Near To The Heart Of God
1.  Jubilee Is Near

"But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."  (Psalm 73:28)

It's growing near!  It's almost here! 

July 18-21, 2016

High Point Baptist Camp
6607 Hayworth Springs Road
Jamestown, NC 27282

Monday - Thursday 7:30 pm each evening
Tuesday - Thursday 10:00 am each morning

If you live near central North Carolina I want to extend a special invitation to our High Point Youth Jubilee.  We have worked and prayed and are looking forward to another special year.  The special speakers are Evangelist Cody Shew and Pastor Mike Soop. 


2.  Near To God

We are busy in preparations for the High Point Youth Jubilee.  This is a special time each year when young people from several churches, some from out of state, come together to hear preaching from God's Word.  They join together to sing in the youth choir and provide the music for the worship services.  It is a wonderful time of fellowship and each year many draw nearer to God and some give their hearts to God in salvation.  We are thankful that God has chosen to use us in such a way and we feel blessed to serve Him by serving others.  Thank you, Lord for being near, and for all You will do during this special time.

"Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare."  (Psalm 75:1)


3.  Seek The Lord While He Is Near

Do you know that one day it will be too late to ask the Lord for salvation?  I want to look at two scripture references that show a great contrast.

"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."  (Isaiah 55:6-7)

"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;  But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:.. When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:  For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:"  (Proverbs 1:24, 25 & 27-29)

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers,  "(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)"  (II Corinthians 6:2)  If you are waiting to be saved after you have "lived" a while, or think that you can wait and be saved any time, please hear this message and "call ye upon him while he is near."  One day it will be too late.  We are not promised tomorrow.  I don't know of anyone who knew the day he was going to die.  But I do know of many who died suddenly, some without warning.  The Lord is waiting to forgive and save, but you can't come back again once you die lost in your sin.  It is true that every knee will bow to the Lord Jesus and every tongue will confess to Him, but for some it will be too late to receive mercy.  Please call on Jesus to save you while He knocks on the door of your heart and His hand of mercy is extended to you. 


4.  Trouble May Be Closer Than You Think

Today I want to thank the Lord for protecting me when trouble was closer than I thought.  Michael had picked the cucumbers and okra and headed for the house while I stayed to gather the squash and tomatoes.  I leaned over the zucchini to pull the massive leaves back and a copperhead snake was watching me with his head raised at my direction.  I have only four zucchini plants but they have out grown the spot I had for them in the garden.  The Lord helped me Saturday because the leaves of one of the plants had wilted back a little and I could see the snake at the base of the plant,  Otherwise, I would have put my hand right down at the snake to pull the leaves back to pick zucchini where the snake lay.  I was glad I had my phone with me and Michael quickly brought a shovel and hoe and we were able to kill the snake before it went under the straw where the thick watermelon vines were.  We decided our zucchini days are done and we are going to pull those plants from garden.  Sometimes trouble meets us face to face and we don't have time to plan our defense.  It is great to know that even in those times the Lord is with us and can deliver us with His protecting power.  "Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help."  (Psalm 22:11)


5.  Temptation May Be Closer Than You Think

We have talked before about how Lot looked over the well watered plain of Jordan and pitched his tent towards Sodom.  He became one that "sat in the gate" which seems to indicate to me that maybe he had an important position in the city.  He lost his testimony, even among his family.  "And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law."  (Genesis 19:14)  The story of Lot gets worse as we look today and consider "Temptation may be closer than you think."

"16  And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
17  And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.
18  And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord:
19  Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:
20  Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.
21  And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.
22  Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
23  The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
24  Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
25  And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
26  But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
27  And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD:
28  And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
29  And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.
30  And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters."  (Genesis 19:16-30)

God told Lot to escape to the mountain and Lot wanted to go to Zoar, a little city that was near.  He changed his mind after he saw the magnitude of God's judgment.  When God tells us to flee from sin, we need to go as far away from it as we can.  Sometimes we react like Lot when we are in sin and fear God's judgment, and think we will be okay if we go just a little away from sin.  We need to realize that temptation may be closer than we think and it is better to stay as close to God as we can, and get as far away from sin as we can.


