehem."
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The Good News
Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (Luke 2:10)

Everyone likes to receive good news. There are several methods for receiving good news: in our mail boxes, over the telephone, from the television, from the radio, from the FAX machine, through e-mail, and directly from people. I don't think anyone rejects good news, so we accept it through the various ways we receive it.

When Jesus was born over 2000 years ago, the good news was told by two unique ways.

Unlike our modern methods, the good news was communicated to the shepherds by angels. The shepherds were in the field doing their jobs when an angel appeared and put them at ease by first saying, "Don't be afraid." Then the angel continued to tell that about the good news they were bringing. Today we relive that experience by singing "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."

The good news about the birth of Jesus was also communicated another way. The wise men said, "For we have seen His star in the East. Then that star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was."

In just four days we will celebrate the good news of the birth of Jesus. We will celebrate the good news that was communicated so long ago by the angels and by His star in the East. Even though we know what the good news is, we still should rejoice as if we were hearing it for the very first time.
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The Three Comings of Jesus
The Bible clearly speaks about three comings of Jesus. We must keep these three comings in mind and know how they relate to one another.
 
The Incarnation: Jesus came TO all people. (Luke 2:11)
The first coming of Jesus has already happened. The Old Testament speaks of the coming Messiah. Then Jesus was born with the title, "Emanuel" meaning "God with us." God became one of us in the person of Jesus to save all of us.  

The Second Coming: Jesus will come FOR the saints. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Jesus will descend from heaven the same way He ascended in a cloud with nail prints still in His hands. His feet will not touch the earth. The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, those who are still alive will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The saints will go back with Jesus while those who are left on earth will go through a tribulation period. Some will perish, but some will become saints during this period. However, it will be much harder because the Holy Spirit will not be on earth during that time and no other saints will be present to minister or to serve as examples.
 
The Third and Final Coming: Jesus will come WITH the saints. (II Thessalonians 1:7)
After the tribulation has passed, Jesus and the saints will return to earth to judge those who still do not know God and still have not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. According to Zechariah 14:4, Jesus will return in His final descent out of the atmosphere and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives. It is only after this third coming will Jesus set up His kingdom on earth.

Away in a Manger
This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

"Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down when He lay.
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay."

Even though this hymn depicts the new life of the baby Jesus, it also reminds us of the continual love of God. The stars in the sky are like the watchful eyes of God that are always looking out for us, day and night as we live our lives.

The rest of the hymn tells of how the baby makes no sound because he is not afraid of the animals surrounding him.  They, too, are God's creatures.  This hymn lets us know that God made a harmonious world for us to live in and enjoy.

Yes, Jesus laid in a manger over 2,000 years away. You are to let your heart be that manger that Jesus in lying today.  Let Jesus rest in your heart and reign in your life.
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Now What?
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

Now that Christmas is over, what are your plans for the rest of your life? Usually people look forward to an upcoming holiday for so long that when it comes and is over, they are let down. If you are feeling depressed and let down because Christmas is over, then perhaps you celebrated it for the wrong reason(s).

You have wrapped and unwrapped your last present, now what? You have sung your last Christmas carol, now what? You are tired of eating that same holiday food, now what?

If you have received the gift that keeps on giving, then you have Jesus in your life every day and not just on December 25. If you celebrated the holiness of His birth, than today and the days to follow should hold just as much joy for you as you experienced on December 25. After all, December 25 is just the CELEBRATED day of His birth. It is not the actual date for no one knows for sure the exact date of Jesus' birth. Why not celebrate the day of Jesus' birth everyday and not just December 25?

Like the shepherds, return to your usual way of life glorifying and praising God for all the things you have heard and seen because of the birth of Jesus.
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How to Let Christmas Last All Year
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40)

The days following Christmas are disappointing and depressing to some people because of the build up before December 25. They put lots of energy into that one day. When December 25 is over, they are let down.

A sure way to let Christmas last all year is to know that Christ is still in our midst all year. Yes, we celebrate the birth of a newborn babe on Christmas Day. Keeping Christmas in our hearts all year long is to remember that Jesus grew up to be a man who saved us from our sins. Reflect on the growth and development of our Savior, and do not let Him remain a baby in a manger. Follow His rites of passage through His being in the temple talking to the scribes at 12 (Luke 2:46). Be with Jesus as He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Luke 3:21). See Jesus as He chooses His disciples, and listen in on their conversations. Walk along with Jesus as He travels through Galilee teaching, preaching and healing. Hear His words and obey them. Then pick up your cross and follow Jesus as He dies on His cross for your sins. Stand beneath the cross and hear Jesus speak His last words. Feel His blood as it drops on you. Be with the women on that Resurrection morning and witness that Jesus was not in the tomb but has risen indeed. Walk on the Emmaus Road as Jesus open up the scriptures and feel your heart burn (Luke 24:13-32). Then gaze up at the sky as Jesus ascends to heaven in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11). Wait for His return.

If you do all these things, you will feel the presence of Jesus everyday, and Christmas will last all year. Jesus lives after December 25 . . . after the tree has been taken down, the wrapping and bows discarded and the gifts are worn and broken. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving long after December 25. Let Christmas be in your heart by enjoying Jesus all year long.
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Don't Leave Jesus Behind
But supposing him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought him among their relatives and acquaintances.  (Luke 2:44)

It was a custom that each year the Jews would go to the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12 years old he went up to Jerusalem with his parents.  At the end of the festival, Mary and Joseph left leaving Jesus behind.  They had walked a whole day (20 miles) and discovered Jesus was missing when it was time for them to bed down for the night.

How could this have happened?  There were so many people, and they were walking in groups.  Usually the men walked together, and the women and children walked together in a separate group.  Jesus had just turned 12; therefore, He could have been in either group.

As soon as Mary and Joseph discovered their son was missing, they looked for Him among the other people.  After not finding Him there, they turned back to Jerusalem seeking Him.  After three days they found Him in the temple and asked Him, "Why have you done this to us?"

Several points are noted in this story that can also be applied to us.  First of all, Jesus did not leave them.  They left Him.  Don't leave Jesus behind. Secondly, it was a whole day before they discovered Jesus was not with them. Let's not go a single day without communicating with Jesus to make sure He is with us.  Thirdly, they made the mistake thinking Jesus was with their family and friends.  Make sure Jesus is with your family and friends.  Don't assume that He is. Fourthly, they did not miss Jesus until it was dark. Isn't that the time we miss Jesus the most; when it is dark in our lives? And finally, they blamed Jesus and not themselves when they did find him. Remember Jesus never leaves us; we leave Him.

Did you see yourself in this story? Have you ever felt Jesus wasn't with you?  Make sure He is with you at all times. Don't leave Jesus behind.
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Don't Leave Jesus Behind
But supposing him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought him among their relatives and acquaintances.  (Luke 2:44)

It was a custom that each year the Jews would go to the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12 years old he went up to Jerusalem with his parents.  At the end of the festival, Mary and Joseph left leaving Jesus behind.  They had walked a whole day (20 miles) and discovered Jesus was missing when it was time for them to bed down for the night.

How could this have happened?  There were so many people, and they were walking in groups.  Usually the men walked together, and the women and children walked together in a separate group.  Jesus had just turned 12; therefore, He could have been in either group.

As soon as Mary and Joseph discovered their son was missing, they looked for Him among the other people.  After not finding Him there, they turned back to Jerusalem seeking Him.  After three days they found Him in the temple and asked Him, "Why have you done this to us?"

Several points are noted in this story that can also be applied to us.  First of all, Jesus did not leave them.  They left Him.  Don't leave Jesus behind. Secondly, it was a whole day before they discovered Jesus was not with them. Let's not go a single day without communicating with Jesus to make sure He is with us.  Thirdly, they made the mistake thinking Jesus was with their family and friends.  Make sure Jesus is with your family and friends.  Don't assume that He is. Fourthly, they did not miss Jesus until it was dark. Isn't that the time we miss Jesus the most; when it is dark in our lives? And finally, they blamed Jesus and not themselves when they did find him. Remember Jesus never leaves us; we leave Him.

Did you see yourself in this story? Have you ever felt Jesus wasn't with you?  Make sure He is with you at all times. Don't leave Jesus behind.
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Three Days Away
After THREE days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)

A close study of the Bible will reveal that the phrase "three days" is used repeatedly to illustrate how close of how far away an occurrence is. Numbers in the Bible are used over and over again for poetic or rhetorical impact. This usage is usually not literal. Used in this way, numbers indicate the concept of something being few or many, or they are used to emphasize a point. Number phrases are used throughout the Bible, but one must not take every number literally; however, some can and should be taken literally.

The number three itself is used over and over again.  Three is regarded as a divine number because of the Trinity of three persons in one. The Temple is divided into three parts. Three days were the proper time for work of God. This is also true for the resurrection of Christ whom God raised from the dead in three days; similar to Jonah who was in the belly of the great fish for three days. Time is divided into three parts (past, present, future), and God was, and is, and is to come.

I said all that to say that in just three days my E-Messages will number 700. Seven is another repeated number throughout the Bible. (Its meaning is for another message though). Also, in three days, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, the day set aside to give thanks. We need not wait until the three days. We have the privilege and honor of thanking God daily. I'm looking forward to writing my 700th E-Message on Thanksgiving Day, and I'm thankful for that. I look forward to writing my 700th message with the same passion that I had when I wrote my very first one.
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Father Knows Best
Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?  (Luke 2:49)

"Father Knows Best" was a television family show that aired many years ago.  In every episode there was a problem and Robert Young, who played the father, was the one who came up with the right solution. Hence, the name "Father Knows Best." Well, that was television.  How about REAL life?  Robert Young cannot solve all of our problems.  But there is a Father who can. And we must be about our Father's business. 

God, our Heavenly Father, is the One who knows about our problems long before we encounter them.  And He imbedded the solution within the problem.  He gave us assurance that nothing would ever happen to us that we cannot bear.  He further told us that He would be with us when we go through the storms and fire.  Our Father knows best.  While we are not exempt from trials and tribulations, our Father has made a way of escape for us (1Corinthians 10:13 ).

Whatever is challenging you right now, know that "Father Knows Best."  He has a solution for your every problem.  You need only to seek Him.
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Choosing A Life of Balance
Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

The above scripture summarizes Jesus' life.  This is the only record of His life after He was found in the temple at age 12 by His parents until He arrived at the Jordan River at age 30 to be baptized by John the Baptist. 

Jesus lived a balanced life in four areas. He was perfectly balanced in (1) wisdom: mentally; (2) stature: physically; (3) in favor with God: spiritually; and (4) in favor with men: socially.  Balance is only possible in a life that has Jesus Christ at its center.  He is the most balanced person who ever lived.  Jesus Christ is our role model. Let's follow His example.

 
It Is Written . . .
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone." (Luke 4:4)

Did you know Jesus quoted the Old Testament scriptures? He quoted scriptures to resist the temptation of the devil.  When (not if) we are tempted we too can resist by repeating God's words.  We can affirm our faith by remembering and using the scripture that applies to our current situation.  For example, if it is healing you need, then say and believe: "By His stripes I am healed" (Isaiah 53:5).  If you are bearly making ends meet financially, then affirm,  "My God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).  When you believe you cannot perform a task: "I can do all things through God who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Are your enemies after you? Then say and believe, "No weapon that is formed against me shall prosper" (Isaiah 54:17) or "Let God arise, let my enemies be scattered" (Psalm 68:1).  Are you afraid? Say and believe,"God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, of love and a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

There is an appropriate scripture for whatever situation you are going through.  There is a Word from God to help you through ANY crisis.  Like Jesus, we need to know what the Bible says about our situation and then boldly proclaim, "It is written . . ."
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The Deeper Life
Now when He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4)

Peter, an experienced fisherman, had fished all night and caught nothing.  Jesus, a carpenter's son, advised him to launch out into the deep for a haul.  From Peter's human perspective, he knew fish did not usually bite in the daytime, but said, "Nevertheless at your word I will let down the net." Peter caught 153 fish  . . . more that day than he had ever caught on his best night.

God wants us to live a deeper life.  He wants us to take Him at His word and launch out into the deep and let down our nets.  We need to leave our shallow waters and do what God said even though we might not understand the logic of it.  When we do that, our lives will be more productive.  So, go ahead . . . make that decision today . . . sign that contract . . . accept that new job offer . . . agree to relocate . . . accept that proposal . . . take that much needed vacation . . . publish that book . . . Do whatever it is that God is prompting you to do.  If you want to live a deeper life you have to launch out into the deep. Like Peter just say, "Nevertheless at your word I will let down my net." Then watch your blessings unfold in full measure!
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Our Request, Jesus' Response
When the leper saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do choose. Be made clean." (Luke 5:12-13)

A careful reading of the above scripture reveals that the leper did several things before making a request to Jesus. We should do the same. We should honor Jesus first before giving him a long list of things to do for us. The leper bowed with his face to the ground; then he said, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." At the time Jesus was performing the miracle, he used the same words in the order the leper did. Jesus said, "I do choose. Be made clean." 

