Working for God

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus went around to all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he spoke to his disciples saying, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mathew 9: 35 – 38.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Vast numbers of people had traveled great distances to be healed, to see miracles, and to hear Jesus speak.  As he looked upon the sea of lost and broken souls, his heart swelled with compassion.  These men and women, having been denied the truth for so long, had become spiritually malnourished.  Many weary souls eagerly devoured the gospel; and with it they received salvation through faith in God’s only Son.  Jesus, realizing the enormous task that lay ahead, instructed his disciples to pray that the Father would send more workers in to the fields; that countless others might be delivered from death.

                Many in the world today are unfamiliar with agricultural practices; yet during the time of Christ, farming was a close and intimate part of daily living.  Modern farmers often utilize large machines to gather their crops; ancient farmers however, had to harvest their wheat by hand.  When the grain had ripened, nearly every member of the household was recruited to assist in collecting the produce.  Sometimes not even an entire family was enough; farmers would then hire seasonal laborers to assist them in accomplishing their goals [Note:  A proper harvest was such an essential part of first century life, that warring armies would regularly call a truce during the reaping season; so the soldiers could return home to work in the fields.]

                Today, there are billions of lost souls wandering this earth; currently unaware that God has sent His only Son that they might have eternal life.  Those who believe and receive the message are in turn called to be messengers.  True Christians must share in the labors of Jesus Christ, by delivering the gospel to those who are starving for truth.  The fields are vast, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  We must pray that God would send more workers to aid in gathering His crop.  As you labor for Christ, may compassion fill your heart; may love reign in your soul; and may God use you to convey His message to those who are in need.

         “Lord Heavenly Father, may we share in Your labors; may we be filled with mercy and love; may we continually seek to deliver the gospel message to those who are perishing.  We pray that You would send more workers in to the fields; that Your harvest might be plentiful.  May the lost be found; may sinners repent; and may salvation be received by those who will come to believe.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to you’re will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Holy Spirit

JESUS SPEAKING

                “I still have numerous things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you in all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.  All things that the Father has are mine.  Therefore I said that He will take of mine and declare it to you” (John 16: 12-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he foretold of the arrival of a mysterious entity known as the ‘Holy Spirit;’ after the resurrection he ascended in to heaven and fulfilled his promise to every believer by sending “the Spirit of Truth.”  For nearly 2000 years, Jesus has been seated in glory at the right hand of God; and for 2000 years there have been countless genuine confessions of faith.  With every confession received, a gift has been given; the faithful obtain the indwelling of the fullness of God’s Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, the desires of Christ become intuition; his path becomes transparent; evil is exposed by the divine light of the living God.  Finally able to distinguish the truth from the lies, the newborn child of God recognizes counterfeit prophets and artificial religions; the inner Spirit also boldly declares the authority and authenticity of a single book; the Holy Bible.  Ignorance is no longer an excuse, as God Himself directs the steps of His Faithful followers.    

                Many years ago, a friend invited me to attend a church service.  Near the end of the service, there was an opportunity to approach the stage and publicly profess a faith in Jesus Christ; I chose to accept the invitation.  Afterwards, I was given a bible; however I was afraid that the church might be a cult.  Therefore I didn’t trust the accuracy of the bible they had given me.  So I made my way to the local bookstore and asked one of the employees where I could find the “original bible.”  With a confused look she replied, ‘Let me get another employee who’s a Christian; she’ll know more about this than I will.’  When the Christian girl returned, I explained my situation to her; “I want the original bible.”  She replied, ‘Well it doesn’t really work that way.  The original bible is in a different language’ (a language I did not understand.)  [Note:  She did impress upon me that the English translations were very accurate.]  After our discussion I had one of my first experiences with the Holy Spirit.  A voice suddenly spoke from my heart; a voice I didn’t hear with my ears; and yet my mind clearly comprehended what was said; the voice said, “You’ve always been too smart for your own good; just read the bible I gave you.”  God had communicated with me through the Holy Spirit.  I began reading the bible He wanted me to read; the bible I had received at my conversion (being easy to read and understand, it proved to be exactly what I needed.)  With every flip of the page I grew closer to God.  Without the Holy Spirit I might have fallen victim to my own arrogant pride.

                The Holy Spirit is an essential component of our faith; without it we are blind, ignorant and lost.  But God, in His great wisdom has said, “I will not leave you orphans.”  The Spirit proclaims God’s desires on this earth; He testifies of what is true and helps us to choose what is good and avoid what is evil.  Believe in Jesus Christ, and you will enter in to fellowship with the living God.  Receive His Holy Spirit and you as well can share in the knowledge, power, and love of your Eternal Father, and His only begotten Son.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we love You, and we thank You for sending the Holy Spirit.  Continue to speak to us and to guide us in the ways of righteousness.  With every breath, may we draw nearer to You.  Lead us, that we might do Your will in this place, and bring glory and honor to You and to 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. 

