Don’t Drink That Cup!

They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. Matthew 27:34

Contrary to the appearance of what we read, this was not an added insult offered to our Lord, but rather a drink that would alleviate the sufferings to be endured on the cross. It was for this reason our Lord refused the drink. He understood he needed to endure the complete suffering of the cross to pay the sin penalty for humanity! He would not make a partial payment, therefore he refused that cup!

It is strange that later he appears to drink that cup.  And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar and gave him to drink. Matthew 27:48

What was the difference? The second time he was offered the drink he had already completed the payment of sin’s penalty and would not jeopardize the redemption process! The first time the drink was offered he had not. As we consider his refusal we should understand that;

Some things are only wrong because it is not the right time for them. Vacations that must be paid for on credit alone are an example. The privileges of marriage without being married is an example. Don’t drink that cup!

Some things are wrong all of the time; Lying, stealing, drunkenness to name a few. Once again people often resort to this behavior to get themselves out of trouble. Don’t drink that cup!

Some things are wrong because they will take you out of the will of God. The Father’s will, was that Jesus would drink the full cup of suffering. It was the only way to make redemption available to mankind. Earlier the Lord had prayed, “take this cup from me, nevertheless not my will but thine be done!” He chose the difficult right over the comforting wrong!

In times of trouble, we tend to look for the easy cup even if it takes us out of the will of God. Like Elimelech did with his family when he left Bethlehem Judah during a famine to sojourn in Moab. He and his family would suffer greater trouble for leaving the will of God. Don’t drink that cup!

Often I’ve seen good people turn to alcohol when they were going through a great crisis and it only made things worse! Don’t drink that cup!

Some things are wrong because they are offensive to the conscience of another. We don’t want to be a hindrance to someone’s faith, let alone someone who is lost. Paul said if eating meat makes my brother to be offended, I will not eat meat. There are things that are not sinful, but they are questionable. Therefore it’s best not to flaunt your Christian liberty in front of those who may get wounded by your actions. Mixed swimming parties, certain types of music, and entertainment may offend another. If you are mindful of this, then don’t drink that cup!

 What we don’t do is as important as what we do when it comes to being used for the glory of God!

The ransom was paid as the result of our Lord’s decision. Doubters at the cross became converts!



Is Thy God Able?

And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Daniel 6:20

A friend of mine sent me a text not long ago with the portion of this verse that is in bold. Servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

What an awesome text to receive. It really made me think and it challenged me. I was able to reply, so far so good! Only by the grace of God! I liked the text so much that I sent it out to a few other preachers. One of them replied with a like passage;

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  2 Timothy 4:16-17

I love it! He is a good brother and has the blessing of God on his life. I ask you, dear Christian, Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee out of the mouth of the lions?

You know the lion has hold of you when you choose sin over righteousness! You know the lion has hold of you when you choose pleasure over responsibility! You know the lion has hold of you when you choose to run from your marriage rather than work on your marriage. You know the lion has hold of you when you choose to ignore parental responsibility rather than confront the need.

The lion I am talking about is far more concerned about destroying your testimony for Christ than he is taking your life! If Daniel had died, he still would have honored God and proved his devotion.

God chose to deliver him for glory and it served to convert the king. You will face lions if you are a Christian. The question from those watching you, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee?

The answer will always be yes! Those who are eaten of the lion worshipped another God! In the spiritual sense, the only way the devil can destroy you is if you begin to serve another god, the god of self, or gold, or some other idol! Only God can deliver!

The king needed to see this deliverance for his own conversion. There are people watching you and I, who need to see us remain faithful when we are among the lions. It is the only way they will be convinced that our God is able!

I love Daniel’s response: My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth … Daniel 6:22

Moses, what happened to Pharoah and his great army? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

Joseph, what happened to your accusers? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

David, what happened to Saul? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

Hannah, what happened to your adversary? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

Elijah, what happened to Ahab and Jezebel? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

Stephen, you are facing death, are you afraid? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

Paul, what happened to those forty men who bound themselves with a curse until they killed you? My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouth!

The question is never can God take care of the lions? The real question ought to be, Whom are you serving?



Gaining Entrance to Heaven!

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Jesus pronounces a blessing on those that are poor. Strange as it sounds the word blessing could be interpreted as happy but it has a deeper meaning. It has the sense of being in a good position.

Let’s consider a few things about this passage, it is not about the financially poor although they are often poor in spirit as well. It is not saying the wealthy cannot enter the kingdom of heaven either. Lazarus didn’t gain paradise because he was financially poor and the rich man didn’t wind up in hell because he was wealthy. Zacchaeus was wealthy but found a home in heaven, Joseph of Arimathaea was wealthy and he is certainly enjoying the kingdom of heaven.  

