GUARD YOUR HEART/MIND!

“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” —Mark 7:20-23

Many politicians are absolutely corrupt. They will do anything to try and stay in power or win an office. The corruption comes from within that person. It is what their character is. If you hang around a person long enough and hear them speak what is most important to them, you will come to know their character. Their actions will truly tell you who they are. People cannot hide their true nature forever as hard as they might try to. It will come out eventually.

How do people come to the place of thinking things they think and doing things they are doing? It has to do with what has come into their minds through their five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste and then sin can take over.

For years and years people have said that what people watch on T.V. does not affect them. What a foolish statement as you consider companies spending millions of dollars for 30 second spots or less to advertise their wares on T.V. The eye gate is of primary importance in knowledge entering us. So is the ear gate. What we hear will also have great impact on us. Think of different styles of music. Why are there different styles? It is because different styles reach different people. Touch smell and taste are also important in gaining information, but the amount of information that comes through the eye and ear is tremendous.

Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness come out of people to a very large degree because of what they have “fed” their senses on. We allow garbage to come into our minds and that garbage will eventually make its way out in very negative and sinful ways.

On the other hand, God’s Word tells us to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). May we be wise as to what we allow to go through our sensory gates!

Dear Father, may I truly seek to think on those things that You desire me to think about. Oh, please keep me from evil thoughts and actions by the Holy Spirit’s power and in the Name of Jesus my Lord. May it be so!

JESUS IS WITH YOU!

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” —Mark 6:50

I may lose my job. My health may deteriorate. A loved one might die. It might be I’m afraid of the dark or that I am fearful of a storm.

Storms of life, trials and tribulations come in all manner of forms. This should not be a surprise to us when they come because Jesus told us it would happen (John 16:33). Still, knowing we live in a fallen world, these things do often take us unaware and many times we lose courage. We may start doubting many things and become discouraged. Then, if we stay in that state of discouragement for long it could lead to the darker world of depression and lack of motivation. Life seems bleak which can cause a person to slip into despair and hopelessness. This can leave a person in the real inky darkness of despondency and not wanting to have contact with anyone or talk with anyone. Death may begin to seem like an option to consider and this is where suicidal thoughts come into the mind of a person.

There are so many people who have gone down this slippery slope and there are those who are presently in this pattern of decline. Listen, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid… Take courage! I am here!” Whether it is a literal storm as the disciples were experiencing on the Sea of Galilee or some stormy trial or tribulation, Jesus said He is with us.

Fellow follower of Jesus Christ, Jesus told us “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His word also tells us that “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” We are also told that “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Whatever state of emotion we may find ourselves in, let us look to Jesus who is “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Keep praying, waiting ,trusting, casting our cares on Him, being thankful and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus (Psalm 27:14; Proverbs 3:5-6; I Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7).

Dear Father, when things feel dark and dreary, please help me to look to You, to trust You and to get my strength through the Holy Spirit. Yea, may that be true moment by moment on any given day in the authority of Jesus who loves me and gave Himself for me.

WICKED INTENTIONS

Herodias’s chance finally came… —Mark 6:21

There are those who are just waiting for the right chance, the right opportunity. Maybe it is a person seeking revenge or maybe it is a person looking to commit a crime of some sort. They are waiting for what they believe will be just the right moment to carry out their evil heart’s desires.

This is what was happening in the context of the verse above. John the Baptist had told King Herod that it was not lawful to have Herodias, his brother’s Philip’s wife, as his own wife. Herod was under the enchantment of this woman and as a favor to her he had John arrested and put in prison. Up to this point Herod had protected John because he had respected him as a good and holy man. Whenever he talked with John he was great disturbed, but he like to listen to him.

At Herod’s birthday party his government officials, army officers and leading citizens of Galilee were in attendance. Herodias’ daughter performed a dance that greatly please Herod and his guests and in front of his guests Herod said to the girl- “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!” (Mark 6:22-23).

