12 thoughts on how to raise Godly children...

Today's NT 90 Day Challenge reading takes us through Galatians 3.

Last Saturday night we had a productive time of intentional discipleship focusing on marriage and children. (Note: Saturday nights on non-iConnect weekends will be focused on certain topics for intentional discipleship purposes) Here are some thoughts you can forward to all your married friends.

First, for the young married folks without kids... Many young married couples feel they should wait a while before having children. Ialways felt just the opposite. I wanted to begin having children as quickly as was reasonable. This feeling of *wanting to wait* comes from the idea of "I don't want to lose my youth" or "we need to enjoy our time together as long as we can" or "I am not ready for children". All these feelings are understandable but, like many things when we are young, we fail to recognize that the best days of our life are when we are old and surrounded by the families we have created. Our families are one way we contribute to the work of the Gospel. Many other religious cults understand this and therefore keep having as many kids as they possibly can to train them up in their deceived ways. Let us fill the earth with God fearing, Jesus lovin children. So it is time to get married (if you are not already) and get started having kids to fill the earth sooner rather than latter.

Take a look at these passages...

Psalms 127:3 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy, blessed, and fortunate is the man whose quiver is filled with them! They will not be put to shame when they speak with their adversaries [in gatherings] at the [city’s] gate...

Proverbs 22: 6 6 Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it

12 thoughts:

Children are a reward from the Lord.

Children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior.

Children are our partners in the work of God.

Speak vision and mission to our kids. (even if not your own children)

Bring your kids to church every week.

Discover the gifting God has unique programmed into your child.

When you mess us with your kids say you are *sorry*.

Protect your kids from who they are spending time with.

Do not withhold discipline from our kids. (Spare not the rod)

Set aside a time of family devotion as many times a week as possible.

Remember everyone needs to win sometimes.

Lastly, pray with your kids every day!

Announcement: This week we have another Parenting discipleship class starting with PC. (Ask about it.) 

We must obey God rather than men...

The 90 day NT challenge reading takes us through Romans chapter 14.

Acts 5: 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

This week, as we are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, we are reminded that He was first rejected, executed, and then raised to new life. Our belief is possible today because of the rejection of our Savior by His own people. Since the Jewish people rejected Christ the rest of the peoples of the world have been granted the opportunity to be grafted into this family of God. However, the rejection of Christ continues today.

Acts 28: 23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. ’ 28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

After Paul quoted this saying most the people stopped listening to him. It is still the greatest privilege in the world to have our ears and hearts opened to the things of God. To be able to welcome His Holy Spirit into our life and receive correction and encouragement from God and His people. Think it not strange when we feel the resistance against the things of God. There were religious people in Jesus' day that crucified him and there are both the religious and the unbelievers today who will do the same to us. There is no man or worldly system today that should stop us from obeying God's great commission to each one of us. "Go ye into all the world"... Our only responsibility at the end of the day is to keep our eyes and hearts on Jesus and to fulfill the mission He has given to us. Make sure today you are * OBEYING GOD*  and are *ON MISSION*! PJ

The message of the cross...

The 90 day NT challenge reading takes us through Acts chapter 18.

This weekend we are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. On Saturday afternoon, through the evening, I will be teaching on the message of the cross. After the teaching and celebrating the beautiful accomplishments of the cross we will have communion together.

The message of the cross teaches us that: It is finished. The entire spiritual war is over. We are taught to pick up our cross and follow Christ.

Matt 16:24 NIV Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Luke 9:23 NIV Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his (not Christ’s) cross daily and follow me.  

Come out on Saturday to be a part of the school of the cross. Let Elaine know you are coming.


The devotion life of a believer...

Today's 90 day NT challenge is all the way through Acts chapter 12. Stick with the challenge. We are 1/3 the way through it. If you have fallen a little behind with your reading that is ok just CATCH UP!

The devotion life of a believer is so much more than just reading our Bible once a day.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles ' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved

They "steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship"... also "committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers".

