STORMS

Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? —Matthew 8:26

Their family huddled in one room as the storm raged outside. The wind blasted against the house sounding like it would blow the door in. Rain pelted the windows and there was six inches of water flowing down the street. The young family prayed for the Lord’s protection and the storm passed.

Now imagine being in a boat with a storm raging around you. You are not protected and the wind is whipping across your face, the rain pelting your body and the waves are coming over the boat. It is a serious situation and you really believe this will be the end and everyone will down. Jesus is sleeping. Do you think He knows what is going on? Do you think He cares? Do you think there is purpose in this storm? They wake Him with their concerns of perishing (v.25). In a parallel passage they ask Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

What storms are we in or have been in where we were fearful? It may have been or is a health issue of your own or of a loved one. Maybe it was the loss of a job or an accident? Whatever the storm is or has been, are we or were we fearful? Are we asking the same question to Jesus— “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Don’t you care about me Jesus? Do we or have we asked that question?

Why is it that we trust him, knows he cares about us and thank Him often when this are going well and there is calm, but when a storm breaks out in our life we question? How come we do not trust Him as much in the storm as we did in the calm? Has He changed? He who feeds thousands, yea billions, does He not also control the clouds, wind and rain… the storms of life?
Oh, we of little faith? Do we really think Jesus is going to let us “drown?” Do we understand that Jesus cares about as the same in the storm as He does in the calm? The question is— Will I trust Him the same in the storm as I do in the calm? May it be so!

Dear Father, thank You for Your unchanging love and concern whatever the “weather” of life I may be in. I am grateful that You are always there and for Jesus’ promise that He would never leave me nor forsake me and that He will be with me until the end of the age. This is very comforting and encouraging. Thank You for always being there and always caring. I am grateful You do not change like a shifting shadow, but that You are the same yesterday, today and forever!

YOUR ARE GOD’S FRIEND OR ENEMY

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. —Luke 11:23

The big game had arrived and thousands were gathered. The home team crowd was seated on one side of the stadium while the opponents were on the other. As the game started and progressed you could easily identify which side was for which team and which was against the other. There were no middle grounders— no one was cheering for both teams. You were either for or against a team.

So it is with Jesus, there are no middle grounders, no fence sitters, no one that can like or be on both sides. We are told in James 4:4 that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Again, in First John 2:15 we are told to “not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

This verse above and others are very clear— there are only two sides. You are either with Jesus and gathering with Him or you are against Jesus and scattering from Him. Before I acknowledge that I was sinner, that I trespassed God’s law, and trusted the Lord Jesus’ finished work at the cross, I did not realized I was an enemy of God. Like many, I believed in God and heard some about Jesus, but I had not entered willfully into a relationship with Jesus. Here is what Romans 5: 10 says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” This verse tells me that I was an enemy of God. That is not a very good place to be! Again, James 4:4 also tells us that when I was a friend of the world (the world system headed up by Satan—the kingdom of darkness) I was an enemy of God. The wisdom of the flesh is an enemy of God (Romans 8:7) and an enemy to righteousness (Acts 13:10).

An enemy of God can be identified: “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10); “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”” (John 8:44-47).

You are either a friend of Jesus (John 15:4) or an enemy of God. Oh, it is my hope that you are a friend of God through the Lord Jesus Christ and are at peace with Him and no longer an enemy (Romans 5:1). The enemies of God are doomed forever! (Revelation 20:15).

Dear Father, I am so grateful that when I was Your enemy Jesus died for my sin and by trusting Him I became Your Friend. Thank you with all my heart!

BEARING FRUIT

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. -Matthew 7:15-16

You know plants, trees and people by the “fruit” they bear. You expect to get the “fruit” that tomato, pepper, radish… plants produce. So also you pick certain “fruits” from apple, orange, peach… trees. It is expected. It is true of people as well. The fruits of their life can be seen. A doctor, baker, seamstress… are known by the “fruits” of what they do. The “fruits” of a person’s character and personality is also seen as it is projected outwardly.

