At the Feet of Jesus

Christ in the house of Mary and Martha
By Johannes VermeerfwE2zem7WDcSlA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain, Link

Jesus “…entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

By this time in His ministry, many had rejected Jesus and no longer welcomed Him, much less entertained Him. Everywhere in the region, people were speaking against Him. Yet, to the true believers in Him, Jesus was still dear, just as they were to Him. At one particular house in Bethany, He’d certainly still be welcome. Martha was expecting Him to visit her and Mary and Lazarus. She knew that receiving Jesus and those in His company would involve much food preparation and serving. Curious crowds from the local village also came and surrounded the house to see Jesus. Imagine the great sense of anticipation when they heard that He was on His way! And how enormous the crowd would be that was about to descend for a meal at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus!

Lazarus welcomed Jesus and the others when they arrived at his house. The sisters were busily preparing to serve them. Both had the same love for Jesus, since each of them had received Him into her heart. Then Martha became troubled, since Mary had left her alone to serve the people. Martha became so busy and anxious trying to serve the Lord and His many followers that she was frantic. Surely she thought, “What is this? My sister sits herself down at the feet of Jesus, while I’m left here alone to cook for and serve all these people!” How this vexed and irritated her.

Her attitude toward Mary made her forget that what she was doing was really for the sake of Jesus, who had come to spend time with them.

She was opening a way for the enemy to come into her heart and inject discord, jealousy, and aggravation into the situation without recognizing it. And this opened a way for him to hinder her walk with Jesus.

Throughout all of this, Mary was complacent—which really troubled her sister. Martha must have fumed, “Why doesn’t Mary respond to me and help serve these guests?” Such thoughts surrounded and troubled her. If she had focused instead on Jesus being there, she would have been less likely to dictate to Him or to complain about Mary. Instead Martha “…came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus responded, “…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

He approved of and appreciated the fact that Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and learn from Him. When we try to please Jesus today, our concern more often is about doing things to serve God rather than about being in His presence. We get so busy in activities for Him that we end up in Martha’s frantic condition. Then we worry and feel weighed down in serving the Lord. How easily we forget the one “thing most needful”—simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. We make time to fulfill our desires for ourselves. What about making time for His spiritual presence in our lives? May the Lord keep us from falling into the same trap of over-involvement in service that Martha did, so that we don’t have time to just sit and learn of Him!

Martha had a heart for others. She really did care. Her work for the Lord was acceptable in its proper place. But something was more needful at this occasion which should have been done first.

She expected Jesus to blame Mary for not doing what Martha felt she was supposed to do concerning the meal. Instead, Jesus indirectly blamed Martha for not doing what Mary did, because her sister had chosen the best part of life—learning His Word. In the end, her choice will be justified, along with all who make the same choice and then live by it. Mary chose Christ and sought to honor and please Him, while Martha chose only to provide for His bodily, temporary needs to honor and please Him.

Over two thousand years after this event, Mary is still being praised for her choice, as she also will be in the resurrection. She wept at Jesus’ feet when He came to her house after Lazarus died and He comforted her. She was found at His feet when she later came and anointed Him with oil. He was her Prophet, Priest, and King for whom she humbly and lavishly shared her love.

Mary yielded herself to the absolute guidance of Christ. Jesus declared that she had chosen the best part—the “one thing [that] is needful…” (Luke 10:42). Someday we’ll be separated from all of our loved ones and belongings of this lifetime. But if we have this same love of Christ that Mary had, nothing can separate us from Him. We need to have this same love of His presence in our hearts today while we sit at His feet. Then Christ will not be taken away, because He is the best part.

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Cut the Ballast!

balloon gondola

It was a beautiful, mild Spring morning when Mr. Henry took off in the brightly colored hot air balloon with his new assistant, Cardone Stevens. It was just a routine training session, so the two ascended with little fanfare. In fact, the only other individuals around were an older man and his wife walking their dogs. Mr. Henry had performed these training sessions hundreds of times in the past with very few incidents, so he had no reason to be concerned about this one either. Cardone, on the other hand, was both fascinated and terrified from the moment he severed the anchoring ropes. He had only rode as a casual participant in two flights with another seasoned balloonist prior to this one.

The ascent went smoothly and much more quickly than he had expected, but Mr. Henry wanted to go to a much higher altitude. This pleased Cardone, since his prior flights were always kept somewhat low, due to his inexperience.

“Cardone, please cut some of the ballast,” ordered Mr. Henry. Cardone took the knife given to him for this purpose, reached over the side, and systematically cut off a few of the small bags of sand. He had never really seen these bags up close before, and their size and appearance intrigued him. He just couldn’t bear to drop the bags, so he decided to just to quietly stow them on the floor beside his feet. After a few moments, Cardone wondered why the balloon was not climbing higher. As it began to drift and sink a little, Mr. Henry ordered Cardone to cut more of the ballast. Again, in obedience to Mr. Henry’s orders, he proceeded to cut some more of the little bags of sand from the side of the gondola. He let one drop, but just wasn’t able to let the others go. “They might hurt something below,” he thought, so he again placed the bags on the floor a short distance from himself.

