Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Revelation 3:15, “Nobody settles for luke warm soup, but Faith?” A Bible Study Devotion.

Revelation 3:15, “Nobody settles for luke warm soup, but Faith?” A Bible Study Devotion.

I am proud to introduce a first post by guest blogger Brian Bovee.

Easter week, the time of Christianity's greatest remembrance of God's love for us seems like a decent time to do a little self evaluation.

Francis Chan, a pastor in Semi Valley, California asked a great question to his congregation during one of his sermons when he said "when did following Jesus go from actually following in His footsteps to just studying His life and teachings?" He gave a great example of this in application saying "if I asked my daughter to go clean her room and she came back to me and said; 'dad, I just spent the last half our studying what you said about cleaning my room and it's awesome wisdom! In fact, I can now say "clean your room" in Greek'! What would your response as a parent be? Your missing the point! Go clean your room!" But isn't that illustration a pretty good example of what our faith has become as Christians in the United States today?

As Christians in America (as a whole body statistically) we are average and falling with our weekly attendance to church on Sundays. We are way below average on our giving of time and talent towards the causes Jesus asked us to champion. We are worse about the giving of our financial resources towards His Kingdom and putting God first in our lives has become almost "out of touch" in the Christian culture. As I make these observations many of you reading this are saying to yourself "not me" and/or "can you believe those 'other' Christians?" Today I want to challenge you if you call yourself a Christian. Are you truly a follower of Jesus or are you a student of Jesus?

To answer this question, you simply have to follow the trail of evidence in your life. If you spent a week and accounted for how you used every minute of every day, where your thoughts were and how you spent your money what would it reveal? Where does Jesus fit into that picture? What percentage of your week belongs to Him and His mission on earth? Is He the first priority in everything you do or is He the afterthought of "if I have time" and/or "if I have the money to give". How you spend your time and money will let you know what your relationship is with God. That is a scoreboard we use to validate our relationships with others in our lives so why do we not use that same system to evaluate our relationship with Him? The scary part is understanding that He already knows the truth about His priority in our life though we may not have already confessed it.

I used to struggle with putting Jesus as a priority in my life. I used to struggle with giving generously with my time, talent and treasure. I used to feel as though Jesus wanted too much from me especially since it feels like the majority of our culture has turned away from Him to live the "good life" and do not want to be bothered by His ideas of what is good for us. "I'm doing more than most" I'd tell myself but Jesus never said "I want you to do more than most". No, He calls us to live as He lived and to love as He loved. We are not called to study Him, we are called to be like Him.

I have come to understand that God does not need my money to do His will. He does not need my time and talent to accomplish what He desires. He is God and created everything that exists including me so why would He need anything from me? The simple truth is that He doesn't need anything from us. God wants our hearts freely given and He knows that if He has our time He has our heart. If we make Him the priority in our day He has our hearts. If we give our money freely to Him and His causes He has our heart. If our time goes only to our family, or career, or if we think about Him the last five minutes of the day, or if we give to Him only out of our excess or "if we can spare a few dollars", how can we say that he has our heart? Jesus said, "you cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24) You can substitute any number of things for "money" in that verse . . . career, family, image, houses, kids activities, retirement, hobbies etc. etc. etc. Can you see why the biblically based relationship we are called to have with Jesus seems "radical" to our current culture in the United States that tells us more, bigger, better, faster? It means we'd have to give up other things we want to make room for Him. The point is, what you spend your time and money on tells you whether God truly has your heart! You see we are so financially rich in America, even the poorest of us, and because of that, it makes it so hard to truly follow Jesus. There is so much we can put before Him and it is so easy to do that when we are comfortable and our culture exudes "we don't need God" on a daily basis!

So here is the question I pray that you ask yourself today and will be honest with yourself regarding the answer. Are you a student of Jesus or are you a follower . . a disciple of Jesus? If you cannot honestly answer that you put nothing before Him and what He has called you to do, then please change the course of your journey today for God does not accept those that are lukewarm into His kingdom (Revelation 3:15). It is simply wrong to call ourselves Christians if we do not live like Christ and put Him first in our lives. But there are too many of us today who are doing just that and feeling safe doing it. Belief in Him does not let Him know you love Him . . . how you choose to live your life is the proof. Remember, this does not mean that you earn salvation by your deeds. Salvation is a free gift. However, you will not have salvation if you only believe in Him but do not truly surrender your heart to Him and thus we come full circle.

Could someone you don't know tell that you were a Christian by how you choose to live your daily life? It is a pretty scary question to ask yourself isn't it? If we live like Jesus calls us to do you would never have to call yourself a Christian because it would be so obvious to those who encounter you (see Mother Theresa). But the answer might tell you if you are Christian by self-proclamation or by definition (a follower of Christ).

If you want to really hold yourself up to the mirror, I pray that you watch this YouTube video of Francis Chan's talk on "lukewarm and loving it". I promise it will change the way you look at your faith . . for better or for worse. Though I don't think you will want to stop watching it I challenge you to get to at least the 16th minute where the lukewarm conversation start to hit the peak.

Have a blessed Easter and when you remember how much God gave to bring us redemption please reflect on how your life can be lived to show Him your love and gratitude for all He has done.

Guest written by Brian Bovee

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Luke 6:37-42, “I hate those judgmental Christians!” A Bible Study Devotion.

Luke 6:37-42, “I hate those judgmental Christians!” A Bible Study Devotion.

