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13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Matthew 16:13-20

Who am I? This is one of the great questions that each of us ask ourselves.  I remember as a teenager I was constantly trying different things that would say, “this is who I am”.  I tried parting my hair in the middle and wearing a silver twisted chain necklace.  I was trying to identify that I was cool.  I also tried diving into golf and trying to be just like my dad.  I wore khaki pants and a casual three button shirt.  This didn’t go well either.  My golf wasn’t all that.  Then I tried doing the name brand approach.  That meant wearing “Members Only” jacket.  I thought if I wore the right clothes I’d be popular.  I was searching – what would it take to make me cool, popular and that would get the girls attention.  The problem here is that I was addressing how I looked, not who I am.  I am a pretty happy, laid back, person.  Sometimes, I’m too laid back. I am the kind of guy that, once I find something that fits my lifestyle, I am loyal to that.  I wear the same type of shoes and jeans.  If I find a brand that works for me, I stick with it.  But none of that really matters. When I finally met the girl of my dreams; she didn’t care what I wore…she only cared about who I was.  Fortunately, I was just what she was looking for and she was perfect in my eyes.

Most importantly, I am a Christian, and I try to find the balance between my personality and my faith.  This means I’m not legalistic and I try to be a positive, up beat person that represents the heart of God accurately.  This means remembering that I am an ambassador that I’m here to let people know that there is hope in Jesus.  I’m not the judge and jury of others.  I am, however, human and I am not always a good ambassador.  I make mistakes.  I am so thankful that God’s grace is at work in my life and I can rest in the knowledge that I am a work in progress and that God loves me and his holy spirit is present in my life to guide and empower me to be the person that God created me to be.

In Matthew 16:13-20, we are told that Jesus went to the region of Caesarea Philippi.  He had asked His disciples to tell Him who the locals are saying that He is.  The locals were identifying Him as others who they were familiar with.  But that wasn’t accurate.  They were trying to identify Him in the context of their best understanding and their limited knowledge.  Since they hadn’t met Him, they didn’t know who He was.  Also, because they didn’t know Him in the context of who He was and why He had come; they didn’t know who they were in the context of Who He was.  They didn’t know he was the messiah that they had been waiting for.  The one who would pay the price that would make a way for them to have a relationship with God.  This was something that no one could do in and of themselves. Peter knew Jesus and more importantly was beginning to get it.  He said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God”.  Jesus told Peter that this was something he did not learn in his own understanding; but that God had revealed this to him.  As Peter followed Jesus, he would grow in his understanding of what that would mean for him, and how that would impact his life.  Peter was human and would act in purely human ways in the future, but he would also be known for his faith, and he would be Known for his loyalty and commitment to Jesus.  He would be a great ambassador for God because he knew who he was in the context of Jesus Christ.

What we look like on the outside, and how we live, should reflect who we are on the inside.  Jesus is asking each of us the question, “who do you say I am”?  Our answer is very important.  If we acknowledge that He is the son of God who came and died on the cross for our sins, more importantly that he rose again and has conquered death and sin.  If we believe that He lives and sits by the right hand of His father – God, who is the creator of Heaven and earth.  The one who created us and loves us.  Then we have to ask ourselves the question, “what am I going to do with this knowledge”.  Am I going to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, repent of my sins – turn from my wicked ways and follow Him, or am I going to ignore who He is and continue to do my own thing?  Today, I can tell you that I am unique and wonderfully made.  I am a co-heir of Jesus Christ.  I can tell you that my God, loves me and has always desired a personal relationship with me; Just like he had with Adam and Eve.  That while on earth He desires me to be an ambassador for Him, and to tell others of the hope they have in Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t care what I wear or how I style my hair.  He cares that I know Him and act in a way that best represents Him to the world.

This is His desire for you as well.  To be able to view life in context of His son.  It is important that we live our lives in the context of who we are in the context of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross.  Now I ask you to ask yourself some questions: “Who am I”, and “Who do I say Jesus is”, and finally, “What am I going to do with that knowledge”?  I hope and pray that you will choose to acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior.  The one who died for your sins and the one who conquered death so you could have a relationship with God.  Not just know about Him.  But to know Him in the context of who He is.  It is not a complicated thing and you don’t have to have the perfect life to start today.  Just take a moment and have an honest talk with God.  Tell Him that you know you’re a sinner and that you don’t want to be that person any more.  Acknowledge who is, and ask him to forgive you.  Choose to put the old you in the past and to be the new you in the context of what He has done for you.  Jesus takes care of the rest and will lead you, as you choose to follow Him.  Fill free to contact me if you have any questions.

CHOOSE LIFE

19This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

DEUTORONOMY 30:19

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

GALATIONS 5:13-26

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.