Thirty minutes went by. The balloon had only ascended a few dozen feet. By now, Mr. Henry’s patience had grown thin.

“Mr. Stevens!” he barked, “Did you cut the ballast like I asked?”

Cardone replied sheepishly, “Uh, well, sort of.”

“Sort of!” Mr. Henry shouted incredulously. “How did you “sort of” cut them?”

“Well,” Cardone began, “I just couldn’t let them go. I kind of grew fond of them, so I carefully placed them by my feet. Besides, I didn’t want anyone below to be injured.” He felt justified with this last response.

“I think I’ve heard it all now,” Mr. Henry grumbled. “Just how did you expect to go higher if you didn’t get rid of the ballast?”

Cardone knew that it was necessary to get rid of the ballast. He read all about these things in his textbooks. He just could not bring himself to do it in real life. He wanted to go higher, but how could he if he did not get rid of the ballast? Past experience had led Mr. Henry to believe that Cardone really did want to go higher, but also that he was afraid to do anything to make it happen. After fifteen more minutes of wrangling with Cardone, he reached over and cut almost all of the remaining ballast. With some cries of agony, Cardone reluctantly took up cutting where Mr. Henry let off. Now, with the ballast actually dropped from the gondola, the balloon began to ascend rapidly.

multi-colored balloon floating in sky

“Wow!” Cardone responded in amazement. “We are rising higher than I’ve ever been before.”

“Hrmph!” Mr. Henry replied gruffly in disgust. “Want to go even higher?”

“Oh, that would be great!” Cardone replied eagerly.

“Then get rid of those sandbags you put on the floor!” Mr. Henry hollered.

“Must I?” Cardone responded with anguish. “They are dear to me. I just can’t let them go!”

“Here we go again,” Mr. Henry muttered.

While this narrative might sound a little silly, the truth of the matter is that we as children of God do this with Him all the time. We have these bags of “ballast” in our own life called “the flesh.” It is the part of us that desires the sinful pleasures of this physical life that we have not yet completely removed since we surrendered our heart to the Lord. The more ballast we have in our life, the lower or more shallow our walk and relationship will be with the Lord. As long as we cling to the flesh, our intimacy with Him suffers. Therefore, God does not want any of this flesh to remain in our lives.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Jesus said this, He did not intend for us to literally haul a wooden beam around all day and follow Him. The essence of this verse is that we are to daily die to our self or flesh. We need to give sinful and unproductive desires of the flesh over to Him. Just like the balloon, we need to cut off and discard all that weighs us down spiritually. Naturally, we won’t always know what we need to surrender. This is why God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we seek God in prayer and really want to commune with Him more, His Spirit will reveal to us the works of the flesh that we need to cut off.

Notice that Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily” (emphasis mine). No one-time house-cleaning or ingesting some magic pill can make us totally clean and perfect.

This process is continual. God expects us to make the choice to let go of a part of our flesh, the same way He expected us to make the choice to surrender our life over to Him. He did not make a planet of robots with no choice or free will. If He was to do everything and we do nothing, then we would become like spoiled children—taking His work for us for granted, with no real gratitude or love for Him in return.

God desires for us to fellowship with Him and be a part of His family so much that He went to efforts beyond our comprehension to make a way for us to be with Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In return, He wants us to give up these hurdles or impediments of the flesh in our life that spiritually hinder our walk with Him. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [subdue, kill, or permanently eliminate] the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12,13).

The longer we hold onto these works of the flesh, the more that we separate ourselves from God—until our relationship with Him is dead. At the same time, if we continue to keep the flesh, we demonstrate to God that we have little interest in Him.

Therefore, like a balloon, let’s cut the ballast of our flesh, and let Him bring us higher in our relationship with Him.

Let’s desire more intimacy with our Lord and less with our old self. Remember, if we don’t cut this ballast, we will only cause ourselves to sink lower and lower, until we are no longer in the air at all, but back on the ground of this sinful world.

The Best Kind of Tranqulizer

man with insomnia

Stress, turmoil, anxiety, worry, tension, uncertainty, pressures, hassles, revenge, lawsuits, bankruptcy, crime, assault, disease, accidents, anger, tragedy, violence, suffering—the list goes on and on. At various times, there will be upsets in our life that will leave us sleepless. It might be a major ordeal or maybe just a minor event. Whether we are young or old, married or single, rich or poor, weak or strong—something will bring us to a point of being disturbed and restless. Even if we are extra cautious, watching our every thought and move, a situation is sure to come our way that will not let us sleep in peace. There will be times when we are totally innocent, minding our own business and doing what is right, and we still end up in the wrong. We might find ourselves in error over something that we had no control over, or we might happen to be in the wrong place at the right time.

