What God values

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God” (Luke 16: 14-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                What the world considers valuable and what God considers valuable are often in direct opposition.  Most esteem beauty, wealth, fame, power, and intellect above Godliness, compassion, love, humility, and genuine mercy.  The Pharisees (religious leaders) hearts were wicked; they demonstrated extreme partiality toward the powerful, wealthy, affluent, and well-educated.  Jesus however, fellow-shipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors; he reached out to the lame, and befriended many outcasts.  He refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality; rather, he continually honored and esteemed only those things God deemed worthy.

                In the Old Testament, we read of a time when it became necessary to anoint a new king to rule over the nation of Israel.  The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to travel to Bethlehem, where he was instructed to choose a king from among the Sons of Jesse.  Upon arriving, Samuel laid eyes upon Eliab (one of the eldest sons); Eliab was mature, healthy, and strong.  The prophet, being mislead by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!”  God replied to Samuel, saying, “Do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  After God had rejected seven of Jesse’s eldest sons, it appeared there were none left.  Samuel asked if all his Sons were present; Jesse replied, “Well there remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”  When David, the youngest and weakest of Jesse’s son’s appeared, God said, “Arise and anoint him, for this is the one.”  [In time it became clear why God chose David; he was wise and loved God with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.]

                In all cultures it is common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to highly esteem such attributes is to oppose God.  The apostle James wrote, “For if there should come in to your assembly a man with Gold rings [and also] a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”  Therefore, every true believer must make an effort to avoid valuing worldly things.  With God’s help, we can be impartial; we can see through His eyes; we can become lovers of truth; men and women who adore kindness, cherish compassion, and embrace mercy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, guide us, and lead us in to the paths of righteousness.  Give us clean hearts, that we might avoid partiality, and love what is truly good.  May we turn away from worldly pursuits, and walk in Your ways; may we love what You love; may we value what You value; and may we live as You have lived.  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.

Does God love me?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                God is a loving Father who cares deeply for every man, woman, and child who has ever been born.  His love is so profound that He sent His only Son to suffer the punishment for our sins; that we might receive the gift of eternal life.  Because Jesus Christ was whipped, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified, the world has come to know the love of the almighty God; his pierced hands and feet are a perpetual reminder of the awesome measure of His affections.  Without sacrifice there is no proof of genuine love.

                Many years ago a man named William Dixon lived in Brackenwaite, England.  He was a widower whose only Son had tragically died.  There lived near him a grandmother who was raising her orphaned grandson.  One day their house caught on fire; although the aged grandmother was rescued, her grandson was trapped in the blaze.  Dixon climbed an iron pipe on the side of the house and lowered the boy to safety.  The hand he used to hold on to the pipe was badly burned.  Shortly after the fire, the grandmother died.  The townspeople wondered who would care for the boy.  Two volunteers appeared before the town council.  One was a father who had lost his son and wanted to adopt the orphan.  The other man was William Dixon.  When given the opportunity to speak, Mr. Dixon said nothing.  Instead, he simply raised his scarred hand in the air for everyone to see.  The vote was taken, and the boy was given to Dixon.

                Like Mr. Dixon, Jesus Christ endured much pain and suffering to save us from certain death.  His scarred hands and feet are perpetual reminders of His immense love.  Who better to call our master and our Lord than the one who sacrificed his life so that we could live?  Having received salvation, we are then compelled to lay down our lives for others.  Abandoning selfish pursuits, we are called to embrace the attributes of sacrifice, selflessness, and service.  Through our acts of kindness and love, God will continue to make known to the world the fullness of His affections.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we thank You for Your immeasurable love.  We praise you Jesus for the pain that you endured on the cross for us.  May our hearts continually be filled with gratitude.  May we follow Your example and lay down our lives to serve our fellows.  Give us the strength to forfeit our fleshly desires, that we might genuinely love others as You have so graciously loved us.  We honor 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. 

Embrace fellowship

 

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mathew 18: 19-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The word ‘Amen,’ so commonly spoken at the end of most prayers, essentially means ‘I agree.’  ‘Amen’ is an expression used when two people have finished praying together.  Like so many Christian practices, prayer is meant to be exercised in community (as well as alone.)  No one can have a full relationship with God until they share Him with others.  When two or more gather together to celebrate Christ his Spirit is made manifest in the heart of every believer; those who are weak become strong; doubt is replaced by faith; the empty are made full, and every weary soul becomes glad.  An isolated Christian is a Christian who is weak and vulnerable to attack.  To avoid fellowship with believers is to avoid fellowship with Christ himself.      

                I have been answering prayer lines at my church for nearly two years.  Over that period of time I have been able to make some profound observations.  Those who are not involved in a church fellowship, or a small group bible study, suffer great difficulties.  Many isolators are doing drugs and struggling with grievous sins; nearly all who remain detached are in some kind of continual crisis.  On the contrary, those who express a spirit of joy are actively involved in service work; they usually attend a small group fellowship; most have made close friendships with other believers; and nearly all of them intimately share God with those who call Jesus their Lord.

