Moving Forward

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away.  And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.  Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.  Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.  Now about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.  And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled.  But immediately He talked with them, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid.”  Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.  And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled” (Mark 6: 45 – 51.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Lord, desiring solitude, sent His disciples to the other side of the lake.  However, a great wind began to oppose them and they were unable to reach their destination.  Filled with compassion, Jesus walked across the sea to meet them.  After a fearful exchange, He was received into the boat.  Immediately the wind and the waves ceased, and the disciples were finally able to move forward.  Like that boat, many human beings can also become trapped.  Reaching a point of stagnation, they are no longer able to move forward.  Sadly, most are unaware that the key to progress is to receive Jesus Christ.

            In the 1890’s, Melvin Trotter had reached just such an impasse.  The son of a drunken bartender, he began drinking and gambling at an early age.  After marrying, he started a career as a barber.  However his rampant alcoholism made it difficult for him to hold down a steady job.  Eventually he began leaving his family for weeks at a time.  One day, upon returning home, he was informed that his two year old child had died.  Believing he was responsible, he considered suicide.  As he stood beside the coffin he vowed never to touch another drop of alcohol.  Two hours later he was drunk.  He proceeded to steal the shoes off of the body of his lifeless child and headed to Chicago, where he sold them for another drink.  Drunk and penniless he was nudged into the Pacific Garden Mission, where he accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.  His life was suddenly transformed.  God gave him the ability to work, to love, to live, and to stay sober.  He was finally free to move forward.  He began leading others to Christ and he eventually started his own rescue mission.  Melvin would later say, “I had taken cure after cure.  I had taken everything known to science, and had made resolution after resolution.  But just one glimpse of Jesus Christ, and I have never wanted a drink from that instant to this!”

            Many, like Mr. Trotter, will come to experience periods of stagnation.  Facing obstacles that seem immovable, they will struggle to find a solution.  However, the only real remedy is to receive Jesus Christ and to allow Him to eliminate the obstacle.  Upon entering the heart, He causes the winds to cease and the waters to calm; by His power those who are trapped can finally move forward.  May we all receive Jesus and be transformed by His mercy and grace.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, please soften the hearts of those who are suffering, that they would receive Your beloved Son.  By Your power may they grow, and learn, and be transformed.  As every obstacle is removed and every barrier is destroyed, may they be healed and free to continue moving forward.  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. 

Outwardly Professing the Faith

JESUS SPEAKING

                “I also say to you, whoever confesses me before men, him the son of man will confess before the angels of God.  But he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12: 8 – 9.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Pride plays a major role in what we communicate to others; most intuitively hide what is unimportant or shameful, while openly expressing the things that are of great value.  In American culture, individuals utilize social media to post quotes, publish photos, and transmit thoughts.  Many also use billboards, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and jewelry to convey their beliefs to others.  Yet in a nation supposedly comprised of millions of Christians, Jesus Christ very rarely occupies the top position.   He is often displaced by more important things; like a career, a family, a political candidate, a sports team, a noteworthy cause, or even a unique lifestyle.

                Throughout history Christians have been persecuted for their outward professions of faith.  In many countries today, those who openly convert from Islam to Christianity face execution and imprisonment.  Only some are afforded the right to a trial; during these mock proceedings, evidence of a true conversion is presented against the accused.  To test the genuineness of our faith, we must ask ourselves a hypothetical question; “If we were to go on trial for our lives, what evidence would our accusers have to convict us of being true Christians?”  Would we be blamed for spreading the gospel?  Would we be found guilty of outwardly displaying our beliefs without shame or remorse?  Would others willingly testify that we followed the teachings of Jesus Christ?  Would we be condemned by love, and convicted by our faith?

                Only those who are proud to be disciples are truly committed to the Lord.  As believers we must actively seek to express our faith in obvious and practical ways; through words, deeds, and nonverbal communication.  Whether it is the bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus is Lord,” or the cross that hangs from our neck; outward displays of devotion strengthen our relationship with God.  Each time we openly express our love for Christ, we grow closer to our Heavenly Father; who in turn, pours out upon us, all of His spiritual blessings.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the strength and the desire to share our faith with others.  May we never be ashamed to be called Your Sons and Daughters.  Continue to be our number one love; may nothing ever come before You.  In Your wisdom, give us opportunities to communicate Your message to those who are devoid of understanding; that they too would come to know You as we have.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

God is in complete control

JESUS SPEAKING

                Pilate […] went again in to the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Are you not speaking to me?  Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?”  Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”  (John 19: 8 – 11.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Bound, bloodied, and beaten, Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate (the Roman Governor of Judea.)  The Jews demanded he be sentenced to death.  Not wanting to kill an innocent man, Pilate proceeded to question him, but Jesus remained silent.  Unaware that he was standing before the Son of God, Pilate warned him that his silence could lead to his crucifixion.  Jesus kindly corrected the Governor; reminding him that it was God who would dictate his sentence.  Pilate falsely believed he was in control of the outcome of the trial; when in reality, he was merely an instrument in the hands of God; used to bring about His eternal plan of salvation.   

