True or False

Downey Woodpecker

As a writer, I would never want to lead someone down a wrong path and away from their faith in Jesus Christ. In order to make sure that what I write here in this devotional is Biblically accurate, I’ve enlisted the help of a well-reputed professor who teaches Biblical truth. But aside from these writings, I strongly believe that the true source of truth is the Bible itself. Everything you hear or read needs to be scrutinized side by side with the Bible and I invite you to do that with this little book.

However there are many out there today who teach something other than Biblical truth. Their teachings alter the direction of their hearers focus from Jesus to themselves. In today’s society, they teach that the Bible is not accurate from cover to cover, that it is not applicable in today’s world, and that there are many ways to believe in God. These people are called false teachers.

Jesus, in Matthew 7 verses15-20 says, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

Jesus gave us a clear warning about false prophets or false teachers. I had a pastor once who taught us that whatever he preached on Sunday, we were to test it with the scriptures. He taught that the Bible was our ultimate authority and no matter what anyone said, if it contradicted the Bible, they were wrong. Jesus tells us to look at their fruit. Are they producing any? Are they pointing people toward a saving relationship with Jesus Christ or are they building a following for themselves?

Jesus goes on to talk about true disciples. He said, in Matthew 7 verses 21-23, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

We are to be discerning. That is, we are to identify them by their fruit, and watch to see if they are actually doing the will of God. If they are not, then we need to remove ourselves from their false teaching, seek truth in the Word of God, and follow where God leads and nowhere else. Jesus is the cornerstone and no teaching should change that for us. Make sure you check out what you read, and who you listen to. Make sure they aren’t false teachers.

For further study: Col 2:19; 1 Tim 4:1-2; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1-5; Jude 1:10

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Narrow and Wide Gates

I was recently interviewed on an internet radio program from Los Angeles. The host made a comment about some friends who were not ‘religious’ but who were very good people. She also talked about her own faith in a higher power. Now whether she was just being judicious about using the word Jesus or God, I don’t know, but so many people seem to think they are alright if they believe in something or anything.

Others preach tolerance…tolerance of ideas, tolerance of faith choices, and tolerance of lifestyles. Their attempt at making heaven on earth is lauded as commendable and yet…their very tolerance ensures that the people they are tolerant of will spend a far greater space of time in utter torment. Their eternity will consist of burning fires, chronic sores, and unimaginable pain.

Christians know a better way. Jesus explains in Matthew 7, verses 13 and 14, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Jesus did not ask us to be tolerant. He did ask us to be non-judgmental and to love unconditionally. But He was clear about the pathway to eternal life as opposed to eternal torment.

He said that many walk a wide path. They choose lifestyles that are destructive, all in the guise of personal freedom. They avoid confrontation and chose to accept everyone’s ideas and interpretations of any and all philosophies. At the back of their minds, they really don’t care what happens to friends or foes as long as it doesn’t infringe on their reason for being.

Jesus asks us to consider the eternal eventuality of everyone we meet. He has given us just enough information so that the idea of anyone burning for eternity is unthinkable. He wants us to bring them to heaven with us and the path He has chosen, the one He walked before us, is narrow. There is only one way to heaven…not many, as some wish to believe.

Have you heard anyone refer to you as opinionated, narrow-minded, hate monger, bigot, or any such terms that are used nowadays for Christians who dare to speak the truth. Jesus knew that because of Him we would be persecuted. Persecution in many third world countries is commonplace and yet people continue to reach out to others with the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if it is unpopular to do so.

When you are tempted to keep quiet, to tolerate the things that happen and the ideas that are spoken around you, think about what Jesus would have you do. He’s never asked you to enter into a debate with anyone but if someone is truly seeking to know truth, then speak up. You may be the only person in that seeker’s life who knows it.

For further study: Joshua 24:15; Matt 9:9; Matt 16:26; Rom 1:32

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Not a Fan

What comes to mind when you hear a person say, “I am not a fan of Jesus Christ.” In a recent book, written by Pastor Kyle Idleman, the author asks the question, “Are you a fan or a follower?”

A fan, according to my favorite online dictionary, is a person with a liking and enthusiasm for something. They may show their enthusiasm by being a member of a fan club, holding fan conventions, or by promoting the object of their interest and attention.

So a fan of Jesus Christ may join the church (fan club), attend church on Sunday (hold fan conventions), and talk to people about their love for Jesus (promote the object of their interest and attention). So what is wrong with being a fan of Jesus Christ?

Let’s consider. Wikipedia defines a follower as one who subscribes to the teachings or methods of another. They imitate or copy the one they follow. A fan walks out of church on Sunday and leaves Jesus sitting in the pew. A follower brings Jesus home with them, talks to him when making major, or not so major, decisions. They do what Jesus did, treat people as Jesus did, and love as Jesus loved.