Read Luke 6:37-42

Are you a person who does not believe in Jesus? Do you just want those Christians to leave you alone? Do you say, “Great; it’s fine for you, but I’m not interested?” Are they just a bunch of hypocrites? “Why do they have to be so judgmental?” If this is you, read this post…

Are you a Christian who does not want to be judgmental? Do you not tell people about Jesus because you don’t want to appear “better” than others? Do you read these verses and feel you have no right to point out another’s sin? If this is you, read this post…

To the non-believer: Nobody likes it when sin is pointed out to them. Nobody likes it when someone else gets into their business. Some of those Christians can seem a bit self righteous. You have your belief, they can have theirs. However, I have one question for you: Why does it make you mad? Think about it… If a person tells me that I should start knitting, I don’t get mad at them. I have no interest, so I just “walk” on by. So when someone tells you about Jesus, why don’t you just walk on by? Why not give it as much thought as you would knitting and just say, “Thanks, but no thanks...” The reason is that, although there is a person in front of you telling you about Jesus, it is not them who is speaking, but rather God through them. Ecclesiastes 3:11 …He has also set eternity in the hearts of men… What does that verse mean? It means that God placed a knowledge and longing for him in every persons heart. You get mad because you know deep down, in your soul, heart, somewhere, that what they are saying is true. You don’t need to be standing in a church. You don’t need to be holding a Bible. You don’t need to be talking to a preacher. God wrote eternity on your heart. He gave you a conscience. Only something that appeals to your conscience makes you mad… I’m not going to give you a full sermon on sin, repentance, and restoration. I will leave you with just two questions: Why would these people tell you about Jesus when they know that it will make you mad? They don’t want money. They don’t want you to join a cult. They don’t want anything from you. And, why does it make you so mad? If you really didn’t care what they had to say, you would just shrug it off and go about your business. I know you may not believe this, but they are doing it because they love you… (I’ll bet if someone has approached you and asked for money or something else of you while throwing the name Jesus around, it did not make you mad. There are false teachers in the world who work for their own gain, but they are not speaking for God. And because they are not speaking for God, they do not appeal to your conscience; there for do not make you mad…) Think about these two questions; it could really make you think. If you are really daring, pray about these two questions. If you honestly seek the truth, you will find it…

To the believer: Jesus is saying in these verses, don’t judge other people’s sin without examining your own. But he is NOT saying; don’t spread the Gospel because you have sin in your life. Judging is for God. Giving mercy is for God…and you. God did not give you what you deserve; Hell. He gave you mercy and commands that you give others mercy too. He also commanded you to spread the good news to the ends of the Earth. The famous verse about a plank in your eye is not an excuse to ignore Jesus’ command about sharing the Gospel. From this point on, consider it an honor if people get mad at you for sharing the Gospel. It is God working on their conscience. Remember, you did not go down without a fight either… Also, remember their fight is not with you. Their fight is a power struggle over control. Don’t try to make people mad; that is not how you spread the news. Don’t be pushy, just appeal to their conscience. Jesus used the law to show people sin. Let God’s word do the work and stay out of the way. If they happen to get mad at you in the process, take the beating. That is nothing compared to the beating He took for you…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Friday, March 26, 2010

John 3:3, “You MUST be born again…” A Bible Study Devotion.

John 3:3, “You MUST be born again…” A Bible Study Devotion.

Read John 3:3. In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

I remember hearing the term “born again” here and there throughout my life. I remember that it always had a negative connotation, but I’m not sure where that came from. I heard comments like this, “He used to be a great guy, but he became a born again Christian.” I remember that Gary Gaetti, my favorite player on the Twins, (I’m from MN) became a born again Christian. I remember telling my friend, “Gaetti just ruined the Twins. He ruined the great chemistry they had in the club.” I said that with authority like someone who knows, but I didn’t know one actual thing about being “born again,” yet I had very strong opinions on the matter. Why?

Jump ahead 15 or so years. A lot has happened. Now I know what it means to be born again. Now I am born again. I’m even a youth group teacher. One night the Holy Spirit took control of our typically chaotic group. We were sitting in a circle and this is what happened: I was a new teacher. I had been there 2-3 times but always with the normal leader. I typically just sat and listened throwing in a small comment here and there. This time though, when I got to group I was told the normal leader couldn’t make it. The class was all mine, yikes… I decided to scrap the lesson plan and get to know my guys. I went around the circle and asked them a few questions each. Right around the circle, in order, the exact same questions. I first asked them where they went to school, what city they lived in, etc; warm up questions. Most of these kids were from families in our church. They certainly had heard the Christian “language” before. Then I asked them, again right around the circle, “Are you a Christian?” Every boy said yes. Then I asked them, “Are you a born again Christian?” Every boy said no. Fascinating! Then I asked them what it means to be a born again Christian. None of them knew. None of them knew, but they all knew that they weren’t one. How does that happen?

So there we were sitting in a circle, everyone a Christian, nobody a born again Christian, and I read them this verse: In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” …It was silent… So I asked them, “What does that verse mean?” …more silence… I just had a group of guys tell me they were not born again. I just showed them that Jesus said they must be born again if they want to go to Heaven. This is where I know the Holy Spirit had a hand in our group. Typically if you tell a teenage boy something along these lines, they say “whatever,” (or some other derivative of that word which is currently in their vernacular) however this time there was not one boy who didn’t have their head bowed running this stream of logic through their soul. I could imagine one boy, maybe two, who would consider what was just taught, but the whole room? Only God himself could arrange the scene…

This was part one of “You must be born again.” I’ll tell you what happened to those boys sometime in the future. It has been five years since that night. However, I want to leave you with a few questions: Are you a Christian? Are you a born again Christian? Jesus said you must be if you want to go to Heaven; are you?

Written by Chris Vasecka

If you have not accepted the free gift of salvation that only Jesus can offer, but you want to, talk to a pastor, read the Bible and pray that God will show you how, or send me an email…

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Luke 6:17-26, “Man, these are eight tough questions!” A Bible Study Devotion.

Luke 6:17-26, “Man, these are eight tough questions!” A Bible Study Devotion.

Read Luke 6:17-26

Here we find Jesus with a large crowd. His disciples are there along with people from all over the area. It can safely be assumed by his next few words that there are believers and unbelievers both present. Jesus then turns to his disciples, and indirectly all believers, and gives part of the most famous sermon ever delivered; The Sermon on the Mount. He first lists 4 attributes that basically make God happy, then four that basically make God unhappy. Believe me, come judgment day, you will God happy with you. That being said, after my microscopic summary of this part of the sermon, I have eight questions for you. Better think how you answer them; your eternal resting place could depend on it… (For the purpose of this post, we will assume Jesus is speaking spiritually example, poor equals poor in spirit.)

Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."

1. Are you pretty comfortable with where you are spiritually? Do you think there might, might not be a god out there somewhere? Have you ever said something like this, “I don’t really follow a god, but I’m a really spiritual person.” Or, “I get everything I need from my heart.”
2. Or… Do you think that you are poor without God? Are you nothing without him? The word poor makes you think beggar. Have you had a moment where you fell down and begged God to forgive you?

Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”

3. Do you feel spiritually full? Do you do your one hour of church a week and call it good. Do you pretty much know the jist of the Bible and are satisfied with that?
4. Or… Do you live for diving into the Word of God? Do you get excited when you learn a new truth that you can share with another? Do you carve out time every day for time with the Lord as if you would go hungry without it?

Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

5. Do you trot through life laughing away footloose and fancy free? Do you think you are a pretty good person? How about that dude next to you? Do you care about him?
6. Or… Do you “weep” when you think about how you have sinned against God? The very God who gave you life… Do you “weep” for loved ones that do not know Jesus?

Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”

7. Do most people like you when you tell them about Jesus? Oh… You don’t tell them? They probably like you then, huh? Do people even know you are a Christian? Do you at least tell them that God loves them? They probably still like you for that…
8. Or… Do you tell those you love how God hates sin? That all people sin against God. That there is nothing they can do to get back in the good graces of God. That the ONLY chance they have is to acknowledge their sin, repent, beg for forgiveness, and trust in Jesus? Do they like you then?

Jesus was speaking to his followers. He was speaking in the presence of non-followers. If you are a believer, he is speaking to you. If you are not a believer, he is speaking to you. I guess that is all of us. If you are a believer, ask yourself these questions. How would you answer them and what does that mean to you? If you are not a believer, but you want to be, but you don’t know how, send me an email…

Written by Chris Vasecka

To join a group of Christian business professionals who want to guide the next generation of Christian small business owners and professionals go to

Monday, March 22, 2010

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13, “Thank ‘um, they deserve it…” A Bible Study Devotion.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13, “Thank ‘um, they deserve it…” A Bible Study Devotion.

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Here we find Paul writing a letter to the people of Thessalonica after they had been witnessed to by Paul, received the gospel, and have undergone some persecution. Paul discusses the great joy that it brings him to know that they are remaining strong in Christ. In verses 6-10 Paul uses these words to describe his feelings to the people that he got to see converted to Christ:

Good news. (Hearing about their faith brought him great joy)

Longing to see them again. (Paul longed for the company of other Christians)

Encouraged. (Paul was encouraged by their faith. Did the student become the teacher? )

We really live. (Paul states that now they really live because of their faith.)

Thank God for you. (Paul delivered the message to them but God gets the glory.)

JOY. (Sharing the gospel message brings you joy. Holy joy; don’t confuse with Earthly fun.)

That is a list of pretty strong feelings generated by somebody else’s relationship with God. Why is Paul so happy that someone else is staying strong in faith? If you have shared the gospel with someone and have had the blessing of seeing them come to a life saving relationship with Christ, this makes perfect sense. If you have not, this is something wonderful to which you can look forward. This was Jesus’ command right before he left for Heaven. “…Spread the message to the ends of the Earth…” It certainly was important to him… You say, “But I’m afraid to share the gospel.” (See my previous posts) Even if you are not ready for a one on one encounter, there are other methods of sharing the gospel message:

Time for a personal story… I was sitting in a men’s Bible study when all of a sudden a feeling of extreme gratitude for the guy sitting next to me hit. His name was Tom. A year before that, I didn’t know him. Two years before that the room we were sitting in didn’t exist. And five years before that this is what Tom was doing on Sunday morning: He got up at 5am because there was a lot of work to do. He belonged to a church that had less than 100 members. They had no building. They had a trailer with some church stuff in it. They rented out a spot in the local high school. Every Sunday they would bring everything the church owned to that high school and start to set up. There was modern music, so a whole band to set up, chairs, signs, etc, etc… They would spend about 5 hours to set up and tear down for a one hour service. And they would invite people so they could hear about the gift of grace that Jesus offers to those who believe in him. By the time I came to the church it had grown to about 350 people and they had their own building. Tom did all of this work before he ever knew that I existed. There were a lot of “Tom’s” that sacrificed their time, talent, and treasure so people they had never met could hear about Jesus. All of those people combined efforts to bring the gospel message to the people. They did not witness one on one, but look at the effect they had. Tom was not the pastor. He did not work there. He was just a guy with a job and a family and not enough time like the rest of us. It was not just Tom that did the work. It was not only me they did it for, but at that time in that Bible study, God showed me all the work that was done before I ever came there. I came to that church as an unsaved person. And because of the efforts of Tom and other “Tom’s,” I heard what Jesus did for me and I believed…

Tom shared the Gospel by doing his part in a large collective effort. Paul shared the gospel one on one, and by preaching. Both are necessary. Both are actions that bring great joy. In each case, through Paul, Tom, or even you, God can use your abilities to do His purpose, if you just let him.

This is very powerful… Jesus died to take the punishment for everyone. He wrote the Bible so that everyone could hear his story and see what it means to them. He started the church and told his followers to tell others so they could know what it means to be “set free.” People all throughout history have done what Tom did, and much more, so other people, that they didn’t know personally, could hear the gospel. God did all of that for everyone, but, and this is the powerful part… He would have done it just for you…

Ok, I told them, but they don’t care. What now? Check back during the week…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Luke 5:30-6:11, “Are you a Pharisee too?” A Bible Study Devotion.

Luke 5:30-6:11, “Are you a Pharisee too?” A Bible Study Devotion.

Read Luke 5:30-6:11

In these verses we will see four different interactions with the Pharisees. In each case the Pharisees are trying to “catch” Jesus in the act of breaking some of their rules. I have a mental image of Jesus out walking around going about his normal business. About 30 feet away is a small group of people all whispering and pointing. They are watching Jesus’ every move waiting to pounce on him for anything that he might do wrong; wrong in their eyes anyway. Does this sound like a good uplifting and positive job for a preacher? It is pretty obvious when we watch the Pharisees do what they do, but can we learn a lesson about ourselves too?

