How will I know when it is you?

The definition of follow is to accept the guidance, command, or leadership of. The definition of believe  is to accept (something) as true.

Jesus called us to follow Him. If we are followers of Jesus, He is our leader.

John 10:3, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The sheep can only follow their Master if they know how to listen to His voice. In listening to His voice and following His direction the sheep are protected. It is no different for us. What has to happen in our lives though is we must learn to listen to His voice. It’s not just about believing that He exists and He is our Savior. It goes far beyond a simple belief.

I heard a sermon once about discerning the voice of God. The minister gave the example of a young man, appointed to Special Forces in the US Army and stationed in Antarctica. He was given a radio, a guide-book, and survival supplies. His Commander warned him, “You will hear instructions from many sources, some of which will be enemy sources and you will hear instructions from me.”

The soldier asked with concern, “How will I know when it is you?”

The Commander gave him three ways to know the instructions were from him.

1. Every message you are given, check it against the procedures given to you in the guide-book. If the instructions do not line up with the policy, the voice is not mine.

2. Learn to recognize my voice. At first, I will not give you anything too difficult because I need you to know who is speaking to you. Train yourself to identify what I sound like and the things I should tell you to do.

3. As you familiarize yourself to the guide-book and hear my voice repeatedly, you will begin to understand where our mission is going. Even when enemy forces are around you, you will be able to decipher mine.

Good advice for you and me as well. Spend time reading God’s Word today. Talk with Him in prayer. Start today to learn to listen to your Master.


Servants

John 13:8-9, “‘No,” said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'”

It was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Satan had already prompted Judas to betray Him. Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to an end; yet, He must have felt there was so much more to teach them. Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and knelt at the foot of each disciple. Lovingly, He washed their feet and dried them with the towel that was wrapped around His waist.

Understandably, Peter protested. Can you imagine if Jesus knelt at your feet and washed them? But, Jesus insisted and demonstrated to the disciples in a very genuine, heartfelt manner the act of humility.

I often wonder why one of the disciples didn’t wash Jesus’ feet in return. Did any of them offer to help Him wash the dirty feet of the 11 disciples? “I’ll take these 5, Master!” There is no indication that they did. It reads as if they watched Him wash 22 feet and dry them. Feet covered in all that could possibly be stepped in on the streets – from dirt to animal wastes.

In the church I am privileged to serve, during Holy Week, our artistic team reenacted the Crucifixion of Christ. Our church sits on land next to a busy highway. Several men from our church hung on three crosses depicting Christ and the two thieves. The image was overwhelming at times. It was no easy task for them either as they stood on tiny blocks of wood and held onto handles on each side. In the rain and cold, our team worked to honor Christ in this illustration of His sacrifice for us.

As I watched the Crucifixion unfold, I noticed the people behind the scenes – the ones who silently worked; putting on the make-up; preparing the grounds; and making sure the day was Holy for our Lord. I thought of Christ. I thought of Him in the Upper Room, washing the feet of the disciples, teaching them what it meant to be a servant.

Cars stopped to watch. Some people knelt and prayed. Some people watched from the parking lot. There were those who wept and some who took pictures. Words were not spoken. Most people were lost in thought.

Jesus came to teach us to serve. It isn’t a lesson any of us can learn overnight. Being a servant of others isn’t easy. As I watched our artistic team in action, my heart was filled with Peter’s words, “…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” When we serve others, we cover them with the love of Christ, from the bottom of their feet to the top of their head. We show them what it is like to be loved by our God, and we demonstrate that love in a humble way.

 

 


Guard your steps

Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

The Hebrew word for guard is Sha-mar meaning to take great care of something. It means to pay close attention and to protect from intrusion. The word Sha-mar places the responsibility on self. It is our duty to guard and protect and defend.

In this scripture from Ecclesiastes, we are requested to watch ourselves carefully as we go to house of God to worship Him. Our worship must be about HIM and our minds must be fixed upon the things of God.

To honor God in worship, here are some steps you can follow to help you guard yourself:

1. Prepare for worship. Have a good mental attitude. Go before the Lord with a humble and expectant heart. Look forward to going to church or reading your Bible in the morning or meeting with God in prayer. It isn’t a chore but a privilege.

2. Prepare yourself to adore Him. Open your heart and spirit to emotionally connect with Him. It isn’t a ritual; it is an action of openness prompted by one’s self in loving expression to our Father.

3. Be prepared to concentrate. Turn off your cell-phone. Stop making mental lists of what you have to do. Stop planning and find a place in your head to focus on God, and only God.

The scripture tells us to “go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”

4. Approach your time of worship prepared to hear from God either through music or sermon or the Word of God. Don’t be foolish and run your mouth endlessly. One of the reasons people have a difficult time hearing from God is not because God isn’t talking, they aren’t listening!

5. Listen to God and then respond. It is so difficult to speak to someone who you know isn’t listening to you but calculating a verbal response in his or her head. When God speaks to you, listen to what He is saying.

Worship is a time to glorify God; to connect with Him; to hear His Word; and to rejoice in Him and praise His Name. Think about how you worship God. Make changes if necessary. Enjoy being in His presence for He adores hearing from you.


Words

Matthew 12:35-37, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

In this scripture, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees; even though they can quote scriptures, their hearts are not good. God is more interested in our core being, our inner self, and our hearts than in our memorizing scriptures. In these verses, Jesus is pointing out the importance of our words. Words matter to God. Words are significant to Him because words reveal our heart. There are other scriptures which point out the importance of what we speak.

