Unity or Division

JESUS SPEAKING

          “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or household divided against itself shall not stand” (Mathew 12: 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Division produces strife, which in turn, creates weakness.  There are many forms of conflict, but the most damaging is by far, ‘internal conflict.’  Hatred among friends is often more damaging than hatred among enemies.  Divisiveness breaks the bonds between husbands and wives; it sets parents against their children; it destroys relationships and tears families apart; it defeats armies, and conquers entire nations.  The body of Christ is a divine family and a Holy Nation; made perfect in unity and peace.  Among God’s children, resentment, hostility and hatred have no place; for they lead to division; and division leads to destruction.

          Throughout its brief history, the United States has been involved in many military confrontations.  Despite the numerous wars waged in foreign lands, the bloodiest of all conflicts was fought on American soil.  In the 1860’s the U.S. erupted into a Civil War, which claimed nearly 620,000 lives and produced millions of crippled war veterans.  The property damage was astronomical, and the cost of the war exceeded 6 billion dollars (the city of Atlanta was burned to the ground.)  Railroads were destroyed, homes (and businesses) were vandalized, and whole crops were set ablaze.  As a nation was torn in two, its families also felt the sting of division and opposition.  There are many historical accounts of siblings fighting against one another in battle.

          Much like 1860’s America, the church has historically experienced great disunity.  There have been divisions regarding: differing methods of baptism; the observance of certain holidays; adherence to dietary restrictions; the structure of authority within the church (the recognition of a Pope); priestly marriage; confessional; child baptism, etc.  These divisions have caused weakness to infect the body of Christ.  To avoid division, it is the duty of every believer to place the emphasis upon a common faith in Jesus Christ; and to avoid arguing over ‘uncertain things.’  We are united in our mutual faith, our acceptance of His sacrifice, our desire for obedience, and our hope in His future return.  Love those who love the Lord; fellowship with the body of Christ; draw near to your eternal brothers and sisters; and may nothing divide you or set you apart, for you “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

          “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to be one with our brothers and sisters.  May the things that divide us be removed; that we may love those whom you have made Holy.  Forgive our divisiveness and cleanse our hearts of hatred and resentment.  Strengthen and unite Your body; that we might stand firm in the midst of hardship, and overcome the trials and the tribulations of this life.  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.

God’s Emissary

JESUS SPEAKING

          “He who believes in me, believes not in me, but in Him who sent me.  And him who sees me sees Him who sent me […] He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12: 44-50, condensed.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          There were no telephones in the ancient world; no telegraphs, and certainly no computers either.  The only way to communicate across any great distance was by letter or emissary.  An emissary was a person responsible for delivering a message from one leader to another.  The messages they were given had to be repeated word for word; all of the words the messenger spoke were considered the words of the king who sent him.  The kings emissary was treated exactly as the king himself would have been treated if he had visited in person.  If the king’s emissary was treated poorly, it meant that they did not respect the king.  Jesus, although distinct in person from God, was God.  He was God’s one and only son and solitary messenger (emissary.)  He had all of God’s authority; all of God’s power, and all of God’s words.  Every word he spoke, God Himself spoke.  Every miracle he performed, God performed; every emotion he expressed, God expressed.

          When Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he was treated in one of two ways.  Some respected him, invited him into their homes, and honored him as God.  Others treated him as just another man and believed he was crazy and demon possessed.  Those who hated him didn’t realize that by persecuting him, despising him, and rejecting him, they were persecuting, despising and rejecting God Himself.  When they nailed Jesus to cross they crucified God.  Today Christ is still being accepted and rejected; some are crucifying him while others are calling him ‘King,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Savior’ and ‘God.’

          How are you treating Jesus Christ today?  Have his words found a place in your heart.  Have you accepted his sacrifice, and his message; have you called him master, and Lord.  In so doing, you accept the one true and Living God.  But if you reject Jesus and deny him, you deny God Himself.  If you have never submitted your life to Jesus Christ, and you would like to make that choice today you can.  Accepting him is easy; go to a quiet place, and be still.  Pray that he would come into your life, and into your heart; confess your sins to God and ask him to forgive you in the name of His son; profess your acceptance of His sacrifice upon the cross, and turn to Jesus and make him your new teacher.  By accepting him, and following him, you are accepting and following the living God.  [If you have taken that step, then you need to follow up; you need to get a bible and begin reading it daily; you need to get plugged in at a bible believing church in your area; most importantly, you need to begin following the commands of your Lord and master; for you are now an emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Living God.]