According to the verses above a false prophet can also be seen “by their fruit.” What is their own life like, what are they teaching and how is that impacting people? Do they truly love the Lord and really desire to be a servant of His? Are they teaching the Word of God and applying His Word first to their own life? Is their transformation taking place in their own life as they follow the Lord Jesus?

Yes, leaders can be known by their “fruit.” This can also apply to leaders outside the church. Those that appear to be speaking the truth, but are living contrary to that truth are people be beware of— whether in the church or outside the church, the body of Christ.

What type of “fruit” are you and I bearing? It truly shows who we are. May we bear “fruit” that honors the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, may this be so.

Dear Father, may I yield to the Holy Spirit and bear fruit that He produces. Oh, that I would be a faithful, fruitful follower for You in the authority of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit’s power.

YOUR HEART’S TREASURE

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money. —Matthew 6:19-21, 24

Down back of our house in the woods sits a car out of the 1950’s or I should say it once was a car. When we first moved here 28 years ago, the car still had some shape, not much, but you could still tell it was a car. Not today. Now it is just rusty pieces of metal on the ground. If you were not intentionally looking for it you would not even see it. Over the years the elements have done their job and rust ate the car away.

Everything on this planet is wearing down and is so temporary… except for the soul of man. The soul of man, the real person inside that shell of a body will exist in either heaven or hell forever. Since that is the case, where should we be putting our focus?

What do you and I treasure? The answer comes when we consider what our heart is fixed on. What is the focus of our life? Where do we spend our time and treasure, use our talent, apply the gifts and resources delegated to us as stewards of the Lord Jesus Christ? What/who do we really value?

Do we focus on serving the Lord wherever we are? Or, are we focused on what self wants? Anything that comes before the Lord is an idol according to Exodus 20:3. He needs to be the Master of our lives or someone or something else is. Oh, that we would focus on the eternal and not the temporal!

Dear Father, help me to focus on those things that will last forever— my relationship with You and people. May I seek to encourage people to know You, to love You and to live for You. May it be so!

SHINE!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:14-16

When you go out into the dark you can bring a flashlight to illuminate your way. The light dispels the darkness. Light overcomes the darkness and darkness can only exist in the absence of light. You have never heard of a flashdarkness to darken your way in the daytime. Just won’t happen. Darkness cannot exist when light is present.

According to the passage above, followers of Jesus are to “shine” in this dark world. When the light of believers does not exist, only spiritual darkness exists. Just take a look at countries where Christians are few or where the government seeks to limit the freedom of the followers of Jesus. Look at life in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea— all these are spiritually dark nations because of their intentional squelching of the Light of Jesus Christ. There is lack of freedom.

Now, take a look at the U.K. and the United States. These counties, and others in the West, were historically Christian Lighthouses in the world and there was freedom. The U.K.’s light is dimming quickly and the United States is headed down that same slippery slope toward darkness as well.

Praise the Lord God Almighty! He has his people all over this world and those who seek to extinguish the Light of the Gospel will never be able to do so. God’s plan will come to pass and puny man will not stay His Hand! Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in persecuted lands and thank God for them that they are able to shine in such dark places. Oh, that they hear the words from Jesus one day—“Well done, good and faithful servant.” May it be so!

For we who live in countries, like the U.S., where we have more freedom to share the gospel, at least at this time. May we be doing so in a great way! Freedom in America is waning and as we continue in the direction we are, we will end up being like other nations of the world seeking to stamp out the followers of Jesus.

The world can never take away the true freedom that believers have in Jesus. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (II Corinthians 3:17). Where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is bondage and destruction. After Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent 50 years working on the history of the Russian Revolution, reading hundreds of books, collecting hundreds of personal testimonies he said this— “But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened” (Templeton Address, 1983). The world can only be dark when the Light of Jesus is absent! Let us shine!

Dear Father, I am grateful to know that You will never leave we who love You and that You will never forsake us, but that You will be with us until the end of the age and then we will be in glory with You. Oh, may we shine in such a way that many others will come to know you as well. May it be so!

EQUAL!

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. —John 5:18

1=1, 2=2, 3=3… each is the same as the other. Those that are the same as the other are equal. Equal is to be: equivalent, identical, like, the same, one and the same.