Jesus will respond to us the same way when our requests are done in a similar manner. When we honor Jesus, His response will match up with our request.
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Time Out
After Jesus had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  When evening came, he was there alone. (Matthew 14:23)  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).

What is that short period in sports when the teams regroup and regain their strength and composure and plan different strategies?  It is called "Time Out." What is that short period (usually two-weeks) when you take time off from your job and refrain from doing the mundane things.  Yes, you are right, it is called a vacation or "Time Out."  You vacant the premises to do whatever you want . . . to be alone or to be with different people.  After getting your spiritual and mental batteries charged, you are good to go for another period of time.  The good news about this is that all benefit from your "Time Out."  When you return you are revitalized and those to whom you come in contact will enjoy the fresh new you.

May  you always remember to take time out in order to stay focused on God, Our Creator and Our Sustainer.
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Making Godly Decisions
And it came to pass in those days, then he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)

Decisions, no matter how big or small, never should be made without consulting God first.  Even Jesus who was fully human and fully God consulted God by praying and listening to His voice.  If Jesus did it, how much more should we?

Even when a decision seems to be a good one, we still need to evaluate the situation based on God's word.  It might be a good idea but not a God idea.  Let us not agree to everything that is presented to us. Instead, ask the following questions, and do not act until God says, "This is the way, walk in it."  (Isaiah 30:21). #1: Will it meet a need?  #2: Will it help someone? #3: Is it permissible by the Scriptures?  Then listen for God's voice and look for confirmations.

After doing these things and you find a gently peace about your decision, then go for it knowing that you have done all you can do.
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Why So Few?
He called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. (Luke 6:13)

At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, he chose twelve disciples to travel with Him, preach, heal, and cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15). Why so few?  Wouldn't Jesus be able to accomplish greater things with more disciples?  Not necessarily!  Even though the selection of the twelve is paralleled to the twelve tribes of Israel, Jesus deliberately concentrated on a few. His aim was to transform the world by using only a few individuals who were molded and shaped by the Master Himself.  Even within the twelve, Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as His inner circle. Jesus devoted time to only a few disciples because He was not trying to impress people, but to usher in a kingdom.  This meant that he needed people who could lead the multitudes. Therefore, He trained the twelve, who went out and trained others.

The life application is that it is better to train a few effectively than the masses haphazardly. Jesus was not concerned with numbers. He was concerned with saving individuals one by one. Perhaps it is no surprise that in three years, Jesus had no more than about 500 faithful followers, and of that number only 120 waited in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15). Therefore, Jesus would not be considered among the most productive mass evangelists of today. His numbers and His budget would not measure up to the mega-churches.  But He did accomplish His purpose.  That's why 2,000 years later, some of us are still using the principle of Jesus: "Each ONE, teach ONE!"
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Laughing Out Loud (LOL)
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. (Luke 6:21)

Medical professionals say laughter is the best medicine. They say it prevents heart attacks, and it helps relieve stress. People laugh for different reasons. Laughter is not limited to comical things. People laugh when things seem far-fetched and unbelievable. In Sarah's old age, she laughed when she heard she would have a son. (Genesis 18:1-15) Sarah did have a son at the age of 90, and she named him Isaac which means "laughter." She said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." (Genesis 21:6)

It has been said, "He who laughs last, laughs best of all." Perhaps there are things that have made you cry in the past, but you are laughing about it today. Perhaps there is a problem area in your life, and you don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

My three grandchildren, AJ, Makai and Tori, love to share "Knock Knock Jokes" with me. Perhaps one of their jokes will give you a dose of laughter today. It goes like this:

Grandchildren:  "Knock knock."
Grandma: "Who's there?"
Grandchildren: "Boo!"
Grandma: "Boo who?"
Grandchildren: "You don't have to cry about it!" (LOL)


Take the advice of my grandchildren and know you don't have to cry about it. Laugh out loud! (LOL) Share this joke with someone close to you today and notice how much better both of you will feel

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Why Love Your Enemies
But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer him the other cheek, too. If someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27-30)

The above scriptures contain powerful words of instruction for us to love those who have wronged us.  It is not easy, but for those who want to follow Christ, we must also do what He did.  He had enemies, but He loved them. He did not seek revenge, but He blessed them.  Certainly, while on the cross He could have been angry with His enemies, but the first words out of His mouth were: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." 

When we are mistreated by our enemies, we should pray that same sentence prayer, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
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Love Your Enemies
Love your enemies! Do good to them! (Luke 6:35)

Why should we love our enemies? Why does God expect us to be kind to those who hurt us and despitefully use us?

We should love our enemies because it shows undeserved kindness like God shows towards us. Showing undeserved kindness imitates God's character. We should show kindness to our enemies as though we are showing kindness to God.

Genuine kindness is our response to God's love. God calls us to real and sincere love that goes beyond pretense and politeness. Kindness requires us to love the unlovable and yes, even our enemies!

Kindness is one of the characteristics of God's people. Colossians 3:12-17 gives us advice on how to be kind to our enemies.
  1. imitate Christ's compassion and forgiving attitude;
  2. let love guide your entire life;
  3. let the peace of Christ rule in your heart;
  4. always be thankful;
  5. keep God's Word in you at all times;
  6. live as a representative of Christ.

When you do these things, you will undoubtedly love your enemies as God commanded.
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Give It Away!
Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will men put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)

There are two things other than newspapers and aluminum cans that should be recycled.  Do you have any idea what those two things are?  Love and Money! Love is not love until it is shared . . .until it is given away.  It is only after you give it away does it comes back to you. Keeping it to yourself benefits no one; not even you.  Once you give it away, it comes back and everyone benefits; especially you. 

The same principle applies to money. Money is meant to be recycled for the things we want.  Having money and wanting something, yet holding onto the money does not accomplish the real intent of money.  Money is an exchange for what you want.  Holding onto money is like holding onto a seed that needs to be planted.  As long as you hold it in your hands, nothing happens, but once it is planted in good ground, it grows and produces of its own kind.

Do you want love?  Then give love.  Do you want more money? Then give money to others.  Bless yourself by blessin
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Give It Back
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

There are good reasons why we should give. The first and foremost reason is that God commanded it. God is pleased when we give generously. God is pleased with regular giving. God is pleased with sacrificial giving. That means that we should give out of our need. Giving is not restricted to the rich only. Everyone should give in proportion to what has been given. When God blesses us to have good job and make a decent salary, we should give it back.

Paul challenged the Corinthian church to give according to careful planning. We would be wise to use those same four principles outlined in 2 Corinthians 9:2.
  1. Your willingness to give is more important that the amount that you give.
  2. You should strive to fulfill your financial commitments.
  3. If you give to others in need, they will, in turn, help you when you are in need.
  4. You should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it. How you give reflects your devotion to God.

The end of the year is approaching, perhaps you have not fulfilled your commitment to give this year. Why not consider giving it back to God from whom it has come in the first place. God has enabled you to be prosperous so that you may GIVE IT BACK!
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What Is the "IT"?
Give, and IT shall be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your bosom. (Luke 6:38)

Have you ever considered what the IT is that we are to give? Naturally, the first thought that might come to your mind is that the IT is money.  It could be, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. 

"Give and IT shall be given to you" illustrates a reciprocal kingdom principle that whatever IT is that you give will be given back to you.  This is a promise that whatever we are in need of, we should give IT away and IT will return to us.  If you need more time, volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  If you need more money, start giving money to the needy and to your church and watch the immediate returns.  If you need love, than give love away. 

This principle ALWAYS works! Give and IT will be given back to you.  IT will be given back to you not necessarily by the recipient of your gift but by whomever God chooses.
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Prime the Pump
Give and IT shall be given unto you. (Luke 6:38)

I grew up in the country where we had no running water. There were no faucets to turn on to get hot or cold water. We had to go outside and pump water from a well. There was lot of water deep within the well, but the only way to get it was to "prime the pump." We had to pour water into the pump so that it could combine with the water that was in the bottom of the well. Once the water that we poured met the water that was already there, the pump was primed. We could pump as much water as we wanted until we released the  pump handle, and there was no longer a connection.

Several theological principles can be gleaned from that experience: (1) In order to tap into God resources, we have to give Him something to work with. Remember the loaves and fishes. A little was offered in order to have an abundance. But something had to be given. (2) A connection had to be made with the water that was deep within the well. In order to get something, we have to give a small portion of that which we want. "Give and IT shall be given unto you . . ." (Luke 6:38) (3) It only takes a little for an overflow to be made possible much like having faith as a grain of mustard seed.

Whatever you stand in need of today, give a little of it and watch how quickly you will receive. So, go on and "prime the pump."
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An Eye Examination
And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Luke 6:41)

We are not to be so concerned about the wrongdoings of others that we overlook our own sins.  We often rationalize our sins by pointing out what we believe to be greater mistakes in others. If you are constantly seeing specks in others, perhaps it is time for an eye examination. 

When you feel like criticizing, remember the log in your own eye, and you may find you have less to say.
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Your Alabaster Jar
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)

We can learn a lot from the sinful woman in the above scripture. First of all, we learn that she is a sinful woman; yet no name is given. This indicates that it could have been anyone -- even you. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she did all she could to show homage to him. You can do the same; give honor and praise to Jesus right here, right now.

The sinful no-named woman brought her alabaster jar of perfume with her. There is something interesting about an alabaster jar. Once opened it can never be used again. Not only was the jar costly; but its contents were expensive as well.  We later learn from the remarks that the contents of the alabaster box was worth a whole year's salary. The woman must have thought Jesus was worth it to break her alabaster jar and use all its contents.

All of us have an alabaster jar of some kind. What's in your alabaster jar that you are willing to give up to show Jesus that you love Him and adore Him and are glad that He saved your soul? There must be something!  If you don't know already, ask God to reveal to you what's in your own alabaster jar. Then be willing to use all of it in honor of Jesus Christ. Don't hold any of it back. Remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
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"Canned" Answers
When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he told them a parable. (Luke 8:4)

Christians should be careful about giving non-Christians "canned" answers. A "canned" answer is a general answer that is used over and over again hopefully to fit any situation. For example, when someone has a problem of any kind a "canned" answer is "Everything will be all right" or "All things work together." While these statements might be true and certainly will fit some situations, they are ineffective for others.

The danger with "canned" answers is that they give people false hope when people are expecting a quick fix. Another example is when people need a financial blessing, they are told: "Ask and you shall receive" or even worse, "Speak to your mountain of debt and it will removed." These principles are certainly true for those who are obedient to the Lord and have followed His commandments in all areas. In order for these scriptures to help those in trouble, people FIRST must MOVE OVER into obedience before they can MOVE UP in God's blessings.

Let Jesus be your example. He didn't give "canned" answers. He told a parable with a moral teaching instead.
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Take No Excess Baggage
He told them: "Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." (Luke 9:3)

One definition of baggage is "luggage, suitcases, trunks, and personal belongings of travelers." Another definition of baggage is "anything that gets in the way such as objects, circumstances, unfinished business or beliefs."
 
According to the first definition, we plan very carefully to pack enough clothes and personal items when we travel. Undoubtedly, most of us carry more than we need because we say, "It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it."
 
According to the second definition, we don't do well at all. We carry things on vacations, on honeymoons, and on missionary trips that impede our progress. Rev. Keith Edmonds, the newly elected Pastor of Koinonia Christian Church, Richmond, VA left for Haiti on a missionary trip last Saturday.  Pastor Edmonds said, "I'm leaving everything in order because I don't want to take any excess baggage with me. I want to be free and open to the spirit without worrying and wondering how things are back at home."
 
Pastor Edmonds has the right idea. Before we can do missions in a far away land, we must leave our own home, church and other business in order. We are free to teach, preach, and worship God when we are not burdened down with excess baggage.
 
Whether you are doing ministry at home or abroad, rid yourself of things that will impede your progress and your effectiveness.
 
Take no excess baggage!

