“Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!”

Photo: Pixabay/limo23

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me,” Matthew 14:30

There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28).  Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).

How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible?  I mean – really?!  People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26).  Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.

What would that have been like?  Awesome, indeed!  I love to swim so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me downright giddy.  Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try.  To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.

Extraordinary living!  Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about?  It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him.  The rest stayed in the boat.  They were content with the status quo.  But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.

As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough.  A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith.  What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was.  The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us.  If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright.  If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.

Jesus never promised calm seas all the time.  But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).  It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised.  It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him.  No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us.  Always!

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast.  Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you.  God wants us to step out into extraordinary living.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible.  We can walk on water, too!  He is with you, always!

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“490 Acts of Love!”

 

“Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven,”
Matthew 18:22

Gulp!  Yes, forgiveness in any form can be a hard pill to swallow.  But, let me ask you this.  How many times has God ever said no to us whenever we sought healing and restoration for the wrongs we have done?  Exactly, He hasn’t!

Forgiveness, much like love, is nothing to be played with.  It is not a lip service to please others rather, it is a heart service to the Lord.  It is, in a sense, showing to others the same grace and mercy that God showed toward us.

Immediately following this verse, so that there were no misconceptions about the seriousness of this point that He was making, Jesus sealed it with a story of one who showed mercy and offered forgiveness and one who didn’t:

 “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” – Matthew 18:23-25

The seriousness of it all really comes to light when Jesus opens up the parable and comparing it to the kingdom of heaven.  Now, why did He go and do that?  Because the story He is about to tell so resembles what occurs in the spiritual realm that it would be easy for the people to relate to.

What would happen if today God sat down and “took account” of all the wrongs we have done?  What would it be like if we stood before Him unable to pay what we owe?  We were there!  Jesus knew the predicament that humanity was in.  He knew that man could never get himself out of the debt of sin, so here He stresses grace, mercy and compassion on those who don’t deserve it.

How often have we withheld those three precious gifts from another because our feelings were hurt?  Believe it or not, it’s the same thing.  We may not have choked out a man, demanding retribution, but if we are withholding the same mercies that God showed us then we are choking that man or woman spiritually and emotionally.

“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” (Matthew 6:15).  God will not allow us to act like that unjust servant.  Love has compelled Him to shower us with love, at all cost to save us, just so that He could forgive us and restore us.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

It was an act of love.  An act of love that we now have the responsibility to pay it forward to another.  No, people may not deserve it.  But, then again, neither did we.  It was only through the eyes of a merciful God that we are given another chance.

Tell me, who in your life deserves that second or third or whatever the number may be, chance today?  Forgiveness IS NOT EASY!  But, it is an “Act of Love.”

490, of course, is not a definite number.  It’s a symbol that we are to be unlimited in our willingness to forgive the offence of others against us.  It is the same love; the same “Act of Love” that God showed us.  We have been loved to the point of forgiveness and we called to love in the same way.

The Bible tells us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8, KJV).  I guarantee, if we were to look at ourselves, we could not fathom how many times our accounts would have gone unpaid had it not been for the blood of Christ.  More than 490 times?  But, thank God, He acted in love to save to us!

 

“Be Fruitful”

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth
his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth
shall prosper,” Psalm 1:3, KJV

I believe right there the trees stop and laugh at us. Whether it is planted in the inner city or deep in the countryside, as long as it has soil, water and sunshine it will grow. The tree doesn’t look for excuses for why it can’t do what it was purposed to do. It just does it. It grows and bears fruit.

We have to learn to be abundant where we are planted. Take inventory of where you are right now. What is there that can be done by you? What gap can you fill? What soul can you reach out to? What aspect of ministry can you lend your talents to? Don’t always look at the big stuff; there are little tidbits of things that can be done by each of us. There are small ways to minister (serve) that God can put to good use to cause increase in His kingdom.

Psalm 1:1-2 speaks of the choice of the individual to do right. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night,” (KJV). Now it’s time to walk in the fruitfulness of vs.3, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper,” (KJV).

So, if you have already made the same choice and are now planted, it’s time to let some fruit grow. Nobody will know anything about you unless you start growing fruit; until you start producing something. An apple tree is not an apple tree if it does not produce apples. Matthew 12:33 declares, “. . . for the tree is known by his fruit,” (KJV).

Today, I urge you to make a proclamation to yourself and say, “Self, today, right where I am planted, I will produce!” Do you not know that God will honor that? The Word of God emphatically says, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,” (Matthew 17:20, KJV). God doesn’t need you to try to grab hold of the biggest thing in ministry there is. But, if your heart is sincere and your faith is genuine, He will honor the fruitfulness of every little step you take.

