The Centurion Who Honored Jesus

There’s a lovely story in the gospels about a centurion who’s servant was very sick. Matthew (Matthew 8:5-13) said the centurion approached Jesus and Luke (Luke 7:1-10) says that he sent elders of the Jews to speak for him. In both accounts, all he asked Jesus to do was speak the word of healing because he understood authority. “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Jesus was amazingly impressed by this man’s faith. “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” In all of the travels that Jesus did up and down the region where people were being healed everyday, he’d never seen this much faith. What’s even more amazing is that the man was a Roman, not even Jewish.

I love this centurion so much because he epitomizes what a believer should look like. According to Luke, he sent others to speak for him because he didn’t feel worthy to have Jesus come to his home. I think that kind of humility must have been uncharacteristic for most Romans. And he loved the Jewish people enough to build them a synagogue with his own money. He was humble, loving, and generous–all the qualities that we should exhibit.

On top of that, he was a man who understood power and authority. I don’t believe for a moment that any order he gave was second-guessed or ignored. The Roman army was notorious for its discipline. His orders would be obeyed or heads would roll. Imagine that combination of gentle caring and power. That’s exactly what we are called to live in.

We’ve been given all authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons.  (Matthew 10:8) We are to do what Jesus did, and more, but we are to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit who is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Gentle, loving, power and authority, working in the kingdom for the sake of others without needing recognition. This centurion has a lot to model for us. I, for one, can’t wait to meet him in heaven.

Seek His face

Work Out Your Own Salvation

When Paul said to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), he didn’t mean to make up your own rules for what salvation is, he meant make sure you know you are saved because the consequences are unthinkable if you are wrong. We know that, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) God didn’t want to make it difficult. The thief on the cross was with Jesus in paradise.

But what comes after salvation? How do we “work it out”? Jesus had some very chilling words to say about that, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23)

Think about that! Someone who can prophesy and do miracles in Jesus’s name cannot make it into heaven. Jesus calls them workers of lawlessness because they took the power of God to do miracles without loving Him. Jesus there would be many!

Who then can be saved? “Only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” When we do the Father’s will, Jesus will “know” us because the only way we can do the Father’s will is to be in communion with Him. Jesus is our example. He spent hours and hours in prayer going to the Mount of Olives to pray “as was His custom.” (Luke 22:39) He spent precious time with God worshiping and listening. We have to know how to hear Him if we are going to do His will. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

I don’t believe that God wants us to live in terror not knowing if we are saved. He’s a good Father and wants us to be with Him, but we have the responsibility to be good children. It’s not always easy, but it’s never boring. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Do that and you can’t go wrong.

What Is Your Calling?

We all want to know what we were born to do. There’s something inside us that cries out to know purpose. Some of that is born from fairy tales where a poor, insignificant youth is called upon to become a hero and find a great destiny. Those born into a royal lineage know from an early age what they are meant to do. The rest of us have to figure it out. God will direct some through obvious or subtle means as testimonies will show, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone.

I think that’s because God lets us make choices. We are free to be who we want to be. God doesn’t require that we find His perfect will to go into specific areas of employment. He lets us explore and decide. We can ask for His help and His favor, but He has given us a tremendous amount of freedom to do what we want. Our calling is our own heart’s desire.

As believers, we often rate those in ministry higher than those who work outside the church, but God doesn’t do that. In fact, we are told, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23) Your work is your calling. Wherever you work, you are a light set upon a lamp stand. You are God’s emissary. Be kind. Be generous. Be patient and compassionate. You are more of an influence working among nonbelievers than anyone working in the church because you are known and they are not.

You have as much access to God as anyone on earth. The time you spend seeking Him and learning from Him is not lesser than the same time spent by great ministers of the faith. You can hear the Lord just like they do. You can glean wisdom from the Bible, be inspired by His voice, and see signs and wonders all in a day at work. Living in the Kingdom is far from dull. Your calling is to live in grace of God to be a blessing to others. Start there and see where you go.

