Persecution

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If the world hates you, you will know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I have spoken to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus was persecuted relentlessly during his earthly ministry.  He was slandered publicly and privately.  He was shunned by many, and ridiculed, even by members of his own family.  His message was so offensive that he was nearly stoned to death on a number of occasions.  Eventually, despite his miraculous feats, and his immeasurable love, Jesus Christ was abandoned by his closest friends; he was bound and beaten; spit upon and crucified.  Those who choose to follow him can expect to experience similar forms of persecution.

                Eleven of the twelve disciples were brutally martyred for their unwavering faith (the twelfth was imprisoned until his eventual death.)  Each disciple paid the ultimate price for fearlessly spreading the gospel throughout the known world.  Although physical peril is a common type of persecution, it comes in many other forms.  One day as I sat studying in the local coffee shop, I began talking with a Muslim friend concerning the tenants of the Christian faith.  As I presented her with the gospel, a women sitting next to us became visibly upset.  Not knowing that we were already friends, she yelled “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to talk to you about that?”  The woman continued to verbally harass me, making every effort to subvert the conversation.  In the midst of the pestering, I looked at my friend and said, “This is the type of persecution that occurs when you become a believer.”  Eventually the woman became so disruptive that we had to end our discussion.

                Persecution is an inevitable consequence of genuine faith.  If we are not experiencing some kind of persecution, then perhaps we are keeping our beliefs hidden away; choosing safety and security above obedience to the Lord.  Still there are those who boldly spread the gospel message; making every effort to lead others to God.  These individuals can expect to be persecuted.  Persecution in any form isn’t very pleasant; yet it is a reminder that we are earnestly following in the footsteps of our teacher, our master, and our friend.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, provide us with opportunities to preach the gospel to others.  May we reach out to those who might become our brothers and sisters.  Strengthen us when we encounter persecution; that we might stand firm in the faith.  Give us courage to boldly speak the truth; that we would continue to emulate our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  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.

Powerful Conversions

JESUS SPEAKING

            “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.  And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  “So I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’  And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me’” (Acts 26: 12-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            There was once a very angry young man named Saul who passionately hated Christians; after Jesus ascended in to heaven, Saul traveled from synagogue to synagogue, beating, harassing, and even killing those Jews who openly professed a faith in Jesus Christ.  One day, while traveling to Damascus to persecute believers, God intervened in Saul’s life.  Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘it is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  [Oxen were trained to pull heavy plows; an untrained ox would often try to kick itself free.  In turn, farmers attached sharp pieces of metal to the plow (otherwise known as ‘goads.’)  When the ox kicked the plow, it would stab itself in the leg; the harder the kick, the more painful the sensation.  After a short time the animal would learn to accept its position.]  Like an untrained beast, Saul had been struggling against the call of God.  After his visitation, Saul finally quit fighting; he accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior; he also changed his name to Paul, and went on to write many of the letters in the New Testament.  Throughout history, some of the greatest Christian leaders have often been those who were once the devout enemies of God.

            Sir William Ramsay was one of the most influential scientific minds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He taught at Oxford, and is credited with discovering several new elements; he also received numerous scientific awards and honors.  Ramsay had been raised as a non-believer; his parents were atheist (a disposition he also clung to for most of his life.)  He had little respect for Christianity; in fact he claimed that the bible was nothing more than “a book of fables.”  He began to study archaeology and eventually he traveled to the Middle East in hopes of disproving the historical accuracy of the bible.  After 25 years of travel and research, he was forced to concede that even the most minuscule details of the New Testament were accurate.  Instead of writing a book disproving the validity of scripture, Ramsay wrote a book entitled “St. Paul, the Traveler and Roman Citizen.”  In it, he presented his findings; all of which supported the reliability of the bible.  Convinced by the evidence, Ramsay shocked his colleagues and fellow intellectuals by announcing that he had converted to Christianity.

            Like Paul, and like Sir William Ramsay, there are many today who are kicking “against the goads.”  God however, is still actively intervening in the lives of atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers the world around.  If you are raging against the call of God, stop struggling; give up, and give in.  Let the Lord in to your heart; He will replace your pain with peace; your hatred will give way to love, and your sorrow will turn to joy; if you would only surrender to Him, you would know true freedom; for you would come to know the eternal and everlasting God.

            “Lord Father, may Your perfect will be done in our lives.  We pray for those who “kick against the goads.”  Soften their hearts and cleanse their minds, that they may come to believe in Your Son, and in the redemption he has offered through his sacrifice.  May they embrace and receive Your free gift of salvation through faith.  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.