• Encounter One, verse 30,31: After a man has repented and come to follow Jesus, we see a bunch of sinners at a celebration banquet. The Pharisees are watching from distance and ask Jesus, “why do you eat and drink with sinners?” Jesus responds, verse 31, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.” What does the Pharisees question imply? Do they not think that they are sinners too? Jesus is telling them that they are sinners too, but they miss it…

• Encounter Two, verse 33,34: The Pharisees then say to him, “John’s disciple often fast and pray, and so do the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus responds, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?...” What is Jesus saying to them? Who are they talking about praying to? It’s like Jesus is saying to them, “Guys! Pay attention! I’m standing right here! You talk about praying to God yet miss the fact that I am standing right in front of you! It’s like being at a live play with your head down missing the action because you want to read someone else’s review of the very play that you could be watching. Jesus is telling them that he is available and standing right in front of them, but they miss it…

• Encounter Three, verse 2-5 chapter 6: While walking on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples pick some grain and eat it. The Pharisees ask, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?...” Look how crazy these rules of the Pharisees had become. You are not allowed to pick grain on the Sabbath? The Sabbath was created by God in order to rest and be closer to God. It was not created so you were a slave to a bunch of man-made rules. Jesus is telling them that he is not subject to their rules about the Sabbath, He created the Sabbath! But they miss it…

• Encounter four, verse 6-9: Again we see the Sabbath day. Jesus is in the synagogue and a man has a shriveled hand that he is about to heal. The Pharisees are watching him waiting for him to “work” on the Sabbath and break their rules. Jesus knows what they are thinking and asks them this, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” This one is hard to believe… What is Jesus pointing out to them? They don’t want him to heal a man! Their rules are more important than this man is to them. They do not rejoice when the man is healed. They do not notice the miracle performed and what it implies about Jesus. All they notice is that He “worked” on the Sabbath. …and this is the best part… The notice that He worked, but they do not notice that they themselves are plotting a murder at the same time! Jesus’ response is directed towards them, but they do not understand what he means by “better to do good or do evil…” Jesus is telling them about the irony of them pointing a finger at him at the very time they are plotting evil against him, but they miss it…

It seems utterly crazy that we can read this now and see what is going on, but the Pharisees could not when they were standing right there. However, I’m willing to bet if you think about it, you can put yourself in the same situation. Do you ever stand and judge someone else for not following the “rules” while you miss the big picture? Have you ever watched someone doing something you might not approve of, missing the fact that you may be sinning yourself for your thoughts about them? Maybe Jesus made the actions of the Pharisees so obvious in order that we might learn from their mistakes…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luke 5:27-32, A Bible Study Devotion. “Look to the Tax Man…”

Luke 5:27-32, A Bible Study Devotion. “Look to the Tax Man…”

Read Luke 5:27-32

“I don’t want to be a Christian, I won’t have any fun.” “Christians are hypocrites; they look down on everyone else.” Ever hear either of those statements? Is either of those statements true for you? If they are it is you, not being a Christian that is to blame. How do I know? …Let’s turn to the Bible of course…

Levi is a tax collector. (Quick history lesson…) A tax collector in these days was a despised person. (So what changed?? Ha-ha) They were Jews living among their own people, but they turned on them and worked for Rome. They would steal from their own people by charging whatever tax they wanted. They were considered the lowest of the low; traitors. They also had a lot of power and a lot of money. They were some of the richest people around. Once you were a tax collector and despised by most people, you really couldn’t quit and go work down the street at the corner mule shop. But in verse 27 and 28 we see Jesus tell Levi to “follow me.” It says Levi got up, left everything, and followed Jesus.

Myth #1. “I won’t have any fun as a Christian.” Levi had tons of power and money. Following Jesus would mean that he would walk away from his “great” living. He knew he would not be able to grab another job quick after being a tax collector. He was not going to be rich and powerful anymore. So what does he do in the very next verse? He throws a huge party. Levi had a choice to follow Jesus. He didn’t think that it was a terrible decision that would cause him misery. He wanted all his friends to know that he left that behind and was now following Jesus. People throw parties to celebrate not grovel in self regret. Parties are fun. Fun people throw parties. Christians can have fun.

Myth #2. “I will have to leave all my non-Christian friends behind if I become a Christian.” Did Levi leave all his friends behind? Nope. He had a huge party and invited them all. Will you be the same person that you were with your friends in the past? Yes and no. You are the same in that you still have your personality. If you were funny, you’ll still be funny. If you were fun, you’ll still be fun. If you loved your friends before…you will truly love them now. You have been supernaturally transformed by God. You are no longer a slave to sin. Your eternal future is secure. You feel different; different good. …And you want your friends to experience what you have. You used to love them because you shared the same activities, interests, shared life together, etc. Now you love them like Jesus loves them. You love them too much to not let them know what has happened to you through your belief in Christ. It is a celebration. You throw a party. You invite all your friends.

Myth #3. “My friends don’t want to hear about my ‘new’ life.” This one is a little trickier. Your friends may not think they want you telling them about Jesus. But guess what. They do. They might not even know it, but they have a desire to know God too. This is one of my favorite verses: Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” See that? God wrote eternity on their hearts. He put a longing for God built right inside of them. They do want to hear that Jesus can change your life. They do want to know what happens when you die. They do want to be free from sin.

