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I pray today that God would encourage your heart in His world-changing plan.. that plan especially designed for you. May you experience His tender closeness, His strong anointing, and His great love for you in an all new way!

Every human has been made for a relationship with God through Christ. We've all been made for a great purpose--we are called to know the Lord well and then as a natural outgrowth of joy to make Him well known on this planet. That's what the Great Commission is all about. Do you know what your particular ministry in the Body of Christ is? Have you discovered the great joy of witnessing to lost people for the glory of Jesus Christ. 

But hey.. that doesn’t mean you must live for work in any place cuz that would get kinda tiresome. You know it's better to worship the Lord and live for Him. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." ~ Jesus

I began a sidewalk outreach conversation with a man named Amadeus by asking for his opinion on life after death. He was quick to tell me he is an atheist so he believes that once we die, well, lights out. It might seem like at that point in an outreach conversation there is nothing else that can be said, but there is much more to a person than such a simple answer. Has he always believed this? Did he have any sort of religious upbringing? Was there a significant event that brought him to this conclusion?

These questions and many more helped me to get a picture of why Amadeus claims atheism. Such a worldview is founded on some basic presupposition, and if I could get to the heart of his beliefs, maybe some progress might be made. Besides being atheist, Amadeus is gay, and said his strict Catholic parents simply couldn't accept this. He felt abandoned by his devout but distracted father. This and a molestation incident of his sister by an uncle and defended by his parents also served to give him reason to be atheist.

But is this the foundation of his disbelief in God? We talked about many things, including the bad behavior of so-called Christians and relatively good behavior of non-believers, difficulties with the inspired nature of the Bible and miracles, and his belief in the general goodness of people and blaming society, religion or government for the evil that occurs. All the while we talked it seemed like Amadeus was very thoughtful and introspective, possibly figuring things out about himself that he hadn't really considered before.

It wasn't until I brought things all the way back to Genesis that I felt like I was seeing the foundation upon which all his belief and lack of belief rested. I asked him to consider if Genesis was true and God really is the ultimate Creator of all, would he be willing to worship and obey Him? Amadeus thought about this a while, and I felt like he was really giving me an honest answer. "No, I would not" he said. He rejects God's basic right to be God, and his own purpose as a part of creation to exist for God's purposes.

I believe it can be important for someone like Amadeus to put aside all the excuses, all the blame on other people and circumstances, and at least simply admit that the root cause of his estrangement from God is his own self-centered pride. He heard himself say as much, and by exposing this very basic foundational belief, I have to believe progress was made.

Matthew 25:8-10
8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
9 "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
10 "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

During the week before the crucifixion, Jesus told several parables about His return to the earth. Our passage today is from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Five had brought plenty of oil. Five did not bring enough to last until the groom came for them. While they were waiting, the foolish virgins ran out of oil. They asked the wise virgins to share their oil, but they sent them to buy more for themselves. While they were away buying oil, the groom came. The five wise were let into the marriage banquet, and the others were locked out. When they knocked on the door, the groom replied that he did not know them.

The expression of not knowing someone is found earlier when some try to enter heaven (Matthew 7:22-23). In that passage, Jesus says they never fed, clothed or visited Him in jail. He was referring to things done to the least of His brothers as being the same as doing it to Him. Comparing these two teachings we could relate the oil to a life yielded to the Holy Spirit. He is the One who sheds light upon our path. The Scripture makes the simile of oil and the Holy Spirit. Some lives are so yielded to the Spirit that they serve God continually without even consciously being aware of it. Their thoughts are set upon the desire of the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6). You can't give that to someone. Each of us must individually seek that from God.

Many of the parables of the return of Christ imply that He will come at a time that no one suspects. Many will be taken off guard, while others will be waiting expectantly. Are you waiting? Is your life full of oil? Continue to ask for more of your life to be filled with the Holy Spirit, available to serve others at His leading.

Consider: Whether we live to see His Second Coming or die before that event, we should live every day as if it were our last.

Matthew 24:12-14
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 contain Jesus' teaching on the last days. The disciples asked for information about two separate events. They asked when the buildings of Jerusalem would be torn down. They also lumped in a request for information about the end of the age. They thought these two events would coincide. The destruction of Jerusalem took place in 70A.D., but the end of the age has not yet come. Jesus' answer has an amazing overlap that speaks to both times just as many prophecies speak to both the first and second coming of Christ.

One of the clearest warnings is to be weary of false prophets and false messiahs. He taught that they would be able to deceive people, even displaying miraculous signs. He spoke of wars that would continue throughout this age, as well as famines and earthquakes. Then He gives a few specifics in which we can know the last generation has arrived. There will be a great increase in wickedness. Other passages call this the apostasy or falling away. Many will allow their (agape) love to grow cold. Only Christians truly exhibit 'agape' love. The kingdom will be preached in the whole world. The abomination that causes desolation that Daniel wrote about will be set up in the Temple. I suppose that means the Temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt first. These are the signs that the Lord gave us. He taught that this would be the beginning of a time of tribulation like the world has never seen.

In the years since Jesus' ascension, there have been many times that the church has thought Christ's return was at hand, but the signs had not all been fulfilled. We need not worry about the end of the world until these signs come to pass, but we should always live in such a way that we are ready to go from this life into eternity. Jesus' prediction about the destruction of Jerusalem came to pass. This age of the Gospel being preached to mankind will come to an end. The time of the Gentiles is about up.

Consider: Our life here is about our preparation for entering into that next age. Are you getting ready?