“You may be just a fan who admires Jesus but isn’t ready to let him cramp your style. Then again, maybe you’re not into Jesus, period. In any case, don’t take the question, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” lightly. Some people don’t know what they’ve said yes to and other people don’t realize what they’ve said no to,” says Idleman.

Jesus said in Luke 9: verse 23-24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Jesus is calling us to be followers, not just fans. He wants us to make Him the most significant part of our life, not just a stress reliever.

Do you walk out the door of your church on Sunday and live life just like your non-Christian neighbor? Do you keep your church attendance to yourself, afraid to discuss your faith in public? Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person…” It takes a follower to abide by the attitudes for life that Jesus laid down on the Sermon on the Mount. Are you a fan, or a follower?

For further study: Ex.13:6-9; Num.16:13-14; Deut.27:9-10; John 1:38; Mk.8:35

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Ask, Seek, and Knock

Some of the first words out of a young child’s mouth are “Why, What’s at, or How come.” Questions abound. They want to know everything about their world in one day. Sometimes it drives a parent nuts. You want to shut the door on any and all questions forever.

Jesus was not so inclined. In fact, in Matthew 7, verse 7, He says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus wants our persistence…our continued communication with Him.

He uses parents as an example. In verse 9, He adds, “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?”

The Lord wants our attention to be focused on Him, whatever the circumstances in our life. He wants us to know that God loves us more than a parent loves a child and will provide accordingly. All we need do is ask. We seek His face, His comfort, His provision. And when we knock on the door of our Lord’s heart, He will open it to us.

Do you keep a journal? Sometimes it might be important to keep track of all the times God has answered your prayers, so you can build trust that God means what He says. A journal allows us to look back, see where He visited us, and see what He has done. God does answer the prayer of a fervent heart, one that persists, and implores on a regular basis.

For further study: 1John 5:14-15; James 4:3

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Judging Others

Jesus Teaches Warnings and Admonitions

Have you ever walked through a crowd and formed an opinion about someone based on their activity, their appearance, or their language? Maybe you’ve heard something about someone and formed an opinion based on second hand information. Maybe you’ve watched two men friends walking down the street side by side, or two women, and decided that they were of a different sexual orientation than you.

Unfortunately, we judge others all the time. Sometimes the judgment is correct but most often, it isn’t. Our treatment of them is based on that judgment. We look at a person’s skin color and lump them in with everyone else who has the same skin color and judge accordingly. We make assumptions based on where a person lives and who they hang out with, the length of their hair, the number of body piercings, and the number of tattoos.

In Matthew 7, verses 1-5, Jesus says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Judgment places a wall between you and the person you are judging. They recognize the censure whether you say anything to them or not. Your body language can be most telling, but your quick glance in another direction says a bunch. Jesus wants to be their only judge, but in order for Him to reach their heart, He uses you to reflect Him to that person. If all they see is criticism, they’ll turn their back on what you and the Lord have to offer.

As Jesus said, by whatever standard you judge another, you will also be judged. Consider the advantages we’ve had as a Christian, the teaching we’ve been privileged to hear and learn from, the great examples you walked with, and the Bible at your fingertips. You expect the same behavior from someone who’s never had those options, or at least has never taken advantage of the opportunities if he did have them.

Before God, the only person we are responsible for, the only person whose behavior we can control, is ourselves. We need to make sure we are walking as Jesus would have us walk, complying with His attitudes and beatitudes for our lives, and then love everyone else, unconditionally. Judgment places conditions on a relationship. And it closes doors.

Check your judgment eyes at the door. Leave them on the front seat of your vehicle and walk into a room planning to love anyone and everyone you meet. Make sure the log in your own eyes is taken care of before you expect a person to remove the speck in his. Jesus will trust you with more people for you to reflect His love to, if you are faithful with the few He’s already given you.

For further study: Isa. 11:3; Luke 6:37-42; John 8:7; Cor. 4:5; 1 Cor. 5:12-13; James 4:11

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Worry Gains Nothing

The free online dictionary defines worry in this way: to feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled; to pull or tear at something with or as if with the teeth; to proceed doggedly in the face of difficulty or hardship; struggle: worried along at the problem; persistent mental uneasiness;  or a source of nagging concern or uneasiness. Does that just about describe how you felt the last time you were faced with an unpleasant situation or a problem?

Worry does not seem to be very productive, does it? Not one of these definitions placed a positive light on worry. Jesus said it best when, in Matthew 6, verses 25 and 26 He says, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?”

Do you believe that? If you do, then worry adds nothing to your life. In fact Jesus went on to say just that in verse 27 and onward. “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.”

