Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Humming Cedars


Isaiah 35:2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, [and] the excellency of our God.


No one can call Isaiah a prophet of doom. At the slightest provocation, He becomes a poet and a songster when he sees what God has in store for His people. Each time he is compelled to prophesy the judgment of God, he follows with a picture of God's redemptive purpose. As his oracles of punishment have deepened in severity, so his oracles of promise have soared to new heights. Therefore, after Isaiah's gory revelation of God's fury against the nations and Edom in chapter 34, we can expect poetry and song unmatched in his earlier prophecies of promise. Isaiah does not disappoint us. In his vision of the future transformation of Zion, all of his creative impulses are released in the text and tone of divine inspiration. One way to capture those impulses is to join Isaiah in the transformations that turn the "wilderness and the wasteland" of Zion into a garden of gladness to which the redeemed come singing the praises of God.

As creation was reversed in the devastation of Edom, so the garden is restored in the transformation of Zion. As a means of communicating with the children of Israel, Isaiah may well be envisioning the desert region known as the Arabah, which runs down through the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Arabah on the Persian Gulf. A deep valley below sea level, the Arabah is the Death Valley of the Middle East—uninhabited, unproductive, and uninviting. To transform that desert into a carpet of crocuses whose beauty gladdens the heart and puts a song on the lips is a miracle indeed. Every person in Judah and Jerusalem who had seen the Arabah would understand the transformation that brought the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Carmel, and the roses of Sharon to the wasteland (Isaiah 35:2). The smell, the strength, and the sight of these wonders of nature would cause every eye to open wide and see the "glory of the LORD" and "the excellency of our God" (Isaiah 35:2).


Picture the wind blowing through the cedars of Lebanon and some of them 'humming' in response. And the greater the storm, the sweeter their song. These were called humming cedars. And God uses humming cedars to build strong churches. In Acts, a couple of 'humming cedars' were incarcerated in a Philippian dungeon, their hands and feet locked in stocks, their backs flogged, the contempt of society heaped on them. How did they respond? "At midnight Paul and Silas were… singing hymns to God… Suddenly there was a great earthquake… the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed" (Acts 16:25-26 NKJV). One old preacher said: "God got so caught up in their praises that He began to tap His big foot. And when God taps His foot, you get earthquakes."

Praise breaks chains and opens doors; it's the strategy for victory. Satan will try to stop you from praising God because he knows: (a) The importance of praise. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised… (Psalm 48:1 NKJV). (b) The healing effects of praise. God's answer to "the spirit of heaviness" is "the garment of praise" (Isaiah 61:3 NKJV). But like any garment, you must put it on. (c) The power of praise in times of crisis. When Israel was outnumbered by the enemy, God told them to put a choir in front of the army and march into battle. And it worked! "When they began… to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the [enemy]… (2 Chronicles 20:22 NKJV). Don't wait until the battle is over to shout; go to war with the praise of God on your lips and watch Him turn your situation around.


"Lord, help me today to be like the cedars and give you glory and praise! My the winds that in the midst of a storm, cause me to "hum" even louder to You, and may my praise song be even sweeter! It is the high praise of Your people that helps solidify Your church. I praise You today Lord while everything is going great. Help me to praise You even more in the midst of the storm! In Jesus' name, amen!"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Boots or no boots


Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.


How could the message be more clear? The writer was telling the individual listeners to praise God. What a fitting way to end this book of praise—with direct encouragement for you to praise God, too. Remember to praise him every day!

In a way, the book of Psalms parallels our spiritual journey through life. It begins by presenting us with two roads: the way to life and the way to death. If we choose God's way to life, we still face both blessings and troubles, joy and grief, successes and obstacles. Through it all, God is at our side, guiding, encouraging, comforting, and caring. As the wise and faithful person's life draws to an end, it becomes clear that God's road is the right road. Knowing this will cause us to praise God for leading us in the right direction and for assuring us of a place in the perfect world he has in store for those who have faithfully followed him.


In pre-Emancipation days it was common practise for white people to occupy the main floor of a church while African-Americans were assigned to the balcony. Every Sunday a black man called Frank would interrupt the sermon by praising God out loud from the balcony. Irritated, Frank's boss promised him a pair of new boots if he'd stay quiet. So Frank made up his mind not to utter a peep. The following Sunday the pastor spoke about all the wonderful gifts God gave us through His Son Jesus. Frank struggled to stay quiet, but inside he was shouting, "Hallelujah … Praise the Lord." Still, he kept his lip buttoned, thinking about the new boots. But eventually the Word of God connected with the Spirit of God that was within him. Unable to contain himself he jumped up and shouted, "Boots or no boots - I'm gonna praise the Lord!" I want that kind of spirit and attitude.

I certainly make the time and effort to complain, so I want to work at praising the Lord! I want to work at thanking the Lord! BOOTS OR NOT BOOTS, I'M GONNA PRAISE THE LORD! What an attitude.

We sit in church every week with our mouths closed, maintaining a facade of respectability and decorum. We go through the day and we often do not get excited about God's provision. We don't stop and THINK ABOUT THE LORD and what He's done for us. Why not let the words to the chorus get into your Spirit man today:

When I Think about the Lord,
How He saved me, how He raised me,
how He filled me, with the Holy Ghost.
How He healed me, to the uttermost.

When I Think about the Lord,
how He picked me up and turned me around,
how He placed my feet on solid ground


It makes me wanna shout,
Thank you JESUS,
LORD, your worthy, of all the glory, and all the honor,
and all the praise...

In the New Testament times, when Jesus "came near… the whole crowd… began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: [saying] 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord'… the Pharisees… said to Jesus… 'rebuke Your disciples!'… He replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'" (Luke 19:37-40 NIV). Isaiah said, "The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees… will clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12 NLT).

