For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “come.” Honestly this is one of those verses that has perplexed me. Did Jesus really say this? But as I study it deeper it makes more sense. First this verse is at the end of a parable Jesus told, the wedding banquet (verses 1-14). It was directed to the chief priests and Pharisees. So, it is important to put it in context.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent out invites and sent His servants to bring those He invited. They refused. So, He sent His servants to gather everyone they could find, good and bad. But one didn’t put on the wedding Garment and he was thrown out.

The Chief Priests and Pharisees know that Jesus is telling these parables against them, but they don’t fully understand the meaning because their pride gets in the way. Instead of heeding the warning they want to destroy Jesus. Which is ironic because it only proves the parables.

God has called many. There is no set number. The Hebrews tend to not get caught up with numbers. When specific numbers are used they tend to be rounded or have a meaning. So, it isn’t all and isn’t a set number, because the amount doesn’t matter, it is the intent that is more important. More are invited than accept would be the best way to understand this. The word for invited is” klesis.” This word is interesting. It can be used as an invitation or call to a great feast, but it is also often used to describe the invite or call to God’s salvation. Since this is a parable it means both here.

Let’s continue and look at “few are chosen.” Again, few is an ambiguous number. It just means less than many. It could be a puny amount. Let’s concentrate on chosen. “eklektos” means chosen, select, or favorite. It is often used to describe those who follow the Lord, those who accept His call to faith.

The message we need to get is we are all called or invited to faith, but the question is, are you too busy to accept that invite? Are you living for the Lord or self? Will you come to the wedding banquet?

Looking at the whole parable we need to understand that just going to church on Sunday isn’t enough. If you don’t wear the wedding garment, (accept Christ as our Savior, or being washed in the blood) you could be thrown out into the darkness, hell. Heaven and Hell are serious issues that the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t not take seriously. They felt they were good enough and didn’t need to worry about it. They did the right things except the right things they thought they did were of their own thinking. They were too self-centered. They didn’t accept Jesus into their hearts.

Where is your faith? Do you have Jesus in your heart or have you made up your own rules? Do you worship God or self? Or do you worship personal preferences? Do you serve others or is it just about you and your comfort zone?

Jesus died for all of us, not so that we can focus on ourselves. Saving faith changes us. It refocuses us to look out and see the need in the world. Where is your focus? Are you shining the light of Jesus? Are you overflowing with His love? It’s not too late to change. Hear the call and come to Jesus. Let Him rule your life.

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Unfailing Love

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

As I read this verse “unfailing love” jumps out at me. Our verse is basically a prayer asking for God’s blessings upon all those who hope in Him. But it is deeper than that. It is also a realization of who God is and who we put our hope in.

Through this one verse the Psalmist is recognizing our need for God and putting hope in Him. It is recognizing the love that God has toward us. He is a God of unfailing love, never ending love, mercy and grace. All of this even though our faith and hope are imperfect.
As you go about your day think about God’s love. Think about how His love is shown in your life right now. Then thank Him for that love, for all your blessings.

I am blessed. First God allowed me to have life, then all through this life He has shaped me to be who I am today. Making His love for me clear. I have a wonderful family and friends. Even though I continually screw up God pulls me back with His love and grace. He forgives me and continues to guide me. God is Great.

Even though I have had to endure some storms I can see God in them keeping me from drowning. I don’t always see it in the storm but once through it His presence is obvious. How can we not want to know and love a God like that?

May your day bring you closer to God and may God reveal His love to you as you spend time getting to know Him.

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You’re Not Alone

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “you’re not alone.” I need this reminder this morning. Jesus is with us all the way. We participate in His death and resurrection, but just as important in His life. If Jesus was tempted by the devil we can expect that we will too. Understanding this means that we have someone to connect with. Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.

If we read from our verse on to verse eleven we can see how it all went down. Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted. The devil did the tempting. The tempting was the same things we are tempted by. Our pride, our desires, our greed, our need for control, our lack of trust and so many more things that could be attributed to this tempting. Each time Jesus responds with quotes from Scripture. So, the devil even uses scripture to tempt Jesus. How does this relate to us?