It’s a trust issue. Either we trust God and His Word or we don’t. If we trust, then worry is not part of our vocabulary. Oh, it may pop its head up once in a while, but if we remember how faithful God has been, how much He loves us above the lilies and the birds, then we can return to trusting Him with all the situations and problems that arise as part of life here on this planet.

 Jesus asks in verse 30, the latter part, “Why do you have so little faith?” Why do we have so little faith? Are we grounded daily in the Word, or do we let life take away the time we need to spend with Him, daily meditating on His goodness and His love for us?

Jesus points us in the right direction when He says in verses 31 – 34, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God* above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Meditate on God’s attributes when you are tempted to worry. Is He trustworthy, faithful, loving? Did He create you to harm you or to have a relationship with you? Are you able to stand on His Word? Meditate, reflect, and walk in the sure knowledge that He will take care of it. Trust…and Obey.

For further study: Matt 10:19-20; Luke 12:13-26; Phil 4:6-7

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Treasures in Heaven

Jesus Teaches about Practical Spiritual Practices

What do you consider a treasure? I have a photo album of pictures that my mother collected when my siblings and I were very small children. I regard that a treasure. When we go on a trip, I bring back mementos to remind me of the great vacation we had. Maybe it’s the photos I took when we discovered a new park or animal preserve. These are special and things that I would miss if my house burned down and I lost them all. They are treasures.

Some people amass property, buildings, cars, boats, and all manner of toys. They spend their time working hard to acquire their treasures, sometimes sacrificing time with the family. People have been known to collect gold or diamonds. They rent safety deposit boxes and pay for expensive insurance policies to protect all their treasures. When the economy took a downturn recently, many people lose their retirement income, or house, or other such treasure. Some committed suicide because of their loss.

Jesus had great insight into what treasure was and what we should do with it. He said, in Mathew 6 verses 19-21 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

What does that mean? How can we store treasures in heaven? Over the years, I’ve heard people joking about hitching a wagon to their coffin when they die so they can take their ‘stuff’ with them. Yet we all know that we leave the way we came…with nothing. So then, how do we store treasure in heaven? We certainly can’t send it ahead of us by FedEx.

What exactly does Jesus consider to be treasure? Could it be the people He died for? He loved us so much, that He actually gave is life up for us. He sacrificed all in order to take us to heaven with Him. All we have to do is believe and receive. That is His treasure so, then what can we do to build our treasure in heaven? We share our faith, our story, with others so that they will accept the pardon paid for on the cross. Then they will join us in heaven one day.

Our treasure is the people whom Jesus brings into our life. He points them in our direction and asks us to treat them as valuable, as He does. Do you care that your next door neighbor may spend eternity in hell? If he’s not in heaven, that’s where he’ll be, in eternal torment.

Jesus goes on in verse 24 to say, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” If we push and strive to build our material treasure trove, we won’t have time or the inclination to serve the Lord and build up our heavenly coffers. We either live for the toys, or we live for the Lord. Can’t have two masters.

Where are you today? Look around. What does your home…your life…reflect? Do you reflect Jesus or do you reflect worldly success? You can be successful but still reflect Jesus if your first priority is building treasure in heaven. But if you spend all your waking moments collecting more stuff, leave Jesus to one day a week, then you are serving something other than Christ.

For further study: Gen.14:12; Ex.20:17; Haggai 1:6; Matt.6:24; Mk.10:21

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Fasting has become a popular attempt to cleanse the body, a ritual performed by many health food gurus. The Free Online Dictionary describes it as voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time. Fasting is used as a medical therapy for many conditions. It is also a spiritual practice in many religions.

It goes on to describe a purpose. Fasting can be used for nearly every chronic condition, including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, digestive disorders, mental illness, and obesity. Fasting is an effective and safe weight loss method. It is frequently prescribed as a detoxification treatment for those with conditions that may be influenced by environmental factors, such as cancer and multiple chemical sensitivities. Fasting has been used successfully to help treat people who have been exposed to high levels of toxic materials due to accident or occupation. Fasting is thought to be beneficial as a preventative measure to increase overall health, vitality, and resistance to disease. Fasting is also used as a method of mental and spiritual rejuvenation.

In the Bible, Fasting is used for another purpose altogether. Fasting is a way to impress upon God the seriousness of your prayer request so fasting is frequently spoken of alongside prayer. Jesus has instructions about this too. In Matthew 6, verses 16-18, He says, “When you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Fasting, as prayer, was supposed to be done in private. This is not a hunger strike…an attempt to raise awareness about some issue or other. This is something between you and God. No one else need know about it.  Jesus tells us to comb our hair and wash our face. Don’t go around looking as if you’re making a big sacrifice and as if you’re suffering. In this society, many of us could go without food for several days before our bodies would be affected.

Consider the ramifications of fasting. Take into account your health issues, of course, but think about what it would mean to your prayer life. Walking closely with the Lord offers us a means to sit in personal communion with Him. Leaving the distractions of food behind can only enhance the experience.