PROVERBS 14:12

When I was a kid, I can remember numerous times that I was confronted with the choice of doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  If I were honest, I would tell you that doing the wrong thing often was fun in the moment.  However, doing the wrong thing was fun in the moment, but usually came with consequences that were not so fun.  The point is that I had a choice.  I could choose to do something that would be good for me or something that would be bad for me.  This ability to choose is a gift from God.  He created us with the ability to make individual decisions.  It allows us to make the choice to develop a relationship with Him.  Not because we have to, but because we want to. 

In Genesis 1:26-27, God tells us that we were made in His image.  This means we have the qualities of our father in heaven.  We can create.  We have the ability to imagine something and then create it.  We are intelligent beings, we have the ability to rule and exercise authority in certain situations, and we have emotions just like God.  Most importantly we have the freedom to choose.   God didn’t give us unlimited power.  He did not want us to be gods.  He wanted us to have a measured amount of His characteristics. 

In Deuteronomy 30:19 Moses encourages us to choose life.  “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”  Many of the choices that we make everyday are life and death choices.  When you gossip about a co-worker, you are choosing death.  When encourage a friend, you are choosing life.  When you engage in inappropriate humor, you are choosing death.  When you make the choice to stop and help someone, you are choosing life.  When you choose to submit your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are choosing life. When we choose to go down the road of death, not only do we engage in activities that harm others, we are causing harm to ourselves. It affects the way we approach life, our self esteem, and our relationship with God. On the other hand, when we choose life, we are able to build up others, be confident in ourselves, and for those who have chosen to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior; it strengthens our relationship with God.

In Galatians 5:13-26.   Paul reminds us that we are called to be free.  However, just because we have the freedom to make our own choices, doesn’t mean we should do as we want.  He tells us flat out; “do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh” (Gal. 5:13).  He encourages us to love one another, not devour one another.  We have the ability to choose to encourage and build up each other or to tear down and destroy each other.  Paul presents two choices.  We can choose to live by the flesh or to live by the Spirit.  The two are complete opposites.  I like to think of it in the manner of what part of you do you want to feed.  We can choose to feed the Spirit and starve the flesh or visa versa.  Because you can’t do both at the same time. Every time you choose to feed the Spirit, you starve the flesh. In Gal. 5:19-21 Paul explains the difference between the flesh and the spirit. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”.  In Galatians 5:22-23 we clearly can see the fruit that is the result of living a life that feeds the Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” 

I guess the best way to sum it up is to say this:  You are what you eat, so make the choice today to start feeding the Spirit so that you can enjoy the fruits of your good choices.  This is the best use of the free will that God gave us.  Remember, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Choose life!

UNDERSTANDING WHY

Is Understanding Why The Most Important Thing

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Job 1-42

Deuteronomy 23:5

“However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.”

James 1:13

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 

We view life through imperfect lenses.  We ask questions like: God where were you when my child died, Oh God why haven’t you answered my prayer, and Why would you allow this to happen?  There are so many questions we have of God. We don’t understand his actions or lack of actions.  We pray, “Thy will be done.”  But what we are really praying is, “God this is what I want you to do – so do it”.  But that’s not how it works.  God is the one in charge or at least He should be.  Often, we don’t like his answer and we think; “forget this – this trusting God thing is for the birds”.  We decide that we can do it better.  But the reality is, we don’t have the power or authority to change our circumstance. 

I am an epileptic.  I know that God can cure my epilepsy.  I have taken my cause to God and have stood on His word that “anything I ask of Him he will do it”.  Yet still, I am an epileptic.  This has been hard for me and for my family.  I have to constantly work my life around other people’s schedule or ask them to work their schedule around me.  It is a very uncomfortable and humbling thing for me to ask others for help.  Why couldn’t God just answer my prayer and be done with it?  I have seen people pray for God to free them of cancer, and then ask why God didn’t heal them.  I have seen people pray to God for financial relief and have been disappointed.  I have also witnessed God do amazing things on behalf of those who have taken their request to Him. 

Why does He answer some prayers and not others?  Why do people who are devoted to Him, actively using the gifts that He has given them to help others have bad things happen to them.  First let’s get one thing strait.  God doesn’t desire for bad things to happen to us.  In James 1:13the Bible tells us, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” However, He will take the bad things in our lives and use them as a means to draw us closer to Him and to bear witness of His love and grace for us. 

