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    Matthew 10:16-25 -- This sounds so like the culture we are living in today. People turning against friends and even family. One court case after another, all in an attempt to slander or de-legitimize ones views or values. Persecution the likes of which we only hear small pieces of. Christ's teachings and the doctrine that the church was to be built on; tossed aside like a filthy rage. Is this what Jesus meant when He said (vs 22) “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." I believe so church. Never has hatred for Christianity been more in our faces. I saw a news report where a pastor was shot for trying to help someone who's home was on fire. This type of thing is happening not halfway around the world; it's here in the United States. Church congregations being brutally attacked; simply for holding a worship service. Where the law has no jurisdiction -- the only law is what I want and how I want it. Sounds like something out of an old western movie doesn't it -- but it's here and it's now. So what's the answer? Keep Going!!!! Jesus says in verse 23; "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes." We are called to continue to carry the GOSPEL; we are called to not give up hope; we are called to suffer. Why? Because we are disciples of Christ and "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master." (vs 24) Christ suffered for us and we are called to suffer for the message of Christ. If they called Jesus (satan) how much more will they do to us that follow Him? So while yes, this passage was written to the early church, it is also written for us -- the church today. It's here, in your city, in your backyard -- it's here and it's going to get worse. The question is; How will you respond? I think verses 19 and 20 say it best; “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speaks, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." May to be so with you and I. God Bless you my friends
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      Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:3-11 -- Have you ever noticed that the last words someone says to you are the ones you really remember? Perhaps that's exactly how God wired us. Three different accounts of Jesus' last words or actions towards His original followers and us. But honestly aren't these the same words that He spoke to them for 3 years. That now they were the ones that would carry the message; that in His leaving, God the Father would send the Spirit. That we to be His witnesses where ever we travel. The original disciples got something out of this that I think we often miss. "Authority" We go with His authority, we go because He goes before us, we go because He's got our backs. But do we? You see for many of us; we don't go because we don't want to go alone or feel like we're alone. We don't go because we want people to accept us or include us. We don't go because; well, I'm really busy right now. We don't go because of a global pandemic or a politically divided climate. We just don't go. Notice with me that not once are we given an excuse for not going. Not once are we told, just wait until this or that blows over and then go. Friends, please understand this is not me pointing fingers at anyone but myself. You know as a pastor I have stood by too many beds watching and waiting for someone to pass. I often think to myself, knowing they are more in heaven than they are on earth, what is it that they are experiencing right now? Is it the beauty and provision of eternity prepared by Jesus? I don't know; but verse 11 of Acts 1 reminds me that even while I stand and watch them go; I too am called to go. Go and declare the GOOD news of Jesus. Last words; not of One who is dying but from One who is alive forevermore. The very thing that all of us, who have trusted in Jesus, will experience. Life eternal. These are the only last words any of us really need; because they are the best words ever. Go!!! Because one day He will return to judge those who went and those that just waited for things to easier, or less chaotic, or less hostile. Go!!!
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        Luke 24:1-35 - Reading these two account of Jesus after the resurrection are very interesting to me. Because this is me; and perhaps you. How many times to you know the promises of God? Do we hear and read the words of Jesus? Yet, still when things haven't or aren't going as we would like; all of them go out the window. We had hoped He would; we had thought maybe; we thought the outcome might be this or that. Forgetting that He will fulfill every single promise He has made. He tells us that He'll never leave or forsake us -- and we are like where are you? He says; He will supply our needs and we think that our world is falling apart because we don't have. I guess what it all boils down to is; how secure are we truly in Him? We know we are not to desire the things of the world but do we? Come on; even a little bit? To trust in God, through His Son Jesus; is to trust completely. Not just when things are good; not just when the sun is shining; not just when it's all going according to our plan. But to trust when it's all going according to His. To trust that He's with us and He's got it. Friends, that's where to goodness of God is found; in the trust. The very reason Jesus comes to them in John 20:1-31 and gives them peace. This is a peace that the world, especially today, knows nothing about. To rest in the fact that He is God and to receive Him as Lord. Is He Lord of your life? I think if your honest; like me, not always. Just this morning having a discussion about God's goodness -- back in the garden with the whole tree of the knowledge of good and evil thing. God never wanted to withhold good; for He is good. He never wanted us to know evil. For it is evil that causes us to strive for more; to think His promises aren't true or that He has forsaken us. Evil tells us that He has left us to make due on our own. But when we steer from that type of thinking, away from evil, it is then that we see the truth. This is the truth that sets our hearts to burn. The truth that was told to the two men traveling to Emmaus. The truth that God is good, that His plan is sure and that He is with us. Can you believe and trust in that? This is an important question for us. You see, all of us will one day stand before Him and see the nail scared hands and wound of His side. But friends, if your looking for that, like Thomas, in order to believe -- well, when that day comes for you and I; it may be too late at that point. Think about it -- please!!! May God Bless
