Happy New Year!!

I do not know about you, but my year has been a year of many ups and downs, good things and not so good things.

One of the “negative” things in my life was being laid off from a very good job that I had been with for several years. Since then I have been unable to land a new full-time job. I say “negative” because it has been a bitter/sweet thing to be out of that job.

Although I enjoyed the job, it was a swing shift–seven days of 12 hour shifts, then a seven nights of 12 hour shifts. These shifts were from 6-6. This made it very difficult to get any real good sleep…ever. Not having this job, has allowed me to get much better sleep. Maybe this was God’s way to get me out of that job and get the rest and time with family that was needed. It has also allowed me to have the needed time off for when my wife had our newest baby, with no consequences. But, I do miss the good paycheck.

Since then, I have had to really trust in God to provide for my family. It is amazing how He has provided in many ways completely unexpected! God is a good and faithful God!

One of the great things that happened this year was the birth of our eighth child! It is a bit overwhelming in that my wife and I are not exactly young anymore. God must feel we still have it in us to raise another child.

It has been a real blessing (though very little sleep) to have a baby in the house again. We are excited with raising another boy!

I am excited to see what God has in store for us in 2015. The only thing I know that He will only give me what is best for my family and me. This means all the good and all the “bad” things that happen.

I want to encourage you, as you ring in the New Year, to trust in God for all the circumstances in your life. Give God the praise and glory for all the good and bad things that occur. Look to Him as the author and finisher of your life.

Now in the words of Peter:
“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:1-2

Happy New Year!

Mark 12:34 Not Far But Still Away

“When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.” Mark 12:34

One of the teachers of the law came up to Jesus and asked Him what was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered the first is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor.

The teacher was pleased and agreed with Jesus. He even states that these things are more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. It is at this point Jesus states that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

Notice that the teacher of the law knew all the right words. He knew what was the most important commandments. Yet, despite knowing all this “good” information, he was still not in the kingdom of God. He was not far, but He was still outside, away from the kingdom of God.

Many people today know all the good things of God. People will tell you that you are to love God and your neighbors, and to not sin. Yet, their hearts are not in a relationship with God. They do not have a daily relationship with Jesus.

Outside of trusting in Jesus for your salvation and following Him, you will not get into the kingdom of heaven. Going to church and speaking all the good words will not get you into heaven. Even reading the Bible everyday will not get you into heaven.

Only trusting in Jesus for your salvation and following Him will get you into heaven. If you love God, you will obey Him. You will want to obey His laws, not because they are the laws or to keep from getting into trouble, but because of your love for Him.

Are you “not far” from the kingdom of God? Or are you in the kingdom of God? Where is your relationship with Jesus today?

Are you just speaking the right words? Or are you in a relationship with God?

Are you just going through the motions? Or are you living the life God has for you?

Get into the kingdom of God today. Trust in Jesus for your salvation and build your relationship with Him.

I pray today that God will draw you closer to Him; that you will be on a close relationship with Jesus; that you will live the life God has for you; that you will be in the kingdom of heaven; and that you will love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Mark 11:22 Have Faith In God

“Have faith in God, Jesus answered.” Mark 11:22

Jesus and the disciples had been walking along the road. Jesus saw a fig tree that was not producing fruit, and so He cursed it. The next morning as they passed by it again, the disciples noticed that the fig tree had withered up and died. They were amazed.

Jesus, then, tells them to have faith in God.

Faith is a belief and trust in someone or something. Every person has been given some faith. Every person has some faith. It is just a matter of question as to what their faith is in.

Every day when you go out to your car you have faith that your car will start. Or when you go to work, you have faith that you still have a job. Or when you turn on the light switch, that the light will turn on.

You have faith when you drive down the road, that the other drivers will stay on their side of the road. You have faith the leaders of your community will make correct decisions.

There are many other things you have faith in. Some things you may have more faith in, while other things, you have less faith in.

You can have perfect faith in God in everything. God is a God of love and will take care of you. God will only give you what is best for you. God will also answer every prayer that you pray.

Are you listening for God to answer your prayer? Are you willing to accept His answer?

Do not doubt anything with God. Every time you pray, God will answer. Sometimes it will be a positive answer to your prayer, other times a negative answer to your prayer, but always an answer.

Believe that whatever the answer is, it is the best answer possible. God will work in and through you each and everyday, if you believe in Him.

Where is your faith today?

I pray today that God will prove His faithfulness to you; that you will have faith in God; that you will not doubt God at all; that you will trust God in all of His answers to you; and that God will make you more like Jesus everyday.

Mark 11:8-9 Praising Him

“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord!” Mark 11:8-9

Jesus was heading back into Jerusalem for the last time. He knew that He was ultimately going to His death. As He came riding in on a colt, the people gave Him praise.

The people went to the extreme in praising and honoring Jesus. They would lay their cloaks on the road for the donkey to walk upon. They felt He was of such high honor that the donkey should not even touch the dirty ground.

Along with laying down their cloaks, they also shouted praises. Hosanna means to save. They were wanting Him to save them. Although at the time, they were looking more at salvation from Rome, than from their sins.

They also shouted that He is blessed and was coming in the name of the Lord. They saw that God was blessings Him. They also knew that Jesus was coming in the name of God, in His power and authority.

These people went above and beyond what was needed. They were in a sense going extreme on their honoring Jesus, although He deserved it. In the eyes of the world, Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet, nothing more. No other prophet or teacher had received this type of honor.

How should this affect you today? Are you going a little bit crazy about Jesus?

If you realize who Jesus really is, and what He is doing, and has done for you, you will be crazy about Him. You will be willing to do crazy things to let others know about Him.

