Only One Returned

“Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. Luke 17:11-19

This is a story of simple faith. Ten lepers came to Jesus asking to be healed. They were healed on the way to the priest. In other words, when Jesus told them to go to the priest, they were not yet healed! They had to have faith that what this man said would be true by the time they arrived at the priest

Then only one returned to thank Jesus (a Samaritan, no less), though I’m sure the others had an impressive story to tell. Sadly, they never returned to thank Jesus.

As Christians we have much to thank Jesus for. Take out a piece of paper and just write down your blessings. Then give that list over to God, thanking Him for those blessings. We never want to be accused of not being thankful people.

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No Beauty or Majesty

He had no beauty or majesty that we should be attracted to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him… Isaiah 53:2b

That’s a pretty sobering verse, isn’t it? Hollywood would pass him by, just as the average man or woman on the street would. Were he walking the Earth in human form today, he would be plain and ordinary, dare I say, ugly? Obviously it wasn’t about the externals for God.

Jesus taught that throughout the New Testament. It’s what’s inside that counts. Inside. Inside. Your internal beauty is far more significant than external. Unfortunately, that’s hard for us to hear because we glamorize all the external things: beauty, clothes, positions, connections, degrees, IQs.

We have to be constantly on our guard against this wrong kind of thinking. Next time you see one of those paintings of Jesus on the wall (tanned and bearded), thank God that He probably didn’t look that good. Then thank Him for valuing internal beauty infinitely more than externals.

Internal beauty.

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Pride

“The pride of your heart has deceived you…” Obadiah 1:3

As the passage points out, pride is deceptive. Often you don’t even realize that you have it. Others must point it out to you! Pride ultimately is what doomed Satan and his angels. They thought they were as good as or even better than God.

I think of two brothers I once knew. They was an fifteen years age difference. The younger said to the older, “I don’t need any help” when he was carrying an extremely heavy load inside the house  The older, smiled as he watched his kid brother struggle to accomplish his task. An extra set of hands would have made the load much lighter but the younger boy didn’t want to hear of it. He was going to carry it into the house if it was he last thing he did.

We smile because we’ve seen that kind of interaction between siblings. Why wouldn’t the younger boy accept help? Pride.

Sadly, we say the same thing to God, often without uttering a word. We do things on our own without calling out for God’s input or wisdom or insight. We carry burdens we were never meant to carry.

Now would be a really good time to lift those burdens off and give them over to God. The first step is to admit our pride. It’s a large first step but it will open many other doors.

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All of It

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
Mark 14:41-44

Back in my Air Force days, somebody challenged me directly with this verse. He told me to put my entire paycheck into the offering when it went around during church.

I didn’t make a lot back then so I came up with more excuses than grains of sand at the beach. He just folded his arms and smiled. After I spent the better part of an hour explaining why I couldn’t put in my entire paycheck, I relented. My reaction to his suggestion was evidence that I should do it!!

I remember at the time that it was extremely scary before I did it, but once I put it in, it was wonderfully freeing. While I was still in the Air Force I acted on that challenge several times. I didn’t go hungry or without clothes. In fact, I was probably freer doing that than holding onto the check.

But that was then, twenty years ago. This is now.

What’s changed? Time. Life. Bills. Cares. Family. I had those back then. Fear? Yep, still the same. Fear that the God of the Universe wouldn’t look after me if I put a lot extra into the offering plate?

Pretty silly fear, isn’t it?

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Love Love Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

We all know it as the Love Chapter. We’ve heard countless sermons on love and this was the main chapter. The entire chapter is worthy of a read every time we read just a single verse. Read it before you continue.

Through time, the world can really beat us down, can’t it? We get cynical and skeptical. So, let’s take these verses down to the bare minimum.

Since many a preacher could lay out this chapter much better than me, I’ll suffice to leave you with one important question, a question that can be applied to the nine evidences of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). This question might change the way you think and act every single day.

Do you love others more today than you did a year ago? Do you love others more than you did a month ago? If you do, keep it up, and ask it again next year (or next month).

If you don’t, why not?

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Itty Bitty Seeds

“…some [seed] fell on rocky soil…some fell among thorns…other seed fell on good soil.” Mark 4:3-20

Seeds.

You never really know where they’ll fall. You hope for the good soil, sometimes see the thorns and rocks, but where it falls depends on many many things.

Jesus makes it clear that the seed is the Word of God (v13-14). You never know the situations people are in. Just when you think someone is ready to believe, that person turns totally against you. On the other hand, you may think that people aren’t even paying attention to you. but wham! you are witnessing a changed life.

Seeds. Lots and lots of seeds.

Little bitty seeds. Insignificant acts of kindness in a harsh world. Seeds of patience. Seeds of strength. Seeds of courage.

Plenty of opportunities. Plenty of seeds.

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Military Strength

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength…But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him… Psalm 33:16,18

We in the United States love to boast of our military strength. We can do things militarily that the Biblical authors couldn’t even have imagined (and much of it remotely). But still, Scripture tells us that we really shouldn’t be putting our hope in our military. We have this power, but if God’s hand isn’t upon us, it’s meaningless. It’s pretty humbling if you think about it. And when we fear Him, His eyes are on us.

While we shouldn’t put our strength in our military, we should pray that in those situations when they do have to act, that they do so courageously and boldly. Pray for the thousands of troops who have to make difficult decisions in split seconds.

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Good Servants

“Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest…For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” Matthew 25:14-30

In the parable of the talents, the two servants the master praised had done something with the amount of money they were given. The third servant buried his in the ground. It took less than an hour of work, and he was finished. The other two found creative ways of earning more. Scripture doesn’t tell us what they did but they weren’t sitting on their hands.

If we’re honest, we also have to ask what we are doing with what we’ve been given: talents, gifts, money, intellect, drive, passion. Are we investing those energies and resources? Are we [watching TV / surfing the internet] our life away? It is much too easy to fritter our lives away, isn’t it?

What one practical thing can you do today to invest in that Heavenly Kingdom?

Just one.

That phone call of encouragement. That email. That bouquet of flowers. That apology letter. That seemingly ordinary compliment on a job well done.

It doesn’t take much for God to multiply or reward our efforts, but it does take effort. And before you know it, you will have doubled what God had originally given you.

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Fiery Furnace

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25

We all love the story of three of Daniel’s friends in the flaming furnace and how God miraculously rescued them. But God was also doing something greater. Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and saw not three but four people walking through the flames.

Four people.

And even King Nebuchadnezzar got it right, “the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Probably the fourth person walking in the fiery flames is what theologians call the “pre-incarnate Christ.” He was revealing Himself (thousands of years before walking the Earth) to a modern day ruler.

But I think there’s a greater point here. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego literally put their lives on the line for God. They would not bow to the King’s 90-foot idol. Now they were facing the consequences of that disobedience. They are tossed into the furnace and the heat was turned up seven times hotter than it normally was. They began to walk and the pre-incarnate Christ is seen walking by them, with them…together. They were not alone! (Imagine the stories they would tell their children and grandchildren when it was all over!)

Most of the things we face in life are minor in comparison to what the Three in the furnace faced. Rest assured, when you are risking it all for the sake of Christ, He is right there with you! And even in what seems like a fiery furnace, He is right there with you.

(And imagine the stories you’ll tell your children and grandchildren when it’s all over!)

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