The Second Mile

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Mathew 5: verse 38 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In the first century A.D. the Roman army occupied the Holy Land.  As conquerors they were afforded certain privileges.  One law in particular gave every Roman soldier the right to compel a Jewish citizen to carry their equipment for up too, but not in excess of, one mile.  Jesus used this commonly understood law to impress upon His followers the importance of serving others in abundance.  When a soldier asked them to carry a load for one mile, the Lord insisted they carry it for two miles.  Simply put, accomplishing the bare minimum proves absolutely nothing.  Instead, the genuine love of God is made manifest whenever we exceed the demands, requests, and expectations of others.

            A few years ago an influential Pastor named Chuck Smith went to be with the Lord.  At age 86, he had been battling cancer for quite some time.  Upon initially being diagnosed, he began a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation.  These treatments, coupled with his age, made him unsteady on his feet.  I was therefore asked to accompany him to and from his daily radio program every day; to prevent him from falling.  At the end of each program, we would hop in to his golf cart and head back to the church office.  While on the way he would drive around the campus picking up garbage; he would also stop to talk to anyone in need.  One day a woman approached him in tears.  She explained that her marriage was suffering and that she had left messages with another pastor concerning counseling; but that individual had never returned her phone calls.  Pastor Chuck lovingly encouraged and comforted the woman.  He then told her to speak with his secretary about setting up a counseling appointment with him later that week.  I was amazed that a man in his 80’s with lung cancer, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy was still out-serving many of the more youthful and seemingly healthy on staff pastors.

            Like Pastor Chuck, Jesus has called each of his children to go the second mile; we must love others in abundance; we must give others more than is needed or required; we must serve our fellows with great sincerity and passion.  Through our selfless actions, others can know the mercy and love of God.  If we are obedient and continue to give glory and honor to the Lord, we will come to know the blessings of unending joy.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we go the second mile.  May we serve and love others in abundance.  Use us to reveal Your love to the world.  Increase our faith and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might accomplish Your will in this place, and bring honor to Your sacred 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.

When tragedies become blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9: 1–7.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century it was commonly believed that all deformity and dysfunction was the result of some form of personal sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not from sin, but from the will of God.  By healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic, are actually designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, they are frequently the greatest blessings we will ever know.

                In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when she was attacked by a 14 foot tiger shark.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  After nearly bleeding to death, she was rushed to the hospital.  Prior to the injury, Bethany had been one of the world’s top competitive junior surfers.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She became determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water 3 weeks after the accident and began training.  She started with a long board and then moved to a smaller board; until she was once again able to surf on a short board.  Because Bethany refused to quit she has gone on to place in and win many of the world’s top female surf competitions.  Her experience has become world famous. She has received thousands of letters and numerous awards; she’s appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggles and victories (which was made in to a movie entitled “Soul Surfer.”)  Throughout her ordeal, Bethany has remained an outspoken Christian.  She thanks Jesus Christ for her strength, her courage, and her triumph.  Was losing her arm God’s will?  Yes.  What appeared to be a tragedy, has become the greatest blessing she has ever known.  With two arms she would have likely won some surf competitions; she might have even made it on to the cover of a surf magazine.  But with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the entire world.  She is now a symbol of faith and a living example of God’s ability to take the broken and make them whole again.

                Is there anything in your life that you struggle with; something that seems tragic; a source of shame or pain?  Take another look; you may find a wonderful blessing hidden within a seemingly apparent calamity.  Seek the Lord, and He will strengthen you and lift you up.  Lean on God, and let Him use you; He will take your weaknesses and turn them in to strengths.  And when He transforms your life, always remember to give Him the credit He so greatly deserves.  If you utilize God’s power and face your fears, many will come to see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we currently face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and 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.

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 relentlessly persecuted during his earthly ministry.  He was slandered publicly and privately.  He was shunned and ridiculed by many, including several members of his own family.  His message was so offensive that he was nearly stoned to death on a number of occasions (one time an angry mob unsuccessfully attempted to throw him from the precipice of a cliff.)  Eventually, despite every miraculous feat, and act of immeasurable love, Jesus Christ was abandoned by his closest friends; he was bound, beaten, spit upon, and crucified.  Those who willingly choose to follow him can expect to experience similar forms of persecution.

