The Narrow Path

JESUS SPEAKING

      “Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mathew 7: 13-14.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      In the ancient world, cities were places of safety and refuge.  Most were surrounded by large walls designed to protect the inhabitants from hostile enemies.  The size of the walls depended on the prosperity of the city.  Babylon, (one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world), was rumored to have had walls that were 80 ft. thick and 320 feet high (15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.)  Every ancient city had one main gate (a large opening in the wall through which most of the merchants, travelers, and citizens could freely pass.)  There were also many smaller gates that served a number of different purposes.  There were gates for livestock; gates for horses; gates for importing fish; and gates used to export garbage; many of these little gates were not connected to the major highway; making them more difficult to reach.  Most entered through the main gate because it was quick, easy, and convenient.  The road to eternal separation from God is also quick, easy, and convenient; but the way to eternal life is difficult; it requires great discipline, sacrifice, and selflessness.

      Repentance and forgiveness of sins are both integral parts of the gospel message.  Before ascending into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  When I was in my twenties a friend took me to a church service; that evening I heard the full gospel message for the first time.  I received Jesus, knowing that God expected something from me as well; I was required to repent and obey.  I had to turn away from fornication, adultery, pornography, drunkenness, lewdness, and deceit.  As I sat in that church auditorium, I knew in my Spirit that I had to change.  [At one point during Christ’s earthly ministry, he chose to spend the evening in the home of a notorious sinner named Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax-collector.  He had amassed a large fortune by overtaxing his own countrymen.  During the night, Jesus presented Zacchaeus with the whole gospel; and he received it gladly.  He immediately repented of his evil deeds and offered half of his wealth to the poor; he also promised to repay everyone from whom he had stolen.

      Zacchaeus had understood the complete gospel message.  He chose to follow the narrow path.  He received the gift of salvation and immediately obeyed the teachings of Christ.  Many today refuse to repent.  Approximately 78.4 percent of Americans claim to be Christians; yet 60 percent of young adult Christians believe that premarital sex and cohabitation are morally okay (to name just one of many ungodly behaviors.)  Millions of people today are seeking to enter through the wide gate, because it’s easy and requires very little sacrifice; but it leads to eternal separation from God.  Few choose the narrow path; because it’s difficult, requires repentance, and demands transformation.  Which path are we taking?  Are we willing to embrace the complete gospel, and become followers of Jesus Christ?  If we choose to take that step, we will be blessed.  

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we receive Your gift and we take hold of Your sacrifice; may we turn away from the ways of this world and embrace the commandments of Your only begotten Son.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us the courage and strength to travel down the narrow path; the path of righteousness; the path of repentance and transformation; the path that leads to Your Eternal Kingdom; have mercy on us, that we may enter Your dwelling place with joy and thanksgiving.  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.

The Empty Tomb

JESUS SPEAKING

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!  (which is to say, Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.’” (John 20: 15-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Mary arrived at the tomb to find the stone missing, along with the body of Jesus.  She was immediately grieved and began to weep.  She had journeyed toward the gravesite expecting to find the lifeless body of her beloved Lord; but instead, she encountered the living God.  Upon seeing Jesus, she embraced him tightly; as if to never let him go.  He urged her to lighten her grasp (his return was not permanent; he would soon ascend into heaven.)  His true place was not on Earth with them, but with his Father (and their Father.)  Mary was instructed to deliver this news to the despondent disciples who were hiding out for fear of being killed themselves.  Having seen the resurrected Lord, she became the very first messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Throughout history, many, like Mary, have gone to the tomb expecting to find the body of Jesus; and like Mary, they too have found an empty vault.  Every generation has had its share of doubters; people who believed they could do what no one has ever been able to do […] disprove the resurrection of Christ.  In the early 1900’s an English professor and journalist named Frank Ross set out to investigate and refute the claims that Jesus rose from the dead (as a journalist, he was skilled in examining the credibility of sources.)  As the evidence mounted, Frank was faced with the awesome truth; the accounts matched; the archaeology was sound, and all of the witnesses were credible; Jesus Christ had in fact risen from the dead.  So, rather than writing a book that disproved the resurrection, he entitled his book, “Who moved the stone.”  In the book, Frank Ross, the new convert and faithful believer, sought to bring what he had found to the rest of the world.

The work that began with Mary on that third day has continued through every generation and continues even today.  Anyone who goes looking for Jesus Christ in a dusty tomb is looking in the wrong place.  He is very much alive, sitting at the right hand of God.  Both Frank Ross and Mary Magdalene, set out to find Jesus; and they both found what they were looking for. Have you gone looking for the messiah yet?  Have you made your way to the tomb and looked inside?  You too, will discover that Jesus Christ is not dead, but alive.  Upon finding him, it is then your duty to let others know that there is a God, and that they can discover him too.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Your Son has risen from the dead; and that He is seated with you in Your Kingdom.  We desire to carry this message to others; give us the strength to bring the gospel to the whole world.  May we be bold in declaring that we have encountered the risen Lord.  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!

