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AskMe #2181546 12/24/08 06:34 AM
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Matthew 2:1-10 (The Message Translation)
1 -2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod's kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him." 3 -4When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"
5 -6They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:

It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."

7 -8Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship." 9 -10Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! 11They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

After traveling for about two years the wise men seeking Christ arrived in Bethlehem. They thought surely King Herod would know where the future leader of Israel lived. But this became a threat to Herod for he felt his rule was in jeopardy. The wise men went on as instructed and found the home of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They entered the home and kneeled in the presence of Jesus. They presented three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Warned by God these men did not return to Herod, but took a different route to return to their homeland.

God reminds people of His promises. Herod was reminded of what the prophet Micah said. Verses following those above reminded the people of what Jeremiah said when Herod decided to kill all male children 2 years old and under. Most of all God reminded Mary and Joseph who their child was; a future leader, a savior, one to be honored and sought after. Something else to remember is to separate tradition from God’s actual word. The wise men arrived at the home of Mary and Joseph 2 years after the birth of Jesus. Modern mangers always show the wise men present offering their gifts, but only the shepherds the angels spoke to went to the manger. Also we don’t know the number of wise men. It is assumed there were 3 because there were three gifts, but there could have been more or less. Make sure to know God’s word, its truth and the promises He makes to us all. His word will lives and is there to lead us through our daily lives.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

AskMe #2185719 01/02/09 05:58 AM
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Proverbs 1:7 (KJV)
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

A proverb written by King Solomon; a man given the wisdom to understand great things. Yet a man who failed at times himself, because He did not respect God as he should have. The word fear in Hebrew is yir’ah which has several meanings.
1) fear, terror, fearing
a) fear, terror
b) awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
c) fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
d) revered
Out of these c and d are the most appropriate when we think of God. He is to be respected with an amount of reverence. God is to be revered for He is worthy of great honor. Learning to fear God by giving respect and honor is the beginning of knowledge. But those who despise what God has to offer usually fall to the consequences they themselves create.

Yesterday I watched Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel as he covered several different religions and their belief about angels. The Bible tells us there are angels. Hebrews tells us that angels are spirits sent to care for those who will inherit salvation. One question was asked of a priest, “Are there people that are angels?” The reply was there is a difference between angels and people. God elected to give salvation to man, while the angels that fell from grace from God with Satan will be condemned for eternity. God obviously has chosen man for salvation because He understands the weakness of man in regards to sin. God reaches out in love providing us with wisdom to live our lives. Sometimes the wisdom is found in His Holy Words. Sometimes wisdom comes as a revelation planted as a seed by God. Other times God uses angels or man to send messages we may need to hear. Learn who God is; His love, His Grace, and His mercy He demonstrated through Jesus Christ and you will start on a path of wisdom. Pray for wisdom that God would give you insight to living your life. Seek out the wisdom of Christ for He understands mans hardships and suffering. May God be with you, leading you and granting wisdom day by day.

AskMe #2189471 01/08/09 06:17 AM
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James 1:22-25 (NLT)
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

The apostle James points out we are not only to listen to God’s word, but also apply it to our lives. God’s word should be taken to heart so we might see our shortcomings and sin. But we also see the mercy and grace provided to us. With God there is always a blessing that comes with obedience to His word.

From Kenton C. Anderson, Choosing to Preach (Zondervan, 2006), p. 58:
“I recently toured the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, famous as the location of the prime meridian. It is a remarkable location. I was able to take a picture of my children straddling the meridian, each standing with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and the other foot in the Western Hemisphere.

As delightful as that might be, I would have to add that the prime meridian itself is not physically impressive. In fact, you would not realize it was there at all if it were not for a bold line cut across the pavement. The demarcation is, in fact, of human invention. Prior to the International Meridian Conference of 1884, each local region kept its own time, a system that, if continued, would have rendered impossible our current arrangements for trade and commerce. While the meridian is humanly derived, its relation to the stars is not, and that heavenly correspondence allows us to find our place on the map and in the world.
The prime meridian came about through the work of John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, who made it his life mission to produce a proper navigational chart of the heavens, mapping the location of thousands of stars. Eventually, based on Flamsteed's work, scientists were able to help people find their position on the planet, allowing them to answer that fundamental question of philosophy and physics: Where am I?

