Friday, April 19, 2019

Who is going to roll the stone away?

Read Mark 16:1-7

Three women got up early on Sunday and headed for the tomb of Jesus.  They knew where to go so perhaps they also knew that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had made some hasty burial preparations.  The two men surely could not have completed what needed to be done in such a short time.

There was some serious work to be done to do right by their Lord.

I can only say for sure who one of these women were.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name.  She followed Jesus after he had cast out 7 demons from her. 

Mary the mother of James leaves us wondering, which James?  If it was James, the Lord’s brother, would she not be identified as the mother of our Lord?  Was it James the son of Zebedee?  Why not list both James and John?  Why not call her the wife of Zebedee?  Perhaps Zebedee has passed by this time.

Matthew’s gospel only calls her the other Mary.  Luke’s gospel agrees with the other synoptics as far as the Mary’s go.

Then there is this woman named Salome.  Salome was the woman that danced for Herod and helped her mother manipulate her new husband into killing John the Baptist.

Salome was probably the name of Zebedee’s wife.  Luke’s gospel differs slightly in that a woman named Joanna is mentioned in lieu of Salome.  Joanna is sometimes mentioned as the wife of Chu za, and part of the household of Herod.

There are other references to her as the granddaughter of Theophilus, to whom Luke’s Gospel and Acts are written. All of these women had surely followed Jesus.  All may have been present in those very intimate hours that took place in the upper room as well.

In any case, three women got up early and headed to the tomb with everything they needed to finish what the men had done in haste.  Of course, they had to talk along the way.  What do you talk about while you are walking to a tomb?

How about, who is going to move that big ole stone that’s sealing the entrance? You think that they might have thought of that before heading out that morning.

OK, somebody’s going to have to wake up 3 or 4 of these guys who have been crying themselves to sleep all night.  What’s the point of heading out there alone?

But they did.  They just took their supplies and headed to the tomb.  They were going to do what they knew to do—give the body of their Lord the preparation needed to spend eternity in that tomb.

But when they arrived, the stone had been rolled away.  There to greet them was a young man sitting in a white robe.

His first words were, “Don’t be alarmed.”

He continued, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One whom you have been following, the One who was crucified.  He is not here.  He is risen!  Come see for yourselves.”

OK, it’s empathy time.  Imagine the single most thought on your mind was how are we going to move that big ole rock, and the next thing you know you are witness to the resurrection of the Lord.  This is all before your morning coffee.

And the hits just keep on coming.  The young man in a white robe tells them, “Go tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead to Galilee.  That is where you will see him.  OBTW—just like he told you.”

He is risen.  He is not here.  He is not here. He is risen!

You know what the women had to be thinking.  We carried all of this stuff for nothing!

I don’t think that thought crossed their minds.  They were in a state of shock.  The scripture says that they didn’t talk to anyone.  I think that means until they got back to where the disciples were staying.

There is so much packed into these few words.  Among them was a special instruction to Peter that his Lord had not kicked him to the curb after he denied him three times.  The next was that they would meet up in Galilee.  Jesus knew the logistics of gathering there would be a little better than in Jerusalem.

I love this one.  He told you ahead of time. 

The women started their day going to a place of death.  They had work to do there but the tomb marked the end of the road for their Lord. 

They left that place of death with news of life.  The tomb was empty.  Their Lord was risen.  For wherever they had started—fishermen, tax collectors, possessed by demons, members of Herod’s court, and many other places—the journey began now.

The story of all stories began at the tomb.

He is not here.  He is risen.  He is risen.  He is not here.

You are a bunch of crazy people to get up this early on a Sunday morning, unless, of course, you know in your heart that tomb was empty and he is risen.

He was not there.

He is risen.

He is here.

We gather in his name early in the morning and he is here!


Resurrection from a different perspective...

A few years ago, I returned from our two weeks that we spent in Florida or South Carolina or wherever we went that year and Robert, the pastor at the First Baptist Church called to say hello.  He said that someone we all knew was spreading the rumor that I had “Flown the coop” and wasn’t coming back.

I finally got to abuse a Mark Twain quote and say, “Rumors of my departure have been greatly exaggerated.”

Sometimes people have to come up with their own explanations.  

Sometimes the truth doesn’t set them free.  It scares them. 

But, I thought that Jesus said the truth will set you free?