Faith is Meant to Grow

JESUS SPEAKING

   Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore, He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So, he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so, it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  The first one came and said, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise, he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  But they said to him, ‘Master, he already has ten minas.’”  He replied, ‘I say to you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

   Contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him, Jesus had no intention of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth.  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and eventual return.  A parable is a short story designed to make listeners think; through thoughtful contemplation, they can discover the deeper spiritual truths.  Every parable has characters, and every character represents a real-life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went into a far country to become king symbolizes Jesus, who ascended into heaven and now reigns with divine authority.  Like the nobleman, he also promised to return.  The rebellious citizens who hated the nobleman, exemplify all those who have refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples/followers.  In the parable, he gives them each a different amount of money.  The money represents the measure of faith Christ has given to every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; and each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In this parable, there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and have attempted to spread the gospel message.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  However, the unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of his possessions and numbered with the transgressors.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; and Jesus expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

     The surface of the earth is covered in garment of green.  Aside from bushes and grass, there are thousands of different kinds of trees; and every tree is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder; that tree is the mighty redwood.  These behemoths can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  Currently, the tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; it was born while Moses was leading his people out of Egypt.  These trees are so large in fact, that it can be difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  A redwood seed is just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow up to be large, and others remain small; but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men and women by the hand of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

   Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our King returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given you.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of our great king and mighty God.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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!

Continue Praying

JESUS SPEAKING

     And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Please, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, but because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11: 5-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     In Middle Eastern culture, welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs. Guests were given food, shelter, and protection. Failure to do so was considered a great disgrace. In this parable, a tired and wearied traveler arrived at his friend’s home late in the evening. The host, lacking the proper sustenance, approached his neighbor, hoping to acquire some food. The sleeping man, irritated by the untimely appeal, denied his initial request. However, the neighbor’s persistence eventually paid off. In this parable, the request for food is a reference to prayer. The unrelenting neighbor symbolizes those who pray without ceasing; and the man who supplied the food represents God, who enjoys and rewards those who tirelessly continue in prayer.
     At the age of 23 an inquisitive youth from Gloucester, spied an advertisement in a Boston newspaper that read, “Wanted: young man as an understudy to a financial statistician. P.O. Box 1720.” He responded to the ad by way of letter; but he received no reply. He wrote a second letter, and then a third; still no reply. So he made his way down to the post office and requested the name of the owner of Box 1720; but the clerk refused. He then met with the Postmaster, but he too refused (claiming it was illegal to provide him with that information.) The young man remained determined; he arose early in the morning, hopped on the first train to Boston, and entered the post office. He stood patiently with his eyes fixed on box 1720. After quite some time, a man appeared; he opened the box, grabbed the mail and left. The young man followed him to his brokerage firm; he entered and asked to speak to the manager. He told the manager that he had written three letters, before going to the post office where he was refused any further information. The manager asked, “But how did you find out that I was the advertiser?” The youth replied, “I stood in the lobby of the post office for several hours, watching Box 1720. When the man came in and took the mail from the box, I followed him here.” The manager said, “Young man, you are just the kind of persistent fellow I want. You’re hired.”
     Similarly, God rewards those who are persistent in prayer. All too often, our prayers are erratic and inconsistent. Although we make our requests known to God, we frequently get discouraged when He doesn’t answer them immediately. In turn, many simply stop asking. If we have need of something, we must relentlessly make our requests known to God. We may not receive the blessing on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if we are persistent, it will come. We must never stop asking, never stop seeking, and never stop knocking. God is listening; and He is willing and able to give us the desires of our heart.
     “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers. We stand at the door and knock; we will not relent until You bless us. May we remain persistent in our prayers; may we be graced with patience and the strength to endure. Transform our hearts and minds; provide for our needs; and fill us with the fullness of Your mercy and love. We adore You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you.

A Difficult Question

JESUS SPEAKING

      “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my father” (John 15: 22 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Jesus Christ preached throughout Israel for nearly three years before being crucified. He preached in the cities; in the wilderness; in the temple; in homes and on street corners; passing the message along to every capable Israelite. He became so well known that he had to travel from place to place by boat; to avoid being thronged by the crowds. Yet, despite seeing the miracles and hearing God’s message of repentance and forgiveness, many rejected him. Others chose to avoid hearing him all together; willfully embracing ignorance. Still, voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection; and therefore, not an acceptable excuse. On the contrary, those who were never made aware of the message, for whatever reason, are not under condemnation.
      During my many years of evangelism, I have interacted with numerous skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, who have used a common question to challenge God’s perfect justice: “If you can’t get to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ; what about the child in Africa who dies without ever having heard the gospel? Are they going to go to hell?” The answer is no. God does not condemn the naive. Those who are ignorant are innocent. Yet those who have heard, “have no excuse for their sin.” Many today refuse to open a bible or even enter a church; believing that by not accepting or rejecting Jesus they will avoid condemnation. They are wrong; voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection.
To this very day, the Followers of Jesus Christ continue to preach the gospel. Some accept him; some deny him; still others simply refuse to investigate. God forgives those who are genuinely naïve but condemns the willfully ignorant. There are very few places on Earth where Christ’s message has yet to be heard. Perhaps some remote tribe in the Amazon hasn’t encountered the gospel yet; or maybe a young child living in India remains ignorant?
      Our God is righteous and Holy; He commits no evil or injustice. We can therefore discern from this scripture that the genuinely ignorant are not eternally condemned. Once again, His word has provided the answer to a difficult question. Dive into the bible and you will find every answer you seek. Meditate upon His precepts and He will use you to preach the gospel; to illuminate the uninformed, and to bring hope to the hopeless. Through you, many will come to know His goodness, His mercy, and His love.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize Your perfect justice and acknowledge Your goodness and righteousness. May we, as believers, be equipped to answer every question we are asked. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit; may we be bold; may we illuminate darkened minds and preach the gospel to the ignorant. May we be Your messengers in this place. 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!