Ephesians 5:3-4, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”

Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

NEVER underestimate the power of words. Words can cause you to ruin your marriage; separate you from your children; lose your job; break up your friendship; and cost you your reputation. Winston Churchill said of words, “By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.”

Your words can also be a source of good. They can encourage someone who needs to hear a kind word. Words can offer hope, strength, compassion, and love. Words can change a person’s life and impact God’s Kingdom.

How do you use your words? Consider carefully what you say for Christ tells us we will be judged by the words.


The right thing

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are times, more than I’d like to admit, that I really don’t want to do the right thing; mainly, because I don’t feel like doing it. Some days, I would rather stay in bed instead of getting up to read my Bible and have prayer time with God. Sometimes, I would rather respond in anger to someone who is out-of-place or rude instead of responding in a calm and appropriate manner; actually,  I’d really like to bop them in the nose! At times, I would rather not stop and pick up a head of cabbage on my way home from work as Connie has requested of me. Often, I’d prefer to watch television instead of mowing the grass; would rather eat lemon cookies than raw carrots; and would rather not listen to complaints about my sermons and just go to lunch. But, bottom line, the way to victory requires discipline and has nothing to do with our feelings. God requires us to do what is right in all situations, not just when we “feel” like it.

God has given us the freedom to choose the right way or the wrong way; but He expects us to choose the right way. To enter the narrow gate, we have to actively pursue God’s Word and live by it obediently. There are days when I don’t feel like living obediently; however, I’ve learned from experience and the school of hard knocks, that it is faith not feelings that leads to eternal life.

Today, choose to do the right thing. Choose God’s way. Be one of the few that finds the small gate leading to the road of eternal life.


At times, we are the one

Luke 15:3-7, “Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

If you are a Star Trek fan like me,  you will remember Spock’s infamous words to Captain Kirk when he sacrificed himself to save their spaceship The Enterprise,  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.” Spock rescued the space ship from imminent destruction but as a result, lost his life.

Henry Spencer and Charles Darwin suggested that the fittest humans will rise to the top through natural selection. The weaker human beings would not prevail. Evolutionist push the idea that only the dominant survive.

But Jesus, He was all about the one.

At times in our lives, we are the one sheep, separated from the group, alone, hurt, grieving, confused, and abandoned. And He comes after us. It seems a bit strange to imagine that God is more concerned with one sinner than over ninety-nine people who do not need to repent. The more sensible route would be to let the one go and focus on the 99. That is probably what you and I would do. But our God is a relentless Savior. That’s what sets Him apart from the gods man has manufactured or the demons of this world. Have you ever asked yourself, why He saves?

Simply, it brings Him joy. He rejoices in our return to Him for His love for us is deeper than we can comprehend.

Psalm 139:7-12, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed  in the depths,  you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

So, are you the one? Are you lost and alone? Be assured, Jesus is working to bring you back to His flock. There is nowhere you can hide from His presence. There is nowhere you can go that He will not seek you out. There is nothing you can do to keep Him from finding you.


Yes, you hurt me

Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

What interests me the most about the Apostle Paul’s comments is his contrasts of emotions. He is suggesting that we get rid of destructive behaviors such as bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander and replace them with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Easier said than done, isn’t it?

I saw a quote recently. “Forgiveness is admitting we are like other people.” The phrase stuck in my head for several days until I could rationalize what it meant to me. Interestingly, we see others for what they are. We see ourselves for what we are striving to become. When others make mistakes, we measure them by the mistake they made. When we make mistakes, we reconcile the action with our circumstances and strive never to do it again. We find the potential in ourselves and disregard the potential in others.

Forgiveness comes when we see ourselves in others.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

Christ came to us in human form to experience our struggles, our temptations, our grief, our mistakes. He came so that He could connect to us in a way no one else ever could. And because of His willingness to do so, He paid the price for our sin – IN FULL – accepting the pain and suffering for us. It is difficult to relate His action with ours but I see it in this way, when someone apologizes to us for hurting us, we tend to respond, “It’s ok. No worries.” In actuality, we’ve probably told 3 people what they did to us. We don’t really want to be around that person and while we think we’ve forgiven them, we really haven’t.

Forgiveness comes when we say, “Yes. You hurt me deeply. But I am willing to pay the price and love you. I’m willing to accept the pain and the betrayal and continue our relationship.” That is what Paul meant when he wrote those words in Corinthians.

But how do we truly know we have forgiven? 3 Ways to be assured you have forgiven a wrong doing.

1. The act does not consume your thoughts any longer. When we are betrayed, we tend to play it over and over in our minds. We talk about it and refer to it on a regular basis. Sometimes it becomes who we are. It is how we relate. When we forgive, we are able to put the action aside.

2. It doesn’t hurt anymore. While forgetting would be a great thing, most of us don’t have the ability to erase our past; but, when we forgive, we remember the action, but it doesn’t have power over us anymore.

3. We can love the offender. The toughest part of forgiveness is willingly showing our love for the one who hurt us. We do not react differently in their presence. We display genuine acceptance when they are around.

Today, realize there is someone in your life you need to forgive. Start on the path to turning “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander” into the kindness and compassion of God


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