What he said was, If you abide in my word (if you continue in what I have taught you) then you are my disciples for sure.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

But what if you ignore his teachings?  What if you resist the teachings of our Lord?  What if you just are not interested in what God has to say?

Then the truth probably scares you.  Then you promote that which confuses, dilutes, or initiates rumors.  You do your best to avoid the truth.  You put up smokescreens.  You fight hard not to have to hear the truth or let others here it.

The prophecy which the Sanhedrin and Teachers of the Law should have know so well was fulfilled right before them.  They did not see.  They did not want to see.  They had to manipulate their basic tenants to send Jesus to the cross and now that had been accomplished, they wanted to make sure that was the end of the story.

There was this talk among his followers that Jesus said he would rise from the dead.  To make sure that they didn’t have to contend with this Jesus even after they had killed him, they asked the Roman Governor to put a guard on the tomb.

He agreed.  He dispatched a guard—that’s not a person but a small detachment—to guard the tomb.  They were to seal it up and watch it that it was not disturbed.  It should have been a simple assignment.

Orders:  Nobody gets in.  Nobody gets out.  Got it!

There had been no major revolts for some time and the most violence that the disciples had initiated resulted in one ear being cut off from a Hebrew guard.  Jesus mended that injury on the spot.

The thinking of that day was that nothing can go wrong here.  Nobody would be crazy enough to mess with the Roman guard over a body in the tomb. 

Understand that these are Roman soldiers.  This was the best fighting force of the First Century.  These were some pretty tough Hombres here.

On top of that, their commanders set some high expectations.  If you were assigned to guard a tomb and you had to kill 100 Jews to do it, that would just be a day’s work.  There would be no review and no second-guessing by your superior officers.  

Mission accomplished.  There were some casualties.  Give me a few days off and I’m ready for my next assignment.

So just who would have the audacity to break the governor’s seal, roll back the stone, and take the body?

Nobody who walks this earth and is in his right mind.  You are messing with Roman soldiers here. 

But there was an earthquake, and an angel, and bright lights and just like that the tomb was empty.

The guards reported this to the chief priests, which might make you wonder if these were not guards from the Sanhedrin.  Perhaps, but their report was such that it wouldn’t have made any difference who was guarding the tomb or by whose authority it was sealed. 

This resurrection thing happened.  The guards we stunned.  They were helpless to do anything.  It was a done deal before they knew what happened.  This was Shock and Awe first century style.

What to do now?  Somebody better come up with a story and somebody better motivate the story-tellers to get it right.  This had to be their story and they had to stick to it.

Why?  Because the religious leaders feared the truth.  What occurred was exactly what they were afraid of, that they had made a big mistake.  Even the Roman centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion knew that Jesus was the Son of God.

But the religious leaders were blind.  They believed their own propaganda.  They would not accept the truth.  The truth scared them.

Money was the motivator for the First Century Fake News.  And the guards spread the story as best they could.  If they were Roman soldiers, they should have been glad to get the money as they would never see a promotion for the rest of their lives.

If they were soldiers dispatched by the Sanhedrin, they would have been ordered to lie in any case so the money was a bonus.

But the religious leaders of the day were afraid of the truth because the truth was that this truly was the Son of God.

The truth was that these religious leaders were responsible for his death.  

Yes, Pilate the Roman governor ordered the crucifixion but he would have been content to send this faultless man home and the Jewish leaders packing.  But Pilate was not a strong man and he was subject to manipulation.

The truth was that Jesus died according to scripture.

The truth was that God raised him from the dead.

The truth is, he is risen.  He is risen indeed.

The truth is that the truth will set you free, unless you fear the truth and run from it, or tried to deny it, or try to throw so much confusion into the mix that you hope to obscure it from yourself and others.

For you who believe in the Christ and have committed to following him, hear these words of Jesus once again.

If you abide in my words you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set your free.

Know the truth.  Don’t run from it.  Don’t hide from it.  Don’t believe the rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.

Jesus, having the same mind as the Father, stepped out of heaven, lived the human life, having to start out just like us as a helpless baby, was about his Father’s business by age 12 and just over 20 years later was on his way to the cross to die for our sins.

That in itself is a celebration—he took away our sins, but the grave was not the end of the story.  Normally when we think of a grave, we think that’s all folks.  That’s our human model anyway.  But we know the grave was not the end of the story.  It was very much a beginning for all who step into eternity, for all who pass from death to life in professing their Savior—Jesus is Lord.