As the people of God we need to be pushing through with keeping ourselves surrounded with Bible teaching and with the people of God. When believers stop committing themselves to instruction from the Word their is a growing problem. When fellowship becomes a burden rather than a joy there is a growing problem. I realize so many of us would rather just hang out by ourselves and not engage the world around us, but that is not what it looks like to be *devoted* believer. I cannot tell you how many times people tell me "I just want to stay home, be by myself, and read books". Hahahahahahaha.... wouldn't we all. But that is not what community life looks like. Reading is great until it becomes just another excuse. We must devote ourselves to teaching, fellowship and praying almost every day. It is always telling when people who were one very visible and present at church, connect groups, leader's meetings, training, classes and then all of the sudden they are too busy. Or when someone begins choosing nonspiritual activities over their regular spiritual commitments. We need to realize that we all go through highs and lows in our journey and just because your spiritual life might not feel as exciting today as it was a year ago we know that by pushing through the Holy Spirit will once again ignite that fire in our hearts. So stay steadily devoted to Christ, the Church, and your spiritual commitments. Blessings, PJ

His disciples were grumbling...

The 90 day NT challenge today is John 13 - 15.

See all the devotionals at www.RevivalChina.com.

John 6: 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him

Jesus' sayings were sometimes hard to swallow. At times there was grumbling going on in the ranks of the disciples. Yes, the disciples were complaining about Jesus. "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it". If the disciples grumbled against Jesus it is safe to say that we all have times of grumbling against our leaders.  Jesus' response was basically "are you offended at me"? There are days when we all have to face offense. Offense left not dealt with will lead to grumbling. Grumbling against our leaders or our God is dangerous ground. If we are offended within ourselves and keep quiet we can deal with it between us and the Lord and have no regrets. Once we giving voice to our offense we can never talk back that impression we leave on another person. You never know when your words will affect another person's decisions. Whether you like it or not grumbling to your peers or subordinates can negatively affect them. In this case of grumbling the Word teaches us that "after this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him (Jesus)". Grumbling resulted in turning people away from Jesus. So let's not be grumblers ad complainers. PJ

Ok, let's catch up some this week...

By today our 90 NT challenge reading should have us all the way to John chapter 12.

I realize that many of us have fallen a little behind in our daily reading of three chapters. Don't get discourage... just keep walking up each day reading and spending time with Jesus. Soon, when we get past the Gospels, some of the chapters will get a little shorter and it will be easier to catch up. In the mean time continue to form this new habit of waking up (or going to bed) accomplishing your daily devotion. Maybe you should schedule one day this week to dedicatesome additional time in the evening and read a few extra chapters to catch up a little. Blessings, PJ

Why Judas...

90 day NT challenge...: Wednesday was Luke 22 - 24, Thursday was John 1 - 3, and today is John 4 - 6.

Luke 22: 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot,.... vs 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him...

The question today is *Why Judas*. On a very practical level what was the difference betweenJudas being tempted and Peter being tempted. Both of them failed. Peter was restored and Judas condemned. Well without knowing all the reasons we can certainly see that Judas had a particular weakness that eventually caused the most problems for him. Judas was greedy for money and a thief.

John 12: 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Money has a unique way of getting us into so much trouble if not handled properly. When our need (greed) for more money over rides our priorities and principles, assuming you had priorities and principles in place,  then you know there is a problem.

The only way to deal with this potential money/greed problem is to keep it from controlling you. Instead you control it and learning to be thankful and content with what you have and through giving. You can always work hard to earn more but do not break your priories and your principles to do so.

Judas from early on always had a problem with people treating Jesus generously with their money. And in the end Judas' condemning decision had some of it's motive in financial gain. I have tried my whole life not to make any decisions based on financial gain. Instead we can ask the question is this the right thing to do or is God giving me this opportunity. Financial gain can be a lure that has the potential of being deceptive.

You are a child of God. As a child of God you are God's responsibility. So spend time with Jesus every day, bring your tithe to God, sow your seed, be faithful to the house of God, work hard in your jobs and then trust that God has you in His hands.


When is your excuse good enough...

Yesterday (Monday) and today's 90 day NT challenge is Luke 16 - 18 & Luke 19 - 21.

The short answer to the title is *never* but let's learn things together from this passage...

Luke 14: “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready. ’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. ’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused. ’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. ’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame. ’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. ’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.