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Following Jesus
Jesus said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

This scripture is quite clear about what we are to do if we want to be led and guided by Jesus. We are commanded to respond in three ways.
  1. We must deny ourselves.  We must forget about what we think we can do on our own. We must rely totally on Jesus Christ to lead us in the right path.
  2. We must be obedient to the Word of God through Jesus Christ our Saviour not just on Sundays, but everyday. We should pick up our cross daily.
  3. Jesus is our perfect example, and if we desire to be like Him we must do what He did. We must make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and not the crowd.
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Invisible Accounts
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:25)

People are often described by what they own. People are identified by the amount of money they have in the bank, their stocks and bonds, IRA's, CD's, etc. A dollar amount is often mentioned along with a celebrity's name. Values are put on people according to the things they have accumulated such as houses, vehicles, diamonds, furs, paintings, or antiques. In other words, a person's value is determined by his or her tangible or visible assets according to society's standards.

Here is good news for the not so rich and famous. God does NOT love us any more or less because of what we have. It all belongs to Him anyway. Those things are tangible and visible and will be destroyed during the last days. God looks with pleasure at our invisible account. Our invisible accounts include salvation. It cost us nothing, but it cost Jesus His life. Invisible accounts include love for God, love for neighbors, and love for enemies.

We should be known by our invisible accounts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the things that bring us lasting dividends. Let's invest in our invisible accounts daily.
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Your Spiritual Life
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his own life? (Luke 9:25)

What are the characteristics of a spiritual life? To begin with, a spiritual life is one that is lived in the pursuit of God. Life should be more than satisfying our human appetites with pleasures because they do not satisfy our deepest longings. In the end they leave us empty and dissatisfied. Your spiritual life must be satisfied as well as your physical existence. Your spiritual life is a total commitment to God that requires discipline and sacrifice. Some people don't have a balance life because their physical being is in shape while their spiritual life is almost non-existence.

Your spiritual life is a gift of God. All who welcome Jesus into their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God. Through faith in Christ, this new birth changes us from the inside out . . . rearranging our attitudes, desires, and motives. You are physically alive because you were born from physical parents. You become spiritually alive when you are born again from above. The Holy Spirit then comes to live within you. While your physical life will eventually fade away, your spiritual life is eternal.
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Being Active in Ministry
As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, all confused and not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, "Master, this is wonderful! We'll put up three shelters: one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah!" (Luke 9:33)

Peter, James, and John had such a wonderful experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus that they didn't want to leave. Sometimes we too have such an inspiring experience that we want to stay just where we are.  We want to stay on vacation, away from our jobs, away from people who really need us and away from the reality and problems of this world.  We want to stay on the mountaintop because we know what problems await us in the valley.  While staying on the mountain might we good for us and gives us pleasure, it prohibits us from ministering to others.  Instead of becoming spiritual giants to benefit others, we would soon become dwarfed by our own self-centeredness.  We need times of retreat and renewal, but only so we can return to minister to the world.  Our faith must make sense off the mountain as well as on it. 

There are people in the valley who need us.  So . . . Come on down!
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A Mountaintop Experience
As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three tabernacles -- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying). (Luke 9:33)

Everyone loves mountaintop experiences. We all look forward to them.  But is it good to stay on the mountaintop all the time?  Was the human body, mind and spirit made to live in ecstasy day and night? While it is possible to experience great joy and happiness most of the time, people were not created to live in perpetual ecstasy. Why not? There would be no balance if we did. The highs would carry us over into another dimension . . . one that takes our feet off the ground and keeps us flying. We were created to keep a level head and stay "grounded." We were created to have mountaintop experiences but not to stay on the mountain. The height of some experiences would cause our minds and hearts to explode with ecstasy. The results of our highs could be as devastating as our lows.

In the above scripture, Peter suggested staying on the mountain because the experience was so good. The parenthetical statement indicated Peter did not know what he was saying because people cannot endure ecstasy all the time. To stay on a mountaintop is to push aside the reality of life. It is denying that life does consist of the good, the bad and the ugly. To linger on the mountaintop is to avoid facing problems in the valley. Our faith must make sense OFF the mountain as well as ON it.
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The Danger in Looking Back
No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)

If you have ever seen a dedicated farmer at work, you would have noticed that he plows with his gaze straight ahead. He does not plow for a few minutes and then look behind him to see what he has done. He just keeps right on plowing. He knows his plowing is part of a process and in time he will see a harvest.

There is danger in looking back. Remember Lot's wife. She looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  (Genesis 19:26) As we go into 2007, let's not look back and complain about what happened to us in 2006. As we go into 2007, let's not look back and boast about all the great things we did in 2006. God already knows if we have brought glory to His name.

If you have been sincerely plowing in the Kingdom of God, don't stop. Don't look back. Keep plowing. Plowing now leads to a great harvest later.
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The Most Important Victory
Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

If you were asked, "What is your most important victory?" what would you say? Do you think your most important victory was marrying the spouse of your choice, getting that perfect job or owning your ideal house? Was your most important victory passing a difficult course, getting your pilot's license, or getting a well-deserved raise? Was your most important victory preaching a good sermon or teaching a well-prepared Sunday School lesson? If you said, "Yes" to any of these questions, you might change your mind as you continue to read.

Jesus' disciples were receiving tremendous results as they preached in Jesus' name and with His authority.  They rejoiced because they could minister to people and cast out demons. They were elated, and  Jesus shared their enthusiasm. However, Jesus cautioned them by reminding them of their most important victory.

It is good to make major accomplishments on earth, but the most important victory is having your name registered in heaven. This honor is more important than any other victory.  Yes, God works in us and through us, but we should never lose sight of the greatest honor of all . . . being a citizen of heaven.
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Our Ultimate Goal
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)

We all should have goals. And most of us do. We set goals to exceed on our jobs, to advance our careers or to get a promotion. We set goals to get married, to start a family or to buy a bigger house. All of these goals are excellent ones, but there are two problems with these goals. (1) These goals are temporal. Once you have reached them, you have to set higher goals. (2) These goals benefit only you and those closest to you.

There is one ultimate goal that we should all set. Our ultimate goal should be everlasting instead of temporal. Our ultimate goal should be so high that it needs not be revised to make it better. Our ultimate goal should benefit the whole body of Christ instead of just ourselves and those closest to us.

What then should be our ultimate goal? Our ultimate goal should be to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves. When we have done this, we would have fulfilled God's commandment and met our ultimate goal.
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Toxic Relationships
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Everyone has been in a toxic relationship whether it was evident or not. A toxic relationship is one that slowly poisons you. It is one that is unhealthy for one or both parties. A toxic relationship is one that is not ordained by God for He will not approve of something that makes you sick.

When you are in toxic relationship, you are not aware of the silent killer until it is too late; until you have been sick and depressed and starved and near the gates of death. Be pulled back from a toxic relationship in the nick of time.

The signs of a toxic relationship might be subtle but they are there nonetheless. Here are a few signs that you are in a toxic relationship:
  1. When pleasing others is hurting you.
  2. When you allow someone else to make you feel limited, shackled or in bondage.
  3. When you default to someone else ALL the time.
  4. When you have given all your power to someone else and you no longer think for yourself.
  5. When you give up your wishes and desires to satisfy someone else.
  6. When you allow someone else to yell at you, put you down, and mock you.
  7. When you believe another person's promises more than God's promises or commands.
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Your Jericho Road Experience
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

In response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to provoke His listeners to seek the answer themselves without Him telling them explicitly. In other words, after telling the story about the man who fell into the hands of robbers, Jesus wanted His listeners to express what they would have done. Would they be like the priest who deliberately passed on the other side of the road to avoid coming in contact with the man? Would they be like the Levite who also passed by on the other side of the road? Or would they be like the Samaritan who was of a despised race; yet he took pity on the man, bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him?

Perhaps our stories are not as dramatic, but God gives us chance after chance to prove to Him that we are good neighbors to people who don't necessarily live next door to us. Each day God gives us opportunities to prove our love to Him by helping people who might be different from us.

Are you passing by on the other side of the road to avoid being a good Samaritan? Let your own Jericho Road experience be one that is both pleasing to God and helpful to those in need.
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Too Many Irons In The Fire
Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things."
 (Luke 10:41)

You have heard the expression, "too many irons in the fire" time and time again. Perhaps you never thought about what it really means. Or perhaps you have always thought having too many irons in the fire was a good thing.

To have too many irons in the fire is to be engaged in too many activities at the same time. To have too many irons in the fire can smother the fire. To have too many irons in the fire might even put the fire out. Trying to do too many things at once results in your doing neither one effectively.

Being on every committee in the church or community might make you think you are popular. Doing this and that, running here and there might give you false security, but something is definitely going lacking. When you make a decision to join a committee, look at the origin of the word. Can you be "committed" to the "committee"? Are or you seeking one more activity to put on your resume? Think of your motive when you join or become involved with any group on your job, in the community, or at your church. Will your joining benefit others? Will your joining benefit you? What are the mutual benefits?  And the most important question:  "Will it glorify God?"

We should be a Mary in a Martha's world. Remember Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

It is time to take some of your irons out of the fire. Devote quality time to sit at Jesus' feet listening to what He has to say.
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Unnamed People of the Bible
And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, A CERTAIN MAN said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. (Luke 9:57) And it came to pass, as he spake these things, A CERTAIN WOMAN of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. (Luke 11:27) 

Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of unnamed people in the Bible? The Bible simply refers to them as: "a certain man" or a  "a certain woman." That man or that woman could have been anyone.  That man or that woman could have been YOU!  Therefore, God did not focus on the name but on the act itself. That certain man in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Matthew 21:28) could have been any man whose son left home. That certain woman with the issue of blood (Luke 9:43) could have been any woman with an unbearable issue of life. That certain woman who was bent over with an infirmity for18 years (Luke 13:11) could represent anyone who can't stand up and walk tall because of sin or other imperfections.

Too often we forget those "certain servants" and focus our attention on those who are popular and whose names have become household words. Too often we travel miles to see and hear people because of who THEY ARE instead of who GOD IS. There is nothing wrong with making an effort to be in the presence of those "popular" ministers, but also there are myriads of servants who serve in the vineyards and not in front of the cameras.

Use a concordance and look up "a certain man" or "a certain woman" and then read how those thousands of unnamed people were great in the kingdom of God.
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Being Fit for the Kingdom
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the service in the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)

Many followed Jesus as he walked through the villages teaching, preaching, and healing.  Some even said, "I will always follow you no matter where you go." But Jesus brought them back to reality by saying, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Luke 9:58).

Another time when Jesus invited a man to be his disciple, the man agreed, but he wanted to wait until his father's death so he could bury him.  Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60).  Still another said, "Yes, Lord, I will come, but first let me go and say goodbye to those at home."  But Jesus told him, "Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

What excuse are you giving? What does Jesus want from us?  TOTAL DEDICATION, not halfhearted commitment.  Following Jesus often means great cost and sacrifice.  It may even cost us popularity, friendships, leisure time, or treasured habits. While the cost of following Jesus is high, the value of being Christ's disciple is even higher.  Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields great heavenly dividends.  We must count the cost and then let nothing -- absolutely nothing -- distract us from being fit for the Kingdom of God.
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"It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
(In Honor of Mr. Rogers)

Love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27) "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "and who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)

Fred Rogers knew who his neighbor was. For more than 30 years he gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Yesterday at age 74, Mr. Rogers died of cancer.

Being neighborly to everyone was his passion, his mission, and he invited others into his neighborhood singing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," as he donned sneakers and a zip-up cardigan.

Roger's messages for children were also messages for adults. They remained simple. He told his viewers to love themselves and others. Rogers taught children how to share, deal with anger and even why they shouldn't fear the bathtub by assuring them they'll never go down the drain. Remember that whenever you face a "going-down-the-drain" situation.

Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, will be remembered for his neighborly attitude and his greeting, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." For you see, Fred Rogers knew and loved his neighbors. We should go and do likewise.
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Who Is Your Neighbor?
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)

Who is your neighbor? Is it the person who lives next door to you? Or does the word "neighbor" extends beyond your own street and physical neighborhood?

This same question was centuries ago. Instead of directly answering the question, Jesus told a parable to get the person who asked it and the crowd who heard it to come up with their own answer based on the parable.

Who is your neighbor? Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37 to find the answer for yourself. No one can tell you who your neighbor is. That's something you have to become aware of through biblical principles provided for you in God's word.
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Family Gatherings
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do this work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (Luke 10:40)

Two major holidays or holy days are approaching. And there will be family gatherings around the world. People who have not seen one another in a while will be under the same roof eating at the same table. How will all of them respond? Past behaviors have illustrated that when different people get together, they do not all have the same agenda. However, if God is in their lives before the event, He should be in their lives during the event and after the last good-bye is said.

Begin to pray now that your upcoming family gathering will be all that God would have it to be. Begin to visualize the occasion as a joyous one. Prepare your heart now for the celebration.