It may feel like we are the only ones going though a particular problem. There was a man who lived thousands of years before us who had to struggle like this as well. In the Bible, King David of Israel was a person whom God declared to be a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22b). David was a mighty man who killed a lion and a bear at the same time when he was rescuing a lamb from the mouth of a bear. Later, with only a stone and a slingshot, he slayed a giant that had been threatening his nation for quite some time. And all of this occurred when he was only a young man! He later killed tens of thousands of enemies of his kingdom, yet, in spite of all his strength and his favor with God, he still went though struggles that would keep any of us today agonizingly awake for a multitude of nights.

What did he ultimately do about his troubles that robbed him of sleep? Did he flee, never to be found again? Was he discovered attempting to take his own life? Did he give up and just surrender to the enemy? Did he go insane? Did he personally take vengeance on those who were against him? Did he relegate his problems and torments to someone else in his kingdom and order them to come up with a solution? No, he did none of these. Instead, he turned to God. Look at what he said in verses three through five of the fourth Psalm, “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” King David knew by past experience that God would hear him when he called out to Him. But he also knew that he could not continue in the path of sin and still expect God to readily hear him. He had to surrender to God, forsake his sin, and put his trust in the Lord—then wait on Him. He knew that God would provide for His circumstances in a way far greater than those who were against him.

So what happened? Verse eight sums it up nicely: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” He didn’t lie awake all night agonizing over everything that was coming against him. Instead he declared, “…thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” What better sleep aid could anyone ask for? David turned to the Lord and put his trust in Him. He did not pursue the matter in his own strength any further. David stated this again in the first two verses of Psalm twenty three: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.”Still waters” here literally means ‘waters of rest.’

young girl praying

What a wonderful antidote to the situations that torment us throughout the night! All that we have to do is come before the Lord with all our distress and release it to Him. We need to stop sinning through doubt and unbelief, and trust in Him to resolve the conflict. He continually waits for our most feeble cry. He wants us to lie down in peace and sleep. But without God, we will never “dwell in safety.” He told us to “…commune with your own heart upon your bed…” With our own heart we are to commune with whom—our spouse, our relatives, our neighbor, our closest friends? Of course not! We are to commune with the Lord. Next comes “and be still.” Don’t drop your problems in His lap and go on your way. Spend your time with Him in intimate fellowship, reading His Word, and then—just be still. Don’t fill your mind with all kinds of trivial nonsense and needless thoughts, just “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a). God never wants us to lie awake and be restless, our hearts and minds filled with worry or stress. Let’s open our hearts freely to Him like a child does and let Him lead us by the waters of rest. With the Lord in charge of our life, we can truly sleep in peace—for He alone is the best kind of tranquilizer.

Can God Help with Your Cares, Burdens, and Afflictions?

man carrying burden

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

To cast your burdens upon God means resting upon what He has promised and on what He provides. Cares can heavily weigh your heart down, but the Lord won’t allow you to come to the point of being totally cast down. He will bear the burden of all your sorrows. Therefore, let Him bear the burden of all your cares too. He knows what is best for you and He will provide according to your need. Sin and corruption are also heavy burdens. But He will bear those heavy burdens too, and will bear you up at the same time. Let Him pick you up and carry you in His powerful arms, like a father carries his little one. Your load can safely be placed upon Him. The Spirit of God will lift your spirits and make them stronger, so that you can stand up under whatever trial you may be enduring.

man in looking with distant thoughts

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34).

Affliction refers to a state of distress, pain, or grief. It can also refer to being tried, tormented, or tortured. Afflictions are the cause of continued pain of the mind or body, like sickness, calamity, adversity, losses, or persecution. What a heavy load they can be, especially if they follow the temptations of the devil.

“…He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24).

No matter what cares, afflictions, or trials oppress you, you can lay them all upon God’s shoulders. What a glorious promise He has given for every tempted and afflicted soul! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You do not know what God is working out in you as you steadily endure affliction.

depressed woman

God will never allow the righteous (those in right standing with God) to be moved, to fall, or to be lost forever. Nor will He allow troubles to upset you to the point that you slack off in finding your comfort in Him, or in doing your duty to Him. He may allow you be shaken for a while, but it will never be to the point of being utterly overwhelmed. If you are righteous, you can be sure that you can continue to trust and depend on Him. And if you continue to trust God and do what is righteous, you will be as safe as if you were already in heaven.

What is the way of relief from all your cares, all your burdens, and all your afflictions? Look to Christ, who has already borne them all on the Cross for you. Lay them all directly upon His shoulders in faith by prayer, then confidently expect a good outcome. How can you do the work of God in this world if you fold up under the burdens that interfere with your efforts? Therefore, hand them all over. Whatever you want God to give you, let Him give it to you in His own time and in His own way. In the meantime, be satisfied. Commit all your ways and works to the Lord; then let Him do what He knows is right.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

Call upon the Lord in every kind of trial. He will hear you and He will rescue you. He will not be upset with you for coming too often. In fact, the more often you come to Him, the more welcome you will be!