6.  The Day Of The Lord May Be Closer Than You Think

I often talk about salvation in these daily devotionals because I believe that the Lord is coming again and He will not come this time as a Baby in a manger, but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The Lord's return will only be good for those who have accepted God's gift of salvation.  The end of time will be a great time of sorrow and terror for those who have not asked Jesus to forgive them and save them from their sin.  The prophets foretold of the day of the Lord many years ago and look how far we have come since that time.  I believe that the day of the Lord is closer than many of us realize.  Are you ready to face God Almighty?

"The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,  Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!  For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen."  (Ezekiel 30:1-3)

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.  The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.  The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."  (Joel 3:14-16)

"For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head."  (Obadiah 1:15)

"The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,"  (Zephaniah 1:14-15)


7.  The Lord Is Near The Broken Hearted

Today we turn to Psalms 34:18 to find our scripture... "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."  Also in Psalms 147:3, we read, "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds."  I don't know anyone who has not experienced a broken heart at some time in his or her life.  Many times when we are broken hearted we feel all alone.  Our friends and family may try to comfort us and lift us up, but sometimes the pain is so deep we sink in despair.  But look at our verse, "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart..."  Jesus is near!  When we feel all alone, Jesus is near!  When we feel discouraged and feel like nobody understands our pain, Jesus is near!  When our friends forsake us and turn against us, Jesus is near!  He is our Friend that sticks closer than a brother.  He is our Comforter and Healer.  He is our salvation!  He is the great I AM!  And He is near!


8.  Old Age Is Closer Than You Think

I have heard two sayings about old age lately that stuck with me.  My father-in-law tells us that old age is not as fun as he thought it would be.  The other saying was, "Old age got here a lot faster than I thought it would."  I remember when I was a teenager and 30 seemed old.  Now, that I have travelled more than half a century, even 65 does not seem so old.  And it seems that the older I get, the smaller the gap becomes between my age and my Mom's age.  What did the wisest man on earth have to say about old age?  In looking back over his life, King Solomon declared that all was vanity, but he does have some good advice for the younger generation.  "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;"  (Ecclesiastes 12:1)  Old age comes closer not only with every birthday, but with every morning you wake up.  Don't waste your life.  Live for God.  Serve Him.  Worship Him.  Make every moment count and don't waste a single day.  Because the day may come when you won't be able to serve Him the way you would like.  One day you may wake up and agree, "Old age got here a lot faster than I thought it would."


9.  The Lord Is Near Those That Call Unto Him

When Elijah stood against the false prophets of Baal he had faith in the true and living God.  "And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."  (I Kings 18:27)  First, Elijah says that their god is talking and does not hear their cries.  Our Bible assures us that the Lord our God hears our prayers.  "But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer."  (Psalm 66:19)  "I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications."  (Psalm 116:1)  "I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation."  (Psalm 118:21)  Next, Elijah suggests that their god is pursuing or in a journey.  In contrast, our God is always near.  "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth."  (Psalm 145:18)  Finally, the great prophet says that their god sleeps and needs to be awakened.  Praise the Lord, our God never sleeps.  "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."  (Psalm 121:3-4)  I am so glad that the Lord sought me and showed me the way of salvation.  He lives in my heart and I know that He is the only true and living God. 


10.  Where The Shepherds Found Jesus

Once again I am using an idea from one of Pastor Jack Tripp's sermons.  We have been looking at being "Near To The Heart Of God" and with some thoughts from Isaiah 55:6, "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:"  Today I want to begin talking about where some people of the Bible found the Lord.  We turn in our Bible to the Christmas story to find where the shepherds found Jesus. 

"10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds."  (Luke 2:10-18)

The shepherds found Jesus as a tiny baby in a stable, lying in a manger.  That was an unusual place to find a baby, but Jesus came as the "...Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."  (John 1:29)  You can find Jesus in the Christmas story.  Jesus came, born of a virgin, the Son of God, to give His life for our sin.  We can celebrate the birth of our Savior all year.  We don't have to wait until December.  If you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can find Him in the Christmas story. 


11.  His Parents Found Him In The Temple

When I had nightmares of losing one of my children when they were small I always woke up in a panic, covered in sweat, glad it was just a bad dream.  I cannot imagine how Mary and Joseph felt when they could not find Jesus for three days.

