Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Leap Year Trivia

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;” Genesis 1:14

2012 is a leap year, which means that it has 366 days instead of the usual 365 days that an ordinary year has.  An extra day is added in a leap year—February 29 —which is called an intercalary day or a leap day.  Why is a Leap Year Necessary?

Leap years are added to the calendar to keep it working properly.  The 365 days of the annual calendar are meant to match up with the solar year.  A solar year is the time it takes the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun — about one year.  But the actual time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun is in fact a little longer than that.  (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be precise).  So the calendar and the solar year don't completely match—the calendar year is a touch shorter than the solar year.
It may not seem like much of a difference, but after a few years those extra quarter days in the solar year begin to add up.  After four years, for example, the four extra quarter days would make the calendar fall behind the solar year by about a day.  Over the course of a century, the difference between the solar year and the calendar year would become 25 days!  Instead of summer beginning in June, for example, it wouldn't start until nearly a month later, in July.  So every four years a leap day is added to the calendar to allow it to catch up to the solar year.

But Wait! It's Not Quite that Simple!  The math seems to work out beautifully when you add an extra day to the calendar every four years to compensate for the extra quarter of a day in the solar year.  The exact length of a solar year is actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365 ¼ days.  That means that even if you add a leap day every four years, the calendar would still overshoot the solar year by 11 minutes and 14 seconds per year.  So, after 128 years, the calendar would gain an entire extra day.  It seems the leap year rule, "add a leap year every four years" was a good rule, but not good enough!

To rectify the situation, the creators of our calendar decided to omit leap years three times every four hundred years shortening the calendar every so often and ridding it of the annual excess of 11 minutes and 14 seconds.  So in addition to the rule that a leap year occurs every four years, a new rule was added: a century year is not a leap year unless it is evenly divisible by 400. This rule manages to eliminate three leap years every few hundred years.  Now the calendar year and the solar year are just about a half a minute off.  At that rate, it takes 3,300 years for the calendar year and solar year to diverge by a day.

Amazing how little things can add up to a lot.  A few minutes here and a few seconds there and the whole calendar is changed! 

Life carries the same principle.  It seems there are no big things...just little things that add up to become a big thing.  So much of life is spent adding on to the things of yesterday that sometimes we don’t realize how big something has become.  Things like: how long it has been since you called a friend, how many times you have cheated on your diet or how far you have gotten behind on your work.  It’s a shame there isn’t a way to call for an adjustment to our lives to reclaim the lost time and failed opportunities.  Looks like the only option is to pay attention to the little stuff because it sure adds up in a hurry.

Statement to Claim:
"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Daffodil Principle

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.  James 4:13-17

The devotional passage from James is often used to speak to the sin of presumption or living without regard to God’s presence, plan and power.  However, the last verse of the fourth chapter speaks to doing the right thing at the right time.

Every year, high in the San Bernardino mountain range of Southern California, five acres of beautiful daffodils burst into bloom.  Amazingly, this special spot, known as "The Daffodil Garden," was planted by one person, one bulb at a time, over a period of thirty-five years.  The story of "The Daffodil Principle" originally appeared nearly ten years ago in Jaroldeen Edwards' book Celebration!  Since that time, the story has gained international popularity and has been retold innumerable times.

The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns -- great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.  Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.  There were five acres of flowers.  Some 50,000 bulbs were planted one at a time beginning in 1958. This woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of indescribable magnificence, beauty, and bulb at a time.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of achievement. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one small step at a time and learning to love the doing of the work.  It is learning to use the accumulation of time.  When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things.  We can change the world.  
There is a song that I remember from elementary school that went something like this.

“Little by little, inch by inch
By the yard it’s hard, by the inch, what a cinch.
Never stare up the stairs, just step up the steps
Little by little, inch by inch.”

It was always just a cute little rhyme we sang during class, but looking back, what a great piece of advice.  Instead of letting yourself become consumed into thinking about how to get everything done in the entire scope of a project, just take it one step at a time.  Whenever you actually get started doing something, it tends to feel less daunting.  Plus, once you begin to see any amount of progress, you will become more motivated to push into the project further and continue to get more things accomplished.