Remember Jesus enjoyed family events and joyous occasions. It was at a wedding that He performed His first miracles. (John 2) Expect miracles to take place during your celebration. It was when Jesus was being entertained by Martha and Mary that He made the statement, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42). Let's not be so busy with the turkey, stuffing and gravy that we neglect to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Make sure Jesus is the guest at your family gathering. Make sure your family gathering is a joyous occasion. However, it is up to each individual to make it so.
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God Wants A Relationship; Not A Performance
But Martha was distracted by many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:40-42)

Performance counts in business but not with God. God wants a relationship; not a performance. God wants more of us; not more of what we can do.  Church calendars are jammed packed with programs and activities. People are so busy performing that there is little time left to seek God's face and lie in His bosom.

The Bible records celebrations and feasts honoring God, but it never speaks of programs and organizations similar to the ones that monopolize our time and zap us of energy. The Bible does record such statements as: "Noah walked with God," "Daniel spent time with God," "Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened," and "Jesus spent time along with God."

Our human performance doesn't cut it with God. God craves our intimacy. He is concerned with what we become through loving Him rather than being so busy we neglect the spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting and meditating.

Our God is a God or relationship. We will NEVER be satisfied merely by the amount of work we do. We will ALWAYS be satisfied by balancing our work with time alone with God. Make a special effort to minimize extra duties and balance them with time spent listening to what God has to say. Be like Mary . . . choose the better part that will last. When performances are over, they are long forgotten. Intimacy with God lingers on to help in times of distress.
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Being A Mary In A Martha’s World
 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

Even though we live in a busy world, the story of Mary and Martha proves that we do not have to be worried and upset about many things. All of us have a Mary and a Martha within us. Sometimes the spirit of Martha gets the best of us when we become so distracted by doing many things and have no balance in our lives. Then sometimes we have the spirit of Mary when we choose to sit at Jesus' feet listening to all He has to say.

Both Martha and Mary loved and served Jesus, but they went about it in different ways. Martha was a worker. Mary was a worshipper. Martha complained about Mary not helping her. However, Mary did not speak at all in the entire passage. Instead, Jesus spoke on her behalf. When we sit at the feet of Jesus, He will speak on our behalf as well.

What Martha was doing was not wrong. She was using her gift of hospitality, but she went about it the wrong way. Martha’s service was for Jesus, but it was done away from Jesus. Mary's service for Jesus was done at His feet. We can sometimes be so busy doing things for Jesus that we neglect to include Him in our doing.

Admittedly, we live in a busy world. We live in a Martha’s world. However, we are encouraged to maintain a balance by not conforming to the busyness of this world.

Notice Jesus said Mary had chosen the better part. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is a choice. It is a choice we all should make.  Won't you choose the better part? Won’t you choose to sit at Jesus’ feet? 

Let’s choose to be a Mary in a Martha’s world.

(Excerpt from sermon preached by Rev. Margaret Minnicks on Sunday, July 27, 2008 at Gilfield Baptist Church, Charles City, VA).

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God Must Have Had His Reasons
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13)

I recently heard a very wise pastor say that in his lifetime God has answered most of his prayers. And the ones that God did not answer, the pastor concluded, "God must have had His reasons." How profound!

Our Father knows best. He knows what we need and what will be good for us. He also knows that if we pray for something that will be detrimental to our physical and spiritual well being, He is not going to give us what we ask for. He is looking out for our future, while we are only concerned about instant gratification.

Have you ever prayed for a certain person to be your ideal mate and God denied your request? Years later you saw that person and wondered why you prayed for him/her in the beginning. Actually, you felt so ashamed you wanted to repent in sackcloth and ashes! You thank God that He did not answer your earlier request. God must have had His reasons. The same thing might have happened with that job you prayed for and didn't get. God must have had His reasons. What about that house you thought was your dream house only to discover that the people living in it are now having nightmares? Aren't you glad God had His reasons for not answering those specific prayers?

What is the life application for saying all this? God in His infinite wisdom will NOT give us what will eventually harm or hurt us physically or spiritually. So, if you have prayed for something and God has said, "No," then conclude like that wise pastor: "God must have had His reasons."


No Neutral Position
He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters. (Luke 11:23)

Many people would not deliberately choose to become part of a team that already has been defeated. It is only natural to choose to be on a winning team. This scripture lets us know that we must choose sides. We either choose to live our lives under the guidance of God or under the guidance of Satan. There is no middle ground. Either you are on the Lord's side or you are on the devil's side. There is no straddling the fence. That's worse than making no decision at all. God said to the Church in Laodicea, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spew you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

Since God has already won the battle, why choose to be on the losing side? If you aren't actively for Christ, you are against Him. Choose this day who you will serve. For if you are not for God, you are for Satan. There is no neutral position.
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A Certain Man
And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, A CERTAIN MAN said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. (Luke 9:57) And it came to pass, as he spake these things, A CERTAIN WOMAN of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. (Luke 11:27) 

Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of unnamed people in the Bible? The Bible simply refers to them as: "a certain man" or a  "a certain woman." That man or that woman could have been anyone.  That man or that woman could have been YOU!  Therefore, God did not focus on the name but on the act itself. That certain man in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Matthew 21:28) could have been any man whose son left home. That certain woman with the issue of blood (Luke 9:43) could have been any woman with an unbearable issue of life. That certain woman who was bent over with an infirmity for18 years (Luke 13:11) could represent anyone who can't stand up and walk tall because of sin or other imperfections.

Too often we forget those "certain servants" and focus our attention on those who are popular and whose names have become household words. Too often we travel miles to see and hear people because of who THEY ARE instead of who GOD IS. There is nothing wrong with making an effort to be in the presence of those "popular" ministers, but also there are myriads of servants who serve in the vineyards and not in front of the cameras.

Use a concordance and look up "a certain man" or "a certain woman" and then read how those thousands of unnamed people were great in the kingdom of God.
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Eat and Run
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat; so he went in and reclined at the table. (Luke 11:37)

We have often heard the expression, "Eat and run" if someone leaves the premises shortly after eating. Is eating and running a bad thing? Is eating and running a good thing? It all depends on the occasion. Sometimes duty calls and we must eat and run. At other times, we are the ones to help close the restaurant just after the staff sweeps around our feet that are still relaxing under the table.

After Jesus fed the disciples, he immediately dismissed the crowds and made the disciples get into the boat so they could take care of other business. (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45) This could be described as "eating and running." On other occasions, Jesus Himself did not eat and run. Instead, He relaxed at the table to fellowship with those eating with Him.

In the above scripture, Jesus accepted the invitation to eat at the house of a Pharisee. We know He had no intention of eating and running because He "reclined at the table." Neither was He in a rush when he ate at the house of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42) He took time to fellowship with them before leaving.

Sometimes we eat and run. Something we eat and fellowship with others. Eating and running is not a bad thing. It all depends on the need to do so.
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"His Eye Is On The Sparrow"
Are you not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one is forgotten by God. (Luke 12:6-7)

Why did Ethel Waters sing "His Eye is on the Sparrow"? Why not the robin, wren, bluejay, or the proud eagle? There are very good reasons for her choosing the sparrow. It is written, "I am like a sparrow alone on the housetop. (Psalm 102:7) The sparrow is a social creature and the symbol of loneliness. The sparrow is a tiny bird. Notice that even though the sparrow is one of the smallest birds, the song says His "eye" and not "eyes." God can see the tiny creature with only one eye. We are much larger than the sparrow. So if God's one eye is on the sparrow, how much more does He watch over us?

In Jesus' time, sparrows were sold for a very low price...two for a copper coin, five for two copper coins. When four sparrows were purchased, the fifth sparrow was free. Even the free sparrow with no commercial value was still under the watchful, caring eye of God. This low price was the temple price because it was the poor man's sacrifice. Those who could not afford a sheep or a goat were permitted to bring a sparrow. God accepted the sparrows with the same pleasure as He accepted the bigger animals.

Sometimes it seems that only God cares for sparrows. Cats, hawks, and mischievous children prey upon the tiny bird. Some people consider sparrows to be pests because they multiply so rapidly. Yet, Jesus asked that rhetorical question:  "Are you not five sparrows sold for two pennies?"  (Luke 12:6) Jesus declared, "Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. (Matthew 10:29)

We might not receive the love, appreciation, or recognition that we deserve from others, but here is some good news: We are always cared for by our Heavenly Father. We are always under His watchful eye. We are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:7)

When you are devalued, think of the lonely sparrow. When in doubt about your self-esteem, think about that fifth sparrow who was thrown in for free with no price attached to it. Remember, God's watchful eye is on the sparrow. Know that God's eye is on YOU!
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You Can't Take It With You
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. (Luke 12:18)

Notice the number of times the rich man says "I" and "my."  He does not seek God on this matter, and he gives God no credit for his plenty. He gives no thought to how he can help his neighbor across the field who didn't have such a prosperous year. He gives no thought to how he can give into the kingdom of God. He gives no thought to helping anyone except himself. He is obsessed with gaining more and more and more. And for whom? For himself and for himself alone! There is no mention of a family. He probably never married because he didn't want to share with a wife and children.

Jesus tells this parable to prove that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." (Luke 12:15). He calls this man a fool and concludes that he who lays up treasures for himself is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:20) We might read this story and say, "What a sad situation!" But in reality we know people like that. There are people who hoard up stuff for themselves. They have possessions packed in boxes that have never been used. Clothes are hanging in the closet with price tags still on them. They hold onto clothes they have outgrown with the hope of getting to that size again. Some people have so many material things that they have decided to get bigger containers to store them instead of sharing with others.

Before you decide to build bigger barns to house all your worldly possessions, pay attention to what happened to the foolish rich man in the parable. That very night his soul was required of him. He didn't get to use his goods. And surely he didn't get to take them with him.

There is absolutely no enjoyment in storing up things for ourselves. Look around you at all the things you have accumulated. Is there anything you could share with others? You will not only bless the recipient, but you will experience enjoyment yourself. At any rate, you definitely can't take it with you!
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Out of Position
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. (Luke 13:10-11)

God, in His infinite design of us, made us to walk upright. Unlike most animals, our bodies were not made for us to walk in a horizontal position. Our position should always be vertical so we can easily lift our heads high to praise God. Otherwise, we are walking out of position.

God, in His infinite design of us, made us in the position to see His beautiful creations: the sky, clouds, tall trees, mountains, flying eagles and elevated things. As we walk, we can see God in nature. Otherwise, we are walking out of position.

In the above scripture, Luke, the physician, describes a woman who was out of position. She had a spirit of infirmity that left her crippled for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. An evil spirit had powers over her that affected her entire physical world. It is interesting to note that even though the woman was out of position physically, she did not use her crippled and bent over body as an excuse for not going to the synagogue to worship God. Because she was in the right place at the right time, Jesus put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God (Luke 13:13). After eighteen years, her "out of position" body was set free.

No matter how long you have been "out of position," God can put you in the right position when you, like this bent over woman, do all you can to seek the one who can heal, cure, deliver and make you whole. When you are out of position, you have a very limited view of the world. Get in the right position to see the world as God intended for you to see it.
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Making Excuses
But they all alike began to make excuses. (Luke 14:18)

Jesus told a parable of a certain man who invited many to a great banquet.  At that time two invitations went out.  Many responded; much like our RSVP.  Then when the table was set and everything was ready, the host sent his servant to give the second invitation.  "But they all alike began to make excuses" and reneged on their original answer. 

The first excused himself by saying he had bought some land and needed to see it. The banquet was at night, and it was dark.  Who could see land at night?  And who in his right mind would purchase land without seeing it first? This was a foolish excuse giving material acquisition priority over God's invitation.

The second man gave the excuse that he had purchased five pairs of oxen, and he must test them.  Would you buy a car sight unseen? Wouldn't you test drive it first?  This man's wealth meant more to him than God.

The third man said he had just gotten married and couldn't come.  He put his marital pleasures before God. He did not want his honeymoon interrupted by attending the banquet.

Many of us have accepted the first invitation to believe in God.  Believing in the redemptive work of Jesus is the second invitation. Many are refusing and making excuses. Accept the invitation now to reserve your place at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
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Reasons People Rationalize
But they all alike began to make excuses. (Luke 14:18)

While rationalizing is in its own category, it is closely akin to making excuses. Rationalizing is defined as "the act of making something seem reasonable." All of us rationalize sometimes, but some people have made it a habit of providing plausible but untrue reasons for their actions. People rationalize for three main reasons.
 
Some rationalize when they are tempted to sin. Instead of walking away from the temptation, some people rationalize with such expressions as "God knows my heart" or "God is big enough to understand." Disobedience is an act against God no matter how much we try to rationalize it.
 