Ah, Herodias’ chance had finally come! The girl went to her mother and said, “What should I ask for?” and her mother responded, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!” So the girl hurried back to Herod and said, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!” (Mark 6:24-25). He was trapped. This is not something he wanted to do, but because of his vow to the girl made in front of all his guests, he sent soldiers to behead John in prison and to bring his head on a platter. In turn, the girl took it to her mother. The deed Herodias was waiting to accomplish was done. John would never speak against their marriage again! She had her vengeance. Wicked people wait for the right time to do their wicked deeds! But God knows and they will not escape Him!

We even see this wickedness today and it has been happening through the centuries. There are those who are just waiting to carry out their wicked deeds against those who love Jesus. But beloved, remember, we are already victorious in Christ Jesus and the WORST someone can do to us is kill us and send us to heaven. Now in the words of another, “That ain’t so bad.” No its not!

Dear Father, thank You that our home is in heaven and it is not on this planet. Oh, help us to remember that we are pilgrims and strangers just passing through. May it be so!

I STAND AMAZED!

…they were immediately overcome with amazement. —Mark 5:42

Have you ever been overcome with amazement? Maybe it was the wonder of flowers that you were marveling at or the beauty of a sunset or sunrise. Possibly it was when you were standing on a mountaintop and an awesome sensation of awe rushed over you. Or it could have been as you watched your children being born into this world with indescribable joy. What is it that has amazed you?

In the context of the verse above these two parents along with three of Jesus’ disciples were “overcome with amazement.” They had just watch Jesus raise their 12 year old daughter from the dead. Can you imagine the enormous and joyous gratitude of the parents or the overwhelming astonishment of the disciples? Who can say to young dead girl “Little girl, get up!” and she immediately not only got up, but she was walking around. Then Jesus told the parents to give her something to eat. The joy of knowing Jesus!

So how have you seen the amazing hand of Jesus at work? I find it truly marvelous how one person is open to hear about Jesus and another could care less or even mocks or reacts in a mean way. But I sincerely love to see it when a person is truly beginning to understand who Jesus is and wants to know more. That is wonderful!

Today, how will you be amazed by His hand? Right now I love the silhouetted trees against the back drop of a pre-sunrise sky. It reminds me of ink sketches that I have seen people do. The beauty of God’s creation is awesome. Artists seek to capture it, but there is nothing like seeing His creation in person. Oh, that you would be in amazement because of God’s hand working in your life today!

Dear Father, You are wonderful “beyond description, too marvelous for words!” Thank You for being able to see Your hand all around me at work. May I be aware of how You are working as I walk through today with You in the authority of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit’s power. May it be so!

THE WORST PRISON ON EARTH

“Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” —Mark 5:7

Hidden among any populace are those who would seek to destroy people. But once they are out in the open they are seen for who they really are. They are known by the acts they commit.

So it is with Satan and the fallen angels. They like to remain hidden and not be known. But once their work is out in the open they are also seen for who they really are. The man in the context of the verse above was tormented by many demons he was possessed by. This man could not be contained by shackles or chains. By superhuman strength he would break the chains and shackles. He would also cut himself with stones and cry out.

When Jesus came into contact with this man the demons knew who He was. They also knew something that most people won’t acknowledge. They knew that judgment was going to come upon them one day (Matthew 8:29). As mentioned above, they also knew that Jesus was the Son of the Most High God— something the majority of people on earth does not know.

Here’s what God says about people in the devil’s trap— “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (II Timothy 2:25-26).

