Powerful Conversions

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      There once lived a very angry young man named Saul, who passionately hated Christians; after Jesus ascended into heaven, Saul traveled from synagogue to synagogue, beating, harassing, and even killing those Jews who openly professed a faith in Jesus Christ. One day, while traveling to Damascus to persecute believers, God intervened in Saul’s life. Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘it is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ [Oxen were trained to pull heavy plows; an untrained ox would often try to kick itself free. In turn, farmers attached sharp pieces of metal to the plow (otherwise known as ‘goads.’) When the ox kicked the plow, it would stab itself in the leg; the harder the kick, the more painful the sensation. After a short time, the animal would learn to accept its position.] Like an untrained beast, Saul had been struggling against the call of God. After his visitation, Saul finally quit fighting; he accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior. He also changed his name to Paul and went on to write many of the letters in the New Testament. Throughout history, some of the greatest Christian leaders have often been those who were once devout enemies of God.
      Sir William Ramsay was one of the most influential scientific minds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He taught at Oxford and is credited with discovering several new elements; he also received numerous scientific awards and honors. Ramsay had been raised as a non-believer; his parents were atheists (a disposition he also clung to for most of his life.) He had little respect for Christianity; in fact, he claimed that the bible was nothing more than “a book of fables.” He began to study archaeology and eventually traveled to the Middle East in hopes of disproving the historical accuracy of the bible. After 25 years of travel and research, he was forced to concede that even the most minuscule details of the New Testament were accurate. Instead of writing a book disproving the validity of scripture, Ramsay wrote a book entitled “St. Paul, the Traveler and Roman Citizen.” In it, he presented his findings; all of which supported the reliability of the bible. Convinced by the evidence, Ramsay shocked his colleagues and fellow intellectuals by announcing that he had converted to Christianity.
      Like Paul, and like Sir William Ramsay, there are many today who are kicking “against the goads.” God, however, is still actively intervening in the lives of atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers the world around. If you are raging against the call of God, stop struggling; give up, and give in. Let the Lord into your heart; and He will replace your pain with peace; your hatred will give way to love, and your sorrow will turn to joy; if you would only surrender to Him, you would know true freedom and receive everlasting life.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, may Your perfect will be done in our lives. We pray for those who “kick against the goads.” Soften their hearts and cleanse their minds, that they may come to believe in Your Son, and in the redemption he has offered through his sacrifice. May they embrace and receive Your free gift of salvation through faith. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.” God bless all of you.

Idolatry Leads to Death

JESUS SPEAKING

        “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothing. But woe to those who are pregnant and nursing babies in those days. And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be” (Mathew 24: 15 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        Throughout Christ’s ministry he spoke of a day when great destruction and tribulation would befall the nation of Israel, and the world; (the prophet Daniel also spoke of such a day.) In the future there will be an unmistakable sign preceding the tribulation of all nations. This sign will appear within the reconstructed temple itself. An evil man will erect an object, image, or shrine in the ‘Holy of Holy’s;’ an abomination that many will come to worship in the place of God. Deep within the heart of every human being, there is a pedestal; a peak; a position of absolute supremacy; a space reserved for what every person loves the most. When the Lord occupies this position He is in His rightful place. Those who idolize their creator also walk in genuine fellowship with Him. Many however, replace God with other things; and in so doing, they commit the sin of idolatry; a sin that always precedes some form of imminent destruction.

        In the Old Testament there lived a rich and powerful ruler named Belshazzar who dwelled within the seemingly impenetrable city of Babylon (the walls of this city were rumored to be 300 feet high and 80 feet thick.) His Father Nebuchadnezzar had sacked Jerusalem decades earlier, stealing the gold and silver artifacts from within the Jewish temple. These relics sat inside of the Babylonian treasury for years, until one evening, Belshazzar held a great feast. We read, “Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple […] and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them; they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5: 3 – 4). Belshazzar did not worship the living God; rather he preferred precious metals. That night a haunting vision appeared before him. The king asked Daniel the prophet to interpret its meaning. Daniel prophesied saying “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold […] and the God who holds your breath in his hand and owns all of your ways you have not glorified […] Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” The sentence for his idolatry was carried out that very night; an invading army conquered the city and killed King Belshazzar. [Note: From the historical accounts it is believed that a giant river flowed through the city of Babylon. While Belshazzar was feasting, the Persian King Darius used a dam to divert the flow of the mighty river; his army then cleverly followed the dry riverbed under the giant walls, and conquered the vibrant metropolis in a single night.]

