The Least Person in Heaven
Did you ever consider how significant it is to be a Christ-follower? Why are we in the New Testament age blessed beyond anyone in a previous age? The amazing words of Jesus put this extraordinary privilege in perspective. Speaking of the great prophet, John the Baptist, Jesus proclaimed a profound reality that places great responsibility upon each of us. He said, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” Wow! Think of it: the seemingly least significant Christian, weak in faith, struggling with victory, and feeling like they barely made it into Heaven is infinitely more blessed than any spiritual giant who ever walked the Earth prior to Jesus.
Life Takes About Two-Hours God-Time
Ever feel like you’re getting whiplash from the twists and turns in life? Transitions are in store for all of us. But, don’t get too settled on what you think is, or should be, happening. If “…a day is like a thousand years to the Lord…” (2 Peter 3:8, NLT), then our lives take less than two hours of God-time. So, I’ve been pastoring a church for about 20 minutes, God-time, and I may be heading into eternity in a half hour. The point is: Life goes fast! The Bible says, “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. ” (James 4:14, NKJV) The changes and transitions we experience in life are all tests: proving our character and molding us to become like Jesus.
Anger and Judgment
The other day I heard these words as I listened to the Bible. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22, NLT) Whoa! What? I had to play it again. Look it up. Examine its meaning and consider the consequence of Christ’s intent. Did Jesus really mean, if I’m angry with my brother or sister I will be subject to judgment? How much anger fills our world today? How angry have I, at times, allowed my heart to become? Who do I need to forgive? What offense continues to simmer in my mind? What brother or sister, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger, have I been angry with, and in some way, still am? Jesus, wipe it from my heart! Let me forgive others that I may know what true forgiveness really is.
The Eye of a Hurricane
I’m fascinated by reports of weather in the eye of hurricanes. It’s an area where there’s little to no rain, the sun shines, and the winds are light. Sounds wonderful! I just want to know how to find it when my life feels like a hurricane. Well, you can’t reach it by going over it. Planes can’t fly that high. You have to go through it . . . the hurricane wall. Sure, it gets dark and cloudy and visual navigation isn’t possible. So, you fly by instruments (sounds like the Word of God to me). The trick is to fly directly into the storm’s wind direction where, surprisingly, there’s little turbulence. That’s when I had a revelation: if I’m willing to flow with and trust God in the middle of my storms, I’ll finally get to a place of extraordinary calm, a place of peace beyond my understanding.
There is a gift each of us, who know Jesus, have been given that perhaps we rarely open. It’s called the gift of blessing others. Jesus said, “When you enter the home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing.” (Matthew 10:12-13, NLT) This word “blessing” speaks of tranquility, security, safety, prosperity and harmony. It refers to the peace only God can provide. WOW! At times I’ve thought I don’t know if I can bless someone, because I don’t really know them. Yet, Jesus said, bless anyway, and I’ll determine if the blessing should remain. It is a pronouncement of God’s favor and goodness upon others. Today, bless others. It will change both their lives and your own.
Reaching the Unworthy
Don’t be surprised if Jesus is asking you to reach out to someone others would consider unworthy. That’s actually His specialty, because that’s how He personally chose to come to Earth: despised, rejected, hidden, un-esteemed, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) Someone who was comfortable relating to despised tax collectors, notorious sinners, and even serial adulterers. He loved the unlovable and redeemed the unredeemable. Setting a God-like example for each of us to follow. Who, in our own lives, have we been overlooking, walking past, and ignoring, that God is now high-lighting, and reminding us of the penetrating words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” (Matthew 25:40, NLT)
Why Doesn’t God Stop Us?
Did you ever wonder why God, at times, doesn’t stop us from doing something we really shouldn’t do? Perhaps, it’s to let us see what’s in our heart so we’ll change our behavior voluntarily. In Matthew 26, at the Last Supper, after Jesus told His disciples He would be killed, they asked Him if their two swords would be enough to defend themselves. Jesus said, “Yes.” He didn’t say, “Don’t bring any swords with you at all, because you’re going to over-react and use them.” Jesus wanted to see what was in their hearts, and after Peter chopped off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Jesus told them, “No more of this!” So I wonder, what life lesson does Jesus want to teach us today, after He exposes our misguided efforts to do what we think is best?
What Comes Out of Your Mouth?
My wife was on a flight recently and sat by two men who carried on a conversation where, for two hours, every other word was a curse word. It stunned and grieved her that they could be so callous and unaware of the consequence of the words they spoke. She realized that they had probably sat for hours listening to movies and music and conversations that were saturated with vulgar communication, so that now their minds and mouths were polluted. There are many voices in this world competing for the hearts and minds of men. But, whatever we are hearing will produce good or bad fruit. Be careful what you hear, because those words will go deep into your heart, come out of your mouth, and will eventually bless or curse those around you.
Did you ever notice the strange friendships in the Bible? Only after Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies, mocked and ridiculed Jesus did they finally become friends. To me, it demonstrates that, at times, our motive for a friendship is even more important than the friendship itself. When I was in the world and pleasure seeking, some of my relationships were based upon what someone could do for me, not upon how I might be able to help them. I’m sad as I think of some of the nameless faces I took advantage of for my own self-gratification. It’s true, doing what’s right may even break a friendship. But in the end, as the Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6, NASV)
How to Grow in Faith
Do you lack faith? Do you find it difficult to trust God? Without ever having met you, I believe I know exactly why. You either don’t read the eternal Word of God, or don’t believe it when you do. The Bible says, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV) It is therefore impossible to have faith without receiving the eternal words of faith that God desires to feed us, every day. I can’t live the abundant life of faith Jesus promised me without the washing my mind, will, emotions and spirit with His amazing, life-giving words. Today, as you make time to feed, rest and comfort your temporary body, do the same for your everlasting soul and spirit. It won’t just change your day, it will change your life.
Faith That Doesn’t Work
What if I told you that there are really two kinds of faith: faith that works, and faith that doesn’t. There’s a big difference between powerless faith that God exists and power-filled faith in His promises. The Bible says that even the demons believe God exists (James 2:19), and yet that conviction is faithless and powerless. If you and I actually want to experience mountain-moving faith, then we’ll need to be fully persuaded that the promises of God, found in His Word, are our divine assurance that all He has promised will come to pass. If, on the other hand, we merely believe God could do something and not will do all He has pledged to do, then we will spend our lives “…always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7, NIV) that will set us free.
Bad News vs. Good News
Did you ever notice how, at times, it’s easier for us to hear and remember the bad news in life, more than the good news? As Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples that He would die but then rise again after three days. Their response? They were overwhelmed with sadness and denial. All they heard was the bad news: that Jesus was going to die, not the really good news: that He would be resurrected from the dead. They heard the first half of the sentence but not the last. That is each of our tendency: to fixate on our temporary hopelessness, and not God’s everlasting hope. Focus on God’s eternal good news, and not your momentary struggles in life.