April 21 "Then he went out again by the sea, and all the multitude came to him, and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And he said to him, 'Follow me.' So he arose and followed him." Mark 2:13-14 As I read the accounts of Jesus calling his twelve disciples, I always remark at how this stranger just says to them, "Come follow me," and they immediately leave whatever they were doing and go to him. What is it about his words that have such an effect upon people? I was sitting on the piano bench one day many years ago, weeks after I was born again in an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. As I sat there, suddenly Jesus was in the room. I did not see him physically, but I saw him surely and knew immediately that it was him. He spoke to me and I would never forget the exact words he said, so profoundly did they impact me. He said, "Forsaking all, come follow me." There is power in the words spoken by Christ. His words came into me and my heart immediately sprung up with a whole-hearted "YES!" The power of his words to me brought forth the reaction in me before I even had a chance to think about it. What is it about Jesus Christ that so affects anyone touched by him? What is it about his words that evoke such an immediate reaction inside the one spoken to? Have you been called? Do you know him? If you don't, if you're "religious" and think that's enough, I challenge you to ask him whether you're born again or not. Religion will not ever produce the change in a person that can only take place when he/she is born again by the Spirit of God. If you have any doubts, then ask him about it, because if you are born again, you have no doubts, you KNOW it. I hate religion, because that is what he brought me OUT of. I had grown up in a religious home, went to a religious school -kindergarten through high school, and was miserable. No religious rites relieved me of the angst I had inside. After coming out of the "confessional," I would find myself wishing to die now that I was "clean," because I knew that before the end of the day I would undo what I thought took place in the confessional. I could not escape the awareness of my sinfulness. That was the context in which I was living when the Lord revealed himself to me on that Thanksgiving weekend so long ago. It would take many, many years to unlearn the deceptions of religion and learn from his Word (the Bible) the truth that sets you free. I remember so well saying to him, "I reject all teaching that came before. From this day I know only Jesus Christ and what you will teach me about him." I started back at the beginning. The Lord reveals himself in various ways to various people. To me, he revealed himself as "The Truth." And from then on, there has never been anything more important to me in life than the truth. To this day, I pray that if ever I am deceived, that he would show me the truth. What could possibly be more important? "Forsaking all...." And that's what following him has cost me ...ALL. I remember early in my walk with the Lord, seeing Kathryn Kuhlman one time in Massachusetts. She came out onto the stage in that beautiful white dress of hers, so lovely. I'll never forget what she said. She raised her hand up high above her head and said, "What does salvation cost you? Nothing. It's paid for entirely by the atonement made in Jesus Christ. What will following him cost you? ...Everything." I went on to learn the truth of that, because I lived it. It cost me everything. Would I do the same if I had known then what I know now ...if I had known what it would cost me? Yes, I would do the same. I have nothing more precious in life than my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I would forsake anyone or anything for him, should he bid me to ...and he has. Someday, he promises, it will all be worth it ...when we see what he did with the stories of our lives. We see now in a glass darkly, but then ...we will see him face to face. And for that day we yearn and wait and believe and call to him, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!" What Does 'Born Again' Mean?

April 20 "Sanctify them by your truth, your Word is truth." John 17:17 The word "sanctify" means to set apart. In the days of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem there were utensils used by the priests in all of the functions they performed in the Temple, and those utensils were "holy," or sanctified. That means that a golden cup for example, could not be taken home with one of the priests to use privately. That cup was made for Temple use, so that cup was "holy." It was set apart for its purpose. So it is with the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers have been sanctified or set apart as the Lord's own possession. They have been sanctified by the Word of God because as Jesus said, the Word of God is truth. When the believer who has been set apart for the Lord Jesus Christ looks around at his surroundings in the world he is grieved, because those in the world are NOT sanctified, they are NOT set apart for Jesus Christ, they have not been sanctified by the Word of God which is truth. In fact, the believer will witness the very opposite in them. If one understands that Satan is "the god of this world," (2 Corinthians 4:4), then it should be no surprise that the world will act like Satan. And what has the Truth of God's Word told us about Satan? "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, FOR HE IS A LIAR AND THE FATHER OF IT. John 8:44 So if the world is under the direction of Satan who is the god of this world, why would it surprise the believer that the world acts like the one under whom they live? We are born into Satan's kingdom by default - that's why Jesus said we MUST BE BORN AGAIN, (John 3:6-7). Satan is a murderer. As the last days approach nearer and nearer to the end