Stones! Mountains! Trees! Are you getting the message? God's Word says, "Let every living, breathing creature praise God" (Psalm 150:6 TM). Unless you're dead, that's what you should be doing!


"Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness. Thank you for your love, goodness, mercy, and provision. Forgive me for the times I have done more complaining thank praising. I am a blessed man, and today I choose to live like one! In Jesus' name, amen!"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thank you Jesus!


Luke 13:11-13 And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. (12) When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your disability." (13) And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.


Why was healing considered work? The religious leaders saw healing as part of a doctor's profession, and practicing one's profession on the Sabbath was prohibited. The synagogue leader could not see beyond the law to Jesus' compassion in healing this crippled woman. Jesus shamed him and the other leaders by pointing out their hypocrisy. They would untie their animals and care for them, but they refused to rejoice when a human being was freed from Satan's bondage.


When God straightens you up, make sure you glorify Him - nobody else, just Him! Others may be the instruments He uses, but He alone is the source of your every blessing. Don't allow anybody to guilt-trip you, or hold you hostage to an act of kindness. When people ask God to use them, He does it by assigning them to minister to others. That's a privilege. They shouldn't look to others for their reward; they should look to God for it.

But be prepared; when you start glorifying God, some folks won't understand you. That's because they've never had your problem. This woman had been bent over for 18 years. Once she was made straight, she couldn't help but give glory to God. Can you imagine being bent over, not able to walk right, not able to sit right, not able to rest right...but at the touch of Jesus' hand...MADE RIGHT! We really don't know how uncomfortable she must have been. But Jesus straightened her up. Because of that, she couldn't nor would she keep from praising the Lord!

Peter and John were put in prison, and then brought before the court because of their talk about this "Jesus". They were even commanded and warned NOT to even speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Listen to what they said:

Act 4:19-20 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. (20) For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

They determined, like the lady in our text, that they were going to praise God, period! You see, your praise is related to your former pain - the greater the pain the greater the praise! Until you've been bound, you'll never know how good it feels to be free! Until you've walked in someone else's shoes, you won't understand why they're dancing in them. Jesus said, "When you've received much, you'll love much" (Luke 7:47).

Whether you shout, whisper, fall on your face or run like the wind, God is worthy to be praised! He commands it! He delights in it! He actually dwells in it! So today, praise Him for all He has done for you!


"Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy in my life. I can't help but shout praises to Your name. When my praise begins to wane, it is because I have forgotten about the pain that You brought me out of! Forgive me Lord for being so out of balance in my life. I am thankful that I can bring my needs to you, but I MUST remember to daily give you praise. You straightened my life out, you forgave me of my sins, you restored my hope, you renewed my confidence, you changed my destiny, You changed my eternity, You brought me through the storm, You brought me through the fiery furnaces of my life, You lifted me out of depression, out of discouragement, out of despair, You believed in me when no one else did! How can I NOT praise Your holy name! I want to shout it from the top of my voice, THANK YOU JESUS, THANK YOU JESUS, THANK YOU JESUS!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Way. The Truth. The Life.


John 14:5-6 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (6) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


This is one of the most basic and important passages in Scripture. How can we know the way to God? Only through Jesus. Jesus is the way because he is both God and man. By uniting our lives with his, we are united with God. Trust Jesus to take you to the Father, and all the benefits of being God's child will be yours.

Jesus says he is the only way to God the Father. Some people may argue that this way is too narrow. In reality, it is wide enough for the whole world, if the world chooses to accept it. Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, "Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to you!"

As the way, Jesus is our path to the Father. As the truth, he is the reality of all God's promises. As the life, he joins his divine life to ours, both now and eternally. Jesus is, in truth, the only living way to the Father.


Judaism sees salvation as a judgement day decision based on morality. Hindus anticipate multiple reincarnations in the soul's journey through the cosmos. Buddhism guides your life according to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path. Muslims earn their way to Allah through the Five Pillars of Faith. Many philosophers deem life after death as hidden and unknown, 'a great leap in the dark.' Some people clump Christ with Moses, Mohammad, Confucius, and other spiritual leaders.

Jesus said… "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."' John 14:6 (NKJV).

Many object, 'All roads lead to heaven.' But how can they? Buddhists look toward Nirvana, achieved after no less than 547 reincarnations. Christians believe in one life, one death, and an eternity of enjoying God. Humanists don't acknowledge a creator of life. Jesus claims to be the source of life.

Spiritualists read your palms. Christians consult the Bible. Hindus perceive a plural and impersonal God. Christ-followers believe 'there is only one God' (1 Corinthians 8:4 NLT).

Every non-Christian religion says, 'You can save you.' Jesus says: 'My death on the cross saves you.' All roads don't lead to London, all ships don't sail to Australia, and all flights don't land in Rome. Every path does not lead to God.

Jesus blazed a stand-alone trail void of self-salvation. He cleared a one-of-a-kind passageway uncluttered by human effort. He offers us a unique invitation in which He works and we trust, He dies and we live, He invites and we believe. '"The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent"' (John 6:29 NCV).


"Thank you Jesus, that you are THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No one comes to the Father except through You. All roads do not lead to heaven. There is only one way, and that is through Jesus. Thank you for taking my sin, griefs, sorrows and sickness and paying my debt, a debt You did not owe, but paid it because of your love for me. What amazing love. Again, thank you Jesus. Amen!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jesus sat down!


Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,


Not only is Jesus the exact representation of God, but he is God himself—the very God who spoke in Old Testament times. He is eternal; he worked with the Father in creating the world (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He is the full revelation of God. You can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. Jesus Christ is the complete expression of God in a human body.

The book of Hebrews links God's saving power with his creative power. In other words, the power that brought the universe into being and that keeps it operating is the very power that cleanses our sins. How mistaken we would be to ever think that God couldn't forgive us. No sin is too big for the Ruler of the universe to handle. He can and will forgive us when we come to him through his Son. That Jesus sat down means that the work was complete. Christ's sacrifice was final.