Second Chances

JESUS SPEAKING

                When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  A third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” […] and when he had said this he said, “Follow me.” (John 21: verse 15 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                On the night that Jesus was arrested, nearly every disciple abandoned him.  As the armed soldiers escorted Jesus to the high priest for questioning, Peter followed at a distance.  When they arrived at their destination, Peter sat down and watched as an angry crowd condemned his master.  They hurled insults at him and spit on him; they also blindfolded Jesus and repeatedly struck him in the face.  As Peter observed the brutality of the mob, his heart began to fail; his confidence gave way to fear.  Three times he was asked if he was a follower of Jesus Christ; and three times he denied his affiliation.  He eventually ran off disgraced and ashamed.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples.   They shared a meal and fellow-shipped.  The Lord took Peter aside and didn’t condemn him for his denials.  Instead, he absolved him of sin and gave him a second chance.  He called Peter to lead and care for those who were giving their lives to God.

                In the late 1800’s there lived an ambitious inventor named Thomas Edison.  He is credited with inventing the battery, the phonograph, the telegraph, the movie projector, and many other well known devices.  One of his greatest inventions was the first industrial light bulb (an item we still use today.)  As the story goes, it took Mr. Edison and an entire team of men, 24 hours to produce the first working prototype.  After the many long hours, Edison gave the bulb to a young boy to carry up the stairs to the testing area.  With the fragile device in hand, the nervous assistant cautiously made his ascent; every step was a carefully planned exercise.  Sadly, despite the child’s best efforts, he shattered the bulb.  The disappointed team began manufacturing another prototype.  Twenty four hours later, the new bulb appeared.  Although the young assistant had failed the first time, Edison wisely understood that the boy deserved a second chance.  The youngster didn’t disappoint; he delivered the bulb to its destination intact. [Note:  The world, unlike Mr. Edison, is not so forgiving.  There are many today who cannot find work, or are stuck in horrible jobs because of crimes they committed 10, 20, even 40 years ago.  They are condemned by, and find little reprieve from the sins of their past.]

                The world is filled with people who have failed in more ways than one; mistakes are a part of life.  Human beings can be unforgiving and cruel, but God is merciful.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to give others a second chance; to forgive and forget.  In so doing, we too will be set free from the guilt of our past mistakes; forgiveness is the pathway to peace; and mercy is the road that leads to true fellowship with the eternal God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we have made many mistakes; but You have created in us a new heart.  You have given us a second chance.  May we show that same love toward others; may we forgive completely, and may we manifest Your mercy and grace in the lives of all those we meet.  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.

Cutting out Sin

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Mathew 5: 30) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Sin is the act of willfully disobeying God.  Sin is serious because it separates us from our heavenly Father.  God loves all of His children; He therefore commands us to discard sinful practices, that we might be reunited with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Believers must abandon grievous sins, such as fornication, adultery, drunkenness, lying, stealing, lewdness, etc.  If we want to live, we must cut away the dead portions of our flesh.

                In April of 2003, an experienced mountain climber named Aaron Ralston was hiking alone in a remote mountain pass in Utah.  While maneuvering through one of the crevices, a giant boulder dislodged and pinned his arm against the canyon wall; for days he attempted to free himself.  He hadn’t told anyone where he was going; he knew no one would be looking for him.  When he ran out of water, Aaron was faced with a terrible choice […] He could severe his arm with an ill-equipped pocket knife; or he could keep his arm and slowly die.  The only thing standing between Aaron and the rest of his life were two bones, several muscles, and some tendons in his forearm.  He chose to break both bones in his arm and to saw through his own flesh with the dull knife.  After nearly 127 hours of confinement, he left his severed limb behind and climbed out of the canyon; he was rescued and made a full recovery.  Until that day, Aaron had lived selfishly.  He had been a ‘loner’ who pushed others away.  Shortly after his experience he came to believe that the boulder had been waiting for him his entire life (that it was meant to transform him.)  He said, “I left my hand behind in that canyon, but I gained my life back.”  His experience allowed him to see what was truly important.  He began emphasizing personal relationships; he got married and started a family.  He now travels the world telling other people about his inspiring experience. 

                Like Aaron, there are boulders in our lives; giant rocks that pin us down and keep us from knowing complete freedom.  If we have entered again in to serious sin, and we have been separated from God then we have some cutting to do.  Cut away the dead flesh and you will live.  Ask God to reveal to you any sinful practices that have crept back in to your life and He will.  How you respond to what you find, is up to you.  May God help us all to make the right choice.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we recognize that sin can cause us to become separated from You.  We know that we have received forgiveness through Your Son, but we understand that it is our duty to refrain from willful acts of disobedience.  If we have become defiant, correct us; help us to let go of our sins, that we might continue in fellowship with You.  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.