How many people go crazy about a famous celebrity or sports team? What do they do? Many crazy things are done.

How much more does Jesus deserve? Shout out loud praises of Jesus. Let the world know about Him and who He is. Let the world know He is coming again. Let the world know Jesus is there for them.

I pray today that you will have no fear in praising God openly; that God will reveal more of Himself to you; that you will tell the world who Jesus is; that you will tell the world Jesus is coming again; and that God will use you to build His kingdom.

Mark 10:33-34 Rough Road

“We are going up to Jerusalem, he said, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:33-34

As the disciples and Jesus were heading up to Jerusalem, Jesus decides to tell them what is going to happen there. It is not a pretty picture. It is a rough road. He tells how He will be handed over, mocked, spit upon, and killed.

Imagine how the disciples must have been feeling at this point. Here is the Man they believe is the Messiah, who has come to save them, is now going to be killed.

Also, think about how Jesus was feeling. He came and did absolutely nothing wrong, yet He was going forward into the greatest trouble any man could ever face in all of history.

Yet, they went forward, because of the last line Jesus had spoken in this passage: “Three days later he will rise”. Jesus knew He was going to die, but He also knew He was going to rise again, victorious.

What would you do if you knew that going into town today you were going to get killed? Most people would not go. They would go somewhere else.

Jesus knew He had to go to Jerusalem, it was the Father’s will. It was a part of the plan to save the world.

God may not be asking you to go to a physical death today, but He is asking you to die to yourself. God has a plan for your life. That plan may not always be cheerful and fun. It may include some very harsh pain, yet it is with your best interest in mind.

Are you willing to walk the path God has for you? Remember, the most that can happen to you is you get killed, but later you will rise again with Jesus.

Go forward today in God’s plan knowing that you will rise again victorious, just as Jesus did. It may be a rough road, but it will be worth it in the end.

I pray today that God will give you the strength to walk the path He has for you; that God will remove the fear of trouble; that you will trust God’s plan for your life; and that God will use you to build His kingdom.

Mark 10:24 Difficult Entry

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:24

As Jesus was teaching a rich man came up to Jesus and wanted to follow Him. Jesus told the man to sell what he had and give to the poor, then follow Him. The man went away sad and decided not to do what he was told. This is where Jesus said it is hard for the rich to enter heaven.

Jesus repeats the statement again, only leaving out “the rich” part. The disciples were amazed at this statement.

Many people like to use this verse to talk about the value of not being rich, or to speak against those that are very wealthy. Jesus never spoke against having great wealth. He was looking at where the heart is.

When a person is wealthy, it is very easy to put your trust in the wealth or the ability to get wealth, than it is to trust in God. Most believers can believe and understand this.

However, with Jesus stating that it is hard to get into heaven, He was talking about everyone. Why is it difficult to get into heaven? All a person has to do is repent of their sins, believe Jesus paid the price for their sins and forgave him, and follow Him.

It is more of the heart that it becomes difficult to get into heaven. Where is your real trust?

Whether you are wealthy, or you are poor, you must believe and trust only in God. You must not trust in your own abilities or merits. Many believe that because they have done good things, they deserve heaven. What you have done has nothing to do with you getting into heaven.

Even the poorest of the poor can have a difficult time fully trusting in God for everything, including salvation. Are you trusting your hard work ethic? Or your job? Or your position? Or your going to church? Or your ministry? Or anything else?

Trust only in Jesus. Rely only on God for everything. This is difficult to do as a human. It is a simple strategy, but requires a denial of self, which is the difficult part. With God all things are possible. Are you trusting God today?

I pray today that God will help you see that He will take care of you; that you will trust God with all of your heart; that you will not trust in things of this world for anything; and that you will follow God with all that is in you.

Mark 10:5 Unwanted Laws

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law, Jesus replied.” Mark 10:5

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus wanting to know if it was lawful to get a divorce. They pointed out that Moses had allowed a man to give a woman a certificate of divorce and send her away.

Jesus starts out with His answer pointing out that it was only because of the hardness of the hearts that divorce was permitted. He then points out that God never wanted divorce in the first place.

This could easily be a place for debating the arguments about whether God allows divorce or not. I am not going to talk on that subject in this blog.

Look at why divorce was permitted–it was because the hardness of the heart. The people were demanding that they be allowed to divorce. It was not God’s, nor Moses choice to want to allow it.

Outside of divorce, does this type of hardness of heart and making of rules still happen? Yes. Many people have closed their hearts off to what God really wants and start demanding changes in the way things are done.

Thirty years ago, very few places were open on Sundays. As a whole everyone believed you needed to rest on Sunday as God wanted. Today, a person almost cannot get a job without working on Sunday. This is due to people hardening their hearts and demanding more hours and services.

Television and movies have changed over the years. Classroom teaching has been changed to drop God out of the picture. Moral standards have dropped and rules have been put in place to allow the drop because of the hardness of hearts.

Christian Chaplains in the Army must now preach Islam to the soldiers, to be fair to everyone. This is because of new rules due to the hardness of the heart.

Where is your heart today? Is your heart following after God? Or is it following yourself or this world?

Be careful what rules you want in place. God may allow it, but does not mean He wants it. God never wanted divorce, but He does allow it, because man’s heart was hardened.

Do not allow your heart to become hard against the desires of God. Know the love and compassion that God has for you and everyone else.

I pray today that you will keep your heart from going hard against God; that God will fill your heart with His love and mercy; that you will not seek many rules on everything; that you will allow God’s love to guide you in all that you do; and that God will use you to build His kingdom.