        Idolatry is dangerous and inevitably leads to destruction. Those who desire preservation must avoid putting anything in the place of God. The Lord must come first; before money, a career, a relationship, a business, or a hobby, etc. When we elevate God into His rightful position in our hearts, then we are truly free; when He is the most important person in our lives, then everything falls in to place. Love God and you will find peace; put Him first and you will experience everlasting life; for “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

        “Lord Heavenly Father, may we love You with our whole hearts. May we always worship You in Spirit and in truth, and may we never forsake Your ways. If any form of idolatry has entered our lives, may you uproot it and cast it in to the sea. May we be purified, and once again comprehend the goodness of humility and faith. 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.

Gratitude

JESUS SPEAKING

        Now it happened as he went to Jerusalem that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So, when he saw them, he said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was, that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So, Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well” (Mathew 17: 11 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        Leprosy is a debilitating bacterial disease that has existed for thousands of years; it causes fingers, toes, and other extremities to rot away, horribly disfiguring its victims. Despite modern treatments, Leprosy remains highly contagious. As a result, the infected have been ostracized since the days of Christ; lepers were forced in to isolated colonies outside of the cities. When traveling, they were required to maintain great distances between themselves and the healthy; when entering crowded areas, they were obligated to yell out, “unclean, unclean,” as a warning for others to keep a safe distance. The lepers who approached Jesus stood “afar off;” and pleaded with him to heal them. Although nine of the lepers were Jewish, one leper was a Samaritan (The Jews considered Samaritans half breads; because when Alexander the great conquered Israel hundreds of years earlier, he settled a portion of the land (known as Samaria) with Greek citizens and retired soldiers; they mingled with the Jewish people, but were unable to completely adopt Hebrew customs and traditions. The Samaritans were so hated that many Jews would travel around Samaria when journeying to Jerusalem; the only people more hated than Samaritans were lepers.) Jesus ordered the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests (In Jewish society, the priests were charged with diagnosing leprosy; if someone was healed, the priests had to examine them before they could return home to their families.) As they journeyed, all ten lepers were outwardly healed; but only one was inwardly healed. The dirty Samaritan, filled with gratitude, returned to praise and honor Jesus Christ.
        There was once a prominent doctor who was a devoted golfer. His longtime caddie had a club foot (a deformity in which the foot bends inward, making it difficult to walk.) ‘Doc Gordon,’ as he was known, often traveled south for the winters to continue his golf game. One winter, he decided to take his caddie with him; during their trip, the doctor operated on the man’s foot and he was made completely whole. Soon after they returned, the doctor became ill and passed away. One day, the caddie was carrying another member’s bag; at every hole he stopped to pluck a flower, until eventually he had gathered a very beautiful bouquet. The member was curious and asked the caddie about his new girlfriend. He replied, “Oh no, I don’t have a girlfriend. These are for Doctor Gordon. I go to his grave twice a week and place these flowers there.” Over his lifetime, Doctor Gordon had helped thousands of sick people; he had corrected many physical ailments and prolonged the lives of numerous individuals. Yet, only one patient was truly thankful; the young caddie continued to praise and honor his deceased friend and benefactor because his heart was filled with gratitude (This illustration was a parable taken from another source; whether the characters were real, is not certain.)
        Jesus Christ has healed and given life to so many people, but only those whose gratitude is a daily expression, have truly experienced a miracle. There are several ways to show your gratitude for God; prayers of thanksgiving; testifying of His greatness; gathering together with other believers; worship and singing; acts of love on His behalf; service work; care giving; charity, etc. Have you received the gift of healing and eternal life? Gratitude is a fruit of true salvation; those who understand the value of what they have been given, honor and praise God every day (Note: If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, please contact us and we can discuss how you can do that today.)
        “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You; we honor You; and we thank You for our salvation. We are unworthy servants, and yet You love us. Thank You for healing us and protecting us; thank you for Your kindness and provision. You are truly an awesome and amazing God. May our hearts be filled with gratitude; may we be compelled to speak to others of Your greatness, and may we be filled with Your Holy Spirit. We love You Father, and we honor You; and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you.

