Monday, December 3, 2012

December 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope that each of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. God is good ALL THE TIME! Once again, this has been an incredibly busy month, and we thank God for that! We were privileged to be in 7 scheduled meetings, including one missions conference. We drove over 3,200 miles through the states of OH, PA, TN, IN, VA, and WV. In November, we saw 2 new supporting churches and 1 more church that has pledged to support our ministry.

During the middle of November, Jeremy was able to take a short mission trip to Nicaragua. It was a great opportunity to build relationships with national pastors as well as take a deeper look into Puerto Cabezas as the future location of our long-term ministry. He was also able to attend the Bible Institute graduation in Managua. It was encouraging to see all of the graduates- each one representing another church where the Gospel will be preached. It was also an encouragement to see the fruit of missions. So many lives have been changed, yet there are still so many lost souls across Nicaragua. By faith, we believe that God can and will do great things through each of us. But, it is our responsibility to be faithful and obedient to His purposes for our lives.

While Jeremy was in Nicaragua, Michelle and Lila were able to spend a little extra time with her family in TN. When Jeremy returned to the states, we celebrated Thanksgiving at Michelle's Aunt and Uncle's house. Having so much more than food and raiment (I Timothy 6:8), we have so much to be thankful for.

We are so thankful for all of your prayers and support. During our travels, we have seen God's hand of protection time and time again. We are thankful for all of your sacrifice, and we know that God will reward it with eternal fruit. For the month of December, please pray:
  1. That God will help us to be a blessing and encouragement to others.
  2. That God will use us as witnesses everywhere we go.
  3. That God will help us to quickly raise the rest of our needed support.
May each of you have a wonderful Christmas!

In Christ,
Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

November 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope that each of you are having a great month. Thanksgiving is coming soon, and we have so much to be thankful for. This month, we were able to book 11 meetings including 2 missions conferences. We were part of 2 missions conferences. We were also in four other churches to present our ministry and plans for Nicaragua. We drove over 3,400 miles to churches in GA, WV, OH, PA, and NJ. All this work was not without fruit. In October, 2 more churches have committed to support our ministry. One morning, after Jeremy taught Children's Church, many children responded to the invitation. After carefully speaking with each of them about salvation, 4 children prayed to receive Christ as their Savior! Praise the Lord!

During our time in New Jersey, We were able to spend time with our friends, the Wimberly family, at Maranatha Baptist Church. They took very good care of us and even gave us gifts at the end of the missions conference. During our travels, we have met many new friends. It's nice to know that we now have friends all over the United States.

We are thankful for all of your prayers this last month. On Sunday night, October 28th, we finished a missions conference near New York City right before Superstorm Sandy began to hit the coast. After the conference, we drove inland to Harrisburg, PA where we weathered the storm. Thankfully, we did not have any major problems from the storm. This month, please pray for the following:

  1. Ryan, Daequan, Kylee, and Leonia who received Christ as Savior.
  2. That God will give us safety as we travel.
  3. That God will work in the lives of those impacted by the hurricane.
We hope that each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

September was a very fruitful month for us. We were privileged to be a part of 2 missions conferences and 7 other scheduled meetings in FL, OH, and VA. In September, we saw 1 new supporter and 2 more churches commit to support our ministry. We were also able to book 4 additional missions conferences and 9 other meetings in AL, IN, MI, PA, and NJ. While doing door to door visitation with my home church, I had the privilege to witness to a lady named Wendy. She invited me inside to also witness to her children. As she prayed to receive Christ, I heard her son begin also asking the Lord to save Him too. Praise God! He still saves souls!

Last month, we celebrated Lila's first birthday! It was good to see family and friends at her birthday party. Lila has really become a social butterfly. It seems that every place we go, she is determined to make friends with everyone. Somtimes she helps open doors for conversations which turn into witnessing opportunities. One morning, after we prayed for breakfast in the breakfast room at a hotel, the breakfast attendant began talking to us. In just a few minutes, we were able to tell her why we are going to Nicaragua and use that as an opportunity to share Christ with her.

Thank you for all of your prayers this last month. During our last conference of the month, the church voted to begin supporting us in October. That was a huge encouragement to us. Over this next month, please pray for the following:
     1. That God will help Wendy and her family grow in Christ and join the church.
     2. That God will go above and beyond in enabling churches to support new missionaries.
     3. That God will help us to be an encouragement and blessing to the churches we are in this month.
     4. That God will continue using us as witnesses for Jesus Christ!

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Real Life Example...

Tonight concludes an amazing missions conference at Hampton Roads Independent Baptist Church. This morning, when teaching the children in Sunday School, I used two children in a example/demonstration. One child was the messenger, and the other was the recipient of the message. The messenger refused to deliver the message to the one who needed to hear. I explained to the class that the message could be a matter of life and death (such as a warning that a snake is right behind the hearer) or a matter of eternity (such as needing to hear the Gospel). I explained how faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and it is our responsibility to carry the message of the Gospel to the world. The world will never know if we're not faithful to carry the message.  Little did I know- God had been dealing with the boy (hearer) about salvation before I ever used that demonstration. Sometime after this, in Children's church the boy talked to his teacher about being saved and received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Praise God! While God had been working in his heart before I ever met Him, God, through his Providence, allowed this child to be both a classroom and real-life example of one needing to hear the message of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 3:7 - "So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

August was a very productive month for us. We were privileged to go to 7 scheduled meetings in churches in FL, GA, TN, and KY. During one of our meetings, Jeremy was able to share his testimony with a youth group. Afterwards, one boy received Christ as his Savior. Glory to God! We were also able to drop into 4 other churches for the services we did not have scheduled. While on the phones, Jeremy was able to book 15 meetings in the states of FL, MD, PA, WV, OH, and IL! During the month of August, we had 1 new supporting church, another church who has committed support, and several other possible supporters.