Temptation is designed to get us to ack separate from God. To do our will, to think about ourselves, to mistrust God. It is to get us to become our own God. United we stand, divided we fall. The devil wants us to be divided from God. If we are united with God, then we are unstoppable. If we act outside of God, then we are easy pickings.

We don’t know a whole lot about how the devil became the devil. He was created by God as an angel. It is believed that after God created man, He told the angels to serve man and the devil was appalled because he thought he was better than man and man should serve him. So, the devil felt shunned by God because man was His favorite creation. So, the devil has been out to destroy man or at least prove they are not worthy of God’s love. When man apposes God, they do his work for him. He knows that if man is self-absorbed they will destroy each other. But if they are outward focused they help each other. There is a lot more about the devil, but we don’t have the space for it all.

We need to understand that the devil does not have our best interests in mind. He will do anything to get us separated from God. Don’t fall for it. Even knowing this I still struggle. I still fall for the idea that somehow, I know what is best. That I deserve focus on me. I sometimes think that my desires are important. I fall for the thinking that I’m better than others. That my ways are the right ways. But Christ’s death, resurrection and life all set me free from that thinking. I am no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ. The devil doesn’t have power over me, Christ does. We are not alone in our struggles. God loves us. Jesus went through what we go through. Jesus died so that we might live. Stop fighting it. Stop making it about you and start living for God.

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Humble Yourself

…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing…” Philippians 2:5-7 ESV

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “humble yourself.” To be honest this is something I need to hear a lot. I struggle with pride. I know I’m not the only one. The key to our verse isn’t just about pride but about Jesus. This section of the letter to the Philippians is about imitating Christ.

Christian means little Christs. This literally means we as Christians should imitate Christ. Oh, how we fall short. For too many of us we are Christian in name only. That is why we have such a bad name. That is why the church is struggling. We are judged by the worst among us. What do we do?

Well the worst thing we could do is point fingers. I know I haven’t been the best Christian. Just the act of accusing others of being worse than we are is proof of our lack of being like Christ. What we should do is let go of control and become servants like Christ did.

Let’s think about this. Jesus, being God, became man, a created being. Not only was He man but He made himself subject to man, allowing Himself to be tried and killed according to man’s laws. He did this to save man, the very people who killed Him. To be Christ like means we release our control. We become subject to the very people we are trying to save. We don’t fight them. We don’t judge them. We just love them. Christ met us where we are, so we must meet the lost where they are. Christ healed them, so we must help them in their needs. Christ ate with them, lived with them, went to them and so must we.

I don’t know completely what this looks like. I know it means we aren’t to hide away in the church. I know that we can’t avoid the lost afraid we might catch what they have. Each of us is called to help in one way or another. The cool thing is we don’t have to go too far. All of us can see people who are lost if we are willing to look. It isn’t just the homeless. It is our coworkers, our family members, our neighbors and even some of our friends. Pray for the eyes to see and the words to say. Pray for the ability to lead by example.

We aren’t called to be famous. We aren’t called to do things that get a lot of attention. We are called to do the little things. Look people in the eye with compassion. Listen to their problems. Pray with them. If you know how to get them the help they need then help. If you don’t, they may just need you to be there for them, supporting them with a smile and a hug. Love is bigger than you and me. Don’t put boundaries on it. Allow God to love through you with no strings attached. Let love flow freely. This can only be done through a humble servant. It isn’t about being better. It isn’t about proving yourself right. It is about doing what needs to be done out of love no matter how people will judge you.

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He Has Risen!

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

Another Easter has passed, and the question still remains, do you believe? So many still don’t believe. Some need proof, some don’t want proof because they don’t want to believe. This is not new, the same thing happened on that first Easter. Not even the Disciples believed until Jesus appeared to them. Our verse occurs one week after Christ rose, Thomas wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared to them the evening of the day He rose. So, Thomas didn’t believe. We put a lot on Thomas. We label people who don’t believe doubting Thomas, yet the other disciples didn’t believe until Jesus appeared to them either. This group of greats in our faith weren’t so great until the Holy Spirit came and took over.