We are dealing here with a person, not just an idea or a tradition or a religion or a practice. Jesus Christ was and is a living person. And he wills to be known, loved, trusted, followed, worshiped, enjoyed. He is alive and is in this room among us by his Spirit this morning receiving all that we do, and responding to us.

Here is a crucial observation in the way that the writer originally wrote this verse: it is one clause with one subject and one main verb. Everything else serves to shed light on that one main assertion. The subject is "He" (or "who" in the original)—that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The one main verb is "sat down." So the one main clause of the verse is: "He sat down at the right hand of Majesty." Everything else in the verse serves that assertion and sheds light on that.

The way to hear it is to translate it like this:

"He . . . being the radiance of God's glory . . . sat down at the right hand of Majesty."

"He . . . being the exact representation of God's nature . . . sat down at the right hand of Majesty."

"He . . . upholding all things by the word of His power . . . sat down at the right hand of Majesty."

"He . . . having made purification of sins sat down at the right hand of Majesty."

What the author here wants us to see is what makes it fitting for Christ to sit down at the right hand of God's majesty. He mentions four things:

He is the radiance of God's glory—so he sat down at God's right hand.

He is the exact representation of God's nature—so he sat down at God's right hand.

He upholds all things by the word of his power—so he sat down at God's right hand.

He made purification of sins—so he sat down at God's right hand.


"Lord, I am so thankful that you sat down after holding the universe together with Your Word and purifying us of our sins by applying Your blood to the heavenly mercy seat. Because You hold the universe together, I know that You can hold my life together. I am so thankful that You are SITTING at the right hand of the Father interceding for me. That helps me make it through each struggle, storm and day. In Jesus' name, amen!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seven Up’s


Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? (2) My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.


This song expresses assurance and hope in God's protection day and night. He not only made the hills but heaven and earth as well. We should never trust a lesser power than God himself. But not only is he all-powerful, he also watches over us. Nothing diverts or deters him. We are safe. We never outgrow our need for God's untiring watch over our life.


Notice "Seven Up's" that will help you continue to lift your eyes to the hills, to the Lord who is your help!

Wake up. Life's not a dress rehearsal. Live each day as though you won't be around tomorrow - for you might not be.

Dress up. When you get up each morning don't forget to put on a good attitude; it'll determine the rest of your day! Life's like a piano; everything depends on how you play it. Only 10% is about what happens to you; the other 90% is about how you respond to it.

Shut up. You're not learning while you're talking! Listen: "He who guards his lips guards his [soul]" (Proverbs 13:3). You'll save yourself untold heartache, and impress others by listening, observing, and speaking only after you've thought things through.

Stand up. Establish your values and your vision according to God's Word - nothing else! Not everybody will agree, nonetheless: "Stand firm. Let nothing move you" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).

Reach up. Paul says, "I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me" (Philippians 3:14). Focus on your goals! Refuse to settle for less than God's highest and best.

Lift up. Max Lucado says, "Worship is a 'thank you' that refuses to be silenced; an act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Saviour, the healed to the Healer, and the blessed to the Blesser." So lift up your voice in praise today!

Look up. David said, "I will lift up mine eyes… my help cometh from the Lord." Know what? When you're at your weakest, God's at His strongest!


"Lord, I thank you that I can look to You for my help and strength. You have not, nor will you, leave me comfortless. You are my help, my strength, and my courage. I love you and choose to use the Seven Up's to help me look to You today. In Jesus' name, amen!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bringing Refreshment


Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.


Like cold water on a long hike, this Christian brother Philemon knew how to be refreshing. He was able to revive and restore his brothers and sisters in the faith. His love and generosity had replenished and stimulated them. Philemon also encouraged Paul by his love and loyalty. Are you a refreshing influence on others, or do your attitude and temperament add to the burden they carry? Instead of draining others' energy and motivation with complaints and problems, replenish their spirits by encouragement, love, and a helpful attitude.


My heart was stirred when I read this verse this morning. Much joy and comfort was brought to Paul from the love that Philemon gave to him. Because of this love, the saint's hearts were refreshed. I looked up the meaning of refreshed and found the following:

The Greek word is anapauō and it means: 1) to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength 2) to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest 3) to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.

So, Philemon's love for God and others allowed the man of God to rest, collect his strength, to keep quiet, calm down and wait with patient expectation! Now that is how to relax! And it was brought on because of the love shown by one man.

As I meditate on that, who will I refresh today? I want to bring joy and comfort to people. I want to cause them to rest and relax. I know some folk that instantly take rest and relaxation out of the room when they show up. They are so cynical, critical, and calloused about everything and everybody. They burden you down, wear you out, and can sap your joy. I never want to be someone like that. I want to be like Philemon.

The name Philemon means "one who kisses." And from this verse, we know he "kissed" people, not with his lips, but with joy, comfort and refreshment. Lord, help me to "kiss" with joy, comfort and refreshment today!


"Lord, my hearts desire today is to bring encouragement to someone. I never want to be one who people dread seeing coming because of a bad, negative attitude. That type of person saps the joy, comfort and refreshment out of your life and the room. I want to bring joy and refreshment today to everyone I come in contact with. Direct my steps today oh Lord. I know you have divine appointments prepared for me today. I bless Your name and thank You for it. In Jesus' name, amen!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

No “tongue lashing” for the Word today!


Titus 2:5-6 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.


Having people of all ages in the church makes it strong, but it also brings potential for problems. Paul gave Titus counsel on how to help various groups of people. The older people should teach the younger by words and by example. This is how values are passed on from generation to generation. Does your church carry out this basic function?

Women who were new Christians were to learn how to have harmony in the homes by watching older women who had been Christians for some time. We have the same need today. Young wives and mothers should learn to live in a Christian manner—loving their husbands and caring for their children—through observing exemplary women of God. If you are of an age or in a position where people look up to you, make sure that your example is motivating younger believers to live in a way that honors God.

