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 meaningless wars, 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 “Son’s (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 up his meager possessions and set out for the great city. When he arrived, the streets were bustling with excitement. He asked why everyone was so energized; he was informed 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 to the stadium. After entering, he pushed through the crowds, hopped a fence, and made 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 to yell, “Run him through…Run him through.” A gladiator approached the monk and struck him in the stomach with the back of his sword. Telemachus fell to the ground, but soon recovered. Once again he placed himself between the two armed men and shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.” Suddenly the other gladiator approached the monk and plunged his sword in to his belly. Telemachus fell to the ground and began to bleed out. Before dying, he was able to utter one last statement; “In the name of Christ, stop.” A hush came over the crowd. Suddenly, a single man stood up and left the stadium; followed by another; and another. Within minutes all 80,000 people had exited the coliseum. That was the final gladiatorial contest in Roman history.
                The people of God are called to be peacemakers, no matter the consequence. When others are silent we must speak up. Where there is discord we must bring harmony; where there is conflict we must promote peace. In so doing we will be called ‘The children of God,’ and will come to experience the many blessings reserved for those who remain faithful.
               “Lord Heavenly Father, we long for obedience; may we share the desires of Your heart. May we love others as You do. May You continually use us to promote peace and to end conflict. Give us the courage and the strength to speak up when others fall 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.

Persistent Prayer

 

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 Middle Eastern culture, welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs.  Guests were given food, shelter, and protection.  Failure to do so was considered a great disgrace.  In this parable, a tired and wearied traveler arrived at his friend’s home late in the evening.  The host, lacking the proper sustenance, approached his neighbor, hoping to acquire some food.  The sleeping man, irritated by the untimely appeal, denied his initial request.  However, the neighbor’s persistence eventually paid off.  In this parable, the request for food is a reference to prayer.  The unrelenting neighbor symbolizes those who pray without ceasing; and the man who supplied the food represents God, who enjoys and rewards those who tirelessly continue in prayer. 

            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 he received no reply.  He 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 on 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 he was refused any further 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.”

            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 He doesn’t answer them immediately.  In turn, many simply stop asking.  If we have need of something, we must relentlessly make our requests known to God.  We may not receive the blessing on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if we are persistent, it will come.  We must never stop asking, never stop seeking, and never stop knocking.  God is listening; and He is willing and able to give us the desires of our heart.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers.  We stand at the door and knock; we will not relent until You bless us.  May we remain persistent in our prayers; may we be graced with patience and the strength to endure.  Transform our hearts and minds; provide for our needs; and fill us with the fullness of Your mercy and love.  We adore 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.

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, most of his disciples abandoned him.  As the armed soldiers escorted Jesus to the high priest for questioning, Peter (being strong willed), 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; three times he denied his affiliation and he ran off disgraced and ashamed.  After being crucified and buried, Jesus rose from the dead.  One day as the disciples were fishing he appeared to them; they shared in a time of food and fellowship.  The Lord then took Peter aside; he mercifully refrained from condemning him for his previous failures.  Instead, Jesus completely absolved him of his sins, and lovingly gave him a second chance.  He called Peter to continue in ministry, and to lead and care for those who would eventually come to believe in the Son of God.

                In the late 18 and early 1900’s there lived an ambitious inventor named Thomas Edision.  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.  With the fragile device in his hands, the nervous assistant slowly started his ascent; every step was a carefully planned exercise.  Sadly, despite the child’s careful observance, he mistakenly shattered the bulb.  The disappointed team began again to manufacture another.  Twenty four hours later, the new bulb appeared.  Although the young assistant had failed the first time, Edison wisely understood that the boy needed, and deserved a second chance.  The youngster did not disappoint him; this time, he delivered the bulb to its destination intact.

                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 in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

Producing much fruit

JESUS SPEAKING

            “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12: 23 – 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Utilizing an agricultural metaphor, Jesus makes reference to His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.  A single grain of wheat, when planted, can produce hundreds, thousands, and even millions of additional seeds.  Similarly, the Lords’ suffering and agony upon the cross (and ensuing resurrection) has produced much fruit.  His selfless sacrifice has inspired countless conversions, and enabled millions to receive the mercy and grace of God.

            In the 1800’s there resided a little girl from Philadelphia name Hattie Wiatt.  She lived in close proximity to a popular and very crowded Grace Baptist Church.  One day she approached the Church and asked to attend the Sunday school.  Sadly she was told that there was no more room.  Less than two years later, Hattie fell ill and passed away.  A pocket book containing 57 pennies was found underneath her pillow; it was wrapped in a piece of scrap paper; written on the paper was a note that read, “To help build the little temple bigger, so that more children can go to Sunday school.”  She had saved her pennies for 2 years intending to give them as a donation to the church.  The pastor told his congregation of Hattie’s selflessness.  Immediately donations began pouring in until they had collected nearly $250,000 dollars.  Soon the church was seating 3,300 people; the parishioners also chose to build a hospital as well as a university accommodating approximately 1,400 students (today, attendance at Temple University has grown to nearly 28,000.)  Hattie’s sacrifice, although small, has gone on to produce much fruit.