God is Calling You

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then he said to another, “Follow me.”  But the man said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead burry their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”  And another also said, “Lord, I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one having put his hand to plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9: 59-62.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      The calling of God demands immediate and unwavering obedience.  The priority of the first man in this scripture was to attend the burial of his father.  Jesus beckoned him to focus on the living, not the dead (the man’s Father was likely an unbeliever.)   In the end, the man decided to attend a funeral, rather than follow Jesus Christ.  The second stranger Jesus spoke with yearned to return home to say farewell to his relatives; thereby placing his family ahead of his dedication to God.  Jesus then uses an agricultural illustration to make an overall point.  When driving an ox and plow, a farmer’s eyes remain focused on the field ahead; looking back can only distract the driver from his necessary work.  The world today is full of diversions, obstacles, and enticements.  Not everyone is being called to become a missionary, or a priest, or a pastor.  But we are all called to be disciples.  The more important truth is that distractions are dangerous; because they can sometimes prevent us from accomplishing God’s will.

      According to the national highway safety commission, 80% of all car crashes involve driver distraction.  These statistics proved true for a man named Stephen in 1983.  One sunny morning he hopped in his new Mercedes Benz; with the top down and the wind in his face; he had set out for an important appointment.  As he drove up the coast of Southern California, he passed by a certain beach.  His attentions unexpectedly turned to a young blonde woman wearing a bikini.  As she passed his vehicle, his mind, heart, and eyes, followed along with her.  The image of a complete stranger took priority over the road, his destination, and even his new wife Sandy.  He suddenly smashed into the back end of a Chevelle that had come to a complete stop in his lane.  Although Stephen’s body remained uninjured, his pride, and the front end of his Mercedes weren’t quite as lucky.  When driving, the road ahead must take precedence over everything else. To reach our destination, we must abandon trivial distractions.

      Jesus Christ has called many; still, a great multitude have refused to respond in the serious and immediate manner required for discipleship. If you have felt called by the Lord, let go of this fading existence and grab hold of the plow.  Make God the priority.  Preach the gospel to all those you meet; accomplish the work of the Lord and avoid distractions.  This life is a passing dream; keep your eyes, mind, and heart, focused on God; and you will certainly reach your destination.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You would be our number one priority.  May our eyes be continually focused upon You.  Take control of our lives and be our Master.  Help us to avoid distractions.  Give us the wisdom and strength to finish what You have started; until the day that we enter Your eternal 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.