Conquering Doubt

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he left them, and getting in to a boat again (with his disciples), departed to the other side.  Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.  Then he charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”  But Jesus being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive nor understand?  Is your heart still hardened?  Having eyes, do you not see?  And having ears, do you not hear?  And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  They said to Him, “Twelve.”  “Also when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  And they said, “Seven.”  So he said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” (Mark 8: 13 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Shortly after feeding four thousand people with seven loaves of bread, Jesus warned his disciples to beware of doubtful thoughts.  Despite having just witnessed God’s heavenly provision, the disciples began to fear that they hadn’t brought enough food for their journey.  The Lord addressed their uncertainties by reminding them of his previous miracles.  On two separate occasions he had fed thousands with scarcely enough food to feed a small family.  If doubts arise within our hearts, they can quickly be eradicated by recalling the many miracles God has performed for us in the past.

            I once heard a man give his personal testimony.  As a youth he had been hopelessly addicted to drugs.  Eventually he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  He began reading the bible and his life started changing.  Although sober, he hadn’t yet given up his old friends.  One day he was gathered together with them in a house; he was reading his bible while they were doing drugs.  Suddenly a group of heavily armed police officers broke through the door and began arresting everyone.  He was so frightened he could barely move.  He thought, ‘If I just sit here and read my bible, nothing will happen to me.’  He heard lamps falling and people yelling as they were being dragged to the ground and arrested.  As the commotion swirled around him he never took his eyes off of God’s word.  After a short time he heard the front door slam and the house was completely silent.  Looking up he realized he was all alone.  No one had tackled him; no one had arrested him; no one had even questioned him.  Sometime afterward, God told him that He had blinded the eyes of the officers so that they couldn’t see him.  This man has undoubtedly recalled this miracle on many occasions to dispel his doubts and to inspire his faith.

            Even the most faithful believers can occasionally experience doubtful thoughts.  If and when they arise, the natural remedy is remembrance.  How often has God healed our bodies; how often has He provided for our needs and protected us from trouble?  Our faith is preserved in times of trouble by remembering the wonderful miracles God has already performed in our lives.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, increase our faithfulness.  In moments of weakness may we be reminded of the many miracles You have already performed.  Through remembrance may our doubts be destroyed and our fears be put to death.  Fill our hearts with love, and peace, and truth, that we may continually trust in You and Your Son.  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.

Leading others to Christ

JESUS SPEAKING

                While journeying through Samaria, Jesus became tired and sat down next to a well; as he rested, he began speaking with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water; during their conversation he revealed to her the intimate details of her life; details that only God Himself could know.  Amazed and astonished, ‘the woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet […] I know that the messiah is coming (who is called Christ.)  When he comes he will tell us all things.”  Jesus answered her saying, “I who speak to you am he.” […] The woman then left her water-pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?” […] And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in him because of the word of the woman who testified saying, “He told me all that I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans had come to him, they urged him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his own word” (John 4: 19 – 41.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ chose to reveal himself to an immoral woman who had ventured to the well to find water; completely unaware that on that day she would find the Son of God and receive salvation and eternal life.  After the Lord disclosed to her the intimate details of her existence, she was overwhelmed with joy; the astonished woman left her water-pot behind, and ventured in to the city to seek others she might lead to Jesus; many who eagerly followed her came to receive the free gift of God.  All individuals who place their faith in Jesus Christ become his messengers.  Having been redeemed they make every effort to lead those who are sick to the ‘Great Physician;’ the one person who can mend their wounds and heal their broken hearts.

                Like the ‘Great Physician’, there was once a missionary physician who was working in one of China’s many hospitals; in his efforts to alleviate the suffering of his fellows, he surgically cured a man of cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eye that causes blindness.)  A few weeks later 48 blind men arrived from the wilds of china (each one seeking the same incredible procedure.)  All 48 were holding on to a rope guided by the man who had been cured.  These men had walked in chain for 250 miles until they had safely reached the hospital.

                There are so many people in this world who have been blinded by sin and death.  People who need someone to guide them to the ‘Great Physician.’  Like the Samaritan woman and the blind man, all those who have been enlightened are given the task of leading others to Jesus Christ.  As ‘re-born’ believers we are instruments in the hands of the Almighty.  He uses us to reach out to our family members, co-workers, and friends.  Our task is to testify of the wonderful things He has done and will do in the lives of all those who believe in Him.

               “Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  May we be amazed anew every day by Your miracles and wonders.  May we continue to embrace our duty to lead others to Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to witness to our family members, co-workers, and friends; that they would hear our words and deeply desire the gift of eternal life.  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.

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 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 have been taught, in order to embrace the doctrines of genuine faith and divine humility.  Only by abandoning the desire for greatness, can one completely and lovingly serve others.

            For years young men from across the country have flocked to the church where I used to serve seeking to do 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 tell them to go sweep a portion of the church.  Although many were obedient, others felt insulted and 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 did not have a servant’s heart; they had not come to serve and to practice humility, but to acquire power and authority.

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

            “Lord Heavenly Father, inspire us to seek lowliness and humility.  May we hunger to love and serve others in sincerity and singleness of heart.  Provide us with opportunities to place the needs of our fellows ahead of our own, that we might be 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 in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.



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