Promoting Peace

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Son’s of God” (Mathew 5: 9)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The world is full of conflict.  Yet in the midst of the hostility, God’s children are called to promote peace.  The Lord Himself is a peacemaker; He detests war, and abhors senseless aggression.  Many who share His heart also share His mission; to bring harmony where there is hatred and tranquility where there is contempt.  Those who choose to make peace will inherit the eternal blessings offered to the ‘Sons and daughters of God.’

                As the story goes, in the 4th century A.D., a monk named Telemachus felt God calling him to go to Rome.  He packed his meager possessions and set out for the great city.  Upon arriving, the streets were bustling with excitement.  When he asked why everyone was so energized, he was told that the gladiators would soon be fighting to the death in the coliseum.  Horrified that men would be killing one another for sport, he headed for the stadium.  After entering the complex, he pushed through the crowds and hopped a fence; making his way to the center of the arena.  As he stood between the two gladiators, he shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  The crowd began yelling, “Run him through, Run him through!”  A gladiator abruptly approached; striking the monk in the stomach with the back of his sword.  Although Telemachus fell to the ground, he soon recovered.  Once again he placed himself between the two armed men and shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  The other gladiator suddenly approached him and plunged his sword through the monk’s belly.  Telemachus plummeted to the ground and began bleeding out.  Before dying, he was able to utter one last statement; “In the name of Christ, stop.”  A hush came over the crowd.  A single spectator rose up from his seat and left; followed by another; and another. Within minutes all 80,000 people had exited the coliseum.  That day marked the last gladiatorial contest in Roman history.

                No matter the consequence, the people of God are called to be peacemakers. When others fall silent, we must speak up.  Where there is discord we ought to bring unity; where there is conflict we must promote peace.  In so doing we will be called ‘The children of God;’ and we will know the eternal blessings reserved for those who remain faithfully obedient.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we long for obedience; may we share the desires of Your heart.  May we love others as You have loved others.  Use us to continually promote peace and to end conflict.  Give us the courage and the strength to speak up when others remain silent; may we be Your sons and daughters; and may we experience the blessings of genuine obedience.  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 Stony Heart

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Mathew 30: 20 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The gospel is a powerful force; like a raging torrent, it demands reverence and respect.  Just as rivers gouge out valleys and rip apart mountains, the gospel transforms lives.  Many, lacking foresight, eagerly receive God’s Holy Spirit without truly understanding the magnitude of changes that God intends to perform in their lives.  Genuine faith is costly; the price of salvation is death; death to our old lives.  In order to be remade in the image of Christ, we must willingly be destroyed.  Those possessing stony hearts, experience a shallow relationship with God. They desperately cling to old familiar habits; willfully abandoning their faith whenever significant changes are required.

                When a famous gangster named Mickey Cohen was released from prison in the 1950’s, a Pastor by the name of Bill Jones made it his personal mission to convert him to Christianity. Jones presented Mickey with the gospel; who in turn, said a prayer, receiving Jesus Christ in to his heart.  Word of his conversion soon spread; as many were amazed to hear that this once villainous mobster had turned to the Lord.  However, although Mickey enjoyed being called a ‘Christian,’ he refused to live like one.  “Eventually he lost touch with Pastor Jones; and again began hanging around his old buddies from the criminal underworld.  The disheartened Jones confronted Cohen; telling him that as a Christian, he needed to put some distance between himself and his old unlawful associates.  A puzzled Cohen quickly responded; “Jones, you never told me that I had to give up my career.  You never told me that I had to give up my friends.  There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, and Christian businessmen.  So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster?  If I have to give up all that – if that’s Christianity – then count me out.”

                Sadly Mickey’s story is all too common; out of the four different types of soil Christ describes, the stony heart is often the most deadly; for within it, there exists the greatest propensity for self-deception.  Believing a verbal profession of faith to be sufficient for salvation, many remain unchanged.  With their lips they affirm Christ; but with their lives they deny him.  By continuing to practice behaviors such as, watching pornography, fornication (sex before marriage), drunkenness, idolatry, and dishonesty, etc…many delusional souls are journeying toward an eternal precipice from which there is no return.  If you can identify with this particular type of soil, then you have two choices; continue onward toward eternal punishment, or get honest with yourself and begin a new life with Jesus; a repentant life; a life free from serious acts of unrighteousness; a life lived as a disciple of Christ; a life fully committed to purity, church fellowship, prayer, evangelism, and bible study.  May the Lord give you the courage, strength, and conviction to make the right choice.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, transform us in to the image of Your Son.  May we lay down our old lives and take up our new ones.  May our relationships with You be deep and meaningful; that our lives might always affirm our verbal professions of faith.  If we have not fully committed our lives to You, reveal to us the areas where we are refusing to change; and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to overcome those shortcomings.  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. 

Does God love you?