The hardest step to make in any great work or small is the first one.  God’s great plans are ordered from the beginning to the end.  Our part is to do take the next revealed step for our life and let Him guide us to blessing and success.  After a while, when you look back you will see the fields of flowers that have sprung up along your way.

Scripture to Claim:
Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD--...--in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today." Exodus 32:29

Monday, February 27, 2012


Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it," When you have it with you. Do not devise harm against your neighbor, while he lives securely beside you. Proverbs 3:27-29

In today’s world it is not hard to find people who have no idea who the people are who live beside them.  Unfortunately, the term “neighbor” has become more geographical than social.  In years past our neighbors were vital parts of our lives.  There was little to hide when the windows had to be up for real “air conditioning” and the smells of the kitchen floated into the yard.  And then there was the clothesline...
For all of us that are older, this will really bring memories. For those of you who are younger..... It will add some thoughts.
1.    You had to wash the clothes line before hanging any clothes. Walk the length of each line with a damp cloth around the line.
2.    You had to hang the clothes in a certain order and always hang whites with whites and hang them first.
3.    You never hung a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail... What would the neighbors think?

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the fancy sheets
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the company table clothes
With intricate design.
The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors raised their brows,
And looked disgustedly away.
But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess.
I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!

We don’t get out in our yards much anymore.  Ladies used to share a lot while they hung the wash and the men as they worked in their yards.  The clothes dryer and loud power yard equipment have taken away a big part of our social communication.  Now, if you want a neighbor, you have to be one.  This might be a good day to meet your neighbor.

Scripture to Claim:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Friday, February 24, 2012

Discouraged Horses

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalms 27:13-14

I saw a span of horses drawing a very heavy load of logs, and as they came to a hard place they struggled and tried with all their force, strained every muscle to the highest tension, but they could not start the load. Then the driver took some of the logs off and tried to get them to start the load, but they would not. He rolled off some more, but those horses would not start. He rolled off still more, and at last took off every log, and then they started up the road.

Those horses had been utterly discouraged; they had pulled with all their strength and failed, and anyone doing that, be it man or beast, is not able to accomplish half as much as a man who has not lost heart. (Current Anecdotes)

The devil's greatest tool is probably not envy, jealousy, hate, or greed...but...discouragement!  This was what is used to wedge through our spiritual armor and commitment.  Lack of numbers - unrealized vision – improper desires - cause people to get discouraged and quit!  Untold numbers of ministers leave the ministry each year. For every one of those who leave, there is another whose ministry leaves them.  The same is true for laypersons and teachers who are grow weary of playing the notes without the music, serve without sacrifice, labor without love, and find victory without battle.  The loss of spiritual fire can be traced to the infiltration of the enemy on this threshold.

Discouragement has been defined as when things don't happen the way WE think they should.  Have you ever thought about the fact that there must be an expectation for there to be discouragement?  Satan’s path to destruction begins with an unmet expectation followed by the following: Frustration - Discouragement -Disillusionment (loss of vision} – Depression – Defeat.

Have you found yourself in a place of discouragement that is becoming your place of defeat?  It's so easy to have that happen and yet avoidable.  Here are some tips:

·      Pray about what God wants us to do.  Don’t take on something without His guidance.
·      Give your expectation to God.  Let Him bring it about in His time.
·      Seek God’s plan for accomplishment.  Possibly the method is failing, not the purpose.
·      Expect trouble when you fight against the enemy of God.  Don’t be surprised if it does not go smoothly.
·      Seek God when you grow weary in well doing and let His Spirit refresh you.

We need to see the things that God wants and not what we desire as our goal and then open our lives to His ability to provide.  In our lives we have seen the drought turn to plenty so often that we are ashamed of the times we have cried in our want and lack of faith.

Scripture to Claim:
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. Proverbs 24:16

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

Character is defined by the dictionary as moral or ethical quality (a man of fine, honorable character) or the qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.  Basically character is what defines the way you live your life, your actions, your reactions, your decision making criteria.  A biblical definition of character may be defined as any behavior or activity that reflects the character of God.  Just like the Bible verse above says God calls us to dwell on whatever is honorable, right, pure and lovely. When we fill our minds and hearts with these things, we soak it up like a sponge.  It saturates our being and it becomes easier to be honorable, pure and make the best choices.  Good character is not something you are born with.  It is learned and then it becomes a choice.

