Friday, September 25, 2015

Nathanael Under the Fig Tree

There’s a huge wall around the heavenly city where the foundation stones are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles (Rev. 21:14). When those apostles decided to follow Christ, they had no idea that their names would be recorded on the walls of the heavenly city for all eternity!

Nathanael sat under a fig tree one day, perhaps asking God if he would ever see the Messiah during his lifetime. “Lord, will I ever live to see the Messiah so I can follow Him? Lord, can you see me under this fig tree?” Sometime later, Philip comes to him and says, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth. Come and see.” (John 1:45-46).

As soon as Jesus saw Nathanael, He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” They had never met, but Jesus knew everything in his heart. Like a computer program scanning for viruses, He scanned Nathanael’s heart and couldn’t find any deceit. Jesus told Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (1:48). Even though Jesus wasn’t anywhere near the fig tree, He could see him and knew what he was thinking.

Jesus told him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” He not only knew Nathanael’s past, but also his future. Nathanael would be a disciple of Jesus and would see Him perform many miracles. And after Nathanael died, he had to be pleasantly surprised when he arrived in heaven and saw his name inscribed on a foundation stone.

Have you ever wondered if God knows what’s going on in your life? Just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, He sees where you are right now. You may be sitting in a chair in your living room, but He sees what you are going through. When you trust Jesus to save you, your name won’t be chiseled on a foundation stone in heaven, but it will be recorded in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20), and that’s why Jesus said you need to rejoice. 

Listen to Song of the Month: Rebecca St. James “Shine Your Glory Down”

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One More Night with the Frogs

The Pharaoh of Egypt had been keeping the Hebrew people in slavery, so God sent Moses to tell him, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Ex. 8:1). When Pharaoh refused to set them free, the Lord sent 10 plagues on Egypt, which included swarms of insects, locusts, and frogs.

After frogs invaded every house, Moses asked Pharaoh to decide when he wanted him to get rid of the frogs. Pharaoh answered, “Tomorrow.” (Ex. 8:9-10). Why would anyone want to spend one more night with the frogs when you can get rid of them now?

Perhaps he thought the frogs would go away on their own during the night. But the real reason for the overnight delay was he was wrestling with giving up control. He couldn’t keep millions of people in bondage and receive freedom from frogs. It was one way or the other. And every time he told God no, his heart hardened a little bit more.

Many people today want to live ungodly lives—but they still want God’s blessings on them. You can’t have it both ways. You must give up one to get the other. Everyone must decide what they really want most in life. Which do you want more? Freedom or frogs?

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Modern-Day Pharisee Test

The Pharisees were more concerned with performing religious rituals than connecting with God. We can easily get sidetracked and become modern-day Pharisees. The questions below will examine your motives and will reveal if your relationship with God goes beyond the four walls of a church.

1. Do you view a church building as “God’s house”?
2. Do you believe that Church is something you go to?
3. Do you "go to church" so that the pastor will see you in attendance?
4. Do you give your offerings without ever thinking about the Lord receiving them?
5. Do you give your offerings mainly because you feel pressured by the pastor to tithe?
6. Do you read your Bible because you want others to know you are doing it?
7. Do you serve in your church or elsewhere because you want others to respect you?
8. Do you look down on people who don’t attend church?
9. Do you ever sing to God in worship when you’re not in church?
10. Do you pray more when you are away from church or when you’re in church?
11. Do you ever tell God that you love Him?
12. Are you the same person away from church as you are when you’re in church?

Ask God to show you the correct answers and if something needs to change in your life. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

Slaying Your Giants is filled with interesting stories, humor, and practical advice about how to conquer 20 giants (fear, depression, discontentment, self-image, anger, and more)

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Legalism of the Pharisees

The Pharisees were the false religious teachers who constantly opposed Jesus. There were 613 commands in the Old Testament but the Pharisees created over 1,500 additional “fence laws” for the people to obey. They believed the best way to keep people from breaking God’s Law was to build a protective barrier around that Law, even though the Lord never told them to do this. The people of Jesus’ day were burdened down by man-made legalistic rules that God never commanded.

Exodus 20:10 says not to work on the Sabbath day, so the Pharisees created 39 types of prohibited work so no one would break the Law. Here are some of their fence laws:
***You could not spit on the Sabbath because it would disturb the dirt and you would be guilty of plowing.
***You could not swat a fly on the Sabbath because you would be guilty of hunting.
***A woman could not look at her reflection because she might see a gray hair and pluck it out, which would be doing work.

They created loopholes to get around some laws.
***If your house was burning down on a Sabbath, you could not carry clothes out of it. However, you were allowed to put on several layers of clothes as the house was burning down. You could leave without breaking the law because you were wearing them instead of carrying them.
***You could not travel more than 3/5 mile from your house on the Sabbath. However, you could leave food 3/5 mile from your home on the night before, which would make it permissible to travel twice the distance without breaking the law.

