Giving is better than receiving

JESUS SPEAKING

            “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20: 35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The word ‘blessed’ most commonly translates in to the English word for ‘happiness.’  Those who live a ‘blessed’ life regularly experience joy, peace, and contentment.  Such a pleasant existence can only be achieved and maintained through daily acts of selflessness and service.  Sadly however, nearly all human beings are resoundingly selfishness.  In an endeavor to acquire as many possessions as possible, many become isolated, depressed, and discouraged. They aren’t aware that true happiness doesn’t come from selfish gain; rather, it is the product of selfless giving.

            Michael Norton, a Harvard business professor, sought to discover a link between overall happiness and daily giving.  He conducted an experiment in which a small amount of money was given to a group of test subjects.  Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves; the other half were told to spend the money on someone else.  When researchers contacted the subjects at the end of the day, they found that those who had spent the money on someone else reported feeling much happier than those who had selfishly squandered their’ allotted funds.  [Note:  In another study, Norton found that sales team productivity and relationship quality increased as salespeople were given money to spend on other team members.]

            Norton had discovered that, although selfish gain seems appealing, it also lacks the power bring about lasting joy.  Genuine peace and contentment are the products of selflessness and sacrifice.  By serving and giving, we can demonstrate the generosity and love of Jesus Christ. May we never forget that happiness comes not from what we might receive, but rather, from what we are willing to give.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, pour out upon us Your many blessings.  As we love and serve our fellows, may we be filled with happiness and joy.  May our selfish desires come to an end; that through sacrifice, others might come to glorify Your holy name. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Destination

JESUS SPEAKING

                And when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave a command to depart to the other side.  Then a certain scribe came and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus spoke to him saying, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mathew 8: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

               Jesus Christ was born in human form and raised in the house of Mary and Joseph.  Yet his true home was with God in heaven.  He was a sojourner, perpetually mindful of his eventual destination.  With no earthly residence, every miracle, act of love, and profession of truth brought him one step closer to home.  As he traveled, he sought to persuade others to join him in journeying toward the Kingdom of God.  A divine mission, which through the faithful, currently continues.

                In the Old Testament, Moses led millions of Israelites out of slavery and bondage in Egypt.  After passing through the Red Sea, they wandered in the desert for 40 years; roaming the wilderness; living in tents; with no stable place to call home.  Yet God had sworn an oath, to eventually provide them with a permanent dwelling place; a promise that kept them alive as they embraced a life of hardship.  After many long years of sacrifice, God fulfilled His pledge; safely guiding them in to the land of Israel.

                Similarly, Jesus Christ leads many out of bondage to sin; in turn, they become travelers; reliant upon God’s provision.  Each one, clinging to the promise that they will one day enter His permanent dwelling place.  As we journey toward the Kingdom of God, we must embrace a life of sacrifice, humility, and service.  By denying our love of this world, we can lay hold of the world to come.  The road to heaven is long and the way is hard; but the destination is more wonderful than anything we could ever imagine.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we cling Your promises.  May we deny our own desires and embrace sacrifice.  Strengthen us as we continue journeying toward Your kingdom; make us ever mindful that we are but travelers heading home.  May we always reach out to the lost; persuading them to join on us on our journey.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

A Servant’s Heart

JESUS SPEAKING

            But Jesus called them to himself and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  However, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 42 – 45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            As children we are often taught that dominance is better than submission, and that a higher social status means a better life.  Many therefore seek to acquire positions of great power and authority.  Yet Christ’s teachings are in direct opposition to such worldly principles.  Those who follow Jesus must deny what they’ve been taught, in order to embrace the doctrines of genuine faith and divine humility.  Only by abandoning the desire for greatness, can we completely and lovingly serve others.

            For years, young men from across the country have flocked to my home church; seeking to practice pastoral ministry.  Many hopefuls were initially referred to a pastor named Romain; who employed a special technique designed to separate the qualified from the unqualified.  As the prospects approached, he would hand them a broom and instruct them to sweep a portion of the church. Although many were obedient, some, feeling insulted, became upset. One common response sounded something like this; “I came here to be a pastor, and to teach the bible; not to sweep floors.” Pastor Romain knew then that they lacked a servant’s heart; they had not come to serve in humility, but rather, to acquire power and authority.

            Those who follow the Son of God must abandon the desire for worldly greatness in order to pursue lowliness and humility.  By seeking to serve others rather than to be served, we become the men and women God has called us to be.  We can serve in our church, at home, in the community, and at work.  We can serve our families, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers.  Only through sacrifice and selflessness can we truly be molded in to the image of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, inspire us to pursue and embrace humility.  May we strive to serve others in sincerity and singleness of heart.  Provide us with opportunities to place the needs of others ahead of our own; that in so doing, we might be living examples of Your great mercy and everlasting affection. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The real Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

            And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of me” (Mathew 11: 2-6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            John, believing Jesus to be the long awaited messiah, erred in assuming he would immediately usher in an earthly kingdom; there by, putting an end to Roman rule. In captivity, the prophet grew impatient with Jesus; sending messengers to him from his prison cell. ‘Was he truly the long awaited savior; or should they look for another?’ Jesus responded by quoting an ancient prophecy describing the Messiah’s good works. He would heal the blind, raise the dead, and preach to the poor; the very acts he was accomplishing. Like John, many today have an inaccurate perception of who the messiah is. Knowing the real Jesus is an absolute necessity if we are to properly follow him.