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we accept Your Son and his message.  We call him master and Lord.  Give us the strength to be his disciples, and to be Your messengers in this world.  Father, direct us and guide us, and give us a complete knowledge of Your will.  Also, Father, give us Your words to speak, that we may accurately transmit them to everyone You put in our path.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

A True Servant

JESUS SPEAKING

          But Jesus called them to himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the gentile’s exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; instead whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you wants to become first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 42 – 45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Every society (from the fall of creation, until the present day) has been fueled by the pursuit of power and authority.  All social structures are shaped like a staircase that narrows near the top.  The climb begins in early childhood.  With age, those who secure positions of influence are treated with great respect.  Those who do not rise to the top, settle near the bottom; the strong rule, and the weak become servants.  Yet Jesus Christ, the King of Kings was not born in a palace; he was born on the dirty floor of a manger.  A life begun in humility, was lived in like manner; the prince of peace served the poor, and embraced the unworthy.  He turned an ‘upside down world’, ‘right side up.’  To pursue Christ is to forsake the pursuit of power and authority.  Those who desire to follow the Son of God must move down the social ladder in search of the lowest position.  A disciple is greatest when he is the least; he is the most alive when he is dead; he only rules when he truly serves.

          India (one of the largest nations in the world) is founded on the teachings of Hinduism.  Social order is a centralized feature of the Hindu Religion (as is the belief in reincarnation.)  They believe in a divine hierarchy; a caste system in which a person’s position is the result of their prior life.  When an individual dies they are immediately reborn; the deeds of their past life dictate their present social standing.  Those who were good are born into one of the four respectable classes (the top class being comprised of kings, warriors, and rulers.)  However, those who were evil in a previous life are born into a class known as the ‘untouchables.’  This group is poor, plagued with sickness, and most have historically only been able to hold menial jobs (such as the removal of dead bodies.)  [Note: Some recognize more than just five classes.]  This principle of Karma, is well known by every Hindu; bad Karma needs to be worked off; by suffering miserably in this life, one can pay for the sins of their past life; through anguish, every ‘untouchable’ can hope for a better life when they die.  Therefore, in India, helping the needy and the poor is often seen as interfering with their karma (to help relieve suffering, can actually prolong it.)  Therefore there is a permanent underclass; a group of people the world has forsaken.  Although most of mankind has forgotten about these people, God has not.  In the 1950’s, a Catholic Nun named Mother Theresa was led by the Lord to begin caring for lepers in India; she established a colony, and made a place for them to call home.  She also reached out to the abandoned orphans, the disabled, and the sick.  From that time until her death in 1997, she served the poorest, weakest, and most insignificant people, the world around.  When she received the Nobel Peace prize, she said, “I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless…the crippled… the blind…the lepers, (and) all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society; people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

          Mother Theresa followed Christ, and it led her into the slums of Calcutta.  Jesus has asked nothing less of every believer.  Service is a requirement.  Whether at work, school, the coffee shop, the grocery store, or even at home, disciples are servants.  A true servant seeks opportunities to help others.  The way up is down.  Humble yourself, and allow God to use you; lowliness leads to honor, and humility is the path to everlasting life.  Those who serve others, serve the true and living God.  Deny yourself; give to the needy; embrace the outcast; love those who have been abandoned; prefer others, and God will one day raise you up to a place of eternal honor.

          “Lord Heavenly Father we desperately desire to be lowly.  Help us to serve others with zeal.  Please provide us with opportunities to give of our time, resources, and knowledge.  Grant us humility, that we may give to those in need; may we love those who feel unloved.  We aspire to be great servants; may we deny ourselves to honor and prefer others; and may our hearts be filled with joy as we serve You and our fellows.  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.”  God bless all of you.

Sacrificial Giving

JESUS SPEAKING

          And Jesus sat across from the treasury, and observed the people throwing their money into the treasury.  And many who were rich cast in much.  And there approached a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which makes a farthing.  And he called his disciples to Himself and said to them, “Truly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in much more than everyone who has given to the treasury; for they cast in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12: 41 – 44.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Generosity is an essential part of the Christian faith.  God has commanded everyone to use their resources to bless others.  Giving to God what belongs to Him is known as tithing; a tithe is an offering of the first fruits of one’s increase; for example, a person who earns $100 dollars is instructed to give $10 dollars to the church; or to use it as charity in the lives of the less fortunate.  As Jesus watched the money box, he observed many wealthy people putting in huge sums of money; yet along came a poor widow, who couldn’t afford to tithe, and still she gave what she had; she gave when she couldn’t; she gave when it hurt; she trusted in the Lord, and in turn, Jesus honored her sacrifice above all others.

          Despite giving larger quantities of money, many of the wealthiest people in America are actually the least charitable, proportionately (this is not always the case; some wealthy people do give what God has asked them to give, and they do give more than they can afford.)  A study published in Newsweek found that ‘most church members give far less than 10 percent;’ most actually give under 2 percent.  ‘Further, it seems that the poor give a far greater portion of their income than the rich (USA Today, Oct. 25, 1990.)  Actually, families that earned $10,000 dollars gave 5.5 per cent of their income to charity.  Families that earned between $50,000, and 60,000 dollars gave only 1.7 per cent of their earnings.’  It seems that the poor are often, but not always, the most generous givers.