According to these two verses- 1- Those who do now know Jesus are being held “captive to do his will.” This is what was happening with the man in the verse above. 2- Those who do not know Jesus are in “the trap of the devil.” The devil is schemer and will use all kinds of bait to entrap people. It could be wealth or poverty, intelligence or lack of intelligence, it could be abilities or lack of abilities… The devil uses all kinds of angles and anything he can to snare people. 3- Those who do now know Jesus need to “come to their senses.” This mean those who do not know Jesus need to recover themselves. They are not who they truly are to be until they come to Jesus and escape from the devil’s schemes. 4- Those who do not know Jesus need to come to “a knowledge of the truth” to escape the lies of the devil. 5- Those who do not know Jesus must come to repentance. They need to turn from their ways and follow God’s ways. 6- Those who do not know Jesus need to be “gently instructed.”

Dear Father, be pleased to work in and through me in such a way as to gently instruct those in the devil’s trap, imprisoned to do his will. Oh, that many would come to a knowledge of who Jesus is, repent of their ways and follow Him. May it be so!

FRUITLESS/FRUITFUL

…those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! —Mark 4:8

As children we used to run all over the mountain behind our house with no need to worry about child predators. In the fall we loved to go to our favorite apple trees to pick and eat. Some years we would approach a tree that had borne great apples the year before and there would not be any apples on it. It was a sad feeling to think it did not produced any fruit for us to enjoy. But other trees would be loaded with apples which brought joy to our hearts.

In the verse mentioned above of the parable of the farmer that sowed seed, only those who heard and accepted God’s Word as their own bore fruit. There are those who hear God’s Word and Satan takes it away. Then there are those who hear God’s Word with their mind, but it does not have any root and when trouble or persecution comes they quickly fall away. Others hear the Word of God by the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things make it unfruitful.

It is only the seed that is sown on good soil that produces fruit. These people hear God’s Word and accept it as their own. All the others mentioned above did not. Time has a way of proving who has truly trusted Jesus and who has not. Only those producing much fruit of different amounts honor the Father (John 15:8) and by doing so they prove they are truly Jesus’ disciples. Are you and I producing fruit to honor our Father and prove we are Jesus’ disciples?

Dear Father may the live I live honor You and prove that I truly love Jesus!

FAMILY

Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. —Mark 3:35

Family works together for what is best for the family. Teams work together for what is best for their sports family. The military works for what is best for their military family. Social groups work together for what is good for their particular social club. All these groups have structure or common will that was developed by someone.

So it is with the church. The church should work together for what is best for the church family, but also for those outside the church family (I am speaking of the universal church and not just a local church). God has given us His Word which is His revealed will. Jesus said in the verse above that “Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” He is saying those who do God’s will are family, part of the family of God.

So, are you part of God’s family? Those who have truly trusted Jesus will be seeking to do the will of God revealed in the Word of God, the Bible. The Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God to conform us to the Son of God and all this is to the glory of God. May we be bringing glory to God by the way we speak, act and live (John 15:8).

Dear Father, yes, may You receive glory in and through my life as I truly seek to abide in Jesus and do Your will. May this be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

UNFORGIVENESS/FORGIVENESS

…your sins are forgiven. —Mark 2:5

Unforgiveness keeps wrongs raw in a relationship. The relationship is superficial at best and at its worst, non-existent. People may still acknowledge others they are in a fall out with or they may ignore them completely. It is sad how neighbors who had been friends for years now hardly talk to each other and when they do it is just superficial because of dome disagreement. What makes this even more grievous is when they profess to follow Jesus.

Some relationships will never experience healing because neither person is willing to move to rectify or remedy the breach. They do not see the other person as important enough to do anything about the relationship. It is so sad how often this happens with those who claim the Name of Jesus.

Fortunately for us that the Lord God Almighty is the One who moved on our behalf to resolve the breach mankind caused with Him. He loved man so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes what Jesus did at the cross for them can have eternal life and not be cast into hell (John 3:16-18). But, not all men will receive the forgiveness of sin that God offers through Jesus. They do not care about Him enough to accept the remedy to repair the breach in the relationship. They do not want anything to do with Him. They may even say they believe, but the evidence that their relationship with Him has been resolved is non-existent. Oh, may we be in right relationship with the Lord God Almighty through His Son, Jesus. May we also seek to be in right relationship with others.