The power of the prime meridian is that it is a fixed position through which our knowledge of time and place can be understood. This is a metaphor for the effect of the Bible in human life. The Scripture is our meridian. It is the fixed position, given by God himself, through which we can understand who we are, where we are, and where we must go from here.”

AskMe #2190180 01/09/09 07:08 AM
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John 11:37-44 (NLT)
37And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

This is the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary back to life. We find Jesus going to the cave where Lazarus was buried. In verse 35 it said “Jesus wept.” It is the shortest verse in the Bible and the only time the Greek word dakryo, meaning shed tears, was used in the New Testament. The Greek word klaio was not used, which meant to weep and lament while mourning for the dead. Klaio was the same word used as Mary and Martha wept for Lazarus. It was also the word used when Mary expressed her grief at the tomb over the death of Jesus. And klaio was the word used to describe how Peter wept as he realized he denied Jesus. Verse 38 goes on to say Jesus was groaning almost angry as He approached the grave. Jesus knew Lazarus was about to return from the glory of heaven to continue life on this earth. Why a different word to describe the tears of Jesus? Jesus was not weeping as to mourn a loss, but instead to show His understanding of Lazarus being taken back from his eternal place in heaven. Lazarus stepped forward from the grave bound in burial garments. Jesus told those who were there mourning to set him free from the clothes that bound Him.

Our belief in Christ gives us a second life. Our second life will be a new life; free from the sins that bound us like death for so long. It must have been very emotional for Jesus to bring Lazarus back from his eternal life. He brought him back into a world filled with sin. Lazarus came back into a world where even his physical needs were dependent upon others to help him. The new body he was to receive was lost as his old body stepped out of the grave. How sad this demonstration of power must have been for Jesus. He was sad for the pain of others, the loss of a friend and also for taking a friend back from a promised reward. Jesus longs for us to be free from this world of pain and be with Him in His heavenly abode. Yet we are here for the present to serve God and carry the message of Christ to others.

AskMe #2191576 01/12/09 07:39 AM
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Proverbs 11: 5 (NLT)
The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.

Verse 5 of Proverbs goes along with verse 3which precedes it; “Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” Our direction, when unsure and doubtful is to say; this is the right way and I will follow it. For those who fail to follow the right way they fall beneath the load of sin they have piled upon themselves.

Have you ever caught someone in a lie and then find they try to reason their way out with more lies? The victim of the lie stays confused trying to sort out what is truth and what is fiction. Even if there is truth in the story it has been so marred by dishonesty even the truth becomes unbelievable. Those who persist with their lies find sin loads guilt upon them. The load becomes so heavy at times people fragment their lives with mixed truth and lies. Maybe at home there is one set of lies to cover a problem. Maybe at work another set of lives covers an inappropriate action. Maybe with friends lies are told to make life seem more exciting and bigger than it is. Eventually like most sin God does not allow us to linger there forever. God reveals the sin to others and suddenly the nice neat packages of lies that were built come crashing together into a confusing state of reality. Suddenly the person finds themselves looking at the multiple lives they have created for each situation. Can you imagine the stress of trying to keep the lies straight and then the stress of explaining the lies? No wonder there are people who feel as though they are living stressful lives because of their wicked ways. The right course is to be honest. The right course is to face head on the consequences that may come for telling the truth; but be rest assured those consequences will be less than those mixed with lies. Being honest can also put aside many problems. People tend to want to help those who honestly admit a fault. Their admission says I know I did wrong and I need help to correct my actions. May you always be honest in all that you do.

AskMe #2192164 01/13/09 05:47 AM
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Matthew 28:11-15 (NLT)
11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. 12 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.

Guards who were to have watched over the crucified body of Christ went to the leading priests to let them know what happened at the tomb of Jesus. They knew the body of Jesus was gone and they were fearful for what could happen to them. The elder priests offered the soldiers a large bribe to say the disciples came and took the body. The priests understood if the body of Jesus was missing it meant He was resurrected. The story spread like wildfire among the Jews leaving doubts as to what happen.

Report Says Firm Sought to Cover Up Iraq Shootings
By JOHN M. BRODER
New York Times
Published: October 2, 2007
“WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.The report describes Blackwater’s role in Iraqi casualties and property damage: In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet.”

