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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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MATTHEW

What is Betrothal?
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18)

When is the last time you used the word "betrothal" in general conversation? Admittedly, most people hear the word only in connection with the story surrounding the birth of Jesus. What, then, is the meaning of "betrothal"?

A betrothal is a mutual promise or contract for a future marriage (Deuteronomy 20:7; Jeremiah 2:2; Luke 1:27). Betrothal seems to have been linked more closely with marriage than with our modern day concept of engagement. The selection of the bride was followed by a betrothal. The betrothal was undertaken by a friend or an agent representing the bridegroom along with the bride's parents. A betrothal was confirmed by oaths, and presents were given to the bride and her parents. Then the betrothal was celebrated with a feast. A ring or a token of love and fidelity was given. In Hebrew custom, betrothal was actually a part of the marriage process, and it involved the entire community. A change of the intention of one of the partners after he or she was betrothed was subject to a penalty by fine or even by death. Today, a couple can call off an engagement with minimum consequences.

A betrothal usually lasted one year, and could only be dissolved by the man giving the woman a certificate of divorce. During the year of betrothal, the man and woman were known as husband and wife, although they did not have the right to be united sexually.

The most talked about betrothal in the Bible is the one between Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:18-19).  Most people question why Joseph did not follow the law in reference to "putting Mary away" or giving her a "certificate of divorce."  Mary did not argue her case; she didn't have to.  God was part of the plan from the beginning; from the betrothal to the birth. Gabriel, the same angel who told Mary she would conceive was the same angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:20)
We don't have to fight our battles or argue our own points. God will take care of the details whether it is about betrothals, engagements, marriages, or any other thing involving His faithful ones.
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In the Midst of Something Big
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ". . . Mary will give birth to a son, and YOU are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:19-21)

Joseph was in the midst of something big. God made Joseph a part of the process by saying YOU are to give him the name Jesus. No, Joseph had nothing to do with the birth in the natural sense, but Joseph was to give the baby the name Jesus and that, too, was important.  Joseph was in the midst of something big. 

Like Joseph, God puts us in the midst of something big to see how we will handle it.  Have you ever wondered why God has chosen you for specific tasks rather than others? God chooses us for certain tasks for several reasons.
  1. God chooses individuals for tasks because He can trust them to be faithful in carrying them out. If God has chosen you for such a task, rejoice and thank God for the opportunity to bring glory to His name.
  2. God chooses individuals for tasks based on their ability and capability. However, He does choose those who will be further stretched throughout the fulfilling of the task. If God has called you for such a task, rejoice and thank God for stretching you. Unless you are stretched, how do you know how far you can go?
  3. God chooses individuals for tasks because He wants to bless them through the performance of the task no matter how challenging and complex the task may be.  If God has called you for such a task, rejoice and thank God for blessing you through your obedience to Him.
Perhaps you are in the midst of something big...something bigger than you have ever had to face before, count it all joy that you are where God can use you best. You might not understand it or can make sense of it now, but like Joseph, you are in the midst of something big and great things will come forth because of your obedience.

Let God use you in the task He has laid out for you. Why? Because you are in the midst of something big.
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Why Jesus Was Born

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Why was Jesus born? If the truth be told, most people don't know why Jesus was born. Most Jews were looking for the long awaited Messiah that God had promised them through the prophets. They waited for someone to save them from their earthly oppressors. They looked forward to the Messiah to redeem Israel. Jesus was born to redeem Israel but not the way the Jews expected Him to. Jesus was born to bring about a different type of redemption; a spiritual redemption to save his people from their sins.

We learn three things about Jesus from the above scripture, including the reason for His birth. #1 "She will give birth to a son." The sex of the baby was known at the time of His conception. #2 "And you are to give him the name Jesus." The name of the baby was determined at the time of His conception. #3 "He will save his people from their sins." The reason for Jesus' birth was established at the time of His conception.

Why, then was Jesus born? To save his people from their sins! Remember the reason for Jesus' birth as you celebrate Christmas.
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What's In A Name?
You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.Matthew 1:21)
 
In William Shakespeare's play, "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet asked Romeo, "What's in a name?" Names must make a difference. Otherwise, why would parents struggle and sometimes argue over what to name their children? Why would some people go to court and pay to have their names changed? Names do make a difference. Every single name in the Bible means something.  The first time any name is mentioned, the meaning of the name is in the same scripture. (Go back and read the above scripture.  Do you see the name?  Do you see the meaning of the name?).  Prove me now and see that this is true throughout the Bible. "Adam" means "out of the ground" (Genesis 2:18). "Abraham" means "father of many nations" (Genesis 17:5).
 
However, the most important name in the Bible is JESUS. "Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua"; and both of them mean "the Lord is salvation."  There are hundreds of names and titles of Jesus in the Bible, and each one reveals WHO Jesus is, as well as WHAT He does for us.  Each name that He bears indicate some blessing that He shares, and we can appropriate that blessings by faith when we call on that great name!

"What's in a name?" "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . ." (Philippians 2:10-11).  Satan hates the name of Jesus.  (Whisper the name of Jesus right now and make Satan mad). We can claim with certainty that kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there is something about that name: JESUS!
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It HAD to Happen
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel." (Matthew 1:22-23)

The birth of Jesus HAD to happen. The birth of Jesus is recorded in the gospels, but the preexistence of Jesus happened long before the human Jesus was born. Jesus is recognized as early as Genesis 1:26, when God said, "Let US make humankind in OUR own image."  Again, in Genesis 3:15, God told the serpent, "I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman [Mary], and between your offspring [demons] and hers [Jesus]. Old Testament prophets foretold over 300 details about Jesus including the time and place of His birth, His name, His mission and other circumstances. These details were fulfilled in the New Testament.

These things had to happen because God spoke them through the prophets. And God's word will not return unto Him void, but it will accomplish that which God purposed (Isaiah 55:11). The Prophet Isaiah prophesied Jesus' birth 700 years before He was born. It had to happen according to God's divine plan for Jesus to be born in the flesh. There was no other way.  Jesus came in the flesh to be one of us to save all of us.  We owed a debt we could not pay.  Jesus paid a debt He did not owe.  God gave Jesus a reward.  Jesus didn't need it; so He passed it on to us.  That gift is eternal life.  It had to happen.  Something else has to happen: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior!
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Planned Parenthood
Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel," which is translated, "God with us." ". . . and he called his name Jesus.(Matthew 1:23; 25)

When a young couple gets married, the two of them plan for the future.  Those plans may include saving money to buy a house, and then eventually they will have children.  After the child is born, the parents plan to send him to school and hopefully the child will get a good job, marry and start planning for his own family and the cycle goes on and on.

The birth of Jesus is the result of planned parenthood. God was the Ultimate Planner.  The birth of Jesus was planned from the very beginning, and the prophets foretold it 700 years before it happened. There was no need for an ultrasound because the sex of the baby was already known.  It would be a son.  There was no need to search books for fancy names, or even make up one because the baby's name was already determined. His name would be Jesus.  There was no need to send the child to be tested or to see a career planner to ascertain what He was good at doing or what His life work would be.  His mission and His ministry were already determined.  Jesus came to save us from our sins.  God included us in His magnificent ??????????

Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today. Don't be the missing piece in God's plan for Jesus!
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Because Joseph Said "YES!"
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:24)

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they could be married Joseph found out Mary was with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary home as his wife. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:18-20, 24)

If Joseph had dismissed his dream, it would have changed biblical history. Because Joseph believed what he had dreamed, he did what the angel said and took Mary home to be his wife. On two other occasions, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph concerning the safety of his family. Each time Joseph said, "Yes! (Matthew 1:18-20, 24; Matthew 2:13-14; Matthew 2:19-21)

Dreams are just one of the ways God communicates with us as He communicated with Joseph. Do not dismiss your night visions.  Listen to what God is speaking to you through your dreams.
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When Did Mary and Joseph Marry?
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife." (Matthew 1:20) But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. (Matthew 1:25)

The marriage of Mary and Joseph took place in stages. Mary and Joseph pledged themselves to each other during the betrothal. Vows were exchanged.  A ring of fidelity was given. A festival involved the entire community (similar to our modern day wedding reception). In fact, everything like our modern day marriage had taken place except the consummation. That's why it would have been a disgrace had it not been a miracle birth. Gabriel, the same angel who told Mary she would conceive was the same angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:20)
 
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25) Even though Joseph took Mary home as his wife, this was different from "shacking up." Mary was already betrothed. Since she was carrying the Christ child, there was no sexual union.

When was the marriage consummated? When did Joseph know Mary as his wife? It was not until she had given birth to Jesus. Some might wonder how soon after Jesus was born did Joseph know Mary as his wife. The Bible is silent about that just as other married couples are silent about their own sexual activity. We can assume that just like modern day births, some precautions, and perhaps some Jewish ceremonial and ritual laws were obeyed before Joseph knew Mary as his wife.

The Bible does let us know they went on to have at least six other children.  We know this because in reference to Jesus, the question was asked: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And HIS BROTHERS, James, Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And HIS SISTERS...?" (Matthew 13:55-56).

Did Mary and Joseph eventually marry? Yes. When? After the birth of Jesus.
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What Happened and How Was It Told?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem... (Matthew 2:1)

If you want to know about the birth of Jesus, read it in either the gospel of Matthew or in the gospel of Luke. There are some obvious differences in the one story told from Matthew's viewpoint and from Luke's viewpoint. Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph; while Luke gives the genealogy through Mary.  Why the difference?

Each gospel writer tells the story from his own perspective appealing to his particular audience. Matthew was a Jew speaking to the Jews about a Jew; therefore he puts emphasis on of the prophecies about the Messiah. The Jews were interested in the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. Therefore, Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph.

Luke is the only Gentile writer in the entire Bible.  Luke favored women, the outcasts, and the ashamed. Therefore, he captures our attention about the barrenness of Elizabeth and tells of Mary's lowly position whereby Matthew leaves it out entirely. Because Luke was a physician, we get more information about the conditions surrounding the birth: the travel to Bethlehem, the housing situation, and the wrapping of the baby in swaddling clothes. This wasn't a big deal to Matthew; therefore, he didn't mention this part at all. He simply said, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem ... "(Matthew 2:1)

How was the news told in each gospel? Matthew lets the news be told to the wise men by a star in the east; whereby Luke let the news be told to the lowly shepherds in the field. Each group was at work doing what they were accustomed to doing.

Appealing to Jewish heritage, Matthew allows Mary, Joseph and the baby to escape to Egypt before returning to Nazareth. Luke doesn't mention this, but he does mention what was important to him and his medical profession. He takes us to the temple where Jesus is circumcised. Wouldn't a physician be interested in that? After the purification period, Jesus was presented in the temple where he was blessed by two humble people characteristic of those Luke favored: Simeon and Anna. (Luke 2:33-38)

Both Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus' birth from their perspective. Make sure you can tell it from yours.
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Wise Men Go To Bible Study
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:1)

The wise men were schooled in philosophy, medicine and science. But that was not enough. They needed Bible Study. They knew how to read the stars and chart the planets. But that was not enough. They needed Bible Study. And that's why they went to Jerusalem. The star did not lead the wise men to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The star detoured and led them to Jerusalem five miles off course and stayed still the entire time the wise men were attending Bible Study.

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" the wise men asked. They did not know because they had not studied the Old Testament where Micah had prophesied that Jesus would be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). These wise men did not know that Isaiah had prophesied about Emmanuel (God with us). The wise men needed Bible Study.

As soon as their questions were answered, the star moved and the wise men were on their way to worship Jesus and to present gifts to Him.  That's what wise men do!

Life Application: Wise people go to Bible Study to get answers to their questions. Be a wise person and attend a Bible Study where God's word is taught. Attend a Bible Study instead of a social gathering where people merely express their personal and private opinions. Heaven and earth will pass away (even Sister Sally Sue's opinion; even Deacon Dudd's private interpretation), but God's word is the ONLY thing that will remain. (Matthew 24:35) Why not hide God's word in your heart so that it can strengthen you and give you hope in your time of need? (Psalm 119:11) Learn God's word by attending Bible Study. Be a wise man! Wise woman! Wise boy! Wise girl!
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Meaning of the Star on Top of Your Christmas Tree
Behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:1-2)

Many of the customs, symbols, rituals and traditions we encounter at Christmas time certainly have some meaning; whether its origin was pagan or Christian.

Have you ever wondered why your Christmas tree is never finished until the star is placed on top? Martin Luther was the first to use lights at Christmas. He did so to represent the glory and beauty of the stars above Bethlehem on the night of Jesus' birth based on the above scripture.

Candles have become a major part of the traditional Christmas Day decorations. If you look around at this time of year, you can't help but see lights everywhere...in houses, on houses, in churches, on trees, on the walls, and even on trucks.

So when you decorate with lights and when you light your candle, remember that Jesus is the Light of the World, and that star on the top of your tree represents His star. Let it lead you to Jesus just as it led the wise men to Jesus thousands of years ago.
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Why Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasures and presented him with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Why did the wise men present gifts of gold, frankincense and  myrrh to Jesus? Why give a baby gifts that the baby couldn't use at that particular time? Why not give the baby a bib, a rattle, or a stuffed animal that the baby could enjoy right away? Why gold, frankincense and myrrh? These gifts were rare, precious and expensive but not typical gifts for a baby. For the wise men, they represented their best to honor the newborn king.

These gifts were common to their culture and only could be found in the east, not in Israel. The three gifts represented the future roles of Jesus. Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects, or those wanting to pay respect. When the wise men presented gold, they were honoring Jesus with the very best they possessed, and they also were recognizing that Jesus was king. In both the Old Testament Tabernacle and the Temple, gold was used plentifully, so we see that gold is also associated with worship. And we are told that in the heavenly city we will "walk on streets of gold." (Revelation 21:21)

Frankincense represents Jesus' divinity. It is a very costly and fragrant gum distilled from a tree. It was used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. It also was used as medicine and as perfume. We don't burn frankincense in our church services, but our worship still should be pleasing to God.

While frankincense represents sweetness, myrrh represents bitterness. Myrrh is an aromatic gum and is obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It is used chiefly in embalming the dead. (John 19:39). Myrrh was brought as a gift to acknowledge the human suffering Jesus would experience as a man.

To summarize, gold was a gift for a king; frankincense was a gift for Jesus' divinity, and myrrh was a spice for His burial. Even though these gifts provided financial resources for the round trip Mary and Joseph took to Egypt, they were symbolic of the future roles of Jesus.

Let's symbolically give gold to honor Jesus as King. Let's give frankincense to worship Him even in the midst of our brokenness. And let's give myrrh as a reminder that He identifies with us in our pain and sorrow.
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The Christmas Card Has It Wrong!
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem... (Matthew 2:1) "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him." (Matthew 2:11)

Have you ever received or sent a Christmas card with three wise men presenting their gifts to Jesus on the night of His birth? While the greeting card company might have had good intentions, the scene does not line up with the word of God.

There are several fallacies concerning that scene. First of all, there were more than three wise men.  It was a caravan of wise men.  Eastern literature suggests at least 12. People assume there were only three wise men based on the three gifts they presented: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The wise men went to Jerusalem before going to Bethlehem; so, this delayed their trip. By the time they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were no longer in the stable. They had set up residence in a house. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him." (Matthew 2:11) Notice also, Jesus was not a newborn. He was a young child. Therefore, scripture does not indicate the wise men saw the newborn while in a manger. However, the shepherds did arrive on the night of Jesus' birth. (Luke 2:16)

These magi did not arrive until possibly almost two years after Christ's birth. That's why King Herod sent out a decree to kill all the boys who were two years old and under. (Matthew 2:16) Immediately after the visit of the wise men, Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt, where they probably stayed till after King Herod's death.

We know little about who these wise men were, but we know what they did.  "We have come to WORSHIP Him." (Matthew 2:2, 11)

And wise men still worship Jesus!
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Egypt . . . Wilderness . . . Promised Land
And Joseph arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt" (Matthew 2:14).  "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1).  You have given them this land, of which you swore to their fathers to give them: a land flowing with milk and honey. (Jeremiah 32:22)

The Christian's life can be compared to three major places in the Bible.  Egypt is a place where people go when they originally intended to go somewhere else.  Egypt is never one's first choice.  It is alternative place to go when things are not going the way they should.  Egypt in the life of a Christian is never to be a place to stay.  It is an interim place only until you can move on to the site which had been your first choice.  To stay in Egypt is to stay in slavery and bondage.  Get out of Egypt the first chance you can!

You cannot get to your final destination, the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness.  There is no way to escape your wilderness experience because that is the place where the Christian is trained, grows, and develops.  Life is not easy in the wilderness for it is a place of testing, trials and temptations.  You MUST go through the wilderness in order to be strengthened.  Your stay in the wilderness depends on how quickly you practice obedience and endurance.  The sooner you learn it, the sooner you will be able to reach the Promised Land. Because of their disobedience, it took the Israelites 40 years to make an 11-day journey.  Let it not take you that long.

Having gone down to Egypt and through the Wilderness, faithful Christians can make it into the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. Getting into the Promised Land can be done ONLY through obedience and faithfulness to God. Being in the Promised Land means having all that God has promised. That includes land, riches, salvation, and peace of mind. Staying in the Promised Land should be the ultimate desire and destination of every Christian.
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Water and Fire: Purging and Power
 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)

Water is the agent of baptism on the outside as was done by John the Baptist. Fire is the agent of baptism on the inside as was done by Jesus.  Water baptism is a visible sign of one's profession of repentance. This does NOT allow one to perform miracles. Fire baptism is an invisible sign of power on the inside that does allow one to perform miracles as was demonstrated by the acts of the apostles in the Book of Acts. 

John the Baptist baptized with water, and that was all he could do. He admitted he was the one who would be instrumental in the outward sign of baptism. But it had its limitations! When John said, "I baptize with water, he was saying in essence, "What you see is all you can get from me." However, he let the people know Jesus was coming after him and would baptize them on the inside with fire. Therefore, water symbolizes the purging process as in the days of Noah. Fire symbolizes the power of the Holy Spirit as on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2)

There were two classes of people standing before John: those who would repent and be baptized with water and be purged of their sins; and those who would go on to the next step to be baptized finally with fire that would give them power to do work for the Kingdom of God.

Evaluate your own baptism(s). Have you had one or two? Did you stop with only the purging? Or have you gone on to accept the power as well? Know this for sure: Water baptism is only an outside expression; fire baptism is definitely an inside job. One can be purged and still be powerless. God wants us to be both purged and powerful.

Have you been water baptized as a profession of your repentance? If not, do it soon! Have you been fire baptized to receive power? Until that happens, there can be no power for witnessing, preaching or teaching. It was Jesus Himself who said, "When the power has come upon you, you will be witnesses unto me..." (Acts 1:8)
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Working Together
God said about Jesus: "That's my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Jesus said about God: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do" (John 5:19). Jesus said about the Holy Spirit: "And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Comforter" (John 14:16).

These scriptures clearly illustrate the working together of the trinity. Although the word "trinity" is not mentioned, the "trinitarian concept" is prominent throughout the Bible. Tertullian, an African, coined the word at the beginning of the third century. His revelation involves a threefoldness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
 
A most descriptive characteristic of the persons of the triune God is that all three work together. God the Father gives all authority to the Son and bears witness to Him, and the Son does the same for His Father (John 8:18). Yet the Son claims nothing for Himself. He gives all glory to the Father who sent Him (John 14:49-50). Therefore, the Father points to the Son; the Son points the Father; Father and Son defer to the Holy Spirit, who in turn, defers to the Father and Son. They are all working together . . . and they are all working together on our behalf!

The triune family is God's revelation of Himself as the ultimate truth about how we are to live. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit co-exist and work together in harmony. God wants all families of the earth to adopt this same pattern: biological families, church families, and workplace families.  This will happen only when all members of families acknowledge that everything originates in the Father, is expressed by the Son, and energized by the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity are working together.
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Seeking Approval
This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17)

All of us need approval, and we seek it from our family, friends, co-workers and fellow church members. Approval is one of our basic human needs.  But we must be aware that the approval of other people is NOT the same as the approval of God.  People are changeable.  They approve of something one day and cast it to the curb the next day.  Their approval depends merely on what they see externally.  God's approval is long lasting.  He approves of us based on what's in our heart.

It is no doubt that we do feel good when people approve of us, but we should never live just to please the crowds.  God's approval should be our highest priority. If the world approves of us and God does not, we should be concerned.  But if God approves, even though others don't, we should be content.
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The Great Debaters
"It is written . . ." (Matthew 4)

If you have not seen "your movie of the year," you still have a chance to do so. I saw "The Great Debaters" on Christmas Day and have deemed it "my movie of the year."
 
I particularly loved the movie because of how the downtrodden became victorious, and the process they took to get there. In fact, in another Denzel Washington's movie, "Remember the Titans" the same theme emerged. Giving up was not an option.
 
In "The Great Debaters" words were used to fight with instead of a sword. That's interesting because if you take the "s" from in front of "sword" and put it at the end, you have "words." So if you want to become victorious, use your words to combat the enemy. The great debaters did it. Jesus did it. They based their thesis on what was written. Rather than merely giving their own opinions, their sources were the poets who preceded them. Jesus defeated Satan by relying on the Old Testament scriptures of His ancestors by saying, "It is written . .  ." (Matthew 4) 
 
Fight with words; not swords to accomplish your purpose and prove your point
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A Custom Fit
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." (Matthew 4:1-3)

Have you ever been shopping for clothes and found a garment with a label that read "One Size Fits All"? You wondered how that could be since people have so many different body types.  You try it on just to prove that one size doesn't fit all, and it was a perfect fit. How could that be? How could one size fit all?

Well, when it comes to Satan and how he tricks us, one size doesn't have to fit all. Satan will custom design situations just for us. He knows our weaknesses and our vulnerability, and he is lurking to see when he can pounce on us. In the above scriptures, Jesus was coming off a forty day fast. And he was hungry. Satan used that opportunity to tell Jesus to turn the stones into bread. After all, Satan knew Jesus was hungry. However, Jesus also knew the evil devices of Satan. Jesus did not fall for Satan's tricks, and we shouldn't either.

We should always be on guard for the custom designed tricks of Satan; i.e., the ones he has in store especially for us. For you see, unlike some clothes, one size doesn't fit all.
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The Devil Shows Up When . . .
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." (Matthew 4:1-3)

Have you ever prayed and fasted and knew you were in the presence of God, and soon thereafter the devil showed up? If so, don't think it strange. It happened that way with Jesus as well. The first word in the scripture above is "Then." What had just happened before the "Then"? Jesus had just been baptized. At the moment He came up out of the water, the heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

Moments after the Spirit of God had descended on Him, and Jesus had been affirmed by God, the devil showed up. He showed up to tempt Jesus after he had prayed and fasted just before He started His ministry. The devil purposed to put a stop to it or at least make it difficult for Jesus. The devil shows up in our lives for the same reasons. As soon as we are ready to do exploits for the Kingdom of God, the tempter tries his best to trick us, to trap us, and to stop us.

There is no need for the devil to tempt those who are already on his side. If he is showing up in your life, it is because he knows you are on the right track to serve God. Do exactly what Jesus did to make the devil leave. With each of the three temptations, Jesus said, "It is written . . ." Each time Jesus said what is written in the Bible about God.

The devil shows up just before you are to do a major work for God. Recognize this and let him know you are in right relationship with God and nothing can make you change your mind.
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"It Is Written . . ."
Jesus answered. "It is written: 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus was able to resist all of the devil's temptations because He not only knew the scriptures, but He also obeyed them.  In the Christian life, we battle not against flesh and blood but against the powerful evil forces of fallen angels headed by Satan, who is a vicious fighter (1 Peter 5:8).  To withstand their attacks, we must depend on God's strength and fight with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we know the Word of God because it is our weapon. 

We must know what is written in order to say, "It is written . . ." and then supply the scripture that speaks to our particular situation.
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Let the Spirit Lead You
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia...During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." (Acts 16: 6, 9)
 As soon as Jesus was baptized and just before He started His ministry, He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted. Jesus did not give in to the temptation and went on to enjoy a ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing with signs and wonders following Him.
 
In the second scripture, we see the Holy Spirit changing Paul's plans. Paul had his schedule set, but the Holy Spirit had something else in mind for him.
 
There will be times when the Holy Spirit will lead us into situations when we will be tempted and tested. Like Jesus, let's pass the test! There will be times when the Holy Spirit will circumvent our plans. Like Paul, let's be willing to give up our agendas and be led by the Spirit.
 
Something is very clear: The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us where He Himself will not go. He goes in front of us to prepare the way. He goes beside us to comfort us. He goes behind us to protect us. He goes above us to guide us. He goes beneath us to lift us up. He goes within us to empower us.
 
So would you rather do it alone or be led by the Holy Spirit?
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Feed Your Spirit
It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

Everyone understands how important proper nutrition is for a healthy body. We fail to understand that adequate nutrition also is needed for a healthy spirit.

We are extremely careful these days about what we eat, about what goes into our body: low carbs, no carbs, low fat, no fat, low sodium, no sodium, etc. However, we are not as careful about what goes into our spirit.

Surely we know what happens if we feed our body a constant diet of junk food. We will have headaches, stomach aches, back aches and every other kind of ache. However, we fail to realize that when we feed our spirit a constant diet of junk food (gossip, complaints, lying, cursing, etc.), our spirit is affected as well. 

Our body cannot survive solely on junk food. It needs a healthy, nutritious diet. Neither can our spirit survive on junk food. It needs a healthy, nutritious diet. How, then, do we feed our spirit? We feed our spirit by reading God's word and by communing with God on a daily basis.

Remember, what you put into your spirit is just as important as what you put into your body. Man shall not live by bread alone, [for the body] but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." [for the spirit] (Matthew 4:4)
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Food for A Starving Spirit
Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

You feed your body AT LEAST three times a day.  Physical food is good to nourish you and give you physical strength.  Without fail you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.  How often do you feed your spirit?  Do you designate a specific time to read and study God's Word?  Or do you only run to the Bible when things are going wrong in your life?  Your spirit needs a daily dose of God's Word to give your spirit continual strength. 

Your spirit might be starving because it is not feeding on the only food that was made for it . . . God's Holy Word.  This leaves you spiritually immature, weak and vulnerable.   To build strong bodies, continue to eat physical food.  To develop strong spirits, feast on the Word of God.
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Do Not Live By Bread Alone
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

When Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread after His forty day fast, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 saying we should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

What does this scripture really mean? Why was it so important for Jesus to quote it to Satan?  In the wilderness God gave the Israelites manna from heaven, the miracle bread to live on.  That was God's physical provision for them. That is the way God met their needs in the wilderness, but the manna has ceased and we must rely on every word of God . . . not just the ones that bless us.

The key principle is not to rely merely on the scriptures that assure us of tangible things, but to trust every word God has spoken. We should welcome and obey all of His words . . . the words that guide . . . the words that strengthen . . . and even the words that chastise us. Every word God spoke is equally important!
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Get Thee Hence
Jesus said to him, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written . . ." (Matthew 4:10)

Even Jesus was tempted by Satan. So are we. In order for Satan to depart from us, we have to do exactly what Jesus did. Jesus said what was written in the Bible. Because Satan knows the Bible also, he knows he has been defeated, but he tries every trick he can think of to distract, distort and disturb God's people.

Satan IS already defeated. He knows it. We must embrace that truth as well. When Satan comes against you with lies and trickery, put him in his place. Tell him you are not going to have it. Tell him you are on the warpath so he might as well leave you alone. Tell him to get thee hence and tell him what the Bible says about him.