Absolute Forgiveness

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       Those who desire God’s mercy must also be merciful; and those who yearn for His forgiveness must not withhold forgiveness from others. Hatred, anger, and resentment have no place in the heart of the believer; as unresolved bitterness creates division between God and His disciples. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Everyone who truly seeks to follow the Lord, will also attempt to imitate Him; thus, forgiving those who repent without restriction or exception. God’s mercy is immeasurable; and in turn, those who practice unconditional forgiveness are wonderful examples of His limitless love.
       In 1956, five American missionaries flew into the jungles of Ecuador; seeking to make contact with a hostile and war-like tribe of Indians known as the Waodani. All five men were speared to death. Their families were devastated by the loss; in a single day, many wives were widowed, and a handful of children were orphaned. But did the remaining family members seek vengeance? Did they cry out for justice? No. Instead Elizabeth Elliot (who had lost her husband), and Rachael Saint (who had lost her brother), remained obedient to God; forgiving the tribesman unconditionally. Elizabeth and Rachael continued evangelizing the natives. The Waodani people eventually invited them into their community. One by one, the members of the tribe began committing their lives to Jesus Christ. The men who had perpetrated the murders expressed great joy in knowing that they had been forgiven. The women eventually formed lifelong friendships with the individuals who had killed their loved ones. This unconditional forgiveness has given birth to the Waodani Church; a church that is currently thriving. They have abandoned their spears and picked up their bibles; going so far as to evangelize the other neighboring tribes as well (at great personal risk to themselves.) This amazing work of God was only made possible because two women were willing to forgive without restriction.
       Forgiving others is not a suggestion, a recommendation, or a request; it is a command; a command that heals both the forgiver and those who are forgiven. Is there anyone you’re angry with? Has someone caused you great pain? Then you must forgive them. Search your heart and ask God to give you the courage, and the strength to let go of your resentments; to lay down your hostilities; to do away with your bitterness. In turn, God will give you peace…and your heart will be filled with joy, as you walk in fellowship with the almighty and everlasting Father.
       “Lord Heavenly Father, search our hearts and reveal our hidden resentments. Give us the strength and the courage to forgive without restriction. May we love as You have loved. May we forgive as You have forgiven. We cherish 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!

What God Values

JESUS SPEAKING

        Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God” (Luke 16: 14-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        What the world considers valuable and what God considers valuable are often in direct opposition. Most esteem beauty, wealth, fame, power, and intellect above Godliness, compassion, love, humility, and genuine mercy. The Pharisees (religious leaders) hearts were wicked; they demonstrated extreme partiality toward the powerful, the wealthy, the affluent, and the well-educated. Jesus however, fellowshipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors. He reached out to the lame and befriended many outcasts. He also refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality. Instead, he continually honored and esteemed only those things which God deemed worthy.
        In the Old Testament, we read of a time when it became necessary to anoint a new king to rule over the nation of Israel. The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to travel to Bethlehem, where he was instructed to choose a king from among the Sons of Jesse. Upon arriving, Samuel laid eyes upon Eliab (one of the eldest sons); Eliab was mature, healthy, and strong. The prophet, being misled by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!” God replied saying, “Do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” After God had rejected seven of Jesse’s eldest sons, it appeared there were none left. Samuel asked if all his Sons were present; Jesse replied, “Well there remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” When David, the smallest and weakest of Jesse’s sons appeared, God said, “Arise and anoint him, for this is the one.” In time it became clear why God chose David; he was wise and loved the Lord with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.
        In all cultures, it’s common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to overly esteem such attributes is to oppose God. The apostle James wrote, “For if there should come into your assembly a man with Gold rings [and also] a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” Therefore, every true believer must avoid inappropriately valuing worldly things. With God’s help, we can be impartial; we can see through His eyes; we can become lovers of truth; men and women who adore kindness, cherish compassion, and embrace mercy.
        “Lord Heavenly Father, guide us and lead us into the paths of righteousness. Give us clean hearts, that we might avoid partiality and love what is truly good. May we turn away from worldly pursuits and walk in Your ways; may we love what You love; may we value what You value; and may we live as You have lived. 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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