How could one be blessed and poor in spirit? Well, to be poor in spirit is to understand you are spiritually bankrupt. You have nothing to gain entrance into heaven in and of yourself. If you would find entrance you can only beg. The poor in spirit see their need of God and his mercy and are most welcoming to God’s gift of eternal life found in Jesus Christ.

As opposed to the proud in spirit, whom God resists. The door to heaven is shut to the proud in spirit. The spiritually lost of mankind will remain lost until they see they are poor in spirit. The rich man that went to hell obviously did not see his spiritual condition before the Judge of all the earth. The fact is even among believers, our pride can hinder us from enjoying the blessings (I didn’t say salvation) of the kingdom of heaven. You may be struggling with guilt, bitterness, envy, or some other stronghold of sin and wonder why you cannot find victory. The answer is most likely that you forgot you were poor in spirit.

A story is told of a very large semi hauling very large cargo across the United States. It was extremely valuable cargo and they thought they had planned the easiest route to their destination. What they did not account for was a particular bridge they must go under. They were some four inches too high to clear. They brought engineers out to assess what they must do. They talked about tearing down the bridge to unloading the truck but were not quite sure of the best option until a young employer said, Why don’t you just let the air out of the tires?”

There is the answer! We need to deflate often when it comes to our pride! Remember, he giveth more grace to the HUMBLE.

That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That is why theirs is the kingdom of heaven!



Have You Been Defeated By Your Flesh?

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16

Maybe you have hit bottom with personal guilt and you are now fearful of becoming hardened to your sin. It is possible to no longer feel guilty about your sin. When that happens, you are in danger of becoming reprobate-minded. So, the very fact you feel guilty is good!

You have heard this verse and even read this verse but the question is how do we apply this verse?

Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh! That is the remedy for the flesh but how do we walk in the Spirit? I will keep it simple and straight from the Book (Bible).

Apply the three D’s

  1. Distinguish between the flesh and the Spirit- Sometimes we think we are in the Spirit just because we are having a good time but that is not evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. My flesh can be made happy and joyful through many experiences that are good and wholesome. Like eating a good meal, playing games with friends, fishing and catching fish! These things do not determine my spirituality. Lost people can enjoy these things. So I must ask myself, am I able to find joy outside of those things? Am I able to experience the joy of the Lord when everything is going wrong?

Take each fruit of the Spirit and distinguish if you have them in your life when naturally they would not appear. This will help you know if you are in the flesh or not. Often people fall into great sin by small degrees! David’s first sin was not murder nor adultery but the negligence of duty!

Read Galatians 5:17-23

 

  1. Decide to follow Christ. Getting victory over your flesh is a personal decision. No one can do it for you. Once you have distinguished your spiritual status decide to do right. You may have to confess sin. You may have to start soul winning. You will have to get in the Word of God and get into a good Bible-preaching church if you are going to walk in the Spirit. It is a directional decision! You know which way Walmart is! You know which way the gas station is! You ought to know which way Jesus wants you to go. Read Galatians 5:24-26

 

  1. Depend on Jesus. After you have distinguished your spiritual status and decided to follow Christ you now need to depend upon him for spiritual strength and guidance!

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5

We cannot live the Christian life without dependency on Jesus! We plug our phones in and we gas our vehicles up why? Because they need energy to perform. You may look like a Christian and act like one for a while but if you are not depending on him it will show up in your attitude and appetites!

David would later testify – Evening, and morning and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. Psalms 55:17



What Motivates You?

Everyone is motivated by something. Even a lazy man can be motivated if you put enough fire under him. A story is told about a man falling into a freshly dug grave, in the late evening. It was too deep for him to climb out, so he decided to wait until morning for help. Later that night, an old drunk came staggering through the cemetery and fell in the same grave. He jumped and jumped but could not get out. Finally, the first man said, “Just wait until morning and we will get out together.” At that, the drunkard was able to jump out immediately. Everyone can be motivated! What is it that gets you out of bed and off to work? What is it that helps you press on when fatigue is setting in? Anyone with character has something driving them. What motivates you?

The apostle Paul was a motivated man. In Romans 1:14-17, he revealed what kept him going, even through disappointment. He first said, “I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise…” People with good character can’t sleep well when they know they are in debt. They understand their personal obligation to pay off their debt rather than continue to incur more debt (How I wish the government would have good character). Paul was saying because of what Jesus Christ has done for me, I have an obligation to tell others. It would be like a cancer patient finding the cure for cancer and having it on hand to help others. If he had good character, he would want to use it to help others. His desire to give people a cure would be greater than his desire to make a profit. Paul knew the remedy for man’s sin was Jesus Christ: not the sacraments, not the rituals, and not religion, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! Paul said in verse 15, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you at Rome also.” He was moved by the need of sinful humanity! This is the behavior of compassionate people. They cannot be still if they can do something to help! They are moved by the needs of others! Are there people you care enough about to get you out of bed and off to work? Are there people you care enough about to motivate you to live right and honor God?