Many have been invited to the great banquet soon approaching but how often do we hear people making their excuses. People like to find any reason they can to give as an excuse for not attending or accepting and invitation to church, connect group, altar call invite, acceptance prayer, forgiveness, ect... The real problem is that they are rejecting God. Let's not take it personal when people reject you after sharing Christ and inviting them into Kingdom life. People are rejecting God! If a person is going to reject God then of course they will find a reason to reject the messenger. This rejection always hurts and takes time to work through, but again they are rejecting God, so don't quit.

What is the solution when the people you are inviting keep rejecting the invitation? Change the type of person you are inviting. Find people a different sort of people to invite. Expand your search... look for hurting people... look for hungry people... have a dinner and invite people who you know can never repay your kindness with equal value gifts... Go out on a search and rescue mission.

This year we need to begin to go out to other cities, where we are all from, and begin holding banquets where we will invite the poor, lame, hurting, blind, and give them an invitation to accept Christ. Whose in? Let's pick a city, maybe your home town, and lets do it.


Serving too much or at the wrong time...

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”


Martha said... Lord, tell my sister she needs to help me... Pastor tell my group member to help me more... Dad tell my brother to help... Boss tell my co-worker to help....... Anyone Help me..........!

There is a such thing as serving too much or serving at the wrong time. 

Serving can never replace sitting at the feet of Jesus, in His presence, under His teaching.  

Some people have a personality to want to serve or sometimes just want to be busy. Busy is good, most of the time, because we certainly do not want to be lazy. However, being busy means we will also eventually run out of gas.

"only one thing is necessary" This one thing is sitting before Jesus making sure our tank is filled up. 

I am admittedly really bad about keeping my car filled up with gasoline. I like to be busy and have my schedule pretty tightly scheduled.  So on many days I run from one schedule to the next. Well in this business I often forget to look at my gas tank gauge in my car. Well just the other week my gauge was running low and I kept telling myself I need to go to the gas station. But I really dislike the gas station because most of the time there is a line of cars waiting to get gas. So I kept putting it off and putting it off and forgot about it a couple times. Well finally I said I really need to get gas *right now* or I will run out. Well, sure enough on my way to the gas station my car ran out of gas and then I was stranded. Funny, right...?

Well how many of us keep going, keep serving, keep being real busy but we do not take the time to sit before Jesus and fill up our spiritual gas tanks. You don't want to run out of gas along the journey. Mary choose right and only thing necessary by patiently sitting before Jesus. Get with Jesus today and fill your tank! PJ  

The making of a Christian leader...

Today's 90 day NT challenge is Luke 10 - 12.

Being a leader means that people are following you. But the first thing that any leader should be doing is leading theirself. That's right... Are you leading yourself...?

Hebrews 11: 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

Are you leading yourself into "judging God is faithful"... leading yourself into daily devotion? Leading yourself to trust in God's faithfulness towards your life. Leading yourself to first be a good follower before people will trust to begin to follow you.

Genesis 1: 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good

Each seed reproduces seed of it's own kind. We can only reproduce in others what is first in us. So if we want the people we are leading to be faithful followers of Christ then let our private and public lives be reflective of men and women who are faithfully following Christ. Then your discipleship efforts and leadership will be more effective in raising up Godly Christians. Blessings!

Let down your nets for a catch...

Today's 90 day challenge NT reading Luke 7 - 9.

Luke 5: 1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. 4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “ Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord

The simple question is: are your nets in the water? Peter and others had struggled all night trying to catch some fish but were unsuccessful. Some times many of our efforts are unsuccessful. However, when Jesus shows up and says it is time to try again then our responsibility is to listen and try again. Tell someone around you right now (or wechat them) and say "try again". If you are finding your efforts to be fruitless then invite Jesus into the boat, the boat being your plan, and receive some guidance. The results of following Jesus' instructions was a life time catch. So let's make sure our nets are in the water and we are listening to Jesus.

Here is a special word from another minister:

"We, the believers of Jesus Christ, are called to make an eternal difference – to impact the lives of others in an everlasting way. Our greatest desire is to fulfill all that He has called us to do. To accomplish God's plans and purposes, we must live and abide in His Word, yield to His Spirit, and keep in sight the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God."