                Even today, many look back upon the events surrounding Christ’s death and blame the Romans or the Jewish people.  But they forget that Jesus Christ was not murdered; his crucifixion was the work of God, not the work of man.  Our Lord was not forced to endure the cross; instead he chose to endure it.  Nor was it the nails that held him in place that faithful day; it was love.  He freely died to accomplish the will of God.  The cross is not a symbol of anguish, but an emblem of grace and mercy; for upon the cross the Lord endured the punishment for our sins; that through his selfless act we might all enter into fellowship with the Almighty God.  Sacrifice is a necessary expression of ultimate affection; Jesus Christ’s death is a love letter addressed to mankind.  The blood spilled at the foot of the cross is proof that God desperately loves His children.

                Have you come to know the love of God?  Do you know why Jesus Christ died for you?  He died so all those who believe can draw near to their eternal Father.  Accept God’s sacrifice and invite Him into your heart.  Give Him your life and let him guide you.  He will love you and protect you.  Surrender to your creator, and you will know genuine peace.  Open your heart to the Son of God and receive His blessings.  Receive the gift of salvation, and your heart will overflow with unending joy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we accept Your sacrifice, and we thank You for sending Your Son to die for us.  His blood is our blessing; may we surrender our lives to You.  Draw near to us Father, that we might intimately know you.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us new life; that you may dwell in our hearts forever.  We love You Lord, 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.

Follow Me

JESUS SPEAKING

            “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Mathew sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  So he arose and followed Him” (Mark 9: 9.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The calling of Mathew is among the shortest conversion stories recorded in the bible.  As a tax collector he was hated and despised by his own people.  Still Jesus saw something in him worth saving.  As the Lord passed by He uttered two simple words that would forever transform Mathew’s life; “Follow Me.”  His response was concise, immediate, and unwavering.  Mathew arose, abandoned his position and began following Jesus Christ.  

During the 1880’s, a famous baseball player named Billy Sunday had a similar experience.  One day he and his teammates entered a saloon and began drinking.  Upon exiting Billy spotted a group of Christians singing hymns and preaching about God’s salvation and forgiveness.  As the tears rolled down his face, he turned to his teammates and said, “Boys, I’m through!  Going to turn to Jesus Christ.  We’ve reached the parting of the ways.”  Some mocked him while others encouraged him.  He then entered the Pacific Garden Mission and gave his life to the Lord.  Later he said, “I called upon God’s mercy.  I staggered out of my sins and into the outstretched arms of the Savior.  I became instantly a new creation in Him.  The next morning at practice my manager Mike Kelly greeted me and said, ‘Billy, I read in the paper what occurred yesterday.  Religion isn’t my long suit, but I won’t knock you, and I’ll knock the daylights out of anyone who does.”  Billy Sunday went on to become one of the greatest evangelists of the early 20th century.

            Like Mathew, and like Billy, God is presently calling many lost souls to follow Him.  Jesus Christ desires that all would come to know Him and submit to His discipleship.  Some respond to His call; while others do not.  So how can you respond to God’s call and receive salvation?  First, go to a quiet place and ask God to enter your heart.  Turn away from your sins and profess a faith in Jesus Christ.  Get involved at a local church and be baptized.  Request an easy to read version of the bible and read it every day; beginning with the gospels.  As you grow in the knowledge of God and submit to His commandments, you will experience a genuine transformation.  You will feel the old things passing away; for behold, God will make “all things new.”

            “Lord Heavenly Father we thank You for calling us to be Your disciples.  May You always dwell within our hearts and minds.  Give us the strength to turn away from sin and death, that we might embrace the new life we have in You.  Teach us, guide us, be our Father and we will be Your children.  Give us Your Holy Spirit that we may lovingly serve You and our fellows.  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.

Forgiveness

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Take heed to yourselves.  If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17: 3-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Withholding forgiveness from others is dangerous; for the Lord has said, “if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus used a ‘seven’ to describe the number of times a disciple is obligated to forgive others.  In the Hebrew culture, numbers carried very profound symbolic significance; the number seven represents completion; in turn, the obligation to forgive is limitless, infinite, or complete.  Since the fall of creation until the present day, men and women have fervently sought God’s forgiveness; none whose hearts were sincere have ever been denied (for God is merciful above all things.)  We are called to be like God; and so we must forgive without exception [Note:  Even if a person doesn’t repent and request our forgiveness, we are still obligated to forgive them completely; we see Jesus exercising such mercy during his crucifixion; as the people mocked him, and the religious leaders teased him, they were not repentant.  They did not ask for forgiveness, and yet Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  We have our example in Christ.]