Some rationalize after they have sinned. To say "Everyone else is doing it" or "Nobody will ever know" is rationalizing. Rationalizing sin makes it easier to commit, but rationalization does not convince God or cancel His punishment.
 
Some rationalize from scripture to cover their sin.  Like Satan, some people try to convince God and others that there is a scripture to support what they are doing. While some scriptures might seem to support what you are doing, you must understand the entire Bible and do not take the scriptures out of context to support your sin.
 
So, what should you do about rationalizing? Don't do it at all.  God knows when you are rationalizing. Others know when you are rationalizing. And you know when you are rationalizing.
 
Break the habit to rationalize! Nobody succeeds when you do.

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Using the KISS Rule
So he told them this parable . . . (Luke 15:3)
 
Jesus taught in a manner that was simple.  Usually he told parables in everyday language so His message could not be missed. In our day, we do not usually tell parables to get our point across.  What we could do, however, is to keep our answers simple, concise and to the point.  In fact, in our conversations and especially when we give instructions, we should use the "KISS Rule."  That is Keep It Short and Simple. There is nothing more boring than to ask people questions and have them ramble on for 10 minutes and still don't give a precise answer.  You begin to wish you hadn't even asked the question.

Jesus understood the value of keeping His answers simple.  He often spoke in short sentences so that He could be understood.  "Come." "Come unto me."  "Follow me."  "Pick up your bed and walk." "Could you not watch one hour?" "You are forgiven."  "You have been made whole." "Father, forgive them." "I thirst."  "Go and tell."  All these are short statements that do not need theological interpretations.  Jesus used the "KISS Rule."  It would do us well to do the same.  Our listeners (and readers) would appreciate it!
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When Enough Isn't Enough
Then he said, "This is what I'll do, I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and here I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." (Luke 12:18)

The more some people have, the more they want. The above scripture is from a parable Jesus told to teach about storing up things in heaven rather than on earth. Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). The man who proposed to tear down his barns and build bigger ones missed the principle that material things will not bring eternal happiness. In fact, God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God (Luke 12:20-21).

Further study of this story reveals that the man's focus was on himself only. Notice his spirit of independence: my barns, my fruits, my goods, my soul. He had his future all planned. He was going to take his ease, eat, drink and be merry. None of these things included others. But he died that very night and somebody got his stuff anyway.

Instead of hoarding up riches for ourselves, we should remember that enough is enough. It is so much better to lay up treasure in heaven and be rich toward God than to keep accumulating things on this earth. Where are most of yor riches? In heaven? Or on earth?
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When You Know Better, You Do Better
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to those men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48)

Maya Angelou, the African American poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, once said, "When you know better, you do better."  Luke, the Gospel writer says, "For unto whomever much is given, of him shall be much required." They both acknowledged the same principle.

The principle is that the greater the privilege of KNOWING, the greater the responsibility of DOING. Those who have come to know God's word are required to do God's word as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Those are under a greater responsibility to obey it because much has been given to them and much is also required of them.

Live by the principle that "when you know better, you do better." Then those who don't know will learn from you and do better. They will teach others to do better and the cycle will continue until we all know better and do better.
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Parable of the Lost Coin
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:8-10)

Luke 15 is the chapter of lost things.  It consists of a trilogy of the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son.  Most people are familiar with having heard the parable of the prodigal son preached.  These parables come in a set because the theme of each one is about a complete unit where something was lost; thus, destroying the completeness of it.  In the parable of the lost sheep, one sheep was missing making the herd incomplete until that one sheep was found.  In the parable  of the prodigal son, the family unit was destroyed when the younger son was gone. There was a celebration when he returned to make the family whole again.

The parable of the lost coin is not about an ordinary coin that was lost.  That would not have been so significant.  No one searches diligent over a lost penny and calls her friends in to rejoice when she finds it. This parable is about a woman who had received ten coins as part of her dowry. This set of coins was much like our wedding ring.  It indicated that she was married. The coin itself was worth about a day's wage, but losing one from the set would have made the set useless. Therefore, she rejoiced when she found it.

So it is with the family of God.  When one person is lost and is then found, the angels in heaven rejoice over that one repentant sinner. Each person is special to God. God grieves over every loss and rejoices whenever one of His children is found. Let's share Jesus so that the lost will be found.
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"In Medias Res"
Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)

"In medias res" is a Latin expression meaning "in the middle of things." It is often used as a literary element to denote a story starting in the middle of things rather than at the beginning. There is something wonderful about the Christian life. You can start your journey at the beginning of your life, in the middle of your life, or at the end of your life.

The angels in heaven rejoice whenever one joins the family of God. No time to do so is a bad time. However, when one joins Jesus early in life, there is so much to look forward to. Unlike one who confesses on his death bed, coming to Christ early affords one the opportunity to pray, study the Bible, praise God, fellowship with other believers and enjoy Jesus much longer.

Again, coming to Jesus at any time is good. Coming to Him at an early age is greater for there is more time to baste in His love here on earth. Come to Jesus, now "in medias res" whatever you are in the middle of.
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Customs in the Parable of the Prodigal Son
(Luke 15:11-32)

There is absolutely no way one can understand the Parable of the Prodigal Son without understanding the many Jewish laws and customs found therein. Those to whom Jesus spoke understood the parable because they understood the customs.

The younger son said, "Father, give me my share of the estate" (Luke 15:12). The younger son asks his father to give him the share of the estate that will eventually come to him. According to Jewish customs, this request was both disrespectful and irregular. This was breaking the family ties and treating his father as though he was already dead. Most Bibles say, "So he divided his PROPERTY between them. In the original Greek, it should be translated, "So, he divided his LIFE between them." The younger son gave up any further claim on his father's life or estate, as he himself acknowledges later. Also the oldest son was entitle to 2/3 of the propery; while the younger son was entitled to 1/3 established by Jewish law.

The younger son set off for a distant country--to a Gentile country.  After he spent everything, in a Gentile country, away from his family, he goes to the only source of survival that he could -- to a Gentile who orders him to feed his pigs. This was an abomination to Jews.

After the son comes to his senses, he goes home and to his waiting father. When the father sees the son afar off, he runs to meet him. Another custom must be noted. In ancient Palestine it was regarded as unbecoming and a loss of dignity for a grown man to run. Yet, this father ran to greet his son. He kissed him on the neck. This was a custom of greeting and an expression of forgiveness.

Then the father gives him the best robe, a ring and sandals as a public indication that this son is not a servant (who went barefooted) but a son who has been welcomed back into his house. The lavishness of the celebration is indicated by the killing of the fatted calf. Meat was not a part of the daily diet. It was normally reserved for special celebrations. The son's return certainly did fit into that category.

These customs will help you to understand how the father not only forgave the son for his sins, but welcomed him back into the family just as God welcomes us back. Keep in mind also that Jesus told this parable in response to the Pharisees murmering about Jesus eating and gathering with sinners.
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Come To Your Senses
When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men." So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)

This familiar story of the prodigal son is told in Luke 15:1-31. The above passage is from the turning point when he came to his senses after hitting rock bottom. There are great lessons to be learned from the prodigal son.

For a Jew to even touch a pig meant defilement. For a Jew to feed a pig was great humiliation. For a Jew to eat food that the pigs had touched was to be degraded beyond belief. The prodigal son came to his senses by:
  • Rational Thinking. He realized his father's servants had food to spare while he ate from the pig pen.
  • Setting Goals: "I will set out and go back to my father. . ."
  • Confession:  "I will say to him . . ."
  • Humility: "I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
  • Specific Request: "Make me like one of your hired men."
  • Action: "So he got up and went to his father."
The rest of the story is one of victory because the prodigal son came to his senses at a turning point in his life.

Are you at a turning point in your own life? . . .Then, come to your senses!
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Come To Your Senses Like the Prodigal Son
When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you." So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)

We need to come to our senses. Before we can do work for God, we need to come to our senses. Before we can do worthwhile things in this world, we need to come to our senses. We cannot act upon something until we come to our senses.

In the above scriptures, the prodigal son went his own way living a wild life until he lost all his money in a Gentile country far from home. The famine in the land hastened his poverty stricken condition. The lost son ended in the pig pen feeding pigs and desiring to eat what they ate which was forbidden by Jewish law. It was not until he came to his senses that he realized the impact of his condition. The prodigal son could not move on from his destitute state until "he came to his senses." Action followed that realization . . . not before. Then he went home expecting to experience the worse. Like God who always takes us back, the prodigal son's father welcomed him with opened arms, gave him the best and celebrated his return.

"Coming to your senses" simply means having a light bulb suddenly to come on in your head. "Coming to your senses" means having a moment of epiphany. "Coming to your senses" means having the truth hit you right between the eyes.

If you desire to move from your present situation, the first step is to "Come To Your Senses!"
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When You Come To Your Senses
When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of the hired men." So he got up and wept to his father. (Luke 15:17-20a)

Many of us are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Many of us can relate to the prodigal son in some way; especially when we think of the foolish mistakes we have made. Most of us at one time or another have lost our mind and had to come to our senses concerning something important.

The prodigal son came to his senses only after he hit rock bottom. That was the turning point in his life. Up until that time he could not reason things out. Let's take a close look at the above scripture to see exactly what happened when he came to his senses.

When he came to his senses, he was able to put things in their proper perspective. When he came to his senses, he remembered that the hired men who were with his father were living better than he was. When he came to his senses, he realized he was in a pig pen (against the Jewish religion) when he should have been home with his father and brother. When he came to his senses, he felt the hunger pangs and said he was starving to death. When he came to his senses, he admitted he was a sinner. When he came to his senses, he made up in his mind what to say to his father. When he came to his senses, he humbled himself. When he came to his senses, he set out to go back. When he came to his senses, he wept.

Like the prodigal son, when we come to our senses, we will be able to think logically and reason things out. When we come to our senses we, too, will admit we have sinned against God. When we come to our senses, we will humble ourselves and go back to our Father in repentance, acknowledging our sin, and asking for forgiveness.

When we come to our senses, like the prodigal son, we will weep over some foolish thing(s) we have done.

Come to your senses!
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Robe, Ring, and Shoes
But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best ROBE, and put it on him. Put a RING on his finger and SHOES on his feet. Bring the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us have a feast and celebrate.' (Luke 15:22)

Most of you are familiar with the parable in Luke 15 about the prodigal son. Those of you who attend Sunday School and use the David C. Cook series studied this parable yesterday. There are so many interesting details in this story that each day this week, I will address a new concept. So stay tuned.

What is significant about the father giving the newly returned son those three items: Robe, Ring and Sandals? The father was so happy to see his lost son that it was a joy to give him the best and to celebrate his return home just as God is ready to accept us back when we are lost. Collectively, the items represented the father's best for his son. The ROBE denotes honor and royalty. It belonged to the father. The RING presents the father's authority and a symbol of reinstatement to sonship. The SHOES or SANDALS illustrate that the son is not considered a slave or a servant, but one who belongs in the family. Slaves and servants didn't wear shoes but would go barefooted. Yet, they carried and tied their masters' sandals. In essence, the father was saying to his son, "No, I won't receive you back as a servant. I'll receive you only as a son." The father's celebration was for someone who was dead, but is alive again.

God treats us the same way. When we go from him but returns, He welcomes us back with open arms receiving us as a child of God.
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Our Loving and Forgiving Father
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:23)

When Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son, He devoted the first part of the story on the younger son who left home and wasted his possessions with riotous living. The real lesson of this parable is that the loving and forgiving father took the lost son back. He forgave him and celebrated his return.  The real "Hero" of this story is NOT the younger son. It is the loving and forgiving father.

Once Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the southerners when they had finally been defeated and had returned to the Union of the United States. Lincoln was expected to pronounce vengeance, but he shocked them by answering, "I will treat them as if they had never been away." It was that type of response that this loving and forgiving father had for his son. God, our loving and forgiving Father treats us like that. He accepts us back as if we have never been away. When we go astray and return with repentance, our loving and forgiving Father accepts us back.
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The Other Son

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. But he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!" (Luke 15:28-30)

What was behind the older son's actions? It was hard for the older brother to accept his younger brother when he returned. In this part of the parable, the father's response is contrasted with the older brother's. The father forgave because he was filled with love. The son refused to forgive because he was bitter about the return.

In this story, the older brother represented the Pharisees, who were angry and resentful that sinners were being welcomed into God's kingdom. Like the Pharisees, the older brother thought he had sacrificed and done more. Like the Pharisees, the older brother was self-righteous, and it got in the way of his rejoicing when the lost was found.

