Sunday, April 3, 2016

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” — Matthew 16:24

No one has ever said it was easy to forgive.  No one has ever said it was easy to love the poor, the homeless, the people with different colored skin, the hungry, the sick, those with cultures different from ours.  No one ever said that going the second mile would be easy, or that turning the other cheek would bring joy.  But someone did say to do these things.  Someone called the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah, the only begotten son of God the Father Almighty.  He said for us to love each other as He loved us.  He said if we didn’t forgive then God would not forgive us.  He suffered persecution and torture for our sake without complaint.  He willingly allowed Himself to be crucified, but He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where He sits beside God the Father.  In other words, His words should carry more weight than anyone else’s ever could.  He only had twelve trusted followers, but they transformed the world and made followers that now number over two billion people—twice as many as the next largest religion.  Hundreds of thousands (probably millions) have died for their belief in Him.  Millions have made sacrifices in His name and for His sake.  He himself told us to pick up our own crosses that we might follow Him.  Sadly, that’s not what most of us do.  Most of us who call ourselves Christians grudgingly give up an hour a week or so to tick the box that says “went to church” and think that covers it.  Many of us argue and fight over how much to spend on the choir or handbells or sound systems or projectors or parking facilities, but never argue for more money to be spent on missions, domestic or foreign.  A large church in Houston, Texas, back in the early sixties wanted a very powerful and well known pastor to come to their church.  They had a budget (at that time a whole lot of money) of two million dollars a year to run their church.  The big name pastor said he would come if they would change their budget so that for every dollar they spent on themselves, they would spend another dollar on others.  In other words, half of their budget had to go to missions and outreach.  They quickly agreed and brought the big name pastor to their church.  They did not spend any less on themselves but doubled their budget so they could spend another two million on missions and outreach.  That church made a huge difference to thousands of people and changed the hearts of most of their congregation.  We must all look to our priorities if we truly want to be followers of Christ.  We must decide what to give and to whom to give it.  It is not the amount of cash you put in the plate or the numbers written on your check but the desire in your heart to love and to help.  It has never been about how much you have, but it has always been about what you choose to do with it.  If your heart if full of Christ and His love, you will do what is right and loving and caring.  If it isn’t, you need some time on your knees talking to He who has given you everything.  God does not want your house or your cars or your bank accounts—He wants your hearts.  Give those to Him and all your decisions will then be easy ones, maybe not always pleasant, but always easy.  May God fill your heart, may joy fill your soul, and may Christ guide your actions.
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