                One day a group of missionaries and local Christians gathered together in New Guinea to share communion and to fellowship.  As they sat down, one of the older missionaries noticed another man’s momentary expression of horror and disgust; which was quickly replaced with an expression of peace.  The missionary whispered to his friend, “What was it that troubled you?”  He replied, “The man who just came in to share communion murdered my Father.  For a moment I didn’t think that I could handle it.  But then I realized that he has been washed and forgiven by the same precious blood.”

       To what extent should we forgive others?  Jesus has taught us to forgive without stipulation or condition.  We, who have been forgiven so much, have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.  Search your heart; if you find hatred discard it; if you discover resentment let it go.  Forgive those who have harmed you; bless them and pray for them.  Allow the Holy Spirit to help you, and your anger will ‘give way’ to peace, and your bitterness will turn to joy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, forgive us of our sins.  May we be like You; may we sincerely forgive others.  If we have refused to forgive anyone, please reveal it to us now.  If we harbor anger or resentment of any kind, expose it; fill our hearts with mercy that we might better serve You, and worthily magnify 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 Good Shepherd

JESUS SPEAKING

            Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 7-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In the first century shepherding was a very common profession.  Every good shepherd would tirelessly love and care for his sheep.  Feeding and watering the livestock remained an unending endeavor.  Every shepherd was also tasked with fending off hungry predators and keeping their sheep free from dangerous parasites.  Over time, the sheep would come to trust in and rely upon the individual guiding and protecting them.  After many days and nights of grazing in the open fields, the shepherd would need to rest.  Upon returning home, he would place his animals in a pen where he knew they would be safe.  Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to gather his sheep together and lead them to safety.  In this parable, the sheep pen is meant to represent heaven; there remains a single gate through which one can enter.  Only those who have faith in and follow Jesus Christ are granted access to God’s kingdom.

            Today, flying is a very common mode of modern transportation.  In recent years, terrorists have utilized airplanes to commit atrocious acts of violence against many innocent people.  In an effort to prevent these attacks from occurring, airport security has become correspondingly severe.  There is now only one way in and one way out.  In turn, those seeking to enter through the security checkpoints must have the proper identification.  No license or alternative form of identification means no entry.  This rule is without exception; a nice smile, a kind face, and an appealing excuse are of no benefit whatsoever.  God’s kingdom is similar in many respects.  Simply put, there is one way to enter; and only those who have faith in the messiah are granted access.

            Jesus Christ is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to lead his sheep into everlasting life.  Many have heard his words and received Him.  Still others however, have rejected him entirely.  Despite a number of differences, the faithful and the unfaithful have one thing in common; they will both one day stand at the gate; and only those who have called Jesus master and Lord will be able to enter God’s eternal Kingdom. 

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we enter Your Kingdom.  We have come to trust in You; please lead us and teach us; provide for all of our needs.  May we be Your sheep and may You be our Shepherd; may we know Your voice and never be deceived.  Protect us from those who would seek to do us harm and inspire us to reach out to those who are 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. 

Shining Brightly

JESUS SPEAKING

            “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Mathew 5: 13.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In ancient time’s salt was a very important commodity used to preserve meats; it was also a common ingredient included in many medicinal remedies.  However, despite its many varying applications, salt was most commonly employed to flavor foods; a little pinch and an otherwise bland dish would become rather tasty.  In this parable Jesus likens every believer to salt; those who remain flavorful are those who continue to fulfill their primary purpose; such individuals consistently serve their fellows, love others, and give to those in need.  Unfortunately, many who start out strong in the faith eventually lose their saltiness; they become self-centered and ungodly; they no longer possess the zeal to accomplish good works.  By serving themselves and not others, they become useless to God.

            The statue of liberty is one of America’s most widely recognized icons.  She remains an enduring symbol of freedom to all nations.  And yet ‘Lady Liberty’ has changed a great deal over the years.  On the day of her dedication in 1886, her polished copper surface was a vibrant spectacle of orange and bronze; a truly marvelous sight to behold.  Sadly, when copper interacts with the atmosphere it corrodes; over time, her shiny exterior has grown dull, muted, and green.  The statue of liberty is still a magnificent example of ingenuity and craftsmanship; however, she is no longer as marvelous as she once was on the day of her dedication.

            Similarly, many Christians dedicate themselves to Jesus Christ, and initially they shine quite brilliantly.  Their zeal for what is good and their desire to spread the gospel is unparalleled.  As they serve, the love of The Lord is manifest in them; drawing others toward God.  Sadly, over time, as other things displace their faith, selfishness begins to reign in their hearts.  They become dull and muted; such individuals are rendered useless to God.  May we never grow dull; may we continually put the Lord first in all that we do; and may we tirelessly strive to accomplish His will in this place.

            “Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  Give us opportunities to lovingly serve others.  We desire to be pleasing to You in all things; use us to further Your Kingdom.  May we always be zealous and flavorful; and may we never grow dull.  If we have turned away, please convict us and correct us.  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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