Just as the devil left Jesus for a season, he will leave you also. When he comes back, do the same thing again. Tell him, "Get thee hence, Satan!" Then tell him emphatically, "It is written . . ."
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Teaching That Touches
Jesus traveled all through Galilee teaching in the Jewish synagogues, everywhere preaching the gospel about the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 4:23)

On two different occasions during the last two weeks, I have been honored by my students with the words, "When you teach, you touch!" That compliment sums up what I believe effective teaching should do. Anyone can stand before a Sunday School class or a Wednesday Night Bible Study and read scriptures from the Bible with an explanation from a commentary, but is that effective teaching? Is that teaching that touches?

Effective teaching brings divine truths to life. This is accomplished by relating them to others in a loving and compassionate way. Teaching CANNOT be effective unless the teacher is a child of God who embraces those truths. Without the knowledge and practice of biblical principles, teaching will be void of meaning. It WILL NOT touch! The spirituality of the teacher definitely has a great deal to do with whether the students are touched or not. The teacher who touches is one who has been touched by the Master Teacher, Jesus Himself.

Jesus touched when he taught, and He should be our example. We should teach with power, compassion and love. The primary purpose of effective teaching is to change lives. We should teach so that biblical truths will be remembered long after the class has ended. So whether you are leading a home Bible Study or teaching in the church, remember effective teaching is more than reading what's in a manual. It is teaching that touches lives by provoking life application, accountability and responsibility. It is opening your heart and giving to others with enthusiasm what God has given you. And that's teaching that touches!
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The "BE-ATTITUDES"
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them. (Matthew 5:1-2)

Matthew Chapters 5-7 contain the Sermon on the Mount which include the Beatitudes and the Model Prayer.  When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.  He included them in the teaching along with his disciples.  Jesus teaches them here by giving them spiritual food at this setting.  Later on in Matthew's gospel, he will give them physical food also as he feeds the 5,000.  But for now, Jesus knew they needed spiritual food.

Jesus went up into a mountain so he could see the crowds and so the crowds could see him.  And when he was "set" means when he was "seated."  It was a custom at that time for teachers to sit with their students in a circle around the teachers' feet. Then Jesus opened his mouth and taught them.  What he taught is known as the Beatitudes.  Jesus told them what they had to BE in order to HAVE the blessings of God.  They had to BE in the present in order to HAVE in the future.  From Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus outlined in concise order the conditions for divine blessings.

We too must BE a certain way in order to HAVE.  If you want to please God and be blessed by God, you must get in the Blessing Lane.  You must line your life up with God and follow the same conditions Jesus taught His disciples and the crowds so long ago.
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Tests Christians Should Have to Take
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them. (Matthew 5:1-2)

In these two verses, four tests Christians should have to take are alluded to as we follow the example to Jesus.

"When Jesus saw" represents Test #:  The Eye Test.  You should have to take an eye test to verify if you are walking by faith or by sight. For a Christian, seeing is NOT believing.  Believing is seeing.
 
"When Jesus saw the crowds" represents Test #2:  The Popularity Test.  Part 1 of the Popularity Test is: Who are you following? Crowds always followed Jesus to learn from Him, to be healed, and to be made whole. Are you following Jesus? Is He the center of your life? Part 2 of the Popularity Test is: Who is following you?  Look behind you. Is anyone learning from you? Are you a role model or mentor to anyone? Who calls you to explain the scriptures to them?  Are you passing both parts of the Popularity Test?

"Then Jesus began to speak" represents Test #3: The Vocabulary Test. Are you speaking positive or negative words? Are your words lining up with the word of God. Are you speaking fear or faith, hate or love?  Is your tongue getting you into trouble? Are you passing the Vocabulary Test?

Jesus Himself is the subject of the above two verses.  Test #4 is The Blood Test.  You can fail the other three tests and still get to heaven, but you MUST pass the Blood Test.  At one time couples had to take a blood test in order to get married.  Couples no longer have to do that.  But in order to marry Jesus, you must take a blood test.  You must be covered in the blood of the Lamb in order to be His bride.

For a rewarding and fulfilling life, pass our four tests placing special emphasis on Test #4 - The Blood Test.
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Know This Before You Pray For People to Be Blessed
Blessed are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...the meek...those who hunger... the merciful...the pure in heart...the peacemakers...those who are persecuted... ("The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12)

It is so easy to pray, "God bless the homeless." "God bless the sick." "God bless my son who is on drugs." "God bless . . . " "God bless. . ." "God bless..."

First of all, God's people are already blessed because God created everyone in His own image. People's problems are not that they are not blessed. Their problem is that they don't know that they are blessed and do not live according to God's promises of blessings.  Instead of trying to bring atonement to yourself by praying that someone be blessed, learn what blessing applies to a particular situation and PRONOUNCE that blessing instead of REQUESTING it. God has already given us every blessing we could ever need.

Secondly, praying that God will bless people while they are in their negative condition is not biblical or wise.  If a person is homeless and you say, "God bless this homeless person" you are blessing the person in that negative condition. If your friend is sick and afflicted and you say, "God bless my sick friend" you are asking God to bless that person in that unhealthy condition.

Let's see how Jesus did it and learn from his examples. Jesus NEVER pronounced a blessing on a person while he or she was in a negative condition. Every single example of Jesus healing the sick, binding up the brokenhearted, casting out demons, or raising the dead, he did it FIRST and then pronounced an already established blessing on them.  When did he pronounce a blessing on the woman with the issue of blood? When did he pronounce a blessing on the ten lepers? When did he pronounce a blessing on the blind man? When did he pronounce a blessing on the demonic boy? Jesus took care of all these situations and then He pronounced blessings on them and sent them on their way. The pronouncement of the blessing came ONLY after Jesus had taken care of their needs. We tend to skip this step and quickly ask God to bless someone.

Stop being so hasty to request a generic blessing on people. Stop being so hasty to ask God to bless people in negative conditions. Preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and release to the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Then and only then should you PRONOUNCE an already established blessing on them.
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The Poor in Spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

This first beatitude, as well as all the others, has a condition and a reward attached to it.  We must BE a certain way before we can HAVE a certain thing. Appropriately noted is that in order to be blessed by God, we must come to Him as a little child.  We must realize our own helplessness.  We must realize our own hopelessness.  We must come to God broken in spirit realizing that we are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually impoverished.  Earthly possessions have nothing to do with it.  Some of the richest people are most miserable because they are poor in spirit but refuse to go to God for help.  They think they can do everything on their own because of their money, power and status. No matter what people own, they are nothing without God.  They are lost, and they grope around in the dark looking for the next thing that will give them some type of satisfaction.  Paul said it well when he said, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [manure] that I may win Christ" (Philippians 3:8).

If you want to get in the position for God's divine blessings, then come to Him admitting that you can't do it alone.  You spirit needs to connect with His Spirit. Then you will be rewarded by entering into the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

What else did Jesus teach?
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Those Who Mourn
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Mourning does not mean grieving for the loss of loved ones.  Blessed are those who mourn for their own sins, the sins of others, and the evil that goes on in the world.  Blessed are those who have a godly sorrow for those who don't know Jesus. Jesus taught the crowd to have a contrite spirit.  He told them not to be satisfied seeing evil run rampant in the world.  We should be so saddened by the evil in the world that we do something about it.  What can you personally do about evil?

First, mourn for the way YOU have treated God. Confess your own sins and repent.  Be like David in Psalm 51:10. Ask God to create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit in you.  Second, be like Paul and go out of your way to let OTHERS know about the risen Lord.  Finally, be a witness for God as outlined in Acts 1:8. Then, instead of mourning, you will be comforted.
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The Meek
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:4)

A third blessing is pronounced on the crowd to whom Jesus was speaking.  The meek will inherit the earth.  There is a difference between meekness and weakness.  To be meek is to be gentle and humble.  Jesus was the meekest person who ever lived, but surely you say Jesus was week.  In fact, Jesus was a radical.  He stood up to the Pharisees and Saduccees.  He ran the money changers out of the temple with a whip after turning over their tables because they were selling in the temple and exploiting the poor people by over pricing the animals they were selling to be sacrificed.

Meek people rely on God to handle their battles.  They do not profess to be so big and bad that they can be victorious alone.  They turn everything over to God remembering that God said, "Vengeance is mine! I will repay."

If you want to please God, then BE meek.  If you want to HAVE the blessings on earth, then let your attitude be one of meekness.
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Those Who Hunger and Thirst
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night feeling hungry?  After eating something from the refrigerator, you found you still were not satisfied.  You drink something, and still there is an empty feeling inside.  Perhaps, it wasn't a physical hunger after all.  Perhaps God awakened you to pray to Him, to read your Bible, or to praise Him in the middle of the night.  We often mistake that empty feeling inside for a hole in our stomach; yet it really is a hole in our soul. The hunger and thirst for righteousness is more intense than hunger pangs for physical food.

A blessing is pronounced on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are promised satisfaction.  These people have a passion for righteousness in their own lives, and they long to see honesty and justice in society.  They look for holiness and sincere worship in the church. They have a hunger and thirst that no physical food can satisfy.  They must have Christ.  Those of us who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled both physically and spiritually when we meet Jesus face to face and sup with Him at that great Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
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Is Fruit on Your Thanksgiving Dinner Menu?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

How hungry are you? How thirsty are you? We will celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Most people associate Thanksgiving with satisfying their physical appetite. Actually, there is nothing wrong with that. We do have a natural hunger for food.

We also should have an appetite for God and the things of God. God says we are blessed to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Our filling is in proportion to our appetite for God. Our hunger and thirst for God are satisfied when we seek Him passionately. Then we can enjoy Him perpetually.

Let's keep a balance tomorrow. Enjoy being physically satisfied with turkey, ham, potato salad, collard green, yams, pumpkin and sweet potato pie.  But let's be spiritually satisfied by having fruit on our menu. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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A Quick Way to Feed Your Soul
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6 NIV)

We know what to do when we are hungry. We eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack in between meals.  No matter where we are, we can already find something to eat even if it is food and drink from a vending machine.

Try this for a few days and reap the rewards: Have a Verse with Each Meal
In order to appreciate the way God nourishes our spiritual hunger, take time to read a Bible verse before each meal you consume. It will be a great way to learn more about God's desires for you and for you to become wholly and completely satiated.

Feeling hungry? Perhaps it is a spiritual hunger rather than a physical one! Try feeding your soul instead of your body.
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The Merciful
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Mercy is that aspect of God's love that causes Him to help us when we don't deserve His help.  Even though we sin, God still forgives us.   Even though we turn our back on God, He still has mercy on us.  Even though we break his commandments, He shows us mercy.

We should be merciful to others. We should forgive others when they mistreat us and bring all manner of evil against us.  If we want God to continue to forgive us and show us mercy we should do the same for others.  God has mercy on us only to the extent we have mercy on others.  Be merciful and thus obtain mercy.
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The Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

We usually think of seeing with our physical eyes.  The above scripture says we are blessed when we see God with a pure heart.  When our heart is pure, God reveals things to us that we can NEVER see with our physical eyes and comprehend with our physical senses.  We have to see with our heart and connect with God through our spirit. The deep things of God can only be known through the spirit.

A heart that is not pure cannot see God or understand His ways.  Evil and sins block the cavities of your heart.  That's why David said in Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."  If you want to see God as He really is, let your heart not be polluted but pure.
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Not Like Thumping A Watermelon
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

When you saw the title of this message, you probably thought I had run out of things to write about. Not so! I am a life application theologian, and I see God in everything...even in watermelons. I was inspired to write this after seeing a lady spend a considerable amount of time in the supermarket thumping watermelons before making her purchase. I immediately thought: "Oh, how I wish I could thump people's hearts to determine if they are pure."

What's the purpose of thumping watermelons? You may use your knuckles to thump or your fingers to flick a watermelon to determine its ripeness. Whether you thump or flick, listen closely to the sound. An unripe watermelon will ping. An overripe watermelon will thud. The one you should buy is somewhere in between.

Some experts say forget about thumping a watermelon to determine its ripeness. Instead look for a yellow belly. According to Horticulture Educators at the University of Illinois Extension, a sweet juicy watermelon is one that has sat in the sun until it is ripe. While the sitting is going on, the underbelly is the only part that is not exposed to the sun - thus the yellowish color. A fully ripe watermelon will have a butterscotch colored belly. A white or green belly means the watermelon is not ripe.  The size, shape, and skin color have no bearing on the quality, flavor, and ripeness of a watermelon.

I must admit I have been misled many times by using the thumping method. The only foolproof way to judge the ripeness and the texture of a watermelon is to cut it open. Similarly, there is no foolproof way to know the condition of someone's heart. Trying to thump it is an exercise in futility. Only God can know the ripeness of the human heart.
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The Peacemakers
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

We should be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We should bear that fruit of the spirit called "peace." We should be peacemakers because we follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We are called to keep peace; not to cause disharmony and confusion.  We need to keep peace every place we go.  When there is an argument in our HOMES, let's be peacemakers.  It is not important who gets the last word.  When there is confusion on our JOBS, let's be peacemakers.  Let's not engage in office gossip.  When there is confusion in our CHURCHES, let's be peacemakers.  Where chaos is . . . God is NOT. God will not dwell in confusion because God is not the author of confusion.  When we keep our focus on God, we will also focus on peace. After all, God Himself is the great peacemaker, offering His Son upon the cross to make peace with us. When we live peacefully with all, then we will be truly blessed and be called children of God.
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Those Who Are Persecuted
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

When we stand up for Jesus we are not always received by the world. When we stand firm in our belief that Jesus is Lord, we sometimes lose family and friends. When we know the truth and live by the truth that Jesus saves, we are often times persecuted. The above scripture is self-explanatory.  That is, when we do what is right, we might not be accepted in THIS world by all, but the kingdom of heaven is ours.  We have a place reserved for us that is better than this world could ever be.

No matter how bad the world treats us, we need to know this world is not our home. Our lives here is just a vapor in comparison to eternity.  Let our final address be the kingdom of heaven.
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Rejoice and Be Exceedingly Glad
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

To suffer for Christ's sake is a privilege that should cause us to rejoice.  We will be talked about and insulted.  We will be persecuted and falsely accused of all kinds of evils. When we stand for Christ, then we stand against the world.  People will rebel against God and take it out on us. 

But we are still blessed.  And we should rejoice.  We should rejoice because it means we are in right relationship with God.  We should be exceedingly glad because others do see the Christ in us so much that it provokes them to turn away from us.   We should rejoice because there is a great reward in heaven awaiting us. We are reminded that others before us were also persecuted even unto death.  Isaiah was sawed in half.  John the Baptist and Paul were beheaded.  Peter was crucified upside down on a cross.  Others were thrown into lion's dens and eaten along with all sorts of other cruel deaths.  And of course, Jesus our Savior was beaten, crucified and pierced in the side just for you and me.  So, when you encounter such a light affliction through persecution . . . REJOICE for we are in great company.
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What's the Difference: Award or Reward?
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:12)

Do you know the difference between "award" and "reward"? The Bible does not record the word "award" as a noun at all and only once as a verb (2 Timothy 4:8). However, the Bible does record the word "reward" 78 times as a noun throughout the entire Bible. What then, does this tell you?

An award is from man. A reward is from God. The word "award" is what man gives someone for an ACT that is performed. It is what man thinks of that person or that act. A reward is something offered for special SERVICE. By now, you should see the difference. An award is for an ACT performed; a reward is for SERVICE.

A judge is involved in both the granting of an award and a reward. Man is the judge for man to get an award which is temporal. God is the judge for man to get a reward which is permanent. Unbelievers can only get awards on earth. It is impossible for them to receive a reward from God no matter how impressive their deeds may be. However, a believer will get a reward for doing a service as small as giving a cup of cold water in the name of the Lord (Mark 9:41).

If you think you have not gotten your pats on the back while here on earth, don't despair. Great is your REWARD in heaven for your SERVICE.
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Do You Want It Now or Later?
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:12)

We have often heard the question with two choices. "Do you want it now or later?" When given a choice, most people choose something now instead of waiting for later.

Candy makers know some people would rather not make a choice. They want it both now AND later. Therefore, they designed a candy called Now AND Later. It is a fruit-flavored taffy made in squares wrapped in colorful paper. Now and Laters are initially tough to chew when placed in the mouth, but they eventually soften. This sweet treat lets us have it both ways . . . Now AND later. 
 
The lust of the eyes and the pride of life say choose now. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us that choosing something now is only temporary gratification. He explains that if we get our reward now for having done a good deed, it is all we will get. However, if we wait, our reward will be greater and more worthwhile.
 
A great reward awaits us in heaven. As Christians, we have a lot to look forward to! Our greatest dilemma is wanting it both Now AND Later rather than accepting it Now OR Later.

The world says give us our pats on the back now. Jesus says don't worry about the pats on the back now because if we get them our earth, they will be all we will get. However, waiting for our reward in heaven is far greater.

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Rewards in Heaven
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven... (Matthew 5:12)

In addition to the above scripture about rewards in heaven, the Gospel of Matthew also says, "When the Son of Man returns in glory, He will reward each according to his works." (Matthew 16:27) What does this mean? Are there rewards for everybody in heaven? Who will get what in heaven? Are there degrees of rewards in heaven? Just how does this reward system work?

The Bible is quite clear that we are not to work for salvation or for any future rewards. However, rewards are given to a believer on the basis of faithful service rendered after salvation. (Service before salvation doesn't count). After salvation, the believing Christian should have a passion to work in the vineyard. And yes, there are degrees of rewards for the work we do on earth if we do it for the right reason. Jesus Himself will dispense rewards and punishments according to our works; according to what we have done. We do not get these rewards in this life but in heaven. And the rewards will far exceed any bonuses or merit increases on our job. They will exceed anything man has to offer us.

Not all work we do is for the kingdom of God. Yes, it is work, but I Corinthians 3:13-15 lets us know that all work will not be received by God. "Every man's work shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built upon it, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire."

Keep this in mind when your calendar is full of appointments to do busy work. Are you really doing it for the Kingdom of God or for some other reason? Remember, your works will be tested by fire and there are rewards for those that are not burned by fire.
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What It Means To Be A Salty Christian
You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)

The word "salty" is used to described food that has been liberally seasoned with salt. The first thing people do after eating salty foods such as popcorn or potato chips is to get something to drink to wash the salt down. If the food is not seasoned or flavored, it is not unusual to hear someone around the dinner table say, "Pass the salt, please." The term "salty" is also used to describe the worth of a person. This person takes pride in how he dresses and how he presents himself to the public. A third meaning of the word "salty" is used by Jesus in the above scripture to describe Christians. Salt is used to preserve, to purify, to season, to flavor and to produce thirst. What does it mean to be a salty Christian?

As a preserver, a Christian is to keep the Word of God alive in his heart, his home, his church, his workplace, and every place he goes. A Christian is to preserve the Word of God through his own lifestyle and not take it for granted that preserving the Word of God is left up to the religious leaders.

The Christian, like salt, should purify. Instead of a Christian falling under the infections of the world, his righteousness should purify that which is on its way to corruption and decay.

If you have ever eaten bland food, you will readily admit that it tastes better when seasoned  with salt. Christians should bring life into bland situations and in the mundane lives of people.

Being a salty Christian is an excellent method for evangelism.  A salty Christian should create such a thirst in others that everyone would run to get that living water. (John 4)

What salt is in the natural, you should be in the spiritual. You should preserve. You should purify. You should season and flavor. And most importantly, you should produce thirst.

You should be such a salty Christian that people will notice something about you and say, "Pass the salt, please!
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Being a Salty Christian
You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longergood for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus used salt to illustrate three qualities that should be found in Christians.
  1. We should remember God's faithfulness, just as salt when used with a sacrifice recalled God's covenant with His people (Leviticus 2:13).
  2. We should make a difference in the "flavor" of the world we live in, just as salt changes meat's flavor (Matthew 5:13).
  3. We should counteract the moral decay in society, just as salt preserves food from decay.  When we lose this desire to "salt" the earth with the love and message of God, we become useless to Him. 
If a seasoning has no flavor, it has no value.  If Christians make no effort to affect the world around them, they are of little value to God.  If we are too much like the world, we are worthless.  Christians should not blend in with everyone else.  Instead, we should affect others positively, just as seasoning brings out the best flavor in food.

Think of how you can be a salty Christian today.
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Worth Your Salt
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? (Matthew 5:13)

Not only is salt in the body necessary, it is also the most important substance mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrews used salt for many reasons. To flavor food was one of the least significant reasons for them. Salt had a significant place in Hebrew worship. It was included in the grain offering (Leviticus 2:13), the burnt offering (Ezekiel 43:24) and the incense (Exodus 30:35). Salt was used to ratify contracts. Both parties had to lick salt (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5). Newborn babies were rubbed with salt in the belief that this promoted good health (Ezekiel 16:4).

During times of war, the enemies' land were sown with salt to render them barren (Judges 9:45).  Jesus described His disciples as the salt of the earth, urging them to imitate the usefulness of salt (Matthew 5:13).  In Roman times salt was an important item of trade and was even used for money. Roman soldiers received part of their salary in salt. In fact, we use the expression, "worth his salt" and we get our English word "salary" from the concept of exchanging salt for services.

So the next time you use your salt shaker at the table remember its other uses. Hopefully your next paycheck will prove that you are worth your salt.
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Good For Nothing
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.(Matthew 5:13)

The above scripture comes from the Sermon on the Mount. After Jesus blessed the crowds with the Beatitudes, he taught them that they are salt and light. It is no accident that Jesus taught the disciples they are salt and light after the blessings. Before we can be something or do something, it helps to know that we are already blessed.

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth," and then he goes on to say that if you lose your saltiness, you are good for nothing. Christians lose their saltiness and become good for nothing when they do NOT do the following:
  1. PRESERVE the gospel of Jesus Christ;
  2. Live PURE and holy lives;
  3. SEASON others' lives with love and devotions;
  4. create THIRST for unbelievers to want the living water of Jesus.
These are prominent uses for salt and for dedicated Christians as well. If you are not doing these things, then you are good for nothing and are not helping to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. Act like the salty Christians Jesus said you are, and stop being good for nothing!
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Two Questions Christians Love to Be Asked
You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good work and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16)

As a Christian, which two questions would you love people to ask you? Hopefully, people will see you experiencing the total package of salvation and will feel free to ask you:   “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) Our Christian walk should be one that points others to Christ. Many people do not attend church, so you are the only sermon they will see.   Let it be one that points them to Jesus, your Savior and Lord of your life.

Another question a Christian should love to hear is: “Where do you get your strength to do what you do?” Apparently, there is something in your lifestyle that is worth imitating. Paul said it so well when he said, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1) So, consider it all joy when people see your light shining so brightly that they, too, are willing to go from a flicker to a flame.

Has anyone asked you either one of these two questions recently? If not, perhaps your lifestyle is not as illuminating as it should be. Perhaps you need to evaluate how you can be more connected to Jesus, the Light of the world.

There is one good thing about light...You can share yours with others while keeping just as much as you give away.
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Glow in the Dark
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blesses the crowds in the Beatitudes. Then he says, "You are the salt of the earth" to let them know they are to preserve the gospel and not let it decay. Then he uses another ordinary item to let them know who they are. He says, "You are the light of the world." And since we are the light of the world we should follow Jesus who is the Light of the World.

It is senseless to light a lamp and then hide it. Everyone is to benefit from the light of your life. If you have a talent, share it. If you can bring light to others by your own light, then do it cheerfully. It doesn't dull your brilliance. In fact, it will make your light shine brighter.

As Christians, we should glow in the dark. We should light up this sin-sick world with our radiance and brightness. Speak up for what's right. Stop going along with and blending into the crowd. Let your light shine that others might see your good works for the kingdom and turn to God themselves.

  "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world."
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Let Your Light Shine!
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:14-17)

Light represents our relationship with Christ, as well as our effect on others.  A city sitting on the top of the hill cannot be hidden.  Even at night its light can be seen for miles. The light of Christ revealed in us should not be hidden. We should glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like.  We hide our light by (1) being quiet when we should speak, (2) going along with the crowd, (3) denying the light, (4) letting sin dim our light.  Instead of shutting our light off from the rest of the world, we should be a beacon of truth for all to see.

Let your light shine today and everyday.  Let others see the Jesus in you so that they, too, might glorify God.
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The Right Way To Influence
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

With the rise of preachers and the increase of churches on almost every corner, one can't help but wonder how this influx is impacting or influencing the world.

Influence is the power or ability to affect someone's beliefs or actions. Influence is the process of motivating another person to change something.

Jesus had the power to influence all types of people. He walked past fishermen and said, "Come follow me." And they did. He influenced hungry and tired people to listen to Him teach all day. He influenced Mary Magdalene, a demon possessed woman, and she became one of His followers. He influenced Zacchaeus, a tax-collector to make restitution. After Jesus' death, He influenced Saul, a devout Jew to stop persecuting the Christians and begin preaching to the Christians.

How can we have this type of influence on people? We must remember first of all that we are held accountable and our influence on others will be judged by God.  Secondly, we should evaluate our influence by biblical standards and allow God to work through us to influence others.

We should want to be a good influence on others so they too may be a good influence on others. We do this when we demonstrate Christlikeness.

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Being Transparent
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

What does it mean to be transparent?
Being transparent is letting people know who you are and what you believe. Transparent people are easy to understand because they are open and honest rather than being obscure and ambiguous. When you are not transparent, people are left to their own imagination about who you are. Their view of you might be dimmed, blurred, or simply distorted. They never get to know the real you; only the you they have negatively imagined.

When you are transparent, others will not have to play guessing games about your true feelings. They know exactly how you feel about certain things. Transparency is giving people permission to look into your soul. Some people hide their true self from others for fear of rejection, or because of a lack of self-confidence, or because of some deep scars, or because there are unhealed wounds, or because there has been a broken heart, or because there is an unfilled void. Being transparent is pulling back the curtains. It is letting others in and letting yourself out!

What are the disadvantages of being transparent?
When we are transparent we put ourselves at risk that people will mistreat us, reject us, abandon us, or manipulate us because of what they know about us. However, it is bold risk that is worth taking.

Does God want us to be transparent?
God wants us to be transparent. He wants us to accept who we are and embrace the person He has created. When we are transparent with ourselves, we can be transparent with God and with others. We remove the veil to let light in and to let light out.  
 
How does being transparent help bring about a better life?
When we are open, we let our light shine as God has commanded. This leads to a free and worthwhile life.  
  

 


 
The Purpose of Good Works
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

While we cannot work for salvation, once we are saved we should want to work for the kingdom of God. Why? Good works should be evident of our faith. (James 2:14-26) Good works do not include "busy work" just to say we are working for God. Good works mean doing those things to build up the kingdom of God and not just the local church to which we belong. Good works mean doing those things that point directly to God. Good works mean doing those things that glorify God and not ourselves.

God commanded good works through Solomon: Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

To the seven churches in Asia Minor, God said, "I know thy works..." (Revelation 2 and 3). Every person "will be judged according to their works." (Revelation 20:13)

Jesus came to earth to do the work of His Father. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Because of our good works, more people will accept Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord and glorify God. 

Paul said, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) Paul worked for the kingdom of God until he was beheaded for doing so. His good works were evident of his faith.

James, the brother of Jesus, made it plain when he said, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20)  In other words, once we are saved, we should put action to our faith and work for the kingdom of God while here on earth.
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Not to Destroy But to Fulfill the Law
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)

During the Sermon on the Mount, many in the crowd did not understand what Jesus meant when He spoke the above words. Many of us today still don't understand what Jesus meant.

