Jesus Creates Division

JESUS SPEAKING

          “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!  Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you, not at all, but rather division.  For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.  Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12: 49-53.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Jesus corrected the commonly held belief that he came to bring peace to the earth; his real purpose was to give everyone the opportunity to choose their eternal destinations for themselves.  The baptism Jesus underwent on the cross divided the world in two; some have accepted his sacrifice and followed his teachings; still others believe he was just a man, and the cross has no meaning in their lives.  On this earth the strongest of all bonds exists within the family unit.  Loyalty among siblings is paramount; as is the fidelity between children and their parents; yet not even these sacred relationships can withstand the new order Christ’s sacrifice has produced; the believer’s new supreme allegiance belongs to the Son of God, and those who share this allegiance make-up, ‘The Body of Christ.’

          In the book of Luke, Jesus presented a man with the gospel, saying, “Follow me!”  The man responded, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus then replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you, go and preach the kingdom.”  Then another man came to him and said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  Jesus responded saying, “No one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.”  In both cases Jesus caused turmoil and division; separating those who believe from those who do not.

          Jesus Christ is the prince of peace; however, he is also a sword that cuts the world in two.  He came to create unity amongst followers and division between those followers and everyone else.  Often, if we are at peace with the world, then we are in opposition to God.  Persecution is a very real part of genuine faith.  We will be divided from others and suffer many afflictions, but we will never be alone.  We must be strong for each other; as one body we can endure and overcome the world through the power of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

          “Lord Heavenly Father we ask that You give us the strength to step out in faith.  We desire to be Your followers; may we be filled with love, and may we never be ashamed of the truth.  May our allegiance to You and to Your Son be supreme; may we never put anyone ahead of You 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 we pray.  Amen.”  God bless all of you!

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Pride and Humility

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18: 10-14.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Pharisees were the rigid religious leaders of the day.  They loathed sinners, and they loathed the impure.  They became angry when they heard that Jesus was eating with sinners (those who didn’t behave in Godly ways.)  The tax-collectors earned a living by cheating the people.  A tax-collector survived off of whatever amount of money they charged above the normal taxes.  So they were seen as traitors and thieves.  This was an illustration about humility.  The Pharisee believed that because he had done so many good things, he was righteous.  The tax collector however, feared God, and held God in high esteem; he couldn’t even lift his eyes up toward God, and was angry with himself for not having measured up to God’s standards.  In his reverence he asked God to show him mercy.  The one who was a screw-up was more acceptable to God than was the person who had been doing all of the right things, because the screw-up honored God and not himself.  One man exalted God, the other man exalted himself.  Jesus said the one who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

            In high school, I never liked to run in track; I pole-vaulted, but I never liked to run.  I avoided it like the plague.  I knew I wasn’t that fast of a sprinter, and I didn’t want anyone to see my weakness.  One time my coach told me I had to run or I would get kicked off of the team.  Everyone had to run, and it became common knowledge that I was disobeying the coach.  When I eventually ran, I lost horribly; someone later told me, “I heard Triganowen beat you,” some sophomore kid who wasn’t a starter on the football team.  Man did I feel less than low.  I was prideful, just like the Pharisee in this scripture.  Interestingly enough, on that same track team there was a boy named ‘Billy.’  He was mentally disabled.  He could run, but he couldn’t run fast.  His parents would drop him off for practice.  He wore coke-bottle glasses and had buck teeth.  He couldn’t carry on a conversation very well either.  He was an oddity to most people, because he showed up every day, and he worked hard to run faster.  He practiced to improve his speed even though it was at a snail’s pace; we knew he would never place in any race, but he would run for a different reason.  One day, the word went out, Billy was running in an event.  He ran, and as he did, people began to gather, and run beside him, and cheer him on.  The other teams were looking over at all of the excitement, but they didn’t understand what was happening.  This one little kid had an effect on my heart and on everyone on our team in a way that none of us had had on each other.  I now know that it was the humility in Billy that we were honoring.  Because he was weak but tried his best, we honored him.