Self-control is an important aspect of living the Christian life. The Christian community, then and now, is made up of people from differing backgrounds and viewpoints, making conflict inevitable. We live in a pagan and often hostile world. To stay above reproach, believers need wisdom and discernment to be discreet and to master their wills, tongues, and passions so that Christ is not dishonored. How is your self-control?


As I was reading through Titus this morning, the last part of v. 5 jumped off of the page at me, "that the word of God may not be reviled."

The word reviled means, "verbal abuse, bawl out, chew out, rail, tongue lashing, malign, slander"

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit warns that we live a self-controlled, kind, submissive life so that the Word of God is not: verbally abused, chewed out, railed against, given a tongue lashing, maligned or slandered against.

I want to live my life today, very much aware that my choices will affect the Word of God in someone's life for the good or the bad. I never again want the Word of God to be reviled against because of my lack of self-control. I do not want the Word of God to take a "tongue lashing" by those looking for an excuse to blaspheme God and His Word. When I lose it because of my temper, or when my eyes wander to look at things they shouldn't, I am causing the precious Word of God to be "reviled" against. I want to live a "controlled, disciplined" life. The only way I can do that is to live a Spirit-controlled life. I must determine today, to walk in the Spirit. When I do that, I die to my selfish desires.

In Mark 5:4-5 the Bible tells us about man who "had often been put in chains… but he broke [them]. No one could control him." They couldn't stop him from hurting himself, because when you're under Satan's control the last thing you'll do is listen to those who care about you. When it's an issue of control, whatever the flesh wants it gets!

For example, have you ever been so convicted about a particular sin that you promised God, "Never again?" But a week later you ended up doing the same thing? The problem is once you start breaking promises to God it's easy to do the same to yourself and others. When you're in the flesh you feel like you can get away with anything. You think because you're so discreet that nobody knows the fantasies you entertain. Or you're so smooth because you've got alibis for all your sinful activities!

What you fail to realise is that by violating the boundaries God put in place for your protection, you're hurting yourself and jeopardising your future. It's not just a question of being tempted; the Bible says God won't "let you be pushed past your limit" (1 Corinthians 10:13 TM). It's a question of God being able to trust you to impose restraints on your own behaviour.

Is there an out-of-control area in your life? An infatuation? A hurtful habit? If you ask God to help you say no to your flesh and to exercise restraint through the power of His Spirit - He'll do it! That's a promise!

My prayer today is, "Lord, I will walk in the Spirit today so I can hear Your warning whisper when I about to cause Your Word to be "reviled" against!" How about you?


"Lord, thank you for this rhema Word today. There have been times in my life that I have caused Your Word to be reviled. It happened, and happens, when I do not place my life under Your control. I choose today to be Spirit-controlled. I fail often with self-control, but when I am Spirit-controlled, the light, love, and life of Jesus shines through me. Help me today to be Spirit-controlled. When that happens, there will be 'no tongue lashing for the Word of God today' from my choices. In Jesus name, amen!"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five Stones


1 Samuel 17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.


Criticism couldn't stop David. While the rest of the army stood around, he knew the importance of taking action. With God to fight for him, there was no reason to wait. People may try to discourage you with negative comments or mockery, but continue to do what you know is right. By doing what is right, you will be pleasing God, whose opinion matters most.


I read the following from Max Lucado this morning and wanted to share it with my blog friends:

Goliaths still roam our world. Debt. Disaster. Dialysis. Danger. Deceit. Disease. Depression. Super-size challenges still swagger and strut, still pilfer sleep and embezzle peace and liposuction joy. But they can't dominate you. You know how to deal with them. You face giants by facing God first.

Focus on giants—you stumble.

Focus on God—your giants tumble.

You know what David knew, and you do what David did. You pick up five stones, and you make five decisions. Ever wonder why David took five stones into battle? Why not two or twenty? Rereading his story reveals five answers. Use your five fingers to remind you of the five stones you need to face down your Goliath. Let your thumb remind you of …


Goliath jogged David's memory. Elah was a déjà vu. While everyone else quivered, David remembered. God had given him strength to wrestle a lion and strong-arm a bear. Wouldn't he do the same with the giant? A good memory makes heroes.

"Remember His marvelous works which He has done" (1 Chron. 16:12). Catalog God's successes. Keep a list of his world records. Has he not walked you through high waters? Proven to be faithful? Have you not known his provision? How many nights have you gone to bed hungry? Mornings awakened in the cold? He has made roadkill out of your enemies. Write today's worries in sand. Chisel yesterday's victories in stone. Pick up the stone of the past. Then select …


Note the valley between your thumb and finger. To pass from one to the next you must go through it. Let it remind you of David's descent. Before going high, David went low; before ascending to fight, David descended to prepare. Don't face your giant without first doing the same. Dedicate time to prayer. Paul, the apostle, wrote, "Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long" (Eph. 6:18 MSG).

Prayer spawned David's successes. His Brook Besor wisdom grew out of the moment he "strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Sam. 30:6). When Saul's soldiers tried to capture him, David turned toward God: "You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble" (Ps. 59:16).

Invite God's help. Pick up the stone of prayer. And don't neglect …


Let your tallest finger remind you of your highest priority: God's reputation. David jealously guarded it. No one was going to defame his Lord. David fought so that "all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:46–47).

David saw Goliath as a chance for God to show off! Did David know he would exit the battle alive? No. But he was willing to give his life for the reputation of God.

What if you saw your giant in the same manner? Rather than begrudge him, welcome him. Your cancer is God's chance to flex his healing muscles. Your sin is God's opportunity to showcase grace. Your struggling marriage can billboard God's power. See your struggle as God's canvas. On it he will paint his multicolored supremacy. Announce God's name and then reach for …


David ran, not away from, but toward his giant. On one side of the battlefield, Saul and his cowardly army gulped. On the other, Goliath and his skull-splitters scoffed. In the middle, the shepherd boy ran on his spindly legs. Who bet on David? Who put money on the kid from Bethlehem? Not the Philistines. Not the Hebrews. Not David's siblings or David's king. But God did.