While we were in Kentucky, we were able to see the birthplace and childhood home of Abraham Lincoln. After looking at the family Bible, it was apparent the rich, Christian heritage we have in our nation. We must never forget how privileged we are to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Near the end of last month, Lila took her first steps! While she can now walk very short distances, she is not yet comfortable walking. It looks like she will be ready to walk on her first birthday in September!

Last month, during our trip up to Kentucky, Jeremy noticed the back window of the car was very greasy. Several hundred miles later on that trip, the back window was again covered in grease. Jeremy decided to check the oil dipstick and found that it was completely dry! After taking the car to a mechanic, he discovered that the oil change shop removed an O-ring to the oil filter housing and did not replace it. Thankfully, we were able to discover the problem quickly and did not burn up our engine and get stranded. We thank the Lord for those who were praying for us! This month, please pray for the following:

1. That God will keep his hand on the teenager who received Christ.
2. That the Lord will continue to keep us safe as we travel.
3. That God will enable churches to support our ministry.

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Friday, August 24, 2012

August 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

We trust that each of you are doing well and hopefully getting some rain! Despite the fact that Summer is typically a slower time for missionaries, last month was a very busy month for us. We were able to present our ministry and/or preach in 8 different churches in FL, GA, TN, and KY last month! When we weren't traveling, Jeremy was able to contact roughly 850 churches and build many new contacts! We were able to book meetings and missions conferences in 10 new churches, including churches in FL, GA, OH, and MD. We also took advantage of every opportunity to be involved in door-to-door witnessing that we could. We had the privilege to speak to those who are born-again, those who are unsure, and those who clearly knew that they were not saved. May we never forget that there is a mission field all around us!

While we travel to different churches and present our ministry, we get to go places we would otherwise never get to go. Michelle and I were able to see parts of Memphis, TN and walk the downtown of Athens, GA- Home of the Georgia Bulldogs! It was also good for our family to be able to spend a little time with some of our family and friends. The little time we had at home was a good opportunity to clean and work on our second home- our car! As we travel, we try to pass out tracts whenever possible, but sometimes all we have is tracts from our home church in Jacksonville, FL. Although I explain that our church is in another state, I still give out the Gospel. Every time I give one of those out, it is a reminder that the Gospel travels with us wherever we go. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

This month, we are scheduled to be in GA, TN, and KY. Please continue to keep us in prayer for the following:
  1. Safety in traveling as Hurricane Season picks up.
  2. That God will use us as witnesses in every place we go.
  3. That God will continue to help us raise support so that we may bring the soul-saving message of Christ to the people of Nicaragua.
In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz 

Friday, June 29, 2012

July 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope that you have had a great month during June. It was a very busy month for us. We were able to present our ministry in 9 churches throughout AL, SC, and NC. Jeremy was also asked to bring devotions to a Men's Fellowship, Father's Day camp out, and preach his first Father's Day sermon. We have seen one more supporting church. During door to door visitation, Jeremy and another church member witnessed to two men who wanted to receive Christ. While they did not pray to receive Christ at that moment with others present, they said they would do so once they were alone in their house. Only God knows if they accepted Christ that day. We were also able to book meetings in NC, VA, WV, and OH.

After being away for a whole month, we were able to go home for a few days. During that time, we were able to go to the West Jacksonville Baptist Church campmeeting. This month, Lila has perfected crawling and she is now walking with a lion walker/rider toy! She now has her very first tooth! Every day, it seems she looks less like a baby and more like a little girl. By the time we left Jacksonville, tropical storm Debby came through and flooded part of the city. Praise the Lord our house was unharmed!

Thank you to everyone that prayed for us last month. During all of our travels here in the U.S., God is preparing us to serve Him in Nicaragua. He is stretching us, growing us, and teaching us to trust Him for everything. Please continue to pray for us, as well as those in Nicaragua. Here are a few things to keep in prayer:

  1. Pray for the two men who said they would receive Christ that night.
  2. Pray that the Lord opens doors in churches in OH, PA, and MD as we call them in the near future.
  3. Pray that the Lord helps us to be a blessing to every church we visit.

In Christ,

Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

June is another month for us to thank God for using us in His service. During the first part of last month, we were able to spend a couple weeks at home. This is always the best time to focus on making calls and fill up the calendar. We were able to book 13 meetings and missions conferences in AL, SC, NC, TN, KY, WV, and VA. In the second half of the month, we really hit the ground running... or driving, that is. We drove nearly 2,700 miles and were able to present our work in churches in SC, MA, and AL. May brought us 2 new supporters, and 1 more church that has committed to support our ministry. All in all, it was a varied, yet fruitful month.

During our time at home, it was good to once again get involved at our home church. We really enjoy getting involved in weekly visitation and sharing the Gospel with others. Lila really seems to like it as well. Last month, she started crawling, pulling up on objects, and cruising along furniture. We're so proud of her. For a few days, she had a high fever which worried us, but she is now doing much better. During deputation, life is different every week. Different people, different places, but it's always good to know that God is always the same and that He has been faithful to protect us and provide our every need!

