GLORIFYING GOD WITH OUR LITTLE   2 comments


 How can we be used by God in obeying Christ‘s instruction to

“Follow Me”?  It starts with three simple steps.

Often when beginning our faith journey in heeding the call of Jesus Christ to “Follow Me”, we remain unsure of our human foot-steps regarding what lies ahead.  Just like any road map, it looks like straight black lines towards experiencing eternity in God’s realm, but experience tells us from other roads we have traveled that those seemingly linear lines are full of bumps, dips and curves along the way.

As we spiritually buckle up for the journey, our hearts may be firm, and we sincerely desire to heed our Heavenly Father‘s calling, but our knees may be shaking and even a bit wobbly.  Starting out on the narrow path to life (Matthew 7:13-14), we may even be pondering, “Will I have what it takes to stay on that narrow path behind the lead of the Good Shepherd?”

Let’s be blunt: none of us have what it takes on our own or it would merely be by our works.  Never, never forget – it’s about what God is performing in us and not we of ourselves.  But, once we have surrendered our past, present and future to His perfect will, where would He have us start in faith-filled responsiveness to His invitation?  It’s as simple and yet as challenging as three simple steps:

Be available.

Be open.

Be willing.

That’s it?  That’s all? Indeed it is! sad to say, even veteran Christians have often lost their way because they’ve forgotten these three basic steps of how to respond to Christ’s call to “Follow Me”.

So whether we’re novices on this journey or an old-timer at the end of our rope with worry and doubt,  let’s allow the Good Shepherd to “prepare a table before us” to understand these three vital steps towards eternity in an event that happened long ago on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Viewing through the eyes of Christ

Let’s go up to the top and see what’s happening.  It’s here where the view is best, because it’s through the eyes of the Master as captured through the lens of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel.

It’s here that Jesus of Nazareth looked down and saw a crowd surging slowly up the hill toward Him and His disciples.  He humanly sighed but spiritually smiled at what was coming His way.  It was many of the same people He left behind earlier.  They found Him again!  He had just left them by boat on another shore of the lake after a long day of teaching.  He needed a break to recharge – after all, He was human too.  But the massive crowd had traveled several miles seeking after this man who taught so profoundly and performed miracles for those without any hope.  Many were on their way up to Jerusalem for the Passover, but now they detoured up a hillside to understand more.

Jesus must have been deeply moved with compassion on such a swarm of humanity seemingly driven by something they couldn’t yet fully comprehend but nonetheless desired to obtain.  John says the number was 5,000, excluding women and children, yet Jesus wasn’t focusing on numbers but determining a need.  His desire was to care for them both spiritually and physically.

He asked one of the twelve, Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”  (verse 5).  He asked Philip specifically because his hometown of Bethsaida was nearby.  He replied, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a litttle” (verse 7).  Basically, Philip responded that it would cost a half-year’s wages to make a dent in the hunger of this crowd, and even then they couldn’t really do it in this remote place on such short notice.

But as John notes, Jesus asked the question as a test, because He already knew what He was going to do (verse 6).  Christ had already moved to the future in His heart and mind, and He was going to invite the disciples and the Passover pilgrims to join Him there.  But He needed a human instrument untarnished from the facts and figures on the ground.

As Jesus surveyed the human landscape round about them, the disciples wondered what would happen next.  Perhaps they wondered, as we do at times, “How did we ever get here? What now?”

 One who’s available, open and willing

And “what now” began to unfold before them.  Jesus smiled as He saw Andrew moving toward Him through the crowd.  While some of the disciples were overwhelmed with the facts on the ground, Andrew went out looking for a solution.  And he found one, even if ever so small in the form of a boy with a modest amount of food.  Jesus smiled, because His answer was on the way.  Andrew introduced a boy available, open and willing for service: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish.”  But even Andrew’s hopefulness was betrayed by the reality on the ground staring them in the face.  He added, “But what are they among so many?”

It’s here that Jesus swung into full action mode.  So often when a miracle was in the works, He gave His followers an assignment.  He told the disciples, “Make the people sit down!”

Then, the young boy who was open and willing placed his own lunch into the hands of this special Man in the middle of the crowd.  The lad looked up as the Rabbi thanked and prased God who had provided the fish and loaves.  The boy watched as this Man of Nazareth began to personally distribute this miraculous meal package to His disciples for distribution.  This was indeed hands-on!  The food kept on going out and going out until everyone was full.  The root Greek word for “filled” in verse 12 gives the sense of fully satisfied.  Everyone took as much as he or she wanted – no rations here!