Certain things should be pointed out about the older son:
  • He didn't lose anything when his younger brother returned home. Remember, the father has already divided the inheritance between them.
  • He pointed out what his brother had done in contrast to him staying in the father's house. His whole attitude, however, shows that his years of obedience were years of programmed duty and not of loving service. Therefore, he was self-righteous.
  • He refers to his brother not as "my brother," but as "your son." In other words, the older son was NOT happy to see his younger brother return. Unlike his father, the older brother disowned the younger brother. 
It was fitting to celebrate because the lost was found. Like the Pharisees, the older son did not want to associate with sinners (his younger brother). This entire parable was told in response to the Pharisees murmuring about Jesus eating and gathering with tax collectors and sinners.
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Two Beggars

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores.  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. (Luke 16:20-22)

The above scripture deals with the account of two lives, two deaths, two hereafters, and two beggars: one who begged while on earth, and the other who begged while in hell.  Lazarus was a poor man who begged the rich man for crumbs from his table.  Lazarus died and was too poor to be buried.  The unnamed rich man enjoyed all the conveniences while on earth, and when he died he was buried.  BUT he went to hell and was tormented night and day.

The contrasts between Lazarus and the rich man are many. 
  • Lazurus was named; the rich man was unnamed.  It could be anybody; even you. 
  • Lazurus was clothed in sores; the rich man was clothed in expensive custom made robes. 
  • Lazarus was hungry; the rich man's table was filled with the choicest gourmet foods. 
  • Lazarus gave the rich man the opportunity to help him; while the rich man was selfish and catered to his own bodily pleasures.  He had no love for God and no care for his fellow man. 
  • When Lazurus died, the angels took him straight to heaven. When the rich man died, that body he had catered to so much in life was buried, but his soul went straight to hell.
  • Lazarus experienced total bliss in heaven; the rich man went to hell and for the first time began to beg. He who had enjoyed so much in life was now begging for just a drop of water to cool his tongue.
Two beggars: one begged while on earth, the other begged while in hell.  The rich man was not condemned to hell because he was rich but because he showed no compassion for others. He didn't have the love of God or the care for his fellow man. Instead, he was self-centered thinking only about himself.  While he was inside fulfulling his pleasures, a beggar lay at his gate seeking only crumbs.

The kind of life you are living today has a great effect on how you will spend eternity. Once death has taken place, that destiny is fixed. Christians go to heaven; the place of total bliss; non-Christians go to hell, the place of eternal torment.
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Going Within
The kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

Just as the tabernacle has an outer court and inner court called the Holy of Holies, we too, are built with an outer court and an inner court. In order to experience God in His fullness, we need to go within . . . deep within ourselves because that's where we will be able to connect with the Spirit of the living God.  There is absolutely no way we can connect with God from the outer court where sin still exists. We must meet God in the Holy of Holies within our own selves.

How do you go within? The answer is simple, but it takes discipline. You can learn to go within with a deeper sense of repentance and evolve with a higher level of spirituality. The first step in going into the Holy of Holies or deep within your own heart is to repent of ALL your sins. A holy God cannot look on sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Then consecrate yourself to be fit to enter behind the sacred veil into God's presence.

The value of going within is to experience all that God wants to offer you . . . His presence, His power and His revelations through Jesus Christ. When you go within on a regular basis, you will find comfort, solace, and the kingdom of God.
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Remember Lot's Wife
Remember Lot's wife. (Luke 17:32)

Have you ever wondered why Luke told us to remember Lot's wife?  What are we to remember about her? And how is it significant to our own lives? 

First of all, Lot's wife could represent any of us. God permitted Lot and his family to escape from Sodom. He warned them not to look back as He rained down brimstone and fire from heaven.  Lot's wife left physically, but her heart was not in it. When she looked back, she fell under God's judgment and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:24-26).

Luke tells us to remember Lot's wife.  Although she was taken by force out of Sodom, her heart remained in the city.  This was indicated by the fact that she turned back. She was out of Sodom, but Sodom was not out of her.  We are to remember Lot's wife and not turn back to the world. We are "in the world" but not "of the world." Once we have put our hand to the plow of discipleship, we must not look back; otherwise, we are not fit to do service for God (Luke 9:62).
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Praying Always; Fainting Never!
We ought always to pray and not to faint. (Luke 18:1)

We should always pray for our needs according to God's word.  The above scripture is in reference to praying for God's deliverance in times of testing. It is praying without fainting or losing heart. To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean always being on our knees, endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions while neglecting other responsibilities.  Always praying means having a prayerful attitude at all times.  It means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for Him day by day, believing He will answer. God may delay answering, but His delays are not His denials.  There might be good reason for His delay.  The period between our asking and our receiving might be a time of preparation for us to receive all God has to offer. 

As we persist in prayer, we grow in character, faith, and hope.  Continue to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
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Matches and Prayers
Then Jesus told them a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)

How many times must you strike a match before it lights? Well, that depends on a lot of variables. It depends on whether the match is wet or dry. It depends on whether you are inside or outside. If you are outside, it depends on whether it is a sunny day, a rainy day or a windy day.

When trying to light a match, sometimes we have to strike and strike again. Sometimes we have to strike dozens of times before we can get a spark. Sometimes even after we light the match, it might go out immediately, and we have to start the process all over again.

What, then, is the theological life application to striking matches? Here striking a match is likened to praying a prayer. There is a definite need for patience and perseverance in both cases. No one gives up if the match doesn't strike after the first try, and we shouldn't give up if our prayer is not answered after the first time. Keep striking a match until there is a tiny spark. Keep praying until you see some evidence of answered prayer. Remember all conditions have to be right before a match will ignite and burst into a flame. Likewise, God will answer our prayer when it is offered in a right spirit under the right conditions.

Don't give up! Keep striking your matches! Keep praying your prayers!
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What MUST I Do?"
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18)

Undoubtedly, we have all asked the question, "What MUST I do?" Not "What CAN I do?" Not "What SHOULD I do?" Not "What MIGHT I do?" But "What MUST I do?" The word "MUST" carries with it a sense of urgency and a sense of compulsion.

Christians, theologians, seminarians, and many lay people have debates about some things in the Bible. However, we all agree on the following MUST's.

"Marvel not that I said to you, you MUST be born again." (John 3:7) We MUST be transformed by the Holy Spirit from within.

"He that comes to God MUST believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Every believer MUST believe in the sovereignty and deity of God.

"They that worship God, MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) True believers MUST worship God in spirit as well as in truth.

"He MUST increase, but I MUST decrease." (John 3:30) In order to grow strong in the Lord, we MUST submit to God in every area of our lives. We MUST put more emphasis on God's kingdom than on our own achievements.

"For we MUST all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10) We all MUST give an account and will be rewarded based on how we have lived.

There is no circumventing these MUST's if we want to have an intimate relationship with God.
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"I'm Good" and "It's All Good!"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good --- except God alone." (Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19)

Parents are beginning to complain because the expression, "I'm good!" has recently become a standard answer to almost every question they ask their teenagers. Question: "How was your day?" Answer: "I'm good!" Question: "How was your history test?" Answer: "I'm good!" Question: Are you ready for dinner?" Answer: "I'm good!" Every question should not be answered with: "I'm good! To vary their answers only slightly, they also say, "It's all good!"

"I'm good" is nondescriptive. It doesn't tell anybody anything. It is a vague answer that should be replaced with an answer that has substance.

What did Jesus say about the "I'm good!" answer? Jesus didn't allow people to call him "good." Why not? Jesus answered. "No one is good --- except God alone."

Let's encourage the teenagers in our midst that "No one is good --- except God alone." There are many other descriptions in our language that will convey how we are, how we feel,  and how we are doing without the catch-all expressions: "I'm good!" or "It's all good!"
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The View From the Top
So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. (Luke 19:4)

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. . . a rich chief tax collector . . . a short rich chief tax collector.  When Jesus was passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus sought to see Him but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus.  Zacchaeus could now view Jesus from the top. But that was all he could do in that postion. When Jesus came to the place He looked up and told Zacchaeus to come down immediately for He wanted to stay at his house.

One of the many messages in this story is that Jesus wants to be with us. . . to be in right relationship with us.  He doesn't want us to just view him from a distance.  While Zacchaeus was in the tree, there was no intimate dealings with Jesus.  He could only have a view from the top of the sycamore tree.  God wants for us to have more than a mere view.  He wants us to be close enough to communicate with Him.  He wants us to be of the same mind and spirit to hear and understand His voice.

If you are up a tree and out on a limb, you are only experiencing THE VIEW FROM THE TOP.  Be like Zacchaeus, COME ON DOWN, and be with Jesus.
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Jesus Is Passing Through

And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Luke 19:4-5)

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing through.  In fact, this was Jesus' third and final time passing through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem.  Zacchaeus was short in statute. Determined to see Jesus as He was passing through, Zacchaeus did several things to participate in what he wanted to happen: 
  1. He ran ahead.  Sometimes you have to leave the crowd behind and run ahead.
  2. He climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus.  If you are really determined to see Jesus, you have to do something out of the ordinary.  Instead of Zacchaeus saying, "I'm too short to see Jesus," he found a solution. 
  3. He acted on faith and ended up a tree and out on a limb. 
  4. Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was passing through, and he acted upon that knowledge. 
You, too, should always be informed. Watch, listen, and know what's happening in your surrounding. And then act upon that information. Zacchaeus did not wait for Jesus to pass through his own neighborhood.  Instead, Zacchaeus was determined, deliberate, and intentional about getting in Jesus' presence no matter where He was.

Would you like for Jesus to stay at your house?  Go to where you know Jesus is passing through. And when you do, Jesus will give you more of His presence.
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What the Bible Says About Restitution
If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold. (Luke 19:8)

What is restitution? Restitution is the act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, stolen, lost or surrendered. According to Leviticus 6:1-7, restitution was part of the Mosaic Law which established the procedure to be followed in restoring stolen property.

By law the person who stole someone's property not only had to pay for it but also he had to add 20 percent (one-fifth of its value). If an animal such as an ox, donkey or sheep was stolen and recovered alive, the thief would have to pay double the value for the animal, but if the animal had been killed or sold, the thief had to make a fourfold restitution for a sheep or a fivefold restitution for an ox.

The only clear case of restitution in the New Testament is the one with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who promised he would repay fourfold what he had taken from the people.

Do you need to pay restitution for something you have borrowed and not returned, for something you have broken that belonged to someone else, or for something you have stolen from someone?
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Jesus' Favorite Name For Himself
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)

Jesus is identified by many names and titles in the Bible. We are familiar with most of them; such as Messiah, Savior, Lamb of God, Son of God, Son of David, Root of Jesse, Rose of Sharon, and Lily of The Valley. His disciples called Him Rabbi, and Mary Magdalene called Him Rabboni. Both of these names mean "Teacher." Peter called Him the Christ. Jesus called Himself the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Alpha and the Omega.

Jesus referred to Himself as Jesus only once and that was on the Damascus Road when He told Saul, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5). After that experience, Paul never referred to Jesus by his first name. He called Him Christ which is a title or he used a compound name such as Christ Jesus or the Lord Jesus Christ. (Scan any of the Pauline Epistles for proof of this).

Of all the names and titles for Jesus, there was one that Jesus used to describe Himself more than any other. In fact, He used it about 83 times in the gospels. Jesus' favorite title for Himself was "Son of Man" and no one else ever called Him that.

Why was this title so special to Jesus? What does it mean to be the Son of Man? It is a title that only the Messiah could claim (Daniel 7:13-14). This title specifically speaks about His humanity and His suffering as a man. Jesus suffered hunger, thirst, tiredness, pain, torment, and eventually death on the cross. "Son of Man" speaks of how Jesus humbled Himself to become a man in order to be our substitute upon the cross.

"The Son of Man" was Jesus' favorite title for Himself for the above reasons, but mainly because it spoke of His relationship with us. Jesus came to be one of us to save all of us. That's why we can be thankful that our Savior and Lord was also the "Son of Man."