The word for believed is pisteuo (pist-yoo-o). One of the meanings for pisteuo is to entrust our spiritual well being to Christ. Let that sink in… Can you say that you have entrusted your spiritual well being to Christ? There is great meaning here. Let’s fast forward after Pentecost the church was growing, and people were selling everything and living together for the good of the community. One couple decided to sell everything but only give half of it to the church and stash the other half away incase they need it. When Ananias brought the money, he gave the impression that this was all they had, and they were giving it to God. But the Spirit knew better, and he died on the spot, when his wife came looking for him she was asked if that was all the money they had she also lied and died. (Acts 5:1-11)

I don’t like this story. It seems awfully harsh compared to what we preach about Christ and the Church. What about Grace? This story is told to show the difference between faking it and truly giving our lives to the Lord. If you fake it, you are still dead. If you only give half of your life, you are still dead. If you don’t fully entrust your spiritual well being to Christ, you are dead. The implications are great. Do you truly believe in the risen Christ?

You can fake it to everyone around you, but God knows the truth. You know the truth. Are you hedging your bet? Playing both sides of the ball just in case? Believing in Christ means giving Him our all. This will show in how we live. People will know the difference. Is your life full of the Love of Christ? Do you trust Jesus with everything?

Here we go again, I am convicted. The good news is we have the same helper that the Apostles had, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our help, our strength, our guide. All the courage we need will come from Him. The key is accepting the help. Listen to His guidance. Follow His direction. Don’t be afraid. Fear is evidence of doubt. It is time to live like Jesus has risen. He has risen! He has risen indeed!

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Good Friday

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

Today is Good Friday. It is the time that we celebrate the Death of Jesus. He spoke these words around 3 in the afternoon. Our Pastor last night said that we should take time to think about this when 3 pm comes around. Let it sink in. Jesus died for me, for you, for everyone.

As I sit here and think about it I can’t help but get a little teary eyed. What Jesus went through because I can’t be good enough. My sin is why He suffered. He loved us so much that He paid for our sin. He endured what we deserve. To quote “What a Beautiful Name it is” by Hillsong United: “You didn’t want heaven without us. So Jesus, You brought heaven down. My sin was great, Your love was greater. What could separate us now.”

Teleo” (Tel-eh’-o) “It is finished” with that word Jesus tells us the that job is done. Our sins are paid in full. There is nothing left on our tab. We owe nothing. Yet so many of us spend a life time trying to pay for something that is already paid for. In our arrogance we think we should repay our debt. That is not how it works. Jesus did it all. He did what we couldn’t. We can’t be good enough. It is impossible. That is why God had to become a man to do the impossible. All that is left for us to do is to believe. Accept the sacrifice of Jesus as our sacrifice. Repent, turn to Jesus, and live for Him.

There is a different mindset between trying to pay for our sin and living for Jesus. Trying to pay for our sin means we are doing good for our own gain. We do it to look good. We do it to make God proud. We do it out of guilt. The problem is it is all about us. It is self-centered works. If that is our mindset we are stuck in sin and don’t know what Grace is. On the other hand, if we live for Jesus it is all about love. It is all about others. We don’t need credit for doing it. We don’t need thanks. We don’t seek attention. We just act out of love because it needs to be done. Because people need us. There is no thought to how this will affect us. Our well being never comes up. Now I feel guilty.

How many times do I seek praise for what I do? How many times do I think about myself before I help someone else? How many time does it take feeling guilty to get me to act?

Jesus I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Help me to live for You instead of myself. Give me a heart of love. In Christ’s Name I pray, Amen.

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I Love You

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

The whisper I hear this morning is “I Love You.” Maundy Thursday is the celebration of the Last Super, Jesus instituting Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist. It is the night He predicted His betrayal and Peter’s denial and the Night in which He was betrayed and the start of the trial that ended with His Crucifixion. Our verse comes from that night. Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him as wheat, but Jesus adds our verse to that. Of course, Peter proudly announces that he would die for Jesus.

