Ps. 25:14 kjv

A Strong City

 

The world is in turmoil, and there’s not a place on this earth that is sheltered from the chaos. From natural disasters to horrific acts of violence, it seems like pain and suffering, and death and destruction are the prevailing themes in the news nowadays.

If you’ve ever experienced a catastrophic event or violent crime, then you know all too well the sheer panic that sets in when life as you know it is turned upside down. You understand how it feels to be crippled with a spirit of fear and overcome with feelings of despair.

Whether you’re the victim or not, when disasters strike, everyone is affected. If you have even an ounce of compassion, there’s no tuning it out! News reports relive the horror and devastation for days. You’re overwhelmed with heart-wrenching scenes of survivors mourning the loss of their loved ones. You’re haunted by the faces of the wounded and weary as they pick through debris to salvage any remains of their lives.

There’s no escaping the cries! Why did this have to happen? Everything I put my hope in . . . everything I worked so hard for . . . everything I own is gone! I have no family . . . no home . . . nothing left to live for! How am I going to make it?

Consumed with anxiety and fear, you wonder who’s going to be hit next? . . . You question are we really safe? Then you realize just how vulnerable you are, and how frail life really is.

Have you been scarred from the trauma of a catastrophic event?

Has the gloom and despair of this world robbed you of peace?

Do you want to know peace, and feel safe again?

Maybe you’ve never lost anything in a flood or a hurricane or any weather disaster. You’ve got a beautiful home . . . all your material possessions are intact. You’ve never been the victim of a violent crime, but you’ve faced tragedy just the same. You know what it’s like to suffer loss.

At one time you had so much going for you . . . some would say the perfect life. You had a good outlook on life. Things were going great . . . the calm before the storm. Then suddenly it struck out of nowhere! Now it’s one crisis after another, and you feel like your life has been reduced to ruins and rubble.

Is it cancer, sickness, or disease that has robbed you?

Or maybe it’s an addiction tormenting you or someone you love? Drugs? Alcohol? Pornography?

Relationship problems? Betrayals by those you thought you could trust? Marital problems? Wayward children?

Are you burdened with financial hardships? Lost your job? Or you just can’t seem to get ahead?

Can you relate?

Yes, I am frustrated with life! I didn’t choose any of this, but I’ve been hit with one storm after another. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with despair. I long for peace . . . just to know that it’s all gonna be alright.

If your hopes and dreams have been crushed, if you have lost everything, or if you have a fear of losing it all, there is a place of refuge. There is a place where you can rest!

No! There’s no hope for me! I deserve all of these trials and more! I have no one to blame but myself! My life is a mess and it’s my own fault. I chose to live a wild, reckless life! Now I’m reaping all the consequences. I hate myself and my life! I wish I could go back and right all the wrong decisions I made. Now it’s too late . . . I long for a safe haven, but the only refuge I have is in my dreams.

If that’s you, if you’re feeling unworthy, whatever you’re struggling with, you don’t have to live in despair or fear any longer. There is a refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ!

God loves you and wants to cover you in His mercy. He wants to protect you from every enemy and shelter you from all evil.

God has even prepared a city for you to dwell in, not just any city, but a strong city.

It’s a place of beauty and holiness . . . a haven of peace and rest . . . a shelter from evil, disasters, and storms.

Isaiah 26 describes this New Jerusalem,

1In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.

This city is a heavenly city . . . a fortress strong enough to withstand any fire, flood, or storm.

A city with salvation as her walls and bulwarks. Nothing can get in to harm the city or those inside. No murderer, no thief, . . . no rapist, no child molester . . . no one to use and abuse another . . .

It’s a city of love and forgiveness . . . where grace and mercy triumph over judgement . . . where all your wrong choices, all your sins . . . all of it is wiped away. You are freed from condemnation, no more guilt or shame.

It sounds wonderful! But . . . who gets in to this city?

Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.