 A teaching moment, for then and now

And then, Christ provided one more teaching moment for His skeptical disciples: “Gather up the fragments that remain,” which came to 12 full baskets (verse 12).  Imagine the disciples lugging their baskets up the hill with bread fragments spilling out.  If they hadn’t learned their lesson before, they now had this to contemplate.  Jesus’ add-on instruction no doubt reinforced what He wanted them to learn.  Years later they would remember this simple story with profound implications regarding the first three tangible steps of following Christ wherever He leads.

Let’s appreciate that Jesus always knows exactly where He is going and what He is about at all times, now and then  He was not on that isolated hill by mistake, but by design.  Sure, He humanly needed a rest, but God never wastes time or a miracle.  He is never boxed into a corner but is opening doors to further perform His purpose and desire for us.

The boy came forward and made available the little he had.  Barley, being inferior to wheat for making bread, was a diet staple among the poor.  But the youngster was willing and trusting to hand over all he had, no matter how meager, to Jesus Christ for His purpose.  How often do you and I stand unmovable along the highway of life because we don’t think God can use us to satisfy His glory?  You know how it goes – “I’m too dumb,” “too small,” “too old,” “too young”, “too heavy,” “too poor,” or “too much,” or “too little” of whatever else.  Thus, we never hand over anyting into His service to be used but simply stay hidden in the crowd of humanity.  This little boy is God’s poster child to remind us that age, size and substance are never out of bounds when it comes to serving God.

 The powerfull lesson in this story

Consider this for a moment in regard to our personal encounter with Christ:  If we give Him nothing, He has nothing of us to use.  If we’re not doing anything, how can we expect Him to bless it?

But the powerful lesson in this story is if we give Him whatever we have, even if it’s just a little and what others might consider ordinary, then He can take our little and make it much to His glory.  How so, you say?  Jesus would again magnify the boy’s willing offering of food the very next day.  This time not simply to placate empty stomachs, but fill the souls of those who would follow Him by declaring, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:50).  Indeed, Christ “knew what He was going to do” (John 6:6), but He desires to use our availability, openess and willingness to prepare the way.

The little boy who met Jesus that day stands behind a long line of people who made themselves available, open and willing to serve God’s purpose even though humanly they had nothing to offer.  But that’s all right with God.  Consider Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth with empty wombs that bore fruit.  Consider Gideon with a measly army of 300 men.  Consider Ruth, the Moabite widow with no desired pedigree who  became an ancestor of Jesus – the One through whom all of us may become part of God’s family.

These are people who would now knowingly smile at the apostle Paul’s words found in Philippians 4:6-7 that reminds us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Indeed, this kind of peace that bears lasting results moves beyond the mere facts on the ground that can stifle our call to glorify God in all we do.

So what are you holding onto and not offering to God because of self-imposed isolations from service toward  His glory in you?  Allow me for a moment to fill in for Andrew and help commect you to your God-given destiny.  Sure, there are smarter, noisier, flashier human tools all around us that God may use, but that’s not the starting or ending point in gaining God’s attention and experiencing His grace.  Jus ask Philip.  Just ask the lad with his lunch.

Being “in the kn ow” only gets you so far with God.  Let’s understand that each of us has been given a story by our Maker.  Each of us has been given His Word.  It’s not how much you know about His Word, but how much you put it into practice when it comes to those moments of taking those first three steps of being

1) Available

2) Open and

3) Willing to serve Christ whenever, wherever and however He might guide us.

By the way, that previously mentioned line is still forming behind the little boy for those who understand that our little becomes much in God’s hands toward His glory.

 If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful

in large ones.  But if you are dishonest in little things, you

won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.

And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth,

who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?

                                                                      Luke 16:10-11

Stand up, move out, and offer God whatever little (or much) you have, and fullfill His calling on your life!

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– CONFIDENCE IN THE MESSAGE –   Leave a comment


So do not throw away this confident trust

in the Lord.  Remember the great reward it brings

you!  Patient endurance is what you need now,

so that you will continue to do God’s will.

Then you will receive all that He has promised.

For in just a little while, the Coming One

will come and not delay.

Hebrews 9:35-37

 

The apostle Paul knew that toward the end of time Christians would be tempted to lose confidence in the Second Coming because of the seeming delay of Christ’s return.

