Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Encouragement In Bearing Fruit

John 15:16-17
Encouragement In Bearing Fruit

     “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.” -Jesus

     I really want to encourage everyone this week that God will bless every action and every prayer that you make on behalf of your family, your neighbor, or your friend. He will bless your efforts to draw them into the Kingdom of God. Jesus says that He has appointed us to bear fruit and that the fruit will remain. He is encouraging us to earnestly ask for their salvation and to step out in faith that He will answer. Every little seed of truth that you sow into their lives will come up and bear fruit. I know that we all get discouraged when after years of praying for someone we don’t see any changes in their life. We have an enemy that wants you to give up in your prayers for that person and he will do anything he can to discourage you from praying with your whole heart, for he knows that God will answer if you persist.
     This is a great word of encouragement for those of us who have been asking the Lord for years on behalf of others and going out of our way to draw them into God’s kingdom. It seems like we can go forever and still see no good coming from it. But let us look at the example that Jesus has left us with. When He hung on the cross all of His disciples had deserted Him and the Jews whom He had tenderly cared for and ministered to were crucifying Him. There was no earthly hope of seeing any good fruit from all of His work. He was staring at a total loss even of His own body and yet, the day He died, all of the seeds He had planted started to come to life! His church grows bigger by the day and there will be no end to the fruit for which He has labored. So for us – we need to take courage from this example He has left us with, and not despair or let go of our prayers for people or stop going out of our way to draw them to God even when we see no fruit. Jesus has promised that there will be fruit!
     So let us step out and start thinking of what kind of seeds we can be planting. There are seeds of action like visiting neighbors or nursing homes or going out into our local communities and helping out. We could be writing letters to friends and family in which we share the love of God with them. We can hand out tracts or join a group that is spreading the Gospel in our communities. I just want to encourage you that anything you can come up with to do for someone, will grow and bear fruit. So let us seek God earnestly today that He will give us new ideas for what we can be doing to spread His kingdom so that we will have fruit for our labors at the end of this age and that the fruit will remain for all of eternity.           God bless you all!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Joy Of Christ

John 15: 9-11
The Joy Of Christ

     “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”- Jesus

     The question for today is, why does Jesus say that we are to keep His commandments in order to abide in His love? What is the love He is talking about? Jesus gives us a point of reference when He says, “I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” This love that Jesus is telling us to abide in is our source for being alive. It is the kind of life, bubbling up inside, that causes us to be excited to be alive. Jesus says that if we keep His commandments our joy is going to be made full. He equates keeping His commandments with abiding in His love.
     We have a funny teaching in our churches called – “God knows we will never be perfect in this life.” Yes it is true that we stumble and sin all the time but it is not an excuse to not commit ourselves to trying. Jesus says to resist the Devil’s temptations and he will flee from us. All besetting sins are temptations and within our power to resist by God’s help. God doesn’t want us to use the excuse that we will never be perfect. He is pleased with us when we resist, and the harder it is to resist the more pleased He is when we overcome it. It delights His heart to see the faithfulness of His child to persevere under such challenges. 
     When we resist the temptation to break the commandments there is a purity that comes into our lives, and with each passing day that we hold fast, our lives start to get more exciting. Think of an alcoholic. Everyday that he doesn’t drink he is able to think and work and get his life back together. Everyday builds on the last and his life becomes exciting. But if he is constantly falling back into drinking he is always starting from square one with nothing to build on. So our lives become more exciting the more we build them on keeping the commandments. God has built a great reward into each of His commandments if we keep them, an eternal reward with promises like He gave to Abraham that will last forever. We serve a God Who has great wisdom which He desires to pass on to us, but it is a wisdom that can only build off of obedience. I used to pray for wisdom all the time (I still do) and God would teach me many things, but His wisdom always affected my life, causing me to have to change the way I lived and I used to think – wisdom is only as good as it is made use of. If God teaches you something and you don’t use it, it does you no good and He is not going to give you more until you use what He has given you already. Keeping the commandments is the foundation stone to all wisdom. If we keep them our joy will be made full because we won’t always be starting from square one but will be building on those principles that bring peace and order in our lives so that we can learn new things.
     There is no fun in learning the same lessons over and over again and as we keep the commandments we will abide closer with Jesus, ever growing in His character and love. The Ten Commandments are like sight to the blind, they give understanding as to why our lives keep falling into trouble and they show us the path we should walk on in order to keep from doing it again. The commandments were given for our blessing, so let us meditate upon them and live in the fullness of joy that Jesus has promised for all those who would walk in them.         God bless!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Number Your Days

