Follow Jesus, No Turning Back

About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales. As a result of this, many missionaries came to north-east India to spread the Gospel. The region known as Assam was comprised of hundreds of tribes who were primitive and aggressive head-hunters.

Into these hostile and aggressive communities came a group of Welsh missionaries spreading the message of love, peace and hope in Jesus
Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomes. One Welsh missionary succeeded in converting a man’ his wife and two sons. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity.

Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man sung his reply, “I have decided to follow Jesus. NO TURNING BACK.”

Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”

But the man replied, again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. NO TURNING BACK.”

The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”

In the face of death, the man sung, “The cross before me, the world behind me. NO TURNING BACK. NO TURNING BACK.”

He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”

In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. (written by GEOFF WAUGH)

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The Gracious Giving Of Jesus Christ

God is not saying that it is unlawful for the rich Christian to live in greater elegance than the poor Christian, but that equality is to be observed to the extent
that no poor Christian should go hungry, and that no Christian should withhold his abundance to the detriment of others.

God is not demanding a communization of wealth, that is, to transfer wealth from the individual to community ownership. What he is saying that hoarding of wealth to the detriment of others is detrimental to the hoarder. What about you today? Are you holding back your wealth be it monetary or in skills, talents, time or spiritual gifts from the Christian community?

If you are, you need to look at the example of Jesus Christ. The ultimate motivation for all Christian giving is the incarnation and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look to the cross, and then give in response. Christ offered Himself willingly and sacrificially—an example for all believers (John 10:18; 1 John 3:16). He who though He was rich became poor by bearing the filthy rags of your sins. Jesus willingly, graciously gave His life, both daily and ultimately. No man took Jesus’ life from Him but He laid it down of His own accord. God wants you to willingly follow Christ’s example.

Jesus’ life was His wealth. Your life is your true wealth also. God will not force you to lay it down, but will you lay it down of your own accord that others might become rich through Christ also? May God lead us to follow Jesus’ example and live a life of love and generosity toward others.

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Take Up Your Cross And Follow Me

And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). Our
modern perspective makes it tough to understand how uncomfortable and offensive Jesus’ words were in this verse.

In our culture, the cross is often relegated to being a good luck charm. A stylish piece of jewelry, a cool tattoo, or a symbolic piece of art to hang on a wall. Even in Christian circles we’ve sanitized our perspective of the cross with pictures of a smooth-skinned Jesus with little more than small trickles of blood.

People from 2,000 years ago would be shocked at how we utilize the cross. In their time, it was considered the most painful, gruesome, and shameful way to die. Good Roman citizens were not supposed to talk about it, and the ancient Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.” Jewish people had witnessed literally thousands of their countrymen crucified on hillsides, so their picture of the cross was radically different than ours.

The Romans’ purpose behind crucifixion was simple: to provide the most painful, gruesome, and publicly shameful death imaginable. It was a terrifying way of ruling by fear. The condemned person was forced to carry the horizontal portion of the cross, weighing about 110 pounds, through the streets in a procession to the place of execution. As the condemned would walk the streets people would scream insults and spit as he walked.

Historical Roman accounts have established that rough seven-to-eight-inch nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists, rather than the palms. The soldier would then take the left foot and press it backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, one nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.

The condemned is now crucified.

This is the picture they saw as Jesus spoke the words from Luke 9:23.

As we let this sink in, we should be assured that our journey was never meant to be easy.

Re-read the verse and reflect on what it means to you now. How does this change the way you approach following Jesus? (

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The Prayer Of The Branch

Most people spend a couple hours each day on the Internet, a few more hours watching television. It doesn’t seem like much, but when we reach the end of our lives, we will have spent nearly 15 years in front of electronic devices.

In contrast, if we go to church twice a week, and spend ten minutes in personal devotions each day, we will reach the end of our lives having devoted about a year or two to spiritual pursuits.

These sobering statistics remind us of how important it is to have our priorities in order. It isn’t always easy to defeat apathy or resist temptation. We must commit to cultivating an ever-growing relationship with Him. Staying connected to Christ is the heart of today’s verse.

Jesus compares us to a branch, living, growing and flourishing only as long as it is connected to the vine. God gives us opportunity to experience a vibrant, fruitful life, but only as long as we’re tapped into the Source of that life.