For further study: Ezra 8:23; 2 Chron 20:3

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Building a relationship with anyone takes two-way conversation. Most of us meet a friend face to face, although a lot of friendship interaction these days is done texting, at a distance. But it’s still a back and forth exchange of ideas. When Jesus walked the earth, He had this kind of relationship with His disciples. They’d walk down dusty roads, heading here or there, and converse, batting back and forth ideas about this or that.

Nothing has changed. If we want a relationship with Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit, we need to be talking to them and listening for their feedback. That’s called prayer. In Matthew 6, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines some guidelines for a fervent, effective prayer life. In verses 6-8, He instructs, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

The intimacy of our prayer life is described in these verses, don’t you think? Jesus wants us all to Himself, not distracted by others around us but closely involved with Him. He doesn’t want platitudes. He wants us to speak from our hearts for He already knows what is bothering us, or exciting us. He wants us to talk to Him about life, our worries, and our wonderings.

Then He goes on to teach us to recognize His Lordship. When we pray, we are to begin by verifying the fact that God is Holy. His will for our lives should be our first priority. Jesus said, in verses 9-10, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We must first recognize who is in control before we begin to present petitions.

Even though, we know that Jesus already knows what we need before we ask, He likes to be asked. So He further instructs us in verse 11: “Give us today the food we need.” By asking, we acknowledge that all good things come from God. He owns it all, and He is our provider.

Forgiveness has always been a large part of Jesus’ teaching. In prayer, we are instructed to seek God’s forgiveness but then we are reminded that we need to forgive others. Jesus’ words regarding forgiveness are recorded in Matthew 6 verse 12, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Verse 14 and 15 expands on this where He said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

God knows what kind of temptations we face daily. When He walked the earth, He was tempted but He did not give in. He wants us to seek His guidance and assistance in this area of our life so we will be victorious as He is victorious. Jesus adds, in this example of prayer from verse 13, that we should pray, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” God is our protector. We can walk victoriously in His strength.

Then we listen. We should sit quietly and reflect on His Word, as we wait for His voice to penetrate our understanding. But the words He already spoke and recorded in the Bible are His words directly to us as well. Listening means to adhere to those words. We’ve asked, now we need to reflect on the answers He’s already given and that still small voice that sometimes comes when we sit quietly and know that He is God. Two-Way conversation.

Bask in His love for you today as you reflect on His answers for your life. Walk confidently in His love, His provision, and His protection.

For further study: Study the Old Testament Prayer of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:5-12), of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1) and of Paul (Colossians 1:9-12), Jonah 2:1; Matt 6:7-13; Col 4:2; 1 Tim 2:8; 1 Tim 2:1-4



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Does Social Justice Love Your Neighbor?

I looked up the word social justice on the internet and found some interesting information. According to business, social justice is defined as the fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. Then Wikipedia contends that social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.

The term “social justice” was adopted by a Jesuit in the 1840s, based on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote about both capitalist and socialist theories from a natural law viewpoint. Then under John Wesley’s direction, Protestants (in particular Methodists) became leaders in many social justice issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionist movements. Wesley himself was among the first to preach for slaves rights attracting significant opposition. Early Christians in North America established hospitals, universities, and many other social institutions based on their views about social justice.

The book of James is full of reasons why someone who professes to be Christian should “love your neighbor as yourself.” In chapter 2, verses 15 -16 (NLT), James says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” He goes on to say in verses 17, “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

There are movements afoot today, who would take the idea of social justice out of the hands of believing Christians and make it a political issue. They pit Conservatives and Liberals against each other claiming that one party is better than the other because of their social conscience. In reality, it was never intended to reflect a political bias at all but to reflect a person’s heart. In order for one to be fully engaged in helping the poor, or loving their neighbor, they must first have a heart that emanates the love of Jesus.

But there are a lot of people, you say, who help the poor who are not professing Christians. True but then what are their motives? Some call it earning brownie points, trying to be good enough so that, when the time comes, God might allow them entrance into heaven. Some wish to rise in political circles, or be recognized for their community involvement. When the motive is selfish, how can that person truly love their neighbor?

True social justice gives all honor and glory to Jesus Christ, not the person giving or demonstrating that love. In fact anonymity is the best way to ensure that self is taken out of the equation. True social justice is the result of a person’s love and devotion to Jesus Christ, and has no bearing on politics, religious affiliation, skin color, or socio-economic status. It’s based on need, and nothing else. If a person needs, then the person who is demonstrating love, provides, not because of an obligation but because Jesus loved us enough to die for us. We did nothing to earn His love but our gratitude is displayed when we’re His arms and legs to the people around us.

For further study:  Ex.23:24-25; Deut.2:4-6

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