Wednesday, November 27, 2013

To Be A Disciple Of Jesus

Luke 14: 26-35
To Be A Disciple Of Jesus

     “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him. Saying,‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace. So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
     The first verse speaks volumes. As I have been dwelling on these verses for the past week God has been continually bringing them to my attention each time that I begin to pray. I find my heart is full of its own desires and rather than being fixed on Jesus and His good purposes for my life, I would get tangled up in a battle of wills, my will verses God’s will. I will not say that my desires were necessarily wrong but they kept me distracted from enjoying God’s company and delighting in His plan for my life. Many times Jesus says to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all other things will be added to us. He says this because He knows that the Devil will keep us at the door of God’s throne room by too much emphasis on our own cares and worries and desires so that we won’t be able to get past them and actually enter in and lay them at His feet. Jesus very much desires that we would give all of our relationships and desires to Him and seek Him first above all else. He wants us to delight in His company and just spend time with Him. After which He will take care of all that we need above and beyond our highest expectations.
     So now we start to understand why Jesus has to speak so strongly about our family and friends and our own lives. We need a strong word so that we will stop our arguing with Him and start enjoying His love. He really really loves us and He has a wonderful plan for each of our lives, but we won’t accept it from Him while we are arguing with Him and fighting with Him over all the things He allows to happen to us. 
     Jesus continues on to say that there is a cost to being His disciple, a cross to bear and that we must spend some time counting it so that when the troubles and trial come upon us we endure them patiently without complaint If we have counted the cost than we will have embraced the commitment to serve Him no matter what. Jesus does not try to gloss over the hardship we will have to endure but He does say that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. If we have put Jesus above all others in our lives than we will not fall away when disaster comes upon us.
     This leads me to what Jesus says about salt which is that if it loses its saltiness it is good for nothing. And what does this mean? It means that if we are walking with our eyes fixed on Jesus abstaining from the earthly lusts which were ours in our ignorance than Jesus is going to use us for His work, but if and when we take our eyes off of Him and look back again at past desires for the things of this earth we immediately lose the conviction and saltiness of Christ in our testimony and our lives become compromised with our old sinful pursuits. This happens on a minute by minute basis for when we become partial to the things of this world we lose our voice to speak against it. I deal with it all the time. The Devil continually tries to entice me back to my old sins and if even for a moment I begin to harbor those desires again in my heart The Fire of the Lord grows dim in my life. And trust me, the farther you come in your walk with Christ, the more God is making use of you to the people around you and in equal proportion the enemy is trying to make you fall back into sin so that he might also drag down all those who are looking to you for Godly support. To keep our lives pure from immorality and selfish ambition is to remain salty and to show partiality to these same areas is to lose our saltiness.
     So let us pursue Holiness and Righteousness with our whole heart and walk in the love and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ in Whom is found all that we will ever need both now and for eternity.     God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Heart That Is Grateful