"Think not" simply means Jesus knew what the crowd was thinking; so He spoke those words to dispel any misconceptions that might have been among them. Then Jesus explained that He did not come to abolish the law or to reject what the prophets had spoken. Instead, He had come to fulfill that which had been foreshadowed in the Old Testament through the Law and Prophets.

The law was not the way to salvation, but it pointed to the way. Jesus is that WAY. (John 14:6)  Until Jesus came, all 613 of the Old Testament laws were given but not kept. It was impossible to keep all the laws because if one was broken, all were broken. Then the laws were sub-categorized to the Ten Commandments. Today they have been further categorized into just two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40). The Law and the Prophets were not destroyed but fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

Jesus clearly affirmed that He did not come to do away with the principles of the Old Testament or to minimize the laws that the people lived by before. He came to make life easier through a better covenant outlined in the Book of Hebrews. He came in a living form to embody all the laws. And with the better covenant, Jesus became our mediator with better promises. (Hebrews 8:6) There is no mediator while trying to keep all the laws.

Since we do have a better covenant, we do not have to live by the letter of the law. We can now live by the spirit because the law has already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
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Say "Yes"
Simply let your "Yes" be "Yes" and your ''No" "No";
anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)

When we say "Yes" to anything, we are saying "No" to something else.

When we say "Yes" to faith, we are saying "No" to doubt.
When we say "Yes" to harmony, we are saying "No" to chaos and confusion.
When we say "Yes" to a life of riches, we are saying "No" to a life of poverty.
When we say "Yes" to rest, we are saying "No" to weary.
When we say "Yes" to love, we are saying "No" to hate.
When we say "Yes" to blessings, we are saying "No" to curses.
When we say "Yes" to the things that help us, we are saying "No" to the things that hurt us.

Since every "Yes" is a "No" to something else, let's choose our "Yes" carefully. Saying "Yes" to God and the good things of life means we are saying "No" to Satan and the evils of this world.

SAY "YES!"

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Go the Extra Mile
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:41)

Many expressions we use today originated in other cultures. Some of them even come from the Bible. For example, "Go the extra mile" is an expression from Jesus' day. Roman soldiers could compel citizens to carry their gear for them. In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus taught his listeners to go an extra mile if a soldier compelled them to go one mile.

This expression can be applied to any situation in which a person willingly goes beyond what is required. So if someone has asked you to do something, don't stop at merely doing the job. Do it with diligence. Do it with commitment. Do it wholeheartedly. And above all go the extra mile.
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Getting Prints Off the Wind
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.(Matthew 5:41)

Those of you who, like me, watch the television show "CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)" know that forensics is an integral part of solving crimes. The experts often comment on how much they love their job and how good they are at doing it. One man said he was so good he could get prints off the wind. That's taking his job to the nth degree.

Can you say something similar about how you do your job? Are you good at what you do and then some? Is you company better off because you work for it? Or are you better off because you work for the company?

When you love what you do, it is not hard to go the extra mile. In the above scripture, lay people were forced to drop whatever they were doing to carry Roman soldiers' gear no matter how heavy it was. Jesus said we should go farther than we are forced to go.  We should go farther than is expected of us. He said we should go the extra mile or as far as it takes to do what we need to do to help others do what they need to do. It would be safe to say, we should be willing to "get prints off the wind."
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Loving Everyone
There is a saying, "Love your friends and hate your enemies." But I say, "Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  (Matthew 5:43)

Love chooses forgiveness rather than revenge. When we are wronged, often our first reaction is to get even. Instead, Jesus said we should do good to those who wrong us! Our desire should not be to keep score, but to love and forgive.  This is not natural; rather it is supernatural. Only God can give us the strength to love as He does. Instead of planning vengeance, pray for those who hurt you.  It will help you and your relationship with God. 

Fill your heart with so much love that there is room for nothing else.
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What You Gain By Loving Your Enemies
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies,  and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)

The world says to hate our enemies. Have you ever wondered why God was so emphatic about us loving our enemies? God tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Yes, we are to love everyone, and it is so easy to love our family and friends. It is not hard at all to love those who love us and treat us with respect, but loving those who hate us is a different matter. So why does God want us to love our enemies? God wants us to love our enemies because they can do something for us that loving our family and friends cannot do. What is that something?

When we love our enemies, it keeps us from taking the law into our own hands. When we love our enemies, we overcome evil with good. When we love our enemies, we show that Jesus is the Lord of our lives. The most important reason God wants us to love is our enemies is so we can grow spiritually. So, how can we grow spiritually by loving our enemies?

When we love our enemies, they put us on our knees more often. In other words, we pray more. Our enemies cause us to take a closer look at our own lives. While we are trying to figure out why certain people don't like us, God gives us a clearer vision of ourselves. Oftentimes, there are things about us that need changing. Our enemies show us our faults whereas our friends cannot, do not, and will not.

Our enemies often start us on the road to making major changes. Loving our enemies stretches us in those areas that are overlooked by our friends. If you need to grow spiritually, let your enemies help you do so. Now, are willing to love your enemies?
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How To Be a Christian at Work
Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Does the person sitting across the desk from you know you are a Christian? Do the people who have lunch with you know you serve God? Do those to whom you speak on the telephone know that you are a child of the Most High King? There should be something about you to let your boss and coworkers know that you are a Christian. And this does not mean having your cubicle decorated as a shrine. This does not mean you have to quote scriptures to them during the day. This does not mean you  should minister to everyone who calls you on the telephone. And this surely does not mean for you to use company time to preach Jesus or to study your Bible.

Even when a boss treats you unkindly or a coworker betrays you, you should still let your light shine. There are many occasions at work where you can represent Jesus. So often, however, we miss those opportunities. Instead of responding in love, we respond in an angry unchristian manner. Here are steps to take when you feel wronged at work:

See others from God's perspective.  Take your eyes off your boss or an unpleasant coworker and look to the Savior. Keep your godly lenses on at all times and see them not as enemies but as conduits to test your Christianity in unpleasant situations. Pray for those who offend you, and before long you will notice changes in them; however, the biggest changes will be in you.

Leave the offense at the cross. If you have ever been offended by someone who works with you, you are not alone. How you respond to the offense depends on how serious you are about representing Christ. There is nothing a boss or coworker can do to you that can make you suffer as much as Jesus suffered on the cross. Think of this the next time you are offended.

Surely your workplace is different from your local church. Instead, your workplace becomes your testing ground to put into practice what you have been taught. We hear the word of God on Sunday, but then we should put the word of God into practice when we leave the sanctuary. (James 1:22)

You CAN be a Christian at work when you realize that wherever you go is a church without walls.
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When You Have Been Treated Unfairly
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44)

After you have been treated unfairly, the first thought you might have is to get revenge. That is also the worst thought you could have. Jesus said not to retaliate. Instead love your enemies and those who have wronged you (Matthew 5:43-44).  Here's how to deal with unfair treatment and have blessings multiplied to you as well.

 No right action ever goes unrewarded, even though the reward may not be evident in the visible world. Thus, no wrong action ever goes unpunished, even though the punishment may not be evident in the visible world.  When people treat you unfairly, know they will get their punishment. Here's how you can be blessed because of the unfair treatment.

When someone has mistreated you, consider it an opportunity for multiplying your blessings. This might sound contradictory, but it is a spiritual law. For example, if you did not get that raise that you knew you deserved, bless the person who did get it. God will make up the difference in your finances by keeping you well so you don't have to pay extra medical expenses. God will keep your car running longer than you expected. You will get extra mileage, your tires will last longer, etc.  In other words, you did get a raise but not the way you expected.  Also, when people mistreat you, release the situation and let it go. This will put you in line for blessings to come your way when there is no blockage in your heart.

In summary, when people mistreat you, do these two things. (1) Bless the person (as hard as it might seem) so blessings can bounce back to you. (2) Release the situation and let it go. Free your spirit to receive God's blessings. It works! It works! It works because it is a law of God's will.

Been mistreated? Use the situation as an opportunity for God to multiply your blessings!
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Right Action, Wrong Motive
  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1) Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them.

It is not the deed that condemns, but the motive.  If your only aim is to get yourself the world's reward, it will be your only reward, for God will not reward deeds done with selfish motives. Your good works might be lending themselves to wrong motives.  Jesus warned us about trying to bring glory to ourselves. Even good deeds such as giving to others, praying in public, and fasting can be acts of righteousness before men if the main focus is not to humble ourselves in the sight of God. 

Seek to please God by being humble before Him instead of doing those things to please the world. The world's rewards will be all we will get rather than the rewards which only God alone can give.
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Are We All Hypocrites?
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

Many of us live two lives: (1) what people see on the outside and (2) what is really going on inside of us. We learn what to say and do to please our parents, teachers, pastors, bosses and other leaders. We learn to do those little things that please our mates and our friends. Does what we do match up with who we really are? Do we deliberately put on masks to cover up what we really feel? Do we bite our tongues to keep from saying what we sincerely want to say? Are we all hypocrites to a certain degree?

In Jesus' day, religious people tried to impress each other with showy outward behavior. They announced when they were fasting. They prayed in the streets so others could see them. They went so far as to wear Bible verses strapped to their foreheads and left arms. God is not fooled by appearances. We cannot fake behavior to impress him. He knows that inside the best of us lurk dark thoughts that we wouldn't dare let others know.

Do other people see what you are really like on the inside? How do your friends try to impress you? How do you try to impress your friends? Let's let our inside match our outside!
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Private Activities that Bring Public Results
So when you give... (Matthew 6:2)
 And when you pray...(Matthew 6:5)
When you fast...(Matthew 6:16)

Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus taught His disciples. Matthew 5 includes the Beatitudes...(the "Blessed are's"). Matthew 6 includes the Model Prayer... (the "Our Father"). Matthew 7 includes ASK (Ask, Seek, and Find) and the Golden Rule (Do unto others...).

Have you ever wonder why some people can open their mouths to preach, teach, or speak in general with such power? Have you noticed that there is a special anointing present? Have you ever wondered why two people can say the same things, but there is power in what only one of them says? There is good reason for the difference. One has done something in private that brings about public results. What has been done in private?

Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16 give three private things we are commanded to do that will bring about powerful and noticeable results. Jesus says, "When you GIVE (not if you give) in secret, then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." If you want to be rewarded publicly, then GIVE in secret!

Jesus says, "When you PRAY (not if you pray), go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." If you want to be rewarded publicly, then PRAY in secret and not like the hypocrites who pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.

Jesus says, "When you FAST (not if you fast), put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you." If you want to be rewarded publicly, then FAST in secret!

There is no shortcut to having a public display of the touch of God on you and your life. Three things you can do in secret that will definitely bring about powerful public results: GIVE, PRAY and FAST. You cannot do either one in secret without God rewarding you publicly. If you do one, you will be rewarded thirtyfold. If you do two, you will be rewarded sixtyfold. When you do all three, you can't help but get a one hundredfold return!

Give, Pray and Fast! But do it in secret!
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Letting the Inside Match the Outside
Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:4)

You might not want to admit it, but we live based on how we want people to see us on the outside. We learn what will please others -- parents, teachers, bosses, pastors and church folks. We learn to put up a good front whenever we know we are being watched. We choose our clothes, hairstyles and body language to impress those around us. Over a period of time, we become so focused on these things that our inside doesn't match our outside at all. 

We might be able to fool people by our outward appearance, but God sees us completely -- inside and outside. And He wants our inside to match our outside. How can we make sure that happens? The time has come for us to change not just the outside but the inside as well. We should bring our inner and outer lives together realizing that God is not fooled by our appearance. He knows every thought even before we think it. We can hide nothing from God.

Do others see what you are really like on the inside? Does your inside match your outside?
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From "Not Feeling It" to "Feeling It"
The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6 The Message Bible)

There is an expression going around that indicates people's response to a certain activity. If they like what's going on they say, "I'm feeling it." On the other hand, when they don't particular care for what they see or hear, they say, "I'm not feeling it." This simply means they are not into it; they aren't embracing it or they would rather be somewhere else doing something else; doing anything except what they are doing at that particular time.

Admittedly, when you are forced to sit through a long boring speech or sermon, you will say, "I'm not feeling it." You won't and you can't feel it when you have a multitude of other things on your mind at that particular time. You will never feel it while you are planning your next meal or thinking about what you will do after the speech or other activity is over. The problem exists not when you say, "I'm not feeling it" about something once in a while but when you begin to say it about almost everything that goes on in your life.

Here is good news for those who are not feeling too much of anything these days. In order to "feel it," you must "focus on it." In order to "get into it," you must "get involved in it." Surely when you are a spectator, you are on the sidelines and not part of the action. However, the moment you become involved, you become connected. You become a participant and you will get excited about it. You will begin to "feel it." And when you "feel it" you will find some positive thing that you can embrace. Also, if you go on and "feel it," the speech or sermon won't seem as boring. The best thing is that the focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6)

Either get involved and feel it or endure the agony of wishing it would soon be over.
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 Closet Christians: Stay in the Closet
Jesus said, "…when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6)

There are two takes on being a "Closet Christian." Today the message is about "Closet Christians: Stay in the Closet." Tomorrow the message will be about "Closet Christians: Come Out of the Closet." When you read both messages, you will see that it is not contradictory to be a Closet Christian who needs to stay in the closet and a Closet Christian who needs to come out of the closet.

God wants us to practice "closet Christianity" as illustrated in the following examples:

1.  Closet Christians obey Jesus' command to pray in private. "...Go to your closet and shut the door, pray to your Father in secret." (Matthew 6:6)

2.  Closet Christians give privately.  "... when you gives alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing." (Matthew 6:3) Hypocrites give to be noticed, but Closet Christians give in private.

3.  Closet Christians study in private. Preachers bring forth the word to their congregations much more effectively when they have studied in private. Paul studied while in prison. (2 Timothy 4:13)
4. Closet Christians meditate in private. Meditation is simply thinking about and mulling over God's word. God told Joshua to meditate on the word night and day. Surely, this was to be done in private. (Joshua 1:8) "Blessed is the man who meditate day and night..." (Psalm 1:2)

There is a time to stay in the closet, and there is a time to come out of the closet.
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Since God Knows What We Need, Why Pray?
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

Since God knows what we need before we ask Him, why ask? Good question!

Prayer is not to inform God of something He doesn't know because He knows all. Prayer is not an avenue to get everything from God and give Him nothing in return. Prayer is not a way to get God to change His mind. Prayer is a way to align our will with His will. Prayer is not a way to get God to lower His standards to conform to ours. Prayer is a way for our relationship with God to be nurtured. Many times prayer doesn't  change situations; instead prayer changes us. Prayer reinforces our confidence in God and in His awesome power. 

Why pray? Not to inform God but to be transformed by God. Yes, God knows what we need before we pray.
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Is It "Let Us Pray" or Something Else?
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:8)

What is the proper way to lead people in corporate prayer? Should the leader say, "Shall we pray?" "Might we pray?" or simply "Let us pray"?

"Shall we pray?" is a question denoting a choice of praying or not praying. "Might we pray?" is a question of request or asking permission to pray. It is the same as asking, "May we pray?" Simply saying, "Let us pray" is much better because it is an affirmative statement given by the authority of the leader. "Let us pray" is an imperative which is more effective than the other two examples.

The one who is leading a congregation in prayer need not say, "Might we bow for a moment of prayer?" Three things are wrong with this. The first concern has been pointed out already. The second fallacy is that some people might not want to bow. They might want to simply close their eyes, or raise their heads toward heaven. To tell people to bow their heads takes away their free will to do other things while praying. Thirdly, a moment of prayer is not a realistic measure of time especially when the leader prays for 10-20 minutes (hyperbole made intentionally).

To avoid all that rhetoric, simply say, "Let us pray."
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Praying the Scriptures
And when you pray, say 'Our Father, who art in heaven'..." (Matthew 6:9)

Sure, God hears your prayers. But you must admit, sometimes your prayers are so repetitious and mundane that they are boring even to you. Do you want to pump up your prayers a notch? Here is a great suggestion to intensify your prayers to God. Learn to communicate with God in His own words because God loves hearing His words repeated to Him. When you pray, you are really saying to God, "Let's talk it over."  Learn to pray the scriptures and talk it over on God's terms and not your own.

Admittedly, sometimes it is frustrating to not be able to articulate what we feel. We can't seem to find the right words to let God know we are serious. It is difficult to express in words exactly what is on our minds and in our hearts. Bringing the scriptures into our prayers can greatly expand our vocabulary with God.

When you want to enter into praise, begin by praying a scripture from the Psalms. This will get your heart ready almost immediately. As you are guided into the presence of God, expand your prayers of petition not by saying, "Gimme, gimme!" but by using the examples of Jesus and Paul by letting God know how an answer to your prayer will help others. The worst prayer you could pray is the one with selfish motives that benefits only you.

Several things happen when we pray the scriptures. When we pray the scriptures, the words are not only going to God that give Him pleasure, but also the words are getting into our spirit when we hear them with our own voice. Praying the scriptures enables us to go deeper quicker than if we ramble on using meaningless words only to invoke God to give us something.

Praying the scriptures enables us to "enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise." (Psalm 100:4). Praying the scriptures empowers us as we recognize "Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8). Praying the scriptures helps us to "be not weary in well doing..." (Galatians 6:9). Praying the scriptures gives us a fresh anointing that "breaks every yoke" (Isaiah 58:6). Praying the scriptures gives new meaning to "Abba Father." (Romans 8:15).

In your next prayer to God (which should be soon), pray the scriptures and see what a vast difference it will make.
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Praying the Scriptures
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (Matthew 6:9)

Prayer is important to God. God commands us to pray over 250 times in the Bible. And prayer or praying is mentioned an additional 280 times. Besides that, there are examples of prayers of great men and women in the Bible, including prayers of Jesus.

Why is communicating with God in His own words so powerful? Since God already knows what He said, why should we repeat His words to Him?

When we pray the scriptures, we come in agreement with God, and His power is released to answer our prayers. Praying the scriptures lets God know we are on one accord with Him. Praying the scriptures lets God know we know His word. Praying the scriptures keeps our mind focused on what lines up with God's word. Praying the scriptures affirms God's word. Praying the scriptures reminds God that His word will not return to Him void. Praying the scriptures reinforces to us what God has said. Praying the scriptures strengthens us and increases our faith because God's promises are "yea and amen." (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Why pray our opinions when we can pray the scriptures? Why pray the unknown when we can pray the known? Why pray the impossible when we can pray the possible?

When you pray, pray the scriptures.
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"Let Us Pray"
This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father... Give us this day...Forgive us... as we... and lead us...but deliver us... (Matthew 6:9-13)
In corporate prayer, the invitation to pray should be short, appealing and void of legalistic rhetoric. There is no need to command people to: "Close your eyes and bow your heads." Some might want to look toward heaven during the prayer. Some might feel more comfortable with other gestures such as folding their arms or pointing their hands to their chins. Allow people to have a choice. The position of prayer is not as important as the condition of prayer. God honors the prayer from a sincere heart.

"May we pray?" "Might we pray?" or "Shall we pray?" should not be used. These are questions. It sounds as if you are asking permission to pray. And besides, "Shall we pray?" is grammatically incorrect. A simple "Let us pray" will do just fine.

We should remember the whole congregation in corporate prayer.  One should have said, "Thank you, Lord, for waking me up this morning" several hours before coming to church instead of saying it in corporate prayer. When we remember the whole congregation in prayer, we use "we," "us," and "our." We go to God on behalf of the people for whom we pray.  "I," "me," "my," and "mine" are quite appropriate in personal prayer but not in corporate prayer.

Finally, be mindful of your designated corporate prayer. If it is an invocation, invoke the coming of the Holy Spirit. If you are praying over the offerings, it is not the appropriate time to pray for the sick and shut-ins. If you are blessing the food for a repast in your church, that is not the time to bless the offering. A final blessing should be given over all people who have gathered together for the worship service. Bless them through that final prayer known as the benediction.

Now that we know some particulars about corporate prayer, "Let us pray....."
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Some Things We Don't Need to Pray About
Thy will be done. (Matthew 6:10)

Have you been around people who when you ask them to do something they always say, "Let me pray about it"? There are books written about prayers telling us how to pray, when to pray, where to pray, what to pray for, etc. However, you will not find too many people willing to say, "There are just some things we don't need to pray about."

It is a cop out and a time waster to reply to every order from your boss, "Let me pray about it." While you are praying about it, someone else will have your job and then you will really have something to pray about. Some things go along with the territory and are already a result of an answered prayer.

If the brakes on your car are failing, what's to pray about? Either get them fixed or get a new car. If it's raining outside, you don't need to pray about carrying an umbrella. If you see your neighbor's four-year old running into traffic, you don't need to pray about helping the child. There are just some things we don't need to pray about. For example, after taking a test, a little boy prayed the entire weekend that Petersburg would be the capital of Virginia because that's what he put on his geography test. Richmond is the capital of Virginia, and it will take more than a prayer for that to change. There are just some things we don't need to pray about.

We don't need to pray about God's natural laws. For instance, there is no need to pray that if you jump up, you won't come down. Pray about something else, but don't pray against the law of gravity. We don't need to pray about prophecies in the Bible that are a part of God's plan that MUST take place. And there is no need to pray for something that goes against God's law no matter how much we attach "If it is in God's will" at the end of the prayer. God will not go against His word to answer our prayer. In other words, God will not break His own law to make sure we get what we want. So stop praying for someone's spouse.

To summarize, there is no need to pray for what God said He WON'T do. And there is no need to pray for what God said He WILL do. When you search the scriptures, you will find out that as believers we have permission and discernment to do some things without always having to say, "Let me pray about it first." Case in point: Did you pray before you read this E-Message?"
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"Come . . . Be Done"
Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

When we pray these words from the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, we help to usher in the kingdom of God here on earth.  In the Greek, the verbs are placed at the beginning of these two statements for emphasis.  When we pray these words, we are in essence saying: "Come, kingdom of God! Be done, will of God!" 

The phrase, "Your kingdom come" is a reference to God's spiritual reign.  God's kingdom will be complete when all evil is destroyed and God establishes the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1).  We pray for the day when God will set up His kingdom on earth and reign in righteousness.

When we pray "Your will be done,"  we are praying that God's perfect purpose will be accomplished in this world as well as in the next. We acknowledge that God knows what is best and we surrender our will to His.  It also expresses a longing to see His will acknowledged in us and throughout the world.  

We are boldly declaring God's promises for us here on earth.  We are standing in victory that Christ has won for us.  We are refusing to let Satan's puny attempts intimidate us.  We are calling forth God's kingdom and declaring that God's will be done.  And what is the kingdom of God?  Paul tells us, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).

And when you pray, say "Our Father . . . Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done . . .
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Now But Not Yet
Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. " (Matthew 25:34). The kingdom of God has come near to you." (Luke 10:9) "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

All the above scriptures about the kingdom of God represent the three tenses: past, present and future.  In order to understand the kingdom of God, we must understand it in three different time periods.  The kingdom has already happened, it is still happening, and it is yet to happen.  We now live "between the times" of the "already" and the "not yet" of Christ's first coming and His second coming. The kingdom of God is within us. While we experience the kingdom now in a limited sense, the complete victory will be when Christ returns when the kingdom will be fully and finally realized. Until then, we still are empowered by the Holy Spirit to let Christ rule and reign in our lives during this "now but not yet" of the kingdom of God.
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Our Daily Bread
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

Jesus taught his disciples to pray for daily bread.  They were to pray for spiritual as well as for physical bread.  Like the disciples, our spirit needs to be fed.  Just as we eat for nourishment of our body, we should study God's word for nourishment of our spirit.  Recently I heard someone say, "The Word of God is bread for daily use; not cake for special occasions."

Be fed by reading God's Word. If you have not done so today, take a few moments right now to taste just a crumb until you are privileged enough to enjoy a whole slice.
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Give Us This Day
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

When we pray "GIVE us this day our daily bread," we are requesting what God wants to give us anyway. By asking we are letting God know we are not taking His gifts for granted.

When we pray "Give US this day our daily bread," we are being inclusive. We are not selfish by praying for me, my and mine. We are praying for others as well . . . our families, friends, neighbors and even our enemies. We are asking God to provide nourishment and sustenance for everyone.

When we pray "Give us THIS DAY our daily bread," we are asking God to provide for us today rather than tomorrow or some time in the distant future. Since God is a right now God, He will provide for us today!

When we pray "Give us this day OUR daily bread," we are acknowledging that the manna has come from God's hand and it now belongs to us . . . all of us. It is ours because God has given it to us, and we thank Him not only for what He has already given us but also for what He is about to give us. We thank Him in advance, and we call it ours before we actually get it.

When we pray "Give us this day our DAILY bread," we are agreeing with Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:23 when he says we receive new mercies every day. There is no need to worry about the stale bread of yesterday or the unbaked bread of tomorrow. We can pray for new bread daily.

When we pray "Give us this day our daily BREAD," we are acknowledging that God is our sustainer and provider. It is a misconception to think we provide for our own needs. We must trust God daily to provide what He knows we need. Bread provides nourishment to keep our physical bodies alive. Jesus is the Bread of Life that keeps our spirit alive.

Let us now pray this short sentence prayer:  "Give us this day our daily bread . . ." Amen
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What is Forgiveness?
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

To forgive is to excuse someone for a fault or offense.  To forgive is to stop feeling anger for or resentment against someone.  Unless we are willing to forgive others, God cannot forgive us.  For if you forgive those when they offend you, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Jesus is very emphatic about this kingdom principle: If we expect to be forgiven, we need to practice forgiveness. Why? Because when we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, "Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?"  Ask God to remind you right now who you need to forgive.  Your blessings might be held up because of unforgiveness in your heart.  Then when the Holy Spirit reveals to you the person or persons who you have not forgiven, forgive them immediately and be released from the prison and bondage of unforgiveness.
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Twin Sins That Hold You Back
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Pride goes before destruction. And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18)

Sin is sin, but there are twin sins that hold you back and keep you from moving ahead in all areas of your life. One of these two sins by itself causes much damage to your spiritual development. When both of them are present in your life, you don't stand a chance of growing in any area . . . financially, emotionally, intellectually, professionally, socially, or spiritually.

What are these twin sins? If you had to guess, what do you think they are?

UNFORGIVENESS. Unforgiveness is a sure way to stop you in your tracks and cement your feet to the pavement. You CANNOT move forward with unforgiveness of any kind in your heart. It is a command of God that you MUST forgive others no matter what they have done to you. Unforgiveness hurts you, and it keeps you from receiving God's blessings. So if you are not satisfied where you and have noticed that you aren't moving forward, perhaps there is still a trace of unforgiveness in your heart toward someone. If you want God's favor on your life, the surest and quickest way is to forgive those whom you believe have hurt, harmed or hindered you. Sure it is hard to forgive someone, but the benefits and blessings are worth it. When you rid yourself of all unforgiveness, you will become unstuck so you can move farther and faster than ever before.

PRIDE. Pride is the other sin that keeps you frozen where you are. Pride is described in the Bible as arrogance, conceit, and haughtiness. Pride shows up in one's speech through boasting, defiance, and indifference. In other words, pride is the excessive belief in your own abilities that interfere with recognizing the grace of God. Proud people have an EGO problem because they Ease God Out! Pride is the sin on which all other sins arise.

The twin sins of unforgiveness and pride are the two sins that will definitely hold you back. Unforgiveness and pride are the reasons you have a lack of favor with God; and therefore a lack of success in your career, your relationships, your ministry and every other area in which you are involved.