            We as well as Christians should show similar humility.  We should never be focused on our own righteousness or on how good we are compared with others because in the end we are all nothing next to the righteousness of God.  We can’t honor God and honor ourselves at the same time.  God honors those who are humble, and he humbles those who are full of pride and self-righteousness.  Be the humble person.  Remember how merciful God has been to you, a ‘lowly sinner.’  Think of how Great God’s love for you is, in that, while you were still a sinner he died for you, and you will know the love and the joy of an all powerful God living within your heart.

            “Father, if there are areas of self-righteousness in us, we ask that You please reveal them and remove them from us.  Help us to lift you up, and to honor You and put You in the place of honor in our lives.  Help us also Lord, to not look down on the others, but to reach out to them in love.  We thank You Father, we love You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Why did Jesus Have to Die?

JESUS SPEAKING

            Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  So it was, while they conversed and reasoned that Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were restrained so that they did not know him.  And he said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”  Then the one whose name is Cleopas answered and said to him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?”  So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel […] Then he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter in to his glory?”  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24: 13-27.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            After the annual Passover feast, millions of pilgrims were leaving Jerusalem to return to their homes.  Two of Christ’s followers joined in the mass exodus; their hearts were broken and their minds filled with confusion; they like many, had believed Jesus to be the messiah; their hopes were shattered at the foot of the cross, and buried with Christ in his tomb.  Supposing him to be dead, the two disciples debated the meaning of his brief existence.  Suddenly Jesus Christ himself drew near to them in the guise of another pilgrim traveling along the road.  The men could not comprehend why the messiah would need to suffer and die.  Quoting the Old Testament scriptures, Jesus cited prophesies that foreordained his punishment and affliction.  The cross was not an example of weakness, but rather, an illustration of strength; neither was his blood a symbol of death; for every drop that was shed, has come to represent God’s forgiveness.  Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin upon himself; he died so that others could live. 

            In 1943, a ship named the USS Dorchester was sailing to Greenland as a part of a World War 2 navy convoy.  The Dorchester was carrying 903 American soldiers and 4 chaplains.  One evening, as the ship slumbered through the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the men were abruptly awakened by a loud explosion.  A German U-boat torpedo had torn a hole in the bow of the vessel.  All of the men immediately appeared on deck.  The four chaplains began distributing the life vests to the soldiers as they abandoned the sinking ship.  Within a matter of minutes, they ran out of vests.  One of the chaplains bravely removed his vest and gave it to a soldier; the other three chaplains followed his example; these brave men then locked arms and began to sing and pray before drowning in the frigid waters.  They chose to die so that others could live.  

          The disciples did not initially understand why Jesus Christ had to die.  He died, because the punishment for sin had to be administered; and the punishment for sin is death.  He perished in our stead.  He embraced agony and suffering so that we could inherit eternal life.  He took our place because he loved us.  Return that love today by embracing him.  Thank him for his sacrifice and honor him for his courage; you are only alive today, because he was willing to die for you.

            “Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you and praise you for receiving our punishment.  We understand that it was necessary for you to have suffered for our sins.  You loved us when no one else could.  Because of your sacrifice we have eternal life.  May we never forget what You have done; may we always remain grateful; and may we continually serve You and worthily magnify Your Holy name.  We love You Jesus, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Difficulties can Become Blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9: 1–7.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century it was commonly believed that all deformity and dysfunction was the result of sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not by sin, but by the will of God.  In healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic are designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, frequently they are the greatest blessings we will ever know.

                In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when a 14 foot tiger shark attacked her.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  She nearly bled to death before being rushed to the hospital.  Bethany had been one of the top competitive junior surfers in the world prior to her injury.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She was determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water and began training nearly 3 weeks after her accident.  She started with a long board (making it easier to paddle.)  She then moved to a smaller board, and then to a smaller board; until finally, she was once again surfing on a short board.  Because Bethany refused to quit she has gone on to place in and win many of the world’s top female surf competitions.  Her experience has become world famous; she has received thousands of letters and numerous awards; she has appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggle and victory (her story has recently been made in to a major motion picture entitled “Soul Surfer.”)  Throughout her ordeal, Bethany has remained an outspoken Christian.  She thanks Jesus Christ for her strength, her courage, and her triumph.  Was losing her arm God’s will?  Yes.  What appeared to be a tragedy, has become the greatest blessing she has ever known.  With two arms she would have likely won some surf competitions (she might have even made it on to the cover of a surf magazine.)  Yet with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the whole world.  She is a symbol of faith and a living example of God’s ability to take the broken and make them whole again.

