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 down 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 long time 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 a number of 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’s Enduring Love

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8 – 10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The greatest question one can ever ask is, “Does God love me?”  The answer expressed in this parable is Yes.  Every character in a parable has a corresponding real life counterpart.  The woman who lost her coin represents God and the coins represent all faithful believers.  The lost coin represents those who have wandered away from God (Men and women who unknowingly subject themselves to painful and destructive experiences.)  God desperately seeks after those who are estranged (sparing not his only Son, to reveal His love for the lost.)  Despite the Lord’s long and arduous attempts at reconciliation, He is often painfully denied.  For those who truly understand the depths of His love, it becomes clear why there is such a joyful celebration in heaven when a single sinner repents; The Creator has once again found a lost son or daughter; someone precious and unique; someone who is completely irreplaceable; someone He will cherish for all eternity.

                The Old Testament book of Hosea is a glimpse in to God’s enduring love for those who do not love Him.  Nearly 800 years before Jesus was born, God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman (a woman who was adulterous and unfaithful.)  Hosea was instructed to continually seek after her, and to continually forgive her for her indiscretions; in turn, he lived a tormented life; constantly loving a woman who did not love him (possibly going so far as to even raise a child he did not Father.)  The book of Hosea is a record of his heartache.  God used Hosea’s experience as a real life illustration; an illustration of His relationship with mankind.  The Lord has sought after, and loved even the worst sinners throughout history; yet most have returned his love with disbelief, hatred, contempt, and idolatry (worshiping other Gods.)  God’s heart aches for the lost; those who call Him Father, share in that same heartache.

                Like Hosea who never stopped seeking after his wife, God continues to search for the lost.  He stops at nothing; He spares no expense; He never falters; never grows weary; never takes a day off.  Even today, in coffee shops, in places of employment, in homes, and in public, His message of love and reconciliation are being preached.  As people continue to give their lives back to God, heaven is erupting in celebration.  Will you carry God’s message?  Will you seek after the lost?  Will you do the work of God?  Will you tell others that there is a God who desperately loves them; a God who waits for them; a God who can heal them; a God who will give them true life?  You too will experience rejection and heartache; but you will also experience true joy when you witness a sinner receive salvation.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your love.  We thank You for constantly seeking the lost.  May we be reconciled to You today; help us to experience the joy You are so freely offering.  May we reach out to others; may we be instruments of Your love; may we too, lovingly seek those who are lost.  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.

Don’t be lukewarm

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish that you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth […] as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3: 14 – 16, 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                After being seized by the Romans, the Apostle John was marched in to a crowded coliseum and plunged in to a vat of boiling oil.  But when he remained unharmed, masses of people within the coliseum began to convert to Christianity.  The Romans, fearing his influence, placed him in prison on a deserted Island off the cost of Turkey (known as Patmos.)  Church tradition teaches us that on this island, in about the year 95 A.D., an aging John (the last living Apostle) received a revelation from Jesus Christ.  In this revelation Jesus addressed the seven churches located in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  The Laodicean church had become lukewarm in their faith; they were once bold, zealous, and uncompromising.  Yet, over time they succumb to personal comforts, complacency, and routine.  Jesus sternly rebuked them; his command: be zealous again; reach out; be bold; spread the gospel; be eager to do good and to serve; and work hard to save souls.  God’s message to the Laodiceans is timeless; it pertains to the church today.  There is no half-way; a moderate faith is a dead faith.  For the believer there are no vacations, no breaks, and no retirement.  Those who stop serving God fully, are in danger of becoming lukewarm, cold, and dead.

                Interestingly enough, a recent study revealed that early retirement can lead to an increased risk of death.  In 2005, three groups of people were studied; those who retired at 55; those who retired at 60; and those who retired at 65.  “In this research, death was almost twice as likely in the first 10 years after retirement at age 55 compared with those who continued working.”  The tendency to take it easy and relax can have disastrous results.  To lose enthusiasm for God’s message is to fail to fulfill the highest calling of God.  We must fervently work for the Lord until he returns to gather us together.