Thank you to every one that has been faithful in praying for us. When we were over 1,100 miles from home with a sick baby, it was good to know that there are others all across the nation that are praying for us. This month, please pray for the following:

  1. That God will provide the necessary funds for us to get to Nicaragua.
  2. That God will keep his hand of protection on our family while traveling.
  3. That God will use us in His work while we are on deputation.
In Christ,
Jeremy and Michelle Blanz

Friday, May 18, 2012

Matthew 21 - Why Repentance Matters

Today, I bring only a small thought, but it carries great significance. Look with me in verse 32:

For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.”

Here, Jesus had just finished the parable of the two sons. The certain man had two sons and commanded them to work in the vineyard. One said he would not, but later repented, and then did what the father wanted him to do. The other son said he would, but he did not do the work. Jesus then asks which one obeyed the will of his father. Obviously, the one who repented. This was essentially the problem with many of the scribes and priests during this time. John, the baptist, preached a message of repentance. He taught that one must repent and be baptized, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Many of the “worst” sinners believed him and repented, and watched him point them to the Savior. However, many of the scribes, Pharisees, and chief rulers did not repent. Perhaps they didn't think they needed repentance. I'm sure they probably tried really hard to do right. Doing right is a great thing, but their pride kept them from confessing their sin, repenting of it, and trusting in the Messiah.

Have you noticed that Jesus said, “...when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” Jesus implied that repentance was necessary for them to “believe him.” In order for one to receive the gift of Christ, they must be willing to repent and turn away from a lifestyle of sin. The devils “believe” in God, but they are not saved. Many people mentally accept the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, but they are not saved. Only if people are willing to repent are they able to believe in Jesus Christ for Salvation. I am not saying that one must get their life right with God before they get saved. This is not possible and is equivalent to a works-based salvation. What I am saying is that when they hear the Word of God and are convicted of sin by the Holy Ghost of God, they must be willing to lay aside their old life and trust in Christ to receive new life. One cannot receive new life until he is willing to die to his old life. Think of it like this: You have been carrying around a weight of sin all of your life, then one day you meet Jesus Christ. He has a gift for you, which is eternal life, and He would like to give it to you. However, you're still holding on to your burden of sin. You are faced with a decision. Do you forsake the burden of sin so that you are able to take hold of the gift of eternal life? You cannot grab hold of the gift of eternal life if you are unwilling to let go of and forsake the burden of sin. While that is a good illustration, it is merely an illustration, and all illustrations fall short of perfectly teaching a doctrine.

So, how about you? Has there ever been a time in your life when you have confessed to God that you are a sinner? Were you willing to let go of your sinful life and take hold of the gift of eternal life? You cannot clean up your life first and then get saved. It's only through the blood of Jesus that can wash away sin. Repentance is important, not only at the time of salvation, but anytime sin creeps into our lives. We must be willing to confess it, repent from it, and let Christ live through us. Many churches seem to belittle the importance of repentance. However, it is biblical, and it is important.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Matthew 20 - Not To Be Ministered Unto, But To Minister...

Why do you go to church? For the music? To see friends? To hear preaching? To learn about God? There is nothing wrong with those reasons, though they should not be the main reason why we go. Or, how about this- Why don't you go to church? There could be a number of reasons for this. However, oftentimes we do things with the mentality of “what do I get out of it?” This is fairly natural, and this is the way our culture teaches us to think. I have known of people who drop off their kids or babies at church and then leave, only to come back at the end of the service to pick them up. What do they get out of it? Free day care, I guess. While that may be a more extreme example, it's still one that many nursery or children's workers have seen before. My point is that most people have a reason for going to church.

When Jesus came into this world, he could have done things much differently. Think about it, God coming to earth... However, Jesus came in a way nobody would have ever imagined. Born into a normal family, born in a lowly manger. As Jesus walked the earth, He did not command that all people everywhere bow down and worship Him. Instead, he touched the leper, healed the blind and maimed. He chose disciples that were uneducated fishermen and even a tax collector. Through all of this, he taught his disciples to love others and to care for the hurting. He said unto them...

Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority over them.” (verse 25)

Look all across the earth. The rulers of the earth (Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc.) have dominion over the people and exercise authority over them. That is the way of the world. Jesus came to show us another way.

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (verse 26-27)

This is not teaching that the great people ought to be priests or preachers. This is teaching that if you wish to be great, you should learn to serve or minister to others. When I first went to the B.I.M.I. (Baptist International Missions Incorporated) headquarters for the first candidate school, I was impressed by the servant leadership I saw. The directors of the board, even the President of the board were all so humble. At meal time, they were often the last people to get their meals, and after eating while everybody was sitting around talking, the directors would often be the first one to pick up the dishes of everyone else to return them to the dish room. I kinda felt bad, like I should have picked up their dishes. They are all great and respectable people in my eyes, especially because they demonstrated the servant leadership exemplified in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (verse 28)

Look at Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, The Most High, The Alpha and the Omega- He came into this world not to be served, but to serve us. I can hardly comprehend how awesome He is! If that doesn't get you going, I don't know what will! God, in the flesh, came into this world to live amongst us. To live a humble life, to care for the hurting, and to save us from our sin. He came to give his life a ransom for many. He taught us that, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And what did he do? He did it for us.