                Is there anything in your life that you struggle with; something that seems tragic; a source of shame or pain?  Take another look; you may find a wonderful victory hidden within a great calamity.  Seek the Lord, and He will strengthen you and lift you up.  Lean on God, and let Him use you; He will take your weaknesses and make them your strengths.  When He transforms your life, remember to give Him the credit He deserves.  Utilize God’s power and have faith; never give up; face your fears; and many will see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to our strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and shortcomings; through the power of Your Holy Spirit may we all be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  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.

Faith Grows

JESUS SPEAKING

             “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13: 20-21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

             What is leaven?  Leaven is a collection of microscopic organisms, sometimes known as yeast.   The yeast produces small bubbles of carbon dioxide, which are kneaded throughout bread dough.  When the bread is cooked the micro-organisms are killed, and the gas bubbles expand and give the bread it’s size and soft feel (unleavened bread is very flat and hard.)  Cooking bread without a leavening agent was common in the first century, especially among the Jews who were forbidden to eat leavened bread during the Passover week.  Jesus compared leaven to the Kingdom of God.  What do they have in common?  The kingdom of God is something that is hidden away inside of a person’s heart, just as leaven is hidden away (and cannot be seen) in an unheated loaf of bread.  A tiny bit of leaven will eventually spread through the loaf until it is completely saturated.  Similarly, the kingdom of God often has a small beginning in the heart of the believer, but just a little bit of God’s kingdom is enough to eventually saturate the entire heart and life of the person who receives it.  (Also, here, I believe Jesus is referring to the spread of the gospel outward from Jerusalem through the world; and indeed, the message has spread across the entire globe.)

             Today scores of people own I-phones; many have also purchased some version of an Apple Computer.  This brand seems to be a part of the lives of millions, if not billions of individuals on the planet.  It would be easy to think that this company had its beginning in a huge office building, backed by some of the most powerful investors on the planet.  It would be easy to envision a national advertising campaign and literary buzz announcing the start of Apple Computers.  This would be easy to imagine, but it would also be incorrect.  Apple Computers was started by two teenagers in a garage (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.)  Steve’s dad had to clear out the garage so the boys had enough room to begin manufacturing their first personal computers.  Something that two children began in a garage today spans the globe and affects the lives of billions of people.

             Similarly, our understanding of faith is often skewed.  We believe that strong faith in the Lord is something that a person just has, and there is no way to get it.  This is an unfortunate belief; faith is not necessarily something that explodes immediately in a person’s life (it can, but not always.)  Faith in Christ can have meager beginnings from which it may grow to affect every area of the believer’s life.  This can be a scary prospect for a lot of people, and this is why many often harden their hearts and refuse to allow God’s kingdom to even have a beginning in them.  Those who do allow the kingdom of God into their hearts are transformed from the inside out.  Allow God to change you; allow Him to affect every area of your life, and you will know peace; you will know the truth; and you will know God.

             “Lord, we lift You up; You are an awesome and mighty Father.  We come before You today and we ask and pray that You would continue to grow within us; fill up our hearts and lives completely Lord.  We ask You to keep expanding, and to enter into the areas of our lives that we might be holding back from You.  Lord give us more of Your Holy Spirit and Your truth; and increase our faith.  Take full control of our hearts and minds.  We love You Lord, 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 Home

JESUS SPEAKING

And when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave a command to depart to the other side.  Then a certain scribe came and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus spoke to him saying, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mathew 8: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Jesus Christ was born in human form and raised in the house of Mary and Joseph.  Yet his true home was with God in heaven.  He was a temporary traveler who was ever mindful of his eventual destination.  He had no earthly residence; no permanent place to dwell; every miracle, every profession of truth, every act of love, brought him one step closer to home.  As he traveled, he made every effort to persuade others to join him in journeying toward the Kingdom of God; a mission that presently continues.  Thankfully many today receive the message and begin traveling; sadly however, many do not.  The road to heaven is long and the way is not easy, but the destination is more wonderful than anything we could have ever imagined.