"The Gospel of Christ will be preached to all nations and we are called to be a part. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. We are His hands, His mouth, and His feet. May we never be found complacent with the treasure that He has entrusted us with; may we always be found faithful. It is harvest time and we are called to bring it in!"

Developing effective devotional habits...

Yesterday's 90 day NT reading was Luke 1 - 3.

Today's 90 day challenge NT reading is Luke 4 - 6.

Keep up with your reading every day. If you get behind, like I did yesterday, than you have to add a little more time the next day to catch up. Hopefully you are getting to a point where it is feeling like your day is not complete until you accomplish your devotion goal.

Remember to always read with pencil or highlighter in hand. I tend to read all the way through while making underlines and very short notes along the way. Then after completing the reading I will go back and look at the underlines and take a moment to meditate on them to see if the Holy Spirit brings anything else to mind. Then if/when other thoughts or scriptures jump into my mind I will reference them in the margin, journal or now in these daily (almost daily)  devotional thoughts.

The last devotional tip of today is... when you are reading have a place to dump the other thoughts that are somethings distracting you. If you have a busy day scheduled or a project that you are in the middle of, there will be the tendency for these tasks/thoughtsto be competing with your devotional time. For example... today during my devotional I had thoughts competing from a budgeting project I am in the middle of. So I had my computer in front of me with the appropriate files opened so that... when the thought jumped into my head I would quickly make the revision in the budget (30 seconds to a minute) and then move back to the devotion. Now the thought was captured and it was out of my head and I was free to keep moving forward in the devotional time. This same idea can be accomplished with a note book or yellow stickies... but try not to insert these thoughts into the margin of your Bible hahahaha.

Blessings, have a great day of devotions.


Jesus made no further answer...

Today's 90 day NT challenge is Mark 15 - 16. (we will begin Luke tomorrow)

Mark 15: 1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him , “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 *But Jesus made no further answer*, so that Pilate was amazed.

We often talk too much. Know when to speak and know when there is nothing left to be said.

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

James 1: 19 Know this, my beloved brothers:let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Adding more to the conversation when the audience is not wanting to hear what you have to say is not going to make a difference. Jesus spent years preaching openly, teaching entire books worth of lessons that would be passed from generation to generation. But when he was placed before His religious accusers and Pilate, He said very little. There is a time to talk and there is a time to be quiet. Make sure when it is time to say something that it is said. But when you do not have words maybe better to keep quiet.

Mark 13: 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us to know what to say, when to say it, and when to say nothing.


The mountain top with Jesus down to reality...

Sunday's (Feb. 28) 90 day NT challenge reading was Mark 9 - 11. Today's 90 day NT challenge reading is Mark 12 - 14.

Mark 9: 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified

Mark 9: 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead

Mark 9: 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute...

From the mountain top with Jesus to the reality of life. Jesus took Peter, James and John onto the mountain top, with Him, to witness and experience a very special moment of glory. At the moment Jesus' true glory shone forth Peter requested to make tents, as if another human attempt to capture the moment and not let it slip away. It was a glorious unforgettable moment in Jesus presence! But it was only momentary and they had to go back down the mountain. We cannot live in these mountain moments because we are called to live among the people. When they came down the mountain from having just experience the glory of God the first thing they encountered was a bunch of people arguing. Now doesn't that sound like real life. Right after a beautiful church service or devotional you have to walk outside and face the challenges of the day or you get a phone call with an emergency... or something. There is always something to throw water on the fire that was just rekindled in the presence of the Lord. So they key is to go back often enough to get the fire burning and the intimacy fresh. The mountain tops are to equip us for the valleys. "Though I walk through the valley......." Jesus is with us on the mountain and He is with us in the valley as He is walking through daily life. Do not let any challenges you face today discourage you from pressing forward! PJ

A great outcry arose...

Today's 90 day NT challenge Mark 6-8.