Isaiah 26:2

This is an eternal city designed by God Himself, with gates opened only to the righteous . . . those that lay hold of the truth and keep it.

The righteous? Then I’ll never make it in! The truth for me is I’ll never measure up. How can I be good enough to make it into a heavenly city? How can I stand before a Holy, Righteous God?

Yes, we all have sinned. Nobody can be good enough to stand before God. The good news is you don’t have to be. It’s not about how good you can be . . .

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Titus 3:5

We all deserve hell, but by His mercy He saved us. All our good works . . . whatever righteousness we can boast about, is as filthy rags in God’s eyes. There’s no way . . . nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous enough for this city.

Then who will make it in to this strong city?

The children of God . . . those that can say my sins are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

Nobody will get in except those that have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ.

If you will call on the name of Jesus right now, repent of your sins, and make Jesus the Lord of your life, then you can call this strong city your home.

Maybe you’ve tried to take refuge in drugs, or found comfort in a sinful relationship. You may have even sought for truth and meaning in the occult or eastern religions. In desperation, you may have dabbled in a little bit of it all, only to find you were worse off than before.

You can have a place of refuge for all eternity. You can be covered in the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Only Jesus Christ can bring perfect peace to your life . . . no substitutes . . . nothing else will do.

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14For [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Ephesians 2:13-14

In fact, the whole culture of this strong city Isaiah talks about is absolute peace . . . perfect peace for those who choose to trust God . . . trust God through trials and temptations, through sickness and suffering, through death and destruction, no matter the storm, make up your mind to trust God through it all!

You can’t get peace from the chaos that goes on in this world.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isaiah 26:3

True peace comes when your mind is focused on God’s eternal plan for your life . . . true peace is knowing your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus . . . true peace is trusting in God to keep you and use your life for His honor and glory.

Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:

Isaiah 26:4

There are no guarantees in this life. Things may be going great now but good times, like everything else in this life, are temporary. Our lives are like a vapor . . . here today, gone tomorrow. All it takes is one storm . . . one car wreck . . . one trip to the doctor, and life as you know it is shattered.

That sounds so depressing, like gloom and doom!

It’s gloom and doom, only if you’ve put your trust in these temporary things. We are shaken because we put our hope and trust in these things that can be shaken.

What are you trusting in?

He that trustest in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

Proverbs 11:28

You can’t trust in things here on this earth. Family and friends will fail you, and you will fail them. Your health will fail you. Riches, careers, pleasures . . . they will all fail you.

You can’t put your faith and trust in earthly things. The Lord is the only refuge!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

Trust in Him today! Find a haven of rest in Jesus Christ.

When your hope is in something beyond this life, whatever happens in this life doesn’t affect your eternal wellbeing. Make this strong city your refuge now, and for all eternity!

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John 15:7

Take Your Seat

 

Just imagine yourself a servant in the chief Pharisee’s house. Dinner on the Sabbath is always exhausting for you. But today is different! There’s excitement in the air! You can hardly wait to hear what the special guest has to say. After everyone is served, you finally get to take your seat with all the other servants, the poor, and the afflicted. Only the religious leaders, the lawyers, and the wealthy are worthy enough to sit in the upper rooms near the chief Pharisee and his special guest.

Jesus had become one of the most famous, but controversial figures especially among the religious elite. Why in the world did the chief Pharisee invite Him anyway? Was he trying to impress Jesus? Or was he setting a trap to publicly convict Him?

This Jesus no doubt had a reputation for not following the religious traditions. Maybe that wasn’t such a terrible thing. In fact, from your point of view, everything you’d heard about Jesus was all good. He preached to the poor! He healed the sick, the afflicted, and the brokenhearted! He cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and even raised the dead! Jesus was gentle and kind, ministering to the lowest of the low, yet spoke with such boldness and authority that rattled even the best lawyers. He demonstrated power with love and compassion like no other religious leader you’d ever known before.