The Breath of God

entrance to old mine

Curiosity and zeal for adventure provoked a small band of teenagers to succumb to the urge to explore an old mine they knew about on the side of a large mountain. The mine had once been the center of much activity, but when the quantities of ore began to dwindle, so did interest in pursuing it any further. Many past reports had told how huge the mine had become over the years, having branched off into many tunnels that sprawled over several miles. This proved to be the lure that these young teenagers could not resist. Their plan was to get into the mine somehow, and then go only a short distance, just to see what it was like. Before they realized it, they ended up traveling further and further away from the main air shaft where they had so carefully come in.

After about three hours of climbing throughout vast stretches of the mine, the group encountered a junction where the tunnel they were hiking in forked into three more tunnels. They were wary of splitting up, unsure about what they might encounter ahead. So they finally decided to remain together and take the tunnel they thought might lead them back toward the entrance. By this time, they were getting hungry and growing tired from all of their exploring in such a huge place.

partially lit cave
unsplash-logoMatt Kochar

Step after step after step, they trudged on. They had started with one flashlight each, but now had only two left between all of them that still worked. One of the units had reached the dimmest point since they began, and they had already used up all their spare batteries. Then the other light was dropped accidentally when they almost fell off of a small cliff. Now the tunnel they were in seemed to wind on endlessly, with no exit in sight. After another hour of wandering, the lone flashlight finally quit shining, leaving them in utter darkness. All hope of escape began to fade away. Weary from all their wandering, one by one they slumped down onto the floor of the mine. One girl began to tremble and sob almost uncontrollably, succumbing to the fear that she would never to be found again and would die there. Two others tried to hold her and console her. The oldest boy began to question himself out loud, wondering why they had ever dared to go this far in the first place. Another boy began angrily throwing various sized stones and rubble at the walls and down the tunnel in frustration.

Then the girl who had been consoling the sobbing girl remembered something she had heard her grandfather once say. He had worked briefly as a coal miner decades before. In one of the many stories of his life, he mentioned that if he ever got lost in the mine, or if his light quit working, he knew that he should stop and remain very still. Then he would try to feel what direction the air was moving, since the air always moved upward toward the air shaft, and ultimately, the way out. Although the others were skeptical when they first heard this, one by one they began to just sit still and wait. They continued to wait and wait for some time in hopeful anticipation, not really knowing what to expect. Then one of them suddenly jumped onto his feet and shouted, “I felt it! I felt it!” Moments later another burst out, “Me, too! I felt it on the side of my face!” Then another and another said the same, until all of the teens had sensed the gentle waft of air.

They determined that the air was actually coming from the direction that they had thought would bring them to the way out. So they turned around and began to walk in the opposite direction, heading back where they had come from. Even though they had lost the main source of light, they were still able to slowly find their way, guided by the gentle glow of their cellphones and other assorted small electronic devices they had in their pockets. Whenever they became unsure of their way, they would stop and wait again until they felt the ever-so-gentle movement of air, and then continue in its direction. Finally, they arrived back at the air shaft and scrambled up out of the mine, back to the remaining light of day.

people leaving mine

In life, there will be many points where you will also find yourself in the darkness and lost at times, with no apparent way out. It might be that your source of light has gone out, and you are not able to find the rest of the way to go. You may have been wandering and your light has not yet gone out, but you don’t know what direction to take next. Your life may have been progressing just fine, and then suddenly, everything goes into confusion and you do not have a clue as to what to do. Does any of this apply to you? Don’t fall apart in despair. Don’t succumb to a fit of needless anger, or collapse into a pool of tears.

It is in times like these that a gentle and sweet breath from God will come to you. Sometimes it is so subtle and discreet that you hardly notice it is there. Most often, there will be a time of sitting still and waiting before you sense its presence. When you do, make sure you don’t ignore it and turn to follow your own way. Don’t feel that it is too insignificant to be of any value. Instead, yield yourself to God and be led by it. He wants to bring you out of the darkness and confusion that you are in, but it takes desire and effort on your part for the breakthrough to happen. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Lord wants you to stop trusting in what you think is the best way out, and to learn to lean on Him for guidance. While it may seem contrary to you, by doing so you will find yourself being led out of your hopeless dilemma into “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Even though you don’t see Him, God is always there with you. “Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20,21).

The Ultimate Power Adapter

group of AC adapters

What a horror it must be for a teenager to vacation in a distant location with all kinds of technological gadgetry and a household power supply, but with no AC adapters to power or recharge any of these gadgets! Why are AC power adapters needed anyway? Why can’t we just plug cell phones, music players, etc., right into the wall socket and use or recharge them?