One particular story in the Bible stands out to me.  The story of Job.  Job was a man of God like no other.  God was talking to Satan and telling him have you noticed my servant Job?  Satan responded yes but alluded Job’s faithfulness was rigged because God had given him everything.  Satan presented God with a test.  God would give Satan the ability to test Job, but he couldn’t harm him.  Job lost his children, livestock, and his wealth.  Indeed, he lost everything but his faith in God.  Yes, there were times when he questioned God.  There were times when He didn’t understand what was going on.  It’s important to note that God didn’t cause Jobs troubles, Satan did.  However, God did allow Job to go through those trials.  Job had friends who gave bad council.  They said he must have sinned, that he should repent; but Job did not listen to them.  In the end, God blessed Job for his unwavering faithfulness.  He gave Job twice the livestock, restored his family, his wealth and allowed him to enjoy a long life so that he could see the glory of his faithfulness to God in the lives of his children’s children to the fourth Generation.

The truth is that at face value, we don’t always understand why and maybe understanding why isn’t always the important thing.  Understanding why God does some things and not others in the end may not be as important as understanding why we are in the dark and in spite of not knowing, being able to trust God in the midst of our frustration with His apparent disregard for us and our problems.   In 1st Corinthians 13:9-13, Paul begins to speak of such things as we “know in part”.  “We understand as a child”.  Verse 12 is where the meat and potatoes of understanding are explained.  “For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”. 

In this imperfect world through our limited understanding we view the world and our lives.  There will be a time that we will be able to view the world through God’s eyes.  One day we will, when we are face to face with God.  Until then, we only know in part.  This is why we have so many unanswered questions, why we struggle with the questions that are derived from a broken heart due to circumstances that seem to be in conflict with a God that loves us.  But we should take heart; one day we will understand things in the context of God’s vision and God’s understanding.  Then we can pray, “I don’t understand why – but I trust in You that there is a reason for this”.  “I trust in you even though I don’t understand”. “I trust in your love and take comfort that you are in control even when my life is in chaos.”  This the Job attitude that will help us wade through the tough times.  So, don’t stop taking your request to God, and don’t abandon your faith and trust in Him. We don’t know what we don’t know, but God sees the big picture and His love for us all is unchanging.  

GO ALL IN!

1 Corinthians 9:24-26

“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air”. 

Romans 10:9

“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Vermont is a beautiful state.  It has retained much of its charm that it is famous for. When you drive on the interstate, you will notice that something is missing – billboards.  Vermonters have been very conscious about preserving the natural beauty of the state by resisting the commercialization of the state.  It is a community that values the environment that we live in and the state has so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and bask in the state’s natural beauty.  No matter what time of year, there is an outdoor activity to keep you focused on living a healthier and fulfilling life. I’m telling you this not so you will want to plan your next vacation to Vermont or move up here. I’m telling you that so you could appreciate the insane commitment that our outdoor enthusiasts live out every day.

Every morning I walk to the bus stop to catch my ride to work.  The winter is brutal.  Waiting for the bus means enduring sub zero temperatures, rain, snow, and wind that can easily reach 25 to 30 miles per hour.  Every day as I stand waiting for the bus in the fore-mentioned weather conditions; I am amazed at the two women that I see every morning running together.  Their commitment to get out and run in such extreme weather, and at 5:30 in the morning is both insane and inspiring.  Don’t misunderstand me.  There is no way that I am that ambitious.  These two ladies are running because they are making a lifestyle choice and they have decided that one way they will live their lives is to train for various 5k and 10k events.  One of them hopes to compete in the New York city marathon one day. With the commitment that I have witnessed, I’m sure she will.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air”.  The apostle Paul is telling us that we have to be disciplined in the manner that we live our lives.  If we can spend so much effort in training for a marathon or 5k race, then why can’t we apply the same commitment to living a life that ultimately will lead us to the prize of a life with Jesus in heaven.  A life that bears witness to the world of God’s love for us. Paul tells us to “…run in such a way as to get the prize”.  He tells us that, “everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training”.

To put this into the context of your life; don’t live life halfheartedly.  Go all in!  be committed to your walk with God.  Live a life worthy of the prize.  This will mean you will have to make lifestyle changes.  You will have to make the extra effort to be the person that God has created you to be.  The starting point of the journey is having a personal relationship with Jesus.  God desires to have a relationship with Him.  That can only happen through His son, Jesus Christ.  His death serves as a bridge to God.  It is a bridge that had to be built because of the sin that we all have inherited.  The sin that Adam and Eve committed has been handed down for generations.  Thankfully, God gave us Jesus because there was no possible way that we could forge across the great divide of sin that separates us from God on our own. 

Choose today who you want to be.  Choose the direction that you will run.  Will you run to God or away from God?  Paul tells in Romans 10:9, ”that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.  I want to encourage you to go all in with Jesus, and live a life that is committed to being the person that God created you to be.  Most importantly, embrace the relationship that God desires to have with you.  The reward is amazing.