Even you had to admit the religious leaders should feel threatened. Jesus was planting seeds of doubt in your heart and mind too. He made you question all the traditions . . . the religious system. . . this man-made machine that did nothing but burden and condemn you. Was this what God intended? You knew something was missing. You hungered for more, and so far, Jesus was the only one that whet your appetite.

In Luke chapter 14,

1And it came to pass, as [Jesus] went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.

All eyes are focused on Jesus. Some listen and watch Jesus with wonder and amazement, while others are critiquing His every word, calculating how to outsmart Him.

The religious leaders weren’t about to let one man undermine their authority. They would put a stop to this nonsense once and for all! While they plotted, waiting for an opportunity to convict Him, Jesus did what He had always done . . . the only thing He knew to do . . .

And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.

And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?

Is it okay to have mercy and heal this poor man on the Sabbath? Would it be alright to reach out and show some compassion, and relieve somebody’s suffering on the Sabbath?

And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;

And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?

And they could not answer him again to these things.

Everyone marveled at the miracle they had just witnessed.

Once again, Jesus challenged this complicated religious system with something far greater than man’s laws. Jesus touched a life with the love and mercy of His Heavenly Father.

Jesus knew their hearts. He saw right through the ones seeking truth and the ones perverting it for their own selfish gain. They waited to see what He would do next . . .

Jesus spoke in three parables.

The first parable was to those invited to the dinner:

7And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,

When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;

The Pharisees and lawyers smugly nod in agreement. That’s right. Save the upper seats for us, the honorable ones.

And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Everyone is puzzled, intently listening for further explanation. What is Jesus talking about? . . . He that humbles himself?

You can’t help but think . . . Oh Jesus! I’m poor and lowly, just a humble servant, but the only seat I’ve ever been granted is the lowest. Then you realize Jesus is speaking about something more than seating arrangements at a dinner party.

Find your place . . . Take your seat, but understand this seat may be lower than you think. Don’t think too highly of yourself.

Are you willing to be a servant for the Kingdom of God? Pharisees and lawyers, and all you who think you’re somebody, are you willing to abandon it all? All your traditions . . . your ideas and philosophies . . . your social status . . . your riches? Will you let it all go to humble yourself and become a servant so that Jesus Christ can be lifted up?

Jesus further explains in a second parable. This time He addresses the host of the dinner:

12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.

13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

What? Did He say what I thought He said? Jesus was including you and all those sitting in the lowest chambers.

Don’t invite the elite crowd, the rich and influential, but invite those that have nothing . . . invite those that society deems worthless, the ones that can’t repay your favor.

You can hear the hostility in the whispers from the upper rooms . . . Who does Jesus think He is? Exclude us, and invite the poor and lowly? We are the holy ones! We keep all the religious traditions! We have studied the law and carefully guard it!

15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

Yes, let’s talk about My Father’s Kingdom.

Jesus spoke in parables to all those that were hungry for something more than a special seat, or a VIP status. He was talking to those seeking something greater than the here and now. He was talking about the Kingdom of God . . .

Jesus begins the third parable:

16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

What an honor to be chosen to come to a great supper! But they decided they had better things to do.

18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

The Lord had a great feast prepared, but they refused it. They blew off the greatest invitation ever offered anyone.

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

Extend the invitation to whoever is willing to come.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

Fill the house with anyone who will reverence and honor the Master.

24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

And to those who put their interests and pursuits above the Lord’s calling, when all their earthly pleasures have run out, the ones sitting at the Lord’s table will still be feasting for all eternity. . . partaking of the Lord’s pleasures forevermore.

The elite sitting in the upper rooms had no clue what these parables meant. However, Jesus was speaking volumes to you. All your life the religious did nothing but look down on you. You were sick of the system that was nothing more than a marketplace where the rich and powerful exploited the poor and the weak. Religion had become a drudgery of buying and offering sacrifices to make things right, only to have to do it all over again.