Charles Swindoll said in Living Above the Level of Mediocrity:
who cannot be bought;
whose word is their bond;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be as honest in small things as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it";
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular;
who can say "no" with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says "yes."

This was some 1985 guidance about determining the character of a man from Good Housekeeping:
Six ways to learn everything you ever need to know about a man before you decide to marry him: 1) watch him drive in heavy traffic. 2) Play tennis with him. 3) Listen to him talk to his mother when he doesn't know you're listening. 4) See how he treats those who serve him (waiters, maids). 5) Notice what he's willing to spend his money to buy. 6) Look at his friends. And if you still can't make up your mind, then look at his shoes. A man who keeps his shoes in good repair generally tends to the rest of his life too.  Lois Wyse, Good Housekeeping, April 1985

Maybe the final step is to look at the soles of a man.  Even better, check out his soul.  Character is built from a real, vital relationship and commitment to Christ as LORD.  Good Character is the harvest resulting from planting the right seed.  It is the fruit of our relationship with God.  It is the good that overflows from a heart full of Christ.  Keep your mind on things above and not on things of the earth this week.  Try dwelling on Him and His word and see if it becomes engrained on your heart and mind.  That is where character is born.

Scripture to Claim:
“…And to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:17b-18

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Buzzard, Bat & Bee

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

·      If you put a buzzard in a pen six or eight feet square and entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of his ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner.  The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of ten or twelve feet.  Without space to run, as is his habit, he will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.
·      The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place.  If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.  Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
·      A Bumblebee if dropped into an open tumbler will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out.  It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom.  It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

In many ways, there are lots of people like the buzzard, the bat and the bee.  They are struggling about with all their problems and frustrations, not realizing that the answer is right there above them.  Our best source of help is just above us, but we need to look up and ask.

For some time I had a stone on my desk that had KLUJICS on it.  Most people coming in would cast a glance at the stone and never ask a question for fear of being thought of as prying or even ignorant of some religious language they should know.  I’m sure some thought it was just another one of those Greek or Hebrew words that preachers are always throwing out to impress people with.  Perhaps it was an organization of some kind or a new program.  The truth is that KLUJICS is an acrostic that stands for Keep Looking Up Jesus Is Coming Soon!  It served as a reminder to me that whatever was happening in my world that day, hope still stirred in the promise of Christ and His triumphant return.  A phone call to fellow-member Burton Cook’s answering machine will always get you the reminder, “Keep looking up because that is where all of God’s blessings come from!” 

We are not prone to look up as we walk through life.  Too many look down in despondency, look out for themselves, look around in fear, look at others in insecurity and fail to look up to hear the direction and encouragement from our Heavenly Father.  Some are running wildly looking for a place to launch like the buzzard or climbing anything they can to get jump on things like the bat.  Too many are scrambling around like bees on the bottom of a jar never considering that the way out is up. 

Many will recall the old hymn “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.”  The scriptural source of this hymn is Ezekiel 34:26 "I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. and I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing.”  Look up and open your life to God’s blessing today.

Scripture to Claim:
Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Builder Or a Wrecker

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”
“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself, as I went my way
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks to town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
“O Lord let my life and my labors be
That which will build for eternity!”
  - Author Unknown
Walking through life it is easy to find those whose mission seems to be finding fault with what others are doing, have done or are considering.  They are the people who walk into a room and look immediately at what is wrong.  They spray their negative thoughts upon all around, seemingly without regard to the pain or destruction they may be causing.  It takes no skill to be a critic, merely an opinion.  And they are legion.

We find these people in all areas of our lives.  Sadly, parents are sometimes bad about pointing out the wrong and not the right.  Ephesians warns dads, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4  Employers and managers often do the same, creating insecurity in place of creativity in an office.  If those aren’t bad enough, preachers have been known to resort to tearing down instead of building up with words of condemnation and not commendation.