Looking unto Jesus the Auther and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Have you ever thought about what this is saying? According to this verse, why did Jesus endure the cross? For the joy that was set before Him. While Jesus despised the shame, he died on the cross for the joy that was set before him. I believe that joy was Him seeing us having everlasting life with Him in Heaven. Jesus deserves your love, but we don't deserve his. If God, Himself, lowered himself far enough to suffer the shame of dying on the cross, then what does that mean for us? If Jesus loved those who do not deserve his love, then shouldn't we? Jesus came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

What is your attitude towards others? Do you expect others to serve you, or do you joyfully serve them?

Jesus humbled himself to serve others and love others that didn't deserve His love. Do we live as if we are above our Master?

How can we be a better servant? How can we be more like Christ?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Matthew 19 - The Disciple That Never Was

Oftentimes, when Jesus called men to become his disciples, He would say something like this, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The response that followed would be something like this, “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” The disciples of Christ were willing to drop what they were doing and follow Him. One verse even said this, “they forsook all, and followed him.” As far as they were concerned, this was the Messiah, and there was nothing more important than serving Him. However, here in Matthew 19, we are introduced to the disciple who never was. He was given the opportunity to follow Christ, just as the other disciples had been given the same, but turned it down.

“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

This man approached Jesus with a common question, how to get eternal life. Notice he called Jesus, “Good Master.” While he was simply acknowledging that Jesus was a great teacher, He may not have known who Jesus really was. Jesus replied, “...there is none good but one, that is, God.” Jesus was setting the stage for the conversation that would follow. Have you ever thought about that? There is none good, but God... If we are not God, are we good? In the eyes of ourselves we may be good, or in the eyes of others, but not in the eyes of God. For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus then said, “...but if you wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Jesus then pointed him to the commandments. “Tho shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Notice that Jesus lists some of the ten commandments, but then gives a commandment that was greater than these, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Romans 13:9-10 teaches that love is the fulfilling of the law.

“The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

Notice that they young man says he has kept these things, but still knows that he lacks something. If he is telling the truth, then surely he has kept these parts of the law in a legalistic sense. Rather than know the heart of God (love) which is behind the commandments, he has been simply keeping them as a mere checklist. He seems to think that he has loved his neighbor as himself.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

While my time is short, I must be brief. Jesus put his love to the test by issuing this command. If he truly loves his neighbor, then he would be willing to part with his things to help them. If he truly loved God, He would be willing to be obedient and do these things in order to follow Him. While the disciples of Christ were not really rich men, they were willing to give up what they had in order to follow Christ. This man, who had great riches, was unable to do so. Read verses 23-24 to see what Jesus said about this. Here are a few questions to consider:  

Do I understand that I am not good and need the grace of God to be saved? (“there is none good, but one, that is, God”)

Am I obedient to Christ in the things I don't do (lie, steal, kill, etc.) or in the things that I do (give, witness, help others, etc.)?

Do I have riches/possessions that I am unwilling to part with in order to serve God?

What things in my life hinder me from serving God to the utmost of my potential?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Matthew 18 - Forgiveness...

“Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven...” (verses 21-22)

Peter asked Jesus a pretty good question. He asked how many times he should forgive someone that sins against him. I imagine he probably felt like he was being pretty gracious by suggesting “till seven times?” Jesus' answer probably blew him out of the water! Seventy times seven? “But I'll forget what number I'm at before I get that high!” One time at work, I remembered a coworker telling me that she's had enough of a certain person. She said something to the effect of she's getting close to forgiving him 490 times. I was thinking, “Are you serious?” Talk about missing the point. We are to love others as God has loved us. Can you imagine God making tick marks next to our name every time He forgives us? Of course not! If we expect God to forgive us time and time again, then shouldn't we do the same for others? God takes our relationship to others pretty seriously...

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

When you think about this passage, is there somebody who comes to mind? Somebody whom you have not forgiven or somebody whose forgiveness you have not sought? God is more concerned with you getting right with them then he is all of your sacrifice. Obedience is better than sacrifice. We ought to offer our lives as a living sacrifice unto the Lord.

This topic of forgiveness will never make sense to you until you know the grace of God. You will never understand how to graciously forgive someone else until you have been graciously forgiven by God. Many people justify their own actions rather than acknowledge their sin, confess it before God, and ask his forgiveness. God is faithful and just to forgive your sins if you will confess them before Him and rest your faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Matthew 17 - Who Really Was Jesus?

Oftentimes, we ask people, “Do you believe in Jesus?” And they say, “yes,” but their life doesn't seem changed in the way that the lives of others have been changed. Why is that? Could it be that they do not understand what we are asking? Nearly every religion or cult has a position on what they believe about Jesus Christ. However, what they believe about Jesus varies dramatically. What are you going to believe? What credibility do the sources have? The Bible is God's holy, inspired, inerrant, infallable, and preserved Word and testimony of Jesus Christ. Some will attack the Word of God or say that it was corrupted... I beg you to study it yourself. Do not discount the Word of God because that is what you were taught. If you will do an honest study of it, I'm sure you will find it is much more than the writings of men. But, apologetics aside, it is God's Word written and preserved for you and me.

Many people, when they think of Jesus, think of an ordinary baby born in a manger. They think of one who was a great teacher, and one who has died on the cross and no longer lives. Some think of Jesus as the brother of the devil or as an angel. This is all wrong. Here, in Matthew 17, Jesus gives his 3 closest disciples a glimpse of who He really is. As he brought them up into a high mountain, he was transfigured before them. To transfigure means to change in outward appearance.