I SEE YOU

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18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”   JOHN 3:18 (NIV)

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ MATTHEW 25:37-40 (NIV)

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How many times have we walked pass a person in need and rather than acknowledge them we avert our eyes, pretend they are not there, we pretend that we don’t see their need?  If we pretend that they aren’t there or they don’t exist, then we are telling ourselves a lie and are refusing to acknowledge their need!  It would be easy to give a dollar and say, “I did my part”.  But not everything should or could be solved with money.  It would be easy to assume I’m talking about the homeless, or could I be talking about a friend or family member.  Matthew talks about the difference between the sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25.  In verses 37-40, The righteous asked the Lord about when they had helped him.  They were not aware that the things they were doing everyday were so meaningful.  We should ask the question, “Is this the way would treat Jesus, our King.”  They treated the least of these in the manner that the King wanted them to.  They were acting on the Kings behalf without thinking it about it.  They just did it.     

John says in 3:18, “Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”.  When we get so comfortable that we can’t see outside of our needs and acknowledge the needs of others, then we need to check our priorities.  Words are cheap.  Actions tell the real story.  Sometimes we may feel that we must get our lives right with God before we extend love to others.  Yes, consider your relationship with God and his son, Jesus. Develop a strong relationship with our savior.  Don’t let a bruised relationship with God be an excuse for not making the effort to love others through your actions.  We are all works in progress.  Excuses are a cop out.  Excuses are what we say to make us feel better about not making the effort to find real and meaningful solutions.

Treating people in need with love may be more complicated than giving someone money.  Real love cost our time.  Time seems to be the one thing that we don’t want to give up.  What is our attitude?  Is our attitude that if it isn’t inconvenient or it doesn’t cost too much, we’ll be happy to help? Are you willing to “see” those that are in need in order to show them love?  Next time face and acknowledge those who you meet.  Don’t ignore their needs.  Let them know that you see them and more importantly, God sees them.  When our actions say, “I see you”; that is love.  Helping them with their need, is love in action. Remember, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40.

When Life Gets Stormy

 

“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him saying, “Lord save us!  We are going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds, and the waves and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked “What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:24-27 NIV

Turn on the news, read the newspaper, or check out social media.  They thrive on our emotions and create a sense of fear and urgency.  What about our families, work, our friends.  Life happens – any minute we could be faced with an event that can rock our world.  We can find ourselves face to face with financial issues, health issues, or tragedy.  the emotions rise up and we find ourselves consumed with fear and hopelessness;  overwhelmed by the storm that has descended on our life.

In the moment, we have a choice.  How do we respond?  Do we embrace the chaos and give into the emotions?  Or, rather than try to take control of a situation that we have no control over.  We can acknowledge that in and of ourselves, we can’t deal with this.  We can choose to put it into the hands of someone who is able and willing to take this out of our hands and handle it.  

In Matthew 8:24-27 we have a perfect example.  Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee.  Once in the boat, a powerful storm descended on them.  The disciples were afraid.  They thought they were going to drown.  They went to Jesus and woke him up.  The disciples could only see the storm.  They were afraid because they knew that there was nothing they could do.  They felt helpless.  This turned into a teaching moment for them.  They went to Jesus and expressed their fear. Jesus responded by pointing out that they were choosing to give into their fears and had forsaken their faith.  Jesus then stood up and “rebuked the winds and the waves”.  He commanded them to be calm and they obeyed.  The disciples were awestruck.  They couldn’t believe what they had witnessed.  They had just been given a glimpse of who Jesus was and the authority He commanded.

So lets take this back to our life.  Rather than give into the fear; Embrace faith and turn that crisis over to Jesus.  It’s in those times we can only see the storm, that we need to view life in context.  We need to remember that we are God’s creation and we are precious in His sight.  The Bible tell us that God knows our needs before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).  That we should cast our anxiety on Him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  That He is a refuge in a time of trouble (Nahum 1:7).  We need to trust in His ability to calm the storms of our life.  Sometimes He gives us just what we ask for.  Be at peace.  Even if we don’t get the answer we want, He will always give us what we need. 

God loves us and wants the best for us.  This is where faith and trust come in.  We don’t see the whole picture.  God’s vision transcends time.  He sees the future, the past and the present and how His intervention can affect our lives.  Understanding that we don’t have all the details requires us to place trust in Him.  resting in the knowledge that God has our best interest in mind.  Choosing faith over fear allows us to step back from the chaos and make the choice to let God take control.  It also enables us to take a breath and rest in the knowledge that our storm is in the best possible place – God’s hands.

Life Happens – Love Endures and the storms are calmed; when we put our trust in God.