"41  Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42  And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44  But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45  And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46  And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47  And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48  And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49  And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50  And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51  And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart."  (Luke 2:41-51)

Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us, but today I am asking the question, "Have you left Jesus?"  His parents went a day's journey before they realized that they had left Him in Jerusalem.  We need to examine our hearts and lives and see if we left the Lord some time ago, maybe a day, maybe a month, or maybe several years ago.  After searching for Jesus three days they found Him in the temple.  This is a lesson for us.  If we have been on our journey without the Lord, we need to go back to the house of God and find Him there.  He is waiting for us to return to Him.  "Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts."  (Zechariah 1:3)


12.  Zacchaeus Climbed A Tree To Find Jesus, And Jesus Found Him

You can be saved anywhere, but I only know of one person who was saved up in a tree.  Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore tree looking for Jesus, and did not know that Jesus was looking for him.  Our thought today is a simple one.  If you look to find Jesus, He will find you!  "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."  (Luke 11:9)

"1  And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2  And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
3  And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4  And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6  And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7  And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8  And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9  And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."  (Luke 19:1-10)


13.  We Can Find The Lord In The Storms Of Life

As we continue with our devotionals on "Near To The Heart Of God" we see today that we can be near the Lord in the storms of life.  Look at this familiar story in Matthew 14:22-33.

"22  And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23  And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24  But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32  And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God."

First of all notice that the disciples were right where Jesus told them to be, but the storm still came.  This can happen in our lives, too.  We may be just where God wants us, doing what He wants us to do, and the storms still come.  Storms and trials do not always mean that we are out of God's will.  He may be trying to work in our lives to fulfill His purpose.  Also, He does not always quiet the storms, but sometimes He sends a quiet peace to our hearts.  Next, I want to look at verse 27 to the Words of Jesus, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."  Storms can be frightful, but Jesus can calm our fears when we put our trust in Him.  Last of all, I believe that sometimes the storms come to strenghten our faith.  Jesus said to Peter, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"  After we go through the storms with the Lord we come out on the other side with a stronger faith and trust in Him.


14.  They Found The Lord In Prayer

We have looked at several places where people found the Lord.  Today we see that the disciples found the Lord in prayer.

"35  And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
36  And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.
37  And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee."  (Mark 1:35-37)

Are you seeking the Lord?  Pray.  Do you need help in any way; financially, physically, mentally, or spiritually?  Pray.  Do you feel alone, and there is no one you can talk to?  Talk to the Lord.  Do you need guidance for the decisions you are facing, large life-changing decisions, or small daily choices?  Ask the Lord to lead you.  Are you burdened and overwhelmed?  Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Most important of all, do you need the Lord to save you and deliver you from sin?  Ask Him in prayer.  "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  (Romans 10:13)  You can always find the Lord in prayer.


15.  Two Found Jesus On The Road To Emmaus

Some have found the Lord in extraordinary places with exciting and emotional conversions.  But it is good to know that Jesus also walks with us on the ordinary, daily roads of life.  These two disciples were leaving Jerusalem after the crucifixion and they were sad, walking and talking on their journey to Emmaus.  Jesus joined them and explained the scriptures to them but they did not recognize Him for a while.

"13  And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15  And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them...
26  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28  And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
29  But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
30  And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
31  And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32  And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"  (Luke 24:13-15 and 26-32)

I am thankful that the Lord goes with us from day to day, and opens our eyes to understand His Word.  It is such a comfort to know that we can be near the Lord as we travel on the ordinary roads of life.


16.  Jesus Can Give Life To Those Living Among The Dead

Today we are going to the country of the Gadarenes where there lived a man among the tombs.  Satan had him bound and there was no hope for him. 

"5  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6  But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7  And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
8  For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
9  And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10  And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11  Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
14  And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
15  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
16  And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
17  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
18  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.
19  Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
20  And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel."  (Mark 5:5-20)

We learn through this story that Jesus can give life to those living among the dead.  And weren't we all bound by Satan, lost in our sin, without hope when Jesus found us?  I was just a young girl when the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and I realized through the preaching of God's Word that I was lost and that trusting in Jesus was the only way to escape hell.  After I asked Jesus to forgive me and save me, a sweet peace came over my soul.  I was too young to understand all that Jesus gave me with salvation, but I learned later that He took my old sinful covering and clothed me in His righteousness.  He filled me with the Holy Spirit and helped me to see the difference in right and wrong.  I like verse 15 of our scripture above, "And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind:..."  He went from crying night and day and harming himself, to sitting at the feet of Jesus, "clothed, and in his right mind."  What a wonderful change takes place when we accept God's great gift of salvation by believing on His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.  When Jesus saved this man "all men did marvel."  If you will trust Him today you can see what great and marvelous things He can do for you!