Don’t let intimidation stop you from being effective for the Kingdom of God. If all I have is a small measure to work with then, I’m going to work that small measure until I see the increase. So, I declare that, “Today, right where I am planted, I will be fruitful!

“Jesus Didn’t Let Discouragement Win!”

My Project 55-001

“Jesus never fails,” is something I have heard quoted many times over in church.  There is not greater truth for the Christian to hold on to for in it we find consolation for our souls.  Reading the Bible this morning, this particular verse wouldn’t let me go.  It held on and refused me the opportunity to pass it by, demanding that more attention be paid to it.  It says, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth,” (Isaiah 42:4).

Knowing the power of our Lord, of course I know He never fails.  As a matter of fact, it is something you and I count on daily.  The part that really jumped out at me was that He does not get “discouraged.”  That is something that this flesh of mine CANNOT boast about.

We are easily swayed this way and that with the moving of our circumstances and our emotions and just plain old life itself.  But, Jesus never let anything sway Him.  He never let anything drag Him off course from where God wanted Him to be.  As a matter of fact, He repeatedly let us know “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” (John 6:38).  Discouragement didn’t stand a chance against the will of God planted so deeply in Him.

Let’s really think about this because if anybody had a reason to be discouraged, Jesus did.  Think of His walking up and down the shores of Galilee, some followed Him just for miracles and some for ridicule, purposed to find fault in Him.  Think about the many times He performed a miracle for others and yet when it came time that He would need people the most “they all forsook him, and fled,” (Mt. 14:50).  If it were me I would have felt so used but Jesus’ response was “but the scriptures must be fulfilled,” (Matt. 14:49).  God’s will was still prominent over His emotions.  Yes, He got upset sometimes.  Remember when He overthrew the tables, (Mt. 21:12)?  But, He never let discouragement win!  He never let discouragement take Him off course!  He never let discouragement gain the upper hand.  Wow!

Jesus had every right to be discouraged with the way things were but He did not give it the opportunity. Discouragement is a pit.  The more you swim in it the deeper it takes you under.  The fact is we do what Jesus didn’t do, we give it the opportunity.  Jesus let nothing frustrate Him from doing what He had to do.  What about us?  How often have we or do we swim in that pit of discouragement only to wonder why we can’t get anything done around here?

There are going to be upsetting times in everyone’s life and I will never downplay those.  Even Ecclesiastes tells us, “To everything there is a season,” (Ecc. 3:1).  But, if we find ourselves dipping too often in the pool of despair then we have to wonder why do we keep giving it the opportunity to control our lives?  Why do we keep giving it a place of position instead of responding like Jesus did?

Sometimes it does get hard but I believe we have to make a conscience decision to respond the way Jesus did and to not let it frustrate us from everything that God has for us and want us to do.

“Rabbi, is it I?”

My Project 503-001

“Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, ‘Rabbi, is it I?'” Matthew 26:25, NKJV

Love betrayed.  The betrayed and the betrayer locked in questioning gaze.  A tension of certainty and doubt filling the air of what was to be a beautiful last dinner spent with His disciples.

On the one hand is Christ.  He has done nothing but show love, concern and compassion toward all who met Him.  From the miracles to the teachings, He has treasured each life that came across His path enough to compel Him to know that the cross was the only way to save them all.  Love was His motto.

Then, there is Judas Iscariot.  The betrayer.  The sell-out.  The one who was close to Christ but now has become an enemy of Christ.  Selfishness is what compelled him to give it all up for thirty pieces of silver.  Gain and greed were his motto.  Love didn’t matter anymore.

The two together at dinner with the question in the air:

“Rabbi, is it I?”

Have you ever felt the sting of betrayal by someone to whom you have poured out love?  It doesn’t feel good.  Our Lord amazes me!  He knew all things and yet subjected Himself to all things.  He carried it all to the cross with the burgeoning of love in His very being.  He suffered affliction, ridicule and torment.  Yet, those He loved and walked with these three and half years of His earthly ministry are nowhere to be found.  One sold Him out and the others fled or denied Him altogether.

“Rabbi, is it I?”

Love causes us to do some crazy things.  Love makes us suffer long with people who have worked our last nerve.  Love keeps us from giving up and giving in.  Love centers us back to the real mission at hand: which is to love some more.

Love caused Christ to look into the face of His betrayer and say, “You have said it.”  Love put the plan in motion that will pay the price for it all.  Love gave the okay for the process to start, redeeming man from themselves.

Have you ever wished you could save someone you love from the mistakes they are making?  Has the love you shown over the years not reaped the rewards you were hoping for?  Has the one you loved turned their back on you?