Levi throws a party. He invites all of his old friends. It is a celebration of Levi’s new life. He wants to share it with all his tax collector friends; sinners all. And where is Jesus? He is at the party too. If you plan to share the message of salvation with your friends and don’t know what to do; don’t worry. Just be a host and watch Jesus show up. He’ll take it from there…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Luke 5:17-26, A Bible Study Devotion. “Break the roof; just get ‘um in…”

Luke 5:17-26, A Bible Study Devotion. “Break the roof; just get ‘um in…”

Read Luke 5:17-26

There are so many things to be learned from this story. This is just a small summary of one of them. It is important to note who Jesus’ audience is in this story. Verse 17 says that He was teaching Pharisees from every village from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. In other words, it was filled with the preachers. This was a preacher conference; organized, planned out. So were the teachers there with humble hearts, trying to learn teaching from the master teacher? Let’s see…

Jesus is teaching these Pharisees in a house that is full to capacity. Along comes a paralyzed man. He cannot walk, but is being carried by his friends on a mat. They cannot get in, so they climb the roof, break through, and lower the man down in front of Jesus. Verse 20, Jesus saw their faith and said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Pretty good friends huh? They cared about their friend so much that they risked life, limb, and (today Law and lawyers..bleh). Do you have friends you care about? Do you have friends who need healing? What characteristics did these guys display when trying to get their friend to Jesus:

• Creativity: The door was not open. Their friend could not walk. They didn’t have “tickets.” But they still found a way in. They did not let this obstacle stop them from their mission to help a friend. There was a closed door, but God provided an open roof. If you can’t get your friends where they need to be one way, try another.

• Urgency: “It must not be God’s timing. I’ll bring them another day.” Ever say that? Ever invite someone to church in the hope and prayer that the gospel message gets to them somehow? These guys did not feel that tomorrow would work. They knew that the day of the Lord is upon us. (2 cor. 6:2) That does not mean you should literally drag your friends to church, but you might want to consider the urgency of their dire situation.

• Sacrifice: Your home is not a museum; it is a gift from God that should be used for God’s purpose. If someone can find Christ, is it worth some spilled coffee in your living room? Some broken kids toys in the basement? What is more important, your “stuff,” or the people you love finding a way to Jesus? (In this case it was someone else’s stuff…even better…)

• Persistence: Do you ask your friend once and then forget it? Do you not even ask once? These men did what it took to get their friend to Jesus.

This is the best part… So now here is the paralyzed man. He is lying before Jesus to get healed. All that effort finally pays off. This poor man, he has been suffering. Life gave him an unfortunate twist. So Jesus says, “I feel so sorry for you. You have been suffering and suffering. You deserve to be taken care of. You are special. How could anyone expect “normal” stuff from you?” …That’s not what Jesus said of course. He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” What? What about my legs? Jesus is teaching right now, pay attention. This man thought what needed healing, was not the main thing that needed healing. He was a sinner just like everyone else. What he needed most was forgiveness, just like you and just like your friends… Of course Jesus heals his legs too, but only after he addresses what is more important. We all have struggles in life. Things we must deal with. Things that we could use an excuse to not seek the cure for what really ails us. But whatever they are, it is no excuse for the state of your soul before God. You still need your sins forgiven above all else…

So were the teachers there with humble hearts trying to learn from the master teacher how to better serve God and their people? Did they see a paralyzed man trying to get to Jesus and quickly get out of the way? Did the crowd split like the sea because everyone could see how much this man wanted to get in? Or were they too important… After their “brother” was healed from sin and fate, did they all cheer and rejoice? This man’s sins were just forgiven. He entered a right relationship with God. Just what every preacher is working towards. Did they all shout Hallelujah! …No, they rumble and grumble and plot against Jesus, but that is for another day…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Luke 5:12-16, A Bible Study Devotion. “Come first, Clean up second…”

Luke 5:12-16, A Bible Study Devotion. “Come first, Clean up second…”

Read Luke 5:12-16

Anyone who has tried to share their faith has undoubtedly come across this excuse, “I need to get my act together, then I can start to look into God or Jesus or whatever.” You may know some people who believe that God would not accept them after what they have done. What do you say then? What else? Refer them to scripture. Look at these verses.

At this time in Jewish culture, a man who had leprosy was like a walking dead man. There was no cure. There was no hope. It ate away at your flesh, your organs, and your mind. You were not allowed to be in contact with people. You were not allowed to be with family, or your wife, or your children. In fact, you had to shout out in public places, “unclean, unclean,” so people would know to avoid you. A person with leprosy was “unclean” in the eyes of society. A person with sin is “unclean” in the eyes of God. Just like leprosy ate away at you slowly and infested your whole body, sin eats away at your soul and infests your whole spirit. Leprosy bans you from society, sin bans you from Heaven.

Fortunately, Jesus can “clean” both. Look at what the man says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There are a few implications we can make from the wording of this: One, he says Lord. This may indicate that he was claiming Jesus as Lord, God, or Messiah. We are not sure, because the term “Lord” could have been used like we use “mister.” However, it clearly indicates that he had belief that Jesus could heal him, pointing to faith. He also says, “…if you are willing...” This phrasing indicates that he had a humble heart. He did not demand anything from Jesus. He did not assume that he was entitled to healing or salvation from Jesus. He knew that there was good work he could do to gain favor. He dropped to the ground and begged Jesus to make him clean. He understood that only God can “clean us up.”

What did Jesus do in response? He reached out and touched the man. If there was a crowd there, you would have heard a huge collective gasp. “Did you see that? Jesus just touched a man with leprosy!” Jesus committed the worst societal blunder one could make. Then he said, “I am willing, be clean!” This is important for those people I described in the opening paragraph. Jesus did not say, “go take a shower, do some sacrificing, walk on the straight and narrow for a few years, and then come back and I’ll see what I can do.” He also did not say, “Go help some ladies cross the street, volunteer at the soup kitchen, and pay back the IRS some ‘lost’ tax money.” He did not require the man to “clean up.” He did not require the man to do some good deeds to offset his sin. Because of course Jesus knows that there is nothing we can do to clean our soul of sin. Only he can make us right with God. Only his sacrifice in our place can make you acceptable to God.

The next time someone says they want to “clean up” before they think about their eternal future, point them to this passage. If you or someone you know thinks that God could not forgive them for what they have done, point them to this passage. You are not more un-clean than a man with leprosy in Bible times…
Written by Chris Vasecka

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Luke 5:1-11, Bible Study Devotion. “What will you do when Jesus gets into your boat?”