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          Matthew 27:32-66 - Everything He had taught about, everything that He claimed to be, everything that the people had hoped for was on display that day on the cross. Of course they didn't see it that way; after all their eyes were fixed on a coming conquering king, not a dying servant. What do you look for in Jesus? Do you look to Him to be the one to fix it all? Do you look to Him to make life easy? To squash those that oppose you? You know I lived a lot of my life looking for something and blaming God when it wasn't there. How about you? You know friends, the true definition of leader; is SERVANT. Serving and being a servant is what brings joy. Hebrews 12:2; "For the joy set before him He endured the cross". You see the joy of a true servant is not power; the joy of a true servant is not control; the joy of a true servant is not acclaim; the joy of a true servant is not in comfort or ease; and, of course, the joy of a true servant is not in position. What gives a servant joy, in being a servant, is 'SERVICE'. But you see; service is unnatural for us. We love to be known as servants but we don't always love to serve. Jesus was a servant, for He loved to serve those for whom He came into this world for. Matthew 20:28; "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." To give one's life away is the highest form of servant leadership. Exactly what Jesus was doing on that cross -- fulfilling everything He said, everything He was, everything we hoped He would be. But is that what you really want from Him? Friends, the best thing that has ever happened to us, is Jesus going to the cross. Without the cross there would be no grave; without the grave there would be no resurrection, without the resurrection; you and I would never have the opportunity to experience -- not what we want, but exactly what we need. True LIFE!!!! Life given to us by a dying KING. Life given so that we could give our lives also. If you're holding onto what this world offers you by serving (praise and prestige) then friend you are not a servant; you are a scam. I know that sounds harsh, but the life of servant is self sacrifice. Jesus said; “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." ~ Matthew 16:24. That's your cross; die to yourself and follow Him. Again not what we really want but exactly what the world needs us to be. Like Jesus, we will not always fit the image that the world wants us to fit; but through our service we will fit uniquely into the image of our Savior. God bless you today my friends as you seek to lay down your life for Him.
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            Mark 14:53 - 15:15 -- The world and/or Pharisees of this world will question us about Jesus. There will be false claims, there will be ridicule. Like Jesus, do we owe them an answer for their accusations? I don't think so. I think that the only answer we need to give the world is when they ask; "Do you believe He is the Son of God?" "Yes!!!" Because one day friends, we will see; the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God and we will see Him coming back for us, His bride. We owe the world no answer past that we believe. Why? Because those that are blinded by the world, or live in the world -- will not listen. This is not to say that debate cannot be healthy; if it is based on facts -- but look around, the world is not run by fact -- it's run by fear and creed -- the hunger for power. This is the way of the Pharisees. Governing by fear and when threatened -- bring false claims. Friends, when the world's view of Jesus and you, as His follower, starts to direct or sway your thoughts; then like Peter you run the risk of denying Him. You run the risk of being persuaded by their false claims. Peter, the one that earlier said, 'even though others may fall away; I will never desert you' -- became fearful of the world's claims and denied the Savior. Where have you allowed the world's voice to sway your standing for Christ? I do wonder how many of us, push come to shove, would yell "crucify" -- even though we have felt His love, even though we have witnessed His work in our lives and the lives of others, even though we have professed to believe -- would we throw that all away simply because the pressure of the world and its accusations seems too great? This is something we all need to decide in our hearts - today; because there is coming a day, when that will be the choice we will have to make. Is He the King of your heart? Is He the Lord of your life? Stand for Jesus or stand with the world -- are the only two choices we have. There is no fence straddling in this. The only answer we need to give and hopefully will give is: "I believe". No matter what may happen to me, "I believe in Jesus". God bless you as you seek to follow Him closer today.
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              Matthew 26:17-56 - Here we confront a scene that is very familiar to us as believers -- one that most refer to as the "last supper". In brings to mind images of everyone on the same side of the table, John, the one Jesus loved, leaning on Jesus' shoulder, while the others are leaning in to hear His words. It also brings the image of Judas, near the end of the table, looking away from Jesus. Friends, this is not the case. Judas would have been right next to Jesus - vs 23; "He who dips his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray me". If Judas is at the end of the table or away from Jesus this is a physical impossibility. No Judas was right there; an image within itself of God's continued grace. The God of second chances. This scene should also bring questions to our minds concerning ourselves. Are we walking close to Jesus physically; yet distanced spiritually? And also; do we even know that's what we're doing? In verse 25, Judas says; "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" Church by our own words we speak our betrayal of our Savior. Wasn't this what Peter did also in verss 33 -- "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall." No Peter you will and so will all of us at one point or another. But here's the difference -- do we return to Him and ask for forgiveness, as Peter did or do we allow the guilt and shame of what we've done destroy us, as it did Judas? May we always chose the former. In the garden all deserted Him, but even this, in a hidden way, was as it should be; for none but Christ could pay the price for our sins. He alone would have to drink the cup of our damnation and He alone would have to willingly lay His life on that cross. You and I might die for Christ and we might be called a martyr, but Christ alone had to die so that we could be called the redeemed. I guess the questions for us is these: Where are we spiritually positioned to Jesus? Do we proclaim to be close; while all-the-while our hearts are ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble or ridicule? Maybe today we all need to do a heart check-up. May God bless you always.