Sometimes, we offer up the prayer, “Lord, help me to live for You.” That’s not the prayer of the branch. The branch prays, “Lord, live Your life through me.” The one great purpose of the branch is to bear the fruit of the vine. The first step to breaking an addiction is to abide to accept, without opposition, the flow of the resurrected life of Jesus.

To be successful at not acting on addiction, a person needs to fill the space with something more rewarding than the comfort and escape the substance has provided. Starting at your addiction to your addiction, then yielding to Jesus, and doing it over and over each and every day is the secret of abiding.

The only question is, “Do you want to be free more than you want your addiction?” Very few can answer honestly. Push yourself toward transparency. Now, shift away from the craving by praying the prayer of the branch, “Lord, live Your life through me.”

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A Psalm For The End Of The Year

Psalm 90 is a perfect psalm for the end of the year. For one thing, this psalm includes the word “year” more than any other psalm. In the Hebrew text of Psalm 90, the word translated as “year” (shena) appears seven times. No other psalm includes shena more than twice.

But, apart from the frequency of the word “year” in Psalm 90, its themes speak to us as we wrap up another calendar year. It begins by noting that God has been our home “through all the generations,” from year to year to year (90:1). Even “before the mountains were born,” God is God (90:2). God is always there for us.

Though we can make a big deal out of the change of years, from God’s perspective, “a thousand years are as a passing day” (90:4). This fact reminds us of God’s unmatched majesty. It also suggests that all the hype surrounding New Year’s doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Psalm 90 acknowledges the difficulties of life: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away” (90:10). Now that could sound pretty depressing. But, the fact that the Bible doesn’t “make nice” commends to us its truthfulness. Yes, indeed, even when life is fine for us, others are suffering. We may have plenty to eat, but millions throughout the world are without food today. And we might feel as if we’re going to live forever, but, in fact, our days are numbered.

Does this mean we should get all down in the mouth? Hardly. Verse 12 offers this prayer to the Lord: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” The Hebrew of this verse could be translated literally, “Teach us to count our days, so we might gain a heart of wisdom.” How does acknowledging the brevity of life help us to be wise? Well, for one thing, when we realize that we have only so many hours on earth, we’ll be eager to use them well, rather than frittering them away with empty activities. Accepting the limits of our lives will help us to use well every minute God gives us.

Psalm 90 underscores the fact that fulfillment in life isn’t a matter of how much we have or how much we accomplish. Rather, what gives life purpose and meaning is a living relationship with the living God: “Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives” (90:14). I can’t think of a better thought with which to end the year and begin a new one. If we live each day in the satisfaction of God’s love, we will be empowered to live for him, to love him through serving our neighbors. We won’t fret about the passing of the years, but will accept the gift of each day as a new opportunity for love and service.

As you come to the end of the year, what thoughts do you have about 2017? Have you lived this year to the fullest? In what areas of life do you need more of God’s wisdom? Are you open to being satisfied each day with God’s unfailing love for you? (MARK D. ROBERTS)

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Fourth Sunday Of Advent : A Quiet Christmas

I often think of the words of the English poet, William Wordsworth, who, hundreds of years ago got it right: “The world is too much with us.” It’s with us morning, noon and night and even in the middle of the night when a message on our cell phones dings us out of sleep.

Social scientists and medical professionals tell us that our technological devices are actually changing our brains and robbing us of our ability to think deeply, to read, to be quiet.

In December, along with all that everyday life piles on us, we come to the time to celebrate the birth of the One who changed everything – who made possible healing between God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth… and Man: God’s creation, now flawed, weak, distractible and self-seeking creation but whom God loved with a love that doesn’t make sense. He did this by becoming human Himself, by loving and giving and sacrificing. And this, we celebrate!

Yet we celebrate, by “getting and spending.” Few words describe much of the world’s celebration of Christmas better than these two. We get and we spend and overdo almost every good thing there is to do, with sparkling lights on top.

But what can we do differently this Christmas? “I would hope that some, perhaps for the first time, will try staying home,” wrote Elisabeth Elliot. “You may be among the least frantic and harried if you simply stay home.” And we might need to add: unplug.