            Shortly after my conversion, I decided I could no longer call myself a Christian unless I actually knew who Jesus Christ was. I had to read the bible for myself; knowing full well, that in so doing, many of my previously held beliefs would be challenged and transformed. In order to grab hold of the truth, I had to abandon my fuzzy perceptions of God. As I read the scriptures, I came to accurately know my creator. Instead of being disappointed, I was filled with awe and wonder. The real Jesus is far more spectacular than any messiah I could have ever imagined.

              Do you know the real Jesus; or are you clinging to uncertain perceptions?  Have you invented a messiah, or have you discovered him? Read his words; uncover his works; his message; and his truth; and you too will find something more amazing than you’ve ever known; and your life will never be the same.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we seek to know the real Jesus.  Place his words in our hearts; that we might walk as disciples; exhibiting obedience in all that we do. Help us to not run from the truth, but to embrace it. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name; amen.” God bless all of you.

Loving sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness. The prostitutes and tax-collectors, devoid of any delusions of purity, were wholly capable of conducting an honest self-appraisal.  The religious leaders however, believing themselves to be righteous, refused to accept the message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward the restoration of divine fellowship includes a genuine recognition of sin. Still today, those who need the greatest measure of healing, are often rejected by the self-righteous. Although most have forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

                Many living within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were no retirement homes, assisted living facilities, or modern hospitals.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who fell ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; and left to die in the streets. Still, as Christianity spread, so did mercy, compassion, and love. During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who were sick. They became known as “the Parabalani” (“the reckless ones”); because in caring for the infirmed, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they undoubtedly preached the gospel; drawing many to the foot of the cross.

                In similar fashion, we are called to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing recipients of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation. May we never abandon the lost; nor shun the wretched; for Jesus Christ himself loves every outcast.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we be instruments of Your mercy; delivering Your message of salvation to the lost.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

Avoiding Covetousness

JESUS SPEAKING

               Then one from the crowd spoke to Jesus saying, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”  And he said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12: 13 – 15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus fervently warned his followers to avoid covetousness.  Those who covet strongly desire the belongings of others, and lack proper gratitude for what they have been given.  Knowing the destructive nature of this sin, God gave mankind the tenth commandment which states: “You shall not covet (desire) your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet (desire) your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”  Covetousness is dangerous, and can lead to a number of other sins such as theft, adultery, and even murder.

                In ancient times, King David was a powerful man who possessed great riches.  He had countless wives and concubines at his disposal to satisfy his physical needs.  Yet, one evening, as he walked along the rooftops of his palace, his eyes beheld a woman bathing naked.  Her name was Bathsheba; the spouse of a military commander named Uriah.  David began to covet her, and eventually committed the act of adultery.  Soon he was informed that Bathsheba had conceived and was with child.  After numerous attempts to cover up his dreadful act, David finally had Uriah murdered in battle and took Bathsheba to be his wife.  King David was later judged for his sin and the penalty was severe.

                As faithful servants, we must be careful to continually maintain a spirit of gratitude, and to take pleasure in what we have been given.  In so doing, we will fulfill the tenth commandment and avoid covetousness.  May we never desire the possessions of others; may we always remain grateful for what we have been given; and may our loving God grant us true contentment and everlasting peace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many blessings.  Fill us continually with true gratitude and genuine appreciation.  If we have broken the tenth commandment convict our hearts and help us to change.  May we never desire the possessions of others; instead may we take pleasure in the gifts that You have given us.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Rapture

JESUS SPEAKING

            “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man (Jesus Christ):  For they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all […] even so will it be in the day that the Son of man (Jesus Christ) is revealed.  In that day, he who is on the housetop and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you in that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  Two women will be grinding together; the one will be taken and the other left.  Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17: 26 – 27, 30 – 36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            ‘The Rapture,’ is another name for the unique event being described in this scripture.  In the blink of an eye, God will gather up the faithful from among the nations; prior to pouring out His wrath upon the earth.  Relatives, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers will vanish in an instant.  Those who are left behind will endure God’s judgments.  How can we be prepared for the rapture?  Simply put; by valuing eternal rewards more than earthly possessions.  Jesus implores us to consider Lot’s wife; a woman who was ill-equipped for the Lord’s deliverance.  In ancient times, she and her family were lead out of the wicked city of Sodom before its destruction.  She disobeyed God by turning back and affectionately gazing upon the city.  In turn, she was transformed in to a pillar of salt.           

Like Lot’s wife, many throughout history have cherished worldly possessions more than their own lives.  One day my dad and I were driving through the town where I grew up.  As we passed a certain building, he informed me that the structure had burned years earlier.  The owner had foolishly rushed in to the basement to collect some of his valuables; becoming trapped in the process.  In desperation, he attempted to crawl through a basement window; but the opening was too small.  Firefighters and onlookers could only watch in horror as the man perished in flames.  Valuing his possessions more than his own life lead to his untimely demise.

            Today, many value their possessions more than their eternal lives.  Taking great comfort in worldly belongings has rendered them ill-prepared for the coming Kingdom.  Every believer must be ready for ‘the rapture;’ an event that could occur at any moment.  Complete preparation entails loving God more than anything else.  Human beings must be more prized than possessions, and truth more treasurable than trust funds.  As our values are transformed, we will look forward to the rapture with greater joy and anticipation.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to value our heavenly lives more than our earthly possessions.  Prepare our hearts and minds for the rapture.  May we remain focused on Your coming kingdom.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, strengthen us; that we might accomplish Your will in this place.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.



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