His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light...” (verse 2)

Have you ever seen somebody like this before? Can you imagine seeing one whose face shined as the sun? What an awesome sight! Jesus was no ordinary man! The apostle John would later write in I John 1:5- “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” He would never forget this experience.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him...” (verse 3)

The disciples then saw Moses and Elias (The prophet Elijah) talking with him. But didn't Moses die? Deuteronomy 34:7 says, “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died.” This was a heavenly vision. Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus. The Old Testament is often referred to as the “Law and the Prophets”. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the Old Testament prophets. Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament, which was to prepare us for the Messiah. When some accused Jesus of getting rid of the Old Testament, he replied, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” The law and the prophets prophesied of the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ. Can you imagine them speaking with Him face to face?

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him...” (verse 5)

If you thought Jesus was just a man, think again. Here, God Himself speaks of Jesus and says “this is my beloved Son.” Some of us may have a hard time comprehending that. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God, and that Jesus existed before the foundation of the world. He received a human body when He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem... but he existed long before that. Notice that God is in a cloud. This is how he appeared to the Children of Israel when He led them out of Egypt. In a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God Himself said, “Hear ye him.” This is the prophet greater than Moses that was prophesied long ago. Deut. 18:15- “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, LIKE UNTO ME; unto him ye shall hearken.” This Prophet, this Jesus, is much greater than Moses. He is the Son of God! Jesus is not another God. His very name means, “Jehovah Saves.” He is the one whom Jehovah God has sent into the world to save us from our sins. There is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Only through the name of Jesus Christ!

Jesus charged them, saying, 'Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.'” (verse 9)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said this to them? They knew He was the Son of God, by why was this to be a secret? Because Jesus had a mission to accomplish. Jesus came into this world with the express purpose of dying for our sins. Dying for YOUR sins. Jesus knew, before He was ever born as a baby, that He would give his life on the cross. He wasn't murdered. He gave his life as a sacrifice for your sins. He died so that we wouldn't have to be forever separated from God in a placed called Hell. He charged them to keep this secret until after He was resurrected from the dead. Have you ever known somebody who was dead for 3 days before miraculously coming back to life? This Jesus was not an ordinary man. He wasn't just a great prophet. He was God! Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in His promises? He will save you, if you will repent from your sins, and ask Him to save you! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Matthew 14- O Thou of Little Faith...

Have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Maybe you've been serving God to the best of your ability, and it seems like only bad things are happening? It's probably pretty natural to wonder what God is doing. Look with me at Matthew 14:22-34.

Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship...(verse 22)

So, as we read this passage, notice that Jesus constrained them to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side. They were used to traveling with Jesus, not ahead of him. But the disciples, trusting the Savior, got into the ship and probably thought very little about it. Little did they know, a storm was coming, and it would be a trial to their faith. After a little time passes, things begin getting worse...

The ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves... (verse 24)

Shortly after they leave Jesus on the shore, the clouds begin covering the sky and the wind starts picking up. Before you know it, they are out in the midst of the sea, tossed about with waves. I imagine this storm to be pretty rough! As they begin to fear for their lives, they probably begin to question how they got here. Jesus told them to get on the boat! What was God thinking? Have you ever listened to God and then found yourself in danger, wondering, “What is God thinking?” You may think that God has abandoned you, or that God is upset with you. You may wonder, where is God, is he sleeping? Where is Jesus during all of this?

He went up into the mountains apart to pray... He was there alone. (verse 23)

They had no idea where Jesus had gone, but Jesus didn't forget about them. He knew what was coming. All the mean while, He was praying for them. Are you going through a hard time in your life? Wondering whether or not God has abandoned you? Where is Jesus? Jesus is at the right hand of God, and the Bible says, “he ever liveth to make intercession.” Just as Jesus was praying for his disciples during this storm on the sea, He is now in Heaven making intercessory prayer for us at he right hand of His Father. He knows where you are, and He never left you. Will you trust Him?

Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea... (verse 25)

Jesus is no ordinary man. He's no ordinary prophet. He is the Son of God. He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM...” He is the great I AM. Jehovah. God in the flesh. He is the master of the sea and has control over the elements of this world! He is the Creator of them. This world may never know, Jesus didn't claim to be a great teacher, He claimed to be God. He proved his deity by his miraculous works. When you are going through the storms of life, know that Jesus is there with you. In the right time, He will come to comfort you through them. You must understand that trials will come, and that they have a purpose to exercise your faith! He said, “It is I; be not afraid.” Though the trials will come, there is no reason to fear! Then Peter says, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come down unto thee on the water.” You gotta love Peter! He's essentially saying, “God, if you're really here, do something miraculous!” Peter then stepped down out of the boat and walked on water! He surely puts my faith to shame!

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid (verse 30)

Peter was doing something that no man had ever done before! Yet, when he suddenly realized where he he was, his focus shifted off the Savior unto the winds. As he began to fear, his faith began to weaken, and he called out unto Jesus, “Lord, save me.” Peter realized he could not do it on his own? Peter was in danger of drowining, and unable to save himself, he realized this, and called out unto the Savior. We, my friend, are in danger of drowning in sin. “For all have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God.” Have you ever realized that you are a sinner? “For the wages of sin is death.” Because of our sin, we are unable to work our way into heaven, for we are all sinners. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, God in the flesh, who came to the world He created, and died for our sins. “For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.” The blood of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can take away our sins. Have you ever called out unto Him, “Lord, save me?” If you have never done that, please trust Him. He has radically changed my life, and I thank God that others cared enough to share the Gospel with me.