of the age, the world has seen the explosion of violence and murder all across the globe. In fact, Satan's great masterpiece, the religion he has raised up to do his will in the last days - is by its very tenets taught to do just that, to murder. Its proponents are commanded by their "holy book" to kill those who refuse to submit to them. They are commanded ...TO KILL. And we're surprised? Why would we be? Jesus Christ said that Satan is a murderer. And he said that Satan is a liar. Not only is Satan a liar, but Jesus Christ said that Satan is the very father of lies. Look across the world. What you see is society steeped in lies. What you see everywhere is corruption to the very core. They know nothing else because the power within them is the spirit of the liar. They couldn't choose to be different if they tried, they are liars by very nature. It is not incumbent upon us to modify the behavior of the world, neither are we able to do so. Jesus Christ did not even go near that subject. What he did, and what we are called to do, is speak the truth. Not argue the truth, not try to ram the truth down people's throats, no, just to speak the truth, period. The rest is up to the Spirit of the living God who will touch hearts with the truth we speak, just as he has touched the hearts of the many who have accepted Jesus Christ. He did not ram it down people's throats, nor did he engage in argument with them. In fact, in a few settings we see Jesus allowing those to leave who could not accept what he had to say. He did not argue with them. He let them go. Jesus was even willing to let his chosen ones go away if they so desired! "From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?'” John 6:66-67 And that's the attitude we must take, as painful as it is. Heated arguments and debate will never win souls. It is not our responsibility to win men with arguments, but rather to follow Jesus who simply spoke the truth calmly, and let his words fall upon whoever had a heart to receive them. Brothers and sisters, let us follow our Lord, let us follow Jesus Christ and pay attention to the example he set. Let us speak the truth calmly, and not be touched by those who reject it, for this is what our Savior did when he came across those who refused his words. He moved on. Let us do so also.

April 19 "Through God we will do valiantly, for it is HE who shall tread down our enemies." Psalm 60:12 Do you have a weakness, an "enemy" that you have tried and tried and tried to overcome, but cannot? Does it seem like the New Year's resolutions you may have made in the past, you started out with a bang but could only keep them for a short while? When it comes to our weakness concerning sin, we can do no more than with our New Year's resolutions. We see it in ourselves and we determine to overcome it, but we find that we cannot. That's because we were BORN in a fallen human nature. We are PRONE to sin. One may be most weak in a certain area, another in something else, but we are all in the same boat. We are sinners, and we do not have the ability to win over the sin in ourselves. Add to the mix an enemy who knows our weaknesses and who takes advantage of them and drives us with strong temptation ...and we fall. Again, and again, and again. All of us. So what does one do? Is one doomed in his sin forever? Indeed the apostle Paul spoke of this: "For I know that in me -that is, in my flesh - NOTHING GOOD DWELLS; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." Romans 7:18-19 Even the great apostle had the same struggle we all have. No one is exempt. Paul cries out: vs 24: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" And then he comes to the answer: vs 25: "I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" It's the same answer as in the Psalm quoted above: "...for it is HE who shall tread down our enemies." The born again person starts out in all his weakness, and only gradually does he overcome and become adult in his faith. It is the Spirit of God within, not the self effort, that provides the growth. The truly born-again person has surrendered everything to his Lord. And his Lord will be found faithful who will grow him up to adulthood as one who, as he grows, has less and less interest in the carnal things that ruled in him when he began. A baby demands his way. But a loving son matures and gladly depends on his father for everything. It's a process, everything in its time, according to the wisdom of the Father. Does that remove the guilt of sin? Does our inability to overcome our weaknesses justify our sin? No. We are guilty from day one. A young child having a temper tantrum can cause a lot of grief to the father. But the father knows that with proper love and discipline the child will grow out of his childishness, and he looks to the day when maturity will come. And so it is with us. When one is born again, the Lord has his eye on the day when we grow out of our temper tantrums and all the weaknesses and sins that make up our lives. In the meantime, our sins are forgiven because Jesus Christ bore the judgment due them - in our place. Forgiveness is instant: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 Be quick to confess your sins. Be quick to acknowledge your weaknesses. Be a cooperative child, pleasing the Father as you submit to all the corrections he applies as you grow. Stop the temper tantrums. Stop the demands. Stop trying to get your Father to do what YOU want. If you surrender all to him and COOPERATE with all he sends your way, you will be pleasing to him even when you haven't yet reached maturity. It is the attitude of the heart he's looking for, the attitude of total surrender to the wisest of all Fathers, the attitude of complete faith, the attitude of willing cooperation and repentance as he shows you your sins. THEN you will be a joy to him even in your immaturity.