It takes a special person to see what is right and good and speak up about it.  We take much for granted with those we love and spend our lives with.  Ephesians states that we can be “edifiers” in our world...those who build up and not tear down if we merely watch our words.

Scripture to Claim:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

Monday, February 20, 2012

Adult vs. Kids’ Visions

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Matthew 18:2-6

When I look at a patch of dandelions, I see a bunch of weeds that are going to take over my yard.
My kids see flowers for Mom and blowing white fluff you can wish on.

When I look at an old drunk and he smiles at me, I see a smelly, dirty person who probably wants money and I look away.

My kids see someone smiling at them and they smile back.

When I hear music I love, I know I can't carry a tune and don't have much rhythm so I sit self-consciously and listen.

My kids feel the beat and move to it. They sing out the words. If they don't know them, they make up their own.

When I feel wind on my face, I brace myself against it.  I feel it messing up my hair and pulling me back when I walk. 

My kids close their eyes, spread their arms and fly with it until they fall to the ground laughing.
When I pray I say Thee and Thou and grant me this, give me that.

My kids say, "Hi God!!! Thanks for my toys and my friends. Please keep the bad dreams away tonight. Sorry, I don't want to go to Heaven yet.  I would miss my Mommy and Daddy."

When I see a mud puddle, I step around it.

I see muddy shoes and clothes and dirty carpets.

My kids sit in it. They see dams to build, rivers to cross and worms to play with.

I wonder if we are given kids to teach or to learn from?

No wonder God loves the little children!!

Have you ever thought that sometimes God looks down at us and thinks, “How can they make it so complicated?!”  Surely He must wonder at how quickly we lose our innocence and our joy from life as He designed it.  We are so prone to analyze and scrutinize every little thing that we sometimes overcomplicate life and steal the simple joy and blessing in God’s world.

How we envy the unspoiled joy and experience of children!  Untainted by all of the fears that we have developed over the years they say what they are thinking, move without looking around to see what anyone else thinks and sing loudly whether they have the right notes or not.

We even complicate God’s gift of love and salvation with doctrines, laws and other assorted religion.  How simple is it? 
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

Take a look at the world with the eyes of a child and you may be amazed at how wonderful life is.

Scripture to Claim:
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. Psalms 127:3-4

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“I am the Bread of Life”

John 6:48
The word “bread” In scripture is a powerful metaphor for what we need to survive in this life and in the next.  Jesus says in this passage “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life”… "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”  Unfortunately, we tend to hunger and work for food that perishes when we should hunger and work for food that lasts forever.  The key question this morning is:
What are you hungry for? 

I. For Christ’s Provision or His Person? (v.25-40, 52-59)

How many people today are walking around the lake looking for something to satisfy their cravings?

Spiritual growth takes work. It takes time and commitment. 

II. For the Flesh or the Spirit? (v.60-63)

A restless spirit creates a restless heart that searches for satisfaction.

We want something to do to prove our faith…not something to become.

III. For Convenience or Commitment? (v.64-70)

IV. Are you Hungry for Sacred Security or Self-Righteousness 

Three things about Jesus being our security for life in eternity.

1.     All Who Are Chosen Will Come. (37a)

2.     All Who Come Will Be Welcome. (37b) 

3.     All Who Come Are Safe Forever!   (vv. 38-40)

"I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." John 6:51

Friday, February 17, 2012


For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26
This Sunday our congregation will observe the Lord's Supper.  The unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine will be before us.  They are simple and very common elements which gain their significance in the hands of Christ.  They are symbols of His person and His mission here on earth.  We are going to observe this very important ordinance.  It will be well for us to return to the Scripture and be reminded of the significance of what we are about to do.

Remember His Incarnation - He took the bread and said, 'This is my body'. 
Romans 8:3, "...God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh..." 
He took the body prepared for Him by the Father. He took it so that there could be a visible sacrifice for the sin of the world.  He took on the body of flesh willingly.  Phil, 2:7, "...made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."  The taking of bread is symbolic of the willingness of Christ to take the body of flesh.  It was a voluntary act; He did not have to do it for us.  As we take the bread, let us remember the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.   He stepped down from glory and then He stepped into our place. He gave Himself for us.