You can make choices this Christmas. You can choose to stay in, to invite in, to leave your device in the other room, to notice others, to speak words of encouragement and appreciation and wrap your celebration in inner quietness that can only come from a dogged determinedness to begin each day with Jesus and His Word He has for you each day.

What kind of a Christmas do you want to have this year? Does your heart whisper, as does the heart of writer, Ann Voskamp, when she says, “I don’t want a Christmas you can buy. I don’t want a Christmas you can make. What I want is a Christmas you can hold. A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me. I want a Christmas that whispers, Jesus.”

This Christmas, of our celebration, let’s say, with the three kings, “…we have come to worship Him.” (Luke 2:2)

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Third Sunday Of Advent: The Second Five Wonders Of Christmas

Over 365 names and inscriptions are found in the Bible referring to Jesus Christ, but none is lovelier than the one found in Isaiah where the prophet said, “His name shall be called WONDERFUL” (Isaiah 9:6).

As a light that sparkles on a tree, the WONDER of Christ can hardly be reduced to a treatment of a few minutes, but in that length of time I will give you the second five WONDERS of Christmas.

The Sixth wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS WORKS. How can we describe them! Wherever He went, He did good. To the blind He said, “Receive your sight”; to the lame, “Rise up and walk.” He stopped funeral processions and raised the dead. He made no clinical analysis; He brought in no specialists. He just spoke the Word and it happened.

The Seventh wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS DEATH freely given, undeserved, but effecting a lasting relationship for each person with our Heavenly Father.

The Eighth wonder is the wonder of HIS RESURRECTION. Pilate gave the order to seal the tomb. “Take some guards with you. God. Make the tomb as secure as you can” was his command to the chief priests and the Pharisees (Matthew 27:65).  Yet the tomb is empty and Christ ever lives.

The Ninth wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS SECOND RETURN. “This very Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in just the same way as you have seen him go,” spoke the messengers at the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11).

And last of all, the Tenth wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS SAVING POWER. “He will save His people from their sins,” was the message of the angel to Joseph (Matthew 1:21). This is the great wonder of Christmas: through His blood we find forgiveness and cleansing. Thank God for the wonders of Christmas!


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Second Sunday Of Advent – The First Five Wonders Of Christmas

Over 365 names and inscriptions are found in the Bible referring to Jesus Christ, but none is lovelier than the one found in Isaiah where the prophet said, “His name shall be called WONDERFUL” (Isaiah 9:6).

As a light that sparkles on a tree, the WONDER of Christ can hardly be reduced to a treatment of a few minutes, but in that length of time I will give you the first five WONDERS of Christmas.

First, there is the wonder of HIS BIRTH. Any birth is a wonderful event, but the birth of Christ had been foretold by the prophets for centuries. To Abraham, God revealed the nation through which Christ would come. To Jacob, He revealed that Christ would be of the tribe of Judah. To Isaiah, God mentioned a family, the line of Jesse. To Micah, God whispered the name of the town of Bethlehem. To Daniel, God revealed the time of His birth. The events leading up to the birth of Christ were like the gears of a fine watch that had to mesh together so that when the fullness of time had come, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. What a wonder!

Second, there is the wonder of HIS CONDESCENSION. Really, to understand what this means, you have to remember what heaven was like and what Jesus left to come to our world and be born in human flesh. Had men arranged His birth, it would have never been in a stable. But the wonder of His condescension means that God touches the needs of humanity right where we are.

The Third wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS CHARACTER. Though we are saved by the death of Christ, His life is yet filled with wonder. Who but Jesus could say, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). He lifted the fallen of life. He gave His life that we might have newness of life in Christ.

The Fourth wonder of Christmas is the wonder of HIS PERSON. He was human yet divine. He could grow weary, yet could say, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). He hungered, yet could take five loaves and two fish and feed a multitude. He was heaven’s Light for Earth’s darkness and heaven’s Bread for man’s hunger.

Then Fifth, there is the wonder of HIS WORDS. He spoke with authority demanding the attention of those who heard. He said, “You have heard that it was said…But I tell you.” His words are ethically true. You will find no loopholes in what Jesus taught or said. He spoke with simplicity but with great power.

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