Bribes and cover ups have taken place throughout history. We see in this report money was offered to keep the truth hidden. Families were paid off to keep the stories of the dead quiet. Yet the truth of the stories still surfaced. Around 2000 years ago men were paid off to keep the truth of the resurrection of Christ quiet. While rumors spread about the disciples stealing the body of Christ; the truth remained, Christ rose from the dead. People attempt to cover up what they know is true, but the story of Christ could not be held back. The truth has been revealed and has been so evident to some skeptics they have come to believe in Christ and His resurrection. There are many still trying to cover up the truth of Christ today. Stand firm and be a witness for the Savior who loved you unto death. Go and make disciples and tell them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

AskMe #2192862 01/14/09 06:23 AM
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James 3:2 (NLT)
2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

James affirms all of us in this world make mistakes; not just one or two, but many. He gives a simple example saying if we could just control the words we say then we might have the power to control other things. But we cannot always control the thoughts we put into words, which shows our weakness and humanity.

The book of Hebrews tells us, “It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” These people faced difficult circumstances refusing to turn from God; yet none of them were perfect. They all had their flaws and their sins that had to be dealt with. The Apostle Paul tells us we cannot be perfect by our own human power. Hebrews 12:23-24 says, “You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.” While some of us worry we are not perfect enough or as perfect as another; those who surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior will all be equally perfect when we meet Him in heaven.

AskMe #2193590 01/15/09 06:20 AM
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James 4:7-10 (NLT)

7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

In James chapter 4, James starts out by talking about the things that pull us away from God. Mainly we forget to ask God to meet our needs and instead turn to the world for answers. The world is influenced by Satan and sin which runs rampant. James says we should humble ourselves before God drawing closer so that God will draw closer to us. We are to move away from our sins, purifying our hearts; showing God we really do want to serve Him instead of the world. There can be sorrow for the sins committed, but God will remove those sins as far as the east is from the west and bring you back to a place of honor.

Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968) was a 20th century Catholic writer. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Merton was a poet, a social activist, a student of comparative religion as well as the author of numerous works on spirituality. He wrote more than 60 books, scores of essays and reviews, and is the subject of several biographies. There is a quote I want to use of his, “As soon as you are really alone, you are with God.” Take away the distractions of the world. Take away the influences of others who might lead you astray. Find solitude where you are completely alone and God will be there; that is His promise. Christ said He would never leave us nor forsake us. It is a promise we can count on. Sometimes we are forced to be alone because of circumstances. For example those who were locked away in isolation as prisoners of war; in those times they found the comfort of God. For some who have been deserted by family, God is there to offer hope. Find solitude, humble yourself before God seeking Him and God will seek you, find you and be with you.

AskMe #2194249 01/16/09 07:31 AM
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2 Peter 2:17-22 (NLT)
17 These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. 18 They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. 19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. 22 They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

The Apostle Peter talks about false teachers who lure others back into sin, while they themselves are controlled by sin. He makes it clear that those controlled by sin are not free, but slaves to the sin that holds them. He points out there are those who have heard of Christ, know about the salvation of Christ, but instead of giving themselves over to Christ they have returned to the sin that holds them.

A 2008 survey by The Barna Group asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they had engaged in during the past week. The behaviors included looking at pornography, using profanity, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying. Of those surveyed:

-Twenty-eight percent had used profanity.
-Twenty percent had gambled.
-Nineteen percent had viewed pornography.
-Twelve percent had gossiped.
-Twelve percent had gotten drunk.
-Eleven percent had lied.
-Nine percent had engaged in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married.
-Eight percent had retaliated against someone.

The results of the survey also indicated that younger generations are twice as likely to engage in immoral behavior than Baby Boomers. Younger participants were nine times more likely to engage in sex outside of marriage, six times more likely to have lied, three times more likely to have gotten drunk, three times more likely to have gossiped, twice as likely to have viewed pornography, and twice as likely to have engaged in some form of retaliation against someone.

It seems there are false teachers among us today saying these wrong behaviors are correct to engage in. It seems Christians would see the increase in sins against God and speak out on what is right and just. How long will it be before God judges those who lead others astray as He did those in Sodom and Gommorah?

AskMe #2197389 01/22/09 06:25 AM
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Deuteronomy 32:3-4 (NLT)
3 I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! 4 He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!