            Like Hattie, we are called to selflessly lay down our lives to “build the little temple bigger.”  To sacrifice our own wants and desires so that others may come to know the love of God.  When we serve our fellows, love our neighbors, and give to those in need, we bear much fruit.  Those who strive to live selflessly will come to know peace; true peace; heavenly peace; eternal peace; “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

            “Lord Heavenly Father, You are truly an amazing and awesome God.  We desperately desire to be selfless; we yearn to lay down our lives so that others may come to know You.  Help us to enjoy and embrace serving, giving, and loving.  May we produce much fruit and bring many souls into Your everlasting Kingdom.  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.

Forgiving

 

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Withholding forgiveness from others is dangerous; for the Lord has said, “if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus used a ‘seven’ to describe the number of times a disciple is obligated to forgive others.  In the Hebrew culture, numbers carried very profound symbolic significance; the number seven represents completion; in turn, the obligation to forgive is limitless, infinite, or complete.  Since the fall of creation, until the present day, men and women have fervently sought God’s forgiveness; none whose hearts were sincere have ever been denied (for God is merciful above all things.)  We are called to be like God; and so we must forgive without exception.

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

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

                “Lord Heavenly Father, forgive us of our sins.  May we be like You; may we sincerely forgive others.  If we have refused to forgive anyone, please reveal it to us now.  If we harbor anger or resentment of any kind, expose it; fill our hearts with mercy, that we might better serve You, and worthily magnify Your Holy name.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Tragedies can 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 sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not by sin, but by the will of God.  In healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic are designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, frequently they are the greatest blessings we will ever know.

                In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when a 14 foot tiger shark attacked her.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  She nearly bled to death before being rushed to the hospital.  Bethany had been one of the top competitive junior surfers in the world prior to her injury.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She was determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water and began training nearly 3 weeks after her accident.  She started with a long board (making it easier to paddle.)  She then moved to a smaller board, and then to a smaller board; until finally, she was once again surfing 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 has appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggle and victory (her story has recently been made in to a major motion picture 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.)  Yet with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the whole world.  She is 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 victory hidden within a great 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 make them your strengths.  When He transforms your life, remember to give Him the credit He deserves.  Utilize God’s power and have faith; never give up; face your fears; and many will see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to our strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and shortcomings; through the power of Your Holy Spirit may we all be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

God’s Authority

JESUS SPEAKING

                Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the people approached him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you this authority?”  Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question.  If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from?  Was it from heaven, or from men?”  “They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we proclaim, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”  So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”  Then he said, “Niether will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Mathew 21: 23-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The religious leaders had been profiting from the sale of merchandise within the temple.  They were also manipulating exchange rates in order to defraud unsuspecting pilgrims.  Jesus entered the temple, and overturned the money tables, and chased out those who were selling merchandise.  He then sat down and began to teach.  As he taught, some of the religious leaders approached him, and asked him by what authority he had done these things.  The Lord in turn asked them where John the Baptist had received his authority.  John had been given God’s authority outside the bounds of the corrupt priestly hierarchy; he wore no expensive robes; he had no formal temple training; he didn’t spend years in a classroom studying theology; yet God used him to call tens of thousands of Israelites to repentance.  There is an authority that comes from men; an authority that can be abused, and used for selfish gain.  In the midst of man’s attempts to exploit God’s people, the Lord often raises up leaders to oppose those in power; leaders who are given divine authority; leaders who are willing to disobey their superiors in order to accomplish the will of God.

                On September 9th of 2009, a military patrol made up of 36 American/Afghan troops was ambushed in the eastern province of Kunar (Afghanistan.)  The men were pinned down and suffering casualties.  In the midst of the firefight, these brave soldiers repeatedly requested air support; yet the off-site commanding officer’s denied every request.  The men eventually radioed the base saying, “We’re going to die out here.”  Dakota Meyer, a marine posted behind the main patrol, requested permission to drive in to the ambush to haul out his distressed comrades; his fervent requests were denied four times.  Knowing that his superior officers were wrong, Dakota disobeyed their direct orders.  He and another marine selflessly jumped in to a Humvee and headed in to the “kill zone.”  They made five trips back and forth.  Each time, Meyer (who was manning the gun) exposed himself to a hail of enemy fire.  The two marines were able to save 13 servicemen and 23 Afghans; they also collected the bodies of four dead American soldiers.  Sergeant Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions.  However, three of the military officers who denied the requests for assistance, were issued letters of reprimand (‘likely leading to the end of their careers.’)

                Obeying authority is good; but sometimes those in leadership can error; some may even be completely corrupt, immoral, and unrighteous.  On occasion, in order to accomplish God’s will, it becomes necessary to question and oppose those who are in positions of influence.  As Christians we are given great authority; God Himself speaks through us; He uses us to accomplish His works; we are vessels of His love, His mercy, and His peace.  May we continue to serve Him in love; may we preach the message without shame or remorse; may we continue to oppose those who pervert the gospel for their own personal gain; and may lovingly and persistently submit to the authority of those whom God has undoubtedly anointed.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize Your authority.  We understand that you have called us to accomplish Your will.  Please continue to use and guide us in the ways of righteousness.  When we encounter leaders who are evil and unjust, give us the strength to oppose them.  Concerning spiritual matters, may we never submit to the unrighteous; instead, may we continually be willing to serve under and obey those whom you have truly anointed.  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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