Your relationship with God should be a joy, not a job. If you aren’t enjoying your relationship with Him, something is wrong. Maybe you’re trying to follow man-made legalistic rules instead of loving the Lord. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

To get your priorities corrected, you might need to unchain yourself from legalistic rules. You might need to change churches. You might need to re-examine what you believe and make sure it lines up with the Scriptures. Life is too short to get it wrong. Do whatever it takes to set yourself free from legalism.

To read more about the strange customs of the Pharisees: Who were the Pharisees?

Slaying Your Giants is filled with interesting stories, humor, and practical advice about how to conquer 20 giants (fear, depression, discontentment, self-image, anger, and more)
The Sure Cure for Worry contains amazing true stories and helps the reader see God is in control.

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

God Has a Purpose for Your Pit

Joseph was thrown into a pit in the wilderness by his jealous brothers. They planned to kill him, but his brother Reuben suggested they throw him into a nearby pit instead (Gen. 37:18-22). It was no accident that the pit just happened to be at that spot. Someone came at an earlier time and dug the hole, and then abandoned it—never realizing that God had guided him to do that. The Lord knew that a pit needed to be at that exact spot, which would one day save Joseph’s life. It was an ordained pit. Notice three things:

1. The pit gave them another option so that Joseph wouldn’t be killed. His brothers intended to kill him (Plan A) but the pit gave them another way to get rid of him without shedding blood (Plan B). Rueben told his brothers, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit…but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father (37:22).

2. God made sure the pit was dry. “Now the pit was empty without any water in it” (37:24). Normally these pits collected rainwater, but this one didn’t. If water had been in it, Joseph would have drowned. God made sure the conditions were right for Joseph to live.

3. The pit was used as a holding tank until the Midianite traders came by, bought him as a slave and escorted him to Egypt (37:25-28). It was no accident that the traders just happened to travel by that route at just the right time. God was leading them (without them knowing it) so they would take Joseph to the ordained destination. The Lord orchestrated a divine appointment to exalt him to be a ruler in Egypt.

Sooner or later, someone is going to throw you into a pit. When it happens, keep in mind that the Lord has a purpose for your pit, just like He had a purpose for Joseph’s pit. Even though it’s not the best of circumstances, it’s keeping something worse from happening to you. Your enemy might think that he has won by rejecting you, but God always has the last word in your situation. He is using your pit as a temporary situation to get you to a much better place. And He will, if you will keep trusting God, keep your heart right and not get bitter at the one who threw you in the pit.

Do you have questions about the Bible? Read 66 Answers to Bible Questions

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Stay Away From Kryptonite

When I was a kid, my favorite TV show was Superman. I loved it when he would fly into the open window to rescue Lois Lane from the bad guys, who could always be identified as evil by their thin mustaches. The thugs tried to kill Superman by shooting him, but the bullets just ricocheted off his chest as he smiled. When they ran out of bullets they threw the gun at him, which also bounced off! Superman usually grabbed a steel bar, which just happened to be available in the room, and wrapped it around the bag guys until the police arrived.

Superman could stop cars and bend steel bars, but he had one weakness—kryptonite. Once he got near a green rock that came from the planet Krypton, he would lose his supernatural powers and would die if he didn’t get away from it. He had to avoid kryptonite at all costs.
What is your kryptonite? Don't underestimate its power to destroy you. Here are three things to do:

1. Realize you are vulnerable. The biggest mistake is to think you can never yield to temptation. Don’t ever say, “I would never fall for that.” You would be setting yourself up for a test. "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

2. Stay away from the kryptonite. Avoid those people, places, and things that will destroy you. “Will power” grows weak when you get near kryptonite, but if you stay away from it, it cannot affect you. This will require that you plan ahead and make an alternate path--and stick to it.

3. Depend on God's grace for your strength. Stop depending on your own strength and trust God to strengthen you by His grace (Heb. 13:9). The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The Holy Spirit is your only source of holiness and spiritual power.

Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174

Friday, July 24, 2015

From Fame to Shame

In the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980, Rosie Ruiz (pictured) was the first woman to cross the finish line. As she climbed to the winner's podium to accept her wreath, officials noticed that she looked remarkably fresh and sweat-free for having run two hours and 32 minutes.

Upon investigation, no one could remember seeing her during the race. Monitors at the race checkpoints hadn't seen her, nor had any of the runners. Finally, a few members of the crowd came forward to reveal that they had seen her jump into the race during the final half mile and sprint to the finish line. Rosie was disqualified, stripped of her title, and became another member of the Hall of Shame.

Before we condemn Rosie for cheating, let me ask if you have ever cheated on a test? What about cheating at golf? Cheated on your taxes? Cheated on your spouse? Kept the extra change the cashier gave you? Probably so. We have no right to cast stones. We’re all members of the Hall of Shame. We've all done things we're ashamed of. "There is none righteous, not even one." (Romans 3:10).

The good news is God can forgive cheaters. "If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee." (Psalm 30:3-4) If you need forgiveness, call out to Jesus with a sincere heart. He will wipe the record clean and give you a new start—so you can finish running the race of life as a winner.  

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