God raised him from the dead.  He is the first among many.  We are among that many who will follow him into eternal life.

Know the truth.  Don’t settle for another perspective on the truth.  Don’t believe the rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.

While we as humankind were still sinners, Christ died for us—truth.

We are forgiven--truth.

God loves us more than we can comprehend--truth.

He has saved us from our sins by the blood of Jesus--truth.

He has a place reserved for us for all eternity--truth.

Because Christ arose from the dead, we will know what it is to be with God for eternity.

Don’t believe rumors.  Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t be trapped in senseless arguments for they are everywhere in this age that has been labeled evil.
Even in this age where nations and people move farther and farther from God, know the truth.  Live in the truth.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The cross is empty.  The tomb is empty.  The truth is awesome.  Today we celebrate truth in these simple words.

He is risen.  He is risen, indeed!


Friday, April 12, 2019

Hear the Children

It’s Palm Sunday.  It got here in a hurry.  Usually the Palm Sunday messages are about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem or about the Passion of the Christ.  These are two appropriate topics for this day.  You have heard them both here over the past decade.

But today, I want to talk about the kids.  Think about the kids shouting Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest.  They were probably just repeating what they had heard as Jesus rode into town.  Probably.

Jesus went on to the temple and disrupted commerce to say the least, then he was back to healing again.  And there were two distinct responses noted in the text.

The religious leaders were indignant.  Just who does this guy think he is?  We’re the big dogs here.  Who is this Jesus of Nazareth to steal the show?

The children said, Hosanna to the Son of David

The religious leaders were blind to the fact that this is the Son of David.  This is the Messiah.  Even Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was the Son of David.  It seems that the kids and a blind man have the best vision.

The children cry out Hosanna!  It’s an interesting word.  It’s a Greek word that sounds pretty much like the Hebrew word or words.  It’s a cry for help and a cry of happiness.  It means not only save us, but save us now. 

It’s save us, I pray you save us.  I am petitioning the one who can grant my request.  That’s a source of joy.
The kids knew Jesus was the Son of David.  It seems that they also knew he was Savior.  It seems that they had connected more of the dots here than the really smart people, at least the self-proclaimed really smart people.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus has already taught that whoever humbles himself like a child will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

He said whoever welcomes a child in his name is welcoming him.

Oh by the way, woe unto the person who leads a child in the wrong way.

He went on to say that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, referring to the children that had come to see Jesus and the disciples thought he was too busy.
Sometimes it seems that children see so clearly, know instinctively, and have faith without doubt as their first nature.

We adults have complicated things quite a bit.  We split hairs over theology—swallow camels and strain out gnats if you will.

Kids just see the reality of God.  We complicate it with the reality of a world conformed to sin.

Here comes Jesus the Son of David riding on a small donkey.  People shout Hosanna.  He clears the temple of the money changers.  He is not happy about how his Father’s house is treated.  He heals those who are sick, lame, and even blind.

The kids get it.  This is the one that we have been waiting for—this is the Messiah that the rabbis teach of. 

The teachers were blind to the man before them, asking: Who is this guy whose cutting in on our turf?

This is Palm Sunday but we have been talking about faith all year.  The kids believe.  The kids have faith and do not doubt.  They probably don’t even know they have faith.

The adults, especially these very well-educated adults, have complicated things.  Does that mean that we should not study and show ourselves as a workman approved?

No.  We study, and memorize, and learn, and practice but we do it with the faith of a child.  We need the innocent faith of a child in a world that detests innocence.  I think you understand what it is like to be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes.

We have been sent out as sheep among wolves and too often we become like the wolves.  There is an acceptance that children have that we need.  We need to understand the world around us because the days are evil, but we need that pure acceptance that we seem to find only in children.

Every 3 or 4 years I find I reason to tell this story.  I could only wait one year this time. It is very much a true story.  It comes from a missionary sent from England to Zaire many decades ago.  Her name is Dr. Helen Roseveare.  She died at the age of 91 in 2016.  I have read most of her books and can say without equivocation, that the things that she went through in God’s service would make most Marines feel like a bunch of wimps.

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24.

Most of the time when I share this I talk about the verse from Isaiah, but today consider the faith of the child—the innocent, undoubting faith of this child named Ruth.

“If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”

She had no idea that the box would come.  She had no idea what was in it, but when she saw the first part of her prayer answered, she had no doubt that there would be a dolly in that box as well.

