Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

There is a very popular hymn titled, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”.  There is a verse in this hymn that goes: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey; forth to the mighty conflict, in this his glorious day. Ye that are brave now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.” This verse is telling us to be brave and serve God against unnumbered foes. That might be easy for us to think about, even sing about, but not so easy to do. We live in a world where it is becoming less and less “popular” to stand up for Jesus. 
I was reading in Acts 24:10-16 how Paul did just that — he stood up, stood up for Jesus! Beginning in verse 10, “10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead,[c] both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
Paul had been unfairly and unjustly accused and held by the Jewish leaders for standing up for Jesus. He was rescued by the Roman army from the angry Jewish crowd, but still was held in prison for years while the Roman leaders determined what to do with him. These verses we just read were from Paul’s own defense of his actions in front of the Roman leaders. It was these leaders that would determine Paul’s future. Would he be released or would he be convicted and put to death?  Knowing the future that might await him, it would have been very easy for Paul to deny Jesus and possibly save his life. Fortunately for us, Paul was never one to take the easy way out. As he stood before “the judge”, he proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ loud and clear.
It got me thinking. How many times are we in the same position as Paul? When we are around our family, friends, co-workers, class mates that would like to convict us for following Jesus, do we also “stand up, stand up for Jesus?” Or, is it just easier to go along with what they want us to say, how they want us to act so that we do not upset them? Just like Paul, there should be certain areas of our life that are off limits to those around us. Mainly, our relationship with Jesus Christ. How many times have we been distracted from spending time with Jesus, going to church, attending bible study because our “friends” have something better for us to do? When those offers come, do we “stand up, stand up for Jesus”?
We all need to be like Paul and remember that there is no greater responsibility as a Christian than to live out the life that we are called to lead. When we stand before our accusers, we must have the confidence and faith in God to take a stand for him, regardless of the consequences. I suspect that Paul’s accusers and “judges” knew exactly how Paul was going to respond. Paul had made his faith very clear to all around him. Can we say that we are like Paul? Do we take a stand for Jesus or are we to busy standing with those around us? When given the choice do we make God the priority in our life? 
I pray for blessing for you today on your Journey!

Use Me!!!

When someone commits their life to Jesus, there seems to be a common desire we all have.  We want to be used by God. That may be at church, in our family, at work or at school. Regardless of where, we feel that we are “better or stronger” Christians if God is using us.  When we don’t feel like God is using us, we become frustrated and discouraged. If we really want to serve God,  but don’t feel like we are being used, we need to ask ourself a question. Is God really not using us, or are we just not listening to what God is asking us to do?
While I was reading this morning in Acts 22:6-10, I read about Saul’s (soon to be Paul) encounter with Jesus. Beginning in verse 6 we read, ” 6 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’  9 “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. 10 So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’”
There are many, many, many sermons that have been given on this scripture. In fact, there are ministries and other programs specifically named after this passage. As I was reading this morning, however, 5 words jumped out at me — “what shall I do, Lord?”.  When Saul had met Jesus, his first question to Jesus was “what shall I do”. I was reminded that we too must be like Saul/Paul. I believe that we need to ask Jesus the same daily. “What shall I do, Lord?” This can apply to trials/issues that we are encountering, this may be with direction we are seeking for a decision to be made, and it is the request that we should make when we want to be used to proclaim the Good News. Sometimes, we might not be used in ministry because we haven’t asked Jesus for direction. We go off doing what we think is right, what we think God may want, but we fail to ask Him.
If you have a desire to be used in ministry, to evangelize, to reach out to the lost/broken, first ask 5 simple words — “what shall I do, Lord?”. God has many plans for each of us to further His Kingdom. It is our responsibility, however, to make sure we are seeking wisdom and guidance from Him and only Him. Saul’s plan was to go and kill Christians that day. God’s plan was for Paul to save Jews and Gentiles. Which plan do you think was better? Pray those 5 simple words daily — “what shall I do, Lord?”.
I pray for blessings for you today on your Journey!

What Can You Know?

One of the things that really excites me about my relationship with God is just how little I really know about Him. I know the basics — He is all powerful, all knowing, is everywhere, but do we really understand or know what that means?

In Job 11:6-9, we learn a little about who God really is. Starting in verse 6, we read, “6 That He would show you the secrets of wisdom! For they would double your prudence.  Know therefore that God exacts from you Less than your iniquity deserves. 7 “Can you search out the deep things of God?  Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?  8 They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know?  9 Their measure is longer than the earth And broader than the sea.”
My favorite portion of this passage is in verse 8, “what can you know?”  That is true. What can we really know about our God who created the Heavens and the earth, created all of us and everything. With the technology we have today, within seconds on the internet, gain access to information from all over the world.  Yet, even with so much information/power available at our fingertips, it is unable to give us the complete picture about God.
We cannot fully expect to understand who is God. What we as believers must get comfortable with is the fact that we don’t need to know everything. When I fly on an airplane, I have no idea how all of the million parts work together to take us from one point to another point safely — I just know that it does. That is the same thing with God. We don’t need to understand all of the parts to God to know that He is God — I just know that He is. What we do know about God is only a sample of who He really is and what He can do for us if we allow Him to be who He wants to be in our lives.
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!