Eliminate the twin sins of unforgiveness and pride and watch how quickly God's favor will be upon you.
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Forgiveness: The Best Medicine
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Forgiveness is the best medicine for a hardened heart. Forgiveness is the best medicine for a confused mind. Forgiveness is the best medicine for a mixed up life. Harboring unforgiveness in your heart will make you sick. It blocks love from coming in or going out of your life.

Why is forgiving others so hard to do? When we forgive others for hurting us, we think we are letting them get away with what they have done to us. We think we are doing them a favor. Not so according to God's word. When we don't forgive others, we hurt ourselves. We are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness of our sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing that by forgiving others, God will also forgive us. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).

Do you want to be forgiven? Then, practice forgiveness yourself.
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Bad News and Good News
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

What one item would motivate someone to go to the store at 2:00 a.m. to wait in the cold for 4 hours until the stores opened at 6:00 a.m. to be pushed and shoved just to get that item only to stand in a long line again to pay for it? This morning as I watched the news and saw the long lines and crowds, I pondered the question within myself, "What is worth it to me to go through all that just to purchase an item?" Needless to say, I could not come up with one thing that I wanted that badly even if the price had been cut in half.

There is one gift that is FREE, and we don't have to stand in a long line for it. There is one free gift that is available without the inconveniences. There is a gift that comes in the right size, right color and at the right price. The only thing we have to do is accept it. That gift is salvation. Jesus purchased it for us with his own blood.

Now, if you were in those long lines at the stores, I have bad news and good news for you. First, the Bad News: Whatever it was that you bought will NOT last no matter how much you paid for it. It is subject to rust and moth. Thieves could break into your house and steal it. Whatever you bought will give only temporary gratification.

Are you willing to go through the same inconveniences for the gift of eternal life? The Good News: You don't have to go through any inconveniences for eternal life. It is a free gift from God (John 3:16). The only thing you have to do is to accept it. Jesus has already paid it ALL!
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Where Is Your Treasure?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

In biblical times people used to bury their money, deeds to property and other valuables in earthen vessels in fields. If the owner was killed in the army or got sick and could not tell anyone where the field was, the field was sold. The person who bought the field received everything in the field. (Matthew 13:44) Needless to say, burying your treasure in earthen vessels is not a good idea.

Some people still save their money between their mattresses. Thieves know exactly where to look if the house is robbed. Also, if the house is burned to the ground, so goes the money. Some people invest their money in the stock market which has recently proven to be unsteady as well. So where is your treasure?

Jesus is concerned about our treasures. Therefore, He gave us the safest place to store them. He was very specific in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us: "Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-23)

How do you store up your treasures in heaven?  You do so by contributing to God's work here on earth!
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Spiritual Insight
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, you whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23)

Spiritual insight is different from what the natural eyes see.  However, just as the eye is the lamp of the body, spiritual vision is our capacity to see clearly what God wants us to do and to see the world from His point of view. Our spiritual sight can be clouded by our worldly desires, interests and goals that block our vision. Serving God is the best way to restore our spiritual vision. A "good eye" is one that is fixed and stayed on God.

How do we get spiritual insight? How do we know God's point of view? God's Word is an inexhaustible source of insight. If you want to know what's on God's mind and what's in His heart, read the Bible daily! True insight comes only from God and not when it has been filtered through others. Instead of trying to know all there is about God by merely looking through the peek hole, open wide the door and let Jesus in for yourself. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

Know God for yourself by seeing Him through spiritual insight.
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Either . . . Or
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.. (Matthew 6:24)

God has given us choices.  Either we will choose life or we will choose death.  When we choose life, we choose to live in the richness and glory of God.  When we choose death, we choose to live in a world filled with darkness even though it might be camouflaged to appear glamorous.  It is just a counterfeit existence.  We think we are having fun and enjoying the fruit of the land, but these pleasures are temporal. Any enjoyment and pleasure as the result of human efforts will not last forever.  However, by choosing life, we live in love, peace and joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.

We do have choices.  Either we will run with the world or walk with Jesus.  Either we will continue to stumble while in sin or walk boldly in the power of God.  If you have been trying to live on your own strength and in your own power, Jesus is calling for a decision. Either you will choose to live contentedly with Him by the Spirit or to struggle in the world according to your own temporary pleasures.
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Do Not Worry (A Fish Tale)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  (Matthew 6:25)

While on vacation with my children, grandchildren, and the other grandmother in Big Canoe, Georgia, we decided to go fishing one day. For about half an hour we chatted and debated about who was going to clean the fish, where we were going to clean the fish, who was going to cook the fish, and if we had the necessary ingredients to fry the fish. Then someone suggested that we just go fishing and take care of the rest later. At the end of the day we discovered we had worried in vain. We shouldn't have worried at all about who would clean the fish. We shouldn't have worried at all about who would cook the fish.

We shouldn't have worried because we caught no fish.
 
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches a great lesson about not worrying. He tells us not to worry about anything; about what we are to eat (including fish), about what we are to drink along with the fish or about what we are to wear when we go fishing.

Jesus knows that most of the things we worry about never come to pass anyway. So worry is just interest paid on a debt before it is due.

(We had a great vacation even though we caught no fish).
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Worry Is a Sin
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

In his book, Preacher Behave  J. Clark Hensley cautions ministers about taking their parishioners to bed with them. This is good advice for everyone. Doctors are not to take their patients to bed with them. They are to do the work God has ordained them to do and leave the rest to God Himself. Teachers are not to take their students to bed with them. They are to teach and give life applications in the classroom and trust God that their teaching will impact the lives of the students. In other words, don't take your work to bed with you. At the end of the day instead of taking your work to bed with you, take the advice of Jesus: "Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28)

Worry is a sin. And taking on someone else's problems is witchcraft. This makes God a liar. When you worry, you are telling God He is not powerful enough to take care of you and the things you face. Hensley further explains how worry is futile in that at least 40% of what we worry about will never come to pass anyway.  Another 30% of what we worry about can't be changed. So why worry? Another 10% of what we worry about involves what we can't control; such as what people think about us. Another 12% of our worries concerns the state of our health which should be left to the Great Physician. This leaves only 8% of our worries that might become a reality. Even if all of these worries come to pass, God is there "For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

According to J. Clark Hensley and others who refuse to worry, the only thing we should worry about is our salvation. If you are not sure your name is in the Lamb's Book of Life, you should be so worried about it that you will accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
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What To Do When You Are Worried
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life . . . Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  (Matthew 6:25-27)

You might go to a godly counselor when you are worried. If he or she tells you to look at the birds of the air, you will probably think you have gone to the wrong person for advice. It doesn't seem helpful to look at birds high in the air when your bank account is low. Why look at birds when you have just lost your job? Why look at birds when you don't have enough money to feed your own family? What did Jesus have in mind when he said the cure for worry is to look at the birds of the air?

Jesus often taught lessons based on the world around him . . . a fish, a coin, a well, an open door, the wind, the sea, a fig tree, flowers of the field, and birds of the air. What can the birds of the air teach us? Why does Jesus want us to be bird watchers? He wants us to see that birds are carefree; yet, they are always fed. Birds don't worry.  They seem not to be supported by anyone; yet they can fly high in the air.

Jesus tells us to simply watch the birds of the air, and let them teach us about life. If we learn the lesson that the birds can teach us, it will help to keep us from worry and anxiety. God cares about the birds, and He cares about us. A bird uses its abilities to find food, but it is God who provided it. When you see a bird land in a field or on a lawn and find food, you can be sure that God is there helping that bird. In a very similar way, you can be assured that God will help you, when you make an effort to find a means for your material support.

What can you do about your worries? Go outside and become a bird watcher! Besides learning the spiritual life application that God will take care of you, watching the birds of the air will certainly take your mind off of that which worries you.
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Birds and Flowers
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:25; 28-29)

Did you wonder what happened to the birds in all that snow we encountered this week? While we were in our cozy homes, what happened to the birds?  Did they all die?  Did they migrate to a warmer climate? What happened to the birds of the air? According to Matthew 6:26, the birds were still cared for.  God still fed them.  God still provided for them.  Birds are God's creation, and they never worry about where their next worm is coming from. 

What about the flowers of the field? Did God forget about them in the snow storm? No, He did not!  The flowers of the field, too, were in God's protective care. Watch them bloom in the spring.

So if God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields, how much more will he care for us? Recognizing that the God we serve takes care of nature, we should believe He certainly will meet our needs.  If you ever have any doubt, then look at the birds of the air and consider the lilies of the field.
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Turn Over Your Own Rock
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:26)

Have you ever watched birds as they were scratching for food in the grass or leaves or dirt? If so, you saw that they were persistent and diligent about their mission. They were focused on what they were doing. While it is true that God does provide for the birds, it is up to the birds to leave their nests. They must go to the ground and turn over their own rocks and search for food.

God provides for us just as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We, like the birds, must participate in our own blessings. We must believe that God is our Provider. Then we must do what God has commanded us to do. We must do our part. We must turn over our own rocks.
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Simple Abundance
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more value than they?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:26, 28b)

One of the most common fears is not being able to have enough; especially in times of need.  We fear that the God we serve will not provide for us. We develop a scarcity consciousness.

The above scripture lets us know that just as God takes care of the things in nature, He will also take care of His children. 
Let's replace our scarcity conscious with one of simple abundance.  God always has enough for us, and He will provide for those who are faithful. Abundance means that all things are possible and that there is more than enough of everything for everyone, right here and right now. 

Trust the God who made you to also take care of you.
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It's Not The Collar
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)

On Saturday I wore my clergy collar to take pictures. An onlooker expressed that she knew I was a Christian by my speech, mannerisms, behavior and radiance. She concluded, "It's not the collar." Many people think it's the external that makes us believers and servants of God. It's not the cross around your neck that makes you a Christian. It's not the Bible you carry that makes you a Christian. It's not how many times you say, "I am blessed" that makes you a Christian. There is nothing wrong with these outward expressions, but God wants us to have a heartfelt love for Him and to serve others with compassion and understanding.

It's not the collar that makes a man or woman a minister of God. God isn't concerned with what we wear. He is however concerned with what wears us. He is concerned that our innermost parts are filled with love, joy, peace and the other fruit of the spirit that will be evident to the strangers we meet along the way.

God sees and knows the heart. And as far as God is concerned, "It's not the collar!"
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A Hierarchy of Needs
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Abraham Maslow, considered to be the founder of humanistic psychology, proposed a theory of human motivation based on a hierarchy of needs. According to Maslow, there are five basic human needs. Each level must be attained before one can move on to the next level. Levels cannot be skipped. At the lowest level of the hierarchy are physical needs including hunger and thirst which must be attended to before one can move on to the second level dealing with security, safety and protection. Only when these needs are met can one move on the third level including belonging and love.  At the fourth level, one begins to feel a purpose for his or her existence. When all four of these levels have been attained, one moves to the final level of self-actualization which includes the highest expressions of humanness. At this level, a person can celebrate his or her own uniqueness, creativity and oneness with God. At this level, individuals can become all they are capable of becoming.

In summary, God has met our physical needs at Level One: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things (food, water, clothing, shelter) shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

God has met our need for safety and security at Level Two. "Take, therefore no thought for tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34).

God has met our need for love at Level Three. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35)

God has met our need for significance and purpose at Level Four. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works..." (Ephesians 2:10)

Level Five is based on the attainment of the first four levels. Christians can then say with certainty, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (because I have all that I need)" (Psalm 23:1).

Whether he intended to or not, Abraham Maslow gave us in psychology what God gave us in the scriptures. In order for our lives to be more fruitful, we should take heed to this hierarchy of needs. Remember, however, you cannot skip levels!
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Seek God; Not His Gifts
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Don't be surprised to know that most people seek God for what He can do for them. Some people do not call on God until they are in a jam and they need God to help them out. Some people go to God only when they need gifts and not the Giver. We are commanded to seek God's presence and not His gifts. When we seek God for God's self, we get both God and His gifts. When we seek only God's gifts, we might not get anything, neither God nor His gifts.

Here, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a covenant with His followers. He tells them to put God first in their lives, and their future needs will always be met. In fact, Jesus guarantees it. To seek God first simply means to turn to God for everything before turning to others and other things. It means filling your thoughts with what God wants instead of what you want. It means letting nothing, absolutely nothing bump God out of first place in every area of your life. And then after you seek God both in point of time (first) and of interest (first), you must keep Him ever present in your thoughts (first) after you find Him. After you seek God and find Him, you will discover that He has been seeking you all the time. When you find Him, you will have no worry for temporal blessings because He will supply your needs even without your asking. A sure giveaway to people's relationship with God is to listen to their prayers. Notice, the people who have God foremost in their lives are the people who ask for fewer temporal things. Those whose requests and petitions consist merely of "bless me, bless me" are not seeking God but His gifts.

When we put God first, here is the good part: God gives us Himself and everything else we need. Let's stop seeking everything else and then tacking God on at the end. It will NEVER work that way. God MUST be first!
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What is Success?
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Many people want success, but many people can't define it. Most definitions of success include references to achieving set goals, acquiring a fortune, and having prestige and power. According to this definition, successful people are financially secure, and they are surrounded by people who admire them.

Successful people come from all walks of life. A farmer can be just as successful as a bank executive. The one thing that successful people have in common is hard work. In fact, the dictionary is the only place where "success" comes before "work."

Success is something all of us can have. If we set a goal and attain it, then we are successful at that one thing. When that happens, we should set another goal and become successful at it. If we keep going, we will begin to see ourselves as successful. When we see ourselves being successful, we will begin to act successful. When we act successful, it will not be long until we ARE successful.

Do you want to know how to be truly successful? Let God be first in your life. And He promised that all things you desire will be added unto you. Success is believing that you can become successful with hard work and with God first in your life.
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The 12:00 to 12:01 Worry Rule
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matthew 6:34)

My sister, Mary, does home health care for a living. She delights in talking about the conversations she has with her elderly patients. Recently she told the story about Mr. Fred who worried because he couldn't find his watch. Remembering an earlier conversation, Mary reminded Mr. Fred what he had told her about fighting in three wars. She asked him if he worried today about the people he had killed while in those battles. He said, "Yes, from 12:00 to 12:01."

Umm!. What a good principle! The Bible tells us not to worry, but oftentimes we do. So, I am going to adopt Mr. Fred's principle. If I feel a worry coming on, I am designating only one minute to do it; preferably from 12:00 to 12:0l at night while I am asleep.

God knew we would worry. That’s why the Bible has many scriptures about worry. Since we do worry, let's designate 12:00 to 12:01 to do so. And according to Mr. Fred, if you have worried past that minute, you have worried too long!
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Reasons Not To Worry
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

According to God, we are NOT to worry about anything. But we do! We worry about this and we worry about that. However, ALL our worries are in vain. Here are reasons we are NOT to worry:
  1. God tells us NOT to worry. (Matthew 6:25, 34)
  2. We have NOTHING to worry about. Paul assures us that God will supply our every need (Philippians 4:19). So why worry?
  3. Worrying DOESN'T do any good. Jesus asks, "Who of you can add a single hour to his life by worrying? Worry doesn't add to our lives; however, it might take away from it. (Luke 12:25
  4. GOD WANTS OUR WORRIES so He will have the opportunity to soothe us.  David tells God, "When I worried about many things, your assuring words soothed my soul." (Psalm 94:19)
  5. Worry CAN control us. "Let Christ's peace (not worry) control you." (Colossians 3:15)
  6. Our troubles are light and temporary. So WHY WORRY about them?  Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)
We can enjoy God more when we are NOT worried. Therefore, God commands us NOT to worry, but give Him the opportunity to soothe us and to give us His peace.
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What Not to Do With Your Pearls
Do not cast your pearls to swine. (Matthew 7:6)

Pigs were unclean animals according to the Jewish law (Deuteronomy 14:8). Anyone who touched an unclean animal became "ceremonially unclean" and could not go to the temple to worship until the uncleanness was removed.  The above scripture comes from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said we should not entrust holy teachings to unholy or unclean people. It us useless to try to get unclean people to embrace God's holy word. They don't want to listen and will tear apart and make fun of what we say. We should by no means stop giving God's word to unbelievers, but we should be wise and discerning in what we teach to whom at the appropriate times.

Casting your pearls to pigs simply means you are throwing what is precious and clean to dirty pigs who do not embrace their value. They think nothing of trampling your white pearls into the mud. Jesus taught us not to waste our time by casting our pearls to swine. Instead, we are to use our holy teachings on those who are genuinely interested.
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Take the Initiative
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:8)

It is so true that "if you take one step, God will take two." In other words, when you take the initiative to do something on earth, God honors it in heaven.

An initiative is an introductory step toward something. It means doing something at your own discretion independently of outside influence or control. There are some things God wants us to wait on. There are some things God has given us the authority to take the initiative on right away. When we take the initiative on these things in the natural realm, God will act upon them in the spiritual realm.

Take the initiative to ASK, and it shall be given (Matthew 7:7a)
Take the initiative to SEEK, and you shall find. (Matthew 7:7b)
Take the initiative to KNOCK, and the door shall be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7c)
Take the initiative to BIND on earth, and it shall be bound in heaven. (Matthew 16:19b)
Take the initiative to LOOSE on earth, and it shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19c)
Take the initiative to GIVE, and it shall be given unto you. (Luke 6:38a)
Take the initiative to FORGIVE, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37c)
(The list goes on).

If nothing is happening in your life right now, perhaps you need to take the initiative (the introductory step; the first step) to make something happen. Once you have taken that first step, God will put people, resources, and opportunities in your path to make things happen. God will add His two steps to your initial step.
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Praying For Snakes
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10)

The Bible clearly teaches us to ask for what we want and it shall be given.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7-11 to ask, seek and knock.  He then explains that if a child asks his father for bread, the loving father would not give him a stone. Likewise, if the child asks for a fish, the loving father would not give him a snake.  Bread and fish are good and necessary items. Therefore, any father has no problem providing these things.  If on the other hand, the child asks for snakes, the father would not grant that request.  God knows it when we pray for snakes, and like a loving Father, He does not honor that request no matter how much we persist. 

We have all prayed for snakes unknowingly. Supposed you had married the one you prayed to marry? You would probably be married to a snake today. Supposed you had gotten that job you begged God to give you?  You might be in a pit of snakes right now. Look back over your life, and thank God He did not give you the snakes you prayed for.
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The Golden Rule
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)

This short verse is known as "The Golden Rule." In many other religions it is stated in a negative way: "Don't do to others what you don't want done to you." Some even say: "Do to others before they do it to you."

Jesus made this statement more positive and significant by rearranging the words. He also made us accountable by telling us to "Do" to others. It is not very hard refraining from doing, but it is much more challenging to take the initiative and do good to others.

Jesus' life was an example of The Golden Rule. It should be our foundation as well. Do something nice for someone today. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
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Lessons from the Backyardigans
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Unless you are a mother of small children or have small grandchildren, you probably don't know who the Backyardigans are. When I babysit my grandchildren: 5-year old AJ; 2-year old Makai, and 8-month old Tori, I am not ashamed to say I watch the Backyardigans with them. That's the only cartoon I am admitting to today.

The Backyardigans is Nick Jr.'s animated musical adventure series about five high-spirited preschool friends, Uniqua, Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha, and Austin, who rely on their vivid imaginations to embark on amazing, epic adventures. In every episode, the backyard transforms into a new fantastic, photo-real landscape that serves as the backdrop for completely original, story-driven musicals. The five in their own backyard use their imagination to go to different places and do exciting things. They climb mountains, go out on the range, slide down glaciers and sail across oceans.

The particular episode that inspired this writing is the one I saw on Monday as I babysat Makai and Tori. The five Backyardigans were paddling down the river on their gondola when they spotted a kitten on a piece of driftwood. They tried to talk to the kitten to get him to maneuver himself over to the boat, but that didn't happen. They did everything they could to rescue the kitten, but nothing worked. The Backyardigans did not give up. They were going to save that kitten or else. However, the water became so fierce that it seemed impossible. They put their heads together and came up with an idea: "Let's make a bridge for the kitten to walk over from his driftwood to our boat." How could they make a bridge in such a short period of time in the middle of the river with no tools? Easy! They stopped paddling their boat, took the oar and put it on the driftwood. Instant bridge! But the kitten still didn't budge, and the driftwood was approaching the point of no return. The quick thinking Backyardigans decided that one of them should show the kitten how to walk across the bridge. That meant one of them had to leave the boat. So one of the Backyardigans left the boat, showed the kitten how to walk on the bridge and joined the kitten on the driftwood. Then the Backyardigan let the kitten go first until they both were safe in the boat.

My 2-year old grandson and 8-month old granddaughter might not have understood all the theological implications, but I hope you did. In case you didn't, here they are:
  1. The Backyardigans saw a need and did not look the other way.
  2. They changed their own agenda to help the kitten.
  3. They worked as a team to help.
  4. They did not accept defeat even when the task seemed impossible.
  5. They used the resource they had (an oar to make a bridge).
  6. They tried to talk the kitten to come to safety. When that didn't work, one went to get him.
  7. One Backyardigan used himself as an example to show the way.
  8. One Backyardigan took the liberty of allowing the kitten to go ahead of him on the bridge.
  9. They put another's safety first before their own.
  10. They followed the Golden Rule as stated in Matthew 7:12.
Oh, how great the world would be if Christians were like the Backyardigans!
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Who's Depending On You Today?
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)

We are all connected to some degree. And we are all dependent on one another to some degree. We come into contact with and help so many people during the day; many whom we are unaware.

Even if your role is not one of authority, someone is depending on you today. Someone is depending on you to give a word of encouragement, to provide some act of kindness or to help in some large or small way.  On the other hand, somebody is going to help you; perhaps to the same extent that you have helped others.

Remember, someone is depending on you today. Don't let them down.
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No Alternate Route
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Undoubtedly all individuals do not travel the same road to get to their job, school, or church.  They take many different routes, but everyone ends up at the same place.  For variety and a change of scenery, you might travel a different route sometimes yourself.

We all have the same final destination.  We are all headed for eternity, but our eternal destinations will not all be the same.  There are two different roads we can take.  One leads to eternal life in heaven with God (Matthew 25:34-36). The other follows a detour away from Him into an eternity separated from His love and goodness (Matthew 25:41-43). That final destination leads to hell with Satan.

Jesus describes these two roads.  One is wide, similar to our six-lane turnpikes with lovely landscapes and frequent rest stops. On this road, travelers drive wrecklessly beyond the speed limits while doing their own thing. Most people choose this road because it is so inviting. This expressway will only lead away from God. The other road is narrow, and in some places barely passable. This particular one-way road is narrow, has curves, and winds its way into the presence of God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). That's the only way to get to God. There is NO alternate route.  Which road are you traveling . . . the wide or the narrow?
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Where's the Fruit?
And you shall know them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:16)

Christians and non-Christians know the right words, phrases, and jargon to say to make people think they are serving God when actually they are seeking fame, power and glory for themselves. A true test of finding out if people are who they say they are is to see if they are bearing fruit. Christians should always be producing something good for the Kingdom of God. "You cannot pick grapes from thornbushes no matter how hard you try. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16-20).

In celebration of Thanksgiving tomorrow, people will have many items on the menu. Make it a point to look for good fruit in the people around you. Recognize those who serve God by the fruit they bear. Don't be fooled by those who praise God with their lips but not with their living.
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Under Authority
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, "Go," and he goes; and that one, "Come," and he comes. I say to my servant, "Do this," and he does it. (Matthew 8:9)

Everyone has an authority figure over him. No one on this earth is exempt from having to respond to somebody's directives. Students have teachers over them, teachers have principals over them, principals have the school board over them, the school board has the mayor over it, etc. In order to work well while under authority, we must respect the position of authority even though we might not care much for the person in authority.

The best and quickest way for God to put you in an authority position is for you to do well while you are under authority. If you can't be under authority, chances are you will never do well as an authority figure yourself and God knows that. That is probably the reason you can't get promoted on your job or placed in a leadership position in your church or other organizations.

Do you want to be in authority? Then be under authority.
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Earthly Investment; Heavenly Rewards
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

Following Jesus is not always an easy or comfortable road to travel.  Often it means great cost and sacrifice. Jesus didn't have a place to call home.  The cost of following Jesus is high. It might cost you family, friends, popularity, leisure time, or treasured habits, but the value of being a disciple of Christ is an earthly investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible heavenly rewards.

Any believer who has to give up anything to follow Christ will be paid back in this life with dividends, as well as in the next.  For example, if you must give up friends, you will find that God offers a secure relationship with himself now and forever.  If you must give up your family's approval, you will gain the love of the family of God. 

Invest in the Kingdom of God today by following Jesus every step of the way!
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Short and Simple
But Jesus said to him, "Follow me . . .  (Matthew 8:22)

When Jesus called His disciples He did not use a marketing plan or a "get rich quick" scheme.  He did not lure them into any package deal.  He did not bargain with them or promise them anything at all.  He simply said, "Follow me."  Nothing more, nothing less.  The disciples believed in the one who spoke these two words.   Jesus did not use big words or long discussions to get His point across.  He spoke in everyday language so all could understand.  Most of His commandments consisted of one or two-syllable words:  "Come unto me," "Go and sin no more," "Go and tell,"  "Fear not," "Watch and pray,"  "Satan, get thee hence," "You are made whole," "Love one another."

We should follow the example of our Lord and Savior.  We should communicate in a clear concise manner so any child or adult can understand us.  Explaining the gospel doesn't have to be complicated. The good news is: "Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus was buried.  Jesus arose.  Jesus will come again."

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Remedy For Getting Lost
I got lost this morning on the way to work.  As soon as I discovered I was lost, I immediately knew the reason why on a road I have taken hundreds of time, I ended up on unfamiliar territory.///////////////////////////////////////////

The reason is quite simple and the remedy is just as simple. I got lost because I was following a truck and when the driver turned, so did I. Even though it was not my exit, I turned and continued to follow the truck. Why? Because for last two or three miles, I had done so and I just followed a natural impulse. Secondly, I was not concentrating on my destination. I was reading the many signs that were posted on the truck. In other words, I was distracted.

So it is with following Jesus. We get lost when we follow others instead of following Him. We get lost when we become distracted and take our eyes off of our destination.

Don't let that happen to you. The remedy for getting lost is to (1) Stay focused. (2) Keep alert. (3) Watch who you are following.
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Ask Jesus to Follow You
My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live. So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. (Matthew 9:19)

Many times in the gospels we read that Jesus told people, " Follow me." Often when Jesus taught, great multitudes followed Him.  However, there was an occasion when someone asked Jesus to follow.  It takes courage to follow Jesus, but it takes more courage to ask Jesus to follow you.

In the scripture above, we see a sorrrowful father who had come to tell Jesus about the death of his daughter. Then the father asked Jesus to follow him. And Jesus followed the man home. Do you have the courage to ask Jesus to follow you? If Jesus followed you, where whould you take Him? Would you take Him to the loneliest parts of your heart? Would you take Him into the midst of your grief, suffering and pain?  Would you ask Jesus to follow you into the dark night of your soul? Are you willing to ask Jesus to follow you and be with you in your crises?

Do you have the courage to invite Jesus to follow you wherever you are at this very moment? Jesus wants to be with you. Most times, Jesus asks us to follow Him. But then, there are those unique times when you must have the courage to ask Jesus to follow you.