The verse above is a statement about Jesus being equal to God. The Jewish people understood what He was saying and they wanted to kill him for saying it. By calling God His Father, they knew that Jesus was putting Himself on equal basis with God His Father.

This teaching is hard for us to grasp, but it is taught in the Word of God. There are those who say that Jesus is just a man like we are—a good teacher and nothing more. Others will say that He was an angel, a created being, before He came to earth. Then there are those who will deny that Jesus even lived on the planet. But God’s Word is the Truth and that is very evident for anyone who has read and studied His communication to us from cover to cover.

Sin is an eternal issue and it took someone who was eternal to resolve man’s sin dilemma. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, died on the cross to resolve the problem and enabled man to come into relationship with God through His finished work on the cross. If a person could sin just one time in their lifetime, that one sin would be enough to keep that person from knowing God and going to heaven when they die. That one sin not covered by the shed blood of Jesus would eternally condemn that person.

But when the eternal Son of God died on that cross He took care of the sin problem for every person— past, present and future. Now, when a person truly trusts the Lord Jesus and His finished work on the cross, that person’s sin is forgiven, covered by the blood of Jesus— past, present and future. This does not give a person the right to go out and sin any way they want to, no, God forbid… But, that person who is in relationship with Jesus is safe and secure for all eternity because of their trust in Him. His finished works saves us and not our work of any kind (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5).

Again, listen to the wonderful truth of this verse: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was the sin offering for us so that every person who truly trusts the Lord Jesus then has the righteousness of God. Galatians 3:27 says that we are “clothed with Christ.” Put those two verses together—- We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ! Think about that!

Dear Father, thank You for sending Your Son so we could be forgiven of our sin and given Your righteousness. This is astounding and I am eternally grateful. Oh, now may I live faithfully for You and be about Your business. May it be so.

SHARE YOUR TESTIMONY OF THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS!

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. —John 4:29

My dad had been raised with a religious background. His parents and grandparents had been with the same religious group as well. It was something that was just expected in the family and so my parents, though sporadically, brought us to the same church when we were young. Everything was in Latin and I did not understand a thing. I really wondered if my parents did because when I looked like I was getting ready to ask what this was all about, I got the look telling me not to ask. Years later I trusted the Lord Jesus when I heard the gospel while in the military and a few years later my parents trusted the Lord Jesus as well. It was a joy to see my dad reading the Word of God consistently and for my parents to follow the Lord in baptism. Something that would have never happened in the religious group we had been involved in.

The verse above speaks to the issue of a changed life and Who it is that changed it. As the Lord Jesus revealed to the woman all about herself, she came to the point of trusting Him. Then woman went back to town, told them what had happened and then asked an interesting question to the people— “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29). The impact that the woman had was that “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:39-42).

We who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ all have a wonderful testimony of His mercy and grace toward us. Like the Samaritan woman, may we bring the testimony of the good news of Jesus our Savior to those who do not know Him and encourage them to “Come, see…” (John 4:29).

Are you and I impacting anybody? When was the last time we shared our testimony and the good news of Jesus with someone? When was the last time we encourage them to “Come, see?” Oh, may we do so today.

Dear Father, fragile piece of clay I am, knowing I cannot do anything of eternal value in my own strength, but please, by Your Spirit, work in and through me today to encourage someone to trust the Lord Jesus for salvation from sin and to a new life with Him. May it be so!

YOU MUST BE BORN-AGAIN!

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” —John 3:3-8

It was a marvel seeing my children born. They broke free from the womb and greeted the world around them with a hearty cry. You knew they were born. You knew they were alive. Now it is to have a second grandchild born, Jordyn Faith. It is also amazing when your own child has a child. Then there are those whose child’s child has a child and sometime those whose child’s child has a child also has a child—5 generations!

But life is more than physical birth as stated in the passage above. To enter the Kingdom of God, that is, the Kingdom where His servants submit to His rule— a person must also have a spiritual birth.