Feelings that come from these questions don’t feel good.  No more for us than they did for Christ.  But, when we view His life and all that He dealt with in light of our own questions, it breathes a new life of appreciation in all that He has done for us.

“Rabbi, is it I?”

We have not always been our best.  We have not always crossed every T or dotted every i, yet, He continues to love.  We have not always followed every command or taken every stand that we ought to, yet, He continues to love.

The next time when the love we shed for another seems to be all for nought, remember Christ.  Remember how His love was betrayed.  Remember how His love was afflicted.  Remember how His love compelled Him to continue on.

Remember all He did for each and every one of us despite us not being at our best:

“I was sinking deep in sin,   Far from the peaceful  shore, Very deeply stained within,   Sinking to rise no  more; But the Master of the sea   Heard my despairing  cry, From the waters lifted me,   Now safe am I.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could  help,   Love lifted me.”  (Source:Hymnal.net)

Let the knowledge of His love cover us today.  Yup, it hurts sometimes but let the knowing of what He did for us compel us to act as He did – with Love!

Reality check for us all.

Thank you, Lord, for your love lifting me despite all my mess!

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“Be Empowered!”

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“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness . . . that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Oh, that thorn in the flesh syndrome. That persistent thing that seems like it will never be removed from your life. I would venture to say that most people have dealt with or are currently dealing with that one nagging thing that keeps . . . well, nagging you! That one thing that causes us to say, “Lord, if You would just move this one thing from my life, I would be alright.” Thorns are hurtful. They are irritating. And, they get in the way of the one who wants to enjoy the blossom. There is a beautiful rose on the end of the stem, but the thorns hinder the enjoyment, making it hard for one to really take in the beauty thereof up close and personal.

Oftentimes, when one is trying to enjoy the beauty of God’s promises, hurtful things arise. As one tries to draw nearer and nearer to Him, the thorns make it hard to hold on. The thorns “spring up and choke them,” Matthew 13:7. They choke out the way. Nevertheless, despite what our outside circumstances may be telling us, we are taught that we can still live the empowered life. Though we have “infirmities” (and we all do), “grace” is still at work. Grace – that unmerited favor, makes room when our own obstacles get in the way. And God says it is “sufficient.” It is enough.

There is only one man who lived in this world perfectly and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are surviving off of God’s grace. We depend on it every day though we are undeserving of it. He has empowered us through our Lord Jesus Christ to progress on this journey despite all of our shortcomings. Every obstacle that we face in life is not going to be moved. Oh, how I wish it would be. (Don’t judge me! You know you wish every obstacle you face would be moved, too.) But, what the apostle Paul is teaching us is that we can still succeed in Christ. We can still have a blessed Christian life through His power that “rest upon” us.

Have you ever played tag as a kid? Somebody tried to tag you and get you out, but you gave them the slip and got away. Have you ever in a victorious romp stuck your thumbs in your ears, while waving your fingers and chanting, “Na, Na, Na, boo, boo?” Paul had a victorious romp of his own. After he prayed and realized despite all he was going through the grace of God was still at work in his life – and, that God’s strength was being made perfect in Paul’s weakness, Paul declared, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities.” Paul was saying, tag me if you will, but God was working it out for him!

Don’t you love that? Despite it all God is still at work in us and through us. He is perfecting some stuff and we can rejoice with Paul. (Just don’t do the chanting, you are too old for that – tee, hee.) We are not rejoicing because of trouble or hurt, or anything like that. We are rejoicing because we believe in God’s grace, and that allows the power of Christ to rest upon us because we have yielded to Him.

The empowered life is one that yields to Him and recognizes it is His strength being perfected in us. The empowered person can still push forth knowing that God is still at work, even through the hardest of times. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. The hurt may not be over but it’s as if God is saying, “I have all you need to make through.”

Talking about empowerment can very easily cause one to divert and take a humanistic view. But, I’ve really strived to keep this God-centered. Everything we need is in Him and when we can really grasp hold of that, then are we truly empowered.

“Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!”

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Matthew 14:30-31 Wallpaper
“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me,” Matthew 14:30

There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28).  Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).

How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible?  I mean – really?!  People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26).  Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.

What would that have been like?  Awesome, indeed!  I love to swim, so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me down right giddy.  Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try.  To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.

Extraordinary living!  Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about?  It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him.  The rest stayed in the boat.  They were content with the status quo.  But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.

As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough.  A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith.  What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was.  The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us.  If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright.  If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.

Jesus never promised calm seas all the time.  But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).  It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised.  It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him.  No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us.  Always!

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast.  Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you.  God wants us to step out into extraordinary living.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible.  We can walk on water, too!  He is with you, always!