Go ahead. Ask Him to follow you to your place of pain.
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Your Point of Contact
For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." (Matthew 9:21)

A point of contact is something that is done to release your faith. To say you have faith doesn't mean very much unless you put your faith in action. A point of contact is something you say or something you do and when you say or do it, your faith is immediately released toward God. There is no delay!

All sources of power have a point of contact through which they can be reached or tapped. You flip a switch for your lights to come on. You turn a key in your car to start the motor. You push a button on your computer for it to boot up. You turn on a faucet to get water. In each case, you do something to start the flow of energy. In each case, what you do has become your point of contact.

There are hundreds of examples in the Bible of men and women who used a point of contact to release their faith so God could work in their lives. David released his faith when he pulled back a slingshot to kill Goliath. Moses released his faith when he raised his staff and the Red Sea parted. The priests released their faith when they stepped into the Jordan River and the Israelites were able to walk across on dry land. The woman with the issue of blood released her faith when she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." (Matthew 9:21)

God will honor any point of contact that you use to release your faith. Your point of contact is something you say or do in the natural that serves as a conductor to the spiritual. The very moment you use your point of contact, miracles begin to happen.

Do you want something miraculous to happen in your life right now? If so, do something as a point of contact. Flip the switch to release your faith! 
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Look What the Lord Has Done
News of this spread through all that region. (Matthew 9:26)

There is a song, "Look What the Lord Has Done" in which the singer gives examples of what the Lord has done in his life.  "Look what the Lord has done. He saved my soul.  He set me free.  He healed my body, etc."  When the Lord has done great things for you, you just can't keep it to yourself. Jesus did warn some of the people he healed not to tell.  "See that no one knows about this. But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region" ( Matthew 9:30-31).  They told because they were excited and thankful for their healings. Also, they had a testimony to tell about the power of Jesus.  Jesus warned them not to tell because others would come to Him for physical healing ONLY.  Jesus wanted to be diligently involved in His trifold ministry of "teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness" (Matthew 9:35).

Since God does special things for us all the time, we can lift our voices and sing, "Look what the Lord has done . . . "
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God Can and God Will
And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28)

Most of us know God is omnipotent. That means God is all powerful. While most of us know without a doubt what God CAN do, we often doubt what God WILL do. There is a big difference between CAN and WILL. “Can” means “being able to do or having the ability to do something.” “Can” is passive. One can have the ability to do something without actually doing it.   “Will” means “the likelihood
of causing something to happen or bringing forth an action.” “Will” is active. Some action is attached to the ability. “Can” is the past tense of “could” while “will” is the past tense of “would.”

We know God could create the heavens and earth, but would he? Yes, He would and He did! (Genesis 1:1).   We know God could deliver the Israelites into the promised land, but would he? Yes, He would and He did! (Joshua 3:17) We know God could send His only begotten Son into the world to save sinners, but would he? Yes, He would and He did! (John 3:16) These are major things that God could do and He did do. When it comes to our personal affairs, we doubt if God will see us through. Can God see us through? Yes, He can! Yes, He is able! But the real question is: Will He see us through? It all depends on how much we can trust Him to do so.

Let us kept knowing that God CAN, but let us also affirm that God WILL.

Now to Him who is ABLE to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us...(Ephesians 3:20) For the Lord your God WILL bless you just as He promised you. (Deuteronomy 15:6)
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Become a Flight Risk
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes. (Matthew 10:23)

If you watch television shows like "Law and Order" and "The Practice" you have probably heard the term "flight risk."  A "flight risk" is not a good thing to be if one is on trial for a crime. However, the Bible tells us to become a "flight risk."

A flight is an act of running away. To flee is to run away from something or someone dangerous or evil. The word "flee'" is in the Bible over one hundred times. Most of those times indicate a person is running from evil and hurrying toward a place of security. Notice that when one flees, he is not only running away FROM something, but also he is running TO something.

So let's become a flight risk. Let's run from the evils of this world and run to the safety and security of our loving Father.

I invite you to run away with me. Let's become a flight risk in Jesus' name.
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Christians Shouldn't Wear Masks
. . . for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. (Matthew 10:26)

People wear all kinds of masks to cover up, to hide, and to fool others.  Some even wear masks to cover up pain, hurt, suffering, guilt, and sin.

By wearing masks we might fool some of the people some of the time and all the people some of the time, but no matter how many masks we wear, we cannot fool God at any time. No matter how committed we are, we cannot be blessed with unconfessed or hidden sin in our lives. First John 1:9 assures us that we don't have to wear masks to hide our sins. There is a better way. If we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. With God, no mask is needed. Therefore, we should walk in the light because Jesus is the Light of the world. And where Jesus is, there is no darkness and nothing is hidden or covered up.
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Your Possibility Book
With God all things are possible. (Matthew 10:27)

Those of you who have seen Queen Latifah's "Last Holiday" are familiar with what can happen if you keep a "possibility book." Queen Latifah had been skimping on life. She had been saving up for a rainy day. She had not eaten what she wanted to eat. She had not worn the clothes she wanted to wear. She had not gone to the places she wanted to go. However, she had pictures of all these things in her possibility book. She knew they were possible to attain; but not right away. When Queen Latifah finds out she has only three weeks to live, she withdraws all her money from the bank and travels to Europe to do those things she had designated as "possibilities." She goes to an expensive restaurant and orders every item on the menu. She goes mountain climbing, skiing, and sky diving and does those things she had only dreamed of. She wanted to experience all her possibilities before her demise. And she experienced in three weeks what she had not experienced in a lifetime. Every one of her possibilities became a reality!

What is a possibility book and why is having a possibility book important? The first and most important step to getting what you want is to know what you want. "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) What are your desires? Have you written them down and collected pictures of those things and put them in your possibility book?

Once you designate exactly what you want, God will put people and other resources in your path to make sure the desires of your heart are fulfilled.

Can you articulate right now what your desires are? Write them in a possibility book. It worked for Queen Latifah and for others. It will work for you as well. "With God ALL things are possible!"
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God and Sparrows
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

A sparrow is a tiny bird. Because sparrows are social creatures, to find one alone is a symbol of loneliness. During Jesus' time, sparrows were sold for a very low price: two for a penny. It was the poor's man sacrifice. Those who could not afford a sheep or a goat could sacrifice a sparrow.

Some people consider sparrows pests because they multiple so rapidly.  Sometimes it seems that only God cares for sparrows. Cats, hawks, and naughty boys prey upon them because they are defenseless.

Jesus asks us to think about how much God cares for this tiny bird even though people think the sparrow is insignificant. If God cares for the tiny sparrow, then He must also care for us. God cares for us so much that the very hairs of our head are all numbered.

Are you feeling insignificant? Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
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Necessary Losses
He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)

What a paradox!  Sometimes it is necessary to experience loss before experiencing gain. The caterpillar must lose its cocoon in order to become a beautiful butterfly.  The above scripture clearly states that in order to have a life with Christ, we must give up our own lives.  We must not be dependent on the rewards of the world:  big houses, large bank accounts, power, and popularity.  While these earthly things are good to have, we must make room for the heavenly rewards that Jesus offers.  Whenever we experience loss, growth WILL take place, if we allow it to happen. It helps to know that God has designed our lives so when one door closes, a bigger and better door opens. 

The key is not to keep looking back at the closed door (your loss) but to walk through the opened door (your gain).
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Rest Promised
Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

During this time of the year, many of us need and take vacations to give rest to our bodies.  Where do we go to find rest for our spirit?  Jesus invites us to come to Him when we are tired and burdened down with cares of this world.  He promised to give us rest — the rest that refreshes, restores, and revives. 

Accept that invitation and experience the rest that only Jesus can give.
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An Invitation . . . Come, Take, Learn, Find Rest
Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus has given us an invitation to do four things. 
  1. Come unto Him for He will give us rest. 
  2. Take His yoke upon us for it is easy and His burden is light. 
  3. Learn of Him. 
  4. When we do the previous three things, we will find rest for our souls.
Notice the above scripture clearly shows a partnership. When you respond to the invitation, Jesus promises to give you rest.  If you are weary and heavy laden, accept His invitation right now.
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Pacifying But Not Satisfying
Come unto me all who are weary and heavily laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Augustine said, "You will never find rest until you find it in God." That's true! No matter how much you try, you cannot find peace until you find it in God. Surely you can find many things that will pacify, but they will never satisfy.

To "pacify" means to ease one's anger or agitation temporarily. It means reducing to peaceful submission temporarily. It means subduing temporarily. Each definition includes the word "temporarily." Pacifying is a temporary thing. A pacifier is what calms a baby until his or her next feeding. It soothes for the moment, but it does not replace food, milk or a clean diaper. Even with a pacifier in its mouth, a baby will let you know when the hunger pangs hit. A pacifier serves only as a substitute and not a replacement.

So it is with us. We may embark upon every type of activity that pacifies us temporarily, but we will NEVER be completely satisfied until we find rest in God.
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Stop Saying What Others Say
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)

Have you ever considered how quickly people pick up and starting saying cliches they have heard others say? For instance, "God is good all the time." While this statement is definitely true, it is not scriptural. The Bible says, "God is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures forever." If you must repeat something, repeat what God says about Himself!
Somebody said, "Giving honor to God, and the Pastor, and the First Lady . . ." Then others started saying it. That ain't scripture! We are to honor God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Have they been replaced by the Pastor and the First Lady? 

Somebody said, "Thank you, Lord for a REASONABLE PORTION of health and strength." Others heard it, and it caught on like wildfire." But let me tell you, Friends, that ain't Bible. It ain't scripture. John 10:10 says, "I have come that you might have life and have it more ABUNDANTLY." Something in abundant is not a "reasonable portion." Anything with God is whole and complete. Why pray for only a reasonable portion of it? God has told us in His word that it is His good pleasure to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When Jesus healed, he healed all the way; not just a fraction or reasonable portion of it.

Let's stop saying those cutesy things we hear others say. Let's say what the Bible says! Let's say what God said! Let us all REPENT now and do better!
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These Three Days
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:)

Our lives are similar to "the three days" surrounding Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

Some are still seeing Jesus on the cross. They live their lives that way. They don't see beyond the pain and the suffering of Jesus. Therefore, they don't see beyond their own pain. These people fail to realize that Jesus died on the cross, but He is no longer there. They wear crosses around their necks bearing a dead Jesus. They fail to realize Jesus is no longer on the cross.

Some are still seeing Jesus in the tomb. They live their lives that way. They have no hope. They are always down. They have buried emotions, tomb-style thinking and no get up and go. Their lives are ones of sadness, gloom and doom. They still mourn the death of Jesus.  They fail to realize Jesus is no longer in the tomb.

Some of us are seeing the resurrected Jesus. We live our lives that way. We remember what happened on Good Friday, but we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday because the grave couldn't hold Him. We live upbeat lives even in the midst of storms, tragedies and crises. We rise above what's trying to keep us down. We know that Resurrection Sunday follows Good Friday.

Whatever day parallels your life, remember these things: The cross is bare! The tomb is empty! God raised Jesus from the dead! Jesus is still alive and sitteth on the right hand of God Almighty so that we may have resurrected lives.
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Finder's Keeper's
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Today if you find hidden treasure or a bag of money, in your honesty you would take it to the police station. If no one claimed it after a certain number of days, it would be given to you according to the law of "'Finder's Keeper's." This was not the case according to Jewish laws, customs, and tradition. The parable of the hidden treasure can easily be understood when one knows that banks did not exist, and people hid the  ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
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This Day
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

When we pray "GIVE us this day our daily bread," we are requesting what God wants to give us anyway. By asking we are letting God know we are not taking His gifts for granted.

When we pray "Give US this day our daily bread," we are being inclusive. We are not selfish by praying for me, my and mine. We are praying for others as well . . . our families, friends, neighbors and even our enemies. We are asking God to provide nourishment and sustenance for everyone.

When we pray "Give us THIS DAY our daily bread," we are asking God to provide for us today rather than tomorrow or some time in the distant future. Since God is a right now God, He will provide for us today!

When we pray "Give us this day OUR daily bread," we are acknowledging that the manna has come from God's hand and it now belongs to us . . . all of us. It is ours because God has given it to us, and we thank Him not only for what He has already given us but also for what He is about to give us. We thank Him in advance, and we call it ours before we actually get it.

When we pray "Give us this day our DAILY bread," we are agreeing with Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:23 when he says we receive new mercies every day. There is no need to worry about the stale bread of yesterday or the unbaked bread of tomorrow. We can pray for new bread daily.

When we pray "Give us this day our daily BREAD," we are acknowledging that God is our sustainer and provider. It is a misconception to think we provide for our own needs. We must trust God daily to provide what He knows we need. Bread provides nourishment to keep our physical bodies alive. Jesus is the Bread of Life that keeps our spirit alive.

Let us now pray this short sentence prayer:  "Give us this day our daily bread . . ." Amen
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What is Forgiveness?
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

To forgive is to excuse someone for a fault or offense.  To forgive is to stop feeling anger for or resentment against someone.  Unless we are willing to forgive others, God cannot forgive us.  For if you forgive those when they offend you, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Jesus is very emphatic about this kingdom principle: If we expect to be forgiven, we need to practice forgiveness. Why? Because when we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. Whenever we ask God to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, "Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?"  Ask God to remind you right now who you need to forgive.  Your blessings might be held up because of unforgiveness in your heart.  Then when the Holy Spirit reveals to you the person or persons who you have not forgiven, forgive them immediately and be released from the prison and bondage of unforgiveness.
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Forgiveness: The Best Medicine
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Forgiveness is the best medicine for a hardened heart. Forgiveness is the best medicine for a confused mind. Forgiveness is the best medicine for a mixed up life. Harboring unforgiveness in your heart will make you sick. It blocks love from coming in or going out of your life.

Why is forgiving others so hard to do? When we forgive others for hurting us, we think we are letting them get away with what they have done to us. We think we are doing them a favor. Not so according to God's word. When we don't forgive others, we hurt ourselves. We are denying our common ground as sinners in need of God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness of our sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing that by forgiving others, God will also forgive us. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).

Do you want to be forgiven? Then, practice forgiveness yourself.
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Bad News and Good News
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

What one item would motivate someone to go to the store at 2:00 a.m. to wait in the cold for 4 hours until the stores opened at 6:00 a.m. to be pushed and shoved just to get that item only to stand in a long line again to pay for it? This morning as I watched the news and saw the long lines and crowds, I pondered the question within myself, "What is worth it to me to go through all that just to purchase an item?" Needless to say, I could not come up with one thing that I wanted that badly even if the price had been cut in half.

There is one gift that is FREE, and we don't have to stand in a long line for it. There is one free gift that is available without the inconveniences. There is a gift that comes in the right size, right color and at the right price. The only thing we have to do is accept it. That gift is salvation. Jesus purchased it for us with his own blood.

Now, if you were in those long lines at the stores, I have bad news and good news for you. First, the Bad News: Whatever it was that you bought will NOT last no matter how much you paid for it. It is subject to rust and moth. Thieves could break into your house and steal it. Whatever you bought will give only temporary gratification.

Are you willing to go through the same inconveniences for the gift of eternal life? The Good News: You don't have to go through any inconveniences for eternal life. It is a free gift from God (John 3:16). The only thing you have to do is to accept it. Jesus has already paid it ALL!
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Spiritual Insight
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, you whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23)

Spiritual insight is different from what the natural eyes see.  However, just as the eye is the lamp of the body, spiritual vision is our capacity to see clearly what God wants us to do and to see the world from His point of view. Our spiritual sight can be clouded by our worldly desires, interests and goals that block our vision. Serving God is the best way to restore our spiritual vision. A "good eye" is one that is fixed and stayed on God.

How do we get spiritual insight? How do we know God's point of view? God's Word is an inexhaustible source of insight. If you want to know what's on God's mind and what's in His heart, read the Bible daily! True insight comes only from God and not when it has been filtered through others. Instead of trying to know all there is about God by merely looking through the peek hole, open wide the door and let Jesus in for yourself. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

Know God for yourself by seeing Him through spiritual insight.
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Either . . . Or
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.. (Matthew 6:24)

God has given us choices.  Either we will choose life or we will choose death.  When we choose life, we choose to live in the richness and glory of God.  When we choose death, we choose to live in a world filled with darkness even though it might be camouflaged to appear glamorous.  It is just a counterfeit existence.  We think we are having fun and enjoying the fruit of the land, but these pleasures are temporal. Any enjoyment and pleasure as the result of human efforts will not last forever.  However, by choosing life, we live in love, peace and joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.

We do have choices.  Either we will run with the world or walk with Jesus.  Either we will continue to stumble while in sin or walk boldly in the power of God.  If you have been trying to live on your own strength and in your own power, Jesus is calling for a decision. Either you will choose to live contentedly with Him by the Spirit or to struggle in the world according to your own temporary pleasures.
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Birds and Flowers
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:25; 28-29)

Did you wonder what happened to the birds in all that snow we encountered this week? While we were in our cozy homes, what happened to the birds?  Did they all die?  Did they migrate to a warmer climate? What happened to the birds of the air? According to Matthew 6:26, the birds were still cared for.  God still fed them.  God still provided for them.  Birds are God's creation, and they never worry about where their next worm is coming from. 

What about the flowers of the field? Did God forget about them in the snow storm? No, He did not!  The flowers of the field, too, were in God's protective care. Watch them bloom in the spring.

So if God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields, how much more will he care for us? Recognizing that the God we serve takes care of nature, we should believe He certainly will meet our needs.  If you ever have any doubt, then look at the birds of the air and consider the lilies of the field.
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Turn Over Your Own Rock
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:26)

Have you ever watched birds as they were scratching for food in the grass or leaves or dirt? If so, you saw that they were persistent and diligent about their mission. They were focused on what they were doing. While it is true that God does provide for the birds, it is up to the birds to leave their nests. They must go to the ground and turn over their own rocks and search for food.

God provides for us just as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We, like the birds, must participate in our own blessings. We must believe that God is our Provider. Then we must do what God has commanded us to do. We must do our part. We must turn over our own rocks.
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Simple Abundance
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more value than they?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:26, 28b)

One of the most common fears is not being able to have enough; especially in times of need.  We fear that the God we serve will not provide for us. We develop a scarcity consciousness.

The above scripture lets us know that just as God takes care of the things in nature, He will also take care of His children. 
Let's replace our scarcity conscious with one of simple abundance.  God always has enough for us, and He will provide for those who are faithful. Abundance means that all things are possible and that there is more than enough of everything for everyone, right here and right now.  Trust the God who made you to also take care of you.
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Praying For Snakes
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? (Matthew 7:9-10)

The Bible clearly teaches us to ask for what we want and it shall be given.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7-11 to ask, seek and knock.  He then explains that if a child asks his father for bread, the loving father would not give him a stone. Likewise, if the child asks for a fish, the loving father would not give him a snake.  Bread and fish are good and necessary items. Therefore, any father has no problem providing these things.  If on the other hand, the child asks for snakes, the father would not grant that request.  God knows it when we pray for snakes, and like a loving Father, He does not honor that request no matter how much we persist. 

We have all prayed for snakes unknowingly. Supposed you had married the one you prayed to marry? You would probably be married to a snake today. Supposed you had gotten that job you begged God to give you?  You might be in a pit of snakes right now. Look back over your life, and thank God He did not give you the snakes you prayed for.
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The Golden Rule
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)

This short verse is known as "The Golden Rule." In many other religions it is stated in a negative way: "Don't do to others what you don't want done to you." Some even say: "Do to others before they do it to you."

Jesus made this statement more positive and significant by rearranging the words. He also made us accountable by telling us to "Do" to others. It is not very hard refraining from doing, but it is much more challenging to take the initiative and do good to others.

Jesus' life was an example of The Golden Rule. It should be our foundation as well. Do something nice for someone today. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
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No Alternate Route
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Undoubtedly all individuals do not travel the same road to get to their job, school, or church.  They take many different routes, but everyone ends up at the same place.  For variety and a change of scenery, you might travel a different route sometimes yourself.

We all have the same final destination.  We are all headed for eternity, but our eternal destinations will not all be the same.  There are two different roads we can take.  One leads to eternal life in heaven with God (Matthew 25:34-36). The other follows a detour away from Him into an eternity separated from His love and goodness (Matthew 25:41-43). That final destination leads to hell with Satan.

Jesus describes these two roads.  One is wide, similar to our six-lane turnpikes with lovely landscapes and frequent rest stops. On this road, travelers drive wrecklessly beyond the speed limits while doing their own thing. Most people choose this road because it is so inviting. This expressway will only lead away from God. The other road is narrow, and in some places barely passable. This particular one-way road is narrow, has curves, and winds its way into the presence of God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). That's the only way to get to God. There is NO alternate route.  Which road are you traveling . . . the wide or the narrow?
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Earthly Investment; Heavenly Rewards
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

Following Jesus is not always an easy or comfortable road to travel.  Often it means great cost and sacrifice. Jesus didn't have a place to call home. The cost of following Jesus is high. It might cost you family, friends, popularity, leisure time, or treasured habits, but the value of being a disciple of Christ is an earthly investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible heavenly rewards.

Any believer who has to give up anything to follow Christ will be paid back in this life with dividends, as well as in the next.  For example, if you must give up friends, you will find that God offers a secure relationship with himself now and forever.  If you must give up your family's approval, you will gain the love of the family of God. 

Invest in the Kingdom of God today by following Jesus every step of the way!
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Short and Simple
But Jesus said to him, "Follow me . . .  (Matthew 8:22)

When Jesus called His disciples He did not use a marketing plan or a "get rich quick" scheme.  He did not lure them into any package deal.  He did not bargain with them or promise them anything at all.  He simply said, "Follow me."  Nothing more, nothing less. The disciples believed in the one who spoke these two words. Jesus did not use big words or long discussions to get His point across.  He spoke in everyday language so all could understand.  Most of His commandments consisted of one or two-syllable words:  "Come unto me," "Go and sin no more," "Go and tell,"  "Fear not," "Watch and pray,"  "Satan, get thee hence," "You are made whole," "Love one another."

We should follow the example of our Lord and Savior.  We should communicate in a clear concise manner so any child or adult can understand us.  Explaining the gospel doesn't have to be complicated. The good news is: "Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus was buried.  Jesus arose.  Jesus will come again."
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Close Those Doors!
When he [Jesus] had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. (Matthew 8:28)

Can saved people be demon possessed? NO! Saved people who are immersed in the Word of God and who practice prayer and praise and who love God with all their hearts cannot be demon possessed. Saved people can be demon obsessed and demon oppressed. In other words, saved people can have unclean spirits if doors are opened in their lives for sin to enter. Along with the sin comes demonic affliction, but not possession. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to lives within a person. The Holy Spirit seals that person's spirit, and it cannot be possessed by demons. However, the physical body and the mind are subject to demon invasion if doors or windows are left open for Satan and his demons to gain access into a person's life and work havoc therein.

Doors are opened when a person sins no matter how small the sin is perceived to be. Each time sin goes unrepented, the doors are opened a little wider to allow Satan to enter and take up residence. He is on LEGAL TERRITORY because evil, sin, and darkness are his domain. Even though saved people belong to God, demons can enter because of "squatters rights" (the right to settle on a land temporarily without right or title or payment of rent). When a person sins and leaves doors opened, demons come in and settle down for a time.

Some Christians believe they are exempt from demon influence, demon inhabitation, demon obsession and demon oppression because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. While it is true demons cannot dwell in a Christian in the same sense as the Holy Spirit, they can still enter as squatters and intruders and cannot be evicted as long as sin is present and doors are opened. It is good news to know that demons cannot ever rightfully or permanently indwell a saint, as the Holy Spirit does, and no demon can ever have any influence over any part of a Christian's life that is yielded to the Holy Spirit.

Recognize your sin, repent, renounce it, and replace evil with God's righteousness. Evict Satan from your house, and then close those doors and keep them closed!
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Look What the Lord Has Done
News of this spread through all that region. (Matthew 9:26)

There is a song, "Look What the Lord Has Done" in which the singer gives examples of what the Lord has done in his life.  "Look what the Lord has done. He saved my soul.  He set me free.  He healed my body, etc."  When the Lord has done great things for you, you just can't keep it to yourself. Jesus did warn some of the people he healed not to tell.  "See that no one knows about this. But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region" (Matthew 9:30-31).  They told because they were excited and thankful for their healings. Also, they had a testimony to tell about the power of Jesus.  Jesus warned them not to tell because others would come to Him for physical healing ONLY.  Jesus wanted to be diligently involved in His trifold ministry of "teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness" (Matthew 9:35).

Since God does special things for us all the time, we can lift our voices and sing, "Look what the Lord has done . . . "
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Christians Shouldn't Wear Masks
. . . for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. (Matthew 10:26)

People wear all kinds of masks to cover up, to hide, and to fool others.  Some even wear masks to cover up pain, hurt, suffering, guilt, and sin.

By wearing masks we might fool some of the people some of the time and all the people some of the time, but no matter how many masks we wear, we cannot fool God at any time. No matter how committed we are, we cannot be blessed with unconfessed or hidden sin in our lives. First John 1:9 assures us that we don't have to wear masks to hide our sins. There is a better way. If we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. With God, no mask is needed. Therefore, we should walk in the light because Jesus is the Light of the world.

And where Jesus is, there is no darkness and nothing is hidden or covered up.

Remedy For Getting Lost
I got lost this morning on the way to work.  As soon as I discovered I was lost, I immediately knew the reason why on a road I have taken hundreds of time, I ended up on unfamiliar territory.

The reason is quite simple and the remedy is just as simple. I got lost because I was following a truck and when the driver turned, so did I. Even though it was not my exit, I turned and continued to follow the truck. Why? Because for last two or three miles, I had done so and I just followed a natural impulse. Secondly, I was not concentrating on my destination. I was reading the many signs that were posted on the truck. In other words, I was distracted.

So it is with following Jesus. We get lost when we follow others instead of following Him. We get lost when we become distracted and take our eyes off of our destination.

Don't let that happen to you. The remedy for getting lost is to (1) Stay focused. (2) Keep alert. (3) Watch who you are following.
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Rest Promised
Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

During this time of the year, many of us need and take vacations to give rest to our bodies.  Where do we go to find rest for our spirit?  Jesus invites us to come to Him when we are tired and burdened down with cares of this world.  He promised to give us rest — the rest that refreshes, restores, and revives.  Accept that invitation and experience the rest that only Jesus can give.

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Hindrances to Fulfilling Your Dreams
I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (Matthew 11:23)

Everybody has a dream. Having a dream is part of our destiny. Some people are so focused on fulfilling their dream that it has become part of their DNA. Here are some common hindrances to fulfilling your dream.

DOUBT. Don't let doubt rob you of what you know you can have. Stay away from Doubting Thomases until your dream has come to fruition. They will tell you, "It can never be done."

DISTRACTIONS. When you have a dream to fulfill or a mission to accomplish, don't let anything distract you. People might mean well when they try to help, but soon you will find that your focus is no longer on God and your dream. Instead it is on that person and what she/he suggests. Sometimes it is better to let people know about your dream AFTER not BEFORE it has been fulfilled.

DILEMMAS. If you have truly heard from God for a particular assignment, accept it as the one you need to focus on at that particular time. When that main dream is fulfilled, you will discover that the others (1) also have been fulfilled; or (2) the other dreams don't seem to matter too much anymore.

DELIBERATION. When God has given you an assignment, do it without deciding to "run it pass" someone else. Why should others vote on what God has already sanctioned and sealed into existence for you?