John 3:16 tells us how this happens without using the same terminology— “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Entering God’s Kingdom, having eternal life, occurs when a person truly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is when he is born-again. Again, not in the same terminology we are told in John 3:18— “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” To believe in Jesus is not to ever be condemned because Jesus took our condemnation at the cross. This shows they have been born-again. To reject His finished work at the cross is to already have the sentence of condemnation upon us. John 3:36 tells us the same thing— “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

God’s Word is very clear— we need to be born-again and that happens by sincerely trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we are in the Kingdom of God and have eternal life— never to be condemned! Oh, may that truly be our case!

I was talking with a man recently after I shared the gospel at a prison chapel. I invited anyone who wanted to talk further to meet me in the hall just outside the door of the chapel. Not long after I went out in the hall Ben came out. He said that he had been just going through the motions—coming to chapel and being involved in other ways, but that He had never truly trusted the Lord Jesus… well, Ben trusted Jesus last night! So it is quite possible, even most likely that there are people attending our churches and small groups that are just going through the motions and have never truly trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. May we clearly be sharing the gospel and be sensitive to those who may be around us, but may not have truly trusted Jesus.

Dear Father, please help preachers in Your church to proclaim Your gospel clearly that those who do not know You may hear and respond. Oh, Lord, may many people be touched even today. Then, Lord, help us to be faithful in proclaiming Your gospel wherever we go each and every day. Please help us to have a concern for the lost.

LET’S GO FISHING!

“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” —Luke 5:10

He was off to go fishing. He had his pole, his boat, his bait… everything he needed to go fishing and I saw him drive off just before sunrise. Later that day I was driving past this large field and to my utter amazement I saw my friend sitting in his boat in the middle of the field. He was holding his pole… fishing? This did not make any sense at all… his boat on dry land?

You might read the above illustration and think that is absurd and it is. But, how many of us are fishing for men like that? When was the last time you or I went specifically where a lost person or persons were to intentionally share the gospel with them?

It is hard to fish for fish in the middle of a dry field and it is hard to fish for people when we do not go to them where they are! Oh, that we would do some fishing today and be open to do so every day!

Lord, please help me to fish for people. Help me to bring the good news to them that they might come to know You and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. May it be so in the power of the Holy Spirit!

OH, TO REALLY LIVE!

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. —Matthew 4:4

Just yesterday I went to one of my “fishing pools” to see who the Lord might have me talk with. I greeted a man who was there and he introduced himself. I had heard about this man, but had not met him. He is very wealthy and can have just about anything money can buy. He told me how he lived in Israel 1 month each year for the last 6 years and how he was looking to lease a field there for 25 years so Israelites and Palestinian children could play soccer together. He also told me that there are no mortgages on any of his property and that, not too long ago, he sat with the Dali Lama and planned translations of technical books in other lands so people could enter the modern world. He would foot the bill to do this and he told me other things. At one point I asked, “Could I show you something of great value?” He said, “What is it?” I handed him a Lamb Pamphlet (http://new-hopechurch.com/mans-greatest-need/) and said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” We then talked about Jesus… Please pray for this man, Arnie, that he might truly come to the Lord.

There are many people like Arnie who can have just about any material thing money can buy, but that is not really living. Focusing on the material aspect of existence is only existing. What is the purpose? Is it true that “He who dies with the most toys wins?” I think not! Actually, I know that is not true. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). It is not wrong to have wealth as long as the wealth does not have us and is our god.

The above verse tells us that man should not live just on bread (the material), but he is also to feed and live by the Word of God (the spiritual). People who are seeking to live only by the material are “dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Man was made to have relationship with God and not just to live for the stuff.

This is borne out in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21. This is how it will be for those who “store up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” They are not ready for death or to meet God. These type people are so focused on themselves that they do not even consider their relationship with God. But, a person can be a “Poor Fool” as well if they also do not consider their relationship with God.

Now, if the verse above is true, and it is, are we reading, listening and applying His Word, feeding on His Word, living for Him or are we living like Christian Atheists— saying we believe but really living like He does not exist or have anything to do with our lives? Oh, that we truly would have a hunger to hear Him speak to us, be obedient— showing our love for Him (John 14:21). May it be so!

Dear Father, thank You that we have Your Word. Oh, how grateful we are that You communicated to us so we could understand Your desires and our need. May we not just say we believe, but may we truly live like it in the authority of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit’s power.