Today our devotional thought is from the book of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 5: 1 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.” 6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them 8 and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say. 9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? 10 Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. 11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised. 13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised. 14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty- second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor

I love this passage where Nehemiah shows great concern for the people who are being oppressed by their fellow Israelites. The issue here was not what the law said, the nobles had rights too, it was about the focus of the people. The people of Israel were more focused on gaining wealth and adding to their land and they were blinded to the lives of the people that were being destroyed. We have to ask ourselves when we have rights to something or there is a law or policy that enables us to demand something.... Why are we demanding it? Do we need it? Is it going to effect the lives of the people we are demanding it from? Will it drastically affect your life if you don't require it? Probably in most cases we, who are on the upper hand, will be fine and it will not make much difference in our life circumstances if we don't require it. Whereas those we free from that payment or debt or requirement will be drastically affected and their life's story and journey will be altered because of it. We have to look past the initial benefits of taking what is rightfully ours or demanding something that paper or law says we have access to and ask ourselves, do we have faith to believe that God will reward us exceedingly above all we can hope or imagine if we defend and uphold the poor and oppressed and be apart of pulling them out of be hole they are in? Let us not have a hard stony heart and say, " they need to learn a lesson" or "they dug their own hole they can dig themselves out". Let us be that gracious hand extended, that hand of mercy, and rescue people out oftheir oppressive state of poverty and allows them to experience freedom and joy. Then we will reproduce a generation where people are not fighting to get ahead and oppressing others to gain wealth but we will create a culture where helping others and putting the needs of others before our own. This approach in life brings true wealth, honor and riches. We gain respect and loyalty of many and these many will come to your aid in your time of need....! PC

Beware of becoming religious...

Today's NT challenge is Mark 3 - 5.

Mark 3:1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “ Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “ Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “ Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

You would think that Jesus healing someone would be a good thing, right...? Well... not if you are more concerned with your religion than you are with following Jesus' leadership.

How do you know if you are becoming religious? Well in this passage the religious people were more concerned about their traditions than they were about the healing of the person with a withered hand. Jesus is always more concerned with people than He is the tradition or method. So one way to know you are becoming religious is if your methods or rules are becoming more important than your relationship with Christ, which requires humility and openness at all times.

Matthew 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition.

Another way of identifying that you are becoming religious is if you are always right when it comes to spiritual matters. Your traditions become more important than even scripture. You ask questions only for the purpose of creating opportunities to argue rather than opportunities to learn. Jesus was always very keen and brief with religious people because they do not have a heart to learn.

The best defense against religion is to stay on your face daily before God until His presence once again manifest and reminds you that you are a grace made person. Nothing about you is good until you were accepted into the family of God and became a child of God. Apart from Him we can do nothing. PJ

Mend your net...

Today's NT challenge reading is Matt 28 and Mark 1 - 2.  One book finished and 26 to go! 

Mark 1:19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.

I have one simple thought for you today. Jesus said "follow me and I will make you fishers of men". The one thing that a fishermen needs is a strong net to catch fish in. And every fisherman has to take time to "mend their net". Today take some time to think and talk to the Lord about your net and our nets to see how we can strengthen our nets to catch more fish for the glory of God. Harvest Sunday is another attempt at strengthening our nets to catch more fish. So take time and pray for Harvest Sunday this weekend and prayer for the strengthing of your own ministry nets. Blessings, PJ

Following at a distance...

Today's 90 day NT challenge Matt. 25 - 27.

Matt 26:56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. 57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest's courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end

This surely was hard for Jesus knowing the day was coming when all would flee, forsake, and follow Him at a distance. The people were appreciative of Him as long as there was peace and blessing. But when trouble arose they all "forsook Him and fled". This is true today that many people are looking for the new fun exciting thing to be a part of until the going gets tough then they are off looking for the next new fun exciting thing. It is more beneficial, in the long run though more challenging in the short run, to just push through in the place where God has planted you and with the people God has connected you with. We choose our spiritual family about as much as we choose our biological family. We are birthed into the family of God and discipled by a family a God and need to walk with this family, as much as it is up to us, for a life time. Situations may change, job location may change, but there is rarely enough reason to break relationship with family. Those who get in the habit of walking away from place to place may just find themselves without family when needed the most.