                Are you involved in a fellowship today?  Do you have close Christian friends that you pray with regularly?  Is your experience with Christ exercised in community, or in isolation?  If you are not plugged in to the body of Christ, go down to your church and ask them about weekly fellowships you might attend.  They usually have lists, and you can always find one that fits your schedule.  Make friends with other believers, and pray with them daily; become a part of God’s family and be renewed by the Holy Spirit.  Without fellowship, you will never know the fullness of God’s power in your life.

                “Lord heavenly Father we come before You and ask that You help us to be members of Your body.  We desire to share You with others, and to be in fellowship with our eternal brothers and sisters.  May we draw near to one another as we all draw near to You.  May Your Spirit flow freely between us.  If we have isolated, give us opportunities to fellowship with others and to grow strong.  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.

Sectarianism is bad

November | 2011 | Jesus Speaks | Page 3 //

JESUS SPEAKING:

                “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Don’t stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38-39.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS:

                Every good work done in the name of Christ is commendable in the sight of God.  Those who oppose such works (for whatever reason) practice evil.  The disciples mistakenly commanded an unknown man to cease casting out demons in Christ’s name.  Jesus rebuked them for ignorantly believing that God would only use members of their inner circle.  The man was filled with faith; enough faith to perform miracles in his name; he was not a stranger; rather, the man they confronted and corrected was in fact, their brother.  Authority and power come from God; they do not come from men.  Briefly, the disciples believed themselves to be more than servants; they selfishly attempted to set themselves apart, and to control and contain the work of God; in so doing, they stood in opposition to Him.

                Throughout the centuries, there have been many who have fallen victim to the exact same mistake made by the disciples.  Some vainly believe they alone possess the power and authority of God; such organizations are in fact cults.  The J-hovah’s witnesses say, “We acknowledge as the visible organization of J-hovah on earth, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.”  The International Church of Christ says, “There is one church! There is one God. There is one kingdom of God and this is it!”  The seventh day Adventists say, “Since we keep all ten Commandments and have Ellen White as our prophet, we Seventh-day Adventists are The Remnant Church!”  The ‘True Jesus Church’ claims that they are “the true church restored by God through the Holy Spirit of the latter rain.  She is the revival of the apostolic church in the end times.”  Any organization that claims membership with them is a prerequisite for salvation stands in opposition to the Lord they profess to serve.

                Jesus Christ can never be replaced by a denomination; rituals and traditions cannot usurp the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those who say affiliation with their church is necessary are in rebellion against the one true and living God.  It can be very difficult to keep the gospel simple, and to keep Christ at the center of the faith (avoid those who practice sectarianism.)  Jesus is what connects us; he binds us to one another; he brings us together; he alone is our salvation and our strength; he is the center of our faith; may you always keep him close; and may you continue to seek fellowship with those who love him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us discernment; may we never forget that faith in Your Son is what truly matters.  May our good works always be done in Your name.  Help us to avoid those who seek to replace our trust in You with a faith in a denomination or sect.  May we draw near to one another as we draw near to Your son.  Father, continue to fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that through us, Your miracles may continue to be done in this world.  We thank You Father, we love 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 importance of action

 

JESUS SPEAKING

              “But what do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’  He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir’ but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his Father?”  They said to him, “The first.”  Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots enter the kingdom of God before you” (Mathew 21: 28-31.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                There are two kinds of people; those who do and those who don’t.  The priests and religious leaders failed to obey God despite their many years of biblical study; they preached of righteousness but were unsuccessful in achieving it.  They confused knowledge with wisdom (knowledge is the comprehension of truth; whereas wisdom is the application of it.)  While the intelligent refused obedience, many prostitutes and tax collectors were receiving salvation.  These social outcasts possessed very little knowledge of scripture; yet what little they did possess, they chose to apply.  The gospel is not a thought or a good intention; it is an action.

                In the spring of 1862 a confederate Major General named ‘Stonewall Jackson’ fought a famous military campaign in a valley near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  His tactics were unorthodox and his troop movements unpredictable (he utilized speed and stealth to attack his union counterparts.)  Concerning speed, he reportedly marched his 17,000 men nearly ‘646 miles in 48 days’ (approximately 13 miles a day.)  Traveling at this furious pace, they met many natural obstacles (such as hills and streams.)  At one point however, they encountered a river too treacherous to cross.  Jackson told his engineers to draw up plans for a bridge; he then summoned his wagon master and informed him that they urgently needed to cross the river.  The wagon master immediately began to gather together every rock, fence rail, and log he could find; before sunrise the next day, the wagon master approached General Jackson and said, ‘The artillery and wagons have crossed the river sir.’  General Jackson replied, ‘Where are the engineers, and what are are they doing?’  The wagon master replied ‘they are in their tent, drawing up the plans for the bridge.’