Take this Quiz: Names for Jesus to see how many names of Jesus you know.
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Transfiguration or Transformation?
And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 19:29)

Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 19:28-36 all record the Transfiguration. Is there a difference between transfiguration and transformation?  While both words involve a change, there is a slight difference. From the above scripture, we see Jesus was changed in appearance. Therefore, transfiguration means a radical change in appearance. It also means to glorify and exalt. God displayed His glory in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ when He said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5-RSV) Peter acknowledged the Transfiguration was historical proof of the true gospel of Christ and that God gave His Son honor and glory that day on the mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

What then is the difference between transfiguration and transformation? Transfiguration deals with the outer appearance. Transformation deals with a radical change in the inner character, condition or nature. Paul tells us, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED [not transfigured] by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

The inner change must take place first. We cannot be TRANSFIGURED until we are TRANSFORMED by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.
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Marriage Is Not 50-50!"
And Jesus answering said unto them, "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage." (Luke 20:34)

A real marriage is NOT 50-50!  You must give your all in order for a marriage to work and be what God has designed it to be.  One half and one half does not make a whole in marriage.  Each person must bring 100 percent to the marriage.  If the couple relies on 50 percent from each, then the marriage is only half of what it should be.  Marriage should be 100-100. The marriage falls short when the husband gives his 50 percent and the wife gives her 50 percent. Two whole people should come together as two whole people; not halves. So stop calling your spouse your "better half."  God intends for some to wait until they have resolved certain personal issues instead of combining their unresolved personal issues with a mate's unresolved personal issues.  God wants two whole people to come together as two whole people giving their best -100 percent; not 50 percent!
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Facing Life's Challenges
Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. Luke 21:14

Jesus warned his followers that they would be betrayed by their family members and friends.  Christians of every age have had to face this possibility.  It is reassuring to know that even when we feel completely abandoned, the Holy Spirit stays with us.  He will comfort us, protect us, and give us the words we need.  This assurance can give us the courage and hope to stand firm no matter how difficult the situation.  We should be able to face any challenge with confidence because God will keep His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  Firm assurance is based on God's care for us.

And this outweighs any outcome we could ever imagine with our finite mind.
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Is It A Trap?
For a trap will come unexpectedly upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen. (Luke 21:35-36)

A trap is a device by which one is caught unaware and is entangled. This stops the person from doing what he had intended to do. And yes, there is such a thing as a booby trap. It is a concealed explosive device designed to destroy those who get close to it. According to the above scripture, everyone on the face of the whole earth stands in a position to be trapped. However, we should watch and pray so that we may be able to escape the traps that are set for us.

It's the devil's job to set traps. We can  easily be caught if we expect to see someone wearing a red suit carrying a pitch fork. The devil often comes dressed the way we dress "to steal, kill and destroy." (John 10:10)

The words in the above scripture are in red in the red-letter Bible to indicate they were spoken directly from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus knew much about traps because the Pharisees often set traps to catch Him in something He said or did. (Luke 11:54)

How do we protect ourselves from the traps our enemies have set for us? We must always watch and pray and never let our guards down. Remember, the Pharisees made it a practice to trap Jesus. There are Pharisees among us today; on our jobs, in our homes, in our churches; and in our schools. Traps will be set for us no matter who we are or where we go.  When we are faced with something that seemed too good to be true, let's ask ourselves the question: "Is it a trap?"
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The Last Supper: A Marriage Proposal
This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

Maundy Thursday is the last Thursday before Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday commemorates two events of Christ's last week on earth: washing the feet of His disciples to show His humility and His servanthood and sharing the Last Supper with them in the upper room on the night before His death. Maundy Thursday gets its name from the commandment that Jesus gave us to love one another. The word “maundy” is the Latin word for “mandatum” which means “commandment.”

"This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20). The disciples recognized these words because this is the language that is still used in Jewish betrothals. When the father of the young woman has agreed to the betrothal, the young man holds out a cup of wine to the young woman and says, "This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you." It is as if he has said, "I love you, and I'll give you my life. Will you marry me?" And if she accepts the cup, she accepts the offer, and gives her life in response. How astounding are the words of Jesus when He said the same words. The Last Supper was really a marriage proposal.  Each time we participate in the Lord's Supper, we renew our own marriage vows to God, and we are reminded that He is truly in love with us. Like the young Jewish woman, we should give our lives in response to Jesus' marriage proposal.

Jesus has made a new covenant with you. He has offered you a marriage proposal. Jesus is asking, "Will you marry me?" Will you say "Yes!" and give your life in response?
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The Last Supper: A Marriage Proposal
This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20).
   
Maundy Thursday is the last Thursday before Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday commemorates two events of Christ's last week on earth: washing the feet of His disciples, and sharing the Last Supper with them. It gets its name from the instruction that Jesus gave us to love one another. The word “maundy” is the Latin word for “mandatum” which means “commandment” as Jesus spoke in the Upper Room on the night before His death.  He spoke this commandment during the Passover meal when He washed His disciples’ feet and instituted the Lord's Supper that we follow today.

"This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20). The disciples recognized these words because this is the language that is still used in Jewish betrothals. When the father of the young woman has agreed to the betrothal, the young man holds out a cup of wine to the young woman and says, "This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you." It is as if he has said, "I love you, and I'll give you my life. Will you marry me?" And if she accepts the cup, she accepts the offer, and gives her life in response. How astounding are the words of Jesus when He said the same words.  The Last Supper was really a marriage proposal.  Each time we participate in the Lord's Supper, we renew our own marriage vows to God, and we are reminded that He is truly in love with us. Like the young Jewish woman, we should give our lives in response to Jesus' marriage proposal.


Jesus has made a new covenant with you. He has offered you a marriage proposal.  What's your response?
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The Last Supper: A Marriage Proposal
This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

Maundy Thursday is the last Thursday before Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday commemorates two events of Christ's last week on earth: washing the feet of His disciples, and sharing the Last Supper with them. It gets its name from the instruction that Jesus gave us to love one another. The word “maundy” is the Latin word for “mandatum” which means “commandment” as Jesus spoke in the Upper Room on the night before His death.  He spoke this commandment during the Passover meal when He washed His disciples’ feet and instituted the Lord's Supper that we follow today.

"This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20). The disciples recognized these  covenant-relationship words that is the language used in Jewish betrothals today. When the father of the young woman has agreed to the betrothal, the young man holds out a cup of wine to the woman and says, "This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you." It is as if he has said, "I love you, and I'll give you my life. Will you marry me?" And if she accepts the cup, she accepts the offer, and gives her life in response. How astounding are the words of Jesus when He said the same words.  The Last Supper was really a marriage proposal.  Each time we participate in the Lord's Supper, we renew our own marriage vows to Jesus, and we are reminded that He truly is in love with us. Like the young Jewish woman, we should give our lives in response to Jesus' marriage proposal.

Jesus has made a new covenant with you. He has offered you a marriage proposal.  What's your response?
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Ask For An Assignment
I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom. (Luke 22:29)

So often people ask, "How do I hear from God?" If the truth be told, we hear from God all the time. The problem lies in the fact that we don't know for sure if it is God who is speaking. Sometimes we know it is God, but we refuse to listen because we don't want to respond.

If you are sincere about hearing from God, start each morning by asking God for an assignment for the day. Stay in prayer until He gives you one. Then carry it out. This priceless practice will help you hear God's voice. WARNING: The assignment might not always be one that you yourself would have chosen. But know that any assignment God gives you will be one that is for your own good.

You might not be able to distinguish God's voice from the other two voices that you will also hear (Satan's and yours). God's assignment will never go against God's word. God's assignment will not always appeal to your flesh. God's assignment will stretch you out of your comfort zone. God's assignment might not have instant results. God's assignment will bring glory to God and not to you or to Satan.

It might seem strange when you first begin to get daily assignments from God, but if you continue in this discipline, you will become more comfortable. The more obedient you are to God's initial gentle nudgings, the more direct the assignments will become. Also, if you refuse to carry out an assignment, God will not give you another one until you do. How sad it is that some people are stuck in the past because they put an assignment on hold ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago. Remember that assignment God gave you that you ignored? Remember the time God gave you a specific task and you refused to do it? The bad news: You will not grow and develop and be totally at peace until that task is completed. The good news...The task is still assigned to you. It is still listed by your name on God's ledger. God is waiting for you to complete this particular assignment so that He can give you bigger and better things to do.

What if you don't ask for daily assignments? You will not grow spiritually. You will not prosper. You will never have inner peace. You will remain stuck in this moment. So, if you want to grow spiritually and be all that you and God want you to be, then ask for an assignment, thank God for it, and complete it so that you can move on to something else.
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The Perfect Prayer
Luke 22:42

I attended a worship service at the Calvary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois yesterday where the pastor preached on the subject, "The Perfect Prayer." I kept wondering during the sermon what Dr. Alfloyd Butler considered "the perfect prayer." Having gone through many trials in my life, I began to thank God in advance that finally I was only minutes away from finding out what "the perfect prayer" is that will solve all problems, answer all questions, heal all diseases, and comfort all hurts.

Waiting anxiously to hear what "the perfect prayer" was, Dr. Butler kept the congregation in suspense until the very last line of the sermon. The anticipation and the expectation helped to make the sermon more powerful.

While discussing the sermon title with my sister, Corliss, she immediately voiced what "the perfect prayer" is. Do you know what "the perfect prayer" is?

THE PERFECT PRAYER is that prayer that Jesus lived by. THE PERFECT PRAYER is that prayer that Jesus often prayed. THE PERFECT PRAYER is that prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was facing the most difficult situation of his life. When Jesus was going to the cross, He prayed THE PERFECT PRAYER. Since Jesus prayed THE PERFECT PRAYER when He was faced with such an awesome task,  we can pray THE PERFECT PRAYER when we are encountering difficult situations as well.

Please join me in praying THE PERFECT PRAYER right now . . . "FATHER, not my will, but thine be done." (Luke 22:42)
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The Judas Kiss
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:47-48)

Why did Judas kiss Jesus? During that time a kiss was a traditional greeting. In some cultures, it still is. A disciple would greet his teacher with a kiss on the cheek or beard to show honor and submission. The less important person initiated the kiss. This is the irony in the Judas kiss. Judas was supposed to be showing honor to Jesus, yet he was betraying him.

Be aware of those who greet you with a friendly gesture. All greetings are not genuine. There just might be a Judas kiss somewhere in the midst.
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Guilty But Freed
Then they all shouted out together, "Free Barabbas! Free Barabbas!" (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)  (Luke 23:18-19)

During Passover it was a Jewish custom to free a prisoner. Barabbas was guilty of an insurrection that had taken place; yet he was freed because he was the people's choice. Jesus was not guilty, but they did not choose Him to be released.

It is interesting to note that Jesus took the place of guilty Barabbas before going to the cross, and Jesus took our guilty place on the cross.

We are guilty of sin. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, we have been set free.
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A Very Important Week
They kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:23)

This very important week is known as Holy Week or Passion Week when Jesus was faced with rejection and denial from those close to Him as well as by His enemies. Everything about Jesus seemed to come together during His last week on earth. One day people were honoring Him, and several days later they yelled to have Him crucified. His disciples who had walked with Him for three years denied Him. Even on the cross, Jesus felt forsaken by His Father.

What appeared to be the darkest time of Jesus' life became the brightest for us. When we think that our lives are filled with gloom and doom, remember what Jesus went through so that our lives could be bright.
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The Word of Forgiveness
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Jesus taught that we should forgive those who sin against us. How appropriate His first words from the cross should be words of forgiveness.

The plea for forgiveness was not for willful sin to be excused. The men who nailed Jesus to the cross had no understanding of what they were doing.  Therefore, Jesus prayed for them and asked that they be forgiven.

Let us follow that example, and pray for those who curse us and cause us grief.  Jesus forgave those who did Him wrong.  Why shouldn't we?
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The Word of Salvation
Verily I say unto you, today you will be with me in paradise.(Luke 23:43)

This is the second of the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross.  The first word was to ask for forgiveness for those who know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

As He hung on the cross, Jesus certainly did not appear to be a king. Yet, what faith the repentant thief displayed when he said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). Jesus replied, "Verily I say unto you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

Surely this tells us above all things that it is never too late to turn to Christ. So long as an individual's heart beats, the invitation of Christ still stands.
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From Darkness to Light . . . From Light to Darkness
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . . (Luke 2:8-9)  It was about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  For the sun stopped shining. (Luke 23:44-45).

Luke, the gospel writer who reported an orderly account of Jesus, describes His birth and his death.  It is interesting to note that Jesus was born at night, and it became light.  He was crucified during the day and it became dark for three hours.

Jesus was the "light" of the world who pierced the darkness.  When we have Jesus, our lives are filled with light.  Then we can sing with meaning the song, "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going To Let It Shine."  Our countenances should glow with the love of Jesus who lights up our lives.

The day Jesus died darkness covered the entire land for three hours in the middle of the day.  All nature seemed to mourn over the death of God's Son. However, good news followed when three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead.  Now we can sing with meaning the song, "He Lives!" Because He was resurrected and He lives, we too have eternal life!
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The Word of Contentment
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

This is the seventh saying of Jesus from the cross.  Jesus gave up the ghost and died a victorious death after finishing His work on earth.  He died with a prayer on His lips.  "Now I lay me down to sleep  . . . " is the prayer Christian mothers teach their children to say each night before going to sleep.  "Into thy hands I commend my spirit" is what Jewish mothers teach their children to say.  And Jesus made it even more lovely for He began it with the word, "Father." 