How To Come Home When Your Heart Wanders Off

There’s a place that feels right, that feels centered. When we know we are right with God, it’s the most secure place in the world. There’s a peace there that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s where we hear His voice, where we sleep the best, where we are free to dream. But human that we are, we will wander away. Sometimes we wander so far it’s hard to know how to come home.

Sometimes we wander through neglect. We stop reading our Bible. We stop going to church, or skip it regularly. We ignore that still, small voice that tells us to be responsible with our faith. Sometimes we don’t just wander, we knowingly make choices that are bad for us. That’s the most dangerous because rebellion makes hearing God almost impossible. The enemy is convincing when it comes to justifying our bad decisions and the longer we allow ourselves to listen to lies, the harder it is to come back.

If you’re lucky, your spirit will feel conviction. That’s different from guilt. Guilt makes you feel worthless with no possible redemption. Conviction knows what is wrong and what is right with the hope of forgiveness. Once you recognize conviction, it’s up to you to do something about it. That’s why we’re told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12) No one can do it for you. You have to make the choices that bring you back.

The first thing to do is to ask God for forgiveness. It’s the easiest thing to do. Just admit that you screwed up. Admit your anger, frustration, fear, or whatever it is that you know you have to let go of. Ask God to forgive you and help you. The weight that falls off will feel like a breath of fresh air.

The second thing to do is stop the direction that took you away from God. You can’t just ask for forgiveness and carry on doing the same wrong things. You have to decide to make changes. They may be only minor changes, or they may be big ones. Ask for help if you need it. Find someone you respect and get help.

And then start doing what you know you need to do. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you get centered again. Spend time with Him. Enjoy His company. Be refreshed in your spirit. Papa is so welcoming and loving. He wants you to be safe. Once you come home, look back and see what took you away and be aware so it doesn’t happen again. The stronger you grow as a believer, the harder it will be to wander away. Then you’ll be the one people come to for help.

Daily Bible reading

Why It’s Important To Read The Bible

It’s surprising how many Christians don’t read their Bible. It’s shocking, really. “I don’t understand it.” “I try to read, but I don’t have the time. “I read it off and on.” There are so many reasons for not reading the Word and none of them are valid. The truth is, it’s vitally important to read the Bible.

You’d be amazed at how many people think that some familiar quotes are from the Bible that are actually from Shakespeare. That’s because they don’t know the Bible at all. Which means that it’s very easy to believe things that aren’t true. If something sounds ligit, then it must be and that’s exactly how the enemy sneaks in to influence us to believe error. The only way to truly know truth is to read truth, the Word of God.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) He speaks to us in many ways, but the most obvious way is His Word. If we’re not hearing His voice, can we call ourselves His sheep? How can we follow if we do not hear? How can we know what is true, what is promised, what is danger if we are not daily reading the Bible?

We are human with insecurities, blind spots about ourselves, often molded by bad teaching, or no teaching. Our salvation in Jesus is a journey of being changed into His image. We are a transformation in progress and the Bible is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Living and active. The Word of God changes us, but it must be read with the intent to be changed. Reading for knowledge may be interesting, but it will not pierce the soul. The Word must go into us as a living thing, allowing its wisdom to strengthen our spirit as only God can do.

Daily reading will help you grow in grace like nothing else. It’s part of our devotion that we give to God as we pray, as we praise, as we bless His name and work to bless others. Make time for it – morning, night, or noon, it doesn’t matter, just do it. Don’t jump around reading bits here and there. Allow yourself to get into the message. Read the Old Testament for the lessons, Psalms for comfort and inspiration, the New Testament for growth and development. Ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance. If you don’t understand something, ask Him for help. You’d be surprised how He can answer and clarify His own Word for you. Learn to delight in His Word and you’ll find yourself loving God with greater devotion. His love letter is waiting for you.