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 lived.  In fact, 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 an almighty God; his pierced hands and feet are perpetual reminders 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.  As a widower, his only son had also been tragically killed.  An elderly grandmother living near him was raising her orphaned grandson. One day their home caught on fire; although the aged woman was rescued, her grandson remained trapped in the blaze. Acting quickly, Mr. Dixon climbed an iron pipe on the side of the house; lowering the boy to safety. As a result, the hand he used to hold on to the pipe was badly burned. The grandmother died shortly after the fire.  As 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 individual 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 suffering to save us from certain death.  His scarred hands and feet are perpetual reminders of His unfading love.  Who better to call our master and Lord than the one who willingly sacrificed his life so that we could live?  We, having received salvation, are then compelled to lay down our lives for others; embracing the attributes of sacrifice, selflessness, and service. God, through our acts of kindness and love, 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 we be continually filled with gratitude.  May we also follow Your example and lay down our lives to serve others.  Give us the strength to forfeit our fleshly desires; that we might love our fellows 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

Absolute 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

                Those who desire God’s mercy must also be merciful; those who yearn for His forgiveness must not withhold forgiveness from others.  Hatred, anger, and resentment have no place in the heart of the believer; as unresolved bitterness creates division between God and man.  Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Everyone who seeks to follow the Lord also desires to imitate Him; forgiving those who repent without restriction or exception. God’s mercy is immeasurable; in turn, those who practice unconditional forgiveness are wonderful examples of His limitless love.

                In 1956, five American missionaries flew in to the jungles of Ecuador; seeking to make contact with a hostile and war-like tribe of Indians known as the Waodani.  All five men were speared to death.  Their families were devastated by the loss; in a single day, a number of wives were widowed and a handful of children were orphaned.  But did the remaining family members seek vengeance?  Did they cry out for justice?  No. Instead Elizabeth Elliot (who had lost her husband), and Rachael Saint (who had lost her brother), were obedient to God; forgiving the tribesman unconditionally. Elizabeth and Rachael continued evangelizing the natives. The Waodani people eventually invited them in to their community.  One by one, the members of the tribe began committing their lives to Jesus Christ.  The men who had perpetrated the murders expressed great joy in knowing that they had been forgiven.  The women eventually formed lifelong friendships with the individuals who had killed their loved ones.  This unconditional forgiveness has given birth to the Waodani Church; a church that is currently thriving.  They have abandoned their spears and picked up their bibles; going so far as to evangelize the other neighboring tribes as well (at great personal risk to themselves.)  This amazing work of God was only made possible because two women were willing to forgive without restriction.

                Forgiving others is not a suggestion, a recommendation, or a request; it is a command; a command that heals both the forgiver and those who are forgiven.  Is there anyone you’re angry with?  Has someone caused you great pain?  Then you must forgive them.  Search your heart and ask God to give you the courage, and the strength to let go of your resentments; to lay down your hostilities; to do away with your bitterness. In turn, God will give you peace…and your heart will be filled with joy as you walk in fellowship with the almighty and everlasting Lord.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, search our hearts and reveal our hidden resentments.  Give us the strength and the courage to forgive without restriction.  May we love as You have loved.  May we forgive as You have forgiven.  We cherish 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.

Pray with Persistence

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Please, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, but because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11: 5-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In first century Middle Eastern culture, hospitality was paramount.  Welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs.  Guests were given food, shelter, and protection; failure to meet these requirements was considered a great disgrace.  In this parable, a tired and weary traveler arrives at his friend’s home late in the evening; but he lacks sustenance.  The responsible friend therefore approaches his neighbor; hoping to borrow some food.  The late request rouses the man from his sleep. In a state of irritation, he denies the initial appeal. And yet the desperate soul keeps knocking. By refusing to ‘take no for an answer,’ he eventually receives the food. In this parable, the request for food is symbolic of prayer.  The unrelenting neighbor represents anyone who desires God’s blessings.  The man who supplies the food signifies God Himself; who enjoys rewarding our persistent petitions.

            At the age of 23 an inquisitive youth from Gloucester, spied an advertisement in a Boston newspaper that read, “Wanted; young man as an understudy to a financial statistician.  P.O. Box 1720.”  He responded to the ad by way of letter; but received no reply.  He promptly wrote a second letter; and then a third; still no reply.  So he made his way down to the post office and requested the name of the owner of Box 1720; but the clerk refused.  He then met with the Postmaster, but he too refused (claiming it was illegal to provide him with that information.)  The young man remained determined; he arose early in the morning, hopped the first train to Boston, and entered the post office.  He stood patiently with his eyes fixed on box 1720.  After quite some time, a man appeared; he opened the box, grabbed the mail and left.  The young man followed him to his brokerage firm; he entered and asked to speak to the manager.  He told the manager that he had written three letters, before going to the post office (where they refused to provide him with the proper information.)  The manager asked, “But how did you find out that I was the advertiser?”  The youth replied, “I stood in the lobby of the post office for several hours, watching Box 1720.  When the man came in and took the mail from the box, I followed him here.”  The manager said, “Young man, you are just the kind of persistent fellow I want.  You’re hired” (Sunshine Magazine; paraphrased.)