The answer to her prayer would be in that box.  God wouldn’t ship the items separately.  The doll would be in that box.

The kids knew who had come to town that day, riding on the colt of a donkey.  They were not encumbered by the patterns of the world.

They cried-out Hosanna to the Son of David.

It’s a cry of joy and petition.  It is a cry for help knowing the one who can help hears us.  It’s casting aside the chains of the world and seeking salvation from the only one who can deliver it.

Today, Palm Sunday, I want you to know the joy of calling out Hosanna to the one who saves.  We know already what he has done for us, but let’s call out all the same.

Hosanna.  Hosanna to the Son of David.


Friday, April 5, 2019

No room for doubt

Stop the bleeding, restore the breathing, treat the wound, and treat for shock.  Are those the four life saving steps?  They used to be.  I think somewhere along the way one and two got switched, without my permission I might add.  Our circulatory and respiratory systems are the same.  Take care of those first, then treatment, and then deal with shock.  If I have to give you first aid, that’s the order I’m doing it.

Assault through.  Is that still the immediate action drill for walking into a near ambush?  If you stop to think or plan or do anything but assault through it’s game over. 

Stop, drop, and roll.  Is that what you do if you find yourself ablaze?

Aren’t those the standard actions that at some point many of us had drilled into our heads?

There are other things that seem to come automatically too.  Yes officer, I saw the speed limit sign.  I just didn’t see you.

There are some things that just come more naturally than others.  There are some things that come more naturally than they used to.  Let’s try one.

God loves you…
I am crucified with Christ…
God is Good all the time.  All the time…

We memorize scripture.  We have a good list going of those we memorized together. 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.

We just memorized that one this morning.  We call these warm-ups and will have this worship service that we are calling Memory Verse Wednesday and many other things that are essentially indoctrination, with a slight qualification.

Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.  That seems like a double-edged sword.  Shouldn’t we accept things only after critical examination?

The answer is, yes, to a point.

Once we believe that there is a God and he is good and that he loves us very much and that he made a way for us to be right with him, then we accept his word and his will much more willingly.

We become a teachable spirit.  We are receptive to God’s teaching and his Spirit that lives within us.  We are unshakeable in many things.  That may start out as a small list, but it should grow as we mature.

God is good.

God is the one and only Creator.

God loves us.

God loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son to die for us as an atoning sacrifice.

That’s a good starting point, but as we grow, so should our list.

God has good plans for us.

You will have trouble in the world, but take courage, Jesus has overcome the world.

God loves us with an everlasting love.

We should be joyful when we face trials of all kinds.

That should help us get through some tough days, but a little more of these rock-solid beliefs would help us more.

The word of God is living and active.  It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Lord is my shepherd.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

These are helpful.  There are many more, but what exactly is it that I am looking to confront.  Satan?  Demons?   It could be.  Jesus endured temptation and used the word of God in his defense.

 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

But more often than we will be face to face with evil, we will wrestle with doubt.  When we deal with evil, we know that we are to call on the name of Jesus.  Doubt is perhaps tougher.  It already exists within us. 

It talks to us in our own voice.  It’s always available to offer its perspective and it knows how to make sense to our human nature.  Our doubt understands us.  We have to be ready.

We have been talking about faith for almost 3 months.  If we had faith as small as a mustard seed we could do incredible things, but doubt rears its ugly head again and again.  We all have to contend with doubt, but we don’t have to be content with doubt being part of our lives.

Doubt doesn’t give up but we don’t have to give in to it.

Doubt will always be there but it doesn’t have to be here, in our hearts and minds.

When the Spirit leads me to go talk to some people but doubt starts telling me that this might not be the best time, I remind myself that God is good.  God has good plans for me.  God loves me and he has sent me into this world to love others.  Those things that we remind ourselves and each other of time and time again become our self-talk.

God loves you…
I am crucified with Christ…
God is Good all the time.  All the time…

These things and more must take up so much of our mind that there is no room for doubt.

Paul counsels us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.  I am not going to argue with the doubt that somehow got in my head.  It either gets in line with the mind of Christ or it gets kicked to the curb.

At some point we embrace this indoctrination.  Remember the definition of indoctrination. 

Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically

Most of us only accept things after critical examination, but at some point, we will just say, God said it, I believe it, that’s how I am going to live.  At some point in our growth we will stop wrestling with whether or not God got this one right and just accept that he got all of them right.