                Are you eager to serve God and others; or have you been serving yourself?  Are you on fire for the Lord, or have you become cold?  Are you readily spreading the gospel, or have you fallen silent?  Have you faded in to the background, or do you speak the truth in boldness?  Be brave and reach out for Christ.  May your heart be ignited by the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit.  May the words of God flow from your mouth, and may your good works never cease; may God use you to transform the lives of others; and may you represent the church of God with conviction and zeal.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cause our hearts to burn for You.  Grant us boldness and faithfulness.  May we shine brightly in the lives of all those we meet.  Give us the words to speak, and the strength to continue.  May we never grow weary or become lukewarm; may we never cease from serving others, knowing that one day we will have our rest in You.  Lord, we love You, 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.

Relying on God’s Power, Not ours

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night, for it is written:  ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”  Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you” (Mathew 26: 31-35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

               Peter boldly rejected Christ’s prophecy; he vainly exalted himself above the other disciples, saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Despite great effort, he would go on to deny the Lord three times before morning.  Without Jesus, Peter failed to maintain his faith in the midst of crippling fear (The Lord had been his comforter; his protector; and his provider; without him, Peter became as weak as any other man.)  Jesus promised that he would eventually send a replacement; after his resurrection and ascension, he fulfilled his commitment; Peter and the other disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost [the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God dwelling within the human heart.]  After receiving God’s Spirit, Peter’s strength was restored; he immediately entered a crowded temple and boldly preached the gospel.  The Peter that denied Christ leaned on his own strength; the Peter that proclaimed Christ relied upon God’s power.  For the sake of Christ, Peter went on to endure beatings, imprisonment, persecutions without number, and even death [he was crucified upside down in the city of Rome.]  Without God, it is impossible to accomplish even the simplest tasks.  With God, it is possible to move mountains.

               Peter shares the experience of divine empowerment with some other notable men of the bible.  While the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, a young Hebrew man named Moses who had grown up in Pharaoh’s household, believed it was his destiny to free his people.  One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian task master, beating one of his countrymen.  Filled with rage, and a sense of duty, he killed the Egyptian.  In an effort to conceal his crime, he buried the body beneath the sand.  The body was discovered, and a few days later, Moses’ life was in jeopardy.  Alone, and defeated, he fled to the desert and became a shepherd.  For decades he cared for livestock.  At the age of 80 God appeared to him and instructed him to return to Egypt to free his people.  He responded by telling God he wasn’t ‘the right man for the job.’  He no longer believed he was capable of accomplishing the task.  A once prideful and self-reliant young man, had become an old man who recognized his own weakness (apart from God); he was finally ready to be used by the Lord.  The young Moses, with his own power, was unable to bury a single Egyptian.  The mature Moses, with God’s power, led a nation to freedom, and buried the entire Egyptian army beneath the waves of the red sea.

               Western culture promotes self-reliance; in the divine culture, reliance upon God is paramount.  Is there anything in your life that you are trying to accomplish on your own?  Are you attempting to endure a difficult trial unaided?  Are you struggling to overcome an addiction in isolation?  Do you look to God for provision, or are you the provider?  Your best efforts will never compare to the works of God.  No matter how large the obstacle, or how great the need, if you humble yourself, you will harness the power of the one true and living God.  Do this, and you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4: 13.)

               “Lord Heavenly Father, we honor and praise You.  You are an amazing God.  Apart from You we are weak and incapable of accomplishing good things.  Be our strength; may we rely upon You and not upon ourselves.  Give us victory over the things that cause us to stumble; may we stand firm, may we endure, and may we overcome.  May our hearts be humble, and our lived filled with joy.  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.

Divine Wisdom

JESUS SPEAKING

                “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons.  You will be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.  But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.  Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist (Luke 21: 12-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus prophesied that his disciples would suffer persecution; they were all eventually arrested and 10 of the 12 disciples were put to death.  Although they had committed no crimes, they were brought before kings and rulers, and compelled to testify concerning their faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus commanded them to refrain from rehearsing their testimonies prior to being questioned.  Preparation had the potential to hinder the proclamation of God’s wisdom.  Human effort needed to be abandoned, and God’s power had to be embraced.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God spoke through the disciples, and He continues to speak through His people today.  Questions are still being asked and God is still answering them clearly and without error.                           