            Similarly, God rewards those who are persistent in prayer.  All too often, our prayers are erratic and inconsistent.  Although we make our requests known to God, we frequently get discouraged when they aren’t answered immediately (in turn, many simply stop asking.)  If you have need of something, continue in prayer daily and don’t relent.  Your blessing may not come on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if you’re persistent, it will come.  Never give up; never stop asking; never stop seeking; and never stop knocking; for God is listening, and He is willing and able to give you the desires of your heart.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers.  Provide us with more of Your Holy Spirit.  Behold, we stand at Your door and knock; and we won’t leave until You bless us.  May we be persistent in our prayers; may we be patient; and may we endure.  Transform us; provide for our needs; and give us Your mercy and grace.  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.

Who can you trust?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8: 46-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No human being can live a completely sinless life.  Jesus however, being the Son of God, never once indulged in iniquity.  He was so confident of his own moral perfection, that he publicly challenged any willing soul to accuse him of sin.  In turn, his numerous enemies watched and waited; hoping he would make some grave error.  Despite their continuous inspections and endless observations, he spoke plainly, and publicly.  And yet no one could find him guilty of sin.  In fact, at his trial, Pontius Pilate actually said of Jesus, “I find no fault in this man.”  Still he was crucified. Those who are wise, understand that trusting a man who is sinless, is far better than trusting one who is not.

                Throughout history there have been many self-proclaimed prophets; men seeking the trust of others, who were themselves, untrustworthy. None of these liars ever dared place their own personal lives under examination.  Joseph Smith for example (false prophet and founder of the Mormon faith) claimed to be God’s chosen messenger.  However, he lived a life of sexual debauchery; marrying other women without telling his first wife Emma.  He also married other men’s wives in secret; and engaged in wife-swapping. He even went so far as to marry both a mother and her daughter (an offense punishable by death, according to God’s law.)  Unlike Jesus who invited others to scrutinize his life, Joseph Smith viciously sought to keep his sins a secret.  After being kicked out Missouri, Joseph and his followers went to the town of Nauvoo Illinois; where the local newspaper began printing articles about his many wives and sexual indiscretions. In June of 1844, fearing he might be exposed, Joseph ordered his followers to destroy the printing press; they broke in to the newspaper office and dragged the machine in to the street; smashing it with sludge hammers.  Smith was arrested for this crime and later killed in jail.  

                Unlike Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ had nothing to hide; his life was without sin. He never lied, never exploited anyone, and never abused his position of authority to indulge in selfish pleasures.  Instead he served others, loved others, and delivered the word of God to all those who were willing to listen.  Only Jesus Christ can be trusted; only our messiah is worthy of praise and honor.  Won’t you put your faith and trust in him today?  Obey him and follow him, and he will lead you in to eternal life. In turn, you will know true freedom, and you will take hold of the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You and we thank You for Your Son; recognizing that he is sinless and completely trustworthy.  Help us to submit to his leadership; may he be at the center of our lives.  May we be more like him, and may we fully trust in him.  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.

Being Prepared

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes […] But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12: 35-37, 39-40.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jewish weddings were long engagements; often lasting many days.  The guests reclined on pillows, feasting day and night; often falling asleep beside the table.  The length of the celebration was uncertain; it could end at one in the morning, or three in the afternoon. When the master of a household attended a wedding, his servants had to be prepared for his return at any moment. Therefore, Jesus used this parable as an illustration of his second coming. After ascending in to heaven he promised to return; yet gave no specific day or hour. He could return today; in one month; or a hundred years from now. Consequently, his servants must eagerly await his arrival every second of every day.

               Many years ago, prior to my conversion, I practiced a life of sinful disobedience.  I lived alone, in an apartment paid for by my Dad.  He would occasionally pop in to make sure the apartment was clean and in proper condition.  One evening, while hosting a drunken bash, things got out of hand.  We smashed beer bottles in my living room with a golf club.  I shattered an exterior window, and another partygoer broke my car window with an empty beer bottle.  The toilet clogged and overflowed; and someone used shaving cream to scribble an obscenity across my bathroom wall. Eventually, I passed out; thinking I could clean up in the morning before anyone noticed.  However, early the following day, I was rousted from sleep by the shouts of an angry man. “Get up,” my dad yelled in my ear!  I sprang from the mattress, in shock.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, and filled with fear.  I hadn’t expected him; never contemplating that he might witness the carnage of my drunken debauchery. He stood by, patiently watching as I picked up every shard of broken glass.

                Much like my Dad, the Lord is coming at an hour when we least expect Him.  We must always be ready for his return at any moment.  Those who obey the teachings of Jesus Christ are prepared to meet him. If we continually love and serve others, then when our savior arrives, he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant […] enter in to the joy of the Lord.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may our hearts be filled with the expectation of Your return.  Reveal to us any areas where we are being selfish, rather than selfless. Convict our hearts and give us the strength to repent. May we always be giving, kind, and obedient; that we might better 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.



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