Keep Your Joy Even In Hard Times

You know those times when everything hits the fan at the same time; when everything that could go wrong, does go wrong; when the pressure of life and work gets the better of you? Nothing feels good then. In fact, anything good seems so far away, you can’t even see it on the horizon. That’s when you know you’ve lost touch with the goodness of God. He’s still with you, but you forgot that. It’s actually your job to keep joy in your heart not His, even in the hard times.

The problem with keeping joy isn’t how to do it, it’s remembering to do it. Maybe you need to make a sticky note or have some memento that reminds you to check you joy level because it’s important to do for your spiritual strength. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and His always with you, so it’s always yours to have. Always, even when life gets tough. So how do you do that?

Joy is easy when life is good. You can look at all the goodness around you and happily thank Papa for what He’s done. But the tough times, that’s when you need determination. Here’s what you do: think of what you’ve prayed for, all the promises of God that you haven’t seen fulfilled yet. There’s the source of your joy when you don’t feel it any other way. Jesus said, “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) That means that all those things that you prayed for are on their way! Imagine that!

Just stop and think about all your prayers being answered today. What would it look like? How would it make you feel? That’s joy, my friend. Answered prayer is a ready source of joy and you just read that if you believe, it’s a done deal, so rejoice! Thank Papa for what He has already done even though you haven’t seen it yet. Remember that He’s outside of time. He answers when we pray, we just need to catch up to the reality.

Holding onto joy when times are tough will keep you from all manner of bad thoughts and decisions. It keeps you grateful and expectant. All you need to do is believe that when you pray, He will answer. As long as you know that, you’ll be singing everyday.

Quit Thinking Of Heaven!

OK, I realize that a Christian blog telling people to quit thinking of heaven sounds wrong, but I do have reasons for saying it. Heaven is not fire insurance. We don’t become saved to avoid hell, we become saved to be with God. Our thoughts should not be so focused on heaven that we neglect what happens on earth.

Jesus said that He wants us to “have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) That can only come through developing a relationship with Him. That abundant life isn’t dispensed from on high, it develops as we spend time in prayer, talking to Him, listening to Him, reading His word, trusting Him all the time. There is so much that He wants to do for you, but if all you’re thinking about is just making it through this life so you can reach heaven, then you are missing the whole point of knowing God the Father. He wants to draw His children to Him and enjoy them just like we do.

It’s about the journey. It’s about all the issues that we face every day and how we respond to them. Do we fly off the handle and stress our way through, or do we turn immediately to God and ask for help? And will we trust Him when He says He will make a way where there is no way, or will we help Him and mess it all up? The journey is about the daily relationship with the Most High who know all our problems and all our joys. He can do what no man can do, but we will never see it happen if all we’re thinking about is a far off future.

And don’t assume that you can’t have that relationship with God because you are imperfect. Pick any hero of faith from the Bible and take a good look at his or her life. No perfection. God is quite aware of our humanity. He made us so He knows what our limitations and failings are, and He LOVES us. He loves us despite our weaknesses. He LOVES us. And the more time we spend with Him, the more those weakness begin to change into strengths. When we trust Him, He shines through us, even if the very next thing we do is something stupid.

Hold the joy of heaven in your heart, but look around today and see the goodness of God and watch for Him to be the Great I Am in your life. Your journey starts now.

When The Enemy Lies

Your know those times when the world is falling apart and everything you do is wrong? You feel like the stupidest person on earth and nothing anyone says helps you in the least. Guess whose game plan that is! Hint, it’s not God’s. Satan’s plan is to kill, steal, and destroy. That means that he will use every device to pull you down, if not physically, then emotionally. The enemy lies.

Granted, we have to admit that we are not perfect, but doesn’t mean that every evil thought that runs though our head, especially when we are stressed, it true. Whether is comes, from your own thoughts, the news, or someone you know, lies will try to take you down; lies that are completely false and destructive.