Matthew 23:5-8
5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day had one motivating force, 'what will men think of me?' Their religion was about pride in being the spiritual elite. They prayed in public with flowery words, distorted their faces when fasting, and publicly gave their tithes that were accurate down to the last mint leaf. They wore boxes that contained Scripture, which the Law encouraged, but they made extra large. They believed the tassel of the Messiah's garment would have the power to heal, so they made theirs extra long as if to say, "Perhaps I am He." Jesus said their reward for such effort was the respect of man. They had the titles, the best seats, and the places of honor. That is all.

Jesus taught His disciples that the way of the Pharisee was not to be their way. They were to please God not man. They were not to seek after the title, Rabbi, which means teacher. Why? There is only one Master. We are all on equal footing as brothers. We are all being taught by the Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Man so desires to have a king, a hero, an elevated figure to look to. We have one King, one Hero, one elevated One. When we get our eyes on a man, we are taking them off of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said to follow him, but he is quick to add, "as I follow Christ". Look past the leader to Jesus. If the leader is following closely in the footprints of the Leader, follow on.

This is not a word for us to judge others, but to search our own hearts. Why am I acting as I do? Who do I want others to observe my actions? Would I do this if no one ever knew? Jesus encourages us to act in secret so that only our Father will see. Then our reward will be entirely from Him.

Consider: As you do things for the Lord, make every effort to see that no one knows. Keep it between you and God.

Matthew 22:19-21
19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius,
20 and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
21 "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

The religious leaders sent some of their students along with some of the government supporters to try to trap Jesus. First they buttered Him up with some high praise. Then they asked a tricky question. Jesus saw right through their flattery to their real nature. He called them actors. Then He asked a question that should have struck the heart of anyone that may have been serious about their relationship with God. Why are you trying to trap me? He's asking them to check the motivation of their hearts.

The question they asked was clever because almost any answer would offend some of His followers. If He says to pay the taxes, the zealot nationalists would be offended. If He says to refuse to pay them, those who support the government would have reason to arrest Him. He answered by first asking for a coin. "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" The coins bore the image of Caesar. So Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." The things of the world are only temporal. Obey the authorities and give them your temporal obligations. The allegiance of the heart is what is important. Give your heart, soul, mind and strength to God. In that answer, rich with wisdom, Jesus completely silenced them. He could have said, "Checkmate"! They were fighting over the temporal that did not matter in the long run. He was establishing a kingdom in the hearts of men that will last forever.

Dear reader, where is your focus? Are you concerned about where your coins go or to Whom your whole being belongs? It is amazing how Jesus can take our trick questions and turn them around to reveal the very motivations of our hearts.

Remember: When the world questions us, seek Godly wisdom through prayer before you answer.

Trust God/His Spirit! Don't lean by trying to figure out in your mind.
Recognize God is All Knowing, All Powerful and All Present. He gives us the fullness of who He is in each of our lives. He's not partial. He causes all things to work together for good in our lives without compromising someone else's life who is trusting Him. Everyone gets the same affect from God if we trust Him. Though the circumstances are different, His Ways and Word is established.
Trust God/His Spirit! Don't lean by trying to figure out in your mind His Way of doing a particular thing in your life and bringing to pass what He has promised you. Acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.

Pray: Faithful Father, You are God All by Yourself. You have established the Heavens and the earth without our help. Surely You are able to perform Your Will in mine.
Help my unbelief, strengthen my spirit man and open the eyes of my understanding so I will be enlightened.
Thank you Lord that in the mist of me, You are Mighty, Strong in battle, my Rock, my Helper, my Deliverer, my All in All. Thank you Lord in Jesus name, Amen!

Matthew 21:42-44
42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?
43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."

During the days leading up to the cross, Jesus told a parable that summed up that turning point in history. A man built a vineyard and lent it out. When it came time to collect the rent, the renters of the vineyard beat the servant that was sent to collect. They killed the next person that was sent and stoned the third. Finally the owner sent his son. He thought they would surely respect and honor him. The renters thought that if they killed the heir, they would inherit the vineyard, so they killed the son. Then Jesus asks what will be done to the renters. The crowd answers with words that will condemn them. "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

Jesus responded with our passage for today. He knew He was about to be rejected by them in favor of a political activist, Barabbas. The vineyard is the world in which the Jews were the keepers of the Word of God. The tenants are the Jewish people. They killed the prophets and they were about to have the Son killed. He reminded them that this was prophesied long ago. The rejected Son would be the culmination of the work of God. From there the word was going directly to the Gentiles. Looking over history, we have not done much better than the Jews, but the Word has gone out into all the world. I believe that is the fruit that God is looking for.

The final warning is quite ominous. We have two choices. We can resist the stone, Jesus, and end up crushed by Him, or we can fall upon Him and be broken vessels for His use. There is no other choice. Here is another 'either or' statement of Christ. Let us be sure to choose to throw ourselves on Him for mercy and grace.

Consider: Am I a broken vessel that He can use?

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Matthew 20:26-28
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus had spoken of thrones that the disciples would receive because they had left all to follow Him. The mother of James and John asked that they be on the ones closest to Jesus, the most prominent positions. Once again, Jesus must help them understand the difference between the kingdoms of men and the kingdom of God. He pointed out how Gentile authorities use their power to have their way, to control and push others around. Jesus said, "Not so among you." If you want to be great, serve others. God's way up is down. If you want to be first, be a slave. What you are with God is often the opposite of what you are among men.

Then Jesus used His own life as an example. He was not there seeking out people to serve Him. He was serving as many as He could, healing, teaching, feeding and setting free. Not only was He serving, but He was also about to lay down His life as the ultimate act of service to the Father and man. Do you want to be great, truly great? Give your life to God and see how He would have you serve Him and mankind. Just as He had a plan for the life of His Son, He has a plan for your life. We would all like to think that means importance in the eyes of men, but that is rarely the case. It often means humiliation in the eyes of men.

Consider: Is your life about serving, or being served?
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