          Giving when it hurts is not always easy; nor is it completely logical; but it is praiseworthy.  When we give from our abundance we honor God; when we give from our poverty we learn to completely trust in Him.  The blessings of faithful charity are abundant; those who give in love, receive the gifts of the Spirit; as they draw nearer to God they experience peace, faith, and hope; the generous inherit an eternal possession that can never be taken away.  May you give when you can and may you give when it hurts; and may God honor you for your sacrifice.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to honor You with our possessions.  Help us to give to those in need; may we tithe continuously and may we receive the blessings of our faithful generosity.  We trust You Lord, and we withhold none of our resources from You.  May we give when we can, and may we give when it hurts.  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 father’s love

JESUS SPEAKING

          “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’  So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with riotous living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed the swine.  And he would have loved to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when his Father was still a great distance away, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But his father said to his servant, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring out the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15: 11 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          In this parable, the Father represents God, and the son represents every sinner who has wandered away from Him.  The ‘far country’ is figurative of the life of sin that many engage in when they turn away from the Lord.  The Sons return to his father symbolizes the act of repentance and rebirth that accompanies salvation.  In this passage, the prodigal son misjudges his father’s response to his return; believing he will be treated as a servant rather than a son.  Much to his surprise, he is lovingly embraced and honored.  The father is so overjoyed that he immediately orders the household to begin celebrating the occasion.

          Many years ago, prior to my conversion, I was actively abusing drugs and living in sin.  My family suffered greatly as they saw me spiraling downward.  My dad lived in a state of perpetual fear; not knowing when he would be informed of my death or incarceration.   Eventually I got sober, got a job, and gave my life to Jesus Christ.  Because I had been received, reborn, and embraced by my heavenly Father, my earthly father had gotten his son back as well.  My dad told me, “Out of all of your siblings, you are the one I worry about the least.”  On my wedding day, he looked at me with fondness and said, “You are my miracle.”

          Although earthly dads often possess great love for their children, God is far more affectionate.  He loves even the worst sinners.  The magnitude of His fondness is immeasurable.  He tirelessly seeks the lost, and is always ready to receive those who have wandered away.  May we share that same love; may we share that same heart; and may we continue to search for and embrace those who need to know the love of their Heavenly Father.

          “Almighty God, Everlasting Father, we are amazed at the enormity of Your love.  We are astonished by the depths of Your mercy and grace.  Fill us with Your desires, that we may share Your heart and seek those who have wandered away.  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.

Relying on God’s Power

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this very 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, “Truly, I say to you that this very night, before the rooster crows, you shall 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.  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.  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 difficult to accomplish even the simplest tasks.  But 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 approximate 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 even a single Egyptian.  The mature Moses, utilizing 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 lives filled with joy.  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.

Demonic Possession

JESUS SPEAKING

          “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to the house from which I came.’  And when he arrives, he finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then he goes and takes seven other spirits, more wicked than himself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11: 24-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Evil spirits, although often considered to be a myth, are very real.  They dwell within the hearts of those who deny God.  When an individual receives Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, all demonic apparitions are expelled; the child of God is set free; the chaos and devastation of evil living subsides; the believer ceases to engage in self-destructive behaviors; their hearts are purified and their minds are quieted.  The dispossessed demons however, are not satisfied unless they are causing misery and pain.  So, they often return to their previous hosts, stronger and more determined than ever.  They tirelessly seek to turn the faithful away from God; sadly some fall victim to their schemes and reject the Holy Spirit.  Without the Lord’s protection, the blasphemer is again invaded by demons and their lives plummet back into destruction (a destruction far greater than any they had previously known.)

          I once met a man who had been a pastor for many years.  After he had received the Holy Spirit his life began to change in wonderful ways.  He experienced an immense peace and began to preach the gospel with great enthusiasm.  He served the Lord for some time, before suddenly renouncing the faith.  Soon after his denial of Christ, he joyfully began to engage in strange sexual deviancies with multiple partners; he also started smoking, and boasted of his severe daily dependence upon alcohol.  Additionally, as an atheist, he actively attempted to turn others away from the faith.  I would occasionally see him out in the community from time to time; and he appeared to be physically and mentally deteriorating (a condition I could only attribute to demonic possession.)  The words of Christ are true, in that this man’s situation is worse today than it would have been if he had never received the Lord.

          Demons are very real; they roam the earth, trying to possess those who are weak.  Individuals who receive the Holy Spirit are no longer capable of being possessed.  Unfortunately some believers do eventually reject the Holy Spirit; in turn they are possessed and their lives plummet into even greater chaos.  Maintaining our close relationship with God through prayer, bible reading, fellowship, and obedience, is the best defense against evil spirits [If you have never received the Spirit of God and you would like too, please contact me and I can lead you in a prayer of acceptance and faith.]

          “Lord Heavenly Father, give us more of Your Holy Spirit.  Deliver us from evil, and protect us from demonic attacks.  Remain in us and continue to work through us; give us the strength to endure; may we never turn away from You; may we always continue in Your ways; and may we never return to the bondage of sin and death.  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.