In order to not be identified as a family member or follower of Christ Peter choose to put some distance between him and his Messiah. Peter "followed at a distance". It can be easier, for a time, to follow at a distance. When you are at a distance no one will identify you with any one family or their flaws. When you are at a distance no one will be able to see your own personal flaws and maybe even sins. When you are at a distance it all seems to be easier, less commitment, and less responsibility. But following at a distance does not make it any easier to make the right, bold decision when the time comes.  vs. 69 .... "you also were with Jesus the Galilean" 70 But he (Peter denied) it before them all,.... At some point you will be forced to make a public stance for Jesus or not. You may as well position yourself as close as you can because you cannot avoid the inevitable. We all need Christ, we all need to be sharing Him, and we all need a family to care for us and for us to help care for. Come closer today and limit the distance in your life.


The harvest is valuable enough...

Today's 90 day NT challenge is Matthew 22 - 24.

Matthew 20: 1 “ For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you. ’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day? ’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us. ’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive...

This is a great story into the mind of a boss and the heart of our God. In this story the Landowner (presumably a picture of God) went out five times in one day to seek laborers to send into His harvest field. We learn how persistent the landowner is with His pursuit of workers to send out. It was his job to be a Kingdom recruiter to get workers out into the field.

We also see the consistency of man's laziness and excuse making ability. The landowner efforts were not enough to the idle workers he found at the end of the day who had not been working all day. The landowner was hard at work, which every boss should be, and these guys were not and yet their excuse was "no one hired us". They placed the blame of their idleness on the landowner. Idle hands seem to always be able to make excuses and feel justified in doing so. However, the landowner, disregarding the fact that these idle workers have been avoiding him all day and decided to send them out into the field any way even though it was the eleventh hour and there was only one workable hour of daylight left. The harvest was valuable enough and the need was great enough to overlook their past failures and put them to work. And not only did he put them to work but he also paid them the same as the workers who had been in the field all day. "the last shall be first and the first shall be last".

God's ways are beyond our ways.  So no matter how much time you have wasted today or in life it is never too late to get about Kingdom business. Why? Because the harvest is worth it!

The Kingdom of God is advancing…

Today’s 90 day NT reading challenge is Matthew 19 - 21

For many families today it is back to school day after a long CNY winter break. It is always fun :) to get our kids back into the habit of getting up early, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating their breakfast, and out the door in time for the arrival bell. This is similar to reprogramming ourselves to be daily Bible readers. Maybe you have been on break, from reading your Bible, for a long time and now it is time to get back in the routine. We have to make reading the Word a priority every day. Even if you get up late and are not able to get your devotion done first thing in the morning you still need to FIO (figure it out) a time to get er' done. Find a time, prioritize a time, to get to a quiet place to spend time with Jesus. I know a lot of people read the Bible on the metro and buses on the way to work. The bus seems like a little better place than the metro, though both of these places are hard to get any real privacy. A private, quiet, prayer closet will always be a more effective place for spending time with Jesus. But do what you have to to get er’ done.

Matt 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force…

The Word is teaching us about the nature of the continual challenges the Kingdom of God will face upon this earth. Every since the days of John and then Jesus the Kingdom of God, upon the earth, has been receiving push back from all the powers that be in the world. It may even be hard to see that progress is being made in your ministry, connect group, family, personal evangelism efforts, ect….  But this is no reason to worry because the Kingdom of God will continue to press forward until the purposes of God are fulfilled and Jesus returns for His Church. The Church is stronger today than it was yesterday and will be stronger tomorrow than it is today. The “increase of His Kingdom” will not cease until that great day of His return.

With this advancement of the Kingdom ongoing each of us are required to engage and get in the game. Kingdom work is not for wimps! Extra effort, steady determination in the face of violence and challenges, opening our mouths and putting your hands to work is required to advancement the Kingdom in your world.

Matt. 11:2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “ Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John the things they *hear* and *see*. Kingdom work is about speaking it and doing it. Kingdom workers cannot be quiet and Kingdom workers cannot be passive. We need to be a graciously, lovingly, kind, joyful, *FORCEFUL* people in our efforts to advance the Kingdom of God upon this earth. But we do not have to do it by ourselves or depending on our own power…

2 Corinthians 4: 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…..

The power to get er’ done is of God and not of us. Just open your mouth and speak the Word of God, join your hands with someone and pray with them, find someone hurting and encourage them… go out today and advance the Kingdom in your world.