Practicing Compassion

JESUS SPEAKING

                And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”  Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”  And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11: 28-37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS   

               Upon arriving, Jesus observed Mary and Martha weeping over the loss of their brother.  He was therefore filled with compassion and empathy; his heart was grieved and he began weeping with them.  His tears however, weren’t shed for Lazarus (whom he would soon raise him from the dead); instead, Jesus cried because he shared in the pain of those who were mourning.  Concerning compassion, God has no equal; He’s filled with it.  Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.”

                One day I happened by a man named Eric.  He was sitting outside of a coffee shop, slouching in a chair; he looked more dead than alive.  His skin was pale and clammy and he was sweating profusely.  His clothes were ragged and he badly needed to shower.  Having witnessed his pain, my heart was moved with compassion.  I sat down and began talking with him.  He informed me that he was withdrawing from heroine and was very sick.  I took him out to eat and gave him some clean clothes.  I also spent some time ministering to him.  As his condition worsened, I drove him to the hospital.  I sat with him in the emergency room for hours; and even accompanied him in to see the doctor.  He was treated and released.  Before dropping Eric off, I bought him his prescription, and made sure he had enough food for the evening.  Nearly a year later, Eric showed up at the coffee shop to say hello.  He told me that after our interaction, he had nearly died of a heart infection and was hospitalized for an extended period of time.  He thanked me for my efforts, and said that without my assistance, he might not be alive.  He was grateful that (‘even when his friends had abandoned him’) someone had cared enough to help.  Despite thanking me, I reminded Eric that it was God who deserved the credit; for it was God who had filled my heart with compassion; and in turn, it was the Lord who had moved me to act.  Without God’s mercy and love, I would have kept walking, just like everyone else.

                Because Jesus Christ is filled with compassion, his followers share his emotions, cares, and concerns.  In turn, He moves human beings to accomplish great acts of mercy and love.  The closer we grow toward God, the more compassion we will feel for those who are hurting.  God carries the wounds of the world around with Him every day.   When a person is beaten, the creator feels every strike.  When someone is sick, our Father feels their pain.  When an individual is hurting, God inspires others to comfort them.  Wherever mercy and love abound, the Spirit of God is at work.  Where there is indifference and a lack of compassion, there is an absence of God.  There are so many broken people in this world who need to be loved.  May God’s compassion lead you to act; may you feel what God feels; may you see with His eyes; may you be filled with mercy, and may God use you to relieve the suffering of others.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know You and to be filled with compassion.  Inspire us; that our hearts may be sensitive to those who are hurting.  Give us the strength to be kind to those who are in need.  May we love our families, our friends, and even those considered to be complete strangers.  May we be used to express Your merciful benevolence.  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.

Religious Hypocrites

JESUS SPEAKING

            Then he said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.  These will receive great condemnation” (Mark 12: 38-40.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Jesus warned his children to be wary of the Pharisees who were abusing their positions of religious authority in order to amass large quantities of wealth.  Outwardly they appeared Godly; they wore the robes of holy men and made long prayers in public for all to see; yet privately they would seize every opportunity to abuse those who were helpless.  Jesus said that they “devour(ed) widow’s houses.”  In the ancient world, widows were very easily exploited.  As a mandatory condition for marriage, a man had to build a house for his bride. If the husband passed away, then the wife would inherit the home.  With no enduring source of income, widows were often forced to sell their homes in order to survive.  A number of the religious Pharisees who claimed to be Godly would therefore exploit the widow’s circumstances; paying far less for the property than it was actually worth.  Many, including these widows were being victimized because they trusted in the outward appearance of Godliness.  Jesus clearly spoke of a day when such vile individuals would be judged for their misdeeds.

            Many years ago, I worked as a sales representative for a tile company.  Having recently become a Christian, most of the other employees were aware of my conversion.  One day, the Pastor of a world famous church located just up the street walked through the front door.  After he and his wife had made a small purchase, they pulled around to the back to pick it up.  As I headed to the loading dock with the sales slip, one of my co-workers (who was not a Christian) contemptuously remarked, “Isn’t that your pastor friend’s car; the one that costs over a hundred thousand dollars?”  Sure enough; there it sat, washed and waxed; in all of its splendor.  My heart was filled with anger and sadness; knowing that he had likely been using God’s name for personal profit. Concerning judgment, the words of Christ were eventually realized, when a few years later, this man and his family lost everything.  His mega church, with all of its expensive buildings, statues, and complexes went bankrupt. In a few short months the church dissolved and the entire establishment was sold to another institution.

            In his earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ staunchly warned his followers to avoid hypocrites; especially religious hypocrites who would seek to exploit others and to use God’s name for personal profit.  As Christians we are not to be deceived by the superficial appearance of Godliness.  Rather, we must test everyone to see if what they do is truly of God.  If what a pastor, a teacher, or a preacher says on stage is not synonymous with who they are in private, then perhaps they cannot be trusted.  

            “Lord Heavenly Father, please reveal to us the areas in our lives where we are being hypocritical; and help us to change.  May we always accurately represent You in every area of our lives.  May we be loving, giving, and caring; in public and in private.  Help us to recognize false teachers and religious hypocrites, that we may guide others away from them and toward You.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank you; and we ask and we pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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.



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