Being Prepared for His Return

JESUS SPEAKING

        Then Peter said to him, “Lord do you speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” (Luke 12: 42-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        Before ascending in to heaven Jesus promised to return one day in power and great glory; (it has been nearly 2000 years and his followers are still anxiously awaiting his arrival.) As he spoke to his disciples, he used a wedding parable to illustrate his future delay. Often, when the master of a household left to attend a wedding, he could be gone for days. His arrival was uncertain; he could return at 2:00 in the afternoon, or 2:00 in the morning (therefore the servants had to continually be prepared.) In this parable, the master represents Jesus Christ, who after being resurrected, left the earth and journeyed into heaven (promising to return one day.) The servant placed over the master’s household represents the disciples whom Christ left behind to guide and care for his church. Although the original disciples have gone to be with the Lord, God has placed new leaders into positions of authority. Some are just and wise stewards; others, however, have lost faith; they have become impatient with Christ’s return; causing them to mistreat God’s people. When Christ does return, he will reward those who have been faithful, and he will punish those who failed to serve in the absence of their master.
        In the United States, a brand-new industry known as ‘mystery shopping’ has become popular. Most employers find it beneficial to tour their own facilities. They must continually evaluate their products, their procedures, their equipment, and especially their employees. Employees, however, do not act naturally when their bosses are present; most tend to ‘put on a show;’ they work harder and more efficiently; and they become more positive and politer toward the customers and other staff members. This effect makes it nearly impossible for managers and owners to accurately evaluate their workers. In turn, many employers are now hiring individuals to pretend that they are customers; as they shop, they are secretly evaluating the employees. When the employees become aware that the owner is using mystery shoppers, it causes them to continually maintain a higher level of performance in the work place.
        Many believers are slack because their master is not present; but Jesus could return at any moment. A lack of faith in his second coming will lead to increased sin, and unrighteous living. To avoid disobedience, we must constantly expect His arrival; every second, of every hour, of every day. We must never lose hope; we must trust in His promise; and wait patiently. As we wait, it is our duty to continue to serve and love our fellows. When he does return, those who were faithful in his absence will receive eternal blessings and everlasting life.
        “Lord Heavenly Father, may our hearts be expectant, and may we continue to hope in Your return. Increase our faith that we might forever trust in Your promises. May we always desire to serve You and our fellows. Guide and direct our steps, that we may know with certainty, the duties and responsibilities that You have given to each us. 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 tear apart mountains, the gospel transforms lives. Many eagerly receive God’s Holy Spirit but lack foresight; they do not understand the magnitude of changes God intends to perform in their lives. True faith is costly; the price of salvation is death; death to our old lives. One must willingly be destroyed in order to be remade in the image of Christ. Those whose hearts are stony initially experience a very shallow relationship with God. They desperately cling to old familiar habits and abandon their faith when it requires real change. They turn from the light and live in darkness; choosing comfort above growth and sin over righteousness.
        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. When Jones presented Mickey with the gospel, he said a prayer and accepted Jesus into his heart. Soon, word of his conversion spread, and many were amazed to hear that this once villainous mobster had turned to Christ. Although Mickey enjoyed being called a ‘Christian,’ he refused to live like one. He soon lost touch with Pastor Jones and began hanging around with his old buddies from the criminal underworld. The disheartened Jones confronted Cohen to tell him that as a Christian, he needed to put distance between himself and his old [criminal associates]. Puzzled, Cohen 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 not uncommon; out of the four different types of soil Christ describes, the stony heart can be the deadliest; for within it, there exists the greatest propensity for self-deception. Believing a verbal profession of faith without actions to be sufficient for salvation, many remain unchanged. With their lips they affirm Christ, but with their lives they deny him. Continuing in behaviors such as, pornography, fornication, drunkenness, idolatry, and dishonesty (to name a few), contradicts the rebirth that all Christians must endure. If you can identify with this type of soil, then you have two choices; continue forward toward in delusion or get honest with yourself and begin a new life with Jesus; a life of repentance; a life free from darkness and unrighteousness; a life lived as a disciple of Christ; a life fully committed to purity, church fellowship, prayer, evangelism, and bible reading. 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 to take up our new ones. May our relationships with You be deep and meaningful. May our lives always confirm our verbal professions of faith. If we have not fully committed our lives to You, reveal to us the areas where we have refused to change; and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to overcome and to conquer. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you.

Cutting Away Sin

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        Sin is defined as any act of willful disobedience toward God. Sin is very serious because it separates us from our Heavenly Father. Because God loves his children, He desires for us to let go of our sinful practices, that we may be reunited with Him. Any grievous sins, such as fornication, adultery, lying, stealing, lewdness, etc, must be abandoned. In order that we may live, we must cut away these portions of our dead flesh.
        In April of 2003, an experienced mountain climber named Aaron Ralston was hiking alone in a remote mountain pass in Utah. While maneuvering through one of the crevices, a giant boulder dislodged and pinned his arm against the canyon wall; for days he attempted to free himself. He had not told anyone where he was going, so he knew that no one would be looking for him. When he had finally run out of water, Aaron was faced with a terrible choice […] He could severe his arm with an ill-equipped pocket knife; or he could keep his arm and simply lay down and die. The only thing standing between Aaron and the rest of his life were two bones, several muscles, and some tendons in his forearm. Aaron chose to break both bones in his arm; he then proceeded to saw through his own flesh with his dull knife. After nearly 127 hours of confinement, he left his severed arm behind and climbed out of the canyon. Until that day, Aaron had lived selfishly. He had been a ‘loner’ who continually pushed others away. Shortly after his experience he came to believe that the boulder had been waiting for him his entire life (that it was destined to transform him.) He said, “I left my hand behind in that canyon, but I gained my life back.” His experience allowed him to see what was truly important. He began to put the emphasis on personal relationships; he eventually married and started a family. He now travels the world telling other people about his inspiring story.
        Like Aaron, there are boulders in our lives; giant rocks that pin us down and keep us from knowing complete freedom. If we have entered again in to serious sin, and we have been separated from God then we have some cutting to do. Cut away the dead flesh, so that you may live. Ask God to reveal to you any sinful practices that have crept back in to your life and He will. How you respond to what you find, will determine your eternal destiny. May God help us all to make the right choice.
        “Lord Heavenly Father we recognize that sin can cause us to become separated from You. We know that we have received forgiveness through Your Son, but we recognize our responsibility to refrain from willful acts of disobedience. If we have become defiant, then please give us the strength to put these sins to death, that we may eternally continue to live for You. 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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