And when they were gone over, they came and worshiped Him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.” (verse 33)

Only God can do the things Jesus had done. Only God can forgive sins. Only God can set the sinner free. Do you know him? He will save you from your sins. He will give you new life? Rest your faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ!

O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (verse 31)

When God shows that He is right there with you in the midst of your trials, you will begin to wonder, why did you ever question Him in the first place? Oftentimes, we think ourselves strong in the faith... until trials come. Remember, that Jesus never left you. He is at the right hand of God and ever liveth to make intercession for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Matthew 13 - Because of Their Unbelief...

Have you ever wondered if you have enough faith? I'm not talking about enough faith to be saved. As for salvation, the Bible speaks of childlike faith and believing that God is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Faith is not a work, as the Bible contrasts the two. I'm talking about having faith in the work God is willing to do if we will simply believe. I'll be honest enough to say that there are times when I wonder if I should have more faith or be more realistic. Hear me out- If I ask God for something that I want, should I expect God to give it to me and count him unfaithful if He doesn't? That's probably not wise, and it's surely a misapplication of Biblical faith. However, what about those things that God is perfectly willing to do, but does not do, because we don't ask? This is what I am getting at. Sometimes, I wonder if I should have more faith and have bigger expectations when I ask God of certain things. Let's look at a few verses here in Matthew 13. Please read verses 54-57. I'll highlight verse 57.

Verse 57- “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

What you have here are some cynical people who have tried to limit God. They believed in God, sure, but they scratched their head when it came to Jesus. Sure, they saw him heal a few sick folk, but their real problem was with God. Even though God had given them the Old Testament and prepared them for the Messiah, they didn't know who Jesus was. Even though they were told a virgin would conceive, they weren't really looking. Even though, John the Baptist, would preach a message of repentance and that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, they wouldn't listen. It's no wonder why they had a problem with Jesus. They weren't prepared to accept the Messiah God had given them, they wanted him to conform to their own image. Sounds a bit like today, huh? They simply didn't believe God. They believed in His existence, but not in His promises. Which, might I add, is insufficient to be saved. It is only through the name of Christ that one can be saved.

Aren't We Sometimes Guilty of Having a Lack of Faith?

If we are really honest, we may be guilty of the same, to a certain extent. The Gospels are full of examples of God withholding his miracles because of a lack of faith. “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” Does that sound familiar? We know that when we ask of God, we must ask in faith, but how do we know when is the right time to have faith in receiving the things we ask? For if we ask in faith about every frivolous thing, then we may think that God doesn't answer prayer. But if we never ask in faith, then obviously, sometimes we won't receive that which we ask for. What a strange predicament.... However, the Bible does guide us to know when and how to ask in faith.

I John 5:14- “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, he heareth us...”

So, it seems that part of the key is asking according to His will. What things may these be? I'd say this is quite open to anything that falls within the will of God. What is God's heart? What are God's desires? The more we know Him, we more we will know His will. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God does not want to see anybody go to Hell, but for all men to be saved. So, we can never go wrong when it goes to asking God to help somebody get saved. But, we must also remember, that people have a free will and that God cannot make somebody get saved. Or how about asking God to send forth laborers into His harvest (The Great Commission). We are commanded to pray for that. Or how about our needs? Of course he knows them before we ask, but look at the Lord's prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we ask God to provide our needs, we can ask in faith expecting to receive. If a son asks his father for bread, what father would give him a stone? Or if he ask his father for a fish, what father would give him a serpent? How much greater will our Father take care of us?

A Brief Testimony

Since I have began living for God, God has truly been faithful. In fact, God was good to me as long as I can remember, even when I wasn't living right- God was much better than he could have been. Even when I was lost in sin, God loved me so much that He gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me. Talk about love beyond measure! But anyways, I have always wondered how far I can trust God. Of course, the logical answer is that I can trust him wholeheartedly. But in practical terms, where is that fine line of trusting God completely without slipping into foolishness? I remember when I moved out for the first time, I moved about 2 hours away to go to Bible college. I vaguely knew 1-2 people there, but not really. I had some savings, but no job, and very little scholarships. All I knew is that God wanted to me to be a missionary and carry the Gospel to those whom had never heard. I was simply preparing for the task God had given me. I would be lying to say it was easy. Thankfully, our school had a meal plan that was part of our school bill, but other than that, I was well familiar with ramen noodles. There were times when I was working 45 hours a week, taking 18 semester hours of classes, and involved in various ministries on the side. Thankfully, the 45 hours a week was only for about a month, before I went down to about 35 on average. Even so, there were times when it was rough. There were many things I had to sacrifice, but nothing compared to our Lord. Long story made short, God got me through it all. I had even raised the funds to take a mission trip to the Ukraine.