Psalm 90:12
Number Your Days
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Today, take a moment to examine your life. Where are you going? What are your goals? What is the end result of the life you are trying to build for yourself? Are you happy? Have you ever been happy? Do you think the next thing you are seeking is going to make you happy? These are very good questions to ask ourselves and in doing so we will begin to draw conclusions about things that we have rarely stopped to think seriously about and learn from.
The word in this Psalm is asking these questions. He says, teach me to know and understand that my time might be very short and how am I spending it? It also may be long, and how am I spending it? It may be long?? Why would that help me think? I thought that life being short is the scary part because I might die before getting my life right with God or without accomplishing something good for Him? Yes, your life might be long. Why is this scary? It is scary because it means that every decision you make will have long consequences for you. So when you wake up after a party where in the moment you chose to do a reckless thing, you find that you can’t shake the consequences. Or if you had an abortion your life goes on and now you find out everything they don’t tell you at the clinic. Regret, guilt, the feeling of having actually committed murder intentionally. Did you know that most of the people in jail will never have the regret that you do or the intense guilt because their crimes were relatively harmless compared to yours. Most of them have actually never killed a person before and if they did, they usually have a motive against someone for something they did to them, but you have chosen to kill someone who never harmed you. These things will stay with you forever. So if you live for the moment as though life is short, you will find that life is long and every day that goes by feels like a lifetime.
We now realize that if we had known that life would go on we would never have done the things we did. We would have considered our days that we might have chosen more wisely. This despair and guilt is why so many people want to end their lives early. The consequences of their actions won’t leave them. They just go on and on. There are so many things we can do that have horrible consequences. These are just a couple, but I’m sure you can think of more. They make life miserable don’t they? 
Here is the miracle. Jesus has offered us a way out. He has offered to take the pain, guilt, despair and suicidal thoughts from us and to replace them with peace,  joy and rest for our weary heart. This is the miracle of salvation. He takes our destroyed lives and begins to rebuild them. He takes away the spirit of despair we are under and gives us a new joy and a reason to wake up in the morning. Those who have received Christ know exactly what I’m talking about. You wake up in the morning and your just actually glad to be alive! Nothing outward has changed. Your life is still full of the consequences of your actions but suddenly the weight is gone and your glad to get up! Maybe for the first time that you can ever remember! This is just the beginning! Jesus will give you a desire to live, and a joy to begin living for Him. He will reshape your life and turn the worst things you have done into something beautiful. He will take the humility of your heart as you give it to Him and grow something new and beautiful out of it. He will save you from your despair and give you a joy that you never knew was possible.

So for all of you who have never experienced this, take some time to consider and remember your days. Jesus can make you brand new today if you humbly come before Him right now and say, “Jesus, please take away my old life and all its horrible consequences, please forgive me and give me a new one that is full of Your joy and peace. I want this joy that I have just been reading about. Please make me a new person in Jesus.” If you take some time and do this, I guarantee your life will never be the same.

And for all who know Jesus, take some time to consider your days. Don’t waste time on things that only please the flesh. Consider how little time you have before Jesus returns and seek to do all you can for His sheep before He comes. Let us be found faithful when He come back, that He would be able to say to us, “Well done My good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Abiding In The Vine

John 15:1-4
Abiding In The Vine

     “I Am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (God) takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”- Jesus

     Jesus is showing us the emphasis that God has placed on bearing fruit and that it is the outward sign of where our hearts are. Anyone can call themselves a Christian but it is the fruit of our lives that will show whether we truly are. In fact, God says that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit will be removed which is even more thought provoking. For if a branch already was with Him but stopped abiding in Him it would cease to bear fruit and be removed. Certainly a word of warning to us not to take our daily walk with God for granted. Ezekiel 33:13 puts it even more clearly. “When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die.” This is where the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom as Solomon says.
     So what does it mean to abide in the vine and how do we do it? To abide in the vine is to take our time for seeking the Lord, seriously. It is to make time for Him everyday where we put aside everything in order to be with Him. What friendship have you ever had where spending time with that person no longer mattered? A true friend desires to spend time with you even when it is not possible because of time or distance. So also, our relationship with God does not grow without an effort to make time for Him. So why can it be so difficult to make time for God? It is because we have an enemy who tries to fill our time with pressing things, and other loves that will consume our time that we could use to spend with the Lord. We pursue a sport or a romance or our career as if these things are truly the only thing that will keep us alive or are worth living for. How can we tell if these things have become too important? Look at your reaction if they are taken away. We fall into despair – you got injured and your future in that sport is lost forever, the person of your dreams has left you, someone has seen your business idea, liked it, copied it, and is now undercutting your business. Just look at your response to these things. Anger, despair, getting even, anger at God for not stepping in, these reactions show what our hearts are in love with.  The only way to let go of them is to start spending time with God on a daily basis. As we spend time with Him He places His hand upon us and removes the despair and bitterness and frustration from our spirit and replaces it with His peace. He is able to do the impossible – which is to bring peace and contentment back into our lives. Our hearts let go and are free to take hold of Him and to enjoy His company. The more faithful we are to spend time with Him the more often we enjoy this peace and contentment and the more we look forward to being with Him. This is the beginning of true love for our Savior. Not just the first love of being saved by what He did for us, but a sustainable and ever-growing daily love relationship with Him. The more time we spend with Him the deeper it grows and we find it is not possible to get to the end of it! With the pleasures of this world you reach the maximum it can offer in literally moments, but with God you can never get to the end of it. With God’s love you will never find the end where you feel empty and have to find some new love.
     So let us start spending more time with Him and enjoy the everlasting blessing He has given us which is to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe! And let us bear much fruit which grows so naturally as we abide in Him. God bless you all!