How many times have I been proud of my faith as Peter was? We think we are strong until temptation comes and knocks us down. Yet Jesus still loves us. Even when we deny Him as Peter did. What Peter didn’t understand at that point is how important the Holy Spirit is in helping us in our faith. Without the Helper, we are weak like Peter was weak.

As long as we rely on ourselves, our faith will be very weak. We won’t be able to stand under temptation. We won’t be able to defend our faith when it is attacked. We are weak, but He is strong. It is important to realize that our flesh fights against God. That in our flesh we want what is easy. We must die to self. This means letting go of the fleshly desires and relying on Jesus through the Holy Spirit to be our strength, our guide, and our comfort.

The sad news is we will fail from time to time. Our flesh will get the better of us. But it is important to remember that Jesus died for those moments. He died because He loves us. In His death He gave us worth. We have worth despite how bad we may feel. He gave us worth even when we don’t see it. This means everyone we see has worth as well. They are worthy of our efforts. Worthy of our love. Worthy of our help and attention.

As we come closer to Easter, think about what needs to change in your faith walk. Do you rely on Jesus or self? Do you see the worth in those around you? How do you show others that they have value? How can you love even those you dislike? Can you stand up for Jesus even when it isn’t popular? Even if you are persecuted for it?

I want to love like Jesus. I want to defend Him in every circumstance, but I am weak. I pray for the Holy Spirit to give us all the strength to live for Jesus no matter what. I want us all to hear Jesus whisper “I love you.” Then we can turn around and say the same to even our enemies.

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“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Proverbs 27:21

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

The implication of our text is that silver is tested for purity in the melting pot, gold in the furnace but to test the purity of a man’s heart, praise him. I have failed this test.

There is such a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is understanding your strengths and weaknesses. It is doing what you know you can do. Arrogance over estimates your abilities. It is thinking you are better than you are. Pride produces arrogance. It also competes with others. It is never satisfied with being equal. It must find some way to be better. Pride is my struggle. Praise just feeds it.

Humility isn’t the act of putting yourself down, it is not thinking of yourself at all. When we are praised it turns our attention on ourselves. Usually I deflect praise, but it has come to my attention that a humble person can receive praise with grace. What does that mean? What does that look like?

Honestly, I’m still trying to learn how to do it. I have thought that a humble person puts themselves down after being praised. I have deflected the praise and said its not me its God. Both ways deflate the person praising you which is not something a humble person does. So, I try to accept it with a gracious thank you. But if I receive many praises at once it all goes to my head. So, I continue to struggle. I want a pure heart, but my heart is as corrupt as anyone’s. Where does that leave us?

We are left with the realization that we are all sinners in need of our Savior. This means no matter where our pride is we need to focus on Jesus and rely on Him. We need good friends who will help to keep us grounded. My wife is good at that. She never misses an opportunity to humble me. I have good friends who will do the same. We need people who will push us to be better than we currently are. Hold us accountable. Keep reminding us to focus on God and not self.

Living in grace means living free from the burden of our sins but it also means amending our life so that we become more and more like Christ. To know where we stand we must be tested. Avoiding temptation can keep us from sinning but until we can resist the temptation we haven’t truly changed. The key is to avoid it while we are learning how to get closer to God. We also need to surround ourselves with friends who will help us repent when we lose to temptation. Temptation reveals the impurities in our heart. We then need to let Jesus clean those impurities out of our heart so that one day temptation will have no effected on us. Give us a pure heart O Lord.

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Throne of Grace

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Holy week is upon us. What does holy week mean to you? Why is it important? What are you going to do about it?

There are times that I don’t look forward to Holy week. It means another busy week trying to get things done and being out late on Thursday and Friday for church services. Then the weekend celebrating with family. This is added stress for a business owner who is trying to get things done before we have to take off. Then many places are closed on Good Friday and the Monday after Easter so if you break down forget about it. But, this year, I have been looking forward to this Holy Week.