 

But God’s time is certain.  The Bible stands true.  The messages that were given in prophetic vision to Daniel and to John will meet their fulfillment in the near future.  The messages given to the remnant church by the inspired prophet will guide us to the end.  Many bright lights may go out in darkness, but the prophetic light will shine brighter and brighter as we see the day approaching.

 

It is sad to see some falling by the way so near the end of the journey.  Scenes of pleasure or dreams of wealth attract them, and they turn aside.  Disappointment overtakes others, and they blame the message or the messengers of God and give up their faith in Christ’s coming.

 

A Roman nobleman was so confident that his country would win the war with the Carthage that he bought the land around the city in which the enemy was encamped.  We can give no greater proof of our confidence in the message than to invest our resources to hasten Christ’s coming.

 

Although the fulfillment of the promises of God is delayed, the delay is due to God’s long-suffering and mercy.  When Christ left this earth just over two thousand years ago, He said He would come again to receive His people unto Himself.  So “let not your heart be troubled,” because He will soon finish His work and return to claim His people.

 

Let us keep our confidence in God’s last message burning brightly in our hearts.  Let us seek out those who have lost their confidence and try to rekindle the flame in their hearts.  Tell them the Word of God is sure and that we need patience as we near the end.

 

 “Heavenly Father, please clothe each and every one of us

with quiet assurance and steadfast confidence, blessing us

with solid and unshakable endurance, as we anticipate

that day that You come and take Your people

to Yourself”

In Jesus Name

 

Humbly, with my hand in His

 

Wenessa

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– RETRIBUTION –   Leave a comment


 “When a crime is not punished quickly,

people feel it is safe to do wrong.”

Eccles 8:11 (NLT)

One of the great deceptions the Satan uses to mislead men is the common sales slogan: “No deposit, pay later.”  It is unfortunate when the idea of deferred payment traps so many people into financial disaster, but it becomes an eternal, tragedy if applied to the results of sin.

David recognised this danger when he was envious of the wicked because of their prosperity.  He noted that those who were proud and blasphemed God seemed to have more success than the ones who tried to do right and live God’s way.  This apparent injustice almost caused him to backslide, until God gave him a vision of the heavenly sanctuary and the final punishment of sinners.  The fact that God does not immediately reward the righteous or punish the wicked, does not lessen the final results.

Anne of Austria had this in mind when she said to the Cardinal Mazarin, “My Lord Cardinal, God does not pay at the end of every week; nevertheless He pays.”  Payment for wrongdoing may seem long deferred, but there’s reason for the delay.  We have a long-suffering God who patiently waits for all to repent and accept His free pardoning grace.  “The wages of sin is death; but the {free} gift of God is eternal life.”  The law of retribution requires that evil shall not go unpunished.  But Christ has voluntarily taken the place of the sinner who accepts Him as his substitute.

Only those who have not accepted the Substitute need fear the consequences of sin.  The penalty for sin has been paid by the Saviour (Jesus Christ)  and the offender (you and I), is now free.  But to those who willfully and persistently disobey and refuse to accept the proffered mercy, there is a sure and certain day of judgment when punishment will be meted out to all such.

Now is the time to accept God’s mercy, because the day is not far distant when it will be too late.

May we seek the Lord and help others to do the same, while He is to be found!

Humbly

Your servant and His

Wenessa

THE CONTEST of YOUR LIFE   2 comments


 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us

throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and

let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes

on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before

him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand

of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

It had to be one of the best moments in Olympic history.  Maybe you saw it on TV or watched the movie made in honour of the events, as I did.  Sarah Hughes, then a high school junior from Great Neck, New York, was in fourth place in the final round of the figure skating competition.  To win a medal, she’d need nothing short of a miracle.  She’d have to give the performance of her life – and then some.

As her turn approached, she decided to forget the pressure and just skate for the pure joy of it.  During the whole performance, she grinned from ear to ear.  And she made history – for one thing, she was the first Olympic skater ever to accomplish two perfect triple-triple jumps in the same programme.

When the judges’ scores rolled in, a deafening roar went up from the crowd.  Cameras zoomed in, showing Sarah and her coach on their knees, hugging each other and shrieking.  Then Sarah’s coach pressed Sarah’s face in her hands and said, “You just won the gold medal in the Olympics!”