How do we do this?  We must have God’s word dwelling richly within us, and for that to happen we must be constantly in God’s word.  These short mantras that we say to reinforce the biblical witness that we know, the scriptures that we read and reread and sometimes memorize, and the faith that is put into practice are our best weapons against doubt.

If your life has balance between faith and doubt, then your life is out of balance for faith must overwhelm doubt.  OK, but how?

That brings us back to the near ambush.  If you find yourself in the kill zone of a near ambush, you assault through.  That means that you go directly into the gunfire without hesitation.  Any hesitation, and time used to plan, and any second thoughts decrease the chances of survival second by second.

It is not instinctual to run towards the people shooting at you.  This must be learned.  It requires training.  It requires indoctrination.  In practical terms, the young sergeant requires his Marines to run this immediate action drill a hundred times or more until they are assaulting through the near ambush in their sleep.  It’s part of their new nature.

Fifteen years ago, I came up with a lesson for overcoming profanity.  I was a counselor in a prison and profanity was a big problem.  Some of my inmate clients wanted to change this, but how?

First was to realize that the core definition of profanity and vulgar language involved the words characterized by ignorance.  Nobody, even the most profane person with the hardest exterior, wants to be labeled as ignorant.

There’s the motivation, but what is the methodology.  It’s simple.  Choose a different word than the one that is vulgar.

Yeah right.  When I hit my thumb with a hammer, I’m going to call time out and pick a word other than the one that first comes to mind.  Sure, that’s the ticket.

Actually, that is the ticket.  But those words will be selected and learned long before the precipitating incident.  How do I stop my profanity?  I’m going to learn some new words—lots of them.

The decision as to what words to use is moved from the time that I strike my thumb with a hammer to the days and weeks and years before.  I indoctrinate myself with a new vocabulary.  I add to my lexicon.

Oh by the way, this takes work.  It takes practice.  It is a continual process until you reach the point that your extensive vocabulary constantly annoys people.  But it works. 

What’s this got to do with doubt.  We indoctrinate ourselves against doubt when we read, study, memorize, and share God’s word.

We immunize ourselves against doubt when we have the word of God dwelling richly in us.

We close ranks against doubt when we put the words of our Master into practice time and time again. 

If you want your faith to do great things, then close the door on doubt.

Jesus told us that we have enough faith.  Just faith the size of a mustard seed—such a small seed—is enough to move a mountain or command a tree to go plant itself in the sea.  We have the faith so what we need to do is stop that which is working against our faith.

The biggest thing that works against us is doubt.  Jesus broke it down for us.  If we have faith and do not doubt, we will do incredible things.  We should expect our prayers to be answered. 

How do we do this?  Stop being critical of God’s word.  Accept it as true.  Receive it as a blessing.  Know it as a good gift from God. 

Immerse yourself in his holy word.  Let it dwell richly in you.  Speak it aloud.  Share it with others.  Testify as to how it has worked in your life.

Affirm your basic beliefs frequently. 

It’s really not indoctrination.  It’s discipleship.  When I say, I have decided to follow Jesus, I am saying, “I’m all in.”

Your salvation is a gift.  Receive it.  Celebrate it.  Praise the Lord for it.

Your discipleship takes work and perhaps the most work that you will do is doing away with doubt.  By all means, pray and ask for God’s help in doing this, but do your part.

Get your mind aligned with God’s word.

God said it.  I believe it.  I’m going to live it.  This is not to gain salvation for you have received this as a gift.  It is so your faith will be effective because it is no longer diminished by doubt.

Too often, we learn just enough of God’s word to sit in the judgment seat and start condemning others because their Christianity isn’t up to speed.

If you find yourself in the judgment seat, get out and get back to following Jesus.  Dig into God’s word.  Dismiss doubt and let your faith guide you.

Again, I ask you to consider the Son of Timaeus.  That blind beggar had no doubt.  He had faith and it was unencumbered by doubt.  Actually, I should say that once blind beggar had faith and no doubt for his faith healed him.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This is the defining verse from the King James Version that has taken us from early in this year until now and it is just as applicable now as when we began.

If we want this to be a faith that is effective, we must close the door to doubt.  How?

We are going to be so full of God’s word and his truth, trusting only in him, and seeking his kingdom and righteousness before all things, that there is no room for doubt.  There will be no room for doubt!

Have faith.  Do not doubt.