And since God did, and since David knew God did, the skinny runt became a blur of pumping knees and a swirling sling. He ran toward his giant.

Do the same!

Let your ring finger remind you to take up the stone of passion.

One more stone, and finger, remains:


David didn't think one rock would do. He knew Goliath had four behemoth relatives. For all David knew, they'd come running over the hill to defend their kin. David was ready to empty the chamber if that's what it took.

Imitate him. Never give up. One prayer might not be enough. One apology might not do it. One day or month of resolve might not suffice. You may get knocked down a time or two … but don't quit. Keep loading the rocks. Keep swinging the sling.

David took five stones. He made five decisions. Do likewise. Past. Prayer. Priority. Passion. And persistence.

Next time Goliath wakes you up, reach for a stone. Odds are, he'll be out of the room before you can load your sling.


"Lord, as I pause and remember this morning, I am reminded of the many giants you have given me victory over. Giants of sickness, criticism, hatred, prejudice, anger, financial ruin, and I could go on and on. Over and over again you tell me 'the battle is not yours, it is mine.' Thank you for speaking that to me again. Help me to pick up the five stones mentioned in the above article. Then, once again, you will fight for me. In Jesus name, amen!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010



2 Timothy 4:9-11 Do your best to come to me quickly, (10) for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. (11) Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.


Paul was virtually alone and probably lonely. No one had come to his trial to speak in his defense (2 Timothy 4:16), and Demas had left the faith. Crescens and Titus had left, but not for the same reasons as Demas. Paul did not criticize or condemn them. Demas had been one of Paul's coworkers (Col 4:14; Philemon 1:24), but he had deserted Paul because he loved "the things of this life." In other words, Demas loved worldly values and worldly pleasures.

There are two ways to love the world. God loves the world as he created it and as it could be if it were rescued from evil. Others, like Demas, love the world as it is, sin and all. Do you love the world as it could be if justice were done, the hungry were fed, and people loved one another? Or do you love what the world has to offer—wealth, power, pleasure—even if gaining it means hurting people and neglecting the work God has given you to do?


The name "Demas" means popular. As I read this verse again with that definition in mind, it spoke to me that sometimes we back off of our commitment to God and others because we strive to be popular with other people. Paul said because Demas "loved this world" he had deserted "me". My friends, the "popular" pull of this world has effected many people. Leaders are especially susceptible to this pull. It is easy to make the decision to never "rock the boat" or to never lead towards change. It is comfortable to just remain the same. But my friends, we can't lead or serve God for popularity.

If you let it, criticism will (a) steal your individuality, (b) rob you of your creativity, and (c) stop you from fulfilling your God-given assignment. Insecure people will always criticise you. Why? Because they're threatened by things that don't conform to their way of thinking.

On the other hand, secure people can allow you to be different, because they themselves are secure in who they are. They don't need to blow your light out, in order to let their own light shine.

Paul says Jesus, "made himself of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7). Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to us is a good reputation, because then we have to promote it and protect it.

Jesus wasn't concerned about what others thought of Him. He had a goal - to do His Father's will; no more and no less. And he knew that to do it, He had to be free from the opinions of others. So do you!

The greatest tragedy in life is growing old, knowing that somewhere along the way you lost yourself, and never succeeded in being who God called you to be.

That's why Paul wrote, "It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion… the Master makes that judgement" (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 TM). Can you say that too? If not, you have to be careful that the "popular" way doesn't become your driving force!


"Lord, please forgive me for being like Demas at times, where I desert your direction or will because of the fear of man, or the desire to stay 'popular'. I cannot, must not lead that way. I pray that you will continue to lead, and guide. Help me to have the courage to follow YOUR direction. I do not want to desert you for fear of man! In Jesus' name, amen"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“Fought”, “Finished”, “Kept”


2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. (7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (8) Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.


As he neared the end of his life, Paul could confidently say that he had been faithful to his call. Thus, he faced death calmly, knowing that he would be rewarded by Christ. Is your life preparing you for death? Do you share Paul's confident expectation of meeting Christ? The good news is that the heavenly reward is not just for giants of the faith like Paul, but for all who are eagerly looking forward to Christ's second coming. Paul gave these words to encourage Timothy and us, so that no matter how difficult the fight seems, we can keep fighting. When we are with Jesus Christ, we will discover that it was all worth it.

In Roman athletic games, a laurel wreath would be given to each winner. A symbol of triumph and honor, it was the most coveted prize in ancient Rome. This is probably what Paul was referring to when he spoke of a "crown." But his would be a crown of righteousness. Although Paul would not receive an earthly reward, he would be rewarded in heaven. Whatever we may face-discouragement, persecution, or death-we know we will receive reward with Christ in heaven.


If you'll ask Him for it, God will give you - holy determination! It's something that God has in Him, and He imparts it to us through His Spirit. Therefore we're not quitters or the type of people who are easily defeated.

We must be determined to overcome the past; to go forward and not stagnate. We must not be afraid of difficulty - for things worth having never come easy! A good definition of determination is "being resolute or firm in purpose." That means you must commit to a thing, and then stay with it.

If you find yourself being double-minded about something, ask yourself what God said to you in the beginning - then stick with it! Don't go in some other direction because of worry, or discouragement, or the opinions of others.

You have what it takes to succeed in whatever you've been called to do! If you've accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, then His determination lives in you - because He lives in you. So fight the good fight of faith, run the race to win, and be determined to take the prize!