These words are written by Moses to the Israelites. He emphasizes the name of God and the glorious nature of His works. Moses wants to remind the people who the real God is for the people have testified they have exchanged Him for a false God. Keeping high and honorable thoughts of God is a way to remember He is the one true God; one who will not tolerate sin. God is a rock for He is immutable; an unchanging God that can always be relied upon. God’s works are perfect. He created man to be good and in justice and fairness God grants redemption and salvation. He makes perfect that which has become imperfect. God is upright and just allowing consequences but having mercy when mercy can be granted.

Faithful, just and upright those are qualities which should be sought after. King David spoke often of the faithfulness of God. He said it extended to all generations; it reached higher than the clouds; and it is enduring with unfailing love. Faithfulness keeps close those who are loved. Unfaithfulness breaks vows; fades away from duty; and rejects an allegiance of heart. Proverbs tells us the memories of the just are blessed. Those who are just bring forward abundant trust in the decisions they make. The just are regarded as wise and are often sought out for their wisdom. David said of God, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” The just will seek out truth in order to make the right decisions. A person who is upright has a strong moral integrity. They are able to hold their heads high knowing they have done no wrong. Solomon questioned why someone would leave the path of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness where men hide their ways. The integrity of the upright will guide them. Better is to hold onto integrity than to perverse one’s ways. Soloman said, “An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way (of God) is abomination to the wicked.” Seek to be faithful, just and upright and you will be blessed.

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1 Peter 1:18-19 (NLT)
18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

Peter reminds us God paid the ransom for the empty life of sin through the death of Jesus. When man fell into sin it left an empty void in our lives. Our fellowship with God was broken and left us with a void wanting to be filled. The emptiness has been passed down from generation to generation to each and every one of us.

Read through the lyrics of Voice of a Savior by Mandisa taken from the album True Beauty. It talks about how people try to fill the voids in their lives. It is a beautiful song with a beautiful message.

Some people try to listen to the bottom of a bottle
Some people try to listen to a needle in their arm
Some people try to listen to the money in their pocket
Some people try to listen to another’s arms

You and I are not that different
We got a void and we’re just trying to fill it up
With something that will give just a little peace
All we want is a hand to reach to
Open arms that say I love you
We’d give anything to hear
The voice of a Savior

Some people try to find it with blind ambition
Some people try to find it where no one else has gone
Some people try to find it in the crowns of victory
Some people get defeated and lose the strength to carry on

You and I are not that different
We got a void and we’re just trying to fill it up
With something that will give just a little peace
All we want is a hand to reach to
Open arms that say I love you
We’d give anything to hear
The voice of a Savior

Some people try to find it in the shadow of a steeple
Some people try to find it in the back row pew
Some people try to find it in the arms of Jesus
That’s where I found it, how about you?

You and I are not that different
We got a void and we’re just trying to fill it up
With something that will give just a little peace
All we want is a hand to reach to
Open arms that say I love you
We’d give anything to hear
The voice of a Savior

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John 12:44-50 (NLT)
44 Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. 49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

Here Christ speaks to the crowds asserting honor to himself and also God. Jesus makes reference to the fact that He and God are one in the same. Christ follows the commands of the Father knowing that what is to happen will bring eternal life. The rejection of Christ will be the rejection of salvation. So Christ is present in the world as a light leading those who trust Him out of the darkness of sin.

In John 21 Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection and prepares breakfast for them. After breakfast Jesus asks Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” Jesus asked Peter twice do you love me as much as God. Peter replied twice he loved him as a close friend. The third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him even as a friend. It was difficult for Peter to express his love for Christ. Even knowing Christ loved him it was difficult. Even knowing Christ came back to them after death it was still difficult to express his feelings. Sometimes Christ is asking us do we trust Him? Yet we are weak in our response. We say things such as: I would like to; I hope I can; I’m not sure, but I want to. Jesus asks us to trust Him. We are to trust that wherever He leads it was for a good purpose. If Jesus is asking do you trust Him, say “Yes Lord I trust you and will follow where you lead.”

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Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)
25 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

This is a repetition of Proverbs 14:12. Obviously it was an important thought to King Solomon; the wisest of all men. It is a warning to take caution in not deceiving ourselves to believe something is right when it is wrong. It is self delusion, a jealousy of our own desires, and a false examination of our own thoughts that lead us down this destructive path.