The answer lies in the fact that we are dealing with a power source that is much, much greater than our portable device is capable of handling. It is like trying to fill a cup of water at the bottom of a giant waterfall, or asking some firefighters trying to put out a fire to aim their hose running full blast at us, so we can have a drink of water. We must have something that is a ‘middleman’ between the high power source coming into our home and the relatively fragile electronic gadgets that we use almost every day, in order to make them work without destroying them in the process. The solution is to use an AC adapter (or a converter) that converts the powerful kind of electricity traveling through the wires in our homes into the weaker kind of power that our portable device needs.

If we plugged our cell phone, computer, or music player directly into one of the outlets at home, without using an AC adapter or power converter, devices of this type would be permanently damaged. (Some devices have a converter located inside the unit, so they appear to be getting power directly from the wall outlet when plugged in.) They could even catch on fire or explode. It is possible for the power company to provide the weaker kind of electricity to the wall outlets that is more compatible with our various portable technological devices. But this would then create a problem for other kinds of items, such as refrigerators, electric stoves, toaster ovens, and electric saws. Devices like these need much more power for a longer period of time than our portable electronics would ever require. This is why we need converters or adapters.

black cord and white ac adapter in non-U.S. outlet

This kind of solution also applies to making a way for us to approach the most powerful being in the universe, and have close fellowship with Him. Approaching God simply in our finite, fragile, physical bodies is not possible. That would be something like trying to climb one of the very tall towers to reach the wires coming from a power generating station in order to plug in our cell phone. The electricity those wires are transmitting is so strong (several converters are needed before it can even come into our homes) that just coming near them will kill us. Yet God is more powerful than all power stations combined, for all eternity! He is so powerful that He can simply speak something into existence, or eliminate something, in less than a fraction of a second. How can we possibly come close to Someone so powerful and live? We need Someone to be a mediator, a representative, a liaison, or go-between who is capable of standing before God for us, yet also able to fully represent the frail, mortal human beings that we are. This middleman would have to be without any sin or anything else that God would reject, or God would not let Him into His presence.

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is that Mediator or ‘Go-between’ that we need. He could be considered our ‘power adapter.’ He was sinless when He walked this Earth as a man, and therefore qualified to fulfill the requirements God laid out for man to be able to come before Him. Through Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross, He bridged the gap of separation between God and us. Jesus became the way for us to approach and have fellowship with the all-powerful God.

cross and sky

If we seek God for forgiveness of our sins, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross as if it was our own (as our ‘Go-between’ or substitute), then forsake our sinful ways and yield our lives to Him, we ‘plug into’ a new life with God Himself through His Son. Jesus saith…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Trying to reach God and have fellowship with Him in any other way is only attempting to meet God in our own weak and finite strength and wisdom. This means we are trying to take a shortcut, and as a result, actually end up rejecting what His Son did on the cross for us instead. Ultimately it leads to our death, because no sinful man can come before a holy, all-powerful God and live.

God knows we are not capable of coming before Him directly, yet He desires and longs for our mutual fellowship. Therefore, in His love for us—a love greater than we could ever comprehend—He made His Son to be the means by which we can have a relationship with Him like a child has with his parents. Just as a power converter makes it possible for a delicate electronic device to connect with the much more powerful household power supply, we need to connect to Jesus—our “spiritual” ‘power adapter,’ and let Him be the way we connect to God—our Supreme Heavenly power source!

For more information on how to connect to God click here.

No Cutting Corners With God

shortcutting prohibited sign

Next time you pass by a site where the ground is being broken and a foundation is about to be laid for a house or other building, try asking the workers to cut some corners and skip the foundation. Can’t find a building in this early stage? Then try to find one lacking a roof, and ask the builders to skip the roof and just lay the roofing material down without it. Better yet, see if some builders will just put the windows up without bothering with the outside walls. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Will they accept these recommendations? Suppose no plumbing or electric wires were installed, or not even an empty place for them in the future. How about a twenty-story building built with absolutely no windows—just empty holes with plastic stretched across them? None of these means of cutting corners are permitted in an architect’s plan.

Yet there are individuals professing to be true followers of Jesus Christ who do something like this all the time. They feel they can cut some corners in God’s plan for their lives without taking any thought of the consequences. Many think they don’t have to follow every detail or directive of Christ, that only the majority of them really matter. Others find it too painful to obey some of the commands given, so they just skip them for now (or forever). They may also feel that it is just too hard to do everything, but God will accept them regardless. Some have been deceived into believing that not everything Jesus said is to be obeyed, that some areas are just symbolic.