DESPERATION. A dream shouldn't be something you are anxious about. Relax and enjoy the process. There should be as much joy in fulfilling your dream as there is in the reality of it. Eliminate desperation. Do all you can do; then practice the principle of relinquishment.

The DEVIL. Satan is a destroyer of dreams. Don't let Satan get a foothold into your dreams because of disobedience. You should at all times, but especially when you are working on a special assignment, give no place to the devil. He will keep you in confusion so much so that your dream will be destroyed.

If you are sincere about fulfilling your dream, then eliminate the dreambusters: doubt, distractions, dilemmas, deliberation, desperation, and the devil. Then you will be in line to receive from God Almighty, the DELIVERER OF DREAMS.
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An Invitation . . . Come, Take, Learn, Find Rest
Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus has given us an invitation to do four things. 
  1. Come unto Him for He will give us rest. 
  2. Take His yoke upon us for it is easy and His burden is light. 
  3. Learn of Him. 
  4. When we do the previous three things, we will find rest for our souls.
Notice the above scripture clearly shows a partnership. When you respond to the invitation, Jesus promises to give you rest.  If you are weary and heavy laden, accept His invitation right now.
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Necessary Losses
He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)

What a paradox!  Sometimes it is necessary to experience loss before experiencing gain. The caterpillar must lose its cocoon in order to become a beautiful butterfly.  The above scripture clearly states that in order to have a life with Christ, we must give up our own lives.  We must not be dependent on the rewards of the world:  big houses, large bank accounts, power, and popularity.  While these earthly things are good to have, we must make room for the heavenly rewards that Jesus offers.  Whenever we experience loss, growth WILL take place, if we allow it to happen. It helps to know that God has designed our lives so when one door closes, a bigger and better door opens. 

The key is not to keep looking back at the closed door (your loss) but to walk through the opened door (your gain).
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Hindrances to Fulfilling Your Dreams

I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (Matthew 11:23)

Everybody has a dream. Having a dream is part of our destiny. Some people are so focused on fulfilling their dream that it has become part of their DNA. Here are some common hindrances to fulfilling your dream.

DOUBT. Don't let doubt rob you of what you know you can have. Stay away from Doubting Thomases until your dream has come to fruition. They will tell you, "It can never be done."

DISTRACTIONS. When you have a dream to fulfill or a mission to accomplish, don't let anything distract you. People might mean well when they try to help, but soon you will find that your focus is no longer on God and your dream. Instead it is on that person and what she/he suggests. Sometimes it is better to let people know about your dream AFTER not BEFORE it has been fulfilled.

DILEMMAS. If you have truly heard from God for a particular assignment, accept it as the one you need to focus on at that particular time. When that main dream is fulfilled, you will discover that the others (1) also have been fulfilled; or (2) the other dreams don't seem to matter too much anymore.

DELIBERATION. When God has given you an assignment, do it without deciding to "run it pass" someone else. Why should others vote on what God has already sanctioned and sealed into existence for you?

DESPERATION. A dream shouldn't be something you are anxious about. Relax and enjoy the process. There should be as much joy in fulfilling your dream as there is in the reality of it. Eliminate desperation. Do all you can do; then practice the principle of relinquishment.

The DEVIL. Satan is a destroyer of dreams. Don't let Satan get a foothold into your dreams because of disobedience. You should at all times, but especially when you are working on a special assignment, give no place to the devil. He will keep you in confusion so much so that your dream will be destroyed.

If you are sincere about fulfilling your dream, then eliminate the dreambusters: doubt, distractions, dilemmas, deliberation, desperation, and the devil. Then you will be in line to receive from God Almighty, the
DELIVERER OF DREAMS.

(See Hebrews 6:11 for 6 D's that help fulfill your dream.)


Pacifying But Not Satisfying
Come unto me all who are weary and heavily laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Augustine said, "You will never find rest until you find it in God." That's true! No matter how much you try, you cannot find peace until you find it in God. Surely you can find many things that will pacify, but they will never satisfy.

To "pacify" means to ease one's anger or agitation temporarily. It means reducing to peaceful submission temporarily. It means subduing temporarily. Each definition includes the word "temporarily." Pacifying is a temporary thing. A pacifier is what calms a baby until his or her next feeding. It soothes for the moment, but it does not replace food, milk or a clean diaper. Even with a pacifier in its mouth, a baby will let you know when the hunger pangs hit. A pacifier serves only as a substitute and not a replacement.

So it is with us. We may embark upon every type of activity that pacifies us temporarily, but we will NEVER be completely satisfied until we find rest in God.
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The Christian's EASY Button
Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
There is a clever television commercial for Staples' office supplies where people talk about their EASY button. All they have to do is push it and their problem is solved. Staples sell the big red EASY button for anyone who wants to purchase it.

Wouldn't it be great if Christians had a big red EASY button where we could just push it and all our problems would be history? Well, there is no such button for us. However, there is something greater that doesn't need to be purchased. It's FREE. And it is salvation through Jesus Christ who was made sin so we could be made righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus said we need not be weary and heavy laden. We can take His yoke upon us and learn from Him for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We don't need Staples' EASY button after all. Having Jesus is all we need!


What's A Yoke?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

Unless you know what a yoke is, the above scripture will mean nothing to you. A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of oxen. It is attached to a piece of equipment the oxen are to pull. If the yoke is too loose or too tight, it is extremely uncomfortable. There are more than 50 references to the yoke in the Bible. In most of the references, the yoke has a negative image of subjection and bondage. Because a yoke is heavy, it conveys the message of being burdened with more than you can carry. However, Jesus gives us hope by saying His yoke is a perfect fit.

A person may be carrying heavy burdens because of sin or oppression or persecution or even weariness in his search for God. Jesus tells us to come to Him with our weariness and heavy burdens for He can free us from them. But why would Jesus use the metaphor of a yoke? It is because Jesus knew something about yokes. Jesus learned the trade of carpentry as an apprentice to His father (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). One tradition says they specialized in custom-made yokes for animals.

If burdens are too heavy for you, perhaps you need to trade in your yoke for a lighter and more comfortable fitting one. Jesus commands: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
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Trade Your Burdens For Blessings
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)
Tragedies should not and do not leave us the same. For some people, a tragedy becomes a transition into new challenges and new opportunities. How many blessings have come about from the tragedy of 9/11?

Since today is September 11, 2006, let's make a conscious effort to think of the worst burden we have in our personal life and challenge ourselves to trade that particular burden for a blessing for ourselves and for others.

A burden is a load that is carried; something that is worrisome and oppressive. A blessing is anything conducive to your happiness.

Trade your burdens for blessings.






The Overflow of the Heart
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
The words you speak reveal your inner attitude. Your words reveal what's really in your heart. The mouth is used to confess Jesus is Lord. (Romans 10:9) The mouth is used to confess sins. (1 John 1:9) Just as the confession of the mouth brings salvation and the forgiveness of sins, careless words also bring tragic results.

Words come from the good or evil stored up in your heart. The person who speaks evil and uses the mouth to gossip, slander, and criticize does so because of the wicked overflow of the heart. The person who murmurs, complains and finds fault all the time proves his or her heart is in a cesspool and what comes out is the overflow.  The person who speaks the truth and uses the mouth to bring others into the family of God proves he or she is operating in the overflow of love that's in the heart.

Be careful with the words you speak because what comes out of your mouth really proves what's in your heart.



Listen to Your Heart
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things. (Matthew 12:35)
Your heart has a language of its own. Oftentimes you rely on your head when you should rely on your heart. Your heart says things your head cannot understand. Because of what you see and hear, your head focuses on trouble. Your heart knows you were told, "Let not your heart be troubled." (John 14:1) Allow the peace and calmness of your heart to lead you in the right direction. Listen to your heart.

You try to be like others by using your head to get ahead. God wants you to be like Him by using your heart. You study the Bible with your head, and you quote the scriptures verbatim. Try letting that knowledge go down 12 inches to hit your heart.

Most people prefer listening to their head rather than to their heart. Therefore, if your head and your heart were in competition, your head would win every time by default. Learn to listen to your heart.

If you have to make a major decision today, listen to your heart. If you are debating something within your head, invite your heart on the debate team and hear what it has to say. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Listen to your heart!

Judgment Day Is Coming!
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36)

We learn from the Bible that everyone is accountable to God. We are rewarded for our good deeds. We are punished for evil deeds. Judgment Day is the culmination of our entire life. We will be judged in three categories: thoughts, words, and deeds. Nothing will be overlooked. Every secret thing, good or bad, will be brought into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Judgment Day is coming! All nations and all people individually will be judged for the Lord "comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in truth. (Psalm 96:13)

Sometimes when we do something wrong on our job, we may appeal to the boss and get back in his or her good favor. Sometimes when we have offended a friend, we may apologize and everything is all right again.  Sometimes we might be able to talk our teacher into extending a deadline for a report or dropping our lowest grade. Sometimes when an earthly judge hands down a guilty sentence, the defender may appeal the case. When Judgment Day comes, there will be no appeals. There will be no talking God into changing His mind. God knows the true you: your thoughts, words, and deeds. Judgment Day will be the culmination of YOUR life. A judgment will take place from which there is NO appeal.

How do stand in reference to clean thoughts, pleasing words, and righteous acts? Today might not be the day, but Judgment Day is coming!
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Stop Saying What Others Say
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)

Have you ever considered how quickly people pick up and starting saying cliches they have heard others say? For instance, "God is good all the time." While this statement is definitely true, it is not scriptural. The Bible says, "God is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures forever." If you must repeat something, repeat what God says about Himself!

Somebody said, "Giving honor to God, and the Pastor, and the First Lady . . ." Then others started saying it. That ain't scripture! We are to honor God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Have they been replaced by the Pastor and the First Lady? 

Somebody said, "Thank you, Lord for a REASONABLE PORTION of health and strength." Others heard it, and it caught on like wildfire." But let me tell you, Friends, that ain't Bible. It ain't scripture. John 10:10 says, "I have come that you might have life and have it more ABUNDANTLY." Something in abundant is not a "reasonable portion." Anything with God is whole and complete. Why pray for only a reasonable portion of it? God has told us in His word that it is His good pleasure to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When Jesus healed, he healed all the way; not just a fraction or reasonable portion of it.

Let's stop saying those cutesy things we hear others say. Let's say what the Bible says! Let's say what God said! Let us all REPENT now and do better!
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Stop Cursing Yourself
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:37)

You can curse others and yourself by the words you speak. If you heard a tape recording of your daily conversations, you would be amazed to know how often you cursed others and yourself.

Jesus says in the above scripture that we will either be justified or condemned by the words we speak. Our words are such an accurate reflection of our spiritual condition that they will be the basis for our judgment. What we speak is an outward expression of our heart. Therefore, all talk is heart talk.  We harm others when we lie, gossip, slander, beguile, and bear false witness. We harm ourselves when we boast, murmur and use contentious words.

While Jesus says we will either be justified or condemned by our words, Paul says, "Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." (Romans 3:13-14) Paul specifically holds the tongue responsible for what's in the heart. A sinful heart produces sinful speech. Since the throat is an open grave, whatever comes out of it is rotten or dead and it stinks! The horrible smell and taste come out in the form of death to those who speak it and to those who hear it.

Let's stop cursing ourselves with the words we speak.
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These Three Days
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

Our lives are similar to "the three days" surrounding Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

Some are still seeing Jesus on the cross. They live their lives that way. They don't see beyond the pain and the suffering of Jesus. Therefore, they don't see beyond their own pain. These people fail to realize that Jesus died on the cross, but He is no longer there. They wear crosses around their necks bearing a dead Jesus. They fail to realize Jesus is no longer on the cross.

Some are still seeing Jesus in the tomb. They live their lives that way. They have no hope. They are always down. They have buried emotions, tomb-style thinking and no get up and go. Their lives are ones of sadness, gloom and doom. They still mourn the death of Jesus.  They fail to realize Jesus is no longer in the tomb.

Some of us are seeing the resurrected Jesus. We live our lives that way. We remember what happened on Good Friday, but we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday because the grave couldn't hold Him. We live upbeat lives even in the midst of storms, tragedies and crises. We rise above what's trying to keep us down. We know that Resurrection Sunday follows Good Friday.

Whatever day parallels your life, remember these things: The cross is bare! The tomb is empty! God raised Jesus from the dead! Jesus is still alive and sitteth on the right hand of God Almighty so that we may have resurrected lives.
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Three Days; Three Ways
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a large fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)
Our lives are similar to "the three days" surrounding Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

Some are still seeing Jesus on the cross. These are the Good Friday Christians. They live their lives focused only on Good Friday. They don't see beyond the pain and the suffering of Jesus. Therefore, they don't see beyond their own pain. These people fail to realize that Jesus died on the cross, but He is no longer there. They wear crosses around their necks bearing a dead Jesus. They fail to realize Jesus is not dead; but alive!

Some are still seeing Jesus in the tomb. These are the Tombstone Christians. They fail to realize that the day Jesus was in the tomb was the day between the promise that Jesus would rise again and the fulfillment of that promise. They have no hope. They are always down. They have buried emotions; tomb-style thinking and no get up and go. Their lives are ones of sadness, gloom and doom. They still mourn the death of Jesus.

Some of us see the resurrected Jesus. We live our lives remembering what happened on Good Friday, but we celebrate what happened on Resurrection Sunday morning. We live upbeat lives even in the midst of storms, tragedies and crises. We rise above what tries to keep us down. We know that Resurrection Sunday follows Good Friday.

Whatever day parallels to your life, remember these things: The cross is bear! The tomb is empty! God raised Jesus from the dead! Jesus is still alive and now sits on the right hand of God Almighty so that we may have resurrected lives.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Click here to put in order the  Activities of Jesus' Last Week.


Knowing When to Sit
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. (Matthew 13:1-2)

We are so busy these days that we don't take time to just sit and think. Meditation is nonexistent for some of us. We rush here, and we rush there without taking time out to reflect on what we are to do or on the things we have just done. As much as Jesus taught, preached and healed, even He took time out to sit.

Observe the word "sat" used two times in the above two verses. In the first verse, Jesus had just finished preaching to a packed house where even His mother and brothers could not get in. Then Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Why do you think Jesus did that? Jesus probably did that to think about what He had just done and to be refreshed before His next encounter. As you can see from the second verse, Jesus was not alone very long before the crowd found Him. Even so, He did not refuse to teach them. He simply got into the boat and sat there. While the crowd stood on the beach, Jesus still sat, but He told them many things (Matthew 13:3).

Let's follow Jesus' example and take time to sit, think and meditate on past events as well as on upcoming events. Sometimes just sitting and thinking will work wonders for us and will better benefit those we serve.
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Switched Seeds
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. (Matthew 13:25)

How would you feel if you spent a tremendous amount of time toiling in the field cultivating your land to plant seeds and when the harvest comes it is not what you thought you planted but weeds instead? Surely, that would not be a good feeling.

While we try very hard to live the Christian life, the enemy is always ready to switch seeds on us when we aren't looking. In these last days, he has mastered his game of switching seeds on us even while we are looking.

What is meant by switched seeds? Switched seeds simply means that while we think we are planting one type of seed, someone has exchanged the good seeds for bad seeds without our knowledge. The soil is your heart. The good seeds are the word of God. The bad seeds are tricks of the enemy to keep you confused so much so that you choose his ways over God's ways.

In these last days, we should check our seeds on a regular basis to make sure that while we are sleeping no one has switched seeds on us. We should check our seeds carefully because what looks like a good seed on the outside might be a counterfeit that contains weeds on the inside.

Since we want a bountiful harvest, we had better check our seeds to see if they are really good seeds and not weeds.While we try very hard to live the Christian life, the enemy is always ready to switch seeds on us when we aren't looking. In these last days, he has mastered his game of switching seeds on us even while we are looking.

What is meant by switched seeds? Switched seeds simply means that while we think we are planting one type of seed, someone has exchanged the good seeds for bad seeds without our knowledge. The soil is your heart. The good seeds are the word of God. The bad seeds are tricks of the enemy to keep you confused so much so that you choose his ways over God's ways.

In these last days, we should check our seeds on a regular basis to make sure that while we are sleeping no one has switched seeds on us. We should check our seeds carefully because what looks like a good seed on the outside might be a counterfeit that contains weeds on the inside.

Since we want a bountiful harvest, we had better check our seeds to see if they are really good seeds and not weeds.
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Finder's Keeper's
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Today if you find hidden treasure or a bag of money, in your honesty you would take it to the police station. If no one claimed it after a certain number of days, it would be given to you according to the law of "'Finder's Keeper's." This was not the case according to Jewish laws, customs, and tradition. The parable of the hidden treasure can easily be understood when one knows that banks did not exist, and people hid their money in the ground for safety and protection. Valuable possessions were buried in secret places when men left for battle, or before going on a long journey. If they returned safely they would reclaim their buried treasure. But if they failed to return, the place where the valuables were hidden would remain a lost secret. Because of this situation, people have always looked for hidden treasure all over the Holy Land.

Jesus used this custom to illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is like treasure hidden in a field and when the man finds it, he (1) covers it up again to keep it safe until his return; (2) in his great joy, he sells everything he owns; and (3) he buys the entire field.

The important lesson from this parable is that the hidden treasure was unclaimed by its original owner. In order for the man in the parable to own it, he had to own the field in which it was found. Therefore, he sold all he possessed that he might be able to buy the field where the treasure was found, and thereby become owner of the treasure he had discovered. The kingdom of heaven is like that. When we find it, we are filled with so much joy that we give up all our worldly possessions just to experience the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Caution: No digging up any fields today. I doubt if you will find any hidden treasure. The physical treasure is in safe deposit boxes in banks and not buried in the ground. The spiritual treasure is not buried because God raised Jesus from the dead.
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When One Is Enough
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

We often go looking for more than what we actually need. In the above scripture, the man looking for fine pearls was a merchant. That means he was accustomed to recognizing merchandise of great value. He knew what was defective and faulty. He knew what was imitation and counterfeit. And he knew what was genuine and real.

What is amazing and should be noted in this short parable is that the merchant went looking for fine pearls (more than one). However, when he found one of great value, he was more than satisfied. How do we know that? Because he went away and sold everything he had and bought it (one pearl).

Too often we buy more than is needed. We go for volume instead of going for value. One quality and higher priced suit is a better buy than five cheap suits with imperfections.

Why buy two when one will do? Why buy three just to get one free. Why buy four when you don't need more? Why buy five . . . okay, enough with the poetry!

One is usually enough especially when it is of great value!
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Everybody Is Looking For Something
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:46)

Have you ever gone into a store and the clerk asked, "May I help you?" and you replied, "Just looking"? Have you ever opened the refrigerator because you knew you wanted something but you just looked? All of us have something in common...the male, the female; the young, the old; the rich and the poor. All of us are looking for something. Even though all of us are looking for something, our methods of looking might be different. Let me explain:

Some people know exactly what they are looking for. You will never hear them say, "Just looking." They are able to articulate what they want. A good example is Jacob. "First sell me your birthright." (Genesis 25:31) The point here is that when you know what you are looking for, you should be able to state it.

Some people are looking for something, but they don't know exactly what they are looking for. They admit, "I don't know what I am looking for, but I'll know it when I see it." This is dangerous because Satan will make sure something pleasing to the eye shows up. David seeing Bathsheba on the rooftop is a good example of this. He wasn't looking for her, but once he saw her bathing and her beauty, he knew he just had to have her. (2 Samuel 11)

Some people are looking for one thing, but what they receive is much better. The woman at the well went looking for physical water and she knew it. What she didn't know was that she was going to have an encounter with Jesus and get living water. (John 4:1-38)

Some of us are looking for something that we lost. A good example of this is the woman who lost her valuable coin. But when she found it, she called all our neighbors and friends to rejoice with her. (Luke 15:8-10)

We are all looking for something. What is it that you are looking for? Let it be something to glorify God and to edify others.
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Whatever You Value
When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:46)

The word "value" is both a noun and a verb. When it is used as a noun, is a thing. When it is used as a verb, it is something you do. Something has value (noun) when you value (verb) it.

Everyone does not value the same things in life. And that's understandable. However, we should value whatever we profess to value. It is evident that we really don't value what we say we value because it is not expressed by our actions. We should be loyal to that which we value. We should show appreciation to that which we value. We should sow diligently into that which we value.

It is a sure sign that people don't value what they say they value when their heart is not in it; when they become lackadaisical about it; when they take the position that "if it happens, it happens; if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Everyone should value something. And everyone should indicate that by their loyalty, their commitment and their diligence. If you don't value something, don't pretend that you do. If you value something, act like you do.
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Sympathy or Compassion?
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Do you know the difference between sympathy and compassion? Which do you normally possess?  Compassion is different from sympathy.  Jesus had compassion rather than sympathy for those he encountered.  Sympathy causes you to feel sorry for someone and say, "I don't know how I can help." Sympathy causes you to know about a situation, perhaps talk about it to others; yet you do nothing to help someone who is hurting.  Compassion, on the other hand, is what Jesus felt when He healed the sick.  It moved Him to action.  Compassion is a surge of power that sweeps over you and gives you extra energy to help those in need.  You have a compulsive urge to pray, to give, to act for those in need.

Sympathy is feeling sorry for something without lifting a finger to help.  Compassion is feeling sorry for something with action attached to it. Let's show more compassion instead of just sympathy.  Do something!
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The Trifold Formula For Compassion
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

People might mistake "compassion" for some other emotion. Compassion is NOT just sympathy. Compassion is NOT just empathy. Compassion is NOT just pity. Compassion is NOT just feeling sorry for someone. Compassion is NOT self-seeking. Compassion is NOT a matter of being nosy to find out someone's business and then doing nothing about it. What, then, is compassion?

Compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress and doing something to alleviate it. According to the above scripture and many other scriptures in the Gospels, there are three (3) distinct parts of compassion . . . (1) seeing a need; (2) being fully conscious of the need; and (3) doing something about the need. Some people see a need and do nothing except talk about it. Some people are fully conscious of the need and feel sorry but still doesn't do anything about it. Compassion MUST be coupled with an act to eliminate the distress. Unless ALL three of the aforementioned are present, then the emotion is NOT compassion.

In order for compassion to take place, one must do what Jesus did: see the need; feel the need in one's own consciousness, and then do something to eliminate the need. In other words, the true test of compassion is the act that follows it.

(1) Jesus saw the sick. (2) Jesus had compassion on the sick. (3) Jesus healed the sick.
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A Caring Heart
When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Before Jesus healed people, He had compassion on them because Jesus had a caring heart. Some people do things for others out of obligation or to avoid having a guilty conscience. Some people help others just to make themselves look good. They have wrong motives for helping.  Jesus never used these reasons. His heart was pure. He cared.

Caring for someone means putting yourself in his or her place. Caring for someone means having no hidden agendas of your own. Caring for someone means helping without expecting something in return. Caring for someone means having the heart of God, the compassion of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Remember, people don't care what you know. They want to know that you care.  Do something nice for someone today. Show someone that you care
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Compassion First; Then An Action
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Yesterday's Sunday School lesson was about Jesus caring for all people with emphasis placed on the word "compassion." Compassion is a feeling or emotion that precedes an action. Compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. The word, "compassion" is used in the gospels 12 times and 8 of those times it involves feelings Jesus had toward someone BEFORE He healed them. The other times it was a feeling toward them BEFORE He did something else for them such as feeding the multitudes after He was moved to compassion. (Matthew 15:32) The feeling of compassion always came BEFORE the action.

To that end, do we really have compassion when we don't reach out to human hurts? A sincere feeling of compassion is going to prompt some action no matter how small.

If we are true followers of Jesus as we profess to be, let an ACTION follow our feeling of compassion. The act of kindness should grow out of the attitude of compassion. Because God is compassionate and merciful, He expects His children to be compassionate and merciful toward others according to Matthew 5:7 and James 1:27.

To summarize: Compassion first; then an action.

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How to Find Your Point of Contact With God
After the people of that place recognized him [Jesus], they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Matthew 14:15)

The woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:21) is not the only one who sought to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. Other sick people did all they could to get to Jesus and touch Him. If they couldn't touch Jesus Himself, they settled for touching just the hem of his garment as a point of contact. Every Christian should have a point of contact with God.

A point of contact is the method you use to release your faith. David used his slingshot. Moses raised his staff. Elijah used his mantle. In addition to having a method to release your faith, four other things need to happen for you to make contact with God.
  1. You must focus your attention on God and not on the impossibility of your situation.
  2. You must set a time and place for the point of contact. Be deliberate about it. It should not be a random act.
  3. You must establish one definite act for releasing your faith by doing that one thing. Believing is not enough. You must do something.
  4. You must be steadfast while releasing your faith. Don't be swayed by negative reports from others about your situation.
"God has given to everyone a measure of faith" (Roman 12:3) to be released. This can happen easily when you establish a point of contact to connect with God through things such as praying, reading your Bible, laying on hands or taking Holy Communion.
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Your Fortune Is In the Fragments
They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Matthew 14:20)

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, twelve baskets of fragments were collected. Why did Jesus have the disciples pick up the fragments left over from the five loaves and two fish? Could it be a lesson in it for us?
 
Our fortune might be in the fragments. God is teaching us much about being good stewards of that which we have rather than trying to accumulate more. God is teaching us not to waste but to recycle. God is teaching us to budget instead of buying everything we think we want. God is teaching us to appreciate what we have instead of coveting others and trying to have what they have.
  
Notice the disciples ended up with more fragments than the meager meal of two fish and five loaves they started out with. Our fortune is in our fragments. Therefore, if we take care of our fragments we will end up with more than what we started out with.
 
There are some fragments God wants us to pick up right now . . . fragments of rocky relationships, fragments of failing friendships, fragments of casual churches, and fragments of declining discipleship, etc.
 
We will soon discover there is a fortune in our fragments if we would only pick them up!

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"Pushing The Envelope"
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made (Genesis 2:2).  And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

"Pushing the envelope" is a military phrase used when a particular aircraft or system has gone beyond the boundaries of which it can operate safely and efficiently.  We say we are "pushing the envelope" when we have gone beyond the normal limitations of doing something. Top executives, government officials and church leaders "push the envelope" too often.  From time to time the average person works to the breaking point while "pushing the envelope."  Is that what the Bible teaches?  Is that what God really wants us to do?  Did Jesus "push the envelope?" 

The Bible clearly teaches that God's Creation took six (6) days, and then God rested on the seventh day.  Jesus had a trifold ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing; yet he took time out to be alone to worship His Father.  If God did it, and Jesus did it, shouldn't we take time out for rest as well?  In the long run, those who "push the envelope" become ineffective for God, for others and for themselves.

Take time out this weekend to REST and stop "PUSHING THE ENVELOPE."
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A Personal Spiritual Retreat
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. (Matthew 14:23)

Jesus set the example for us when got away from everyone to be alone to pray and to be with His Father without distractions.  That way Jesus could be more attentive to those he served.

We, too, should get away from everybody and everything to pray and be alone with God.  No matter what is going on in your life, you can't afford not to get away to seek the Lord from time to time.  No matter how much you think life can't go on without you, you are mistaken.  Unless you devote some time to a personal spiritual retreat, you will soon find out that you are not as effective or productive as you should be.

I know for certain because I just returned from a brief personal spiritual retreat where I was alone with God. (That's why this message is later than usual).  Even though my retreat was short, God did maximize the moments.  I heard from Him concerning several issues.  I am rested, refreshed, relaxed, revitalized, and revived. Try it yourself the first chance you get.
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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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Dare to Be Different
Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:29)

We all have limitations. We all have boundaries. We all have something within us keeping us from thinking and acting outside the box. May I suggest you dare to be different this year? May I suggest you dare to do something different? May I suggest you think outside the box. Better still, get out of the box and either kick it to the curb or throw it out with yesterday's newspaper.

