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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Do You Follow The Crowd?

English: Church of Jesus Christ (Zion's Branch...
English: Church of Jesus Christ (Zion's Branch) in Independence, Missouri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In recent times, mega-churches have mushroomed all over the country, and while small and medium-sized churches are having difficulty keeping their heads above water, the mega-churches appear to be booming. Why is this?

One of the reasons could be the prestige that accompanies the names of these churches. To say "I am a member of Such-and-Such Church," seems to carry some weight on your Christian resume. On the other hand, if you say "I belong to the 300-member church around the corner," no one is impressed.

The ambiance of the mega-churches is also very appealing. Who can resist a few hours of award-worthy singing and dancing, and stage lighting that can compete with anything on a Broadway scale? Not to mention the dynamic preaching of someone whose face is regularly seen on television.

One would not mind getting to that church at least an hour before the service begins in order to secure a park and a good seat. And after the service you won't mind sitting in your car for another hour to get out the gate. But you would stroll into the smaller church half-hour or even an hour late.

I'm not knocking the mega-churches. If they preach the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then more power to them. But why leave your cozy little church where you gave your heart to the Lord, where you were baptized and where everyone knows you, for the glitz and glamor of the five-star church on the other side of town?

Jesus speaks of the narrow and wide gates in Matthew 7: 13. He says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Now, let me emphasize, Jesus was not necessarily referring to churches. He was referring to things that draw a crowd, things we follow, places we frequent just because everyone else seems to be doing it.

Being a member of a mega-church is not a bad thing. I visited one on Good-Friday night and I enjoyed the service. But do I want to go through the hassle of the overflowing parking lot every Sunday? I don't think so. Do I want to remain anonymous, slipping in and out without any type of fellowship with my brothers and sisters? No, I don't. But that's just me. If you love the mega-church and it feeds you with the spiritual food that you need, then go for it. 

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Meaning Of Easter

English: Resurrection of Christ
English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I pray that you are enjoying another Easter Sunday with family and friends. Here's one of my previous posts to remind you of the meaning of Easter.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die , even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15: 20 - 22).

 And so the journey to Calvary has ended. Jesus has been crucified, but now He is risen, as He said. And we too are alive in Him. That is the basis of the Christian faith. The empty tomb is a silent witness to the greatest event in history. We don't worship someone who died thousands of years ago, but Someone who is alive and is coming again to take us to rule and reign with Him.

Happy Easter!
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Friday, April 18, 2014

On The Road To Calvary - Rejection

The road to Calvary was a rough one for our Lord. Not only did He have to deal with the
physical suffering as a human, but He also had to deal with betrayal from one of His insiders. In this post we will see He also had to deal with rejection. As I wrote in yesterday's article, if you live long enough, you will encounter betrayal. The same goes for rejection. You may be rejected by a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband, wife, parent, child, employer. As a writer, I know the pain of rejection.

So how was Jesus rejected?

Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered' (Matthew 26: 31).

Just as Jesus knew who would betray Him, He also knew who would reject Him. When Jesus told His disciples of His impending death, Peter said he was ready to go with Him  to prison and even to death. But Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me" (Luke 22: 34).

And sadly, Peter did deny the Lord. How could he do it? But he was not the only one to reject Jesus in his time of trial. None of His disciples were around when Jesus was being ridiculed and beaten. Where were they when He took the long walk to Calvary, stumbling and falling beneath the weight of the cross?

We might ask the question, who did worse? Judas who betrayed Jesus, or Peter who rejected Him? One showed that he knew Him by greeting Him with a kiss; the other showed he didn't know Him by cursing and denying Him.

What do you do when people say that Jesus is not the Son of God? What do you say when they ask you to explain your faith? We don't only reject Jesus by our words, we also reject Him with our actions. Titus 1 : 16 says,  "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good."