                Eleven of the twelve disciples were brutally martyred for their unwavering faith; and the twelfth was imprisoned until his eventual death.  Every 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 a 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 verbally harassing me; making every effort to subvert our conversation.  I looked across the table 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.  Those who have never experienced it are likely keeping their beliefs hidden away; preferring safety and security above obedience to the Lord.  Still there are those who boldly spread the gospel message.  They make every effort to lead others to God.  Such individuals love their fellows and serve one another in sincerity of heart.  These bold men and woman can expect to be persecuted.  Persecution in any form, although not very pleasant, is a distinct reminder that we are Christ’s disciples; and 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 the lost.  May we reach out to those who might choose to become our eternal brothers and sisters.  Strengthen us when we encounter persecution, so we can stand firm in our faith.  Give us the courage to boldly speak the truth that we may continue to emulate Your Son, our savior, 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.

Judging others

JESUS SPEAKING               

                “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye” (Mathew 7: 1-3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS   

                Of all the sins one can possibly commit, hypocrisy is often the most offensive. Jesus embraced repenting murderers, rapists, and prostitutes; yet he openly loathed unrepentant religious hypocrites.  Hypocrisy occurs when an individual judges or evaluates another person based on standards that they themselves are incapable of achieving.  Practicing hypocrisy is dangerous because God judges his followers based upon the very same principles they use to judge others.  If we outwardly chastise adulterers, yet secretly commit adultery, we are condemning ourselves.  Jesus warned his disciples that such unrighteous judgments served only to separate them from God.  Before we judge anyone, we must make absolutely certain that we have been victorious over the same sins that have caused many others to fail.

               Nearly 2400 years ago, a man named Haman made an attempt to execute every Jew living within the boundaries of the Persian Empire.  He hated the Hebrews and believed they were troublemakers who deserved to die.  Haman was a high ranking official in the court of Artexerxes the 2nd (King of Persia.)  He eventually convinced the King to exterminate the Jews; which would have included Haman’s mortal Hebrew enemy, Mordicai (another high ranking official who showed distain for Haman.)  Mordicai had graciously adopted his orphan cousin Esther, who grew in to one of the most beautiful women in all of Persia. The king became enamored with Esther and married her; not knowing that she was a Jew.  As the day approached for the extermination, Haman joyfully built a scaffold fifty feet high near his home, from which he planned to hang Mordicai.  However, just before the mass murder was carried out, Esther came forward and revealed to the king that she was in fact a Jew.  She begged him to end the genocidal plan. He compassionately agreed and her people were spared.  The king was also made aware of Haman’s treachery.  In a cruel twist of fate, the king ordered Haman to be hung from the very gallows he himself had constructed to kill Mordicai.  The judgment he had so eagerly reserved for another person, had been visited upon him and his entire household. 

                Some, like Haman build scaffolds with which to hang others.  Many are often hypocrites who rightly incur the wrath of God; they are condemned by the very judgments they use to condemn others.  As Christians, we must examine ourselves daily; and we must ask God to search our hearts and minds; if we find that the sins of others cause us to experience anger and resentment, then we must ask the question, “Am I guilty of any similar sins?”  If the answer is yes, then we need to change; we need to abandon hypocrisy and embrace a right relationship with God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we are unworthy servants; we are sinners who don’t deserve Your forgiveness; and yet we thank You that we have received it.  Search our hearts; if You find hypocrisy, please reveal it to us; correct us if we have been judging others unjustly.  Take away our sinful resentments, that we might be more effective at reaching the lost. Please continue filling our hearts with gratitude, sincerity, and humility.  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.