If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten. Dare to be different. Dare to do something different. Dare to go beyond your normal boundaries. Let this year be the year you stop saying, "When I get around to it, I'll . . ." NEWS FLASH: This is the "around to it" year. (No, it doesn't rhyme). Dare to be different. Stop putting off those things you have secretly longed to do. Be bold enough to do something different as long as it lines up with the word of God. Share with your family and friends only after you have completed or have gotten far into the project. They might not be pleased to see an obvious change in you because it will shed light on their own complacency.

Jacob became different after wrestling with God and losing a piece of his hip. He limped for the rest of his life. (Genesis 32:22-31) Paul became different after he was blinded when he met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road. (Acts 9) Purpose on your own to be different without enduring a physical malady. Dare to be different by stepping out of the boat and discovering that Jesus is reaching out to help you.

Step out of your box. Step out of the boat. Step out on faith and dare to be different.


What to Do When You Are Sinking
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 14:30)

Peter had good intentions. His faith allowed him to get out of the boat and to start walking on the water, but his faith was not strong enough to allow him to continue. Peter was doing all right until he focused on WHAT was happening around him instead of focusing on WHO was right in front of him. What happened to Peter so often happens to us.

We often start out with good intentions. With great confidence we believe "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me" (Philippians 4;13). Then when the storm comes and the wind blows, we take our eyes off Jesus, and we begin to sink and to plunge deep into our sea of sorrow and depression. What should you do when you are sinking?

You should do what Peter did. Notice Peter did not pray a long prayer. There wasn't time. He did not use flowery language. There wasn't time. He did not ask God to bless everyone he knows. There wasn't time. He did not ask the disciples behind him to intercede for him. There wasn't time. He didn't run to Jesus who was in front of him. There wasn't time. Peter did the only thing he could do. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" The original Greek translation means "Lord, save me and do it quickly!" Jesus knew what Peter meant. Even though Jesus was far off, He stretched out his hand and caught him. The original Greek means He stretched out His hand to the length that was necessary.

When you are sinking, cry out "Lord, save me!" Jesus knows you mean "Lord, save me and do it quickly!" He will stretch out His hand to the length that's necessary to catch you. (And that's something to shout about).
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"You Hypocrites!"
"You hypocrites.  You serve me with your lips, but your heart is far from me. They worship me; their teachings are but rules taught by men." (Matthew 15:7-9)

These words were first spoken by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13).  Now they are spoken by Jesus to the religious leaders. When we claim to honor God while our hearts are far from him, our worship means nothing. It is not enough to ACT religious as if following a script. Our actions and our attitudes must be sincere.  If they are not, Isaiah's words also describe us.  We, too, then are hypocrites!
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Your Identity is Based on This
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:15-18)

You have probably heard the above scripture many times before in addition to having read it over and over yourself. Did you know the key to discovering your identity is embedded within the above scripture? Well, it is!

In order for us to know who we are, we first have to know who Jesus is. Notice, it was not until after Peter had identified Jesus that Jesus identified Peter. In summary, (1) Peter says Jesus is the Messiah; (2) Jesus says Peter has answered correctly; (3) Jesus says "You are Peter."

Has Jesus said who you are? You might be one thing to the world, but until Jesus identifies who you are, you have not actually been identified.
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Where Do Revelations Come From?
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)

A revelation is a divine truth made known by God to humans. It is the meeting of minds — yours and God's. God's truest delight is when His people get a revelation from Him. The church fails when it seeks to impose revelations on people. Man will always fail with his attempts and struggles to reveal God to people.  While man can only tell people about God, God is His own revealer. Revelations come only from God . . . untainted, unedited, unscripted, and uncut!

Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven when God revealed to him who Jesus was. (Matthew 16:17) Revelations are the keys that unlock some of the mysteries of God. Some mysteries will remain until we see God face to face.  In the meantime, we must read and study the Bible for ourselves. As we read, many divine truths will be revealed to us by God through God's word.

A true revelation has a sense of awe about it. It is an enlightening disclosure and is usually accompanied by the presence of God. There is a feeling of fullness, satisfaction and assurance. Be forewarned though that when a divine truth is revealed to God's people, Satan shows up to "steal, kill, and destroy." (John 10:10) Notice that shortly after Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, Peter rebuked Jesus (Matthew 16:22) and Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan! (Matthew 16:23).

God reveals. Satan steals, kills, and destroys.  It is up to us to know the difference!

"Who Do You Say I Am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:16-18)

After Jesus had polled his disciples about who others said He was, He then asked them that personal question: "Who do you say I am?"  All the disciples heard the question, but it was Peter who first made that confession that "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  This is the first time Jesus had been referred to as THE CHRIST. Peter had answered correctly. This revelation did not come from his own physical senses, but it was from God. Spiritual revelations must come from God; not from man.

Since God had revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the long awaited Messiah, Peter was given the keys of the kingdom. He was given the authority and responsibility to help usher in the kingdom while on earth.  Peter's statement, "Jesus is the Christ" is the foundation on which the church is built.  Each one of us must make that confession. Every day in every way, Jesus is asking us that same question He asked His disciples:  "Who do YOU say I am?"
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Be Who You Are
And I say unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

Simon Peter was the most prominent of Jesus' twelve disciples.  In fact, along with James and John, Peter was part of the "inner circle."  With the exception of Paul, the New Testament gives a more complete picture of Peter than anyone else.  Even though Peter was at first portrayed as a big, blundering fisherman, his later character is much richer. 

Peter, in spite of his imperfections, was always with Jesus.  Peter was being who he was. Peter, in spite of his blunderings, was used by God to carry out His plan.  Had Peter been otherwise, the story might have been different.  It was Peter who was the first disciple to be called.  It was Peter who accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration and wanted to build three tabernacles there.  It was Peter whom Jesus called to walk on water.  It was Peter who was given the revelation by God that Jesus was the Messiah.  It was Peter who was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Peter was devoted to Jesus.  In fact, Peter was crucified upside down because he felt he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.  Even unto death, Peter was being who he was.  Be who you are and reap the benefit of God's blessings that have been set aside just for YOU!
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Delivered From Chaos
Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. (Matthew 17:18)

On the first night of our Youth Revival at New Canaan Baptist Church in Richmond, VA, the youth as well as the adults were told how to be delivered from chaos based on the word of God. Rev. Pernell Johnson, Youth Minister at Sharon Baptist Church in Richmond, VA exegeted the text of Matthew 17:14-21. From that pericope, he told about the father's determination to go to Jesus on behalf of his son's depravation. You see, the son was a demoniac who was deprived of a normal life. He had seizures and suffered greatly. He often jumped into the fire and water; both were dangerous to him. In other words, the son was a lunatic. Rev. Johnson defined "lunatic" and gave examples of lunatics using modern-day examples that the youth could understand. He said those who give their lives over to drugs, alcohol and illicit sex are lunatics. He advised the youth not to get involved in situations that would label them a lunatic. One such warning was for young girls not to get involved with any boy who couldn't afford to buy a belt.

The father admitted to Jesus, "I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him." (Matthew 17:16)  The disciple's spiritual debilitation was because they had so little faith. (Matthew 17:20) Deliverance from chaos could come only from Jesus' denunciation which resulted in the demons' deportation. When Jesus rebuked the demon, it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. (Matthew 17:18)

Using the language and referring to contemporary interests of youth in music and the movies, Rev. Johnson used the above passage to illustrate that sometimes we have to bypass leaders and go straight to Jesus for our deliverance. When that happens, we can lean back like "The Matrix" (Rev. Johnson demonstrated this) and let Satan take his best shot. With Jesus on our side, not just the youth but all of us can be "delivered from chaos."
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If They Had Only Known
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began rebuking him, saying "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you."  (Matthew 16:21-22)

Throughout the gospels, Jesus told His disciples about His upcoming crucifixion, but they couldn't understand what He was telling them. The news was too far beyond them for them to comprehend exactly what He was saying. And when Jesus told them about His resurrection, that too was above their limited understanding. They, especially Peter, constantly said, "Far be it from me! We would never let this happen to you." If the disciples had only known the whole story, they probably would not have been afraid when Jesus did go to the cross.

Others have exclaimed, "If I had only known."  The soldier had a similar exclamation after he pierced Jesus in the side when blood and water gushed from his body (
 19:34-35). Jesus' own brothers did not recognized Him to be the Messiah until after His death. If they had only known.

Let us be different! Let us know while we are alive on this earth that Jesus was the Son of God who was sent specifically to save us from a sinful death. Let us not die in our sins to burn forever in the lake of fire. Let us not have to say, "If I had only known." Know who Jesus is NOW for a life of eternal bliss LATER.
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Heavenly Rewards
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)

Following Jesus is not always an easy or comfortable road to travel.  Often it means great cost and sacrifice. The cost of following Jesus is high. It might cost you your family, friends, popularity, leisure time, or treasured habits, but the value of being a disciple of Christ is an earthly investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible heavenly rewards.

Any believer who has to give up anything to follow Christ will be paid back in this life with dividends, as well as in the next.  For example, if you must give up friends, you will find that God offers a secure relationship with himself now and forever.  If you must give up your family's approval, you will gain the love of the family of God. 

Invest in the Kingdom of God today by following Jesus every step of the way! And you will be rewarded both in this life and in heaven!
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Why We Can't Stay on the Mountain
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John he brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put build three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.." (Peter did not know what he was saying)" (Matthew 17:1; 4; Mark 33)

Peter wanted to capture the moment and stay where there was peace and harmony. We, too, have been in near perfect situations where we wanted to freeze the moments so we could always be on the mountain. Unfortunately, we are not to stay on the mountain. We are not to stay on the mountain for several reasons:
  1. We are to learn and then pass it on to others. What we learn on the mountain could help those in the valley. Therefore, we must come down.
  2. We are in the world but not of the world. Therefore, we are to blend in with others. Let the wheat grow up with the tares. Staying on the mountain would isolate us from others.
  3. The ecstasy of being on the mountain would be more than we could bear. Our physical bodies were not created to be in a state of euphoria all the time. A balance is recommended for a healthy existence.
It is so wonderful to have mountaintop experience and celebrate while we are there, but we can't stay on the mountain. It is in the valley that we grow and are available to help others.
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Mustard Seed Faith
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you." (Matthew 17:20)

A little faith goes a long way!  A little faith can do great things.  In the above scripture, Jesus compared a little faith with the size of a mustard seed. The mustard seed was the smallest particle imaginable. Jesus explained that even though the mustard seed was the smallest thing on earth, it would grow up to be a powerful tree.  Even though one's faith is small, it can still do powerful things.  Faith, like anything else, conforms to the law of use.  Use it or lose it! The more you use it, the stronger it get.

If you want your mustard seed faith to grow to enormous size, start using and developing it now.  Don't wait until you are faced with a crisis to test your faith.  Begin to see miracles working in your life by using the little faith you already have. The first step of faith is to trust God and not put confidence in your own abilities. Then begin to take inventory and evaluate the circumstances in which your faith soared beyond measure!
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Mustard Seed Faith
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you." (Matthew 17:20)

A little faith goes a long way!  A little faith can do great things.  In the above scripture, Jesus compared a little faith with the size of a mustard seed. The mustard seed was the smallest particle imaginable. Jesus explained that even though the mustard seed was the smallest thing on earth, it would grow up to be a powerful tree.  Even though one's faith is small, it can still do powerful things.  Faith, like anything else, conforms to the law of use.  Use it or lose it! The more you use it, the stronger it get.

If you want your mustard seed faith to grow to enormous size, start using and developing it now.  Don't wait until you are faced with a crisis to test your faith.  Begin to see miracles working in your life by using the little faith you already have. The first step of faith is to trust God and not put confidence in your own abilities. Then begin to take inventory and evaluate the circumstances in which your faith soared beyond measure!
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It's Easier Than You Think
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there and it will move." (Matthew 17:20)

If someone told you you were going the wrong way down a one-way street, would you change and go in the opposite direction? Some people would immediately correct the situation while others would use that as a challenging experience to try to beat the odds. In His Word, God has given us principles that work by doing things His way; not our way. Actually, God's way is easier than we think.

For example, in the above scripture, God didn't tell us to climb the mountain. So let's stop asking God to help us do what He never told us to do. God said, "Speak to the mountain." When you speak to the mountain, you need no mountain climbing gear. When you speak to the mountain, you need no special training. When you speak to the mountain, you can do it any time night or day. When you speak to the mountain, you won't get weary. When you speak to the mountain with authority, the mountain will move and be cast into the sea. Try it and see that speaking to the mountain is much easier than climbing it.

Handling a mountainous experience is much easier than you think. When you do it God's way, all you have to do is speak to the mountain. And that's much easier than you think!
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"If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me!"
He told them. "For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

Here are ten (10) words that can change your life: "If it is to be, it is up to me." These ten words do not eliminate God from your life. Rather, it is an affirmation that will help you participate in your own blessings. There are some things God said He would do. However, there are some things God tells us to do ourselves. For instance, we pray for God to stir up the gift within us. The Bible tells us to stir up our own gift (2 Timothy 1:6). As in the above scripture, God tells us to speak to the mountain. In other words, it is okay to say, "If it is to be, it is up to me!"

If you are going to move from where you are, you have to affirm: "If it is to be, it is up to me." Instead of mooching off others, affirm: "If it is to be, it is up to me." Instead of blaming others for what you lack, affirm: "If it is to be, it is up to me."

Sometimes we blame our pastors by saying they are not feeding us. Sometimes we blame our teachers by saying they are not teaching us. Sometimes we blame our bosses by saying they are not fair with us. Sometimes we blame our spouses by saying they don't understand us. Why is it that all these people are mistreating us? What is the common denominator in all these scenarios?

When you affirm with your whole heart these ten words that contain only one syllable with two letters,  you will begin to see that the energy used to blame others has been directed in the right place.

Let's affirm together: "If it is to be, it is up to me!"
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Remove the Cause!
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands and be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:8-9)

Jesus was not commanding self-mutilation. The above scriptures prove that we should not only avoid causing others to sin, but also that we must get rid of anything that causes evil in our own lives, even at the cost of painful sacrifice.  Things we may consider indispensable cannot be compared with the greater value of not being stumbling blocks to others.  

Any person, program or teaching that threatens the spiritual growth of the body of Christ must be removed.  Any relationship, practice, or activity that leads to sin should be stopped.  Jesus says it would be better to go to heaven with one hand than to hell with both.  Sin affects more than our hands.  It affects our minds and our hearts. Therefore, remove, get rid of, eradicate, obliterate, erase anything in your life that causes you or others to sin.
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Purpose of Jesus' Birth
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11)

The ministry of Jesus was tri-fold:  teaching, preaching and healing.  He did all three with a primary purpose in mind:  to save that which was lost.  It is true that while He was here, he performed miracles such as turning water to wine and feeding the 5,000.  He healed people such as Jairus' daughter, Peter's mother-in-law, the demoniac, and the ten lepers.  He taught his disciples and the multitudes who followed Him. He taught in parables and how to pray.  And He did all those things with one purpose in mind:  to save.

Yes, it is true that while Jesus was on earth His ministry was to save sinners, and He preached repentance for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  The ministry of Jesus is to continue through us.  We are to repent of our own sins, and then we are to teach the principles of salvation to others. Lead someone to Christ before it is too late.
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Never Bind Without Loosing
Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18)

Binding and loosing is a phrase describing the authority and power that Jesus assigned to His disciples allowing them to forbid or permit certain kinds of conduct. The phrase occurs only two times in the New Testament as referenced above.

We have the same authority today that the disciples had with Jesus. Binding and loosing on earth has its counterpart in heaven.  Therefore, whatever we bind (shut or forbid) on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever we loose (open or allow) on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Since we have a relationship with God, we have a responsibility to shut the door on evil thoughts and deeds working havoc in our lives.  We should bind those spirits.  It is important to learn that binding is just half of the process.  Whatever negative thing you bind on earth is automatically bound in heaven.  But you have to loose its positive counterpart on earth so it also can be loosed in heaven.  For instance, if you bind hatred; you must loose love.  If you bind evil thoughts; you must loose clean thoughts. If you bind lack, you must loose prosperity.

In summary, binding and loosing work together. Therefore, NEVER bind without loosing!
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The Fourth Strand
What God has joined together, let no one put asunder. (Matthew 19:6)

If you have ever attended a wedding, surely you have heard the above scripture.  But do you know what it means?  It means that those whom God has joined together, no one should separate them.

Yesterday I wrote about the threefold cord: husband, wife and God sealing them together,  As promised, let's talk about the fourth strand. Try braiding one strand.  It can't be done.  Try braiding two strands; they won't stay joined. Try braiding three, and they will stay together every time. Try inserting an additional strand, and you will quickly discover "more is not always better."  Most marriages fail when a fourth strand becomes involved in that relationship in some form. The fourth strand could be "the other woman," "the other man," or a major conflict or issue.

If you are married, cherish your marriage.  For marriage is a gift from God. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but with reverence and dedication with awareness of the purpose for which it was appointed by God. For the rest of us, what God has joined together, let us not separate! Let's not be the fourth strand!
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When To Pray For Your Children
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. (Matthew 19:13)

The average parent or grandparent prays for their children and grandchildren on an as needed basis. It is never too soon to pray for your children and grandchildren. In fact, pray for them before they are conceived. Pray for them while they are in the womb. Pray for them as soon as they enter the world. Pray for them while they are well instead of waiting until they get sick.

There is nothing wrong with praying for your children daily about immediate things such as having a good day in school or being picked for the football team or scoring high on scholastic examinations. However, God wants us to pray for the future needs of our children so right paths can be established initially rather than having to be changed later.

It is never too soon to pray for the future of your children and grandchildren. I have already laid hands on and prayed for my granddaughter like Jesus did for the little children. I have prayed for the friends she will have. I have prayed for her teachers. I have prayed for the right college and her roommates. I have prayed for the godly man she will marry. I have prayed for the children she will bear. I have prayed that she will grow up to be a healthy young lady established in the ways of God.

It is never too early to pray for your children and grandchildren. For you see, my granddaughter, Tori Michal, is only eight months old.

Pray now or regret it later.
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From Rebukes to Rewards
But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. (Matthew 19:13b)

Little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought the children to Jesus. Then Jesus did a reversal. He turned the rebukes into rewards.

Jesus rebuked the disciples by saying, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14) The disciples were rebuked. The children were rewarded.

Has anyone ever rebuked you unfairly? Have you ever rebuked someone unfairly?

As a child of God, know that when people rebuke you when it is not warranted, Jesus will rebuke them and reward you. Also know that when you rebuke a child of God when it is not warranted, Jesus will rebuke you and reward that person.

Jesus turns rebukes into rewards.
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Only One Who is "Good"
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must i do to get eternal life?"  Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied," There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." (Matthew 19:16-17)

The word "Good" is overused.  When asked how something was, people give a standard superficial adjective.  "Oh, she was really good!"  "There sermon was good."  "I'm going to hear this preacher in Atlanta because he is good."  "I wouldn't miss this evangelist when he comes to town because she is so good."  Go back up and read the above scripture.  Have you been ascribing the attribute that belongs only to God on humans?

Jesus told the rich young ruler that no one is good except God alone. Think twice before you describe someone else as good.  If Jesus refused to be called good because He reserved that adjective for His Father, how much more should we refrain from saying we are good or someone whom we admire is "good."

Let us remember that only God is truly good.
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Treasures Along the Way
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 19:21)

There is a story about two small boys who had the idea that they could dig to the bottom of the earth. Their older brother made fun of them and assured them that it was impossible to dig to the bottom of the earth. The two smaller boys dumped the contents out of a cup and said, “Even if we can’t dig to the end of the earth, look at the treasures we found along the way.”   Their treasures consisted of spiders, worms, and a variety of insects they had collected in their effort to dig to the bottom of the earth.

We, today, might be experiencing some impossible situations. Perhaps we will never achieve what we set out to do, but we can enjoy the experience. We will never reach the end of the rainbow, but we can enjoy its beauty every time we see one. We can never turn back the hands of time, but we can enjoy remembering precious moments of times past.

Even though we will never be able to dig to the end of the earth, we still should be motivated to dig. Not every goal will be fully achieved.  Not every job will end successfully. Not every relationship will endure. Not every hope will come to pass. Not every love will last. Not every endeavor will be completed. Not every dream will be realized. But when you fall short of your aim and if you never reach your goal, you can say, “Yes, but look at what I found along the way! Look at the wonderful things which have come into my life because I never stopped digging!”

Many of us are digging to reach the end of the earth. IMPOSSIBLE! To deny ourselves of the treasures we find along the way would be a mistake . . . a BIG MISTAKE. Let’s seek God about our digging and enjoy the treasures along the way!
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With God All Things Are Possible
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

One reason we do not get what we desire and deserve is because we look at the solution through our own eyes. We base the results on what we see in the natural. With man a situation may be impossible, but with God ALL things are possible. (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 17:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:27; Luke 18:27)
 
The test of every Christian is to look at things not as they are but as they could be from God's point of view. No matter how you try to figure something out, you CANNOT see it the way God sees it. No matter how bad things look, God can turn the situation around in your favor.
 
Identify THE THING you think is impossible. No matter what THIS THING is, know that with man THIS is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible including THIS THING you have identified.

Praise the God of impossibilities!
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The Last Will Be First
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Matthew 19:30)

God has a habit of reversing people's status. In the end, the poor and the needy end up satisfied while the rich and the famous end up hungry and empty.

We often think of wicked people who seem to get the best of everything. We wonder why we who serve God are not the first in line for jobs, promotions, more money, etc. God tells us, "Fret not because of evildoers; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. (Psalm 37:1-2) In other words, those wicked people who seem to get the best of everything now will not actually get the best of God later.

Remember, God has a way of reversing people's status. Jesus was "the stone that the builders rejected, but He became the chief cornerstone." (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42). You might be rejected and considered last by the world right now; but if you continue to serve God you will be first in the eyes of God when it really matters.
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Going From Last to First
So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16)

Are you tired of being the last to find out important information in your family, church, community or on your job? Are you tired of being the "caboose" in most situations? If you often feel that you come in last, you are not alone. Jesus knew people would feel this way sometimes in their lives; hence, the above scripture.

Right now you may feel that everyone is against you and life has handed you a raw deal. Right now you might feel that you are not sitting on top of the world. Rather, the world is sitting on top of you. Right now, you are not the first. You are the last. That will change according to the Bible.

Now that we have established that positionally you are last, embrace the promise that you will be first. But how? Jesus asserted that those who give up things to follow Him will surely be "last" according to the world's standard; however, those persons are "first" according to kingdom principles.

God will soon say, "ABOUT FACE!" And since you are in the back of the line, you will be the first to follow His command when He says, "FORWARD MARCH!"
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Saved to Serve
. . . just as the Son of Man did not come to BE served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

When we receive the gift of salvation, we become saved to become like Christ so that we may serve others. God wants to produce His character in us. But to do this, He demands participation on our part. To grow spiritually, we no longer  reach God by keeping laws, but by having an ongoing intimate relationship with God. We serve God and others out of love and gratitude. Like Jesus, we are saved not to be served but to serve others.  How do we do that?  We do that by letting our light shine so that others might follow our example of
  • studying and meditating on God's word;
  • praising God;
  • praying instead of worrying;
  • giving;
  • worshipping God in a local church; and
  • being a witness so that others may be saved.
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Spending the Night in Bethany
And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (Matthew 21:17 NIV)

Bethany is located about two miles east of Jerusalem near the road to Jericho. Bethany was the scene of some of the most important events in Jesus' life. It was the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus and the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

During Jesus' final week, he spent time in Bethany. He made his rounds to see friends before He endured the cross. The name "Bethany" is interpreted to mean "the house of obedience." So Jesus went to a place of obedience. Another interpretation renders the meaning to be "the house of affliction." Bethany still is a suitable place to go because Jesus was about to suffer for the sins of His people. Still another meaning is "place of business." Remember the first recorded words of Jesus: "I must be about my Father's business." (Luke 2:49) Jesus was concluding His business on earth.

During this Passion Week, let's reflect on the things Jesus did during His final week. He was OBEDIENT in Bethany. Bethany foreshadowed His upcoming AFFLICTION. And Jesus was in the process of concluding the BUSINESS He had come to earth to do.

Let's remember our own Bethany.
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Get Out of Your Own Way
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)

Only one thing might be standing between you and your next blessing. Every desire of yours could come to fruition if that one thing was identified and fixed. Most of us are standing on the cusp of golden opportunities with this one thing as a barrier.
 
What is this one thing that is blocking our progress? By now you have probably guessed the answer. We stand in the way of our own blessings. We might pray for a thing, but then we doubt. Therefore, our doubt cancels out an expedient answer to our prayer. We praise God and while we are in His presence we believe with His help we can conquer the world; however, as soon as our praise period is over, we feel let down and shut out with little or no hope that God even knows we exist.
 
Enough of that! We can have what God says we can have, we can be what God says we can be, and we can do what God says we can do if we would only believe. Believe God! Believe God's promises to you. We must see things happening in the spirit before they will ever happen in the natural. Our blessings are all around us. However, we are standing in our own way. As Yolanda Adams says, "Step Aside." Step aside and know that God is God. Step aside and know that whatever God has promised you, God will make good on that promise; that is, if you would just get out of the way. Get out of your own way!

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Lessons About the Penny
Jesus said, "Show me the tribute money." And they brought him a penny. And he said unto them, "Whose portrait is on it? And whose inscription?" (Matthew 22:19)

Caesar's portrait was on the penny in the above verse. However, our American penny bears the face of Abraham Lincoln. Have you ever wondered why Abraham Lincoln's portrait is on the penny considering his great role in American history? Why would Lincoln's face appear on the lowest coin? David Brenner, the famous sculptor was responsible for putting the face of Lincoln on every penny because Lincoln once said, "The Lord must love the common people; He made so many of them." Because Brenner wanted to make sure every common person in the United States would be included, there are more pennies minted than any other single coin in the United States. Consequently, it is possible for pennies to be in the hands and pockets of every common person.

Annie Dillard, a famous writer, once confessed she picks up pennies because they are signs from heaven. She in turns drops pennies for others to pick up and be blessed. There is an old adage that says, "See a penny, pick it up, and all that day remember the poor and oppossed."

Whatever you do with your pennies, let them be silent reminders that the common person was in mind when all those pennies were minted.
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When Nothing Seems to Work
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)

If you own any appliance, equipment, gimmick or gadget, there will come a time when they will not work properly. And if you own a computer, that too will need some adjustments in order to operate effectively. When you first buy the item, the instruction booklet tells you on the troubleshooting page what to do if the product does not work properly. Oftentimes, we panic instead of reading the instruction manual. The instruction manual tells us to make sure the equipment is plugged into a power source before we call a technician.

When things don't seem to be working properly in our lives, we need to do two things:
1.  Read the instruction manual: the word of God, the Bible.
2. Make sure we are connected to the power source: God.

When we follow the instructions and are connected to the power source, we will find that things will not only work in our lives, but things will work properly in our lives.
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Loving With the Whole Heart
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

What is meant by loving someone with your whole heart?  The heart is the inner self that thinks, feels, and decides. All emotions are experienced by the heart such as love, hate, job, sorrow, peace, bitterness, courage and fear. The thinking process is carried out by the heart. Thus, the heart may think, understand, imagine, remember, be wise, and speak to itself.  The heart can also make decision.  Purpose, intention, and will are all activities of the heart. Finally, the heart often means someone's true character or personality. Purity or evil, sincerity or hardness, maturity or rebelliousness all describe the heart. God knows the heart of each person.