Read Luke 5:1-11

Let’s look at Simon to start. Notice the difference in his attitude to Jesus as the story progresses. Is there anything that can be learned?

Simon is going through life like normal. He is involved in his trade, but around him there are things of God going on. It does not say if he was listening or if he was not. Let’s be Simon for this study. You are busy, but over your shoulder is a large crowd. I’m sure you are at least half listening to what is going on. Jesus is famous at this time, as we learned in the chapters before. I’m sure you know who is speaking. …But you don’t leave your work to check it out.

Next Jesus approaches you and gets into your boat. You are thinking, “What is he doing? What does he want with me? Why is he in my boat?” Now you are paying attention… He then asks you for a favor. (We don’t know what Simon is thinking here. Does he think, “Jesus is a celebrity. I’ll take him in my boat.” Or does he think, “Maybe I should listen closer to him.” Or is Simon just a really nice guy who drops his work all the time to help out other people? Whatever the thought process, Simon is now paying full attention to Jesus.

After Jesus is finished speaking he tells Simon to go back out and drop his net again. This goes against all logic. He is thinking, “I just got done fishing and nothing. Not only that, I just got done cleaning my nets out. Why waste my time again?” But to his credit, he obeyed Jesus. He is doubtful, but he takes a leap of faith anyway.

Next their nets fill to the point of breaking. This is when Simon realizes that he is a sinful man. Why now? He had already been in the presence of the Lord for quite some time. It is now that Simon realizes that the Messiah had just gotten into his boat. It was at this time when Simon realizes that he had sinned against God. He was so shame filled that he asked Jesus to go away. Not to look at him. He felt unworthy. It is at this time when he accepts Jesus as Lord.

Jesus tells him to not fear. Come with me and I’ll make you fishers of men. At this, they pulled their boats on shore, left everything and followed him. The day started like any other day…and a few hours later, you leave your old life behind to follow Jesus. You were a fisherman by trade. You were a fisherman for years. That is the life you know and are comfortable with. But you got a glimpse of what life with Jesus can be like. You spent one afternoon with Jesus and changed your whole life.

(Because Simon walks away from his life as a fisherman, it can be assumed that he did not see Jesus as a golden goose. It does not say that Simon said to Jesus. Stay here and help me get rich fishing. With you in the boat we can make more than any other in the business.)

So what does this mean to you? Are you listening to God? Is he off in the back ground? Will you let him get into your “boat?” Will you listen to him? Will you follow him?

You don’t really feel that special… You don’t have a God type life… Neither did Simon. He was a fisherman. You don’t feel worthy to be in the presence of Jesus… Neither did Simon. But he wanted him anyway. …Just the way he was; smelly from fishing. A sinner…

Here I am. I stand at the door and knock… (Rev 3:20) He does want to get into your boat. Will let him and see what happens?

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Luke 4:31-44, A Bible Study Devotion. “Jesus was too busy to pray too…”

Luke 4:31-44, A Bible Study Devotion. “Jesus was too busy to pray too…”

Read Luke 4:31-44

Are you busy? Don’t answer. I know the answer is yes. We are all busy. We have work, and kids, and baseball, and swimming, and church, and hobbies, and yard work, and, and, and… We certainly don’t have any space left for personal time with God. We couldn’t possibly start our morning in prayer and study. Oh, sure, out of guilt, we might throw a quick “just checking in” prayer. “Dear God, thanks for the day, watch over the kids, help me with this and that, love ya, gotta run.”

Look at these verses: Here was Jesus’ day: (This is just one example of the typical day for Jesus; the Bible is filled with other examples.)

• Luke 4:31, Jesus was traveling
• Luke 4:31, Jesus was preaching
• Luke 4:33, Jesus threw out a few evil spirits
• Luke 4:34, Jesus, for his reasons, tells the spirits to be quiet. (He is multitasking…)
• Luke 4:38, Jesus leaves to go heal Simon’s mother-in-law
• Luke 4:40, Don’t miss this one… The sun was setting, Jesus had just put in a full day. It was time to relax. But then it says that the people brought ALL who had various sicknesses, and he healed them all. He did not do a sweeping hand across the whole crowd, but took the time to lay hand on each one and heal them individually.
• Luke 4:41, More demons to deal with…
• Luke 4:42, Jesus tires to break away to a solitary place, but the people found him and tried to keep him from leaving.
• Luke 4:43, Jesus moves on to the next day to start all over.

Sounds like a busy day. Sounds like a demanding day. People needing him from all directions, pulling, asking, following. All the while he is trying to help, he has the evil spirits to deal with who are trying to sabotage his work. This was his life, day after day. But it was not the whole story. Look at these verses:

• Luke 4:42, Jesus went to a solitary place
• Luke 5:16, But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed
• Luke 6:12, …Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
• Luke 9:18, Jesus was praying in private.
• Luke 9:28, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the mountain to pray.
• Luke 11:1, One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.

These are just a few examples from Luke, there are many, many more. Believe me your life is not more demanding than Jesus’ was/is. Remember that also through this, there was the pending cross issue in the back of his mind. Jesus was too busy too, but he still took the time to have one on one time with God. I don’t know the author of this, and I am probably re-wording it, but listen to this:

…So busy, too much to do, better pray for three hours instead of the normal two…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Monday, March 8, 2010

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, A Bible Study Devotion. “I’m afraid to share the Gospel…”

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, A Bible Study Devotion. “I’m afraid to share the Gospel…”

I’ll start with a question. Are you afraid to share the Gospel? The answer is usually, yes. So the better question is, “Why are you afraid to share the Gospel?” There are several typically answers to this question. “I don’t know what to say, My past would prohibit me from having credibility, I prefer to be a silent witness, I don’t want to ram it down their throat, …I’m scared.” Don’t worry, this response is normal. When I say “don’t worry,” I only mean don’t worry that you are normal; you are. However, I am not saying “don’t bother telling people about Jesus; because you should.