                Knowledge is useless unless it is implemented to accomplish a task.  We are called to be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only.’  The Christian life is a life of action.  When God commands us to love our enemies, we must love them.  When he instructs us to give to the poor and needy, we must open our wallets (and purses.)  When we are directed to pray for those who persecute us, we must drop to our knees.  Keep the commandments of God and you will be blessed; obey Him and you will experience peace; follow Him and you will know joy; joy eternal; joy everlasting; joy without end.

              “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the strength to live out Your commandments.  May we receive Your words and accomplish them.  May we be ‘doers of Your word and not hearers only;’ may our actions bring others to repentance; may we love our neighbors without restraint or indignation.  We love You Father, and 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.

Letting go and grabbing hold

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Again, the kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mathew 13: 45-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The message of “The kingdom of God,” is priceless; it is a treasure; a treasure more valuable than gold, and more precious than any diamond.  For contained within it is the gift of eternal life and the love of God.  As Jesus preached the message, a fortunate few recognized the truth and were willing to trade in all of their possessions to receive the Lord’s everlasting gift.  Many who came to believe sacrificed great wealth, time, relationships, homes, and positions within the community, in order to take hold of the true riches of God’s eternal kingdom.  As believers, we must let go of the world in order to fully embrace the Lord.

                Some people actually make a living letting go of one thing so they can grab hold of another.  Trapeze performers, for example, swing effortlessly back and forth, high above cold concrete floors.  For these men and women, timing and precision can mean the difference between living and dying.  The man who risks his life to spin through the air, must know when to let go of his swing and when to grab hold of his partner dangling from the opposite swing.  So too, the gospel is a message about ‘letting go’ and ‘grabbing hold;’ no one can ‘grab hold’ of the Kingdom of God unless they fist ‘let go’ of whatever they are clinging too in this world.  For the Christian, the pursuit of worldly rewards must end, and the pursuit of Godly rewards must begin.

               Sadly, during the Lord’s public ministry, thousands simply passed by him as he spoke; they chose to cling to their own lives rather than to grab hold of God and the life He was offering them.  Today, the Lord is still speaking; his message is still being proclaimed throughout the world.  Many still choose the temporary pleasures of this life over the eternal peace of God.  Most refuse because the Christian life is not easy.  There are many trials and hardships that accompany genuine faith.  Self-sacrifice and self-denial aren’t always popular, but they are necessary.  May we all choose to let go of our selfish pursuits.  May we loosen our grasp on the things of this world; and may we grab hold of and embrace the free gift of God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You give us the strength to avoid selfish living; we long to serve others, and to sacrifice our lives to accomplish Your desires.  May we receive your kingdom with gladness, and may we let go of anything that is hindering us from completely submitting to Your perfect will.  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.

Gossip

JESUS SPEAKING

                The high priest then asked Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine.  Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world.  I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet and have said nothing in secret” (John 18: 19-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                After being arrested, the Lord was taken before the Jewish leaders to be interrogated.  They sought to find something in his teaching by which to condemn him.  Jesus was considered a Rabbi; Rabbi’s spoke publicly; they gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions and to cross examine them (In fact, the religious leaders sent many servants in disguise to ascertain the nature of Christ’s doctrine.)  Jesus never said anything in secret that he did not also profess openly.  Speaking in secret is a sign of ungodliness (Gossip for instance is a type of destructive, private communication.  The Lord never gossiped and he never slandered; instead, he spoke the truth publicly and without remorse.)

                One day a group of pastors began to talk.  They all agreed that those who confessed their sins on a regular basis were more joyful.  So the four men decided that they should meet and confess their sins to one another.  Upon meeting, the first pastor confessed that he routinely called in sick so he could attend the theatre.  The second pastor confessed that in the evenings he liked to smoke cigars.  The third pastor confessed that he had a major gambling problem; he often flew to Las Vegas where he would lose large sums of money.  The final pastor refused to confess.  But the other pastors pressed him until finally he made his admission.  He said, “Well, I confess that I really like to gossip, and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”

                Although this fictional illustration is humorous, Gossip is not.  Jesus never engaged in gossip, and his followers should strive to be like him, ‘in thought, word, and deed.’  Everything we say must stand up under scrutiny.  Our private communication must be congruent with our public communication; if what we say cannot be printed on the front page of the newspaper, perhaps we have no business saying it.  Speak openly; speak truthfully; speak lovingly; and you will never be ashamed.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to avoid gossip; may we speak openly; may we never speak out of hate or contempt, but out of love.  Fill our hearts with Your Holy Spirit, and may our mouths always speak the truth.  May Your words be our words; may Your thoughts be our thoughts; may Your desires be our desires.  May we glorify You in ‘thought, word, and deed.’  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.



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