Paul was also moved by his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Love is the greatest motivator! In verse 16 Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Paul’s loyalty to Christ was due to his understanding of the power of Christ. He knew change was possible to the most depraved person if they could just believe in Christ. He knew this by experience and it moved him to gratitude. The kind of gratitude that could not be still. Has anyone ever done a kind deed for you that made you want to express to them your gratitude? If so, that is how Paul felt. It motivated him to honor the Lord.

A man told a story of how he was saved from drowning when he was a boy by an older man. He told the stranger, “My father has money. Can I repay you?” The stranger told him, “Son, just make your life worth the saving.” That boy was Winston Churchill. What moves you says a lot about your heart!



The Other Side of The Wall

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall.” Genesis 49:22
In this passage, Jacob is prophesying a blessing to Joseph, as well as recognizing a spiritual fact about his life. He calls Joseph a bough, which means a branch, but he is not just branch, he is a fruitful branch. He has made good use of his life. He is like a branch that is near a well. It’s as though he lived near a source of water that helped him produce this fruit. There is more. He not only produced fruit on one side of the wall, but he produced fruit on the other side of the wall as well. Notice the phrase, “whose branches run over the wall.”
 
This reminds me of Jesus! He is called the BRANCH in Zechariah 3:8. He, too, was a fruitful branch that reached over the wall of Jewish culture and touched the Gentile. Because of Jesus, salvation is for all, Jew and Gentile! Praise God for His love that breached the wall of Judaism and made the fruit of salvation available to all!
This also reminds me of the responsibility of the Christian. We are called branches in John 15:1-5. We are called to produce fruit, spiritual fruit; Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Galatians 5:22-23
 
This spiritual fruit is what sustains us in difficult times, but it is also what brings the gospel of Christ to the world, through us. We cannot manufacture this fruit; it must be produced by the Spirit of God. We will need to stay by the Well (Jesus) if we are to be fruitful branches.
 
These fruitful branches should extend beyond the church wall. They should go over the wall and into our neighborhood. They should go over our Jerusalem and into our Samaria. They should go over our Samaria and into our Judaea. Then, they should go over our Judaea and into all of the world. Acts 1:8
 
May more than your church family see Jesus in you!
 
Photo: Kate Gadsby/Getty Images


Removing Distractions!


… That ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 1 Corinthians 7:35

I don’t know about you but I can be easily distracted at times. Call it A.D.D. or whatever you want, but that’s my problem. Maybe you have the same issue. Distractions are only an issue when they keep you from doing something more important. It’s one thing to take some leisure to reboot your mind and body, but it’s another thing to allow something or someone to pull you away from a priority.

In the age of cell phones, it is amazing how often we can get derailed from a project simply because of a text message, let alone a phone call. It’s like we’ve been programed to stop everything so that we can respond to whoever has messaged us.

And then there are the multitudes of internet games a person can get caught up with. Who knows how many hours are spent trying to check mate, build a city, or shoot down an enemy while work needs to be done. The flesh is weak and the pleasure is addictive, but woe, too much time is lost that is no longer redeemable!

God has bigger plans for our lives than living in fantasy land! If your reality is that bad then you have bigger problems. You better get some counsel and work on you. Go to God and find out for certain what he wants you to do. When we get tuned in to God’s will for our lives, it is very fulfilling. I’m not saying you won’t experience tough times in the will of God, nor am I saying you won’t be tempted by distractions. Eve certainly was when she was in Eden. What I am saying is, the most fulfilling life is the one that counts for eternity. God made you for an eternal purpose. Those who find it are usually those who are willing to do the little things for God and do them well.

They put blinders on some race horses because they get distracted easily. They have great potential, but are useless without the blinders. Sometimes we need to put some blinders on while we are working. Turn the phone on silent, determine to give yourself undisturbed time when you are working. Reward yourself if you finish your project. Schedule time off just as you schedule work, but recognize it must be earned. If you don’t work when scheduled you don’t deserve the time off. Tell people you are not available during your working hours. Schedule time to meet with people and beware of time robbers, they don’t value your time the way you do. By the way, if they don’t value your time they probably won’t value your counsel.

“If we would take time to do the things we are supposed to do, when we are supposed to do them, the day will come when we can do the things we want to do, when we want to do them.”  – Zig Ziglar

One thing is needful – Daily time with Jesus. Luke 10:42



When the Day Began to Spring, They Let Her Go

 

 

It was a wicked night in Gibeah. The power of darkness seemed to rule the land. A man and his wife had found a place to lodge in what they hoped would be a safe place. The sons of Belial (wickedness) came knocking on the door. They took his wife (his concubine) and raped her until daylight came. It was a vile act that was punishable by death.