One day in heaven, you will experience a ceremony something like that.  You will have finished your race.  The time to receive the Judge’s reward will have arrived.  It will be the biggest moment of your life…..

And God wants it to be the best moment of your life!  Today’s scripture passage contains some wonderful advice on how to achieve this.  In fact, did you notice it sounds a lot like a speech a coach might give just prior to an Olympic competition?

Like Paul, the writer of Hebrews pictured the life of faith as an athletic contest.  He reminds us that the grandstands in heaven are packed, the crowds are watching, and the pressure is on!  Then he gives believers invaluable pointers for winning our race.

  1. Lay aside everything that hinders you and the sin that entangles.  Serious athletes know that many things can slow them down and rule out their chances of winning – heavy clothing, poor eating or sleeping routines, and distractions or snares of any kind.  In a disciple’s race, nothing will slow you down, trip you up, and cause you to miss the prize like sin will.
    Lay it aside today by confessing it to Jesus.  John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
  2. Run with perseverance the race that is set before you.  On the walls of the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs is a motto:  “Persistance is an invisible living strategy in all champions.”  We build our endurance when we do the right thing over and over – regardless of how we feel that day.  Sometimes perseverance is as simple as just not giving up.  Paul wrote, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap f we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).
But notice that you only have to run the race “marked out” for you.  Your race is different from mine.  And the race that is marked out for you was uniquely created for you, and you are uniquely gifted and called to win it.
3.  Fix your eyes on Jesus. Any athlete will tell you that where you fix your eyes is critical.  When Sarah Hughes turns herself into a spinning human top, she keeps
     her balance by focusing her eyes on exactly the same spot with each turn.  In the same way, Jesus is the mark we fix our eyes on.  He is our source of help and He
     is at the centre of our reason for running.  Jude wrote that Jesus “Is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory   with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).
If you’ve become convinced that you’ve misused your life and it will take a grand miracle to win God’s “Well Done,” remember the One who will judge your race.  He is at the finish line waiting for you, praying for you, eagerly anticipating giving you your reward (Revelation 22:12).
And His example is to run “for the joy set before Him.” Serve Him fully today and every day just for the joy of it.  And you can expect a wonderful reward from His loving hands.
“Dear Lord, today I fix my eyes on You.  Give me strength and wisdom as I run my race of faith.  I choose to lay aside these sins that are entangling me.”
                                                                                                 
 ***********************
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you
have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, 
being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by
fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus 
Christ whom having not seen, you love.  Though now you do not see Him,
yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving
the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.
****************
Now may the God of hope fill you with
all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Romans 15:13

– Let the Children Come to Jesus –   Leave a comment


 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not,

to come unto Me:  for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 

Matthew 19:14

The mothers brought their children to the Master that He might bless them, but the disciples felt that He was too busy with important things to be troubled with mere little children.  The attitude of Christ, however, was different.  He saw in these children the future subjects of His kingdom.  He rebuked His disciples for their blindness, telling them that the children would come to Him if they were not hindered.

What a tragedy if older, experienced and supposedly more mature Christians keep the younger ones away from Christ!  Sometimes by their words, but more often by their example, they are not allowing the children to come to Jesus.  We need to be more careful of our conduct or we may cause some little ones to stumble.  We need to be loving and patient with the lambs of the flock.  Soon, very soon, as they grow they will be making choices for or against the walk of faith and participation as the Church for the kingdom! It is of greatest importance that they see in the older disciples and church members those virtues that will make them WANT to be associated with the work and family of God.

The parents in the home, the teachers in schools, and the church leaders in the kingdom (not only pastors), form a threefold cord that should be bound around every young person.  It is vital that all three understand the principals of love, sympathy, and firm discipline accompanied with patient guidance which should guide the youth and point them towards a lifestyle of discipleship and relationship with Jesus.  The ideals of all must contribute to the one great aim of giving the child a well-balanced training.

How tragic when the home teaching is contradictory to that of the school or the Word of God!  If this happens, the young and vulnerable mind is confused.  Let us bind our children to Christ with cords of love and not be instrumental in discouraging them from coming to Christ and accepting Him as their personal Lord and Saviour and living a lifestyle of discipleship.

May the Holy Spirit bring enlightenment as we strive for understanding and wisdom as we apply the Word and the Master’s way to our own lives.