Attempt to be impartial

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, fellowshipped 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 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’s 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The simple are wise

JESUS SPEAKING

                At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, because it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the son, and the one to whom the son wills to reveal him” (Mathew 11: 25-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the Jewish culture, youth was often associated with weakness and stupidity.  So much so, that when a group of Jewish men gathered together, they often spoke in order of age; the oldest spoke first and the youngest spoke last.  They believed that with age came wisdom.  Jesus however, corrected this commonly held belief.  Wisdom concerning the messiah and God’s plan of salvation couldn’t be attained through many years of careful study; instead, the truth could only be received as a gift from God.  Those who thought themselves intelligent were blinded by pride and self-reliance; the simple and ignorant however, clearly saw the value of God’s grace and the blessings of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

                Sigmund Freud pioneered what we might consider the modern field of psychology.  In fact, today he’s remembered as one of the most intelligent men who has ever lived.  And yet many are unaware that at a certain point in his career he actively promoted the frequent consumption of cocaine; considering it to be a cure-all.  He even encouraged his close acquaintances and compatriots to indulge in its use.  When one of his dear friends became horribly addicted to the drug, he saw the dangers of cocaine and anxiously recanted his previous endorsements; he carried the guilt of his friend’s continued drug dependence for the rest of his life. In short, some of the most well educated and intelligent people are often the most horribly deceived. Unless an individual knows the creator, they can never know genuine wisdom.

                The truth is a gift from The Lord; it isn’t something that can be earned.  Intelligence, although beneficial and extremely useful, can sometimes blind those who trust in it more than God. Intellect frequently stands in opposition to simple faith and practical wisdom.  God yearns for His children to trust Him completely.  Those who are simple, unlearned, and unwise, are often the first to see the true value of God’s mercy and grace.  Won’t you receive the gospel today as a little child?  Won’t you believe with your whole heart?  Won’t you allow God to take control of your life?  If you place your faith in Jesus Christ you will come to know the truth; and you’ll be smarter than the most well educated man; and wiser than the greatest king. 

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we be as little children.  May we remain simple, and may we trust in, and completely rely upon You.  We pray for those who are intelligent and wise in their own minds; those who have faith only in the achievements of men.  Reveal the truth to them, that they may come to humbly receive 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.

Set Free

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say you will be made free?”  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31 – 36)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Although slavery was commonly practiced in the ancient world, the men Jesus was speaking with weren’t slaves.  As free men, they didn’t understand that they were actually slaves to their own sinful appetites.  Sin is often a far crueler taskmaster than any man wielding a whip.  So many people are ruled over by their individual addictions; some are addicted to drugs and alcohol; some to pornography and sexual promiscuity; others are in bondage to cigarettes, gambling, food, video games, and money, etc.  Still, no matter how vast the number of sins might be, Jesus Christ has been setting people free from them for nearly 2000 years.

                One day I visited Venice Beach. As I journeyed passed the shops and street performers, I encountered a young couple.  They were homeless; their hair was tangled and matted; their clothes were riddled with holes; and despite being raised in the United States, they spoke with a fake Jamaican accent.  They were practicing the Rastafarian religion; a religion that promotes the spiritual use of marijuana.  Their bondage to the drug was so powerful that they had willingly abandoned who they actually were; preferring instead to adopt an entire identity that would enable them to continue smoking cannabis without conviction.  Although they believed themselves to be free, they were in fact slaves; slaves whose master had taken nearly everything away from them.  I shared my testimony with the couple; informing them of how God had relieved me of my addictions and transformed my life.  I would like nothing more than to tell you that they received the message and were reborn; but I can’t.  I can only pray that they eventually committed themselves to the Lord and were set free.

                If you’re in bondage to some sin, turn to Jesus Christ and he’ll relieve you of your burdens.  He will set you free from your addictions and heal your mind, body, and spirit. Invite him in to your heart and he will guide you, protect you, and transform you.  Only through the blood of Jesus can you experience true freedom and everlasting peace. [Note:  If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and would like to be set free, contact me and we can discuss how you might make that decision today.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be set free from the bondage of sin and death.  Heal our hearts and minds; give us hope.  Relieve our addictions and destroy our fleshly desires.  May we serve You in sincerity of heart and never stray from the righteous path.  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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