As you read Judges 19:25, it is the ending that gets my attention. “And when the day began to spring they let her go”. They could keep her no longer than when the day began to spring. When light began to shine, darkness had to let go. They only had power over her in the dark.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. John 3:19

This woman would die at the doorstep of the house she was taken from. She would die, but her husband, who the wicked men wanted, would live. Her death secured his life. He would get his vengeance on the men who did this to her, but until then, he would mourn with righteous indignation.

The story, in part, illustrates the love of Jesus for us sinners. He would be taken, abused, shamed and killed so that we could live. Jesus, the light of the world, would rise again and darkness would have to let go.

We serve a risen Saviour, he’s in the world today. I know that he is living, whatever men may say. I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him, He’s always near!

All those who want deliverance only need accept Jesus as their personal Savior! He will light up their life and give them hope.

If you want power over darkness, keep shining the light of God’s word in your heart! If you are sick of darkness having rule over your heart, fill it with Light!

Darkness seems to have a stronghold on the world, but the Day Star is coming.

We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto alight that shineth in a dark place, until the day star arise in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19



“Give ’em Heaven Today Cuz’n!”

“Give ‘em Heaven Today Cuz’n!”

This was the text message I received one Sunday morning in December of 2020. My cousin Mike had a stroke a year earlier and he almost died, but God was not through with him here on earth. He recovered, but struggled with his speech and thought process. He turned his life over to Christ because of it all and is now following all of our church services through live stream. It was Mike that God used to share Christ with me some 40 years earlier. I am forever thankful for he and his family.

I was getting ready for church and around 8AM I looked at my phone and I read “Give ‘em heaven today cuzn”. I thought to myself he knows exactly what the people need. This is what God wants the preacher to dish out every time he preaches, a little bit of heaven.

The struggles with the flesh, the world and the devil can only be remedied with a little bit of heaven.

Every Christian ought to have the desire to give ‘em heaven today. Whether it is spending time with your family or friends, are we giving them heaven?

We can’t give what we don’t have! We need to fill up on heaven if we are going to dish out heaven.

“The husbandmen that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” – II Timothy 2:6

Every time we share the truth of God’s word with the love of God’s Spirit, we give ‘em a little bit of heaven.

The lost man needs heaven! The broken hearted needs heaven! The guilty, cast down soul needs heaven! There is enough heaven to meet the needs of all of humanity! Are you a dispenser of heaven?

When Christ was born in Bethlehem, God was giving heaven to needy man!



The Unexpected Cross Part II

The Unexpected Cross Part II

“And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus,

to bear his cross.” Mark 15:21

 

Simon did not have this on his schedule that day! Here he is, leaving Jerusalem, with his two boys and probably stops to watch the spectacle in the street. Jesus had already been brutally beaten and scourged. He had lost much blood and, humanly speaking, had to feel extremely weak. He was physically struggling to carry his cross, but we never see him abandon it.

Jesus must have fallen and the Roman guards realized, if he was going to make it up Golgotha, he would need help. So, they grabbed the first healthy man they saw and compelled him to help. The cross of Christ has now become Simon’s cross and he did not even volunteer.

There are some very pointed lessons for us in this narrative;

First, cross bearing is rarely a thing we schedule. Even those Christians who know living the Christian life requires a cross to bear have a tough time accepting it when it comes. If it were easy it would not be a cross. The cross means extra weight and often includes grief and sorrow, as did with the cross Simon had to carry.

An unexpected cross can come in many forms such as; Divorce, financial loss, terminal cancer, or the death of a loved one, etc.

Maybe you have experienced something like this and you are still wondering what happened? Keep reading.

Second, an unexpected cross always pulls you out of your comfort zone. It pulls you out of the crowd, so to speak, as it did Simon. It is important to note that no one grows spiritually without getting out of their comfort zone. An unexpected cross is a time for you to grow. God never places more upon us than what we can handle. Especially if we will trust Him through it.

Third, an unexpected cross is not carried alone. Simon would help Jesus carry this cross. But the reality is, when we face unexpected crosses, it is Jesus helping us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Can you imagine Simon is now helping Jesus, but the day would come when he realized it was Jesus who helped him?

Fourth, it is not if will you ever carry an unexpected cross, but how you carry it that matters most. I have seen some people get bitter and others get better! As Christians, it is a time when Christ should be most manifest in our lives because of closeness to him during the trial. Simon was a father of two boys. We don’t know why God would mention that unless they happened to be watching their dad carry that old cross with Jesus. It is significant that there is another man by the name of Rufus in the Bible. He is mentioned years later in Romans 16:13. Maybe he was won to Christ because of his dad’s experience. If so, it would not be the last time that sort of thing happened.



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