So what do you do? First, you have to recognize them. Jesus said,  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) He also said, ” My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) That means that you need to learn to hear His voice and you do that through reading the Word and prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Ask Him to help you hear His voice. He wants more than anything to be in communion with you, like any loving parent would. Spend as much time as you can learning to hear Him. He will be surprisingly responsive to encourage you to come closer. Do it! It’s awesome.

After you know that you are hearing God, knowing what is true becomes easier. All you have to do is ask. Even so, when we are under pressure, or have to deal with serious difficulties, it’s not always easy to realize that the enemy is at work. That’s why having a habit of spending time with Jesus is important, especially in the hard times. He will help clear your mind and keep you centered so you can see what is true and what is a lie.

And when you recognize a lie, all you have to do is rebuke it. Rebuke the lies of the enemy and claim the truth of God for your life. Thank God for His goodness and faithfulness and ask Him to lead you in all righteousness. He gave us authority over all the works of the enemy. We don’t have to put up with lies that tear us down. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matt 10:16) Don’t fall for the lies. You are amazing.

Why Do You Want Salvation?

If asked, I think most people would say that the reason they want to be saved is to avoid going to hell. It’s not an unreasonable desire, but I think it misses the entire point of salvation. Let’s go back and look at why that is.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He had to create it because there was nothing, nothing that we understand anyway. He made the earth and animals and people. Then He chose a specific people group to call His own. He led them and taught them to understand their need to trust Him and His will and desire to love and protect them. As we follow the story of human interaction with God, it becomes clear that the reason for creation was for God to have a relationship with us. Not an oppressive, domineering relationship, but an intimate, loving, family relationship.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6) He has called us to be His own family. We’re meant to call Him Daddy, or Papa. He wants to spend time with us, enjoying our company, teaching us and protecting us in life.

As an adult, I learned much more about my earthly father than I did as a child. The more time I spent with him, the more stories I heard that I had never heard before. The same is true with God. Never assume that because you believe in God and accept His salvation that that’s all there is. He promises that we “may know the mystery of God, namely Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Those treasures aren’t just dropped in your lap. They don’t automatically come after a set amount of time or service. You have to want them. You have to spend time with Papa asking for more. Ask and it will be given. He is delighted to show you the deeper things.

Why should you want to be saved? Because it allows you to know the most magnificent mind in the universe and be called his family and friend. Dive into that and the idea of being saved to avoid hell becomes irrelevant.

Is Christmas a religious holiday?

What Does Christmas Really Mean?

When you think of Christmas, you automatically think of Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Never mind. Enjoy the holiday with your family. Give presents and have a nice meal. Ignore how the date was chosen and all the baggage of those long lost associations. What Christmas really means is that amazing moment when Heaven came to the earth.

Imagine that. The God of heaven coming to earth because He had a plan to love us and save us. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the magnificent Trinity, so yes, God came down to live with us. His plan was to teach us to love as He loves, to trust Him in all things, and to encourage us with blessing and hope for the astonishing future waiting for us. It was the divine appointment meant to set the plan of salvation into action. Next to creation, it was the greatest event to happen on earth.

What does it mean to us today? If we call Jesus Lord, it means a time of reflection that eclipses the tawdry commercialization of the season. It’s a time to wonder at the stunning blueprint written in heaven to draw us into the eternity of His love. You could lose yourself just thinking about how Abraham was picked to be the father of a people chosen to hear the voice of God; about the Godhead living as a child among a people who despised and ignored Him for generations; about the destiny He created for each of us if we honor and love Him with all our heart.

Christmas is when Heaven came to earth in the most divine, lavish demonstration of love we will ever know. Sing the carols of Silent Night, Holy Night and Hark, the Herald Angles Sing. Sing with the joy of thankfulness and wonder of what we celebrate. Heaven came to give us the greatest blessing known to man.