Here are three vitally important things you need to know:

1) You're not alone (1 Peter 5:8-9). "Be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers… are going through the same kind of suffering you are" (1 Peter 5:9 NLT). We're all on the same battlefield. The devil would love to convince you that you are the only person that has ever experienced anything like this. Why? So that you'll feel like a failure, and cut yourself off from the support that comes from fellowship with others. Don't let him do it to you!

2) Remove any hindrances! "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God" (1 John 3:21 NIV). We all sin. The mistake is trying to cover it up. Solomon said, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13). If you're constantly struggling and being defeated, ask God to show you where the trouble spot is. Then deal with it immediately!

3) Don't quit! Anybody can begin a marathon. It takes a champion to finish one. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). Every one of us experiences adversity. There are no exceptions! But it's those who stay strong to the finish who get the reward. Pace yourself. Determine to go the distance. Study the lives of men like David, Abraham, Joseph, and Paul, and then tell yourself, "Their God is my God, and He will bring me through victoriously."


"Lord there are times I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through a difficult time or situation in my life. But I have testimonies of men like Paul who went through so much than I ever have, yet he was able to victoriously make it through the storms of life rejoicing, praising, and thanking You. He was able to do it because he FOUGHT a good fight, KEPT the faith, and FINISHED the course. Because of that he received his reward, a reward that awaits all who give their life to Jesus and FIGHT, KEEP, AND FINISH! In Jesus name, amen!"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lovers of pleasure


2 Timothy 3:1-5 (TM) Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. (2) As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, (3) dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, (4) treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. (5) They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they're animals. Stay clear of these people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV) But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. (2) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, (4) treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.


Paul's reference to the "last days" reveals his sense of urgency. The last days began after Jesus' resurrection when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost. The "last days" will continue until Christ's second coming. This means that we are living in the last days. So we should make the most of the time that God has given us

In the USA today, being a Christian is not especially difficult as far as persecution goes-in other words, people aren't jailed for reading the Bible or executed for preaching Christ. (However, this kind of persecution is very real for many believers across this world.) Paul's descriptive list of behavior in the last days describes our society-even, unfortunately, the behavior of many Christians. Check your life against Paul's list. Don't give in to society's pressures. Don't settle for comfort without commitment. Stand up against evil by living as God would have his people live.

Why is it so tempting to "love pleasure rather than God"? Pleasure is something we can control; God cannot be controlled. Most pleasures can be obtained easily; love for God requires effort and sometimes sacrifice. Pleasure benefits us now; the benefits of loving God are often in the future. Pleasure has a narcotic effect; it takes our minds off ourselves and our problems. Love for God reminds us of our needs and our responsibilities. Pleasure cooperates with pride. It makes us feel good when we look good in the eyes of others. To love God we must lay aside our pride and our accomplishments. Have you chosen to love pleasure, or to love God? How do you know?


When we overindulge in anything it loses its ability to make us happy. Smart people regularly back away from life's banquet table so it stays fresh and exciting. Pleasure-seekers on the other hand, dive in and wring every drop of gratification from it. But it doesn't work and here's why: (a) Neurologically it overloads the brain's pleasure centers and depletes your feel-good neuro-transmitters / serotonin. (b) Psychologically it creates unrealistic expectations and boredom. (c) Physiologically, overindulgence in anything (including food) creates tolerance, addiction and health problems.

Paul writes, "In the last days… people will be… lovers of pleasure." And seemingly benign pleasures can be the most seductive. For instance, if you lie in a recliner every night watching TV and eating junk food, you may not think you're in danger. But think again. While over 60,000 Americans die each year from illegal drug use, over 600,000 die from overeating and inactivity. That's way too high a price to pay for something that doesn't buy long-term happiness. The Bible says, "Your… motive is wrong - you want only what will give you pleasure" (James 4:3 NLT). Lasting pleasure should be your reward, not your pursuit!

Paul says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross" (Galatians 5:24 NLT). Do you do that daily? God's not against pleasure as long as you remember that it's the dessert - not the main course! The truth is, true fulfillment can be found only in the center of God's will.


"Lord, I truly realize that we are living in the last days. Because of that we are seeing love for each other, and more importantly, love of God grow cold. Yet, we see sin and perversion increase. It is simply a sign of the time. One of those signs is becoming a "lover of pleasure more than a lover of God." Please forgive me for the times that I have put pleasure before you. I choose today to bow before Jehovah God and not the god of pleasure. In Jesus' name, amen!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Am I wearing anyone out?


2 Timothy 2:14-16 Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God's people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out.


Paul urged Timothy to remind the believers not to argue over unimportant details ("fighting over words") or have foolish discussions because such arguments are confusing, useless, and even harmful. False teachers loved to cause strife and divisions by their meaningless quibbling over unimportant details. To explain the word of truth correctly, we must study what the Word of God says so we can understand what it means.


We're hardly surprised when God condemns profane, sinful words, saying they "come from an evil heart" (Matthew 15:18 NLT). But how about the "careless words" you speak without considering their effect on others? If you think He just winks at them, think again! Listen: "Every one… is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning… take them seriously" (Matthew 12:36 TM). Your words create or destroy, discourage or inspire, heal or hurt, so choose yours carefully today!

A wise person said, "Blessed are they who have nothing to say and who can't be persuaded to say it!" Careless words are often the meaningless chatter you engage in when you've nothing important to contribute. As harmless as they seem, the more you do it, the more likely they are to deteriorate into gossip and criticism. The Bible says we should be, "swift to hear, slow to speak" (James 1:19 NKJV). And Solomon adds, "Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent" (Proverbs 17:28 NLT). Would you trust someone who has a frivolous comment for everything?

Our verse today says that "pious nitpicking" wears everyone out. Think about that for a moment. My words can either encourage someone who is battling or wear them out. Have you ever been around anyone who wants to discuss about everything negative they can think about? Where you try to avoid discussing certain people because they are going to "go off" on them? I have, and it does wear you out! I want my words to be refreshing, not draining today!