Humbly

Wenessa

AMBASSADORS   1 comment


 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have

passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of

God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given

us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ

reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them,

and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are

ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we

implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

2 Cor. 5:17 – 20

I read once that looking at the stars through a telescope on earth is a little like looking up from the bottom of a swimming pool.  No matter how hard you squint, objects still look pretty blurry (that’s why stars twinkle).  The vast ocean of atmosphere above us limits how clearly a telescope can see.

No wonder astronomers were excited when, in 1990, they launched the Hubble Space Telescope.  Hubble, which is the size of a school bus, studies the stars from an orbit above Earth’s atmosphere.  No blur.  No twinkle.  Almost every week, scientists are making new discoveries.

Letting Jesus show us the facts about eternity is a little like that.  Our perspective is limited, but His is not.  He came from eternity to show us the truth.  And if we truly receive what He came to earth to reveal, we’ll never look at our life here in the same way again. Or other people.

Is the truth about eternity changing how you think about your purpose on earth today?  Then you must see other people differently too.  When C.S Lewis wrote his essay “the overwhelming possibilities” of eternity, he concluded: “There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are all mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” (C.S Lewis, The Weight of Glory, San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2001).

Friend, that is why telling and living the Good News of the Gospel today to other “immortals” is the most important eternal work we can do.  There’s no greater gift we could pass on to the people we live with, work with, or meet on the street.  Every person has eternal possibilities!

Paul’s encounter with Christ changed his viewpoint radically.  It persuaded him that “those who live should live no longer for themselves,” and “therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh”. (2 Cor. 5:15-16).  Paul described this amazing assignment as being an ambassador for Christ.  Each day, Paul said, we should realize that Christ has commissioned us to make His appeal on His behalf to the world.  The Bible clearly describes that our King is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The next time your walk out of your house or office, consider how a personal assignment as Christ’s ambassador would shape your day.

      .  You are specially commissioned to spread the message of your King.

      .  You should expect many opportunities to bring reconciliation between your King and those who oppose Him, or ignore Him, or are simply ignorant of Him.

      .  You should remember that your words and your example speak loudly about your King and the significance of His message.

      .  You should keep in mind that ambassadors only succeed if they put their King’s interests and priorities before their personal affairs.

Ask God today to give you a greater vision for souls.  It’s a passion that could change eternity for many other immortals, and bring you great reward too.  Jesus told His disciples, “He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4;36).

You and I have been called and commissioned for a joyful task.  Jesus has shown us the truth, and the truth has set us free to spread the Word.

Thought:  What three names come to mind right now of people I should pray about and plan to share the Gospel with this week?

 *********

Even if we persuade only a few,

we shall obtain very great rewards, for,

like good laborers, we shall receive recompense from the Master.

Justin Martyr

**************

Those who are wise shall shine

Like the brightness of the firmament,

And those who turn many to righteousness

Like the stars forever and ever.

Daniel 12:3

*************

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?

Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

1 Thessalonians 2:19

Humbly,

Your servant and His

Wenessa

 

VICTORY IN UNITY   3 comments


 And when the day of Pentecost was fully

come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Acts. 2:1

The natural heart is proud and ambitious.  Selfish competition is characteristic of all who are not united in Christ.  This spirit of rivalry among disciples so often grieved the Saviour.  The association of Jesus with His disciples was marred by their constant bickering over who was to be the greatest among them in the kingdom.  How the heart of the Master must have suffered as He sought to teach His companions to love as He loved, but He found constant discord among them.

However, at Christ’s ascension a miracle took place.  Now it did not matter who had a high posistion or a lowly one if only the disciples might be with their Friend and share the glory He had promised.  Peace and harmony came among them.  All wrongs had been made right; differences had been smoothed out; faultfinding and envy were gone.  This was the moment for which the Father had been waiting, and the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples.  What was the immediate effect on the unbelieving world?  Thousands came to the Saviour that day in response to the witness of harmony and unity in the church.

A day is soon coming that will outshine Pentecost.  It will arrive when all come in the unity of the faith. (Eph. 4.13).  When our hearts are surcharged with love so deep, so full, so far reaching, it will impel us to go to the ends of the earth, testifying to the power of Christ.  No longer will men and women be disappointed or angry because another person is chosen as church elder or youth leader.

Young people will not be jealous because another received a better grade or is more popular.  All will be united in their ambition to serve the Master.  In that day the church will give to the world its strongest witness – not only a united front, but a completely united body.  It will be the unified body of Christ.

Let us pray that the power of this unity may be seen in the remnant church today.