Why should I tell people about Jesus? Let’s say you were going to leave your family for several years and you wanted to tell them something before you left. What would it be? Would it be important to you? Probably. Well Jesus did the same thing. Before he ascended to Heaven he said one last thing. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Must have been pretty important to him. Notice he did not say, “If you want to, go and preach the Gospel, if you’re not too busy, if you are an expert at the Bible, and especially if you are not scared.”

“Ok, great. I should do it… but how?” If you want to succeed at sharing the Gospel, (and we just established that you should,) there are three things you must remember:

1. God entrusted you to share the Gospel. Look at verse 4. If God trusts you to share the Gospel, why don’t you trust yourself? Look at some of my other posts. Who do you think knows best, you…or God? God says he trusts you to share the Gospel; so trust yourself.

2. Make sure your motives are for God and not for you. This one is critical if you want God’s help. A personal note: I was a youth group leader for 4 years. Many new people came into the group. All of them were given the Gospel message. When it was given out of love and concern for their salvation, they received the message. Other times I went through the routine for my own glory and the approval of the other people in the group. On these times, I didn’t rely on God and drove the new people away from the group. I pray that they received the Gospel from someone more humble than me.

3. Trust that God will give you the words. This is the hardest part, but once you see it in action, you’ll be a changed person. For all of you people that say, “I don’t know what to say,” have faith. God knows what to say, and he will give you the words. Remember, God does not place you in situations that you cannot handle with his help. This is the greatest time to get closer to him. When you are doing His purpose. When you know it is something that you cannot do on your own. This is when you need God. Rely on him, he wants to help you. Remember this phrase that I heard at Promise Keepers. “God doesn’t care about your ability; he only cares about your availability.” Those are powerful words. Have faith in God and step out of your comfort zone. It will be hard, but I guarantee you’ll never forget it.

Do those three actions steps and see what God can do. Pray that God will place you in a situation where you can witness for him. Just remember to do it for God. Verse 6 says, “We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.” Verse 4, “we are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.”

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jesus goes home, but home don’t want him. A devotional from Luke 4:14-30

Read Luke 4:14-30

We see here that Jesus has returned to his hometown for the first time since he has started his ministry. It says in verse 14 that word of his teaching had spread, so it is assumed that the people of his home town had heard of him and his great works. It says in verse 16 that he went to the synagogue as was his custom. (Note to the person who claims to be a Christian but does not go to church…WWJD? He went to “church.”) Jesus stood to read from scripture. He read these words from Isaiah:

“The spirit of the lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After he reads this he sits down and all eyes are on him. Imagine a silent room. Their sacred scripture had just been read. Now it was time for the reader to expand on what was just read, as was the custom. In our day, it was time for the sermon. Everyone in the synagogue had heard of the great preacher that Jesus was and now it was their time to see for themselves. In verse 22 is says that all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. From this we can make the assumption that Jesus spoke for some time delivering a sermon or teaching. He begins with these words, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” …and then we can assume he goes on to deliver a “good speech.”

Put yourself in the room. First of all, here you are in Church on Sunday, just like a good follower of God should be. You are listening to the preacher, just like a good follower of God should be. You appreciate the gift that God has clearly given to the speaker. He says some great things that can really apply to the pagans or sinners out there. You are caught up in the moment, nodding your head in agreement…when you think, “wait a minute!” Did he just say “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing?” “Is he saying that he is the messiah?”

It says in verse 22 that all spoke well of him and were amazed by his grace. Then as if suddenly realizing what was just said, the say this, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Or, “who does he think he is?” “This man, who is right from my neighborhood is claiming to be the Christ?”

Jesus goes on: In verses 23 through 27 Jesus says that the people will ask him to perform miracles of healing just like they heard him do in Capernaum. He tells of two periods of history when God used non-Jews to fulfill his purpose. (To the Jews, anyone who was not a Jew was a pagan, not chosen by God) Go back to the reading from Isaiah that Jesus read. …good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight to the blind… The people in the synagogue finally realize that Jesus is talking about them, not some stranger down the block. “But we are the good people! We are here in church!” It says in verse 28 that the people became furious and drove Jesus from the synagogue. What a change in the short time it took to deliver a sermon. They went from amazement at his words, to furry at his words in the time of one “speech.” What happened in between? Jesus pointed out that the people right there in church needed a savior…

People don’t like to hear that they are sinners that need a savior. …especially from someone they already know. Someone who has a past that might not, in their eyes, be worthy of telling the good news. (I’m talking about you and me here, not Jesus.) If someone you know sent you to this devotion, trust me, they love you. They do not consider themselves better than you. They just want you to know the saving grace that is available to you…but only through faith in Jesus Christ.

People don’t like to hear that they are sinners. They even can get mad at the messenger. Ever been there? Look at what these people that Jesus was preaching to did…

In verse 29 it says they drove him out of the synagogue, out to the edge of town, to throw him off a cliff!

Wow, what a change. They went from amazement, to murder! Consider the enormous irony here that couldn’t have possibly been lost on all of them. In their eyes they were the good ones, the ones in church, God’s chosen people, but here they stood on the edge of a cliff willing to throw one of their own down to his death because he pointed out that they were sinners…

Tell your friends about Jesus. Tell them using the pattern that Jesus used; sin-repentance-restoration. (See previous post) But you can expect them to get mad at you. This is ok though. It means the Holy Spirit is working on their conscience. Try and explain that they are the Bible’s words, not yours. Tell them that you love them and just want them to know who Jesus is. You can count on them getting mad, but hopefully they will not throw you off a cliff…

Written by Chris Vasecka

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dessert in the Desert?

Dessert in the Desert?

Read Luke 4:1-13

The first observation we can make is the timing and style of the questions/temptations by satan. When did this happen? Immediately after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came upon him. Jesus had just made the public proclamation that he was "open for business." He was led by the Spirit into the desert, presumably to pray and get closer to God before he started his public ministry. And who was right there with him? Who was watching him and making note of what he was doing? Jesus was not eating, he would use that... Jesus was praying; he would use that... Jesus was led by the Spirit; he would use that too... How long was Jesus tempted? 40 days straight! Satan is relentless...