Sadly though, none of this is true. There can be no cutting corners in God’s plan for our lives. Every time we cut a corner in an attempt to get ahead more quickly, or to shorten the trial and tribulation that God is bringing us through, we only push ourselves farther back in our walk with Him instead. If we think we can bypass a portion of our allotted journey, then He will lead us back through it again later, with more difficulty. A structure can’t stand without a solid foundation, and we can’t establish a solid relationship with God unless Jesus Christ and His Word are our foundation.

men climbing over fence
[photo by Government of Moscow shared under a Creative Commons Intl. (CC-BY) license (modified by author)]

Many years ago, an allegorical story was written of a young believer’s journey to Heaven. In one chapter, two men climbed over a wall that went beside the path along the way that the young believer was traveling. When questioned about this, they claimed that they didn’t need to go through all of the troubles and distance that the young believer had to go through. They felt justified in such actions, and merrily hurried on ahead of the young but maturing believer, smug in their accomplishments. No sooner had they gone out of sight when a significant commotion arose from the direction they had just traveled. It wasn’t long before one of them returned in hasty retreat, fleeing home in terror. In passing, he frightfully warned of the horrible danger ahead and that his companion did not make it. But the young believer continued on, wary but not fearful. Why? Because he had not cut corners along the way. He had been continually prepared for such trials to come along the whole pathway that he had been told to take. The others tried to take a shortcut and therefore never received a proper beginning or solid foundation. They were not prepared for the trials ahead and, as a consequence, suffered dreadfully.

When we cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Christ, we only set ourselves up for later disappointment or even danger. We make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy by not going through the proper training and instruction first. Imagine the disaster that would unfold if we decided to cut corners and skip the lesson on how to properly use the brakes on our vehicle or bike!

When God gives us instruction, guidance, or correction, it is not optional; He expects our obedience. We can’t pick and choose whatever we feel works best for us and just leave the rest. God has a specific plan for each of us that He knows will work for our good—as long as we follow it. Like a house, God is building us from the ground up. He wants us to yield to His efforts during the time of construction. If He does not cut corners in developing us, why do we think we can cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Him? We need to be devoted to His will and obedient to His word, not to what we think is right.

One Special Gift

wrapped gift

Let’s look back two thousand years, when “…it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Joseph and Mary, a young couple in the royal line of Israel’s King David, lived within Caesar’s domain in Nazareth, a small town few had ever even heard of. Once the decree was issued, they had to submit to Caesar and enroll in his census for taxation. They were required to return to their ancestral hometown, Bethlehem, to enroll. Mary was probably just 16 or 17 years old at that time.

Transportation conditions would be very harsh, especially since Mary was 9 months pregnant with Israel’s prophesied Deliverer. In spite of her advanced pregnancy, she was still required to make the long and difficult journey to Bethlehem. “…Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Luke 2:4-5).

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes…” (Luke 2:6-7 emphasis mine). Jewish custom was for a woman to wear a long piece of fabric called a burial cloth when traveling far from home, so she could be wrapped in it for a decent burial in case she did not survive the trip. This would be a long, demanding, difficult journey of 70 to 80 miles with only a mule to help. It would be very hard on Mary.

God, for His own reasons and purposes, had to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. He used Caesar Augustus as His divine instrument when he enrolled the Roman world for taxation purposes. But Caesar was not the one in control of the situation like he thought he was. Seven hundred years before this young couple ever made their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it had been predicted that “…thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands in Judea, yet out of thee shall He come forth whose goings forth has been from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). It was declared way back then that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of Israel’s Deliverer.

sleeping baby

Mary gave birth soon after their arrival in Bethlehem. Then she wrapped her newborn son in her burial cloth as His swaddling cloth, being all she had with her. She did not know then that her newborn son being wrapped in a burial cloth at birth foreshadowed His death later on the Cross, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Abraham, that “…God will provide Himself [as] a lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:8 emphasis mine). Jesus was born in an animal feeding trough as the Chosen Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 emphasis mine). He was “…as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:19-21 emphasis mine).

That same night, in outlying fields in the vicinity of the manger, temple shepherds were tending their flocks. Suddenly, a heavenly host of angels appeared, announcing the arrival on Earth of God’s divine presence and glory in His newborn, only begotten Son. One of the angels said, “…Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you; you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-13 emphasis mine).

Imagine how those shepherds felt while they were “…keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Mary had just brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in the swaddling cloth, and laid Him in the manger. He was born in a stable used by temple shepherds for newborn temple lambs. The lambs had to be examined for any spot or blemish, to determine if they qualified to be offered for Israel’s atoning temple sacrifices. Here God brought forth Mary’s firstborn son, “the Lamb of God,” gift-wrapped in a swaddling cloth and laid in a manger. Mary provided the wrapping for God’s special gift to us, the fulfillment of His promise to all mankind. God as “Immanuel” was now with us through His only begotten Son, sent from Heaven to visit mankind in order to redeem us from our sin.