So, pause and think about what comes out of your mouth. Would you get more respect and cause less confusion if you kept it closed more often? Or were more discerning about the kinds of stories you tell? Or thought twice before 'shooting from the hip'? David prayed, "May the words of my mouth… be pleasing to You" (Psalm 19:14 NLT). Today make that your prayer too!


"Lord, truly my prayer today is that the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing to you. I want my words to refresh not drain. Please forgive me for my careless use of words at time. It is so easy for my flesh to jump right in and run off with my mouth before I realize that I am speaking "draining" words. Please forgive me, and I will not wear anyone out today by my words, in Jesus' name, amen!"

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grasshopper syndrome


Numbers 13:33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."


Numbers 13:33-14:4. The negative opinion of 10 men caused a great rebellion among the people. Because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact, we must be especially careful when voicing our negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who trust us to give sound advice.


You'll never know what you're made of spiritually until you come against something too big to handle alone. That's when you discover what you really believe. When Moses sent twelve scouts to check out Israel's new homeland, they all saw the same thing: a land rich in honey, milk - and giants! Yes, Joshua and Caleb saw them too. Faith isn't ignoring the obvious, that's denial.

Acknowledging a problem isn't an expression of doubt. And it's not a sin. Paul said, "We would have come unto you… but Satan hindered us" (1 Thessalonians 2:18). You can't overcome what you won't acknowledge. The difference between the scouts was in how they saw the problem. Ten said, "We saw the giants… and we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers," but Joshua and Caleb said, "Do not fear the people of the land. For they are but bread for us to eat! The Lord is with us" (Numbers 14:9 TLB).

Real faith feeds off the stuff the enemy throws at you. It says, "Bring it on! The Lord is with me. He has robbed the enemy of his power to hurt me."

The negative report of the ten spies caused three reactions in the people.

(1) Fear. Fear is irrational. It can make you forget every good thing God's promised, or done for you.
(2) Some wanted to go back to Egypt - back to how things used to be. Hello!
(3) Others wanted to settle in the wilderness. You've got to move with the cloud, otherwise today's manna is the last you'll see.

When you come up against a giant, either your faith will cause you to soar or your fear will cause you to sink. The Israelites died 21 miles from the Promised Land, going in circles. Why? "We saw the giants… and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers." If you're to see (and seize) what God's promised you, you'll have to conquer your giants. Now, you have the power to, but do you have the will to? Joshua and Caleb stood alone. Faith will place you in the minority! "The whole congregation… said… would to God that we had died… in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 16:2-3). In order to go where God wants to take you, you'll have to rise above the opinions of others.

So, who are these good people with grasshopper mentalities?

(1) They constantly talk about life's injustices, about how they've been mistreated and misunderstood. To them Paul answers, "Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3).
(2) They make excuses for not conquering in life. Sometimes they even put others down because they're walking in victory. To them Paul writes, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37 NIV).
(3) They complain about what they don't have instead of focusing on what they do. To them Peter writes, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).


"Lord, please forgive me for the times that I have not made progress in my walk with you because of "fear" brought on by the grasshopper syndrome. I need to remind myself through the Word, that I am more than a conqueror and that the battle is not mine, but it is yours! I will step out by faith today, and attempt to see things like you see them. In Jesus name, amen!"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven Lessons from the Cross (Part two)

Lesson 4: Direct the hard questions to God. At Calvary Jesus asks one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever recorded, "God, why have You forsaken Me?" These words are also found in Psalm 22:1-3 (TM), where David poured out his soul in despair, asking God, "Why did you dump me… Are you indifferent?" Ever felt like that?

The Bible says that at Calvary God made Jesus "who knew no sin, to be sin… so… we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB). In order to break sin's hold on us and make salvation possible, Jesus underwent a temporary separation from His Father. At that precise moment He felt "Godforsaken."

If you've ever felt overwhelmed and abandoned, you know from experience that there's not another living soul who has a satisfactory answer to your "Why?" With the best of intentions our loved ones can only go so far. Only God can pour His healing balm into your breaking heart and help you make sense (or at least accept) what's happening.

That's why you need to go to Him for your answers.But here's the flip side to directing the tough questions to God - you must be willing to accept His answer and do what He says. The Bible says, "God has given us… His promise and His oath" (Hebrews 6:18 NLT), so even if you don't get the answer you want, you can rest assured He hears you. You can also be certain of something else: the One who makes "everything… work together for… good" (Romans 8:28 NLT) always sends the answer that's in your best interests. So you can trust Him!

Lesson 5:
Acknowledge your humanity. Combine the torment of being crucified in the intense Judean heat with the loss of bodily fluids, and you can understand why Jesus was thirsty. However, the Bible says that when they offered Him water containing "a mild painkiller… He wouldn't take it" (Mark 15:23 TM). Why? Because it would have dulled His senses and He wanted to stay alert.

Make no mistake, Jesus could have summoned a host of angels to deliver Him. But He chose to die for our sins. He said, "No one takes My life… I give it up willingly!" (John 10;18 CEV). This also explains why John wrote: "Jesus, seeing… everything had been completed" (He fulfilled every prophesy concerning His crucifixion) said "I'm thirsty!" His next statement would be so history changing, that He wanted His voice to be loud and clear: "It is finished!" When you're in a dark valley like Jesus was that day, it can cloud your thinking and make you lose perspective - unless you voice your needs to those around you. By acknowledging His physical thirst, Jesus reminded each of us that there are times when we're not self-sufficient; when we need help from others. Why else would Paul write: "Bear one another's burdens, and… fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NASB)?

David writes: "As a father has compassion on his children… the Lord… remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV). God remembers we are just human - we're the ones who forget! The bottom line is, Jesus was humble enough to acknowledge His humanity, and we need to learn to do the same.