I have known some smart people in my life; but these intelligent, well educated, informed people have done some right stupid things. This isn’t anything new. In fact King Solomon, the wisest of all men, followed destructive paths. His wisdom was given to him by God, but God allowed Solomon to follow his own paths. Some of those paths were very wrong and led him away from God. 1 Kings 11 tells us “King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’ Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.” Even with wisdom, even with instruction and warnings from God, Solomon continued to follow his own path. Everything seemed right to Solomon. It seemed right to disobey God for his own pleasures. It seemed right to turn to other gods because the women he loved followed other gods. Repeated twice through proverbs Solomon obviously reflected on his own decisions to follow his own ways and the troubles it brought him. Follow the words of Isaiah, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

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Psalm 94:17-19 (NLT)
17 Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. 18 I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. 19 When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Psalm 94 is an appeal to God for help in the wake of persecution. This Psalm was written when God’s church was being oppressed and persecuted. The relief they could find only came from God. All others had failed them, but the Lord lifted their spirits and supported them. Even under the most difficult conditions God was able to comfort them and renew their hope.

From the book of Matthew: “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?””

Peter had seen the difficult situation they were in with the storm. Waves were battering the boat, which the disciples had to fight to keep the boat from sinking. Jesus came to them and told them not to be afraid for He was with them. Impulsively Peter called to Jesus that he wanted to join him and Jesus responded, “Yes come.” But Peter’s fears grew and doubt set into his mind. As the doubt took hold he started to slip into the water. Terrified he yelled out, “Save me, Lord!” Jesus grabbed Peter and lifted him up and supported him. Then he asked Peter, “Why did you doubt me.” Many of us are like Peter. We know Jesus will be with us in difficult times, but when we are in the midst of the problem doubt fills our minds and we start to sink in despair. We still know Jesus is there because we cry out wanting His help, but we doubt what He can do. In these times remember the answer a father gave Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

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Psalm 86:1-7 (NLT)
1 Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. 2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. 3 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. 4 Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. 5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. 6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry.7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

This Psalm was a prayer of King David’s. David asks God who is above all to come down to him to listen to his prayer. He knows God will respond and he desires God’s help. David knows we are defective creatures who are in often need of help and he asks for mercy in the many requests that are made. He prays for happiness during his need for help. David also acknowledges the unfailing love of God and His attention towards us.

From Christianity today, February 2004, Vol. 48, No. 2, Page 44 comes the story of Lindsay O’Connor who slipped into a 47 day coma after severe childbirth complications. She laid in a coma unable to communicate as her family considered their options for her survival and her death. Her dad touched her feet and said, "I taught these feet how to walk." Then he comforted her husband Tim as he was about to make life decisions. She remembers Tim holding one of her hands, a neurologist the other, and telling me to squeeze their hands. Unable to do so or to speak, she felt her brain screaming, "Why can't I do this? Maybe I'm dying." Later, her inability to use the call button left her banging a spoon on the bedside table for an hour and a half. No one came. They thought it was the repetitive motor response of a brain-damaged woman.” Can you imagine the frustration of wanting to call out for help? Maybe there are times we feel frustrated thinking our calls for help are not heard. The good news is God is always listening. Because of His unfailing love He will answer in our times of need.

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James 1:14 (NLT)
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

James, the half brother of Jesus teaches where the temptations in our life come from. Temptation comes from our own desires. While Satan is called the tempter there is no one to blame but ourselves when we are drawn away by our own lusts, because the true origin of temptation comes from our hearts. If we do not take care our desires will pull us away from God and lead us straight to sin.

If we knew where a thief would enter our home; would we take precautions to thwart those efforts? The most common entry points are through the front door or a first floor window. Those would be easy guesses for most of us. Why smash a window and risk cuts if the front door can be forced open? Why take a ladder to climb in the second floor window when the first floor is easily available. Yet a research study for State Farm showed many people seem to not think about those possibilities:

Left windows open: 49 percent
Left front door unlocked: 37 percent
Left back door unlocked: 33 percent
Hid key outside: 26 percent
Left inside garage open: 22 percent

The temptation of sin is much the same way. We know where sin may come from because there is not a temptation that is not common to us all. Yet knowing there are temptations awaiting us we don’t prepare for them. Instead we leave the window of opportunity open. We leave the doors unlocked to our heart that allow those temptations wander in. Temptation is not a sin, but is common to all man. Knowing temptation exists we should closely guard ourselves and watch out for those entry points where sin may choose to enter.