His disciples' rejection came as no surprise to Jesus. He knew they were going to do it. He'd warned them about it. But when His Father rejected Him, it was too much for Jesus to bear. He cried out with a loud voice,  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27: 46). The fellowship Jesus had enjoyed with His Father had been broken. A holy God could not look at His Son who had become sin for us.

And that's the message of Calvary. Jesus suffered rejection so we can receive acceptance.  Thank you Jesus.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

On The Road To Calvary - Betrayal

I think it is fair to say that if  we live long enough, we would be betrayed at some point in time. The dictionary gives the meaning of the word "betray" as
"to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty:"
"to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to: to betray one's friends."

Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem to the shouts and acclaim of the crowds, Jesus was betrayed, just as the dictionary defines it, by one of his friends. Judas was no ordinary disciple. He was not like Thaddeus or Andrew or Bartholomew, disciples we never hear anything about. 

"The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me" (Matthew 26: 23). One who had the trusted position of handling the funds for Jesus and His disciples. One who knew Jesus so well He knew where to find Him and could recognize Him even in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane.
When Judas betrayed Jesus by kissing Him on His cheek, Jesus said,' "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him' (Matthew 26: 50).

Have you ever experienced the sting of betrayal? By a friend, spouse, child, parent, co-worker? The closer the relationship, the more painful the sting. As we meditate on Jesus this Holy Week, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus also suffered betrayal, therefore we can cry out to Him. Then, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted" (Isaiah 30 : 26).

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

On The Road To Calvary

English: Palm Sunday in Sanok
English: Palm Sunday in Sanok (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last year I wrote a post on Palm Sunday titled, Will You Wave Palm Branches? If you didn't read it, or would like to read it again, here it is. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of what we as Christians call holy week - a time set aside to reflect on the sufferings of Jesus and what He did for us through His work on the cross. My posts this week will feature Our Lord's journey from the time He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the time He arose from the grave on Easter Sunday.

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death" (Matthew 20: 18).

And so Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, riding on a young donkey, to the adoration of large crowds. They strewed palm branches and their clothes at His feet and cried "Hosanna in the highest!"

It was a wonderful time of acclaim for Jesus, but Luke tells us that He wept over Jerusalem because He knew what would befall it. Shortly thereafter, He went into the temple and drove out the money changers, saying, "It is written, 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (v 46).

As you meditate on God's word this week and spend time with Him, consider what you want out of life. How much does the adoration of the crowd mean to you? Do you place it above obedience to God's word? Jesus was pleased with their adoration, but He didn't let that stop Him from doing what He knew was right.

We would do well to follow Jesus' example and not let people's adoration go to our head because it may not always be sincere or long-lasting. Jude warns, "These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage" (1 : 16).

This Easter season, let us determine to seek praise from God and not from man.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

When You Can't Pray

Have you ever had one of those moments when you just couldn't pray? It may be that
you were so overwhelmed, tired or maybe just not feeling well. This happened to me a few mornings ago. I woke up, sat on the bed, wanting to pray, but I just didn't feel well. I had a migraine and there was a heaviness on me that prevented the words from coming. But I was determined to communicate with my God in some way.

After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I began to hum. I finished the first song, then went to another, then another and another. Before I knew it, I was singing, lifting my hands and praising God. By the time I'd finished praising, I was able to pray and read my Bible. I didn't realize when my headache and the feeling of heaviness left me. But when I got off my bed, I felt better, and I had not taken a pill.

The Psalms make numerous references to the importance of praise. I state just a few of them here:

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.22: 3

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear , and shall trust in the LORD. 40: 3

 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 63: 3

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; 149: 6

Look at what David said in Psalm 42: 5. "Why art thou cast down , O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."

The next time you feel "cast down", heavy, oppressed, try praising God. Praise changes the atmosphere, lifts your spirits and restores your ability to communicate with your Maker. In fact, Psalm 100: 4 says we are to "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."

Here are some of my favorite worship songs to get you started:
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