Remember His Devotion - He gave thanks.
Consider the meaning here when Jesus took the body and thanked God for it.  He gave thanks for a body that was about to be bruised and broken on the cross.  He thanked the Father for the privilege to die for a guilty and unthankful world.  He showed His whole-hearted devotion to God and His willingness to do the awful task that was set before Him.  In Gethsemane He prayed, "Not my will, but Thine be done." It is that surrendered will that God seeks from each of us; He is longing to hear those same words from us.

Remember His Suffering - After giving thanks, He broke it.
Every word and act seems to be full of meaning.  It was after His season of prayer in Gethsemane that the soldiers and crowd came to take Him on one of the cruelest walks ever.  It was after He said, Not my will, but Thine; that He was beaten and abused by the very souls that He was about to give His life for.
He broke it Himself.  He gave Himself a sacrifice for our sins.  He said, 'No man takes my life from me: I lay it down of myself.'  Ephesians 5:2 says, “...Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us..."  He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. Isaiah 53:5

Remember His Invitation - He said, "Take, eat:"
After the atonement has been made by His suffering and death, there comes the invitation to partake of the benefits purchased.  He has suffered all the pain and misery of the cross for us.  He has paid the 'wages of sin' for us.  Now it is available for us to receive the blessings of His grace. 

He said, “Do this in remembrance of me".  There is no virtue in eating the bread and drinking the wine, if that is all we do.  The elements of the supper are memorials of what He has done for us in giving His body and His blood as a ransom for our souls.  Without the remembrance of this, the partaking becomes a ritual without meaning or purpose.  The importance does not lie with how often we observe but with how well we remember what it all means.

Remember His Purpose - "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He comes."

There are no symbolic ordinances given to show forth His birth or to show forth His transfiguration or His ascension.  His purpose in the institution was that His death might be kept before our minds often.  This ordinance is but a temporary one.  When Jesus returns, we will have no need of a reminder... He will be our remembrance.  We need to remember what Christ did for us; consider our lives before Him; and realize that He is coming again.  I’ll meet you at the table.

Scripture to Claim:
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 1 Corinthians 11:33

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Must We Carry A Cross?

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. Mark 8:31-34
You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk--you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice--you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, What a country!"

Smirnoff is joking but we sometimes make these same type assumptions about Christian Transformation — that people change instantly at salvation.  According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character.  We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add baptismal water and disciples are born.

Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born.  They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.  A small percentage of churchgoing teenagers have a well-developed faith and it does not increase much when they become adults.  Why?  Because true-life change only begins at salvation, takes more than just time, and is about training, trying, suffering, and, yes, even dying on a cross.

Jesus comes before his disciples and lays out his military strategy. Look at verse 31. Jesus says, “We are going to march into Jerusalem and you the soldiers are going to lose your lives and I, your General, will suffer many things. Furthermore, we are not going to get any help from our Jewish brothers the Elders. Even the Chief Priest and the Sadducees will not join us. Our government the Sanhedrin is corrupt and can be of no help to us. We are going it alone and I will die in this battle."

On this day Jesus spoke plainly to his disciples about the events soon to transpire and even though it was plain language it was not plain enough.  Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him.  He says, “Sir, this is not a very good military strategy.  You are not going to die, don’t say that.  It’s not good for morale.  It is fascinating to note that just before Jesus rebukes Peter he turns and looks at his disciples. It is as if Jesus is putting two and two together and realizes the disciples have put Peter up to this.

It is a perilous moment in the life of Christ. He must dispel this error from their minds and teach them the meaning of his mission.  To address the confusion Jesus pulls his disciples together and brings them before a crowd.  And in front of the crowd he corrects the disciples aspirations for privilege, rank, and power and he gives them this simple little directive: You must take up your cross and follow me.  

You and I have a choice. We can lay down the cross we have been given to bear and passively live our lives with no challenges or take it up and be transformed, living for something greater than ourselves. The choice is ours. "Why must we carry a cross?"  Because it the course of the Master’s disciples. 

Scripture to Claim:
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."  Mark 8:35-38

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