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                Luke 21:5-38 - Jesus speaking to His early followers and us about end times. While this can strike fear in the hearts of many; I think the key verses within this passage are verses 13-15: "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute." That even in the midst of the chaos and confusion of the end; Jesus calls us to continue to be bold in our witness for Him. Yes, we will be betrayed. Yes, we will be ridiculed. Yes, we will be hated. But even then (verse 18) "Yet not a hair of your head will perish". Friends, while we do not the time or day of His return; I would encourage you to look around. These things are happening more so now than ever before; especially brother and family turned against one another. No, we do not know; but I do know that we are closer today than we were yesterday and we will be yet closer tomorrow. I believe today is the day that we need to; "make up our minds" -- do we follow Christ or do we follow the world? I would like also to make a small observation. Verse 20: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near." I believe this really became a prevailing thing when Israel became a nation in 1948. Jesus then says in verse 32; “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place." Speaking of course about His second coming. What is a generation? Some say 80 yrs, some say 120 yrs -- my point is this; if 1948 is key then we are very close to that day. Think about it and make up your mind. "Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” God bless you as you seek God's wisdom in this.
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                  Matthew 21:1-27 -- Jesus coming to Jerusalem is greeted as a victorious king but things will change quickly. Isn't that just like us? When things are going well and life is working out the way we think it should or the way we want it to; we lift our praises -- our Hosannas. But then when the invitation for God to come in starts to turn because He's cleaning our houses -- pointing out our sinful habits and/or making corrections to our attitudes; "Hey, hold on there a minute Jesus!!!" "I'm not that bad of a person." "I'm not like those people." Then we begin to rebel and push Him away. I think the thing we need to understand about this passage is; Jesus was welcomed, invited to come if you will, to be their king, to be their conqueror. He didn't need the invitation; the physical temple was His -- the dwelling place of the Living God. Likewise, we are His -- He doesn't need an invitation to come -- He desires one. He wants us to realize that He knows best and that if we will allow Him to rearrange the spiritual furniture in our lives; then we will experience the spools of war brought to our lives by a conquering king. Allowing Jesus to do what is necessary, in our lives, is the only way we will ever produce the fruit that ultimately each of us wants. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. (Gal 5:22-23). Otherwise we will be like the fig tree, barren and ultimately; if we never invite Him to come, completely cut-off. It will at times be a painful process to give Jesus full control. You might lose friends, you might financial gain, you might even lose sleep, but in the end the question is; who has the authority for your life. Heaven or Men? God or the world? I pray that you choose that which is best.
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                    Matthew 19:13-30 -- What have you been willing to push through? What have you been willing to do? What have you been willing to endure? What is having is worth doing. Three different instances of people wanting something from Jesus. Parents wanting blessing for children. Rich young ruler wanting eternal life. Disciples wanting reward. Each facing obstacles that Jesus says are worth pressing through to receive the thing we seek. A closer walk and relationship with God. Or as the old hymn says; "Just a closer walk with Thee - Grant it, Jesus, is my plea - Daily walking close to Thee - Let it be, dear Lord, let it be". In these three different accounts, ultimately what is desired is not anything this world offers. Not for fame or fortune or prestige. It is to be closer to Him. How about you? Is that what you want? We can, at times, become so blinded by the sparkle of the world that we lose sight of what truly matters. The things not of this world. So again, what are you willing to endure, push through, or do -- to have that? It will not always be easy, but it will be worth it. Many will give up and walk away sad, as the young ruler did, because they don't see a benefit in giving up the temporal things of this life. I pray that each of us hold out to hear the words; "Well done my good and faithful servant". May God bless you as you seek to have that close walk with Him.
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                      John 11:1-44 -- I love this story of Lazarus' resurrection. The reason is that it shows how grief and heartache many times takes our focus off of Jesus. We think why has this happened? Where was God? Why didn't He do something? Again this is us trying to put God in a box -- perhaps even trying to impose our will over His. We are told that in Ephesians 3:20, that God can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask, think or imagine. That's what happened with Lazarus. Martha questioned why Jesus didn't come. Mary questioned why He didn't come. Even those there to mourn questioned. But Jesus sowed up and He showed of by exceeding everyone's expectations. What are you expecting? Think bigger, for God is more than capable to far more according to His will. God still does miracles; we just need to live or even die expecting them