17.  Are We Leading Our Friends To Christ?

We have looked at where several people were when they found Jesus and today I want to look at how a man found the Lord.  The man was sick of the palsy and could not go to see Jesus on his own, so his friends carried him to where Jesus was preaching.  The place was so crowded that they could not get into the house, so the men carried the sick man to the roof and took away part of the roof and let him down with ropes.  Jesus saw the faith of his friends and the man was healed and saved.  Are we leading our friends to Jesus.  Can our friends see our faith? 

"1  And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3  And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5  When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
6  But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7  Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8  And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9  Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11  I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12  And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion."  (Mark 2:1-12)


18.  Jesus In Our Midst

We began this devotional series before our Youth Jubilee talking about drawing "Near To The Heart Of God."  There is a special bond that comes each year as these young people gather for four days of worship services.  The groups are from different churches, but they eat together, sing together, pray together, and worship together.  The men and women from Pine Grove Baptist Church work together, cook together, and serve together to feed them dinner each evening and some of the churches nearby also work together to feed them lunch.  All this work and prayer is done to help bring these precious young people closer to the Lord.  It is an added joy when some find salvation during the week.  I want to say "Thank You" to each person who had a part in this year's Youth Jubilee.  It is a joy to be a part of God's work.  It is a blessing to stand along with others and know that the Lord is in our midst.  "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."  (Matthew 18:20)


19.  Following Jesus Brings Us Closer To Him

Writing these devotionals each day helps me in my Bible reading as I look for scriptures to exemplify my thoughts.  This morning I began reading and the Lord showed me His message for me in the first two verses I read.  I began reading in Matthew 19:1-2, "And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;  And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there."  We have been looking at being near to God for two and a half weeks, and today the Lord showed me that if we want to be near the Lord, we need to follow Him.  How simple can that be?  These people followed Jesus and He healed them.  Later in the same chapter Peter asked Jesus what they would receive for following Jesus.

"27  Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28  And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29  And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." (Matthew 19:27-29)

The greatest thing we receive for following Jesus is everlasting life.  But, He also provides so much more along the way.  When the 5,000 followed Jesus He fed them with bread and fish.  This shows His compassion and that He supplies our needs.  Multitudes followed Jesus, but some followed at a closer distance than others.  His nearest followers were able to see Him in His glory.  "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."  (Matthew 17:1-2)  We reap great benefits when we follow close to the Lord, but when we follow at a distance it is harder to face temptation as we see in the life of Peter. 

"52  Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53  When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
54  Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.
55  And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56  But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57  And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not."  (Luke 22:52-57)

Peter denied Jesus when he "followed afar off."  We need to follow as close to the Lord as we can, especially in these last days.  I close with this promise in James 4:8, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..."


20.  We Can Find The Lord In The Scriptures

We recently talked about the two disciples who found the Lord on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus drew near to them and explained the scriptures which foretold of Him becoming our way of salvation.  I want to look especially at Luke 24:25-27. "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."  When we look at where we can find Jesus and how we can be near Him, we need to search the scriptures.  Jesus made it clear that we can find Him in the scriptures.    "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."  (John 5:39)  We are blessed more than we could ever imagine in having the precious Word of God.  We can read the Bible and pray and get close to the Lord through faith in believing in His Word. How close we want to be to God can be determined somewhat by how much time we are spending reading His Word and talking with Him in prayer. 


21.  We Can Find The Lord At The Cross

For our final devotional on "Near To The Heart Of God" I want to look at one more person and where he found the Lord.  We don't know his name, and maybe it was omitted so that each one of us could put ourselves in his place.  As Jesus was crucified His followers stood afar off, while the crowd gathered around the cross mocked Him.  Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross between two thieves.  One died in his sin, and one was forgiven.  We can all find Jesus at the cross.  Many have heard the gospel message of how Jesus left His home in heaven to come to earth to give His life to pay for our sin.  We have heard how He defeated death and rose again the third day.  Many messages have been preached of Christ's promise to return and take His children home to heaven.  At the cross there are two choices.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  (I John 1:9)  

"32  And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
33  And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
35  And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
36  And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
37  And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
38  And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42  And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."  (Luke 23:32-43)

Have you made the right choice? 

"16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."  (John 3:16-18)