Even on the cross, Jesus died like a child falling asleep in his Father's arms.
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Good Friday
And when Jesus cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'unto your hands I commit my spirit.'" Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46)

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, celebrated as the anniversary of Jesus' death on the cross.  It was set apart as a holy day to recall the agony of Christ when he was crucified.  Some churches have a three-hour service to commemorate this mighty event. 

You might be wondering why it is called "Good Friday" when Jesus died.  The answer is simple.  It is called "Good Friday" because for us that IS good news.  It is the gospel message that Jesus came to earth to be one of us to save all of us.  Because Jesus died we may live.  Jesus was crucified on Friday which was good, but the best news of all is that God raised Him from the dead three days later.  Jesus is not dead, He is alive! And that's why we call it "Good Friday."
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Good Friday
Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

Good Friday marks the events of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, death and burial.  We remember how He suffered and died.  Many Christian churches have worship service on Good Friday with the liturgy consisting of the "Seven Last Expressions from the Cross." We call this day “good” because of what God was able to do for us through the life and death of Jesus. He gave us new life with Him forever.
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Good Friday
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

Good Friday marks the events of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, death and burial.  We remember how He suffered and died.  Many Christian churches have worship service on Good Friday with the liturgy consisting of the "Seven Last Expressions from the Cross." We call this day “good” because of what God was able to do for us through the death of Jesus. Because of what happened on Good Friday, we are able to have a new life with God forever. As a human, Jesus was limited to time and space. His death provided access to Him for all times and in all places.
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Your Emmaus Road Experience
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)

Like the two disciples, each of us will have our own Emmaus Road experience when we focus on sorrowful things that have happened and discuss those things with someone else. In the above scripture, the two disciples were leaving Jerusalem walking away from what saddened them. They focused on their own doubt and disappointment. They were dismayed because they thought Jesus was the one who would save Israel. They thought he was the Messiah. But now he had been crucified. At that time, that's all the disciples on the road to Emmaus knew. They did not know the complete story; therefore, they were sad. And that's what they focused on...their own sadness and sorrow.

They did not recognize Jesus when he walked alongside them and joined in the conversation. They told Jesus the whole story about his own crucifixion. That's when Jesus called them foolish (Luke 24:25) for not believing all that the prophets had said concerning the Messiah. After Jesus taught them from Genesis to Malachi, their hearts burned. When he broke bread and ate with them, their eyes were opened. Then they recognized Jesus. They got up and immediately went back to Jerusalem to tell the story. These two disciples went from mourners to missionaries because they had spent time with Jesus. They had walked with Him, talked with Him, had Bible Study with Him and eaten with Him. Their hearts burned, their eyes were opened and they rejoiced because they knew the whole story about Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

When we know the whole story, we will rejoice as well. We will stop focusing on our own problems and recognize Jesus when He joins us on our Emmaus Road.
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When Jesus Joins Your Conversation
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them... (Luke 24:15)

Luke 24:13-35 records the story of two disciples walking to Emmaus about seven miles from Jerusalem after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As they discussed what had happened, Jesus Himself came up, walked beside them, and entered into their conversation, but they did not know who Jesus was.

Jesus asked them what they were talking about, and the two disciples appeared to be sarcastic when Jesus questioned them about what had happened. One of them asked Him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" (Luke 24:18) They began to educate Jesus on what had happened. Then a reversal came when Jesus rebuked them for not believing. He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" (Luke 24:25)

During the rest of the walk, Jesus took over the conversation and taught them from the Old Testament to the present time. After Jesus had finished teaching them, they exclaimed, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32)

If you are still depressed after a conversation with someone, it means Jesus wasn't in it at all. If your heart isn't burning after your conversation, it means Jesus wasn't in it at all.

While you are discussing depressing things with someone, allow Jesus to join you in your conversation. When you allow Him to come up and walk beside you and talk with you, you are then able to move over and up from your downcast position to having your heart burn within you.
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Recognizing Jesus as Lord
For not even did his brothers believed in him." (John 7:5). 
And Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus." (John 20:14).
But their eyes were kept from recognizing him." (Luke 24:16).

When we read the Bible, we will discover that on numerous occasions the religious leaders and many of the people who came in contact with Jesus did not know he was the Messiah even after He told them.  His disciples doubted it at times.  His own four brothers, including James and Jude did not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah until after His death.  Mary Magdalene talked to Him in the garden after His resurrection but did not recognize Him until He called her name.  The two disciples talked with him as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. They  recognized Him only when they were eating together and Jesus broke bread in His usual manner.

What would it take for you to recognize that Jesus is Lord?  What simple act or gesture will really prove to you that Jesus is who He said He is . . . the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  What would it take for you to believe that Jesus came, He died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead; He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of God making intercessions for us? What would it take for you to believe?
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What's Better Than Eye Drops?
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him... (Luke 24:31a)

During the seven miles walk to Emmaus, two disciples were kept from recognizing Jesus until the proper time even though Jesus walked beside them and talked to them. The disciples were absorbed in their own misery. They even accused the "stranger" of not knowing what had happened in Jerusalem during the last three days. Ironically, Jesus was the only one who did know exactly what had happened. However, Jesus did not interrupt them or correct them. He let them tell the story as they knew it. Only after they had finished talking did Jesus call them foolish and slow of heart to believe. (Luke 24:25)

Now it was time for Jesus to say something that would open their eyes. However, He did not use eye drops. What did Jesus do? Starting with the Old Testament, Jesus opened the Scriptures to them and explained all that was said about Him. Then Jesus fellowshipped with them in their home by breaking bread and giving it to them. This meager meal turned into a sacrament. "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight." (Luke 24:30-31)

If you are foolish and slow to believe, here is a great eye opener. If you want to understand God's plan, read the scriptures. If you don't understand the scriptures, attend a good Bible Study and before long, like the disciples, your eyes will be opened.

What's better than eye drops? The Word of God and fellowshipping with Jesus, of course!
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Hearts That Burn
And they said one to another, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us on the road and opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:32)

Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus when a stranger joined them. They talked about their sadness over the recent crucifixion of Jesus. They did not know they were walking and talking to the One who had just been crucified, buried and resurrected to save them.  When they reached their destination they invited the stranger to eat with them.  When he was at the table, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to the disciples.  Then their eyes were opened because they had seen Jesus do that several times before.  Immediately they recognized Jesus.  They turned to each other and said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?"

When was the last time your heart burned from recognizing Jesus? When was the last time your heart burned from having learned something new from the scriptures?  To have burning hearts often engage in conversations with Jesus; study the scriptures, and they will be opened to you.  And then you can say, "Did not my heart burn within me while he talked with me and while he opened to me the scriptures?"
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Spiritual Heart Burn
And they said one to another, "Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us on the road, and while he opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32, NKJV)

What did the two disciples mean when they said, "Did not our heart burn within us" while Jesus talked with them on the road to Emmaus?

Words have more than one meaning. "Heart burn" in this text has nothing to do with "heartburn" as pain.  Heartburn referring to pain is one word and a noun; it is a thing. (See any dictionary). It means "a burning discomfort behind the lower part of the sternum usually related to spasm of the lower end of the esophagus or of the upper part of the stomach."

When the disciples said, "Did not our heart burn within us...?" they were referring to "heart burn" (two words: a noun and a verb) as a tingling feeling; sort of like the feeling we used to get when we were teenagers in love...remember?

The disciples weren't talking about a medical complaint, but about a feeling of excitement and conviction they got while Jesus talked with them. It was like fire in their hearts. They responded to what Jesus was saying on the inside and it was so strong that "heart burn" was the best expression to describe it. They did not have "heartburn." Instead they said, "Did not our 'heart burn' within us?" 

No medicine is needed or wanted for the "heart burn" of Luke 24:32. However, there are antacids for the "heartburn" that causes pain.

Hopefully, this has cleared up the difference about "heartburn" and "heart burn."  If so, allow your heart to burn within you!
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Do You Understand the Scriptures?
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

The Bible was not written to confuse people. Yet, many people don't understand the Bible.  Our minds have to be open before the Holy Spirit will reveal His truths to us. In the above scripture, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus when the resurrected Jesus joined them.  They did not recognize Jesus for several reasons.  They had witnessed his crucifixion, and they didn't expect to see him again. They were talking about the events and focused on their own grief. So nothing else mattered at the time.

But the most important reason the disciples did not recognize Jesus was because "they were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).  It was not time for their eyes to be opened.  So they continued to recount the events of the past three days.  Then Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) Jesus began to teach them from the Bible.  They did not understand until He opened their minds. Do you understand the scriptures? Are your eyes and mind open to the truths? Before studying the Bible, pray that God will "open your eyes that you may behold wonderful things out of his word" (Psalm 119:18).

Unless your eyes and mind are opened, you WILL NOT and CANNOT understand the scriptures.
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Recognizing Jesus as Lord
For not even did his brothers believed in him" (John 7:5).  "And Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus" (John 20:14). "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16).

When we read the Bible, we will discover that on numerous occasions the religious leaders and many of the people who came in contact with Jesus did not know he was the Messiah even after He told them.  His disciples doubted it at times.  His own four brothers, including James and Jude did not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah until after His death.  Mary Magdalene talked to Him in the garden after His resurrection but did not recognize Him until He called her name.  The two disciples talked with him as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. They  recognized Him only when they were eating together and Jesus broke bread in His usual manner.

What would it take for you to recognize that Jesus is Lord?  What simple act or gesture will really prove to you that Jesus is who He said He is . . . the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  What would it take for you to believe that Jesus came, He died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead; He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of God making intercessions for us? What would it take for you to believe?
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Hearts That Burn
And they said one to another, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us on the road and opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:32)

Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus when a stranger joined them. They talked about their sadness over the recent crucifixion of Jesus.  They did not know they were walking and talking to the One who had just been crucified, buried and resurrected to save them.  When they reached their destination they invited the stranger to eat with them.  When he was at the table, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to the disciples.  Then their eyes were opened because they had seen Jesus do that several times before.  Immediately they recognized Jesus.  They turned to each other and said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?"

When was the last time your heart burned from recognizing Jesus? When was the last time your heart burned from having learned something new from the scriptures?  To have burning hearts often engage in conversations with Jesus; study the scriptures, and they will be opened to you.  And then you can say, "Did not my heart burn within me while he talked with me and while he opened to me the scriptures?"
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Do You Understand the Scriptures?
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

The Bible was not written to confuse people. Yet, many people don't understand the Bible.  Our minds have to be open before the Holy Spirit will reveal His truths to us. In the above scripture, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus when the resurrected Jesus joined them.  They did not recognize Jesus for several reasons.  They had witnessed his crucifixion, and they didn't expect to see him again. They were talking about the events and focused on their own grief. So nothing else mattered at the time.

But the most important reason the disciples did not recognize Jesus was because "they were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).  It was not time for their eyes to be opened.  So they continued to recount the events of the past three days.  Then Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) Jesus began to teach them from the Bible. They did not understand until He opened their minds. Do you understand the scriptures? Are your eyes and mind open to the truths? Before studying the Bible, pray that God will "open your eyes that you may behold wonderful things out of his word" (Psalm 119:18). Unless your eyes and mind are opened, you WILL NOT and CANNOT understand the scriptures.
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Waiting For His Return
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven." (Luke 24:51) "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going . . . This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:10-11)

Do you remember when you were young and your parents went into town to shop? They would say, "You all behave yourselves until I get back."  While they were gone, you did everything you were big enough to do, and then when you thought it was time for them to return, you straightened up the mess you had made of the house and tried to put everything back in order before they returned.  Then you started looking up and down the road, listening for the sound of their car as you pressed your nose against the window pane. So many times you thought it was them, but the car kept past your house.  You waited and waited for what seems to be an eternity.  Then you and your sisters and brothers began to play games to make the time go faster.  You counted the cars as they passed by, or you looked to see how many white cars, or red cars, or black cars passed . . . anything to occupy yourselves until your parents arrived. And then, they did.  Just as they said they would.  And they brought you that bag of popcorn or that "Sugar Daddy" or that "Tootsie Roll" just as they promised.

Well, Jesus is coming back.  Before He left, He told us to behave ourselves.  But if you are acting up and misbehaving and playing games, it is time to get right for His return.  Because He will come back just as He left.  And when He goes, he will bring us much more than popcorn and candy.  He will bring us HIMSELF. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
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