Since marriage, God has been very good to us. When God called us to serve in Nicaragua, we began trying to raise support. There was a time when we had very little missions support coming in, but I would need to leave my job and trust God to provide. Man, was that hard! The only other time since I was 15 that I had not had a job for more than a week or so was when I had moved to go to Bible college. You'll never guess what I found out the day after I put in my two weeks notice. I found out we would be having a baby! While I was very excited, and perhaps a little dazed, I wondered why I couldn't have found this out before putting in my 2 weeks notice. Perhaps, God knew that my faith was not quite THAT strong, and that it might hinder me from doing what I needed to do. I then had to finish up my last 2 weeks, knowing that I would be jobless and expecting a baby in 8 months or so. Nobody at my job understood it, but I believe they had every confidence that God would take care of me. I joked around with the idea of asking for my two weeks notice back and saying, “I was just kidding about that- Gotcha!” But seriously, as I asked the Lord about it, I know that it was the right time for everything. I say all that to say this- “God is faithful.” You can trust Him. God wants to provide your every need and pour out his blessings on your life, but you must be willing to do what is right and trust Him. You must be willing to work hard, and to follow the life that Christ wants you to live. Ask according to His will. Don't let a lack of faith hold back God's blessings on your life!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Matthew 11- Out of the Abundance of the Heart...

We live in a time when talk doesn't mean much. Ever heard the phrase, “He talks the talk, but can't walk the walk?” People oftentimes say anything they want and think they can get away with it. Talk is cheap, right? On the radio the other day, I heard about people who have said they were misquoted in their own autobiography. THEIR OWN autobiography that THEY WROTE! Oftentimes, people lie to cover up the truth and make themselves look better. The words that we speak, whether they be truth or lies, blessings or cursings, or any other thing all come from somewhere. Jesus said:

...For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh...(verse 34)

Jesus said the the origin of our words is in our heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep they heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Nearly every action we take in our life comes from the heart. Have you ever read the labels on Spring water? Oftentimes, they talk about how pure it is because it is bottled AT THE SOURCE. The source of our words, our actions, and our lives is the heart. Notice that the mouth speaks from the ABUNDANCE of the heart. What comes out of out mouth is a reflection of what is abundantly in our hearts. Just writing that statement almost send chills down my spine. We may live in a world where talk is cheap, but that should not be so for God's children!

Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing... (James 3:10)

Have you ever seen somebody like this? One minute, they speak only of good things and seem like they genuinely want to do the right thing, then the next minute, they are cursing and saying horrible things? James 3:10-11 addresses this with a rhetorical question- “My brethren, these things ought not so to be... Doth a sweet fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” The obvious answer is no. So, then this is a discrepency. If bad water comes out, it is a bad fountain. If bad words come out of our mouth, it is a reflection of what is in the abundance of our __________. See what it's saying?

The Mouth is like a Waterfall...

Jesus was essentially saying that what comes out of our mouth is the overflow from our heart. The mouth is like a waterfall. If polluted water came out of a waterfall, what does that tell you about the source? If good, clean, pure water comes out of the waterfall, what does that tell you about the source? Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (v. 35).

The Importance of Every Word

Have you ever noticed that when a new politician comes around, everybody loves them? They are charismatic, speak the ideals of the people, make resounding promises to the people? After a few years, what happens? Typically, after a few years, we realize that this person was not as great as we were led on to think. You can look at the promises, and see where they have lied or failed to live up to their words.  Oftentimes, the reasons for this is because they give so many speeches and they are pulled so many different ways trying to please people, that they forget the promises they have made or they just simply don't carry the same priority that they seemingly once did. The more the politicians speak, the greater the chance is to catch them in a lie. I have nothing against politicians- it's a tough job to do while constantly being scrutinized by the public. However, every word they say can be held against them because they are a public figure.
Just because we are not a public figure does not mean that our words are any less important. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Verse 36) Did you catch that? In the day of judgment, we will give account for every word that we speak. No matter how small, it is important.

One Last Thought...

For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shalt also be condemned.” (verse 37)
When I think about this verse, I cannot help but to think of the most important words of all. When it comes to our faith, and when it comes to our Savior Jesus Christ, what words come out of our mouth? Here are a few verses to consider:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) ---remember, our Words are the overflow of our heart.

Jesus said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain (without meaning); for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)

Every word that comes out of out mouth is important. We will give an account for every word, no matter how small. But not only that, but what do others think when they hear the words that come out of your mouth? What do they think of the One who lives within us?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Matthew 11 - If the Mighty Works Had Been Done...

As I was reading through Matthew 11, something occurred to me that I had never noticed before. Beginning in verse 20, Jesus “began to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not...” Have you ever tried to serve God and tried to witness to others, but they wouldn't listen?

Don't Feel Alone!

At times, the same thing happened to Jesus and His disciples. Jesus did many mighty and miraculous works, and yet so many people repented not. It doesn't say they didn't believe... It says they didn't repent. The devil believes in God, but lives in defiance to Him. I believe much of this world believes in the reality of God, but choose rather to live a life of sin than repent and come to Christ. But this is not my main point. In verses 21-24, Jesus then upbraids (rebukes) these cities who repented not.

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”

Here in this passage, Jesus is talking about judgment of these nations. Notice a few things in this passage:

More Tolerable on the Day of Judgment”

While many of us are familiar with the Judgment Seat of Christ (For the Saved) and the Great White Throne Judgment (For the Lost), we do not know all of the details. What we know about these judgments is taken from various passages of Scripture. The unrepentant are clearly lost and will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. According to Jesus, the judgment of some will be more tolerable than that of others. Now for me to say much beyond this would be just my opinion. According to the context, the day of judgment will be worse for those who have rejected the mighty works of God. This seems to be in agreement with Luke 12:48- “...For unto whomsoever much is given, of whom much shall be required.” This, however, is a double-edged sword. While those who have rejected the great works of God will have a harder judgment than those who have not, how does this apply to those of us who have been saved and given the Great Commission?