Now for once in your life, Jesus was offering you something more . . . more than just a temporary fix . . . more than an invitation to sit in the chief Pharisee’s house. Jesus was offering you a place of eternal forgiveness and fellowship . . . a place to belong and be loved.

No longer looking in from the outside wishing you could be a part of the “holy” ones, Jesus was inviting you to come and dine with Him for all eternity. You didn’t understand any of it, but His words tugged at your heart, and tears of joy began to trickle down your face. Oh, what amazing grace!

What about you? Do these parables make any sense?

You’ve been invited!

Have you answered the call God has placed on your life?

Maybe you’ve experienced God’s love and mercy. You’ve found your place at the table, but like the social elites in these parables, you would like to have a say in who is seated next to you. You would like to decide who God calls and uses for His Kingdom.

Okay God, I can get along with this person, but please don’t make me have to sit next to this one. Do you know where they came from? Do you know what happened to them? Do you know what they used to do? I can tolerate this kind, but not someone that’s been through that. Please put me next to somebody I can relate to . . . somebody with a good upbringing . . . someone influential, with some class. Let me sit beside someone that’s got some talent and charisma . . . someone that has something to offer the church.

Have you ever been guilty of the same pious attitude?

All of us are invited to come regardless of who we are, or where we’ve been, or what we’ve done. No matter how influential or dignified, no one dictates who gets in or who stays out, and no one dictates where God places them at His table . . . no one except for Jesus Christ.

Maybe you’ve been snubbed by “churched” people, so much that you feel hopelessly condemned. You feel so unworthy like you’ll never measure up . . . like you’ll never fit in with any church. The truth is none of us is worthy, except for Jesus Christ!

It doesn’t matter what your background is. Rich or poor, intellectual or uneducated, talented or not, God has invited you to sit at His table. It doesn’t matter what crimes you’ve committed. Jesus is calling whosoever will, come! You are not less than anybody else. We all are nothing without the precious blood of Christ covering our lives. Every one of us come on the same ground . . . sinners in need of a Savior.

If you don’t know this Savior, Jesus, it’s really easy. If you want to be covered by His mercy and grace, all you have to do is call on Him right now.

Jesus, I know I am a wretched sinner. Without you I am nothing so I’m asking you to come into my heart right now and take control of my life. I surrender everything to you and ask you to wash my sins away, make me a new creature, and use my life for Your honor and glory.

Use the comment section to let me know if you prayed this prayer of repentance, or if you just want to share your thoughts about the article.

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041: All Things New

Part 1: A New & Living Way

I know I need to quit! This habit is going to destroy me. I’ll join a support group or go through counseling. If I can just stop, I’ll be a better person. Sound familiar? Maybe, by the grace of God, you don’t suffer from a life controlling addiction, but you’ve got problems just the same. You want a better life for yourself and your family. You want to do better, but all your efforts have failed.

God hasn’t called you to be a better person. In fact, God’s purpose can’t even be fulfilled in your life until you get out of the way. Self has to die! You can’t be better! None of us . . . not in this human flesh . . . not by our own efforts . . . No human can live up to the standards of a Holy God. You must die to yourself and let Christ take over.

Have you lost hope in trying to make things right? Tune in to this podcast episode. As you listen, understand that God doesn’t want to make you better. He wants to make you brand new by the blood of Jesus.

PlayPlay

040: Hinder Me Not

It’s the number one priority of your life! Honor and glorify Jesus Christ with all that you have. It’s no longer your life, but His to do what pleases Him.

It’s always the priority, or at least it should be . . . even if you don’t feel like it . . . even if you have a different plan . . . even when it makes no sense!

You have to get out of the way! Let all your opinions go! Let all your ideas and preferences go! Clear the way for the Holy Spirit to prepare you to be acceptable, to be transformed into a bride the Father will want to present to His Son.

Maybe you’re not quite ready to surrender that much to the Lord. You’d like to have a little say in what goes on in your life, . . . maybe hang on to a few of those earthly pleasures and avoid anything that brings too much pain.