God has always longed for fellowship with man, but it was cut off by man because of his sin against God. To have true fellowship with God again, something had to be done about man’s sin. This is the primary reason why God chose Bethlehem as the place for His only begotten Son to be born. This need for a sacrificial lamb had been deeply imbedded in the Jewish mind in their longstanding culture and worship. Here Mary brought forth Israel’s precious Lamb of God and used her burial cloth to wrap Him after she gave birth. This cloth was the token of the chosen sacrificial “…Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 emphasis mine). And how did a lamb remove sin? By his sacrificial death, as our substitute. And how was Jesus to take away the sin of the world? By His sacrificial death, as our substitute.

three magi holding gifts

But where were the Magi, the wise men from the East? They had followed the star of wonder that they saw the first, special night Jesus was born. It led them west toward God’s perfect, eternal, divine Light in Bethlehem. They arrived as latecomers to the occasion of God coming in the flesh there, about 1 to 2 years after Jesus was born. Joseph and Mary had moved from the manger into a house in Bethlehem by then. The Magi therefore did not come to the manger to see Jesus. They went into the house and saw the young boy with His mother, then fell down and worshipped Him. They unwrapped their treasures and presented their gifts unto Him. The first gift was gold, fit for a king, one of the reasons for the Lord Jesus’ human existence. The second gift was frankincense, a fragrant gum resin used in religious rites and embalming, because He came as Israel’s Messiah (Anointed One). And the third gift was myrrh, a bitter aromatic gum resin commonly used for burial (see Matthew 2:11). How interesting that they would present gifts like these to a young child. These three gifts from the Magi were given to honor Jesus, who would one day become Israel’s glorious King, Great High Priest, and Savior.

These three valuable gifts came at just the right time to provide a source of funds for the upcoming long and expensive journey into Egypt when Joseph and Mary had to flee with the boy. They would be total strangers there. No one would meet or help them. And they would end up staying for a considerable length of time. Little did they know then how much they would need these gifts for support during that period. The Magi laid the gifts at the feet of the boy Jesus. And at this very same moment, God (seen as the boy Jesus) was still longing with all His heart for fellowship with man. And He is still hoping to be received into the hearts of all mankind today. That is the gift that He desires most from man.

The world’s largest package shipping company processes almost five billion packages a year, many of which are gifts. They make it possible to give gifts to the whole world. But God gave just one divine birthday gift package to the whole world two thousand years ago in little Bethlehem. He “…so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18 emphasis mine). He is the one and only gift anyone really needs in order to be with God forever.

cross in mountains

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Believe right now that He bore God’s judgment for your sins by His death on the cross, and you will receive the free gift of God into your life. You will be born again by the Spirit of God by putting your faith in Him, and you will become a brand new creation in Jesus Christ. God provided Him for anyone who wants to come to Him. The key is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, God’s one special gift to all mankind.

For more information on knowing God and His Son Jesus click here.

What God Wants for Christmas

christmas gifts

Near the end of every year, millions around the world take time from their busy schedules to shop for the highest day of gift giving—Christmas day. For the sake of just one single day of celebration, people push themselves until they go beyond their maximum threshold for stress. The results of these frantic efforts to try to make someone else happy or satisfied too often are arguments, disappointment, jealousy, heartaches, and sometimes even severe injuries. How ironic, that all of this is done in celebration of the birth of the One who came to make the way for eternal joy and peace in our lives!

In the midst of all of our efforts to give each other gifts at this time, how often do we simply forget about, or even totally overlook the One who gave us the ultimate gift—Jesus Christ? We have become so engrossed in our giving to each other, that we relegate the remembrance of what God and His Son did for us to just a service or two at a church somewhere, if we do even that. Then, after all the songs and celebrations are over, we scurry back to the stores in the days that follow Christmas to exchange or return gifts we have received, or to buy even more things. We have not even mentioned the multitudes who do almost all their gift-giving on a computer, while never even setting foot inside of a physical store for the whole holiday season!

shopping mall interior at christmas

Now consider the other aspect of Christmas gift-giving: how much do we give God in return for the gift He has given us, and for what He has done for us? God the Father gave the only begotten Son He ever had to suffer and die for us on the cross, so that we could escape the just penalty of death for our sin against God, and the awful thought of spending eternity without Him. What God actually expects from us in return is our praise. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). He eagerly desires to receive our thanksgiving, appreciation, and love.

“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalms 9:1).

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalms 18:49).

“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).

“In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever” (Psalms 44:8).

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psalms 67:5).

“O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Psalms 25:1).

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

person in praise to the sky

There are many places throughout the Bible where praises are made unto God, because He deserves all of our praise. As we deepen and mature in our relationship with Him, our desire to praise and thank Him should increase as well. But when our relationship with Him weakens, then our praise and interests turn away from Him also.

At this Christmas season, and on into the next year, let’s pause from our hectic endeavors to try to please others, and consider instead the One who died to give us a new life and an eternal future in Him. Jesus is the reason for celebrating. Let our giving be to Him first, and then we can give to others to share our joy with them. He is the One who is worthy and who deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

male clasping hands in prayer

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:1-3).