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John 21:20-22 (NLT)
20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

John the disciple writes in these verses calling himself “the disciple Jesus loved”. John did not arrogantly list his name but instead placed value as being one (of many) Jesus loved. During the Lord’s Supper, John had asked Jesus who would betray him after Peter urged John to ask. Now Peter walking with Christ was distracted by John. Instead of talking with Jesus he turned to asking about John. Jesus gave Peter an answer, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” Peter’s concern should have been for own his relationship with Christ and Christ reminded Peter that he was to follow Him.

There have been times I have walked into a store not knowing the location of an item I was seeking. Knowing I might be wandering around aimlessly; I usually walk up to one of the employees and ask, “Where can I find this item?” Often the employee will say, “Follow me” and I follow as they walk me through the store to the item I am searching for. They know the store so I trust to follow them as they lead me to the item I am searching for. Jesus knows and understands every detail of our lives. Jesus tells us to follow Him and He will lead us to that which we need to find. Don’t wander aimlessly in your life; instead let Jesus take you where you need to go.

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Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

In the previous chapter of Galatians the apostle Paul gave plea for Christians to serve one another out of love. Here he continues that thought encouraging Christians to help other Christians overcome by sin. They are to do so delicately and in such a manner to lead the person back towards God. A believer should always be aware they are also subject to temptation. Dealing with the temptation of another they could also fall prey to the same temptation. We all must remember we are servants of God and if do not submit to the service of loving others; someone else can always take our place.

A problem many Jews faced prior to the coming of Christ was the strict rules and regulations placed upon them by religious leaders. Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” The law was established to reflect sin and show man reproof and how to live life. Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The law was not to a burden, but a course of direction for man to pursue towards God. The Pharisees and Sadducees had distorted that meaning and placed burdensome tasks on people instead of trying to help their problems. Our responsibility as Christian brothers and sisters is to love and help others. We are to point out failures in a loving way. We should allow the grace of Christ to work through us extending grace where grace is required. And we should allow room for understanding of those who have fallen to sin because we are also subject to the same temptation.

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Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Christ explained to his disciples how he must suffer for the sake of all. Now he tells them they too will suffer for the sake of what they believe in. They were to follow the shepherd as sheep turning their lives over to the one who was going to guide them. Christ reminded them there was no benefit in enjoying what the world had to offer is the cost was the eternal loss of their soul. Christ reiterates this point by asking “Is anything worth more than your soul?”

There was a story I read from Decision Magazine about a young boy who loved to play marbles. He had one favorite cracked blue marble; it had won him many matches. As he walked along with his pocket of marbles he met a girl eating chocolate candies. He put together a plan in his mind and stopped to offer the girl all his marbles for all of her chocolate. Carefully searching out his pocket he managed to feel the cracked blue marble he cherished and pushed it deep into his pocket. He pulled out the other marbles and handed them to the girl in exchange for the chocolates. As he began to walk off he turns back to the girl and asks, “Hey, you did give me all the chocolates, didn’t you?” Our fallen nature makes us want to hang onto to that which we feel is a prized procession. We don’t want to give up ourselves to Christ in the same manner. We want to hold on to a part of our life we found satisfying. But holding on just makes us suspicious of others and whether they could be as corrupt as we ourselves are. We don’t want to surrender full control to Christ because we fear in doing so we may be missing out on something.

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James 1:19 (NLT)
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

In this verse James provides some words of wisdom for us all. First we are to listen carefully to things said to us. We should be attentive so as not to miss the intent of what is being said to us. If we give a response we should think carefully about the response before speaking out. In taking our time to listen and speak it gives us an opportunity to keep our anger at bay.

Anger is a secondary emotion caused by one or many other emotions. Initially a person does not feel anger, what they feel is a series of emotions that triggers anger. For instance a person can feel abandoned, left out of the plans, put to the side and as those emotions fester they turn to anger because they have not expressed how they truly feel. Speaking in anger does not give us a chance to express our feelings. Instead anger enrages. Ephesians says, “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” There is nothing wrong with being angry, but the way we express anger can lead to sin. So instead of focusing on the emotion of anger, go back to the first emotions and express them in a way that honors Christ. For instance if someone said something hurtful you could respond by saying, “I makes sad to hear you felt that way.” It sounds a lot different than, “You made me really angry by saying that!” placing the hearer on the defensive. Be honest with your feelings and express them in a way that is understandable. Never give anger a foothold by speaking without thought.

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