In the Old Testament, Moses led millions of Israelites out of slavery and bondage in Egypt.  After crossing through the Red Sea, they began wandering in the desert for 40 years.  During that time, God provided them with food to eat and water to drink.  They lived in tents with no stable place to call home.  Yet the Lord had sworn an oath to eventually lead them in to a permanent land of their own; it was this promise that kept them alive as they embraced a life of hardship.  After many years of sacrifice, God fulfilled His pledge, and safely guided them in to the land of Israel.

Similarly, those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are led out of slavery and bondage to sin; they become travelers in this life, relying upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs.  Each one clings to the promise of God; the promise that they will one day enter his permanent dwelling place.  As we journey toward the Kingdom of God, we must embrace a life of sacrifice, humility, and service.  Only in denying our love of this world, do we truly embrace our love of the world to come.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we cling tightly to Your promises.  May we deny ourselves and live lives of loving sacrifice.  Strengthen us, and enable us to continue journeying toward Your kingdom.  May we never forget that we are but travelers in this place, and that our true home is with You.  Give us the courage to reach out to the lost; that we might continually convince others to join us on our journey.  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.

Picking a Side

JESUS SPEAKING

            Jesus shared his crucifixion with two other men; both of them were criminals.  Below is the account of their interaction with him.  ‘Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come in to your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 39-44.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS           

           The religious leaders who were standing at the foot of the cross were taunting Jesus and teasing him; telling him to come down from the cross as a show of his power.  The first criminal joined in on this taunting.  Mocking him, he added in the request that Jesus save he and the other criminal from death as well.  The second criminal made the decision to chastise the first for teasing Jesus.  He recognized his own guilt, and the guilt of the other man; openly professing the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He understood that he was paying for a life of sin, and that Jesus did not deserve to die. The second criminal asked for salvation, but a different kind of salvation.  He knew he was going to die on that cross, but he believed that Jesus was able to save his soul.  He was focused on the eternal; unlike the first criminal who was thinking only of his bodily life.  Jesus granted him eternal life, not because of any work that he did, or because he had lived a good life, but because he believed in the one and only son of God.  He acknowledged his sin and recognized the purity of Jesus, and in humility, asked to receive eternal life.  The purpose for the crucifixion, and for the life of Jesus Christ is revealed in this scripture, and it applies today.  He divides people into one of two immutable categories; believers and unbelievers.  Some choose to deny him and make him a myth.  While others choose to recognize him as the ‘Son of God;’ fully capable of granting them eternal life in a kingdom that will have no end.

            There once was man named Polycarp who lived from approximately 65 A.D. to 155 A.D.  He was an early Christian leader presiding over the church in Smyrna.  At some point, the Romans required everyone living in that city to burn incense to their pagan Gods.  Polycarp adamantly refused to engage in that sort of sacrilegious activity.  In turn, the Romans gave him an ultimatum; if he did not burn the incense, he himself would be burned at the stake.  Polycarp’s reply was, “Eighty and six years I have served him.  How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?  Bring forth what thou wilt.”  And the Romans did just that.  Apparently, he requested that they not tie his hands down to the stake; an indication that he would not attempt to flee from the flames.  Legend has it that he did not burn, and that the flames simply swirled around him.  A Roman soldier was then commanded to run him through with the sword.  The flames were put out by the blood that poured from his body.  Where is Polycarp now?  He is in paradise with his king, enjoying the pleasures of an eternal kingdom.  He chose to stand for Christ rather than to lay down with the world.

          Today, everyone is still offered the choice to call Jesus Christ their king.  We can stand for him, or we can stand against him.  We can trust him, call him our king, and receive eternal life, or we can join the world as they deny him and tease him; as they call him a myth and a legend.  Those who are lost perceive him to be nothing more than a man.  They don’t believe he has the power to grant eternal life, because they believe he is dead.  But those who love him, know differently.  Do you believe that he is able to grant you eternal life?  Is it possible that just on the other side of death lays a paradise of overflowing goodness?  Are you willing to stand with him now?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that You would grant us eternal life.  Help us to stand for You and to be courageous in professing our faith in You and Your Son.  Also Lord, give us more faith and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might do Your will in this place, and continue our work in your coming 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.


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