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Seeing the Whole City

city skyline in daytime

Suppose you live in a very large city, and friends you haven’t seen for many years come to visit for a short time. After you all chat a while, they say that they want to “see your city.” Naturally, you are eager to oblige. You get everyone in your vehicle and proceed to show them the city. You drive to the waterfront first, telling highlights of various buildings of importance along the way. Then you head up a large hill to the north side where they can see the city’s skyline. You mention additional points of interest visible from there. Next you go into the heart of downtown. You let them wander around a bit to look at various shops, landmarks, and parks the city has to offer. Then you shuttle them to the tourist section on the east side. Everyone, including you, is exhausted after this tour. You finish off the day by stopping for dinner at a well-known restaurant on the way home.

city skyline night panorama

During the meal, you ask if your guests enjoyed seeing the city. They agree that what they have seen is very nice and interesting, but then they say they would still like to “see the city.” Even though this reply puzzles you, you take them out again the following day to “see the city.” You escort your friends to the subway station early the next morning to take them all around the city. You take the blue line, the green line, the yellow line, wherever the subway lines go—that’s where you all end up going. After nearly getting lost three times, you all finally arrive back home in late afternoon. During the meal that evening, you casually inquire again if they feel that they have now “seen the city.” To your surprise, they conclude that everything that you have shown them has been wonderful and they are very grateful for your efforts. But, they still would like to “see the whole city.” After a long sigh, you reluctantly agree to do your best once more to show them “the whole city” before they return home.

Now you are really stumped for a solution to fulfill their request. You have done all you could to “show them the city”; what else could you possibly do to satisfy their request? The next day you contact friends in the city for advice, but they are as clueless as you are for a solution. Late that night, as you are just about to fall asleep, the perfect answer finally strikes you. The next morning, after everyone has eaten breakfast, you announce that you know a way that just might fulfill their desire to “see the whole city.” After a few phone calls, everyone gets into your vehicle again and you head to a small airport just outside city limits. There you meet up with an old friend who does aerial photography. He gladly agrees to take you and your friends up to “see the whole city.” After pointing out all the various places of interest in the city from the air, he brings everyone back down to the airport. Only a few moments after exiting the plane, your friends gleefully express their satisfaction. They all eagerly agree that they have really “seen all of the city” this time. They can now return home to tell everyone all about your city.

aerial view of sprawling city

How often have you felt that God is sometimes unfair and cruel is His actions toward you or others? When a tragedy, natural or manmade, strikes the lives of innocent individuals, do you question or blame God? Do you become confused or angry when the wicked prosper and those who do good fall into poverty or despair? How often do you face a problem that seems unsolvable or face a situation where you feel defeated before you even do anything?

Your confusion, anger, and despair all stem from the fact that you are coming to all of your conclusions based on a single area that you see of “the whole city” (or situation). As a result, you wonder why God allowed these things to happen, as if He can only see this one area too. But, thankfully, God always sees the big picture or “the whole city.” While you only see one part at a time, God sees “the whole city” all of the time. When a circumstance occurs in your life or someone else’s, it is only a part of “the whole city.” If you were to go up in the air and look down over the city like your friends did, then you would see just how your problem or area of the city connects with all of the rest of it. You would also be able to see just how small your problem really is from God’s point of view.

city block at street level

You may be wondering by now why you cannot see “the whole city” like God sees it. It is because you, in your finite physical body, could not handle such a view. You would be overwhelmed beyond despair. Our loving Heavenly Father knows these limitations and spares you from things beyond your current comprehension or physical ability. He has no intention of harming you by placing you in an area beyond your capability.

Instead, you are to trust in Him. When you feel overwhelmed by the situation that surrounds you, just put your concern and despair into His hands. Let Him take care of it.

When you don’t understand why things turned out the way that they did, just remember that He sees “the whole city,” the big picture, and the connection these things have to everything else that you cannot see.

When He chooses to move you to another area “of the city” or expand your existing area, don’t resist or rebel. Let Him do the work He desires for your life. Many trials and circumstances occur in your life because you thought you knew better and refused to allow Him to work in your life.

On the other hand, don’t feel limited to just seeing the small area you are in now. As you spend more and more time in His Word, and begin to grow in Him, don’t be afraid to ask Him to open your eyes to see more “of the city.” “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed [circled] the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17). Elisha’s servant could only see the small picture of the enemy that had them surrounded. This view looked hopeless. He could see no way of escape. But there was something in the bigger picture that the servant could not see. When God opened the servant’s eyes at Elisha’s request, he could then see a bigger portion of the picture. It contained a mountain “full of horses and chariots of fire,” a picture of something far greater than the limited one of a seemingly impossible situation.

panoramic view of city at twilight

Remember, God is not limited to only the view “of the city” that you see; He looks at “the whole city.” He knows what is going on everywhere at any given moment and how everything going on is connected to everything else. His hands are not tied. He is not helpless regarding what is happening in your area at any given moment. He sees the big picture and He has a plan. He wants you to trust in His plan, regardless of how you see things now or later. Then you can say, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion” (Psalm 71:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).