Since we act or speak from the heart, we are to guard it well and realize that the most important duty of a person is to love God with the whole heart. With the heart we believe in Christ and so experience both love from God and the presence of Christ in our hearts.
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". . . As Yourself"
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . You shall love your neighbor AS YOURSELF. (Matthew 22:37, 39)

In trying to fulfill the Bible's greatest commandment to love God and our neighbor, we often ignore the third element . . . "as yourself."  Those last two words speak volumes.  In order to achieve spiritual and emotional wholeness, self-love must be present. If we do not love ourselves, then we cannot adequately love God or others.

Geniune self-love is not being egocentric, selfish, proud or arrogant.  True self-love is mirrored in our attitude toward God and others.  We often look at others through the attitudes that we have toward ourselves.  "Learning to love ourselves" is really the starting place.
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The Greatest Commandment
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

When we are obedient to the first and greatest commandment and love God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind, then the second greatest commandment becomes easier to obey.  The first and second greatest commandments  are to be obeyed, but in the order in which they were given.

The greatest commandment is represented by the vertical beam of the cross (our relationship with God).  The second greatest commandment is represented by the horizontal beam of the cross (our relationship with people). Notice the vertical beam is longer which means our relationship with God should be first and foremost and greater than our relationship with people. Both beams of the cross are necessary.  However, when one beam is out of place, so is our obedience to the greatest commandment.
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And The Second Is Like It
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Some people think the Bible is nothing but a book of Don'ts.  But Jesus neatly summarized all these rules when he said to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.  He said these are the greatest commandments of all.  By following Jesus' two simple commands, we find ourselves following all of God's other laws as well.
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What is True Greatness?
The more lowly your service to others, the greater you are.  To be the greatest, be a servant.  But those who think themselves great shall be disappointed and humbled; and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

True greatness is measured by service. It does not concern itself with being recognized.  Some persons, businesses, organizations, and institutions measure greatness by high personal achievements God's kingdom, however, service is the way to get ahead.  The desire to be on top will hinder, not help.  Rather than seeking to have your own needs met, look for ways that you can minister to the needs of others.

True greatness is characterized by profound humility. Although John the Baptist was a well-knowng preacher who attracted large crowds, he was content for Jesus to take the higher place. This is true humility, the basis for greatness in preaching, teaching, or doing any other work for Christ.  When we are content to do what God wants us to do and let Jesus Christ be honored for it, God will do great things through us, but not when we try to get the glory ourselves.
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Seven Woes To Hypocrites
Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
(Matthew 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29)

Most of us know about the seven last words of Jesus spoken from the cross. How many of you know about the seven last woes spoken on the way to the cross?  In all  of the above verses, Jesus gave a warning to the teachers of the law and Pharisees. He called them hypocrites. In each case He gave them the reason He called them hypocrites.

The first woe went out to the hypocrites because they were leading people further away from God's truth by taking them deeper into human traditions. (Matthew 23:13)

The second woe went out to the hypocrites because they converted people only to make them bigger sinners than they already were. (Matthew 23:15)

The third woe went out to the hypocrites because they reinforced their oaths by swearing by the temple. They did this to get people to believe and trust them. (Matthew 23:16)

The fourth woe went out to the hypocrites because they were eager to keep the law while rejecting justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23)

The fifth woe went out to the hypocrites because they cleaned the cup on the outside but the cup was filthy just like they were on the inside.  (Matthew 23: 25)

The sixth woe went out to the hypocrites because they were like whitewashed tombs which looked beautiful on the outside but on the inside were full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. (Matthew 23:27)

The seventh woe went out to the hypocrites because they built tombs of the prophets and decorated graves of the righteous stating if they had lived in the days of their fathers, they would not have shed the blood of the prophets. (Matthew 23:29)

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were hypocritical for all of the above reasons. What would your list look like if Jesus said, "Woe unto you" for the hypocritical things you are doing?
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Look Inside
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  (Matthew 23:25-26)

A story is told by Joseph Goldstein cited in The Sun Magazine about a first grade class that was asked the question, "What is the color of apples?"  Most of the children answered red. A few said green. One little boy raised his hand and said white. The teacher tried to explain that apples can be red, green or sometimes golden, but never white. The first grader was quite insistent and finally said, "Look inside!"

We cannot judge apples, books or people by what we see on the outside.  While it is certainly true that the outside can be made to look good with cosmetics, wigs, braids, toupeés, etc.,  the true value of a person is what is on the inside.  No one can see what is written on the  heart . . . not even ourselves.  Only God can see what is there.  Therefore, God is the ONLY One who can judge us fairly.
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Spring Cleaning
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside  of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  (Matthew 23:25-26)

Jesus condemned the Pharisees and religious leaders for outwardly appearing saintly and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed.  Trying to impress people by appearing to be holy on the outside and still living polluted lives is like washing a cup on the outside only and leaving the inside filthy. Do some spring cleaning and please God!

Don't you feel better after you have uncluttered your closets, your dresser drawers, or your office files?  Once you have cleaned your car, doesn't it seem to drive much better? There is a software called "Spring Cleaning" because it cleans your computer so that you can get faster and better performance.  So it is with us.  We are able to serve God better with uncluttered lives.  We are able to hear God speak to us when our hearts are clean and pure. 

Begin doing spring cleaning on yourself a little at a time. Then the task will not seem so monumental. If you clean the inside, your cleanliness on the outside won't be hypocritical. Then you won't mind God being the army sergeant who inspects you.
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Going Under the Knife
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. (Matthew 23:27)

You have heard about celebrities getting facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction and having plastic surgery on multiple parts of the body. It used to be only middle age women who were doing it, but now teenage girls and men have made the decision to "go under the knife" for the purpose of improving their external appearance.

Unfortunately, going under the knife does not make one internally beautiful. One may still feel empty and without peace. However, there is a way to go under the spiritual knife.  Allow God to cut away everything that is not of Him. Allow God to transplant your impure heart for one that is pleasing to Him. Allow God to create in you a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). God said, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 11:19)

Instead of merely focusing on external beauty, go under the knife for internal beauty. And allow God to be your own personal plastic surgeon. 

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God Longs For Us
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)

Jesus spoke these words in response to the evil action of those living in Jerusalem. He longed to tenderly bring them into His bosom. So, why didn't He?  Why couldn't the Sovereign God step in and fix the problem? It wasn't that God couldn't fix the problem. It was that He was unwilling to overrule the action of His people. God wants people to accept His love because they want to, not because they are forced to do so.

Jesus did not force Jerusalem to love Him. Instead, He sought the acceptance of willing hearts. God longs for us to turn to Him in faith. However, He leaves that personal choice up to us. God could put something on the inside of us to "make" us love Him. But that's not the way God operates. He does not let His sovereignty override our freewill. However, that does not negate the fact that God longs for us to turn to Him in every situation.

When we choose to love God on our own without force, we are in a better position to freely love others without force.
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No One Knows
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.. (Matthew 24:36)

Many predictions are being made about when Jesus will return.  People are making plans to visit the Holy Land because they want to be there when Jesus returns.  Scriptures clearly point out that no one . . . and that's means NO ONE knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return.  NOT EVEN JESUS!  ONLY THE FATHER!  How can it be that man thinks he is capable of pinpointing the exact time of the Second Coming of Jesus?  Is he more divinely inspired than Jesus Himself?  Don't believe all the hype about knowing when Jesus will return.  What you really should do is to be ready for Him WHENEVER He does return. 

So instead of worrying and wondering about the WHEN, accept by faith that He will.  And then be ready for Him when He does come. Jesus said, "You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour" (Matthew 24:44).
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Extra Oil, Please!
The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. (Matthew 25:4)

Matthew 25 records the parable of the ten virgins who waited for the bridegroom to come. They knew he was coming, but they didn't know when. The bridegroom was a long time in coming and all ten virgins fell asleep. This did not separate them. This was not the act that showed five were wise and five were foolish. All ten had oil in their lamps. This did not separate them. This was not the act that determined five were wise and five were foolish. What, then, did the five do or didn't do to make them go down in biblical history as foolish? 

Close examination of this parable shows that five of the girls had the foresight to take EXTRA OIL. They were prepared because they had anticipated the delay and planned ahead. While  five of the girls had oil in their lamps, they had no extra oil. This is what separated them from the others. This is what made them foolish. They wanted to borrow some from the wise girls but were urged to go and buy some oil from someone who had it for sale. The bridegroom came while the foolish girls were away. The door was closed and the foolish girls were not allowed to go in to the wedding banquet.

Being prepared up to a point is not good enough. We should be fully prepared in every area of our lives. Even though our lamps our burning brightly today, we don't know how long we have to wait for the bridegroom to come. We need extra oil for the delay. (Oil in the scriptures is symbolic of the Holy Spirit).

Let's be wise. Even though we know Jesus is coming, we don't know when. Having extra oil will keep us prepared until he comes.

Vinegar not necessary. Just extra oil, please!"
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Using What You Have
To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. (Matthew 25:15)

The master divided the money among his servants according to their individual abilities.  Their abilities played a key part in the master's decision so that the servants could not say they were overwhelmed. No one received more or less money than he could handle. Excuses were made for failure to use the money wisely: laziness, fear, disrespect for the master.

Talents of money, as used here, represent any kind of resource God has given us. God gives us extra time, special gifts or abilities, various skills, and passions for doing what He expects us to do until Jesus returns.  We are responsible for using well what God has given us. We should NEVER compare our gifts to those of others because the issue is not what gifts we have, but what we do with what we have.

Have you identified your gifts?  Are you using them to bring glory to God?
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Real Caring and Sharing
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)

God distinguishes His faithful and obedient servants from pretenders and unbelievers by observing how they care for and share with the needy and the unfortunate.  The real evidence of one's Christianity is helping the least of God's children. That is to say, what we do for others demonstrates what we really think about God. In essence, Jesus' words in the above scripture mean that our love for Him is in direct proportion to the love we have for the least of His people.

Additionally, when we give to the unfortunate, they may never repay us directly, but God will and God always pays in dividends.
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A True Test
Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (Matthew 25:44-45)

If we knew we had the opportunity to help Jesus Himself, we would have no problem helping Him in any way we could. We would be so motivated to give to Jesus not only because of what He has already done, but also because of what we still want Jesus to do for us. It is so amazing that what we do is usually motivated by what we will get. For instance, we tithe with the expectation of God opening the windows of heavens and pouring out a blessing that we will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10). We praise God because we know when the praises go up, the blessings come down.  Does that mean we praise God only because we are promised something in return? Do we delight in the Lord only because we are promised He will give us the desires of our heart? (Psalm 37:4) Do we seek first the kingdom of heaven only because we are promised "all these things shall be added unto us"? (Matthew 6:33) Some things we are commanded to do without getting an instant reward.

The true test of our love for God is to obey God just because He commanded it. We should want to respond expecting to get nothing in return. Jesus gives us the true test by putting the poor and needy among us.  We should be just as motivated to help the poor as we are to do things for Jesus.

Remember Jesus is the one who said, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."  (Matthew 25:45)
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Missed Opportunities
He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:45)

It is no problem at all for Christians to say, "I love Jesus." It is no strange thing for Christians to profess that Jesus is Lord of their lives and they have an intimate relationship with Him. It is so easy to say they are sold out for Jesus. Here is the sad part: Most Christians do no recognize Jesus when He approaches them. Jesus will not come to us "dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes blazing like fire" (Revelation 1:13-14). Jesus will come to us as an old feeble bent over women, as abused children, as the penniless, and as smelly homeless men. But beneath all the outward disguise, those people are the embodiment of what Jesus meant when He said, "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

Know that when you refuse to help God's people, you are refusing to help God Himself. Know that when you turn away those unfortunate persons, you are turning away Jesus. You miss opportunities when you refuse to help those who can't help themselves. The next time an opportunity presents itself to you, think just maybe it is to test your rightstanding with Jesus by recognizing Him in whatever disguise He appears to you. Then Jesus will know that when you say you love Him, it also means you love the least of these.
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The Busiest Day
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, "As you know, the Passover is two days away, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." (Matthew 26:1-2)

All of us have busy days; days when we don't know whether we can get everything done or not. When we have too much to do, we either leave it for another day or delegate it to someone else to do. However, we must acknowledge that every day is not balanced with the same number of activities.

Jesus Himself found that to be true. Some of His days were busier than others. The closer He came to going to the cross, His days were filled with last minute things He wanted to share with His disciples. Jesus' busiest day was the Tuesday before His arrest. He preached and taught in Jerusalem from morning until late that night. When the sun went down on Tuesday, two days before Passover, His earthly teaching was done.

Maundy Thursday was also busy. That was the final time He spent with His disciple before He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and was taken into the Roman courts before Pontius Pilate.

Needless to say, some of our days will be busy days. However, there is one thing for sure. Our busiest day will NEVER be the same as Jesus' busiest day. And with that being the case, let's take time out of our busy day to say, "Thank You, Lord!"

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Tsunami of Blood
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)

Yesterday during our Communion Service, the pastor led the congregation in singing "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." Whenever she sang the chorus, "It reaches to the highest mountain," I pictured a tsunami of blood going up to the highest mountain. When the refrain continued, "It flows to the lowest valley," I pictured a tsunami of blood returning to the lowest valley. Then I put the two images together . . . from mountain to valley, returning to mountain and back again to the valley; each time going higher and lower than before.

The word "tsunami" became a household name on December 26, 2004, when the world's most powerful earthquake in more than 40 years struck deep under the Indian Ocean triggering a massive tsunami that obliterated cities, seaside communities and holiday resorts, killing tens of thousands of people in a dozen countries. A tsunami actually is a great tidal wave produced by movement of the earth.

God is shaking up some things on the earth today. But God prepared for the earthquakes in advance. How did God do that? God allowed His only begotten Son to be crucified so His shed blood would be for the remission of sins.

If you are a believer anyplace on this earth; that is, in any space between the highest mountain and the lowest valley, you are covered in the blood of Jesus. You are covered because a tsunami leaves nothing in its path untouched.

If you are ever in doubt about being covered in the blood of Jesus, think on this tsunami of blood that reaches to the highest mountain and flows to the lowest valley. The blood will give you strength from day to day because it will never lose its power!
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You Can't Carry Your Own Cross
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24) As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. (Matthew 27:32)

There is a deep revelation in these two verses. Jesus fell under the weight of His own cross. The Bible does not tell us how far Jesus carried His cross, but we know He did not carry it all the way to Golgotha by Himself. Jesus became weak and physically broken. When He reached the end of His endurance, the cross was laid on another's shoulders. Would Jesus tell us to do something that He couldn't or didn't do? I don't think so!

If we are to identify with Jesus' crucifixion, we must also identify with His steps that led to the cross. We must admit to ourselves that we cannot carry our own cross in our own strength. We need help just as Jesus Himself needed help. Jesus told us to "take up the cross and follow" but He never said we would get to the finish line without help. Jesus knew we, like Him, would not be able to carry the cross all the way in our own strength. He knew we, like Him, would be crushed to the ground in pain and agony. He knew about His own helplessness and the heaviness of the cross. We are not expected to do what Jesus Himself didn't do.

It is not sacrilegious to suggest Jesus did not carry his own cross. It is not sacrilegious to say we are not to carry our own cross. When Jesus came to the end of His strength, Simon was forced to carry His cross. When our load becomes too heavy to bear, someone is going to be compelled by the Holy Spirit to come into our path of suffering and help us carry our cross to the end of the journey.
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". . . and Pray"
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

The word "pray" is in the Bible 306 times. However, there are only two times when the word is part of a compound command. Both times this command appears in Matthew, the teaching gospel.

Matthew 5:44 says, "LOVE your enemies and PRAY for those who persecute you." It is not natural to love your enemies; but you can do it supernaturally by praying for them. It is natural to love those who love you, but there is no reward for that. The reward comes when you love your enemies and pray for them because you overcome evil with good.

Matthew 26:41 says, "WATCH and PRAY that you may not enter into temptation." To watch means to be aware of the possibilities of temptation. You are to be on guard since temptation enters when and where you are most vulnerable. You are helpless and hopeless on your own. You need to pray so you will not enter into temptation.

What about "fasting and praying"? While these two disciplines are great to do together, this is not a direct command in the Bible. The concept is there, but the actual scripture in Matthew 17:21 says, "So He said to them, 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.'" This is a declarative statement rather than an imperative statement or command. In fact, this scripture is omitted from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and most modern Bibles.

Whether it is "pray," "prayer," or "praying," God wants us to communicate with Him without ceasing. Nothing has ever been accomplished without prayer on somebody's part. Remember, there are sometimes when you should "love and pray" and sometimes when you should "watch and pray," but there will ALWAYS be times when you should just PRAY.
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Jesus Could Have . . . But He Didn't!
Pilate said to them,"What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? "They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!" (Matthew 27:22)

When Jesus was arrested that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He could have asked His followers to fight, but he didn't. Instead He told them to put away their swords. At His trial, He could have spoken in His own defense, but He didn't.  Instead He preferred to stay silent. Even as Jesus hung on the cross, He could have called on His heavenly Father to set Him free, but He didn't. Instead, He went through with the crucifixion. Jesus could have come down off the cross and saved His own life, but he didn't. He could have left us alone to die in our sins, but He didn't. Instead He died in our place so we can have eternal life.

Aren't you glad He didn't do what He could have done, but instead did what He did?
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The Little People At Jesus' Death
Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, him they compelled to bear His cross. (Matthew 27:32)

When Jesus was born, various kinds of "little people" were involved: a minor priest (Zachariah) and his barren wife (Elizabeth), a small town girl (Mary) and a poor carpenter (Joseph), shepherds, an old man (Simeon), an elderly woman (Anna), and others. While Jesus was alive He tended to surround Himself by people of little social standing or influence.

Unlike many who rise to a position of prominence and leadership, Jesus never lost touch with the little people of society.  Even at His death, "little people" surrounded Him:  Simon the leper hosted Jesus as his house guest. An unnamed women used expensive ointment to anoint Jesus' feet. An unnamed homeowner opened his home to Jesus and the twelve disciples for their last meal together. The disciples were chosen outcasts from Galilee.  An unnamed servant girl asked Peter about his association with Jesus. Another girl in the crowd also asked Peter about his association with Jesus. Other unnamed crowd members also inquired about Peter's association with Jesus.  Judas betrayed Jesus; later committed suicide. Barabbas, a convicted criminal was freed instead of Jesus due to the mob's demand. Simon of Cyrene, a man in the crowd carried Jesus' cross.  Two dying robbers were executed with Jesus. An unnamed crowd member offered Jesus a drink as He was close to death.  After an unnamed Roman centurion pierced Jesus in the side, he acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. Many loyal women, including Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were at the cross.

Are you in touch with the unnamed and the unnoticed? How can you serve them? What can you learn from them?
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That Forsaken Feeling
"My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46b)

Jesus cried out to His Father, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" while He was taking onto Himself the sin of the world. Because a holy God cannot look on sin, His Father turned His head and Jesus felt that separation. We, too, have felt separated from God. We, too, have yearned to hear His voice, but God seemed to have been silent. We, too, have felt times of seeming abandonment and desertion. Being a Christian and having great faith will not exempt us from that forsaken feeling.

What do you do when God is silent? First, realize that even though God is not speaking to you, He is still as close as He always was. He has not forsaken you, and He is still your God. Sometimes when a spouse is not speaking to the other, it doesn't mean that the spouse is no longer the spouse. He or she is just a silent spouse. God is silent not always because of something you have done. Sometimes God is silent to get your attention. He gives you the silent treatment to provoke you to have an intimate and ultimate relationship with Him. The time you think you have been forsaken is the time when God is actually calling you unto Himself.

Realize that when God seems to be silent, it is when He is speaking the loudest! Listen for that still small voice in the midst of your wilderness experience. And even though you have "that forsaken feeling" you have not been forsaken. "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
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Good Friday
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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What Will It Take For You to Believe?
Then the fire of the Lord fell...and when the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, He is God." (I Kings 18:38-39) Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God.'" (Matthew 27:54)

Many people do not believe until they see miracles, signs, and wonders. In the Old Testament, people believed when they saw fire come down from heaven on Mt. Carmel following Elijah's prayer.

In the New Testament, some did not believe Jesus was who He said He was until after His death. The sky turned dark. The veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. After Jesus was pierced in the side and out came blood and water, the centurion believed and acknowledged, "Truly this was the Son of God."

What will it take for you to believe? . . . Fire from heaven? The sky turning dark during the middle of the day?  An earthquake? A miraculous tearing of a veil in your church?

Those things have already happened and will not happen that way again! However, signs and wonders do continue through the lives and ministry of Jesus' followers for the purpose of getting others to believe.

What will it take for you to believe and say, "Truly, Jesus is Lord"?
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Resurrection Day
He is not here, for He has risen. (Matthew 28:6)

Easter is the most important holy day of the Christian religion. Easter is a day of celebration for Christians because Jesus was resurrected by God on this day. The tomb was and still is empty.  Jesus who was dead is alive!  We receive from Him the promise of living forever. He has given us new hope. Death is NOT the end.  It is a transition. Easter is actually a 50-day season consisting of seven Sundays, beginning with the Resurrection (Easter Day). Ascension Day is forty days after Easter and is celebrated to affirm that Christ is Lord of all times and places.  The Day of Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season (Acts 2:1).
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Resurrection Day
He is not here, for He has risen just as he said. (Matthew 28:6)

Easter is the most important holy day of the Christian faith. Easter is a day of celebration for Christians because Jesus was resurrected by God on this day.  Jesus who was dead is alive!  We receive from Him the promise of living forever. He has given us new hope. Death is NOT the end.  It is a transition.

Easter is actually a 50-day season consisting of seven Sundays, beginning with the Resurrection (Easter Day). Ascension Day is forty days after Easter and is celebrated to affirm that Christ is Lord of all times and places.  The Day of Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season. (Acts 2)

Remember, the cross is bare and the tomb is empty. However, Easter can be in our hearts every day of the year when we realize that Jesus is not dead. He is risen indeed.
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Resurrection Day
He is not here, for He has risen. (Matthew 28:6)

Easter is the most important holy day of the Christian religion. Easter is a day of celebration for Christians because Jesus was resurrected by God on this day. The tomb was and still is empty.  Jesus who was dead is alive!  We receive from Him the promise of living forever. He has given us new hope. Death is NOT the end.  It is a transition. Easter is actually a 50-day season consisting of seven Sundays, beginning with the Resurrection (Easter Day). Ascension Day is forty days after Easter and is celebrated to affirm that Christ is Lord of all times and places.  The Day of Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season.
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After the Resurrection
He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. (Matthew 28:7)

This weekend we celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  Now what? What happens after the resurrection? Let's look at the disciples as our examples.

The disciples, with the exception of John, were no place to be found during the crucifixion. They were afraid the same thing that happened to Jesus would happen to them. Therefore, they hid and locked themselves in the upper room. (John 20:19) But in the Book of Acts, they were preaching the gospel and teaching about Jesus and turning the world upside down. What came between Passover and Pentecost to cause the disciples to turn so instantly from fear to possessing holy boldness?

Before His death, Jesus had told His disciples that He would rise from the dead and go ahead of them into Galilee. The resurrected Jesus kept His promise. This gave the disciples hope and the assurance they needed. This changed the disciples so much so that they were able to preach and teach with power.

Let's learn from the disciples. Let go from Passover to Pentecost knowing that the Resurrection took place in between. Let's profess Jesus Christ more boldly now after the resurrection which is the centerpiece of Christianity. It was impossible for us to have met Jesus over 2,000 years ago in Galilee, but we can meet Jesus wherever we are today because of the resurrection. Meeting Jesus is the only way we can grow spiritually and be able to preach and teach with power.
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"Where Is That In The Bible?"
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

People often ask, "Where is that in the Bible?" Some words are not in the Bible, but the meaning or concept is clearly stated.

TRINITY...The word "trinity" is not in the Bible. However, the coexistence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the unity of the Godhead is found throughout the Bible. The doctrine of the trinity means that within the being and activity of the one God, there are three distinct persons. Even though the word "trinity" doesn't appear any place in the Bible, the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 has this "Trinitarian formula"  as stated above as well as 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."

RAPTURE...The word "rapture" is not in the Bible. However, the definition of rapture is clearly stated in I Thessalonians 4:17, "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

ATHEIST...The word "atheist" is not in the Bible, but the definition is in Psalm 14:1: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

INCARNATION...The word "incarnation" means God became flesh. That teaching is in John 1:1-14, but the word is never mentioned.

MONOTHEISM... The word "monotheism" is the teaching that there is only one God. Monotheism is not in the Bible, but Ephesians 4:6 states, "One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."

OMNIPOTENCE (all powerful); OMNISCIENCE (all knowing); and OMNIPRESENCE (everywhere at all times) are the attributes of God. However, these words appear nowhere in the Bible.

BIBLE...The word "Bible" is not found in the Bible.

Let's continue teaching the concepts and using the words even though they are not in the Bible. And when people ask us, "Where is that in the Bible?" we can explain where the concept is found even though the word itself is not there.
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Go And Tell
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

In school young children enjoy the activity called "Show and Tell."  It is that special time when they all take part in teaching by sharing something they know.  Jesus wants us to do the same with our lives.  He commanded us to live  so that our Christian lifestyle will be a continual "Show and Tell" activity for others to see, believe, and accept Jesus as we have.
 
The above scripture is "The Great Commission." One of the last commandments Jesus made gave us instruction on what to do after His death. He made it very plain by saying "Go . . . and teach all nations."  Whatever we know concerning the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, descension, and ascension of Jesus Christ we should go and tell others. 

Have you shared what you learned in Sunday School and church yesterday with anybody yet?  Perhaps now is a good time to GO and TELL.
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The Importance of The Great Commission
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Religion is defined as "an organized system of beliefs, practices, ceremonies and worship that centers on one supreme God or Deity. Religion is one's attempt to achieve the highest possible good by serving the best power in the universe." There are thousands of religions in the world. Christianity is included in the 11 major religions, but it is NOT the one with the most followers or believers. In fact, for every person who becomes a Christian, that number is doubled for those who become part of other religions.

For us Christians, the Great Commission is just as important today as when Jesus said it so long ago. We are commissioned to: (1) Go and make disciples of all nations; (2) to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and (3) to teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us. If we are afraid to do so, Jesus gives us encouragement by saying, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Jesus is always with us when we witness for Him.

Some of us are not obeying The Great Commission. Some of us are not being witnesses to the saving power of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). Some of us acknowledge Jesus Christ as OUR Lord and Savior, but we are not sharing Him with others. When was the last time you told someone about Jesus either through words, deeds or actions?
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Always! Always! Always!
. . . And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age! (Matthew 28:20)

God's presence is experienced by those who truly desire it.  David said, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life" (Psalm 27:4). His greatest desire was to live in God's presence.

We tend to know God is with us when things are going right, when our health is good, when we have enough money to pay our bills, when we are in a relationship with the person of our choice. But where do you think God is when you are experiencing difficult times? God didn't move.  He said he would be with us always. He promised to be close to those whose hearts are breaking (Psalm 34:18), to be our source of power, courage, and wisdom, and to help us through our problems.

Always means all the time and not just some of the time when things are going right with us.  God said He would be with us always.  And always means Always! Always! Always!
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