How does he start his temptation? (vs. 3, 9) “If you are the Son of God…” He is doing one or both of two things. First he is introducing doubt. He did this with Eve too; see Genesis 3:1. “Did God really say you could not eat...?” To us, today it can sound like this, “Do you really think God cares about that?” “You’ve worked hard, you deserve this.” And so on… The second thing satan is trying to attempt in his question is an appeal to your ego. He is daring Jesus. “If you are really the Son of God, then do this…” What is the root of all sin? Ego, pride, you wanting to be God, just like satan. I know you don’t say before you sin, “I want to be God, so I will do this sin.” But guess what? You are saying that. By choosing to sin, you are saying to God, “In this case, I know better than you.”

How does satan try to appeal to Jesus? He uses three different temptations, in this order. First he tries to appeal to a physical need/want. Jesus was hungry; he hadn’t eaten for 40 days. Satan observed this, so tried to temp him where he knew he could be weak. This should not be glossed over. Imagine how hungry He would be? Have you ever said this to yourself? “I haven’t had this in a long time, I deserve it…” In this case satan tells Jesus to “tell” the stone to become bread.

He couldn’t get Jesus to fall by appealing to his physical want, so he steps it up. Next he tries to temp him by appealing to his long term vision or dream. (At least what he assumes is his long term vision or dream) Are you doing all things according to the Bible at work? Have you ever cut corners, cheated, fudged a little to help along in your long term dream? In this case satan tells Jesus to “worship.”

The last appeal satan makes to Jesus is to throw himself off of the Temple and have God save him. Basically he is telling Jesus to challenge God. If Jesus can throw himself off of the Temple and God will save him, then Jesus is Lord over God. In this case satan tells Jesus to “throw, or (challenge).”

So what are we supposed to do when tempted? You know the saying, “What would Jesus do…WWJD.” Well what did Jesus do? He quoted scripture. By doing this, He acknowledged that he followed God. How was he able to quote scripture? He knew scripture. What must we do to know scripture? Read the Bible. We all know we should not steal, but what about a little tougher dilemma? Example: my niece is almost done with college. She needs to borrow $2500 to finish this semester. Her parents are in tough financial shape. She is a good kid. You have the money. What do you do? What does the Bible say you should do? There is only one way to know, and that is to know what the Bible says. Jesus quoted a different part of scripture to counter any temptation satan had.

But here is where it really gets tricky… look at satan’s progression. First he tempted with the simplest form. he went after the physical need/want to be satisfied. Next he progressed to the dream or grander form. And lastly, he went for a direct challenge to be God. But how did he do it? He quoted scripture too! His scripture seemed to fit. It appeared to be relevant. In other words, satan knows how to use the scripture, so you had better know it too. This is scary. How can you defeat satan? I will alleviate you from that worry right now. You can’t! However, if you go back to verse 1, it says that Jesus was full of the Spirit; he was being led by the Spirit. You can’t defeat satan, but the Spirit can. And he will help you if you appeal to him.

So after all of this, after satan had failed to temp Jesus for 40 days is a stronger and stronger progression, he quit. It say’s he left…

…until an opportune time. Be on the watch. Live in the Spirit.

Chris Vasecka

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Monday, March 1, 2010

John the B did not scream “Jesus loves you...”

John the B did not scream “Jesus loves you...”

Read Luke 3:1-22

The question: What, according to the preaching of John, are the cause, nature, and outcome of repentance? (Repentance is the turning away from sin)

The cause, from these verses, first of all is sin. Without sin, there is no need for repentance. Don’t get excited though, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In other words, if you are a person, you must repent. Yes, that is you… The other cause for repentance is the wrath of God. (Vs. 7-9) Verse 9 says, “The ax is already at the root of the tree.” So all you have to do is nothing and you will be chopped down and thrown in to the fire.

The nature of repentance is to produce fruit. (vs. 8) If sinning is producing bad fruit and repentance is turning from sin, then repentance is producing good fruit. Don’t like to have the ax ready at your tree trunk? Repent and produce fruit… Verses 10-14 are a short list of types of sin (not all inclusive) that must be repented. To the man with two, he says give one. To the tax collector, he says don’t cheat. To the soldier he says don’t take bribes. In other words, be generous, honest, and content. So how do I know if I’m repenting? Are you generous? Are you honest? Are you content? (That last one is extremely counter-cultural, so be careful.)

The outcome of repentance is the forgiveness of sins. (V 3) In verse 15-17 two very important things are explained. First, God is the one who forgives, not John (not people.) He will separate the wheat from the chaff. The chaff will be thrown into the fire, but the wheat will be gathered into his barn.

What is the pattern here? Don’t miss this…

You did not see this: All the people showed up and sat in the pews. John the preacher said, “Jesus loves you and you are all going to Heaven!”

What he did say was “You brood of vipers!” (vs.7) …”the ax is at your feet…you will be thrown into the fire…”

The pattern is this: Sin, Repentance, and Restoration. First you must know that you are a sinner. You must have your sin pointed out to you, if you cannot see it. I dare you to pray, and mean it...”God please show me my sin.” Next is repentance, or the turning from your sin. Then and only then is there restoration. …and God will take you into his barn, or Heaven. This pattern is consistent throughout the Bible. The woman at the well… Jesus pointed out her sin. The woman who was about to be stoned… He pointed out her sin,etc. Does this mean it takes a long time to gain God’s forgiveness? No, look at the thief on the cross. Jesus told him he would be with him in paradise that very day. …but first he acknowledged his sin…

So it is your choice. Do you want the ax at your feet? To be chopped down and thrown into the fire? Or do you want to be forgiven and gathered into God’s barn? If you pray to God, “please show me my sin,” and if you mean it, He will show you. Get ready though, once he does, you’ll certainly see the need for a savior. Your list of sins that come to mind will not look like this: I lied, I stole when I was a kid, I cheated on my taxes a little, etc…

It will sound more like this: I spat in the face of God, I told God, “NO!” “I am smarter than you.” “I know what is best for me, not you.” “I think you are a chump.” “I think I’m so smart and you are a simpleton.”

Pretty scary stuff…

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