Anything we give up, or have to endure is nothing compared to what Jesus Christ went through to secure us. Jesus gave up everything for the furtherance of the Kingdom! When He left Heaven to live and die on this earth, His commitment superseded His opinions, His preferences, His feelings, and even His rights. He could’ve protested!

I’m not guilty! I don’t deserve this cruelty! It hurts too much!

But He didn’t! He didn’t because He wanted to secure you and me, and whosoever will call on Him, to be His bride for all eternity.

But the Father won’t allow a bride that’s not worthy of His Son. Tune in to this podcast episode if you’re not sure where you stand. Ask yourself: Is there anything I’m doing to hinder the Spirit of God from accomplishing His work in me? Is there something in my flesh hindering what needs to be done?

Surrender to the Lord! Don’t hinder the process! The moment you see Jesus, face to face, it will be worth it all for you, and for Him!

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Psa. 68:19 kjv

039: Grafted by Grace

God, this is not what I planned for my life! I don’t even know who I am anymore! Have you ever been there, wondering how in the world your life took this turn?

I’m sure Esther felt totally out of her comfort zone too. An ordinary Jewish girl suddenly finds herself submersed in the palace of the Persian king. She has no other choice but to go through a twelve-month purification program just to be presentable to the king. I’m sure there were days Esther longed to go back to her old Jewish life, to the comforts of familiar surroundings. But God had other plans for her!

When chosen out of all the other maidens to be queen, Esther probably struggled with submission, maybe even sympathized with the previous Queen Vashti’s rebellion to the king.

I’m not the right person for this! I have no idea how to be a Persian queen! I don’t feel like submitting to the demands of a king!

You know the story . . . God chose Esther to be an instrument to save the Jewish people, but it was up to Esther to surrender and trust God’s plan, even if it didn’t feel right or make any sense. A Jewish girl living in a Persian palace, . . . she was not supposed to be there . . . she was not supposed to be the queen . . . she wasn’t even supposed to go before the king uninvited. No, none of it made sense! All natural circumstances declared Esther was the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but divinely, she was right in the center of God’s will!

What about you? Is your life not making a lot of sense right now? You carefully planned it all out (even if it was only in your dreams), and now you just don’t understand why things have gone so wrong.

No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, whatever is going on in your life, God has brought you to this point for a purpose. Like Esther, even if it doesn’t make sense, you have a choice to surrender your life to God and trust that He will work it all out for His honor and glory and for your good.  Tune in to this podcast episode and be encouraged to press on for the Kingdom of Christ. You can’t afford to give up! As you listen, consider what could have happened in the story of Queen Esther if she had chosen to give up.

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038: As It Is Written

How’s life treating you? We’ve all been asked the question, but how are you supposed to answer it? How do you measure how your life is going?

We all go through ups and downs . . . good times and bad times. When things are going well, we feel good about ourselves, accomplished, happy. Then there’s the trying times . . . nobody is without trials! There are times you feel like a failure . . . when nothing is going right! Those times when you question, is it really worth it? Each of us have regrets, and shortcomings. So how do you gauge whether your life has been a success or a failure?

Have you made your mark in this life? Were you elected to serve in office? Did you write a great documentary, or piece of literature? Did you climb the corporate ladder? Or star in a leading role? So maybe you’re not famous . . . 

Is it how much money you’ve been able to accumulate? The car you drive? The house you live in? The circle of friends you’ve established?

Or could it be about family? Have you been able to keep your marriage together? Are your kids doing right? Does everybody still get along and act like a family should?

What makes a person a success, or a failure?

What this world deems successful is a far cry from God’s idea of a life well spent. So when we stand before a Holy God, how’s He going to judge our life?

If you want to know more about what God expects out of your life, if you want to know what you should be striving towards, tune into this podcast episode. It’s really not that complicated because it is written!

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Psalm 34:8