Dear Father, I am grateful for Your lovingkindness toward us and for the forgiveness that is found in Jesus. Oh, may I live faithfully for You out of the gratitude of my heart.

THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”—Mark 1:14-15

There we were, 2 miles off-shore stranded in a disabled boat. Noon-time soon gave way to darkness. The ocean waves grew fierce and we had water coming into the boat. We bailed constantly. The bow would rise up on steep waves and then slam down over and over. But, the anchor held. About 1am a floodlight flashed some distance away. Now we believed they would find us and we would be saved from our situation.

So many people do not understand the serious condition they are in. They do not understand the seriousness of sin and they do not understand the holiness and the purity of God. They do not understand His justice of God or His love. They surely do not understand that Jesus came to save us from our serious condition and to reveal God to us that could come into relationship with God through Jesus.

They are like we were in the experience above, sitting in a boat on a dangerously agitated sea in utter darkness, but thinking they are OK. It is at that time the light of the gospel, the good news, flashes across their bow. They hear that Jesus died for their sin and took their punishment on the cross so they would not have to. They only need to turn from their own ways, trust His finished work at the cross and then follow Jesus.

There are some who will hear the good news of Jesus, turn from their ways and follow Him. They will be saved from their perilous situation. Others will ignore the Light in their darkness and drift into an eternity without God. They will wind up in the hell that was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, the demons (Matthew 25:41).

I am so glad that when I saw the Light of the good news about Jesus that I responded and trusted Him. That was back in February of 1979— 36 years ago when I was one month away from my 24th birthday. Wow, so much has changed since then. God is so good and He has done some wonderful things in and through my life. It is a joy to know Him and to live for Him. May that be your experience as well.

Dear Father, I am grateful that You showed me Jesus and that Your Holy Spirit convinced me of my need for Him. Be please to work in and through me in such a way as to draw others to Jesus.

AM I A CHRISTIAN?

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” —Matthew28:18-20

I was recently talking with a young man. Not long ago I had heard him respond to a question and I wanted to follow up on that response. An elderly man had asked this young man if he was a Christian and the young man responded with a “yes.” So yesterday I was talking with this young man and asked him if he was a Christian and he said “yes.” Then I asked him what a Christian was and he told me his parents had attended a church down south and they had also attended a church since they moved north, but they were not presently attending. He had attended with them, but he also was not presently attending anywhere.

Is that it? Is that all a Christian is? Is a person is a Christian simply just by “going to church?” Is that all there is to be a Christian? Not according to the passage mention above.

Jesus is speaking to the disciples as a group. He tells them a few things in this passage. Let’s list them. 1st – Jesus said that all authority was given to him in heaven and on earth. 2nd – He tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. 3rd – He tells his disciples to baptize these new disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 4th – He tells his disciples to teach these new disciples to obey all the commands that Jesus had given them. 5th – He tells his disciple that he will be with them until the end of the age.

Am I a Christian? Am I a faithful Christian? Questions to ask myself: 1- Am I truly living in/under the AUTHORITY OF JESUS CHRIST? 2- Am I truly INVOLVED IN MAKING DISCIPLES (Have I been/am I being discipled myself?) 3- Am I sharing the gospel where someone has come to Jesus and HAS FOLLOWED JESUS COMMAND TO BE BAPTIZED? 4- Am I involved in TEACHING DISCIPLES TO BE OBEDIENT TO THE COMMANDS JESUS HAS GIVEN US? 5- Do I understand that JESUS IS RIGHT WITH ME IN THE WORK HE GAVE ME TO DO?

So, am I a Christian? If I am involved in a church, is the church I am involved with faithful in these areas and am I faithful in these areas along with that local church? This is what Jesus has called his church to be and do. May the local church and we be faithful to Jesus.

Dear Father, please help me to be the servant in Jesus and by the Spirit that You desire.