Luke 14:16-24
A Heart That Is Grateful

     But Jesus said to him, “A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, Come for everything is ready now. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, I have bought a piece of land and I need to go and look at it; please consider me excused. And another one said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused. And another one said, I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come. And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame. And the slave said, Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. And the master said to the slave, Go out to the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For
I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.”
     I would like to talk about what it means to compel men into the banquet that our Lord has prepared, but first we must take some time to consider why there were empty seats at this banquet to begin with. Jesus says that there was a guest list for which the banquet was originally prepared, not strangers, but people who knew the gentleman who had prepared the dinner. Why did they decline to attend the banquet at the last minute when everything was finally ready for them? Let us examine their excuses. 1. I have bought land and want to go and look at it. This man’s life was caught up in the excitement of being the proud owner of a new piece of property and he was much to excited about going to see it that he couldn’t possibly make it to the banquet. 2. I have bought five yoke of oxen and am going to try them out. This man has just invested a lot of money in his business venture and is anxious to get to work and make some money. Buying five teams of oxen would have been very expensive, but they would be capable of covering many acres at a time, thus able to earn more money. This man refused because he was more excited about his business plans than he was about the banquet. 3. I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come. Oh how love makes one blind! He was to busy with his new marriage and establishing his new home to possibly have time to attend the banquet to which his neighbor had gone to so much trouble over.
     These three examples have a couple of things in common. First and foremost is a lack of gratefulness for the one who had gone to such great lengths to prepare the feast. The second was being so caught up in there own pursuits that they would not let go of them in order to attend. How many times does Jesus ask us to stop what we are doing and spend time with Him and instead we find ourselves to busy with our work, our pleasure, or something just coming up. How many of us consider that in Isaiah 58:13-14 God tells us to turn our foot from doing our own pleasure on the Sabbath and to spend time with Him calling the day our delight, the Holy day of the Lord and that He will bless us mightily for doing so. And that Keeping the Sabbath Holy is one of the Ten Commandments. How many things do we do on the Sabbath that are not spending time with Him. How many things do we do on that day that are for our own pleasure or earthly gain? The Devil works overtime to keep us from truly honoring God’s Holy day. He makes all the sporting events to be on that day. He makes it the day to wash the car. He makes it the day to catch up on our sleep or our cleaning. He does everything but let our hearts be truly focused on God in a serious way. However, in Deuteronomy God promises that if the people will truly honor His Holy day than He Himself will make sure that their children love Him and grow up partaking of His righteous blessings.
     Why don’t we give our whole heart to God especially on the Sabbath? It is because we have not understood and appreciated the banquet that even now our Heavenly Father is preparing for us. Jesus gives us a word of warning here, saying that just because we were originally on the guest list does not mean that we will taste of the dinner He has prepared. He wants Hearts that desire Him and Hearts that are grateful as we see further on. The ones that He says to compel into the dinner have no other pursuits. They are the blind and lame and crippled. Theirs is a grateful heart. God very often needs to shake us up and give us a lameness in our body just so that we will be able to attend the feast without the worldly pursuits being able to keep us from coming. God has to pry our hearts off of this world so that we might be saved. In His mercy He is willing to do this for us, for who can let go of the pursuits of this world without His help?
     So I want to encourage each of us today. Let go of the world. Hold on to Jesus. Love Him with your whole heart! Do not hold any of it back or reserve it for some other love. A good illustration is when the Philistines captured the Ark and brought it into the temple of their god and in the morning their god was on its face before the Ark. So they stood it back up and the next morning it was in pieces before the Ark. If you have brought God into your heart be prepared for your idols to fall before Him and if you put them back up be prepared for them to be smashed in pieces!
     We all try to include God with our other pursuits and they are continually being thwarted and broken. Put God first and let Him fill your temple with every good thing that He Himself will provide. It is God and God, there will be nothing else! I have tried to put my idols up many times and each time I do they are harder to put back together until I finally give up because of the futility of battling with what He has brought down.

     Our God is an Awesome God!  He is the Only Way, the Truth, and the Life! All He does is amazing! Let us give Him all of our heart and hold nothing back!     - God bless!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Faithful Steward