Lesson 6: You can add nothing to it. In the Old Testament tabernacle there were different items of furniture, such as the table of showbread representing our need for fellowship, the lampstand representing our need for light and understanding, etc. But there were no chairs. Why? The priest's work was never finished! He couldn't sit down.

But after Jesus cried, "It is finished," He returned to heaven and sat down at the right hand of His Father - the work of redemption was complete! The Greek words for "It is finished" literally mean "paid in full." It's what folks in those days wrote across a receipt when the bill was paid in full. Christ's death covers your every sin - from the cradle to the grave. And to offer your good works as partial payment, insults God.You can't add to a finished work!

Imagine seeing a finely crafted coffee table sitting in a carpentry shop ready for delivery. You reach for a wood plane and say, "It's good, but not good enough, let me show you." The master carpenter immediately steps in and says, "No, you'll ruin it!" Or imagine receiving a very expensive gift from a loved one. Immediately you pull out a $5 bill and say, "Here, let me help you with the cost." No, the smaller the gift the greater the offense. You're robbing the giver of his joy and the sacrifice of its worth. "This is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Saving faith simply means trusting only in a finished work of Christ!

Lesson 7: Release it to God. Some of the issues we struggle with seem to be never-ending; like money worries, family problems and health concerns. Even when we get a break and should be resting, we sit up anticipating the worst, wondering, "How long, Lord?"

The only way to have real peace is to commit the outcome to God. When Jesus cried, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," it wasn't a cry of defeat or resignation. No, it was an act of trust that meant surrendering control to the Father. The atoning blood had been shed, salvation's work was finally complete.

But before Jesus could pray that prayer, He first had to pray, "Not My will, but Yours be done" Luke 22:42 NIV). In other words, "Father, I release the outcome to You! "In Philippians 3:10 Paul wrote, "I want… to know Christ and the power that raised Him to life… to suffer and die as He did… that… I… may be raised to life" (CEV).

We all want to rule and reign with Christ some day, we just don't want to submit our will to His today. But it doesn't work like that. Jack Hayford writes: "The charted course… always has been… 'the way of the cross.' The cross not only calls us to Jesus, it also calls us to a life, to the wisdom of God's ways in all our relationships and pursuits… to the pattern of Jesus… in the face of our deepest struggles." So whatever you're wrestling with today, release it to God once and for all. When you do you'll experience His peace, and you won't be disappointed with the outcome.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seven Lessons from the Cross (Part one)

Lesson 1: Forgive those who hurt you.

Two children were playing when one accidentally hit the other with a stick. That night the injured boy's mum said, "Son, you must forgive Harry before you go to sleep." Grudgingly he replied, "Okay, but unless I die before I wake up, he'd better watch out tomorrow morning!"

When people hurt us, it's hard to believe it could've been unintentional or done in ignorance. Yet amazingly, after being flogged, humiliated and nailed to the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing." Forgiving means refusing to remain a victim. By not holding grudges or retaliating you free yourself from the control of those who offend you. Jesus said, "Pray for anyone who mistreats you" (Matthew 5:44 CEV).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was persecuted by the Nazis, said, "God doesn't promise that when we bless our enemies they'll not despitefully use us. They will. But that can't hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them. By praying for them, we are doing for them what they can't do for themselves." Professor Tony Campolo routinely asks his secular college students what they know about the teachings of Jesus. The response is always the same: "Love your enemies." More than anything else this command stands out as the thing that differentiates Christians from non-Christians.

Jesus said, "Give as freely as you have received!" (Matthew 10:8 NLT). Practicing forgiveness stems from a deep gratitude to God for wiping out a debt so great, we could never have repaid it

Lesson 2:

Reach out to others. When Jesus was hanging on the cross the Bible says, "One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him… But the other… made him shut up: 'Have you no fear of God… We deserve this… He did nothing.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.' [Jesus] said… 'Today you will join Me in paradise'" (Luke 23:39-43 TM). While one man mocked, the other acknowledged his sins and received mercy. The truth is, as much as it galls judgmental people, God said, "If you confess and reject [your sin], you will receive mercy" (Proverbs 28:13 NCV).

And that promise is for the lost, the least, and the lowest among us.Jesus could have been so focused on His own pain that He failed to see the suffering of those around Him. But instead He reached out in love as a fellow-sufferer. In the depth of His own agony He not only promised the thief on the cross eternal life, He comforted him with these amazing words; "Today you will be with Me in Paradise!"

There's a lesson here for you - one that Job the patriarch learned. Job lost all his children and his fortune in a single day. Yet he found healing - and went on to greater things. How? Listen: "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before… After this, Job… saw his children and their children to the fourth generation" (Job 42:10 &16 NIV). It's in reaching out to others, that we ourselves become whole.

Lesson 3:

Take care of the people who depend on you. In addition to losing her son, Mary was also losing His protective "covering" in a society where women were often treated as second-class citizens after the family males died. So as well as coping with her grief as a mother, Mary may have been wondering what the future held for her. Jesus recognized that. In the midst of the chaos, when He saw her and "the disciple He loved standing near… He said to His mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'" When the other disciples fled in fear, John followed Jesus all the way to Calvary. Then he went even further.

The Bible tells us (and history confirms it) that once Jesus committed Mary to his care, John fulfilled that charge, and "From that moment… accepted her as his own mother" (John 19:27 TM).Here's what we learn from this. Never let your own suffering blind you to the needs of those who depend on you. When you're enmeshed in your own problems it's easy to assume that your loved ones automatically understand where you're coming from. Not necessarily. While it's okay to let them help, never "dump your stuff" on them, or expect them to suffer because you're suffering.

The Bible says, "Do not let selfishness… be your guide… give more honour to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but… in the lives of others" (Philippians 2:3-4 NCV). Jesus was always more concerned with other people's needs than His own - and we should take our cue from Him.

We will look at the other four tomorrow. Blessings!