What Type of Friends do You Have?

Do you know people that you never take your problems to because you know they will not make you feel better? For example, you may know of someone that will always make you feel worse after talking to them?  There have been times in my life when I have reached out to people during difficult times and have left after the conversation feeling worse about myself than before.  We go to people looking for support, advice, comfort, but sometimes, people will blame us, criticize us, condemn us.

Job 8 is such a story. Poor Job has been crushed by what Satan has done to his life (all of his children have died, his livestock has perished, all of his wealth has been lost and he has been plagued with painful boils all over his body). He has reached out to his two friends, Bildad the Shuhite for comfort and support. Unfortunately, what he wanted wasn’t what he got! His two friends began to question Job about what Job had done to cause such trials in his life. In Job 8:20 his two friends declare, “20 Behold, God will not cast away the blameless, Nor will He uphold the evildoers.” This wasn’t the “don’t worry, everything will be alright” that Job was probably looking for. As you read through out the book of Job, his “friends” spend their time questioning and condemning Job for his role in the cause of all of these horrible events. 
As I read this today, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that I do not have friends like this in my life. But, it is a reminder to us that we should also not be friends like this to other people. There will be times that we will need to hold someone accountable for their actions, identify how actions and consequences are related and even discuss responsibility for known sins. Regardless of the conversation we must have with people, we should also make sure that we always show that person God’s love, God’s kindness, God’s compassion.  It is a great opportunity for us to reveal a little bit more of God to people.  Remember John 8:7-11 “7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 
 We need to be the type of friend to others that Jesus was to us.
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!

What is Your Crime?

Often times, when children are asked if they have done something wrong, we get one of two responses. They either deny they did it, or admit to committing the “crime”, but blaming someone else for causing/forcing their actions. We may think that it is funny at that age, but we often will carry that same attitude into our adult lives. Acts chapter 12 has several stories in the chapter. It begins by teling us how Herod killed James, the Apostle, for his commitment to Jesus. Right after that, we read that Herod arrested Peter for the same “crime”. That night, while Peter was chained to 2 guards inside of a jail, with guards posted at each door and gate, an angel of the Lord came to Peter and freed him from his captivity! We are then told how Peter escaped and ran Mary’s house (Johns mother) and told the others.
The next morning, when the Herod learns of what has happened, his immediate response is to blame someone for what has happened. In Acts 12: 19 it tells us, “19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.”
In other words, Herod played the “blame game”. You know that game, it is the game we play when something occurs and we react by trying to place the blame on someone. Please understand that there are times when this is correct. People will take actions that will have consequences on those around them. There are other times, however, when it is our actions that will cause a consequence that will not be positive or beneficial to those around us. I see it in Christians that will either walk away from their faith or commit a sin. Too often, they will look to blame someone else for their actions, but fail to see their own part in what has happened. While it might be “easier” to believe that someone else is to blame, we all need to remember that we must take responsibility for our own actions and the consequences that follow.  We may want to get angry at the police officer for giving us a speeding ticket, but we must first remember that it was our speeding that gave the officer the opportunity to write the ticket. 
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!

You Are Not Common!

One of the most effective ways that the enemy will get to us is through shame. I am sure that we have all experienced this feeling. There are times when we are overcome with shame and guilt for what we have done prior in our lives. Please hear my heart, when we are convicted by God, that is a blessing if it leads us to repentance and forgiveness. But, I am not talking about conviction.  Satan will use guilt and shame as a means to draw us away from God.
Acts 11:1-9 tells us “1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” 4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’”
This may sound like a strange passage, but the blessing and reminder is in the last 9 words. Since God has cleansed us, we can no longer be called common. To put it in other words, the moment God forgave us of our sins, we were released from any guilt or shame for that sin — we are no longer called common! If you find yourself encountering periods of shame and guilt for past sins that you have been forgiven for, seek the comfort and peace that only God can give you. Pray to Him, draw closer to Him, give thanks to Him! He has washed us all white as snow!
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!

What Did Israel Do?

Too often, when we think about the Israel of the Old Testament, we think of a nation that repeatedly sinned, repented and then sinned again. Even though that was true, the Jewish people did do many things that were right in God’s eyes. As I was reading this morning, I came across such a time in Israel’s history.  

In Nehemiah 9:1-3 it states “1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. 2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.”
We see in this passage that the Jewish nation did 3 very important and critical things. First, in verse 1, it says that they assembled. In other words, they came together as a church. Too many times in our own lives, we live under this assumption that we don’t need to go to church, but can have church on our own. While we might want to believe that idea, it is not true. It is critical to be in some fellowship at a church at least weekly to be lifted up, encouraged, to worship God and be around fellow believers. Second, we learn in this passage that the Jewish people also spent 1/4 of their day and “read from the Book of the Law of the Lord”. It is a constant reminder that we must daily spend time with God reading His Word, learning His ways. Finally, it also tells us that the Jews spent another 1/4 of their day confessing sins and worshipping God. As I reminded us all on Sunday, it is vital that we seek this time alone with God to build a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. Remember, we are all His temples, the question is are we His holy Temple.
I pray for blessings today for you on your Journey!