Luke 12: 40&42-43
The Faithful Steward

     40- “You too be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” 42&43- And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.”
     Do we need any stronger word to be spoken to us in regard to being prepared for Jesus’ coming? He is speaking directly at us. Which of us can think we are exempt from the words, “YOU TOO”? That means all of us. If Jesus says that it will be an hour that we do not expect then it will be an hour that we do not expect! 
     If we think of ourselves as guards on watch duty and every day from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening we are at the wall to watch for incoming armies it would be wonderful to think that they would only attempt to attack during those hours so that we could take the rest of the night off! But that is not how they operate! They seek for a time when we are not watching! But let us consider another scenario. You are on the night shift and you get tired of standing so you pull out a rocking chair, the air gets cold so you start a little camp fire, your eyes get tired from endlessly looking out into the dark at nothing so you pull out a book to read, you are technically on duty but you might as well not be because your completely lost in the comfort of your surroundings. In this state of comfort the enemy could walk right up to the gate and you would not even know it in spite of being on the wall. I say all of these things to warn us as Christians that if we call ourselves Christians it means that we have chosen the duty of being soldiers for Christ but if we have surrounded ourselves with every worldly comfort and pastime then Jesus will come upon us while we are unaware even though we could technically say that we were on the wall waiting for Him. In Luke 13: 24 Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” That narrow door means to take our call of salvation seriously and not treat it as though we were already in heaven! We are on earth and have a responsibility that needs to be carried out. If the soldier on the wall falls asleep and does not warn of the approaching army then it is his fault that the fort has been defeated by the enemy! He has let his comrades down and has to live with many regrets, if he survives the attack.
     So Jesus says, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” That is us! We are all stewards for each of us has a Bible and if you have a Bible you are responsible for sharing It’s words with others. That Bible that sat on the shelf for the last 40 years in our room will convict us into the dust when we stand before Jesus empty handed and try to tell Him that we didn’t seem to have any talents to work with. To have a Bible is to have no excuse before God. We had His word, why did we not treat it like the air we breathe? Why did we not crave its truths and love its testimonies of those who were faithful to follow Him? Why did we not seek the wisdom found in it for every aspect of our lives? One preacher I read about would not preach on any book of the Bible until he had read it through 50 times! In China they get a Bible and take the pages out and pass them around to each other taking turns until they have memorized what they have that they might not forget the words of God. We take the Bible for granted over here! Oh! Let us love and cherish God’s word and eat it like food! Let us not run from our accountability to It’s words, but love the accountability as we love our own lives!
     Jesus says to feed our brothers as faithful stewards of His word. How do we do this? Consider the illustration of an apple tree. It feeds off of minerals in the soil that are inedible to us and yet vital for our existence and produces a fruit which we can eat, made up of those minerals! God designed it so beautifully that rather then make us eat pieces of rust to get the iron our bodies need He gave us an apple! The inedible made edible! So we must eat the word of God daily that we might produce fruit in our lives that others can eat. - If we write we can write edifying things, -if we play the guitar we can write worship songs, -if we like to clean we can seek out people who need help in their homes and share an uplifting verse with them. If we turn off our worldly entertainment and feed our minds on the riches of God’s word our lives will not be able stop the fruit that will come pouring forth from them and giving life to all who come into contact with us!
     May God fill us with a fresh desire to read His word and to live by His commandments? Let us be found at His return having been faithful with the stewardship that He has left us to do.              God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Be Ready To Open The Door For Jesus

Luke 12:35-38
Be Ready To Open The Door For Jesus

     “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come and wait upon them. “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.” - Jesus

          - What does it mean to be dressed in readiness?
          - What does it mean to keep your lamps alight?

     To be dressed in readiness requires us to be wearing our servant’s uniform which means that we are not to be dressed in our pajamas! It means that when Jesus arrives we don’t want to be in the middle of some sinful desire or a pursuit of an earthly ambition. We want to be found doing His housework, His chores, His duties, all the things He left on the list before He went away, and even more than this He will be returning from a great celebration and we should be desiring to do something extra special as a surprise for Him! To be dressed means that our thoughts are continually on maintaining His house.
     -Evangelizing, -Training our brothers, -Living by example, - Spurring one another on to greater works for God. These things should cause us to be dressed for action 24 hours a day. We are to always be on duty. 
     To keep our lamps alight means to be spending time with God. When we sit at God’s feet He renews the oil in our lamps. Every time we sit in God’s presence He is actually transforming us and renewing us like water to a tree. Sometimes it can take half an hour of just sitting still before Him, just to clear our minds from the panic and stress of the day. But after that half hour His peace fills us to overflowing and we are filled with His oil. Verse 32 is a wonderful word to dwell on as we pray for His peace. “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” –Jesus   These are wonderful and gracious words from our dear Savior who knew how much we were going to need them. I just love Him more everyday for His thoughtfulness in leaving me with words like these. Jesus we love you so much!
     I just want to finish with what Jesus says in verse 40. “You too be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” When Jesus says that it could be the second or third watch it means that it will be quite late and will be hard for us to remain alert. And let us take warning from the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 for it says that there will be a great shout or wake-up call and it will be to late for those who have no oil to be able to get any! At the shout it is already too late. The Bridegroom arrives and the five without oil are still seeking it when He comes and takes those who are ready. The oil is found by putting aside everything that seems important in this world so that we might spend time with God, and like that parable tells us, the five who had oil could not give theirs to the ones who didn’t have any, just as I cannot give any of you the time I spend with God, I can only direct you to seek Him earnestly. My time with God only fills my lamp! It is impossible to fill your lamps with my oil. And oil cannot be had casually from God, it takes spending a lot of time with Him. If you wait for the shout you have waited too long to seek Him earnestly! There is not enough time at that point and you will be left outside the gate. He says that at the shout all will wake up, some will be ready and some will not. I earnestly entreat each of you; do not wait for the shout before you start seeking Him with your whole heart!
     Now is the time to take our salvation seriously and to keep each other alert. May God bless each of us with an awakening before it is too late!