Whomsoever much is given, of whom much shall be required.”

Now let me be clear, our faithfulness to carry the Gospel to the lost does not affect our salvation, but it does affect our rewards. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, our lives will be tried as by fire, and every secret thing will be brought into light. As our works are tried, what will Christ find? Notice in verse 21, that Jesus makes an “If” statement. If these mighty works had been done there had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Read that again, if these things had been done, judgment would have been different for those people. There are some who have a lackadaisical attitude towards reaching the lost, and it's a result of false doctrine. They believe that those who are going to get saved will get saved regardless of their obedience to the Great Commission. This is utter nonsense. The last time I read my Bible, Jesus gave us the great commission for a reason. Before the foundations of the world, God the Father drew up the plans of Salvation. Then God, the Son, came into this world and died for our sins. Then before ascending to Heaven, the gave us the Great Commission to carry the Gospel into all the world. Then he gave us God, the Spirit, who indwells us to fulfill this Great Commission. He has given us the privilege to be Ambassadors for Christ.

They Would Have Repented Long Ago...”

I can't help but to ponder this idea. If judgment could have been different for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, then how could it be different for the people of the world we live in. WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO REACH THE LOST! I don't like to think about how eternity could have been different if I had been more faithful as a witness for Jesus Christ, but it's something I really need to consider. Not to live in despair and defeat, but to make a difference in the way I live my life. How many people would have repented long ago if we had been more faithful. On the flipside, how many people will we see in Heaven because of our faithfulness. I believe we will never know til we get there. Here are some good questions to ask ourselves:

How important was my salvation to Jesus Christ?

How important is the salvation of others to me?

How can I be a better witness for Christ?

What changes should I make TODAY in order to make that happen?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Matthew 10 - Being a Disciple of Jesus Christ

Today, rather than study one specific thing in Matthew 10, I wanted to look at several verses and see what Jesus told his original twelve disciples. Although these things were spoken to the original twelve, many of them still apply to us today.

v. 7- “And as ye go, preach, saying, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Notice that he commands them to preach. Oftentimes, we think of preaching as being what somebody does in a church pulpit. However, preaching is something that we should do as we go. It is proclaiming the good news. Proclaiming who God is, what He has done on the cross, and what He wants to do in the lives of others. Also, proclaim that Jesus is coming back!

v. 14- “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”

Nobody ever said that the world will listen to what you have to say. I know there have been many times when I've tried to tell others about Christ, and they didn't want to hear it. People will rip up a gospel tract right in front of your face. Remember this- They are lost, and this is what lost people do! The more we understand lost people, the more we understand what God saved us from! When they reject you, don't get offended or give up. When this happens, remember that they rejected the apostles, they rejected Jesus, and they will reject us. Shake the dust off your feet and move on!

v. 17- “But betware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues...”

The other day, when I was doing door-to-door visitation, there were some people that asked if we were Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons, as if we must be one or the other. While JW's and Mormons are notorious for door-to-door visitation, it got me to thinking- “They must not be aware of other Christian goups that actually bring the gospel to their doorstep.” A quick yellow pages search showed that there are 546 Baptist church results in Jacksonville FL listed under “Churches-Baptist-Independent”. There were only 26 listed under Kingdom Hall (Jehovah's Witnesses). If there are over 20 times as many Baptist churches in Jacksonville, I wonder why so many people have never had somebody come to their home and share the gospel with them? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to share the Gospel, and I'm sure Baptists are doing it in a variety of ways, but I do sometimes wonder if we've lost the zeal that we've once had. Back to verse 17. Men will deliver you up to the councils. There will be times when the opposition will try to silence you any way they can. I've probably read this verse at least 20 times, but have you ever noticed where Jesus said they will scourge you? In the synagoges... This is where the Jews assembled to worship God. There will be times when the “religious” crowd will turn against you. To scourge means to whip or lash somebody, but can also mean punishment. Have you ever been punished for witnessing to someone?

v. 21- “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.”

Have you ever had an Atheist, Agnostic, or Muslim try to quote the Bible and make it look like a hateful piece of writing? It's nothing new... Satan did the same thing (Matthew 4:6). This is one of their favorite verses. Especially when they say, “Jesus taught that” and sound like they know what they're talking about. Anytime someone quotes a verse that sounds kinda fishy, go back and look at the context. There IS a thing called context.  Jesus is saying that others will do this to his disciples. When you live your life for Christ, sometimes even family will turn against you. In certain cultures, families will disown their children for becoming a Christian. In others, such as certain Muslim cultures, they will kill you. This is why Jesus later says, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Don't let your family keep you from getting saved or living for God. When you live for God, you will love your family even more, and God can use you to help deliver them from Hell.

v. 24-25- “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”

When the world persecutes you, ridicules you, or forsakes you for following Christ, remember that we are not greater than our master. When Jesus cast out demons, the scribes said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of devils casteth he out devils.” We live in a day when many people reject Jesus as God's Son, but say, “He was a great teacher.” We are now moving into a day when people are now attacking Jesus and God the Father. If they attack God, they will attack us. It is not us they hate, it's the God we serve.

There are plenty more great things found in Matthew 10, but I don't have time to go over them all. The general idea here in this chapter is that there is a price to serving God. If you are a child of God, don't be surprised when the world turns against you. Don't be surprised when your friends and your families forsake you. Embrace this fact and remember that God will never leave you.