I was blessed to serve as one of two musicians on a Cursillo this past weekend. We had meetings preparing for it and every time I’m on the team it helps me focus on Christ. Cursillo means short course. It is a short course on Christianity. Basically, a Cursillo is a three-day encounter with Christ. I have served eight times in the thirteen years since my first Cursillo. Every time I have encounter Christ on the weekend. Cursillo is Catholic but there is also Walk to Emmaus which is a protestant version. I am blessed to be near a Cursillo that allows non-Catholic’s in Quincy, Illinois. I highly encourage anyone to attend.

I have learned what it means to approach the throne of Grace through Cursillo. Living in grace is not necessarily how we live but why we live. Let me explain, grace is a free gift. This means we have grace no matter what we do. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less. That is what grace is all about. But grace is a gift that we must unwrap. If it is left sealed it is of no use to us. We accept grace through conversion and repentance. Conversion is accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. Repentance means we turn from our sin to Jesus our Savior. Jesus is on the throne of Grace. He has paid the price of our sin so that we no longer need to live in sin but can live in grace.

I know it is hard to understand. The wonderful thing is it can be simple to live. Stop living for self and start living for Jesus. It isn’t a to do list but a mindset. God’s not calling for perfection but surrender. What does this mean for our life?

I think the best way to explain hell is it is full of people who only think of themselves. Let that soak in a little bit. What if everyone around you, including you, only thought about themselves? What a miserable existence it would be. Now look around you, how many people are living this way right now? Are you living this way, only thinking about yourself? Being Christian means, we think about God which means we think about everyone but ourselves. To worship God is to serve Him. To serve Him is to be His hands and feet to the world.

We are called to be light and to be salt. Salt is a preservative. If we serve others we bring God in their lives. This means they don’t live in hell. If we aren’t the light of Christ, then those around us are stuck in darkness. If we don’t live to serve others, then they will be stuck living in hell because no one cares, and no one shows their love to them.

I am convicted. How many times have I left people in darkness because I failed to show Jesus to them in my words and actions? How many times have I brought darkness to people because I lived for me instead of serving Christ? If Christians don’t live for Christ, then this world becomes hell on Earth.

Living for Christ is not about keeping a check list of rules. If you have a check list, you have turned the focus back on you. It becomes about how I live instead of who I live for. Don’t get me wrong. The law is a guide of what our life should look like, but it is more to show us what we aren’t doing instead of revealing how good we are. If the law doesn’t show you your need of a Savior, you are stuck in self-righteousness which is selfishness.

As we finish this last week of Lent and move into the celebration of Christ’s resurrection ask yourself this, is your life pointing people to heaven or to hell? Are you a little Christ (Christian) to the world or a little devil? Is your life all about others or all about yourself? Living in grace is living without fear. It is boldly living the life Christ has called us to live. The servant life. The theme of this last Cursillo was “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Being a servant is doing small things with great love.

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Pour Out Your Heart

…pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:19

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “pour out your heart.” What exactly does that mean? How do we pour out our heart? Let’s start with what heart means. ‘Leb’ is a word used to mean feelings, the will and the intellect. In other words, for center of everything. Pour yourself out could also be used here. Does that clear things up?

I know it is complicated. Pouring ourselves out is a metaphor for giving God our everything. Emptying ourselves of our bitterness, anger, pride, need for control, and especially our desires. It is letting go of sin so that God can then fill ourselves up with Him and His will and desires.

Our verse was written in a time in which Israel was in dire straits. The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and there was wide spread famine. Jerimiah is pleading with the people to repent and return to the Lord. Emptying ourselves out is part of repentance and worship. It is releasing ourselves over to God. Acknowledging that He is our Master, our Lord. It is hard-core prayer and worship.

Have you emptied yourself out recently? It isn’t easy in fact it can be down right scary. It means giving ourselves over to God. Doing His will instead of ours. Our lives will change when we pour out our hearts like water in the presence of the Lord. Are you ready for change? Do you yearn to know God? To be closer to God? Now is a great time to poor out your heart. When you do make sure your open to being filled with Him. Do it in prayer, listen to some Christian music, read the Bible. These are all ways to fill our hearts back up with God.

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