                A woman who had recently gone through brain surgery reached out to me to discuss matters of faith.   Seeking answers she wrote, “I don’t understand why some suffer such heartache and trials beyond our choosing, and others, often those who are seemingly evil, are blessed beyond belief.”  The Holy Spirit immediately gave me the answer to her question.  The answer did not come from me, but from God.  I simply quoted one of Christ’s parables: “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate; desiring to be fed by the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torment in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

                The correct answers are not ours to give.  All true wisdom and understanding comes from God, and the Holy Spirit directs and guides those who will let Him speak.  Only God has the right answers.  Only God speaks without error.  In this world, human wisdom battles against human wisdom.  True victory occurs when God’s wisdom is proclaimed.  Let God’s words flow from your mouth; give Him the opportunity to speak to those who have questions; let them find real meaning; let them be satisfied with the correct answers; and may the one true God, make Himself known to all those you meet.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You fill our mouths with Your words.  Speak through us to those who will question and examine our faith.  May You reveal true wisdom to those who lack understanding.  May we be Your messengers to a world that does not know You, and may all those who oppose You be put to shame.  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 honors those who honor Him

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed and is dreadfully tormented.”  And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  The centurion answered saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.  But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.  And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!  And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”  And his servant was healed that same hour. (Mathew 8: 5-13.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Roman Empire conquered the Holy Land in 63 B.C.; and due to the continued threat of rebellion, there were soldiers permanently stationed there in the first century.  A ‘centurion’ was an officer in charge of 100 soldiers; they were usually men of impeccable character.  This centurion came to Jesus and humbled himself; he publicly confessed his own unworthiness and praised him; in so doing he honored God’s Son.  Jesus then honored the centurion by publicly lifting up his faith above every Jew in Israel.  God continues to honor those who lower themselves and exalt Him.  Our savior has said that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

                In 1924 a Scotsman named Eric Liddell was expected to win Olympic gold in the 100 meter dash.  Eric had grown up in a missionary family and was a committed Christian.  He had been raised to faithfully observe the Sunday Sabbath (a weekly day of rest commanded by the Lord in the Old Testament.)  When Eric found out that the 100 meter dash was scheduled for a Sunday, he made the decision to ‘sit it out.’  He was pressured to run by his countrymen and by many powerful people, but remained convinced that honoring God on His day was more important than winning a medal.  A few months before the Olympics, he decided to begin training for the 400 meter dash (an event that wasn’t on Sunday.)  No one expected him to do well.  On the day of the race, while approaching the starting blocks, an American trainer placed a piece of paper in Eric’s hand.  There was a bible verse written on it.  1 Samuel verse 2:30 read, “Those who honor me I will honor.”  Eric ran that race for God; not only did he win the gold medal, he also broke the world record.  He had pushed his own desire for glory aside; because he honored God, the Lord exalted Eric above his fellows.   

                Placing God in His proper position necessitates humility.  Honoring Him requires selflessness.  We become less important and He becomes more important.  He is righteous and we are unrighteous; He is worthy and we are unworthy.  We forgo glory so that God may have it.  Only those who raise Him up in this life will be raised up into everlasting life.  Here we die, so in the future we may live.  There are so many ways to glorify God.  We can make Him a continued topic of discussion in our personal relationships.  We can pray to Him, and seek His counsel daily. We can give credit to the Lord for the good works that we do.  When we do something for another person, we can say, “This is from the Lord.” When a person attempts to thank us, we can politely remind them that Jesus Christ is the one they should thank.  When other people call us good, we can inform them that our goodness comes from God.  May we continually place the focus on Him; may we give Him the glory; may we honor Him with our lives; so that one day we might receive the honor he has promised to all those who believe.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us opportunities to honor and glorify You.  May our hearts be humble, and our minds pure.  Give us the strength to lay down our lives in this place, so that we might better serve you.  May we, through humility receive the gift of eternal life.  We love You Lord, we thank You, and we praise 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.

Abandoning 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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